As many of you have seen, I recently started the next chapter in my career. It wasn’t an easy decision, as I had been part of the Citi team for over 10 years, but it was the right one. Because I went with my gut – it’s a career opportunity that I’m fiercely passionate about and truly believe in.
Formerly, as Research and Insights Director at Citi’s Retail Services unit, my job was to support Citi’s efforts to drive incremental sales, deepen loyalty, and generate insights for retailer clients. Improving the appeal and effectiveness of retail credit and loyalty programs would help to cement partnerships between retailers and Citi that would ultimately benefit cardholding customers shopping with these retailers.
Back in 1954, Peter Drucker, whom many consider the father of business consulting, wrote, “There is only one valid definition of a business purpose: to create a customer.” These words are just as true today as they were a half a century ago, except the rules of customer engagement have changed drastically – from passively transactional to collaboratively relational. Today’s major retailers, especially, are eager to know as much as they possibly can about their customers so they can serve them better, and the smartest ones are finding ways to get as close to them as possible.
At Citi, my retail clients were leaders in their respective categories, and they all knew that, in order to stay competitive, they needed to deepen their connection with their customers. Sure, they had a lot of big data at their fingertips. But real customer relationships could reveal insights and ideas beyond the data, with the power to transform business strategy, inform loyalty and credit card value propositions, optimize marketing and advertising campaigns, and serve as the foundation upon which retailers could build and broaden their company message in the marketplace and, ultimately, grow their business.
Here’s where my relationship with Communispace came in. At Citi, we partnered with Communispace to build ongoing relationships with a diverse range of our retailers’ customers from all over the U.S., and we used these relationships to drive the work we did with our retail clients. Because of these authentic customer relationships, Citi was viewed by its retail partners and prospects as a reliable, intelligent expert in the retail space with the ability to help them gather deeper customer insights and marketplace intelligence.
Retailers appreciated the added value. They often considered Citi’s customer communities an extension of their own research and insights teams. With 24/7/365 real-time access to customers’ stories, emotions, motivations, feedback, and ideas, retailers received the direct benefit of community insights. Best of all was the opportunity to work with customers to design retail credit offers and benefits that meshed with the retailer’s brand experience while satisfying customer needs. And, these customer-relevant strategies, programs, experiences and communications drove incremental sales for the retailers. When discussions (and debates) occurred amongst stakeholders about what to do, having customer inputs at the ready could help create alignment and agreement.
There was significant internal impact at Citi, as well. Having an always-on connection to so many customers enabled my colleagues to give the customer a seat at the decision-making table. You didn’t have to sacrifice your retail client-driven deadlines because this was a nimble resource. And you didn’t have to drop everything you were doing in order to collaborate with your customers because our Communispace team was always positioned to lead the charge.
Early in our partnership with Communispace, we used to talk about the “I wonders” – if you were in a meeting, for example, and someone wondered whether a strategic concept might be compelling, if an ad campaign messaging was clear, or how a specific audience segment felt, there was no excuse for not following through on that curiosity. One marketing lead went so far as to bake Communispace usage into her team’s performance goals. Indeed, my colleagues and I valued the power of customer collaboration and viewed it as standard operating procedure.
I know, firsthand, the importance of bringing the customer mindset to life and the positive impact it can have on an organization and a business. More importantly, I can appreciate how increasing customer engagement upfront in the collaborative development process can translate into increased customer engagement downstream in the actual marketplace. Connecting and aligning brands more closely with their customers to accelerate innovation and growth, with greater customer satisfaction as a byproduct – that’s a pretty fulfilling way to earn a living. I’ve lived the benefits of working with Communispace, so I’m excited to now have the chance to deliver those benefits to clients now that I’m working for Communispace.