NRMA disrupted: Launching a new membership platform

The long-standing motoring organisation is bleeding blue for its members with a new fuel, travel and entertainment discounts offering

For almost a 100 years, millions of Australians have relied on the NRMA for roadside assistance, advice on buying a car and road safety. But the motoring organisation has felt the force of digital disruption.

In an era when cars are more reliable and mobile phones do the job of maps, travel guide and emergency help, its relevance has been challenged. So NRMA decided to re-set with a new approach to membership.

The resulting organisation-wide task was not without its challenges.

While the core value of trust remains as true in 2019 as it did in the 1920s, major game-changers like Uber has challenged the very notion of customer trust.

"We're a trust brand, not built by marketing teams, but by our people and the amazing work they do everyday. It's in our DNA - from our patrols to all our people who bleed blue," said chief customer officer, NRMA, Emma Harrington, at the Gartner Customer Experience & Technologies Summit in Sydney. "But we're conscious our trust-building moment happens less often and consumer expectations are changing, so how you build trust is changing. Now it's built by experience and immediacy."

In the last 18 months, the NRMA has been on a journey to re-invigorate its relationship with members in this changing landscape.

"We set about creating everyday engagement and value in everyday moments that matter to them and build trust. We co-created a new member proposition and digital product experience, Blue, while still running our core business," Harrington said.

Work involved taking an inside-out approach to designing products and the transformation process. NRMA used human-centred design to create its new proposition aimed at existing members as well as attracting new ones.

"This was not an easy change as our culture was geared towards our people being the experts," Harrington said. "But after defining our strategic problem, we set out to deeply understand our customer markets, key needs, emotional values, behaviours and motivations in the area of transport and tourism."

This involved a series of observations and interviews, mapping the key customer segments and finding the similarities within the differences between the groups. The team settled on Grey Nomads, to bring more value to the existing members cohort making up a large proportion of its member bases; along with families, to attract new members beyond the roadside assistance service.

NRMA then devised a large list of requirements to make the most of a new digital, personalised and responsive platform. 

"We stepped into an iterative and interactive design process for our new membership proposition. We learnt and designed the process as we went ... so the new product would be operationally viable and economically feasible," Harrington continued.

"The CX process started with identifying personas and identifying emotional drivers, defining our target personas and the benefits we were trying to unlock. We then designed various propositions to test and learn and conducted a choice model on 2000 people nationally to determine the details of our program. This included benefits, values and price point."

Economic modelling was employed to understand current and future benefits and secure partners to secure the marketplace. "We used customer journeys to determine the customer experience to drive technology requirements and business process requirements. And a staff pilot to test before launch," Harrington said.

A big change involved deep staff engagement to 'own' the experience of Blue to help with buy-in and its success through recommending and advocating for the new platform. NRMA mapped its employee personas to understand them and build ownership.

"Good CX relies on good EX [emotional experience] and you can't build one without the other when you're a customer-facing business," Harrington said, highlighting how staff become active participants using and providing feedback on the new platform.

Six months later, NRMA Blue was launched and it's seeing positive results.

For Harrington, there were many lessons throughout the digital transformation around optimising technology, design processes and understanding the customer in a transformative program. Ultimately, however, one of the most important is to act with empathy.

"We thought a lot about the human aspect of change. We believed our members could embrace digital but we needed to guide them," she concluded.

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