Stepping off a flight in Dubai in the middle of winter is like entering a warm and welcoming hotel lobby – which is where I was recently for a conference on Maximising Customer Loyalty & Profitability in the Middle East. Despite not being able to take advantage of the sunshine and warmth as it was a business trip, we were able to generate our own sense of sunshine, by focusing on trust, confidence, respect and emotion; all important contributors in fostering customer loyalty in the telecoms sector.
In fact, the event reminded me a bit of a wedding fair, such was the emphasis on creating a happy environment where trust is at the heart of all relationships. Where this conference differed from a wedding fair, however, is that, instead of wedding dresses, honeymoons and flowers, it was permission, relevance, reward, segmentation and real-time marketing which were top of the agenda.
Naturally, mobile marketing was a key focus, with mobile being a vital channel in driving customer loyalty. The importance of getting loyalty and retention programs right was also important, as Sinem Goksu of Turkcell outlined within her presentation on how to avoid annoying customers. The main take-away from this session was to ensure permission-based marketing is in place, for example with an opt-in loyalty program. This is especially important in regions where spam can spiral out of control if there aren’t permission-based rules in place and where regulators have been known to put a stop to mobile marketing activities, as Akin Braithwaite from MTN Nigeria explained
Continuing with the wedding fair theme, it’s important to have a qualified database. If the data isn’t used properly or it is incorrect, users will ‘divorce’ from the brand. Additionally, you have to demonstrate relevance and value to the customer otherwise the loyalty fostered will not last. And this loyalty goes beyond pure pricing, extending into the overall experience that customers enjoy when engaging with a brand. This is where emotional marketing comes into play, elaborated on by Sinem Goksu at Turkcell again. She impressed on us the ‘importance of working together to customers’ hearts and minds with a superior experience at every touch point.’ This was further endorsed by Yasmeen Abu Al Rub at Wataniya Kuwait who explained how we are loyal to our friends and family because we have an emotional bond with them. That is how we should consider customer loyalty.
Where the wedding analogies end, however, is in the value of rewards, segmentation and real-time marketing. To get the customer’s attention in the first place they need to be surprised and then rewarded. It is vital to ensure the right strategic partnership as well as a good customer experience, and tailored loyalty programs to a specific audience segment.
So, with that in mind, how do you plan on creating that warm fuzzy feeling for your customers when they see your brand?