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Lessons from a CRM implementation: Northern & Shell

26th Mar 2015
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Developing the perfect relationship with your customer today is the alchemy of success. It requires on and offline data, in near real-time, to create the utopian 360° view of how your customer behaves and reacts with your brand. Couple that with creativity and sophisticated technology platforms, you will begin to see and understand your customers as they ebb and flow through the crowded realm of advertising and marketing.

Customers are overwhelmed and often burdened by the intensity in which brands communicate with them. Aggressive advertising campaigns and guerrilla marketing tactics have numbed their senses and the manner in how brands captivate attention needs to be addressed in this age. Increasingly, customers are requesting targeted and precise communications across off and online campaign channels in order to encourage sales and to ‘feel’ special and appreciated. In essence, brands need to validate their customer’s importance if they are to gain their trust and loyalty.

The secret is not just in your campaign tactics, but in your CRM systems and how your company manages and captures customer data. Yet, the dichotomy is that, generally, many companies lack the enthusiasm to invest in its digital life to maximise its ability to create valuable, personal relationships with its customers. This demotivation is mainly based on the fact that most think a large investment is vital to overhaul its current technology systems – as well as being distracted by the potentially time intensive process.

The challenge is mainly motivation and time, plus the risk-adverse attitude towards implementing another piece of software. At Northern and Shell (N&S), the realisation that our customers were becoming blasé to marketing campaigns and being sent irrelevant information via email and advertisements online, encouraged our department heads to work together to invest in further developing our CRM, as well as how it collected and stored customer data. The ultimate goal was to improve customer loyalty and brand trust by understanding the customer’s intimate needs and interests.

Technologically, you probably already have most if not all the software tools available, but the problem is that the systems are working independently to each other, whereby they needed to somehow be unified in order to create a better picture of the customer. By hiring a vendor-neutral technology consultant, we were able to identify where the technology issues were and start improving them. N&S already had a clear vision that we wanted to: a) better capture email addresses and remove anyone who didn’t want to be sent information from the mailing lists; b) better target advertising and marketing campaigns; and c) create and continuously update user profiles. These may be typical objectives that almost every company wants to achieve, but has no idea how to.

Evolving with the digital age of the customer

By working with vendor-neutral technology consultants who understand how multiple SaaS products work, your organisation can quickly achieve its objectives, regardless of what software you have. Being vendor agnostic means its marriage is with your company’s goals and this means the focus is on using the technology resources already available and enhancing it, just like it did with Northern and Shell. 

The consultant we used - Amido - implemented an enterprise service bus (ESB) that pooled the disparate sources of digital marketing software together to enable cross-platform communication. This avoided deployment of new platforms and provided a clear view of the customer by collecting real-time data from website interaction and updating profiles, such as removing any spam mails the previous system may have been sending. 

To further enhance the information of the customer, we wanted to introduce a social media log-in profile option to pull in real-time, rich data to customise its marketing campaigns (on and offline), monitor competitions entered and provide more targeted advertising and content that compelled the reader. In addition, by introducing the cookie element into our technology platform, we were able to understand our customers' interests outside of our own website, which enhances user profiles and assist with audience segmentation. 

The whole process took six months, but it caused no significant distraction to the day-to-day running of the organisation. The fact that the CRM functionality was vastly improved without buying multiple or additional licence software means that the company can also evolve with the digital age of your customer. Marketers can be confident in communicating with the right people and most importantly, improved CRM can lead to increased sales and revenue. For N&S, the ad sales teams are now able to provide targeted adverts, which means two things: advertisers now pay for more precise audience segmentation and the customer is shown only relevant information related to his/her interests. It’s a win-win for N&S, our advertisers and our customers.

Once you have the CRM process in place, you can personalise your brand for your customer, such as competitions, provide reward programmes by enhancing and encouraging user interaction and rewarding customers for promoting your brand during campaigns, as well as other benefits such as gift vouchers. 

The benefits to the company and the customers are significant. You’re not only moving in a direction that sees you competitively placed in your digital space, but you’re even able to provide targeted services offline. The cost of investment is minimal compared to the results achieved and the one thing you can be sure of is that a vendor-agnostic technology team will work with your team no matter how small, to engage your technology and implement standard systems that will help co-ordinate your data across your organisation and, most importantly, enhance your brand and increase customer loyalty. 

Investment in your CRM is the right way to build your brand awareness around your customers.  

Deni Boncheva is head of CRM at Northern and Shell.

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