Guest Blog: Risk Takers Can Reap Loyalty Rewards

In Featured on App, Loyalty & CRM, Marketing and Sales by Vaughn Highfield

Bruce Kerr

With today’s business and economic challenges, the temptation is to avoid risk and stick with the tried-and-true. Ironically, however, it is the risk takers whose companies are best positioned to win, as relying on variations of the same old strategies will result in the same old flat results.

The rapid rate at which everything moves today can often create fear. We worry, agonize and then make decisions based on defense and security. The need for balance and safety is understandable, especially when so many individuals, and even other organizations, depend on a company’s success. The problem, however, is that this attitude can eventually push those of us who lead companies into a "bunker" mentality, where we tend to avoid new ideas and strategies.

Ironically, avoiding risk introduces its own risk – the risk of not creating impact, of missing a paradigm shift or of being left behind when new competitors leap into the fray. To keep up and stay relevant, today’s executives must balance the instinct for security with the need to take chances. Trying something new can be the antidote to another potentially flat year, another lukewarm product rollout and another round of more niggling cost-cutting.

The first risk to consider, that "something new,” is the growing power of customer-centricity. Forward-thinking companies are looking for executives with the vision and leadership to step forward and change corporate dynamics based on customer information. They’re refocusing their organizations around customer, rather than product, perspective. These companies recognize that customer-specific data is a corporate asset, a tool that increases competitive edge and relaxes the pressure to focus relentlessly on streamlining expenses. That's what we call Enterprise Loyalty.

The Paralysis of Fear

While many companies are embracing the customer-centric vision of Enterprise Loyalty, others fear that change. "I get what you’re saying," one CEO explained to me recently. "But we’re just not ready to do this yet. Adopting this strategy would have us swinging way above our weight class."

If he had been able to put his fears aside for a moment, this CEO would have realized that Enterprise Loyalty doesn’t require a massive leap of faith and an immediate rebirth of the entire organization all at once. It is instead a series of steps in a new direction.

For example, companies that haven’t been optimizing their loyalty data may assume that digging in and laying that groundwork will cost too much time and money. But the level of change or refocus required doesn’t demand the sizeable investment of resources it required ten years ago. Technology has taken care of that. The real work is the shift from being foundationally product-centric to customer-committed, and returning to the customer as the company focal point.

The Power of Change

Embracing customer-centricity can start slowly and progress at its own pace into a full-fledged strategy. As long as your organization has a vision and guidance in place, the journey to that complete relationship will unfold with the rewards of "new discovery" just as a new relationship does. Here are three suggested starting points:

  • Paint a vision of the destination: If you believe that the best way to compete and differentiate is through your unique vision of the customer experience, then sharing that vision is the way to begin your journey. You have to believe and look objectively at your business to determine where lie the best opportunities for change.
  • Shift the focus: Place the customer on a more macro level. Start by using customer data to evaluate traditional activities like pricing and assortment; or, to evaluate historical decisions and approaches to identify incremental insight that will allow you to change the way to think about those decisions.
  • Take a phased approach: Only a limited number of organizations can take on a full "big data" mandate and leverage every aspect of a well-developed database. Instead, employ a phased approach that focuses on strategic goals.

With risk comes fear. But when it comes to Enterprise Loyalty, Winston Churchill was right, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."

Bruce KerrThis guest post comes courtesy of Bruce Kerr, president of LoyaltyOne U.S.