Bill Swift – Brierley
Times have been tough in the auto rental market, why with fewer people traveling amid the threat of a pandemic and even fewer needing temporary wheels.
On a related note, the hospitality business hasn’t been buzzing either; many hotels and resorts are just now reopening after months of COVID-induced inactivity. Same goes for retailers, so many now emphasizing online content with storefronts shuttered.
All the more reason for companies in such sensitive industries to have a customer loyalty program, says Bill Swift, chief technology officer at Brierley, a firm based out of Frisco, Texas, that has been providing an array of options for its international corporate clientele since the mid-1980s.
“What differentiates us is our approach to designing profitable programs and the flexibility our platform offers to enable unique loyalty solutions across many vertical industries,” Swift tells Toggle in June. “One differentiator is how we manage customer information and the dynamic nature in which we establish a customer’s profile, transaction and engagement activity. Points, credits, miles—the options the company can then offer a valued customer are extensive.”
Those capabilities are growing. In 2015, Brierley was acquired by Tokyo-based Nomura Research Institute, and venerable founder Harold Brierley now applies his marketing acumen at the aptly named Brierley Institute for Customer Engagement at Southern Methodist University.
A Japanese infotech solutions and consulting company, Nomura has ambitious plans for its entity in Texas, with Swift among the leaders for transformation and change. Two major projects are now underway: Project Kona and the company’s approach to client delivery.
The former is coined after the Ironman World Championship, whose events entail a 2.4-mile swim in sharky waters, a 112-mile bike race and a marathon ending at the shore of Hawaii’s Kailua-Kona Bay.
This Kona, however, is more about mentally strenuous perseverance, it being the next generation of Brierley’s proprietary LoyaltyOnDemand platform that is a cloud-based, user-friendly means for companies of any size to seamlessly manage their rewards programs.
According to Swift, there are three pillars to Kona: the user interface; the means for a company to build and execute global, multi-brand loyalty programs; and the technical infrastructure on which it’s assembled.
As far as client delivery is concerned, this transformation is about people and methodology, and becoming fully agile. Around 20 in-house squads of seven or eight people are working on separate but intertwined projects.
“We’re changing everything across the enterprise,” Swift says. “The challenge here is that it’s really easy to be completely agile for product development, but as a service provider it becomes more difficult, especially when working with marketing organizations that have a predefined scope and unmovable deadlines.”
At any rate, Swift says Brierley’s recent initiatives will simplify the process while sustaining the in-house mindset, which he likens to that of a 30-year-old startup. He’s been part of the team for almost 20 of those years, commencing when Brierley was still a consultancy, then going deeper with customer engagement and continuously upgrading on the tech front.
A triple threat
“Most of our revenue now comes from software. However, our combined service offerings is what differentiates Brierley,” he explains. “We combine consultancy, digital marketing and technology. Combine those three and we’re more powerful than anybody doing just one.”
With a diverse clientele in travel, hospitality, commercial operations and consumer packaged goods, Swift points out that one size won’t fit all needs. However, those clients and others can adjust their programs through Brierley’s cloud-native, user-friendly LoyaltyOnDemand platform and further connect consumer with brand.
One longstanding customer in auto rental entrusts its rewards program to Brierley, which patterns it like a frequent flyer program. It’s free to join, awards one point per dollar spent, is redeemable for car rentals and provides a user with mobile alerts. Its connection with this customer is so strong that Brierley maintains an office in London to serve its European operations.
Retail being different from auto rental, Brierley has other solutions for upscale clothing companies. One such retailer’s program is also free: Shoppers collect redeemable points and can garner bonuses for social activity and reviewing garb and accessories online.
Then there’s a major food manufacturer which offers a catalogue of items the repeat shopper can choose from. Garner enough points from buying its products and the customer becomes eligible for such perks as sweepstakes entries, discounts and gift cards. There are multiple ways to link the user with their transaction, among them photos of receipts and loyalty grocery cards.
“We orchestrate our capabilities and services into distinct patterns to enable loyalty across all vertical industries,” Swift says. “That’s why we have so many customers across the Fortune categories.”
Safe and secure
With a lot of data involved, security thought leadership goes into every product, Swift assures, adding that the firm goes beyond basic compliance with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act.
As a service provider, the firm offers the means for a consumer to be notified of all the information a company has about them—and to have that information deleted. With other states modeling their own privacy rules around California’s, Swift acknowledges that compliance can be a moving target. A national standard would simplify the process, but he doubts that will happen soon.
A 1986 computer science graduate at the University of Michigan, Swift logged the next 14 years as an enterprise architect with Electronic Data Systems. He worked in a similar capacity at Concept Five Technologies for a couple of years, before accepting the CTO position at Brierley in early 2001.
Such growth is indispensable, as some of the firm’s competitors have been acquired in the last year. Brierley now finds itself competing with larger companies as well as new startups.
“We’re not just a software company that still designs programs,” he says. “We have a strong reputation as a strategic thought leader and view our technology as an enabler to achieving customer centricity.”
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