CMO interview: How AGL is looking to shake up customer experiences of energy

CMO interview: How AGL is looking to shake up customer experiences of energy 700 315 C-Suite Network
Sandra de Castro
Sandra de Castro

One of the mistaken beliefs people have around digital transformation is that recruiting for skills and experience is more important than having internal talent, AGL’s chief sales and marketing officer, Sandra de Castro, claims.

“The reality is there isn’t necessarily an enormous amount of experience around in these areas [digital marketing and customer-led transformation],” the recently installed executive leader tells CMO.

“Yes, we are bringing in new talent and capability in terms of trying to inject more digital and integrated marketing experience into our business. But having said that, there are some great people in this business. Nurturing and skilling up the capabilities of the people already there is important.

“It’s as much about recognising the talent you have, bringing them on the journey and giving them the opportunities to be creative with a new set of tools.”

De Castro was appointed the head of sales and marketing at AGL in January, filling a gap left by Mark Brownfield’s departure last year. Prior to joining AGL, de Castro spend six years with National Australia Bank as CMO and executive leader of strategy.

Her arrival comes just months after AGL’s CEO, Andy Vesey, unveiled a $300 million customer experience transformation program aimed at putting digital at the heart of the organisation and the way it engages with customers.

Announced last August, the program sees AGL investing in three core components: Foundational capability, such as IT systems; digital adoption; and “signature moments” for customers around their experience with AGL. A significant portion of investment also relates to data-driven personalisation of services, and the provider is taking on both Adobe’s Marketing Cloud stack, as well as sophisticated decisioning personalisation kit, to achieve these ambitions.

De Castro describes the broad-ranging digital transformation program as “massively ambitious” and one spanning the whole customer end of the business. New products, capabilities and digital offerings are all rolling out in coming months as the customer experience program picks up a rhythm of execution, she says.

AGL is initially looking at five signature moments, all related to delivering digital experiences that charm and delight the customer in unmatched ways. “We have looked at customer experiences in energy, and what are either pain points or opportunities to delight with things that really come to life in the energy space,” de Castro explains.

“For example, one of the moments we’re used a lot in is moving house, and signups. We’ve done a lot of work around that experience. Another is meter reading – in Sydney, there’s still a meter reader man, and we know there’s a lot of pain around that experience. So one solution is around digitising that.”

Then there’s the need to make energy relatable. De Castro points out people often find it hard to understand how the size of their bill relates to energy usage.

Starting with five moments, AGL has 40 it plans to tackle long-term. Some will be supported by above-the-line advertising, others will be details customers feel in the experience, de Castro says. New products coming out will also focused on putting control back in the hands of the customer.

“For some it’s a real issue around the bill being different one month to the next. How to control and find ways to design plans to make it easier to control usage in advance,” de Castro says. “Predictability is another one. It’s a series of products that speak to things customers find unhelpful around energy experiences, or opportunity to do things differently that customers might like better.”

One of the most important things about the transformation program is that it’s tightly embedded with business-as-usual teams, de Castro says.

“That means team members from various parts of my team are all seconded into the program, and I have a couple of direct reports leading different streams of the program,” she says. “The program as an integrated whole but stays very close to the core business, which is great, because if it’s retooling you’re after, what you’re retooling is BAU. It’s not transformation that’s about creating something off to the side, it’s about creating a new way of working.

“I and my leadership team, plus the AGL executive team running the operations business, digital and various component parts, are all intimately engaged with the program.”

The expanding role of marketing

That’s not the only thing that’s kept de Castro busy during her first six months in the combined sales and marketing role, covering all consumer and business customer sales, marketing, product and pricing.

In April, AGL officially launched its new brand campaign, the visual reflection of a broad brand repositioning exercise. The new logo includes a stylised gas burner, and has sustainability and digital user experience as key themes. De Castro says much of the research and strategy work had been done prior to her arrival.

The rebrand fits into the wider transformation program in two ways. The first is AGL’s…