How CBA, Australia Post and Optus are wowing their customers

Chief marketing officers of three of Australia's leading brands share how they're working to personalise and make customer engagement more relevant
Australia POst's Greg Sutherland, CBA's Vittoria Shortt; Optus' Vicky Brady

Australia POst's Greg Sutherland, CBA's Vittoria Shortt; Optus' Vicky Brady

Marketers have historically put too much focus on acquisition and need to recognise existing customers are both a source of growth and influence through advocacy.

That was the view shared by a panel of CMOs from Commonwealth Bank, Optus and Australia Post, who were brought together to tackle the subject of ‘Meeting Consumer Expectations: Wowing the customer’ at a recent Trans-Tasman Business Circle event in Sydney.

“Historically we did put a focus on acquisition and it’s an easy trap to fall into,” Commonwealth Bank CMO, Vittoria Shortt, told attendees.

“Over the last 18 months, we’ve worked on what it means to be a good customer of CBA, what it looks like and understanding the profile of those people. So we are changing our messaging from actually helping customers to getting the most out of the products they currently hold. We have also put more emphasis going into rewarding customers that are very loyal.

“It’s a big shift in messaging – everything from support services, to making sure you know the features and ensuring you’re using them, right down to nitty gritty communications.”

Shortt pointed to the findings of a recent social media project, which sought to better understand CBA’s 1 million social platform followers and engaged users.

“It turned out they are our most loyal brand advocates and of higher value than the rest of the customer base,” she said. “That has helped changed the way we engage on social and what we message.”

Related: CBA CMO: Marketing's business contribution is increasingly valued

Optus managing director of customer, Vicki Brady, agreed the telco industry in particular had been obsessed with customer acquisition, having taken double-digit customer growth for granted through the rise of mobile connectivity.

“We became addicted to acquisition and customer growth but actually existing customers who are looked after and loyal are a source of not just ongoing growth but that advocacy and influence over future decision-making and purchases,” she said.

Optus has turned its customer team’s thinking about getting new customers for products and services on its head, Brady said, and is increasingly looking at new products and services in the context of benefits for existing customers.

“We go proactively to them first,” Brady said. “It’s been a real shift in dynamic across the business. Churn rates are below 16 per cent from 20 per cent and we have targets to go lower again. But it requires cultural shift.”

Pictured from left: Greg Sutherland, Vittoria Shortt, Vicky Brady

UP next: Aus Post, CBA and Optus share how they’re changing their teams and innovating to be more relevant to customers

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Ways to wow the customer

The three panellists were asked to outline how they’re measuring and improving their ability to meet modern customer expectations. Executive general manager, marketing and customer experience at Australia Post, Greg Sutherland, said he looks at this from a number of perspectives. One is how customers use and consume its products.

“Legacy companies like us have traditionally viewed products as separate to the channels and experience,” he said. “We’re on the journey of transforming that – experience is the how.”

The motivation and interest should also be clear to the customer, Sutherland said.

“We’ve always operated based on the concept of ‘do good so we can do well’, not the other way around,” he said. “We must deliver an experience that shows our intent – that we care, and it’s designed for customers, not for us.”

The third component is the shift from customer experience as being delivered through people, to delivering strong experiences by design, Sutherland said.

An example of a specific change at Australia Post has been making NPS (Net Promoter Scores) scores a tool accessible to all van drivers every day. These are in addition to service-level quality metrics and allow the external customer voice to shine through, Sutherland said.

“The powerful element wasn’t the score, but the verbatim comments our staff heard around the experience,” he said.

Another huge change has been bringing the IT and marketing functions together. Today, Australia Post’s CIO and CMO share an office, and staff involved in creating products and services and customer experiences along with technology are all in the same team.

“This stops us having that centre of excellence model, or silos of work. People are in the same team and we [CIO and CMO] are both sponsoring it,” Sutherland said. “We have a strong philosophy that marketing won’t be organised how it is in the future.

“It’s happening in many companies: Technology is a fundamental partner in getting to that human experience and understanding and putting it all together.”

Longer term, a bigger objective for Australia Post is personalisation. “It’s about being able to express stronger a design set where we know our individual customer,” Sutherland added.

At CBA, Shortt said her number one measurement of customer success is instant uptake.

“You can put things out there that sound fun and interesting but without mass utilisation, there isn’t that wow,” she claimed. “A lot of my focus is on looking at things that are going into defining solutions we deliver to solve problems, testing those with customers, then watching those go into adoption.”

A recent example is CBA’s emergency cash offering for customers that lose their banking card. “We had millions of dollars through that in the first few weeks so we knew that had wowed the customer,” Shortt said.

One of the ways the bank is achieving more customer-centric offerings is building a more comprehensive understanding of how Australians think about financials at a household level, rather than as an individual.

“CCD [customer centred design] is a wonderful way of getting richer insights, which we then partner with data, with traditional analysis and research,” Shortt said.

Being able to develop products more rapidly has also been an increasing focus for CBA.

“Everyone talks about the CIO/CMO, but for us it’s about bringing all of the disciplines together for the experience,” Shortt said.

“We have moved to agile development, which has transformed the way we think about going to market. We used to build the whole solution before put it out, now we’re working with minimum viable products – marketing, product, technology and the analytics team. That helps us mobilise things more quickly – building on a component of technology or a product, technology and coming together for value.”

In the telco space, getting the fundamentals right for the customer has been the focus in recent years, Brady said, especially in the face of rising expectations of connectivity and mobile delivery. She pointed out most telcos in Australia have historically had negative NPS.

“Three years ago, we made a call to get back to being the customer champion, which is where we started 20 years ago,” she said. “We decided our products needed to be simpler and take off things that were considered rip-offs for customers. An example is the data usage: It was $250 per GB for going over, so we made a call to reduce that to $10.”

Mobile network investment was another fundamental, as was unifying the overall customer experience across all touchpoints, Brady said.

“Then finally it was brand and culture, and rebuilding that belief inside Optus that we’re here to do what is right for the customer,” she said. “We gave more empowerment to the services and sales team.”

Optus is now moving its focus onto the need for services to be mobile-first and responsive, Brady said. An example has been servicing customers via social for the last six years. Since then, Optus has launched live Web chat on a PC, followed by mobile, and it’s experimenting with technologies to improve customer service further, Brady said.

“We used to think tech innovation [in customer service] had to be industrial strength and perfect, but we’re now doing more proof of concept, and it’s a more agile approach,” she said. “For example, we’re trying a new tech in customer care where it knows you are on a smartphone and prompts you if you’d rather speak to someone immediately via Web chat. So it connects voice to smartphone. We trialled this and it’s gone fantastically well, so we are now rolling that out.”

Making more relevant offers to customers was also a focus for all the brands on the panel. Brady said Optus is making enormous investments not just into technology, but also capabilities to get to a point where every interaction with a customer is tailored to their expectations and needs.

This is despite the fact that reaching that “elusive single view of the customer” is still a challenge, she said.

“It’s about how you get to a place where that ‘next best thing’ you should be taking to the customer about or resolving for them is something you know in advance,” she said.

“We are at the early stages of this, but at the point where when a customer logs into an online service, there are very specific personalised offers tailored to them. We’ll soon be rolling that out in our call centre so that when you call in, the people on the phones also have visibility of those data sources.”

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