When you’re looking to transform your business to meet the demands of the digital world, you have to remember that “what got us here won’t get us there.”
That phrase perfectly framed the views of Nina Jones, Microsoft’s director of customer and partner experience, and Geoff Seeley, vice-president of global customer marketing at the world’s leading learning business Pearson, speaking at the Adobe Customer Experience Forum in London (Adobe is CMO.com’s parent company).
Jones believes that although businesses “have been talking about getting the right resource to the right person at the right time” for over a decade now, they need to embrace even greater change if they are to deliver world-class customer experiences.
Four Pillars For Microsoft
She outlined four pillars that she believes are key to driving customer-centricity within an organisation, with customer engagement being the foundation. Microsoft is using customer data alongside advanced predictive analytics to deliver personalisation at scale. However, she believes that it’s “not just about responding to how our customers want to be engaged, but also delivering the occasional surprise.”
For the transformation to succeed, she also believes businesses need to empower their employees with tools that can fuel collaboration and productivity, “whilst mitigating against the risks that come with providing freedom and space for employees to deliver great experiences.”
She maintained that Microsoft was also working hard to optimise its operations by using customer insights to reshape and continuously improve the experience on a real-time basis, which was allowing it to anticipate and solve customer issues before they became a problem.
The final pillar in Microsoft’s strategy has been the transformation of both its products and services to meet customer needs and expectations. Jones, who spent 10 years working with automotive brands such as Porsche and Jaguar Land Rover, highlighted Tesla as a shinning example of totally rethinking the product. “(Tesla) don’t make cars, they make high-performance computers that happen to have a wheel at each corner, with a big battery that keeps that high-performance computer going, which is transformational,” she said.
She finished with a list of five things that customers want that has become a mantra for delivering great customer experiences at Microsoft: transparency, reliability, relevance, simplicity, and, above all, being special.
Pearson’s Legacy Issues
Like leaders of many legacy businesses, Pearson’s Geoff Seeley faced a number of challenges when he joined the organisation in 2015. Not only was the business “ripe for disruption,” but he was also faced with some more down-to-earth dilemmas, such as working out what to do with over 25,000 web- and microsites that the business had spawned (in a company that only employed 35,000 staff globally), and an ecommerce process that required 17 clicks and visits to two different sites to buy a textbook.
However, Seeley believes that “the structural changes are often the easy part.” He said “the biggest challenge was around the culture within the business and getting the behaviours changed” if Pearson was to transform itself into a software business rather than an academic book publisher.
He outlined the four steps that had made up their transformation journey, starting with getting buy-in from the board. Seeley saw his role as “shining a light on problems inherent within the organisation, and then identifying the opportunities we would miss out on if we didn’t undertake that transformation.” This required developing a clear vision of what the business needed to look like and how it should operate, and then grounding that in tangible business value that would ensure the support of the company’s C-suite and the CEO.
The next step in the journey was to recruit the right talent and increase the in-house team from an initial three members to over 200 people, who now own the digital presence of Pearson and the experiences it creates for customers and learners. Seeley also had to establish a new set of cultural principles and behaviours that “showed people what great looks like and gave them the tools to deliver.”
The third step was to reduce the online estate by 50%, which involved retiring redundant domains, sites, stores, and technology platforms. This made it possible to replatform content from multiple sites to localised instances of Pearson.com, as well as to enhance both functionality and user experience. The last piece of the puzzle was to bring the new organisation together, develop new values and culture, communicate new processes, and enhance and establish employees’ capabilities.
At the same time Seeley knew he had to get results fast, to prove to the board and the business that the company was firmly on the path to transformation.
Have A Vision
Seeley concluded with some pearls of wisdom from his own experiences at transforming Pearson over the last two years: “Have a vision and sell it hard, but be ready to justify all your decisions based on business value, and ensure that you take people with you. Surround yourself with good people and trust them, and make sure that any existing egos and fiefdoms are left at the door. Make the whole process manageable by ‘chunking’ the journey into bite-sized pieces, and, finally, show results fast. It might be hard, but it will ensure you stay the course!”