How EE Makes the Most of Customer Insight by Creating a Joined Up Experience

Interview with Richard Tate, Head of Digital at telecoms company EE, on the ins and outs of customer insight, data & analytics and how it impacts upon CX.

Richard Tate, Head of Digital at EE, has worked in the world of data and analytics for longer than he can remember and he has never looked back. Starting life as journalist, he quickly wanted to understand more about what content people were consuming and before long he had a whole new career path.

He is an expert in getting actionable insights from data across web, mobile and apps, generating measurable improvements to performance, including eCommerce conversion and marketing ROI. Richard is also skilled in customer engagement and insight analysis, using path analysis, catchment data, footfall, session replay, surveys, feedback, research and testing, including multivariate and A/B/n.

Richard has worked across some big global brands including the BBC, Sky, Telefonica, Tesco and EE, creating, building and developing insight teams and helping put data and insight right at the heart of the business.

In this interview Richard discusses how telecoms company EE makes the most of customer insight by creating a joined up experience, the tools they use to ensure they gather data that is high quality, and the importance of enabling more people to access and understand the data to enable a self-service culture.

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First of all, what has been your journey into customer insight, data & analytics?

I actually started life as a journalist, working in local radio and then moving into online at the BBC and Sky. But it was my curiosity about understanding who was reading my content that got me into the world of analytics and insight.

Starting my analytics life in the world of mobile log files was fun and makes me grateful for how far we’ve come in making data more accessible.

What are your key responsibilities at EE?

At EE, where I’ve been for just over a year, I’m responsible for developing and communicating a deep understanding of who, what, when, where, how and, most importantly of all, understanding and explaining the why and the ‘so what’ across our digital estate.

What does the wider customer insight, data and analytics strategy at EE entail?

It’s about being joined up. Too often data sits in little pots with specialists mining them and coming up with insight. What we’re doing at EE is making sure we’re bringing together our data pots and talented people, and linking things up to drive a brilliant cross-channel customer experiences.

How do you believe this sets you apart from other organisations?

I’ve worked in a number of organisations and most of them were working to the same objectives: let’s join stuff together to drive a great experience and which helps the bottom line. In the 21st century I don’t think an organisation can afford not to.

Through split testing alone my team has driven several million pounds worth of commercial improvements across our website, whether through improved conversion or improvements in NPS.

One simple change that drove a big impact was the testing of social proof in some of our eCommerce journeys. Minor tweaks to language gave us big improvements in conversion, which just proves that sometimes a little tweak is all you need.

What is the process of gathering customer insight and data at EE?

For digital data across EE we use Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target and this drives much of the insight across the online channels. We spend time ensuring we’re gathering the right data and then making sure it’s high quality. And of course it’s important to be joined up too. As an organisation we’re constantly striving to put insight at the heart of everything we do.

How have the data and insight learnings impacted the wider business strategy?

With a packed split testing and targeting programme we’re constantly making both small and large changes to our online experience to drive performance against a range of KPIs, including customer satisfaction and conversion. We’re also driving a stronger self-serve culture to enable more people to access and understand data.

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to insight, data and analytics right now? And what steps are you taking to overcome these?

There are a couple of challenges. Firstly joining up data sounds easy but it never is. Sometimes systems just don’t talk nicely to one another and of course you need something to link together. It takes time, money and resource to start on that journey and I’m not sure it ever ends.

The second challenge is around data privacy and security. From a personalisation perspective I think it has to be subtle. There’s no doubt that when you ask a customer if they want their services to be more personal to them they generally say yes. But then they will say that they don’t like going to a website to browse a product and then everywhere else they go online they are followed by adverts about that product.

So it’s finding the right balance between providing great services to your customers but also not making it scary or invasive. And equally those customers have to trust that their information is safe with you.

And then, finally, the other challenge is around people. Analytics isn’t one of those career aspirations you have at school, so I’ve been a passionate supporter of EE’s apprenticeship scheme. And since I joined the company I’ve had an apprentice in my team learning all about the brilliant, fun and engaging stuff we do in the world of insight.

What tools or technology are you currently using to make the most of your customer’s data? And how have they benefitted your insight strategy?

We use Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target as our main digital tools. We also use Adobe Data Workbench for merging offline data with online data.

Using Adobe has allowed us to more quickly drive a self-serve culture in the business, which means we can deploy our analytics specialists on some of the more complex and challenging questions rather the churning out reports and working on the simpler queries.

The user-friendly interface for Target has also allowed us to enable more people who aren’t analysts to conduct simpler split tests, once again allowing our analysts to work on the more complex journeys.

Is there a technology you’re looking for to further optimise your insight strategy, but have yet to find?

Coming from a journalistic background I am always a little frustrated at the way in which we present back data and insight. I’m a storyteller, and I don’t enjoy telling that story through Excel and PowerPoint.

What I’m looking for is something that allows me and my team to present insight in a way that’s thoroughly engaging and yet lands a clear actionable message. Tools like Tableau and Prezi are a start, and with the right skills things like D3, but they are still not hitting the mark for me.

What has been your key learning throughout your career within customer insight that you can share with customer experience leaders that are nearer the start of this journey?

We all have to start somewhere, and if I have learnt one thing over the past 10 years or so it’s don’t try and do it all at once. Always take a test and learn approach. Do something, learn from it, tell the story of what you did and what happened and then move onward and upward.

It sounds like a cliché, but there’s no such thing as a failure – you will constantly learn and move on. The biggest piece of advice I could ever give is if you get knocked down get straight back up again!

This interview is an excerpt of The Big Book of Customer Insight, Data & Analytics. Click on the banner below to download your complimentary copy of the full report.

How EE Makes the Most of Customer Insight by Creating a Joined Up Experience