Why culture is about customer experience

Brands are not looking for culture or collateral, they are looking for a seamlessly connected customer experience.

The creative industries need to move the debate from "culture vs collateral"  to "culture vs customer experience" to better meet the needs of marketers.

When Adam & Eve/DDB’s David Golding made his predictions for 2017 he cited the big adland divide as one of between "culture vs collateral". That the industry will split into two types of company, which will set out to create two very different things. The first will work to create culture through campaigns that generate fame, talk-ability and memetic power. The second will create collateral driven by data and the ongoing ability to precisely target and reach audiences in new ways.

Yet, while we agree there will be two types of agency, we have a slightly different view of how adland will look moving forwards. In 2017 the advertising industry is doing something very different to simply producing …collateral.

The world has indeed changed.

The brand is no longer just the four-minute film.

It’s not even an integrated campaign.

Or a programmatic and creatively templated media plan.

It’s the millions and millions of interactions that combine to create the customer experience. The conversations. The bills. The bookings. The letters. The uniform. The store. The counter. The going the extra yard. The… The …. The ….

As the founders of Naked once stated "everything communicates".

Ultimately, the brand is the customer experience.

In many organisations there is now a chief customer officer or chief brand officer who holds board level accountability for ensuring the ambition of brand is amplified by the meticulous attention to customer detail delivered by the business.

The chief creative officer isn’t looking for culture and collateral, she’s looking for a seamlessly connected customer experience – and often on a zero based budget.

OLIVER puts dedicated teams inside client organisations. These teams are closer to customer data, understand the business pressures and get the company culture; they can deliver faster and in a more transparent and effective way

So we’re seeing the rise of a new breed of marketer – the "evidence-based business marketer". They’re seeking to connect their customer intelligence and squeeze more value from it. They want to skill up their teams, so they’re less reliant on external agencies. They want to join up the front line and the back end. They want to have proof, not take a punt.

And yes, we do believe there is a new way of doing things in adland.

To deliver millions of real time, meaningful and fruitful interactions with customers you can’t do it from Charlotte Street. You need to be working inside the client organisation looking out. You need to develop new ways of working with clients with new business models. Delivering the work that the client and customer needs faster, practically and efficiently.

So how do these models and new ways of working actually work?

Well firstly, it’s not about behaving like an agency. Oliver puts dedicated teams inside client organisations. These teams are closer to customer data, understand the business pressures and get the company culture; they can deliver faster and in a more transparent and effective way.

What those teams do, and what capabilities they have is entirely determined by clients’ specific needs. That might be building and continually optimising a website, it might be helping a client implement a new marketing automation platform, it might even be producing a new TV ad. Oliver's on site teams become an extension of their clients’ marketing and digital teams, adapting and evolving as their needs change.

Of course, it’s no secret that clients are attracted to the efficiency of this way of working. Oliver's operating model unlocks "trapped" value for clients. This means that they can invest in taking their customer experience to the next level. For instance, for one of its automotive clients, Oliver has been able to build a business case for, and to build a specific mobile site that now accounts for more than 50% of sales leads. By putting a team on site for Vision Express, the Group can help them better connect up their digital and in store experience.

It’s often been noted that applying nudges and subtle changes can often lead to marginal gains. However some nudges seem to work in a transformational way similar to cultural memes, just like flicking a small switch on a national power grid. Often the nudges deliver exponential business returns compared to  the cost and often seemingly just too good to be true. Yet they are empirically evidenced and have a p-score.  

And we agree, all of this couldn’t be delivered without the brand having a cultural ambition.

But in our view, a cultural ambition adds up to just that, ambition, if you don’t have the empowered and engaged customer experience engine to deliver it.

We agree. There’s a role for boutique hedge fund shops in Charlotte Street and a role for pension fund immersive agencies and consultancies working inside organisations looking out.

There’s no divide in our view; instead brands need to be looking for multiplication.

Cultural x Customer Experience; is when you get it right.

Case studies: ideas in action

How working inside the AA’s marketing team unlocked incremental revenue

Oliver has been working with the AA for the last 2 years to help make its CRM and activation communications more efficient and effective. Because it has a team inside the AA, it’s uniquely placed to understand how to make things better from an operational point of view, as well as from a customer point of view. Its recent work on membership renewal is a good example.

The AA’s renewal programme is necessarily complex, given the diversity of its customer base. However, it was more cumbersome than it needed to be, as many hundreds of variants of letters and emails were being updated manually in Word.

Oliver helped the AA to streamline, template and automate the process, liberating 80% of the time previously required to run these campaigns. Oliver also overhauled the communications. It simplified long copy to focus on three key messages. It used nudge principles, such as attract and ease, to maximise response.

It rebranded the communications to create a consistent look and feel and tone of voice. Since launch, there’s been a significant uplift in response rates, which will equate to an annualised revenue increase for the AA well into seven figures, on top of the process efficiency gains.

Using behavioural economics to have better conversations with customers within Aegon Assist

Behavioural economics has many applications. In this instance, call centre agents were trained in the principles of behavioural economics and then 7 changes were made to the scripts they used in highly regulated and compliance checked calls. ‘Nudge’ principles such as chunking were used to transform long scripted conversations into dialogue around three key simple points.

The customer’s expectations of receiving funds were managed better as anchoring nudge principles shifted time horizons from up to 5-7 working days (which means 5 to most people) to up to 10 days. This way the funds were often received earlier than anticipated and customers no longer had the need to call to chase the agents and increasing the cost to serve.

We also used nudges around mental accounting and helped customers feel closer to their pensions by talking about ‘bringing your pots together’ rather than jargon filled terms and language such as pension consolidation and crystallisation.

Simply by changing the nature of conversations to include key phrases and reordering conversations based on psychological principles, the Net Promoter scores increased by +15 points, Quality Assurance rose by 14%, employee churn rate dropped by 75%, the assets on platform rose by 60% and the ROI vs Assets under Management was £37 : £1. The chance this being due to chance ( a p-score) was equivalent to 1 in 250,000.

Rachel Hatton is chief strategy officer of the Inside Ideas Group and Jez Groom is founder of behavioural economics consultancy, Cowry Consulting.

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