Client relationships – the CX cornerstone for B2B companies

How the Adcorp Group use VoC to build and maintain relationships

“Offer your customers a long-term relationship, then do everything you can to build and maintain it,” is a quote by author and motivational speaker, Brian Tracy, and one that seems apt to reference when it comes to how the Adcorp Group approach CX.

A leading workforce solutions provider both locally and internationally, the JSE-listed company is in the business of helping organisations to access the skills they need to grow and streamline complex workforce processes. We at nlightencx have been fortunate to have a longstanding relationship with the group as their CX partner, with a large focus on our Voice of Customer (VoC) offering. If you’re not already familiar, VoC research uncovers deep insights into what a company’s clients actually think and feel about their services or products. This feedback then gets translated into actionable CX insights that work to inform operational strategy for overall business growth.

For Adcorp, they have found the VoC programme to be particularly valuable in the area of nurturing client relationships. “As a B2B business and largely a service provider as opposed to a product provider, it’s critical for us to understand what our customers think about doing business with us. Our ‘product’ is our relationship with the client, and this is where the voice of customer programme works to keep us at the top of our game.”

Bruce Toerien, Adcorp Group.

Using CX as the main differentiator

Given that a substantial portion of Adcorp’s offering is considered commoditised services, they frequently compete with other big players on various contracts. So, they use the ongoing VoC insights to react in an environment where the product or service can be easily transferable to a competitor.

In being able to respond quickly to client concerns that have been revealed by a CX interview or customer satisfaction survey, Adcorp has been successful in using client insights to not only retain client contracts but to also upsell and grow their business.

“As a consequence of CX intervention and client interviews, we’ve been able to use CX as our main differentiator. We’ve retained big contracts and picked up on things that have enabled us to redefine, adapt or innovate our offering. Our ability to timeously be both proactive and reactive is what sets us apart from our competitors.”

Bruce Toerien, Adcorp Group.

Case in point, based on VoC insights, the following adjustments mentioned below are just a few seemingly minor (but impactful) examples of why Adcorp has continuously been able to retain its top clients:

Why nlightencx and VoC?

A big part of our job is to tailor make the research process for our clients, so that insights are not generic or vague, but meaningful and tangible. In having a thorough understanding of Adcorps offerings, particularly the commoditised services, we’ve been able to customise our VoC programme to uncover the valuable ‘nuggets’ that help to identify key areas of risk in the company, areas in need of improvement or a complete overhaul, as well as growth opportunities.

“The reason nlightencx has been with us for a long time is that they understand our business, they know who we are and what we offer. Even if a CX question seems generic, they can translate client feedback and make recommendations according to the nature of our products and services.”

Bruce Toerien, Adcorp Group.

A neutral third-party

As an independent party in the CX research process, Adcorp’s clients have been able to share their feedback freely with us, without fear of offending. From a client relationship perspective, which is a crucial element for B2B companies, this is invaluable.

In using our VoC programme as a third-party approach to obtaining CX insights, the group has been able to build and maintain its client relationships in some of the following ways:

  1. Obtain honest and transparent feedback on their service delivery
  2. Avoid putting clients under pressure by having to engage with the same person they engage with regularly
  3. Ascertain what their client’s next move is in terms of operations, and plan accordingly.

“We find that our clients are clearer about future strategy when talking to a third party than talking to ourselves directly. You need to have a professional party undertake the interview process to extract the information you need. It’s this that brings the most value, and why nlightencx are the true experts.”

Bruce Toerien, Adcorp Group.

OMI – How customer journey mapping redefined the client experience for SA’s leading short-term insurance provider

As one of the leading companies in Southern Africa’s non-life insurance (also known as short-term insurance) Old Mutual Insure (OMI) has been around for almost 190 years. Ranked #3 in the country, it seems this historic organisation is never tempted to rest on its laurels. Instead, OMI consistently evaluates its offering to see how they can do better through ongoing CX improvements.

In 2019, we were asked to work with OMI on a Customer Journey Mapping (CJM) exercise in their claims area. CJM is a CX tool that enables companies to get a better understanding of what their clients, intermediaries, and business partners, are thinking and feeling at each touchpoint. Simply put, it’s one of the most effective ways to theoretically and even literally ‘put yourself in your customer’s shoes.’

For those in the insurance game, claims is often considered the biggest moment of truth, because it’s at this point when the customer finds out if the insurance they have been paying for has added any value. And therefore, OMI wanted to review this critical touchpoint. They were eager to understand how they could make things more seamless, frictionless, and consistent for the customer.

“ Claims is such a critical customer stage for us, so we wanted to zoom in on this area and identify opportunities for CX improvements. There are many different role players in the claims journey, and it’s easy for feedback or status updates from your broker or customer to get lost. Communication gets lazy, loops aren’t always closed, and uncertainty creeps in. This is when all parties get frustrated.” – Antonia Oakes, Customer Experience & Sustainable Business executive, Old Mutual Insure.

Identifying the Unnoticed Truths

To begin the journey mapping process, we gathered OMI employees in each of the different areas of the claims division (including divisions like marketing) to sit around the same table and articulate what they believe is the ideal customer experience for their clients. This crucial step of having more than just one or two department heads and staff in the CJM process goes a long way in both gaining the most thorough insights and getting ‘buy-in’ from all involved on the CX improvements that will need to be implemented.

In the case of OMI, it was clear that the team all wanted the same thing; a claims experience that was straightforward, hassle-free, and would evoke trust.

To make this desired vision for their customer a reality, we needed to first conduct an internal gap analysis. The aim of this was to rate and measure the OMI team’s own understanding of how key CX drivers fit into their claims process (e.g., personalisation, innovation, ease of doing business, staff empowerment, digital innovation, and customer feedback).

The lowest score in this exercise was personalisation, which referred to understanding different client personas and their pain points. What this told us was that this absence of ‘emotional awareness’ by staff, meant there was very little empathy for what different clients were experiencing.

“Learning that there were several staff in the claims division who didn’t understand the pain points of our clients was a big eye-opener for us. This is why journey mapping is so valuable because it reveals truths that are going unnoticed, while silently damaging your CX.” – Antonia Oakes, Customer Experience & Sustainable Business executive, Old Mutual Insure.

As part of the CJM process, we also asked the team to identify the concerns they believed were hindering the client experience. Below are just a few they listed:

● Lack of proactive feedback to brokers
● The need for additional and effective resources to meet client requirements
● Too many contact points within the organisation

“We found that having an independent party facilitate customer journey mapping sessions, and employee training programmes was very beneficial, as staff are more willing to open up.” – Antonia Oakes, Customer Experience & Sustainable Business executive, Old Mutual Insure.

Results and Way Forward

Once we had identified the 297 claims touchpoints and walked through the client’s practical and emotional needs at each of the 12 customer stages, we were able to define what an ‘ideal’ OMI customer journey should look like.

Since you can’t implement all the changes overnight, we then sat with the team to compile a list of feasible ‘quick-win’ solutions (things that can be adjusted or implemented quickly, effectively, and affordably). For OMI, one of the most impactful quick-win solutions was providing brokers and customers with an infographic to guide them through the different stages of the claims process. Another was their windscreen automated claims system which enabled brokers and customers to lodge and finalise windscreen claims quickly and seamlessly without much human intervention.

“The CJM process gave us a much deeper understanding of our customers and brokers pain points, which informed key changes to be made to our claims process. Since implementing these changes, we’ve seen a noticeable rise in client satisfaction. We’ve also been able to identify where our focus needs to be with regards to digital innovation and UX design. Improving client satisfaction is an ongoing task as the ambition is to consistently exceed expectations” – Antonia Oakes, Customer Experience & Sustainable Business executive, Old Mutual Insure.

Further to this, OMI saw that there was an urgent need to embed a customer-centric culture within the organisation, and as a result, 80% of the OMI staff so far have gone on to receive extensive training in customer experience, however post COVID we have had a huge recruitment intake and a need for a repeat of the CX training is needed.

“What we’ve come to understand is that you can’t have a great client, broker, or customer experience unless you have good employee experience and engagement.” – Antonia Oakes, Customer Experience & Sustainable Business executive, Old Mutual Insure.

In line with their mission to inspire a customer-led culture that is based on empathy and understanding, we are now working with OMI on an “I AM OMI” culture strategy, which will help drive their CX vision within the different business focus areas. More on this in a follow-up case study.

“The great thing about working with nlightencx is that they won’t just leave you when the journey mapping is over. They guide you from a thought leader perspective and go on to give you a holistic, well-informed report which guides the organisation on what to fix, what to prioritise, and which remedial actions to implement to be the best in the industry within which you operate.” – Antonia Oakes, Customer Experience & Sustainable Business executive, Old Mutual Insure.

CTICC – A case study in ‘always-on’ CX

A leader in the global business events industry, the Cape Town International Convention Centre has become the go-to destination for events, conferences, and trade exhibitions. Since becoming their client experience partner in 2018, we have borne first-hand witness to how they maintain their status as best in class, through differentiating with a robust and always-on CX strategy.

“We use the monthly client data we get from nlightencx to see what we are missing from a customer service point of view. We review the data thoroughly to see how we can make our service more streamlined, more efficient, and customer-centric. If you are marketing your brand promise as one of service excellence you have to follow through on that.”

Robert Hatton-Jones (General Manager: Commercial – CTICC)

Arming the CTICC with in-depth verbatim customer feedback each month has enabled the team to course correct where necessary and to operate with flexibility. This process, while not always an easy one, has made the CTICC proficient in creating memorable customer experiences, which has contributed to its international award-winning status as a first-choice hospitality provider.

In a nutshell, their success can be attributed to their ongoing commitment to CX and a fundamental understanding of their customer.  Let’s take a look at how this approach has served them over the years. 


Why you can’t paint your customers with one brush

Typically, service-orientated businesses require a customised offering instead of a one-size-fits-all solution, but you’d be surprised how many companies forget this. In having access to real-time client data and feedback provided by nlightencx, the CTICC has been able to pinpoint specific requirements across various client segments, and tailor-make solutions to meet these expectations.


“We have developed an ability to deal with different clients who have very specific needs. We are learning through the constant feedback that we need to curate our offerings according to our different clients. For instance, no two events, shows, or conferences are the same, and it can be just one verbatim comment from a client that can influence how we adjust our offering so that we can deliver a better customer experience. The customer experience doesn’t start as the customer enters the building. It starts even before they get to the car park. It starts at the point of first contact.” 

–  Robert Hatton-Jones (General Manager: Commercial – CTICC)


Managing the moving parts

CTICC’s large-scale operation depends on seamless communication between all departments. Whether it’s the sales department, events, food & beverage, or commercial department, if there is a breakdown of flow between these divisions, the customer experience can suffer. To avoid this, CTICC uses the latest feedback from clients that have booked with them within that month to assess where there might have been gaps in communication. For instance, in the case of short-term and long-term bookings, the quotation is handled by the sales division as is the client-facing coordination of the event. However, there are other execution aspects of the booking that require input from other departments, but a lot of the client feedback will be directed at the sales team.


“ Instead of pointing fingers and placing blame when an error occurs, we use the client data we have to say okay, how can we communicate better amongst departments so that we can all be on the same page and avoid future errors? We also take responsibility where we need to, and it is this approach that helps us to improve our communication both internally and externally.”

–  Lillian Hlabangane (Head of Sales – CTICC)

It’s this constant drive for efficient communication between departments that have helped the CTICC team break down any silo mentality within the organisation and achieve monthly CSAT scores of up to 90%.


Customer journey mapping

For CTICC, customer journey mapping has been one of the most revealing for them in terms of refining ways to enhance their CX. We’ve taken the team through full-service journeys so that they can experience each and every touchpoint as their customer would. Not only has this instilled a deeper sense of empathy with the customer, but it’s often prompted a unique redesign process that sets the organisation even further apart from its competitors. Companies tend to focus only on the customer that comes through the door, but CTICC is using journey mapping to gain a holistic picture of how all stakeholders and service providers experience their brand.

For example, there is a large pool of service providers that make use of the CTICC building. They have made sure there is a good customer journey in place for these suppliers because they understand that this experience has a direct impact on the overall delivery of an event for the end client.


The process of arrival, sign-in, induction, and access to facilities can be different for each external contractor since they all have their own set of needs and requirements. We’ve looked at the customer journey to see how we can make the process smoother and more efficient for them. This has helped us to make ongoing improvements that ultimately result in successful events for our clients.”

–  Chantal Croaster (Conference and Exhibition Services Manager – CTICC)


Flexibility, Agility, and Innovation

Covid-19 knocked the wind out of most businesses, especially those in eventing services. In pivoting to provide digital and hybrid virtual events, the CTICC used this opportunity to use their client feedback to build an offering that would meet their clients where they were at.

No one really understood digital events. In the beginning, it was all very expensive, and companies were competing just on priceCTICC’s customers were telling them that it was just too much for them, so instead of compromising on quality, management listened very carefully to their client’s specific digital event needs and adjusted their virtual offering to be one that is affordable, flexible, and technically impressive. 

The CTICC has since launched its own digital hybrid event platform called CTICC ENGAGE.


“From smaller things like adapting our contracts to be less tedious, to re-designing the way we receive suppliers into the building, it all comes down to client feedback. Sometimes people just want to be heard! And nlightencx are an integral part of capturing the voice of our customers and keeping the wheels turning.”

–  Robert Hatton-Jones (General Manager: Commercial – CTICC)

Maitland – A case study in data-driven CX

Maitland, a leading fund services provider within excess of US$ 200 billion in assets under administration, first approached us in 2016 to help with their CX. Around that time, they were going through a massive growth phase. The problem, however, wasn’t the growth, but rather the cracks in client relationships that were being revealed during the process.

“We’d always seen ourselves as being good at what we do, acting with confidence in our skills & expertise. We couldn’t understand why things weren’t going better. I guess you could say the problem was that we didn’t know what the problem was.” – Andre Le Roux (Head of Business Development, Maitland)

Defining the CX problem

Many people historically saw Maitland as a back-office operation, but to top management and a lot of its clients, it’s a services business. Miles Osler, Head of Client Management at Maitland summarised their dilemma very well when he told us that the disconnect comes in because it can be difficult for both clients and staff to actually define who they are and what the client experience is. This was a huge red flag for us because one of the first steps in creating a customer-centric culture is to know how to articulate what it is your company offers, the value you provide, and why you are better than your competitors.

The fact that Maitland was willing to acknowledge there was a problem with their client relationships – and indeed the way they approached client management, was a big step, and it meant they had what it takes to commit to a robust CX undertaking.

The CX journey

Our recommendation to Maitland was to invest in a data-driven approach that went beyond just client satisfaction numbers on a survey scorecard. It was important for them to understand the WHY, and to identify what their clients really thought about them. To do this, we used our nlightencx True Voice of Customer (TVoC) programme to dig deeper and uncover some hard-to-hear truths. This process involved us speaking directly to Maitland’s clients, asking the right questions, and compiling in-depth verbatim feedback. Guided by our key CX service drivers (engagement, expertise, value, brand promise, and understanding and achieving client goals), we were able to identify the areas that needed more attention. Achieving a Client Satisfaction Score of 53%, engagement was highlighted as the main service driver lacking (46%), and through this arose more nuanced concerns like authenticity and trust.

“After seeing what the data and the verbatim feedback was telling us, we knew we were heading for trouble if we didn’t act, and in the right manner. Although we had years of operational expertise and a good reputation in the industry, it wasn’t enough. Our clients needed more than just service delivery, and we were prepared to put in the work to meet their needs. So, we decided to work further with nlightencx to do things better.” – Miles Osler (Head of Client Management, Maitland)


Engagement is not an easy service driver to get right, because it’s ‘intangible,’ and qualitative in nature. This can be extended to client management as a whole, which for Maitland had been managed increasingly from people not focussed on client management. They now found themselves in the position of not only knowing they needed to speak more to their clients, but they had to figure out what it was they needed to talk about. This is where the client data played such a critical role in providing a more quantitative benchmark. They were able to share important data points with client and fund managers, which provided them with various artifacts they could engage with the clients on. For example, a client manager could proactively inform a client about how their portfolio was performing across various KPIs, address issues of concern, offer reassurance, etc. And in presenting this information, clients were inclined to ask questions, allowing for further engagement and artifacts to talk about. The more engagement, the more clients could see that Maitland understood their goals and did what it took to help them achieve them.

In addition to sharing data with the internal team, Maitland developed multiple definitive client management programmes and worked regularly with us to gather ongoing client feedback. Over a period of 4 years, their client satisfaction score went from 53% to 86%, with engagement very quickly becoming their highest service driver.

How CX and a data-driven approach continues to serve Maitland

Despite the significant improvements and high client retention rates achieved over the last 5 years, Maitland has not let their CX guard down, and continue to engage CX to improve on their offering. As a result, their data-driven approach to CX has enabled them to monitor client satisfaction trends and client specifics that would have otherwise been unquantifiable.

For example, over the work from home period during the COVID-19 pandemic, they implemented a deliberate set of actions for their clients leading to an additional 12 percentage point improvement from pre-Covid levels.

Furthermore, Maitland recognises that transparency, authenticity, and trust are what builds quality client relationships. It’s for this reason, they consistently provide data-driven statistics that allow their clients and other key stakeholders to effectively look ‘under the hood.’

“A key takeaway for us in working with nlightencx was that they helped us to understand just how important CX is for the ongoing success of our business, and ultimately, to people’s continued salaries and bonus levels.” – Miles Osler (Head of Client Management, Maitland)


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