Naga Chokkanathan

Archive for December 2011

Loyalty management is a big CRM topic. Every company wants their customers to remain loyal and give continuous business and share of their wallet. They introduce schemes like loyalty cards, points, gifts etc., to attract them.

But in reality, most of these schemes don’t work. I would have registered for at least 20+ loyalty programs and got my fancy cards. But I can’t carry all of them wherever I go, most of the times I keep that card in some book shelf and forget all about that, It doesn’t make me return to the same establishment again, unless and until the benefits are very good and real.

When I say “Benefits”, I don’t really mean cash back, discounts etc., they are important motivators, but for a loyalty program to succeed, the company has to think of something unique and a real value add.

For example, we buy our monthly groceries and other goods from a super market. Last year, they gave me a loyalty card and told me that I will get 1 point for every 200 rupees spent on that shop, and later I can convert those points to gifts.

I did a mental math, my reward is, 1 rupee for every 200 rupees. Means 0.5%, Boy, this scheme is junk, I don’t want silly 0.5% discount for my purchases, forget it!

But guess what, those store people were smart. They recorded my mobile number, and tied it to my Loyalty card. Every time I bought anything from them, they asked for my loyalty card, when I said “I don’t have it with me now”, they asked my mobile number, and added loyalty points to me, even without the card.

Yesterday, I got a mail from them, which gave a nice pie chart with this snapshot:

Your Purchases last year:

  • 38% Fruits and Vegetables
  • 22% Pulses and cooking oil
  • 16% Dairy Products
  • 8% Snacks
  • 16% Others

Wow, I never knew this. When I clicked on the pie chart, it gave me details on my purchases every month and how they changed over the 12 months period. Amazing insight on my spending habits, which I can’t get anywhere else!

Now, I am motivated to carry their loyalty card and produce it for any purchase, I know I am going to get some useful data out of this, in addition to that 0.5% discount, I will buy more and more from them because others don’t give me this value add.

Moral of the story? If Loyalty is a one way street (I want people to buy more from me), it is never going to work. Any Loyalty program will work only if there are visible benefits to the customers too.


N. Chokkan …

27 12 2011

(Originally written for our company blog : )


Social Customer Relationship Management (#SocialCRM or #SCRM in short) is usually assumed to be a very complex thing, requiring new tools and techniques. But in reality, what you need is just a different way of looking at your customer relationships. Of course, tools help you get there and with quality, but they are secondary, really.

For example, when I am writing this blog article, I use the simplest (and the best-est if you would excuse the cliche) software called “Notepad”, I could have used Microsoft Word, or any other sophisticated word processing programs available out there, but that doesn’t matter, as long as I know what I am writing about, and have the interest to sit down and write it, the tool becomes secondary, I may write my next blog article in my phone’s text editor, or in a piece of paper, till I am ready to present it to others, I need not worry about the format, beautification etc.,

Same logic applies for Social CRM too, if you wait till you have the best tool that fits your expectations, probably you will end-up waiting forever. Instead, focus on understanding these basic things:

  • Who is your customer?
  • How “Social” they are?
  • Where they hang out in Social media?
  • What they typically talk about?
  • What we want to listen to?
  • How we want to respond?
  • Why we want to respond?
  • How do we balance between genuine social conversation Vs intrusion on their privacy?
  • What we want to achieve by all these?
There may be more such questions, but the point is, answering these is more important than buying the right Social CRM tool. You may use the simplest tools and create a great impact as long as the vision is clear and the execution is honest.
One small (live) example. Today I posted this in Twitter:

OnlineStoreX and OnlineStoreY increased the minimum purchase limit to Rs 200/- if you want free shipping. Hmm, Expected, But still…..

As a consumer, I am upset that Online Stores X and Y decided to increase their minimum purchase limit, for free shipping, as I don’t really want to pay for shipping of books. Now I am forced to buy for Rs 200/- (instead of the usual Rs 100/-) to save shipping cost. Not a serious problem for me, but still I don’t like it and I tweeted about it.

After couple of hours, I got a reply from OnlineStoreZ (A competitor to OnlineStores X and Y):

Hello, OnlineStoreZ offers free shipping, without any minimum purchase limit. Try

Very simple, I was motivated to click the given link, because it really addressed my issue. Great!

Now, when we try to guess what could have happened behind the screens, we understand how simple and brilliant this idea is:

  • Listen to what people are talking about us and our competitors in Social Media
  • Wherever we make a difference, respond with our offerings
  • No need to talk bad about our competitors, just say why you are different, and how you solve their problem
You don’t need a sophisticated Social CRM tool for this, All you need is a Twitter search, a Google blog / news search and an RSS reader. It can be a great start and you can start listening / responding.
Of course, this is not scalable, soon you will have tons of messages to respond to, at that time you can think of a sophisticated tool, no need to wait for that to get started.
#SCRM may also mean, Simple CRM!
N. Chokkan …
19 12 2011
(Originally written for our company blog and posted here :

Recently I attended a teleconference with a prospect. We were trying to suggest CRM as a solution to their current business pain points, they appreciated our approach, but were not sure if it will really solve their problem.

One person in particular raised some very basic doubts, like ‘Do we really need CRM?’

It sounds a bit silly, but his argument was solid: ‘My sales team is already comfortable handling the demand we have, and our success to failure rate is excellent, we meet and exceed our targets even without CRM, what’s the big deal?’

We tried to answer his question with a discussion on “What is CRM?” and “Why every business needs CRM?”. But still, he came back to the same argument, “I am doing good without aCRM, What difference it can make? Give me a real, practical example!”

At that pressure moment, I tried a stupid trick, using a very simple imagery (fairy tale, really) to explain what difference CRM Makes:

‘Imagine you are standing beneath a magic tree. Instead of fruits, this tree has lots and lots of coins, some of them are silver coins, some are gold coins, and some are platinum coins.

Once these coins are ripe, they fall on the ground, you need to catch them and pocket them.

Trick is, if a coin touches the ground, you lose it permanently. You can’t get it back!

So, you are running around, catching coins as they fall. After sometime, you become so good in it and are able to catch lots and lots of coins.

End of the day, you count your coins. 160 coins in all, 10 platinum, 50 gold and 100 Silver, Happy!

Now, imagine you build a large magic plate around this magic tree, Coins fall on this plate, You don’t have to run to catch them, instead you can peacefully have a look at them, analyze which coins give you the best value and pick them. Later you can throw away all the low-value coins.

In this scenario also, you may end-up picking the same number of coins (160), But because you are not rushing and carefully choosing your coins, you will have many more Platinum and Gold coins, instead of silver coins.

Now, mapping this tale to your business scenario, that tree is nothing but your market, coins are opportunities, some of them bad, some good, some very good and profitable, they are constantly falling and you run around the tree trying to pick the coins that come your way, you may be missing some Platinum coins, but you can’t worry about that, because you need to run, run, run.

If you have a CRM system in place, it is like this magic plate, It catches all the coins and presents to you in one view, gives you tools to analyze which ones are good, prioritize them and pick the really good ones which give you the best returns. It saves you time, and energy.

With or without CRM, your capacity is only 160 coins, but with CRM, you get the best returns.’

This is a story a school boy would prefer, not the corporate executives. But surprisingly, it clicked. They didn’t jump and sign the contract immediately, but at least they got the message loud & clear, and were much more open to our recommendations after that.

Hmm, I need to spend more time with my daughters, to pick such stories 😉


N. Chokkan …
15 12 2011

(Originally written for our company blog and posted here :

I am a big mind map fan. I have tried using it in my work as well as personal tasks and it works exceptionally well in all cases. Especially, for making meeting notes, registering and elaborating an idea, sending a status update, making a trip plan, researching for an article and so on., Whether you use paper / pen or computer / software, mind maps are great tools that make sure all corners of you brain are activated when thinking about something in a focussed manner.

Mind maps were the cration of Tony Buzan, world famous thinker, writer and speaker. Recently I read a book by Dilip Mukerjea, Director of Buzan Centre, Singapore, which covered the art and science of Mind mapping very well. This book is titled ‘Building Brain Power: Turning Grey Matter into Gold‘ (Published By Westland, 320 Pages, Price: Rs 750/-)

Even tho’ the book title talks about brain power, it mainly focuses on Mind Mapping (after all, Author Dilip Mukerjea is supposed to be one of the TOP Mind mappers in the world!) and the good news is, it starts in the very basics, start with a central theme picture, draw a single branch, write a keyword, use colors etc., It can be used by anyone (as another book by Dilip Mukerjea says “Age 5 to 105”).

In addition to mind mapping, this book also covers various aspects about brain, starting from the anatomy, to history, to techniques and more. Every section has colorful pictures (Hence, the high price 🙂 and wonderful puzzles / games for us to relax, so that it doesn’t become a boring text book read.

My favorite section in this book is the chapter of lists. Author picks important topics on Brain power (Memory, Creativity, Rading etc.,) and gives 10 action points on each. These act as a good check list for us to use what we have learnt from this book.

Now, for the negatives. This book is very well produced with amazing layout, you will never be tired of reading boring text page after page. But at the same time, the text sometimes gets very long, very very long. So I had to skip few parts to get to the portion I was interested in.

Means, this is not a book you can read from page 1 to last. Instead, it is like a mix of a reference book, an instructiin manual and a workbook. depending on what you are looking for, you may want to jump chapters and extract best value out of it.

Most important, don’t miss out on the Mind Maps the author has provided, for each chapter / subtitle, they cover the concepts neatly in a single page and can act as a quick cheat sheet when you want to review that particular portion alone. I expected a list of all mind maps in the front or back of the book for quick reference, but that was missing.

Overall, a good book, but slightly expensive for Indian market. Would be great if the publisher releases a condensed version (slimmer, easy to hold / read for children, easy to afford for parents) for students, who will benefit the most from this book.

N. Chokkan …

08 12 2011

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

My favorite composer is planning to do a live concert next month, and no doubt, I am excited.

The television channel sponsoring this event released a promotional video recently. It announced “Select ten best songs of your favorite composer, and send them to aaa. The most liked songs will be performed by him in the event.”

Good Idea. As a fan, I feel happy about this ‘participation’, but when I look at it from administration perspective, Email is a very bad (ancient) concept for this type of interaction.

Let us say my favorite composer has only 1000 fans across the globe, each one are sending their ’10 best songs’ list, some of them may choose the same songs, or totally new / unique songs. This means, I would have roughly about 6000 to 8000 songs in my Email Inbox.

Now, what will I do? How can I make any sense out of this data? Am I going to open all those 1000 mails, copy paste the text manually? Am I going to write a software program to do that? What if people used wrong spellings for song names? How will I know which songs made it to the ‘top 10’ list?

Obviously, these “Email your favorite songs to” kind of campaigns are nothing but a polished version of age old Paper-pen-letter campaigns. You will get tons of data, but then nothing will come out of it, unless and until you have lot patience and ready to comb through all those Emails manually.

So, what is the solution?

Simple, use the power of Social Media. Create a buzz using the same ‘Select ten best songs of your favorite composer’ concept!

Here are some ideas I could think of (with no detailed analysis of this campaign’s goals / objectives). These are not new, many corporates and brands are already using such ideas, but I hope this will act as a small case study on how to go from Email Campaign to Social Campaign using the same base idea:

1. Create a website for the concert. People can login to this website using their Facebook / Twitter / Google+ profiles
2. Provide lots and lots of media : Rare photos, videos, promotional clips, fan mail, and finally, a database of all the songs by the star composer
3. People can search for their favorite song and vote for them, You have upto 10 votes, you can change them till 5 days before the concert
4. Every hour, select the “Top 50” songs and feature them in a special page, where people can view them and vote
5. Provide option for people to recommend this site to their friends and followers in various social networks
6. Sell Concert tickets, albums, t-shirts etc., Provide 10% discount to all those people who have already voted for their “top 10” songs. If you choose only 5, you get only 5% discount
7. One week before the concert, Send notifications to all the people registered in your website, offering them a 20% discount on the concert ticket
8. During the concert, provide free WIFI to all users to post messages / tweet about the event LIVE
9. Provide live video streaming of the concert in your website, for those who couldn’t attend (Advertisement supported)
10. After the concert, send a mail to all those people who voted for the songs with personalized text such as “You selected 4 of the 28 songs sung in the concert. Hope you liked the other 24 songs too. Thanks for your support”

This is just a sample, there are tons of other ideas, but the point is, an Email campaign misses all these. When you have a dedicated website and web 2.0 style voting system, You will know exactly which songs were liked by the people and that will drive the success of the show. As a bonus, because of the viral nature of Social Networks, this campaign will reach lot more people, very fast, means, free advertisement for you!

Now, I hope the Television Channel reads this article, likes the idea and sends me couple of free tickets for the concert 😉



N. Chokkan …

06 12 2011

Yet another customer relationship lesson, this time from a Pizza shop.

I went there on a saturday evening, and placed my order. They asked for my phone number before accepting payment.

When I told them my mobile number, they searched for it in their database, read out my name, address, and I confirmed it. They said it will take twenty minutes to complete my order. I decided to wait there and kill time by reading some tweets / blogs in my phone.

After 15 minutes or so, I got a call. ‘Hello sir, I am calling from XYZ Pizza, where is your house?’

Naturally, I was surprised, and asked the person on the line, ‘Why are you asking for my house?’

‘To deliver the pizza, sir.’

‘But I don’t want any home delivery, No one is at home, I am waiting in your shop for the pizza.’

‘Oops’, he immediately disconnected the call, I went to the same counter where I placed the order and asked them about the confusion. They simply told ‘Because you confirmed your home address, we assumed you need the pizza to be delivered at home and sent it out.’

Here we go, They had a ’20 minutes’ SLA (Service Level Agreement) with me, completed the order in just 10 or 12 minutes, and then sent it out, right past me who is sitting there for the delivery. A perfect execution, spoilt by a bad deployment / delivery decision resulting in an unhappy customer!

Of course, it is a clear communication problem, when I placed the order I could have told them “No Home delivery please”. But how will I even know they are thinking of a home delivery? I was inside the shop and when I don’t explicitly ask for a home delivery, they should just serve the pizza on the table, isn’t it? Just because you have somebody’s address in your database, it doesn’t mean you need to use it for every order.

This happens when we confuse master data with transactional information. Irrespective of how much master data we have gathered about somebody / some business, transactions need to be treated with respect, they are the ones which provide moment by moment data, where making any “assumptions” can cost a lot. The simple solution is, to ask few more questions, or at least state your assumptions and confirm that the client is okay, It is worth the extra effort!



N. Chokkan …

02 12 2011


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Organization He works for / belongs to.

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