The Collective Wisdom of the 1to1 Customer Champions

Customer Experience
Customer Experience

This year's 1to1 Customer Champions had so many interesting things to say, we couldn't fit all their wisdom into one feature. Here's a sampling of what inspires our 1to1 Customer Champions, along with their hot-button issues, favorite business books, common roadblocks, and other challenges that keep them awake at night.

Mary Ellen Abreau, director of global technical support, iRobot

Hot-button issue
Social networking is the current hot button. It's hard to keep on top of all the different mechanisms that people use to communicate to you. We like to reach out to people to make sure they're getting the correct response from us. But there are so many different forms of communication that I'm finding it a challenge and an opportunity to reach out to people.

Best thing a customer ever said
"I can't live without it." Frequently they are disabled and elderly people and they say [the robots] improves their quality of life.

Favorite business book
Patricia Seybold's book Outside Innovation. She has written again about, how do you bring customers in? How do you embrace passionate customers and welcome them and turn around your customer and product strategy?

Shannon Balliet-Antorcha, Director, Database Marketing and Customer Data Integration, Carnival Cruise Lines

Hot button issue
"Currently, I think we have the same issue as everyone: How do we weather the economic condition and how are we doing? We've got some great pricing and promotional strategies."

Who inspires you?
"From a business perspective, CMO Jim Berra, who came onboard in October, is really a great mentor and leader. Every day I'm impressed by his ability to motivate everyone on the team, and crystallize strategic direction and organizational directives."

Impact on customer strategy
"I would say the implementation of our marketing automation and campaign management platform. It's given us the ability to be more personalized and relevant."

Sonja Buhrmann, Customer Centricity Officer, Telkom SA Limited

Best thing a customer ever said:
"You made me a smarter customer by the service that you delivered."

Hot button issue:
"It's a very Telkom-specific issue, but we're going through a huge restructuring, and a challenge we have is that we start these huge projects around customer units, and people see them as separate projects instead of one big cultural change."

Tim Collins, Senior Vice President of Experiential Marketing, Wells Fargo

The biggest roadblock you overcame in getting colleagues to embrace customer centricity:
The size of our company is probably our biggest challenge. Wells Fargo has well over 200,000 people. It's sometimes difficult to get back-office functions to understand how they contribute to the customer. At Wells Fargo we have a program called One Wells Fargo that asks everyone in the company how they contribute to the customer experience, even if they are in back-office functions that don't have day-to-day contact with them. That has really helped everyone in the company focus on the customer, and it's made a huge difference.

The best thing a customer ever said:
There have been several occasions where we solved a customer's problem that was identified through social media. They have responded along the lines of, "I'm going to tell all of my friends what you did for me." When you hear those kinds of things it really makes you feel satisfied in what you do for a living.

The biggest impact on your approach to customer strategy within the last year:
Customer adoption of emerging technologies. While many of them, like social media, SMS and mobile have been around for several years, we have seen an explosion of customer adoption. As an example, the fastest growing group on Facebook is women over age 55. It's not just young adults that are adopting these technologies. It's all age groups.

Favorite recent business book:
Guy Kawasaki wrote a book last year called Reality Check. I really liked it because it's very practical. Some books tend to be theoretical, but his book gives you tips that you can apply to your business immediately. It's practical, but if you've ever seen Guy speak or read his other books he's very funny too.

Perry Cooper, Senior Vice President of Digital and Direct Marketing and Fan Analytics, National Hockey League

Biggest roadblock to employees embracing customer centricity:
"Some of the principles that we find fundamental are the principles that you sometimes find people have the hardest time intellectualizing. Just the value of a relational database and a hub to understand horizontal behavior is difficult for some people to buy in to."

Best thing a customer ever said:
"Thank you. 'Thanks' is big coming from a customer, someone who calls you specifically and reaches out and explains why you connected with them."

Favorite recent business book:
"I read The Long Tail all the time; and it's been out for a while but it's something that's near and dear to my heart. Also, What Would Google Do?"

Rosemarie Donzanti, Senior Vice President, Customer Care, CVS Caremark

Hot button issue
What keeps me up more than anything else is having enough time at the time at the end of the day. We are in an organization that is proactive-it's transactional to consultative. How do we make sure that we're always providing quality at every telephone call?

My mom. She passed away in 1985. She said choose what you want to do and excel in it and find a purpose and have a passion around it.

Favorite business book
The business book that I'm really enjoying right now is "FYI For Your Improvement: A Guide for development and coaching."

M. Sirri Erkan, Deputy CEO, Isbank

Biggest challenge to getting colleagues to embrace customer centricity:
The biggest challenge has been stakeholder alignment. In a large organization like Isbank, where there are numerous opinion leaders and 19,000 employees, it was a challenge to align all these stakeholders' point of view around customer centricity.

However, Isbank's young workforce, with an average age of 31 and four years of seniority, has helped facilitate the transformation from the bottom up. There was already a big demand for change and performance culture from this young and dynamic population, which is helping to drive this large-scale transformation.

Barbara Graovac, Vice President, Client Services, Thompson Reuters Healthcare

I would say it's not a who, but it's a what: every interaction that I have in my personal and professional life; when I have an experience with a customer and when I'm a customer and had an experience.

Biggest roadblock:
I had to really convince my colleagues that the customer experience is a discipline that fits into the business and indirectly ties into the bottom line. It has hard metrics associated with that.

Business book:
Passionate and Profitable, by Lior Arussy. His thoughts on customer experience are aligned with mind. Everything from innovation to emotion connection really hit home with me and gave me insight and ideas around how to create a business case.

Fran Horner, Senior Director of Patient Access, NorthShore University HealthSystem

Biggest impact on customer strategy right now:
"Customer expectations and the economy. You don't think of healthcare as being competitive, but it's very competitive. Patients want to know what things cost; in the past you just listened to what your doctor said to have done. Today patients are shopping around because there are contractual issues and complexities in the rates from various insurers and they're concerned about that."

Current hot-button issue:
"Patient safety always keeps me up at night. Most people can't excuse a mistake that's made in healthcare because of how greatly it impacts them."

Biggest roadblock to embracing customer centricity in your organization:
"This was a big hurdle to move from physicians saying 'my patient' to us saying 'our patient' and earning their trust, scheduling these complex procedures. They didn't think it was possible that a non-clinical person could serve patients in this way."

Who inspires you?
"My young employees inspire me, my Gen-Y'ers who aren't afraid of challenges and question the status-quo. They pursue life-work balances and don't make excuses for it. They really are looking for innovative ways to do things fast, and they excel in this environment, where we allow them to think independently. And, their technical savvy is remarkable."

Ron Kelly, Vice President, Customer Service,

Biggest Roadblock:
Companies get so caught up in basket size, revenue, and margin...all that is important but none of that matters if you don't provide great service to those customers. Quite honestly, it sounds simple but because contact centers can be seen as cost centers, it's a challenge to overcome. You have to continue to voice how critical it is. I can bring real-life customer examples of what they like and don't like. By continuing to pound that into the organization, it helps us focus on issues to help us solve problems.

Lance Armstrong. His commitment to what he does's amazing. His commitment to his social causes certainly is inspiring...and seeing what he's done in that community and how he's changed the expectation of those people is pretty inspiring.

Favorite business book
Dog Poop Initiative. It will take you 15 minutes to read. It speaks to the initiative of a team and personal accountability. It is based on these kids playing soccer and piles of dog poop. No one was actually getting rid of it. It's such a metaphor for what happens in business. People see issues and point at them, but never do anything about it. If you're going to come to me with problems, you have to come to me with solutions.

Om Kundu, First Vice President, Treasury and Payments Solutions, Product Management, SunTrust

I will say that the day-to-day experiences...ultimately is what stands out. I think they constantly inspire me to do my part every day in creating both short- and long-term value and ultimately position the business in a trajectory to respond to changing market conditions.

Hot-button issue
t is in our ability to transform complexity into simplicity on the behalf of our clients and customers. Within financial services, not completely unlike industry verticals, there is increasing complexity.

Favorite business book
Of the many, two stand out. The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson, is really talking about our evolution toward a more personalized way of doing business to create greater value for the customer. From a financial perspective I think When Markets Collide is interesting. Hindsight is 20/20 and no predictions are absolutely the future. I do think the best way to predict the future is helping to create it with your team and that is what we aspire to do every day.

Robert Pearson, Vice President of E-Commerce, Future Shop

Best thing a customer ever said:
One of the challenges I've always had as a retailer doing online commerce is that you're not directly on the frontline with the customer. You don't always get to hear directly from them. One of the best things customers said to us after we launched our community forum was how great an idea it was that they could actually now communicate directly with us. That's one of the better things that's happened in my online career.

Biggest impact on customer strategy this past year:
Social media strategy and just being able to communicate and bring the community experience online is one of our big learnings. We're trying to blur the lines between the online and offline experience, and the online community as a social media play is one of those pieces. We're looking at how to integrate other tools like Facebook and Twitter into our own site and into the community. We see a lot of promise in that space. It's really transforming how we're communicating with our customers when they're not in our stores.

Biggest roadblock you overcame in customer centricity:
Being transparent is a big leap to initially take when you're suggesting in a social media environment that being totally open and totally transparent is the way to go. Gaining trust from the consumer that you're not afraid of receiving feedback and insight, and airing them out in a public way is probably one of the bigger challenges to overcome. As people see the tool in use and see the customers talking to us they quickly change their mind and that fear is overcome.

Hot-button issue:
Striving to meet the customers' needs around convenience. Canada is a large country, and we have a large area to ship within. Meeting the customers' needs and getting that delivery to their door is one of the issues that keeps me up late at night. We're striving to improve the customer service around that experience.

Who inspires you and why?
As a customer advocate I would have to say the customer inspires me. I think that's an important person to have, as a retailer, inspire you. They continue to in new ways. I know their expectations will change over time, which makes my role so interesting and challenging. It wouldn't be any one individual, but it would collectively be the customer.

Stuart Roesel, Director, Loyalty and Retention, Earthlink

Current hot-button issue:
Earthlink's number one priority is our ability to retain our customers.... Why do customers stay with Earthlink? How do we continue to get better? I don't think you can ever just sit back and let it ride. You have to go after it every single day and it's a continual learning process. It's like getting to know somebody. What else can I learn about you?

Biggest impact on your customer strategy in the past year:
Research, and how we use research. We do research to learn how [customers] use the Internet, why they use the Internet, and get back to relevant messaging, targeting, and so forth. Those are some of the things that have really impacted our overall strategy in terms of the types of programs we're doing. Now we're laser focused on how we do things in the company.

Biggest roadblock overcome in getting colleagues to embrace customer centricity:
We were a sales-volume, product-focused company. There were a lot of siloed efforts. We were blessed in that we had a CEO that was adamant about making changes swiftly. That was great.

Each employee needs to understand how they impact that customer on a daily basis. It's an ongoing process.... You really have to show them why, and engage them. They've got to walk the walk. They have to be passionate about what they're doing. That's a process and it was challenge for us. We've worked through it with reinforcement, and coming from the top down was important.

Harris Simmons, Chairman, President, and CEO, Zions Bancorporation

Hot button issue:
"Navigating through this recession in a way that preserves value for our shareholders but also attends to the needs and problems our customers are experiencing."

Best thing a customer ever said:
"I didn't expect to speak to the CEO of the company on a Saturday when I called."

Biggest impact on customer strategy currently:
"It's been the uncertainty around the economy as reflected by the media, and consequently a need to do a lot of reaching out, making sure everyone is speaking to customers and understanding what their problems are so we can be as helpful as possible and help them understand that we're sound and well-capitalized."

Who inspires you?
"There have been a number of people in my life, but first and foremost my father, who was my predecessor in this job. He inspires me because he started with nothing and was really self-made."

Stormy Simon, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Customer Care,

Hot-button issue:
Right now it's our return process. I want to ensure that when a customer returns a product, whether a DVD or a desk, we provide them with an easy, inexpensive, and efficient process that takes the stress off of them.

Biggest roadblock you overcame in getting colleagues to embrace customer centricity:
Many organizations will say that customer service is a place to cut costs, and they can always shave a couple seconds off that phone call, use a different technology, or cut a few agents and make the customer wait longer. Overstock doesn't feel that way. We acknowledge the costs that we put in the customer center as an investment. Once we all adopted the idea that there was a cost to providing good customer service, it made a big difference.

Best thing a customer ever said to you:
It evolves every day. We have "agent kudos" that I see every time a customer writes in and congratulates us on great customer service. Just in the past week a customer wrote in and said, "It's because of your agents that I will continue to do business with you. I had a problem with an order, and the way your team resolved it ensured that I'll be a lifetime customer, and I'll tell my friends and family."

Biggest impact on your customer strategy in the past year:
Consumer behavior is changing because of the economy and other factors. It's important to keep employees informed of that changing behavior. We need to understand that our customers' lives and behaviors are changing, and we have to adapt to serve and accommodate that.

Who inspires you and why?
Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock inspires our organization. We have hundreds of employees, and they tick because they believe in Patrick's vision - not just the retail vision but also his worldly vision. That includes making sure people in third-world countries have jobs, which is what we do with our Worldstock program. He goes out on his own and builds schools all over the world and names them after his mom. Our training center is also named after Patrick's mom. He gives us all a platform to further our education. To see him lead this organization the way he does is absolutely inspirational.