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  • NETMEDIA International

"Investing in the CRM at the end of the crisis is highly profitable from an economic point of view"

How can customer culture be nurtured and rooted in the company? Daniel Ray, professor of marketing and head of the Customer Capital Institute at Grenoble Ecole de Management, shares his analysis.

What is new about the relationship between consumers and brands?

Everything that is being played out today was already underway. We are witnessing a strong acceleration of latent trends. Covid has put the customer back at the heart of brands' concerns. Indeed, for months, what was scarce was neither the product nor the service, but the customer. This refocuses the company on its objective of creating and retaining customers. The more mature a market is, the more it is demand-driven and therefore customer-driven. The more scarce it is, the more coveted it is. This changes the world because the hubris of brands is no longer appropriate. And the customer thinks he is king.

The subject of the future in companies is therefore the management of the lack of respect of certain customers. We need to tackle training and the organisation of structures to support employees. Being customer-oriented does not mean making the customer the king, but referring to a customer culture within the company. There must be equality between the brand and the customer.

What are the major challenges for 2022?

It is vital to turn the company's DNA into a customer culture, i.e. the sharing of beliefs and values within the departments with customer satisfaction as the primary objective. With Covid, companies have realised that training in customer relations skills is not enough and that processes must be put in place that are designed for the customer (autonomy, empowerment of teams, etc.). Thus, the post-Covid era will either be human or not, based on good customer sense. I recall the three dimensions of customer culture: strategic impetus, connection to the customer (NPS, satisfaction surveys, listening to the voice of the customer) and empowerment of teams (autonomy). Another element is that as the crisis ends, companies will be looking to rebuild their cash flow. As we know, during Covid, some customers, loyal to their brands, have been forced to experiment with other alternatives.

But, as the statistics show, the most customer-oriented brands (during the 2008 crisis) lost half their value but, above all, from 2009 onwards, the improvement in their share price was twice as great. They are therefore economically more profitable. In 2021, I see the same trend with brands like Maif or Decathlon. Betting on the customer experience at the end of the crisis is economically very profitable. It is the decisive criterion for lasting over time. During the crisis, some companies stood out like the resort of Les Ménuires which, despite the closure of the slopes, remained open and managed to offer satisfactory experiences to customers (NPS up sharply) or Valrhona which gave tours of the Cité du Chocolat during Covid. Customers will remember all these attentions.

In this context, do mission-based companies have an advantage?

In this day and age, consumers are less and less fooled. Sincere and authentic brands help to avoid a phenomenon that is very present in France: "mission washing". For this, proof of commitment is needed to separate the wheat from the chaff.

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