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Customer engagement 2017: three perspectives on finance and engagement


What is the balance between marketing spend and customer enagegement? We asked three marketers: Howard Ormesher group CRM director at IM group, Ben Lappin, head of customer experience at The Guardian, and Phil O’Sullivan, Markting Director at Newmarket Holidays, to chat about their experiences.

A quick introduction:

  • Howard Ormesher is group CRM director at IM Group, which imports the Subaru and Isuzu brands to the UK and operates offline and online franchises
  • Ben Lappin is the head of customer experience at The Guardian, previously at NewsUK
  • Phil O’Sullivan is markting director at Newmarket Holidays, responsible for 200,000 holidays per year, generally in the 55+ age group

Q: How do you convince your board of long-term engagement strategies?

Phil O’Sullivan:

"70 year-olds don’t transact online? Bunkum. We turned over £90 million last year online. But there comes to a point when growth plateaus.

"Now, Tripadvisor takes over. Some comapnies could get away with selling terrible holidays. This has changed. Stakeholders realised that to grow, they have to bring the customer base with us.

"Our strategic goal as we grow, is to retain 40% repeat custom. That's a challenge. Last year, 44% were repeats, which means that at a cruise check-in, ouf of every 100, 44 have done it before. That is something.

"Luckily the MD bought into concept that you can’t grow without loyal customer base," he says.

Phil O’Sullivan: "70 year-olds don’t transact online? Bunkum."

Ben Lappin:

"It's interesting that we still have to sell these ideas. It Conjors images of people in the 1990s realising that energy costs money.

"How you tackle it depends on your organisation. My approach is to go high, go hard and go with data. Shout as loud as you can. I went to the CMO and said, 'it’s transactions'. Volume of fulfilment, even with home delivery, even with better delivery rates than Amazon, you will disappoint.

"You have data that talks about customer pain. For me, it’s be loud and take that attention. Focus on the customers and use what they are saying about pain and get the attention to focus on those things. You get a more central role. The people you compete with in acquisition, etc, already have attention. But take that data and get the attention."

Ben Lappin: "Go high, go hard and go with data"

Howard Ormesher:

"My approach has always been this passion for what you do. Depending on the maturity of your business, sending emails, sales, it’s difficult to challenge the status quo and refocus.

"It's difficult to refocus away from ‘what has always worked’. You will have to challenge what you are doing at some point. Be passionate, positive and realistic. To re-engineer your business takes a lot of pain. Changing how your business operates is a challenge. Sit it alongside what you already do. Pilot something, the engagement strategy, and it will take over and it won’t be your idea then, the board will have taken it," he says.

Howard Ormesher: "Be passionate, positive and realistic"

Q - Is there a different perspective between head office and deadlers/franchises?

Phil O’Sullivan:

"We have a 'customer excellence director'. With us, money was not the thing. Look down at the customer. It can be an 18 month journey from pre-purchase to post-travel. Let’s say a customer has the hotel changed because it’s getting refurbished. The customer may have got engaged there. The customer excellence director takes care of these details.

"Also, every customer has a grumble point. There are ways to increase that grumble or turn it into a positive in very simple ways. Think about the customer.

"Data is king. We use Revoo. Those creating the holidays are marked by the Revoo score. It seems unfair, but those with high Revoo scores re-buy, and those with mediocre ones don’t.

"A small 5-7% write the reviews. They are the ones that determine whether future hoidays win bookings," he says.

Phil O’Sullivan: "There are ways to increase that grumble or turn it into a positive in very simple ways."

Ben Lappin:

"To get anything done, picking the right team is important and building those relationships.

"If you can't build a good solid thing with those people, then you will achieve very little, which could threaten customer experience. Is service a function of retention? Blend these things."

"Make your problems other people’s problems. If you have say 2,000 contacts per week about delivery, then you may lose out on budget, but moving it down to delivery and away from you will sort the problem out. You need to sit in the right place when it comes to pain," he says.

Howard Ormesher:

"Unofficially budgets are there to call marketing to account. Is it influencing sales? Track performance over time. We have 15 touchpiints in our CSI. A customer could drop out at any point.

"So we measure everything, publish everything. We live or die by it and measure it all and live or die by it.

"We’re a brand. If we believe in it, then reviews are helpful. Who’s brand are we trying to protect? It’s not Feefo or Revoo. What’s important to them is different to what’s important to us. Third parties to mediate accepts that our brand is perfect. We do get bad reviews, and we publish them and deal with them.

"Reputation is reliant on feedback. Reviews turn to star ratings. If a dealer goes below 3 starts, then we manage them out of the business," he says.

Howard Ormesher: "We measure everything, publish everything. We live or die by it."

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