Most of us have been asked by a sales associate to share our phone number or zip code, but how many  of us know what happens to that information once it is shared?

In his bestselling book "The Loyalty Leap: Turning Customer Information into Customer Intimacy," Bryan Pearson reveals his secrets of how companies can use data in ways that benefit consumers while also making good business sense, by building emotional engagement that results in enduring loyalty. His latest book, The Loyalty Leap for B2B, will be released July 9 and extends these principles to business-to-business companies as well, helping them build long-term engagement with their clients.

How does this emphasis on customer data affect consumers? Bryan took a few minutes to talk about enterprise loyalty, the relationship between coconuts and calling cards and the meaning of the “Loyalty Leap.”

Why do consumers need to know about the “Loyalty Leap”?

I believe we are operating in one of the most exciting times for marketers as well as consumers. But we need to shift the conversation about customer data from the marketing department to the boardroom, and eventually to the front lines where the consumer is, so everyone has power to guide the service experience. By understanding the power of their own data, consumers can ensure it is used in ways that benefit them.

In what ways?

First, by sharing personal data only with those brands they care about, and that meet their needs. Consumers should take a few minutes to read privacy statements and understand how their information is being used. If the brand offers a survey, fill it out keeping in mind that the answers will shape your customer profile. Also, there are ways to make the most of the rewards many loyalty programs offer, by consolidating spending to one program, for instance.

In your book, you talk about how “enterprise loyalty” works for businesses, but how does it benefit consumers?

"We need to shift the conversation about customer data from the marketing department to the boardroom, and eventually to the front lines where the consumer is, so everyone has power to guide the service experience."

Enterprise loyalty occurs when a company shares its customer insights beyond the marketing department. Doing so enables the entire organization to see the brand through the customer’s eyes. Supplied with these insights, everyone in the organization can then align their top priorities with the needs and aspirations of their most valuable customers, and they can continually enhance activities to better serve those customers.

Is there a correlation between happy customers and happy workers?

Not only is there a direct correlation—I’d go so far as to say that a company will not have loyal customers if it does not have loyal and happy employees. Genuinely engaged workers deliver something that strategy and effective execution never will, and that’s passion. I believe that happy workers want to provide better service and create relevant experiences. It’s rewarding. But it is up to the organization to empower its workers to make those service-based decisions that will result in memorable experiences.   

What is one of the most surprising things data has revealed about your customers?

There is one example, which I call “coconuts to calling cards.” At LoyaltyOne we have technology that allows merchants to analyze sales information at a customer level. We wanted to test this platform, and needed an arbitrary product to run. So I blurted out the first word that came to mind: “Coconuts!” The team ran the word “coconuts” through the database and found the third-highest product that correlated with coconuts was prepaid calling cards.

Why? Turns out many consumers who buy coconuts emigrate from other parts of the world, and they get homesick. So they buy calling cards.

It makes perfect sense, but like so many of the insights revealed through data, we never would have guessed it.