The crucial role of constant storytelling and change management in our transformation – Interview with Nadia Ness of Ikea


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Today’s interview is with Nadia Ness, who is Global Head of Transformation (Customer Support) at Ikea. Nadia joins me today to talk about transforming IKEA’s customer support, the rationale behind their three-year transformation programme, what they did, what they achieved and what they learned along the way.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – As people, we don’t need personalization, we need humanization – Interview with Paul Greenberg – and is number 461 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here are the highlights of my chat with Nadia:

  • Big shout out to the folks (Digit) behind the recent ITSX event in Edinburgh, where I met Nadia.
  • Ikea embarked on its transformation programme as they realised that they had probably lost track of the fact that the world was evolving round about us in terms of remote customer expectations.
  • The catalysts for why we started this huge transformation programme were:
    • We have around 10,000 people that are working in customer support around the world.
    • They were telling us that they felt like they could use their skills in a better way, but they didn’t have the right investment and clear accountability processes that empowered them and systems that would allow them to do their job effectively.
    • We also knew from looking at our customer surveys that we weren’t at the level that we wanted to be, or at the level that our customers expected from us.
    • The cost of our customer support was also growing exponentially just with firefighting.
  • There were no economies of scale because we didn’t have a blueprint for how customer support would work.
  • Self-service is a key part of the Ikea experience.
  • It’s part of our DNA that customers are empowered to be able to do things for themselves.
  • A central part of the transformation was identifying the great things that were being done in some local markets and how we could take those things and scale them up and make them fit for purpose so that every market can enjoy the benefits of those tools.
  • Once done that allowed them to start building more complex digital solutions like virtual planning tools and selling kitchens over video.
  • I’m really proud of the fact that our transformation team is diverse. We deliberately recruited people from a number of different countries, from different backgrounds, working in their local market as well as people that had never worked at Ikea before so we had fresh eyes and expertise.
  • We worked with the countries as equals. So we had a global team, but we also had a project team in every country and they’re the experts.
  • All of this has led our customer support team to no longer be seen as a cost centre.
  • While the business has to try and achieve the lowest cost to serve possible. Customer support is also something that creates value streams for the organisation, and that’s the mindset shift that we’ve really been focusing on more broadly outside of customer support at Ikea.
  • We track our happy customer score (essentially customer satisfaction) and coworker satisfaction.
  • By consolidating over 200 local systems, we have made tens of millions of cost-efficiency savings. Our transformation has also generated significant growth in sales.
  • Constant storytelling is crucial.
  • Transformation is not just a one-and-done type of thing. It’s a continuous kind of improvement.
  • Our customer satisfaction has gone up by 22 points since we started and it continues to climb.
  • The other score we are very proud of is our coworker engagement (employee engagement) score. The score for our customer support population has gone up by five points and is now on par with our coworkers in our stores.
  • Are you investing in change management and storytelling and doing it from start to end?
  • One of the things that we’ve built into my team’s rituals are things like strategic recovery i.e. giving people permission to take time to clear their brain, to go outside for your walk or something like that.
  • Spend most of your time listening to what your frontline teams are actually telling you.
  • If you’re a leader and you are showing up and listening and you’re walking the talk where it’s a regular feature in your calendar and that time is blocked out and it’s sacrosanct, then that contributes to a culture of I genuinely am listening. I’m not doing it to tick a box. I want you to tell me the honest truth.
  • Nadia’s Punk CX word: Brave
  • Nadia’s Punk XL brand: Bloom & Wild

About Nadia

Nadia NessNadia Ness is Global Head of Transformation (Customer Support) at Ikea. Nadia is an experienced leader in large scale customer transformations. With a background in strategy and change leadership, her career expands over several industries, including telecoms, utilities, finance and retail. Nadia started her career on the shop floor, and uses that experience to keep her humble when creating people-focussed strategy that delivers business growth. A good day at work for Nadia would be one that involves learning something new, with a bit of fun along the way. She lives in Glasgow with her husband and rescue dog.

Check out Ikea, and feel free to connect with Nadia on LinkedIn here.

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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