CIO head-to-head: Collaborating with business to be more externally customer-centric

CIO head-to-head: Collaborating with business to be more externally customer-centric

Technology leaders discuss putting customers first

We ask three technology leaders how they’re ensuring their teams are working more collaboratively with line-of-business to meet customer expectations.

Q: How are you changing your operational and leadership approach to be more externally customer-centric?

Janet Sutherland, CIO, Wotif Group

The IT team at the Wotif Group has a strong customer focus, which is particularly apparent when we collaborate with our business stakeholders to provide quality services for the thousands of travellers who use our sites to book accommodation, flights and holiday or theatre packages.

We research and learn from customer behaviour in order to continuously develop our sites, and working with other teams and departments is essential to refresh our view of customers and their booking habits. Our role is to be responsive to these insights and feedback and to work jointly with team mates in our marketing and user experience teams. We also bring creative ideas to life on our sites by working very closely with our customer advocate, the executive general manager for user experience.

About 12 months ago, we transitioned the IT department to a new structure in order to align our approaches and priorities with the group’s renewed strategic direction, and to help mature our Agile and Lean methodologies. One of the first changes we made was to foster collaboration across all departments and eliminate silos. We helped to generate clearer and more attainable career and growth opportunities with a strong focus on collaborative leadership, maximising the opportunity for all team members to be involved in the decision-making process.

To really add value as a department, cross-team interaction with an increased focus on our customers was critical to success. To achieve this, an executive strategy committee now meets quarterly, and key business leaders agree on priorities. We also have a monthly executive steering group to discuss customer-facing priorities and ensure our focus is aligned.

We do a lot of A/B site testing to get a better feel for what the customer wants, and we work jointly with other departments to effectively recognise customer insights and respond to feedback we receive.

The Wotif Group IT team is focused on developing front-end initiatives, which means we have evolved our technology to better serve desktop and mobile customers. We have adopted automation and continuous delivery to ensure we’re faster to market when responding to customer feedback, and our user experience and IT teams often co-locate to maximise delivery.

Nagib Kassis, head of IT and business alignment, information and technology, Allianz Australia Insurance

Allianz Australia has been focused on customer centricity for many years now and this is built into the DNA and culture of the organisation. IT treats its internal stakeholders as customers and the relationship between IT and the business is one of collaboration, value add and advice.

I head up the business alignment team, which was established to ensure we were effectively exploiting technology to the advantage of the business and of course, our customers. Placing the customer at the core of our strategy has ensured all the supporting layers within the organisation are focused on the key objective – servicing the customer.

It is imperative that, while we focus on improving the experience for the customer, we do not neglect process and technology improvements for our employees. Improving the applications and technology our staff use on a day-to-day basis not only increases their satisfaction, but in turn has a positive impact on customer satisfaction.

The simpler an organisation makes it for customers to use its services, the more successful it will be. Take, for example, our motor insurance. We have not only provided a mobile capability but have also removed the need to answer vehicle-related questions by performing an external lookup of customer registration details. Simplicity is key, enabled by availability of data and allowing customers to engage with us how, when and through whichever medium is convenient for them.

IT’s approach needs to move from ‘just’ supporting and enabling business change, to driving business change. This can only be achieved through the right leadership and ensuring IT agility is equally matched with business agility.

David Hackshall, CIO, Wesfarmers Insurance

One of the things you have to do first is build a culture of customer centricity within the organisation and in the IT function. The first layer of that is your internal customer. By extension, the next layer is your external customer.

That plays to our business, because IT here is predominantly empowering our brokering and underwriting community, or our claims officers, to perform their jobs. The way we measure success and customer satisfaction with the lines of business and external-facing teams is to use the same measures our frontline teams use to gauge customer satisfaction.

Our key metric is Net Advocacy Score (NAS). A third party monitors feedback and surveys and calculates a NAS score on a weekly basis. One is external customer scoring, and one is an internal score from business stakeholders. Since December, IT has used exactly the same system and process to measure end-state customer satisfaction as frontline teams, by assessing the two scores.

For every job and project the IT function undertakes, we generate a NAS score. We then link people’s performance to these in IT. As an organisation and team, you have to create a culture of customer centricity, and NAS is one tool I use to do that. If we can instil a culture of high customer service, then we are as a functional unit and by inference, doing the right thing by our customers, be they internal or external.

This wasn’t done here before and had to be packaged nicely, introduced softly and the benefits demonstrated to the IT function. But\ we’re here to help the business get to ‘yes’. The advantage to having this system is that we are able to evaluate the external customer’s view of the organisation. Defining what success is and measuring that has also made internal conversations a lot easier.

There are a couple of other initiatives we have undertaken. One is the concept I call ‘back to black’, which is putting IT staff at the coalface of the business for at least a week at a time. It’s critical the IT function has the right level of understanding and empathy for the end customer and the challenges they are coming to our business to solve. As CIO, I also recently shadowed one of our brokers for a week, understanding what they do on a daily basis and how they interact with clients.

We also offer IT staff customer service training, and we have created an account management structure so we have an account manager for brokering and for valuers, for example. Their role is to make sure all the business needs are being met. These guys are business analysts with a flare for communications.

Ultimately it’s about creating a culture of customer service. If we can do that in the IT function, that inherently links us to the customer of this business.

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Tags customer centricitybusiness collaboration

More about AgileAllianz Australia InsuranceNASQWesfarmers Insurance

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