CX Speak

Build A Customer-Oriented Culture: An Exclusive Interview with Mr. Stefan Michels, Director, Customer Service and Experience, QVC

At Customer Guru, we believe that Customer Experience (CX) should be the number one priority for all the Indian businesses so that they become more sustainable and successful globally. Thus, we are on a mission to spread this awareness, inspiring and guiding professionals to adopt and inculcate a customer-centric approach. We are certain that this is a first step to help organizations WOW their customers and create raving fans for themselves.

Continuing with our initiative of sharing experiences of top-notch CX experts, we have another gem of an interview with Mr. Stefan Michels, Director Customer Service and Experience, QVC – an American cable, satellite, and broadcast television network, and flagship shopping channel specializing in televised home shopping that is owned by Qurate Retail Group.

In this exclusive interview with Customer Guru, Mr. Michels discusses the need of building a customer-focused culture in every organization as customer experience has become the key brand differentiator. We invite our readers to comment and ask questions on challenges they might be facing in their organizations when setting up a customer-centric culture. We would be more than happy to help. This article is framed in a question-answer format; please feel free to share your feedback on the article too.

In your journey of working as the director of Customer Experience at QVC, you have covered a great body of work spanning across business functions for over 20 years. How have you seen the concept of customer experience evolve in these years?

At QVC, we had from the very beginning, a department called “customer focus”. The role of this department was always considered very important. The department consisted of dedicated team members and a Director and it was part of the weekly board meeting.

However, talking about the market, I can perceive that customer experience, its importance, and the understanding of its importance has grown constantly over the last years. There is definitely an awareness in the market and within the different organizations in regards to customer experience. Not just organizations but also the customers are now more aware. Two or three years ago, no one talked about a Chief Customer Officer Role and Customer Service was a pure cost factor. However, today, there is a broader understanding that CX is a differentiator; it helps a brand to stand out in a comparable market with hundreds of options and possibilities for the customers. CX is something that a customer expects from a company, without which customers will not even take an organization into consideration. That said, there is still a long way to go. In many organizations, departments are still not aligned with the idea that CX is a valuable and forward-looking component of the company and the customer journey. We are still several steps away from an understanding that CX is also a value-adding component of a company that can have a positive impact on PnL.

As a leader focused on delivering good customer experience, what has been your biggest challenge and how were you able to overcome it?

The biggest challenge is to convince other departments and to show them that we’re not an obstacle or a blocker. The hardest thing is to constantly convince them that a customer experience focused mindset with a balanced view can be an eye-opener. And that one can reduce efforts when one focuses on the customer whenever working on processes or creating new processes.

I would say, this is still a challenge, therefore this challenge has not yet been overcome. But I think some important ways in which one can overcome this are showing your networks and the stakeholders that you have an understanding of their processes, coming up with numbers, quotations, and real customer complaints, and acting like a customer advocate, which also means from my perspective to be open for a compromise.

The culture of a company has a huge role to play in the experience it delivers to customers. How do you manage it in your business?

At QVC, we really have a highly customer-oriented culture. We know that we have to build real relationships with our customers. All departments are totally focused on that aspect ever since we started the business. This customer focus is also part of our company values. One of the essential things is to have a buy-in from the top management. The other important thing is to create an employee orientated culture. Without satisfied employees, you would not able to satisfy the customer.

What is your vision for Customer Experience at QVC? How do you intend to realize it?

The vision from QVC is to start always on the customer side in whatever we do – whether we’re optimizing, creating, or re-thinking processes. It is to always start from the customer standpoint and not to add the customer standpoint somewhere in the process. I think this will help to implement a different view and a different way of thinking. In addition, I would like to have a culture where the CX area is not a “cost center” but a “value center”. This can be achieved with a number of pilot projects. With taking small steps forward and by pursuing small projects, a kind of trustworthiness into the outcome of CX can be achieved.

What would be your word of advice for businesses that are looking to embark on the journey of customer centricity?

Start with an idea of what you would like to achieve. Create a kind of baseline, understand where you are from an internal perspective, and how your customer rates you. Map your customer journey to have a better picture for all the upcoming discussions. Define small steps, persevere, and don’t give up too early. This is a vulnerable small flower that needs time. Talk to your employees, take the journey together, show them how important they are. Listen to your employees, especially to those at the frontline on a regular basis to understand where you are on your journey to becoming a customer-centric company. Also, ensure that the management is willing to constantly invest in the path to customer-centricity. Moreover, the management should follow that path even in cases where a purely business-focused answer is easier than a customer-centric answer.

Connect with Stefan Michels on LinkedIn

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