A day in the shoes of… Andrew Fowkes
For our regular “A Day In The Shoes” feature, Andy – Senior Research Executive at EDF – talks about delivering a fresh insights perspective and tells us about the skills he needs to be effective in his role. Here’s what his day-to-day looks like.
Aimée: Can you start by telling me your job title and responsibilities
Andy: I manage Customer Insight projects of all types at EDF . My view is that the role of an insight manager in a big organisation has changed massively. It’s moved away from just delivering that project churn to really knitting together different insights; I think you need a broad range of skills. One of the impacts of the shift to digital is that marketing is a lot more measurable – so insight and research have converged a lot more with marketing execution. Ten years ago, you could oversee large continuous projects, collecting high-level metrics such as awareness, consideration and likelihood to purchase but now it’s much more about understanding how different brands use their marketing, how content links with channel, the ‘4 Ps’ etc., and using insight to support execution.
The first aspect of the role is managing projects. I’ll manage multiple projects at any one time and between 40 and 60 over the year—from start to end, in line with a business objective. My background is in delivering from an agency point of view, so I manage agencies delivering on the same common objective. Projects have broadly similar structures, but we work in an agile way – at different speeds, depending on the objectives.
Second is stakeholder management – understanding the business problem, identifying the Insight solution, delivering it and selling it in.
Third is being a consultant able to understand those insights, being able to communicate what they mean for the business, allowing for recommendations to be adopted. The latter gives the work real value.
Aimée: How would you describe what you’re responsible for within that role?
Andy: My two main stakeholder groups are sales and product teams in the residential and SME markets. I’m close to the teams so more and more my role is evolving into the major projects I’ve delivered. This year, I’ve focused on leading market segmentations: One looking at customers’ life-stages, and more product-focused projects on the tariff and electric vehicle markets. When the projects are finished It then becomes about selling in those approaches to different stakeholders and that takes you into proposition development. We’re closely involved with marketing and product execution and form a key part of the feedback loop that allows for continuous improvement.
Aimée: What metrics do you have for measuring success?
Andy: The first one is adoption; are people using it and making decisions as a result of the insight? That’s the main measure of success for the key projects we build each year, such as a market segmentation, a model or a large-scale piece of analytics which determines what is driving a specific factor, such as brand perception or retention. In some cases, the aim is to get the work embedded in the business. In other cases, the work can form the basis for further analysis, investigation or modelling before being adopted, and inspiring fresh thinking is no bad thing!
The other piece is informing the broader thinking and outlook for the business. We tend not to commission work that is just going to validate what’s already known. We want to inform the business’s thinking and add to the body of customer understanding. This can range from deep-dives into how we can improve our service, to how we can better improve our marketing messages, channel mixes and targeting in order to better compete in the market.
Aimée: How have you built trust with other teams in the business with how insight is adopted?
Andy: The first thing is talking the same language and understanding what’s in it for the teams and using a language they understand and work with day-to-day. All insight solutions need to answer key business questions, so it’s important that you understand their objectives and their day-to-day challenges. Being able to couch all findings in evidence is also central. Stakeholders are always open to good ideas but want us to base them in evidence – data not opinions!
We don’t need to build formal business cases to support our thinking, as is the case in some organisations, but when we are bold and come forward with ideas it’s crucial that they are strongly supported by one or more robust pieces of work. This builds the trust level and ensures the work is listened to, and/or adopted. The energy sector and company itself has strong analytical capability, so evidence-based work is a necessity, but we are well-placed as a team to deliver it.
Aimée: Insight & analytics is a big term; can you break it down into methods and tools you mainly rely on?
Andy: Broadly, I think we’re like all service businesses in that we’re on a trajectory where advertising and marketing is very measurable. There’s a realisation that we should have linked data, so the key is linking data together and having that single customer view right from typical digital marketing; awareness, discovery right through to conversion and getting into a typical retail or e-commerce mindset of asking where the problems along that journey are. The energy tariff market is quite tactical, with lots of nimbleness required both to win and retain customers, so being able to deliver to this ‘Single Customer View’ approach is only going to become more important.
Aimée: What were you hoping to gain from working with an external analytics team?
Andy: I feel when you work with a partner, you need to be buying in a skillset that supports considerable internal strengths. I feel that for any consultancy relationship to be valuable we need to be buying a strong ‘hard’ skill set too. The skillsets at Measurelab are multi-faceted and you combine this with a very agile way of working. Both are invaluable to us – the former as it builds on internal capability, and the latter because a
small, agile ‘expert’ can drive change in a large corporate like ours, in the shape of quick turnaround projects.
Aimée: What do you think will be different in 5 years in the way we interact with energy suppliers?
Andy: When I worked on the agency-side, I felt we were moving towards a position where clients more and more wanted insight and research to predict the future: Who’s going to win the election? How much are our Customer Service ratings going to improve by? How soon will electric vehicles dominate the car market? And similar questions! With research and insight, you can’t predict the future, but you can identify trends in the market and identify the customer need and want. That gives you a good degree of power to advise on business direction and predict what is likely to succeed in-market.
The first potential trend is auto-switching. We tend to see that customers most engaged with the market can enjoy the deal-seeking element and shopping around between brands. It could be that the auto-switching services fulfil a need for the more time-poor elements that understand the market but put getting a better deal to the bottom of their ‘to do list’. For the brands themselves in this space, it’s all about gaining the customer’s trust – they will need to win the customer’s belief that the service will always put and keep them on the best deal, without the customer needing to engage the market at all.
The other element is that you’ve had a lot of small suppliers emerge over the last 10 years, with a liberalised market. We could see that the growth of these small challengers has peaked and as some have collapsed, we may see consumers placing greater value on a large, household name that they are familiar with and can trust to be there.
Aimée: What are the most valuable things you’ve learnt at your time working at EDF?
Andy: The key one is to believe in your skills a bit more. Skills are very transferable—there can be a lot of pigeonholing of jobs and roles in marketing, but people are becoming a lot more agile and fluid as the nature of work changes. The great thing about working in a large organisation is you that you see different skill sets you have that scope to build a CV around different areas. Client-side is a lot broader than agency-side, which gives you a more rounded view of the sales and marketing mix.
Aimée: We can’t know everything, so is there anything you feel you need more knowledge on, in an analytics context?
Andy: The two things I want to know more about are, firstly, data, to properly understand the complexities surrounding it. The hard thing is defining the line between knowing something inside out and having a good working knowledge. If you tried to do everything you wouldn’t ever complete a project! The other thing is product lifecycle: Understanding more beyond the early stages of product development and marketing,
how it’s managed and improved and how it evolves into something else; getting to grips the execution a little more.
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