PETER VEASH NAMED THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSON IN THE INDUSTRY

This interview has originally been published in Econsultancy’s Top 100 Digital Agencies Report. Download the full report here.

Peter Veash has been voted the ‘most influential’ figure by his peers in this year’s Top 100. Econsultancy Editor Ben Davis caught up with him to find out more about his work.

Perhaps fittingly, in a year when the Top 100 report tackles such disparate and complex subjects as AI, psychology and existentialism (what is an agency to be?), Veash speaks with directness and clarity about his business. The fact that he answered my questions for this interview whilst driving a car and placating a canine passenger was impressive, too.

Beyond user-centric design

I asked Veash what distinguishes BIO’s approach. His reply was that BIO makes “a prediction before the work goes live as to how it’s going to change revenues and NPS, and I think that puts us in a relatively unique place in the industry.

To put this into context, BIO is a customer experience-led digital transformation agency, so it does a wide variety of work but a large part is user-centred design of digital experiences. As with many specialisms, there can be an element of dogmatism to user centred design, something that clients have to some extent embraced, too (how many times have we heard marketers talk about “putting customers at the heart of what we do”?). Veash explains how this user-centricity is not enough on its own.

We’ve changed our methodology,” he says. “The long version is we believe there’s a big industry issue that everyone is very user-centric, which is the correct way to be, but just meeting user needs alone doesn’t necessarily mean digital transformation is going to impact digital KPIs. Nobody is addressing that in the industry, globally.

We’ve taken the last year to work out how we stitch together the business case, all the way through, to make sure before we do any work and it goes live, we have a view on how it’s going to shift NPS and revenue. It’s more accountable.”

Veash went as far as to describe agencies as “an unaccountable world.”

As for how exactly BIO makes these predictions, its founder talks of analysing customer journeys using “a central platform that can see what’s going on in real time, [allowing us to] start to model what we’re going to do and its impact.”

It makes sense that the agency pushes this accountability, given that transformation projects fail more often than not. Veash cites a McKinsey study from 2015, which found that three quarters of business transformation programmes do not achieve their stated goals.

What we believe we’re doing for the first time is tying together strategy with experience design and technologyPETER VEASH – FOUNDER AND CEO, THE BIO AGENCY

Defining the digital agency

In the current landscape where digital agencies face unprecedented competition from consultancies and marketers are increasingly in-housing some digital disciplines, I asked Veash how BIO’s way of working stacks up against the competition. His take was a simple one.

Strategy consultancies would typically be good at business casing and operational strategy, but they’re less good at actually bringing that to life. Then design consultancies and experience consultancies are very good at creating something that provides a great customer experience but they don’t often tie back to business metrics. Then you’ve got technology agencies that can bring in the tech but they don’t tie back to the customer experience.

What we believe we’re doing for the first time is tying together strategy with experience design and technology.”

As someone who does not have a background in agency land, this is compelling in its simplicity. Furthermore, BIO’s two-prong proposition detailed on its website makes a lot of sense – digital innovation (creating products, services, experiences) and digital transformation (looking at the whole business, from operations to tech to culture).

Veash adds that length of engagement with clients is increasing and that alongside a customer experience (CX) team, BIO has an employee experience (EX) team.

We’re having to make changes internally to make sure the project is realised in the way it should be. We’ve had a couple of examples where we are hired not only to deliver a digital product and transformation, but also to agitate the organisation so it works in a different way.

“…Sometimes you need a bit of a sledgehammer to force change. As a result, we have hired EX specialists.

New specialisms

I asked Veash about BIO’s current challenges, particularly about other new roles the agency has recruited for. One new specialism he stressed was psychology.

We’ve brought a psychological approach into the business, because we’re changing the way we understand customers from doing personas to really understanding psychological profiling. That’s a shift for us.

When we think of customer experience, psychologists don’t exist in that field today, so we’re learning from them in all kinds of different sectors, such as health. They’ve done seven years of training and we want to open up this world for them for the first time.

Veash adds that drawing on psychology is new for the industry and “not typically the way people operate today in our sector.”

 

Attraction and retention

Discussing agency culture with Veash, he highlighted two main issues. Firstly, “a change in the way people want to work.”

People are less concerned about full time, and more and more people are choosing freelance work for flexibility. As a business, you have to adjust to that and understand it.”

Veash says he is open-minded about the workforce:

We’ve changed the way we offer holidays, the way we give breaks in careers, to make it the right place to work. A place people want to come to.”

Part of attracting and retaining staff is BIO’s offer of a “significant learning and development budget,” which Veash says is “not so common in our industry."

He adds, “We are 100% focused on training our teams. When I was growing up working in the industry, it was more about learning on the job, but consultancies, for example, don’t do that.”

This is perhaps a revealing comment. Speaking to Veash, I got the impression of more structure and processes in place at BIO – a maturing of their model, which balances product expertise and ideas with business acumen, leading to greater cultural embedding with clients. Digital agencies are all dealing with these changes in the market as businesses realise digital is less about the next best tech and more about finding the right strategic partner.

To find out more about how we make digital transformation more accountable drop us an email at makesomething@thebioagency.com.

AWARENESS DOESN’T EQUAL BEHAVIOUR CHANGE

In the recent article for PharmaTimes, BIO CX consultant Max Crichton describes how digital can approach some of the major issues for the pharmaceutical market. Two in particular need addressing quickly: antimicrobial resistance and non-adherence to prescription.

Antimicrobial resistance

The World Health Organisation asserted recently that approximately 500,000 people in the world have developed resistance towards antimicrobial drugs, making antibiotics significantly less effective. This affects the capability to treat infections, manage diabetes, or even to support basic surgeries. This is largely a consequence of the increase in antibiotic use worldwide, often for (mis)treatment of cold, coughs or ear infections. In other words, viral illnesses that cannot be treated with antibiotics. In England alone, antibiotic use has seen a 6.5% increase over the last four years, and the global implications are dire – Public Health England's predictions for 2050 run to potentially 10 million deaths and costs of £66 trillion. 

SourcePublic Health England


Medication intake adherence
 

While the increased use of antibiotics is a major factor, the irregularity of medication intake has also decreased the effectiveness of treatments. This costs the NHS around £500 million a year, due to prolonged and more complicated treatment required by patients who don't adhere to taking medications as prescribed.

Digital Solutions 

Developing new and enhanced antibiotics is costly and highly time-consuming. Digital solutions can offer ways to encourage medical staff to prescribe fewer antibiotics, and educate and support patients on the need for adherence. This can involve significantly lower costs and offers a more effective and sustainable solution, if built and implemented correctly.  

Before developing solutions that can support such behavioural change, Max believes it is indispensable to first understand the key factors that stop patients from taking the medicines regularly or completing their treatment as prescribed.  

  1. Non-adherence can be driven by both conscious (e.g. decision to take the medicine) or unconscious processes (e.g. environmental cues and habits formed).  
  2. Individual patient’s beliefs about the treatment and the prescribed medicine, derived from their perception of personal need and their concerns about potential adverse consequences that go well beyond the medicine’s side effects.  
  3. Difficulty with building habits of regular medicine intake. 
  4. Misleading early perceptions of ‘feeling better’ that result in ending the treatment. 

 

Government programmes such as ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ are by nature impersonal, as they’re so widely targeted. Focus should instead be on individual patients to guarantee lasting behavioural changes. With the development of new ideas and technologies, a number of start-ups are moving into the health sector, enabling patients and practitioners to communicate more efficiently and conveniently, track progress, manage accountability and deepen the understanding of human behaviour during the medical treatment.  

 

Informing, supporting, and educating the patient provides the optimal solution for effecting behavioural change in health care, and digital services designed with the patient front of mind have a huge part to play.MAX CRICHTON, CX CONSULTANT, THE BIO AGENCY

Max's conclusion is that current digital services should be extended to provide a channel of ongoing communication and feedback between a doctor and a patient. The potential benefits are huge, unlocking an invaluable support and advice on medicine intake and treatment duration that patients would receive from their doctors. 

There is potential to extend the habit-creating and habit-reinforcing digital solutions that support patients with chronic illnesses. Recent technologies such as mySugr (supporting diabetes patients), mypill (supporting women with their contraception intake), or MangoHealth (supporting medicine intake) are stellar examples of digital services in the healthcare and pharma sector. Max believes that now is the time to start building technologies for patients in mind.

INTEGRATED PLACES OF THE FUTURE

Justin Small, Chief Strategy Officer here at The Bio Agency, wrote about how to create integrated places that build attachment between customers and stores.

Justin believes that in a fiercely competitive retail market, executing integrated places will become a key brand differentiator that will help retailers to gain a competitive advantage. Enhancing a holistic brand experience will be key, with a focus on digital-physical convergence rather than simply enhancing website UX or the in-store experience alone. Practices that can enable successful digital placemaking and physical-digital integration include creating an effective omnichannel strategy alongside using data and predictive analytics for personalisation. This will enable retailers to create a more holistic shopping proposition that seamlessly transition between the digital and physical worlds, building meaningful places that drive customer loyalty.

Why is this increasingly important? Customers’ expectations and demands are rising in line with constant technological change, but retailers are struggling to keep up. Mothercare and H&M are just two of many reporting a slow-down in sales recently. Retail – or at least the high street – is going through an existential crisis, with falling sales and 3.5 per cent year-on-year decline in footfall reported in December 2017 (Springboard, 2017).

Although retailers increasingly understand the importance of merging the digital and physical worlds, creating digital places and omnichannel experiences that bring customers back to their stores is still difficult. Integrating digital into retailers’ strategy is not about simply replacing traditional practices with the newest digital developments to create online-only or physical-only experiences. It's about ensuring that the transition between digital and physical is seamless. Justin notes that digital placemaking has a strong potential to facilitate that transition.

The key strength of placemaking lies in creating environments that people want to come back to. (…) Digital placemaking is based on the same principle. It’s the process of creating a personal and meaningful digital place – spanning both private and public digital realms – that delivers human value and communal identity through interactive digital actions.JUSTIN SMALL, CSO, THE BIO AGENCY

Justin believes the focus of retailers should be on developing an experience strategy that integrates digital and physical places. This is ‘integrated placemaking’; creating meaning by combining unique personal physical experiences with digital tools and data. If implemented correctly, it can create a strong ‘place attachment’ – a meaningful connection between a person and a place. Examples of successful digital placemaking include King’s Cross Granary Square’s app-enabled fountains, the TATE’s app with immersive storytelling capability, NIKE’s New York store with data-led personalised experiences, or Pavegen’s energy-generating paving slabs. But digital placemaking is not only applicable to digitisation of physical places. It can also be used to physicalise online stores, with Made.com’s lifestyle showrooms an excellent example of how to implement the concept successfully.

The diagram below gives an overview of our process to create a personal and meaningful digital place. It relies on delivering human value and communal identity through interactive digital actions that build place attachment by creating successful integrated places.

If you’d like to discuss how we can help you to envision and execute integrated placemaking, please get in touch with us at: info@thebioagency.com 

Read the full story on 365 Retail and Retail Focus.

TRAVEL TECH INVESTMENT MAY BE WASTED WITHOUT GETTING THE BASICS RIGHT

In the recent article for Travolution, our CEO Peter Veash shared his view on why investment in new technology could be wasted for hotels that neglect the basics.

When it comes to the hospitality industry, getting the basics right is a prerequisite for any radical innovation programme. The reality is, no matter how much hotels spend on implementing the newest solutions, most customers will always choose cleanliness, comfort and great customer service over a polished booking system or a revolutionary app. And while there is a wealth of exciting new travel technologies on the market, only brands that have already mastered the customer experience basics are in a position to benefit from more transformational tools.

One of the examples Peter cited was Premier Inn – a company showing how to do digital right. Long before their app was launched, Premier Inn had achieved stellar customer reviews. Their Good Night Guarantee was a stroke of genius in terms of positioning, and actually delivering on what matters to customers – a comfortable bed and a good night’s sleep. Their app then served as added value, aimed at further enhancing the customer experience with simplified check-in, room temperature and lighting controls in-app, and enhanced discoverability of the local area to aid guests’ general travel experience.

If new tech is to be introduced, it has to be more than a gimmick. Employing software in an intuitive and common-sense way doesn’t have to be radical or revolutionary, it just needs to make each guest’s stay as pleasant an experience as possible.PETER VEASH, CEO, THE BIO AGENCY

For hotels that mastered the basics, investing in customer-driven technologies that streamline processes like checking in and out, updating old-fashioned systems for locking rooms and personalising guest experiences are a good place to start. Employee communication and knowledge sharing systems are another crucial, though often overlooked element. They can pay a real dividend, ensuring efficiency and service consistency.

New technologies do not have to be revolutionary, but they should definitely be augmenting already brilliant basics. Gimmick technologies that give a temporary PR boost are likely to be ‘a colossal waste of money’.

Mail us if you'd like to find out more about how The BIO Agency can help you to create best-in-class guest experiences – makesomething@thebioagency.com

Let’s make something happen_

BIO logo

London_

The BIO Agency (HQ)
70 Wilson Street
London
EC2A 2DB
UK

+44 20 7079 2450

Toronto_

The BIO Agency (Americas)
42nd Floor
Scotia Plaza
Toronto ON M5H 3C2
Canada

+1 416 268 2466

Follow Us_

For a regular dose of digital insight sign up to follow us on social media.

Work With Us_

If you’d like to discuss a new project or business challenge with us, get in touch. We’ll be happy to invite you for a coffee, a chat and the chance to meet our three resident pooches.

A Tech Mahindra Company

© 2020 The BIO Agency Ltd / Registered no 05787984.