PROFILE

Phil Rubin

CEO, rDialogue

Phil is CEO of rDialogue, an Atlanta-based customer marketing firm with clients ranging from mid-market to Fortune 100 and in industries including retail, travel and hospitality, telecommunications, dining, financial services and pharmaceuticals. Representative clients include Caribou Coffee, Cracker Barrel, Kimpton Hotels and Sprint, as well as a number of clients that can’t be named like a world famous customer-centric department store.

He has nearly 20 years of strategic marketing experience with an emphasis on customer loyalty and relationship marketing, integrated communications, partnership development, promotions and program development. He founded the loyalty practice at Loyaltyworks and led the spin-off of the practice to rDialogue. Prior to Loyaltyworks he was Group Vice President and General Manager of The Lacek Group, a loyalty marketing firm now part of OgilvyOne. While at Lacek he established the Atlanta office and was responsible for leading the development and implementation of relationship marketing strategies on behalf of clients such as Delta Air Lines, Cox Communications and UPS.

Phil has developed and managed loyalty and relationship marketing as a client both at Midway Airlines and at GTE Wireless (now Verizon). He began his career going through Macy’s Executive Training Program and working in store management.

Phil has an M.B.A. with a concentration in Marketing and Strategy from Tulane University and a B.S. in finance from L.S.U.

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  • Posted on: 08/02/2018

    Who in retailing’s c-suites should drive customer experience?

    The best and often only way to align CX and CX technology stakeholders is for the CEO to commit the enterprise to a business strategy that includes the customer as a top priority. With that kind of critical leadership commitment, there is a greater likelihood for alignment not just between CX (CMO) and CX technology stakeholders but with the entire leadership team and their respective functions. This kind of leadership also creates a role for a Chief Customer Officer (CCO), which is different but complementary to both CIO and CMOs. Barbara Thau just published a piece on this topic referencing, among others, Walmart hiring Janey Whiteside from American Express as its first CCO.
  • Posted on: 08/01/2018

    Zara bets on faster deliveries from stores to boost online growth

    More than 200 years ago, Benjamin Franklin coined the term "Time is money." Time -- including the speed of fulfillment -- is, according to rDialogue research, a top loyalty driver. More than half of consumers say that it is extremely important for brands to save their time and that is directly tied to speed of delivery, every bit as much as it is tied to other aspects of time savings like convenience, a frictionless experience and actual time savings. Recent data also show that the top driver of Amazon's Prime membership is its two-day shipping benefit. While we used to think of "the last mile" in telecom as the Holy Grail, for retail it's the last three feet, which is another way to underscore the value of getting goods in the hands of customers as expeditiously as possible.
  • Posted on: 07/09/2018

    Is real-time order tracking becoming table stakes for e-tailers?

    Without question, the answer is yes. If you're not Amazon, you have the former to thank. The value of real-time order tracking hits on two of rDialogue's five drivers of "Loyalty 3.0", Time and Information. Time matters and so does transparency. And not just in retail but increasingly, as AMZN has 100 million Prime members, in other industries. We just released an Executive Summary (available here) of our latest research on this very topic and it shows a clear shift in not only customer expectations but also how other categories and brands are increasingly getting smarter about what's made AMZN so successful. Bottom line: providing real-time order tracking is a clear and compelling way of demonstrating loyalty to the customer that just made that purchase and is, presumably, anxious to receive the shipment.
  • Posted on: 07/05/2018

    Target looks to build rep as ‘America’s easiest place to shop’

    This is a nice and ambitious idea but Target is years if not decades behind Amazon in being customer-centric. Nothing like chasing the competition to craft a new positioning statement, as it is essentially in a battle with Walmart to see which is #2 in terms of being "easy" to shop. At least they aren't trying to have the lowest price. As Bezos said, "If you're competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something. Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering.”
  • Posted on: 07/02/2018

    Will California’s new privacy law set the standard for data protection?

    It's not a surprise nor is it disappointing that we have a line in the sand drawn by California. There is an absolute certainty that this type of regulation, not necessarily in this exact form, is not only needed but one that will be welcome by a majority of consumers. California has always had higher standards for data collection and use so their lead is appropriate, as are the provisions in the bill for modifications prior to its effective date. The onus is on brands and marketers -- along with lawyers and lobbyists -- to offer alternatives to the current data mismanagement that has been taking place for too long. Consumers will share data if they are treated appropriately. This is the essence of loyalty marketing and this kind of regulation is good for brands that prioritize customers, an obvious strategy but one that is hardly prevalent.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2018

    Are chronic online returners only a few bad apples?

    There is nothing wrong with returning merchandise, especially apparel, when bought online. That said, there is always a small percentage of customers who abuse return policies much as they game loyalty programs and pursue fraudulent activity (basically a form of shoplifting) in general. The good news is that it's increasingly easy -- and fun -- to develop models to identify such bad apples. Perhaps the motive behind this issue is that the study was sponsored by a commercial real estate firm?
  • Posted on: 06/07/2018

    How many e-mails are too much?

    There is too much data and too little relevance and that's why the majority of the brands on this list are eroding the value of their customer relationships with excessive email. As pointed out in this discussion, too many retailers believe that email is simply a revenue channel and that more sends means more revenue. Our own research (and Jeff Bezos in this year's Amazon letter to shareholders) reveals that consumers have increasingly higher expectations in terms of their customer experience and this fundamentally means relevance. Brand trust and loyalty are increasingly being redefined as data and privacy appropriately demand. Retailers need to get on board just like brands in other categories or risk irrelevance along with their customers opting out.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2018

    Macy’s taps staff for their influencer clout

    Macy's approach is a most refreshing social media strategy in terms of its authenticity. There is no shortage of distrustful information (isn't that more professional than referring to it as BS?) on social media and within the influencer marketing space. Macy's strategy here is especially smart given not only the real connection between retail associates and customers, but also its size and scale. More evidence that Macy's is continuing to get its act together.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2018

    Best Buy’s Geek Squad is now available by subscription

    Fee-based and subscription offerings are becoming more and more common, and Best Buy is fortunate to have Geek Squad to leverage for this offering. It will create preference, if not lock-in, among consumers wanting the support and it serves as a significant differentiator versus Amazon. It will be interesting to see how they might further use this offering, whether in terms of its credit card holders (or prospects), to drive high margin/high ticket purchases or through partners. Well done Best Buy!
  • Posted on: 05/22/2018

    Amazon bans chronic returners

    Amazon is stellar at serving customers and they have every right to ban bad customers. Good customers -- those that do not game or abuse policies including those affecting returns -- have no reason to go anywhere else. LP, including fraud -- through returns, loyalty programs or promotions -- is a real problem and when you have the right approach to data, it's increasingly easy to spot.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2018

    Ellison leaves Penney, further fueling doubts

    Yes JCP is in trouble, as are most retailers who are failing the "relevance" test. That said, leadership matters more in tough times and I'll echo Dick's comments that Ellison was taking a risk-averse strategy and came up short. Hard to blame him for taking the job at Lowe's though and if JCP is to remain for another XX years, they need to start focusing on the customer and doing something unlike they or others are doing in the market. Last, and related, blaming the weather in today's world is a total cop out. Either they don't know why sales didn't meet expectations (doubtful) or their forecast was not very diligent.
  • Posted on: 05/21/2018

    eBay asks consumers what they want

    Retailers -- with a few exceptions -- are holding themselves back from embracing relevance and personalization by not focusing on customers and investing accordingly. This is not rocket science (even the AI aspect!) as it's been done for years in travel, especially by leading brands like Kimpton. It's a matter of leadership, strategy and prioritization, much less than a lack of tech tools and capabilities that are more easily procured now than ever before.
  • Posted on: 05/01/2018

    Chico’s decides to join Amazon, since it can’t beat it

    For a number of retailers with a "nothing special" customer experience and/or brand -- online or physical -- Amazon is their only hope. For others, like Nike, it's a strategic relationship that follows the recognition that with 100 million Prime members, everything even a leading brand like Nike does is relative to AMZN. There is no better retail customer experience than what Amazon provides and when you can work on more or less your own brand terms, as Nike is doing, it's a win-win proposition. The challenge for most retailers, leading them to see AMZN as their best hope forward, is that they have failed to:
    • invest in the customer and run their business with the customer at the center
    • recognize the value in customer data and relevance, and the corresponding degradation of that value by being overly reliant on discounting
    • build a compelling and unique brand proposition
    While it's easy for retailers to see AMZN as Darth Vader, it's also true that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."
  • Posted on: 04/30/2018

    Walgreens tests lower prices, membership savings

    Another retailer doing something interesting, testing a fee-based membership proposition, and typical -- focusing on discounts. The former is smart, especially where it includes value beyond discounting, such as saving time. The latter is going to be margin reducing and, unless there is enough incremental share shift, similarly unprofitable. There are multiple loyalty drivers and price is not the most important anymore, even for a "drugstore." WBA is increasingly more of a c-store with more CPGs and a pharmacy, so the time-savings value is ultimately a better focus than discounts. I'd be more bullish on WBA if it were focused elsewhere, including how it recognizes customers and makes it easy for them to get what they need/want.
  • Posted on: 04/27/2018

    Is $119 too much to pay for an Amazon Prime membership?

    Amazon continues to raise the bar when it comes to customer experience and Prime is a large part of that. Given its traditional renewal rate of 95 percent and the fact that there are now 100 million members, that renewal rate may decline slightly. But given its continued "obsession" with customers I wouldn't bet that growth will slow significantly. Meanwhile, Amazon rivals will continue to follow and attempt to close the gap though, again, I wouldn't bet that anyone overtakes Amazon. As Bezos said, there is a lot of humility with respect to ever-changing (and rising) customer expectations. Read his letter to shareholders and see if you do not agree. And here are some more of my thoughts on Amazon (from earlier this week).

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