I’ve long banged the drum for learning whenever you can. Learn from your successes, learn from your mistakes; learn from your colleagues, and don’t be too proud to learn from your competitors, either. Unless you’re a soaraway market leader, they must be doing something right, so make sure you do it too.
While I would never profess to know it all, at this phase of my career I’ve reached a level of experience, knowledge and, let’s be honest about it, canniness, that my main role is helping others to succeed. Be that how to understand the retail market, how to embrace customer centricity, how to leverage disruption to gain a competitive advantage in the crowded agora of sales. That’s why I developed the idea of Customer First Live, an interdisciplinary conference designed to help people discover the art of putting the customer at the heart of their business.
Customer First Live (September 25-26) covers a broad spectrum of sales and customer interaction: retail, the automotive sector, hospitality, leisure, travel and financial services, just to give you a flavour. We’re looking forward to talks and presentations from sectoral leaders like Jonathan Swaine, the MD of Fuller’s brewery, Rona Ruthen of Monzo Bank, Andy Harding, the chief digital officer for Arcadia, and Graham Johnston of Three. We hope to distil their experiences, good and bad, and their strategies for customer engagement, and create a learning environment in which everyone who attends will find something new, something thought-provoking, something relevant that they can take back to their business.
The business world has no shortage of conferences in anonymous centres around the UK and, indeed, around the globe. So, what makes Customer First Live different? Well, I think the quality of the speakers is excellent and the standard of the presentations will be first-rate, but I would say that, wouldn’t I? I think delegates will also really value the opportunity to network and mix socially with their peers and counterparts from other industries. But these are all general aspirations, the sort of hope any conference organiser would express in advance of the event.
I think the real worth of Customer First Live is the subject. I believe that in focusing on the customer experience across industries, we’ve encapsulated an idea, drawn together disparate strands that many people have been weaving for some time, and produced a concept which really captures the zeitgeist. Lots of experts have nibbled around the edges of this, but I’m proud to plant our flag squarely in the centre of the land of customer centricity. The customer is first and last every time. Your whole business, the whole way you do things, every last little thing, must be dedicated to improving and sustaining the customer experience, because that’s the surest and safest way to drive commercial value.
You will discover what the key building blocks of being a customer centric business are as our speakers cover everything from omnichannel to business culture and from digital transformation to social responsibility. With a strong focus on customer engagement and customer retention, Customer First Live will provide you with a playbook of how to transition your business to one that is truly putting the customer at the heart of all it does.
It’s obvious when you think about it. The customer has never had more choice than he or she does now, never been faced with such a dazzling, bewildering and lavish a range of products to buy, even different versions of the same product. Never before has the customer been able to buy in so many different ways: online, in person, click and collect. With all of those variables, what are consumers to do? How do they decide between all the options facing them? Brand loyalty, habit and excellence of product and service are important, of course, but these all feed into the central notion of customer satisfaction: making the customer feel valued, special and important, genuinely central to the whole operation.
But the really fundamental lesson is… well, you’ll have to come along to find out, won’t you?