Meet Simon Toon, Head of Ecommerce Technology Services for House of Fraser

CXN: As the Head of Ecommerce Technology Services for House of Fraser, what is your involvement in the wider customer experience strategy of the business?

SD:I’m responsible for the  services provided by the technology. What that really means is to make sure the quality of service we get from the technology is as high as possible—the infrastructure is available all the time and is reacting quickly so that the customer experience is provided by a slick website rather than a sluggish one.

CXN: You delivered a presentation earlier on this year on lessons learned from peak trading on Black Friday, for anyone who wasn’t able to attend your session, can you summarise the key takeaways?

SD: Based on what we saw last year on Black Friday, I think e-commerce teams are going to see more tactical requests coming from the business for us to do things to try to encourage sales. It’s more and more difficult to show that growth even on e-commerce so the business will be doing more tactical things and I.T. needs to support the business outcomes.

I think we’re going to see more emphasis on the user experience and the in-browser experience, making sure that is as good as it can be. That also takes into account the continuing shift towards mobile and tablet and away from desktop—we need to take that very seriously. To address these trends, I think it’s important to have really good communications between I.T., business and third parties. It’s important that we take a comprehensive view to our management and our testing scenarios etc.—scenarios that could occur, what if this thing breaks? How do we react to that?

CXN: What has been the biggest challenge for you at House of Fraser to date to when it comes to providing a great service or customer experience?

SD: The biggest challenge… in all the retailers I've worked with, is those tactical requests… it’s very important as a business to be able to react to the market. It can be challenging for I.T. to support the changes that are being requested by the business and to make sure those changes are being delivered quickly and safely. What you don’t want to do is put those tactical changes in place which then break the system or take the website down. It’s about trying to balance that risk between responding to those tactical needs and those quick requests without sacrificing the quality of the service stability.

CXN: What steps do you take to get that balance right?

SD: Communication is really key in both directions—making sure the business knows what the I.T. plans are and I.T. can plan based on the business plans.

Communication is key but so is data. You need lots of metrics that can prove the effectiveness, benefits or the negative impacts of any changes.

CXN: And your biggest success?

SD: I’ve only been at House of Fraser for about 9 months so it’s a relatively short amount of time. I’m incredibly proud of the fact that we took our new website through its first Black Friday and we kept the service stable for our customers and we really provided the best experience we could give on our e-commerce platform. That was an incredible achievement given that was the first Black Friday we had on the website.

CXN: Newer tech such as chatbots and automation are dominating the buzz in the industry, but what does the future of CX look like at House of Fraser? What new innovations, tech or ideas are you looking to enhance your strategy with?

SD:That’s not my specific area of work but we have a really great team in House of Fraser who are looking at innovations and try to determine what we deliver next for the e-commerce platform. I try to be very supportive of those guys who are driving the future and make sure they can deliver that change to our live website.

CXN: Finally 3 quick fire questions for you…

What is the best customer experience you’ve ever received? 

SD: Amazon is very good at customer experience and the end-to-end process. It’s not just about making the sale but it’s also the after sales approach. Also, I think other retailers like John Lewis who really look at that end-to-end lifetime of the customer rather than just acquisition.

CXN: What do you find most memorable about the aftersales service at either Amazon or John Lewis?

SD:It’s very easy to return goods with Amazon, they give you the label, and you then take it to a convenient location to return. The refund is processed immediately and not when it gets back to the depot and checked that you haven’t returned a box with a brick in it! It makes it easier to purchase on a whim with Amazon. House of Fraser also strives to deliver the highest levels of customer experience.

CXN: What is the most overrated buzzword in CX/service – and why?

SD: There are a lot of buzz about AI at the moment—anything seems to get labelled as AI, it’s all trying to fall under that umbrella.

CXN: What has been the biggest learning in your career to date?

SD: Communicating the right information to the right audience at the right time—it’s so important when collaborating in business.