TELUS’ unified segmentation system drives culture shift


TELUS Customer Insight team members (from left to right): Parikshit Ralhan, Shannan Davis, Iain Gledhill, Erin Rouchotas and Imanuel Muller.

As one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies, TELUS offers a wide range of products and services, including wireless, data, Internet, voice, entertainment, video, television and healthcare technology. Over the years, many of its divisions had developed their own segmentation systems to target their products and engage their customers within each area.

But by early 2015, TELUS senior management realized that multiple segmentation systems meant the company lacked a single, shared view of their customers. The marketing division was more product-focused than customer-focused and some divisions had created their own unique segments related to the specific product or service they were responsible for.

“It was difficult to connect the dots from one segmentation system to another,” recalls Parikshit Ralhan, manager of customer insights and predictive analytics at TELUS. “We wanted to create a common language across the company that everyone could relate to. We wanted an overarching segmentation scheme.”

With a mandate to shift from product-focused to customer-centric marketing, a core group from the Customer Insight’s team embarked on a year-long initiative with Environics Analytics (EA) to build a custom unified segmentation model. Building the new system was only half the battle: the team also had to break down silos within its large organization to ensure the system would be accepted across the company and deliver measurable results in improved customer experience and operating efficiencies.

Led by director Iain Gledhill, the five-member team hosted stakeholder workshops throughout the company designed to gather feedback, align objectives and success metrics, and obtain buy-in. “We brought them into the kitchen,” recalls Ralhan. The team would later meet with stakeholders again to help socialize the results when they had developed the recipe for a solution.

Next came the hard analytics work. To create the segmentation system, analysts combined TELUS behavioural data from the company’s multiple lines of business with rich, third-party data provided by EA, using the PRIZM5 segmentation system as the foundation. From more than 100 variables, they identified key drivers based on TELUS’ business objectives and applications, which were then mapped to six themes to create segments that would work across the organization. “The segments needed to be broad enough for everyone across the company to relate to, but meaty enough for divisions to act on them,” explains Ralhan. The themes included tech adoption (reflected in device ownership), value for money (price consciousness), brand loyalty and demographics and socioeconomic status.

Ralhan notes that the team wanted to avoid demographics as the sole driver. “We didn’t want segments of just Millennials or young families,” he says. “We wanted to tease out nuances from the demographic buckets.”

Analysts ultimately created 12 custom TELUS segments that could be linked to current and prospective customers via postal codes. They named segments and created personas for each one based on in-house and third-party data. For example, the segment named Simple Traditionalists consisted of older, conservative consumers who look to technology to simplify their lives. They buy phone products based on utilitarian needs and like talking to TELUS agents in person when making purchases. By contrast, the Enabled Elite segment consists of wealthy, cultured consumers who favour premium brands and technology; they often go online to research products before making a purchase.

With the segments defined, the TELUS project working team created detailed profiles for them, highlighting family type, values, digital habits and motivations. One-page briefs—featuring a photo and quote from a typical segment member—helped bring the segments to life and indicate the factors that influence their purchase patterns. Staff members then developed persona imaging reports and PowerPoint presentations customized for each department. On a centralized site, they created a library of resources with icons, heat maps and custom dashboards. As a fun way to introduce the new segments, the team created a lookup tool so TELUS staff members could discover what segment they belonged to based on their postal code. “That helped people understand and accept the segmentation system,” says Ralhan.

Once the segmentation system was developed, the working team went back on the road to promote the segmentation system, conducting about 20 workshops and meetings across Canada that were attended by nearly 800 TELUS staff members. One teleconference attracted over 100 participants. Feedback from the sessions was overwhelmingly positive and teams were eager to get their hands on the system. But as Ralhan notes, “the challenge was to go from excitement to execution.”

The new system assigned a TELUS segment to every postal code nationwide, allowing the company to define every one of its customers and prospects by segment type. Although analysts worried that 12 segments might be too unwieldy for an application, that concern never materialized. In fact, one department wanted more segments. “They wanted to go deeper,” Ralhan observes.

The earliest adopters of the system were TELUS’ new product development teams. The segments helped them refine product categories and position the latest products for target marketing. Soon product managers started including market segments in their marketing plans to assess which segments to include in their targeting effort. And marketers began tailoring their messages to the different custom segments. An email campaign promoting a mobile plan feature to a price-sensitive group declared, “Stop counting minutes and start enjoying them.” For a busy family group, the message focused on their on-the-go, vacation-heavy lifestyle: “Roaming, relaxation, whatever your destination: Easy roam is the stress-free way to connect while traveling.”

By the fall of 2016, the new segmentation system had been socialized throughout TELUS and was being adopted for a variety of applications: regional acquisition strategies, predictive models focusing on retention targets, marketing analytics for campaign measurement and segmentation-based profiling projects. “Teams embraced the segmentation fairly quickly,” says Ralhan. “They wanted it to be part of their next project.”

Although it’s too early to measure the new segmentation system’s impact on many long-term projects, Ralhan notes several campaigns have seen an increase in response rates and lift. But just as important, the system has reinforced the importance of a unified, customer-centric culture at TELUS. “We now have a single segmentation system across the enterprise,” says Ralhan, adding that the segments now show up in slide presentations and conversations throughout TELUS. “We’ve created a lot of enthusiasm across the company,” he says. The “big data” initiative turned out to be a “big change management” exercise as well.

But just as technology keeps changing, so do customers. TELUS is planning to conduct more primary research into the motivations of consumers to fill in any gaps about each segment and to understand how mindsets might be evolving. “When we started the roadshows, we found people lined up and waiting for us to roll out the segmentation system,” recalls Ralhan. A year later, the team isn’t resting on its laurels. As Ralhan simply says, “it’s an ongoing journey.”

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Direct Marketing.

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Catherine Pearson

Catherine Pearson

Catherine Pearson is senior vice president and practice leader, overseeing the financial, insurance, telecommunications and travel sectors, at Environics Analytics.

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