Low cost marketing innovation – 4 essentials to success

It’s tough to be a marketer. It’s hard to allocate cash for innovation, but at the same time rapid consumer behaviour changes and increased competition make it a bit tricky to stand out.

All is not lost. We can once again get our creative juices flowing without breaking the bank (sorry…). I recently took a look at the world of Financial Services and it’s safe to say a few obstacles need to be overcome; the allure of the non-banks and a heck of a lot of expectation from the customer.

With that in mind I recently caught up with Simon Clarke, Head of Online Banking Suncorp.

Simon and the team have a clear focus: “We’re delivering our new core banking capability. It is a major strategic initiative for us and will enable a new generation of customer experience through our simpler and more agile platform.”

“At more of a group level, we are constantly looking at ways we can improve the customer experience across our key areas of banking, life and insurance. We want to ensure that customers have a consistent experience no matter what product they have and touch point they engage us from.”

The team have a smaller budget than the major banks, encouraging (sometimes forcing) Suncorp to think outside the box to build and optimise customer experience. This approach can often far outweigh consultation and reading through insight all day.

So how exactly are they doing this? Here’s Simon’s recipe to success:

Sweat the small stuff

“Post GFC, innovation has been always associated with research and development. But in more recent times, people and customers have come to realise that innovation isn’t always about the newest technology or gadget. It’s often just tapping away to remove a step or part of a process.

“We often find in banking that we build, design, rebuild and redesign technologies very quickly due to tech improvements and resilience. But we often neglect to review the process which the technology facilitates. That often leads to a slick looking application underpinned by a very long, frustrating seven-step process to do something that should only take two.

“We have a goal in which we constantly go through customer journey maps and ask: ‘Does that need to be there? Is it just because it’s always been there?’ As we optimise our websites, online banking platforms and mobile channels, we have the opportunity to challenge and improve the process. We also blend with user experience design so every word, click or tap culminates in a simple, easy to use engagement.”

What to do today: Innovate incrementally. Start with a small pain point with your product, system or process. Pull it apart and put it back together 2% at a time. Overtime, these 2% add to 20% very quickly and culminates in achieving high customer satisfaction at low cost and risk.

Mix it up

“We often find it amusing the costs that come out of delivering innovative technology or simply keeping up with customer demand. All of our banking platforms are designed and built in-house.

“This allows for very tight ‘product teams’ to form with a mix of business and IT people to take a challenge, sketch it, design it, user-test it, build it, secure it and get it out the door within a few days. We have feedback forms that are monitored and answered by product owners so every idea, complaint or comment goes straight to the person who can make a decision and execute on that idea or fix that problem.”

What to do today: Speak constantly to your team to understand roadblocks and attack them one by one to form a lean, effective team. Take the time to also listen to your customers. They should influence and be a part of your strategy and execution, not just an end user.

Look past the fancy reports

“From a design and UX perspective, again we use the same tools that a small business might to perform UI online tests, surveys and lab tests using basic video conference equipment.

“Some of these tools can cost $150 to run and the feedback and insight we get is amazing compared to a $10,000 report. We love using these ‘guerrilla tactics’. From an execution side, it allows us to try a lot of new things and if some don’t hit the mark, there isn’t a swollen budget sitting at the other end.”

What to do today: If you need insight, there’s plenty of it out there for free. Form an idea, build it out with creative and knowledgably colleagues and put it to the test. Learn fast and do it cheap. If the idea doesn’t hit the mark, gather your learnings and put it towards your next opportunity.

Persist

“Having a ‘fail fast and learn’ culture can be difficult to achieve and persist. But with the right attitude, enthusiasm and decision-making capability, we can strive to build the easiest-to-use websites and online banking platforms and see the effects through direct feedback.

“I think the biggest challenge is building the right culture and acknowledging that innovation doesn’t need to be cutting edge development. Simple touches each day accumulate to building an innovative model that customers can appreciate each time they engage us.”

What to do today: Build a safe working environment that allows your staff to thrive in generating and testing ideas. Isolate risk adversity so that it is managed but not impacting your ability to innovate and drive user experience.

Join Simon at Digital Financial Services 2014, he’ll be delivering the Case Study ‘Banking Channels at Speed through Lean Innovation’.  Visit www.digitalfinancialservices.com.au or tweet @digifinance

Do NSW have the contact centre of the future?

Over 1,231,000 online visits since launch.

More than 356,000 calls to contact centres.

731,000 customers served.

All in less than a year since launch…

Service NSW is definitely taking off. The question is; how do you cope with this exponential increase in demand whilst keeping customers ‘delighted’? Well, with a 99 per cent contact centre customer satisfaction rate – we might just have the answer.

The organisation is pretty unique, launching in July 2013 and integrating three service delivery channels – a dedicated web portal, customer contact call centres, and shop-front services. This integration delivers the benefits of internet, cloud, mobile communications and customer relationship management platforms.

I recently caught up with Jody Grima, Director, Contact Centres, Service NSW to get the insight. She explains:

“We’re growing, and our numbers are rapidly increasing. After almost 12 months’ implementation, we’re still delighting customers, which is something that’s always a risk when you’ve got a new service. Does our culture pertain? Well it is, and that’s something that’s really exciting for us.”

Employee engagement

“Our vision is to be a leader in the delivery of customer service not only within government, but also within industry. A leader in customer experience and a leader in the provision of service. That ties in with our employee engagement ambitions, to be ranked in the top quartile.

“At Service New South Wales, the two go hand in hand. In order to deliver outstanding customer experience, you also need to actively engage and have a very happy workforce. That’s a key element to our vision and culture. Invest in your people and you get the outcome of a great customer experience.

“Being a new organisation, we recruited staff afresh. Nearly 60 per cent came from other government agencies, with 40 per cent coming from outside government. We’ve got a real mix of new staff to service New South Wales.

The focus in our training is on emotional intelligence – really looking at the soft skills and complementing that with the technical training.”

Continuing to meet the needs of the customer

“Customer feedback is extremely important to us, so we’re tracking that via CSAT (customer satisfaction scores), which is by a question asked within the contact centre at the end of each call.

“Since the launch, we have continued to modify and enhance the way our service is being designed. This feedback draws on market research, and what end users expect of the service.”

Call centre staff are using Salesforce information management tools. The cloud-based CRM capability helps track and manage customer profiles and tackle the most common enquiries. It enables staff to draw on a previous history, utilise a consolidated database, anticipate questions, increase first call resolutions and respond more promptly.

“We are continuing to build our knowledge base about questions that are routinely asked, and being able to answer these at the outset.

“We have what we call self-service customer feedback zones in the service centres. There’s immediate feedback going through in our physical shop fronts. We also have a feedback mechanism on our web page as well – a significant part of whether we’re achieving our goals or not.

“The other way we’re doing that is tracking against service levels and outcomes. Service New South Wales has a mandate, the Service New South Wales DNA. We’re continually reviewing our performance against those success factors and progressing exceptionally well. As we succeed, we can then continue to grow the service.”

“At the time of writing this, the contact centre had an average answer time of just 29 seconds. The challenge now is to pre-empt the demand. Since going live, customers have embraced the service much faster than expected.”

Up to 8,000 telephone numbers are being used to access information. The NSW government seeks to cut back on these enquiry landlines whilst saving on the cost of running many telephone systems.

During the Government Contact Centre Summit 2014, Customer Service Commissioner Michael Pratt will talk through the Service New South Wales journey – from creation, success, lessons and the culture change and vision for the coming years.

Outsourcing? Don’t trip up on customer experience…

We’re starting to see some real changes in the Shared Services industry. Whilst the earlier focus on delivery cost remains important, the all-in cost to the enterprise is more in focus.  SLAs are becoming less important as users are realising that green SLAs don’t feel green, cheap does feel cheap, and the lack of the ‘right’ service is spawning an increase of shadow services across the enterprise eating into the initial estimated business case benefits.

The earlier solution to cost pressures through increased scale is facing into the reality that there are two curves at work – benefits of scale versus cost of complexity, and as you scale out across processes the added complexity can cause your benefit case to turn negative.

There is a need to look at this again, and this time from a different direction; the customer perspective, rather than purely from a cost and efficiency perspective.    For the cost element, Shared Services need to be looking to manufacturing to learn new tricks.  Whilst lean has been a buzzword for years, the new focus on lean in the context of a component based service delivery model is gaining ground.

“View every process as if you’re a customer, and then apply learning from the manufacturing industries – when you start doing this you start moving your services away from products and to a customer centric process.” Explained Simen Munter, Group General Manager of Global Shared Services at ANZ when I recently caught up with him to discuss the changing nature of ANZ’s business.

Five years ago, ANZ embarked on a strategic transformation which recognised there was a unique opportunity to create value for shareholders by broadening its presence in Asia, whilst leveraging its strong foundation in Australia and New Zealand, to become a super regional bank.   The move recognised that a once-in-a-century shift was underway in the global economy as growth opportunities moved from the developed economies of the West to the Asia Pacific region.

“Instead of running 33 different banks, we want to be able to gain scale benefits and run as one bank across the 33 markets in which we operate. To do this we have significantly invested in our operations network across the region.

Our hubs network is expanding ANZ’s operations capability to support business growth in a way that is sustainable and cost effective. As a part of our super regional growth strategy we have operations in Australia, New Zealand, Manila (the Philippines), Chengdu (China), Bangalore (India) and Suva (Fiji).”

ANZ Operations

In Shared Services we aspire to operate  through a set of processes which are globally consistent, but able to handle local variations. We work to have the right people in the right locations to offer the best service to our customers.

Simen explained: “Specialist hubs help us build a super regional workforce, giving us access to capabilities that may be limited in our domestic markets. The Manila hub, for example, is a centre of excellence in voice based work. Our hubs are built around local talent pools and expertise.”

“Capability and capacity are the main drivers of a customer centric operating model. Staff in operating hubs provide additional capability to deal with increased volumes and allow in-country teams to focus on other activities that support business and customer outcomes. We work towards sharing products, platforms and processes across our geographies to give us the ability to build a ‘single production line’ and maximise re-use wherever possible.

“A key benefit of our approach is the ability to access ‘been there and done that’ talent, enabling us to leverage experience gained elsewhere. Take things like payroll and accounts payable, we have 33 markets to run this for. To find people who are experienced at running that kind of complexity is very difficult in Australia, whereas some global companies have done this for years. By being able to tap into a wider pool of skillsets across multiple locations we can leverage these learnings and operate more efficiently.“

“There is a real opportunity through blending highly skilled employees with low cost delivery so that we can be both locally competitive and cost effective. Nowhere is this as important as when you are competing in low cost locations.”

Looking for the extra edge

Looking at what you do from a customer perspective is challenging, as current best practice has been focused on SLAs and not based around the moving target of providing excellent customer service.   SLAs are typically set at the worst outcome your customer is willing to accept – meeting that consistently is hardly a good measure of success.

Simen explains: “The focus cannot be on these types of measures, the focus must be on solving the issue for your customer. My approach to shared services leverages skill and expertise across our regions to design, build and deliver services with the customer in mind.

“You’ve really got to focus on quality, as bad quality is a driver of resource requirements. The other focus is to ensure that the work being done is worth doing or is it work which exists as a result of failure in other processes.  We are seeing substantial opportunities in ‘turning off’ volumes by fixing things at source by looking beyond the current process and into what would have been ‘perfect’.

“We have seen a significant uptake in both external customer satisfaction and  internal customer satisfaction over recent  years.  It’s something we’re spending a lot of resources on as we see that as critical for our long term success.

“We focus on getting the customer service right and embed this  in our processes.

Also, when you have satisfied customers it gives you the room you need to further innovate and improve. If you are on the backfoot with quality you are spending all your time firefighting.  I don’t want great firefighters, I want superb ‘fire prevention officers’ – the people whom are able to look at things which are ‘not perfect’ and change them prior to issues becoming real service issues.”

Increased expectations

For outsourcers, these changes in approach can be quite complicated. Previously a product or transaction based approach was the norm, and you could meaningfully quote for particular parts of a business.  In a component based enterprise, the ‘end to end’ products disappear as many processes are identical across products and there is a new need to offer value beyond undertaking a particular type of ‘set in concrete’ work.

“This is similar to what happened in manufacturing decades ago, you can’t just aim to deliver to outdated SLAs, you have to own the outcomes in a very different way, as your element is integrated into the overall service delivery in a much more holistic manner.  The outsourcer needs to make sure they drive the innovation within their area, it isn’t only about the ‘run’ and meeting SLAs anymore.

“You need a competitive advantage beyond offshoring.  Outsourcers really need to bring something which adds value beyond the  added complexity of engaging with them, demonstrating they know what a business wants, they know what good output looks like and they know how to do it effectively.

“Overall, we’re seeing a strong growth in the industry towards work going to captives as they have proven to be more effective in driving adaptive change – it is difficult to outsource change. However, as organisations are increasingly process oriented, there’s a huge opportunity for outsourcers to provide large scale processes offering standardization while leveraging capabilities across multiple customers.” said Simen.

“I continue to see Global Shared Servicesas a key growth area in the corporate world, and an exciting area of opportunity for talent.  The specialist skill-sets required to effectively use a global delivery model, optimise skill-sets across talent pools and locations,  automation, organisation, production management is valued and there is a level of excitement about how the world of service delivery is changing.

“We are also seeing real opportunities in other areas, for instance, reporting and analytics is an important area for us.  We see that as a huge growth area, both in terms of offering the service to others across ANZ, but also in terms of using those insights into operating more effectively ourselves.

“There are two golden rules: quality cannot go down and price cannot go up. We don’t believe we need to compromise on quality to get the cost benefit when we do this right.

“Our customers need consistency, effectiveness and efficiency and that is what we aim to deliver,”said Simen.

“If you look at what’s successful from our perspective there’s only two metrics which really matter: customer satisfaction and cost.”

Join Simen during Shared Services & Outsourcing Week 2014 where he’ll be delivering the presentation Driving out Costs while Improving Internal Customer Service Delivery.

Too many insurers focusing on process, not experience

There’s a bit of an issue with in the claims industry if this is the case, according to KPMG’s 2013 General Insurance Industry Survey, only 33% of insurers feel their distribution network generates a consistent positive customer experience across all channels. Perhaps even more worryingly, results show 72% of insurers still do not feel their firm’s digital strategy adequately supports building trust with suppliers.

The claims experience is pretty unique; perhaps one of the most emotional many people will go through. When you make a claim, many customers are experiencing a time of trauma. It can be quite difficult to match service levels, procedures and experience. One way to adapt to this is by building trust and rapport between claims representatives and the customer. There are a few different areas that need to be addressed. I recently turned to one of Australia’s leading insurance providers, Allianz, to get some insight.

Engagement and culture

Allianz is continuing to drive employee engagement as a key focus. Allianz was named as the Large General Insurance Company of the Year for the last three years running. Commenting on the most recent award, Niran Peiris, Managing Director said “Allianz’s focus is on delivering a tailored, flexible and competitive service. When it comes to our customers, our philosophy is to deliver a service that builds loyalty, particularly when it comes to delivering on our promise to help them in the event of a claim.”

In addition, the Life Claims area of the business also recently won the 2013 ‘Product of the Year’ at the Australian Banking and Finance’s 2013 Insurance Awards. Praise included ‘The Allianz Life claims experience, which offers customers dedicated specialist Life claims officers ensuring exceptional service.’

Linda Broady, Head of Customer Focus explains the on-going journey across the organisation:

“Developing a strong customer culture and high levels of employee engagement requires sustained focus and attention over the long haul. You can never take your eye off the ball. Creating a truly customer focussed culture is something that only comes from relentless and long term effort and attention, from the top down, and across every part of the organisation. We approach this in a very deliberate way through an ongoing cycle of measurement, action planning, communication, execution and line management accountability.

“Aligned with our focus on building a service culture, creating an engaged workforce is equally important if we are to maintain consistent and exceptional service levels. In addition to driving this via line management accountability, we have Regional Leadership Teams in every geographical location responsible for developing and executing engagement action plans aimed at addressing local opportunities. As a result, our engagement levels continually improve and are well above the Australian norm.”

Recognition is another important lever in creating an engaged workforce and driving service culture. We have local and enterprise recognition programs that recognise and reward customer focussed behaviour, by both internally and externally focussed employees.

“One of our key leadership values is ‘Building mutual trust and feedback’. As part of this we conduct an annual Internal NPS program aimed at generating constructive dialogue and measuring internal service levels. A healthy customer focussed organisation must have a strong service ethic at all levels and across all functions. Employees and managers delivering service to external customers rely on receiving excellent service themselves to be effective.

“In insurance, you get limited opportunities to get it right with the customer, as interactions are typically irregular. Therefore, it’s vitally important we leverage those opportunities when we get them. Having employees who are able to genuinely engage with customers is an essential ingredient in the creation of loyalty and trust. The link between engaged employees, willingness to apply more discretionary effort, and improved service levels is well established, and is central to our beliefs at Allianz.

“It’s widely understood that a claim experience can be a moment of truth for a customer. The circumstances surrounding a claim can often be stressful and associated with heightened emotions. As such, the customer’s experience has the potential to be one of delight or dissatisfaction.

“Employees managing claims need a combination of technical skill and emotional intelligence. Targeting people with a strong service ethic has been a key ingredient in our hiring practices for a number of years, not only within Claims but across the whole organisation. The ability to engage with and have genuine conversations with our customers at every touchpoint and interaction is essential in creating strong relationships.

“The most important time of all is during a claim. Claims specialists need to have a finely tuned antenna to respond with the appropriate amount of empathy and apply good judgement and common sense. For example, a customer calling from a motor accident scene may not be in the right frame of mind to respond to questions that enable us to complete claim lodgement. There are more important issues at stake – for example, is the customer and their passengers OK? Would they simply like reassurance that they can get their car towed away without getting our approval? And, yes, that it’s fine to call back or lodge the claim online or via our Claims app later.”

Nowhere was the importance of having the right people to manage claims more clearly demonstrated than in the case of last year’s NSW Bushfires, where over 200 properties were devastated, and the lives of those impacted were irrevocably changed.

Allianz has an experienced, specially trained team and a robust Event Response Plan that is mobilised into action when these type of catastrophic events occur, including a Mobile Office to ensure we can base our operations wherever they are needed.

However it’s the people that make the difference in times like these. One of our employees involved in working with customers who had been impacted by the NSW Bushfires said, “I noticed [I could] speak with a customer one day and they [hadn’t] retained much of the conversation a few days later. They [were] dealing with the fact that they will need to rebuild their homes and lives and for those doing repairs, they feel guilty for still having a house when others have nothing left. … Some had lost their home, special trinkets, family heirlooms and even pets. All they were left with were memories of their lives. I realised I would have a direct impact on their lives and this was a very powerful and emotional thought for me personally – I formed a connection with all the customers I spoke with”

Build supportive systems

Allianz operates a complex business model, servicing B2B (brokers, motor dealers, mortgage brokers and financial institutions), B2C (direct business) and B2B2C (end customer of intermediaries).

This presents challenges in managing claims, acting on behalf of our partners as well as ourselves.

When a claim is lodged, it is allocated to a Claims Specialist, who is responsible for the smooth and efficient management of the claim. Allianz ensures that other members of the team can assist with enquiries should the customer or a third party (such as repairer or assessor) call when they are unavailable. Linda explains how consistency is ensured:

“We have clear service delivery and behavioural standards and metrics to ensure quality and consistency in execution.

“At the end of the day, the most efficient process is one that suits the customer. If your people practices, systems and processes don’t align with delivering an experience that works for the customer then, not only does it drive a poor experience, it creates inefficiencies and reduces productivity.

One of the areas we’re focusing on right now is end-to-end experience design to ensure we are delivering experiences that fit customer needs and expectations. This starts with understanding the service attributes that define satisfaction at specific touchpoints. Along with redesign, building metrics and methodologies to measure experience from the customer’s perspective and link them to employee accountabilities, is essential to a healthy customer experience ecosystem.

Join Linda Broady during Claims Experience Management 2014 where she will be delivering the Case Study: Embedding a Culture of High Performance: Using Voice of Customer to Reduce Customer Effort and Optimise Service Quality and Consistency.

Happy employees, happy customers: creating the recipe to success

A well-articulated leadership vision and employee engagement lie at the heart of customer experience and brand success” according he founder of Australia’s RedBalloon and well-respected entrepreneur, Naomi Simson.

It’s an interesting concept, and one that’s gathered a lot of pace over the last 12 months. Workplaces are rapidly transforming and it’s easy to see why – results have shown that happy employees does in fact seem to equal happy customers..

To gain some insight on how this theory is working in practice, I recently caught up with Roslyn Hogan, she’s the Head of Customer Happiness at Red Balloon. Take a read of the interview below:

How are you driving a positive culture at Red Balloon, why is it a focus for you?

Simply speaking, culture is everything at RedBalloon. We pride ourselves on the fact that we have been listed as a BRW Great Place to Work five years in a row, one of only nine companies to do so. We come to work as ourselves, not our job titles. What we share is a deep belief in our purpose, which is to give people more good times. We also have a shared set of values that we live and breathe more than in any company I’ve ever worked for.

We drive that culture by acknowledging that “what gets recognised gets repeated”, both by the individual and the group who witnessed that recognition. On this basis it follows that if you recognise behaviours in line with the culture of the business, it will reinforce those behaviours and therefore drive more of the same. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What would you say is going to be the key differentiator between businesses that drive their CEM strategy to new levels and keep ahead of the competition, and those that don’t?

The key difference is results. Your CEM strategy is at large is your sales strategy – they go hand in hand.

Do you have any results to demonstrate the direct correlation between culture, customer experience and business performance?

Are you familiar with the saying “Happy wife, happy life”? Well, the same could be said for the workplace in that “Happy employees, happy customers”. We believe that if our people are happy, it leads to happy customers, happy suppliers and ultimately, a happy financial performance.  RedBalloon has often been quoted as saying “employees are the new customers” and “happy people = happy profits”. And that’s exactly how you should look at it. If you’re willing to go the extra mile for a customer who is upset, then shouldn’t that same attitude apply to your loyal employees?

The results here at RedBalloon speak for themselves. Our employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) is 100%, so we have unquestionably happy people. Our Net Promoter Score has risen by 14% in a year, so we have happy customers. And as a result of both happy people and happy customers, our sales per call has increased a whopping 34% year on year (2013 to 2014), which equals happy profits for our business.

How do you ensure consistency across all touch points to provide a seamless experience?

Coaching is imperative at RedBalloon – when it drops off, so does the quality of service. The Customer happiness team are empowered to deal with a whole range of customer inquiries. They are largely self-sufficient and free to make decisions as individuals. Every customer happiness team member knows they have an individual impact on the RedBalloon brand – good or bad.

We’re active on several social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr. We know that every customer is unique and we want them to be able to reach us in the way that best suits them. Every employee who interacts with customers via social media platforms, email or over the phone are trained with the same key messages. We empower our people to deliver a great customer experience that exceeds customer expectations at every opportunity – we even have discretionary budgets set aside to surprise and delight our customers.

It’s all about training our people to do their best, and then trusting them to get the job done.

What would be your one key piece of advice for anyone looking to improve the culture of their organisation?

My one key piece of advice would be to train and empower your people. If your employees know they are making a worthwhile contribution, and if they are noticed and rewarded on a regular basis, they will be happier and more willing to give their extra effort day in, day out. At RedBalloon we have an annual training budget set aside for every single employee – with knowledge and confidence comes the power to trust your own instincts and discretion. We also reward our people with points to redeem against RedBalloon experiences, and we find these rewards work just as well in other organisations seeking an out-of-the-box reward alternative to store vouchers and cash bonuses. Believe it or not, happiness is throwing your people out of a plane!

Finally, customer centricity is a phrase that’s been gathering pace across the industry – what does it mean to you?

Customer centricity for me means that our customers are always at the heart of everything we do. We want to be an integral part of our customer’s experience; we don’t want to just facilitate it. For us, this means listening to them with open ears and constantly evolving our approach based on the feedback we receive. But in a way it’s more than that – we don’t just listen; we actually act on what they say. We have no limit on our call times to ensure that we can meet customer expectations and needs every time because we understand that excellent communication is fundamental in every relationship – it’s no different when it comes to customer service.

It’s also important to ensure that we effectively communicate with our customers before, during and after the sale of an experience to ensure we’re there every step of the way. Our ‘How was it for you’ survey is sent to every customer after they complete their experience, and we constantly benchmark our customer reviews and use this feedback to better what we do.

Customer centricity means putting our customers first with their best interests at heart.

Hear more from Roslyn and a brand new line up of Customer Experience experts during the 7th annual Customer Experience Management. She’ll be delivering the presentation. ‘Case Study: Happy Employees Equal Happy Customers’.

Find out more by visiting www.customerexperiencemanagement.com.au   – be sure to check out the resource centre for more exclusive interviews, articles, past presentations and top tips.

In a crowded marketplace, is it eBay’s time to shine?

If there’s one organisation that knows about rapid online growth, it’s eBay.

Founded in 1995, eBay Inc. connects hundreds of millions of people around the world every day, empowering them to explore new opportunities and innovate together. eBay’s entire business model is about helping Australian businesses succeed – enabling commerce wherever that may be. As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, eBay Inc works in partnership with retailers to help them stay relevant to their customers in the new retail environment.

Unlike Zappos, whose core business was built on customer service, and Amazon, where shoppers can log on and find virtually anything at a clear, set price. At eBay, customer service was at the mercy of sellers.

The giant online marketplace has quickly stepped up to the mark, re-shaping its core business to evolve the customer experience by aligning it directly to the overall business goals.

eBay.com.au offers brands, retailers and sellers of all sizes a complementary channel to reach more customers and drive sales. “We are focussed on providing retailers with a high traffic sales channel to complement existing stores, websites, social and mobile channels. eBay is a marketplace – and we do not compete with sellers on our platform – rather we are committed to developing innovative solutions that help merchants turbo charge their online and mobile presence.” Explained Cathal Murphy, Director of Customer Experience at eBay Australia and New Zealand.

According to Roy Morgan research, 7.3 million unique visitors come to eBay.com.au in an average one month period. Reaching this vast audience has become an important part of many Australian retailers’ multichannel sales strategy.

“The business grew and expanded rapidly. As a result, customer experience wasn’t our biggest strength in the beginning. Over the last couple of years, the company is more aligned throughout the organisation to the customer experience. It’s part of our whole evolution cycle,”

I recently caught up with Cathal to find out exactly how this is working in practice.

Overall strategy

As a company matures, there’s more focus on the customer experience and retaining existing customers. The key thing is to put the customer in all decisions made within the business.

We’re ensuring that everybody, across the whole organisation, has some shared goals and objectives. Everything we do needs to be on brand, ensuring that the customer has a voice at the table when the decisions are being made. Product, marketing, PR – all decisions made will be based around that customer voice.

Finding the silent sufferers

The ownership is on the people that look after the customer experience side, to bring the customer to life in the business.

We’ll do that through the stories that we tell, bringing customers in, using our online network, and organising customer events. It’s the on-going communication around customer experience and the customer journey.

We get a lot of input from the customers that contact us, but that’s a very low percentage of our overall user base. One of the things we’ve been working on is expanding our listening posts, so that we’re not just making decisions on the customers that do contact us. It’s starting to look at how we can understand and interact with those customers that never contact us – could they be silent sufferers?

It’s those customers who might encounter a problem, give up and never use eBay again. We want to hear about those experiences. Customer visits, going to where our customers are, running focus groups, monitoring our social coverage and really putting ourselves in the shoes of the customer by using the product ourselves – it all helps.

We’re trying to really look at our organisation to find those pain points and challenges, and leverage that information to see if there’s anything we can learn. Overlay that intelligence with the data we have and we can start to identify weak spots and areas requiring our focus.

Acting in the middle ground

The nature of our business is quite unique. Our buyers and sellers communicate with each other and we’re often not privy to that. Our role, particularly with our sellers, is to ensure they’re communicating effectively and delivering a standard of customer service that matches our values.

If we see that a seller has low communication ratings on their feedback, we’ll work with them to really analyse and identify what they’re doing wrong. At the end of the day, even though that communication isn’t directly with us, it’s a reflection on our brand so we want to improve that where possible.

Engage early for business growth

Another focus for us is early engagement to truly understand who our customers are – how can we support them and how can we enable them to be successful?

With our sellers, we’re trying to move away from just being reactive and responding to an issue when they get in contact. Instead we’re going to put triggers in place to help identify potential issues or opportunities earlier.

We can then reach out, educate, coach and mentor our sellers, helping them to grow and scale their business.  In turn, that’s going to create better experiences for our consumers. It’s one of the areas where we’ve invested a lot.

Consumer expectations are constantly changing. Many sellers need somebody to mentor them and coach them about how they need to adapt to remain competitive.

Sometimes, the service they were offering two or three years ago might just not be competitive any more and they’ll need to change their business model. That’s where we have a large role to play, being a mentor and coach for them.

If at first you don’t succeed…

The root of excellent customer experience is in your employees. I’m always pushing my team to look at how we can be bolder and more creative around the customer experience. Let’s do the experiments, let’s do tests, let’s measure the ROI. But ultimately, let’s not be afraid to push the boundaries and try new things.

Several organisations just don’t take enough risks. It’s something I really encourage in my team – it’s ok to fail.

I think the question that we need to ask ourselves is: Are we failing enough? If we’re not, it probably means we’re not being bold enough or being creative enough.

It’s absolutely fine to fail.

Next level customer experience

We’re going to keep evolving and working to better understand our customer’s needs. Segmentation is going to be key in offering a differentiated customer experience.

It’s really understanding who our customers are and what their needs are, and then providing them with an experience that matches those needs

It’s also about how we move faster and how we move quicker, because competition is heating up. We need to be very agile around decision making, and be able to debate, decide, and deliver.  And we need to be able to really create an environment where it’s okay to fail.

Interested in more case studies around customer experience? Check out our 7th annual event

4 key steps to transform from claims process to claims experience

As the phrase ‘Customer-centricity’ shows no signs of slowing down, I recently caught up with Richard Poole, Head of AustralianSuper account at TAL Life to see what this means for the Claims industry. He explained:

“We’ve taken on a very customer-centric view across our entire business. The customer is at the forefront of everything we do; our processes, our policies and our products and most importantly in all of the personal interactions with our customers, or our service.”

The 4 key streams to focus on:

  1. Build relationships with your customers

Knowing our clients well means we can understand what products they actually want and need. We then also have a better understanding of how can we satisfy that need while still being efficient and cost effective. It’s about looking for the win-win.

  • Building a relationship is relatively straightforward when dealing with our direct customers, because we have a connection with them from day one. From the first contact we establish that relationship directly, and it stays all the way through the life of that customer. Hopefully, for their sake it won’t result in a claim, but if it does, they’ve got a consistent experience with us all the way through.
  • With Retail customers (adviser-driven), the relationship is generally owned by a financial adviser. So we may not get involved with these customers until the time when a claim needs to be made. Our role here is to manage the process as quickly and simply as possible, supporting the client’s relationship with the advisor.
  • It can be harder to build a relationship with our Group customers, because their insurance comes packaged with their superannuation. Similarly to Retail customers, our role generally comes into play when they need to make a claim on their policy. This is when we have the opportunity to build a relationship, by providing support through a difficult time.

Over the last 12 months, we’ve been working on those relationships to identify how we streamline that process and establish strong direct links to the customer.

Ideally, the customer will be able to make one phone call, or submit a claim through one channel, preferably with us, while we can keep all other interested parties informed in real-time.

  1. Clearer communications

The key issue around product is always going to come from the terms and conditions, and the wording of those products.

We’ve come a long way in the last few years to have more plain English in our products, with the days of fine print and ambiguous wording well gone. The key is to make it as easy as possible for the customer to understand exactly what they’re buying, and to help them understand under what circumstances they can make a claim on that policy. It’s also our responsibility to make sure the policy has very clear entry and eligibility rules, to ensure the validity of a claim is unambiguous for claims assessors.

Plain language cuts down on confusion and miscommunication between the customer and ourselves. Everybody knows exactly what’s expected of them, and there shouldn’t be any surprises.

  1. Provide a seamless experience

Wherever possible, our processes are agnostic to the channel. We try to build in as much automation into those processes as we can while retaining the flexibility to ensure we’re managing exceptions and preserving the customer experience.

Standardise as much as you can, keep your claims process system updated and keep refining it. We’re currently on Year One of a three-year project to build our new claims system into the business. It’s bringing in another level of automation, including being able to segment claims into the appropriate areas of complexity.

  1. Add value

The next step in modern claims processing is to begin to add value to the customer to assist their return to wellness. The way we’re doing that now is by really focusing on the customer and their needs very early on. It’s that move from reactive to proactive, and being there right from the start of the journey.