Marston’s Pubs evolve to hot spots with Microsoft Social Listening and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Historically, the British pub was the place neighbors gathered to wax philosophical or just while away hours over a pint. Today, customers want something different. People explore outside their neighborhood to discover something new and different, catch a new band, and check-in their location on social media using Wi-Fi. Pubs across the U.K. have struggled to meet this shift in customer expectations.

Recently, The Guardian (U.K. edition) reported that the rate of British pub closures had accelerated to 31 per week, and that 3 percent of pubs in the suburbs have closed in the past six months. Facing this threat is Marston’s, which operates 1,700 pubs scattered across the U.K. The nearly 200-year-old company is known for its heritage, but the company recognized it needed to reposition itself.

To meet the company’s need to monitor social media; recognize, follow and analyze trends; and then quickly share the relevant insights with the right people in order to swiftly react and meet the customers’ needs, Marston’s chose Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Social Listening. By implementing this solution, Marston’s has transformed the business, delivered amazing customer experiences — and earned this year’s Convergence 2014 Europe Customer Excellence Award: Cloud Transformation.

The answers are on social media

Marston’s Commercial Marketing Director Una Beck Johnson recognized that monitoring social media was the solution to recognizing trends upstream. The right CRM solution offered the opportunity not just to capture this information but to also make sense of it.

“What’s important for us is not just to know the quantities of what people are talking about but the nature of what they are talking about — and there’s such a mass of information that we need to be able to boil it down to things that we can then act upon. And we need that information quickly, so that we can respond to it quickly,” Beck Johnson notes.

Access to this data identified one confirmed trend: Customers were no longer only frequenting their local pub — they were now traveling in much bigger circles. This made it much more difficult to understand the customers’ needs.

“Segmenting our insight is very important,” Beck Johnson says. “We have such a broad cross section of customers. That’s what makes it both exciting and also very, very challenging. We have to be able to understand the customers’ different occasions for coming and how Marston’s is delivering to really make sure that we’re getting the right experience to the right people at the right time.”

Social listening improves the customer experience

Paul Hume, Marston’s Development Manager for Emerging Technologies, is now using Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Social Listening to encourage customer feedback to the company via social media, right from their seat at the pub. Hume says each communication on social media can now be mined for insights to help the company improve its offerings and the way it communicates those offerings.

“The combination of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Social Listening allows us to really personalize our communications to our customers,” he says.

“That personalization means being relevant to the individual,” explains Mike McMinn, Group IT Director for Marston’s. “It’s about your customers; it’s about their patch if you like.” McMinn noted that the customer experience needs to be as smooth as possible because “reducing the friction in their dealings with us means they’re going to come back again.”

The benefits: cost savings, culture change and employee satisfaction

The business has already realized benefits since instituting Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Microsoft Social Listening, McMinn says. His department reduced costs because of the shorter amount of time and fewer resources required to implement the system than anticipated. In the past, to install a big system, the company would allocate six months toward planning and an entire weekend for implementation. But with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and the support of implementation partner The CRM Business Ltd., McMinn and his team have a much easier job.

“I can go to bed on a Thursday, wake up on a Friday and I have the latest version of Microsoft Dynamics CRM,” McMinn says. “I don’t have to worry about how long it’s going to take to build, or whether the infrastructure is there to support it. We don’t have to worry about the security. All of that is handled by Microsoft. It just happens.”

The organization has also seen a big cultural shift with the implementation of Microsoft Lync, which allows team members to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM on their mobile devices virtually anywhere they are, significantly reducing company travel. “It’s a distributive environment we live in, with five breweries and 1,700 pubs. The traveling has come down dramatically with this system. It’s stopped people having to spend hours in a car. People are also more mobile, more flexible, and can remain more tuned into what the customer needs,” McMinn explains.

Technology helps them do their job more effectively and efficiently, and McMinn says his people want to be productive so he’s making an effort to help make that happen. “We’re putting in infrastructure with the technology that gives people a choice about how and when they get things done, because that’s another part of our company’s culture change — it’s not 9 to 5 anymore.”

McMinn is noticing unanticipated benefits as well. The maintenance help desk team found an innovative way to move its process for tracking repairs and maintenance of equipment in pubs to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Now, when the team members arrive at a site, they run through a checklist on screen to ensure that the standards are as high as they expect them to be. “Until very recently, they were still writing it out on a piece of paper. On a tablet, it’s fast and easy to do when you’re in the pub. It speeds everything up,” McMinn says.

Successful companies such as Marston’s are harnessing technology to change their business and stay ahead of the customers’ needs. McMinn’s goal is to breed innovation by placing technology in the hands of his people.

“There’s another customer in here, and that’s the employee. We introduce technology to show our people what’s possible, and when they understand what’s possible, it sparks off more ideas,” McMinn says. “This enables employees to discover innovative ways to eliminate burdensome busywork, and instead turn their focus back to the job they love — taking care of the customer. If I’ve made an employee’s life better at some point, then it’s been worth it.”

To learn more about Marston’s and other Convergence 2014 Europe Customer Excellence Award winners, visit