No. 6

Digital Spotlight Q&A:
Lynn King


"We're making ownership sit within the business functions,
to make sure we deliver a great customer experience every time."

For the 6th interview we're bringing you Lynn King, the Marketing and Digital Director at Nisbets, all the way from the Digital Hub in Bristol. It's been a pleasure talking to her all about people and skills, customer expectations, marketing channels and a customer-centric attitude embedded deep into Nisbets' culture.



Q: What is your role at Nisbets?

A: My current role at Nisbets is Marketing and Digital Director and within there, I've got full responsibility and remit for all of our channels. That's online channels and offline channels and also our retail marketing activity, and also customer experience. So that's not just the domain of digital, that's how we drive the customer experience across all of our channels, whether they be online or offline. It's the full marketing end-to-end piece, all under one roof, here at Nisbets in Bristol.
Q: Tell us a bit about your career...

A: My career has really been extensively in marketing. I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I was one of probably the majority of people that leave qualifications going "what do I want to do? What field I want to work in?”. My very first job was working in a contact centre. I had no idea even then what it was I wanted to do. Just by chance, within the organisation I was in, there was a marketing opportunity that came available. I applied for it and I got the job, so I really cut my teeth on campaign management. In those days that was all offline, there was no digital agenda, so I really started at the grassroots, building multi-channel campaigns across all of the offline activity.


Image source: Nisbets Careers

Q: What were some game-changing moments throughout your career?

A: I think for me game-changing moments are probably the people that I've had the privilege of working with. A couple of managers and leaders stand out to me, those who have really helped me develop as a person. I also think understanding that it's not just your technical skills [that matter]. Yes, they need to be good and you need to be able to have substance behind what you're talking about, but actually it's all the softer skills for me like leadership, like influencing, likes stakeholder management... those things actually opened the door to my career.
I've got one person to thank for that which was an old old boss that I used to work with. It was him that actually opened my eyes to that. I think if he hadn’t, I'd still be thinking that just being brilliant and a subject matter at your technical skill is enough. And actually it's not. You need to be really good, all-round leader in order to grow your career. People have been THE game changer to me.


“What opened the door to my career was understanding that the softer skills like leadership, influencing and stakeholder management all matter."

Q: How have your customers' needs changed over the last few years?

A: Over the last few years, our customer needs have definitely changed. One of the main reasons that's driving this change is technology and digital. We've got competitors who are more disruptive and for our customers that’s really changing the landscape in which they operate. Who would have thought dark kitchens will have been a thing that we're now facing into every day? The UberEats, the JustEats of this world, they're really changing the way in which people are eating and therefore that's having an impact on our market.
Within restaurants, there's a big changing dynamic, from fine-dining and casual dining, now into much more convenience and grab-and-go, so quick-serve restaurants are really on the rise. The whole macro environment is really changing within our traditional landscape, and with that, we're having to stay one step ahead of our competition. In particular, in the last 12 months it's really been about seizing digital and really taking that to the next level for us.
When I arrived in January last year, we didn't have any customer research at all. So the first thing that we did was set about doing an extensive piece of customer research across the UK, to really understand what our customers wanted, what was Nisbets good at, and therefore what do we need to protect… For example, having a broad product range is really critical to our customers and they value that.
But equally, just things like inspiring them with ideas about how they could do new displays in front of house, how they could get more servings per day through their establishment - those things are really, really important. Our customers are looking for great content. So we always have to be thinking about how can we add more value to our customers and do that better than your competition? Nisbets is the market leader, but I always say to my guys to not become complacent. There’s always someone who wants to take our position. 

"Our customers are looking for great content."


I have to say even for us, we have a paper catalogue and that is still so important... so important! We have 65% of our customers still use a paper catalogue. Now yes, that changes massively from whether they're pure digital player but customers will still use the paper book if they're buying online.

We've still got customers who just shop exclusively offline and aren’t interested in purchasing online. We have to remember that not everything is in the digital world and that there is still a role for paper and for catalogues. So next year we're going to really start accelerating our activity around the catalogues as well. In a digital world, to me, paper is not dead. It's still really important as part of the multi-channel process.


“Paper is still really important as part of the multi-channel process."


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Behind the scenes of Digital Spotlight: Q&A with Lynn King, Nisbets


Q: How do you approach customer experience?

A: At Nisbets, we start with the customer. We always have done and we always will do and I think of late, the landscape in which we operate - catering and hospitality equipment - has become even more competitive, like most industries. We're not immune to that. Our customers are seeing different choice, they're seeing different experiences that even if that's within their consumer purchases, not necessarily within B2B. That is driving more demand and more expectations to us around our customer experience.
The more you centralise customer experience, people will see it that is the domain of that few people that sit in the middle, and actually that bread colleagues not thinking they could own the customer experience. They were looking to the team who was centralised rather than actually owning it themselves. So we actually don't have a centralised customer experience team now, and we're making ownership sit within the business functions, to enable that change and to make sure we deliver a great customer experience every time.

"The more you centralise customer experience, the more people will think they can not own the customer experience."

We're doing an awful lot to strengthen our digital offer. We are already perceived by our customers to be strong in this area but because it moves at such a fast pace, we're really having to try and keep up with with the latest technology and the latest expectations of our customers. We have, by no means, got this sorted and I'm not sure we will ever do because of how much it does change. 

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"We're making ownership sit within the business functions, to make sure we deliver a great customer experience every time."

In terms of how we were operating our technology, we only had a finite pipeline and that was quite restrictive. At the moment we're starting to build out agile as our methodology, we’re starting to build out agile teams around the customer experience and we'll have product owners who become subject matter experts in the full end-to-end customer journey, for that bit of the journey that they're responsible for.
I think "people" is an interesting thing as well, because largely the change we’ve done in the last 12 months has been with the existing team here at Nisbets and we are seeing some really strong double-digit growth. That's by the belief in our people through a lot of hard work, recognition and reward around good things that are done, learning where things haven't worked and things have failed and taking those learnings and apply them as we go forward.
I think people have been a key enabler in terms of helping us really drive the digital agenda. We're all lucky enough to actually sit in the same building which is a real luxury. We haven't got to work across geographies at the moment as the whole digital team is housed in Bristol. We've opened a Digital Hub, we’ve refurbished the Digital Hub so that our people feel that they an identity, they're proud to work in the Digital Hub at Nisbets and hopefully this will help us attract more talent because it's an area of considerable growth as we go forward.

"I think people have been a key enabler in terms of helping us really drive the digital agenda."

Q: How do you collect your customer insight?

A: From a customer insight point of view in the collection of data, we've done a lot of work in the last 18 months. Nisbets didn't have a customer insight function when I arrived which I was quite surprised at. We had a team of people who were churning out catalogues and mailing selections but actually, that team had so much more insight and data at their fingertips... so we've repurposed and we brought some new talent into the team and then we really started to deliver a lot more customer insight into the business.
Some of that comes from just our systems data and looking at interactions and who is buying which products across which channels. We’ve done pieces of work that look at what makes a good customer and now we’ve broadcast that around the whole business so that people really understand two or three things that we should all be doing in order to develop really great customers.
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Behind the scenes of Digital Spotlight: Q&A with Lynn King, Nisbets

We've done market research which has been a really helpful way of us understanding the market, not just our customers. Where are we good? Where do we need to develop? Where is our competition stronger and is that an opportunity for us? Market research has really been a cornerstone to help bring the customer much closer to our discussions. It's also led to strategic opportunities that have come out of the customer insight. My advice would be if you've not got strong customer research, go and get some because that really starts to shape some very powerful conversations not only around your personas and who your customers actually are, and their needs, wants and pain points, but strategically it can help you look for opportunities that you're not tapping into at the moment.
We've got many inputs that help us understand what our customer pain points are. We're fortunate enough to have a contact centre and they're based in the same building that I'm in virtually every single day of the year. We get a lot of feedback from my contact centre colleagues, we get feedback from our internal sales and our field sales colleagues as well, around pain points that are coming up and they experience on a daily basis with our customers.
As well, we have some more systematic insight tools that we use, such as a customer experience platform that we measure transactions off the back of it. I think it's just listening to customers, really listening, going out in the field, really putting yourself in the shoes of the customers and identifying how they use your product or your service and where could you eradicate some of those pain points that they're coming up against... and they could be anywhere within your organisation. There could be really basic things, but they could lead to some new strategic thinking for extra services to help customers with that. I think we use all inputs possible. We try and listen to the ones that are creating the largest pain for our customers and rectify those firstly and foremost, and sometimes they are really basic things like still if a delivery doesn't get to our customers that can cause a lot of pain for our customers.

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"It's all about putting yourself in the shoes of the customers and identifying how they use your product or your service and finding where could you eradicate some of those pain points that they're coming up against..."

Particularly if it's a restaurant that's been in planning for months, maybe years. Somebody's dream at the end of the day to open their first restaurant, maybe it's their second, their third, and if our products don't reach them to our promise, then that can actually really put in jeopardy that dream that the customer has had. So for us, it's making sure that we listen to all the inputs around just delivering the basics really, really well, but also looking for new opportunities across really the end-to-end process that our customers operate in, and look for new ways of solving those pain points.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge your industry will face in 2020?

Firstly, asking me to come up with a single challenge in terms of what retailers are going to face in 2020 is a difficult ask so, I'm going to probably take two things for me that are increasing in dominance. I think one is speed and rate of change and how you constantly stay ahead of customers' expectations, changing technology, increasing your pipeline of change.
Secondly, and above the changing customer expectations, is talent. I think that's both in terms of retaining the talent that you have, and also acquiring new talent. For us, based in Bristol we've got a really good digital presence and we've got some really great people. I'm privileged to work with some really brilliant people in the digital space in my team today, but we do know as we go forward there's going to be other skills and capabilities that we need to acquire. We feel it's as important that we're seen as a digital leader inside and outside the catering hospitality industry. 

"Talent retention is key."

How do we make people more aware of Nisbets, who Nisbets is, what we do and how they could grow their career if they actually came and joined Team Digital in Nisbets. It's a really exciting time for us but for me, firstly and foremostly it's all about our people. It's retaining the talent that we've got, and also it's how we acquire new talent so for me I'd have to probably put that as the single biggest challenge that we're certainly facing into and talking to colleagues across all sectors, I don’t think we're unique in saying that.

Image source: Nisbets Careers
I think a lot of a lot of retailers are facing into the same challenge. I think that the battleground of digital talent and how you keep that digital talent interested in your roadmap where you're going that they feel that they’re learning, that they're developing that they're driving value into your organisation is really, really key, as well as having a strong employer brand when it comes to digital presence.
Hence why the building we sit in we’ve called the Digital Hub. We're really serious that we want to be seen as the place to go to, to cut your teeth or for experienced people coming in to digital and help us on this journey. We're a 35-year young organisation with a brilliant opportunity in front of us, so for us talent acquisition or retention is key. 
Q: How does Nisbets keep its customer experience levels consistent across the markets?

A: Nisbets is a global operation. We’ve got companies in all of the major European markets and we do have a presence within Australia and New Zealand. We've got Managing Directors who head up those regions and then we've got functions who really support the Managing Directors to drive the regional growth objectives.
What we find, more often than not, is that our customer needs are the same, they're not different. There might be nuances, but normally we can really start to leverage and share best practice... An idea might be created in Australia and conceived in Australia but we really encourage that we share best practice and we don't reinvent the wheel.
We're quite a lean operation. We don’t like excessive thinking, we like to act quickly and if someone's got a great idea it doesn’t matter where they are in the world, we’ll actually all get behind that and support it. 
Q: What’s the best part about your role at Nisbets?
A: The best bit of my role at Nisbets is my team and the people that I work with. Whenever I can work with my team and I can get my hands dirty and actually go back to my roots, maybe campaign management or looking at multi-channel campaigns or helping the team solve a problem or a coaching conversation, they're the best bits of my job - it's got to be around the people. The people here at Nisbets make Nisbets what it is. It is a really family-orientated culture and long may that continue, but yeah for me the best bit of my job is the people that I work with and my team. I love them! I love my team!
A big thanks to Lynn for being a fantastic interviewee and sharing her invaluable insights and learnings from her career so far. Look out for our next chapter, and if you’d like to nominate anyone to be in the spotlight, please do so by emailing us.
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Behind the scenes of Digital Spotlight: Q&A with Lynn King, Nisbets

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