Lenovo, Thomson Reuters and Baxter on the road to personalisation

Leading brands describe the operational challenges they're facing as a result of digital change and putting the customer first

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The operational upheaval required to personalise customer experiences took centre stage at this year’s Adobe Summit as Lenovo, Thomson Reuters and Baxter discussed how they’re tackling digital change.

Lenovo VP and general manager global ecommerce, Ajit Sivadasan, said the vendor gets upwards of 1 billion people coming to its website every year, the majority of which don’t transact.

“Yet our instinct is to treat most of them the same way – show offers and try to be transactional,” he said. “What we have started to do over the last 18 months is differentiate experiences for different groups of people – not just changing one piece of content, but an entirely unique end-to-end experience.”

Personalisation is being driven by segmentation and contextual data on how customers behave and interact with the website including time, place, device, and where they come from. “It sounds basic but we’ve not yet mastered that – we’re primitive to this ‘Internet of me’ concept,” he said.

While digital technology is quite straightforward, the wider operational issues around ecommerce and website personalisation are significant, Sivadasan said.

“For us, 95 per cent of revenue still comes from traditional channel-based business. So ecommerce is niche. But the sophistication needed for the ecommerce supply chain is very complex,” he continued.

“Change won’t happen without executive-level sponsorship and a will to see ecommerce as strategically important. Once that happens, you realise all the other problems – supply chain, reconfiguring factories to deal with purchases online. It’s a different value proposition.”

Sivadasan said ecommerce also opens the door to one-to-one, magnifying the operational ecosystem challenges. “It’s much less a technology problem and much more an organisational commitment and focus issue,” he said.

At Thomson Reuters, VP digital and social media, Jen McClure, is striving to better personalise by first overcoming a disconnected Web presence.

“We’re trying to create a more usable and consistent marketing experience that takes into account the fact that the customer’s entire journey is digital,” she said. “The goal is to help professionals find exactly what they’re looking for and what they need and providing those connections that allow them to be successful and innovative.”

One current focus is the back-end and organisation changes necessary to present a consistent front to customers and prospects. To help, Thomson Reuters has launched a digital excellence team including Web, social, online community, search and CRM. None of the functions report to McClure, but the organisation recognised a need for formal collaboration, she said.

“The advisory board has representatives from people overseeing those projects – CRM, for example. As we go on the Web journey we’re also doing it from CRM perspective so bringing those two projects together is very important,” she said.

“The other partners are privacy, legal, product development, brand people, and global learning.”

Thomson Reuters is also capturing an array of data including financial data, case law data and pattern data, which it hopes to better use to personalise products and services.

“It’s how we marry digitally what we’re doing with our lives,” she said.

Sharing the professional knowledge and expertise of its customer-facing teams digitally to build the brand interactions with customers is another imperative. One way Thomson Reuters is doing this is through staff using social to listen and engage.

“We have a big social selling program... and our people are listening, answering questions and being ambassadors for the brand,” McClure said.

VP of marketing at Baxter Credit Union, John Sahagian, said the US-based financial institution has established brand management, campaign and business analytics teams over the last four years to drive digital efforts.

When it comes to personalising customer engagement, the challenge is not obtaining the right data, it’s uniting data for action, he said.

“We have had transactional information and credit card data on our customers for decades, but there has been an inability to bring different systems together for a consistent experience across all channels,” he said.

“It’s very important to us to identify if you’re someone fresh out of college and your financial literacy is very low, or you’re starting a family, because your product needs are very different. We need to know more about those people to serve them in a relevant and timely way, but we also have to do it across multiple systems and channels.”

Historically, Baxter has commenced customer relationships face-to-face. But as customers make life stage changes or relocate, they need to access personalised service digitally, Sahagian said.

“We have to find a way through personalised experiences and that remote channel to continue that culture of caring,” he said. “That’s why we’re seeing communication teams pop up, and why marketing is getting more calls from the rest of the business. It’s saying more than just face-to-face, we can have strong relationships digitally.”

Marketing and IT have been critical in connecting the dots, legacy systems and channels together for Baxter. But it’s also sales and service and bringing functional teams closer to achieve that vision of customer excellence, Sahagian said.

Sivadasan said Lenovo is trying to encourage experimentation with data and insights within an overarching strategy framework.

“Today you could implement technology in any group without the help of IT, so that has led to a lot of experimentation and decentralisation of technology,” he commented. “For example, we have at least five major groups with their own big data initiatives. We’re not necessarily saying you need to have a central big data capability, we’re saying ‘go solve the problem and see if you can solve it well.

“We don’t want to impose – we’ll have a governance framework... but within that, we rely on people to innovate, try different technologies and see if they can come up with something that’s different to what we’d do normally as an IT transformation.”

Measuring up

The other business shift for Sivadasan is marketing driving the conversation around the customer.

“More companies are finally saying that the customer is the centre of the universe. That is driving marketing to articulate the voice, experience and in some cases, fencing technology and not putting it first,” he said. “In our case, that is a paradigm shift to put customer in the middle and look at how customer wants to interact with our brand.”

Baxter uses loyalty and NPS as key metrics and found they’ve helped unite teams around the customer.

“While it drives some of the financial folks crazy, because it’s completely based on asking customers how we’re doing, it’s been great because of its effect on the component silos in the organisation,” Sahagian said.

For example, in mortgage lending, the team would historically perceived take up of a particular product as a positive. “Whereas now if we also see loyalty scores dropping at the same time, we can identify an experience problem there,” Sahagian said.

“Those conversations are being had now and that’s great for our customers.”

More from Adobe Summit 2015

Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Summit 2015 as a guest of Adobe.

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