It would be hard to think of a more appropriate place to unveil a new manifesto on customer service and loyalty than Twitter’s French headquarters in Paris. The offices overlook the city’s ornate opera house, as if to confirm that technology should never be adopted at the expense of culture. Or more precisely, humanity.
The proceedings were kicked off by Damien Viel, managing director of Twitter France, who pointed out that Twitter had become not only a news source, but a CRM platform. At airports and railway stations, travellers often use Twitter to get live updates and fire off queries. “Companies are now judged by the quality and rapidity of their responses to questions from customers,” he added.
Jeremy Lopes, editor-in-chief of French communications magazine L’A.D.N., observed that achieving loyalty had become increasingly difficult in an era when consumers were deeply suspicious of big companies. “A recent study by Opinion Way showed that 56 per cent of people do not trust big companies to create jobs in this country, and that 68 per cent do not trust them to help the planet.”
Consumers felt “pursued” by brands, he continued, hence the popularity of ad blockers. In short, consumers have never been less loyal to brands than they are today.
Samir Amellal, CEO of Fullsix Paris (pictured above), said more than 60 per cent of people do not believe that conventional loyalty schemes make them more loyal. He suggested that poor service often caused a breakdown in relationships. This happens when “experiences with a brand in the real world do not tally with the marketing: the botched delivery of something ordered online is a typical example.”
Also in the hot seat that morning was Sébastien Garcin, chief marketing officer of L’Oréal France. He described how the company went out of its way to monitor and understand consumer behaviour. Even the way consumers interacted with marketing communications was a way of monitoring how they felt about the company. “For me, communications must be effective not only in terms of its performance, but in to what extent it allows me to learn more about my audience.”
Loyalty, then, remains the Holy Grail. But if it’s increasingly out of reach, what’s the solution?
A NEW CRM MANIFESTO
Fullsix believes that CRM (Customer Relationship Management) should be replaced by PRE (People Relationship Enchantment). The link to the full ten-point manifesto (in French only) is here.
Exclusively to readers of AdForum, here are a few highlights we've translated into English. Note: data is based on a survey conducted by Fullsix among 600 French panellists.
1. Redefine customer loyalty without jealousy or exclusivity. According to 80% of consumers, unconditional loyalty does not exist. While 50% remain “more or less” loyal to certain brands, they will not hesitate to test others. One analogy is streaming platforms: loyal customers of Netflix might drop it for a while in order to watch an attractive series on another platform, only to return at a later date. In this context, the old linear model that considers lost customers as inevitable “churn” is no longer applicable. In fact it’s better to consider a circular model in which brands must aim to be constantly seductive, in the knowledge that a customer may well return at a later date. The brand concerned must also remain consistent and true to its own identity.
2. Loyalty is not a question of profile or mindset, but of brand category. No customer is totally loyal or totally disloyal. Brands in certain categories, such as utility providers (gas, electricity), benefit from a regulatory framework that makes it easier from them to retain customers – and harder for customers to try an alternative. At the same time, telecom brands tend to have very similar offerings, so switching is less tempting. But in categories like fashion, travel, décor and food, experimentation is the norm. A word of warning though: regulations can change, so every brand must ensure that it remains attractive.
3. Seducing a client requires a complex elixir. Why are customers loyal? When asked, they cite such factors as “a satisfying experience” (48%) and “value for money” (32%). But “habit” is also an important element (30%). Using the same brand time and time again is easy and reassuring. Paradoxically, customers say they can be lured away by novelty and innovation. The conclusion? The ideal brand must offer a blend of stability, innovation, experience, value for money and emotional attractiveness.
4. A fragile relationship is easily broken. Constantly pursued and solicited by brands, customers have become more demanding. No less than 90% would quit their preferred brand after a disappointing in-store experience; 44% after a bad online experience. Service, then, remains key. Customers also want their brands to stay “up to date”. Brands should ensure that every element of their offering is contemporary, consistent and efficient. Of course, it’s useless to promise perfection; but the good news is that, as with people, the quirks of a brand are among its most attractive qualities.
5. You can’t buy loyalty with points. Cards and points are often seen as the very definition of customer loyalty. But customers can have wallets full of cards, and 62% of them say these do not engender more loyalty to a specific brand. Just as you don’t pick your best friends based on how many gifts they give you, customers aren’t retained by points alone. To become a symbol and a point of reference for its customers, a brand must create a deeper and more emotional bond with them.
6. They may subscribe, but they won’t necessarily stay. The idea of “signing up” to receive a regular service is familiar in fields such as telecoms, the press and even sport (that gym membership). But it’s also spreading to other areas such as music streaming and beauty products. So is a subscription model the ideal way of ensuring loyalty? Not necessarily: many consider a subscription a constraint or even “a prison” (32%), with a negative impact on the brand. Brands going down the subscription route must have an offer that’s flexible, regularly refreshed and highly attuned to each customer’s needs.
7. In search of the eternal honeymoon. Brands tend to consider winning and keeping customers as two different things. Indeed, they traditionally spend more energy on attracting new customers than they do on making the existing ones feel loved. In today’s brand-saturated environment, that is a big mistake. Brands should throw their resources into creating relationships that are sincere, strong and virtuous. Along the lines of Walmart’s “everyday low prices”, they should consider “everyday a new proof of love”. The challenge is not to retain clients, but to win them back – every single day.
8. Put emotions at the heart of the relationship. Emotions play a huge role in the choice of the things we buy and the services we use. When asked about the emotions provoked by brands, customers mention “joy” and “surprise”. But also “anger”, “disappointment” and even “contempt”. Many consumers feel that brands are out to manipulate them (77%) and generally disrespect them as individuals (55%). Brands obviously need to re-establish authenticity and transparency. But it’s more complex than that. They should reconsider the positive emotions they wish to provoke in consumers, and find ways of integrating these not just in their advertising – which is already the case – but in every channel, product and interaction they offer.
9. Organize the idyll around the offer. These days many established companies are afraid of being “Uber-ized” by a disruptive new brand. But inflexible companies have always been replaced by newcomers. Enterprises that have innovation in their DNA need not fear. (Consider Nintendo, which has actually existed since 1889 and only got into the video game business in the 1970s.) Of course, updating your offering can be a tricky business, particularly if management is unable to adapt. The process should be progressive and prudent, but also meticulous and thorough. The secret is to ensure that your organization adapts to the offering rather than trying to bend a new vision to fit an old structure.
10. We need a new way of assessing loyalty. In this new environment it’s essential that we consider loyalty in a different way. Simply measuring customer retention rates is no longer enough. We live in a world in which customers pinball between brands depending on their needs, their aspirations, their surroundings, the influence of their community and even, perhaps, the persuasive power of the brands themselves. As suggested by the Fullsix manifesto, loyalty is not a number – but an emotion.