Content Marketing World Sydney: What I took from day 1

I’ll be honest, when I rocked up to Content Marketing World Sydney (or #CMWorld), I was a little sceptical. Primarily because i work in the conference industry so I understand how hard it is to get a decent coffee at these things. Secondly, because I had a feeling the day may be centred around ‘the art of story telling’.

Don’t get me wrong, and you can probably tell by the name of this blog – I love story telling. Ultimately though i feel like that’s where Australia has got a bit stuck when it comes to content. Articles, podcasts, webinars, ebooks, infographics – in my current job we’ve been doing these pretty well for over a year now.

Yes, i know i should be doing more videos, but i was looking for a little more from CMWorld – APAC’s largest gathering of content experts.

It’s the end of day one now and i’ve been pleasantly surprised. The event is really well run and the speakers are very energetic and passionate about what they do. The lunch was pretty tasty too. Coffee, yeah it’s a bit rubbish but you can’t win them all.

Anyway, i wanted to share a few key points i picked up today:

  • Content Strategy – Network Strategy

This was the big takeaway for me. We’ve been fine tuning the content strategy for a while now. The term network strategy came up during the morning session and it’s exactly where i want to focus our own efforts. The thing about digital (and no i don’t think print is dead) is that it’s built on a series of platforms, it’s spread by a series of influencers. Those influencers used to be sports stars, actors, musicians, models… Not anymore. Absolutely anyone with a twitter account and blog can become an influencer – let’s try to become them and let’s try to engage with them.

Social proof is becoming paramount. If you look for a picture of a cat in a box – are you more likely to share the cat that only 3 people have looked at, or the cat that has had 300 views? (Personally i’d go for this one.)

There’s a few key things for network strategy: a) find the influencers in your business  – websites like Klout can help you find out who has the potential to spread content widely across the network by scoring the people you work with on their social influence. b) appinions – I think toilet roll is a boring subject matter. But if i’m developing a toilet roll product, is my influence matched with the rest of the market? For example, i say no one wants to read content around Claims Leakage in insurance – but what am i comparing that with? Are there conversations happening without my content? Appinion can provide the tools to check you’re not missing a gap. c) People – they are everywhere talking about everything under the sun, let’s find them, let’s engage with them and let’s work together to spread the word beyond our internal campaign cycle.

  • Customer Centricity

Without waffling on too much about this, as someone who works in b2b content – it’s something i’ve written about a lot. Today served as a strong reminder to check that i’m talking the talk in my own content marketing practices. 1000 photo’s are added every minute with the #me on instagram. No joke. The new marketing mix isn’t about the ‘4Ps’ anymore – it’s about principles, people, ideas then launch – it’s all about the customer. Marketing is giving people something to talk about. The challenge from today was set: It isn’t the best idea that wins, it’s the greatest understanding of the customer.

  • Be honest and fail

The other key area worth a mention today all centred around trial and error. Be honest in your content – if you’re speaking to someone because they are sponsoring your product – tell the reader. If you’re interviewing someone that bought you an ice cream – tell the reader. Also, it’s ok to fail. Push the boundaries. Those ideas that give us a bit of fear… give them a go. It doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.

Few key people to follow from today: @MarkSchaefer, @BernadetteJiwa and @TimWasher.

To sum up in one line we need: relevant audience, meaningful content and consistent engagement.

Looking forward to the breakout sessions tomorrow…


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.

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. 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 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.

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