Putting People First: An Interview With Robert Pender

January 22, 202011min

Originally from the UK but based in Montenegro, Robert Pender is helping to shape a new dawn for Employee and Customer Experience in South East Europe, as a customer and employee-centric culture takes off in the region.

A CCXP with over two decades of developing successful people-first strategies, Robert (pictured) is judging at the 2020 UK Employee Experience Awards, where his wealth of knowledge will help identify those businesses achieving success by putting humans at the very heart of their strategies.

The holistic EX Practitioner recently teamed with theWorld Employee Experience Institute (WEEI)and its founder Ben Whitter, AKA Mr Employee Experience, for an e-book that aims to inspire firms to reshape strategies through establishing employee satisfaction.

The book, A Practical Guide to Implementing and Succeeding with Employee Experience, is available to download now free of charge from WEEI, and is highly recommended reading.

Robert took time out to chat with Customer Experience Magazine about his inspirations, his thoughts on EX development, and awards events including the new South East Europe Customer Experience Awards, which will be held in Belgrade, Serbia on May 29.

Hi Robert, tell us about your professional background, and how you became involved in Customer and Employee Experience.

Well, I’ve worked across Europe and the Middle East for the past 20 years, and I’ve always been passionate about putting people first in business, and in any walk of life.

Like so many highly competitive sectors, the cornerstones of success lie in human centricity, and it’s always been a pivotal focus of my work.

I’m certified in CX and EX by The CXPA and The World Employee Experience Institute respectively.

You’re currently based in the Balkans. Can you tell us how the concept of both CX and EX is changing the way business is conducted in South East Europe?

I’ve been working in the Balkans since 2016, and these days I divide my time between Montenegro and the UK.

Neither CX or EX are terms you can expect to hear commonly bandied around in meeting and boardrooms across the balkan region…yet!

From the people I’ve spoken to, it’s clear there is an appreciation of the importance of their interpretation of Customer and Employee Experience, but generally speaking efforts are very much at first base.

There’s a great opportunity here to cement experience-driven techniques into the heart of businesses.

With continued foreign investment into areas of South East Europe, and some exceptionally talented pools of people to draw upon, businesses will have to embrace experiences as a necessary factor in which to compete upon.

Where are firms in that region going wrong when it comes to being both customer and employee-centric?

To generalise, I can only surmise that businesses haven’t been sufficiently challenged enough thus far to take the views they need to compete in terms of CX and EX.
Awareness of the fundamental business benefits of human centricity is also a key contributing factor that needs to be taken on board.

Of course, CX and EX initiatives are more advanced in other regions, but it’s still commonplace that experience professionals globally are vying for their voice to be heard and understood, and to take their rightful place at the top table.

At the other end of the scale, can you tell us about EX/CX success stories from the region, and what made them work?

I’ve witnessed the emergence of a small number of businesses who are outwardly talking about their purpose and values, and their commitment to people.

This is allowing them to stand out, and I feel will only add to the experience momentum that is starting to gather pace.

I also suspect that a number of companies are proactive with their people commitments, but perhaps elect not to vocalise them. I see this changing, however, as they look to promote themselves better in the marketplace, and outline what they stand for.

You will be returning to London this coming May to judge at the UK Customer Experience Awards. What value would you say awards events have for CX/EX professionals, and the companies they work for, or work with?

First and foremost it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people, share stories, and learn.

The awards are a goldmine of information to tap into as a professional, which really helps to improve your knowledge and grow your network.

Participating in Awards International events, as well as being thoroughly enjoyable, really helps people to validate the importance of the valuable work they’re doing.

That alone represents immense personal value.

It’s also fantastic to see the South East Europe Customer Experience Awards launching this year

In terms of the SEECXAs specifically, it’s great timing, and this event is going to add significant fuel to the embers of the CX fire in the region.

Businesses languishing in outdated ways of working, who don’t prioritise their people, are in for what I can only describe as a long overdue rude awakening.

The way people work appears to be changing rapidly, with the growth of AI and connectivity meaning an increase in practices including remote working. What other major changes to you predict will influence the way we work in the coming years?

The biggest single, and most critical, change that will shape the businesses of the future – and determine their success – is how they treat their people.

 I believe we’re on the cusp of significant change, that will redefine the current mainstream interpretation of what work truly represents.

I expect to see aspects of employment legislation change in favour of employees. Businesses languishing in outdated ways of working, who don’t prioritise their people, are in for what I can only describe as a long overdue rude awakening.

What advice would you give to aspiring CX and EX professionals?

Customer and Employee Experience will become more and more intertwined with one another by virtue of being so intrinsically linked. My advice is to immerse yourself in both disciplines. 

I was incredibly fortunate to have been mentored by Ian Golding and Ben Whitter – two of the most prominent names in CX and EX.

Reach out to people who have an intimate, global knowledge of both areas, and give yourself the best possible platform for success.

What are your plans for 2020?

Continued personal development is at the top of my agenda. My next stop is the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. I’m looking for new and interesting opportunities, and participating more in the experience communities.

For details on entering the 2020 UK Employee Experience Awards, click here.

For further information on entering the South East Europe Customer Experience Awards, click here.


Paul Ainsworth

Paul Ainsworth

Experienced Irish journalist and former newspaper editor now helming executive editorial duties with Customer Experience Magazine, the UK's premier online source for Customer Experience news, features, and opinion, along with its sister site, CXM World.




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