CEO’s Advice For the Customer Experience Champion’s Role


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PetSmart recently announced the appointment of Phil Bowman as the new EVP of Customer Experience. PetSmart President and CEO, David Lenhardt was thrilled to get him for this newly created position.

The appointment of Bowman was announced this past May, along with the explanation that his role will be to expand their customer experience across all the channels for PetSmart to ensure that customers get a personalized experience that leverages what the organization knows about the customer best. Bowman’s previous experience is with TD Ameritrade as the Chief Marketing Officer.

With PetSmart and Bowman at the beginning of their journey to a better customer experience, we believe that they could benefit from the experience of a few customer experience leaders that have gone before them. Some of our experts who have been working in this position or championing the customer experience for many years have the expertise that can make Bowman’s transition to his new role a little easier.

Here’s what they have to say:

From Chuck Kavitsky, Former CEO of Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company:

Ask the right questions to get the answer for customer experience.

“The strongest advice I think I would give a CEO heading down this path is that he should expect to hear from this people that they’re already doing it and they understand it. He should expect to hear if they do more it’ll just cost more money and they won’t get a return. He should expect to hear from his people that they’re very sensitive to these issues. He should understand that when he hears this from his people, his people are not lying to him. The reality is that his people are giving him those answers honestly, and believe what they are saying. But again the reality is that they just don’ t fully understand and “get it.”

“…The problem that people have is that we’re taught by school and we’re taught by our parents and we’re taught by the companies we work at, we’re taught the answer first and then somebody introduces the question to which that’s the answer. I think the key issue is teaching people to ask the right questions.”

From Maxine Clark, Founder and Former CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop:

Passion for putting the customer first comes from the top.

“The first thing I would say is that they have to feel passionate about it [customer experience]. If you’re passionate about it, you can give your heart and soul to it. I think the successful brands in the world like the Virgin brand in the UK or Build-A-Bear Workshop, Starbucks, Zara, the people behind those brands really felt there was a need to fill a void and are passionate about the business that they’re in.

“It has to come from the top of a company; it has to be in that company’s DNA. How can the sales associates believe it and make it happen everyday if their store manager doesn’t feel that way or the company owner doesn’t feel that? There is a certain amount that can be accomplished, but you can’t go the full distance unless everybody’s on board.”

Bob Black, Managing Director, TNT Express Australia:

Building a great customer experience focused on customers’ emotions is a journey, not a destination.

“Like many organizations, we were very process driven. The good news is we recognize that now. We had put in place these processes to ensure people didn’t slip out of line. But we overplayed our hand. We really want our people to be more natural in the way they talk with customers, and the irony is, that is what they wanted as well. We needed to build a process, which allowed them to be natural in their conversation, rather than robotic. We needed to fully understand the customers’ emotions, and then empathize with them to make them feel involved in the process.

“The reality is that this isn’t something you correct overnight and it isn’t something you can assume will continually be done. It’s a journey not a destination.”

Bowman can read more of what each of these customer experience leaders has to share about what they have learned over the years in my 3rd book, The DNA of Customer Experience.

Bowman and PetSmart have made a wise decision to create the position and make it a priority to a more consistent customer experience across all their channels. I would like to end with a little advice of my own to them both:

Making the customer the center of everything they do will be the next great differentiator in the globalized economy that we are all participating in today. It is the emotional side of the customer experience that can make the difference for an organization competing for customers’ business today. Executives that understand and champion this concept today will be the leaders of tomorrow. Because:

“You may not be responsible for the past but you are responsible for the future.”

Finally as CEO of Beyond Philosophy let me echo the sentiments of Black when he says this is a journey not a destination. People will ‘get this’ at different points. A Customer Experience is not just about rational aspect of the experience; it’s about emotions, subconscious and psychological aspects. Finally there is a big difference between a process and an experience.

If you need any advice on your journey, please use our web site as a resource…

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Colin Shaw
Colin is an original pioneer of Customer Experience. LinkedIn has recognized Colin as one of the ‘World's Top 150 Business Influencers’ Colin is an official LinkedIn "Top Voice", with over 280,000 followers & 80,000 subscribed to his newsletter 'Why Customers Buy'. Colin's consulting company Beyond Philosophy, was recognized by the Financial Times as ‘one of the leading consultancies’. Colin is the co-host of the highly successful Intuitive Customer podcast, which is rated in the top 2% of podcasts.


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