How a competitive MVNO earned true loyalty

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on March 8, 2013

How a competitive MVNO earned true loyalty

When the UK mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), GiffGaff, wanted to make its customer communications more effective, improve its customer relationships, and develop a more loyal customer community, it turned to Neolane, which here explains the problems, the solutions, and the results of that journey.

In short, using Neolane's conversational marketing technology, GiffGaff has since built up a fiercely loyal customer base in a very competitive market - and perhaps most impressively, this has been achieved with a communications team of only three people. The company now has high customer satisfaction rates, a more cost-effective marketing team, and at least 90% of its marketing campaigns are expected to be automated, with new campaigns usually taking less than 2 hours to create.

So where did it begin? GiffGaff is a community-led SIM-only PAYG mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in the United Kingdom. It keeps costs low by encouraging its customers to help grow and run the business. GiffGaff is owned by Telefonica O2, whose network it uses.

The operator engages closely with its many thousands of customers and fans through the 'GiffGaff community' on everything from sales, customer service and marketing. It rewards members for their contributions through points that are redeemable for money or free airtime, or which can be donated to charity. Integral to this philosophy, it doesn't do big budget mass advertising, instead keeping costs low by using online and mobile channels while keeping communications personal through having implemented Neolane Conversational Marketing technology, for transactional, operational and marketing messages.

The Challenge: creating personalised communications "We launched in 2009 and right from the start needed to present one-to-one messages to our members over email, SMS and via personalised web-based newsfeeds," said Claire Kavanagh, loyalty and retention manager for GiffGaff. "We recognised that we couldn't run such an individualised communications model with a large membership base manually and so sought the convenience of a cross-channel marketing automation platform."

GiffGaff determined that it needed an automation platform that would integrate with its existing data warehouse. It also required that the platform should take data feeds directly from its website and allow it to send real time transactional messages and automated, personalised marketing messages based on segmentation and previous behaviour. It also defined that the ideal platform would enable cross-channel coordinated dialogues, all from a single system.

For example, marketing communications might be campaigns welcoming new members and re-activations, as well as retention, cross-sell and up-sell campaigns. Transactional communications might include confirmation of a SIM order and its shipment, password re-sets, top-up reminders and current balance notifications, whilst service dialogues might include confirmation of receipt of a member's query via the web-based help service, subsequent support messages and then case completion confirmation.

GiffGaff quickly discovered that most platforms were designed for single channel use, typically for email or SMS marketing, rather than providing a fully integrated cross-channel solution. Additionally, few tools would link in real-time to the operator's data warehouse (instead demanding use of a proprietary datamart) nor easily integrate with other feeds. Tools that would only provide batch updates to the data warehouse, would frustrate GiffGaff's vision of achieving real-time coordinated and personalised cross-channel dialogues. Few could cope with the demands of holding service, transactional and marketing conversations, in symphony and cross-channels.

The Solution: a scalable, cross-channel, one-to-one platform "After an extensive procurement process, we chose Neolane's Conversational Marketing platform," explained Kavanagh. "It offered the functionality we needed to keep in one-to-one contact with our members, across channels, in real time - and it scored highly on scalability, functionality and ease of use."

Designing sometimes complex cross-channel campaigns is made easier for GiffGaff by the platform's visual drag-and-drop workflow interface. Also, the marketing team can be confident that campaign variables will be optimised through A/B scenario testing; choices such as which design works best, subject line, content, timing and other aspects. Detailed reports on open rates, click-throughs and other key performance indicators help the marketing team ensure communications are meeting members' needs as well as optimised for return on marketing investment (ROMI). Neolane's survey tool is then used to harvest member satisfaction ratings and, in the event that a member appears to be trending backward, this can trigger recovery campaigns.

GiffGaff started using the system on a software as a service (SaaS) basis, being a low-cost, low-risk model on which to launch its business. As the company grew, significantly scaling up its campaign and message volumes, the platform's flexible model allowed GiffGaff to then migrate to an in-house model to maintain cost-effectiveness.

The Results: customer community satisfaction In GiffGaff's competitive business environment, speed to market can significantly influence success. "Creating a new campaign on Neolane takes us about two hours, meaning we can act really quickly to new opportunities including counter-acting competitor campaigns," said Kavanagh. "With just three staff, we're a really lean, cost-effective marketing communications team."

Currently, GiffGaff is running some 40 different campaigns a month over email, SMS and via news feeds, all real-time content personalised and aims to see around 90% of these campaigns become fully automated. "Through Neolane we have end-to-end control of all of our member communications, from defining campaign strategy, creating campaign workflows and launching them, to analysing results and making fine adjustments to optimise performance," added Kavanagh.

But GiffGaff isn't only focused on short-term commercial metrics such as open rates and one-off campaign revenues. Enabling good communications - ones that are relevant, timely, right channel - is important firstly out of respect for members and their expectations, and secondly the aim is that long term loyal relationships will follow, optimising customer lifetime value for the brand.

"We know who is transferring their number to us, the products each of our members has purchased, whether they have activated or topped-up their SIM card, how swiftly they are using their credit balance, which campaigns they have responded to and lots more," concluded Kavanagh. "We have a wealth of customer intelligence which we use wisely to hold timely, relevant and automated conversations with our member community."

Since implementing Neolane, GiffGaff has monitored the success of its communications, especially in terms of member satisfaction. The company now has a customer satisfaction index of 81% and a Net Promoter Score of 67% (as of July 2012). At the same time, the GiffGaff Community scored a Community Heath Index of 882, when the benchmark of a healthy community is around 550.

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