Can is Managing Director at Accenture, based in London. He is also one of the judges at the European Call Centre and Customer Service Awards. During his 15 years in management consulting he came across many industries and companies. Personally, I have never worked with Can, but I met him back in the UK via some friends. For sure, I can say he is very smart and has some very good sense of humour. Originally from the Western part of Switzerland, Can also has some Turkish roots.
Can, you are a member of the UK leadership team at Accenture. What does this mean? Are you a designated role model or a mentor to others?
We have maintained a spirit of partnership whereby all the Managing Directors (or what used to be Partners) own the firm and collectively look after its people, despite becoming a public company about 10 years ago. The MDs are responsible for running the company. Some MDs have more specific internal responsibilities to develop our people while others are more clients focussed. All MDs provide formal career mentoring and have usually a number of counselees (on average a ratio of 1 to 10). This formal model is complemented with more informal mentorship as well.
You are leading internal communities at Accenture? What type of communities are they?
Accenture is a service company where through our people, we provide solutions to our clients’ issues. In this context our people may have internal alignments based on their area of speciality (e.g. risk management, organisation design, marketing) and/or client alignment (i.e. the company they advise through a project). In both cases, these people represent communities of people doing something in common (i.e. specialising in a specific industry or functional area or working at the same client). In order to support the development of our people and ensure a sense of belonging for employee engagement, we have communities led by an MD. I myself lead our community of people at my client as well as internally all the consultants that are doing management consulting work in the Financial Service industry. These are activities usually alongside client work to ensure we apply stewardship to our people and help them develop.
What is the difference between such a community and a team?
Indeed communities at Accenture are groups of people with similar skill sets. It’s a community in the sense of “a group of people living together in one place” within the Accenture organisation. This is usually not client-facing and is either purely internal or related to a client engagement. We supplement this with “Community of Practice”, which is more virtual.
Which effect do these communities have on internal communication and employee engagement?
The grouping into communities helps in many ways and I would say is essential in big organisations. Not only does it create a sense of belonging, but it also groups experts together. From a communication perspective it helps develop more targeted messages dedicated to each community. I have personally seen the positive effect on engagement of having people aligned in the community, they feel closest to: it increases their contributing. (Note: our people tend to support their communities in extra-curricular activities by organising events such as meetings, where project work is shared, or by providing input into regular newsletters.)
We know that strongly regulated industries, such as the financial industry or the pharmaceutical industry are not particularly leaders in adapting new marketing trends. They are also very cautious in their communications. From your point of view, Can, is digital marketing something banks should embrace?
With banks gradually recovering from the financial crisis, their focus moves from remediation and balance sheet deleveraging to growth. While still being cautious, banks will need to be innovative overall and in their marketing approach to grab either market share or share of wallet. In the UK, there are great examples of clever eye-catching marketing. For example, some banks have started embracing marketing to cleverly position their new products. Two notable examples are 1) Natwest and 2) Barclays. Natwest were the first bank to launch the iPhone mobile banking app and they came up with a clever advertisement whereby they argued that it was their smallest branch. Barclays on their other side, launched their PingIt service, which is a simple peer-to-peer payment application on a mobile app. Nothing innovative as PayPal had already launched something similar, however Barclays named it cleverly (PingIt) and marketed it well.
With regards to digital marketing (especially on a rich channel like the Internet with a lot of data points banks could use), there is more that can be done. The key to success in this space is how banks are going to leverage Big Data to create new revenue streams. The digital channel is in its infancy, even if it has been around for quite some time as it has evolved enormously with the different versions of HTML and web browsers. More capabilities can be added to it not only to support better marketing efforts, but also to sell and service customers in a tailored fashion.
You are one of the judges for the European Call Centre and Customer Service Award. Did you ever come across a company that improved its customer service through Social Media? Would you know of any leading example?
Many companies are using Social Media in a very limited fashion (whether it’s directly or indirectly). The direct usage is when companies respond directly to customer queries through their social media channel (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, …). This is important, but it’s just another channel that needs to be managed alongside the other ones to address the need of your customer base.
The power of Social Media usage comes when you start using it indirectly to listen and feed back into your marketing, customer service, product development, … What do people say that should be fed back into the different parts of your company? Social Media should be seen as more than just a channel. With the trillions of data exchanged across social media application, it’s a way to collect invaluable information to better understand customer needs and issues and fine-tune your customer service.
Otherwise, in terms of channel (especially in banking), most banks are gradually increasing their presence by using Social Media in a more transactional fashion. In banking for instance, we have the likes of CBA in Australia or Bradesco in Latin America providing Facebook transactional banking. Otherwise, DenizBank in Turkey provides Loan application via Twitter. So gradually banks are embracing Social Media as a channel, but I haven’t yet seen banks properly embracing Social Media beyond that. Given the regulated nature of the industry and also the need for more security to fight fraud, it’s not a channel that will be as widely used as in other industries, but it’s definitely being developed to cater for the customer segment that demands it.
Social Media is certainly much easier to apply for consultancies than eg. for strongly regulated companies, and actually ideal for these types of businesses. What is Accenture doing in this field?
I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s easier to apply for consultancies as it depends very much what you are trying to get out of social media. An important aspect for consultants is having the necessary tool to be able to collaborate easier and faster to bring our global collective insight and expertise to our clients. Therefore we do have internal social media collaboration tools such as Yammer, Stream, … to easily share information. Also, we do help our people publish information through blogging. The important thing for all this is to ensure that it supports the access to information to conduct client work. At the end, we can only be successful, if everything we have internally underpins outstanding client service delivery rather than using social media just for the sake of having it.
You already mentioned the challenge of “big data” and data is probably one of the cornerstones of a business consultancy – apart from its people. How does Accenture deal with the challenges of big data?
The Big Data concept is used in many situations and often loosely. It basically emerged with new technologies that allow companies to more easily store and manipulate non-structured data (e.g. machine generated data such as web logs or a contact centre conversation that is converted into text). This is as opposed to structured data that is reliant on a data model and often supported by a front-end application. The idea is to try to make sense of that information (e.g. monetise it somehow) without the need to invest heavily in trying to structure it. A good example is the creation of insight off the back of customer interactions with any of your channels. For example, if you could follow-up with your customer after that customer hovered for a few minutes on your website looking at a specific product because your website usually logs all that activity. Often that data is simply not leveraged.