Q&A With Kathleen Cattrall and Aaron Frazier Of VCA Animal Hospitals

Sam Stern
Earlier this year, I spoke with Kathleen Cattrall, interim chief experience officer at VCA Animal Hospitals about the company’s customer experience transformation efforts. VCA is a publicly traded company (fittingly, its NASDAQ ticker symbol is WOOF) that owns and operates more than 600 pet hospitals in the US and Canada. Its work to create more customer-centric hiring processes features in my latest report, "How To Hire And Onboard Customer-Centric Employees."
 
Kathleen and her colleague Aaron Frazier were gracious enough to answer a few more questions about their progress in building a more customer-centric culture and what they’ve learned about creating great pet-owner experiences. Here are some of their insights.
    
Q. How did VCA know it needed to improve customer experience? Was there a “burning platform,” or did someone senior at the organization decide it was time to make a change?
 
A. Art Antin, co-founder and COO, was the real visionary here. VCA was approaching its 25th anniversary, and Art was frustrated with clients visiting less frequently. Our customer retention rate was lower than VCA wanted to see. Complaints were escalating, and they all pointed to a poor customer experience. Art said, “We’ve spent 25 years becoming the leader in veterinary health services. We’ve accomplished more than any other company in that regard. We need to focus the next 25 months on improving our customers’ experiences with us.”
 
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Announcing Outside In, The Latest Book From Forrester And The Topic Of Our Upcoming Forum In New York

Harley Manning

Since October, I've been heads down on a big project. We're all delighted that the project is now at a point where we can talk about it publicly.

It's Forrester's next book, titled Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. You'll be hearing a lot about it in the coming weeks, both from me and from my co-author Kerry Bodine. And if you want to see what the cover looks like, it's already online here and here.

Although the book won't be available to the general public until August 28th, attendees of our Customer Experience Forum at the end of June will get digital copies of the manuscript.  They'll also hear keynote speeches from some of the people who appear in the book, like Kevin Peters, the president of Office Depot North America; Laura Evans, chief experience officer at The Washington Post; and Laurie Tucker, senior vice president of corporate marketing at FedEx.

If you'd like to get a preview of some of the concepts in the book, check out the video below — and then stay tuned for more announcements!

 

The Organizations That Chief Customer Officers Oversee

Paul Hagen

In our continuing research on the emerging role of the chief customer officer (CCO), we recently looked at the kinds of authority their firms vest in them to drive change across the organization. This authority can affect the activities they do, the composition of the teams that report into them, and the budgets they control. For firms considering putting this kind of senior customer experience leader in place, Forrester has identified three archetypal models that characterize the most typical modes in which CCOs operate.

Advisory CCOs Play A Coaching Role

Companies that are early in their customer experience transformations are often reluctant to commit too many resources or cede control of core company processes to a CCO. These firms tend to place CCOs in an advisory or coaching role for peers with operational responsibilities, particularly if the company has had past success with centralized teams to drive change management efforts. CCOs running these teams have little control over decision-making and execution and instead derive authority through their expertise and personal reputation within their companies. A mandate from senior leadership in a business unit, the executive management team, or the CEO bolsters these CCOs' ability to change behaviors in other departments. These CCOs:

  • Build core capabilities and spread awareness. Because they don't directly control operations, advisory CCOs and their teams focus on building core foundational customer experience capabilities and standards as would a center of excellence.
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