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February, 2024

How to destroy customer loyalty in moments (or, when personalisation and automation go wrong!

Jocelyn Honour
Founder Firefly Advisory, AAICD, CPM
February 2024

Cast your mind back to Christmas Day (or your most recent cultural day involving time with loved family).

Imagine you are a hardworking single mum in her early 50s who has devoted her life to her now-grown children. You love the family rituals you’ve built up over time and your children have become fun, positive adults.

About two years ago, you were finally able to purchase a two bedroom unit in a leafy suburb – your first home – and you’ve turned it into your haven. As interest rates have risen, you’ve taken on extra work to cover the increased payments and you are doing ok.

Now, you’re enjoying Christmas day, relaxing after the preparations as everyone is finally seated at the table, laughing and reflecting on the year just past.

Then your phone buzzes with an incoming email message.

It’s Christmas Day. It’s just after 1 pm. It must be a friend or extended family member right? You glance at it to see whether you’d like to respond.

Instead of smiling and reading best wishes from a friend, your stomach sinks. It’s from your bank. On Christmas Day. At 1.12 pm. About an interest rate increase.

As marketers, we have embraced automation for everything from reassurance to our customers that their order was successful to suggesting other items suited to their buying patterns.

Again, this year, forecasters are emphasising the need for deep customer understanding and personalisation to customer expectations for better product recommendations, eDM campaigns and follow up.

We love it.

Yet, in one moment, all the good work we’ve done is destroyed when an automated message is sent, without a final overlay of common sense and/or sensitivity to cultural diversity.

I believe it would have been relatively simple for our single mum’s bank to have set up their automation to exclude delivery of interest rate increase messages on significant cultural holidays.

So why didn’t that happen?

Development teams or management might say “it’s difficult”, “it’s expensive” or “we can’t cater for every culture so we can’t do it for one”.

I would argue it’s worth it.

What is your marketing budget? What is the value of loyalty? Almost every organisation has diversity and inclusion initiatives in place – how many of us have consulted them in planning our marketing calendars for the year?

Empower people passionate about diversity to consult, agree and present their suggestions for the most important cultural occasions on which news like “your home loan repayments are changing” should NOT be delivered.

Who will win in 2024?

In my view, the winners this year will be businesses (large and small) who invest in understanding their customers on a more common sense, personal level.

Some projects might be:

  • You work for a large retailer selling own-brand clothing – research your customers to determine what keeps the top 10 % coming back. Set a goal to make bring the next 10% to the same level.
  • You work for a premium chocolate manufacturer seeking to break into a new market or customer segment – identify your best customers and interview 4-5 a month to find out what is important to them. Why are they buying your product over others? How are interest rates affecting them? What would delight them so much they would tell their friends about your brand?
  • Your company’s SaaS solution for online rostering gets rave reviews from existing clients who bring more business to you after trial. Re-orient your marketing messaging from the super clever technology in favour of showing prospects reviews, video testimonials and addressing their pain points

Almost all businesses say they put the customer first – unfortunately when customers try to interact with them, online and offline, the real-life experience does not bear this out.

Get it right and you’ll win the business. We all want to believe what we read and experience what is promised.