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Are You TRUE in Your Customer Experience Management?

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

We’re months past the winter holidays and sellers have a great chance to think about what we’ve learned, now that the dust has settled. Each holiday shopping season is an intense, focused study in what motivates customers to buy and brings many opportunities for improvement. Looking back, it would be too easy to think that a customer completing a long shopping list for gifts would be most motivated by price, but Forrester Principal Analyst Tracy Stokes says otherwise. Stokes recently blogged her advice to big-box retailers, saying that superior customer experience is the differentiator for retail marketers.

TRUE

Stokes uses the acronym TRUE to summarize the approach that she recommends, which stands for trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential. These are certainly great targets for any brand, especially one that wishes to avoid racing to the pricing bottom each season. But how does a brand interact with a customer in a way that meets those requirements both at the holidays and throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall?

Answering that question is more of a challenge than those four adjectives would imply.

Gaining Trust

Consumer expectations are rising fast in the digital age. Knowing where and when a customer wants to be engaged is an enormous part of being trusted. Unwanted or tone-deaf communication breaks trust.

Appearing Remarkable

Great marketing gets attention from the customer and, even more, makes them a brand advocate. An advocate tells their network about their experience because it was that good. But it has to be perceived as repeatable to be shared.

Being Unmistakable 

Being just another bright red flyer in the mailbox isn’t very unmistakable. For a brand to be set apart, it has to promise and deliver an experience that is very personalized and relevant.

Perceived as Essential

Being essential means there’s no competitor that can match a brand’s service or customer experience. A customer feels they have no alternative but to continue to do business with the brand because that’s the best path to satisfaction.

Savvy consumers increasingly using digital means to choose brands will channel their spending toward brands that can delivery on these concepts. Loyalty platforms are the essential tool that make being TRUE possible in a highly competitive marketplace. Are you ready to be TRUE to your customers? You have months before crunch time comes again and now’s the time to create your new plan of action.

Learn more at www.loyaltylab.com/expertise, and watch our webinar, The Top 10 Marketing Trends for 2014.

 

Customer Experience and Loyalty Are One and the Same

By Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Customer experience is a hot marketing term, but it has far less meaning if it isn’t connected to a customer loyalty program. The reason is very simple—what customers experience are key to whether or not they feel trust and loyalty to a brand. A customer’s loyalty is the difference between purchasing for price and purchasing for experience. Loyalty programs, likewise, are the key to whether customers have a gradually improving experience because of their repeat business. For these reasons, customer experience and loyalty are connected at the hip, inseparable.

Complementary Concepts

This is why customer experience and loyalty can’t be planned or managed separately. Too often, however, a brand believes its loyalty program is in place—maybe it has been running for years—and they put the focus on customer experience management instead. This is flawed thinking. Both customer experience and loyalty need to complement and support each other rather than being distinct programs. A single strategy for both is essential because customers need a reason to get close enough for great experiences.

One Strategy

In our highly digital world, customer loyalty programs give brands an ability to hear and see the customer at an individual level, without unwanted attention and intrusiveness. The customer experience can be modeled and closely monitored without feeling as though a brand is stalking the buyer (the fastest way to create a barrier between brand and consumer). This is a virtuous cycle, as customers who feel rewarded for being open to a brand are far more likely to offer greater interaction and greater access to their likes and dislikes than a customer who is simply a transaction.

Have questions? Tweet us @TIBCO with the hashtag #LoyaltyLab.

Going Back In Customer Experience Time

By Jeanne Roué-Taylor

We spent the past two weeks in Peru and had a great chance to go back in customer experience time. For people accustomed to shopping, traveling and searching for information (often while shopping and traveling), Peru was a stark contrast to what we have in our constantly connected, information-enriched and very loyalty-driven world in the U.S. That didn’t necessarily make the experience less than enjoyable, but it put obstacles in the way of having a great experience. For the brands that served us, it represented an enormous amount of opportunity wasted.

We were customers just waiting to have our experience managed.

A Great Reminder

Peru was a very valuable reminder of the power of well-executed loyalty programs. In the hectic day-to-day of running a brand’s marketing, it can be easy to forget the value of knowing your customer’s preferences and history, paying attention to the context of the moment, and communicating across the best channel and at the best moment possible for the right effect.

Without these considerations, a brand is no different than the swarm of taxi drivers at the Lima airport, each shouting to get attention, indifferent to the needs or circumstances of the traveler. Without knowing their customer, a brand is like the undifferentiated shops near Machu Picchu advertising tours with the ubiquitous “English spoken here” enticement.

Marketing Has Changed

Marketing has changed drastically in the places where the leading edge technologies are in use. Thanks to technology like integrated loyalty platforms, brands have been given permission to know where their customers have traveled with the brand and can figure out when and where they’re likely to make decisions to buy in the future. They can watch for the conditions that are favorable to communicate with their customer and send the messages most likely to get the intended response.

Peru was a great reminder that marketing today is a different game than it was just a few years ago. It was a great reminder that transactions aren’t nearly the same as customer engagement.

Loyalty Lab’s David Rosen Talks The Four Pillars

by Jeanne Roué-Taylor

Marketing is going through a time of significant change as it embraces a new form of customer loyalty driven by right-time marketing. Few people tell the story better than our own David Rosen. Rosen is particularly good at articulating how today’s marketers are evolving into digitally focused, tech-savvy pros with powerful technology tools and techniques at their disposal.

He understands that changes in marketing are driven by the broader changes in technology and consumer behavior over the past decade, like the fast adoption of social media and increasing dependence on mobile devices.

The Retail Struggle

Retailers have struggled to find the right ways to interact with existing or potential new customers as they learn the new paradigm. Most understand that relevance, timing, and context determine the right time to engage, but finding the right mix of technology and technique is elusive without guiding principles to provide focus for retail loyalty.

Rosen has an answer to that challenge.

The Four Pillars

Rosen is an advocate for the Four Pillars concept, a concept that combines customer-driven relationships, loyalty programs, wider event streams, and test and learn. His work with Virgin America and The North Face provide his evidence that it takes a philosophy to navigate times of significant change. Breaking down the concept looks like this:

Customer-driven relationships – Marketers have a role in how and where to engage, but customers’ preferences, motivations, and attitudes ultimately drive success.

Loyalty programs – Loyalty programs have an important role to play in giving customers an opportunity to raise their hand and provide permissioning for loyalty data to be collected.

Wider event streams – Transactions aren’t enough to know a customer. Brands need to monitor data that streams continuously across social media networks, mobile phones and other software and devices.

Test and learn – It all comes together when a brand can develop strategies to be tested with groups of consumers to find what’s the most effective message, timing, and channel for engagement.

The Four Pillars are a great answer to the challenge of navigating marketing’s changes. Listen to the webinar or download Rosen’s whitepaper on event-driven marketing to learn more.

Customer Loyalty Is The New Customer Service

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

In a recent post, 3 Reasons Loyalty Programs Aren’t Optional, I pointed out why loyalty programs are a critical part of customer engagement. A sudden surge in tablets and smartphones, the phenomena of Big Data, and the need for customer permission to avoid creepiness were reasons every brand needs to have a loyalty program.

But the reasons go even deeper than technology and privacy. In today’s climate of increasing choice, customer loyalty takes on many of the traditional aspects of customer service. By knowing your customer’s history, preferred channels of communication, current context and—most importantly—your service options, the chance of turning around a bad situation or delighting your customer are significantly improved (learn more in this whitepaper).

Sounds Good, But How?

Understanding your customer’s history, preferences and current context is the job of a loyalty platform for a loyalty program, but taking on the customer service opportunity requires the same knowledge of the customer. By studying customer responses with a test-and-learn approach, customer service based on customer loyalty data allows for segmentation and can be improved upon just like customer loyalty programs. It’s a win-win.

Customer service today is an opportunity to create customer loyalty in new ways and with far better results than in the past. And the best part? It is a by-product of having an excellent customer loyalty platform…and the tools are already available.

Customer Engagement Requires Knowing Your Crowd

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

How well do you know your customers? While most brands would say they know their ideal shopper, how many can break down their customer engagement into finely tuned segments based on analytics? Some can, but too many are still behind the curve when it comes to having the loyalty platform to gather data, visualize and discover patterns of people and behaviors, and respond with the right engagement at the right time. Having a high level of customer intimacy enables right-time marketing and it’s within reach of most businesses (learn about right-time marketing in this whitepaper). We’ve entered a data-rich age where there are fewer and fewer excuses for not knowing your customer crowd.

How to Know Your Crowd

For starters, every customer has unique attributes that we refer to as their characteristics. That set of information includes permanent things like gender and age, but also includes things like past history of interaction and purchases that paint a clearer picture than simple demographics. While age, gender, affluence, and other factors give us broad stroke indicators of buying propensity, finely tuned segmentation requires a richer set of information than traditional groupings.

The second aspect of knowing your crowd is tightly coupled to how your customers communicate with you, which we refer to as channel. These are the pathways of interaction preferred by your audience, and getting the channel right is the difference between having a seamless conversation and being intrusive. Brands that can’t listen and respond across the many, sometimes simultaneous, channels of today’s marketing can’t say they truly know their customer.

The third aspect of knowing your customer is having a context for each moment of interaction. Knowing whether a customer is currently in the act of shopping, at the time of purchase, or just in the information-gathering phase has a strong effect on what interactions are most appropriate and what the timing should be for engagement.

Characteristics, channel and context together are what define truly knowing your customer crowd. Without them, your ability to increase intimacy, gain loyalty, and increase total lifetime value are negatively impacted.

Watch the webinar on right time marketing and learn how to use characteristics, channel and context to determine the best time to market.

There Are Two Kinds of Loyalty

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

There’s an enormous amount of buzz in the marketplace around loyalty. But how many of the conversations make the distinction between the two kinds: one of them that’s good for the moment and the other that’s good for the long haul? Knowing the difference has a real impact on how a brand designs, implements, and maintains its customer loyalty program.

Loyalty of Convenience

In a recent blog, Seth Godin referred to the first type as the loyalty of convenience:

“I’m going to look around, sure, but probably won’t switch. Switching is risky, it’s time consuming. Switching means a new account manager or moving my software or reprinting something. Switching means I might make a mistake or lose my miles or have to defend a new decision.”

Loyalty of convenience is only as good as the near-term incentives. It is a loyalty that requires steady, non-stop investment or it breaks and loses its accumulated value. A customer stays loyal only as long as the convenience lasts.

Enduring Loyalty

Enduring loyalty is the kind that comes from relationships, not cash rewards or convenience. In the world of enduring loyalty, customers stay engaged because they feel a connection to the brand. Seth Godin refers to this type of loyalty as, “I’m not even looking.”

A loyal customer who isn’t looking doesn’t care if there’s a lower price or competing product somewhere else. Because they’re invested in the brand, it takes more than just a pretty price to turn their head.

Learn more about what it takes to create enduring loyalty in this whitepaper on Customer Loyalty Management.

Customer Loyalty is a Bird in the Hand

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

We’ve heard the phrase, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” since childhood. We were being told by wiser adults to value what we have over the things we don’t. Customer engagement has the same lesson at its heart: We can more easily achieve our goals by creating better, more loyal relationships with our existing customers than by focusing our energy on acquiring the customers we don’t already have. Figures vary, but there’s a consistent theme in the marketplace that it costs five times as much to gain a new customer than it does to retain the one that’s already with you.

Enter Loyalty

Loyalty programs are the cornerstone of a successful foundation that supports customer retention and makes that ratio so important. Think of the marketing and advertising budget applied to creating new relationships. Is it one-fifth of the spend on loyalty platforms for most companies? Too often, it isn’t. In fact, many companies spend far more on acquiring new customers than they do on loyalty and customer service combined.

Big Data Heavily Favors Loyalty

In our data-driven times, driving your business through loyalty is a powerful approach. Loyalty programs provide the permissioning that allows for greater information collection, analytics, and actions based on data your customer has agreed to provide. The creepy factor is greatly reduced and over time, your ability to collect and use data only increases. Customers willingly give detailed information to a brand that they trust, to provide a mutual benefit in the relationship. Loyalty programs create a virtuous cycle of brand and customer engagement.

When companies use the same data-driven approach to customer acquisition, the odds of crossing the creepy or annoying line are greatly increased. That challenge alone holds brands back from being nearly as effective when it comes to gaining new customers using personal data. Our Big Data world favors customer engagement and loyalty by a wide margin. Are you ready to engage your customers and benefit from the bird in the hand?

Going to Loyalty World US? Here Are 5 Las Vegas Shows with Loyal Followings for You to Attend

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

Loyalty World US is coming to Las Vegas.

And if you’re planning to attend Loyalty World US October 28th and 29th, you will no doubt want to get out and experience all the city has to offer.

But with so many options, what’s a marketer to do?

Sticking with the loyalty theme (of course), here are five Las Vegas shows with some of the largest and most loyal followings.

Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil’s “O” is made for Vegas. You’ve got your world-class acrobats, your synchronized swimmers, your divers, and your characters performing in, on, and above water to create a breathtaking experience.

It’s an aquatic blend of artistry, surrealism and theatrical romance in a timeless production. The show is inspired by the concept of infinity, which matches the line of thinking you’ll have when heading back to the office, filled with new ideas from Loyalty World US.

Le Reve

Le Reve takes its name from a 1932 Picasso painting hotel mogul Steve Wynn displays in his private collection. It’s a true journey of the subconscious mind with an intense blast of rain, fire and action at the outset.

Eighty-seven performers from 17 countries tell the story using a blend of aerial acrobatics, water ballet, synchronized swimming, comedy, and amazing feats of athleticism. You’ll see performers entering and leaving the stage through air and water. The stage even rises and falls with the water during the show, enabling an 87-foot high dive.

Blue Man Group

Visually stunning, wildly entertaining, hysterically funny – these are the words that have been used to describe Blue Man Group’s critically acclaimed show. Even though it’s difficult to explain exactly what it is you’ll be seeing, audiences of all ages agree that Blue Man Group’s show is an exciting and outrageous experience that will leave you in a euphoric state of bliss.

If you want to learn how to create a loyal following without using a single word while at Loyalty World US, Blue Man Group is the only “seminar” that can show you how.

Jersey Boys

You remember Robin Leach, right? He’s the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous guy. Anyway, here’s what he says about Jersey Boys:

“The production, which is brilliantly staged with genius execution, rockets along at jet-smooth speed and one moment you’re laughing and the next tears well up.”

Jersey Boys, the Tony Award-winning Best Musical of 2006, takes you behind the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. You get to ride along with the band – up the charts and across the country.

Donnie and Marie

Donny Osmond is no stranger to Vegas. His first gig was performing with his brothers at the Sahara hotel at the age of 7.

The “Donny & Marie” show features excellent audience participation, and it’s funny and exhilarating. If you remember the Osmonds from your youth, this show will take you back to a special time in your life. If not, then this is your chance to connect with two of the best performers on the strip who still have what it takes to connect with the audience.

And that’s what it’s all about, connecting with your audience. We hope to connect with you at Loyalty World US in Las Vegas later this month. Register now for a 1:1 consultation with one of our loyalty experts, and request an invite to our cocktail reception at YellowTail Japanese Restaurant in the Bellagio on 10/28!

Which Marketing Platforms Are Here to Stay?

By Jeanne Roué Taylor

The sheer number of marketing applications offered as downloads or services is exploding. Everyone wants in on the real-time marketing game, likely because as the U.S. and the world come out of an extended economic downturn, there are few places more ripe for automation leading to efficiency than how we market and sell goods. What’s more, the fast rise of smartphones, maturation of Internet selling models, and high-speed analytics create a technology opportunity for customer engagement that’s hard to ignore for most software vendors.

But like everything that arrives quickly (think: Web companies in the ‘90s), the marketing boom will eventually sort itself out—there will be platforms which brought real value to marketers and those which brought…um…just great marketing.

So who will win and who will lose?

Data-Agnostic and Integration-Ready Marketing Platforms

The winners will be the platforms that have two characteristics: They are data source-agnostic and are able to integrate with other platforms across the marketing ecosystem.

Data source-agnostic — We market in a highly contextual world, and that context flows from many sources today—likely from many more sources tomorrow. Any platform that’s coupled too tightly to specific data sources, or has at its core its own proprietary source of data, won’t be responsive to an evolving marketplace. Experience tells us that marketing is in an ongoing period of rapid change that will alter the landscape enough to render obsolete the platforms that are rigid and data source dependent.

Integration with other platforms — Just like being data source-agnostic, the platforms that will survive will integrate liberally with other platforms, exchanging data and process as necessary to get the larger job of customer engagement done. Self-contained may have been an attractive adjective in a less-connected world, but marketing times have changed and the ability to connect and share information gives marketers more options for understanding context and more ways to engage with the consumer.

The Winner Is…the Open Platform

The real goal of today’s marketer shouldn’t be real-time response to customers, as attractive as that sounds. The goal needs to be right-time marketing that allows the brand to respond to the events that are happening anywhere in the buying environment. It’s the difference between shouting and having a conversation. That means being able to communicate and engage everywhere that matters across a number of platforms: POS, mobile apps, analytics, email services, customer databases, social tools, and whatever comes next. That’s a very integration-rich requirement.

Maybe, most importantly, data-agnostic, integration-ready platforms offer a way to avoid obsolescence of prior IT investments. Everyone likes that one.