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Bob McNinch is an executive with a lot of data to decipher. But BT’s director of digital and data for the telecom giant’s multibillion-dollar business and public-sector division loves the challenge of his ever-evolving role and combining data from disparate sources to provide an unrivalled experience for the company’s customers.
McNinch has been with BT for almost four years. In that time, he has overseen significant change, ushering in new customer-facing software to replace legacy solutions and give business customers a single simple way to access their services. Equally involved with internal processes, McNinch has been working hard to build better customer information and allow his team to target people more effectively.
He spoke to CMO.com to discuss changing customer expectations and the progress he and his team have made to stay one step ahead of the game.
CMO.com: How much do you think the communications industry has changed in recent years?
McNinch: If you think about it, it was only a short number of years ago that everybody had to communicate through a desk phone attached to a phone line, but that sort of setup is almost unrecognisable for some Millennials. Nowadays, our customers expect to be able to communicate over whatever network provides the best service. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a traditional landline, broadband, or mobile. Wherever they are and whatever device they’re using, people want world-class communications. This has fundamentally changed the way that the industry has to design its solutions. That’s the exciting thing for BT because we’re uniquely placed–we’re able to combine traditional phone lines, broadband and mobile.
CMO.com: What do your B2B customers expect from a BT experience?
McNinch: Business customers’ expectations are set by their consumer experiences. There are three things that I am expected to deliver–my big three challenges, if you will. The first is simplicity, which all of our business customers expect. The second is to make the experience personal. If I’m a long and trusted customer of yours, I expect you to talk to me like you know me. The third one is what we call “brilliant,” and by that we mean ingenious. We have 1.2 million customers, and many of them have been with us for many, many years. If we’re going to have a simple, personal dialogue with [each] customer, we have to be really ingenious about the type of technology that we use to deliver a digital service.
CMO.com: What do you deliver in those customer interactions?
McNinch: When our customers interact with BT, they expect that they will be able to see the information that they want simply, and they want it to be personal to them, not generic. It should also be absolutely clear what their alternatives are, so they can either increase the value of what they get from us or easily manage what they already have from us. We think our customers should be able to change the pricing offers that they have with us and be in control when they want to be, but to also get support when they need it. That whole omnichannel solution is what my team designs.
CMO.com: What challenges do you encounter in your role?
McNinch: There are a number of challenges we’ve faced in delivering our customers’ expectations, and they tend to revolve around the sheer size of our organisation. There are so many platforms, technologies, data sources, networks, portals, and databases to corral into one cohesive organism. Customers don’t care about that, though; they care about their experience. When they come to BT, quite rightly, they want us to do the heavy lifting. What we have to do is aggregate all of those data sources and find a way of presenting it to customers through the medium and interface of their choice: mobile, desktop, or through an agent.
CMO.com: To what extent do you have to tailor the way you operate to different business customers?
McNinch: Our range of business customers is so vast that we often have to provide a very different type of service depending on who it is. A plumber, for example, who may simply want to do something with BT Communications, will need to have a much simpler view that enables him as a nontechnical person to manage his requirements easily.
Then we also have to understand the journey of someone who is managing 50 VPNs and 20 networks for a large organisation. The experience that those two business customers expect is completely different. The differences have to be optimised. It’s almost like the difference between a very large passenger plane as opposed to a single seater plane. You couldn’t put one experience in the other and swap them around. One of the planes is going to have a bad experience, and I don’t want to be on either of them to find out which it is.
CMO.com: How do you think you’re progressing on this journey to provide the optimum experience?
McNinch: I think we’ve made enormous progress over the last few years, but … we’re not done yet. We have such high expectations of where we want to go, and, of course, it’s a moving target. If I deliver on the experiences that customers expect today, they will likely have shifted by tomorrow. In a year’s time, for example, there are going to be so many changes that we just have to keep moving. That’s what I find so exciting about this job and the journey that we’re on.
Like most things, there’s no magic wand that suddenly changes things overnight; it really is a game of inches. We’re in the business of small wins. Each week, each month, we’re incrementing our Net Promoter Score (NPS), which we have been doing consistently over the last couple of years. Every time we make an improvement in the customer journey and the customer experience, we can see the reward of that, either in the number of tasks that a customer completes or the number of journeys that they’re completing in self-service, rather than calling our agents. We also look at the number of orders that they place themselves online and, most importantly, the NPS, which shows they’re returning to us across all our omnichannel touch points.
CMO.com: How do you measure success?
McNinch: Data is at the heart of digital, and this is particularly true for us. We live by a mantra in our office: You can only manage what you’re measuring. We have pulled our offline data into our analytics platform because, as a business owner and as a stakeholder, I don’t want to have to go to multiple different places to see the data on the touch points our customers have experienced. We’ve built some very elegant executive dashboards for the busy executives who just want to dip in and find information easily. We’ve taken that all the way down to a microscopic level, so that if journey managers want to see the touch points on their individual journeys, they can do so. Our aim is that they can generally do that in real time but if not, with a very small latency. Data is so critical to understanding your customer experience because everyone’s got an opinion. But with data, you can cut through that and actually look at the evidence.