In customer experience collaboration is great, but validation is vital

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Chanice Henry

John Lewis Retail
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Customer experience management in retail 

Retail often finds itself in the struggle of having to do more with less.

At the Omnichannel Exec Forum, Steve Kato-Spyrou - UX Manager, John Lewis delivered a session on the power of using service design to integrate omnichannel by stitching together online and offline.

He highlighted the importance of validating concepts using design thinking approaches. The process of 6 up-sketching in workshops was discussed – coming up with as many ideas as humanly possible, as hearing ideas from peers can spark creativity. He noted that John Lewis puts ideas generated from workshops in front of its customers to see which ones are popular. In fact, customers visit the John Lewis Customer Hub in person four times a week to inform the validation cycle followed by researchers.

We spoke to Steve to find out more:

Where should businesses be, in your opinion, in 2019, looking at omnichannel and what is the baseline that customers expect?

Steve: “Well, we heard today that there are infinite touchpoints. So as far as omnichannel: you should be everywhere your customer is. If you’re saying: ‘we need to look into mobile or we need to look into in-store’, that’s correct, you need to go where the customer is.

“As far as the baseline, I would say look at your strongest competitor - that’s the expectation. It’s a case of: ‘Amazon do X, Y and Z – so, why don’t you do it?’.

Do you think CX practitioners should look to just competitors in their industry? Or these tech giants that are coming in and changing the game for everyone?

Steve: “I’m sure every industry is scared that Amazon will come into their vertical. They started in retail, but they’ve gone everywhere and have been disruptive with their model. That model is to test, learn and do alphas. CEOs and MDs at John Lewis are now focusing on the ‘test, learn and collaborate’ approach  – It’s good to hear that sort of talk from the high up level.”

Looking at the next 12 months, where you think omnichannel is heading in retail?

Steve: “Customers are utilising the stores now as experiences. They visit to do fun things and spend the whole day out, not just to simply purchase something. So that’s where we’ve got to head in the next 12 months with in-store: the experience.”

Image of Experience Desk Credit

At CX Network we are focusing on customer signals and feedback. In your company, does that customer feedback reach the relevant business units usually?

Steve: “Now, that’s fascinating. We have a UX designer that is very closely linked to a UX researcher. The UX researcher is in a constant validation loop as they’re building a product to validate and feed back to the product team on which the UX designer sits.

“Now, if you expand that out to the business level, we’ve recently just created an insight department which houses our UX researcher, our data scientists, analysts and our market researcher – and that’s fantastic, we’re still on the journey to fully implement that. This set-up will hopefully deliver the customer feedback straight away, or make the feedback loop quicker for when the business needs it. So that’s how John Lewis is tackling it, which I think is a great principle.”

Have there been any initiatives that get customers to have discussions with this team?

Steve: “The answer is basically yes, it needs to happen, and it happens a lot. We would like it to happen more but constraints like resource and time are often a limitation

“We have a new concept we’re looking into and the UX designer and researcher went away for three months and spoke to 70 people using the jobs-to-be-done framework. They utilised that and put it into Value Proposition Canvas, which they explained to the business. They then filter and interrogate all the new propositions through the canvas which is very helpful.”

It’s very key to have that hunger to grasp for more insights, because sometimes when companies build the richness of their customer knowledge, it can do the opposite and feed complacency, which is dangerous as things are always changing.

Steve: “I’d be a professional guesser if I wasn’t just validating constantly.”

Yes, exactly.

We are also looking at cultural differences with CX. Have you spotted any CX trends that are unique to a certain country or region?  

Steve: “My wife is Japanese and in Japan at the moment they do not have UX designers. That’s because their whole culture is fundamentally orientated towards a servitude concept, so everyone constantly thinks about the customer. At the moment, they don’t have a need for UX, because it’s embedded into every employee in every company.”

“Although that does lead to other things: they need to collaborate more in their organisations and they’re very siloed in their thinking, but at least everyone is thinking from a customer standpoint.”

Yes – as a lot of companies struggle to even do that!

Steve: “They’re business first, not customer first.”

So to close what’s been the biggest challenge for you looking at providing a great service or customer experience? And how are you tackling this challenge?

Steve: “For us, it’s the business silos and breaking those down. We have the knowledge in the building; it’s getting every human into the right place at the right time to disseminate that knowledge and talk to each other to come up with the product or service or experience that works.”