Kenny MacIver's article House of Cards paints a somewhat grizzly picture of how inaccurate many large, mass market loyalty campaigns actually are.
These schemes have always been an excellent tool for creating a clear picture of how customers behave, but they often fail to provide an accurate reflection of the attitudes and perceptions that underpin that behaviour. Refocusing on individual customer relationships is the only way a company can be sure of the reasoning behind its customers' behaviour. Why then, do these companies seem so reluctant to ask their customers what they think of them?
Until recently, the process of measuring satisfaction levels across a large customer base has meant committing to long-term and expensive survey research. It also means disturbing your customers with what many see as intrusive surveying techniques. Moreover, the end result only provides a snapshot of customer perceptions, which isn't much use when compared with the ongoing reappraisal of customer relationships that is now required to bolster faltering CRM. In any effect, the customer's needs and desires have often moved on before the survey results are known.
Fortunately, providers of products and services that can cater for this requirement are beginning to emerge. ViewsCast, for example, can obtain customer feedback and preference on a real-time, rolling basis. ViewsCast also acts as a direct communication channel that customers can use to convey their satisfaction or disgruntlement – a revival of another customer-centric mechanism that has dwindled considerably since the adoption of automated systems.
The grim realisation that many customer loyalty and CRM systems aren't delivering an adequate ROI will cause serious headaches for marketing and IT directors alike. Perhaps the emerging solutions from new companies like ViewsCast can at least go some way to making them feel better.
I enjoyed your article Knowledge confusion, and the final point about knowledge selfishness preventing sharing is a good one. But if IT consultants think that this means there is no role for codified information, then they should look at their own practices in order to see (hopefully!) what can be done.
A lot of data is not proprietary and changes little, and so is suitable for storing in a knowledge base. Obvious examples include telephone numbers, document templates and company policies.
Where data is volatile and/or jealously guarded, then it is still helpful to record that this knowledge exists and where it can be found. A ‘Yellow Pages' type application is one solution. Another is to publish introductory level information, and to supply contact names for experts who can provide further details. This way, everybody can learn about the capabilities of their organisation and the domain experts get their status recognised.
Where IT consultants have been successful in implementing knowledge management solutions within their own practices, they have a head start when it comes to implementing them for clients.
Kenny MacIver concludes his interesting article on loyalty schemes House of Cards by quoting Edwina Dunn: "Customer data is a strategic tool…customer data reports [should be] prominent on the boardroom table."
I agree whole-heartedly with this statement. But I do not agree with the article's implied conclusion that expensive loyalty schemes are necessary as a strategic tool to provide customer data. There are many ways to do this, as the rest of the article demonstrates.
For instance, a carefully planned ‘customer audit' will make use of many and disparate sources of information to profile and understand the key attributes of customers and prospects. Other internal sources of information such as consumer feedback data, service quality data and market research can be particularly important – and are possibly more cost-effective than a full loyalty scheme.
A picture profile of customers and prospects should be on the boardroom table, but it does not always follow that it is necessary to bear the costs of collecting warehouses full of data in order to succeed in understanding your customers and stimulating their loyalty.