Claire Hazle is Director of Digital Self-Service at Legal and General, a company she joined halfway through lockdown. Hazle gives us an outline of how L&G is responding to the crisis, and what her average day looks like.

claire hazle, legal and general

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I have responsibility for consumer-facing digital self-service capabilities across L&G, along with our website landg.com. I develop and own the strategic direction and roadmap, working with teams across the business to identify opportunities for growth and leading digitally-enabled initiatives.

What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?

As you would expect, we have seen a significant increase in usage of our online services. In May we saw a 90% increase YoY in the number of logins to our My Account service, and we anticipate a 45% full year increase if this trend continues. Since the start of the pandemic, we have also seen our online chat interactions more than double. We’re seeing a clear trend towards individuals taking stock of their financial wellbeing during this difficult time, with a heightened awareness of the importance of protecting their family’s financial future. I think we have all become acutely more aware of what is truly important to us, and that’s the safety and wellbeing of our loved ones.

How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?

The most obvious impact has been the switch to working from home full-time rather than splitting my time between our London and Hove offices. I joined L&G halfway through lockdown, which was quite an odd experience as I haven’t met my team in person yet. However, I have had a unique glimpse into their lives outside of work which I wouldn’t have had otherwise. They in return have had quite a few glimpses of my cat’s bottom as he has made various impromptu appearances during video meetings!

Which companies have impressed you since the outbreak?

Whilst it’s easy to point to some of the big brands who have tapped into the national sentiment through a CSR-driven approach since lockdown, I’ve actually been most impressed by the plethora of local businesses who have successfully pivoted their business models. Pubs and restaurants have switched to offering takeaways, cake makers have tapped into the sudden demand for afternoon tea deliveries as a lockdown treat or gift, and community farm shops have become the lifeblood for vulnerable individuals in need of grocery care parcels in the absence of supermarket provision. This ability to adapt and rethink product development and distribution by tapping into rapidly changing consumer behaviour and psychology has been critical in many cases to their survival.

What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?

Fundamentally, our customers look to us for reassurance that we will take care of them and their loved ones through these difficult times just as we do when life is less challenging. As the pandemic hit, we substantially scaled up our online help and support, and in particular our AI tools that allow us to gain real-time insight into the questions and concerns that our customers have, responding quickly through surfacing relevant content and support channels as we spotted trends and pain points.

L&G have also launched a range of initiatives to help meet the growing social needs arising from the coronavirus disruption. One of our partnerships has helped create a UK network of Bruntwood SciTech innovation districts, dedicated to driving the growth of the science and technology sector. One of these, Alderley Park in Cheshire, has recently become the home of one of the government’s three national ‘Mega Labs’ to facilitate mass testing for coronavirus. Recognising the stress on the NHS and its workers, we are supporting the NHS in a variety of ways, including offering free accommodation for NHS key workers at our Build to Rent sites. Twenty five of our sites have been offered to the NHS to use for testing, as well as our Bracknell site being offered up for training and storage. We have also supported the Duke of Edinburgh Award, Trussell Trust foodbank, the Royal Voluntary Service and the Sun NHS emergency appeal and will continue to look for opportunities to support those who still need our help as we emerge further from lockdown.

What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?

I have a thing about Post-It notes, so I was super excited to use an online whiteboard collaboration tool for a week’s worth of workshops recently. Virtual Post-It notes don’t fall off the wall and leave you wondering where they came from when you come to write up your notes. I must admit that I’ve bought myself an actual whiteboard though, which sits next to my desk at home. I still can’t get away from the need to scribble and draw things as inspiration strikes.

I’d like to say that I’ve been practising mindfulness and yoga to help me cope with the extra strain during this period, but I’d be lying. I can confirm, however, that I have increased my intake of coffee and chocolate.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

  • Stay close to your customers. They won’t necessarily be thinking or acting in the way that they would normally, and you have to be able to respond to that. Look for odd data trends, test different hypotheses and most importantly, listen to what they’re telling you.
  • Spend your time productively. I know that many companies have all but turned the marketing tap off, which can come as a huge shock when your days suddenly aren’t filled with your normal routine. Use the time to get all those tasks done that normally get pushed to the bottom of the pile, like analysing data, optimising online funnels, focusing on SEO and developing engaging content. Brush up your skills; there are loads of free online courses and events out there at the moment.
  • Spend your marketing budget wisely. If you have had your budget slashed, think creatively. How can you better use your owned channels to create an even more meaningful dialogue with your customers? Always treat your budget as if it were your own money, particularly at the moment when so many companies are struggling financially. Focus on squeezing every last penny out of any spend during this time.
  • Be ready to spot the early signs that your industry is turning a corner, and have a recovery plan already prepared. Test and learn as you go, and be prepared to change direction if you need to. Do your best to anticipate customers’ changing needs during this time, and genuinely value their custom.

What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?

I think that having a very clearly articulated business plan is even more important during this time, as it provides clarity and certainty for employees, customers and shareholders alike. What the pandemic has demonstrated is that businesses need to be agile and able to react to unforeseen circumstances, mobilising staff and adapting quickly. It has particularly thrust digital capabilities of companies and their staff firmly into the limelight, highlighting very clearly that businesses really cannot afford to be behind the curve.

At L&G, my team and I are in the process of developing a three-year digital strategy; given the economic and social challenges we face around the world, we are being mindful that the strategy needs to be underpinned with a roadmap that is flexible and responsive to fluid external factors. Our customers have always been at the heart of our business, but we are even more conscious now to build our strategy around service design thinking and customer journey mapping. My view is that strategy provides a crucial backbone, but the journey from A to B sometimes has to end up a little bit wiggly rather than the perfectly straight line that we may set out to achieve.

Read more of Econsultancy’s coverage of marketing in a pandemic on our coronavirus hub page.