What 14 years at Suncorp taught Mark Reinke about CX

Organisations that don't adjust their business models to deliver shared value, and put product ahead of customers, will not fare well in the future

Suncorp chief customer experience officer, Mark Reinke
Suncorp chief customer experience officer, Mark Reinke

Organisations that don't adjust their business models to deliver shared value, and put product ahead of customers, will not fare well in the future.

This is the opinion of Suncorp's Mark Reinke, who is leaving the financial services and insurance organisation after 14 years. After an almost unheard-of career longevity with a single business, Reinke knows a thing or two about business transformation. And this will place him in great stead as he leaves his role as advisor to Suncorp’s CEO to pursue his own projects.

Reinke, who ranked number one in CMO’s top 50 in 2015, joined Suncorp in 2004 and became general manager of group marketing in 2005. He was then appointed executive general manager in 2008, group executive marketing in December 2013, and chief customer experience officer in March 2016, before moving to the role of advisor in October 2017.   

Among his achievements was the integration of Suncorp and Promina customer and marketing functions, creating a single view of the customer across Suncorp Group, and overseeing significant improvements to better leverage the Group’s brand and customer assets. Reinke was also a member of the senior leadership team for eight years. 

After such a long time with the one company, it is with both excitement and trepidation that Reinke moves into advising startups and scale-ups. He will continue, as he puts it, to be “at the pointy end of change”.

“There are so many exciting new models out in the market at the moment. I’ll be advising start-up and scale-ups, and in some cases equity capacity as well. I will also move to a larger organisation which is transforming its business model and customer experience (CX),” Reinke told CMO.

Suncorp is a transformed business compared to the one he joined. Back then, the group was predominantly a regional insurer with a single brand and several million customers. Today, it's a top 20 ASX conglomerate, with very diversified offerings, 96 million customers, and a leading portfolio of 12 brands.

And Suncorp isn’t the only thing to evolve. In his time, Reinke has seen marketing change significantly to become more customer-centric, and believes this change is only just beginning.

3 significant shifts

“Over the last 5-10 years, I’ve seen three significant changes. The customer now has the power to influence your margin and your growth - a single customer has that power. Any organisation not orientated around its customers is vulnerable,” Reinke explained.

“This is exacerbated by and powered by digital tools and peer-to-peer sharing of experiences, and the ability to see through those experiences. This has changed the way companies must deliver value.

“You can’t create value for customers from within the assets you have. This has seen the rise of platform business models where the value is in connecting different producers and consumers in new ways. This has been significant for Suncorp, it moved its business model from an end-to-end business, to a platform with the capability to connect with other services and bring those services to customers. This was a very big shift to becoming hyper-connective.

“Of course, there’s been a shift from the orientation around products, to an orientation around the journeys of customers. Products may be part of that journey, but they are not the entire journey.”

Reinke adds that over the next five years, marketing is likely to see a continued orientation around customer journeys, but in a quantitative way.

“Organisations will measure profitability and sales and NPS by journey. We are also increasingly seeing companies built to connect, through APIs and cloud enablement, which are truly architected to compete and exist in eco-systems. To do this means deep changes to most companies’ IT and architecture," he continued. 

“We will increasingly see the rise of intelligent agents. We can see early versions in Alexa and Siri, but from now it’s likely organisations are going to have to be built to interact with those intelligent agents, and understand algorithms."

Lastly, and perhaps in contrast to intelligent agent trends, there is going to be a significant trend toward humanising this technology, Reinke said.

"There is a lot of great technology out there, and while it’s easier for the customer, it’s not very human. In many cases we’re not seeing the experience being as powerful as it could be. So moving forward there will be more psychology meets technology,” he said. 

Reinke said this data science meets social science means there will be psychology and anthropology required to design human experiences around intelligent agents, and the robotic solutions consumers are seeking are going to need a much bigger dose of social science skills.

Given his vast experience, Reinke has advice for businesses looking to operate in a technological, customer-centric world.

“Being product-orientated doesn’t work anymore. There are some exceptions where product remains a source of differentiation, mostly in patented pharmaceuticals, but this is reducing. Outside of those rare exceptions, the experience is the product now. What that means in terms of orientating your organisation is quite challenging. It’s easy to say you offer CX, but the gap between rhetoric and reality is significant."

For Reinke, the shift means starting at the top and leading with new metrics and new visibility and listening to what customers are both saying and doing. Then it's about enabling teams in new ways.

"Above all, it means aligning customer interest and shareholder interest for shared value," he said. “Ultimately, you need to work out what your customers are trying to do and help them do that, and figure out how to make money doing this, as opposed to being constrained by a business model. The notion of shared value is challenging for most businesses because the business model is not fundamentally built to deliver shared value outcomes, and that can be difficult to transition from.

“Customer outcomes have to be the way in which you deliver profitability, rather than profitability being the end in itself.”

People and capability

As Reinke reflects on his time with Suncorp, he commented that it is the people and teams he helped build and work with he will miss the most.

“It’s been an exceptional organisation to be part of and I’m very proud of the company and the people. While it’s time for me to do something else, I will be staying close to the company and people into the future,” he said.

“Highlights for me include creating a brand architecture of 12 brands in a service-based market. Engaging customers and building a multi-billion dollar business is very hard to do, and I’m very proud of this. But I’m most proud of the relationships and teams we’ve built; Suncorp has a very talented team.”

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