I caught up with Adnan Idrees, Director of Loyalty at Etisalat – The UAE's largest telecom operator. He shared his insights on how to earn customer loyalty, the role of points and programmes and the advantage of analytics. Below are his top 3 insights on what marketers ought to know to win over customers.
1. Loyalty is about having a personal relationship with the customer to create brand ambassadors.
Frequent and loyal customers will both give you additional revenues, by using your product over and over again or staying with you. But frequent customers can leave you at any time. They are frequent because there is a need for your service. The loyal customer will defend your brand and justify their relationship with the brand. That is the difference. The loyal customer will talk about you when it is not even required. A frequent customer is only interested with getting the service you provide and using it. But that's it – they don't do anything more than that. Because they are your repeat customers and a very important part of your revenues but unlike loyal customers they are not out there promoting you and being ambassadors for your brand.
2. The greatest advantage of a rewards programme is it tells you more about your customers.
Rewards are one of the main reasons why organizations introduce loyalty programmes, especially in telecoms because there are millions of customers using the service. Around the world getting and upgrading a SIM card is very easy. You can go to any place and pick up a SIM card by providing very brief information about yourself and somebody hands over their SIM card to you. So as an operator we don't necessarily know who the customer is. Now that is where a loyalty programme comes into play. You become a member of a loyalty programme – whether it's a Telco, whether it's an airline – because it interests you. You will realize they have a very detailed process in that they ask various questions about your likes, dislikes and preferences in order to understand you better. So this is where we are investing a lot of resource to get more and more information about our customers. And then combine this with all the other information we have available in our systems – how often you travel, where do you call, where are you from, what services you like. Once we have all this information we can see which package suits you. So what is happening now in telecoms, and other industries, companies are moving from products to segments. It makes more sense. Before we used to make a product and ask people to adopt it. Now we understand our customer and design a product accordingly.
3. Data mining is the new competitive edge in loyalty
Telcos have been investing a lot of money into data mining tools, applications and software – which are very expensive. But the need is there. What is comes down to, is that you yourself are a customer. You are a consumer. For example, what ads do you recall from the paper this morning? You glance through a newspaper without realizing in those 18 pages there are at least 8 to 10 million Dirhams worth of advertizing spend that has gone in there. But it doesn't jump out and engage you. Why that happens is that maybe the relevance was not there, thus your interest was not there. Data mining and these tools work in a different way. A product manager will look at your behaviour and he designs a product that makes more sense for you. An advertiser takes that data, understand it better and then they only bring the service to the right segments. So every investment – whether it is into product development or a marketing campaign – makes more sense. That can only happen if I understand you better. The better you understand a person as a person, the better marketer you will be.