Treat customers like humans, not numbers

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Is the digital world leading us to lose our humanity?

As we move into 2017 and a world of increased connectivity, AI, machine learning, and a time when corporate data is ‘gigantic’ rather than merely Big, we are confronted with a CRM challenge – how do marketers treat customers like humans and not numbers?

In the middle of this data deluge, omnichannel connectivity and digitisation of choice, the consumer expects a 24/7, seamless, personalised and ultimately human service. We expect to wake up on a Saturday morning and be able to order a birthday present Lego from bed while my daughter fires up Netflix on the iPad and for it to know that her favourite programme is Paw Patrol and she was halfway through watching Season 1– Episode 4 on the Smart TV last night.

CRM is no longer just about delivering comms, it’s about delivering a relevant and personal customer experience that makes you feel special.

Fitbit is a great case in point. The product is basically a fairly non-aesthetically pleasing plastic strap that tracks my steps. However, when you combine this with the app that integrates across all my devices and offers a visual and engaging dashboard, a leaderboard so my friends and I can have some (very middle-aged) walking competitions, push notifications to give me some encouragement at the end of the day, the (not-too-frequent) engaging emails, competitions, charity events and generally just the fact that it’s keeping me fit, it’s a really engaging, fun and great customer experience. Consequently, I’m the customer that all brands crave – a true advocate that shares his love of the brand through social networks and has gifted them on a number of occasions.

Great CRM experiences don’t even have to be so hi-tech. For my weekly journey from London to Leeds, Virgin Trains knows that I always want a forward-facing window seat with a table, power socket in the quiet carriage and that I want the M-Ticket so I don’t have to get to the station earlier to collect any paperwork. All this data is saved in my profile so the booking process is seamless and speedy.

Another simple example is personalising a pair of Adidas football boots for my son so he thinks his latest pair are ‘truly awesome’ and hopefully stand more chance of not getting lost amongst 11 other pairs and making it home every week.

Great examples of engagement and relevancy don’t even have to be so personalised. Take Spotify’s latest outdoor advertising campaign, which humanises its vast volumes of listener data in an engaging, topical and humorous way. The result is a billboard featuring statements like “Dear 3,749 people who streamed ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it’ the day of the Brexit vote, hang in there” or “Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine’s day, what did you do?” All to the tagline "Thanks 2016, it’s been weird."

Increasingly, having a great brand experience these days, whether it’s booking a train, shopping for football boots or listening to music, is down to complex data and insight to simplify and tailor the experience, hence making it relevant, tailored, human and special.

So, as marketers move into 2017, the winners will be the ones who understand that the new CRM is really a blend of science and art. The science of the new data, tools and technology. Combined with that emotional, personal connection and insight. And that’s what makes it human.

Russ Groombridge is a CRM and insight consultant for Intermarketing

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