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Ten In Ten with Travis Brown – Head of CX at Officeworks

Welcome back to Ten in Ten!

This interview series takes some of Australia’s top customer experience experts and puts them against ten hard hitting questions in ten minutes! (Or more, or sometimes less)

In our first episode for 2023 we’ve been lucky enough to sit down with Travis Brown, Head of CX at Officeworks.

Travis has had an unconventional journey into the world of CX and it was fascinating to get his perspective on the space.

In today’s episode you can hear about;

  • Why Travis thinks learning to listen is the best lesson he’s learned.
  • Why the future of self service get’s Travis excited.
  • Why unfiltered feedback gives you the best insights.

And much more.

To top it all off, Travis is a really great guy with a lot of knowledge to share so we hope you enjoy this chat.
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Without any further ado – Introducing, Travis Brown!

Ten in Ten with head of CX at Officeworks Travis Brown

Tom: Travis, can you tell me a little bit about your role right now with Officeworks?

Travis: I have the fortunate position of being head of customer experience at Officeworks. For all intents and purposes, we look after the experience across all the channels to market for our customers. So in-store, the digital line and obviously trying to get better at B2B and our call centre. I’ve been here for five years and it’s been a wonderful journey.

Tom: I saw you studied a Bachelor of Applied Science, so I was pretty curious to see how you ended up working in CX?

Travis: By chance, I ended up in the CX space. Yeah, you’re right. I studied applied science at school and sort of always had dreams of doing sort of two things, either, staying, in the physiology field or in computing or various things, and ended up in being a developer for many a year. And my journey took me through various roles and various opportunities and ended up many years ago doing a role as customer strategy manager, which was the one of the best roles I ever did in terms of learning.

And I’ve always gravitated back to that side in terms of customer experience and stuff. So it wasn’t a planned journey by any stretch of the imagination Tom, I sort of found my way into it. But I’ve become a believer in the fact that you need good customer experience of various things to survive in today’s business world.

So I’ve always gravitated back to that. But no, it wasn’t a planned thing going from a developer into customer experience, not exactly the most standard journey, but one that I’ve enjoyed nonetheless.

Tom: And an interesting one, I’m sure. So how would you define good CX design? What does that look like for you?

Travis: I guess the way that I look at customer experience and certainly the design aspect is that if you are relevant and satisfying the shopping mission that a customer is trying to complete then generally you’re in the right ballpark in terms of experience levels. So you know, for me to think about, you know, good customer experience and good customer design, you need to understand your customer base and who they are.

“people that design for everyone generally design for no one.”

You actually need to understand what they’re trying to do. And then you can supply the relevant experience. And I use the word ‘relevant’ because people that design for everyone generally design for no one. So you need to be able to understand who your target audience is and then what they’re trying to do. And then aim your experience or your design around that component.

And the last thing I’d say is don’t complicate the design. I think the beauty at the moment is seeing a lot more of is people embracing simplicity, giving the information that’s relevant to the customer at the right time, not bombarding them with 58,000 things to decide on.

Tom: So what would you say is a unique CX challenge or opportunity for a business like Officeworks?

Travis: There’s always challenges. You know, Officeworks, you know, is a reasonably large corporate with lots of traffic coming through. But the the thing that’s interesting coming out of covid is that, you know, we still trade a lot on product and price, and product and price will get you so far. But now it’s into that dynamic of how do you continue to engage your customer and satisfy their needs as they go forward.

And I think the thing that we have lacked over the journey and we’re still looking to solve for is that emotional engagement with customers. Yes, we are here to help you satisfy a shopping mission and ultimately that is a product or service. But how do we get you through that funnel on a more emotional engagement and help you solve that problem along the journey?

I think we talked about in the panel a little bit, but you know that personalization component. So you “know me, know what I want, don’t try to continually reinvent me or understand who I am each time.” So I think that’s the goal for us to solve over the coming year or so.

Tom: It does seem like this year personalisation is really going to be something a lot of businesses are going to try and hit. So it’s interesting to hear that from you as well. You were talking about learning lessons earlier. What would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned?

Travis: The power of listening and empathy.

I think the one thing that I’ve loved over my journey in the CX space is that there’s lots of avenues to get data and access to things, you know, and at the end of the day, your opinion necessarily doesn’t matter. You’ve got to be able to represent the voice of the customer and therefore you have to really listen and you have to really empathise and engage.

And you know, and I’m repeating the word listen, but I really understood the power of stakeholders and customers come in various forms is really important to understand that sometimes experiences that might be suited to a different retailer or a different corporate doesn’t necessarily work in your ecosystem because your customers, may not want that experience from you.

So again, it’s that listening component and really going back and empathising with what they’re trying to do and that pain point particular. And then how you solve that going forward. It’s a really important piece for me.

Tom: So what excites you the most about CX in 2023?

Travis: I’ve been talking about this a little bit, but I am fascinated by it. So COVID catapulted some really amazing technology solutions that really brought forward the self-service component. And so you’re seeing a lot of brands really buy into this. “How do I get the customer to self-serve and how do I get the customer to be able to achieve what they want on their terms as they go forward?”

I am intrigued on the self-service. I’m intrigued on brands that allow customers to engage on their terms however I guess the area that I’m really excited for in 2023 is where does customer service now fit? What is the human instinct in the relationship going forward? And does that become a point of difference? Because in the past it was table stakes.

“how does the human touch work in solving these things that can’t be done from a technology standpoint?”

Customer service was kind of your entry into customer experience. And you know, as you go through the journey, now that you’ve got all this technology that helps you self-serve, how does the human touch work in solving these things that can’t be done from a technology standpoint? The thing that I look at, the reason why I’m excited about customer service and where it dovetails in is I still think issue resolution is the greatest way to gain loyalty with customers when things don’t go right.

How do you solve that for the customer in the most empathetic way to give them that loyalty of trust as they go forward? So quite boring. But I do think the customer service element for me is a fascinating piece of where 2023 will go.

Tom: That’s very interesting that you bring that up because my next question I was going to ask was actually, what do you think is more important, having strong A.I. capabilities or having a team with strong interpersonal skills?

Travis: Look, I think it’s going to be a huge dynamic. I think AI will solve a lot of task orientation. And I think there’s a lot of news cases that are fantastic from a customer perspective. But I think from an operational perspective, I will solve a lot of those autonomous tasks and various things that you need to do as an organisation to continue to provide a service.

So I’ve always leaned into the fact that you’re still going to have to have a really heavy investment in your customer service side and what that looks like and the importance of that to drive through with your customer experience. I will solve a lot of things, absolutely. And we’re all seeing that. We’re all fascinated with the stuff that’s been coming out at the moment.

But I still think there’s a human element to what we do and what we offer as a as a country and more importantly, within Officeworks and within retailing in general, I think the investment on both sides of the fence will be will be an interesting dynamic, whether people will do a return on investment case for AI or whether they’ll do one from a from a human touch point remains to be seen.

Tom: Which stakeholders do you find give you the best insights?

Travis: We have, you know, in excess of 8000 team members in our stores. And they are the most amazing, unfiltered stakeholders, that you can get. They talk to customers on a day to day basis and they hear it on the ground. Some people might argue that that’s an in-store experience and that’s something that, you know, is one channel for you to understand.

However, I’m a big believer that, you know, the evolution of mobile phones and the activity of responsive websites of various things means that customers use every channel during their shopping mission. But the unfiltered nature of a store team member being able to say, “Hey, Tom, came into our store. And he did this and he couldn’t do this and he can do etc”

“people in stores are wonderfully, wonderfully great at telling you how good or bad it is.”

You can’t buy that from seeing a customer’s feedback on your feedback form or going on to product review and various things. You just don’t get that content. You don’t get that information. So for me, the wonderful team members in our stores across Australia have the most power and the greatest information for you to solve pain points. And I think the the job we have is understanding and unpacking that information so that we can dovetail it into a pain point or a need for customers, and then take a step back and look at what channel can solve the problem.

The reason why I keep saying unfiltered, people in stores are wonderfully, wonderfully great at telling you how good or bad it is.

Tom: Well, now it’s time for you to tell it how it is so could you try and finish this sentence for me? The future of CX is….

“The future of CX is unknown.”

Customer experience now is an accessible thing for lots of different departments and lots of different functions. The reason why I say unknown is I’ve always had a fascination of Does customer experience just become part of everyone’s job? Or do you always have a function that drives customer experience internally in a corporate like ours?

I think the evolutionary piece for me is how do you drive customer experience in every role that that is part of your organisation? And so I think companies that make that leap of faith, they go, No, no, no, you don’t protect the fact that there are, you know, six people over there that now customer experience, everyone should know it’s a customer experience.

So I think that exciting time, but I think it’s a bit of an unknown in terms of that evolution and where does it come? But I just don’t know where it’s going to land. And I think that’s the beauty and the excitement of being in the field of customer experience. I think the potential is untapped and you can go wherever you take it.

Tom: We’re actually onto the final question here. Can you describe to me what your ideal CX team looks like?

Yeah, it’s a great question. I think that the way that I look at the opportunity within CX or a CX team is that you’ve got almost an outward facing type of role set. So you’ve got whether that’s research or whether that’s analytics, you know, that external facing element of having people that are constantly looking at the market, constantly looking at customer trends, constantly looking at competition retailers, then you’ve got an internal side to that.

You’ve also got an internal analytics, more so than research that are looking at transactional data. So you’ve got this nice subset of factual elements that can drive decisions, drive elements, complementing that unique customer insight. So voice of customer is something that I’m passionate about. You need a voice, a customer program, you need someone that controls that. You can’t leave that to be organic and, you know, orchestrate its way through the organisation.

The next thing for me is having people that are got a strategic mindset so able to take pain points or needs and investigate them further for opportunities. So how do you go through and do you know whether it’s immersive analysis, whether it’s customer interviews, whether it’s surveys and stuff to tease out a set of opportunities? And the last thing I’d say in terms of my ideal start in customer experience is probably having designed components.

So how do people take from the finding and a pain point and discovery through to circumventing to what are the opportunities to go and showcasing some of those proof of concepts or designs down to be able to execute on. So you’ve sort of got a nice flow through customer experience. And the goal I always think from a customer experience team is to influence the direction of the business.

So you’re not there to tell everyone what to do and how to do it and stuff, but influence the direction so that you always get a customer lens across all the decisions that you make as an organisation.

Tom: That’s all we’ve got for today. I wish we could have gone for half an hour. You’ve got so much insight and just wonderful knowledge to share, so I really appreciate you coming on.

Travis: Take care of Tom, Mate That’s been awesome. Thank you very much. very much appreciate it.

Tom: No worries!

Catch up on episode 1 with Fiona Symmons here.

Ten in Ten is a monthly interview series.

If you are a CX practitioner and you think you would like to be a part of this series.

Please send any enquiries to tom@ft-group.com.au

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