Tesco’s new customer fulfilment director Allan Lyall is charged with taking the grocer to the cutting edge of online customer service using tactics polished while at global online giant Amazon.
When unveiling the appointment last week, the grocer called Lyall “one of the leading figures in the world of retailing” due to his experience working at two of retail’s biggest giants; Amazon and Apple.
Lyall started his new role this week and bolsters the multichannel team at a crucial time for Tesco, which in June reported its worst quarterly performance in 40 years and in October will be under the new leadership of Dave Lewis, who succeeds Philip Clarke as group chief executive.
2014 Tesco – Customer fulfilment director
2013-2014 Indigo Lighthouse Group – Managing director
2001- 2013 Amazon – Vice president of European operations
1995- 2001 Apple – Director of European fulfilment
1989- 1995 Digital Equipment Corporation – Manufacturing manager
Tesco’s big challenge is to improve the customer experience across all channels and Lyall will be key to delivering this through its online offering.
Lyall may be familiar with propelling an already huge company that strives to put the customer experience at its heart, but he has had little experience of working in a lackluster trading environment and in a company that is facing structural challenges.
Lyall will no doubt seek guidance from his former colleague and new boss, multichannel director Robin Terrell who he worked with for four years while at Amazon.
Terrell said last week: “We have exciting, industry-leading plans in this area and there is no one better qualified than Allan to execute them. He has an outstanding track record. I’m delighted he’s joining us.”
Scotsman Lyall worked at online giant Amazon for 12 years until 2013 and was vice president of European operations, overseeing Amazon’s much-admired delivery service and managing 21 customer fulfilment centres, equating to 13 million sq ft across five countries.
He held arguably one of the toughest logistical jobs in retail and at the Christmas peak period Lyall was in charge of a team that packed and dispatched up to three million presents across the world per night.
Lyall told The Telegraph in an interview in 2012 the level of accuracy “has to be tight”. “We know what time the product needs to leave the building to make, say, the Edinburgh evening delivery, which is slightly earlier than the London evening delivery,” he said.
And Lyall was loyal to his Scottish roots while he was at Amazon; the etailer opened a customer service centre in Edinburgh and a customer fulfilment centre in Dunfermline in 2011, bringing thousands of jobs to the country.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing at Amazon. Lyall was forced to respond to accusations that Amazon was forcing staff to work seven-day weeks in the run up to Christmas in 2008.
This may perhaps have irked Lyall, who speaks at events to raise the profile of careers in the industry and is a passionate advocate for getting young people starting their careers in e-commerce.
Lyall’s own career took him to Massachusetts, where he took his first major role at US computer software distributor Digital Equipment Corporation.
After six years Lyall then moved on to Apple where he became director of fulfilment. Based in Paris, he rationalised the distribution network and established a supply chain that was suitable for such a rapidly-growing company. He also spent two years in the Netherlands, consolidating distribution operations, while he managed the European launches of the iMac and iBook products.
With a fearsome pedigree in fulfillment at two of the biggest companies in the world, not to mention his experience at handling controversies, Lyall seems like a good fit for Tesco and is well-equipped to take on challenges that may arise at a grocer that is mid turnaround.
He may describe his time at Amazon as his “coolest role so far” on his Linkedin profile, but Tesco will be hoping that working at the third largest retailer in the world might top that.