Our, ‘Ten Minutes With,’ series of interviews gives businesses the opportunity to tell us how they’ve adapted in response to the Covid-19 crisis, what their experiences have been and as we head towards the end of the financial year what their plans are for the rest of 2021.
This week we’re talking to Customer Experience Director at insight6 and former retail manager Ian Kelsall. Here he tells us what he’s missing most, why customer experience is so important and why he chose Stoke-on-Trent over California.
What five words would you use to describe yourself?
· Challenging (in that I’m not afraid to challenge)
Tell us about yourself.
I’m 46-years-old and am married to Emma. We have one son – ten-year-old William. I have two sisters, one of which is my twin
I like drinking wine and gin and have played golf for as long as I can remember. I have been a member of Trentham Park Golf Club and now Trentham Golf Club, and I can’t wait to get back on the golf course!
Most of my career has been working in retail management at big companies including Tesco and Marks and Spencer.
How would you describe your business?
At insight6 we help our customers look after their customers better. We work with businesses to improve their understanding of the reasons why their customers come to them and why they stay with them, increasing new customer attraction and customer retention for our clients!
We deliver things like Client Journey Mapping sessions to help shine a light on any potential customer irritants that if left unaddressed, could drive customers into the arms of their nearest competitor. We also provide online systems to capture customer feedback so that our clients can act on the findings, with advice and ongoing support from me, to improve and grow their sales.
Tell us about your career?
I started working part-time at Tesco Meir Park petrol station when it first opened, whilst also studying for a Business Studies degree. I loved it and was offered a full-time job, which I took, and switched my degree to night school.
I’d go to work in the day and then drive to Stafford to study at night and I think my work ethic from that early age has really helped throughout my career.
I’ve always worked in retail leadership positions at high street names including Tesco, Boots and Marks & Spencer, working in areas including Shrewsbury, Nottingham, Cardiff, Walsall, Wigan, St Helens, and Crewe. More recently, I was the manager of the Tesco Hanley store in Stoke-on-Trent, which I loved despite it being unbelievably challenging.
I also worked for energy company ChevronTexaco, based in Canary Wharf, London, which was a job that saw me regularly travel to Europe. I was offered a job with them in California but turned it down to come back to Stoke! When it’s a cold, wet and windy day, Emma often reminds me that we could have been living in sunny California. I don’t regret it though, whilst working in London or Cardiff, I always found it strangely comforting to know that when I hit junction 15 of the M6 I was home.
I got to a point, especially once William was born, that I didn’t want to be traveling all the time. So, I decided to set up my own business, using all the leadership experience I’ve had over the years, helping others with their customer experience.
.What do you love most about your job?
For the big retails’ brands, I’ve worked with, customer service and experience are vital. I’ve learnt a huge amount over the years in terms of what works, what doesn’t, what the pitfalls are to avoid etc.
Good retailers look after their people, who in turn look after the clients and customers. Being able to share my experience and implement systems to help other businesses attract and retain customers, is the best part, especially when you see companies grow as a result.
How has the last year been for you?
From a business perspective during the first lockdown everything changed – around 90% of our work went because companies’ priorities altered. We took the decision from day one that we still wanted to be able to support our clients so essentially, we extended the hand of friendship and gave free support and consultation to help as best we could during such a tough time.
Most of our customers are back on board and we’re busier now than we were before the first lockdown started.
We’ve used the time to bring in new systems, tools and processes which will help businesses going forward. As we come out of lockdown, competition for business is going to be even stronger. Retail and hospitality have been closed for a long time – when they open, getting it right for the customers is going to be vital in order to survive. This is also true of every other sector where competition is high and customers can vote with their feet. If you have a monopoly and are the only business doing what you do, you have nothing to worry about. For everyone else, you need to think why should any customer or client come to use your business? What is in it for them?
From a personal perspective, it was strange. Obviously, it was hard not being able to see family and I’ve really missed playing golf. I’ve played for 33 years now, so not being on the golf course has left a big gap in my social time that I use to decompress!
It’s been hard on William, and all other kids his age, to not be able to see his friends and missing so much of school, but let’s hope we’re nearing the light at the end of the tunnel now.
I’m also very much a DIY amateur but I did manage to dig out the patio last summer and get the garden ready for a professional to do the bits that everyone else will see, which was a bonus.
What are you looking forward to the most, once lockdown is lifted?
I can’t wait for William to be able to see his Grandparents and to see our families.
It’ll be great to get back on to the 19th hole – I don’t care how many golf balls I lose; it’ll just be great to be back in the bar and have a drink with friends afterwards.
What are your plans this year?
I think consolidation is the key this year and to get back to where we were before the pandemic hit. It’s more important than ever to make customers’ experiences the very best they can be, and I want to be able to help my clients do that.
And finally, what was your dream job when you were at school?
There are probably no prizes for guessing but I would have loved to be a professional golfer. I was never good enough – although it won’t stop me from practicing, once we’re allowed to go back on the golf course.
If you’d like to be one of our, ‘Ten Minutes With,’ interviewees find out more by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org