Research

A mandate to be customer-led that comes from the top: A Q+A with Southern Cross Austereo’s John Musgrove

A mandate to be customer-led that comes from the top: A Q+A with Southern Cross Austereo’s John Musgrove

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), leading radio and TV distributor in Australia, connects with up to 95% of Australians each week. With increased disruption and saturation in the market, SCA has shifted its focus on bringing the voice of its audience to the centre of decision making.

With four decades of experience in the media industry, John Musgrove, Head of Research at SCA, has pioneered insight-driven decision making across the organisation over the last 13 years. Leading a 25-member research team, John recently spoke to us about the power of being proactive over reactive, the importance of asking the audience what they think and how he garners support from the C-suite.

Tell us about SCA’s journey towards customer centricity.

Our mandate to be customer-led has always stemmed from the top. One story I love on the power of customer insight stemmed from our CEO on the launch of the iPod. At the time, headlines suggested the iPod was set to kill radio audiences. However, on speaking to our audience directly we found most were listening to radio more to find music they wanted to purchase. The audience was right, the experts were wrong.


“Our mandate to be customer-led has always stemmed from the top.”


We’ve worked with Vision Critical for eight years and continue to prove out the value of insight-driven decision making. From content to sales to marketing, our 123,000 community members across 78-member groups provide weekly insights to ensure we stick to our customer-led mandate. Today we are probably about 80% of the way to what I would call customer centricity, but as a large and diverse media organiation, our challenge is in connecting a very broad range of stakeholders.

Gaining traction across the business, especially with the C-suite, is a common challenge for any department. Can you share your experiences?

It is and remains a key challenge. Pragmatically and historically “research” is seen as very “dry,” so it’s always a challenge to get people excited about the value of insight. In my experience, the way to demonstrate value to the C-Suite is to be agile and solutions-focused.


“The way to demonstrate value to the C-Suite is to be agile and solutions-focused.”


There needs to be a shift in mindset for research teams to be proactive instead of reactive, ensuring customer insight is at the forefront of business strategy. Today, our work sits on the desk of the COO and, with most C-suite members interested in the “So what?” over the “How?”, it’s important to communicate insight in a way that demonstrates business value.

If I could share one anecdote for success here it would be to give your team a voice. For us, the last two years has seen the pace accelerate by championing the value of insight from the bottom-up.

Could you offer some tips on how researchers can take insight beyond its typical silos?

Research is in a very, very exciting place these days. It’s definitely changing and morphing, so that means you get to explore as widely as you can. As I mentioned before, proactivity is your best friend—it’s over to you to look for a great study or opportunity and then share back often to people and stakeholders who could potentially benefit from it.


“Proactivity is your best friend.”


We encourage our team to always explore, push boundaries, be willing to fail to find new ways of doing things. One of our favourite quotes often used is Edison’s “there is always a better way—find it.” This means we have to encourage and support our teams to be bold and courageous and keep exploring. For me, going beyond the silos comes from the DNA in your team culture.

What’s next on the journey?

I am a true advocate for the power of insight communities. My personal belief is that the future of insight communities, for high quality responses, will be aggregating smaller communities under umbrella brands. I think the smaller the passion point, the greater the engagement.

Converse to how that might come across, I think every brand’s focus should be on engaging entire customer bases through insight communities—millions of customers, broken up into smaller sub-groups that deliver targeted value to the brand. It’s about understanding your customers deeper. Going beyond a transactional level to understand customer attitudes, emotions, and intent. To do that, you need to cast a wide net.

Big thanks to John for spending precious time chatting with us. Read Southern Cross Austereo’s full story in Insight-driven decision making: How top brands uncover market opportunities using ongoing customer feedback.



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