University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Ep. 10 | Assembling Customer-Centric Leadership Teams with Brenda Malloy

Brenda Malloy
March 08, 2021

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Welcome to the “It’s a Customer’s World” podcast, where host Andy Murray explores effective leadership within the increasingly customer-centric retail space. In this episode, Andy speaks with Brenda Malloy, president of Herbert Mines Associates. Working with leading retailers at the senior-most levels to assemble winning leadership teams, Brenda primarily recruits board directors, CEOs and their direct reports for customer-facing companies. She and Andy discuss the importance of a chief customer officer role and where Brenda finds the people with the right skill set for the job.

The conversation begins with Brenda explaining the types of people she looks for in C-Suite positions, saying that they must be customer obsessed. These are people who have been battle tested, but not necessarily those who have come to C level roles traditionally. Andy and Brenda discuss the importance of an anthropological mindset, empathy, and boldness in candidates interested in the highest levels of customer experience. They also cover what companies should be focusing on as they attempt to recruit people for these types of positions. Brenda explains that there is no one set path, and often she finds the best candidates have taken horizontal steps across industries, allowing them to really understand brands, customers, and authenticity.


Episode Transcript:

Andy Murray: (00:05)

Hi, I'm Andy Murray. Welcome to It's a Customer's World podcast. Now, more than ever, retailers and brands are accelerating their quest to be more customer-centric. But to be truly customer-centric, it requires both a shift in mindset and ways of working, not just in marketing, but in all parts of the organization. In this podcast series, I'll be talking with practitioners, thought leaders and scholars to hear their thoughts on what it takes to be a leader in today's customer-centric world.

Andy Murray: (00:37)

On this episode I have with me, Brenda Malloy. Brenda is the President of Herbert Mines Associates, where she works with leading retailers at the senior most levels to assemble winning leadership teams. Brenda primarily recruits board directors, CEOs and their direct reports for multi-unit customer facing companies. Brenda brings over 38 years of experience to Herbert Mines Associates.

Andy Murray: (01:04)

During her career, she has authored numerous articles on CEO Succession, Omni-channel leadership, in addition to being the featured speaker at the National Retail Federation. In today's episode, Brenda and I will talk about her experience with recruiting CEOs and chief customer officers. Through this, we will explore the increasing importance of a customer-centric CEO, the characteristics of an impactful and effective chief customer officer, and the steps that students can take to be on the path to becoming a CEO.

Andy Murray: (01:35)

So I am so pleased to be here today with Brenda Malloy, who is an awesome resource and thought leader really in a lot of ways, but really has tuned in to the top of organizations in the recruiting and her experience in recruiting for many, many years. And so, Brenda, thank you for joining me today.

Brenda Malloy: (01:55)

Andy, a pleasure. And this is a topic that I'm really passionate about. You and I have talked a lot about it. And the time is now in terms of this role. And we play, as you know, at the top of the house, we get about 110 projects a year at Herbert Mines Associates. 68% of those are in the C-suite. And what I'd say is the chief customer officer role is the CEO officer role.

Brenda Malloy: (02:24)

The time is now as we're looking to fill the CEO seat, we need these types of leaders, customer obsessed, focused on how to drive growth, digitally fluent, digitally savvy, but more importantly, proven leader who can come up and drive a consumer centric company. So it's a great topic.

Andy Murray: (02:47)

Well, it's not always been that way. And I think if you look back over time, I don't know what the stats say, but this still feels fairly new in terms of the world chief customer officer and what actually might be their trajectory to the top. I find it amazing you're getting briefs from the CEO that has this kind of background underneath it. But I'd be interested in your perspective on you've been doing this quite a while, a newer phenomenon, what might be driving that and just where did this come from all of a sudden?

Brenda Malloy: (03:19)

Great point. And it's a slow immerge. So very for this discussion, just doing a little bit of thinking of and what we've observed and then just going back and getting some data. In 2003, there were 30 chief customer officers worldwide.

Andy Murray: (03:39)


Brenda Malloy: (03:39)

So 17 years ago in 2010, there were 450 worldwide, and in 2014, so six years ago, 10% of the Fortune 500 Companies, 22% of Fortune 1000 Companies had it. So it's really I think over the past say seven years, we've seen this evolve into this new role, building on it, evolving and then playing out.

Brenda Malloy: (04:09)

So a great example of that would be in 2013, Michelle Gosse, we placed her as the Chief Customer Officer Kohl's, Kevin Mansell's CEO at the time had reached an inflection point saying, "A, I need a CEO successor, and B, we've stalled. We had a Kohl's playbook that was about going from a billion to 20 billion, 100 stores, IPO to a thousand. And we had that execution down pat. But who are we as a brand? And so how do we take and create a new broader thinking, I'm chief marketing officer?

Brenda Malloy: (04:47)

And so as we started working together on this stuff, we came up with this chief customer officer title that was emerging. And Michelle, fascinating leader, classically trained, in fact, probably worked with Jim staying away back when it for upturn during the early times, and then came up through Starbucks had been through a transformation, battle tested, worked with Howard on that 2008 turnaround at Starbucks, was sitting in Europe.

Brenda Malloy: (05:18)

So classically marketing, marketing ramped up, expanded beyond the GM skill set and had a passion for fashion. And so we placed her into the role. Initially, she had marketing and digital and then built beyond that, and in 2018 got the nod to step into the call CEO role, but no question she's transformed that company into more of a customer-centric entity.

Andy Murray: (05:46)

Wow, what a great success story. That is an amazing path that she's had as a career. And if you think about the career paths to get to a chief customer officer role, and you've seen quite a few, probably, I would say that the traditional marketing branding. But it does seem like the dotcom space, digital pure plays is also a feeding ground for you or a hunting ground for you. Where do you go hunting for people with the kind of backgrounds that might be successful or what are the key criterias that gets you to get a sense that this candidate really has that thing that makes them a great customer officer?

Brenda Malloy: (06:23)

That's a great question. There's no better example than you and you are better [crosstalk 00:06:27] so I hate to put you on the spot. If we look at who embodied what this role is, it's your background at scale. So why I guess we have to take a step back and say, why is it so hard? And when you look at the data, 64% of companies with a customer-centric CEO are more profitable-

Andy Murray: (06:53)

Wow. Actually, I had never heard that stat before that. That's an amazing stat.

Brenda Malloy: (06:57)

It is an amazing stat. And we've talked about being customer focused and customer-centric and customer obsessed and customer, customer, customer. Why has it been so hard? And I would say taking a step back, the org structure hasn't supported it. So we've had these kind of functionally narrow roles that create Firestones. Human nature plays out. And the only way the chief customer officer can be successful is if it's fully integrated. One understanding of the customer, how does that inform how we are going to engage with that customer touch points, digitally, channels? That's not easy to do.

Andy Murray: (07:46)

No, no, it's not. I do think that's really true. I do think the customer language has been in vision statement, values and all that. And it's been an approach, a philosophy of being customer minded, but there was never really a transaction... Two things I think we're missing. One, the methods to integrate the organization weren't there and the organizational design wasn't supporting it, as you said.

Andy Murray: (08:09)

But what I'm seeing happen with agile and agile technology and being able to think about product management differently with the digital and physical, that seamless desire is really accelerated it through COVID as well. I mean, just more recently, we're seeing a lot of people's customer experience getting reinvented online for some of the companies I've talked to, has been accelerated, hit their eight year roadmap targets for transition in just a short amount of time.

Andy Murray: (08:39)

So that that convergence of people that are really good at product development and online experiences are now right up against that. And so for you to understand it, transactionally, it's a whole nother ball game than just saying I understand it philosophically. So I think they're looking to the chief customer officer to say, how do you take these digital experiences and combine them to physical? And you think about Kohl's and others that are pulling those two worlds together. I think that's also probably accelerated is now becoming real. You have to do this today.

Brenda Malloy: (09:10)

You have to. It's table stakes. So the org structure has been evolving. So it takes a CEO that's willing to say we need to do this. This is new world order. And how do we become more agile to your point? How do we move off of than we have in many ways? And I have a very retail product centric view, but from that to a market point of view to a customer. And what does that mean? And we've got all these new tools that are trying to help us do what, sophisticated mass marketing with a distinctive brand.

Brenda Malloy: (09:49)

And so we go back to that's what drives top bottom line sales, that drives customer traffic, that drives stickiness. How do we do that? So it's an exciting time to see this happening. And COVID has accelerated. So people that have been bold, decisive, strategic, collaborative, pulling it together, we will do this and you can see the numbers coming out. It's fascinating to see some of these sectors and what they're doing. So I'd say the evolution of this role is real. It's come from piecemeal to integrated, aligned and bold.

Andy Murray: (10:33)

Yeah, what you say bold, that's really interesting because one of the things I found from doing the job is that you have to have a lot of conviction. And that word conviction has to come through because a lot of times you might be proposing ideas and such to improve the customer experience, but there isn't a solid ROI business case yet developed as much as other ideas you would have around eCommerce or do this to improve the speed of the website or the shopping cart, but to really fight for the things that matter to the customer, it takes a lot of conviction to do that.

Andy Murray: (11:07)

And when you're assessing candidates, how do you suss out they have that conviction? What do you look for to see they've got the boldness that you're you're talking about?

Brenda Malloy: (11:17)

No, absolutely. So I would look at again, why were you so successful on your role, one enterprise level mind set. This role requires more than any you get perhaps you to be a CEO is having that enterprise level mindset, being a collaborator, an integrator, an influencer, strong EQ, IQ. How do you bring the group along and move them forward?

Brenda Malloy: (11:46)

So leadership in its most defining way, and so a lot of misunderstanding. What did you do? I'm proving results. This is all about results. This role is about driving results. And we've seen the stats with companies that have a CEO focus leader are doing better.

Andy Murray: (12:07)

You know it's also alternate brand of people look at roles that have a line responsibility with clear P&L as the path to the CEO job, and that leadership skill of collaboration, really with a chief customer officer role as I have found, there's a lot of soft power influence to get everybody to come along on the journey because you're not going to run everything that touches the customer in your remet. That's the CEO.

Brenda Malloy: (12:34)

Right, right.

Andy Murray: (12:34)

I mean, that is the CEO's job. But what you can do is through collaboration and soft power, help people along on that journey. And I've always felt soft power skills were harder to get and should be more valued sometimes than what just a pure line functional role might be. Not that you want to be collaborative there too, but when you really are trying to influence areas that have maybe competing KPIs and what they're after versus what you need to deliver for the customer, you have to have soft skills.

Brenda Malloy: (13:04)

What you have to and you have to have confidence, and you have to have an ego in check. You have to not feel like you are constantly having to prove yourself or be the smartest person in the room. How does the collective group move forward? How do you align around what is important and how you're going to go to market? How do you build capability in terms of step one, step two, step three and sequence it, and really be the leader to drive your peers to this?

Andy Murray: (13:34)

It's interesting you're talking about the horizontal relationship and then upward as a partner for the CEO. One of the things I think this can be terrifying for Chief Customer Officer that might have come up through a traditional marketing is the level of sophistication and comfort and SMEness, if you will, and some of the areas that's going to be in your direct scope.

Andy Murray: (13:56)

For example, what is a customer data like and how does that work? Data analytics, thinking about algorithms and areas of technology that are not really maybe somebody you grew up with as a brand manager in a CPG role, but now you're overseeing those areas. And I think this ability to piece the dots together but not get lost or be afraid of the technology that's underneath you, that you have to assemble and do.

Andy Murray: (14:26)

And so none of that was what you just described, which is goodness. You described the character, integrity of leadership, the conviction you have and the ability to collaborate, but also the ability, I think, looking down to assimilate, what's the really thing I need to know and to be the guide and not say, well, gee, I don't have a computer data science background, so therefore I'll never be able to lead a customer data transformation or whatever is involved in the scope.

Brenda Malloy: (14:52)

No, absolutely. So I think it's valuing the team, and probably now more than ever, it's so how are we going to engage with our customer? What is appropriate for our brand? What do we want to do in understanding that? And where is your level of expertise? And it is likely coming up through marketing, likely had digital report into you.

Brenda Malloy: (15:18)

You've likely worked in a very close way with technology, but you don't have to have every answer, you know how to build the right team to get the right answers. And maybe you need to ask the questions, but you don't have to be the expert. So how do you build that foundational training exposure? If I was thinking about how would I advise someone coming off or any other students intern, intern, intern, intern.

Andy Murray: (15:47)

That's great.

Brenda Malloy: (15:47)

With the best companies and go with a brand driven company's, tech driven companies, data science, AI, what is out there so you can get exposure to the broad agreement and then have a perspective in terms of hey, here all the tools that are out there now, where's my power reality and how am I going to build into this? Because there are different approaches.

Andy Murray: (16:13)

Yeah. What sounds like you probably are looking now as a recruiter for these spaces, these briefs, probably things you weren't looking for 10 years ago. The fact they may have worked in a call center and really as an intern or somewhere on that career path. And so sounds like the breadth of experiences across that customer journey is more valuable than 15 years in brand management, marketing director, the traditional path that's really just stayed in that line. Is that a true statement?

Brenda Malloy: (16:45)

I would say that the more so having great foundational experience, rotating through and seeing a breadth of functions, seeing big and best to small and agile, how does that work? So building a suite of experiences in your toolkit and then understanding the functions and what good looks like.

Brenda Malloy: (17:10)

So the more you can expose yourself to best in class, you say, well, why is this such a challenge? So why do people have to call a recruiter? If this was so, it's not easy. Not a lot of companies are doing this. They want to do it. They're doing a little bit of it. They think they're doing it. But there's a huge degree of variability in terms of how this is playing out in the marketplace.

Andy Murray: (17:35)

Well, that's really a true statement. And one of the things I hear a lot of is I've been into this role for the customer-centric leadership initiatives is where should the customer experience people that are really focused on that, where should they sit in the organization? Should you at a board level have a chief customer officer and a chief marketing officer just to keep those separate? And my belief is no.

Brenda Malloy: (18:04)

I agree now. Integrate.

Andy Murray: (18:10)

Yeah. So when you're getting briefs and talking with CEOs, part of what you do, which I think is brilliant as you do try to advise, what should the brief really be that will fit into that top level team? And how do you make the case that it should be really an expanded view of a marketing function than a whole another piece of the organization?

Brenda Malloy: (18:30)

That's such a great question. So I think it starts with what's the strategy? What do you want to accomplish? What is good look like? What's the vision? Let's take that back to the current structure. What are the capabilities you have today? Who's doing what, where are the weak points, where the strong points and then how do we build into this? So a lot this it's a journey.

Brenda Malloy: (18:51)

Every search is a journey and it starts with that anchor around here's where I want to go and let's talk about where I am today and what I'm looking for. And then building into this is how that could play out. So there's different ways it could play out in terms of different executives and what they bring to the table. And so you're threading the needle on new structure, different sets of experiences with different pros and cons associated with that. Plus, oh, by the way, culture and fit, which is the most important.

Andy Murray: (19:29)

Yes, yes.

Brenda Malloy: (19:29)

So you're just going through that solution to say, okay, how does that play? In many ways it's a what if scenario and how do you work through that. So it's not black and white. It's definitely evolved as you go through it, but you've got to stay focused on what is good look like.

Andy Murray: (19:48)

I love that. I love that. And being really clear about the outcome. One of the things that I hear a lot and have experienced is the importance of having empathy as a chief customer officer and that empathy word, which leads to really understand that customer behavior and have an empathy for the customer and then which probably fuels conviction, how can you tell if a leader that you're recruiting is empathetic?

Brenda Malloy: (20:15)

I love this. And I was just call status quo yesterday talking about this. So this is an $8 billion grant, 30% of the customer base is Hispanic and multicultural. So this client would say empathy for the consumer is key and so much so that we've gone through and identified. So out of 146 target companies, there were only 16 Latinx, Black executives in the C suite. It's just astounding.

Andy Murray: (20:51)


Brenda Malloy: (20:52)

So we on this project have talked to 32 Latinx, Black executives, and just hearing from them what their backgrounds, multicultural, where they come from. And yesterday on the call, the clients said, "Do you what" I want to tell you why empathy's important. It's because we need to really understand this customer and we're criticized that we don't."

Brenda Malloy: (21:19)

So we need to be authentic and we need to be (we’re) curious, we're passionate in this CEO is a fascinating individual, but what is empathy? Is empathy really it? Is it the authentic understanding of this is working, this isn't working. And how are we as an organization really going to do that? So how do we find out if a client or a candidate is?

Brenda Malloy: (21:46)

It's the way they talk about their set of experiences, how they approached it, how they understood what was the right path, why did they do this? And I saw this why I connected in this way. I lead in this way. This is how I built culture. So it is that passion, curiosity, authenticity.

Andy Murray: (22:10)

That's fascinating. And if you were looking at it from just sometimes what you read or what you see or the best attributes to be a good chief customer officer, one could say that being expert at data analytics, because now a customer and big data, being able to draw insights out of data to advance the right idea is the most important piece.

Andy Murray: (22:34)

But to be honest, I've not seen a new idea that really resonates with customers coming out of algorithms. It still has to come out of a human centered approach to life. And I think that's good news for most of us who may not be a data scientist to be able to do that.

Andy Murray: (22:52)

And it's also probably the customer data world will get you good insights. But the real truth still sits through human interaction, human understanding, most of the customer data sets and things like I see don't have inside it or the things that really make us human, the creativity, the ideas, the passion-

Brenda Malloy: (23:15)

The curiosity, the passion. Yeah. So I couldn't agree with you more. So it is empathy for the customer. So many times we've seen people come in, whether it's a chief marketing officer, chief merchandising officer or whatever fir the customer, I think it should be this. I think it should be that, and not really saying who is my customer? So customer journey, what is the journey?

Brenda Malloy: (23:37)

How are they engaging with the brand? Not my brand, the brand and what's resonating? What is it? And how do I understand what they want and how I can solve their problem? So that piece of it. So passion, curiosity, energy and authenticity around who the customer is and how that influences what you're doing.

Andy Murray: (24:01)

Well, that's really interesting, too, because I think one of the stops I might suggest making as a student is behavioral economics. What's the psychology anthropologist? People that understand how cultures work, how communities work. Those to me, I think, are huge assets in this new space.

Brenda Malloy: (24:22)

They're incredible assets. And I've actually interviewed two sitting in customer experience roles right now with that early anthropology experience. And they're just fascinating. The way they look at the world and their set of experiences and how that's helped them be successful. So I could not agree with you more. Now, going back to reality, the challenges of sitting in my seat.

Brenda Malloy: (24:48)

So I'd say there are not a lot of companies doing it, high degree of variability, roles, levels and capabilities and then out of sector experience. So we all like to say, oh, you cast a wide lens. They can come from anywhere. But retail likes retail, hospitality is hospitality, QSR where there's different aspects like the customer journey is so well understood in hospitality. How do we do more of that in retail?

Brenda Malloy: (25:15)

And so how do we look at this broad customer facing sector and build a tool kit across? So who gets referenced? As I think about companies, you look at what Domino's did way back when with the 'Our Pizza Sucks' and now they've got this incredible digital engagement with the way they understood the customer journey infused digital and insights in to get their business back on track. So an example of early on and early on innovator who had a tough challenge to how they turn it around and infuse digital. That digital piece is key.

Andy Murray: (25:59)

Is key. And are you seeing from a CPG side? Because a lot of times we think about marketing and we look to CPG companies as a special like the Procter & Gamble and such as leading the way in transforming the next generation of marketing, which may be true in a lot of ways.

Andy Murray: (26:16)

But today it feels like maybe hospitality or organizations that are right up against a large customer interface on a daily basis, retail, we might see that provide some ground for how this should be reinvented and maybe have some of these broader, more innovative briefs that you're seeing. I don't know. Are you starting to see CPG in brand? Do you think a marketing brand, building type companies like that, are they starting to see this idea of customer and customer experience is so high?

Brenda Malloy: (26:48)

That is such a great question. And I look back, I just say, let's look at real people and what they're doing. So in companies so Ulta Beauty, no question. Knock-out success. Mary Dylan, when we put her in as CEO in 2013, stock price was 99. It's upwards of wherever it is mid twos right now. It's three years at some point. And why is Mary so successful in that role?

Brenda Malloy: (27:15)

And in a role typically where people might have said we're opening 200 stores a year and we need some of that could do more of that better where what Mary brought was kind of all to 2.0. And she brought a customer-centric view. She brought digital engagement, brands, a store experience. She is out in the stores and passionate about the customers, build the right loyalty program to get customers interested.

Brenda Malloy: (27:47)

And so her background was classic CPG, came up and then was it McDonald's as the CMO went over to U.S. Cellular, which there's no more fast moving, changing company than technology and being in that business. And then we pulled her out of U.S. Cellular into Ulta. So battle tested, different models, classically trained, understood brands, very strategic, huge IQ, EQ, but empathy for the customer.

Andy Murray: (28:27)


Brenda Malloy: (28:27)

Michelle classically trained CPG. You could look at Stewart Achint. He was just promoted to the Chief Merchandising Officer at Kroger. Stewart was a data guy. He was at Safeway when Brian Cornell was out there. Brian Cornell, obviously at Target, doing great things, turning to Tajai into... bringing the Tajai back to the Target. And they did a lot around inside so Safeway with their just for you and that early data.

Brenda Malloy: (28:57)

Stewart then went to Michaels. We put him into Dunnhumby and says, the Tesco Clubcard, Dunnhumby, so we put him to run Dunnhumby U.S. Then they were bought by Kroger, 8,451. So here's a data guy that's now the chief merchant. So reverse engineering, I don't know, but it was great to see that placement.

Andy Murray: (29:20)

Well, that's interesting because it would have been career suicide for someone to try to get a lot of horizontal, like you wouldn't take another stimulus was a step up, right?

Brenda Malloy: (29:30)


Andy Murray: (29:30)

This is the old rhetoric that you would want to build your career by every step being a step higher in the ranks, although and many companies I know from my experience with P&G was a promote from within culture. So when you stepped out, they weren't bringing people in at the top levels. And I think that's changed. I think that's changed.

Andy Murray: (29:48)

But what I hear you saying, which is very encouraging, is building your career, sometimes taking these horizontal steps with the long view in mind that what you're building is a broad experience base that will make you much more salient for the bigger jobs down the road. That is not the kind of thinking in 15 years ago, ten years ago would have got you to the top. [crosstalk 00:30:09].

Brenda Malloy: (30:09)

It's a tool kit. It's building that tool kit.

Andy Murray: (30:15)

That's right.

Brenda Malloy: (30:15)

And it's helping as a recruiter helping your client see and take a competency based view. Here's the set of experiences that someone has gained. And so using Mary's an example, in CPG, at McDonald's at U.S. Cellular, and here's how this could help alter and it's helping them think beyond sector.

Andy Murray: (30:40)

Yeah. So when you're looking at you evaluate loads and loads of candidates. It sounds like you would put a value on someone that had what looked like some horizontal moves, but absolutely is building a breadth of experiences over looking at that with a critical eye saying, well, they're just not advancing, right?

Brenda Malloy: (30:57)

So you could say, what set of skills now it's a given that they delivered results. So [crosstalk 00:31:03].

Andy Murray: (31:03)

Yeah, exactly. I get that

Brenda Malloy: (31:05)

In all their experiences. But what toolkit have they been able to build. So many times, there's a lot of private equity roles out there, or roles in small mid cap companies where having that big foundational experience going to small is critical. A lot of clients will say, I don't want somebody on X, Y, Z, I want them once removed, which means they're outside of the big formula, the P&G formula, the Target formula, the Walmart formula, whatever it is, with all those resources, to say, I'm in a smaller situation with less resources. So I've really got to make the right decision.

Andy Murray: (31:46)

Well, that's really interesting, because I came from the Walmart assignment before I went to be a huge company, of course, in marketing, and then taking this assignment on an island of a much, much smaller with less decimal places. But so rich in breadth, that it really did round me out in ways I never would have been able to get in a large company like that. So there is a real value going large to small to broaden that skill set base. 

Brenda Malloy: (32:14)

Right and build complexity. So usually say largest, typically more functionally narrow, small is going to give you, in generally speaking, more breath. And so a lot of times with companies at scale, it's another zero doesn't make someone 10 times smarter, in fact, probably less agile, they want to be made with less scale, more breath, hopeful P&L, and they've seen how all the functions play together. And they've led and built capability.

Andy Murray: (32:47)

Have you found it difficult for candidates that have been in a grown up more in like a, or most of their experiences there, how does that sometimes translate to like a Kohl's or some other example? Because it's such a different ecosystem of challenges.

Brenda Malloy: (33:04)

Totally different.

Andy Murray: (33:05)

And where do you see the people having the hardest time crossing over to some of those different types of crossovers?

Brenda Malloy: (33:12)

Well, that's such a great point. So they're almost like the Wild, Wild West, they're out there untether, let's go the endless aisle, and hugely entrepreneurial. And so, yes, they are fearless, they have courage, they are optimistic. So bringing them into a larger, more corporate environment, you've got to have the right sponsor to tame this person and get them channeled to the organization.

Brenda Malloy: (33:49)

So they need air cover. In terms of how to navigate in a, we'll call it resource constraint, probably situation where there are larger priorities, and their priority might be third on the list of other priorities. So how do we help harness that keep them engaged, and then help them transcend they'll be a better executive.

Andy Murray: (34:12)

You just described reality, I think 10 times over when you talk about that culture shift where a chief customer type role in a pure play is going to be a very serious role, with a lot of clout to push things into some of these larger corporations where it's more nuanced. You've got to use your influence skills, soft power, collaboration, like you said, empathy. And so I would encourage someone to try it. But you're right, they've got to have a great sponsor. Otherwise, they'd have to watch their back on the way to the parking lot at night or you go out in a pack.

Brenda Malloy: (34:47)

Yeah, exactly. You need to work with people. So it is so that whole facilitation, integration, influencing, almost dropping breadcrumbs to get people to go where you want them to go, but be excited about it and want to work with you. I don't argue that's why you have been so successful.

Andy Murray: (35:09)

Yeah, I've learned the hard way and a lot of those.

Brenda Malloy: (35:16)

It is. So this a lot of the characteristics determine whether someone's successful or not.

Andy Murray: (35:23)

Yeah. Well, Brenda, this has been exciting, you've really covered a lot of ground and great experience, hats off to you for getting the insights to really be effective at the top of the heap here with this particular area of recruiting. Any other thoughts or words of advice to perhaps our students who are thinking through their way of early career?

Brenda Malloy: (35:44)

First of all, congrats to you on starting this. So this is such a great program, there's so many resources out there. So it's a great opportunity for your students to be a part of this. So I think really getting exposed to the best out there be a passionate student, study brands, how are they engaging? What are the new tools? What is customer-centricity mean?

Brenda Malloy: (36:09)

There's so much out there even on the internet, because I went through myself and was surprised at what's out there in terms of how to become a chief customer officer, which I thought this was fascinating. Be obsessively customer-centric, learn to collaborate easily, be open to customer feedback, it's not what you want it to be. It's what the customer wants. Work closely with the frontline team, show value by rising up to the position, and build a foundation behind you. So we can sustain this. I thought this was great.

Andy Murray: (36:48)

That's fascinating. I don't know where you got that. But that's a great set of attributes.

Brenda Malloy: (36:53)

Yeah. And it's really sums up everything we've talked about. So for the students, I would go back to intern, intern, intern.

Andy Murray: (37:01)

Yeah, great advice.

Brenda Malloy: (37:03)

And Bill, this is the time right now we can go work at an agency, work at a data science company, just become a passionate student of this topic.

Andy Murray: (37:18)


Brenda Malloy: (37:18)

Get as many experiences as possible, P&G, classic brand new experience, and all the different functions that play together, and then figure out okay, where's my personal power alley? What gets me excited? But again, networking and getting that exposure.

Andy Murray: (37:35)

Yeah, that's such great advice. And I think every time you're in one of those different intern type assignments, I would just say one more thing be in the moment. And really when you're in the moment, they're versus thinking, is this really going to get me to where I'm going? [crosstalk 00:37:49]. Forget that stuff.

Brenda Malloy: (37:52)

Ask questions.

Andy Murray: (37:53)

Ask questions, be curious. And in the moment, really understand, how would the customer view this role, right? And I think there's a set of customer questions, you can always be asking in any job, and but it feels like it's really disconnected then. A good example would be even if you're in a finance career trajectory and you're looking at what you do as an intern, perhaps I would ask questions like, is anybody looking at these reports I'm creating? Who is the customer of these reports, this customer mindset, and what do they really want?

Andy Murray: (38:23)

And you'd be surprised, well, you may not be surprised, but many times, people get into tasks that they don't really have a customer, just that's what we do. We hit a button, but no one's actually looking at the reports.

Brenda Malloy: (38:36)

Why are we doing this?

Andy Murray: (38:37)

Why are we doing this? So I think every intern opportunity, even if it doesn't feel like it's connected directly to a customer has customer of the work and being a passionate curious of who is my customer on all these things, what a great career question to put in everything you do.

Brenda Malloy: (38:54)

Right. And why is this happening and what not to do? So every set of experiences if you're bringing that customer-centric lens to it can help inform.

Andy Murray: (39:05)

Yes. And the last thing I'd say on that is the power to experiment. Give yourself the ability because in all aspects of agile is trying things, short sprints, get it out there, get a minimum viable product and see how it responds. And I think that can be used in any type of function. Any type of role, any type of level is to have the courage to don't be afraid of failure. It may not work. That's okay.

Brenda Malloy: (39:30)

Totally, totally. But I think we're also on the cusp of real customer-centricity as we look at the population and say, are we really being authentic the way that we're engaging with the new world and who's out there in terms of the emerging importance of the Hispanic customer is huge. Are we engaging the way we need to be? It seems that we've almost been homogenous in the past, and so right now there's just a huge opportunity to really understand-

Andy Murray: (40:05)

Yeah, that just the importance of understanding ethnographies, being an anthropologist really understanding human nature and what's changed. And I can tell you from experience of the way COVID started to really hit and being on the answer to a board, the challenges you got from customers, do you enforce a mask? These were all ended up being questions rooted in your values, and very much an HR operations customer.

Andy Murray: (40:32)

We all had to engage in these conversations at a pretty high level because it reflects your brand. And like you said, today's customers are so clear when you're not authentic. They find out fast, they talk fast, they share fast. And that is one of the roles I do think the chief customer officers can bring is that real clear understanding of what's authentic for us. And so in being true to that brand across all those pieces, like you said, that conversation is now happening at a much greater level than we've ever seen before.

Brenda Malloy: (41:04)

Yeah. And the whole importance of purpose driven, mission driven, culture authenticity. It's a great time to engage.

Andy Murray: (41:13)

Yeah. Great time. Well, I'm sure you will probably get some raving fans out of this that might be calling you up and saying-

Brenda Malloy: (41:23)

Future candidates.

Andy Murray: (41:24)

... future candidates, so there's no harm in that. And I hope that you continue with great success at what you're doing. And I just have always enjoyed talking to you because you do have a broad view of what's really happening at the C-suite, especially as you go through these transitions. And so great time talking to you, Brenda. And I hope that re-experience New York in a brand new way now that you're coming back.

Brenda Malloy: (41:48)

No. Great. And Andy, again congratulations. There's no better leader. So the school is lucky to have you on this initiative.

Andy Murray: (41:55)

Yes. Thank you. All right.

Brenda Malloy: (42:03)

You just listened to an amazing conversation with Brenda Malloy. As a senior level recruiter for leading retailers, Brenda brings a deep level of knowledge regarding the CEO and chief customer officer roles. From her insight in this episode, we learned that companies with a customer-centric CEO are proving more successful. Successful CCOs have an authentic passion for the customer experience and students that are interested in the CCO role. They need to become obsessed with the customer experience and focus on it in every position or internship.

Brenda Malloy: (42:40)

That's it for this episode of It's a Customer's World. If you've found this helpful and entertaining, I would be so grateful If you could share our show with your friends, and I'd be super happy if you subscribe so you can be updated as we publish new episodes. And if you really want to help leave us a five star rating and a positive review on Apple podcasts or wherever you listen. It's a Customer's World podcast is a product of the University of Arkansas Customer-centric Leadership Initiative, and a Walton College original production.

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