Heathrow Airport marketing and insight director Nick Adderley, who will be speaking at the CIM Conference in October, focuses on passengers, not customers. Part of his job is to take the passenger-centricity concept and turn it into something that people passing through his airport can “feel”.
It’s tricky to accomplish this in a large and complex organisation where there are hard-to-achieve and often conflicting objectives. The answer, he says, is to create a unifying business-wide purpose that hones in on the people you serve.
“The most important thing is to have a clear, simple vision. In our case it’s about being Europe’s hub of choice and the UK’s gateway to the world which, from a passenger’s point of view, turns into a very simple mission statement which for us is ‘making every journey better’.
“We put an enormous amount of effort into making that come alive in everything we do. It’s on the bottom of every single document we produce. That unified central purpose makes all the difference; we have a whole set of measures and procedures to make sure our vision is being delivered.
“If you can’t really measure it, it’s hard to know why you are doing it or if anything is being achieved. We do a continual survey asking what people think about us and their experience of the airport. We use that as a yardstick to answer the question, ‘have we made people’s journeys better?’”
But the hardest part of becoming truly customer-centric is not the scale or complexity of your business, nor is it the software and manpower required to capture, process, assess and act on the information you draw from customers.
In large organisations, particularly, it is the problem of unifying your management team to a single, broad goal. Big businesses might have 10, 20 or 50 product lines, some performing much better than others.
Bundling some of these together, for example, to improve a purchaser’s experience might mean your hot-shot products are lumped in with ones that perform less well. Convincing the bestsellers’ product manager that they should forgo stellar status for the greater good will take some doing.
Organisations that manage this unification task successfully come up with a range of bonuses and incentives that promote teamwork without alienating or penalising top performers. It’s a tightrope walk, but negotiating this tricky process will create a better business in the long run.
Assuming the board has bought in, what lies ahead is a Herculean effort to discover not just customer trends, but individuals’ historical associations with your organisation. And once the data is available, you need to understand how to use it.
Fundamentally, there are three processes that are key to any successful customer-centric campaign, according to e-mail marketing business Silverpop product strategist Dave Walters.
“First, an intelligent and comprehensive database is required to track and record all details of customer interactions and behaviours. Second, you must have the tools and technology in place that will enable you to make sense of the data and maintain its accuracy,” he says.
“Finally there must be a process for the ongoing capture of up-to-date consumer data, behaviour and interactions. This data provides you with the required insight into the history of the customer’s interactions, relationship and behaviours that enables the marketer to successfully adapt and target their approach for each individual.”
Sounds simple enough, right? But the process is littered with complications and pitfalls that can cause businesses to do it half-heartedly, and to stop short of the thorough process that creates the fullest customer picture.
“You have to try to align all the bits of information you have about a customer, so the listening part is really pulling together all the facts,” says IBM’s Fletcher. “You need to understand everything they’ve ever done with you – their whole history – and bring that all together into one place, which we refer to as a single source of truth.
“That’s the listening part. We then move on to the ‘anticipate’ part, which is running analytics across the different sales segments, so you can say: given this is where the customer is now, what is the next best thing we can do to achieve better quality of service?
“It means projecting a customer’s lifetime value and coming up with the next best action, modelling their churn propensity, modelling their analytics – lots of things that help you predict what will happen long term and in the immediate future.
“The next step we call ‘act’, which is taking those insights and embedding them automatically into all the mainstream processes of your business. So every customer touchpoint in the future is informed with the insights and the information that you’ve built up.”
The final step, says Fletcher, is to knit together the customer’s interactions with all the channels within your business to create a perfect three-dimensional map of the when, where, what and how. You should have a crystal clear view of the customer’s life-cycle and be able to predict their needs in future.
But knowing this much about a customer can be a curse as well as a blessing. Use the information too readily – either to show off how much you know about people or to confront them at every turn with a new product or service – and you’ll scare them off.
Customers need to know you are collecting their data and should be comfortable that this is happening. According to Fletcher, you must “allow customers to fine-tune the different ways you’re working with their information – they should have control”.