Sometimes, I think we have lost the essence of Customer Relationship Management.  If I’m honest the term makes me think of a technology system defined by workflows and business rules helping to manage leads and lifecycles .  That doesn’t even sound personal or relationship oriented, does it?  These systems are, of course, important which is why this is not sub-headered ‘death to tech implementation’.  But, as the term indicates, Customer Relationship Management is actually all about brands thinking about and navigating their relationship with customers, with a clear objective in mind,

“I want you to like me so much that you will choose me over the others ”

Put like that we have an all together different tone- human, personal, some may say romantic even.  Brands want to have a full on, committed relationship with consumers that lasts a valuable (customer) lifetime.  So let’s consider some key milestones in this budding romance and what brands should be considering to win shoppers over…

  1. So, where did you two meet?- The first encounter…

    It’s one of those classic questions you ask a new couple that is equally as fundamental when considering where consumers first heard about, interacted with and became interested in a brand.  Whether they are making a decision about which perfume to wear, mobile phone handset to purchase or holiday accommodation to choose, having a plethora of options and avenues through which to secure them in the multi-channel era is the ’new normal’.  Global studies show that most consumers around the world (92%) trust word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family most of all, followed by on line reviews[1].   These sources are said to have more of an influence on brand affinity than what companies say about themselves on their website or in-store experience[2].  Whilst earned media is not a new phenomenon, even if social has globalised the conversation, the way we learn about brands has evolved into something more nuanced, a message that is managed rather than controlled by the marketer. So…“are you paying attention to how customers pass your message among themselves?”[3]

  2. First date- ZMOT

    They’ve spent quite a bit of time together now, our brand and consumer, and whilst both still flirt with others (it must be said, the brand more so than the consumer), there is a moment approaching, a magical moment, a ‘zero’ moment if you will. For some it’s the decision to share personal data (here is my email address, and if you’re lucky I might even like you on Facebook) or it could be that first purchase, but either way, it is a step beyond consideration.  The Zero Moment of Truth[4] can happen on or offline and brands need to be able to accommodate that.  Knowing how to incentivise this exchange, capture the right information then carefully utilise consumer data, without coming on too heavy and stoking the privacy issue flames, are key capabilities marketing teams need to develop to a level of maturity that encourages the first moment to be one of many.

  3. First Fight- how to handle it when things go wrong

    By now multiple encounters and even purchases may have occurred; consumer and brand are in a comfortable place.  But, because both parties, consumers and yes, the machine behind the brand, are human, something is going to go wrong.  Whether it be a failed click and collect order, missing items or an instance of bad customer service, every brand is going to drop the ball at some point and how this is handled can make or break of the relationship.  We know customers often turn to social media for the instant gratification of a good old public moan (and often to try and trigger a brand response) with the number of infamous customer service faux pas on twitter and Facebook #trending for a while now.  To try and make the first fight a ‘safe’ if not successful one, consider the example of Sainsburys[5], a potentially bad situation turned around as a customer goes from making a complaint about missing cod to an exchange of pun filled banter with the Sainsburys team that ends in a thank you and praise for “excellent customer service” from other consumers.  Whether external or inhouse, a social media team with the operational structure and autonomy to respond to consumers with confidence in real time is increasingly important, and a transformation many global brands have been undergoing.

  4. Meet my friends because you’re my favourite

    They’ve made it! From shiny and new, through hard times and out the other side, our ‘couple’ are now going steady. Meeting the friends is all about the consumer sharing their brand relationship with their world, starting the cycle of affinity and advocacy all over again. Whilst a die-hard brand lover that camps out in the rain to purchase the latest release, or tattoos a brand logo on their wrist, may perhaps be the desired level of loyalty, the majority of consumers are not going to do that.

    Making customers happy enough to just organically talk about how much they like a product, service or experience surely goes beyond the acquisition vs retention dichotomy and simply creates more first encounters and (valuable) relationships of a lifetime too.