Digital Essays 2019: Digitas, the connected CRM, by Steven Sidawi, Publicis Media

By Steven Sidawi, Digital and CRM director, Publicis Media

Every industry enters periods of disruption or transformation. Dubai’s speed of disruption has picked up pace in recent years. The economy is becoming increasingly digitised. Cafu has set out to solve the gas station queuing problem with on-demand fuelling; Washmen has set out to solve the laundry convenience issue by creating a bulk-bag on-demand model; and even car rental companies have been disrupted with the introduction of U Drive, which allows you to rent cars by the hour in various locations around Dubai.

The advantage that these digital on-demand companies have is their single view of identified customers and their purchasing behaviour. That, along with their creation of a seamless customer experience that takes a few taps on a phone, has created a frictionless business model for acquisition, continuous engagement and retention.

Why is customer relationship management (CRM) important? Today, 89 per cent of companies expect to compete on the level of customer experience, compared with 36 per cent four years ago. Yet 80 per cent of satisfied customers claim that they do not go back and do business with the company that drove that satisfaction. Being connected means not only delivering more seamless customer experiences, and not just being transactional, but also driving true value through reciprocity and longevity.

An often-overlooked angle of business growth is retention. The first order of business should be to keep your existing customers and grow the relationship with them to grow the value they represent in your business.

Knowing who your customers are, their attributes and their purchase behaviour, is the foundation to building out a successful acquisition strategy because ideally you first want to look at acquiring more customers that have similar attributes to your existing most valuable customer base. That in itself drives efficiency by helping you prioritise the segments your business talks to.

Today’s major disruptors have all looked at challenges, opportunities and needs that customers have telegraphed and used those to fuel their product development. Customers don’t typically change their behaviours to fit businesses; they look for business that change to fit their lifestyle. Thus, the on-demand economy has become a benchmark for businesses to follow:
• Netflix understands what you want to watch and provides you with seamless access to shows that match your viewing behaviour.
• Heinz crowdsourced the creation of new products through leveraging social conversations, introducing Mayochup.
• Emirates Airlines goes the extra mile to personalise experiences for its valuable customers, providing them with personalised care on board, through having senior cabin crew members greet them and ask them to let them know if they need anything.

These examples bring us to our next leg of thinking – every touchpoint through which we interact with our customers needs to weave in elements of CRM. Websites, social media and physical on-ground interaction all lend themselves to a broader scheme of customer experience. The entire ecosystem should be designed to ingest data, learn and drive output that is fitting for the channel. It does not, however, stop there. We also need to think of longevity, the best next step after each interaction and what we aim to build towards with each interaction – is it the next transaction or an emotional connection? This is where automation and predictive analytics have supported in the deployment of more successful multi-channel CRM programmes.

The basic foundation of human society is built on reciprocity. We build families, friendships and business ties through this simple yet critical concept of what we provide each other on the back of each interaction. A friend could provide comic relief, a family can provide comfort, a business relationship can provide value. As brands, we are also part of that society and we need to think of where our relationship is and how we build on that relationship. We need to think of how we can convert a value-driven business relationship to a friendship or a family relationship. This concept of reciprocity was tested by The Journal of Applied Psychology. It presented the following three scenarios:
1. A waitress came out with a bill, and gained a certain tip.
2. Then the waitress came out with a bill and two mints on the bill. She got a 3 per cent bump in her tip.
3. Then the waitress came out with a bill and two mints, and offered more mints from her hand. She got a 23 per cent bump in her tip.

For a brand, this showcases the value of reciprocity. We need to think of driving emotional value along with business value with every interaction so our customers become friends or family to us.

Overall, creating meaningful connections boils down to aligning brand purpose with consumer needs. Now couple that with the right tools to continuously drive understanding, communication and action and you are on the right track to being part of today’s digital economy.