Have We Forgotten That There’s More to CRM Than Driving Sales?

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Not everything has to be a transaction.

For anyone with even the most passing interest in marketing and communications, that’s a statement of the obvious. But, at a time where so many of us feel as though we’re being squeezed for extra cash by every excitable email which drops in our inboxes, it’s perhaps worth mentioning. Customer relationship management (CRM) is an art and a science – a delicate balancing act between boosting revenues and building brand love.

The operative word is, or should be, ‘balance’. And when brands discover the simple formula that spam communications = extra revenue, it becomes a drug that’s hard to give up (no matter how diminishing the returns may eventually become).

So it’s time to celebrate the other side of the equation: That quality, thoughtful direct comms = increased brand loyalty, advocacy, and even community. On top of everything else, this is the fundamental reason why our customers even like our brands enough to open these direct comms in the first place.

By way of example, take Octopus Energy, the UK-based renewable energy group. Brands in low interest categories are, traditionally, not well-known for driving a huge amount of brand advocacy . But from the moment I signed up with Octopus, it did feel like a different story. For starters, their emails read as though they’d been written by a human being – not least because they often end with a suggestion that, should I need to reach out for support, I could simply reply to any of their mails. No account number required, and no cryptic chatbot with which to negotiate beforehand.

Naturally I was sceptical, but the brand proved as good as its word. When I had an issue to resolve, it was over and done after a brief exchange of emails. It was incredibly refreshing to be treated by a brand in the same way that I’d treat one of our clients at Five by Five.We understand the need for businesses to trim costs and it’s no surprise they’re leaning into AI Chatbots. But whilst we are firm advocates of using technology to drive efficiencies we believe, when it comes to customer service, the value of implementing human, customer-centric support can’t be overstated. It’s the same reason why some supermarkets are moving away from the self-service checkout machines which have taken so much away from the physical retail experience – brands don’t win when their customer ‘service’ ends up outsourcing responsibilities to their consumers.

Building on that, Octopus has also used its direct communications to build a sense of community within its customer base. When I used its bespoke tool to reduce my energy consumption I found out I’d saved about £20 on my energy bills, I was offered the chance to either add that much in credit to my account, or contribute to an emergency fund to support people who were unable to pay their bills during last winter’s crisis. The brand initially promised to match the donated amount (from all customers) up to £10,000 – which meant collectively amassing £200,000 for the cause making me feel really great. So not only had Octopus made good on its central brand mission to bring more humanity into the energy sector, but it also united its own customers in pushing towards that same objective. That level of community is something it’s very hard to put a price on – but you can be sure the brand now means a lot more to every customer who helped support that initiative.

These are the kinds of opportunities that are available to any brand whenever they reach out directly to their own customers. It’s no surprise to me that the voice of the customer sits at the top table with Pete Miller co-founder and head of CX ensuring that the customer experience is considered at all times, a strategy that is paying off with Octopus posting profits and consistently being voted best energy supplier by Which.

By following Octopus’ example, of putting the voice of the customer at heart of the business, even companies in low interest categories can use CRM to build true communities which can be cultivated long into the future. And judging by the amount of times I’ve recommended Octopus to friends and family I’d say that’s far more valuable than just trying to get a quick cross sell or upgrade.

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