How TAB's first chief customer officer is using brilliant CX basics to achieve growth

Company-wide digital metrics, a laser focus on solving customer pain points and new capabilites are just some of the changes brought about already by this CX chief

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It’s the brilliant basics TAB’s inaugural chief customer officer, Jenni Barnett, is counting on to deliver growth as she brings a unifying focus to CX across the wagering and media organisation.

Bartlett was appointed TAB’s first dedicated customer chief in May with a leadership remit across digital, data, product, revenue, brand, marketing, sponsorship and events. Her appointment came hot on the heels of the demerger of Tabcorp Holdings from the Keno and Lotteries businesses, with the latter now known as The Lottery Corporation. Tabcorp as an entity now focuses on wagering, media and gaming services via its brands, TAB, Sky Racing and Sky Sports Radio, and MAX.

“I talk about this role as having all my loves… It’s a great mix of all the kind of customer, digital and data functions we see so intertwined these days,” Barnett tells CMO. “It means we can look at things holistically.”  

Alongside Barnett, Tabcorp boasts of a new board and refreshed executive team. Barnetts describes a blend of category experience with digital and different backgrounds externally. “It’s a nice mix of wise heads with some different thinking. It feels like a new company in some ways,” she comments. “We can be single-minded post-demerger and get a lot more focused as a company.”

Having worked for a number of iconic, large Australian companies undergoing digital transformation, such as Telstra and Commonwealth Bank, Barnett is no stranger to the need to find clarity and said the first priority for Tabcorp’s team was cementing extreme focus as a company.

“I have experienced the power of getting an aligned vision, strategy, KPIs and lining up behind that at Telstra and CBA. It allows you to make choices around what business and customer problems you’re trying to solve,” she says.   

The CX playbook

As to the CX playbook, Barnett has developed four dimensions to her customer strategy. The first is creating brilliant customer experiences.  

“This means getting the digital journeys right and a strong focus on customer conversion, and getting sharp on how we optimise digital experiences, whether it’s Web or app,” she says.

The second pillar is brilliance in data and analytics. Barnett notes Tabcorp’s solid investment into a personalisation stack, largely based on Adobe technology and online optimisation, which gives the business the ability to accelerate personalised customer experiences no matter where they interact.

The third pillar is brilliant content. “For lots of brands at the moment, content is everything. The days of being really product-led just isn’t responded to anymore,” Barnett says. “It’s about how you use content to really engage customers. There is such a richness in content across sports and racing to engage customers.”

At a wider level, Barnett points to Tabcorp’s media business, which she sees as an under-tapped opportunity. “The value of the content the media business has and produces is significant,” she says.

“We have these amazing sports partnerships such as vision rights for the NBA; we also have partnerships with other codes in the US. So we have all this amazing content but haven’t found a way to leverage it and engage customers with that. We’re working with internal teams plus external partners to think about this differently, to create compelling content, and to position us and use this as a competitive advantage.”

Barnett is equally aware content strategy is the biggest skills gap in her organisation right now. “We will get to that brilliant content and when we do that, it’ll provide a North Star we can rally around. We’ll look at partnerships to how we unleash the Sky business more, then how we work out what the right format for which distribution point. It’s going to be a big piece of work for us over the next year.”

The fourth CX pillar is customer care and using artificial intelligence (AI) to predict problem gambling and intervening in real time with customers. “We have a bunch of tools we utilise now for this, but it’s a key focus for us as a company. We are expected to be a leader in this space,” Barnett says.

As these priorities have been formalised, Tabcorp has been witnessing the return of Australia’s market and retail-based gaming to pre-pandemic levels. As Barnett sums up the good, bad and ugly of the task ahead, she highlights the organisation’s strengths against foreign online-based players as an omnichannel footprint and Australian heritage.

“People are flocking back to gain social connection in the venues and we’re seeing a real resurgence there. Just last week, we had our biggest week in terms of our retail performance since Covid hit,” she comments. “Couple that with our new app, and we’ve brought the band back together in terms of the digital experience and the retail experience.

“A lot of people adopted digital because they were forced to with whatever brands they were engaging with during Covid. We learnt more about how to engage digitally as it’s all we had. That’s sticking. So as more customers are going back into venues, they’re also using digital and our app in-venue.”

Getting the mobile app right

It’s realisation of both the importance of ongoing digital capability and brilliant CX basics which led to a recent major update to TAB’s mobile app. The team has replaced the back end with Google open source development framework, Flutter, allowing teams to build code once then deploy across Web, app or retail. TAB will be the largest userbase of Flutter in Australia. The new platform increases TAB’s product development speed by 160 per cent and FastTrack approval processes from four weeks to 48 hours.

“I don’t think we have put out a major product release for 2-3 years. The platform is fundamental, as it’ll allow us to deploy value to customers every fortnight or week, if we needed to,” Barnett says.  

Bringing a CX lens to the process, the first step was recognising customer pain points. “Customers have been telling for us for ages our digital experience is pretty poor compared to our competitors. You can see that in some conversion data – someone might start a journey but not finish,” she says. “The starting point therefore was these customer pain points.

“Most of those were around the app being too slow. When you want to place a bet, you need to do it pretty quickly and it needs to process quickly. Placing a bet through the app is now 9 seconds faster, which really means something to people in the category.”

Other basics have been addressed too. For example, in some journeys, customers had to go through 10 clicks to get where they wanted to be. “By understanding customer patterns, we have cut out eight out of 10 steps in many journeys,” Barnett says. “It also means customers don’t have to switch between app screens.”

Venue Mode has also been upgraded so customers can access more offers while betting in TAB’s 4000 venues nationally, including branded promos and meal discounts. The new-look app also brings Sky Racing and Sports Vision closer to the race information.

“Again, it’s a good example of wanting to be seeing the vision and race vision on one screen; you don’t want to have to toggle off,” Barnett says.

Unlocking more homepage personalisation to surface relevant content is another win. “This is about using information we know about customers and surfacing that. If I never bet on spent, why are you showing me sports? If we know you’re interested in certain things, let’s personalise the homepage so it means you don’t have to go hunting for what you need,” Barnett says. “It’s basics on those elements which really matter.”  

All these things add up to creating quite a different experience. “Have we got more to do? Yes, this is just the start, and we have other products we need to put into market to get to parity,” Barnett says. She notes TAB is working on a social betting function and plans to launch Same Race Multi before Christmas.

The mobile app saw a 16 per cent increase in weekly active users in its first six weeks compared to the six weeks prior to launch.

“This is a brilliant first step and customers are really loving it. It’s a reminder it’s the basics that really matter for customers," Barnett says. "We’ll get to recommendation engines and smarter stuff using AI and machine learning. But at this point, it’s really saying let’s look at customer behaviour and focus on things that are relevant.”

From an acquisition perspective, Barnett then sees the job as modernising the brand to build preference and consideration. “TAB has a ‘Mum and Dad used to do that, why as a young person would I do that?’ feel to it. So we’re going to blow off the cardigan,” she says.

A piece of work reviewing brand strategy is now underway, and Barnett is pitching for a new creative agency incorporating both creative and CX. “Again, this is about recognising these are connected and we are an omnichannel business,” she adds.

Orienting to digital market share

To ensure the emphasis on CX improvement and digital transformation across the whole organisation, KPIs are oriented around the core metrics of customer experience and digital market share.

“We have done that so everyone in the company, no matter what area you’re in, is looking for this success,” she says. “What this will force us to do is look at the business and customer problems we’re trying to solve, and the customer pain points. Everything we do should ladder up to that.

“We know the drivers and track them – what people think about the app experience, advertising cut through, perceptions of offer, and so on. We’re also looking at call volumes and reasons as well to build an omnichannel understanding around why customers call. If we understand that, we fix the digital experience and customers don’t need to call, then we also save costs.

“We have a balanced scorecard so we have other metrics. But the fundamental thing is to rally around digital share and the customer problems we’re trying to solve or opportunities. It’s been critical to get traction early on for this work.”

Of course designing digital-first doesn’t mean digital only. “As good as your digital experience is, some customers are going to want to talk to you, or find part of the process difficult,” Barnett agrees.

“What do you do then: Surface the chat conversation, or have something like click to call in the app, so you can help them immediately and get faster resolution? To do this, you need to think digital-first but not digital only.

“This is why the data in our CRM and understanding the customer across those journeys and touchpoints is fundamental to success. Gone are the days when you could look at channels separately. Which is why bringing together data and customer experience across all channels.

“This is about connected CX. It’s real competitive advantage for TAB. And it’s absolutely a focus.”

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