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Book Review: From customer information to customer intimacy    

The Loyalty Leap: By Bryan Pearson; Portfolio/Pengiun/2012; $25.95

by Anand Parthasarathy

Loyalty is easier acquired than retained.  All the big enterprises from airlines and hotels   to  branded stores   and web malls know that it is relatively simple  to sign up customers into loyalty clubs at first or second encounter. But then the customers start to compare. They get  tempting offers from  rival loyalty programmes. Sometimes they hedge their bets by joining multiple  loyalty schemes. I myself am a member of four airline frequent flyer  clubs – two domestic and two international —  because there is no way one airline or even  an alliance of airlines  is going  to cover all my flying needs. So why not  have a back-up or two up one’s sleeve.

This is fine from the customer’s point  of view ( though I do have a problem when I can’t    bundle  the miles from multiple programmes to redeem them for a  long trip). But think of this as a challenge for the airline or for that matter of any loyalty offering.  Bryan Pearson does just that – and he should know. He is the president and CEO of LoyaltyOne, a respected international name  for  loyalty strategies and programme advice. He heads six global enterprises including the  Canada-based AirMiles rewards programme and  after 20 years in the business , has crystallized  the challenge of loyalty schemes into three Vs – Value, Visibility and Voice.  Give the customer real value, not humbug;  drill deep into your customer data to  make his or her preferences visible – and  create a platform for communication with your customer.

Enterprises who  have successfully  ‘mined’ their customer data have reached rich rewards:  If you are a member of Mileage Plus, United Airlines knows whether  if you  will spend $25 extra  to check  in a suitcase. Verizon’s phone records tell them  how often you call your other. Hilton knows the instant a  regular gues checks in, whether he or she  prefers a higher floor or a non smoking room.

This is the crucial difference between just collecting data and  putting it to productive use, turning customer information into customer intimacy.

But Pearson is also a realist – and admits  that customers can only be acquired, churned, and reactivated so many times before they get bored with your brand and  feel footloose, ready to move on. The Loyalty Leap  tries to  suggest how  this  loyalty period can be  stretched to the maximum.

Technology is often the key today.  Location based marketing, online real-time tracking, are just two currently popular  tools deployed to reach customers where-ever they may be.  The four key behavioural dimensions of the customer can be likened to four doors marked  Spatial, Temporal, Individual and Cultural.  Seal these four doors, Pearson suggests, and you have successfully transformed  the customer’s material loyalty ( for whatever goodies you offer) to one of emotional loyalty ( in good times and bad).

The Loyalty Leap is  a racy, stimulating read for anyone who has  to work on the marketing side of the Loyalty game – and I dare say for many ‘loyal’  customers as well.

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