Grab and Singapore Life on the role marketing plays in impacting CX

Good customer service used to be about whether the staff at the end of the customer service hotline is able to solve a problem - and to a certain point, it still is - but today business services are held to a higher standard. They are expected to provide an experience.

To do so requires collaboration amongst different departments and synergy across different touchpoints, which according to a new report by Salesforce, depends on the marketing function. According to the fifth edition of Salesforce State of Marketing report, there is a trend today where the marketing function becomes the cross-functional glue of customer experience. Some 42% of Singapore marketers said that the marketing function leads customer experience initiatives across their businesses.

Salesforce regional vice president, marketing cloud, Asia Jess O’Reilly said, "We at Salesforce often say the lines are blurring around what CRM is, but now I think the lines are blurring around what marketing is. In our old-school terms, marketing means you probably do some branding and advertising. It’s really hard to determine that today."

Grab’s growth marketing senior director Rana Saha added that the company operated like a start-up historically and did not have much structure. However, as Grab, a client of Salesforce, expanded to more verticals, not having structure was no longer efficient at its scale. Besides marketing duties, Saha said that the chief marketing officer at Grab is also “the champion for things such as customer experience and social customer care".

"We are going through a process of figuring out what is the best way of setting up social customer care and eCommerce. We are trying to build the right operation rhythms, the cadences, the engagement framework. Those are pretty much in the works," Saha said, adding:
We are trying to think through what is the right balance between having structure and still having enough dynamism, and right culture and mindset to keep fostering innovation.

Customising without the creep factor

The Salesforce study also said 84% of Singapore marketers found that personalisation improves their overall marketing programme. But 32% of Singapore marketers feel challenged to balance personalisation with privacy and 37% go beyond regulations and industry standards to protect customer privacy.

While Saha also believes in using data to drive better customer experiences, he said that companies should still maintain certain boundaries. He added, “There’s a point beyond the threshold, where [personalisation] can become creepy. You don’t want to get to that point because if you are becoming creepy, then you start eroding trust as well.”

Liam Daniel McCance, chief marketing officer at life insurance startup Singapore Life that also works with Salesforce, said that personalisation is key for the business; life insurance as an industry is somewhat intangible and consumers rarely have a reason to return to purchase.

“We need to be far more personalised than taking generic industry data and Facebook targeting data. We need to be putting things in front of people that make sense given their life stage and needs at that point,” said McCance.


McCance said the priority for the 18-month-old company is to build a product that acquires customer relationships instead of media spend. McCance, who is working on products that can be sold to consumers incrementally starting from an early life stage said, "We would rather spend money on bringing someone into a product, and we have done that with products where we have given high interest rates because we think that is better spent than on media."

Singapore Life had also invested in market research and experiments into the motivations for people to change behaviour and trust a new financial institution. The variables include the ideal interest rate, term, premium and type of incentives.

McCance also added that in his view, in secure markets such as Singapore, “convenience trumps trust”. “At the moment, your customers are far more likely to press the Facebook connect button on the way through an app and be less worried about giving their data. If you are providing the convenience, the value exchange for that data, then it’s okay,” he added.

Next frontiers

The results also showed more companies venturing into more advanced marketing technologies in Singapore. Some 57% of the marketers said they engage customers in real-time across one or more marketing channels. Artificial intelligence and voice-activated personal assistants are used by 31% and 26% in marketing efforts respectively. Additionally, 48% of Singapore marketers reported having a completely unified view of customers’ data sources.

However, Grab’s Saha said at the roundtable that it is not the way to go for every organisation. He explained, “I think it really depends where the organisation is at. If you are an organisation where marketing has been built for a while, you have an acquisition going, CRM going, then real-time [engagement] is critical, next frontier if you will.”

Grab for example, is choosing to build a strong foundation in organising data to improve marketing effectiveness and optimising channels to drive acquisition.

“I think there’s a lot more to be done in terms of making customers feel welcomed, cross-sell and up-sell. Once we have those basics sorted out, then real-time [engagement] become a more important priority. Otherwise, it takes a lot of time, effort and engineering resources, and to invest in that is like playing whack-a-mole,” added Saha.

This study was conducted by Salesforce Research through a third-party survey firm in August and September 2018. More than 4,100 full-time marketing leaders globally were surveyed. In Singapore, there were 150 respondents.