1. Why do you feel the Customer Service Summit is an important meeting?
In the continuing evolving retail and services industries, companies are spending a lot of resources on trying to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Consumers have more choice than at any other time in our history, so they can be very discerning with where they choose to spend their money. The overwhelming majority of products are becoming commodities, denying the producer and retailer alike the ability to differentiate based on product offerings. That leaves the customer experience as the primary platform in which to differentiate. Retail and service industry players need to understand the gap between what they currently offer with regards to the customer experience, what other industry players are offering, and what the consumer is demanding. In this environment, to tread water is to fall behind. Innovating just a little will barely keep up with new trends. To actually get ahead, a company has be to laser-focused on innovation. The Customer Service Summit is an opportunity to not only see what the consumer wants but also to see what innovations are being developed.
2. In your company, how does your role fit into the customer service department? Where does customer service sit in your organization? And how are you working with other departments to deliver the best possible customer experience?
As the SVP of Operations and Customer Care at Raymour & Flanigan, the largest furniture retailer in the northeast U.S., my organization is responsible for the customer experience after the sale; from setting up and completing payment options, to scheduling and performing deliveries, to providing service after the delivery. Customer Care must coordinate with their partners in Sales and Credit to insure a great shopping experience in the stores or online and with Operations and Distribution to insure a great delivery experience. While our entire company is focused on enhancing each customer’s experience, the Customer Care team is usually the last customer touch point, and as such, the team that provides the most lasting impression. Our mission is “To Turn Ordinary Transactions into Extraordinary Experiences” and we take that mission very seriously.
3. What kind of shift are you seeing in organization-wide strategy as experience overtakes price and product as a key brand differentiator and customer service becomes integral to attracting and retaining customers?
Today’s customers want information available at their fingertips, in the most convenient platform, and immediately. They have an expectation of accelerated EVERYTHING, from the shopping experience, to delivery, to providing a resolution to any issues that might arise. Accelerating these touch points requires a heavy investment in I/T, and we are continuing to make that investment. Our primary focus is on increasing the ability of customers to get information they want in the manner in which they are most comfortable, whether that is on a mobile device, via the internet, or voice-to-voice. Providing a clear vision to our associates about the direction in which we are driving the customer experience is the key factor in getting alignment of goals and efforts.
4. What are your top three customer service priorities in 2019/20? And why are they important to your team
Notwithstanding all of the technology being developed to provide customers with a great experience, we cannot lose sight that it is people who will deliver these solutions. In 2019 and going forward, we will continue to invest in the training and development of our team. From the front line associates who are interacting throughout the day with our customers, to our supervisors, managers, and directors, our associates are, and will always be, the most important factor in our customers’ experiences. Having a robust training and development infrastructure for our associates is of equal importance to having a great suite of tools. In addition to training and development, however, we must also continue to invest in making sure that our associates have the best tools and resources to provide those great experiences. So, we will continue to invest in technology that will have the greatest impact on the customer experience. Technology that allows us to provide the information a customer needs when they want it and also technology that allows us to mine data to predict what information is needed and when is the current focus of our efforts.
5. How are you ensuring you deliver a seamless customer experience? Describe your omnichannel strategy and how you are synchronizing channels.
As stated previously, having a clear vision is absolutely essential in aligning goals and efforts. At Raymour & Flanigan, every organization, and I mean EVERY organization, from Real Estate, to Marketing, Finance, Merchandising, Credit, I/T, Legal, and the teams in the field, are focused on the customer experience. Many years ago, I attended a training event at Disneyworld. During that event, the president of operations for Disneyworld was asked: “Your parks are ridiculously clean. How many employees do you have in park maintenance?” He thought for a second and then replied, “About 30,000”. We were all pretty amazed at the commitment they would make to keeping their parks clean. He was then asked, “Okay, then how many total employees do you have working in the parks?” With a bit of a wry smile, he replied, “About 30,000.” The message was clear…..he considered ALL cast members were responsible for keeping the parks pristine. I would like to think that we have the same commitment to Customer Care at Raymour & Flanigan. All 6,000+ of our associates, regardless of what team they are on, are committed to an exceptional experience for our customers. To that end, it is also important to align efforts across all channels. We are committed to providing the same Raymour & Flanigan experience to every customer, regardless of what channel they are accessing. One way that we accomplish this is by having Customer Care associates in every channel. Whether a customer is shopping online, in a showroom, or in an outlet, they will receive the same great Customer Care experience because Customer Care associates are present in each of these channels.
6. What excites you about the current direction of customer service, experience and support?
Because we have committed everyone in our company to enhancing our customers’ shopping experiences, it is exciting to see the ideas that have been generated to help us continue to fulfill that vision. Ideas about improving our customers’ experiences are not just coming from the Customer Care organization, but also from associates in Marketing, Merchandising, Distribution, Sales, Credit…. Frankly, form ALL organizations. With that many associates focused on enhancing the experience, we have created a tremendous list of endeavors to go tackle. As technology continues to provide new and exciting solutions for enhancing the customer experience, we need to stay current with the newest trends and tools and utilize those new opportunities to continue to provide a great experience for our customers.