Conscious that there was room for improvement in customer communications and the potential for missed opportunities, Auckland Live GM Customer Experience and Innovation, Penn Trevella, says the organisation recognised this and focused on enhancing their customers’ experience.

“We also recognised the potential for an investment in a new CRM platform, but, before doing that, we wanted a customer-led approach informing the features and functionality of an eventual system. If we are clear on what adds the most value to the customer, then we can be clear on how to set up the CRM system for success.”

At the back end of many organisations, where systems and processes like the proposed CRM system are designed and executed, there tend to be broad assumptions around the wants and needs of customers. What is often missing is a direct link to those customers, which can be achieved in a surprisingly simple way: Just ask them.

Penn says getting stuck with assumptions about what customers want is a dangerous mistake to make. “That’s where a customer-led approach differs – and when you’re taking the voice of the customer to organisational stakeholders, when you’re empathising and understanding the challenges your customers face, you’re in a better position to address those issues.”

This approach also means empowered advocacy with internal stakeholders who are better equipped to assess the value of targeted initiatives for organisational improvement.


Penn says the project was greatly assisted by Assurity’s ability to rapidly grasp the context and complexity of Auckland Live’s operations. “Working on something of this nature rests on confidence and trust. It involves multiple stakeholders, from the core project team through to senior leadership. And it is the nuances of understanding and extrapolating key insights from customers that builds credibility,” he explains.

Assurity started with a simple problem statement: ‘How might we better understand our customers’ needs to ensure Auckland Live is relevant across the entire event experience?’ and then, due to the impact of the pandemic on live events, responded with a phased approach. The first phase directly engaged customers with in-depth and intercept interviews, as well as interviews with key internal employees and subject matter experts. This was focused primarily on the pre-purchase and ticket purchase phase of the event experience. A second phase included shadow interviews, data analysis, validation of early-stage digital prototypes and resulted in the creation of the Customer Decision Making Funnel and a comprehensive Customer Journey Map. The map consists of 24 key step customer insights across the five phases – from Pre-Purchase, Purchase, Post-Purchase, Day of the Event and Post-Event.

“In-depth interviews with individual customers are really at the heart of it,” says Penn, noting a particular skill in empathising with customers, talking freely, and relating to individuals while tracking and identifying the challenges faced across whole journeys. “And then there was the shadowing, where customers were tracked from their homes, through departure, on to the event and after. Professionalism was evident as Assurity’s people knew when and how to probe and pick up on the nuances.”

If any surprises came out of this direct engagement, Penn says it is an appreciation of the extent to which event-going is a social experience. “You get a wake-up call. For us, it is daily business. For our customers, it’s truly special.”

When the results of the engagement were in and the customer journey mapped, the project team did something unusual, which dramatically amplified the results of a consulting engagement. Where most reports end up in a PDF distributed by email, a physical interactive exhibit was set up to engage staff members, senior leaders and external partners. “This made the customer journey real. Our people could see it in action – and better understand their role in creating and delivering a great experience.”


Penn says Assurity’s work has delivered a better understanding of the customer sought by Auckland Live. “More precisely, we have identified those areas where we can make a difference, where we can alleviate any challenges the customer faces. We can prioritise our efforts.”

He stresses that the work done to date is not ‘solutioning’, but rather preparatory in nature. “There are multiple next steps, including the design and implementation of a suitable CRM system. What we have now is a clearer idea of what we want from the CRM and there is still experimentation and design work to be done to solve what we now know our customers want.”

As something of an ‘added bonus’, in the discovery phase, Assurity identified large quantities of data from previous events. This data had not been analysed, so Assurity put a data scientist on it, delivering further customer insights from a dormant asset. “This really showed the value of engaging with a multi-competency consultancy. They recognised an opportunity for us and rapidly demonstrated further value.”

His colleague Stuart Lyon, General Manager Operations, Auckland Live and Auckland Conventions, is impressed with the outcome. “The project delivered valuable and detailed insights into our customers and their experience with our services in a succinct manner. What’s pleasing is the insight was further developed to provide the business with tangible areas of focus to improve our service to customers.”

Finally, sharing findings, recommendations and customer journey design through the ‘immersive experience’ has ensured maximum impact for the work done. “We walked our people through an exhibition of the entire project, including pictures of and core insights from customers, the phases they go through and the journey map. We have had teams popping by from all over the organisation, genuinely interested in how their work impacts the customer. And that has helped extract value from the work,” Penn concludes.

When talking to customers, plenty more than their direct experience comes up. This puts the leadership team in a uniquely informed position to make more informed decisions. The work Assurity has done, in other words, will influence operational processes and systems too”

Penn Trevella

Auckland Live GM Customer Experience and Innovation