The steps REA Group is taking to build an organisation-wide CX strategy

Adopting Net Promoter Score (NPS) is just one of the steps REA Group is taking as it works to build out a CX strategy across the organisation.

REA Group’s recently installed GM of customer experience and commercial effectiveness, Gina McCartney, told CMO the comprehensive customer experience strategy was triggered by formation of the customer group in 2021. This significant structural change saw sales, service and support teams come together into one unit in order to gain “a laser-sharp focus on our customers”.

“A number of things happened in the business to lead us to this, one of which was what is our CX strategy that will take us into the future,” McCartney said. “That’s a challenging conversation. If you look at our customer sentiment, there is no burning platform: We have great scores, and things are looking great. But we knew instinctively and off the back of Covid that you can’t just be OK with what you have today, you have to be prepared and future-proof your organisation.

“So we decided to take a step back to ask: What are we doing?”

The evolving CX strategy McCartney is now building orients around the marketplace’s B2B real estate and property management customers. “We firmly believe the more we help our customers be their best, be professional, and deliver on consumer expectations, the more consumers in the marketplace,” she said.

Having been with REA for eight years, McCartney is well aware its customers are looking to REA for value, leads and consumers. This provides a background to the CX strategy work ahead. As one of its first steps, REA is focusing on the depths of data it has on customers. To do this, it leverages the Qualtrics platform to conduct all manner of surveys. REA Group became a Qualtrics customer in 2021, and uses Qualtrics CustomerXM.

“We’re not afraid to ask our customers what they think, and they are excited to share their thoughts,” McCartney said. “Where we are now is trying to figure out where are we at, and what can we do to surpass their expectations.”

Measures of success

Another change to support REA’s CX approach moving forward is to implement NPS for the first time. Historically, the group has used various sentiment scores including effort metrics to gauge customer experiences and satisfaction.

“There has been a great amount of work done to understand customers and what they’re thinking,” McCartney commented. “But when you’re trying to understand how that recommendation came about, or through the line across all products and services, we knew it’s time for us to shift.”

The decision to adopt NPS followed work with an external CX specialist conducting discovery workshops. “We came to the conclusion we should give it a go because it might start answering a lot of our questions and bring consistency to our CX thinking,” McCartney said.

“We have lots of dedicated customer-centric people in the business, but they’re often working in silos. They could have departmental or functional-based sentiment scores. What we believe is having a through the line review using NPS will help us connect the dots. The thing that excites me is there will be one metric and an aggregate view to compare with all the datasets, versus discrete metrics.”

Supporting this vision is the customer success function, which REA established 12 months ago. “What we are proving out with that model is we are a very digital business in very relationship-based industry,” McCartney said.

“What that function has been able to deliver by having tight relationship and support every step of the way, is dramatic increases in sentiment. What we’re thinking about is how else can we apply that to other parts of the business that are not SaaS-based. That’s a capability we will invest in and think more about.”  

McCartney saw technology being an instrumental component of bringing to life REA’s roadmap and prioritisation plan.

“The thing tech will bring that we don’t have activated as much today is the real-time response and action,” she said. “Reviewing a report once a month is one thing, but how many opportunities have you missed? All businesses need that real-time response and action as it’s what will change the game.”

McCartney also cited a wider opportunity to better connect data within platforms across the organisation. REA Group’s CX and service platform toolkit includes Qualtrics, Salesforce and Zendesk.

“It’s a big focus for us because we know analytics is going to be critical to underpin any of this work. We could go do all this CX work, but if we can’t actually prove back to the business, it’ll fall over pretty quickly,” she said. “A huge part of the strategy is therefore what do we need from a capability perspective – people, headcount, technology and data.”  

To get there, REA is engaging in a roadmap prioritisation exercise, incorporating what it is it’s looking to achieve and how much will it cost. That’s where the fight for resource and investment will commence, McCartney said.

What REA does already have is insightful data across certain parts of the journey. McCartney described rich insights across four of six core customer stages. One question the team is now asking itself is the feasibility and ramifications of catering to the top percentage of each segment.

“In the way we build things, whether it’s products or self-service platforms, we tend to build for all. That’s great as it democratises the experience,” McCartney explained. “But when we’re getting down to the nitty gritty of making big differences, we are going to have to be more focused the top 10 and 20 per cent. It’s a new lens we are applying.”

A segment discovery made through the CX work to date has highlighted an influential segment of users known as ‘admins’.

“Most B2B organisations would have this, and they’re often the forgotten segment – they’re not the ones signing invoices, or that you’re meeting with day-to-day and there isn’t much glamour. But more and more, especially with SaaS products, they’re enablers within our customers’ businesses,” McCartney said. “We know they exist, but we don’t know how many of them there are, career aspirations or other details. So we are shining a light on that segment, which is really exciting.”

More broadly, REA has volumes of insight across its consumer audience, driven by surveying using the Qualtrics platform.

“One key thing our customers always expect of us is real-time insight about consumers,” McCartney said. “We collect rich data on what Australians are thinking and doing and what their needs are from a property perspective. That helps us add value to our B2B customers. It ticks the box from a customer journey perspective when we’re applying them with tools to better do their job. There’s a two-sided use case there.”  

Linking CX to business outcomes

McCartney agreed the hardest part of CX is tying efforts to business outcomes. “Your priorities are going into the revenue priorities, which are millions versus increments,” she said.

“Quite quickly, I figured out I have to constantly connect this to operational cost reduction or revenue driving. You can never disassociate the two. Especially when it comes to prioritisation of investment and your CFO, that’s what they’re most interested in.

“It’s a tough early lesson. I’m a big believer in driving customer-centred initiatives and doing the right thing, but that’s not the driver or motivator for everyone. It’s a key learning upfront when talking about CX with the business.

“Once you lock that down with your executives, that almost opens the floodgates for the teams that are diehard customer-centric teams, who have needed guidance and leadership on how to get their initiatives up and running. They have needed someone to connect the dots for them.”

Alongside this, REA’s CX language and discussion has been around what things teams have always wanted to do for customers to improve their experiences. Linking outcomes to individuals and functions when playing back CX progress will also form part of the ongoing strategy for McCartney.

“I’ve had a few misfires in the past where you haven’t been able to link outcomes to individuals – whether it’s about them accessing a dashboard to see what impact launching their product has had on our CX, or other examples,” she said. “What’s great about a collaborative environment is people will share the feedback, we will tweak what we do and move forward.”

McCartney’s ambition in 12-18 months’ time is to be providing personalised experiences to customers, have clear insight into their needs and give the business the know-how required to keep them happy.

“I’d be proud if we could say we know who they are as individuals and how they use our products and services, how satisfied they are with our business and what we need to do next to improve that satisfaction,” she said.  

The immediate step now for McCartney is delivering a report on REA’s CX maturity from a product, tech, marketing, sales and strategic executive perspective. This will be followed up with a CX prioritisation roadmap and investment plan. By end of June, this will be wrapped up with CX strategy deliverables.  

“From there, it’s getting resource and making it show up. Easy right?” McCartney added.  

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