Understanding the customer was the most important lesson I learnt during my time as a pub landlord in a Cornish creekside pub. Fortunately for today’s marketers, applying this lesson should be relatively easy thanks to technologies such as AI and automation and a modern, non-traditional marketing approach.
Yet, many challenges remain as I found out in my days behind the bar.
Who is the customer?
In March 2018, I took a sabbatical, bought a pub in Cornwall and trained as a pub landlord. The experience gave me more insight into customer service, sales and marketing than any job or schooling ever could.
My biggest realisation was that the success, even survival of my pub depended on how I had to recognise my customers and the context of their visit, which was often only possible through 1:1 engagement.
From this I then learnt customer service is as much about knowing when to market a new offer and as it is about when to do nothing.
For instance, I had one customer who came into the pub every day, sat in the same seat and drank the same pint of beer. I knew there was no point in trying to sell him extras (“how about having a bag of truffle oil flavoured crisps with that pint?”). Sometimes you need to leave a customer alone and not push additional products and services which they clearly don’t want. Doing that, my corner table regular would have sloped off to the Old Quay Inn Devoran or some other local drinking hole.
It’s the same for big business – delivering excellent customer service is about knowing who your customers are and making sure they get what they want in the time you have available.
The more data you have on a customer, the easier it is to build a picture of the context of what they’re doing – from picking up a product instore to purchasing on an app – and what they want to achieve.
And the more you know them, the easier it is for you as a brand to be able to make the next decision and improve what they’re trying to do and make their life a lot easier.
AI and automation key
As a pub landlord I was in a face-to-face role looking after about 26 tables serving 100 people a day, so knowing my clientele was easy enough.
But, when you have a million or three million individuals interacting with you via social channels, stores, e-commerce and mobile apps, it’s impossible to manage all the data without some form of automation.
This has been true since the dawn of time. In recent months, we’ve rightly heard a lot about the number of ‘living computers’ on hand for the Apollo 11 mission (think of the film Hidden Figures); yet this team of maths geniuses still required an IBM computer to automate all the calculations.
From traditional to modern, tech-centric marketing
Traditional marketing can be laborious and time-consuming – requiring years building up knowledge on segmentation, targeting propositions, pricing and integrated marketing communications. This is followed by model-creation, monitoring and analytics, marketing campaign distribution and waiting for responses for potential weeks. By then, customers have been somewhere else and bought something else.
Modern marketing on the other hand is fully tech centric. These CMOs:
Ask ‘What can I do with my business with the data I’ve got?’
They recognise that they haven’t got years to get up to speed – but want to scale their business faster
They say ‘if I don’t deliver on customer expectations, someone else will and they’ll be the ones to succeed’
This modern, tech-led approach enables enterprises to fully understand their customers’ situation so they can be sure to offer the right product/service and deliver it in real-time. There is plenty of software available today that allows marketers to deliver a totally omnichannel experience by breaking down siloes, creating one source of truth on shopper data and applying AI and automation help staff decide on the best course of action to satisfying customers.
My time as a pub landlord at The Norway Inn, Perranarworthal drove home to me that in any marketing scenario, from pushing pints to selling current accounts, knowing the customer is key. Brands and their marketers are fortunate enough that they can apply this lesson more easily than ever before; all they have to do is capitalise on the technologies at their fingertips.
The simple lesson is this.
We are all searching for that special ‘local’, where the landlord recognises us and has our drink waiting on the bar – true real-time personalisation. I guess it’s the same for every other brand we interact with – recognise me, remember me and personalise my experience.