'In Conversation with Huw Thomas'

Our ‘In conversation with Huw Thomas’ series is written by blogger Bethan Williams, alongside PMC. Based on conversations with our Managing Director, Huw Thomas. Bethan is an anthropology graduate turned dance teacher turned blogger and writer. This series takes snippets of the conversations between Huw and Bethan, where their interests and areas of knowledge overlap, and turn them into pieces which are relevant to retail and business in general.

In keeping with my previous ‘In Conversation’ piece, I’ve been thinking about loyalty in retail and business. What makes a customer keep coming back? Consumers have access to a vast amount of choice when they’re looking for a product or a service. Because of this, it’s not enough for a company to merely fulfil a need. When buying into a brand, we want to feel special. We want to feel cared for by the provider; like we’re getting more than just a good deal. By having a good data-basing system, businesses are able to store and analyse customer data. This means they can tailor their marketing to keep customers feeling valued.

We’ve all been there. Innocently buying a product we needed and suddenly finding ourselves bombarded with emails, post and, there is no other word for it, spam. Advertising like this has the opposite effect to what’s intended and puts the consumer off, even if the products are good. The goods or services are often things we don’t need, can’t afford or are downright irrelevant to our lives. Even the simplest categorisations, such as male/female, go out the window with some providers.

Offering everything under the sun in the hope that something will appeal is a pretty primitive way of advertising. There are so many providers to choose from, it just doesn’t make sense to reach out to customers, or potential customers, in this way. These mailshots are dripping with a sense of being generic and mass produced. There is nothing personal at all. I’m pretty sure there is no better way of putting a customer off wanting to do business again. Perhaps I am being harsh but we are mere human beings. We want to feel valued. If a customer is made to feel like a number on a mailing list, unless the product is truly unique or simply cannot be found elsewhere, chances are, they’re lost.

All the pieces I write for PMC stem from something Huw and I have chatted about. When we first met up and spoke about PMC as a business, Huw described them to me as “the biggest of the small guys”. What places them here, I believe, is their constant effort to offer services which are unique and customer-centred. It’s easy to see from their website and advertising material that a benefit of working with them is the very personable service they offer. The PMC brand revolves around who they are, both as individuals and as a company. People are attracted to that.

Maybe it’s the nerd in me – the one who gets unashamedly excited about spreadsheets! – but I believe the secret to good advertising, happy customers and enduring loyalty is found in a good data-base. Data-basing generates service personalisation and should be rewarded with loyalty.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems; software used to collate customer information and track sales are an effective way for service providers to slice and analyse data, enabling them to provide relevant calls or offers to their customers. Good data analysis allows businesses to spot their customer demographics and work to increase these or specifically target other groups. Having a good data-base of information makes personalisation of services easy and efficient. What this means is that up-sales, cross sales or new sales can be put forward in a relevant way.

This form of customer data-base is specifically relevant to service providers as opposed to retail outlets; businesses where employees are involved in following an initial interaction all the way through to completion. In retail it is more difficult. It is much harder to track who buys what products in-store and what their consumer profile looks like. My next ‘In Conversation’ piece is going to explore in-store loyalty schemes and how they work to collect information for the company’s data-base.

Loyalty is a huge buzz word in retail. It’s imperative, for businesses to survive, that customer loyalty is maintained in the face of changing shopping habits. Personalisation is a huge buzzword in the quest for loyalty. Offering a service which is relevant to the specific customer’s needs is what keeps them coming back. Good data-basing systems allow businesses to create cross-sections of their client base and connect with them in personalised ways. Might this be the answer?

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