MYC'D UP WITH CX LEADERS episode 4: Nick Macfarlane, Cazoo

In the latest episode of our podcast series we speak with Cazoo's head of customer experience optimisation for emerging markets, Nick Macfarlane about the similarities and differences of delivering customer experiences in different countries. 

18th May 2022

We speak with Nick Macfarlane, head of customer experience optimisation for emerging markets at Cazoo. 

Nick has worked in senior CX roles in numerous different markets over the years, from Spain, to Germany to the UK. And in this interview, he discusses whether the principles of good customer experience management remain the same, no matter the country or culture, or whether customer experience leaders need to take a more nuanced approach. 

You can't just be saying "This is wrong, this is wrong, we need to change this". You need to be saying "Our customers are telling us this, we've looked at it, we think that that means there's room for improvement in this process". Don't just be the bearer of news, be the person that's doing something about it as well.



MYCUSTOMER: Nick, welcome to MYC'D Up, we are delighted to have you here with us today. Let's kick straight into the questions. We recently conducted a survey of customer experience leaders on MyCustomer and one of the questions that we asked them concerned their background - what was their pathway to becoming a customer experience leader. And what we found in the research was there is no clear pathway to CX customer experience. Leaders come from a diverse range of backgrounds - customer service, and marketing were most common, but very few - only around 14% - actually, were dyed-in-the-wool customer experience professionals. So when we conduct these interviews, we're always really interested to hear about our interviewees and how they ended up in this particular role. So perhaps you could just tell us a little bit about your particular pathway to customer experience leadership. 

NICK MACFARLANE: Of course, yeah, and I think as you've just said, it is a bit of a bit of an interesting one and one that I kind of fell into. So I actually started my career as a as a customer service advisor in the car industry for BMW, and then for Renault. And I think that very much lit a passion in me for helping customers trying to make things better for them and made me feel that I was good at communicating. And getting things right for customers is very much linked to the human side of things and like understanding what people's needs are at the time and how you would feel yourself. And also, I was a bit frustrated as a customer service advisor back in the day, and we're talking 20 odd years ago that people didn't want to listen to what you had to say about what your customers were telling you. And I think that has been a spark for me, in customer experience ever since. So after that stint as a customer service advisor, I had an opportunity to join Vodafone as a sort of a Customer Experience Manager. And this was very much being focused on new projects and sort of being that voice on the shoulder of the project team going 'what would a customer really think about this?' So really translatable from what you were hearing from customer service: what customers think works. And then I had the opportunity to join Sky which was 11 years ago, now and again, a variety of customer experience based roles that evolved into real CX leadership later. So I was responsible for how contact centres communicated to our broadband customers, and you know how we could help customers understand that you know, the complex things that can go wrong with broadband. I then led a team of CX managers who were again, focused at what is the actual customer experience of this project delivery, going to be and then five or six years ago had the opportunity to set up a contact centre from scratch in Spain for Sky's venture in Spain that launched in 2017. And that was, you know, what took me into real CX leadership. So I had this contact centre that I'd set up all the things that address Draytek me as an advisor, I was able to focus on and try and take out of the equation and then I constantly wanted to do more. I wanted to bring that feedback, and get into the rest of the organisation. So I began looking at how can we run an effective voice of the customer programme. How can we influence other departments are the stakeholders into seeing that this is what our customers really are telling us feeling? How do we make that better. So always customer-focused roles, but very different applications in different organisations have that core sort of skill, which for me, and I think customer experiences is all about this, it's the human side of things. I have this phrase that I've used in presentations at events and things, which is that as a Customer Experience team, we are really just a bunch of humans trying to make another bunch of humans lives easier. And if you stick to that, as a principle, you can find ways to apply that however you want. 

MYCUSTOMER: As you mentioned, you spent 11 years at Sky, in various customer experience roles. You're now at online car retailer Cazoo, so perhaps you could just tell us a bit about where Customer Experience Management fits in at two very different organisations. 

NICK MACFARLANE: Yeah, sure. It's really interesting, actually, I think my first reflection is that they are both massively customer-obsessed organisations, but they do it in very different ways. So thinking back to those 11 years sky, you had very, very different views of who actually owned the customer experience, and therefore, who should be doing the customer experience management. The product team, with the great products they were developing, such as Sky Glass, Sky Q, that sort of thing, they were very focused on that, on screen experience being as fantastic as it could be. But then you had the customer service group who ran the engineers ran the contact centres also owning bits of the customer experience, and you didn't really get this single end-to-end view of the experience at any point. And that was one of the things that in Spain, I was able to do, smaller organisation acting as a bit of a startup within the massive Sky ecosystem is just try and bring that view of what your customers really think to, to everybody in in a joined up way. And I think Cazoo obviously, as a startup has, has focused on that, and there is a central Customer Experience team that really own and police what, as an organisation, we want that core customer experience to be so very clear on what the happy path processes should be very close to customer service operations, and all of the really complex logistics that go into getting a car looking immaculate and out to a customer. But it's customer experience who have the final say on this is how we're going to do it. And for me, it's really interesting that there is that one place where the sort of this is what our customer is going to understand and see and do is defined and, and set in stone. And I think the other interesting thing is the attitude to how do you measure success in in those things. So at Sky multiple products, as I said, different parts of the organisation interested in different bits, and you'd almost be having sort of internal metrics around customer satisfaction. NPS are stuff it's often quite transactional. Cazoo's single focus for success of the customer experience partner department is external Trustpilot reviews. So you're very much putting the judging of the quality of your experience straight into your customers' hands, and you live or die by that. So there's almost even more focus on everything has to be right, first time because you're not controlling when a survey sent.

MYCUSTOMER: You alluded to your time working at Sky Spain, then you've actually worked across a number of different markets - Spain, Sky Deutschland, for instance, as well. Are there any cultural nuances that customer experiences leaders that they need to be aware of when it comes to working in different markets? Or are the principles of customer experience management really pretty universal? 

NICK MACFARLANE: Yeah, it's a really interesting question and I've enjoyed being able to travel to different markets and experience different different cultures and how they react to things I've kind of always been interested in that I love travel, I studied languages. And as I said at the beginning, I love the human side of things. And I think there are definitely nuances, right, and a Germany is a really obvious example, particularly around payments. You know we look at things in the UK in both organisations that I've been part of recently are sort of UK led that have then gone into the European markets, and you sort of you take things for granted that people will just pay by card people will pay by paper. In Germany, cash is king, we had people for OTT subscription, TV service, paying us by bank transfer, and we'd invoice them every month, you know, there are just such different attitudes to online security and how I treat my money. So that's it, that's a really obvious one. And then I think you also have things like, particularly seeing in the car industry, different levels of attention to detail with, you know, what, what may be something that's wrong with a car in one market, versus what people will accept in another market. So there are definitely these nuances and understanding those is part and parcel of running an effective customer experience team with within an organisation and it's certainly not one-size-fits-all. But again, you come back to basics, and I think that there are a set of principles and a set of sort of standards of behaviour or ways of communicating with customers that just work across pretty much any industry, and any geographic location. And that, for me is all about thinking about the real human needs of your customer, at that point in time with what they are trying to achieve what their outcome is trying to be. And making sure that that you address that in the most humane way possible, via any channel. So you play that out into customer service, you know, an attitude of your guys speaking to the customer with, you know, we're making you feel at this point of time that we are doing absolutely everything we can to sort out your problem to give you the response you're expecting and the timeframe you're expecting. If you're sticking to that, and you're really thinking that you're just wanting your people to have good conversations to arrive at the outcome, that the customer understand the outcome, the customer at once and help arrive at that through any interaction, then you're going to get good service, and it's going to apply across the different markets.

MYCUSTOMER: Now, you may not thank me for for saying this, Nick. But you probably qualify as a seasoned CX leader in our in our recent survey of customer experience leadership, only around a quarter of customer experience leaders have over 10 years' experience. So you probably are in that in that niche, as I say whether you whether you would like me to refer to a seasoned or not is possibly a another matter altogether. But what would you say? Drawing on that experience? What would you say has been one of the most important lessons about customer experience management that you've learned during your time as a CX leader?

NICK MACFARLANE: I don't mind you calling me seasoned Neil! I actually laughed - a friend of mine from school, was on a LinkedIn thing the other day when he was called a seasoned industry veteran, and I laughed. But yes, that's all of us at this age. I think probably for me, the most important lesson was four or five years ago, chatting to somebody who was at a vendor that we were using in in Spain, who's become a real CX mentor of mine, and he had this catchphrase: don't be the postman. And what he meant by that was that so often customer experience teams come in with insight, they come in with "our customers are telling us this", but they don't have the wherewithal to change or influence. The things that are making customers say that so you can have the best insight in the world. But if you don't know what you need to fix within your organisation to address what that insight is telling you, it's nigh on useless, right? So that don't be the postman analogy is the postman will drop a letter through your door, he has no idea what is in that letter, it could be a cheque for £1,000, it could be something telling you there's been a tragedy or something like that, but he doesn't stick around and see the reaction, he just drops it through the door, and off he goes. So the point is, and I think it is the best lesson, right, as a customer experience leader, you can't just be saying "This is wrong, this is wrong, we need to change this", you need to be saying "Our customers are telling us this, we've looked at it, we think that that means there's room for improvement in this process, this part of this", that sort of thing. And here are the suggestions, here are the ways that we can make that better, here are the actions we need to take. And actually, my customer experience team is going to make sure that those actions get done either by doing them by ourselves or project managing through that, that it's done. So yeah, definitely. And you see sometimes in organisations that there's loads of insight, but they don't know what to do with it. And then customer experience teams kind of become a nice to have or they're telling us it's good stuff. But that's all we're getting. And yeah, definitely the biggest lesson, don't just be the bearer of news, be the person that's doing something about it, as well.

MYCUSTOMER: And just on a final note, Nick, for those who are just starting out in their careers in customer experience management, again, their first foot on the ladder, what, what one piece of advice would you share to help them develop their their customer experience, programme success, and indeed, their career development?

NICK MACFARLANE: Yeah, tricky one. Maybe just one thing, but I think, you know, reflecting on that, I think, don't be afraid to challenge the status quo. If you see something that isn't working, say it. And then, back yourself - often people in CX roles have direct experience with with customers and this sort of intuition or feeling about what is going to work and what isn't going to work. So you can go a long way by just not being afraid to voice your opinion. I think another thing is, except that you are going to be doing a load of different stuff that you might not see, as core to your customer experience role. Over the years, I've probably been a project manager or business analyst, tech support person who train a customer service guy, you know, you find yourself in, in the role of filling gaps where they come up, and just trying to make sure things get done. So I think, wrapping that up to say, find a way of working, and a set of principles that that work for you, and make them work within your organisation. And my tip there would be - and this ones that I've used for a number of years now - we are here to listen, to interpret what we're hearing to take action off the back of that and monitor the success. So your whole thing comes down to sticking to your guns, not being afraid to challenge stuff back in yourself and voicing what isn't working for your customers and finding ways to solve it.

MYCUSTOMER: Smashing Nick, it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you on behalf of myself and the MYC'd Up series. Many thanks for your fantastic contribution. I'm sure that your advice and insight will be of great value to our audience.



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