Interview with Tim Harris

 

Chief Commercial Officer at Chorus

"A digital strategy is a means to an end. But delivering an optimal customer experience is at the heart of what we are trying to do and where we can start to drive real success for the end customer and the industry."

PwC: Looking specifically at Digital IQ, on a scale of 0-10 where would you rate your score?

Tim: I would put us at a solid five. There's two dimensions to this; firstly it's about what we need to do internally to be able to operate and deliver what we need to. Secondly it's about what digitisation we need to encourage across the overall industry to deliver an optimal end-to-end customer experience that is as seamless and effective as possible.

It's also about ensuring information flows are as seamless as possible. This year we launched our B2B gateway for the rest of the industry. This allows our retail service provider (RSP) customers to make bookings through an online portal in real time. That's a great example of us using digitisation to improve the customer experience.

For us to get to an eight or a nine, we need to think heavily about our analytics strategy and ways to bring all that data together to enable us to make the most effective decisions – and we're still on that journey.

PwC: It sounds like customer centricity is very important for your broader digital efforts, what was the catalyst for that?

Tim: When we started to transition from copper to fibre we noticed that the journey was taking lots of manual effort, resulting in a pretty broken end-to-end process. Traditionally I think Chorus has been quite an inside-out company where we define great process and then try to fit the customer experience around the processes.

We decided to take a customer experience lens and understand where the friction points are, relating to what we do. When we took a step back we realised no one had really done that end-to-end mapping from a customer lens to the process. That went all the way from customer research about what they want, through to ordering and installation, and then use of the product.

One of the things that came out of that which I think we delivered was a broadband tracker. That was an API tool that allowed end users or people ordering fibre to see where their order was in the process, so when they were about to be delivered and then what was coming next.

PwC: So is it a customer experience strategy or is it a digital strategy?

Tim: Primarily it's a customer experience strategy. A digital strategy is a means to an end. But delivering an optimal customer experience is at the heart of what we are trying to do and where we can start to drive real success for the end customer and the industry.

Whatever we do from a digital perspective needs to follow our core strategy, and our key purpose is to bring New Zealand better broadband. When we looked at that fibre experience we offered, we were delivering a great product and when installed people really loved it, but the experience of ordering it still requires some work – and that's at the heart of what we're trying to achieve.

By thinking about the customer experience, you can sit down in an objective way and start to think about – here's the ideal journey that we all agree to and here's an alignment about what we each need to do to go and deliver that. And it's not a revolution – it's an evolution and we're still on that journey but I think we've made some great strides and as an industry we're starting to think about the customer experience and how we need to work together. So we're setting up that responsibility in the market and our position in a really constructive and productive way.

The example I saw when we were looking at alternatives to installing fibre was we took a step back and started to look at it through a customer lens. So we took out some of that heavy network engineering approach and tried to articulate for a customer what we are trying to do. That also means bringing a broader group of people on the journey with you, so they have buy-in for the end result.

PwC: So how does Chorus address innovation?

Tim: Innovation is a really loaded word, because when you ask 10 people what they mean by innovation you will get 10 different answers. I think innovation is bringing new ideas, to do new things or doing existing things better. The type of innovation we have started to really focus on is what I would call operational innovation. That means thinking about how we can work more efficiently by taking a different approach, a different business model or service standard to what we're currently doing.

At the same time we have a fairly strong roadmap of innovation and a portfolio at product level that we're continuing to deliver to the industry based on what we think, our dialogue with them and based on opportunities in the market.

“There's no doubt we're on a pretty long journey here and I don't think we're even at the half-way point. There's clearly more opportunities for us to deliver more through digital.”

A number of other companies have set out external venture arms. That's definitely an option but we feel that we've got our plate quite full at the moment in terms of delivering on the roadmap that we promised to the industry. But there is so much opportunity that Chorus is really well placed to be able to go and create new ideas and bring new solutions to the market.

Traditionally Chorus has been reactive in terms of delivering the innovation that's been required and articulated by the business and by our RSP customers. We wanted to take a stronger leadership role in this space because, given the position we're in, we think that we've got a real responsibility to drive solutions into the market.

If you look across the breadth of the industry, we've got one of the biggest roles. And in a fibre-based world, there's quite a distributed market share across up to 100 retail service providers. But really when you start to think about it, Chorus is at the centre of that. So we've got a size and scale advantage but also by default, we've got an industry leadership position.

"There's no doubt we're on a pretty long journey here and I don't think we're even at the half-way point. There's clearly more opportunities for us to deliver more through digital."

PwC: Do you have specific measures of success?

Tim: Working with our RSP customers, we now have a regular survey of customer satisfaction that we're focused on and that's a comprehensive activity we do on a monthly basis. We then write that up and report that to the board and back to the RSP customers as well. It's a really important tool, as previously we didn't have any feedback loops. The only feedback we had was from RSP customers telling us where the pain points were. But there wasn't a fact-based measure to say what's improving and what isn't working so well. You can sit down with customers and say here's what we've done, you should be able to see some impact and measures to see if we're making the impact we hoped too.

Also it's a really effective tool for us to think about prioritisation: where do we put scarce resources to have the most impact around customer experience?

PwC: So do you ever see a time when you will have a digital strategy? Or will you always have a customer experience focus?

Tim: So I think digital for us will always be a means to an end. You've got to think really carefully about outputs vs outcomes. I think digital has a really clear role and will be an important platform for what we want to achieve in the future. You've also got to think about what you want to achieve from digital – digital transformation for its own sake just leaves wheels spinning without creating any change in the business.

There's no doubt we're on a pretty long journey here and I don't think we're even at the half-way point. There's clearly more opportunities for us to deliver more through digital. That means going back to that foundational thinking about what we want to achieve and then building that digital infrastructure on the top of it.

 

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