By Casmin Wisner
“Communication is key. You must over-communicate and let your associates know what’s in it for them.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Renee Cacchillo, Senior Vice President, Customer, Brand and Technology at Safelite ® Group, a multifaceted auto glass and claims management service organization based in Columbus, Ohio. Cacchillo joined Safelite in 2011, where she held a variety of leadership roles in operations, data analytics, digital marketing and advertising. Today, she successfully leverages the company’s core competencies in aligning the customer experience, marketing efforts, and technical enhancements more acutely.
Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I was at Safelite for about six months when our CEO, Tom Feeney, stopped me in the hallway and asked when I could start focusing more on customer experience. I couldn’t help but think, “I’m already behind!” I had been spending my time building a labor scheduling tool because it was the most crucial need when I first joined the company. After that day, I decided to shift my focus.
In July 2012, I presented an elaborate plan to Tom about what customer-centric would look like at Safelite. We already delivered an exceptional customer experience with very strong NPS scores, in the 80s, but I thought they would ultimately decline if we made too many decisions without input from our customers. I wanted to focus on our customers’ input about their desire experience and how they wanted to engage with our brand. The customer centric ideas that I presented evolved into our strategy to be customer driven. The shift required a significant amount of work, and at times I thought, “Oh my, I’ve unleashed a hurricane!”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you became a leader at your company?
It’s both a story and a learning to empower people with different skillsets. In my early years, I hired someone very talented and wondered how I was going to teach and inspire them since I didn’t have the same skills. By clearing the path and teaching the Safelite culture while sharing the lens of the brand, I was able to ramp him up in our business faster. I realized that’s the way to empower those with different skill sets. I now provide my team with a license to fail fast to help them succeed.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
Years ago, I was on stage at our National Leadership Meeting and at the last minute, my co-presenter decided he wanted to use a Teleprompter. I agreed but then froze on stage because of my own personal limitations. Leaders in the audience could literally see my pant leg shaking. It was a lesson learned: I can’t connect with my audience when reading a script. I knew I had bombed, but people were polite in telling me I wasn’t that bad. Moving forward, I dumped the Teleprompter after realizing that I’m not three-dimensional. Every year since that presentation I’ve received feedback about how much improvement I’ve made, but in reality, it was because I used a Teleprompter. It’s been seven years and I’ve never been that bad again. I’m still laughing.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’re in a negative space. No one wants a broken windshield. Windshield repairs rank right up there with visiting the dentist and public speaking. In this industry, we only have one chance to create a memorable experience with our customers. They call us for a specific need, and we’re making the process easy for our customers to do business with us.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re using machine learning and innovating the online experience to better understand what customers want. We’re also getting into voice search to understand how customers will use that technology to interact with online and search functionality. The learnings will continue to make it easier for customers to work with us and personalize the way they want to interact with us.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team thrive?
Communication is key. You must over-communicate and let your associates know what’s in it for them. Don’t speak only at a broader level. Make the connection between the groups — how they work together and what role they each play — and the role they collectively play for the greater group.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Focus on your own personal accountability. Even if your plan changes, let people know about it.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience,” and why?
I designed a culture playbook for the company to show the way we work, interact, and the words we use with one another. There are five distinct beliefs that I reviewed with my team and hold them accountable for, which include:
- The buck stops here — personal accountability
- Play your game — personal actions
- Out in the open — relationships with others
- One team one dream — working as a team
- Sky’s the limit — winning solutions
I walked through all five of the beliefs during a team outing to set the course for our moving forward.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?
My current CEO, Tom Feeney. His passion, determination, and curiosity have helped me better support the organization in ways I never thought possible. Without his leadership, I never would have raised my hand to say I should take on my current role.
Also, Brian Turner from Accenture. Prior to my work at Safelite, Brian took me out of change management and put me into technology. He believed in me and told me I was smarter than I thought I was. By teaching me how to apply technology and encouraging me try something new he literally changed the trajectory of my career. From his guidance, I went into operations over PLD or change management.
Can you please give us your favorite life lesson?
I have always been someone who needs to move, adapt and change. As a child, I moved a lot, which translated into me taking on roles in different areas of expertise throughout my career. I react to change with relative ease.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have been a key contributor to building a culture with a people-first approach at Safelite. It starts with making our associates our main priority. I’ve also been involved in the philanthropic activities through our brand, which support the communities where our associates live and work.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I would change our education system to teach “how we can” versus “why we can’t.” I think about how many great ideas wouldn’t be shut down if we did this. It would be a movement around supporting people. People who step forward to say, “I have a great idea and I think you can help me make it better.”
In short, creating cultures that build off of each other’s abilities and strengths over saying why something wouldn’t work. It’s all about how much more we can create together.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
LeBron James. His character and charisma are incredible. Lebron has stayed true to his sport, never forgotten his roots, and is genuinely trying to help people. His unique talent is one that’s special and that you only see every once in a while. Never in a century will anyone see a player like him again. He operates in a way that fun to watch because you know that something amazing is going to happen.