Cracking the code

Who’s looking after your Brand?

Why more brands are Hiring a head of customer Experience

Previously I discussed the background and laid out a case for having a Head of Customer Experience. Here we’ll explore the role a little further, what it means to have one and how the role might evolve and adapt in the future.

''By 2017, 89% of marketers expect customer experience to be their primary differentiator''- Gartner.

The Retail Organisation

Over the years, I’ve visited countless retail Head Office sites and, just as in my time in retail, two things always strike me.

The first is that many are not actually on one site, being spread either over a campus or, more commonly, separate Head Office buildings being many many miles apart. This has much to do with heritage and whilst I’m sure most if not all would not start out like this, it doesn’t help communication across the business.

The second thing and not necessarily an outcome of the first, is that most are organised in a very silo’ed and vertical manner. Commercial, supply chain, buying, merchandising, operations etc supported by HR, IT, Finance and so forth.

Indeed, when I worked for a well-known health & beauty retailer a number of years ago, one of the rare occasions when all the departments gathered around the same table (apart from at Board level) was to address something many readers might be too young to remember in their working lives - The Year 2000.

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So, in an often disconnected business with departments looking to their own responsibilities and estates of stores often global or continental: 

Who is REALLY looking after your brand?

And more importantly – Who owns your customer?

This question, raised in the context of an ever more demanding shopper, expecting amazing and consistent brand experiences is being addressed by the Head of Customer Experience.

What a seemingly impossible task, to unite the organisation behind one shared vision that defines the experience the customer will receive when engaging with your brand at any touchpoint.

Meeting Customer Requirements

Much like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, delivering a consistently good customer experience requires the execution of a hierarchy of sequenced requirements where each level must be satisfied before the next becomes important.

In 2012, Forrester developed the 3 tier customer experience model of meets needs, easy and enjoyable.

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But to understand how this evolved we need to go back to the 1950’s; to a time when Deming first developed the Total Quality Management (TQM) model.

Up until then, organisations hadn’t thought about the service they delivered in this way, they were taught to think in terms of delivering on time, in full, every time.

But is meeting needs enough to drive loyalty and keep customers coming back time and time again? Not in a world of always on, seamless service shopping.

The second tier ‘making it easy’ is perhaps where most customer experience managers have traditionally gravitated towards. Characterised by a more personalised experience.

Personalisation is a subject all to itself and we could discuss it at length for it is one of, if not the most critical components of a retailer's’ armoury but we’ll leave it there for now because it is actually still very much in its infancy - a whole new topic which we will explore another time!

The third tier ‘making it enjoyable’ is really where customer experience resides today.

Amplified by our ability to broadcast from wherever, whenever and to whoever we wish, if you are to successfully build a brand, customer experience must be consistently enjoyable, exciting and inspiring. 

Head of Customer Experience

For the Head of Customer Experience, this means deliverables and reporting at all three levels of the pyramid with ‘rapid response procedures’ in place for service shortfalls. These strategies and systems are mandatory in what Forrester calls this ‘Age of the Customer”

Once known as the Head of CRM, the role now encompasses a great deal more and, to be truly effective, I would argue that the Head of Customer Experience must eschew CRM and the blinkered data first methodology associated with it in favour of a far more empirical approach. Data is important that is not the point here, but it tells us where you’ve been. This change of vision has to transcend the historical numbers and look outwards, engage emotions and experience the whole brand offer.

British Airways appointed a new director of brand and customer experience in mid-August 2017, the significant thing being that they are tasked with strengthening the brand and its relationship with customers.

That’s not about data and number crunching, TQM or Maslow; no - that’s about the very culture of the brand and how each and every employee acts in all their dealings with the customer.

As an old boss of mine used to say, “If you’re not serving the customer directly, you’re serving someone who does”.


''The Head of Customer Experience will become the beating heart of a retail brand'' - Simon Turner, President & Co-Founder, Myagi

It is that culture which the Head of Customer Experience must embed right across the organisation.

Diplomat, politician, negotiator, persuader……..the role encompasses them all and is not for the faint hearted. The person tasked with this role will have to break down walls, disrupt working patterns, take insights across departments and ultimately refocus the business on the customer all the while relying on those going through this upheaval to actually deliver the results. Did anyone say retail was easy?

As customers we continue to expect more and more from retail brands and these expectations are increasing exponentially. The Head of Customer Experience will become the beating heart of a retail brand, feeding the cultural oxygen to the component parts of the business and keeping the body healthy.

That places a huge burden of pressure upon the role. But with that responsibility so, it follows that over time, will come the authority, making this one of the most coveted roles in retail.

Only those with a strong disposition need apply.

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Topics: Customer Delight, customer experience, head of customer experience

Posted by Andrew Busby on Sep 4, 2017 6:47:38 AM
Andrew Busby
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