The Evolution of Customer Experience: Driving Loyalty Through the Convergence of Loyalty and CRM

Jan 31, 2013

In today’s marketing world “optimized customer experiences” can only be realized if “convergence” is realized first.

That was the number one takeaway from my recent MediaPost article, and it’s a major sticking point for loyalty programs. Essentially, convergence falls under two categories, with one unfolding in response to the other. The convergence of marketing channels, convergence 1.0, and the convergence of management approaches that blend traditional CRM with loyalty combine to yield a new customer experience.

Or, what I like to call convergence 2.0.

But only the combined forces of loyalty and CRM, along with the software management to make real-time course corrections if downstream customer processes falter, will create a more accurate customer picture.

Considering that 65% of marketers have created a loyalty program and have enrolled some 2.1 billion members in the US alone, it’s clear rewards programs have proven their worth. The question is, with your average consumer wanting so much more out of their loyalty program today, will future adoption rates and membership enrollees keep pace with past success? Thus, the need for improved customer experience management has never been more acute. Failure to appease customers and establish a genuine connection risks a complete loss of loyalty and brand commitment. As such, loyalty marketers and brands should embrace the following, in order to embrace convergence 2.0:

  • Like omnichannel loyalty, an enterprise-level initiative to drive, track, measure and reward incremental behavior throughout the customer experience across all channels, a loyalty program’s integration with CRM and CEM must start at the highest levels. C-Level executives must be on board and so must support staff.
  • Simply rewarding members for behaviors they would have already performed via social media is unwise. It’s better to give members the incentive to take further steps such as tweeting about their current in-store location – actions that might drive enhanced brand communication and value.
  • Think of management convergence in terms of the five Es: Enterprise (C-level buy-in), Economics (the benefits of your successfully converged CRM/ Loyalty management system), Experience (the tools  your team needs to manage an omnichannel and CRM-CEM-loyalty framework), Engagement (aligning your data with your messaging and branding) and Execution, or actually getting the job done.

Of course, just as CRM and loyalty convergence discussions begin with real people in real boardrooms, real salespeople– “customer advocates” – remain vital to the downstream process, humanizing brand interaction.

Consumers already demand seamless coordination between people, process and technology  in order to enjoy a brand experience through multiple channels they already use. So if your customers are already there, why aren’t you?

The convergence of CRM and loyalty giving rise to a new customer experience may not be the most jaw-dropping development on paper. But when dealing with major overhauls to systems and processes, that’s often the case. Only after the changes have been implemented do the total benefits emerge.

For marketers, backend management organization should be priority one. CRM and loyalty must converge if that goal is to be realized.