Redefining the Customer

HVO Search brought together

Sarah Curran-Usher - MD EMEA, True Fit

Lucy Aylen - Founder, Never Fully Dressed

and leaders in Fashion, Beauty, Luxury & Lifestyle to discuss how retailers should redefine their customer base and engagement strategies in light of the pandemic and how it has changed the way we shop. 

The Questions We Explored...

During our discussion, we explored the following: 

In previous HVO Search Live discussions, we've discussed how honest, transparent and socially conscious communication is key right now. What do you think are the best ways to open up an authentic two-way dialogue with your customers?

How can brands stay authentic whilst continuing to innovate the ways they communicate with their customers?

What is your advice for making engagement memorable, positive and unique for each customer, new and old?

How to you build a cohesive brand community whilst trying to balance the needs of existing and new customers? 

What is your advice for quickly and conscientiously implementing customer feedback?

In these uncertain times, hosting physical events, sending notes in the post and meeting in person all carry risks, how can brands replicate /replace human connection online? 

Now, more than ever, customer loyalty is crucial to success, how can retailers refine their processes to make sure customers return?

Key Take-Aways
Sarah Curran-Usher
“What is the purpose of having a brick and mortar office today? We need to provide ourselves and our teams a good reason to come to the office. A benefit that outweighs their commute and being able to spend time with their family. Learning and building social bonds with your peers are one." 
Thomas Bucaille
How has leadership in your business adapted to remote working?   

We had to set up new rituals and routines and adapted our communications. Instead of having a long meeting once a week, we have a short one every day.

This acceleration and adaptation of communication has been at every level. From team meetings to brand newsletters.

The urgency of work and feeling of no time to deliberate has played a very positive role in decision making.

Because our meetings are shorter and more frequent, they have been more focused.

We're all directly connected to our audiences and getting immediate feedback. What used to be a more one-way communication is much more interconnected. 

What has been an impact in productivity?

We've managed to complete tasks in a matter of days that would've taken weeks or months before lockdown. For example, shifting production to produce PPE took us 48 hours, this would've taken weeks before.

We need to learn to keep the best takeaways from this social experiment.  

How is your business planning to return to the office?

We never stopped the workhouse and very quickly we came back to the factory site which permeated the feeling that we never really stopped. 

E-commerce has also never stopped. In the office, we've been back (in some ways) since June. 

This has allowed us to experiment with a hybrid model, providing more flexibility for home and office working. 

I hope the government restriction lasts a little longer so that people can get used to this way of working. 

We'll find new ways of working and we will make some mistakes but we will also increase productivity through this.

There's no alternative but to innovate and create new ways of working. 

You’ve recently written an article where you say that the role of CPO needs to be Chief Party Officer, what else can CPOs do to help companies thrive? 


CPOs need provide themselves and their teams good reasons to come to the office - reasons that outweigh the benefits of not commuting and spending more time with family. Something they cannot achieve by working from home with digital contact. 

They need to highlight and cultivate the social bond and community at work. 

The more we work in a fragmented way between digital and the office, the importance of learning together and from each other is key. CPOs should encourage this. 

How can C-Suite leaders empower their people when working remotely?

Our CEO (Petit Bateau) has allowed us to continued to work from home so permission is changing.

Common goals are really important to make sure the whole team is on the same path.

Leaders must think about whether the work that is being done is really solving problems and contributing to the team and business. 


Lucy Aylen

It's crucial to promote a climate at work where people feel safe and comfortable with making mistakes. There should be no mark of shame for getting something wrong. Research shows that we are more productive and do better work when we don't feel the need to be perfect at all times."
Dr. Brennan Jacoby

How do you manage trust when managing people remotely?

The first thing to flag is that our context shifts when we disperse. However, the nature of trust and human connection doesn't change. At the end of the day, our communities are made up of humans. We need to find a way of making tech more human. 

Clarity is really important when we are communicating behind screens. The clarity of our communication, expectations and preferences -- things which are always important, but feel especially so in the virtual context.

Be clear about when you are able to be contacted. As Brené Brown said, "clear is kind". Then colleagues don't have to tiptoe around you, they know that 10am is a time you are doing a project and the 12pm you are more available for a call. 

It's crucial to create a climate at work where people feel safe and comfortable with making mistakes. There should be no mark of shame for getting something wrong. Research shows that we are more productive and do better work when we don't feel the need to be perfect at all times. 

Under stress, we tend to overreact or under-react. For many people under lockdown they have started to become micro-managers or taking a big step back. Finding ways to manage your stress and maintain communication is key. 

Relationships are, arguably, the key part of culture. As you did your PhD on trust in organisational contexts, what top tips do you give you clients who want to cultivate cultures that are climates where trust can thrive?

It's important to cultivate an environment where workers feel comfortable being imperfect. 

Huge expectations can be damaging for effectiveness and productivity, not just mental health. I advise leaders to spot "sliding door" moments where they choose to "turn towards" the other person. What I mean by that is these moments will be significant 'relationship' moments. This may be when somebody asks "Can we talk about something?" or "Can we have a quick call". This isn't just about the work but the people. Listening and understanding what they are going through can help build trust. And in these moments, we need to turn towards our colleagues and put them and their interests first. 

Trust is about knowing that when you get into a tricky situation, your peers are humans and they recognise that you can't get everything right all of the time. 


You can read Brennan's report "The Virtues of Virtual" here.


Ben Gould

"The ingredients of what makes up a successful company are changing. Leaders are prioritising employee experience and engaging with employees in a two way feedback. Giving people a voice and managing that voice and respecting it is crucial."
Ben Gould

What changes have you seen as a result of the pandemic? 

There are two types of audiences right now:

  1. knowledge workers who are in a physical space. 

  2. those who are front line - shop floors etc.

Most of the time the second group is disconnected from the head office. Identifying these groups and helping them better connect with their team is really important. 

Being authentic and transparent is key.

There are two types of people when it comes to vulnerability, those who see it as a strength and those who see it as a weakness. I think that this has shifted. 

The ingredients of what makes up a successful company are changing. Leaders are prioritising employee experience and engaging with employees in a two way feedback.

Giving people a voice and managing that voice and respecting it is crucial. 

There is a new definition of work /life balance now. People are becoming more aware of the time they spend at work, commuting to and from work as well as time with their family

What is different about how people interact now?

Video presence is becoming increasingly important. The feeling we get when we join a meeting and feeling connected to those people and communicate in a more meaningful way is important. 

Making sure that people feel as though they are receiving the right information is key and this is comprised of what they need to to their job and ad hoc connecting with them in a more human way. 

Working closely with CEOs what advice do you give them about how to use technology to manage their teams remotely?
We ran a survey with our team and just over half of people wanted to continue remote working and just under half want to return to the office as soon as possible. 
Allowing people to share what is going well and what's not going well is really key. Creating transparent and authentic communication is key. 
The tools people use at home should be as easy as the tools they use in their personal life. 
What is the Purpose of the Office Now?
(In 3 Words)


Brennan - Forging new relationships

Thomas - Meeting human beings

Ben - Power of connection


So it's clear, during these past few months, working from home has had a positive impact on the way we work and the way we view work. Re-imagining the office can lead brands to building their community and employee experience. 

It is time to consolidate new ideas of working and now is the time to go into a more engaging, efficient and purposeful future. 

Audience Poll

During our live discussion we asked our 100 attendees what they thought about the future of brand communication. Here are their responses...

Our Panelists
Dr. Brennan Jacoby
Philosophy & Founder,
 Philosophy at Work.

Dr. Brennan Jacoby is the founder of Philosophy at Work. He holds a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D in philosophy, and his doctoral work analysed trust in the context of interpersonal relationships and corporate character.


Brennan has spent the last 6 years helping businesses address their most important issues and has recently written a report on The Virtues of Virtual.


The report unpacks key ingredients for organisational culture in the new professional landscape. 

Thomas Bucaille
Chief People Officer & CSR Leader,
Petit Bateau


Thomas has held senior roles in business and HR for the last 20 years. He's worked for international companies, across multiple countries.


He is currently Chief People Officer and CSR Leader at Petit Bateau, the famous French childrenswear brand, since 2018.

Previously he was SVP Human Resources at Ralph Lauren where he focused on employee engagement and building leadership cohesion during a tumultuous time of rapid change, reorganisation and cost cutting for the company.

Ben Gould
Global Strategic Partnerships Manager,
Workplace From Facebook

Ben is the Head of the Connected Executive Program at Workplace from Facebook, a global leadership development program enabling CEOs seeking to humanise leadership and foster the power of connection at work.

Ben previously led the Business Influencer Program at Facebook which focused on coaching global business leaders and notable public figures on how to leverage Facebook and Instagram as a leadership
communications platform.