WHAT IS A BRAND?
It’s a proof of a promise, a set of values and beliefs connected with the company, a way of being. Brands can create desire, they can say something about you as a person, they can create incredible loyalty and value. One only needs to look at some of the successful consumer brands like Apple and Nike today, to understand the value of brands to the bottom line.
These big brands understand that creating loyalty extends beyond their product’s features and functions, they connect with their consumers on an emotional level and they have a relationship with their customers – think Apple’s in-store experience, O2’s Gurus, or the John Lewis service experience.
But let’s face it, close relationships are difficult enough to maintain when some sort of 1to1 interaction is possible, let alone when you’re trying to service 100,000s or even millions of customers daily – at a distance – like most banks, utility companies and telecoms operators are trying to do. How do they make their customers feel like they understand them; that they “get” them; that they really care about making their lives as easy as possible?
BY USING THE IMMENSE AMOUNT OF DATA THEY HAVE ON THEM,
and the digital footprint they are leaving behind every day, to deliver a highly personalized, contextual, customer experience. An experience that takes account of their personal needs at that specific moment in time. That doesn’t mean just sending more and more communications and marketing offers by every channel known to man, hoping something will stick, it’s about making your communications more relevant and timely. I particularly liked the quote from A. Charles Thomas, Chief Data Officer of Wells Fargo when he was interviewed at the beginning of 2014, he told American Banker magazine:
“People think, if you bring together all this data, does that mean you’re going to try to sell me more stuff? My answer is, we should be trying to sell less stuff. In other words, relevance and timeliness are really critical.”
I think Mr Thomas sums it up very well: make your communications relevant, make them personal, and make them at a time and via a channel that suits your customer. You’ve then got a good chance of giving your customer a good experience and ultimately increasing their lifetime value to you.
TAKE MY OWN RELATIONSHIP WITH AMAZON
the big daddy of big data companies – I own a Kindle, and whilst I think it’s a brilliant piece of kit – there are other eReaders that probably do the same thing. However, my attachment to my Kindle and ultimately the Amazon brand transcends beyond the functionality of the physical product. Amazon have made it incredibly easy for me to purchase and download content on to it – so at any point in time, I can at a whim search a book and with one click download it. They also send me recommendations based on my viewing history and what similar customers have bought. And if they’re smart, they’ll have a big data engine with a clever algorithm sitting on the backend that is getting smarter and smarter over time about what I like to buy, and even more importantly when I’m most susceptible to an offer. As a result, Amazon has not only become my book supplier of choice – it’s become my online store of choice – why go anywhere else? It’s so easy, they don’t flood me with emails and communications, instead they’re starting to build a sense of what I want when I want it …… and they keep me informed of what’s happening with any orders I’ve placed. It’s a great experience.
And isn’t that the utopia we all aspire to – to live in world unburdened by junk mail, misplaced promotions, and bills and statements we can’t understand. We all want to know that we are an individual and to be treated as such. Life is difficult enough as it is – if you take away my hassles and give me what I need, I’ll stay with you forever. Now that’s what I call brand loyalty.
SO WHY IS IT THAT SO MANY ORGANISATIONS STILL DON’T EXTEND THEIR BRAND EXPERIENCE TO THE COMMUNICATIONS THEY SEND US?
Bills, statements, marketing materials, they so often seem mass produced and generic, difficult to understand, out of touch and out of date.
At Apexon, we tend to find it’s often through fear of touching their delicate spaghetti junctions of code and systems that have been patched together over years. Fear that touching one thing, will break another tenuous connection. That it’s simply too hard, and too expensive, to do; and the business case is too difficult to prove.
I recall engaging with one telecoms company who had over 200 different IT systems keeping the business running – they had a good offering, good people, but even getting the right data into the right bill each month was a challenge, without even trying to tailor marketing messages in those bills, or delivering the bill by a channel of the customer’s choice. The net – angry customers and unpaid bills – and exhausted employees trying to fill the gap. It didn’t matter how great the telecoms service they delivered was – the irritation of incorrect bills did massive damage to their brand, and increased churn. Not to mention they couldn’t recognize patterns in their data that indicated a risk of churn, and they had no idea what promotions to send to what customers – so everyone got everything. It was going to be a brave CIO who touched that web of 200 systems in a 24/7 operation.
BUT IN TODAY’S WORLD OF ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES, THIS BRAND EROSION IS NO LONGER SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO LIVE WITH.
With a smart integration partner and an enterprise service bus, there’s no reason why you can’t keep those existing systems, unravel that spaghetti western and orchestrate beautifully formed communications. And if that integration partner has a lab where you can test and stage everything before it goes live, even better.
Combine with an efficient, big data analytics platform that can crunch all that customer data and make everything personal, you would have an incredibly powerful differentiator – that would not only cut operating costs but transform the experience you deliver your customers.
Now if that wouldn’t be a competitive advantage, I don’t know what would.
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