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Prioritizing Employee Satisfaction

Kelly Cook, SVP of Marketing at DSW, Inc.
Jen Chae
September 10th, 2013
Kelly Cook, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Designer Shoe Warehouse, is always in a good mood because she loves her job at DSW. Kelly started off her career in the airline business, building successful customer engagement strategies there. When was offered her position and stepped foot into the DSW head office in Ohio, Kelly was blown away. She was also a premier member of Designer Shoe Warehouse at the time, which explains how she must have felt when seeing the shoe-filled office space. Aside from her passion for footwear that makes people feel fabulous, Kelly's honest and down-to-Earth coworkers make her job at DSW all the more enjoyable. It was a big step for her to move out to Ohio with her five children and husband, but Kelly says it's totally worth it; she loves hearing laughter somewhere in the office every ten minutes. "If I’m going to be somewhere all day long, I want it to be at some place I’m having a good time," she says.

4 Questions with Kelly Cook

1. How does your team generate new ideas

It’s a really fun process; we have meetings in marketing every month called “Strat Chats,” short for strategy chats. We come up with new ideas to improving customer experience or solutions to problems, etc. It’s a two-hour meeting; the first hour is dedicated to having fun. We have a potluck, team-building games like scavenger hunts and take the time to recognize each other’s accomplishments. We also do something called “pay it forward,” where we bring in gifts for each other to give them credit for good work or being helpful. The first hour really gets the employees in a good place; the process really brings people to a great place. What we found is that it elevates the entire thought process of the members of our organization; it helps them look at things in different ways. Sometimes we have guest speakers come in.

2. Do you have specific rituals for re-setting your team to be creative?

Aside from Strat Chat, we have a recurring meeting every couple weeks called the Statement of Enlightment. We all stand in a circle and with a ball; I’ll start and say what I’m thinking about, for instance “How to improve customer experience on an iPad,” and throw the ball to someone else. The person who receives the ball has to follow up with my idea and so on and so forth. It’s a fun thing; throwing the ball around it really gets the ideas rolling. At first, people might be intimidated, but near the end everyone is like “Pick me! I have a good idea.” Having fun is a key component for innovative thinking -- it’s part of an unlock.

3. How do you identify trends? What resources does your team use to spot trends and consumer insights?

The best feedback that you can get is from your existing customers. We have 22 million rewards program members – that’s 1 out of every 16 person in the US. They’re really good with telling us all the things they love and would like to see. We do an in-depth qualitative and quantitative deep dive every year; they’re very willing to share what they want to see in the future.

Secondly, we are avid readers. The leaders in marketing are always reading all kinds of reports; it could be magazines or news channels.

Because we’re all shoe lovers and there are 12,000 employees, we are always shopping. We are always out in the retail environment, experiencing retail at an intimate level. We have a very good process collecting input and our 12,000 employees are very good resource. It works because we are very proud of our values passion, humility, collaboration, accountability. These values make us proud and humble.

4. Has there ever been an instance where another industry has influenced an innovation at your company?

I think there are a lot of industries that are doing a lot of things well; we are constantly talking about experiences in our own lives that relate to doing business. Here’s an example: I recently did business with an online grocery store, I bought some sauces for my husband. I bought a case of six jars, but two jars arrived broken. I was at the airport at the time, so I went online before my flight and left a memo under “Report a problem.” When I landed in Columbus after a 2.5 hour flight, the retailer had already responded to my note, contacted the distributor and contacted me back with a credit issue. They gave me the whole case for free! That was one of the most remarkable service recovery stories I’ve ever heard, so I shared this story with my coworkers. We spend a lot of time sharing these kinds of stories.
References: dsw, linkedin