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Upping the Ante to Create and Deliver Value to Customers
MasterCard's strategic transformation to drive differentiation.
Posted May 30, 2008
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Embarking upon a transformation in MasterCard's governance structure sparked our shift in focus from serving our member banks as an association to delivering results for our key stakeholders, which now include our customer financial institutions and shareholders. Delivering against this goal required an understanding of our customers' true needs and the assertion of our commitment to a holistic CRM strategy that did not depend simply on databases and statistical measurement, but on an engaging, customer-focused strategy to drive value. The aim, in short, was to:

    a) add strategic value and
    b) grow our customers' bottom-line results.

Uncovering true customer engagement
Well before our initial public offering, MasterCard began its strategic transformation by implementing a customer-focused strategy which was built around the CRM discipline. To succeed, it was essential to determine how to fully engage with our customers and be seen as thought partners in their businesses by shaping strategic objectives and aligning our resources against them, drawing on our deep wealth of information to provide knowledge leadership, and providing the necessary expertise to execute and implement solutions.

What we heard
In 2005, we designed and implemented an organizational solution that became the backbone of our CRM strategy. Championed by Gary Flood (the current president of Products & Services), we kicked off our effort with a rigorous global study interviewing nearly one thousand individuals at our customer financial institutions to assess and understand our current performance and their needs. We heard -- straight from our customers -- what we could do to provide differentiating value for them. Our customers told us how they wanted us to partner with them to sharpen their competitive strategies with in-depth planning and market analysis tailored to their unique needs. They also wanted true customization of solutions to fit their business strategies and goals.

So, we did just that. To ramp up the level of engagement between our sales team and customers we implemented a five-step approach, which we call our Customer Integration Model. This model defines how we work with customers and ensures that we are continually delivering the greatest impact in driving their businesses forward. Through this approach, we are able to differentiate MasterCard in the marketplace by ensuring that our sales teams are firmly entrenched in customers' businesses.

We also employ CRM best practices, which focus our sales efforts by providing us with a framework of the key behaviors that we must emulate in order to elevate our engagement with customers. These best practices define the "how" behind the way we work with customers and include areas such as account management, information sharing, competitive strategy, and performance measurement. Our sales teams are fully armed with the tools and resources they need to apply the principles embedded in these best practices. By putting the best practices to work, along with providing support through coaching and other sales-effectiveness enablers, we ensure that we are putting forth a disciplined and focused approach.

Where we are
Today, each of our largest customers has a dedicated relationship manager who provides undivided attention. Combining this level of attention with the Customer Integration Model, we are better able to understand the customer's strategic objectives. This allows us to deliver a higher degree of value, which translates into increased revenue opportunities for our customers.

Our continuous engagement with customers is critical and keeps us on track. As we execute new capabilities and deliver new solutions, we frequently ask for feedback from customers. Whether formal or just part of the day-to-day strategic management of the relationship, this feedback enables us to gain insight into what's working for them and what we might need to tailor to their unique needs in order to deliver stronger results.

Getting a pulse-check from customers
After two years of implementing this approach, we are able to validate the impact. According to recent qualitative and quantitative research, our customers repeatedly cite improved interaction with a higher-caliber sales force that is more disciplined and focused on business decisions. In a 2007 customer research survey, respondents indicated a nearly 25 percent jump in customer satisfaction from 2005. Cookie-cutter models just don't work when compared to a strategy like the one we have in place. The value we are bringing to their businesses now is far greater than what it had been two years ago -- value that continues to deepen.

At MasterCard, CRM is not about managing sophisticated databases that measure how we work with customers. Instead, CRM is a holistic approach to the way we engage with our customers.

Our CRM strategy has dramatically improved our relationships with our customers. By understanding their needs, aligning our mutual goals, and proactively becoming a true thought partner that delivers innovative solutions, insights, and financial results, we create differentiating value for their businesses. This transformational approach continues today and is delivering significant results.

About the Author
Valarie Gelb is chief global sales development officer for MasterCard Worldwide. She is charged with taking MasterCard's strategic vision of being customer-focused and designing, building, and implementing CRM Best Practices to change how MasterCard does business with its customers.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the author, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration, please email jweinberger@destinationCRM.com.

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