Ac­tu­ate helps Cell C ring in the rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes

Cell­phone com­pany trans­for­ma­tion and re­launch a ben­e­fit to staff and cus­tomers

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING - BREN­DAN SEERY

WHILE we weren’t watch­ing you, Trevor, while you were still a mere co­me­dian as far as we were concerned, and long be­fore you be­came the CEO (Cus­tomer Ex­pe­ri­ence Of­fi­cer) of Cell C, some­thing else was go­ing on deep in the bow­els of the cell­phone net­work.

And that some­thing was what you were do­ing to help in the unglam­orous field of staff train­ing, Trevor. You were watch­ing the com­pany’s staff like a hawk Trevor, in the com­pany of ex­perts from Joburg-based mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions agency Ac­tu­ate.

The story goes back at least a year be­fore Cell C, through its CEO Lars Re­ichelt and Trevor Noah, re­launched it­self with a mar­ket­ing apol­ogy that some con­sid­ered tan­ta­mount to brand sui­cide.

That, it has since be­come plain, was the start of an all-out as­sault by Cell C on the mar­ket share of the Big Two of the cell­phone busi­ness, Vo­da­com and MTN.

And be­fore he hit the beaches, CEO (the real one) Re­ichelt knew his troops has to be trained, be­cause he re­alised that the most ef­fec­tive mar­ket­ing money you can ever spend is on staff train­ing and mo­ti­va­tion.

The world’s clever­est ad agency and best com­mer­cial di­rec­tor mean lit­tle when your call cen­tre staff are rude and your shop sales­peo­ple are chew­ing gum-mas­ti­cat­ing and ig­no­rant.

Ac­tu­ate is a com­pany which blends the dis­ci­pline of mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions, hu­man re­sources and train­ing and fo­cuses, says co­founder Terri Brown, on en­sur­ing that a com­pany’s in­ter­nal re­sources are aligned to its ex­ter­nal mar­ket­ing strat­egy.

In the case of Cell C, Re­ichelt and his ex­ec­u­tive team re­alised that a true trans­for­ma­tion of the com­pany could only come from within – and by ac­knowl­edg­ing some harsh home truths.

Work­ing with Ac­tu­ate, Cell C de­vel­oped a dy­namic in­ter­nal brand po­si­tion­ing to align Cell C em­ploy­ees with the new brand prom­ise.

The idea was to give em­ploy­ees a sense of pride, own­er­ship and un­der­stand­ing of the new brand and the skills to make the brand prom­ise a brand re­al­ity.

Melody Lekota, Cell C chief hu­man re­sources of­fi­cer, says: “Cell C em­barked upon a huge trans­for­ma­tion, and it was crit­i­cal to have a highly en­gaged work­force in or­der for us to be able to de­liver.”

In keep­ing with Ac­tu­ate’s phi­los­o­phy that a brand prom­ise is only de­liv­ered by em­ploy­ees who are “en­gaged, in­for med, em­pow­ered, and who love the brand”, Ac­tu­ate and Cell C co-de­signed a sus­tain­able em­ployee en­gage­ment pro­gramme that cre­ated a “brand­force” of em­ploy­ees – a ver­i­ta­ble army of pro­fes­sion­als who are equipped to en­hance the Cell C ex­pe­ri­ence in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally.

The unique em­pow­er­ment pro­gramme con­sisted of train­ers’ tool­kits, elec­tronic tool­kits, and in­tranet self-lear ning pro­grammes. The easy-to-use and highly colour­ful tool­kits were de­signed to give em­ploy­ees crit­i­cal knowl­edge and skills which al­lowed them to “live” the Cell C cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and de­liver it ef­fec­tively. The tool­kits cov­ered ev­ery as­pect of the new Cell C po­si­tion­ing – from the en­hanced net­work to the com­pany’s vi­sion, mis­sion and val­ues.

Noah was orig­i­nally in­tro­duced into the mix as an in­ter nal spokesman and brand am­bas­sador, and only af­ter that be­came a key fea­ture of the ex­ter­nal re­launch cam­paign.

His part in the cam­paign in­ter­nally meant that staff had de­vel­oped a re­la­tion­ship with Noah when the above-the-line mes­sag­ing be­gan.

“His pop­u­lar­ity in a large part of the in­ter­nal tar­get mar­ket was a key dif­fer­en­tia­tor,” ex­plains Lekota, “and in­tro­duced some hu­mour and fresh­ness to the learn­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ma­te­rial.”

The elec­tronic tool­kits were “man­ager-ready” and al­lowed man­agers to train em­ploy­ees and re­fresh their knowl­edge, while the in­tranet tool­kits pro­vided on­line train­ing for em­ploy­ees.

They could use these tool­kits to train them­selves on crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about the busi­ness within an hour.

And, to make the ex­pe­ri­ence a mem­o­rable one for em­ploy­ees, Ac­tu­ate de­vel­oped a com­pe­ti­tion – “The Mother of All Trol­ley Dashes” – to mo­ti­vate em­ploy­ees to use the new ma­te­rial. Any em­ployee who achieved an 80 per­cent cor­rect an­swer re­sult on the train­ing as­sess­ment won a chance to go on a one­day shop­ping spree worth R50 000.

Kevin Lieben­berg, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Ac­tu­ate, says the com­pany worked closely with Re­ichelt, Lekota and Cell C’s mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, Simon Camerer.

“This was no ‘lip ser­vice’ paid to train­ing and en­gage­ment, this was full-on com­mit­ment from the top down to lit­er­ally re-en­gi­neer­ing the com­pany.

“What you have seen in pub­lic is merely the tip of the ice­berg when it comes to work done for the re­launch,” adds Lieben­berg.

To en­sure the sus­tain­abil­ity of the cam­paign and build in an el­e­ment of man­ager ac­count­abil­ity, Ac­tu­ate also pro­posed “mobi-based train­ing re­in­force­ment” – mi­cro bits of in­for­ma­tion for em­ploy­ees with built-in real-time mea­sure­ment and track­ing.

Also, Ac­tu­ate cre­ated man­ager “chat guides”, which pro­vided skills and tools that em­pow­ered man­agers to con­verse more with their team.

This sup­ported the change and en­hance knowl­edge and busi­nes­saligned be­hav­iours, en­sur­ing ac­cu­racy and con­sis­tency of in­for­ma­tion across the busi­ness.

Fi­nally, to in­cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tive lead­er­ship into the cam­paign, Ac­tu­ate and Lekota in­tro­duced monthly “brown bag breaks” to drive a cul­ture of con­ver­sa­tion and shine a spot­light on key is­sues.

The team also or­gan­ised a “Lead­ers’ Launch Road­show”, which pro­vided a unique op­por­tu­nity for Re­ichelt and the lead­er­ship team to chat to em­ploy­ees about the re­launch and the rea­sons be­hind it.

The glam­orous event also em­pha­sised the crit­i­cal role that each Cell C em­ployee plays in mak­ing the new brand prom­ise a re­al­ity.

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