Where has all the trust gone? Re-engaging customers after a turbulent few years

Tim Pile

16th June 2011

Tim Pile, CEO of Cogent Elliott gave a thought-provoking presentation recently to representatives of the financial services industry on re-engaging customers. Tim's background both on client side on the operating board of Sainsbury's and Retail Director of Alliance and Leicester and Marketing Director of Lloyds TSB as well as his considerable agency side experience meant he was perfectly placed to give an insightful presentation.

Tim brought to life the idea that when trust between customers and brands fades away, one has to find new ways to re-engage.

"The model fundamentally changes from one based on trust to one based on a commercial relationship. This requires new values and a new type of engagement."

Tim argued that with trust there is no going back to the 'good old days' when trust was king. "We need to find new ways to build a relationship with a new type of customer at a time when customer needs and expectations have changed as has the balance of power and control."

Tim had carried out significant, original, research into how Brands are responding and surmised, unfortunately, that some brands are simply trying to divert attention from their current negative positioning by making some superficial changes, embarking on a new sponsorship programme or bringing out a new ad. Such strategies do not address the real issues.

Instead, Tim highlighted 5 key strategies and one fundamental change in behaviour to achieve great engagement, and highlighted that it is the change in corporate behaviour that will ultimately be the driving force in re-engagement.

1. Influencing the Customer Journey

This is perhaps the most obvious strategy. Looking to move from just a simplistic CRM strategy to one of Customer Engagement.

CRM has been on an amazing journey over the last 20 years. On its first introduction in the 90's there was a period of huge promise and commensurate investment. CRM strategy delivered benefit and competitive advantage but never really achieved genuine 121 marketing. However, advances in technology means that CRM can now really deliver - personalised communications delivered in highly relevant situations. (Tim gave many live examples that are driving business)

CRM has gone through significant change from being something a department does to something the whole business does, enabled and fuelled by massive technological change.

CRM is now CE. It is no longer about managing customers, or about relationships (customers don't always want to be managed and seldom want a relationship). It has moved from what we do to Customers, to Data Driven Customer Engagement that we do with each other.

"CRM is alive and well and doing incredible things. It is just no longer CRM, it is now 'Customer Engagement'".

2. Borrowed clothes

To help build positive engagement, banks are developing new ways to get to the customer and building new associations.

A great example of a brand doing this well is O2 and the O2 Arena which successfully drives engagement by moving into music, offering priority seat bookings.

Barclaycard Unwind is an exclusive world of music for Barclaycard customers. They have also joined forces with Wembley Arena, the venue is used to showcase Barclaycard's contactless payment technology. To further strengthen this relationship and association Barclaycard have included an app on their facebook page where you can book advance tickets to gigs.

There are many examples of social and adver-games where FS brands have engaged in a less than traditional way, perhaps tapping into the zeitgeist of our time.

Virgin Money Queue Game

3. Enhanced Experience

Another key strategy that brands are utilising is the enhancement of the service experience. Whether this is looking at core retail techniques - such as the launch of Metro Bank - or considering how the digital space meets the physical one - such as ING's use of augmented reality in their app for the G1, helping customers to find their local cash point.

Whilst it's not always possible that this idea could be taken as far Coke's happiness machine it's true that we can all do more to improve our customer service experience.

4. A whole new tool box of techniques

Groundbreaking advances in digital technology can also radically enhance how we interact with customers. For instance, apps that utilise augmented reality mean we can now communicate with customers in so many exciting ways, making their lives easier and enhancing their experience with our brands. (Again, Tim showed many groundbreaking examples)

Pioneering use of Augmented Reality has helped a number of brands engage with their customers. Ford used this technology recently to help people turn one of their cars into an interactive brochure .

Lynx used the technology to turn audiences into stars of their ads, getting amazing results in terms of brand interaction .

What is important to remember though is that the media may change but the music remains the same. Arguably the rules of engagement are even more important:

  • Focus on the customer and compete to satisfy the same fundamentals in new ways
  • The Brand remains critical - more so than ever in such turmoil and fragmentation
  • Know your customer
  • Integrate messages

5. Revitalising the Brand

The position of a brand is the core issue, a central barrier to 'engaging the customer'. We all know that the stronger the Brand, the better the engagement.

If there was just one key strategy to reengagement it would be this; Brands need to look to the power of their people, and focus on those who are living the brand. It is the people who deliver the brand on a day-by-day basis and it is them who are best able to really engage. So, invest in the internal Brand just as diligently as one invests in the external one.

And lastly...

...all this leads to the one important behaviour change. All of these strategies are hugely more effective if corporate behaviour changes. The inverse is also true!

Business (banks) need to be less defensive (ok, that is difficult in current climes) and less adversarial and embrace the customer. Welcome them. Engage positively with them and ensure that every sinew of the business is straining to deliver positive customer experience.

Ultimately, that is a fundamental requirement to deliver real customer engagement and rebuild the relationship. And maybe even a little trust.