Executive Connections panel: How digital disruption leads customer-obsessed change

Panellists from QBE, Rockend, Thomas Holt and Kantar share how they're coping with CX during CMO-CIO-ADMA Executive Connections event

From left: CMO's Nadia Cameron, Kantar's Jon O'Loughlin, Thomas Holt's George Lymbers, QBE's Bettina Pidcock and Rockend's Scott Downing
From left: CMO's Nadia Cameron, Kantar's Jon O'Loughlin, Thomas Holt's George Lymbers, QBE's Bettina Pidcock and Rockend's Scott Downing

Digital disruption, customer-led change, martech adoption and being customer obsessed were just a few key topics in the spotlight during a panel session at the CMO-CIO-ADMA Executive Connections event in Sydney.

Rockend chief customer, Scott Downing; QBE Insurance chief customer officer, Bettina Pidcock; Thomas Holt CIO, George Lymbers; and Kantar TNS executive director, CX, Jon O’Loughlin discussed how digital disruption has not only driven a massive change within marketing, but also led organisations to become far more customer-led.

Downing said digital disruption has been massive, yet presented a challenge for some of the property technology provider’s customer segments.

“The bulk of our products are on desktop, so moving some customers to the cloud presented a problem. There’s been a lot of segmentation, although we are using digital to entice people, it’s been a tough customer experience challenge to get some segments over to the cloud,” he said.

According to Pidcock, customer expectations are constantly being driven up, leading many organisations into a constant game of catch up in the digital space.

“Instead of playing catch-up, we’re looking at a digital mind with an analogue heart,” she said, alluding to a comment made by the event’s keynote speaker, Anders Sorman-Nilsson. “Yes, people want speed, but they also want empathy and humanity and we’re currently aiming to meet that.”

Lymbers argued the aged care industry is the fastest growing industry in the world currently as it undergoes massive transformation. To survive and thrive as a provider in this space, Thomas Holt must stop thinking of itself as a cottage industry and start asking who its customers really are: Patient, child of the patient, or both.

“We have a whole lot of competitors in this area now. We saw that and merged the concept of technology and marketing into one,” he said. “Now, we’re using partners to create systems which will immerse our customers into what Thomas Holt is all about. That’s key to our survival.”

For O’Loughlin, the key to customer-led digital and marketing transformation is prioritisation.

“From an insights perspective, we see clients assuming they need to be good at everything and excel at every touchpoint, without understanding what customers actually need and prioritising those,” he commented. “Marketers need to be careful around where they invest in digital and where they invest in traditional touchpoints.”

Customer listening

Understanding the customer journey is important, but it’s the key moments that matter within the journey and the areas more brands should be concentrating on. Pidcock said QBE started its journey by listening to its customers first.

“We were getting strong feedback from customers that they weren’t happy. We’re listening to what they actually want and that is what drives our prioritisation around what we create and build,” she explained. “When you pull back and look at it holistically, the concepts of value and trust are key. If customers feel there is only one stakeholder that matters above all others – that is, the shareholder – then their needs are not being met and they are very unhappy.

“Customers of course want some of the value that’s being created by us. Value is for the people, and for the customers, and ultimately that does lead to stakeholder value.”

To get there, Downing said organisations must break down the old methods of working within silos in a business.

“You can’t work with a silo mentality and be customer obsessed. You can come up with a brilliant CX strategy and work with the people and culture team, but if you don’t have happy employees, you’re not going to deliver a great CX,” he said. “As a chief customer officer, it’s really about owning that CX strategy for the entire business and being at the forefront of the execution, with no siloing.”

O’Loughlin also believed organisational silos remain a challenge for many organisations. At the same time, there needs to be more recognition that the brand creates an emotive promise to people – both externally and internally.

“How do you create an emotive digital experience? Sometimes, it's not only about ease, it’s more about how the customer feels after the experience,” he continued. “From talking to consumers, digital will have its place, but some of those other touchpoints can be critical, as is taking employees on the journey. I see a lot of CX and employee engagement research being kept separate. Not tying the two together is a mistake.”

Lymbers said this is another area Thomas Holt is working to improve.

“We want to give our customers the best care, and the best experience, but we also want to ensure the loved ones get the best experience. This is what’s driving us to go into this digital age. And if we don’t empower those on the frontline to be able to provide the service, then it won’t work,” he said.  

The joy and challenge of metrics

One of the best ways of doing this is through data and insight. Pidcock said every decision being made by QBE is data-driven and customer focused.

“Customer focus equals data focused,” she said. “Within QBE, everyone is responsible for customer data now, and we bring it all together into a data platform to create a single view of the customer. It’s complex to do, but it’s critical.”

Downing agreed it’s fundamental to use data to make decisions, and stressed the need for having the right prioritisation around it.

“The big thing is having customer impact and employee impact, and having clear driver models within your business,” he said. “We have four: Brand, price, product and service, and every data point has to have an impact on all four drivers. This also loops back to top-down thinking.

“You can look at data all you want, but if you still think conventionally, you will still make decisions on behalf of the customers because you think you know better. You have to take an outsider’s perspective and challenge leadership thinking, and also empower everyone at every point to capture that data.”

Regardless of what data or metric is used, taking action in the correct areas is crucial, O’Loughlin concluded.

“I’m on the record as having gone against NPS as a metric, but regardless of what you use, understanding what is driving that score and taking action in those areas is what matters. Score chasing doesn’t do anything for the bottom line, you must do something appropriate with whatever metric you use,” he said.  

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