Charlie Herrin was upset about an error message customers were receiving on their cable system: “This isn’t working. Call 1-800-COMCAST.”
At the time Herrin was the head of product design and development for Comcast Cable, and he knew the message should have been: “We are aware this isn’t working. Here’s the phone number we have for you. We’ll text you when it’s fixed.” A proactive message would take the onus off of customers—and the customer service call center—saving everyone a ton of hassle and frustration.
Herrin’s deep knowledge of the product, and passion about customers’ experience with it, got him noticed by senior execs at Comcast. So when it was time to appoint someone to lead the company’s customer experience, he was a natural choice, even though he had no background in customer service or experience. It was now his responsibility to solve one of the biggest CX challenges of all time: turn the world’s largest cable operator into one of the world’s best customer experiences.
He began Comcast’s transformation in 2014, partnering with leaders across all business units to transform the customer experience and ensure that customers are at the center of every business decision. He leads a Customer Experience Services organization that includes the National Customer Service Operations, Technical Operations and the Chief Information Officer and his team, who work collaboratively to promote a consistent experience for customers across the company.
Herrin sat down with the Outside In podcast to chat with Charles Trevail, CEO of the Interbrand Group of Companies, about the progress he’s made and the lessons he’s learned along the way. Some highlights from their conversation (listen to more above):
You have a product development background and now you have the role of Chief Customer Experience Officer. How does that work?
For any good product experience, you’re looking for customers’ unmet needs. You’re trying to reduce friction. You’re trying to introduce surprise moments and delight. And you’re trying to drive consistency and convenience. Those are all the things any of us want out of a customer experience. And we’ve taken that approach not only with how our customers interact with our products, but also how our employees can get their work done as well.
You have a future focus while also having a tactical hands-on approach to customer care. How do you combine that all together?
We really looked at how are we going to embed customer input into every decision we make. How are we going to automate the things that we can automate to make that experience better? And ultimately, how are we going to get that into the products themselves so that they’re self-healing and that the experience isn’t breaking? Then, how do we employ a set of tools to all of our workers and employees that’s every bit as good as our product? We’re putting the same type of investment, focus and care into what employees use to get the job done as we would launching a feature on a product.
How do you get regular input from customers?
We had one of the largest rollouts of the Net Promoter System in the country. I really wanted to make sure that we have an unvarnished feedback mechanism from the customer that is coming into every decision we make. We spent the first two years rolling out that system and getting comfortable with it. Now, when I go into a P&L review every month, typically the first thing we’re talking about is customer experience. Where are we? How are we doing?
I’m very focused on employee participation in that system. A big piece of the Net Promoter System is regular huddle times with employees and listening to what is blocking them—we call those “elevations.” We’ve done quite a bit of development, and even technology development, to make that smooth so that, for example, an idea that’s coming from the frontline in Houston about a hurricane is going to get addressed, listened to and looked at. It’s not going into a black hole. That’s given employees a real sense of ownership, as well as assuring them that all levels of the organization are participating in the system.
What’s an example of a problem—big or small—that your team has solved quickly?
In our NPS pilot system we did in a billing call center out in Minnesota, one of the elevations that came up with employees was that when customers sign up for autopay, it wasn’t taking right away. Customers may get a bill and ignore it because they signed up for autopay, and then call us when everything’s all messed up because they’ve missed their payment.
We went back to our billing partner and said, ‘We’ve got to fix this. The employees are having tough conversations, which are hard to explain as to why that would happen.’ The answer I got back was, Well, that’ll be on the road map. We’ve got it. We understand it. It will be fixed in six months.
I said, ‘No. We’ve got to do this now.’ And so we were able to work with that company to put in a quick fix. It was so meaningful to go back to that call center and hear from the employees, ‘Thank you for listening. My job means a lot more to me. I don’t have to have those horrible conversations again about something that’s not really excusable. I believe in this system.’
I’m proud that as a company we’re embracing this. The fact that everyone’s on it is what gives me the confidence that we’ll continue to get better and better. But you’re also impacting people’s lives. Employees’ lives. In a big way.
Daniel Sills is the producer for the Outside In with Charles Trevail podcast, which explores the strategies and philosophies of brand leaders and the consumer trends happening in the world that people need to know.
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