Q&A With John Vanderslice, Global Head, Luxury And Lifestyle Brands, Hilton Worldwide

Way back in January I spoke at the Luxury FirstLook conference put on by Luxury Daily in New York (a terrific event, by the way). Several of the other speakers intrigued me. One, in particular, gave a speech that I immediately wanted to bring to attendees at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East: John T. A. Vanderslice, the global head of luxury and lifestyle brands at Hilton Worldwide (those brands being Waldorf Astoria and Conrad).

Here’s one of many things John said that struck me: "Today's luxury buyers make investments of passion." That’s a far cry from the way customer experience (CX) practitioners usually talk about emotional engagement. But it struck me as an authentic way to describe super-affluent buyers who’ll pay to reenact the life of a Roman gladiator or to take a trek through the wilds of Nepal.

I ambushed John on his way out the door and recruited him to speak at our forum, which he did earlier this week. He was great. And he was also gracious enough to answer some questions that we posed to him, which we’re now happy to share with you.

Enjoy!

John Vanderslice

1. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

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Why Customer Experience Will Become The #1 CIO Priority

Customer experience isn’t typically at the top of the CIO’s priority list but it was certainly front and center in New York this week.

I believe things are about to change for CIOs. In the new era of always-connected consumers – what Forrester calls The Age Of The Customer – customer experience is so critical that I predict it will become the #1 priority for CIOs. In part because unhappy customers have the power to alter the course of any organization, as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings discovered in 2011, when his US customers forced him into an about-turn on his strategy to split movies-by-mail from online streaming.

But investing in customer experience is tricky because it’s often seen as an abstract thing with little tangible ROI. Companies like USAA, a US insurance company with a strategic focus on customer experience, have spent years re-shaping their entire organizations to think from the outside-in, focusing on the end customer. USAA did this because they believed it was the right thing to do, not because of some compelling business case.

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CX And An Ex-CIO

This week's Customer Experience Forum was far more than just an event for customer experience (CX) professionals. It was an event for any business leader who truly cares about customers. And this includes many CIOs.

Attendees gather at the 2013 NYC Forrester CX Forum

As far as I'm concerned, the best CX presentation by a guest speaker was given this morning by a former CIO, Paul Heller. Paul is now Managing Director of the Retail Investor Group at Vanguard. While his session was energetic and full of humor, it also conveyed his message about the business of delighting clients very clearly. Paul suggests we all need to get in touch with the why, how and who of our business: 

  • Why are customers doing what they do? To answer this question we really need to get to know the reasons for customers doing business with us. Vanguard took the time to ask their customers why they invest and they discovered people want to have more time to do the things they enjoy, they want less stress and to avoid being bored. Trust me, it's way funnier the way Paul describes it.
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Say Hailo To Big Data

Where customer experience and analytics meet, in real time

For a while now, I’ve been using Hailo as a European poster child for innovation in the context of big data analytics. Due to the level of interest generated by this example, and the number of questions I’ve received along the way about Hailo, its technology and business model, etc., I decided to put together this blog post rather than write loads of separate emails.

Ironically, I’ve not actually been able to use Hailo myself (much as I would like to), as I have neither an iOS or Android-based smartphone. I have, however, met lots of people who’re using Hailo as customers, and I’ve also spoken to taxi drivers about it. I have yet to meet anybody who isn’t a fan.

For those of you who don’t know Hailo, it’s an app that allows you to hail a registered cab from your smartphone; as it was started in London, it’s often also called “the black cab app.” With the company founders being three London cabbies (black cab drivers), the entire service has been uniquely focused around the needs of the two main participants in a taxi ride: the customer and the driver.

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Q&A with Jamie Moldafsky, Chief Marketing Officer, Wells Fargo & Company

Marketing and customer experience are two sides of the same coin: Marketers are responsible for communicating the brand promise, and customer experience professionals are responsible for making sure that the promise is kept.

It’s that synergy between marketing and CX that led us to invite Jamie Moldafsky, CMO at Wells Fargo, to speak at Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals in New York on the morning of June 25. As a run-up to our event, Jamie took the time to answer a few questions about why Wells Fargo cares about customer experience and how its approach to CX has evolved over the years.

Enjoy!

Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

Treating customers with courtesy and respect has been a core value at Wells Fargo for more than 160 years. Back in 1888, its agents were given the following instructions: “Proper respect must be shown to all — let them be men, women, or children, rich or poor, white or black—it must not be forgotten that the Company is dependent on these same people for its business.”

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Why All The Apprentices Should Be Fired

Watching a recent episode of The Apprentice, I was struck by how completely disorganized they all were. I realized that it didn’t matter who the PM was on the “team”; they all suffered the same problem – there was never enough discussion of goals and objectives, never any discussion of needed responsibilities and the roles that would carry them out, no clarity on ownership of those responsibilities (trust and empowerment). Instead of a consideration of what is needed, there is a rush to action . . . as though just starting will get them to the goal sooner.

As a result, there were always people standing on the sidelines wondering what to do – always people trying to lord it over others, always errors of judgment, missed opportunities, lack of transparency, and a complete failure to meet the goals and objectives (set by Lord Sugar).

Doesn’t that sound familiar?

So many businesses are similarly disorganized. Most organizations struggle to balance a wide range of issues – the differing demands of customers, the need to cut costs, ensure compliance, respond to the actions of competitors, etc. Point is that without an integrating architecture; these conflicting challenges spawn weak execution and organizational thrashing (just like the teams in The Apprentice). The culture in these organizations focuses on appeasing the leaders of the silos, with little thought put into what is needed to achieve the ultimate goals and objectives. And for most commercial businesses it’s the outcomes delivered to customers or external stakeholders that suffer.

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