The CMO Show: Emma Williamson says authenticity breeds advocacy

Customer experience is now a job unto itself. Just ask Emma Williamson, who’s heading up L’Oreal Australia and New Zealand’s efforts in this space. 

When she became director of Customer Experience at L’Oreal Australia and New Zealand, Emma Williamson was determined to shift the conversation from assuaging customer dissatisfaction to embracing customers as brand advocates.

It’s a mindset shift the marketing leader says, and one that is very different to a traditional care role where interaction with customers was kept to a minimum.

“The more contact we have, the more we are able to actually refine the way we work,” Williamson says. “And that is really a way that we can be successful and engage with consumers. I want to actually have consumers advocating for us.”

Ethics are central to this process, Williamson adds. “It’s all about being ethical and showing that you stand for something more than just the bottom line.”

“That aligns with what consumers want these days. Their expectations of businesses are so much higher than they were even two years ago,” she says.

Tune in as hosts Mark Jones and JV Douglas discuss the challenges of localising content, the value of customers as brand advocates, and the importance of being open to feedback on this cracking episode of The CMO Show.

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The CMO Show production team

Producers – Megan Wright & Tom van Leeuwen

Audio Engineers – Jonny McNee & Daniel Marr

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: cmoshow@filteredmedia.com.au.

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Transcript

Participants: Hosts: Mark Jones and Jeanne-Vida Douglas

Guest: Emma Williamson (EW)

JVD: I’m here with Emma Williams.  Can you tell me a little bit about your role at L’Oréal?

EW: Sure, I like to call myself a jack of all trades, to be honest, at L’Oréal.  So whilst my title is director of customer experience, there’s actually quite a few different aspects of that role.  The primary focus for me is to focus on disseminating information to our call centre, and making sure that the way that they speak to customers is in line with other areas of the business.  Also, how we work with our influencer program, and how we actually want them to be communicating to our customers on our behalf.  

And then social media governance actually falls under me as well.  So it’s actually working with our marketers that are creating content plans and pushing content out to consumers, but also the agencies that might help them create that content and moderate our pages.  

JVD: What I gathered from your presentation is that there’s now also a shift to feeling good about the brand that you consume, and connecting that with, “I’m worth it” but also, “This is why I consume this brand, because it’s worth it.”

EW: Well, if you just look at the prevalence of boutique brands that are in the market these days, consumers are not wanting to go for the cookie-cutter brands that have always been around. So on a brand level and there’s 25 or 26 brands now, those marketers are really having to think about what that brand stands for in 2017, and how they want to consume – really communicate with that consumer.

So is that really focusing on the innovation of the product?  Is it talking about the brand new ingredients or formulations that have been created, that make them revolutionary?  Is it about highlighting the brand stands for a particular charity?  So, you know, one of the really exciting things for us is that each of the brands have some philanthropic background.  Whether it be supporting ovarian cancer.  Up until very recently for L’Oréal Paris the Kiehl’s brand supports Adopt Change.  And then, we have obviously, our corporate initiatives through Good360 and TerraCycle.  So it’s really about demonstrating that we’re not just here to take consumers’ money, but we’re actually trying to do something and give something back.  And that aligns with what consumers want these days.  Their expectations of businesses are so much higher than they were even two years ago.  It’s all about being ethical and showing that you stand for something more than just the bottom line.

JVD: One of the other issues that we deal with semi-regularly on the show is when you’ve got a global brand, when you work for a global brand, the extent to which you can take that global message and localise it often has a big impact on your capacity to actually get traction in the local market.  Can you tell me a little bit about the opportunity you have to do that within the ANZ market, and what are the messages that you absolutely fundamentally can’t change?

EW: I think, for the bigger brands, so the big names like Maybelline, L’Oréal Paris, the real stable brands that have been around for a long time, they have corporate messaging at a global level.  A lot of that content isn’t changed, so you’ll see a lot of international models, for example.  So you’ve got the Gigi Hadids that are the spokespersons for those brands.  But where we can actually localise that content is through the appointment of influencers.

So we are actually creating local content that appeals to the Australian or New Zealand consumer based on their needs.  So whether it’s a how-to look, or they want to see their favourite influencer, or a local celebrity wearing our product, that’s kind of where we can get involved and actually make a tone of voice there.  We do occasionally create local content and you’ll see that every now and then.  It’s generally pushed out on the digital platforms because we have a lot more control there, we can focus on targeting.

JVD: Now, working with influencers can be slightly fraught.  Can you tell me a little bit about your experiences in that space and how it’s changed in recent times?

EW: Yeah, so it’s changed quite a lot.  Especially in the last 12 months.  There’s a lot more focus on quality of influencers because there is an absolute plethora of people to choose from now.  You know, from one day to the next who was hot is no longer hot anymore, or they may have become overexposed through brand collaborations.  That’s probably the biggest thing that we need to watch out for, is somebody that we’ve worked with a huge amount may all of a sudden not be seen as authentic anymore.

So we have a really robust compliance program.  So we work with people that we’ve checked to make sure that they’re great, but how they interact with the consumers.  So you know, we don’t want to work with anybody that promotes negative body images.  We don’t want to work with people that promote diet products.  We’re really focusing on making sure that we’re working with influencers that are true their values and match ours.  So I guess, a bit of a flipside of what I was talking about before around consumers wanting to have value and sustainability and all those kinds of things.  They’re the things that we look for in influencers.

But the thing that’s most interesting is there’s a lot more focus on regulation of the influencer industry.  The talk has been ramped up, in particular in the last six months around is there going to be a requirement for that area to be regulated.  What I’m very happy to say is that for the past 12 months we’ve actually worked on that program with our own influencers that we appoint, where they have to abide and sign a term of social media, I guess, terms and conditions.  To make sure that they’re behaving in a really great way, that aligns with us but also protects their image, and that they also disclose when the content is paid.  We don’t ever want to be in a position where somebody believes that that is just, you know, an organic post when we’ve actually paid that influencer to talk about it.  So we really want to make sure that people are upfront and disclosing when we’ve collaborated with them on a post.

JVD: There are a couple of fascinating sort of factoids that came up in your presentation.  One, that L’Oréal has a tech incubator.  Can you tell me a little bit about this transition that L’Oréal has undergone in the last six months and what different – how that has changed the company?

EW: Yeah, so the tech incubator has actually been around for about three years now.  But I think in the last six months we’ve actually seen a ramp up or the release of a lot more technology, and they’ve actively been out and talking to the public or the general public about what they’re doing.  So only a couple of months ago, actually, probably even a month ago, the head of the tech incubator, Guive Balooch, was actually here in Australia to talk about the La Roche-Posay My UV Patch.

So the tech incubator has been born of a place of trying to find ways to innovatively connect with consumers and make it more than just about a lipstick and a mascara.  But actually give them ways to access information around health and beauty that’s different to what they’ve ever seen before.  And obviously, each country will take different aspects of what’s developed in the tech incubator.  We’re very proud to actually have three of those innovations already running in Australia, which is Makeup Genius, the Hair Coach, as well as the My UV Patch.

JVD: Tell me, in terms of your role, how do you fit into the, I guess, marketing department?  Do you report to the CMO?  Is there a CDO role as well?  How does it all fit together?

EW: So I have – I have two bosses essentially.  So I report through to the Director of Communications.  Obviously, in that comms space it’s really important to customer experience.  But I also have a dotted line into the Head of Digital for L’Oréal Australia and New Zealand, to make sure that those two aspects are speaking to one another, because social in particular sits across both areas.  So it’s a new way of communicating with consumers, but ultimately it’s the relationship from the tech side with, say, Facebook and Instagram, that actually drives our use of that product to reach out to the consumer.

JVD: How have you gone about legitimising the role and winning over the right people within the organisation, to ensure that you’re actually able to kick some goals and have success?

EW: I think it’s a lot of just arriving at people’s desks, to be quite honest.  

But also, making sure that if we’re able to get access to reporting through our vendors, that that is disseminated in a timely manner.  So for example, if we’re collecting data on our consumer issues, so consumer complaints or feedback, you know, not letting it sit there for six months before we look at it.  Making sure that it’s an agenda item, and it’s something that is taken to our management committee meetings, and we’re actually focusing on it.

JVD: Speaking of not just a fluffy item, how are you measuring success?  What does success look like for you, and how do you capture it?

EW: In the FMCG category of beauty it’s just so easy for consumers just to throw the product away and never tell us that they hated it or why they hated it.  So success for me is I want to see volumes of contact coming in to us.  I actually want to see that people are talking about our brands positively online as opposed to, “I hate my hair colour and I hate you.” I want them to – I want to actually have consumers advocating for us.  So it’s – it’s a very different mindset to a traditional care role that I’ve been in the past, where it’s all about making sure we don’t interact with consumer.  The more contact we have, the more we are able to actually refine the way we work, and that is really a way that we can be successful and engage with consumers.

JVD: That’s fascinating, because you’ve effectively flipped everything on its head.  What are some of the specific metrics that you use and that you think are effective in measuring what you do?

EW: Well, I mean, obviously, with social media when we’re looking at paid content, we’re able to get some really great insights through the platforms themselves and through our media agencies.  Through our customer care area it’s really around call quality and making sure we’re recording information.  Teasing that apart and making sure that our agents that are logging those calls are categorising them successfully.  Tracking how people are using our websites.  Understanding the customer journey from end to end.

We’ve also recently deployed a tool called Bazaarvoice, where you can actually go in and leave reviews on our products because that means that that consumer is part of our marketing experience for others.  But again, it also gives us an opportunity to rate or see how that product is performing in the market.  So there’s a couple of different things that we look at in terms of reporting and success.

JVD: Now, tell me what are some of the trends, and themes, and perhaps technologies that you’re particularly paying attention to, that you think are going to come to the fore in the next 12 months?

EW: Obviously, product application is still a huge area for us to focus on for us in particular in the hair category.  There’s a huge amount of how-to content that’s created around makeup.  But the nut that’s a bit hard to crack is how do you influence a consumer or even a salon professional around how-to content for hair.  That’s a bit of a tricky one.  It doesn’t have that same sort of, I guess, sexiness to some extent of a brand-new lipstick colour or a smoky eye.  So for us, or for me in particular I’m looking for influencers that create that content around hair that’s really amazing and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some app related content that will come out around Hair Genius, I hope at some point.

But the other thing for us really we’re really trying to make sure that we’re trying to forecast colour trends.  Are we able to encourage consumers to get on board with, say for example, the greenery trend that’s happening at the moment?  How do our products that we’re already sell in market link into that?  Because if you Google any kind of colour inspiration at the moment green is everywhere.  How can we get involved in the conversation?

JVD: That’s fabulous.  Listen Emma, thank you so much for joining the CMO Show.

EW: You’re welcome.

JVD: That was great.

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