July 14, 2009

Gliebers Dresses: The Chief Customer Officer

Candi Layton unloaded boxes stuffed with items from her old office. Sarah Wheldon's office was emptied just a few hours ago. A security agency boxed her possessions, and via taxi, delivered them to her home.

Candi lit a candle. "I need for this office to smell like it is my office. Please, Kevin, sit down." Candi then placed a picture of "Peppers & Rogers", the famed customer gurus, up on her new office wall.

Candi Layton is a ten year veteran of Gliebers Dresses. She began her career as a Human Resources Jr. Associate in 1999, then a Human Resources Associate in 2000, then a Human Resources Sr. Associate in 2001, then a Human Resources Manager in 2003, then a Human Resources Sr. Manager in 2004. Her meteoric rise to leadership continued unfettered in 2006 as Ms. Layton was named Director of Human Resources, following the scandulous departures of Rebecca DeBarton and Chance Hawthorne. Mr. Glieber wanted to restore honesty, integrity, and ethics to the Human Resources department. Ms. Layton has yet to disappoint anybody.

Ms. Layton processed the paperwork that enabled Sarah Wheldon to become Chief Marketing Officer back in 2003. Yesterday, she processed the paperwork that enabled Sarah Wheldon to "retire" ahead of schedule. I quietly wondered who would sign the paperwork that would one day allow Candi Layton to retire ahead of schedule?

Candi is now the Human Resources Director and Chief Customer Officer, a new role, a role that I wanted to explore in more detail.

Kevin: "Describe what the Chief Customer Officer is responsible for, given your understanding of the role?"

Candi Layton (speaking rapidly, always): "Oh I'm so excited! For the past ten years, it has been my job to advocate on behalf of the employee. What a treat, I mean, my team and I are the reason we have a new and cheaper dental plan. Everytime an employee smiles, I literally see the fruits of my labor! Now I am going to take my passion for the employee and translate it into an unprecedented advocation of the customer."

Kevin: "So can you describe what the Chief Customer Officer is responsible for?"

Candi Layton: "See, if we want to increase customer loyalty, and I think we all believe that customer loyalty is the key to the profit vault, then we need to be closer to the customer. And we simply cannot be closer to the customer by asking her multiple choice questions via pop-up menus after she abandons yet another shopping cart. No. We have to listen, and we're going to use social media to listen. I'm going to be everywhere. Twitter, Facebook, you name it, I'm going to be listening to what users are saying about dresses. And when a customer has a bad experience with us, I'm going to solve it. When a customer has a bad experience with a competing brand, I'm going to solve it."

Kevin: "Do you have a budget? In other words, if a customer had a problem with a dress, do you have the authority to overnight the customer a free dress?"

Candi Layton: "You know, that's a really good question!"

Kevin: "Give me an example of a problem you've already solved?"

Candi Layton: "We set up a new Twitter presence this morning, '@GlieberDressesListens'. Then I read this message from @Lucy394ever. She received her package from UPS, and the delivery guy left it on her driveway, and then this big thunderstorm hit and thoroughly saturated the package. Well, she refused to even open the package, and grumbled about the poor customer service she received from Gliebers Dresses. Then @bettyhatesbrands wrote about the issue on her Twitter page. That's where I had to nip this in the bud, before it went viral. I went into the order entry system, identified the merchandise she purchased, overnighted her a new dress, and in the process, I hope I surprised and delighted @Lucy394ever. I also hope I stopped the venemous pap being spewed by @bettyhatesbrands, too."

Kevin: "How will you measure the success of your efforts? In other words, how will you know if the work you do on behalf of the customer results in increased sales and profit?"

Candi Layton: "That's a good question! Do you think you can measure that for us?"

Kevin: "Of course. Most important is that we need to begin to capture data in the customer database. Any customer who comes to Gleibers Dresses from a social media site should be recorded in the database, so we can mine the information. Also, we need to create a new database. We need to record every single Blogger or Twitter user who ever mentions Gliebers Dresses. In this database, we capture everything we know about this individual --- job title, geography, followers, # following, # of comments, that kind of thing. We want to closely follow who is talking about Gliebers Dresses. We need to track their links, we need to identify all of the folks who listen to them. All of this information goes in a database, and is correlated with subsequent sales trends. If a customer has a good experience because you helped them out, we record it in this new database. We look at the individuals following the person who had a good outcome, and identify if they talked in a positive or negative way. We record all positives, we record all negatives. The new "social media database" becomes your biggest tool for understanding how your efforts result in positive outcomes or negative outcomes. This data needs to be reported to your management team on a period basis. Yes, I'll help with this!"

Candi Layton: "Groovy!"

Kevin: "How will you work with the other members of the Executive team?"

Candi Layton: "Oh, that will be so much fun! I really hope to be able to shape the direction of the brand, based on customer feedback. Let's say that a customer hates the fit of a dress. Well, that's a problem I'll work with Meredith Thompson (Chief Merchant) on. Or let's say that a customer had a bad experience at the call center. That's a problem I'll work with Roger Morgan (Chief Operations Officer) on. I will represent the 'Voice of the Customer' in our Executive meetings. Seriously, it will be like the customer as a seat at the table. How cool is that?"

Kevin: "Will this new role interfere with your traditional Human Resource job responsibilities?"

Candi Layton: "I have what I call a 'deep bench'. I'm certain my team will 'pick up the slack' and 'step up to the plate'.

Sometimes there's a small window of opportunity for a newly minted Executive leader. We'll see if Ms. Layton can offer new thoughts and a positive attitude in a way that results in an increase in sales and profit.