“I wanted to create connectivity between businesses and customers”
Kate Hardcastle MBE, a.k.a. The Customer Whisperer, is the UK's leading 'go-to' business expert on consumer insight. She is the founding partner of Insight with Passion, a customer service consultancy, and has appeared on BBC, Sky News, CNN and many other channels.
ultimate.ai: Did you pick your career or did the career pick you?
Kate: It probably is the case that the ‘career picked me’ to an extent - in that I don't think many of us as children tell family of our desire to be in the world of customer engagement - but actually the subject has been all around me from being very young.
The ‘eureka’ moment came to me years ago, as the only female stood in a largely male dominated board room where directors decided on a product launch and campaign without any insights or real understanding of the target audience.
I wanted to create connectivity between businesses and customers in a more engaging and authentic way and that has shaped the path ever since.
Where can businesses improve when it comes to engaging with customers better?
Unfortunately and too often, the importance of the insights and engagement opportunities for a business to create the best in CS and CX still do not get enough priority. And we have just experienced a clear demonstration where in a year of heightened demand and pressure on online services - for instance - too many organisations have not comfortably dealt with CS/CX challenges and taken opportunities to build longer lasting relationships with customers.
What advice do you have for women who want to pursue leadership roles in the industry?
It has been incredibly important for me to build a career in which I have worked to immerse myself in all areas of business. I have packed in factories, driven delivery vans, studied the latest manufacturing techniques and led the charge in product development. This has been vital when I have had to build bridges with other departments and given me a complete picture of the challenges they may face and how I can best create engagement with CX/CS.
Insight with Passion is actively involved with helping micro-businesses, charities and community groups. Why is this such a strong focus for you?
Our Access for All programme has been part of our DNA from the very start - it is very important to me personally, especially having career mentors like Dame Anita Roddick. We all have the opportunity to lend our platform and celebrate others. We have helped to this point over 3,000 micro-businesses - each headed by a passionate and purposeful person - and each with its own story. Helping these organisations and supporting our communities may not see our balance sheet as the biggest - but it helps my colleagues and myself feel confident about our purpose and direction. It has also allowed us to gain more experience and insight into other businesses - and that has been completely rewarding.
You were awarded an MBE from HRH The Queen for your services to entrepreneurship. Can you share with us more details on this award, and any other major highlights or accomplishments of your career?
It was a great honour, and I know one that would have meant a great deal to my four grandparents. I have been fortunate enough to be recognised nationally and internationally for business and the way I have tried to find a comfortable place with the recognition is that it allows us to tell the story of Access for All and our community work. It allows us the opportunity to tell that story, which we hope may in turn inspire others.
The most important recognition we have received is what our work and programme of insights and strategy have provided for our clients. It has meant a new and fresh outlook for a lot of organisations in the way they engage with customers with new techniques and culture that can often bring change. Hearing the impact this work has made for customer retention, sales uplift and brand perception makes what has been now over 20 years of dedicated work and research worthwhile.
Kate Hardcastle will be speaking at our upcoming Customer Experience Webinar titled “Women Leading the Way: Customer Service Trends 2021” on 24 March 2021, 17:45 CET, alongside a panel of accomplished women leaders in the industry. Register for this FREE webinar to hear her talk on “What customers want from businesses in 2021”.
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