3 tips for being a successful customer centric organisation

29 06 2013

The three rules at the heart of customer centric growth for O2 in Slovakia, are equally relevant to developing high performing NGBs.

At this week’s Marketing Week Live, Jonathan Earle from Telefonica O2 shared three rules upon which O2 have built their success in Slovakia. These are:

1) Stand for something
2) Be consistent
3) Trust your people

Given they’ve taken nearly a quarter of the market share on a shoestring budget, and boast very high staff & customer engagement scores, its worth considering how their success could be applied to growing sports participation.

1) Stand for something – be distinctive
What this means: use market and consumer insight to define a clear and distinctive position within the market. Brands that target everybody end up being relevant to nobody, as one size rarely fits all. So instead focus on creating offers and experiences that are aligned to your brand and are relevant to your target market.

What O2 did: O2 choose to shake up the market by being the “fair operator”, and hence don’t make offers that their target customers would think are unfair. They don’t make anyone sign a contract, when they say unlimited there’s no “but…” in the small print, and if they create a more competitive offer for new customers they automatically extend it to existing customers (not when they ask for it, or threaten to leave, but automatically – otherwise its not fair!).

What NGBs could do: standing for something requires understanding the current market for delivering sport and also the wider needs and expectations of target customers. Understanding the customer’s decision making process when they choose sport, and then specific sports within that, is key to defining a position that will be more compelling than the alternatives (which are usually not sports-related). Of course being distinctive and standing for something takes courage. It means choosing not to stand for some other things, and hence not trying to be relevant to everybody. But that’s how growth and customer loyalty is created – by focusing on being the most relevant and compelling choice for your target market.

2) Be consistent – disciplined execution
What this means: Having chosen to stand for something distinctive, maintain this clear water through being very disciplined about communications and delivery. Consistent communications keep reinforcing the key message to stakeholders and customers. Consistent decisions and delivery reinforce the authenticity of the message through the experience of customers. It’s this consistency that creates brand advocates.

What O2 did: A ruthless focus on consistent messages, offers, and in-store experiences has made the brand experience authentic and compelling rather than just a strap line. This includes considering how staff need to be managed and rewarded so that they too feel that O2 is the “fair operator”. Interestingly, in this respect Earle sees their small budget as an advantage, as they can’t afford to be tactical or distracted by unplanned opportunities.

What NGBs could do: the mixed economy of delivery in most sports involves many organisations with different priorities. NGBs need to clearly communicate how their offers add value to their target customers. They also need to be very clear about what aspects of their products and communications are customisable to local needs and what aspects are non-negotiable.

3) Trust your people – give them room to breath

What this means: being customer focused requires agility and responsiveness to customers. This agility comes from empowering staff to take responsibility and make decisions when talking with customers. This agility can be achieved by shifting budget and/or decision-making responsibility locally, and combining it with a consistent approach to communications and measurement. The motto is clearly define expectations and boundaries, then get out of their way.

What O2 did: O2 believe that their people are the experts, and don’t want them bogged down by bureaucracy. So they “treat their people like adults”, giving them clear and consistent direction and then passing down the responsibility for achieving that.

What NGBs could do: many NGBs are good at empowering local staff to make decisions and even to manage budgets. However, in many cases this empowerment is not supported by clear communication of the chosen positioning and/or success measures aren’t consistent and aligned to the overall outcomes.

In summary, one size doesn’t fit all, and therefore every brand needs to stand for something that is relevant and compelling to its chosen target audience. To achieve scale organisations must then be very disciplined in how they execute across all of their touch points. This consistency of experience comes from treating staff the same way that customers are treated, which means they must be trusted to make the right decisions.





Two retail trends that sport can learn from

22 06 2013

Recent articles in FastCompany and AdAge have highlighted some interesting innovations and trends in the retail sector that could also impact sports delivery.

Starbucks has had a go at re imagining the rules for building coffee outlets. It’s designed its new concept store to be a work of art, and deliverable on a truck. The big idea is to find ways to build scale while still being locally relevant. This is the same challenge that the sports sector faces, to drive national scale while reflecting local needs. However I suspect the sports sector has yet to see this as a designer’s problem to solve like Starbucks do?!

Meanwhile some American retailers are working towards a concept of the “omni-channel“. This sounds impressive, but its really just looking at channel strategy from the customer’s perspective. Customers don’t categorise their relationship into bricks and mortar, franchise outlets, call centres and online. They just want to browse, buy and collect a brand’s products in whichever way is most convenient to them at that time. So the big idea with the “omni-channel is that the business re-engineers itself around delivering a consistent customer experience across all its channels. This breaks down silos internally and helps reinforce brand values externally.

Of course behind the scenes neither of these trends are easy to deliver on, in retail or in sport. Achieving scale while being locally relevant requires constantly searching for local needs that are common across the market. Local customisation can then be kept to a minimum and focused on areas of high impact to customers & partners. Likewise delivering a consistent and seamlessly connected customer experience across all touch points will require a whole new way of working and information sharing, both across the business and out through the network of partners.

So will the pain be worth it? Well organic growth comes from engaging more customers more often, and improving the customer experience is a critical part of achieving that. So whether its thorough visible delivery innovations or business model innovations the customer never sees, organisations will need to adopt these principles or risk losing out on the growth they will generate.





Business model reinvention – opportunities for the sports sector

17 02 2013

With the latest round of funding for NGBs now confirmed, many are taking the opportunity to review not just the offers they make to their target customers but also the underlying business model they use to deliver those offers. To support those conversations, and introduce some of the key ideas, I’ve summarised a few recent articles that have been part of those discussions. This is subject I’ll build upon over the next few weeks, as while only one of the articles is about the sports sector, all the lessons are relevant for NGBs and other sports organisations.

Core competencies – Nike CEO Mark Parker On His Company’s Digital Future
(Austin Carr, fast company)
Nike is undergoing a digital revolution writes Austin Carr. It started with the Nike+ partnership with apple that tracked and changed people’s running behaviour. More recently the Nike Fuelbands are using “visual feedback” to change people’s wider lifestyle into something more energetic. But the story is more than these data-based innovations, impressive though they are. It’s the fact that Nike’s core competences that once were limited to trainer design, now extend to digital software and behaviour change science – to help achieve the same strategic goal of selling more shoes.
Business model question for sports organisations – what are the core competencies/capabilities your organisation needs to deliver on your strategic objectives, and how will you go about filling any gaps?

Key activities – Invest to innovate: Coke’s 70/20/10 rule
(Josh Leibowitz, McKinsey)
McKinsey partner Josh Leibowitz puts forward the argument that companies need to innovate to grow and that innovation is an investment mindset not all companies have. Amazon for example are restless innovators, achieving year on year growth through constantly introducing, testing and adapting new capabilities. Similarly Coca-Cola have a clear mindset based on investing 70% of marketing into “now” programmes, 20% into “new” or emerging trends and 10% into “next” ideas. Then they follow a systematic process of “start small and scale fast”, because they know growth comes from the scale of execution not the quantity of ideas.
Business model question for sports organisations – what key processes does your organisation need to be very good at to deliver its value proposition to target customers?

Channel strategy – Apple CEO likens retail experience to Prozac
(Ingrid Lunden, TechCrunch)
Apple’s 400-ish stores serve over 10 million people a week, but Tim Cook isn’t even sure that ‘store’ is the right word anymore. “They’re so much more than that” he says, referring to the fact that their delivery channel continues to create a customer experience that its competitors find hard to match. In becoming the face of apple, the stores have gone from a sales hub to a gathering place for the local community (a strategy also used by Sir Richard Branson to launch Virgin Records many years ago). But despite this changing role, they’ve not lost sight of the sales objective – as they’re having to close stores so they can build bigger ones!
Business model question for sports organisations – what is the experience you want your target customers to get as part of your value proposition, and how consistently is it currently being delivered across all your delivery channels?

Core purpose – Kill Your Business Model Before It Kills You
(Ron Ashkenas, HBR blogs)
One from the archives (last October) to finish with, as this nicely summarises the point of the previous articles. Ron Ashkenas asks why leaders wait too long to modify or abandon their business model. Kodak is a good example, hanging on to a core belief that film was part of the photography future even as the market (they invented) went digital.
Business model question for sports organisations – what assumptions are currently held about the purpose of your organisation that no longer reflect the value proposition you are planing to deliver to your target customers?





The overwhelming fear of being wrong

4 07 2011

Seth Godin has made an interesting post about a consumers underlying fear of being wrong, and how they behave as a result of it. His final sentence, that this is “the lone barrier almost every product and service has to overcome in order to succeed” is particularly relevant for the sports industry.

From a sports participants perspective, the fear of being wrong could be the fear of having:
– the wrong level of skills (too rusty to try)
– the wrong level of fitness (waiting ‘another week’ until they’re a little fitter)
– the wrong friends (not in the clique)
– the wrong gear (looking like a newbie)
– the wrong attitude (not wanting to be serious / competitive)

In developing, packaging and promoting participation opportunities, sports need to be considering (which means they first need to be asking) how current and potential customers feel about their sport. And the good news is that some sports are already creating some good practice for addressing these fears. Back to Netball helps overcome the fear of no longer having the right skills, as participants can all be rusty together. Likewise the different group speeds available within RunEngland Networks and SkyRide Local’s help people get over the fear of not having the initial fitness to keep up.

But until sports fully understand how current and potential customers feel about their sport (and the same person may have different perceptions/experiences, and hence fears, about different sports), they won’t be able to talk to potential participants in a way that addresses these fears. And until then, they’ll never know what they were missing!





Forget satisfaction, what’s your net promoter score?

13 05 2011

What’s your team’s/club’s/sport’s Net Promoter Score? Or put another way, how many of your current customers would actively refer you to their friends?

While debate rages about how accurately this measure can predict revenue growth, most leading companies still pay more attention to this measure than they do to customer satisfaction scores. Why? Because we’ve all claimed to be satisfied when a waiter asks for our feedback on an ordinary meal. But rarely have we then recommended that restaurant to our friends.

Net Promoter Score was in the London news this week, in an article about Metro Bank. If you’ve not heard of them, they’ve just opened their sixth branch in London and are owned by Vernon Hill. According to the article, Metro Bank have a Net Promoter Score of 97% – that means 97% of their existing customers would recommend them to a friend.

Now they’re still very young, but that’s still a remarkable number. For context, the reported score for First Direct (who have a strong history of growth through word of mouth) was 57%, for RBS was 10% and for Barclays was -35%. In Barclays’ case, that means 35% of its clients would actively dissuade a friend from using it.

From a sports perspective, it’s easy to think that all our regular participants would recommend us to their friends. After all, they must love the club/sport if they keep doing it. But if that were the case, every team and leisure centre would be experiencing astronomic growth!

So what would you need to do, to have 97% of your current customers wanting to recommend your team or sport to a friend..?





The 3rd place…

3 04 2011

I was reading the Starbucks entry on wikinvest the other day. The bit that particularly interested me was the short entry on Starbucks 3rd place – a market positioning based on delivering a differentiated customer experience that became a catalyst for growth within the coffee shop market. growth.
The entry reads: Starbucks’ success is due in large part to the trendsetting triumph of its coffeehouses as an informal and convenient “third place” outside of home and work, ideal both for informal meetings and a quiet moment away from the hubbub of daily life. Wi-fi internet access in all stores also makes it a place where customers can work. Book and music events also take place at Starbucks, in accordance with the company’s goal of making each location a community center of sorts to garner the loyalty of local customers.

It made me wonder whether sport can build on it’s current position, for some customers at least, as being their 3rd place between work and home. What Starbucks did wasn’t new, coffee shops were already a 3rd place for some. But what Starbucks did was build it up into a relevant and compelling customer experience, and one they could use to grow their whole market (not just their share of the existing market).

Golf is a sport that often combines business with sport, and team sports like football create social and community bonds around playing. But how could a sport deliver a customer experience – consistently across all it’s touch points – that set a completely new standard? What would it take for a sport to no longer be seen by its participants as an either/or to working or spending time with the family? Could it be West Wing-style mass jogging networking events, using voice to text software on an iPhone? Or family canoeing days that start with brunch at a cafe, and end at a cinema?

The answer probably isn’t either of those suggestions. But it is out there…





What’s the $ impact of a poor customer experience?

20 08 2009

A new survey conducted by Greenfield Online, has investigated the economic impact of delivering poor customer experiences. The press release on Yahoo! Finance explains how they measured it, but some key take-aways are:

  • 72% of both New Zealand & Australian consumers said they had ended a relationship with a company due to poor customer service.
  • The Australian’s had ended 1.37 relationships each, at an average of AU$403 (US$338)
  • The Kiwis were a little lower, ending 1.17 relationships at an average of NZ$386 (US$257)
  • Indian consumers were the most sensistive to poor service, ending an average of 1.84 relationships each

While I’m always a little sceptical of the results of sponsored surveys (this was was sponsored by Genesis Communications Laboritories), the theme still raises a very interesting thought. It’s a commonly held belief that it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire a new one. However, to what extent are companies investing in evolving and innovating their customer experiences, to keep up with customer’s changing expectations?

Call centre’s have been around for a long time, and this research suggests that over half the consumers polled still prefer to use the phone, rather than newer channels such as email or web self-service. But recent call centre innovations seem to focus on developing cost-saving self-service, rather than improved customer experiences. And this survey suggests that it’s these same automated self-services, that feel the most challenging for these defecting customers.

Do you have an example of when a call centre either exceeded or failed to meet your expectations of service?








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