June 5th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

New research from Accenture has found that the number of customers participating in loyalty programs has grown by more than 40 percent in the past six years, with the majority of them joining loyalty programs to access the best deals. Despite this, 64 percent of customers switched providers last year in at least one industry. And of that group, 50 percent said they would consider future offers from non-traditional players that they might never have previously considered.

Even more telling, from a loyalty perspective, more than one-quarter (27 percent) are members of multiple loyalty programs within the same industry, meaning that loyalty does not translate into exclusivity.

Based on this information, it’s time for companies to acknowledge that loyalty is neither permanent nor under their control. They don’t “own” the customer, and they certainly don’t have a lock on his spending dollars.

The results from the study suggest that consumers’ decisions to abandon brands for competitors have less to do with the loyalty program, or even the company’s products or services, than with the overall customer experience as a whole.

Companies can also look to the Web and other sources of information as reasons for decreasing loyalty.  Consumers today have more knowledge at their fingertips, and they can connect with companies quicker and more easily than ever before. This equates to more choices, which creates more competition and decreases loyalty.

The bottom line is that companies must redesign their loyalty program models to keep up with today’s customers.  Provide a better customer experience  and customers will be more likely to stay with you than they are if you simply give them every tenth cup of coffee for free.

Accenture also suggests that companies can increase loyalty by coming up with innovative ways to collaborate with other companies, rather than competing. It singles out American Express and Uber, which have joined forces to allow AmEx users to earn double points when they pay their Uber drivers with their cards, creating a win-win for both companies.

It’s a win-win for me as a consumer too.

June 4th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

We all remember that now-historic Super Bowl that put real-time marketing on the map. Super Bowl commercials are always the talk of the town, but back in 2013, the brand that generated the most buzz used a single tweet, not an expensive commercial, to make a huge impact. When the lights went out during that Super Bowl, Oreo tweeted a piece of on-the-spot creative–an image of an Oreo cookie with a simple caption: “You can still dunk in the dark.” Why was their move so brilliant? Because during that momentary blackout, all eyes were on Twitter. Viewers were tweeting about the blackout, speculating about what was going on, and making jokes about the situation. Oreo saw an opportunity to reach a massive audience that was discussing the same topic, and went for it. Today, a brand would be silly not to leverage the social conversation around major world events and use it as an opportunity to connect with potential customers.

But participating in a big conversation isn’t as simple as using the right hashtag. Rather, it requires a deep understanding of social sentiment surrounding an issue. Treading carefully with content is important, especially when the conversation revolves around a sensitive or controversial topic. Just last week, FIFA found itself at the center of a global scandal. The organization was accused of corruption, and some of the biggest names in soccer were implicated in the fraudulent activity.When news broke social media outlets exploded. Social mentions of FIFA skyrocketed to over 3 million in a single day, a 1,043 percent increase over normal traffic. Netbase, a social analytics company, tracked it all. Here’s what the conversation looked like:



Looking at this type of information before launching any real-time marketing campaigns is critical. With the data in hand, marketers can make more educated decisions about the best real-time marketing route and ensure that their content is in tune with what the majority of their Twitter audience is saying. After all, one wrong tweet from a brand could turn into a scandal in its own right.

June 1st, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

Readers of this magazine might recall an article our news editor Leonard Klie wrote few months back about Buffalo’s 311 Call and Resolution Center. Since the article was published, the city has further put its system to the test. Recently Paramount Pictures dropped in to shoot scenes for the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, a blockbuster which is scheduled for release in 2016.

Last week I caught up with Oswaldo Mestre Jr., the city’s director of citizen services, to discuss how things were going. Mestre had just wrapped up a meeting with the mayor of Buffalo before hopping on the phone with me. He told me a bit about how the process went down.

As a setting for portions of the new film, Paramount wanted to use a medium-sized urban city in New York state that wasn’t quite the magnitude of a New York city. Having made it to the short list of locations, Buffalo then beat out the other two locations running for the role,  thanks in large part to the strength of its 311 call center system and its ability to efficiently handle citizens’ concerns. “They were pretty impressed that we had a system that had a direct link to the community,” Mestre says.

The system, which runs on the Verint-owned Kana’s Lagan Enterprise CRM system, records citizens’ interactions with the city and stores them in a database. It can process the data recorded and serve up detailed, location specific reports that allow city officials to take more definite action, and keeps citizens in the loop. If for instance a city official wishes see how many times there have been complaints concerning rats on a specific neighborhood block, they can easily access that information through this system.

With such a strong support center in place,  it didn’t take much convincing to get the mayor on board.

Prior to filming, though, they had to do a bit to set the stage. They were expecting a crew of close to 300—producers, production assistants, and directors, among others. Shoots were scheduled from 7pm to 6am for a three week stretch. The city, though by no means a mere spec on the map with close to 260,000 citizens, doesn’t often see this kind of action. “We’ve had little things here and there,” Mestre says, but, “this is probably one of the biggest budget films to shoot in Buffalo.”

Mestre knew that they would have to set some ground work and consult with members of the community to gauge potential complaints. A number of meetings were held, and agents from the fire and police departments and public works and transportation all attended. They took notes so that they’d be prepared to act when the need arose.

When production was set in motion, the city directed people to its Facebook page and encouraged they download a mobile app through which they could issue complaints. Citizens were notified about which streets would be closed and at what times. As anticipated, the chief disturbance was noise, Mestre says. “Whenever you have flashbangs, or you’re turning up cars, you’re going to have those issues.”

Some of the scenes attracted bigger crowds than anticipated, which reached the ears of people living nearby. In one case, some senior citizens reported another unexpected disturbance: a generator had been stationed too close to a house. But thanks to the communication that had been established with the various agencies, and the service-level agreements [SLAs] in place, the city had a standard for the time it should take to deal with each case. Paramount was also able to respond courteously, shutting down filming for the night and seeking out different locations.

In other words, this was nothing the city wasn’t prepared to deal with, and the project didn’t suffer from the complications. Filming ran on schedule and was wrapped after three and a half weeks.

Mestre says that the city saw a definite economic boost thanks to the project, though he didn’t have any figures on hand to share when we spoke. Thankfully, the system isn’t just in place for planned events like this one, and is there to deal with the unexpected as well.




May 29th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

The editorial offices of CRM and its sister publication, Speech Technology, are moving. We’re not going far–we’re staying in the same building, just going from the 14th floor to the eighth floor. The move is expected to happen on Monday. June 1, so the next time you speak to us, we’ll  likely be in different environs. Other than that, no other changes are expected.

May 28th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

Last year, I wrote a blog post about my frustrations with IKEA’s customer service. When I visited the store back in April of this year, I wondered whether anything had changed. I realized that by a total coincidence, I was back almost exactly one year later, and I considered that the perfect opportunity to compare experiences. Sadly, nothing had changed.  This time, after paying for my furniture, I had to wait on line at the home delivery kiosk. And I’m using the term “line” loosely. People clustered together with huge carts full of furniture, and no one knew exactly where to stand because the space was so tight. Eventually, the line of people waiting for home delivery got so long that it curved through the customer service area and reached the registers. Plus, there were so many people and carts that they were starting to block the path in and out of the store.

That’s when a store employee got involved.  He decided to form two lines, which seemed like a good idea, except instead of breaking the original line in half, he just motioned to everyone in the back of the line to form a whole new one. Ultimately, people who were all the way in the back ended up in the front. Not surprisingly, people who had been waiting for over an hour were not pleased, and all hell broke loose. Shoppers were running up to the employee to complain and trying to shove their way to the front of the line. It was total chaos. The customers were stressed, the employees were stressed, and almost two hours after IKEA closed for the night, the home delivery line finally dissipated. I waited in line for an hour and 45 minutes. Sure, it was a Saturday night, but that’s just inexcusable.

A few weeks later, I got my furniture delivered, and you can imagine my terror when I realized that instead of getting rails for a small PAX wardrobe unit, I received rails for a large unit. Flashbacks to those lines in the customer service department haunted my dreams for three whole days until I made it back to IKEA, determined to replace the rails. No surprise, I waited for almost 40 minutes. But, just as I was about to completely write IKEA off forever on my way out, a sign in the elevator caught my eye.

It turns out IKEA is experimenting with a new delivery model this week, offering free delivery to shoppers that spend more than $999 on Tuesday through Thursday. At first I was annoyed. I even turned to a fellow shopper to say: “Of course they offer free delivery now! Where was this offer 3 weeks ago, when I bought my furniture?” What I didn’t realize, however, was that there was an IKEA employee in the elevator with us. She heard my complaint, and said, “Yeah, we’ve noticed that the delivery counter gets crazy on the weekends, so we’re trying to get people to come in on weekdays instead to lighten the customer load on Fridays and weekends.”

Now, this might seem like a minor change, but for me, the move was very telling. As angry as I had been with my recent IKEA experience, I was pleased to see that the company was very aware of its issues, and was actually doing something to resolve the problem. Or at least trying to. Customer expectations are on the rise, and IKEA seems to be keenly aware that if it doesn’t act quickly, consumers will go elsewhere. I, for one, was glad to see them making a positive change. As for whether or not this strategy will work, I’ll just have to wait until I have something else to return.


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