Ask marketers or loyalty marketing service providers (L-MSPs) what will be a common 2013 theme and they’ll tell you “convergence” – just like 2012.
But what type of convergence do I mean? There are two types, one unfolding in response to the other. Last year, marketers anxiously sought the implications of channel convergence capitalizing on many touch points: smartphones, tablets, TV, email and social media. The upside to convergence and channel proliferation was copious customer data. Everything from shopping habits and location to loyalty-program status can be tracked across multiple channels.
One challenge for marketers and L-MSPs comes down to managing the data deluge: how to turn data into actionable insight that drives ROI. Traditionally some of these data were organized through CRM software. But thanks to information inundation, corporate structures developed siloed management styles, making internal communications difficult. Now, experiential metrics gathered from loyalty programs plus CRM software are yielding new types of customer experience management, or CEM. It’s a vital convergence helping prove loyalty’s worth.
Even so, Temkin Group’s 2012 report finds that while 59% of respondents plan to help their companies become CEM leaders in the next three years, only 7% of North American companies have a strong grasp of CEM.
Clearly, there’s more to do.
Loyalty and CRM Converge Creating Customer Experience Management
Like omnichannel loyalty, an enterprise-level initiative to drive, track, measure and reward incremental behavior throughout the customer experience across all channels, a loyalty program’s integration with CRM and CEM must start at the highest levels. C-Level executives must be on board and so must subordinates. Only then can CRM – what Forrester Research calls “the right metrics to track success and prompt corrective action” – be used to give more of what customers seek at the right time. As with channel convergence, CRM and loyalty convergence are about the coming together of data, people, process and technology – real-time responses, tracking and rewarding customers for their actions in-store or online.
Of course arbitrarily rewarding members for behaviors they would have already done via social media is foolish. It’s even worse if the social channel in question isn’t directly driving purchasing behavior. Yet technology that manages CRM, CEM and loyalty ensures repeat business, improved ROI and upselling opportunities.
This is what Bob Thompson, CEO of CustomerThink Corp., calls “left brain” and “right brain” teamwork. CRM, he argues, concerns a customer’s value to a given enterprise. It’s about systems and transactions and “functional value,” or left brain. CEM is about the enterprise’s value to customers and concerns people and interactions. Here, customer “emotional value” – right-brain thinking – is priority one. But, as with our brains, there is constant sharing of data, maximizing problem solving.
Loyalty marketers have access to a host of data points (travel preferences, frequently visited destinations, average purchase prices, types of purchases, purchase location, customer gender, etc.,) that provide valuable insight. The convergence with CRM allows marketers to improve CEM through that insight.
Ultimately, consumers will demand such coordination in order to seamlessly enjoy the multiple channels they already use.
Rediscovering the ‘R’ in CRM While the ‘E’ in CEM Evolves
The above subhead is a nod to the title of a recent Forbes article that drives home the essence of CRM and CEM convergence and what Forrester calls the “age of agile commerce.” Whether it’s CEM or CRM and loyalty management programs, converging management approaches come down to brands driving quality relationships with customers and meeting customer expectations through smart, timely campaigns and optimized operations. It’s about taking the wealth of metrics now accumulated, turning that information into genuine experiences that people enjoy and managing that data under one roof.
Think of management convergence in terms of the five Es: enterprise (C-level buy-in), economics (your converged CRM/ Loyalty management system yielding tangible economic benefits), experience (do your sales and IT teams have the tools and training needed to manage, measure and track an omnichannel and CRM-CEM-loyalty framework?), engagement (is your data aligned with your messaging and branding? What is your level of data accuracy or “hygiene”?), and execution, or actually getting the job done, demonstrating a genuine customer connection through improved ROI, repeat business and positive feedback.
Just as CRM and loyalty convergence discussions begin with real people in real boardrooms, real salespeople– “customer advocates” – remain vital to the downstream process, humanizing brand interaction.
Customers are a business’s most valuable asset and loyalty initiatives are the best way to drive brand allegiance. Only with a CRM and loyalty management system working together seamlessly will the best customer experience emerge.
What's also missing is understanding what might happen to the customer as they start or continue on the journey. There may be outside forces over which we have no control but for which we should at least try to be aware of as we engage along the path to purchase/loyalty.