Role of IT in Customer Retention and Customer Life cycle Management Processes

By Suresh Lakshminarayanan, Director - Finance & IT, McDonald's India West & South

Customer Lifecycle Management is the central concern and primary lifeline of the retail industry, since a retailer’s success is tethered directly to their ability to attract and retain customers. The biggest game changer in terms of creating a cohesive customer lifecycle management process in business is probably the growing IT competency in organizations. To build long term value, each part of our team has to understand their role in the customer journey, focusing not only on improving immediate customer satisfaction, but also upon gleaning information about future customer needs and communicating them internally. With a large customer facing team, it becomes essential to an organization such as ours to promptly and effectively respond to customer feedback, and we have in place numerous measures, such as the Let’s Ketchup initiative, to ensure the same.

IT is also an effective tool for enhancing customer experience, easing transactions and removing logjams. McDonald’s aims to provide a superior, more relaxed experience to its customers by introducing a number of IT solutions to minimize the time and effort taken to place and collect an order. The company has scaled multiple order-point strategies - adding new features and technologies to make ordering and payment processes easier by introducing innovative queue-busting technology in McDonald’s counters, such as the provision of tablets which allow restaurant staff to take orders directly from the table. We also provide free Wi-Fi in all our restaurants and have been improvising our web and mobile ordering services. Ease of access is a paramount requirement for the time-constrained customer today, and our focus on innovating and launching our web and mobile app last year has resulted in 30% of our McDelivery revenue coming from online platforms. 

Marketing, another significant factor, involves identifying customer needs and requirements and meeting those needs more fully than your competitors, thus creating loyal customers. We use a multi-platform approach to our advertising communications which continually focus on digital media. Customers are savvy and better informed than ever before, as well as more accessible. They participate in conversations on social media platforms and are liberal with their feedback; our communication technologies thus need to take advantage of this fact, using those very platforms to engage more deeply with the customers and better inform their purchase decisions. 

We at McDonald’s have observed the evolving power of social media channels and trends in influencing our customers. There has been a phenomenal growth in our Facebook fan base, we have garnered over 1.2 million likes on Facebook and engage with over 5,500 followers on Twitter. Our campaigns and communications issued online capitalize on the speedy nature of social media. For instance, the one-of-a-kind ‘First Tasters Club’ on our Facebook fan page drew much attention for providing our fans the opportunity to exclusively taste and review our new product offerings such as Saucy Wraps before their launch. By combining offline and online opportunities we were able to connect nation-wide marketing efforts with local promotions. Social media can also help drive organization decisions, we re-introduced Piri-Piri fries last year only after we saw a huge demand from customers on our Facebook page.

It is imperative in today’s business environment to build communication strategies with mobile phones, which is increasingly becoming the prime means of internet access for a majority of Indians, especially in Tier II and III cities where McDonald’s is expanding its presence. To this end we are developing numerous new mobile IT solutions to improve our brand presence in the medium. Our mobile application, launched in 2014, currently offers a host of features including a mobile website, an easy way to order for home delivery and the option to place orders on phone even while in our restaurants.

We are also introducing a Deals application which is currently in Beta testing mode, and plan to introduce a Virtual loyalty element in our mobile applications, utilizing the app to counter historical problems associated with the implementation of customer loyalty programs which plagued the restaurant industry before the IT boom. We are currently working closely with McDonald’s APMEA team to implement a Global Mobile Application and other Consumer Promo oriented applications in India, which will support the branding & marketing strategy of the company. 

IT is an increasingly relevant and important arm for any organization today, and wields considerable leverage in the highly competitive QSR industry of which we are a part. Understanding and effectively implementing IT solutions can thus be the deciding factor in determining the leader in the food retail sector, and we at McDonald’s are extremely conscious of this fact and constantly on the lookout to better our IT strategies to develop and strengthen the relationship with our patrons.

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