In this episode:
In this episode, Wendy Liebmann interviews Andy Murray, CEO of BigQUEST, and Founder and Chair, Customer Centric Leadership Initiative at the University of Arkansas’ Walton College of Business, and formerly head of customer experience at Walmart and ASDA UK.
Wendy and Andy discuss:
- Why being a shopper-centric organization is more important than ever.
- The role of the physical store in an omni-channel world.
- How to deliver “new” when people no longer shop the aisles.
- How to build shopper-centric organizations to drive the Future of Retail.
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Hello, my name is Wendy Liebmann. I’m the CEO and Chief shopper of WSL Strategic Retail, and this is Future Shop.
This is where I have a fast and furious occasionally controversial chat with guests about the future of retail and what companies need to think about and do to actually activate that future. The topic today why building a shopper centric organization is more critical than ever before. And here’s a clue. It’s not about the pandemic.
My guest is Andy Murray. So who better to have this conversation with he is in my mind the guru of all things customer centricity, and customer experience. He is the CEO and founder of big quest, which is a company that helps build innovative leaders and solve problems innovatively. He’s also the founder and chair of the customer centric Leadership Initiative at the University of Arkansas Walton College of Business. He has an amazing career, founder of Saatchi x, through P&G, to Walmart, where he was the Senior Vice President of Creative and Customer Experience in the US. And then they sent him off to the UK to be the chief customer Officer of Walmart as a company. He is still a chair and trustee of the Astor foundation. So this man did I tell you, He is the right person to talk to about this. He is, Hello, Andy.
Hi, Wendy, thank you for that very kind introduction. It’s good to see you today.
It’s great to see you too. I’ve really been looking forward to this because when I say things like it’s the sharpest, stupid.
And I think I’m just being rude. So you know, it’s it’s wonderful to have you How are you? Very well, doing very well. Thanks.
Yeah, you’re at home. You’re in Arkansas.
Yes, we’re in Arkansas, still obviously, in lockdown. But we love being back from the UK. The UK just came back in March, but love the UK experience for four years. But this time of year, I’m happy to be in Arkansas.
I think we’ve got a lot to talk about in terms of what you learned about cultural differences, the shopper in different places all of that. So we will we will get to that. So, you know, to get started. How did you come to focus on you know, customer centricity and the customer experience? How did you get to that point in your career?
Well, that’s a great question. It really probably started for me to come to light when I joined the infamous Walmart team for Procter and Gamble that called on Walmart back in 1990, the end of 1990. And it wasn’t really on my radar till then. But that particular assignment we were one of the early teams was actually the pioneer in some ways of supplier retailer partnerships led by Tom Muccio. And so it was a lot of fun to join that team. But that’s when I really started to see the whole customer journey differently, because I had known the customer as a consumer. And that’s it, but not really through the retail space when I got here. And in that time period, there was a lot of questioning around how, how should you look at it. And Proctor went through a period there of looking at and saying, Wait a minute, we doing all of our consumer understanding, but yet we don’t really have any shopper understanding. And yet, there’s 100 million eyeballs going every week through a store or through stores in this particular retailer. What do we know about them? And how do they engage? And how’s it different than other mediums? And so it became an exploratory journey for them back in the in the mid to late 90s.
It’s extraordinary when I think about that, because the days of big brands, big media, right, and retailers almost sort of warehouse, the distribution place right? As opposed to the amount of influence that that shopper in that space had on a brand and there was no connection to it.
None. None, none and, and a lot of misbeliefs not just no connection, but just misbeliefs for example, what should be on a package and how packaging plays a role in the aisle and how a consumer I mean it was so disheartening when I built the agency and started doing some work with eye tracking and shop alongs going in store and devastating for a brand manager to know that a customer may only spend about three seconds at shelf and 80% of the brand decisions were made at shelf. And they in that time of making that decision over they didn’t even see 50% of the of what’s there to offer. And yet every brand manager at the time was wanting to put every detail and attribute and benefit of the brand on the packaging, which made it sometimes indecipherable when you’re trying to be at that moment of truth and and make a decision. So it was just even the misbeliefs were harmful to the choice process that actually helpful. And it just was an eye opener for many people.
It’s also interesting to me, because the thing that struck me over the years is the fact that, you know, we even though we’re executives and companies, we are shoppers to yet we sort of it’s like the separation of church and state, get that the brand manager sitting in their office, so passionate about their brand, and what they’re trying to say, forget that if they’re a shopper themselves, they probably have exactly the same experience. Right. So that disconnect.
Yeah, it is a big disconnect. And I’m sure you found through your research, a lot of epiphany is that you would think wow, mitre should have known that if you just look at it as a shopper, but anyway, you know, it is what it is.
So once you started on that track, you haven’t gotten off it,
I haven’t, I’ve changed the lens of how I’ve looked at it by, you know, fortunate enough, very fortunate to find success, if you will, in the agency space. And so I left PNG and started the agency to really focus on that. And one of the first hires was Dr. Chris gray, PhD in clinical psychology to think about how the consumer or customer thinks along that decision process. And so we built these things called shopping cycles, which would now be called customer journey work. And so our customer journey mapping, so their names have changed, but it’s been about the similar thing. And then I had an opportunity to go to Walmart, which for an entrepreneur, everybody thought that would last about two years max. And, and I I went to Walmart because I really wanted to see the full journey and look at it. And the inside the retail space was a bit of a mystery to me from working from the agency, and you just had a narrow perspective and to have the 12 different people describe an elephant with from 12 different views, right. So I went there to really understand and learn and see if I can make an impact. And found it was fascinating and really enjoyed the cut and thrust of it. It was like being an entrepreneur on steroids in terms of speed of the game, and how fast retail moves. But I learned a lot about the way I was approaching Walmart and retail as either a brand or agency. And I saw where it could be done differently. If I like if I knew then what I know now I would have done so many things differently. But then I had an opportunity after two years. In the US I really enjoyed that. It and that’s about right timing from an assignment, the opportunity the chief customer officer opened up an Asda in the UK and having that conversation when wife of Okay, I thought you were going to do this for two years and retire. You know, it was interesting, but it’s hard to turn down the UK and that opportunity. And so we went there. And what I liked about it was it really was a different role than marketing, that in somehow a lot of the retailers in the UK have have a different perspective a bit in terms of marketing and customer. And so they have chief customer roles. And a chief customer officer really brings the voice of the customer to the executive committee and decision making and it plays a different role and has a different broader responsibility. The numbers are tiny compared to the Walmart numbers, but lots of decimal places left off but but the the richness of the depth of the experience in a very different culture and market. We think they’re similar, but the way the shopping is done, the culture is different. And it was just a massive thing. And so that was be a two year assignment that turned to a four year assignment. And after the four year time, it was time to come back and try to put all my thoughts together. What have I learned over the last six years on the retail space? So I’m back in working with the University of Arkansas.
What’s interesting that struck me what you just say it is, you know, in the UK, the that role of Chief customer officer is a role that is shot or what I would call shopper centric right customer in the store centric here the role of Chief customer officer is usually the head of sales in that organization, right
100% that Yeah, and it’s very different. Yeah. I would be a bit more involved in customer data, customer data warehousing, how do you look at the customer touch points along the whole journey? How are you collecting data, what data What are you doing with that customer data? That’s, you know, important part of Corporate affairs, PR anything that connects to the customer from any media channel, whether it’s government affairs or pricing strategy, how the retail prices appear to the customer, that’s a customer facing thing. And I didn’t set the pricing that was still done by merchandising, but influencing a set of customer principles around price. Seeing that said, This is what our brand should feel like, across all buyer groups was an important part of it. And that traditionally is not in a marketing function.
Yeah, it’s so interesting to me because I think about somebody like Sam Walton, and its focus around the customer. And then I listen to somebody like Suzy expression, Jeff Bezos, who sounds like Sam Waltons, you know, younger son or something. Were also talking about it’s all it’s about the customer stupid. Yeah, yeah, he’s not so rude like me. And those, that focus and centricity is very much what you were describing, you know, from a UK standpoint, in terms of what’s the context for setting pricing, and where does my brand fit beyond what the merchant said is the right price. So it’s just your, your experience, to me is fascinating in all of this, and we’ll talk a little bit later about where you are today and what you’re doing and building, you know, league leaders, but I think it’s a fascinating experience. So with all of that, in this last, I’m gonna say the six years, although, you know, your experience, obviously, on the CPG side, and agency side is fascinating. What’s, what do you think has changed most from when you walked into, let’s say, the walk to Walmart, and then left and you know, came back from as, from a shop a customer standpoint, what’s what’s changed? What’s really strikes you as What’s changed?
Well, there’s no question omni channel, we could go on for hours about omni channel, but but that rising importance, because the customer took them there, you know, it’s not the most profitable part of your business. And yet, the the, the way to look at store pickup, I guess what’s changed is more flexibility and attention to how to be shoppable the way the customer wants to shop, whether or not it fits the best financial profile pro forma or not, I think it just is, is paramount now, to do that. And I think the other thing that’s changed, which is a learning from the UK is how much shoppers and customers can influence your total brand. For example, plastics. In the UK, plastics was a big, big thing, and it impacted where they would choose to shop. And then the customers voice around what are you doing with food waste? What are you doing with plastic? These things became real strong voices that affected how your brand was going to perform in the competitive space in ways that I hadn’t seen that six years ago, at all.
Are you seeing that now that you’re home? Are you seeing that more here? Or is there too much sound disrespectful noise around the pandemic? So it’s,
I think, I think if it wasn’t for the pandemic, there would be more noise. There’s something culturally different in the UK that this became much higher priority. It’s more concentrated Island, if you will. And the competition’s really, really tight, you’ve got four, think about this, you’ve got the top four grocery retailers, if you were blindfolded and went inside, it’s hard to tell the difference between a Tesco and Asda, Morrisons or Sainsbury’s. And so the product and there’s not a lot of differentiation, okay, it’s really big middle, and they could all be on the same car park, or two or three of them have the four would be on the same car park, but the way the real estate is laid out, and we villages are set up. And so you would have a retail park with two large grocery stores right across the street. So in the US, you win that first moment of truth or before the first one, but I guess, but you win that truth on where they’re going to turn right or left when they come out the car park, or other driveway in the UK is are they going to go right or left when they get out of their car. And so it’s a much closer in. And as a result of that you don’t have a lot of variables to work with to win. And customer experience becomes a critical one to work with. Because you everything else in the stack of what you can compete on is is very, very tight. And I think that pushes the pushes the industry pushes the retailers further than what they might be drawn or pulled in the US you’re not going to find another Walmart format, right across the street of the current Walmart parking in a current parking lot, right? It’s just there isn’t? Well, first of all, there’s not another format. And so you’re making much bigger choices on when you choose to shop versus on a tighter space. And so you do have to pay attention and to be very mature in your thinking around customer experience, I think in the UK and my personal opinion is I think there’s about there about five years ahead. That of the US every store we had in the UK, all the super centers Had a community champion, because local was so important. Well, that’s, that’s in a very nascent stage in the US at Walmart, and they’re growing that, but these were paid hours to connect to the community, and really develop that relationship. And that had been there for 10 years, because they saw the value of the role of connecting to the customer at the community level, in very profound ways that that a lot of retailers in the US may not take it that seriously.
It’s interesting you say that, because as you were, as you were describing that situation, and I was thinking about our how America shops research, we’ve seen before the pandemic, really since the late to 2018, through to now like literally out of the, you know, out of the research pile this week, these values that American shoppers, now have, and that are either growing or holding in spite of this, I don’t want to call it an aberration, but I will this very unusual moment. And it’s things like supporting local, its sustainability. Its, you know, organic, better, better organic, offering some of these values that we call values, not about you, that are becoming increasingly important here. And as people are looking to differentiate their offer, as retailers, that these are things that are now becoming, you know, more price of entry, particularly for younger shoppers. That’s right, we see that. So it’s interesting to your point about maybe five years behind, but also that notion around experience, because you know, as Amazon created that massive disruption, and now that does become the guy across the parking lot or across my phone. Right? It does, it does start to talk about some of the issues that you’re raising in terms of thinking about customer experience,
it does. And you of course have the pandemic as to advance their roadmap and where they thought they would be by eight years in eight weeks, with the grocery home shopping. I mean, that’s phenomenal. If you think about the shift in volume in such a short period of an eight year growth path achieved in a weeks, which has enormous implications on a number of categories that sometimes we don’t even think about in terms of how shoppers are shopping differently. Yeah, it’s really phenomenal.
And people, you know, we hear it all the time here, both in our data and anecdotally about people who either, you know, dabbled online or never shopped online, you know, whether it’s parents, you know, grandparents, or whether it was, you know, people who lives in urban centers that could just walk out in the corner and pick up whatever, that their whole flipping there, their shopping journey has changed dramatically. So is that something as you think about experience, and customer centricity, but the sort of overall journey, as I think about that, those moments, those emotional touch points in the journey now, as people will continue, and many will continue to shop online for things that are easier to do and get off their list? How do we engage the shopper in those emotional moments that we used to often do in the store?
Well, I have a hypothesis, and I’m not a futurist, I don’t spend as much time thinking about the future as you do. And you’re much more equipped that at thinking about the future if you’ve got a lot of data and good things to play with to think about the future. But my bit unwashed perspective about the future is, is that I think that something’s fundamentally changed. And what people have now realized is that they can buy their essential categories, toilet paper, soft drinks, in the brands that they’re familiar with, quite easily online quite easily. So what happens now is what’s the question on the table is what’s the role of a physical store? And if the physical stores if it’s not about reason to buy, which I can buy some categories online, and I’m quite comfortable with that, then what is the reason and my theory is that it’s going to be reason to browse. And the browsing experience is the Achilles heel of the online experience. It’s not a great place to browse. And so if you think about it for a second of a grocery retailer, I’ll just use grocery it could be true of anything, anything that has essentials, or some categories or the categories that you don’t need to go down that aisle because you’re going to do that online. How are they going to get new items in front of people, if there’s no more people going down or less people will down those aisles. And they’re not really they realize they don’t need another flavor of this kind of coke or whatever, whatever, whatever. Because a lot of the new innovation from suppliers was a fight over shelf space. And you had to get out in front of the customer on a shelf. But if this, the shopping behaviors have changed by category in a grocery store, for example, and these these categories, I don’t need to go down that because I’m not really interested in browsing new toilet paper brands, then all those suppliers are going to be thinking about how do I get new in front of that. And if you’re a retailer, I think you have to really think through what is the customer browsing behavior? What will it look like in an eye in an aisle and browsing i think is gonna have to become a higher priority. And a lot of times, it’s not a priority, it’s about speed and velocity. And, and, and facings. And most, most, most stores, and I think they’re finding this out now through the COVID pandemic, is that they’ve been over skewed and under choice. And so as a customer coming into an aisle, you’ve got way too many choices. excuse to look at but not a lot of differentiation and choice. And so I think the implication is that you know, what Pepsi found that a large percentage of their skews, only contributed 2% of their sales, and they cut the range back significantly because of COVID. And sales still a good. So what are you going to put back? And what are you gonna do with all that shelf space in stores that don’t need that many facings because of logistics reasons to stay in stock. So I think it crazes a couple big questions. One, I think there’s going to be a real desire to figure out what is new. And what is new product in what will customers want. This was a great opportunity to some rinsing of categories that had a lot of stuff in it customers really didn’t want, but it filled shelf space. So premium on who’s going to come up with a new ideas, that’s really going to be customer demand. And I think the second thing is, every category in the store has to have a reason to browse for them to come down that aisle, or it’s going to be bought online. And that’s the way it’s going to get differentiated. And the way to look at reason to browse, I think is is is thinking through what what how do customers think about browsing. And one of the things I learned windy A long time ago is that customers have a time budget budget, a money budget, and a frustration budget. And if you’re in a category that is triggered by refill, let’s say razors, and I got razor refills on my list, I get let’s say I give that category 90 seconds to the shop max mentally subconsciously. And I’m looking at that space, I got 90 seconds, I’m going to give him that I go in there. And if they hide the bloody refills, because they’re trying to put new systems that I level across the thing, and I can’t find the refill. If I use up at 90 seconds, I actually I won’t buy I’ll just walk out of that category. But if I can find it right away, because that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what I really want. I will double back and give that Brett that category, the 90 seconds of browsing behavior, to look at what’s new. And I think it’s just understanding that dynamics category by category of how do people shop those categories? What customers really want? How much time Are they really going to give it? I mean, cosmetics will be fine. I’m sure, you know, things that are more emotive to buy those categories. I think that they will be fine. But but that’s what I see is an impending dilemma in front of us.
Yeah, I and I think and certainly it’s much of what we’ve seen, you know, essentially get it off the list. We I mean, three or four years ago, I remember sharing some stuff with Walmart, where we talked about, you know, the majority of the population said, Let me get it off the list fast. So I have time for other things. And the other things were sometimes shopping, you know, but it was to your point it was what’s on the list that I can get rid of, on the time budget, what does that open up for? Whether it’s time with family and friends, or it’s actually going down another aisle? And I think there are a lot of those factors that were emerging way before the pandemic, that have just risen to the top because people don’t want to physically spend time in places at the moment they want to be out of it. Right
now they now that they know they can easily get that online. That’s right, that’s right category. So think about that, Wendy, what it does to stores macro, I mean, the most expensive thing you can work on in a retailer is Macrospace changes. Because you know, you got it, it’s it’s moving a lot of stuff around. And if you find some categories have now completely changed buying habits you’ve got you’re gonna have space challenges that you will need to relay out that store. And then that’s very expensive, and it’s capital required to move it through there. Otherwise, you get a lot of baggy space. And you got certain categories that are under spaced. And normally there’s not been a lot of change in the last, you know, eight years. And so you could make space Macrospace adjustments based on renovation schedules and stuff like that and get through the estate but, but I think we’ve seen such a disruption that I wonder. So my prediction would be you’re going to see a lot more store prototypes. thing going on to quickly look at new formats that read relook at space because it’s all been upset.
Yeah. And I Yeah, and I think, you know, as you think about all of that work, and and even I just challenge how many stores we actually need, right? So physical stores do we need? And then what role did they play? And I put in those physical stores? I mean, I think you talked about Walmart and and there are a number of retailers who are adding more and more services, you know, whether it’s health services, whether it’s nutrition, whether it’s, you know, obviously click and collect all of those kinds of things that that sort of transform the conversation about what is this? What is this thing, this four walls thing? And what to deliver based on the way shoppers what we call as their shopping life? How do they choose to their life? And then how does that impact on what they’re doing with shopping? And I think about it also within those emotional moments, my business partner Candace talks about the story of you know, she’s done a lot of clicking a lot of order online pick up at the store through the pandemic, and she’s been at Target and she loves that experience. She said, it’s great. She said, The, the kids who put the, you know, the system into a car are wonderful. But the thing she misses and it’s this emotional moment that triggers so much is when she would go into target. First thing she would do is stop at Starbucks. In store, get her coffee. Yeah. And now she’s got the in her hand in the cup holder. And that’s, here’s what the script. Yeah. And it’s the browsing moment. Right, right. Here, I’m here to look, I have my coffee, you know, the emotion has, you know, she’s created an emotion and a bubble for herself. And so those things that I think a lot about that, you know, you talk a lot about touchpoints, and the journey. And I think about how it’s not just the number of stores and the space within the store and the configurations. But within that total, Pastor purchase, where do those moments come, and we can’t presume anymore, that they were the moments that we had last time, right? We used to have?
Well, and to be honest, I mean, one of the realities is store labor cost, if you look at a total retail business model, the store labor cost is a really big, big, big factor. And as digital comes in and simplifies things, you’ve got to really look at that. And people don’t understand what could be a simple customer experience idea to put in there. If it adds store labor, you’ve got a pretty big challenging task ahead inside the retail space to convince and make the business case to do it. And sometimes those are really hard to pencil out. What’s the value of that? You know, I, I saw something today that I posted it because I thought it was so powerful. I keep track of asked him what they’re doing. And I was so proud of them. Because their delivery drivers for grocery shopping, they added this little thing on their on their jacket, their uniform that says happy to chat. And they were working through a project to thinking through what’s the most important thing on customers minds right now. And for many, it’s loneliness, and the only human connection they have is going to be that grocery delivery driver. And to be able to say happy to chat is was really thinking through empathy and being very empathetic. I doubt that pencils in the short term in any way, because you’re always running at speed and want to get those drivers in and out. But the fact they would take that move against the probably is going to be a p&l hit I don’t know. But if I was suppose so. But the but that idea that’s to me is a customer experience touch point that has emotion and empathy. But it’s just being right in this particular moment. What makes sense. I saw another example quickly, cafe and you might have seen it on LinkedIn or the internet cafe in Paris, that coffee shop and to do the social distancing. They put these huge teddy bears in. Did you see that? I did. Brilliant.
what emotion you’re bringing to that moment? I mean, I think these emotional moments could live anywhere on the spectrum of the customer journey.
Yeah, it’s really interesting. You say that and and one of them that that hit me too was at my hairdresser when they opened up instead of having the salon instead of having, you know, six feet apart the labels on the floor that says, think apart. What it says is this is your happy spot.
Oh, and I mean,
I have to take it. Right. But it’s this you stand there and you think oh, wow, look at this. This is my happy so I love it. I mean, it’s these little things that, you know, it shows that you recognize the customer. You recognize the moment it is about empathy. I think that there’s another one that I love that I love the idea. Yeah, the other one is I think was American Eagle did have one that says does it say it says you’re beautiful. Even six feet apart. You’re still beautiful. I love to little shoes. That is if you walked into that spot and stood there, you’re beautiful. I mean, these are just moments to reengage I think when we talk about, you know, the emotional connection through anytime, that that’s so powerful, but you also raise another question. And that is the value of the people at a time when you know, we’re moving much more to self scan, self checkout, all of the things which we’ve, you know, obviously was in the works, but has ratcheted up, you know, the automatic pay systems, all of those things. When you think about customer experience, where do we put, you know, if we, where do we put the people? What role did the physical people play? I mean, I think about thinking recently not to give you a chance, you know, about Zappos and Tony Shea, but when I thought about what Zappos did in customer experience, you know, it was online, but right, the guys, the women, were they to chat, and engage. So I think about in this new world, that we live in this omni channel world, where the people live people, not bots, are good bots make a difference?
Well, there’s two, let me let me go to let me go to good bots first. Because that’s easier. But the I had a chance to interview for a podcast, Sarah fryer, the CEO of next door app. And it’s a great like, very understands local community that doesn’t have the anonymous elements to it. And they’re trying to create that social environment, where you can take care of neighbor all that a good, happy place, I talk about happy, and yet free to express whatever you express, well, you could think about social unrest, you think about political environment, that could be really, really tough. And so what they’ve done with AI, is they created a kindness reminder. And it’s a little pop up. And so if you start putting a post in there that you shouldn’t probably do, maybe a little bit more negative and hateful, and whatever, this kindness, Reiner pops up and said, Hey, there, you know, you this community’s kindness, and you know, you might want to think about editing this, if you want, you know, doesn’t stop them just kind of reminds them of what the community is about. And they they rolled that out, and they saw like, 35% of the time that that app popped up, people went back and edited their, their what they were going to say and changed it. And it only had to come up once or twice. And they stopped popping up after it came up once because people knew what that what the values were of that community. I thought, Man, that is a brilliant way to like, Can I get that on my work email?
Could we put it in politics somewhere?
How many places could that have help us? Right. But I think that’s a that’s a sensitivity to taking a proactive approach to try to keep a community kind. And I think that’s, that’s really, really, really important. And then on the human side, I honestly think the underlooked space that we need to look at more so and I haven’t seen a lot of people doing it yet, is the call centers when people call in with a problem, because that’s still huge, mostly human after you get through the Kultury. But but the humaneness of that. And for far too long, many call centers have been reporting up through an operational side or finance side. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the priority to be customer centric and how many call centers are are evaluated, not on how fast you got them off the phone. But was that experience so good. You wanted to share it with someone else? If you had an NPS type score around call centers that actually you created that. I mean, to me, that’s that’s an amazing thing. Well, it cost you more money, perhaps, but man that that human touch point is the weakest link of the chain. But it has the biggest impact on people, when and we always found we found Walmart that, you know, a friendly colleague interaction can overcome so many sins of failure in they were out of stock on this, whatever. But a friendly colleague, absolutely completely changes the perception, from a bad experience to a great experience, even though they may not have been able to recover the issue. It was that humanity that that really made a difference in how a person felt.
Yeah. And I and I do think as we’ve now come to appreciate the essential workers were healthcare workers or people stocking the shelves at the grocery stores or the drugstores that that has that value that we now see in people beyond they’re in my way I’m trying to grab that off the shelf one of those products that aren’t actually that new that I thought was new and too complicated to shop production. But the value of the people has, you know, has really risen to another level I I hope in my you know, in my dreams that that will not go away and that will have recognized that and you’ve used the word empathy. And times I’ve told the story Sure, to a lot of people, but when I remember being in a Walmart store in the early days of order online pick up in store, and I saw a fellow. I think I probably told you the story packaging, packing the grocery order. And I knew what he was doing. But I pretended I didn’t. And I said, What are you doing? And he said, I’m packing somebody, you know, I’m putting together somebody groceries. And I said, Well, that’s, that’s good. Maybe that’ll be me tomorrow. And he said, that would be my pleasure.
I love that story.
And I’m just, you know, I mean, on the one hand, I’m at Walmart, and that’s not what I expected. So it had double rated, you know, double stars and terms of rating. But it was just the way the natural way that he did it, and to your point, engaging in a very personal level, that you go or Okay, and you you feel good, you know, so,
yeah, but you know, you’re so right, I do hope it stays, I do think that there’s been a reprioritization to essential workers and acknowledgement of the value, and the lifeblood of that, and I do hope that sticks, I really, really do because it’s, you know, you’ve worked so much in retail and stores understand the importance of that role on so many fronts, and technology is not going to change, not gonna overcome that john Naisbitt said in his, his work, the higher there is a growth in tech, the higher the demand for, for human touch. And that high tech, high touch, I mean, we’re pushing tech through the roof with contactless this contact, you know, no connection to anybody buying. And yet, as that could kitchen years ago, I think there’ll be even a higher demand for, for for human touch. And we’ve got to engineer ways for that to happen.
I think that’s the piece, right? So we can and and, you know, talk about talk a little bit about the work you’re doing around leadership. But I do think about that, in that ability of not only the next generation, the current generation of, you know, CPG, and and actually any manufacturing category, and retailers to think about what is it that ultimately we want to connect our brands and formats with? We’ve been tracking for the last few years, what we call caring scores, not just loving trust, but caring. And it’s fascinating to look at what’s important to people, and on dimensions, like caring about my health and well being, you know, it’s not just obvious things like price, it’s, you know, how are the people? Are they nice to, you know, all of these things. And it’s really amazing to see, you know, where people rate, what’s important. And it is very reflective of what’s going on now. Do you care about me? That’s right. And that’s a different lens to do.
I love that idea. I wish that could actually be rolled out inside of companies as a financial measure. Because when we start tying the measures together of what gets funded from business planning, and such, you know, we still use more. So ROI, type, what’s going to give me an ROI, but what’s going to drive my care scores because we’ve tied care to the bottom line. I think that’s, that’s brilliant. I still work, as he said, with chair with the acid foundation. And one of the things that acid does in that space of caring is survey the customers and ask them, What do you care about most and food insecurity, you know, comes up at the top year after year after year. And but but by being able to build your program centered around what they really care about, versus maybe what you just want to do those, it’s just so much easier when you can connect exactly to what by asking them exactly what is you care about. Getting to know
I think that goes back to what you said in the beginning around things like sustainability, plastics, you know, things that are things that you see beginning the small numbers of how they become important to a community or local community or a generation. And and where you can build that in as my, my store. I always remember the days we would talk about my Walmart, you know, yeah. And they started to say, my Walmart or my target or my Kroger or my CVS, whatever it was, you know, my Selfridges. We’ll have that conversation in a minute. You know, that all of a sudden meant there was a different, you know, there was some kind of emotional connection there. That was so much stronger and so much richer
in you know, what’s interesting about that windy and I couldn’t agree more, I think, I think what the pandemic has done is made people pay attention locally, because everything else being locally managed, and I wouldn’t have known who my mayor was, you know, and now I know who the mayor is, and the different things and every store, but the tension from a retail standpoint is local doesn’t scale and so you look for national answers to everything, because you’ve got to be efficient, but if you can create local solutions and put more energy In local, I know from a marketing side when I was doing local, local marketing was really tough to pay out because it didn’t have the same scale of advertising, immediate buying and spending and measuring and all that, that you could ever get on a national level. But we always fought to keep some there for whether it’s a store remodel, and you wanted to tell the community, you know, you needed to have that. But I think there’s so many more things. Now you should be thinking about local, because of this, that won’t go back that the appreciation of the store feeling local, and I don’t know how you do that. But in the experience, it should be something that’d be a priority to me.
We’ll continue our conversation in just a moment. But I just wanted to remind you that we have many resources on this topic available on our website, we’ve got our how America shops, research, our most recent around how the world is opening up at retail, as a result of COVID. Our latest report on the big business of well, and how wellness is changing. As we move through this pandemic, trend alerts our weekly what’s up at WSL with latest insights. So just remember, lots of resources for you as you continue to do your business, all available at www.wsltrategicretail.com.
So when you think about the next, you know, you say your you don’t spend that much time on the future, but clearly you do. When you think about the next two years, or you know, my five, if you want to be that bold, or the next two, how do companies need to think differently about the shopper journey? And the experience? And this is you know, that I you know, I don’t know how much I’ll interrupt myself as I often do. You know, I’ll say in some ways, so much of this was occurring before the pandemic and I talked about things being accelerated. Somebody said the other day, the pandemic has both accelerated and illuminated. What’s going on, and I thought that was really brilliant. But but so stepping back then the next two years and next five years, how do companies really need to think differently about engaging with customers?
You know, it’s going to some things are going to happen as a domino effect of what’s happening now, that will change the way we look at customers experience, in my opinion in some pretty profound ways. So let me explain the omni channel acceleration. I mean, you’re talking about eight year acceleration, okay, so it’s done more than just change the buying habits, it’s changing the way organizations work. And what’s what’s happened is the e commerce side the.com side of the business. They operate and work differently and they use most of Mito use agile methodology as a way of working. And agile has a very different test and learned speed to it scientifically testing and learning what customers really want and pure customer user experience stuff. And in the traditional brick and mortar side has never really done it that way. It’s been way more siloed a bit more top down. And the customer experience work you do might be through some general journey mapping. But but that’s not that’s about it. And sometimes even a one off project, what I’m seeing happen is product management, as an idea is coming into physical retail part of the business, you can’t go down the street here without hearing Walmart talk about agile and product management. But But product management is co co creation, two week sprints, get it out there, test it, improve it and keep learning with constant customer feedback. Well, if that trend continues, which I think it will, because organizations have been more internally colliding, then the kind of customer experience initiatives that come out of that model have a much higher chance of being impactful and scalable because they’ve gone through proper testing, than just saying, hey, let’s just tweak a store here and take a look at it and it looks about right and and off we go or no Let’s kill it before we have any data to say we should kill it. Because someone didn’t like the look of it. And so it’s not always been a very scientific method to test and learn and improve. That’s driven from straight from customers. In most of my retail experience has been more feel instinct. Get it in there hard to attribute what really is working but you kind of scale it because there was a good C suite tour and a few people really liked it. It can be a little cynical. So a product management mindset and agile technology being used throughout the total organization. You can see multifunctional teams so I think you’re gonna See, and then a much more listening happening as a way of doing business as a way of setting the agenda, I think you’re gonna see more top bottom up where tight listening. And getting that feedback will create a lot more revolution and evolution on the customer journey work than what we’re seeing today or have ever seen. Because that technical interest like what happened with shopper marketing, when shopper marketing came in, and we started really getting it. You had shopper, marketing analyst and shopper marketing category experts that were never on on CPG teams. I mean, the whole thing kind of didn’t say grew overnight, but it grew pretty quickly. And I think agile is that next transformation. That’s just like it. And so that’s what I’ve been doing with the customer centric Leadership Initiative is trying to bring some clarity around. What does customer centricity really mean going forward. But I think we’re on the on the front edge of a revolution of customer experience, and customer journey and shopper journey work. That’s the next, it’s the next big jump. And I think it’ll have much faster turnaround times, broken down into smaller pieces that can be done quickly, and get much more organizational support to get it through. So that’s what I think is going to happen. I think the other thing that’s going to have to happen it has not happened is we have to come up with better measurements that C suite stakeholders can use to set business priorities, and such to get things funded, because you know better than anybody, if you if you go and consult and say if you turn this department around and do it this way, change the fixture, change the experience, change this the mix, you’re gonna have a much bigger, better holistic assign experience for the customer. And the customer will tell you that what the customer can’t tell us which one of those Can you remove, and it’s still work. And but that’s the first thing that happens from a finance standpoint is us trying to unpick that. So you can do attribution of what’s really driving that growth. And we don’t have sophisticated measures to tell us how good was the empathy, I mean, who’s measuring empathy, maybe it’s going to be in lifetime value that you create. And we can get at some of those with math and data. But I worried that the math and data won’t keep up with the experience demands, that’s really much harder to measure. Because when you start putting empathy in the conversation, and that’s what’s really big right now is talking about empathy. Well, that’s not something easy to put in a spreadsheet. I found.
Yeah. And I think they’re the things that you’re raising. Now, that is, you know, you’ve often talked about executives who are very process driven, and comfortable in that, and how do you have them think differently about how to build new ideas, evaluate new ideas, execute ideas. And it sort of comes back to the very beginning where we are, you know, you know, when you when you listen to the shopper, customer talk about their life and their experience, and I remember some of the Saatchi x work that puts people in a very different spot does you say, what’s the solution to that? And how can we be more empathetic in a solution for that person, that shopper but then we go back to our corners, right? And we develop a product or a layout or category management? I’ve we’ve been saying to people lately, you know, category management is dead. It’s now all about, you know, it’s all about solutions, right? across the entire store. And you know, to do that is so complicated. Oh, yeah. But it does require as we move forward, those hard discussions and decisions, and even if we don’t have all the measurements available now, what are the things we can do? And to your point, what can we learn? What can we test? What can we figure out what we don’t know how to measure yet because, you know, to, to, to our way of thinking to my way of thinking if we don’t do this, now, we’re going to come out of this accelerated change, right? And other people are going to say all along, go back to where it was actually, I’ll feel a bit and it won’t.
It won’t, it won’t. I mean, we’re caught in the chrysalis and there’s you know, there’s no going back to the caterpillar and we haven’t really figured out what how to be a butterfly yet but or what a butterfly looks like but you there’s no going back. And I think that’s a really big point. And I’m not an agile zealot, but I am, I have seen the power of multi dip is the discipline of the process forces multidisciplinary teams to work together, you’ve got all the experts in the room, when I’ve saw, you know, called cause many customer experience projects to implode on the launch pad was when they hit the reality that they never had store planning involved or they never got operations involved or and then or the buyers were totally out of the loop and that’s not what they wanted to do with the department and, and and that’s that’s a shame. But this methodology forces those players to be there and the decisions get empowered to be made on those teams. And so the, the fact that the work we talked about at store level is so complex because there’s so many stakeholders, this is the only method I’ve seen that would help solve that by putting the decision makers around the table. And so you can’t have someone, you know, shooting at it, and people don’t kill what they co create. And if you’ve got all the right people around the table they’re co creating with you is a lot less likely it’s gonna get killed.
Yeah, no, it does, it does identify Clearly, the challenges that we have to face moving forward, which I think are really mean. But it’s actually incredibly exciting. So let me just ask you, you know, a question maybe close to home to what you’re doing now. You know, educating this next generation of leaders, and the work that you’re now doing at the University of Arkansas, the impetus for that, and what do you think, as corporations, whether we’re on the, you know, manufacturer side or the retailer side? We what sort of talent? Do we need to be looking for moving forward?
Well, I think we need to reason I got into the customer centric work is that most universities are graduating departments of, you know, functional, you know, kind of different areas like that. And as you and I both know, whose teaching customer journey work was added to the marketing department, you know, where is that? And how do you teach and understanding and be effective at a principals level, so that you can be great at leading in these spaces. And so, so that’s, that’s why I’m doing it and trying to draw attention to it by talking to people like yourself. And I think that the thing that to me, that’s the, the unlock, that you’ve got to start in the university level is two things. Learning how to pay attention, which is right brain thinking. And, by the way, paying attention, you know, there were a million apples that you know, fell out of the tree. But Newton is the only one that asked why. And I, you know, it’s learnt paying attention to ask the question, why is the heart and soul of good, have good customer centric work that lets you unlock the right brain? First, we’ve got to graduate students and hire people that and value and promote people that are curious, because since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve been promoting and hiring people that are achievement oriented, a great left brain thinkers, they can pull the pattern with a scene quickly applied do it speed, but a right brain thinker, looks at a problem and falls more in love with the problem than they do the solution because they don’t know where that’s going to go and take them. And it activates the right brain thinking but but if you’re a right brain thinker, in most corporations, you were sent off to the Island of Misfit Toys. I mean, you did not really get that’s not something that’s valued. You don’t want original people everywhere you want a top down, like, Can you just go do this really well for me? So I think I think empowering right brain thinking, which is the creative ability to pay attention is really, really key, and rewarding those people and let and giving them a career path that works. So you can get a bit more harmonized between left brain and right brain, you’re still gonna need left brain leadership. But what about right brain leadership, which is the curious ones, the ones that look at a problem and really try to understand it and look for the human truth? And what’s the story behind it, and that’s where the great work is going to come from. And then so that’s the pay attention, right brain piece. And then the second thing we’re going to get much better at is teaching, evaluating, developing empathy, and how to be empathetic. One of the things you and I had a conversation once on, we were in the podcast is, how do you tell if a student or person you’re interviewing has empathy? And because I asked you that question, and you had a great response, you talked about the questions they asked you back. And that you I don’t know if you remember that or not. But there was questions and the questions that someone has really determines, do they have empathy in their bones? Or is this something we’re gonna have to develop in them? Are they going to be right for this job? And I remember interviewing several people over the years where they might have interviewed three or four times before they got to me as the last interview, and I would ask him, do you have any questions for me? And they’re like, your team did a great job bringing me up to speed so No, none Really? And like, none? Like, none? How could you have none? Like there’s I have no questions. And that that’s a that’s just a person is not very curious or afraid or empathy. You know, what about, you know, what keeps you up at night? I’ll take that old tired question if you like, but but anything that draws out? What can I learn about you? And what do you value? Well, that’s empathy. And I and so but we don’t have a lot of tools in our toolbox to teach empathy and show how it works. evaluate it, promote people on it, and and keep going from there.