Customer Engagement Summit Blog: Peter Evia-Rhodes

With the flagship Customer Engagement Summit just a few weeks away, we sat down with some of this year’s speakers to hear more about their industry and what you can expect from their case studies. Today, we took five with Peter Evia-Rhodes, Head of Engagement, Operation and Retention at News UK.

  1. Tell us more about the customer engagement approach The Times & The Sunday Times adopts?

We put the customer’s behaviour and preferences at the heart of everything we do at The Times & The Sunday Times. Within the subscription business we’re able to track our customers digital usage including the articles they read, frequency of their visits, comments they post, Times+ events they attend, and stories they share. These elements combined create a Customer Engagement Score and from this we can see a direct correlation with satisfaction and likelihood to remain a subscriber. Supported with verbatim from 10,000 customer contacts a week, we’re focusing on providing an easy to use service, which broadens our customer’s horizons and highly personalised.

  1. How do you maintain that culture throughout the whole organisation?

We’ve rallied the organisation behind a subscriber target to create a common goal. The Times is over 200 years old, so changing mind-sets have been challenging.  Focusing on a subscriber target has seen us working in collaboration with editorial to understand what content is effective at converting and retaining subscribers. This has helped guide what we produce and how it’s marketed. We’ve also worked with the technology teams to prioritise a roadmap improving the subscriber experience, reviewing each activity objectively against our common aim. All departments regularly visit the contact centre, and with customer feedback given the upmost focus there’s a culture and desire to continually evolve with the times.

  1. How do you measure your customer experiences?

We incorporate ‘voice of the customer’ surveys into key moments of their lifecycle to gauge experience across a range of factors. In addition, we track print subscriber voucher redemption rates alongside an online dwell time to calculate a Customer Engagement Score. This metric enables us to identify happy customers and take action on behavioural changes to sustain habit and value. Ultimately, the true view of a customer’s experience is seen in our retention rates, which we track at a granular level, and although this is a lag-indicator it correlates with voice of the customer and engagement data.

  1. Tell us more about your case study focus?

My case study is centred around our journey from being the first newspaper to charge for it’s online content, to one, which has over 500,000 subscribers, an award winning customer lifecycle, and growing in a declining industry. I will take you through our learning’s, and demonstrate the value we’ve realised from investing in data sciences within a programmatic ‘always-on’ customer lifecycle. I want to help those who are on a similar journey and quantifiably show the impact of our various changes over the last 4 years.

  1. How big of a role will technology play in the future of customer engagement?

Technology enhancements in recent years have already revolutionised engagement and will further enable us to reach a cost-effective micro-level personalisation. Affordable machine learning is providing us with unimaginable customer segmentation, and artificial intelligence will take the human out of the execution loop enabling timely, highly targeted communications. These developments are however dependent on investment in the capabilities, integration with existing stacks and governance. These all enable us to reach customers at a time and in a format, which is convenient. I also see behavioural psychology also playing a key role through the contact centre as brands distinguish themselves through premium, personal conversations to demonstrate differentiated value, which builds rapport and loyalty.

  1. What are you most looking forward to about this year’s Customer Engagement Summit?

I’m really looking forward to hearing about other people’s engagement journeys. Knowledge sharing across industries is hugely valuable and I’m particular excited to hear where teams have revolutionised their business performance. We face similar challenges and I’m a huge believer of fixing them together as we’re also customers ourselves. So if you see me, come say hi.