Carole Brion has been cultivating customer culture within the Carrefour group since 2004. Convinced that the excellence of the customer journey is the spearhead of customer loyalty, she orchestrates a demanding strategy of quality in her service to "stay a quarter of an hour ahead" in a hyper-competitive market.
Could you tell us a bit about your business? You've been with the Group since 1995...
My career path has enabled me to work very closely with customers. I've managed a checkout department, been a hypermarket manager, helped launch the Carrefour loyalty card in 2004, and in 2014 I created a hypermarket customer relations department based on the principle of symmetry of attention.
Today, I manage all of Carrefour's retail activities (except travel and bank-insurance), including loyalty cards, consumer services, e-commerce activities for food and non-food products, vehicle rental, and the call centre. This represents 7 million contacts a year operated by two in-house centres with 250 employees and three partner sites (Webhelp, Comdata, and Armatis), i.e. between 400 and 600 employees mobilised according to requirements, based in Dakar, Madagascar, and Tunis. All these teams form a unique team sharing the same values. Trust is the key to success.
In these times of inflation, how is the brand supporting consumers?
Consumers need to be reassured about the brand in a relationship of trust. Aware of the urgency of the issues and the scale of the challenges to be met, in September 2018 Carrefour launched "Act for Food", a programme of concrete actions for the food transition.
In this way, the brand is mobilising its employees, agricultural partners and all stakeholders to make healthy, high-quality, sustainably produced food accessible to everyone. To this end, our commitments to local producers, organic products, and the Carrefour quality chain enable our customers to eat healthy food at reasonable prices. Our customers expect a high level of traceability in what they eat, while keeping an eye on their wallets. Since 15 March and for three months, Carrefour has launched an "essentiel et nutrition" basket in France, with a selection of 200 products at blocked prices.
In this context, have you set up any specific actions or reward schemes for your loyal customers?
We have an in-depth approach with our anti-inflation plans, and our loyalty programme allows customers to benefit from additional discounts on products depending on the rewards they accumulate. Our programme rewards all customer segments. Finally, the in-store bank card (Pass card) offers additional bonuses.
Could you describe your customer loyalty strategy in more detail?
In a highly competitive environment where prices are virtually the same, it's customer service that makes the difference. What counts is maintaining a consistent customer relationship, whatever the contact channel. The personalisation of customer support and the promise to deliver on the commitment to solve the problem are at the heart of the system.
Carrefour has high stakes when it comes to the customer experience, because our customers demand a high level of responsiveness and quick answers.
Our priority is to establish close, lasting relationships with them in order to foster brand loyalty. Every day, our advisors listen to the voice of the customer to create an effortless shopping experience that is synonymous with success.
By pointing out malfunctions, we improve the process or remove an irritant. Once a week, all the stakeholders meet and discuss the customer's problem, with concrete actions to be taken to resolve the situation. By 2022, we had resolved 2,000 irritants, reflecting the high regard in which our advisers are held. This is based on three pillars: trust, service and experience. "Promise little, deliver a lot" sums up our approach to customers.
What is special about the Carrefour brand in this battle for customer service?
We have a saying that goes: "stay a quarter of an hour ahead", so that we don't get left behind by our competitors and constantly reinvent ourselves. Carrefour has the ability to rally around a common project. All our efforts must be focused on customer satisfaction. It's in our DNA.
What barometers do you use to measure customer satisfaction at Carrefour?
Our compass, our yardstick, is the NPS.
Since the start of the year, our NPS has been over 60 (up 10 points in one year). It is specific to customer service and we set ourselves daily targets. To achieve them, we deploy personalised training plans for our advisers. Every week, we remind our customers of the critics who have given Carrefour a failing grade. It's a collective effort that allows us to improve our service and get as many ambassadors as possible. Our database contains 14 million customers.
Is your customer management multi-channel?
We receive around 22,000 customer service contacts a day, across all channels, half of which relate to e-commerce and the Carrefour card. The preferred contact channel remains the telephone (55%), followed by email (42%), social networks (2%), and post (1%).
The brand is available in a variety of shop formats (Carrefour City, Express, Contact, etc.), so do consumer habits differ?
Our private label is developing in all shop formats, particularly in Europe. It's also an anti-inflation reflex. [In the "Carrefour 2026" strategic plan, own brands will account for over 40% of sales.]
What are the ambitions of the "Carrefour 2026" plan?
We are opening a new chapter in the Group's transformation. "Carrefour 2026" is a plan to conquer new markets, which are particularly affected by inflation and climate change. Carrefour is accelerating its transformation and renewing its pioneering spirit in the service of its customers, based on two pillars: commitment to access to the best for all and inventing the group of tomorrow, whose ambition is to become a world leader in digital retail.
This strategy is based on a "data-centric, digital first" approach and will be implemented around four key axes: accelerating e-commerce, increasing the power of data and retail media activities, digitalising financial services and transforming traditional distribution operations through digital means.
How have you seen the behaviour of customer-consumers change in recent years?
Against a backdrop of increasingly impersonal relationships, we are seeing a growing need among our customers for active listening in long-distance relationships. Consumers are increasingly well informed and have questions about a company's ethics and commitment to CSR, as well as product traceability. They have become more demanding.
What is your roadmap for the next two years in terms of customer relations?
Our ambition is to become a centre of excellence, with outstanding customer KPIs that will make the difference in the way we support our customers on a daily basis. This transformation began two years ago.
The challenge is to support the projects and services initiated within the company and to be the linchpin in this drive towards even more effective indicators (resolution times, NPS, qualitative responses by email, etc.).
I'm still convinced that customer service is a lever for building customer loyalty as part of an overall corporate strategy.
Do you draw inspiration from the Group's international strategies? Are there any driving countries?
We recently set up a committee that brings together all the customer services departments in Europe to exchange ideas with our counterparts. For example, our Spanish neighbours have inspired us on the best way to feed back the voice of the customer to our employees every week. Installed in 2020, this mechanism enabled us to manage the period during the health crisis more effectively.
How do you see the retail sector evolving?
I'm convinced that the physical shop is not dead. The challenge is not to turn them into showrooms. I believe in local formats. The hypermarket or supermarket is part of the ecosystem of a shopping centre, which must evolve into a living space with personal services, multiplied experiences, etc. The shop cannot be dissociated from these new and changing spaces.
Career path :
1989: CPC Business Diploma, ESC Dijon
1995: Head of checkout sector at Carrefour France.
2001: EPCS National After-Sales Service Training Manager with the Carrefour Group.
2004: Loyalty programme and local marketing manager within the group.
2009: Manager of a Carrefour hypermarket.
2014: Customer Relations Director for Carrefour Hypermarché France.
Since 2018: Director of Carrefour Customer Service France.