For the past half decade we've honored executives who believe in treating customers in a way that builds loyalty and engagement as 1to1 Customer Champions. In doing so we've built a community of customer advocates unlike any other.
This year we introduce 15 new 1to1 Customer Champions. As in previous years these executives each have a unique approach to customer centricity. It may be through creating a compelling
customer experience or digging into data or building organizational alignment around customer-focused goals-or through a combination of these or other strategies. And even though they hail from
industries as varied as automotive, CPG, financial services, and manufacturing, they all share the belief that customers are a
precious asset. They all evangelize customer value in their
organizations. And never satisfied with the status quo, they all
continually look for new ways to improve the customer experience in ways that benefit both company and customer.
Let us introduce you to these 15 amazing leaders...
- Boyd Beasley, Electronic Arts
- Artie Bulgrin, ESPN
- Bruce Bauman, Avery Dennison
- Aaron Cano, 1-800-Flowers
- Mike Fasulo, Sony
- Shannon Hosford, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment
- Tom Insprucker, Schneider Electric U.S.
- Liliahn Johnson, National Basketball Association
- Janet LeBlanc, Canada Post
- David Norton, Harrah's Entertainment
- Tony Parrottino, Saturn
- Don Quigley, Kimberly-Clark
- Ian Sutcliffe, Westpac New Zealand
- Brett Yormark, The New Jersey Nets Sports & Entertainment
- Chris Zane, Zanes Cycles
Boyd Beasley is all about straight talk. He doles it out himself, and he expects it from his employees and customers alike. That frankness is what allows Electronic Arts to get to the root of issues that impact both employee and customer engagement.
"I try to build a personal relationship with my employees so that they feel confident enoughto tell me what they're frustrated with," he says. As someone who rose through the ranks at EA, starting as a CSR himself, he makes no bones about who really understands the game company's customers. "It's all the frontline people, the ones interacting with the customers. If you believe you can learn more from a textbook or from just talking to managers, you're going to make lots of mistakes and annoy a lot of employees.
"The really good frontline guys will tell you what's good, what's bad, and what's ugly about your business," he continues.
Given Beasley's attitude, it logically follows that he introduced a process that involves customer support in the product development process to give their insights, as well as to get an early heads up on new products or features the team will be supporting. Nipping potential headaches-for players and EA customer support alike-is crucial to EA's customer experience.
"You want to satisfy your customers," he says. "Sometimes just meeting the customers' expectations will allow you to get by, but you're not building the brand loyalty or company evangelists as you would if you're exceeding those expectations. I've never been satisfied with the status quo."
One aspect of surpassing expectations for the outspoken Beasley is speaking plainly with customers to get to the core of their issues.
"You get wild card customers from time to time, especially in this business," he says. "They're passionate, and I'm passionate. So when these customers come up I try to get them to my desk and talk them off the ledge. Sometimes it's within our control."
But, he adds, some customers get caught in a never-satisfied phase. To them, Beasley says, "I'm not above telling them in great detail how much revenue we make from them versus how much it costs me to answer the questions they keep asking, and I recommend that they go play someone else's games. What we've found is when it gets to that point, it becomes a sanity check for people. They begin to understand.
"For the most part I've found that when you're honest and upfront with customers, you can bring them around," he says. "And almost every time I've told a customer to take their business elsewhere, they have rechecked their experience and not wanted to leave."
-- Kevin Zimmerman
Artie Bulgrin has a standard line that he tells new employees on his research staff: "Research is like a kitchen knife-you're more likely to injure yourself with a blunt object than with a sharp one."
As senior vice president of research and sales development at ESPN, Bulgrin is committed to delivering reliable information, and he makes sure his staff is too. "Nothing is worse than bad information because it will lead to bad decisions," he explains.
Delivering reliable research is integral to Bulgrin's pursuit of what he calls "The Holy Grail," which is to accurately understand consumers' behaviors across channels and the effects of cross-media interaction.
According to Bulgrin, ESPN research differs from competitors like Time Warner, Fox, and Viacom in that the company doesn't separate its research across its various properties. It's centralized in one department. Bulgrin's charge is to ensure his group is combining all media and analyzing the reach across all platforms-ESPN.com, print, TV, radio. "We do it that way because there are more similarities across everything we do," he says. "We are one brand serving the customer. It helps to understand the brand and the drivers of the brand."
It's also about gaining customer insight. "It's about us understanding what they want and then creating something to satisfy that need," Bulgrin says. "The bottom line is, if we don't have an accurate understanding of our consumer, we go out of business."
Bulgrin also ensure that his team's findings are effectively communicated throughout the organization so ESPN can respond to pressing issues. For example, last year Bulgrin used ethnography to study households with DVRs to see if they were recording sporting events and actually playing them back. TiVo had been claiming that such events were the most recorded type of show, which was affecting commercial ratings. Bulgrin and his team discovered that yes, many people recorded sports, but mostly as an insurance policy. They often never watch the recording after the event. Because of this finding, Bulgrin convinced the entertainment industry to adopt a new currency of commercial ratings, showing proof that people are watching sports live, so there's no risk of commercial erosion.
And while Bulgrin knows that 102 million Americans are logging on to ESPN.com for an average of 48 minutes per day, his ultimate goal is to understand how to measure their behavior to retain brand strength, to develop a more effective method of determining cross-media usage, and to understand how to better leverage new platforms, like mobile, to gather feedback from customers. He's charged his staff to think about ways to achieve this. "We simply have to be better," he says. "We have the share of mind, but we have to deliver on the expectations."
-- Mila D'Antonio
As a "B2B2C" company, much of Avery Dennison's focus is necessarily on its retailer customers. Bruce Bauman's priority, however, "is about looking at the end user," he says.
The key is to make Avery meaningful and relevant so consumers will engage in a conversation, Bauman says. "Most people, when they hear 'Avery,' they think labels," he says. "There's not a single consumer out there who really understands the full breadth of what we have. [We need to] understand how to connect with them at relevant moments to fully realize the potential of our various categories."
Some of the tactics Avery uses are online templates and other downloads; special offers to try new products (binders, labels, etc.); online demos (everything from making business cards and scrap booking to "easy peel" mailing labels and filing labels); and free product sample kits with business cards, labels, and highlighter pens.
"The one thing that's been a tremendous opportunity for us is that anybody using our products is most likely sitting at a computer, connected to the Internet. That has allowed us to dramatically change not only how we go to market, but also to connect in a much more powerful and relevant way with our consumers."
Ultimately making that connection is the basis for everything Bauman tries to do. "There's absolutely no question that customers better be at the center of your thinking and your strategy," he says. "The practice we've put in place has been to move from having the product being the center to having the consumer being the center, and my team becomes an orchestrator for that. It's about recognizing that we're reaching the same consumer over a longer period of time, versus thinking of everything as a product-centric, one-off, single-event, communication opportunity."
Putting into practice that philosophy of connecting with consumers requires education on both sides of the transaction, he says. Taking on the challenge of educating Avery executives on how to build a lasting relationship with the company' customers has been a rewarding experience. "It really has been one of those wonderful situations of seeing where you can dramatically change a company's thinking by shifting how they're viewing the market," he says, "bringing it back to that consumer and understanding how to better connect [him]."
The other challenge-of actually making that connection with the end customer-has been a little trickier. "Some of what we take the most pride in is the magic that occurs when you really get inside the consumer's head and connect to them on an emotional level...getting them to relate to [a product] at a moment when it's important to them; that's when you really have the power. That's been the challenge and the fun."
-- Kevin Zimmerman