A year ago, customer experience at Australia’s biggest publisher was in its “embryonic phase” according to Kristin Haynes, Customer Experience Manager at News Corp.
“When I started at News in April last year, greenfields was the word that sprung to mind,” said Haynes when speaking at the 2016 Customer 360 Symposium. “Customer experience isn’t something that they had invested in to date.”
During the past 12 months, Haynes and News Corp have embarked upon a customer experience journey which Haynes said has been “an interesting one” she hopes will set the company up for success in the next 12 months.
“This is actually my first time working customer experience where I’m sitting within marketing. Traditionally I’ve always sat within strategy or operations,” she said.
Sitting within the marketing team, Haynes is looking at bridging the gap in the way News Corp’s customers connect with the organisation. Having worked in customer experience for companies including Vodafone, Telstra, and Suncorp, her biggest challenge is bringing together the various arms of the News Corp business from editorial to corporate, marketing and sales.
Customer experience in times of organisational disruption
It would have to be one of the most interesting times in publishing history to join News Corp as mastheads across the world are shrinking with newspapers scrambling to find ways to shift a disrupted business model. The impact of this on customer experience and vice versa cannot be underestimated.
“We’re in a really interesting space at the moment,” said Haynes. “Consumption preferences are changing. The days of everyone sitting down every morning with their cup of coffee trolling their way through The Telegraph, that’s not happening anymore and we know that. We know that Monday to Friday our customers are choosing to consume The Australian on their tablet or mobile.
“We also know customers are reacting to some of the changes we’re putting in place. I’m talking paywalls. This is a new dynamic for us as a business. We’re operating in a space where for the most part, content is free. We’re asking people to pay for that content. It’s a challenging space that we’re in.”
The customer experience in the midst of all this is crucial and Haynes has approached the job with a multipronged strategy. For starters, she has separated customer experience improvement initiatives from the NPS action plan even though, traditionally, this is something that would be bundled together.
“Customer experience improvement initiatives are the ultimate low hanging fruit. They are process or system improvements which are just so obvious to all of us and there was a little bit of that at News,” said Haynes. One example of this low hanging fruit and one of the first initiatives Haynes set to tackling is the suspension of newspaper delivery services. For many years at News, suspending newspaper delivery required a five-day lead time. “This was a legacy issue,” said Haynes. With a change to systems and procedures under her watch, the lead time has reduced to three days with the goal of achieving a 24-hour turnaround.
While the benefits of this initiative are obvious, Haynes says work like this is not a part of her NPS action plan. “The reason I call that an improvement initiative, it’s not going to have a massive impact on NPS because the NPS around suspensions is actually quite positive,” said Haynes. “The kind of stuff I have sitting in my NPS action plan is the stuff that is driving serious traction within News.”
Driving serious CX traction
What is a part of the News NPS action plan is the customer room, a major meeting room at News Corp’s Sydney headquarters that works to connect the various departments of the organisation with the customer.
“It’s a real epicenter within News,” said Haynes. “I have injected the customer into this room. My objective for this room is that it is immersive, informative, and evolving.”
The room is decorated with customer silhouettes, verbatim comments generated through email surveys, a screen with a live social media feed as well as customer data feeds from the company’s contact centre. There is an overview of customer segments based on the quarter of a million digital subscribers as well as a display of current acquisition, retention and reward campaigns.
“It’s really important that we remember what customers are seeing here and now,” said Haynes. “I’ve framed the month in terms of the customer journey. I’ve worked with journey maps for a number of years but I’ve never journey mapped from a marketing campaign perspective.”
The setup of the room changes as the campaigns running do. Presently, one of the silhouettes is turning into NRL player Anthony Minichiello.
“The idea is that when people walk into this room, it disrupts them,” said Haynes. “Otherwise, you run the risk that it all becomes like wallpaper and you have wasted your time. It’s been received very well within the business.”
The value of listening
Another program Haynes is working on is monthly call listening. While not a groundbreaking move for customer experience professionals, Haynes said the involvement of people from across the business puts a fresh spin on it
“The real opportunity has been bringing our editorial and journalism teams into the room and having them hear first hand how an article has been received in the market,” said Haynes.
Call listening is allowing people within the organisation disconnected from the customer to hear first hand how their work and the ways it is being delivered affect them. Haynes called on two examples, the backlash News faced last year after publishing an article about soccer hooligans and the paywalls being introduced by the publisher.
“It was really important for the editorial team to hear first hand what customers were saying and to see what was coming through on social,” said Haynes. “If you consider from a journalism perspective, your role is content and producing quality content that informs, engages, and inspires. Our journalists tick those boxes. In terms of understanding how a particular article has landed, how customers are reacting to a paywall, this is reasonably new. The call listening sessions are going a long way to bridge that gap.”
Building customer advocacy from the inside out
When Haynes isn’t busy fighting for the voice of the customer to be heard, she is working on the internal culture of the organisation.
In an attempt to understand the level of connection with News Corp staff and customers, Haynes promoted staff engagement surveys. “I felt like there was a real opportunity to up the ante and ensure that we had a more regular pulse check going on with our people to understand how they were feeling within News, their likelihood to recommend News as a place to work,” she said.
From these engagement surveys, Haynes says real insights came to light with 48% of staff saying they didn’t get enough quality information. “That was a real show stopper,” said Haynes.
Based on this finding, an entire action plan was established around communication including monthly huddles with the executive team and town hall style meetings.
“It’s all about the people,” said Haynes echoing a sentiment from several presentations at the Symposium.
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Mark Abay - Content Director, Ashton Media
Mark is Content Director at Ashton Media. It's his job to create interesting and engaging conference programs that stretch the thinking of our attendees. Mark works closely with our industry advisors to ensure the conference content is aligned with the needs and interests of our audiences.