Less clinical, more retail.

That’s the vision for Red Cross Australia’s 100 donor centres across the country, as the not-for-profit aims to improve its relationship with donors.

“Until February this year none of our channels spoke to each other. SMS, phone, email none of them,” said Janine Wilson, Executive Director of Donor Services at The Australian Red Cross.

This meant a donor could potentially receive a call from their doctor informing them they have hepatitis and receive a text message from the Red Cross inviting them to donate blood again on the same day.

“Donors knew that we didn’t know them and they behaved that way,” Wilson said during a media roundtable hosted by Oracle last week.

Red Cross Australia recently introduced the Oracle Service Cloud to provide a 360 degree view of their donors to engage them more successfully and drive the right kind of behaviour to more efficiently manage Australia’s blood supply.

The non-profit’s technology investments are driven by the need to manage the supply of a product with a short shelf life by essentially getting the right donor in the right place at the right time.

“The challenge is how do we engage our donors in a more meaningful way to ensure they behave in the way we want them to,” Wilson said.

“We are actually a manufacturing business, we manufacture biological products, except unlike most manufacturers our raw material doesn’t just arrive in batches ready to go, our raw material gets sick, gets cranky, forgets its appointment, doesn’t want to come today and so on.”

Wilson said the overall the management of blood supply has improved over the last decade but still could be more efficient and a better experience.

“For every donor that doesn’t turn up, who’s blood type is the wrong type, who’s blood cannot be used, it’s a waste of money, their time and their blood,” Wilson said.

A shortage of a certain blood type requires a segmented search, refined by gender and location. It sounds straightforward, but until recently this segmentation happened entirely within an excel spreadsheet.

In the future Red Cross Australia is hoping to add behavioural information to aid their cause. For example, understanding a particular donor is reliable and turns up every time they are called, versus one who makes an appointment and five times out of seven doesn’t turn up.

“This is the kind of big data conversation that we can have that means we can get a much more nuanced response to this sort of supply problem than we have in the past,” Wilson said.

Other new customer experience improvements include notifying clinic and contact centre staff of donor birthdays and milestones, for example how many times a person has given blood.

“The donor knows what their donation number is and if you go in and donate and no one says anything it’s a very disengaging thing to have happen to you,” Wilson said.

According to Wilson, the most impactful thing they have done in the last year was starting to use real-time data to send an SMS to people saying ‘your blood is now going to hospital X’ the minute it leaves the Red Cross facility.

“Donors love it because it is deeply personal. It’s their bag of blood going to that hospital,” Wilson said.

People change

The process and technology change within Red Cross Australia is accompanied by a people change.

“Unlike a sales team who know how to be a sales team most of my workforce are nurses, it’s all very clinical when actually we are trying to create an experience that’s not very clinical at all, in fact, it’s a little bit more retail,” Wilson said.

“Putting a needle in an arm is not going to look that different in 10 years. You can’t actually get a robot to do it… the biggest changes are in the contact centre.”

Red Cross Australia has been working to make its donor centres less clinical by taking them out of hospitals and into retail strips, and adopting a more aesthetically pleasing design while making the machinery and blood less visible. (“All our research says even blood donors don’t want to see blood,” Wilson said.)

Red Cross Australia is currently building a flagship donor centre in Townsville which is set to open later this year filled with best of breed processes and technology. Think of it as an Apple store for donating blood.

“When you have 100 donor centres one idea becomes an expensive idea before you get it to the executive table. Now I’m saying, ‘we want one best-of-breed center’ it’s in Townsville and let’s see how good we can make it,” Wilson said.

Talking cloud and data security

Wilson calls cloud the “five-letter word that I don’t use” because “it’s confusing, people don’t know what it means.” And that makes the business discussion harder.

“When you boil it down it’s only a little outsourced hosting solution. Oracle have a better data centre than we do, it’s in Sydney, they can look after data, that’s their skillset and this is how it’s going to work,” Wilson said.

“I quite literally took a business case and wherever the word cloud appeared I put ‘outsourced hosting solution’ and it changed the conversation.”

“When you start talking about cloud and outsourced hosting you start talking about data security.”

In October last year, the Red Cross suffered a data breach which “has heightened the data security discussion.” Wilson emphasised the decision to adopt the Oracle Service Cloud predates and in unrelated to the data breach.

The Privacy Commission is still compiling its report on the incident. But Wilson said now the noise has died down it event didn’t cause any lasting damage to its relationship with donors.

“We made a very quick and proactive decision to go very public very soon, as soon as we knew. In actual fact the real risk to data was so small, it was incredibly small, but that’s not the point. We felt it was our obligation to tell the 1.2 million owners of those bits of data that their data may have been breached and here’s what happened. People responded to that honest with a generous response,” Wilson said.

“My learning from that is blood donors are collectively a fairly loyal and forgiving lot… I think they were forgiving but as has been put to me a number of times I don’t think they would be again.”

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