[Interview] Shetal Bhatt, Senior Director: Digital Customer for SIXT
We talk to veteran loyalty, CRM and data professional, Shetal from SIXT.
Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I started my career at Shell working both internationally and then for the UK retail business. I looked after payment and loyalty for six years and launched the Shell Drivers’ Club. I then moved to Subway as Head of Loyalty and rolled out the SUBCARD across 6 countries which still exists today. Subway is a franchise organisation so it’s quite different to Shell but it helped me with my future career.
I then worked for various consultancies specialising in loyalty, data and CRM, including the Engine Group looking after clients like Toyota, Lexus, BMW and Domino’s to improve their CRM strategy. At Alshaya Group I worked with retail franchises like Starbucks, H&M and Victoria Secrets in the Middle East running their CRM and Digital Teams.
I joined SIXT in February this year. They are based in Pullach, Munich, and I really wanted to get back to Germany, so it was a great move for me. I am the Senior Director for Loyalty and CRM and responsible for looking at our loyalty/CRM propositions to see how we can make it more interesting to our customers.
What does your company do?
SIXT is a stock listed international company and at the same time a family business. We are a mobility services provider with more than 7,000 employees worldwide, our products include car rental, van & truck rental, car sharing, ride hailing and car subscriptions.
The car mobility market is evolving. How are SIXT adapting?
There has been a large shift in the industry, people want flexibility and freedom. Cars are expensive and people don’t need cars as often as they used to. We have also introduced an electric car offering as we want to contribute to enabling sustainable mobility. At SIXT, we’d like to excite our customers with limitless mobility, and we want to make sure there’s an offering for all every customer need, whether they want car sharing, to take a taxi or simply hire a car at the airport for work or holiday travel.
What I love about SIXT now is that you can access all our services in one click from the app. My job is to make sure that all our services are connected and from a loyalty perspective, look at what services our customers are using and how we can reward them. Our data gives us a lot of insight which helps us build better for our customers in a responsible way.
What challenges are you facing?
Having systems talk to each other is especially important which is where a good data platform comes in. The other area of importance – and an ongoing challenge for most businesses – is how to access and mine data in a relevant and responsible way, as well as keeping our customer data safe, which we take very seriously of course. Data is very rarely in one place and often it comes with limited resources, so you must take a pragmatic approach. The marketing side of the job means I need to look at and understand our customers, profile them and think about their behaviour – it’s a fascinating job, I love it.
As a global business, we have products in over 100+ countries. This does create some challenges across borders with the loyalty programme in terms of the mechanics. Different regions might have different fiscal periods, taxes or legal requirements. We are continually growing our program to be truly global so that we can create the best customer experience. Although this is a challenge, it does mean a lot of collaboration and stakeholder management across Tech, Legal, Marketing and Product teams – but it’s one of the things I love about this role, it’s so varied.
What about recruitment?
We are recruiting, but it’s slower than expected. There is still uncertainty about travel and COVID lingering in the market. People are not keen on moving abroad for roles, many people are reconsidering their careers, and in general, it is a difficult market for employers. Despite this, I’m looking to recruit a stellar team.
What can we expect to hear from you at The Retail Conference?
I have worked in loyalty across different sectors; retail, QSR and travel which gives me a rounded view and some unique insight into the similarities and differences in loyalty across industries. I hope to share some experience and examples that might be relevant and helpful to different retailers to build and develop their own successful customer loyalty propositions.