In the last 2 years, Australian Red Cross has redefined itself by becoming a customer centric organisation. Katrina Harrison, their Head of Customer Experience, explains the journey the organisation has taken and how that has impacted its vision and aims for the future.
Main Picture: Katrina Harrison and her team.
Established in 1914, Australian Red Cross is one of the 191 Red Cross societies that operate globally. It delivers a diverse range of humanitarian programs, including international aid across Asia-Pacific, humanitarian law advocacy, migration support, emergency management, as well as community services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, youth, families, the elderly and people with disabilities.
Australian Red Cross competes with thousands of other charities in Australia for people’s time, energy and financial support. Though a long established, trusted and well-known charity, the organisation realised it was time to change, so it could stay relevant to the needs and experiences of its stakeholders and supporters.
Who is the customer?
Katrina was brought on board a year and a half ago to lead a team whose mission was to champion for the customer. The first challenge she had to overcome in her new role was to define the term ‘customer’. Harrison explains, “In the context of the not-for-profit sector, a customer can be a number of things. We typically refer to the individuals and communities we support with our programs as clients; but the term ‘customer’ extends to a range of other people who give to us financially or with their time, such as donors, partners, and volunteers. It also refers to those, in a traditional buyer sense, who purchase products from our retail outlets.”
“My role is to specifically look at people who give to Red Cross, either in time or money. We wanted to offer these people a far more rewarding and engaging experience to improve the level of support for the organisation, which could then be used to improve our work and achieve our humanitarian goals.”
Customer centricity doesn’t happen overnight
Katrina’s team are responsible for a range of projects and activities that include:
- Customer and market research / insights
- Customer segmentation and audience analysis
- Developing customer-led opportunities
- Managing frontline customer support and service
The most critical part of their role is to work with other teams across the organisation to design and deliver better programs for stakeholders. Their aim is to deliver a better-integrated experience across all channels and touchpoints. Harrison explains, “Changing the mindset and processes of an organisation as large and established as Red Cross doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a journey that takes time. CX job roles and concepts are still very new for this industry.
“For us it has involved a lot of education and experimentation, working on projects in a very practical way that encourages that ‘outside looking in’ perspective. It was also a lot about relationship building and trying to figure out how best to support the people within the organisation who have great legacy insight and understanding and expertise in how the not-for-profit sector works”.
Making a difference – One program at a time
Fundraising was identified as a critical area that offered significant opportunities for improvement. By increasing the level of engagement and satisfaction of supporters, Australian Red Cross aims to increase the level of financial support it receives for its work.
“One of the key projects our team have been involved in is for our major national fundraising Campaign, Red Cross Calling. It has a 70-year legacy as a door knocking appeal, and the team that manages it were tracking some significant challenges. Essentially, we had an ageing audience where we were promoting a value proposition that wasn’t resonating with younger collectors and fundraisers.”
“Secondly, we had low levels of satisfaction and engagement from collectors in the program. We felt that one of the main problems was that due to the campaign management and recruitment being outsourced, collectors were largely disconnected from the organisation and its values; we didn’t understand the collector’s experience.”
“After doing extensive research we identified quite a number of areas to rethink the collector’s experience as well as opportunities to engage a new audience. We brought the program in-house and redesigned the whole process from a customer (i.e. collector) led perspective. In parallel, we reached out and engaged 1,000 students from 500 schools to be involved with the campaign through a new fundraising-focused deprivation challenge, designed by and for students.”
“Though we didn’t quite reach the financial targets overall, there were certainly improvements over previous years: satisfaction and engagement scores with collectors improved dramatically; we engaged an entirely new audience through customer-centric design, and developed tailored customer journeys across the entire campaign lifecycle. We have set ourselves up for success as we scale back up in 2020.
“In parallel, we are incrementally feeding lessons learned from each project back into the broader fundraising and marketing space: we are seeing the positive impact of more segmented approaches to our campaigns, applying new approaches based on the voice of the customer into how we connect with and communicate to supporters. It’s rewarding to see the results: our most recent campaign exceeded its financial targets and generated really positive supporter feedback, in what would be considered to be a challenging environment for the industry generally.”
It’s an ongoing journey
In many ways, Australian Red Cross is on the first leg of an ongoing journey towards customer centricity. Each stage of this journey will present the organisation with new challenges and opportunities for improvement. Harrison comments, “Red Cross does so many different things across so many different locations, involving so many different teams. There is a lot of legacy in the way the work is done and bringing that shift to customer centric thinking can only happen gradually and in stages.”
“It’s important for my team to communicate and build strong relationship with every other team in the organisation. It’s about sharing and promoting the successes of each team and how they are contributing to overall goals and values of the organisation.”