Request Demo

The Coca-Cola Account Experience Summit: How to Scale With Real-Time Customer Insights

January 22, 2024
"We're not customer-centric until our customer says so.”

This week we held the first Coca-Cola Account Experience (AX) Interactive Summit exclusive to Coca-Cola and Cola-Cola bottlers.

Over 70 attendees worldwide representing 20 bottlers joined to hear how Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company (CCHBC) has scaled their customer experience (CX) program with CustomerGauge.

Hosting the Summit were Adam Dorrell, CustomerGauge Co-Founder and CEO, and Stuart Ward, Head of Customer Capability at Coca-Cola HBC.

In Adam’s 15 years of working in customer experience, he has rarely seen a CX program move as fast and effectively as Coca-Cola Hellenic’s. So, it only made sense to share Stuart’s CX journey with a like-minded audience of bottlers who could begin their own journey, too.

And some have already started! Luis Carlos Mira Olarte, Value to Market Process Manager at The Coca-Cola Company has kicked off their new program across Latin America and shared his learnings so far.

Throughout the Summit, Stuart explained his evolution with Account Experience, including the impact of taking a digital-feedback approach, how his program achieved organizational buy-in, plus…

  • How AX helped to improve customer relationships

  • Four critical metrics they’re focusing on to maximize revenue

  • Overcoming the fear of customer feedback

  • What the future holds for the Coca-Cola Hellenic real-time experience program

  • And much more!

Going Beyond Customer Satisfaction to Achieve Customer Loyalty

Coca-Cola HBC’s business model is a mix of modern and independent trade in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry.

They have 29 countries from new markets like Egypt and Nigeria to developed markets such as Italy and Austria. Their key accounts include supermarkets, bars, restaurants, wholesalers, outlets, and more.

But their total ‘universe’ of customers? An impressive 3.2 million people, with 1.8 million as Coca-Cola HBC’s active customers they’re serving directly.

When they first launched their customer experience efforts in the early 2000s, Stuart began pulsing key accounts once a year through a partnership with market research company Growth From Knowledge (GFK).

Coca-Cola HBC had also partnered with Advantage Group in the past.

One major drawback of the Advantage Group was their services are only available in six countries, which didn’t provide Coca-Cola Hellenic with the total view of their key accounts such as Tesco and Dominoes, etc.

Not only that, their reports only come once a year. CustomerGauge, in contrast, allows for real-time insights 365 days a year and covers every single country offering a much more comprehensive view of their customer base.

Tips Icon
Listen to Heineken, ABInBev, & Coca-Coca HBC on The Account Experience Podcast

In this very special episode host Adam Dorrell is joined by three mega-brands in the FMCG business, all working hard on improving their Account Experience.

Listen here.

Knowing this, their mentality began shifting towards Net Promoter Score (NPS) to earn customer loyalty, creating happy customers that will stay with the brand long-term, rather than customer satisfaction, potentially short-term happiness.

Why? Because customer retention has stronger economic value.

However, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that made the business pivot; it just didn’t feel right to Stuart’s team to be calling customers during a time of crisis for only 30 minutes.

That’s when they made a true change to feel better connected to their customers.

Coca-Cola HBC was introduced to an ‘always-on’ approach with real-time customer feedback through Account Experience.

With GFK, the business was only reaching 15,000 customers through one survey per year.

With CustomerGauge, Coca-Cola HBC is reaching 566,000 customers worldwide every single day.

Achieving Organizational Buy-In

Adam had asked Stuart, “Was getting buy-in something that came from the top? Was it a decision that you could take to the board and say, ‘We want to do this’?”

For Coca-Cola HBC, improving customer experience has always been an element of the business that their executive team is passionate about. From the start of their GFK partnership, reviewing customer comments has always been done.

Stuart noted, “We were very lucky in terms of having that real top buy-in from the start, which really helped me drive down fast through the organization, and maybe that was one of the reasons we went so quick.”

There is a process they hope to improve on, and that’s getting team members out of the outdated habit of centralizing data and instead taking fast action on customer feedback — something AX has helped Coca-Cola HBC to advance on.

Just by getting closer, we saw a new level of insights that were really quite transformative and creating opportunities. And we said, "Now we need to shift from listening to a few customers a year to an always-on feedback approach with all customers in terms of capturing feedback, that's what led us to explorations and ultimately the CustomerGauge partnership.

The holistic view is something we could never get before. We'd get this by country with Advantage Group, but we have the total picture which is far more powerful.

Stuart Ward
Head of Customer Capability, Coca-Coca HBC

Overcoming Challenges

Whether your program is just beginning or has developed over the years, there is always challenges to overcome.

In the early phases of rolling out their CX program, they faced the hurdle of understanding which data was clean and which wasn’t. Data cleaning involves sorting through customer contacts and seeing if any information is incorrect, outdated, or incomplete.

This is a process the CustomerGauge team sees during any new program rollout.

To overcome this challenge, Stuart used an agile approach as it could be extremely time-consuming: “Let’s just get started and learn as we go.”

Coca-Cola HBC jumped in head-first with what customers they had, and also to discover the best survey distribution method to reach them.

Four Major CX Metrics Measured by Coca-Coca HBC

Stuart and his team have hundreds of thousands of customer data points in their system, so having core metrics to measure data are critical.

The four they look at are:

  • Account Coverage. This sets their ambition and is completely in their control. Measuring account coverage is how they define how ambitious they are at getting feedback from customers. They ask themselves, “What’s our active customer base?” and “What percentage of those are we pulsing?” At this stage, they have a very clear target of covering 50% of their account base.

  • Closed-Loop Feedback. Their company-wide mandate is, “Listen, Understand, and Act.” Listening to customer feedback helps them to then understand what’s really going on with a specific account before taking action. Their goal follows the best practice of closing the loop within 48 hours.
  • Response Rate. By excluding 1 or 2 markets that have low response rates, possibly due to using the wrong survey distribution channel, they have a consistent 16% response rate. However, this is without spending too much time on increasing it, a goal for the team in the future.
  • NPS. Stuart mentioned that his team learned quickly from both customer feedback and listening to Adam’s The Account Experience Podcast that Net Promoter Score can be a dangerous metric — why? With a target of NPS alone, it could start influencing sales to incentivize customers to give high scores.

For Coca-Cola HBC, they want their feedback pure without any influence, serving as a lagging indicator. Because if they do account coverage, response rate, and close the loop really well, a high NPS score will follow.

And not only do they focus on these key metrics, but they also overachieve: they have been closing the loop with nearly an 80%+ follow-up rate in under 48 hours!

Getting Past the Fear of Feedback

Coca-Cola HBC has over 15,000 salespeople.

While looking at their previous customer satisfaction model, Stuart saw 4 out of 5 areas customers provided feedback on was the capability of their people.

With that in mind, the Sales Academy was created: an end-to-end program on how to initiate change and drive as that ‘one Helenic’ approach. Within the company, business developers have to pass certifications at key stages to progress.

For training purposes, Coca-Cola HBC now has a firm two-week process where business developers aren’t seeing customers, but rather visiting markets with a manager before taking their tests.

“The Sales Academy has helped us build capability rapidly, and we’ve got lots of teams in place that cascade and drive that down. We overamplify the message that the feedback is only on Hellinic, and not on you as an individual,” said Stuart.

Scaling Account Experience Across 29 Countries

When Coca-Cola began rolling out their program, they asked each country their plan to broaden engagement. For example, If you’re only doing contact with a buyer, how do you contact logistics or marketing?

However, they didn’t want to put too much of a structure to follow so countries could go at their own pace.

This was because they felt as though once they saw the same results Stuart did, there would be no problem continuing.

Expanding AX Into Latin America

This last year CustomerGauge has helped The Coca-Cola Company roll out Account Experience into South America.

As we introduced earlier, Luis Carlos Mira Olarte, Value to Market Process Manager at The Coca-Cola Company, led this process and works closely with our team to develop the brand new program.

The Future of Coca-Cola HBC’s Real-Time Experience Program

Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company has completely transformed their customer experience program. The company went from surveying only a small sample of customers on paper to digitally connecting with almost 600,000 customers worldwide — and this is just the beginning.

Their goal is to cover 100% of their 1.8 million customers over the next five years.

What is their plan to achieve that?

Stuart has already begun working on their data points. They aim to have the customer portal be completely self-service and it will start by taking their customer data to improve their online sales capabilities.

This also feeds into their next focus: Coca-Cola HBC wants to move to transactional surveys within their portal so that when a customer places an order, they can give feedback on that specific experience.

Rather than closing the loop on this process, they plan to send a newsletter sharing what feedback they’ve received and new functionalities they’ll roll out based on that feedback.

Stuart has learned and continues to understand what goes into creating a successful customer experience program. At the end of the Summit, he left three important takeaways for those wanting to do the same:

  • Your data doesn’t need to be perfect to get started

  • Teach and provide your Business Developers with a license to get over that fear of feedback

  • And balance the innate competitiveness that’s in the bottling system — it’s about the customer, not the NPS

Stuart’s Advice For CPG Bottlers Looking to Onboard an Experience Program

Start a pilot, get the data in, and spread the “light bulb” moments around the world!

About the Author

Author Icon
Sabrina Tessitore
Sabrina is Content Marketing Manager and qualified B2B AX-pert at CustomerGauge. She provides the strategies necessary for B2B companies to build ROI-generating NPS programs. In Sabrina's free time, you can find her seeking out new coffee shops or spending time with her Shih-Poo, Ruby.
Subscribe now to get the latest from the CustomerGauge Blog
See our Privacy Policy and GDPR terms.
More On This Topic
Loading Symbol