A Q&A With Jeannine D’Addario, SVP, Chief Customer Officer, Guitar Center
Melissa Campanelli, Total Retail's editor-in-chief, recently interviewed Jeannine D'Addario, senior vice president, chief customer officer at Guitar Center. D'Addario joined Guitar Center earlier this month, and will oversee the retailer's strategic marketing, brand vision and customer brand experience.
Melissa Campanelli: Tell us a little bit about your role with Guitar Center?
Jeannine D'Addario: My role at Guitar Center will be to assure we have a single customer-centric vision across every customer touchpoint. Retailing today is no longer just the brick-and-mortar experience; it's also the combination of every component of customer contact through marketing, digital, social, call center and e-commerce. Ensuring that Guitar Center has a unified view of what these amazingly passionate consumers want allows us to meet their needs across all components of our business.
MC: What was it about Guitar Center that you made excited about working there?
JD: As the marketplace shifts, those retailers that offer a unique and compelling experience for their customers will be those that win in the long term. Guitar Center is just that. Where else can consumers get hands on and play with musical equipment, get their equipment repaired or learn how to make music? For me, Guitar Center is a well-loved brand with a unique and compelling offering, and I'm thrilled at this opportunity. To be able to help fill the world with music is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
MC: How has your background (leadership positions at Applebee's and Whole Foods Market, for example) prepared you for this new job?
JD: I think I’ve learned throughout my career not only how to strategically reach and motivate customers, but also how to build emotional connections for consumers with brands that endures long beyond the transaction. The ability to tell stories and bring people into a lifelong relationship with a brand is something I've honed over the years of working on great brands and experiences from Pepsi to Disney to Whole Foods and more.
MC: What are some of your goals at Guitar Center?
JD: My team and I will be focusing, of course, on driving sales growth, margin and traffic improvement. I also hope to really bring a deep understanding of our customers throughout our organization — a full 360-degree view via data. This will allow us to build experiences, offers, products, messages and opportunities to drive stronger connections with our customers based on those insights. I also believe that our best customers can become strong brand advocates for Guitar Center.
MC: Will you be focusing on Guitar Center's first mobile app? Its music lessons? Its Destination Drum Shops?
JD: All of the above and more! Guitar Center is uniquely positioned to offer an array of amazing opportunities for musicians and future musicians. Our extensive selection of guitars, technology-based gear, drums and the opportunity for consumers to touch, feel and play in-store makes Guitar Center unique. With our full complement of services, from financing to repairs to lessons, along with our amazingly knowledgeable staff, the experiences in-store and online with Guitar Center is unparalleled.
MC: What are your thoughts on the state of the retail industry today?
JD: Retail is going through a disruption phase driven by online, consumers’ time and convenience needs, and their desire for experiential opportunities. I believe those retailers that truly understand and focus on the customer and provide unique and compelling experiences will be the winners as the marketplace changes. I think we’ll see more integration between online and offline retail, with technology bridging the divide, assisting with the in-store experience as well as in-store showrooming for online purchasing.
MC: What retail technology trends interest you right now?
JD: I'm watching a few critical technology trends that I think will have big impact on retail. First, I think live video that allows users to interact with viewers in real time will enable a stronger, more personal relationship with audiences and customers. The ability to interact with customers in real time, demonstrate equipment or even lessons could be a powerful technology application in the near future. Another tech trend that I think will have an impact on retail is social commerce. Since people use social media to interact with brands, give recommendations, share and talk about products, it seems a natural progression to see more sales acceleration in this channel, especially since Facebook is now adding a buy button to Messenger.
MC: What have been some of your key challenges as a leader, as well as some of your triumphs?
JD: I think the pace of change, innovation and disruption continues to accelerate. As such, as a leader it's challenging to keep pace, but, more importantly, to be able to see the potential impact of change and be able to flex with it or know when to chase it or not. I think leaders have to understand and be empathetic with their teams about the pressure of change and need for innovation placed upon them. Move smartly, train and communicate to bring teams along in the process of evolving an organization to meet the new demands being placed upon it.
MC: Which business leaders do you admire?
JD: The business leaders I admire tend to be visionary and transformational, who are personally warm with great people skills. They stick to their values and are true to their beliefs. People like Bob Iger at Disney, Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla, Howard Shultz at Starbucks, and Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo.
MC: Tell us about your leadership style.
JD: My leadership style is one of inclusion and empowerment. I strongly believe we win as a team by collaborating and bringing our individual strengths to the team dynamic. I love to learn from my team, and I do that by connecting with and involving them as much as possible.
MC: Tell us a bit about your hiring strategy. What do you look for in a prospective candidate? What are some red flags?
JD: For me the key attributes I look for in a candidate are intellectual curiosity and emotional intelligence. Intellectual curiosity because they will ask questions, examine opportunities and go beyond the obvious to learn, understand more and bring new and refreshing angles to problems and opportunities. And emotional intelligence because it allows them to empathize, understand and support our customers, their teams and co-workers.
MC: Do you have a mentor? Are you a mentee? Can you tell us about your relationship(s)?
JD: I have an informal mentor relationship with a few people that I trust for feedback, advice and guidance. All of them are former CEOs and leaders — men and women — I've worked for at other companies, whose capabilities and character I greatly admire. Each offers something different for me in my life, and I reach out to them when I’m stuck or dealing with a complexity or just when I need some leadership fine-tuning around a challenge I'm facing. I absolutely treasure those relationships.
MC: What's a life lesson you've you learned that you wish you could have told your younger self?
JD: Time is fleeting; enjoy the moments.