Retaining the most profitable customers is one of the toughest tasks for the modern business, as customer expectations change as times change. Companies make significant investments in loyalty programs, rewards and benefits in a bid to acquire and retain elusive high-value customers, hopefully for a lifetime. One of the leading global companies which has been enabling companies gain and retain their most profitable customers is Collinson.
Founded in 1991 by Chairman, Colin Evans, the company has expanded in size, breadth of offering and
geographically and now includes over 2,000 staff in 24 offices and 14 countries. Collinson has been a long-term partner of some of the biggest companies in the world including American Express, Chase, MasterCard, Visa, Virgin Atlantic, United Airlines, JetBlue, LATAM, Wyndham and Choice. We interviewed Collinson’s Joint CEO Christopher Evans, to gain insight on what drives the companies continued innovation and growth.
Tell us about Collinson’s journey so far.
Our story started with my father, and Chairman, Colin. 30 years ago he saw a massive opportunity in what was then a new and untapped sector – customer loyalty. The opportunity he saw was to help businesses better understand their customers to create reasons for them to keep coming back and spending their hard-earned dollars with that same company. He built out a loyalty practice quickly
attracting major airline and hotel clients. This was quickly followed by the creation of our best known consumer product, Priority Pass – the world’s original and leading airport lounge and travel experiences program. Access to airport lounges, which had up to then been a benefit only a relatively small number of business class customers could access, was hugely appealing and Priority Pass took off. Payment schemes and banks quickly came to understand how offering their very top-tier customers Priority Pass could help their card portfolios grow their customer base sharply. As a result, Priority Pass has experienced amazing, sustained growth for over 25 years now.
Since those early days, our goal has been to create other products, services and technology solutions that meet the needs of the affluent consumers and so ensure we can continue to help Financial Services, Travel, Retailers and Corporate Businesses to attract and retain their most valuable of customers. This has now led us to a well-established portfolio of offerings that cover four specialist areas – customer loyalty, travel experiences, insurance and assistance, originally set up under separate businesses. Last year we brought all of our businesses together under one structure and brand, Collinson, to help our clients more easily access all our full offering. As a single entity, we now operate in 14 countries with a turnover of more than $1 billion – which is quite staggering and something that we are extremely proud of!
Could you tell us about your role in driving the company?
I work alongside my brother, David, as Joint CEO. Together we share the responsibility for providing strategic direction and support for our global leaders. Specifically, I am responsible for leading our global teams focused on our product and proposition development and global key account relationships while David leads our four regional teams ensuring we remain close to our customer and end customer needs, together working to deliver our overall business vision, strategy and commercial goalsand Colin’s vision.
How have mergers, acquisitions and partnerships impacted the growth of Collinson?
We have typically used acquisitions to enable us to move faster in innovation, bringing in new skills and technologies that are complimentary and help improve the value we can provide to our customers. This compliments desire to continuously innovate that has been there from the very beginning, is something we encourage in all teams and is what defines us with our clients. In our earlier days, we were very focused on keeping this innovation in-house using our own teams. As the business has expanded and the pace of technology change dramatically increased we have moved to a more flexible model that includes a combination of build, acquire, partner and investment to ensure we can deliver the best technology and people available.
A very exciting recent example of a key investment is in the US start up, GRAB, which we signed last year. The mobile-ordering service (and soon to be in-airport kiosks) is available at airports across the U.S. and allows travellers to avoid long lines and increases the potential customer base for airport food and beverages. They already have partnerships with some great airlines and airports with many of our existing partners.
How does Collinson maintain its competitive edge?
We have some incredibly strong competitors in each of our verticals. However, simply put, no one else brings all the different skills, technology, first-class operations and expertise together, in 170 countries like we do. We describe ourselves as a customer benefits and loyalty company and in doing so we’ve created our own category. The combination of our unique capabilities and our customer-first approach has helped us maintain a healthy long term-relationship with many of the world’s leading brands – something we are incredibly proud of.
How does your customer centric approach benefit your clientele?
While our clients come to us to help them solve many challenges, our particular ‘sweet-spot’ is in understanding and exploiting the understanding of the frequent-travelling, mass affluent consumer. They are the core Priority Pass member and make up a significant proportion of airline and hotel loyalty scheme’s top-members. They spend more overall and spend significantly more while travelling, generating significant cross-border spend revenues for our banking and payment scheme. By placing data at the heart of our approach, we help our clients to provide their customers with a personalized and meaningful interaction at every stage of their journey. Through directly servicing over 50 million of our own end customers – as well as millions of our clients’ consumers – we have unique insight into the digitally-engaged mass affluent traveler, conducting ongoing research with our clients and end consumers to understand their ever-changing needs, attitudes and behaviors.
- Collinson was ranked tenth in Britain’s Top-250 Mid-Market Growth Companies in the Sunday Times Grant Thornton Top Track 250.
- Colin Evans, Collinson’s Chairman and Founder was names Loyalty magazine’s Loyalty Personality of the Year award in 2017.
Meet the Leader
Christopher Evans, Joint CEO
Christopher is the Joint CEO at Collinson. He is responsible for leading global teams to deliver upon the business vision, strategy and commercial goals working in close partnerships with teams across four regions.
Having joined Collinson as a Director in 2013, his previous experience comprised 17 years with international marketing and management responsibilities at leading fragrance and cosmetics house, Coty International, for brands such as Calvin Klein, Davidoff, Adidas and Rimmel, across regions including Europe, Russia, Africa, Middle East and North America.
Christopher continually challenges himself and inspires others to improve what we can do to deliver smarter client solutions and customer experiences.