Inside Spark’s customer-centric core

Fair to say, Spark is more than a telco. In recent years, it’s transitioned into the music space, sports, and business support. This evolution has been accompanied by a digital transformation and at the Adobe Symposium, Erin McKenzie sat down with data powered customer engagement lead Lena Jenkins to talk about Spark’s tech and people-focused core.

What’s been the biggest change you have seen in your career? 

I think one of the biggest things I am seeing recently is data becoming more and more important in how businesses operate and how they deliver customer experiences.

Even a few years ago when I was trying to get business cases signed off to improve our digital analytics and sort out our data so to speak, it was hard. People weren’t as interested whereas now it’s actually almost become quite fashionable for everyone to care a lot about data.

It’s a very different environment. 

Many organisations are collecting data and a challenge lies harnessing it and turning it into something useful. Has Spark been on that journey? 

Absolutely. We have loads of data, obviously being a telco, but one of the problems is: how do you stitch it all together? Because you have one customer who might go on your website, use your smartphone app, call the call centre, go into a store, or click on some advertising online. 

Because all those platforms have grown separately they weren’t all sharing data with each other, so how do we know that is that one customer doing all those things?

Then we have to look at: how do we deliver a consistent experience across all those different touch points? That’s definitely a big challenge for us to work through. 

Alongside the journey of customer experience, I understand Spark has also moved into an “agile model”. What’s driven the need to change its internal structure? 

The move to agile was around changing our mindset internally to be even more customer focused to deliver things to customers faster and also to increase employee satisfaction. 

In the old world where there were lots of silos, you could spend a lot of time banging your head against a wall because you’d hit a silo that didn’t share the same drivers or KPIs as what you were trying to achieve. That could be really frustrating. 

Now we have people organised in end-to-end squads and tribes where they have all the people they need within their squad to achieve the outcome. It makes it easier to achieve those outcomes faster and deliver better results for customers. 

It’s also given us a model to become even more customer-centric as we have a couple of squads with a customer inside helping them to co-design customer experience.

What have been the challenges or learnings along the way? 

The technology is the easy part, the hardest part and most important point is the people and the organisational changes. So unless you have the right people doing the right things and being able to achieve those right things, you can buy the best tech in the world and you won’t achieve the outcomes.

In terms of the agile transformation that we are undergoing, it’s not like everyone switches day one – there is going to be a few months of bedding in. I think the biggest change there, is the mindset shift for both for our senior leaders and our people. All of a sudden you can now make the decisions. 

You no longer present a decision to a senior leader to say ‘here’s all the options, what do you think?’. You do it yourself. 

What does the future look like? 

It will keep changing. I’ve seen a stat that in New Zealand 40 percent of businesses don’t think they need to change and that’s dangerous.

With an increasingly global economy, our competitors aren’t just other companies in New Zealand, we are also competing with global giants so you have to continually change and disrupt yourself or you will be disrupted. 

Looking around the Adobe Symposium and everything that’s going on, what do you see as a key thing people should take away? 

It’s not about the tech. Tech is an enabler and it’s very important but you need to build a vision around the experience you want to deliver for your customer, and then work out what your people need to do in order to deliver those as well as the tech do you need to enable that. 

The customer experience comes first. 

This story was originally published in the 2018 Marketing issue of NZ Marketing. To subscribe, click here.

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