Business Insights: Building stronger relationships and investing in new ways to get closer to customers.

Building stronger relationships with consumers is key for most businesses and in additon to honing products and services to enable this, businesses are also investing in new technology and systems to help them obtain better data, get closer to and ultimately better serve their customers.

In an interesting survey conducted by Barclays Corporate which polled 605 businesses during April, and report written by Mike Saul, Head of Hospitality and Leisure,Barclays Corporate reveals that just over one-third of businesses (34%) are using new CRM systems to support better data on customers’ preferences and behaviours. Cafes (43%), spas (43%) and restaurants (41%) are among the biggest adopters.

According to the report, around “45% of spas have introduced customer loyalty schemes to encourage repeat business. Personalised offers are a chosen strategy for 37% of B&Bs and holiday apartments, and for 35% of holiday parks. The smallest businesses are most active in these areas – for instance, 42% of firms with 10 to 49 employees have invested in new CRM systems, and 38% have introduced personalised offers.

Drawing on customer data, these can be used to increase occupancy at quieter times or to provide a value-added experience. For example, IHG Hotels’ voco brand recently trialled more personalised guest services for a £40 surcharge, including favourite drinks and snacks on arrival, a late-night ‘cravings’ menu, and portable speakers.

Many businesses are reshaping their services around customers’ shifting expectations. For example, around three in 10 businesses (32%) are meeting customer demand by opening earlier – this is most common in the East Midlands (48%) and the South West (46%). Extending hours further into the evening is slightly less common (30%), with Scottish (38%) and South East businesses (37%) most likely to have tried this.”

Changing payment options and enabling more convenient ways to pay are also ways which many businesses have tried to improve customer relationships and experiences. “Offering customers more convenient ways to pay is another key investment made by many businesses in the wake of the pandemic, when the shift to digital payments accelerated.

Two in five businesses (40%) began accepting new payment systems such as Apple Pay and Google Pay in the past year. Restaurants are among the most active in introducing new payment options for customers: 45% have recently started to accept app and mobile payments, while 47% have invested in a new online payments gateway. In addition, 45% of restaurants have introduced additional payment terminals, as have 42% of pubs. Again, small and medium-sized businesses are most likely to have invested recently – for example, 46% of those employing 10 to 99 people have widened payment systems in the past year, perhaps indicating a move to catch up with the offerings of larger providers.”

The customer continues to sit at the core and ensuring that relationships are strong, that the customer journey actually does have the customer at the centre is as, if not more important than ever. There is always a way, big and small to delight and as they say, the devil is in the detail.