Five Minutes With… Christopher Evans, Director, Collinson Group

Competition for consumers’ loyalty is fierce in the region, says Evans.

What are the services currently offered by Collinson Group in the Middle East?

We offer our full suite of capabilities in Loyalty, Lifestyle Benefits, Insurance and Assistance. ICLP, our full service loyalty agency, has been present in Dubai since 1996, and Collinson Latitude, specialises in loyalty commerce and the optimisation of earning and redemption. Through our acquisition of Welcome Real-time we now add 18 years of experience in bank wide and payment loyalty.

Additionally the high degree of travel in region means there is high demand for our travel solutions, in particular, Priority Pass, our lounge access programme.

What kind of business potential do you see in the region?

The potential in the region is mixed given the current and mid-term political instability in some markets. There is also short term hesitancy in some areas as a result of the impact of lower oil prices. However we remain optimistic for strong overall regional growth, particularly in our target sectors of financial services, travel and retail driven by a growing demand for our services and products. The Middle East is an exciting and dynamic region and we will continue to invest in our businesses.

What are the main challenges that regional firms face in terms of customer loyalty?

One overall challenge is the need for business to respond rapidly to meet the needs of a consumer who is embracing new technologies and platforms and has increasing choice and information. Added to that a growing range of loyalty solutions means competition for consumers’ loyalty is fierce and only the best managed programmes will succeed.

There is also the need to be able to adapt to the significant variances in consumer base – from a very young and highly populous market such as Saudi Arabia where engaging tomorrow’s consumers today will bring long term success, to the UAE where there is the need for solutions that engender loyalty quickly, deliver ROI in the shorter term and are considerate of a population that is more transient.

How can they be addressed?

Focusing on the needs of the customer is key with a segmentation approach that looks at both attitudes and behaviours as well as more classical economic considerations.

A Skywards gold card holder travelling to New York twice a month could be either a business man with a family as his priority or an entrepreneur whose passion is holidays and fast cars. How to engage both correctly requires knowing who they are. It is then critical to understand the overall business objective and build a solution that delivers ROI to the client and at the same time value to their customers.

Getting this right requires a balance of strong customer analytics, insight, strategy and a CRM solution delivered technology that engages the customer.

Will you be hiring in the next six months?

Our overall business is growing more than 20 per cent at the moment and this level of success means that we are constantly looking to bring the right talent into the group.

What’s your leadership style?

I look to create an environment that has an informal working atmosphere but where everyone works with passion and commitment to deliver and can then take pride in their achievements. I am approachable, honest and direct, generally remaining calm even when key deadlines or pitches are fast approaching. A lack of time with individual team members is my only current frustration where I’d like to offer more one to one support.

Three tips for becoming the boss…

Remember that at the heart of all we do sits an end consumer. Identify, engage and reward that individual in a way they are not expecting that is relevant to them and they will become a valuable customer. Always ensure you are honest and work with integrity with everyone you deal with – trust and respect has to be earned and can easily be lost. Force yourself to step back from the day to day activities to evaluate the bigger picture, ensure you are channeling your energy in the right direction and then move forwards positively, in a way that inspires other to follow and support you to reach those goals.