As customer intelligence consulting firm Walker predicts, “Customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020.” A strong focus on customer experience isn’t new, but the rapidly changing environment means you may need to shift your focus when hiring your next retail marketing executive in order to identify the best candidates.
It All Traces Back to Amazon
Whether or not you buy from Amazon, it’s likely that you are familiar with the company’s commitment to “being the most customer-centric company on earth.” Having changed nearly everything about the way we shop—the impact of which has been dubbed the Amazon effect—Amazon has increasingly put pressure on other retailers to re-examine the experiences they offer, making sure those experiences live up to evolving customer behaviors and preferences.
In response, countless brands have dramatically transformed their customer service practices. One extreme example is a nearly 11-hour customer service call at Zappos (now an Amazon subsidiary), which was highlighted on a WorkLife with Adam Grant podcast. Essentially, after solving the customer’s issue, the Zappos representative began discussing everything from TV and pizza to travel and pets with her customer.
Most organizations would have fired the employee on the spot. But not Zappos, which, as the podcast notes, encourages representatives to engage with customers in a highly personal way while shunning traditional practices like scripts and time restrictions on customer calls.
How the “Effect” Affects Your Recruiting Approach
What, exactly, does a record-long customer service call mean for your approach to recruiting retail marketing talent at the executive level? Certainly, candidates for vice president of marketing and CMO must demonstrate that they possess all the necessary skillsets (digital prowess, audience segmentation, metrics, optimization, etc.) to effectively oversee a team of specialists working together to achieve business goals and objectives.
However, the most important quality that you should seek in candidates is vision. And, more specifically, vision in terms of an ability to continually examine and rethink the experience your company offers customers, whether that experience is online, in brick-and-mortar stores or both. In fact, a 2018 KPMG analysis of the five most important retail trends states that “the customer experience is more important than ever” is trend #1, noting that “experience per square foot” will replace “sales per square foot” as retail’s metric for measurement.
Given this, here are a few questions that can assist you in assessing whether or not your retail marketing candidates have the vision needed to perform well in the current—and future—retail environment:
• What are the strengths and weaknesses that you see in our company’s current customer experience, both overall and in relation to our competitors?
• How would you change that experience based on what you know today?
• What steps will you take to implement those changes? How will you involve and inspire others in this effort?
So, the next time you’re tasked with managing the search for a retail marketing executive, remember that your best candidates will demonstrate how they’ve already used their vision to be a successful disrupter, as well as how they plan to bring this ability to your organization.
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