Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
It’s the burning question for organisations today: How do you shift from being a product-centric organisation to a business that puts the customer at the heart of every decision, advancement and innovation?
The answer is something Australian health insurance provider, Medibank, has spent the past four years looking into, and now claims to be making great strides in. According to general manager of marketing and digital, Chris Carroll, the group’s customer ambitions stretch from vision and roadmap to technology investments, operational changes, and an organisation-wide belief in the value of being customer driven.
“Historically, we’ve been a products-led business, and we understood this was unsustainable,” he tells CMO. “We are moving from a health insurer to a health company, and the role the patient/customer has in healthcare needs to be our primary focus if we’re to achieve strategic growth. “There was a realisation, bottom up and from the financial services arm of our business, of the importance of being customer centric and getting us up to the experience benchmark that customers expected. This view was also coming top down through our corporate vision to put customers and patients at the centre of healthcare delivery.”
An example of the way Medibank’s customer-first approach is permeating through the business is its decision to rebrand its Private Health Insurance (PHI) arm to Customer Centred Healthcare, Carroll says. The group is now tasked with ensuring customer experience is at the centre of interactions from a health preventative perspective, through to post-event payment terms.
“Underneath this is a clear and deliberate path to know more about our customers, be in the places they need us to be when they need us, drive relevancy, and ultimately give them what our brand message of ‘generation better’ stands for, which is incremental benefit,” Carroll says.
Automation and analytics
While Carroll believes everyone has a responsibility in optimising customer experiences, the work done by Medibank’s marketing team has been one of the organisation’s major steps forward. One of the first discussions Carroll had upon joining Medibank four years ago was in fact deploying marketing automation and analytics to improve the way the business interacts with customers.
“We needed to develop stronger, clearer conduits to our customer base – both from an ability to speak to them with the right message at the right time [outbound], but also a capability to deal with inbound inquiries,” he explains.
Prior to deploying marketing automation and analytics, Medibank was running ad hoc, manual campaign activities that were labour-intensive and inefficient. “We also weren’t hand on heart sure about how effective our campaigns were,” Carroll says.
“Over time, you could see longitudinal data about the types of campaigns and responses, but the way the system hung together, it was hard to create an agile synopsis on any campaign’s effectiveness.”
Eighteen months ago, Medibank invested in SAS’s Marketing Automation and High-Performance Analytics platforms, running within a Teradata enterprise data warehouse. Carroll describes the technology implementation as “the low hanging fruit” and first manifestation of becoming a more customer-centric organisation.
“It was about changing the way we communicated with customers; we knew this would have the greatest efficiency gains both from a cost per perspective as well as ROI,” he says.
Today, the automation platform supports 13.6m outward customer touchpoints, and Medibank has seen individual message audience size drop by 33 per cent, even as contact volumes remain the same. Email open rates are above 50 per cent, which is proof of the success of more targeted and concentrated campaign activity, Carroll says.
Most importantly, Medibank has seen lapsed customer rates fall by 22 per cent by targeting specific segments with particular messages, and is recording four-fold ROI profitability against campaign activity.
Another benefit of marketing automation and analytics has been the ability to redeploy internal resources to areas that provide greater value to the business, such as propensity modelling. “I didn’t want the technology and analytics to be seen as a human resource saving; technology should be seen as an improvement in our ability to redeploy people into more propensity-led work,” Carroll says.
A challenge many organisations struggle with when it comes to data utilisation is prioritising the type of analytics work undertaken, and then executing on insights delivered. For Carroll, an insight that isn’t actionable isn’t overly interesting.
“We don’t need more FYIs; insights that don’t move us forward are distracting and waste time and energy,” he says. “If we find something, we always ask ourselves ‘so what?’ That drives the conversation back to what it is we are trying to do.
“The analytics community, which has historically been inward-looking… needs to be out there telling stories. That’s where engagement and prioritisation comes; when the folks seeing the pictures in the numbers can tell a convincing story about customer experience. If you can pull together great data and narrative, that’s when the case becomes compelling.”
Another way Medibank has ensured data takes centre stage is to give its customer analytics chief a seat at the leadership table. “You don’t always get that in organisations but it was an important decision for us,” Carroll says.
Core to marketing’s success has been the IT team. Carroll says IT was involved from the concept phase of deploying marketing automation and analytics and formed part of a working group.
“It’s important IT is as customer-centric as any group of the business,” he claims. “With the businesses out there that are moving really fast and becoming customer-centric, you can almost map that to a technology group that understands the role they play in delivering on customer expectation.”
Carroll agrees the marketing function has the greatest collection and use of customer data and is the right place to start putting customers first. But he claims the ‘customer’ still needs to be owned by everyone across the organisation.
To ensure it stays on the right track, Medibank is employing a variety of data points, such as Net Promoter Score, to gauge its customer-centricity efforts.
“When you give the responsibility to one person or division, you are giving other people in the business an out, and they can potentially abdicate responsibility,” Carroll says. “That creates an awful bottleneck in the organisation. Customer centricity and digital are similar – everyone needs to understand both as well as the role they play in their groups.
“This doesn’t mean someone doesn’t run things like customer experience; someone is always going to need to think about horizons two and three when it comes to the customer. But day-to-day, you have to think about customer centricity in everything you do, be it a product, campaign or analytics level.”
The next step for Medibank is a new CRM platform, which will be rolled out by early next year. In the interim, Carroll sees plenty of room to optimise automation and analytics to better understand where customer are at.
“Our whole group has evolved in terms of capability, skillset and ability to use the tools more effectively,” he adds. “This is now driving analytics through non-marketing areas of our business.”
This article originally appeared in CMO's June 2014 magazine edition. To subscribe to your complimentary copy of our print title or our weekly newsletter, subscribe here .
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