January Newsletter – an interview with Michelle Laramy

Welcome to our launch edition of the CX Talent Ltd Newsletter.

We’ve thought long and hard about what would be a useful monthly write up, and we’ve decided that as well as continuing with our usual postings, you might find it useful to hear from Senior Customer Experience Leaders with their views on CX, the successes and challenges they have had, and their advice for career development in this space.

We will interview a new voice every month. If you have any questions you’d like us to put to our guests – please do drop us a line at contact@cxtalent.co.uk.

We are delighted to introduce our first guest for 2024 – Michelle Laramy – Director, Customer Experience of Canary Wharf Group.

Michelle joined Canary Wharf Group as Director, Customer Experience in February 2022 with responsibility to develop the strategy for CWG’s customers and to support its ambition to better understand diverse customer profile using data and insights.

Michelle joined CWG from the Crown Estate where she was the Head of Customer since 2015. At the Crown Estate, Michelle was accountable for the development and delivery of the customer strategy and roadmap across the £14bn UK real estate business. Previously, Michelle was the Head of Customer Experience at Santander for over four years.

Michelle Laramy Director of Customer Experience at The Canary Wharf Group

Michelle you’re currently Director of Customer Experience at the Canary Wharf Group plc.  What does that entail?

I have been a CX practitioner for several years working across a range of industries. Starting my career in retail for John Lewis, moving into banking and then into Real Estate.

I joined Canary Wharf Group as Director of Customer Experience 2 years ago.  Canary Wharf Group is the developer of the largest urban regeneration project in Europe.  It is a vibrant mixed-use destination and over the past 35 years, we have developed a diverse community that includes over 17.5m sq ft of offices, 2,200 homes, 1.1m sq ft of retail and leisure, 16.5 acres of green spaces and waterside living.

My role was created to continue to evolve Canary Wharf Group to a customer-centric business and my remit covers all end users of our estate. So that’s shoppers, office workers, residents and the wider community that visit Canary Wharf every day.

What do you enjoy about it most?

I love the variety the role brings, from leading technology transformation projects to meeting customers, I get involved in so many interesting initiatives and projects, and it’s great to see these projects benefit customers and employees.

Can you tell us about some of the successes you’ve had in terms of your CX initiatives at Canary Wharf to date? 

Digital transformation is an important priority to Canary Wharf Group and it’s integral to how end users of our space want to interact with us.  My team led the development of The Canary Wharf App, which is an estate wide app for the estate.  It is a one-stop shop for finding out everything we have to offer from shops, restaurants, leisure, offers and more. The app has over 40k regular users and has supported our strategy to understand our customers and bring us closer to them.

In January my team also launched a new concept called Wharf Connect.  Wharf Connect is a dynamic community designed to empower the next generation of professionals in Canary Wharf. It brings together future leaders, encourages office engagement, and fosters an environment that will encourage the retention of early career professionals as they feel a part of a wider Canary Wharf ecosystem.  The network aims to create an environment that values inclusivity, connection, and collaboration; qualities all extremely important for the next generation.

At Canary Wharf and previously at The Crown Estate, you have had a huge range of customers from leaseholders to office workers to day visitors.  What are the main challenges that that breadth of customers creates?

It is a challenge, as you have a lot of different customer types, and they have a different set of outcomes from the relationship they have with us. So, we need to carefully design experiences to meet their needs and expectations. A one size fits all does not really apply.

Do you think that coming into commercial real estate from a different sector, financial services, has been beneficial in your career? 

CX professionals can easily move been sectors, their skills and capabilities are very transferable. I learnt a lot in financial services about technology, apps and platforms, all of which have been useful skills and knowledge to bring into real estate.

How do you see AI impacting on CX in the property market?

AI has an enormous potential to reshape real estate, prop tech has already laid a foundation for this, however, the understanding of its capabilities is still low. There are some interesting pilots taking place across real estate, but the industry has a long way to go.

What skills do you think candidates in CX should be looking to hone for the future?

Having a data-driven mindset, CX professionals must understand the business data, as you can’t seek to improve what you can’t measure.

A strategic outlook is vital, as anything a CX professional does should align with the overall objectives of the business they work for.

Project Management capabilities can also set professionals apart, as the role is much more digital-led, so you need to understand how to lead projects cross functionally.

CX is also not a department, it’s the way a whole business interacts with its customers, so you need to have brilliant communication and relationship building skills.

What difficulties have you had in recruiting for your CX teams to date?

In smaller businesses, you sometimes require a more generalist CX practitioner and not someone who is very specialist in one thing, so this can be a challenge. Bigger companies need vast capabilities and require a specialist for each specialist area, so it depends on the company’s requirements.

As a recognised thought leader in Customer Experience, how do you see the discipline evolving in 2024? 

CX has changed a lot over the years. COVID accelerated the use of digital customer experience, pushing brands towards self-service and automated services, and this will keep evolving with the evolution of Al. However, all brands need to get the balance right between digital and human-to-human contact.  I believe CX Practitioners have a big part to play to get this balance right.  At Canary Wharf we have advanced in the digital space to make things easier for customers, but we also recognise when companies are telling us that face-to-face and building a sense of community is critical for their business to thrive.

What advice would you have given to your younger self in terms of career development?

Here are my top tips!

Don’t worry if you don’t have it all figured out, sometimes success is a bumpy road and it can take you in all different directions.

Try and find something you love, this will help you really drive your career and ambition forward.

Don’t hesitate to take risks, if an opportunity presents itself grab it with two hands and don’t talk yourself out of it.

Build a strong professional network, networking helps with your career trajectory and some of the amazing people you meet along the way help you support and guide your career path.

We’d like to thank Michelle for her time and professional insight in answering our questions.

Stay tuned for our next months’ CX guest for more insight into CX initiatives and advice on career progression.

At CX Talent Ltd – Jo and Kate are connected with the brightest and best talent in Customer Experience, Customer Operations, Digital Experience and Service Design at all levels.  If you would like to discuss your recruitment requirements in this area and how we can add value in finding the right fit for your team. Please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!