#419: The Trust Crisis - Australian Research Insights on Consumer Concerns

Today’s episode features insights on trust from Australia.

Mark James and Bonnie McCoy from Customology recently released their updated research on customer concerns around trust and brand communications in the Australian market.

As an essential pre-requisite to earning customer’s loyalty, Mark and Bonnie share their insights and advice to address what they are calling the “trust crisis”.

This issue is becoming even more critical to address as we become more digitally connected, but also more disillusioned with brands and their marketing.

Listen to learn from the latest research on trust with consumer insights from Australia.

Show Notes:

1) Mark James⁠

2) Bonnie McCoy

3) Customology⁠

4) The Unspoken Customer

Audio Transcript

Paula: Welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty, an industry podcast for loyalty marketing professionals. I’m your host, Paula Thomas, and if you work in loyalty marketing, join me every week to learn the latest ideas from loyalty specialists around the world.

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Hello and welcome to today’s episode featuring our friends from Customology in Australia. My guests are Mark James and Bonnie McCoy, who’ve recently released their updated research on customer concerns around trust and brand communications in the Australian market.

With trust being such an essential prerequisite to earning our customer’s loyalty, Mark and Bonnie share their insights and advice to address what they’re calling the trust crisis. It’s an issue I think is becoming ever more critical to understand as we become more digitally connected but, in some cases, more disillusioned with brands and their marketing to us over time. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Mark James and Bonnie McCoy from Customology.

So Mark and Bonnie, welcome to Let’s Talk Loyalty. 

Bonnie: Thanks for having us. 

Mark: Hi Paula, and nice to see you. 

Paula: Great, great. And Mark it’s a welcome back. And Bonnie, it’s welcome for the first time. 

Mark: Yeah, thanks for having us back again. It’s lovely to see you. 

Paula: Great, great. It’s two and a half years, hard to believe. I always feel like time absolutely flies between episodes of this show, but of course you have been doing some amazing work as customologists. And some incredible research coming out again just recently talking about one of my favorite topics, which is building customer trust. And you’ll probably know, I guess, from listening to the show, we don’t just talk about loyalty programs on this podcast. It is about the holistic experience. And I know there was a lovely quote in the latest version of your report that we cannot be loyal to a brand unless we trust them. So lots to get into in terms of the research and what The Unspoken Customers are telling us. 

But before we get into that, as you know, we always love to start the show trying to understand as industry professionals what we admire in the industry. And Bonnie, because you haven’t been on the show before, and of course ladies first, I’m gonna start with you. So please do tell me, what is your favorite loyalty program? 

Bonnie: Great. So my favorite loyalty program is the Grill’d loyalty program. So Grill’d is a healthy burger chain in Australia, and the reason why I think it is so good is because it’s really easy to understand.

I think that there’s a lot of pressure on brands to have a loyalty program, and particularly in the food sector where they wanna be able to communicate with their customers. They still wanna collect data. But they tend to be really complicated and hard to engage with as a customer. Grill’d has done a really good job of keeping the value proposition really easy to understand, and the app works really well.

Paula: Amazing. Yeah, I really like that because you’d mentioned the name to me off air, but I actually hadn’t thought about the simplicity and how compelling that is because I think at the end of the day, we all love a good burger or a good who knows what a good steak, and sometimes it’s not the healthiest of options.

So if it’s gonna be grilled, I totally get the, the core business first and foremost. So it sounds like simplicity is something that’s coming through for them in everything that they do. Is that fair to say? 

Bonnie: That’s right. I think their offering is, you know, grilled, healthy burgers. It’s supposed to be a sort of, you know, down to earth type offering. And the program reflects that as well. It’s easy to engage with, and I think that’s really valuable in a loyalty program for a food chain. 

Paula: A hundred percent. Yeah, and you’re absolutely right. I think, you know, we go to our fast food favorites. I guess maybe once every couple of weeks, who knows? But then there’s a lot of time in between that we do have an opportunity to perhaps engage and communicate in appropriate ways. So I’ll definitely be keen to hear all of your insights in terms of that as we go through today. 

So, Mark, let’s come to you and talk about, you know, you’ve been on the show as we said two and a half years ago, but, with all of that time and space now, what is your current favorite loyalty program? 

Mark: My current favorite program, I would suggest, is Amazon Prime. I use it both for the streaming aspect of the shows and programs that they run on there. And I also use it for my parcels and shopping for things. The reason I really like it, and I must be liking it ’cause I seem to be spending more with it, is for, for probably a couple of reasons. 

The first one is I don’t feel like they over communicate. To me, I feel like it’s very genuine. And I feel the communication. I don’t know how they know, but I’m sure they know. When to sort of nudge me and I find that it’s very much a nudge and it’s a conversation with me. I don’t receive an over amount of surveys. I don’t receive an over amount of did we do a good job?

The other thing I probably really like is I’ve had a couple of challenges with some parcels that didn’t turn up. And I, the way they handled it and how quickly they handled, I must admit I was quite surprised. In fact, you’re probably the eighth person I’ve told that to ago. Oh, you know, these guys are just unbelievable. I didn’t realize. 

And so I really like that aspect of it. And they, I see in, and I suppose in a nutshell, they make it really easy. So I’m really liking that as a consumer. So, so if I was to thinking about my favorite right now, that would be it. 

Paula: You know, absolutely Mark. You know, loyalty, I think as a term is something that is absolutely elevating into that whole CX space.

And I have had exactly the same experience with Amazon, and again, I’m a member of Prime. But in the few situations where I did have an actual challenge, they immediately rectified the situation. Like there was no question, there was no challenge that I was taking advantage or exaggerating. So the level of trust actually, that they demonstrated in me, the fact that they immediately address the issue, I think you’re absolutely right. You know, as much as we think complaints are bad, you can actually reposition them as an opportunity to create loyalty. 

Mark:  In fact, now that you even say it like that, I’m, I was trying to think about I’ve actually bought more post issue than I was probably buying pre- issue. And I, I just, I don’t know, it also made me more aware of the site. And, I suppose, I suppose instinctively, now that you say it, I probably trust them more if that sounds. I know that’s gonna be, that certainly was a theme in the research that resonated with us. And, so yeah, I guess that would be a complaining factor of it. 

Paula: Absolutely. Absolutely. And again, we talk on this show not necessarily about loyalty as a program, but loyalty as an outcome. And something that absolutely is something that is indeed an overall experience. And I know you guys are very clear on that. And just to finish on the Amazon piece, Mark, just because I suppose they’re the, the biggest and the original, I would say in my mind in terms of really nailing the personalization piece.

Because that is something I think this industry and on this show we talk about all of the time, but every single human being, I think that’s ever shopped on Amazon has noticed that they have this wonderful kind of cross sell piece where a customer who bought this also like that. 

But again, in a very non-intrusive way where it’s actually like I do feel like you know me, I do feel like you’re being helpful and there is that incredible context that I think very few brands, and I’m guessing your kind of research is showing exactly the same conclusions. Very few brands have nailed it in the way Amazon have, and I kind of feel like they nailed that from day one, even though Prime obviously is a later, later, business model I guess, for them. But would that be, fair to say from your perspective as well, Mark? 

Mark: Oh, absolutely. and I also like the way that it’s not, like certainly when you’re viewing on the product sort of site, I’m buying a book or a drink bottle or a phone charger. If I want to leverage the Prime product, it’s clearly noted there, but I don’t have to go with the Prime product and it shows that there’s a value.

But it’s not like, what I really like about, I feel like, it’s very subtle. It’s conversational. It’s, no, don’t talk at me. They talk to me a little bit. Now, and I think also, that particular approach is an endless task and I actually feel like they’re regularly improving that.

There’s a feature that I just took advantage of as recent as this week. I’m not sure it, it’s, so in prime there you’ve got the shows that you watch and, my young son really wanted to watch another show and we needed to get another streaming service. And I said, you know what? I think we can get that through Prime.

And, so sure enough, it was available through Prime. So instead of having another app and another log on, I don’t know how they managed to do that. And I’m sure there’s an exchange between those two partners. But just consolidating that I, it really go, they, they’re really clever. And, I’m on the Kool-Aid.

Paula: Totally. I was just about to say, I feel like this is a show now becoming all about Amazon, because I have two final points, but then I wanna get into talking about The Unspoken Customers research. But the other two things, to your point about them getting increasingly clever. 

One is the fact that they have built in this new subscription mechanic. I dunno if you’ve seen that in the Australian market, but you know, the fact that I am, for example, you know, starting to buy things like cat food and other kind of things which I do need regularly. It is helpful that they’re offering me that in a subscription model where again, because I have that trusted relationship, I don’t need to make a separate decision about evaluating where I’m going to subscribe to get things I need like that on a regular basis. So that one is super cool. 

And my final one then is I’ve started to buy water from Amazon, which is totally bonkers. Not my grocery store, but again. 

Mark: Wow. 

Paula: I know the delivery guys. Yeah, totally cool. And it’s, it’s really just, I know it’ll arrive and all that kind of stuff. So I guess the point that we’re, you know, vehemently agreeing with each other is, if you’ve got the trust, then you’ve got unbelievable opportunities to grow your business.

So with that context, Mark, kick us off with an introduction to this piece of research. We talked about it two and a half years ago. But maybe just introduce it for people who didn’t hear the, the previous episode, why you do it, and what your kind of key objectives were. 

Mark: Thank you. When we sat down and originally did the research, it was actually to check that as a customologist, when we’re talking and working with brands that our ideology and beliefs about creating a customer for life, just because we believed it. We wanted to test some of that theory and reality, I guess with an unbiased audience. So we partnered with some people and we went out and did our first round of survey.

Originally, the agenda was not to release it to the public, it was more to sanity check the work that we were doing. And we were really surprised how candid people were about how they felt about things. And so we compiled it into a bit of a handbook and a playbook originally for our staff, and the people that we work with in the team.

It’s a bit of a training benchmark and then we felt like, you know what, why don’t we just release this? And, it’s available for anyone that wants to, they can subscribe to Customology there and we put it up on LinkedIn and yeah, I’m sure there’s information you can do that, but, so when we did that first piece, that gave us a bit of a benchmark.

We always intended to do another round to see if there was change. With the last few years, there has been some other challenges in the market. And when we sat down with Bonnie, and, Bonnie was giving us the vision of where she wanted to take Customology. This was certainly an important piece of work.

And so we just delayed it ever so slightly to make sure that the questions didn’t have a big C in front of them. And we weren’t talking about all those sorts of things. And we wanted to leave enough space. So this second piece of research wasn’t, it was, it was certainly a follow on. It wasn’t to see if some things and improved, some things got better. There are new questions that we did want to ask. And we wanted to get some understanding around, certainly around, the path to repurchase and what would help a brand. How do we get them from one transaction to two? Two to three. Three to four.  

And what are things that would make a difference to a customer? And then we again, did it to check some of our approaches because the market has moved on. The, the world is much more digital than what it was two years ago. And in the next two yyears,it’ll be more digital again.

So we did that, and that was conducted in early January this year. Bonnie and her team of analyst ninjas got together on it and, crunched up the data. And then, it just got released literally a few weeks ago. So, we’re really proud of it and I think Bonnie and the team did a great job on it.

Paula: Amazing. Thanks for that, Mark. Absolutely. And Bonnie, I tend to think that trust can be one of those things that as brands, we of course always aspire to. But it is one of the softer metrics, I guess. So it can be quite difficult to understand and to quantify.

And I believe you are a bit of a, a data nerd, a data geek. So much more on the analytical side and a skillset I don’t have. So maybe give us a bit of background, first and foremost, for you in terms of your career, and then I guess, the role that you’re doing at Customology

Bonnie:  Yeah, thanks. So, I have a data analytics background. I actually started my academic career in psychology and got hooked on statistics that way. And then fell into business analytics, data analytics off the back of that. Which is actually not an uncommon way to get into analytics. I think analysts tend to come from all walks of life, and academics is definitely one of them. 

So for me you know, moving into marketing analytics, has been really interesting. And I think the, the best thing about working in that agency, is the variety of data that we get to play with and get to look at and get to see.  So after doing that for a few years at Customology, I’ve now moved into the General Manager position. So I have that more bird’s eye view.  But yeah, my roots in data have really, that’s kind of my passion. And, and what drives me to, like, it’s, it sounds really nerdy, but to get outta bed is the, is understanding more using data.

And, and like you’re talking about trust and how brands can build trust and I think data can be a really good thing and a really potentially negative thing as well, because yeah, you can collect a lot of data and understand your customers better. But it’s what you do with that, that’s really important.

And it’s really important to keep that authenticity and, you know, to understand what you are asking your customers to give you in terms of data. Is it, is it the right thing to do and do you need it? Because that was something that was called out in the research. I wanna be able to opt out of giving you my data, but I don’t want to compromise on the, you know, the rewards I might get from being a part of the loyalty program, but, you know, maybe I don’t trust you.  With my data and I don’t wanna have it all over the internet. 

Paula: A hundred percent Bonnie. And I do remember somebody very succinctly articulated this for me once before, again, a loyalty industry expert who literally said, don’t capture data unless you’re gonna use it.

And I know when we spoke before, that’s something that you’re also seeing both from the brand side. And I’m thinking of the audience listening to this show, there’s probably a lot of internal pressure. Your clients and our clients and programs are under because of this perception of value around first party data. They are being asked to collect it. 

But I think then the unintended consequence of that if they don’t use it, is that the customer then is less trusting because now they’ve given you some information. 

So you’re nodding there, Bonnie. I think this is something, is that, you know, something that you believe that more brands need to be thinking more carefully about given you know how much internal pressure they’re under.

Bonnie: Absolutely. And I think it’s really important for you to be really mindful of your overarching nurture strategy, and that plays into your first party data strategy as well. You’re collecting an amount of data about your customers. You have to be responsible with how you collect that, how you store it.

Of course, but then of course, how you play that back to your customers and how you add value back to them because they are giving you an immense value by sharing their data with you and all of their transactional behavior across all of your platforms. You need to use that to deliver value back to your customers as well, because it should be a two-way exchange.

Paula: Yeah, absolutely. And Mark, you used, some terminology earlier about Amazon talking to you rather than talking at you. And I think what your research is showing is that in fact, trust is at crisis levels and that more and more people, it seems, in your research, do feel they’re being talked at. So tell us how, how big is the problem?

Mark: It’s, it is a big problem. And it’s actually a growing problem and there are many factors I think that contribute to it. Circa 70 odd percent of the people that, we did the research with felt the brands, they didn’t trust them with their data. 

I argue when you, we looked at some other aspects, close to that sort of number said we’d like to give you our data. And we trust you with it. If you talk to us, not at us. You know my name, but you don’t know my story. So, and I think that’s a really interesting point, and that was a very strong theme. 

So we had to really think about that as customologist about why do people feel that way? And there was a series of questions, that we asked the customers.  And it’s not any one thing. So for example, where trust is eroded, there’d be some obvious callouts would be over automation. So you did something and you got an email. It looked like it personalized, but it really wasn’t. You got, you got an email on how did we go? Cause that was the sequence from the research team, but you haven’t even got your goods yet. So how do you know how we went? 

Paula: That just happened to me today. Oh my goodness. 

Mark: Right. Now, now that’s, let me just have a little bit of fun with that. So you haven’t got your goods yet? You get the, the research piece saying, hey, listen, how do we go? And then you get another email 24 hours later saying, you still haven’t filled out the survey because I wanna know how we went. And you still don’t have the goods. 

Paula: Oh dear. Yeah.

Mark: Now, so trust is a little bit like, It’s not any one thing. They’re like pinch points, pinch points. And then you’ll have a crunch point. And that’s why the research, we actually end up calling The Unspoken Customer, because customers don’t normally, there’s always people that’ll complain in a boat. And also there’s people that will give praise, but it’s the ones that go really. So there’s that one thing. 

The second thing I guess I’ve noticed, so that’s the automation and potentially the teams within business that have, that have really tried to push an automation approach. The second one also, I, I would call out would be, is that, even though we’ve given you our data, and, I, I think the, the stat there, if I can just screen, there was circa 58% of people said, but you never spoke to me. So, yeah, I gave you this information and  yousaid you really wanted, you said it was really important. But all you keep sending me is communication about the next sale or the next offer.

And as opposed to, again, not knowing my story. So it’s like saying, you say you want thing, but you sort of do another.  Now we talk about CRM as customer relationship management. I think the R word is a little confusing for some people, it’s about a relationship with a customer and I think, yeah, that really, we talk about nudge and nurture, not spray and pray.

The last thing I would also add about trust, again, not in any one particular way, but is the overuse of any one particular channel. So, people celebrate an email open rate of 25% saying, wow, we got 25% open. Well, I sort of say, congratulations, 75% of people don’t want to talk to you. So I kind of say, why are we focused on the Ps when we should look at the stake? What is the bigger number here? Or is that the right channel for the person? 

Now with the push from the major providers, both Microsoft and Google, they’re helping the customer build these, I guess ways to stop spam or stop overcommunication and kind of things like that. So as a result, if you’ve built your whole strategy around one channel, right? that could also, you might not hear from your brand because that channel is not working effectively for them.   

So I think there’s, no, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying one channel over the other. What I’m saying is you need to be agnostic instead of focusing on the channel we talk to, focus on the audience and the behavior, and then what channel would best suit and in that order. Not, I’ve got a cheap way to send it and fast. And then let’s find the orders to do that. So I think there’s a few different things there. And I actually think some brands are doing it well. But others. 

Paula: Good.

Mark: I think have gone heavy. No, no, no. Of course they are. And I, but I think it’s an endless task that people need to understand that trust is built from what they got at the, at, at the engagement or onboarding experience needs to be for the, the second experience. So that, that would be my sort of sum up on the trust piece. 

Paula: Yeah, absolutely.  I think at the end of the day, you’re absolutely right. Like, you know, we can get the first sale and that is something to be celebrated. And of course it’s very well intentioned that the research team is asking, you know, and sending the survey, not necessarily knowing whether the goods have landed or not.

So it does feel like that that may be premature and that the lifecycle management piece, doesn’t have perhaps the analytics, you know, kind of insights that I’m sure Bonnie can, you know, illuminate a little bit on. Because I do think there are some clear recommendations that you guys have there. 

And one I do remember came through the last time and it is one of my favorite and Bonnie, you might speak to this, but it’s, you know, the idea, for example, about, you know, the importance of just having the acknowledgement, the actual thank you, and some gratitude coming from a very authentic place. And not just the automated email, you know, at the point of sale. 

So, you know, there is an opportunity, I think, to check in and say how delighted a brand might be about having you as a new customer and celebrating that in some way that doesn’t feel like it’s an upsell, a cross sell, or a very lengthy survey that we all resist.

Bonnie: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And I think it’s just about being mindful in your approach to marketing communication, and treating every touchpoint as what it is an opportunity to continue a conversation with a customer. Thank you is really important. And while it, you know, it often gets seen as brands as unimportant because there’s no call to action.

It is building that trust. and it’s also giving them the opportunity to respond back to you, should they have a problem, they know where to find you. And how you’re going to communicate with them in the future as well. So I do think that thank you is really important, an important aspect of your lifecycle communication.

Paula: A hundred percent.  And I know you guys talk about, you know, the underlying, I guess, driver of why we all feel like this, I guess as consumers is the reality of business pressure, short-term KPIs. So it is very often a case of actually we wanna drive, you know, just the next quick sell rather than building, you know, that longer term engagement.

And Mark, that’s something I think you feel very strongly about, especially if CRM is you are saying, is something that isn’t maybe the most appropriate terminology to be using in terms of how we’re currently communicating. Because it doesn’t seem that we’re coming from this place of, you know, intention to build that, that trust piece.

Mark: Yeah, and look, there’s some really simple things that brands could consider. So, I think generally every brand’s intention is not to upset their customers. And I think the research, not that I’m laboring on things like NPS or service, I actually think they’re all really important within context.

But just to call out a couple of things and maybe I can offer some perspective on what people might want to consider. So 80% of people in the survey, were rarely or never thanked. So it’s not like it’s 8%, like it’s I mean, it’s like, it’s huge.  Further to that, 90% of people’s survey said they don’t want another survey. Right. Okay. So they’re sort of pretty big numbers. 

But, and I think part of that is because people are getting a survey after every engagement. So something to consider if you have an automated process. So one of the things that we do, but even if, is, so for example, let’s say you got a survey you might trigger in that that person might not get a survey for another year or six months or whatnot.

So yeah, giving them once, respect. Twice is a little bit too much. I’ll also calm down on getting them into trouble if they don’t fill out a survey.  Second, you don’t have to survey everybody. Now let me. We, we got, we apparently surveyed too many people for this report. I think we did about two and a half thousand Australians.

We would’ve got the, the same or the, the right amount of, result around 2000 odd people. So if you’ve got 50,000 customers surveying 50,000, while that might be interested, you might get the same result by serving circa 500 to a thousand people. So I think the over survey, it should be a macro approach and it’s part of the conversation piece.

I think also is looking through the correct lens. So if you’ve got an acquisition strategy, I think that’s really important because customers will always move for all sorts of reasons. But I think also you need to discipline and separate the budgets between acquisition and retention. 

And what is your retention strategy, and what is its budget? And the what is the acquisition and what, and they can’t make, but they need to work together.   And I think if there’s that sort of rigor, I think that it, that is definitely an important part of the lifecycle. And, and again, that’s probably, some ideas of what you could, and that we’ve referenced that in the report as well.

Paula: Yeah, absolutely. Yes, and I know in every market, in fact, you know, certainly Ireland, where I’m from in the UK and in Australia, I’ve heard so much frustration around the idea that, you know, the acquisition team in a big business particularly tends to dominate in terms of the advertising communications, in terms of the strength of the offers that are available.

So there is very much, I suppose, that overarching issue. So again, loyalty professionals needing, are listening to this show, I guess, needs to be able to, I suppose, start to really address that. 

Because, in the UK for example, I’ve heard it called the trust penalty where, or the loyalty penalty, pardon me, to be more example, where there are citizens organizations and representative bodies that are, you know, instigating class action lawsuits to say, this is fundamentally unfair to consumers, and brands should not be doing that. 

Mark: Wow. Really?

Paula: So it is definitely, yeah no, and I’m keen to get somebody, and I saw it actually, you know, I’m gonna say probably about two years ago, Mark. So the loyalty penalty, I mean, it’s definitely something you can Google. I never managed to track down the person leading the, the backlash, I guess, in terms of, you know, helping brands to understand that you know, loyal behavior is something that needs to be recognized, needs to be rewarded. And inherently the trust that we’re talking about, of course, comes through. 

And, and all of this in the context of course with, you know, cookies starting to disappear and first party data strategy, and I think that’s an important piece as well, given that, yes. Again, loyalty marketers we’re fully bought into this. Everyone listening to this show.

Mark: Indeed.

Paula: Loves their data. 

Mark:  I would also add that interesting that you say that, that’s, well, that’s, that’s a scary proposition. I think it’s also probably fair to note that, I think, from an acquisition side, brands work pretty hard and then more tougher times, it’s tenderly, the pressure feels like a branch’s default position to communicate more. I, you know, if you, and, and that I can understand sort of why. 

But the risk actually, and some of the brands we’ve worked with,I’m not sure about the laws globally. I certainly know are familiar with some in some market, but the ability certainly on the SMS or the email channel is they opt out.

And as a result, you spend all this money acquiring the customer. The cost of acquisition was so, so high. And you’ve built your strategy around one channel. And because there’s been a level of abuse, lack of trust, or a combination of all of the above. Now you’ve lost that channel and to communicate. And as a result, you know you’ve missed that opportunity. 

So while the risk of a penalty might be interesting, but a, a greater risk is the customer saying, no, I don’t wanna hear from you. And, and that is certainly real. 

Paula: And, and something, you know, as a consumer, I celebrate is my power. And again, I know in the report that you do flag, you know, the, the one that we all, well certainly, I really find the most difficult to accept is SMS because it is fundamentally intrusive and I don’t have, you know, an easy way to opt out, even though it’s often in the terms of conditions, but it’s certainly not a customer friendly channel. 

Whereas if it is an app, for example, and there’s no push notifications, I know how to turn those off. I really do feel, and again, I suppose email, earned our trust over the years, maybe since the very beginning as a marketing channel, because it always did have that, you know, again, power as a consumer. I can go in and find the unsubscribe button.

So the, you know, diversity of channels will continue to increase. I think that’s fair to say.

Mark: Indeed. Yeah.

Paula: And you know, as somebody who’s a content creator, like I’m very passionate about the power of content and communication as a way to build loyalty. Because it is a way, if you do share, you know, genuine content that’s of value to your consumers, then of course they will welcome that kind of communication. So I guess it’s about getting the balance right. 

And Bonnie, I’d, I’d love to come to you on the whole topic around, I think you guys call it the Money Moon, which is the critical idea of the path to repurchase. We’ve talked about acquisition and we know that that’s always seen as a separate business objective.

And loyalty is often seen, of course, as we know with this audience as its own objective. But I think that very first repurchase is the critical piece that doesn’t always get the first attention. So tell us about your thoughts and advice in terms of how can we make sure that the consumers are being heard, even if they, you know, only get to, you know, speak from time to time through research like this. What do you recommend the brands do in order to facilitate that repurchase? 

Bonnie: Yeah, the Money Moon concept is one that Customology subscribes to and one we’ve been talking about for many years. And it’s sort of this idea that there’s about 30 days after a customer makes a purchase, which they’re in this precarious position where they can go one of two ways.

They’re gonna go. They’ve spent either a small or a large amount of money, but there’s an opportunity for them to talk about it. Either to reaffirm to themselves that they’ve made the right decision. Or maybe even for some social cachet, you know, that they’ve made this purchase.

And that is the opportunity at which you should be authentic and genuinely thanking your customers first and foremost. It’s not always, I mean, I think we always assume, well, we should, yeah, we should survey them, and we’ve already talked about that, but now’s also a great time for them to refer a friend.

But we need to be really careful with that because referring a friend, while it is a, it’s a good thing to do because, you know, you are trying to understand, come back, and bring your friends. But yeah, it can’t be seen as, you are using me to get more sales and there’s an incentive for my friend to come back.

So we think this opportunity is, it’s a reaffirm what your value is as a brand.  Talk to the customer like they’re a person. You’ve, they’ve come into your store for a reason, so now’s the opportunity to present that back to them and show them how you will communicate with them in the future.

Paula: A hundred percent. Yes. And you’ve reminded me I did have an opportunity to refer an app actually. It’s a well-known one and it was a good experience. So I mentioned it was ClassPass, but you know, I just subscribed to it here in the UAE to go to the gym, instead of just dealing with one gym.

And then my husband was talking about wanting to do it as well, and I was like absolutely adamant that he used my referral code because we’ll both benefit. You know, so I think long gone are the days where it’s a case of, oh, here’s a coupon for your friend. And I’m like, what about me? Because I’m the one.

Bonnie: Absolutely. 

Paula: That’s actually building your business here. So I do think advocacy does need to be done in a way that’s fair to both parties. And the other piece I find is very closely connected with that as well. And I know again, you talk about it a lot is, you know, the power of online reviews. If they’re authentic. And if they’re well managed. 

Because again, loyalty just doesn’t come by, you know, posting all the good stuff and burying anything other than that. So I think you, you probably have some, you know, tips and recommendations for us. Maybe Mark, you can speak to that piece because online reviews.

Like for me, I actually gave up using the likes of TripAdvisor, for example. Because I always just kind of ended up in this whirlwind of confusion. So I do tend to go to friends and family, I guess in terms of recommendations for particularly big purchases. But what would you be saying about things like, actual reviews and their role to drive customer loyalty?

Mark: Well, I think every brand should always be listening. And listening is two ears and one mouth, and in that order.

Paula: Yeah, nice.

Mark: I think it’s, I think you’re right. It’s interesting you talk about reviews and it’s interesting they’ve gone to all this effort to build a platform to do that. And I’ve filled out some reviews. I take advantage of that opportunity.  And some I hear from, and then some I don’t. 

And it’s interesting, one I particularly filled out a little while ago about a particular place I stayed. I had a really poor experience and I thought I’d let them know I was classy about it. I wasn’t abusive. But to this state, I’ve never heard from that venue. And, and I don’t think the reviewers are flattering in any way. But again, it was done in a, in a classroom meaningful way. I think it’s really important, that, those forums, they, they can be abused, and they also can be manipulated.

So that’s probably me containing the same thing. But what I mean by that is yeah, people get on using a platform to talk about things. And equally, you can have automation just to give you great reviews. I think it’s, they say branding is what people say about you when you’re not in the room, and marketing is storytelling.

So, I suggest that it’s great opportunity to listen and where I, our advice around reviews is it’s an opportunity then to do a lot of test and learn. So great thing about a direct relationship with a customer, and having that first party data, if the reviews are feeling that way, and let’s say they are promoting an idea or a concept that might be something that they want to get better at, you can use a control group or a group that doesn’t go to the broader marketplace to see how those things might improve. Or you can engineer, an improvement to do that. 

I think the most important thing is if you are gonna put a platform out for people to talk on, then you should invest the time in responding. And the sad part about that I think there’s some inconsistency in that. But again, it’s, it’s another really good way to gather information.

Paula: Okay, super, super. So lots of tips and tricks. I think for me, the kind of key things that I am, you know, hearing coming out of your research is, first of all, don’t capture data unless you’re gonna use it. I think that’s a really important principle. I think it sounds like the importance of gratitude and authentic gratitude without, you know, hit the agenda is another kind of key point that’s coming through.

And also this idea about the communications, the diversity of them, the opportunity to make sure that you are, I suppose, allowing people to connect in two different ways in channels that they choose. 

And I know technically that can be very difficult for brands. I’m guessing you guys are giving a lot of advice in terms of making sure that’s increasingly available in both a technical, but more importantly in a strategic way.

And I think as you said, mark, this idea of listening twice as much as speaking, to use your very simple but important piece to remind people, that we do need to get those control groups, have those conversations and make sure the customers feel like we actually do care. And we’re keen to earn their loyalty by making sure we understand their experience at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way. Would that be a fair summary? 

Mark: Absolutely. Fundamentally, I, I was just gonna add that if you’re gonna go to the effort of building a program, and having a good retention strategy, there’s really two reasons that you would, you’d go about it. The first reason is you want to be in a position to continue a conversation. And we believe it’s a conversation. You wanna talk to the audience, not at them.  

But the second is to influence a behavior. So if you, if you don’t want people feeling that you’re always on sale of, you are always on discount, then potentially every piece of communication shouldn’t have a discount voucher associated with it.

Paula: A hundred percent. Yeah.

Mark: I think I’d challenge brands to take advantage of the other things in the report, that we published. We also gave them some tips around how a customer determines value. And price and quality are only two of the six aspects that they consider. So, I would challenge ’em. I think there’s great stories that they could tell and build that into their content, the same way you do with your program. So I think that’s important. 

Paula: Thank you, Mark. Absolutely. I couldn’t have said it better myself because, you know, I do look at all of these communication channels and I do feel the storytelling actually is still missing. Because we are so over reliant on perhaps just the marketing objectives rather than the genuine sharing and being of service. But it is a lever that I think loyalty professionals can think about. And, great to hear that you guys are thinking along those lines as well. 

So Bonnie, any final words of wisdom from your side? I know this is, your first time on the show and it’s really wonderful to hear your analytical expertise coming through in terms of, the report itself. So anything else you think our audience should be thinking about before we wrap up? 

Bonnie: Yeah, I just think that, you know, analytics, big data and, and security concerns, I think they do kind of fill a lot of marketers with dread. And they do feel a little bit unapproachable. But I think at the end of the day, a sensible and considered approach and, an an approach that’s starts with a strategy and not, we are gonna go and buy this piece of tech and it’s gonna solve all of our problems. You know?  There isn’t gonna be a silver bullet that comes through. 

Unfortunately, I don’t think AI is gonna be the answer to all of our problems. It, it does start with a considered and strategic approach, and then finding the right expertise, and, and potentially the right partner to help you execute that.

Paula: A hundred percent, yes. I’m a big fan of bringing in the experts, Bonnie, because at the end of the day, loyalty can be seen as something that’s actually quite straightforward. You know, we put a points program in place. 

Bonnie: That’s right.

Paula: But honestly, we certainly know very differently on this show. So, we’ll of course, make sure to link to both of your profiles and to Customology’s research report, in the show notes for this episode.

So anybody who does want to reach out, of course, can get access to your expertise, again, particularly in the Australian market. And I know you have plenty of, words of wisdom to share. 

So with all of that said, Mark James, CEO, and Bonnie McCoy, General Manager of Customology. Thank you so much from Let’s Talk Loyalty.

Bonnie: Thanks Paula. 

Mark: Thank you very much.

Paula: This show is brought to you by the Australian Loyalty Association, the leading organization for loyalty professionals in Asia Pacific. Visit their news and content hub for the latest loyalty insights from around the world. Or why not submit your own article for publication?

For more information on their loyalty services and networking opportunities, visit australianloyaltyassociation.com.

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