Inside Redbox: meet Chris Pendse, client services director for Redbox

In today's Inside Redbox, we speak to Chris Pendse "Pendse", Redbox's client services director and licensed (non-practicing) ordained minister.  We ask him about his role at Redbox, working in partnership with clients, some of his biggest achievements and what he gets up to outside of work.

Tell us about work life before Redbox?

I did my work experience when I was 16 at a small company who put systems into bookshops and continued to work there during the holidays.   One summer, I helped develop a system that digitises book covers for the company’s new online business. I declined a job offer from them as I was at University and shortly after, they were acquired by a fledgling company called Amazon in 1998.

Despite not ending up with Amazon shares, I realised that I loved working with clients, tech and problem solving.  I have worked in tech and digital ever since.  

At the University of Sussex, I studied Artificial Intelligence. AI was new and exciting – still is. We were doing things like machine learning, genetic algorithms and figuring out how to use AI to read vehicle registration plates from poor quality images. It was real cutting-edge stuff then and now is commonplace - in speed cameras, camera phones, etc.  After a 20-year AI lull, it has been discussed at every conference and event I have attended this year.

After Uni, I worked for a number of tech companies and agencies, running teams of trainers, consultants, devs, PMs and support consultants before joining Redbox in 2014 as Client Services Director.

What are you and your team responsible for?

We are the voice of the customer in the agency – a single point of contact to ensure that projects are running smoothly and the clients are happy.  

We like to immerse ourselves in our clients’ business and foster strong relationships – ones based on trust and openness.  It’s the partnership approach that ensures we meet our joint goals and ultimately help the client drive business growth and prosper.

Things don’t always go to plan, but we find solutions more easily when we work collaboratively.  It helps get to the end goal much quicker. 

I also love the fact that we become experts in all sorts of industries and products. One day, you can be speaking to clients selling women’s fashion or screws and fastenings and the next, luxury watches, cow tags and merchandise for the world’s biggest recording artists.  It’s what keeps the job interesting!

What makes you get up in the morning? 

I am a massive night owl and hate getting up in the morning.  I’m not a coffee drinker so a shower is my equivalent of a caffeine fix.  

I also have a long (ish) commute to work so I tend to sleep on the train and set my alarm just in case I miss my stop! 

Any major work achievements? 

I’ve worked with so many exciting and inspiring brands and businesses that it’s hard to single anything out.  

If I had to pick one, Oliver Sweeney was a great client to work with.  We did the first cloud implementation for the men’s luxury shoe brand, it was a very successful launch and we won a lot of awards for it. 

I genuinely love working with my clients helping them launch a new site, to win awards or hit their targets.  Their success is our success. If I can share a laugh and a beer with a client in the sunshine celebrating a success, then I have done my job!

What are some of the main challenges of your role?

Our industry is highly commoditised and we all face very similar challenges where price is being driven down, resources are scarce and people are wanting more for less.  We strive to provide value beyond the commodity. There’s also not enough hours in the day!

I've spent a fair bit of time in experience and service design businesses and I’m a great believer in a customer-centred approach to design and user testing.  I’m surprised by the number of businesses who try to second-guess their customers rather than getting their opinion.

Taking this approach means that decisions are made on data rather than gut feeling and it typically provides better results.  

I think one of my key strengths is my ability to problem solve and come-up with a solution fast.  The challenge is when you have multiple clients to manage and multiple issues, but thankfully this doesn’t happen that often! 

Common questions you get asked by customers?

I get asked all sorts of questions.  It’s what keeps the role varied and interesting.    

Our industry is fast moving, and the questions being asked by clients today and not the same as last year.  We have huge experience in the digital commerce space and sharing our insight and knowledge with clients is a key part of the role.  It’s also about asking the right questions too!

Then there’s always the latest trends.  Right now, there is a lot of misunderstanding around AI.  Our job is to help cut through the marketing buzz and come-up with the right solution regardless of whether it has ‘AI powered’ on the box. 

I still get asked ‘can I have it cheaper and quicker’ but conversations are generally more around ‘what approach can we take to maximise return sooner’?   

Chris Pendse, Redbox's client services director.

Tell us about life outside of Redbox?

I’ve been around the block a few times and done a lot of interesting things that I can’t really talk about.

I am an Ordained Minister.  It was back in the day you could pay $10 and apply for it online.  It’s only recognised in the US but I can legally marry people over there. Haven’t got around to marrying anyone just yet, but it’s on my list of things to do!

I’ve met the Dalai Lama at his Temple in Dharamsala. I have an Indian heritage – my dad was born in Pune, Western India.  India is my favourite place to visit, whether it is watching cricket in Mumbai, looking for tigers in a jungle or having a beer by the sea in Kerala.

I’m also pretty adept at finding my way backstage at gigs.  I managed to blag my way on stage at a Chemical Brothers gig and ended up dancing in front of 20,000 people.

I’ve also modelled for a magazine for the pub industry.  I was paid handsomely in curry and beer!

What keeps you at Redbox?

As a leadership team, we recently spent some time offsite evaluating our goals and planning for the future.  

We’ve had an exciting year so far and I am looking forward to the future, helping grow the business and also expand our service offering.

Can’t divulge too much but we have some exciting plans.

If you had your time again, what would you do?

There has been the odd fish that has got away  - those Amazon shares, for example - but I am very lucky to have lots of amazing friends, family and colleagues.  All of that is a product of past experience so I don’t really have any regrets. 

What's your motto in life?

‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’, or as the famous Bill & Ted once said, ‘be excellent to each other’. 

If you could pass piece of advice you have been given in life what would it be?

My Dad said don’t settle down too young and don’t get a job in London where you have to commute.  I currently commute three hours a day to and from London!  

He also has a great saying: “one for the road”, advice I adhere to…often!