Randy Del Valle
- Programme: Strategic Branding
- Nationality: Filipino
- Job Post-programme: Senior Consultant, Downstream Strategy - Management Consultancy, Shell International Petroleum Limited
Randy has worked with Shell International Petroleum Co since 1998, leading marketing launches and initiatives in Shell Philippines and North Pacific. He manages the design and implementation of recruitment, training, measurement, performance, rewards and recognition for the company’s sales force, retailers and site staff. He currently manages the Global Operational Excellence Program of Shell’s Downstream-Retail Business, based in London, covering 60+ countries, 35,000 retail outlets and more than 250,000 individuals.
Focus and validation
I manage Global Operational Excellence in customer experience at Shell, and it was important to me to find ways to help the organisation, right down to our frontline staff, to become genuinely more engaged with our customers. I was keen to come to London Business School to explore the world outside the petroleum industry, to branch out and understand what is out there – the world our clients live in. We’d started customer-centred research already at Shell, but I wanted to drill in on what the company could actually, in real terms, do for our customers. The programme offered a focus for and validation of the way we’d been thinking, the theories we’d been looking into and the plans we’d made. I found the emphasis on building a customer-focused organisation that manages customers for profit to be extremely useful.
It was gratifying to get feedback from the faculty that the way we were moving forward at Shell was backed up by academic thought as well as professional research. When it came to the guest speakers, I was presented with a whole new way of thinking. Richard Hytner, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, led some excellent sessions about creative thinking. I was particularly struck by what he taught us about building brands from the inside out – changing a customer’s experience from respect to love. I found that inspiring; it’s great to find yourself approaching things differently when working in a field where you believe you know everything! The other guest speaker was the COO of Manchester United Football Club, and having his perspective was really refreshing – a football team is not so different from a big company, needing to keep all the fans engaged, winning their loyalty.
A diverse classroom
I learned a lot from the other participants, too. The group was diverse, including CEOs from the Middle East and from all over Europe, and there were numerous open discussions. It was useful to pick up so many fresh ideas – one person talking about how to bring in customers to a bank, for example, and another who manages their own retail business, and each one with different issues and needs. I was glad to have the opportunity to share my experience in the petroleum industry with other participants, too.
Understanding your customer
The store visits, where we visited different retail outlets as customers, allowed me to experience different customer experiences in different sectors, and I soon learned that what seems simple – authenticity – matters hugely, creating a kind of magic moment during a transaction that can inspire brand loyalty. Those store visits absolutely clarified for me that if you can understand a customer’s state of mind you can offer a proper engagement.
Another useful session, on targeting customers, made it clear that you can never please everyone, so you have to focus on the customers whose loyalty your business really wants to win. If we can teach our frontline staff those skills then the customer’s experience at the petrol station will be better, and their experience of Shell will be enhanced too.
Changing a culture
Since I completed the programme I have been applying customer-focused marketing to the training, the recruitment, the measurement and the management of the retail teams at Shell. I am certain our new strategies are adding value for our consumers – we already have better customer scores from our Mystery Shopping programmes, for example – and those scores look set to grow. Above all the programme got us to concentrate on being authentic and genuine in terms of how we treat our customers, focusing on their needs rather than doing things the way that we want to do them as a company – and by doing that we have achieved a great deal.