CXO Leaders Summit


We attended CXO Leaders Summit in Sydney last week, here are some top line takeaways for those who couldn’t be there.

The event kicked off with Steven Marks, founder of Guzman Y Gomez, talking about how he spun up 80 restaurants in Australia and 94 worldwide. He’s a charming and ambitious Brooklynite, a really scrappy hustler, who arrived in Sydney via Wharton Business School and Wall Street. Got fed up betting on other people’s companies and decided to launch his own. Big focus on brand to start with – notice that their type font is made with black tape, like the cheap and cheerful taquerias in Mexico.


Also a big focus on culture during the early days – “I look after them, and they’ll do anything for me”. Then, once they’d established the building blocks of great product and culture, they focused on optimisation – remove all the bottlenecks.

Key quotes:

“When did fast food become bad food? We’re gonna take on McDonalds”

“The app took 20% of their orders when it launched, but has been growing quickly ever since.”

“I didn’t even know what CPA stands for – all our marketing is word of mouth, and personal. We want to nurture and cultivate raging fans”

Our take: Culture is king but often fades from sight in large organisations. It takes guts and perseverance to drive impact in large organisations, and it’s virtually impossible without leaders setting the right examples.


Then a panel with LJ Hooker, Catch Group and ANZ, moderated by Prudential – How to build a customer centric brand.

Interesting, the person to my right spent the session complaining about ANZ, and on my other side was someone complaining bitterly about LJ Hooker. So it begs the question, what’s the point in doing CX work if it doesn’t affect public sentiment? 

ANZ and LJ Hooker talked proudly about their activities – customer journey mapping, experience walls, customer for life programs and the such. In contrast Catch Group were talking about getting closer to actual customers, and working hard to get the voice of the customer fed back into their actual products (not just design assets).

ANZ and LJ complained about the challenges changing the culture – “Waffle” said the lady to my left. The previous speaker had just illustrated that cultural leadership has to start at the top. In contrast Catch Group are more nimble, and talked about empowering customer facing staff, and hiring entrepreneurial people as a strategic priority.

Our take: Focus on business outcomes, rather than design outputs. Get something in market quickly with feedback loops in place. Design Thinking has it’s place, but Lean UX will more often get you where you need to go.


Then a game of buzzword bingo with Genesys. He spoke quickly and said little. #cloud #experience #customers #empowerment #AI #BigData #Uberisation #trends #IOT. Then some very badly designed screens with tiny illegible writing, and a weird voice driven interaction that forced people to juggle between text and web. So much for Digital CX!

Our take: sponsor presentations shouldn’t focus on the sponsor. Pick an interesting topic and let your knowledge speak for itself. Standard presentation rules apply.

Then we were in 121 sessions with some of the speed dating sessions the organisers had set up with attendees. On a personal note, they were great! Pretty much everyone who came to these had a current need relevant to our new Mobile & Emerging Technology positioning. Big thanks to Blake and Nick for the organisation. It did mean that we missed some of the workshops, but we got what we needed out of the event.


In the afternoon, Karen Ganschow of nab gave a talk on Customer Life Cycle vs Product Life Cycle which should trump? She observed that what you measure is what you manage. All banks focus on the same metrics e.g. number of products (how’s this for an acronym: CW4P – customers with 4 products!). As a result, propensity models are receiving a lot of focus, but even still only a tiny number of customers are likely to respond to upsell and cross sell overtures. Rule of thumb: let the customer behaviour trigger the focus. Death to propensity models.

Our take: Karen’s an engaging speaker, and it was good to hear some challenging thinking about propensity models. Data and the use of it is simply a means to an end – you still need a great product to drive behaviour. Perhaps her talk focused a little too much on customer journeys and life stages, and not enough about actually shipping software and increasing speed to market / customer feedback loops.


For day two, the opening keynote was held by Stephanie Myers of Prudential – Customer Experience and Engagement: How to Build a Customer-Centric Brand. It was refreshing to see a focus on mobile first as a principle and attitude and not just an approach to design. Our customers are constantly connected to the internet and to each other, and this should drive the way we approach the design of services. However the danger is that native apps exist in a very competitive space – the top eight apps are all owned by Google and Facebook, and about half of all apps are deleted within one month of installation. Unless your app offers significant utility and or entertainment, it won’t get used. She recommended focusing on, and designing for, mobile only journeys. Think of desktop as optional – it drives the best mindset.

Our take: We couldn’t agree more! We’ve had clients who want us to build e.g. marketing apps for the top of the conversion funnel and we’ve generally pushed back on this. Think through what value the customer needs via mobile devices for their whole lifecycle, and let this influence the role of web vs native. Rule of thumb: go native for repeat users, and earn their trust and respect to drive the loyalty and advocacy that you’re looking for.


Next up was a panel discussing CX: The new battleground for marketing Organisations. All present agreed that a key current trend is a focus on value of advocacy / advocates, and how this ties back into repeat business. It begs the question: Who owns the customer? It’s trite to say ‘everyone’ – better to break it down. Marketing can be the catalyst for improvement, but initiatives and teams driven by the C-Suite can also have a big impact.

The panel discussed ‘voice of the customer’ initiatives – suggested focusing on the positive feedback as much as the negative. For example, “we’re hand writing a note to thank a member of staff after you left positive feedback”. Customers and staff given a boost.

Our take: customer feedback in a native app context is a balancing act. Yes, you want people to rate your app highly in the app store, but ideally you also want to drive advocacy and potentially up-sell / cross-sell / refer-a-friend activity as well. Do too much of this and your customers will become fatigued, so plan this activity with taste and due consideration for your customers’ time. And then track engagement carefully.

One more thing. ‘Who owns the customer?’ is a trite question. If you have to ask it, then your challenge isn’t organisational, it’s cultural. Your whole business needs customers more than they need you, so a better question to ask is ‘How can we all help the customer to achieve their goals?’.


Into the final straight now, with a panel on Winning over the skipping generation. Much has been written about millennials and their habits, but it’s rarely constructive. One solid piece of advice came from Chris Dodson, Head of Marketing for Youtube, who said that authenticity comes from putting creative power into the hands of the creative people in front of the camera. For example,  Casey Neistat is an influencer appointed by YouTube as part of his “Do what you can’t” program. He was given complete creative control over the content, rather than being told what to do by a traditional Creative Director at an ad agency. Interesting.

Our view: Millennials aren’t as unfathomable or fickle as people like to make out. They’re just better at filtering out bullshit. And as this forces companies to deliver actual value on the terms of the customer, I’d say we all benefit from this.


Finally, Facebook gave a talk called Eventually, everything connects. Promising title, but it was just Facebook talking about bots. They showed a few case studies where call volumes dropped, but we know the score – while the situation is gradually improving, none of these bots would pass a Turing test. But their handover protocol looked interesting, breaking down the problem and then combining automation tech and conversation tools to make it happen.

Our view: there’s definitely value to be had with bot implementations, but also a danger of over-reaching. By properly understanding the limitations of the technology you can find the right balance between bot and human interaction, the sweet spot where customers will be happy to interact with a human back-up at their discretion. Then you can carefully push the boundaries.


That’s all! The main takeaway for us at Bilue is that speed is of the essence. Get a tasteful and respectful product in customers’ hands quickly, and make sure solid feedback loops are in place. Plan product development around this feedback. Your customers will thank you!

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