CMO interview: Why Bupa’s John Moore is all about the experience

Health and care provider's marketing chief talks about how he's fostering customer experience improvements through the group's people, culture, innovation and content

John Moore
John Moore

Like many of his Australian marketing leadership peers, Bupa’s marketing director, John Moore, is on a mission to up his brand’s customer experience game. And to do this, he believes a CMO must become the ultimate internal communicator.

“Most of my job is not talking externally, I have a team managing that and doing it well,” he tells CMO. “If you’re an experiential, service-led brand, at least 30-40 per cent of what you do in marketing is designed to talk to your people, as those are the ones ultimately delivering your experience.

“The only difference now over 10 years ago is because quite often marketing owns digital experience, we control part of the experience a customer has. We as marketers are now spending a lot of time driving experience. The thing is, there’s no point getting consideration if it then turns to shit. You’ve wasted a truckload of money. That’s the key piece - focusing on the experience.”

A career transformation

Moore has spent the past 25 years working in marketing, although it wasn’t his first intention. The “accidental marketer” trained as an economist before commencing a career in customer research and data analytics with the likes of National Australia Bank, Scotiabank and CIBC. From there, Moore moved into marketing and customer leadership roles with Vodafone, Suncorp and Australia Post.

According to Moore, there isn’t another function that has transformed itself as greatly over the same period of time as marketing. Having experienced a time when creatives ruled the roost, he’s seen power shift back to those who understand the behaviour of people and why they do things, and now a situation where marketers spend more time in technology than data or creative.

“I stumbled on a sector where you can stay curious and have to constantly evolve yourself, otherwise you’ll be out of work very quickly or doing some very average stuff,” he claims.

Moore joined Bupa three years ago as the global organisation kicked off a business transformation aimed at moving from health insurance provider to a leader in health and care. As part of this ambition, the company has restructured away from lines of business globally, to what it calls market units, one of which is A/NZ. The objective is to take the brand across all of its businesses to better reflect how the customer sees the organisation and its service offerings.

“The mandate for the marketing role was to create a team and operating model that allowed us to take advantage of where we’re coming from - a good health insurance, and aged care provider, and with a small health services business – to show customers a brand that could be a leader in health and care,” Moore says. “That mandate hasn’t changed, but over the three years, how we go about doing that has changed dramatically.”

Moore notes his growing content investment as a reflection of the significant shift in marketing strategy.

“Marketing used to be around awareness, consideration, buy and repeat purchase. Now you’re starting with engagement in that health and care space,” he comments. “Google comes into play, and consumers bounce all around, back and forth. It’s much less structured but in some ways because it’s more digital, it’s completely trackable and understandable from a data analytics perspective.

“At the same time, we’re an experiential brand. We don’t produce stuff; we deliver a service. Ultimately, it still comes down to our people. It’s about how you get the customer experience, brand goals and what you want to talk about through to your people, so they can deliver it.”

Finding the customer love

Last year, Bupa kicked off its mission to become a brand loved by its customers, something Moore admits he and the executives weren’t sure could be achieved at first.

“Fortunately, Bupa customers said they could love us provided they saw the breadth of who we were, they saw us making a difference in health and care, and we were there when they needed us,” he explains.

“Depending on your circumstances, you know parts of our business. If you happen to have your parents in our aged care facilities, you know us very well and see us through a caring and trust based. If you’re getting your teeth corrected at a dental, you may have experienced a bit of pain, then you’ve got the optical. It’s around how you bring that together. Our customers are now starting to see the blue cube and there is an expectation of what comes with it.”

For Moore, the emphasis has to be on unifying the customer experience, and that comes back to purpose.

“Our purpose is to help create longer, happier healthier lives and one of our core tenets is to help improve the health of the world,” he says. “And you can’t just make a difference if you’re only in one piece. It doesn’t mean you have to own all of the pieces – we don’t – but our 2020 vision sees us playing a strong role across health and care in all forms in the markets we operate in.”

Another important metric for Bupa is engagement in the community. As a result, the business doesn’t just measure revenue, it also publishes how many people it impacts.

“If you look at the work that’s coming out of HR and marketing about importance of purpose, particularly in the younger generation, and you look at the cultures people talk about, whether that’s AirBnB or Google, they all have that central purpose in their DNA,” Moore adds. “Bupa is one of those companies that not only has it, but believes in it.”

Achieving a unified customer experience takes the whole organisation, and Moore says steps have been taken at Bupa to better align business units and functions. The emphasis is less on formalised structure and more on collaboration.

“I’m never heard a customer talk once about an org structure – they don’t care about them,” he points out. “However, it’s hard to run a business of any kind without an org structure. So it’s getting that balance right between how you deliver a customer experience that’s broader than any org structure, but working within any org structure you have.

“We’re not perfect, but that common clarity around purpose does make it easier.”

Getting to customers at the relevant moment

As part of his CX approach, Moore is striving to engage with customers at the right moment in time. The first component in achieving this is designing information and services based around general health and care needs. Twelve months ago, Bupa created ‘The Blue Room’; a content destination hub supported and amplified by social channels.

“Health is tricky in the sense you can have multiple life stages at the same time,” Moore explains. “For example, you could be dealing with a parent needing care requirements, working with a son’s injury, and also the parent’s own health.”

Bupa has divvied up its customer base around key lifestage segments, and is using these to tailor its marketing, engagement and content efforts. Initial areas of focus are the ‘carer’, such as children looking after elderly parents; and families, with a specific focus on the main family decision-maker, the female, and her health needs.

“In our space, the biggest decision maker is the female, who is also the worst at looking after herself,” Moore says. “We’ve done some work with our ‘Heart-to-heart’ campaign, all aimed at trying to get the family around her to check up on heart issues, as well as supporting her as a mum in that first 1000 days through our ‘Nightwatchman’ program.

“Then there’s managing your condition, and the final one is staying healthier. We’re very much about building engagement around those areas and with the stuff that matters. For example, does my son need a mouth guard and how do I find the right one for him?”

Bupa’s second engagement pillar is addressing customer needs in relevant ‘micro moments’. An example Moore uses is if someone chips their tooth, and providing advice on what they should do.

Ultimately, this two-pronged approach is about simplifying the experience for customers in their moment of need. “Some of this is more long term, other engagement is in the moment, and they are the two hot spots for us,” he says. “We’re focusing on content in one, and on building the experience in the other.”

Problem solving over digital channel delivery

Bupa also formalised its digital strategy 12 months ago, a decision prompted by the desire to be as effective as it could be in terms of customer-led digital delivery, Moore says. That need for consistent experience is the reason why Bupa has decided to situate its digital strategy team in the marketing team.

The other tenet to Bupa’s digital approach is what Moore calls “falling in love with the problem, not the solution”.

“Rather than one business unit saying they want something, we bring a team together using human-centred design to work out what problem it is you actually want to solve,” he says. “Then let’s design it, prototype and create it, all at the same time.”

Changing the way teams work has had a dramatic impact on innovation for Bupa, and Moore notes The Blue Room as a great example of an initiative that stemmed from this approach.

“More importantly, it has allowed us to delivered things to market in a simpler, easier way,” he continues. “All companies are the same – we come up with something in design, it’s then sent to the IS team, they’d say they couldn’t build it that way and it’d comeback. By using a combination of human-centred design, Agile and lean, you can come up with prototypes you can get out really quickly because the code, architect and person representing legal are in the room at the same time.”

Helping Moore push Bupa’s customer-led agenda is his position at the executive table. Bupa maintains line-of-business marketing teams in A/NZ, along with an insights and analytics team, a data and digital practice, and brand and healthcare marketing across the top.

In addition, Moore has worked hard with the CIO to base their joint efforts around customer outcomes.

“We didn’t care about where things sat,” he says. “The moment you put in a formal rule of engagement or SLA, you’re saying you don’t have trust. We spend a lot of time as an executive team talking about leadership and behaviours. You then let people underneath you focus on delivery.

“The term we use a lot is interdependence, and we jointly align behind that. It took effort to build that relationship with the CIO, but we didn’t go and have conversations about who was doing what, we had a conversation about this is what we’re trying to solve for, this is what we know, let’s give it a try.”

Data and insights evolution

While there is plenty of work afoot to drive better customer outcomes using digital channels and data, Moore is equally focused on other ways Bupa can draw insights on its customers. One of these is spending time talking to customers. Similarly to many Australian organisations, Bupa has rolled out the Net Promoter System (NPS), putting the spotlight on episodic, rather than transactional, scores.

“That’s much harder as an episode cuts across many parts of the company, not just one pocket,” he says. “We want to understand those episodes and get our responses to those right first.”

Moore is quick to point out it’s not just the data that provides answers, making improvements is equally a frontline staff and employee task. As an example, Moore points to learnings and changes made around the experience in Bupa optical stores for contact lens wearers.

“Data showed people getting contact lenses were a lot less satisfied with the experience than people who weren’t,” he says. “When we brought together store managers to talk about, they highlighted what was fundamentally at the core – to get your eyes tested, it takes about 35 minutes. To get tested for contacts takes 45 minutes. If you don’t ask the person when they dial in whether they’re interested in contacts or not, they go through the first stage, then they need to make another appointment.

“Now, every time someone rings up for an appointment, we check if they’re after contacts. It’s completely changed the experience.”

It was the combination of data and people that made the difference and improved the process, Moore says. “The data was just saying we had a problem with the contact lens process. Actually, we don’t, what we had was a problem with the booking process,” he says.

“It’s one of many examples in terms of how you’ve got to bring the two together. That’s why we use human-centred design and agile behaviours because it allows us to bring the data along with that.”

The other piece of the data puzzle is trigger-based or machine learning piece. The challenge in health and care is the fine line between creepy and something a customer wants to hear and know, Moore says.

“We must respect the privacy of a lot of medical information we may have so if anything, we’re underutilising that deliberately because the privacy piece is far more important than anything else,” he says. “Going forward, if you ask permission and if a customer would you like your brand to use this information in this way, you set up a much better relationship. For us, the opportunity is much more around that permission-based conversation.

“The key thing is to be in a position so that when a customer contacts us to talk, we can show we know them, understand them and get what they’re after. That’s the minimum we’ve got to get to, and we’re still working that out across all our businesses.”

Innovation approach

Innovation is another major focus for Moore, and he suggests there are a couple of innovation layers worth pursuing. The first is innovating yourself and looking for better ways of doing things.

“That’s horizon one innovation. Frankly, that’s around challenging our people to think differently and have the confidence to do things differently and we do that by empowering people” he says.

The other is innovation is where you have a chance to cannibalise your own market, and Moore admits this is both harder and more risky. While some organisations have chosen to established standalone innovation labs in order to explore these sorts of ideas, none of this work will be effective without bringing it back to business and customer outcomes, he claims.

“I’m not opposed to innovation labs per se, however, I’m opposed to labs that think they can drive and come up with ideas that aren’t rooted and come back into the company and solve a customer problem,” he continues. “If you’re a lab within the company, you firstly need to be connected to your purpose. Secondly, you need to be really grounded in customer problems you’re solving for.

“Sure, you can then have a group of people working with startups, looking at different ways to solve for those problems, but what I see is labs that are quite separate. And when you involve startups, it’s normally connected to a solution. That’s where in my mind things fall over, because it’s not innovation, it’s just a trendy way of working on something that isn’t grounded back to the business you’re in.”

Moore also wants to encourage his team to be innovative. He sees the first step as empowering them so to feel they can challenge the status quo. “Also, if we’re going to go for horizon 4 innovation, we need to make sure we ground it in core purpose and customer problems we want to help with,” he says.

One emerging idea Moore is currently exploring is how to combine the employee and customer experience. “In the same way in which IT and marketing used to be so far apart, the service teams of HR and marketing need to be a lot closer together,”he says.

“We don’t have to be organised that way but the question is: How do we connect those two functions? Fundamentally, you’ve only got two experiences with us – digitally and through our people. That’s the area exciting me the most right now.”

Whatever the next challenge marketers face, Moore believes they must maintain both their ability to tell stories, and their curiosity.

“Nothing will happen if you can’t tell a story and bring it to life to make it work for people,” he concludes. “And if you’re not always curious, you are going to be left behind.”

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