As the launch of my first book get’s ever closer to becoming a reality, my level of personal excitement is almost at its peak!! However, I would never have got to the point of being on the brink of achieving my ambition without the support of many people. A significant amount of support came via my crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. I feel genuinely blessed that so many people believed in what I am doing enough to pledge their support to make my dream come true.
In pledging to my campaign, five wonderful people were rewarded with an interview feature on my blog – what you are reading is the fourth of the five (you can read the first – an interview with James Dodkins – here; the second with Chris Brown – here; and the third with Kathy van de Laar – here). Today I am absolutely delighted to share my interview with ex colleague and seasoned Customer Experience Professional, Richard Shenton, Head of Customer Experience Strategy & Operational Excellence, Virgin Media Business – enjoy…
Ian. Tell us a little bit about your working background:
Richard. I actually started my career in the public sector in process re-engineering and it turned out to be a great way for me to start my career in change. I learned very quickly that the key to successful change was the ability to win hearts and minds! The role enabled me to further my development in continuous improvement, specifically using Six Sigma methodology as I moved on to jobs in the financial services industry – with BUPA and Barclaycard.
Ian. Why did a career in ‘change’ appeal to you?
Richard. I always knew that I wanted to help improve organisations. The desire came about as a result of my university degree. I was lucky enough to do a ‘sandwich’ course, spending time in Australia working for Dell Computer. I worked in their procurement operations team – and was quite literally run ragged! Their processes were not slick at all and I could not believe how inefficient their processes were and how they impacted the customer. When I learned that methodologies existed to address issues like these, I just knew what my purpose was going to be.
Within the Financial Services industry I quickly learned that process re-engineering can be used to reduce cost or sell more but I have always believed that the primary benefit of improving a business process should be to improve the customer experience – by doing so, making more money becomes a sustainable reality.
Ian. Tell us more about your focus on Customer Experience (CX)?
Richard. I have been exposed to CX in a number of different industries now – , financial services, retail, utilities and telecoms. In the mid noughties, CX was still not really understood. Too many were using continuous improvement methodologies like six sigma to remove organisational cost, rather than for improving CX. In my experience to a degree, anyone who worked in a non-manufacturing six sigma role was almost seen as the ‘grim reaper! It was when I joined Shop Direct that my perspective changed and I became a better leader.
Ian. We met at Shop Direct – my seven years there has had a huge influence on my career – how did their focus on CX affect you?
Richard. My Shop Direct experience turned me into a commercially focused CX professional. We proved that it is perfectly possible to improve CX and commercial performance at the same time. It is not about one or the other. Improving CX will not just positively effect customer perception – it will also have a positive effect on the top and bottom line as well.
Ian. How are you continuing to evolve the deployment of CX today?
Richard. The experiences customers have with organisations always used to be led by process – processes were created and the customer journey had to try to align to them. Now I am focussing more on service design – re-designing the journey to better meet the needs and expectations of customers and then to determining what processes are required to bring it to life. In today’s competitive environment there is a real focus to accelerate improvements in a more agile framework of rapid test and learns and becoming more innovative using technology.
Ian. In your opinion, why do so many companies find CX so hard?
Richard. In my opinion, it is simple. There is too much pressure to deliver results too quickly. CX is a long term strategy that can be delivered with short-term incremental gains.
Ian. What advice can you give to other CX Professionals?
Richard. My 4 tips are;
- Identify a number of short term improvements – use these to lay the foundations for the long term future focus on CX
- Board level representation- we need to be the conscience/mirror to the business, enabling the change of culture and mindset.
- Find a simple way of articulating to your business the effect decisions can and do have on both the business AND your customers
- Turn your Net Promoter Score number into a commercial ‘lost opportunity’ number. Focussing on the commercial lost opportunity is extremely powerful
Ian. Do you have any advice for anyone who is just starting out on their CX Career?
Richard. Show willingness to get involved. If the customer is your passion, volunteer to do things to help your organisation become more customer focussed. You must not think about where this is going to get you – doing the right things for the right reasons will ultimately benefit you as your career progresses.
You can connect with Richard on LinkedIn.
My book, Customer What – the honest and practical guide to Customer Experience – will be available to purchase in April 2018. I look forward to publishing the final interview very soon.