The Art of Listening to Customers: Tenerity’s Insights into Personalization, Emotional Loyalty, and Customer Engagement

Tenerity is a provider of digital-first customer engagement and loyalty technology. The company’s loyalty and customer experience platform, Connect, helps brands build relationships with customers by capturing, refining, and acting on data.

Mark Johnson, CEO of Loyalty360, spoke with Eileen Peacock, Vice President of Global Strategic Partnerships, and Aidan Lundy, Global Head of Connect Account Management and MD, with Tenerity about trends in customer loyalty they see in their roles and which trends brands should lean into going forward in 2023.

Understanding Your Role in the Loyalty Space
Loyalty360 recently released the 2023 State of Customer Loyalty report, in which brands outlined opportunities and challenges they face in their loyalty strategies. As brands determine where to invest their time and resources into loyalty efforts, they need to determine what loyalty looks like for their unique customer base.

“Loyalty in this space, it’s not like a sports team where you’re red or you’re blue,” says Lundy. “It’s about understanding — for the industry you’re looking at — what is loyalty?”

Loyalty looks different across industries. For example, most consumers do not have more than one telecom provider, but many have more than one debit/credit card. As a result, loyalty in a telecom space is about stickiness and how to keep that customer with the brand. Loyalty in a banking space, however, is about priority and how to get the customer to choose one card over the others.

“We look through that lens across all the industries we work with to really understand what is achievable in loyalty and how to go about affecting it and trying to achieve it,” says Lundy.

Achieving this loyalty starts with strategy and brands must plan holistically. While this planning involves leveraging new technologies that can improve the customer experience, it cannot be solely about implementing technology. Instead, the technology should support the loyalty initiatives and goals of the brand.

“Technology should be absolutely invisible to the end user and any program that you’re working with should be able to plug into your existing technology,” says Peacock.

Since the technology should be invisible to consumers, the brand needs to focus on content, communications, and interactions that are both visible and engaging. Loyalty strategy can never stand still. Brands must work closely with their supplier partners to iterate their offers to keep up with changing customers, who already have too many options available. To stay relevant to those customers, brands must listen to customers and act on that data.

“Brands think they’re starting at point A and ending at point C, but they don’t realize point C is 11 seconds into the journey,” says Peacock. “If you are not already thinking about L, M, N, O, or P, you’re dead in the water already.”

Managing an effective loyalty strategy is about innovation, meeting customer needs and wants before the customer even realizes they have them. This mindset comes from trusting customers, listening to the information they provide, and acting on it.

“As you bring in new offerings and mechanics, you’re gauging what works for your customers and taking them to the next level,” says Peacock.

Reassessing Loyalty in the Face of Economic Uncertainty
Economic uncertainty creates an ideal space for brands to reassess their loyalty offerings. Those times present opportunities to ensure the loyalty offerings brands provide are not only right, but right for customer’s current needs.

“Your audience, your customers, are looking for something different. Their stressors are different,” says Peacock. “Your role is to help make their life easier.”

Loyalty offerings should provide value to their members. As brands seek to relaunch or reposition their programs, they need to listen to their customers to determine what features would provide the most value for them, especially in times of economic uncertainty.

“Your customer should know you hear them and you’re listening to them and the program you’re relaunching, or launching for the first time, is relevant and feels natural to that customer,” says Peacock.

Accomplishing this relevancy often involves taking a backward step before the brand can take a forward step. It’s about understanding the role loyalty plays amongst the brand’s customer base.

While there are many brands with membership-focused and loyalty-focused customer engagement that can dial up functionality to drive value and affect behavior, not every industry has this kind of engagement. For industries with a lighter engagement with customers, loyalty still plays an important role, even if it is not the core of the customer relationship.

Brands need to understand where they sit on the spectrum of engagement and the outcomes they want to see from their loyalty offerings.

“Having an understanding of what those outcomes are, as opposed to the mechanic you want to use to achieve those outcomes, is definitely at the forefront,” says Lundy. “If you’ve got that right and you’re working with an agency that understands those needs, they’ll map out the best way for you to maximize your investment in loyalty.”
Acting on Data Leads to Personalization and Emotional Loyalty
In the current loyalty space, personalization is about direct feedback. Customers want to receive offers that are relevant to them, no matter what level or tier they are in with the program.

“I want the customer to tell me about them, and in return that customer should expect me to listen and to learn about what they’re doing through their habits,” says Peacock. “What they’re viewing. What they’re clicking. What they’re claiming.”

Personalization is about offering more than just a product the brand can make money on. It’s about understanding what the customer values and delivering it to them, whether it’s about a product, charity, sustainability, etc.

One facet of personalization is providing instant gratification for loyalty members. Each member is unique and wants different offers immediately. These could be products — a cup of coffee or a sandwich — or it could be a game.

“It’s having those different offerings —those different mechanics — that makes sure the program feels like it’s custom to that consumer,” says Peacock.

Emotional loyalty is a growing trend that relies on personalized customer experience because it relies on understanding what the brand’s customers care about. Driving emotional loyalty is a good change to the loyalty space, especially for brands who do not have a physical product to deliver. It presents a great way for brands to build relationships with consumers.

“The most important thing to consider is integrity,” says Lundy. The brand needs to connect with its customers in a way that makes sense. For example, a fuel provider trying to connect with consumers over sustainability may not make the most sense.

A lot of this authentic interaction comes from understanding customer interest and behavior data.  Similar to personalization, the brand needs to know what its unique audiences value so they can create meaningful and relevant initiatives or partnerships to build those emotional connections.

“Our ability to capture data and understand customers’ beliefs, interactions, and engagements enables us to help brands put the right level of content in front of these people,” says Lundy.
Upcoming Trends in Customer Loyalty
In the current macro-economic space, brands who can provide value for their members will see higher engagement. Whether giving discounts, cash-back, or communicating the inherent value of the products, consumers are looking for ways to stretch their wallets in response to inflation and other economic uncertainty.

“Value is not a next big thing, but it will become a major factor for any brand engaging with people,” says Lundy.

Additionally, customers want to see that brands value their loyalty and how their relationship with the brand is developing. Brands should be gently introducing themselves into more facets of their customers lives to show that they value those customers.

“If you’re engaging with brand X and you think you’re a loyal customer, you need to see and feel that relationship,” says Lundy. “Whether it’s on your phone or whether it’s out in the street in actual physical interaction.”

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