CRM doesn’t stand for Customer Relationship Manipulation

Here are some words you may not readily associate with your customers:

Devotion. Allegiance. Faithfulness.

Sounds more like a relationship rather than a business transaction, right?

Relationships require give and take. They require attention and care. What effort are you putting into your customer relationships?

But what about loyalty? Or, more specifically, brand loyalty? In essence, they all point back to the same thing: a strong feeling of support or commitment. In recent years, it has been argued brand loyalty among consumers no longer exists and social media, as well as mobile, may have something to do with it. Maybe, though, the problem is that we have to start thinking about the connections we have with our customers as relationships rather than simple transactions. We’ve heard that at the last six marketing conferences, but who is really doing something about it?

Brands are just like people; there are people you like and people you don’t. In a relationship, it’s often stated that strong relationships aren’t 50/50, but 100/100. When we focus 100% on giving value to our customers, we will get 100% loyalty from them. When the focus shifts purely to product advancement and getting the sale people are left with the feeling they are being used rather than appreciated. We’re all familiar with that feeling.

We’ve also heard the adage that it costs more to acquire a new customer than keep an old one. Figures range from five times more to 10 times more, depending on which study you read. That myth has even been debunked by some researchers. Nonetheless, I think this focus is misguided. We should be thinking about loyalty in terms of how we can give back to our customer instead of how they can give back to us (through profits).

What about relating to them on a personal level? Can we use big data to make consumption more convenient for families so they can spend more time together and less time on transactions? We all view big data as a scientific way to get more customers, but what if we changed to a relational model where big data is used to give more to them?

Big data has the ability to be more personal in an impersonal world. But, eventually humans will have to get involved. We need to educate our frontline sales force about the data we’ve collected so they have a deeper understanding of how to engage customers when the come to our establishments.

Imagine downloading an app from your favorite restaurant. You’re on a road trip with your family. All of a sudden, an alert comes through on your phone:

“You’ve driven a long way! There’s a restaurant location about a mile from where you are. Why don’t you take a load off and have an appetizer on us?”

Pretty impressive, right? What about this one:

“You’ve come to see us quite a few times in the last couple of weeks. Let us buy you a coffee.”

These real-time marketing opportunities are not only personalized but also incentivizing. And these are just the geolocation possibilities. The more frequent the visits, the more personalized the interaction. Maybe you order the same item at the same time every Wednesday. What if that item was waiting for you when you arrived? Talk about personalized.

Recently I went to a resort where they welcomed me when I got out of my car by saying, “Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Cobb. Happy Anniversary.”

I’m still trying to figure out how they did that.

This is what big data can do for us.