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Biography: Andrew McMillan - Read interview

Andrew McMillan


Speakers Corner says

“Andrew translates the complicated issue of delivering great customer service in an incredibly insightful and palatable manner.”

Others say

"Great - really easy to work with and extremely relevant content."
Northern Rail Ltd

"Perfect for the audience, engaging with humorous and memorable stories."
Citation Professional Solutions

"A charming person, very personable and accommodating and is very professional in his area of expertise."
Legal & General Assurance Society Limited

"Likeable. Humourous. Well prepared. Informative. Well received. Definitely work with Andrew again."
Kate Selley PR

After 28 years with John Lewis, responsible for the legendary customer service which defines the success of the organisation, Andrew McMillan – warm, charming, a great storyteller with heart and substance behind his message – is one of Speakers Corner’s most popular after dinner and business speakers.

Breaking the facts down to a theoretical level, Andrew talks about engagement as a differentiator – as with John Lewis, the whole team has to be brilliant with the customer the whole time for a consistent customer experience. He is as engaging as the message he conveys, and his passion for delivering unbeatable service to the customer is reflected in his unwavering connection with every audience he addresses.

Andrew’s career began as a management trainee with the John Lewis Partnership at Brent Cross. He quickly moved up through the management ranks and led a number of selling teams in different branches culminating in managing the furniture floor in the flagship Oxford Street branch.

"Andrew was excellent not only in his presentation but also in how easy it was to work with him. The content was precisely what we wanted for our group and was very well received. We appreciated the work Andrew did prior to the summit."

From there he moved to the head office to take charge of the department stores' customer-centric Intelligence Team reporting on competitive strategy, product differentiation and value, catchment area demographics for new branches and customer service.

In 2000 Andrew was asked to lead on customer service for the department store division.
The role saw him manage chain-wide customer complaints and develop JLP's market-leading culture and attitude towards customer service and sales with the 20,000 customer-facing Partners in 26 John Lewis shops across the UK. That customer-driven culture is something that has now became synonymous with the John Lewis brand and during his tenure John Lewis won awards for customer service from Which?, Verdict and Retail Week and were frequently cited in the media as a leading customer oriented organisation.

In addition to retail and finance, much of Andrew's work has been in the public sector and he has helped a number of local authorities develop their strategy to deliver a distinct and differentiated customer experience. He has also worked with a number of NHS Trusts to define and develop their patient experience in line with the aspirations set out in Lord Darzi's NHS Next Stage Review final report.

Speaking Topics

As a customer service expert, Andrew is in high demand as an after dinner speaker, keynote speaker and motivational speaker.

  • Developing a distinct and differentiated customer experience delivered through employees to define the brand

  • Organisational development to deliver enhanced customer service

  • Defining and shaping organisational culture

  • Effective internal communications

  • Fun at work to improve commercial success and productivity

  • Leadership and customer service

  • Selling though service and relationships

  • Managing customer complaints to enhance reputation

For further information or to book Andrew McMillan, call us on +44 (0)20 7607 7070 or email info@speakerscorner.co.uk

Interview with Andrew McMillan


How can a business quickly transform its reputation for customer service?


Quickly and reputation are words that don’t sit comfortably together – reputation is won over the longer term. That said, the sooner you start to develop a defined and consistent customer experience the faster your reputation will develop. It also depends on the age and size of the business along with their starting point. A smaller business can often turn around reputation much faster than a large established one, but in my experience any organisation should be able to demonstrate a positive degree of change within a 12 months if they really commit enough effort to it.


How did the corporate speaking start?


I used to speak publicly on behalf of John Lewis when I worked for them and really enjoyed attending the conferences and meeting such a variety of people. After I left I was approached by a couple of organisations who had heard me speak before and it all developed from there.


Can you remember your first speaking engagement?


It was for the University of Buckingham shortly after I had been made responsible for customer service at John Lewis. I remember being terrified, not only at the prospect of speaking to a large unknown audience, but that I presented the right corporate impression for John Lewis too. The audience were very kind and, at least retrospectively, I really enjoyed it.


And your last event?


My last event was for Carillion construction and it was fascinating to be involved with a business sector to which previously I’d had no exposure.


Which event has been your favourite and why?


I think my favourite would have to be my first overseas event which was in Dubai. It was equally exciting and daunting to speak to a culturally very different audience for the first time so far from home. I’ve been back on several occasions since, and although they have all been great, nothing is quite like the first time you stand before 300 people in a foreign country. The fact I was there for four days in November to escape the UK winter was a bonus too!


What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?


Probably starting my own business after 28 years in a secure corporate environment at John Lewis. I left in May 2008, obviously not knowing what was going to happen to the economy just two months later. Starting as a consultant with no existing client base, with no guaranteed income, in the depth of possibly the worst recession in my lifetime was very scary especially with a family of five to look after. I learnt a lot very quickly and I now look back on that period with some degree of pride, but it was terrifying at the time – perhaps I should write a presentation about it!


Who is the most interesting person you have heard speak this year?


That’s a difficult one as I have been lucky enough to meet so many great people in the last 12 months. I think it would have to be Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE as she takes an almost incomprehensible subject and makes it accessible, relevant and fascinating all at the same time.


If you could speak at any event, past or future, what would it be?


Speaking at one of the TED events would be an honour.


Who would you most like to share a platform with?


Richard Branson for his humour, energy and entrepreneurial spirit, or Allan Leighton for his clarity and focus on execution of strategy, or Kjell Nordstrom for his depth of thinking and vision – was I only allowed one!


What has been your highlight of 2013?


Being asked to undertake a consulting assignment for a large organisation I have long admired – I was excited and flattered in equal measure.


What do you do to ensure your presentation has a lasting impact?


I like to have an in depth briefing call with every client as the presentation is then written bespoke to their requirements. That should ensure it has relevance to their delegates and increases the likelihood that they will be able to take something away from it. If there is time I also enjoy running post presentation workshops to explore how my thinking can be specifically incorporated into their organisation.


What can a typical corporate audience learn from your experiences?


It depends what they have asked me to speak about: employee engagement, leadership, customer experience, fun at work, complaint management etc., but the fundamental principle that runs through all of my topics is the primary need to think about what sort of personality the organisation wants to present for both its employees and customers and how authentic that personality really is.


What’s your favourite way to spend a Sunday?


A lie in with the papers followed by a traditional Sunday lunch and either an afternoon walk or cycle in the countryside where I live.


What personal ambition must you fulfill before you die?


To travel to all the countries in the world left on my list.


What have you got lined up for next year that you think will be good to update corporate clients on?


What strengths have we gained from the past few years that will help grow business as the current recession eases? What have we learnt from the recession that will help make business more sustainable when the next downturn comes – we have short corporate memories! I’m also very interested in demonstrating ways for businesses to have an on-line personality in an environment where the nature of the process allows very little opportunity to build customer relationships with any depth


Can you leave us with an inspirational one liner from your speech?


It almost sounds too simple, but being nice to each other and your customers can be one of the most powerful business strategies you can deploy.

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