NEWS15 March 2016

The insight that can transform a business isn’t always where you think

News Retail Travel UK

UK – Three big companies that have overhauled their businesses say they have found the insight behind their turnaround in less-than-obvious places.

The turnaround session_crop

Great Western Railway, Pizza Hut and Shop Direct have all undergone recent transformation, and told the MRS annual conference, Impact 2016, how they turned insights into commercial change.

Great Western Railway wanted to improve the way it handled the inevitable service disruptions that so badly damage consumers’ view of the business. While many delays were beyond GWR’s control, it could improve the way it dealt with those delays. With customer satisfaction at just 39% – below other rail companies – in how GWR dealt with delays, there was little choice. The company understood very well consumers’ frustrations and complaints, so asked Northstar Research to look at disruption from the point of view of company staff.

“They understand the product and the customer experience inside out, making them a relatively low-cost research (source) to tap into. Employees have the power to generate instant business insight,” Northstar research manager Samantha Bond said. They found many frontline staff lacked the knowledge or equipment to be able to relieve passengers’ frustrations or even answer simple questions – to the point that they admitted hiding during tense times. They also lacked the authority to make decisions that would help individuals, such as getting them a cup of tea or paying for a taxi.

Simple changes implemented since the research, done in September 2015, such as equipping staff with smartphones, giving guidance on apps and starting to bring about cultural change that gives staff more power, have had a significant effect. GWR customer experience manager Janneke Dobben said the 39% satisfaction score had risen to 45% during times of disruption, and overall satisfaction was its highest ever, at 84%.

“Be bold and trust insight, even if it leads you somewhere you hadn’t expected to be,” Bond said, urging other businesses to tap into their employees’ view of the business. “You never know, they might just hold the key to business transformation.”

For Pizza Hut, it was taking senior staff – including the CEO – into restaurants to share meals with customers that helped take the business from 14 years of decline into market-beating growth.

They were briefed by the in-house research team and partner One MS Research and sent along to dine with a spectrum of consumers, from fans to brand rejecters. The four key findings – a poor brand image, unclear identity, poor food image and falling saliency – became a focus for the business as it overhauled its chain of restaurants in the UK, with clear buy-in from those at the top.

Nick Rabin, The Insight Man at Pizza Hut UK, said Pizza Hut’s recent growth was triple that of the rest of the market. The big lessons, he said, were to involve senior management in research so they felt they owned the resulting insights, and to “face the truth”, hearing from lapsed consumers and people who disliked the brand.

At Shop Direct, it was not crisis but confusion that brought about demand for change. Dan Rubel, group strategy and communications director, said there was confusion in the business about who their consumers were. In work done in partnership with Boxclever, Shop Direct identified not the average consumer but their best “bullseye” consumer, who the whole organisation should plan for. Miss Very, a caricature of that key shopper, was created and fleshed out with background and opinions, to help everyone across the business understand who they were aiming their services at.

As a result, the business was able to stop sending out catalogues, and reduced the number of consumer brands it had. “Oh, and we’re making loads more money now,” Rubel said.


1 Comment

8 years ago

I find Dan Rubel's quote “Oh, and we’re making loads more money now,” to be quite disingenuous. The reason Shop Direct is making 'loads more money' is because they outsourced their customer services to, first Serco, then Webhelp. This move instantly took thousands of members of staff off the SDG payroll. The 'service' provided by Webhelp is mediocre at best due to their insistence of closing down long-held call centres in the UK, making thousands of long tenured staff redundant, and operating only from Cardiff & South African locations where they can pay staff a bare minimum wage. This is resulting in numerous customer complaints & some amazingly poor customer experiences. If you would like to see what 'Miss Very' really thinks then visit the Facebook page & click on visitor posts.

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