How NRC put the relationship economy to work and let its customers take care of its profit nexxworks  - October 12, 2017

Customer Centricity Xavier Van Leeuwe

Xavier van Leeuwe, former Director of Marketing & Data at NRC Media and now Director Consumers at TMG (a sister company of NRC) is one of our most passionate Innovation Bootcamp speakers. On the occasion of his latest book “How To Succeed in the Relationship Economy”, we had a conversation with him about combining cold, hard data and a warm customer experience into a balanced whole. Because the relationship economy — and customer centricity — play a huge part in radically rethinking yourself and your business to thrive not just tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow.

Goodbye, old KPI

“When I worked at NRC, we faced the hard fact that circulation numbers of paper going out of the factory were no longer a driver, or an accurate indicator, of our financial health, Xavier explained. “We needed to find a new metric. So we waved goodbye to our one and only KPI, which had driven our company since 1828.”

“We used the hedgehog concept,” Xavier continued, referring to the influential book Good to Great by Jim Collins. “We sat in a room for hours, asking ourselves, what really drives the value of this company, if not circulation as defined by the audit bureau.” And, he added, “we couldn’t get away with just saying we need a healthy financial margin, mostly expressed in EBITDA. That makes perfect statistical sense, but you can’t tell a marketing department to go out and earn some EBITDA. What we needed was to identify the one thing that we are really good at, that drives the company and that everyone at NRC feels passionate about. And it needed to be something so clear and easy that not only the CEO would remember but also people in customer service.”

Going through this process, NRC realized that the real value in their company comes from the relationships they build with their readers. NRC learned that it was important to really listen to their customers. Just pushing a newspaper into the mailbox doesn’t count as a relationship. “Our customers were telling us that they wanted longer discounts and did not like being hit with big yearly bills,” said Xavier, “and we needed to take these customer preferences and figure out how to translate them into a fair and healthy profit for the company. So the number of relationships became the new KPI, be it digital or on paper.

Let Xavier van Leeuwe inspire you about becoming a customer-centric powerhouse at our next Innovation Bootcamp in Utrecht!

When data and feelings come together

Xavier told us that NRC uses a lot of data, but only a few kinds of data. “We only collect data that is relevant to our business because nowadays, it seems like collecting data has become a goal all on its own. And if you have too much data, you just drown.

“Of course, people have been researching the value profit chain for years. It’s about value creation first, and then value extraction. But many companies have been so busy with value extraction that they seem to forget who they are doing it for. “

Unfortunately, many organizations still believe that caring for employees and customers means extra costs. “Some even ask us, ‘How do you survive? How can you be truly customer centric and actually benefit from it?’ Xavier said. “People always talk about surviving, and they think of it like you’re hanging from the tower and somebody’s about to cut the cord. We’re super lean and mean!”

 As NRC’s experience has shown, it really is a no-brainer: running a healthy company is easier when you take care of your customers. Naturally, customer loyalty increases when you build up customer relations. And those customer relations are vital to your money machine - which increases your total customer value. It’s not that hard to understand, but complicated to implement.

No more hunting for profits

 “We came away from the whole process with a very valuable lesson: caring for employees and customers leads to better results than hunting for profits,” said Xavier. “The granularity of the data we get now allows us to zero in on exactly what our subscribers need and expect from us. It’s the tool that allows us work as efficiently and effectively as we do. 

“We apply a scientific research framework model: Efficiency (doing things right) plus Equity (doing the right thing for employees, customers, earth) equals Effectiveness: (doing the right things right).”

Booklet Svb

New mini-e-book by Steven Van Belleghem!

Download Steven’s mini-e-book ‘Customers The Day After Tomorrow’ which is a sneak preview synthesis of his eponymous new book. It tells the story about the future of customer relations in a world of artificial intelligence, automation and bots.