Mark Billingham, The Very Group

Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham

Group Customer Experience Director & COO

The Very Group

United Kingdom

When Mark was recruited as Group CX Director by Very Group he was given three objectives - create industry-leading customer outcomes, improve brand and customer perception, and make the Group a truly customer-centric organisation.

With over 80% of the company's business coming from returning customers, Mark has implemented a huge number of tools and processes to improve customer experiences and fostered a customer-first culture. 

Having formalised his CX strategy last year, with sign off from the board, the shareholders and the wider executive team, the strategy was subsequently shared throughout the organisation, and progress reports are now regularly communicated via a company-wide weekly digital blog and vlog, to keep employees informed. 

And staff are fully invested in the organisation's CX programme thanks to a series of initiatives. Early on, Mark designed and led a company-wide leadership programme in tandem with the talent development team, involving 15 hours of customer immersion for every colleague of the Very Group; basic CX training; inspiring presentations from customer-focused experts such as Sir John Timpson; and the opportunity for each colleague to join cross-functional groups alongside the senior management team and directors to tackle key customer issues such as broken processes, customer comms and online journeys.

Furthermore, CX is now embedded as a core part of every individual's bonus, with every individual encouraged through the organisation's performance management system to capture how they have improved CX.

Other initiatives have included the launch of a customer lab, which uses both customers and frontline agents to design new processes and continuous improvements, and a customer closeness centre, where agents are empowered to listen to customers and then work with the business to fix problems. All of these have simultaneously encouraged employee involvement in the CX programme while driving customer experience improvements. 

Two other key advances overseen by Mark that have further improved CX are the launch of the chatbot and speech and text analytics tools, analysing interactions for failure or poor feedback, that are then fed to the organisation's agile team in regular sprints to continually improve experiences, helping the business to identify where problems exist and what can be done to solve them. 

And the results speak for themselves, with a rapid improvement in NPS that has seen the company shoot into the Nunwood Top 100 as the fastest improving company in its sector. And with its first contact resolution improving by over 30% in the last three years (10% alone in the last year), it is saving its customers over 3 million repeat contacts each year, with overall customer contacts dropping from 20 million a year in 2017 to under 7 million in 2019/20. 

This improvement hasn't gone unnoticed by the industry, and the Very Group scooped four awards at the recent European Call Centre Awards, as well as winning awards elsewhere for its automation programme, chatbot and complaints centre in Glasgow. 

I have been part of a leadership team over the past three years which has moved a catalogue business to a modern online retailer and FS business at the forefront of new technology but with a clear focus on creating great customer experiences, including getting the whole business focused on customer first.

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