CX Insight Magazine

January 2023

How Groupon Is Understanding, Capturing, and Fulfilling Customer Intent

KIA Online Community Member Spotlight: Francisco Toledo



Francisco has dedicated the past 12+ years to driving customer and merchant experience through Operational Excellence across Latin America, Europe, and North America, with multiple global assignments in roles of escalating responsibility. As the Senior Director of Global Operations for Groupon, he is a dynamic leader in charge of spearheading and implementing best practices for optimal business performance. He earned an Executive MBA from IE Business School in Madrid, is a certified CX Implementation Leader from COPC®, and frequently contributes thought leadership to CX industry magazines and events. Execs In The Know recently caught up with Francisco to discuss the most important lessons he’s learned over the past year, the latest innovations and biggest challenges the brand currently faces, what building trust with consumers looks like, and what it means to achieve CX success by creating unforgettable experiences.


EXECS IN THE KNOW (EITK): How would you define customer experience (CX) success?

FRANCISCO TOLEDO: I think it’s heavily dependent on the industry. The first thing I would say is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to achieving CX success, though I believe a lot of it has to do with a company’s ability to drive business success. For instance, in our case here at Groupon, CX success means our customers can really leverage our brand to empower their lives from an experience perspective. Saving money is the whole idea behind our eCommerce marketplace. Put simply, we help connect consumers with the best local experiences and services in their neighborhoods or wherever they may be — all at unbelievable values.

Whenever they want to do something, we want them to think about Groupon. If our customers can go through that journey without running into issues when looking for and buying an experience, to me that’s a success. Of course, there are always challenges. The biggest one we are focusing on right now has to do with fulfilling customer intent while managing a very dense inventory. If customers visit our website and we don’t have the inventory they are looking for, then we’re not offering a great customer experience, right?

EITK: What do you feel as a CX leader is one of the most important things you’ve learned over the past year?

FRANCISCO: I’ve been making a conscious effort to explore and see what else is out there in the industry. Here at Groupon, we usually run several pilots around technologies that we find. During Customer Response Summit (CRS) Coronado, I connected with a few companies that we’re now engaging in pilot programs with. The main thing I’ve learned from all of this is you must remain very focused on what it is you’re trying to achieve with various technologies.

When you think about all the different technology services and providers that are out there, many of which are doing relatively similar things, it can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s imperative to know what you’re looking for and how particular technologies fit into your ecosystem to solve challenges. Otherwise, you can get lost very easily. Right now, we are focused on pre-purchase and post-purchase.

EITK: When it comes to innovation, what are some of the pain points and key challenges that Groupon faces?

FRANCISCO: One of the biggest challenges is having alignment throughout the organization as it relates to justifying how certain investments we’re making are supposed to drive customer success and then how that customer success is going to drive the success of the overall business. It’s never been more important for our teams to work together to understand the value of CX in our specific industry and business. At the end of the day, empowering our customers is going to drive the top line in our business. Also, making sure data flows through our different systems effectively is key. However, our data is mainly there to allow us to support customers from a transactional perspective as opposed to being a point convergence for business intelligence. There are many technologies out there that are based on simply leveraging your own data. From an internal perspective, I think that’s where the silos and misalignment can come into play. For us, data is a very minimal aspect of being able to connect to the customer and build solid relationships to get them to become a return customer and grow customer loyalty.

EITK: When it comes to creating unforgettable experiences for customers, no detail is too small. In what ways does Groupon seek to wow its customers?

FRANCISCO: I would say that the biggest effort today, again, is all about inventory density. The intention is to fulfill the customer’s intent and change their behavior. If they want to do something locally, we want them to come to Groupon. In many ways, we are working on this. When we get to that place, it’s going to be an impressive change because there isn’t anything else out there like that in the market. If you think about the experience market, it isn’t very big. It hasn’t been exploited yet. We want to completely change the way people approach purchasing local experiences online. We want people to know that the experiences are there waiting whenever they want to enjoy them. They just need to pull up the app, search for a particular experience, and purchase it.

We recently launched our Best Price Guarantee, which is a program that will help us build trust with our customers. The aim is for them to know that when they’re purchasing on Groupon, they won’t find a cheaper option out there. If they do, we basically match the difference and give them some Groupon Bucks to use on an additional purchase. Ultimately, we want to attract customers, deliver a robust inventory and, at the same time, gain their trust. The only way to retain customers is to increase that trust and that’s a key contribution we can be doing from our contact center. While we’re not quite there today, if we get there, that means we’re growing and doing business with intent.

EITK: Quite simply, empathy is the best way for brands to show their customers that they really care. How is empathy being incorporated within Groupon’s contact center to build a better experience?

FRANCISCO: For many, empathy can come across as a buzzword. To me, empathy isn’t about someone saying, “Oh, I’m so sorry that this happened.” Empathy is being able to put yourself in the shoes of someone else. The way we approach empathy is by building trust. If you’re just managing the frustration of the customer, which is the basics of any contact center, people can see right through that and know it’s not genuine. Our contact center’s agents approach these situations in ways that build trust rather than simply managing the frustration. That’s our approach to empathy. I think it needs to be unpacked. What does empathy mean in your business? What does it mean for specific customers?

EITK: Many of us can look back and remember less-than-ideal experiences we’ve had as customers. But in terms of positive experiences, can you think of a time when you’ve had your most delightful customer experience? How were you treated? How did you feel?

FRANCISCO: The most recent one that I really enjoyed was with Hilton. This was during my stay at Hotel del Coronado for the Execs In The Know Customer Response Summit (CRS) event. The entire experience from checking in was amazing. This is particularly interesting for me because it has been a while since I traveled.

I used to travel at least once a month prior to the pandemic when I exclusively managed our vendor locations. Now that I’m getting back into that rhythm, I’ve forgotten all about it. From the moment I arrived at CRS in the lobby, there were so many things that happened to me that I didn’t look for or expect. For example, my room was upgraded, and I received a view because of my status. When I entered my room, my name was on the screen. In general, there were plenty of little things that happened, which allowed me to have the best time of my life, including interactions with the hotel personnel. Sure, part of the delight had to do with being near the ocean, but the overall stay felt like an enhanced, well-crafted experience.

Another recent experience was with a brand called Huckberry, which sells men’s adventure apparel, home goods, and gear. From the moment of purchase, they kept connecting with me to let me know they appreciated that I bought from the brand. I also received an extra free item because it was my first time purchasing from them and even the packaging everything came in was amazing. When I went to return a couple of T-shirts that didn’t fit, the process was just great and hassle-free. Here’s the thing, eCommerce isn’t a novelty anymore. It’s the way that we transact today, and brands need to approach the customer journey in a different manner so it doesn’t feel automated, even if it is on the backend.

EITK: Are there any interesting facts you can share about working for Groupon that most consumers don’t know?

FRANCISCO: Yes, something people might not know about us is the brand gifts employees these really cool classic Adidas jackets. I’ve been with the company for 12 years and have an entire collection of jackets I’ve received throughout my career. At the two-year, five-year, and 10-year marks, I was given a different one. In a way, the jackets exemplify your rank and I wear them very proudly. If you see a colleague walking around the office with a red Adidas jacket, you know this person is aware of what’s been happening in the past 10 years of the company. It’s a fun way of interacting with each other when it comes to our company culture and employee engagement.

EITK: What are a few key qualities of leaders who inspire you?

FRANCISCO: One of the qualities I’ve learned and try to incorporate is the focus on people. A manager once taught me that to truly drive a business’s success you can’t put the people aspect of your business second. She managed to drive business success by focusing exclusively on people. So, for me, I’m inspired by helping people to develop themselves and grow professionally. This has allowed me to create teams that are effective. Lifting others up is an inspiring and admirable trait.

The second quality has to do with being focused on the truth. Obviously, the truth needs to be handled with care, but it needs to be handled, nonetheless. I never want to steer away from the truth or fall into fallacies. Trust in people also drives business success. People tend to steer away from the truth because it can get ugly. Like many companies, Groupon recently had layoffs as part of cost-cutting measures meant to generate positive cash flow by the end of 2022. The best way to handle the situation was with the truth, explaining to people the reason behind the decision and supporting those we had to let go.

EITK: Even the most successful and productive leaders make outside interests and passions a top priority. How do you prefer to spend your leisure time?

FRANCISCO: I love to make music. It’s one of my biggest hobbies. As soon as I’m done with work for the day, I begin making music. I enjoy creating my own original music and working on other people’s music. It’s something that really energizes me and is equivalent to going to the gym or even going to therapy. I try to allocate 30 to 45 minutes every single day just focusing on music and just really enjoying the process of creating. It helps me disconnect from work because it’s an activity that requires so much of my focus that it really gets me out of the work machine.

However, even more important than the music is spending quality time with my family. I have a wife and a three-year-old daughter, so I try to spend as much time with them as possible.

EITK: Since joining the Execs In The Know “KIA” (Know It All) Online Community, what stands out about your experiences so far? What does the community mean to you?

FRANCISCO: I have grown fond of the Execs In The Know KIA Online community since joining, and I try to collaborate with other leaders whenever I can. I have made quite a few connections just because of KIA. There aren’t very many spaces out there within the industry like it, either. I treasure this amazing community because of that aspect and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead in the future.


Thank you to Francisco Toledo, Senior Director Global Operations at Groupon, for his leadership, participation, and insights. To connect with Francisco, or to participate in the wider conversation, consider joining the Execs In The Know “Know It All” (KIA) Community. The KIA Community is a private, online community designed exclusively for CX Leaders at consumer-facing brands. Come learn, share, network, and engage to innovate.

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