Ask the expert: Maintaining a great customer experience... no matter what
An interview with Currys' Dan Rubel
Dan Rubel is the Brand & Marketing Director at Currys, the UK’s largest electronics retailer. He’s the one who has been steering the brand ship through the choppy waters of the past year. Though Currys is a massive enterprise brand, its mentality is more like a startup, so it’s able to move fast and iterate the way to better. In this interview, Dan tells us how Currys innovated fast and kept its eye on the big picture while the world was in flux.
Here’s what Dan had to say…
Phrasee: How do you balance short-term reactivity – which we’ve all had to do plenty of in the past year – with continuing to work towards your long-term goals as a brand?
Dan: One word I like to use – and it isn’t really a word because I made it up, which I know you guys at Phrasee do often – is choicefulness. So our mission is to help our customers enjoy amazing technology, so everything we do stems from that. Choicefulness is about mindfully choosing things that move us toward that goal. So, for example, pre-pandemic, we had on our roadmap ShopLive, which is a face-to-face video consultation with our in-store staff. When we’re all buying a television or cooker or a washing machine or a drone, we’re not buying it every week – it’s something that’s a bit unusual. And being able to go to a store and talk to somebody who knows their stuff is still something that people value for those kinds of purchases.
ShopLive was going to help with that, and it was going to be a two-month discovery period, three months of design and then three or so months of implementation. Eventually, someone might experience it. But when COVID-19 happened and all the stores shut down, we did the opposite. We were up and running with it in weeks. And yeah, we had a few hiccups, but for that project, we adopted more of an Agile mindset – you know, get out an MVP and then iterate on it. The ShopLive that our customers are enjoying today is not the same one we had when it was first launched, and if we had waited for it to be perfect, we would have missed out.
So choicefulness is deciding what’s truly important and then figuring out whether it’s agile or waterfall, how you’re going to get it done, all while keeping that brand mission in mind.
Phrasee: It sounds like the customer experience is top of mind for Currys. Why is that such an important focus for you?
Dan: We’re very focused on helping customers become customers for life, rather than just for today. We want our existing customers to be really dazzled by their experience with us. Again, our products are not something you buy every day or every week like groceries at Tesco, so if we want to be the go-to for all of them, we have to really impress our customers and engage them all the way through their journey.
So for example, we’ve launched now the first wave of new welcome journeys for our biggest categories, whereby we want to make sure that when you buy something from us, you get support to help get the most out of it like nobody else can do. You know, those tricks and hacks that usually might take you a year to learn, we want to try and share that early on, so that when you make that purchase, you can really make the most of it.
And then we’re also focused on how to make the experience easier for customers – ShopLive is a big focus but getting a zero-contact version of order collect was a big innovation last year, and we very rapidly came up with a way for customers to park at the store, use a QR code, and then our guys would come and put their product in the boot. No matter the touchpoint where we’re interacting with our customers, we want it to be spectacular.
“We’re very focused on helping customers become customers for life, rather than just for today.”
Dan Rubel, Currys
Phrasee: How has the way you communicate with your customers evolved over the past year?
Dan: I’m happy to say we’re constantly learning and challenging ourselves. It’s important to realize that the status quo is proven in a given moment; a few months elapse, and you can’t assume that that status quo is still the right status quo. That’s one of the reasons we like Phrasee so much – because it’s constantly iterating and improving and learning.
A lot of our communication is personalized, using data to kick out a message or an offer that is most relevant to our customers, but we’ve also introduced a lot of self-selecting “hand-raising” which has been really powerful – for example, we’ve given our customers the opportunity to opt-in to certain categories of interest at Black Friday, and on the other side of the coin, to opt out of receiving communications about Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day communications, if that’s not what they want to be seeing. Trying to remain sensitive across all our messages can be quite difficult when you’ve got thousands of communications going out on any given day to millions of customers – but having the right technology combined with the right people helps us get it right more often than we get it wrong.
Two years ago, I think if you would have looked at our materials or the things customers were experiencing, you’d have seen a certain inconsistency or incoherence to a lot of it from a look and feel and tone of voice point of view. We’ve worked hard to overcome that, to create a way of communicating that’s consistent, memorable and appealing. And with our amazing colleagues front and centre in most of our communication, given it’s their expertise in store and via ShopLive, our 24/7 online video shopping service, which is our most important secret sauce. We’re also very focused on making sure our communications hit the mark from a diversity point of view, so that what we show is representative of the diversity of our customers and colleagues, and so we’re careful not to accidentally trip up into anything that looks like gender stereotyping.
Phrasee: Tell us about your omnichannel strategy to provide that cohesive, wonderful customer experience. Is email at the heart of it?
Dan: Email is a very important channel for us. That’s why we’ve got Phrasee engaged to optimize our performance. Phrasee is a powerful and industrial-strength tool, and we’ve seen massive, massive results and massive improvement in opening rates and ROI. There’s a lot of noise in emails, there are a lot of emails landing in all of our inboxes, so being able to cut through with that subject line, being able to get across that compelling thing we want to share with the customer and saying enough to get them to want to open and hear more is huge.
But of course there are other channels beyond email. We no longer think of CRM as just email. And I don’t think any of the big players are thinking that way anymore. We think about it as landing the right thing with the right customer, just in the right moment, for email or text, when you walk into a store, when you come on to our website. We want to try and make the experience personalized and relevant so that we’re serving you with information and messages that are relevant to you, because that’s what customers want. We’re not doing that because it’s fun, or funky or fashionable, we’re doing it because it’s what customers are increasingly demanding. And they react really positively to it.
Phrasee: What’s on deck this year for Currys?
Dan: We’re constantly testing and learning new things and iterating on our previous initiatives to make them even better. We’re working with Phrasee, Adobe, Rapp and Movable Ink and more as strategic partners to optimize across all CRM. Phrasee’s new product, Convert, is something we can’t wait to try on our website, and we’re already testing out React to optimize our welcome messages. The perfect customer experience might not be attainable, but it’s always the north star that we’re moving towards.
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