As the CEO of Circles, a customer and employee-engagement company, Nicolas Vegas wants to help your business succeed. With an expanded digital platform, he’s going to make it happen. Formerly in motivation solutions at Sodexo, Circles’ parent company, Vegas has a BS from Syracuse University, an MBA from the Sloan School of Management at MIT, and a position as a professor at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello. Profile recently sat down with Vegas to learn about the growing importance of digital accessibility on all sides of business.
What were you doing before you started working at Circles?
I was originally working for Sodexo in Venezuela, where I’m from originally. While at Sodexo, I was focusing on their benefits and rewards business, which was very successful, but I moved back to the US in November 2011 to run Circles, which is a concierge
company devoted to developing brand loyalty for our clients through creating engaging experiences that help build enduring relationships for those brands. We are working to develop different experiences designed to engage the end consumer—the card member—in the right way; to build that loyalty and get repeat purchases and build that relationship.
What are ways you help create these experiences?
As an example, one of our clients, a credit-card company, has a brand promise centered on membership privileges, and we provide privilege access for the card members. We’ve created programs around high-end dining and cultural events, like Broadway shows and A-list concert tours. For another client, the focus is on high-end leisure travel. We offer these packages to our card members through printed and digital media, structuring everything around what the brand wants to be, its promise.
Have you found that digital media has been influential in delivering these package offerings?
Digital is huge for us—but it’s also a big challenge. Digital verticals are allowing people to become more self-serving, because these verticals are efficient in getting you access to certain things. But people are calling us for the same thing, so that’s what the challenge is. We tend to think that what we offer is not really something that you can get that easily through digital channels, but people are asking for more digital media these days, and we are engaging digital technology in different ways to support what we do. For one of our initiatives for example, we’re developing a mobile app that has the functionality to intake a special request, like a trip to New York or a vacation, and we will process and compile that information to make it easy for the user to execute.
Are there other initiatives you’re working on?
We are also working with digital social-media tools to try to improve our ability to curate content around different destinations. This information will make the fulfillment processes easier, though gathering this information through social media is difficult because of the restrictions around various social-media tools. We believe that digital media will allow one-to-one marketing on a level that hasn’t been done before. If I understand your lifestyle better, I can serve you in a much more proactive way. We’re experimenting with this, and strongly believe that this will drive tremendous benefits.
How vital is digital media within the enterprise of one-to-one marketing?
Everything we do is about trying to make one-to-one marketing happen. The entire industry is evolving this way. Digital media can make your services more attractive, more affordable, faster, and better. But more than that, it’s about engaging your final customer from B-to-B-to-C. We’re trying to build experiences with our brands, to then help the end customer—and this in turn helps us build enduring relationships. Digital media allows us to fulfill requests more cheaply, and have more integrated relationships with the end customer.
To what extent will digital media continue altering the face of your industry?
Digital media is indispensable. Our industry has been fairly steady for the past few years, but at the same time, the digital verticals are growing. These verticals are very efficient, but the aggregated model—where you simply aggregate different digital platforms—is not what we’re about. We’re more about having an expert engage with a card member, and make things easier for them. If you’re going to Paris and you want to book a hotel and have reservations at nice restaurants—and if you want to do this yourself—you have to sort through a bunch of data and try to keep it together in one itinerary. If you call an expert, we can make it happen for you. In this way, digital media is helping us bring our costs down, and it’s helping us enhance our offers.