FirstGroup

How we have embedded digital customer engagement into business practices

We have been working with a major transport provider on an ambitious six-month programme to embed customer engagement into business practices at group and business unit level.

Between September 2011 and March 2012 we have:

  • Defined group standards and best practice
  • Developed an ambitious rolling programme to pilot 2-3 innovative engagement activities in each of the four business units
  • Provided embedded resource, training and support services
  • Defined and implemented critical success factors and a group-wide measurement framework
  • Defined a follow-on strategy to maintain the programme’s momentum and impact
In an operations-focused industry, it’s easy for companies to focus on logistics and for the operations side of the business to obscure service. To the customer the organisation can appear cold, opaque and overly complicated. And that disconnect can lead to a multitude of problems – especially when the service fails to live up to expectations.
For our client, this has resulted in lower than desired customer satisfaction scores and damage to the brand’s reputation. This compromises the company’s ability to compete for new business.

This programme has been about redesigning business practice around the customer, using digital tools and culture as the glue between operations, the people who deliver the service and customers.

We have done this through a twin-track approach – gaining insight through research and developing strategy on one track, whilst simultaneously testing that strategy through a set of on-the-ground pilots.

Underpinning the programme is the understanding that it’s easier for people to engage with a face, a voice – human to human. This breeds tolerance, understanding and the ability to build genuine customer engagement. From the inside out.

A likable company is more easy to trust. And that trust makes customers more forgiving (and less vocal) when things go wrong.

Creating a steering group to unite the team

The first step on this journey was to form a steering group to:

  • Identify best practices and share learning across the business
  • Collaborate to solve problems and build new ways of working
  • Maximise ROI by replicating activities

The steering group introduced people from group and the business units who had little or no experience of working together. A series of kick off meetings established relationships and helped the group understand common business goals, barriers and challenges. Pilot ideas were then reviewed in workshops. The steering group now meets monthly to share progress on the pilots and explore different aspects of engagement.

We introduced social collaboration tool Yammer to bridge the gap between physical meetings and provide a private, informal communication space to cement working relationships. This helps to maintain the momentum behind the initiatives and share learning across the business.

Competitor research

To help the client understand the benefits, challenges and opportunities for effective digital customer engagement, NixonMcInnes conducted a major audit of 18 benchmark organisations around the world.

After identifying a longlist of potential targets, we worked with the client to whittle it down to a shortlist of companies that best mapped to the programme audience and objectives. Each target was reviewed for relevant best practice to uncover learning and insight. We scored each company against the NixonMcInnes digital customer engagement model, examining their digital footprint across owned and earned media, their digital marketing proposition and mobile presence.

Through this we established quantitative and qualitative benchmarks, identified best practice and gained a thorough understanding of our client’s competitive landscape. This insight provided inspiration and a clear target for the digital customer engagement plans.

Digital footprint assessment

Having decided on the right path, the next stage was to analyse where the business units were in relation to the goal. After identifying available digital touchpoints (website, mobile, Facebook and Twitter), we scored each business unit against our digital customer engagement model. Together with qualitative feedback, this audit helped our client understand its place in the competitive landscape and the relative position of its four business units.

Internal auditing

For a business to truly embrace and benefit from digital customer engagement, the organisation itself must be prepared to change. To help the client better understand itself and the shifts that might be required we used the NixonMcInnes Social Business Model to score its culture, structure, tools, resources, innovation and more.

This involved interviewing stakeholders at different levels across multiple business units, including an outsourced contact centre partner.

The output was scored for each business unit allowing us to assess strengths and weaknesses, identify pockets of best practice and assess ‘readiness’. This was used to then recommend improvements in each area.

This work has provided insight and inspiration – setting out a vision for the ideal conditions to maximise business benefit from digital customer engagement. The report also recommended practical next steps for each business unit.

Design of future business units

As well as its four well-established business units, the client is in the process of creating a new one. The company needs to differentiate this new business unit and wanted advice as to how to design it around the needs of connected consumers rather than replicate the legacy cultures, structures and systems of existing units.

We worked with the client to identify the necessary purpose, culture, structure, roles, capacity, capability and tools to orientate the new business unit towards engagement with the customer.

During this process it was not only the business design report that proved valuable. The journey the client team went on in conceiving this approach represents new ways of thinking and working that can be propagated throughout the organisation and built into the narrative of the new business unit.

Social customer care consultancy

With customer service scores disappointingly low, the client recognised a need to provide a consistent and cost-effective level of service outside of business hours across a range of new channels. We worked with the client’s outsourcing partner centre to create a new service level agreement (SLA) covering quantitative and qualitative online customer service measures. We also trained contact centre staff and provided tools to help agents deliver against this new SLA.

Piloting new initiatives

We worked with the client to testbed and support innovative practices in existing business units and share learnings with the wider group.

Pilots include:

  • Creating a crowdsourcing platform to transparently collect customers’ suggestions for service improvements
  • Developing skills and people to deliver best-practice customer service through the social web
  • Taking digital customer service from PR to frontline employees – identifying the right people, creating a working practices framework (rostering, shifts, union agreements, tools and skills) and training in the tools and cultural norms of the social web
  • Embedding our consultants into business units to accelerate the shift

Summary

Our client has had a massive boost of practical, applied innovation in the programme’s six-month period.

The results are strategic and conceptual. But they are also practical as the pilots and many of the initiatives have taken shape in the context of everyday changes to how the business operates, at group and business unit level.

Get in touch

Find out more by speaking to Anna Carlson on 01273 764010 or email anna.carlson@nixonmcinnes.co.uk