Day one of the 2019 Loyalty Expo saw attendees gathered to hear Michelle Musgrove, Vice of Experience Strategy and Governance for the AARP, discuss approaches to improving customer experience and loyalty through cultural and program transformation. Loyalty360’s Mark Johnson asked Musgrove what changes organizations must make to cultivate an engaged audience.
She replied that there were multiple triggers, depending on audience. “One, you’re either such a discounts junkie that you don’t care what you have to sign up for. You’ll get your AARP card because that will get your 20 percent off your Hampton Inn Hotel, and it’s that important to you.”
Musgrove noted that the second group of people “usually get caught by our content.” She said, “Let’s say you are are a 50-year-old in New York. You might have a seven-year-old, and you might be nowhere near ready to be associated with our brand. That said, your knees probably still hurt, right?” This group becomes engaged as they realize that the AARP’s content is relevant to them.
Johnson then asked Musgrove to explain how AARP had recently reimagined its customer experience. She replied, “It’s so hard, because an historical direct-response organization, so we have a lot going with our analytics shop and from subscription services, or even from over the river at AOL, who understand how to drive engagement.”
“But we’re really trying to shift the organization to think about managing the emotion.” She noted that author Chris Malone’s previous presentation was relevant to this effort, as he spoke of the need for brands to be perceived as warm as well as competent. Musgrove advocates for AARP to show more warmth to its audiences in order to keep them engaged. 
“It’s a challenging thing to do,” she said, especially for those who work in data, as they “like to swim in spreadsheets, spreadsheets, spreadsheets. In many ways, we’re data-rich and insights-poor, so we’re trying to shift our organization to focus on who the soul of our organization really is.”
Toward that end, Musgrove noted that “there are little things you can do from a cultural perspective.” For instance, the AARP now internally uses “social media feeds throughout the building” and starts off meetings with customers calls, and opens PowerPoints with customer verbatims.
Musgrove added, “I even script our senior executives with customer examples, before they start any presentation. It’s really about bringing the customer into the organization, because the data’s not going to jump off the page and tell the story.”
Musgrove noted that outreach efforts for marketers, such as thank-yous and other efforts to keep up with customers “are vital.” She said, “The one-to-one transactional game is not enough. You can’t win on push, push, push to purchase, purchase, purchase.” Today’s consumers, more than ever, need to be treated as people.

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