Verizon Had to Figure Out How to Listen to Its Customers “Smarter”

During her session, “Raising the Bar On CX: How Verizon Rocked Its Scores,” during the Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals East in New York City last week, Nancy B. Clark, Senior Vice President, Head Of Operational Excellence Organization, Verizon, told attendees that Customer Experience is at the core of Verizon’s culture, but company officials needed to deliver on that experience in an entirely new way.

“I’ve seen where our employees work hard to deliver on the Customer Experience customer by customer, but many times the systems, the processes, and the policies get in their way,” Clark said. “We know there is a significant amount of work to do to get to a truly differentiated Customer Experience. In our credo, the word customers shows up 10 times. We had to figure out how to listen smarter.”

About 2 ½ years ago, Clark said, Verizon implemented its Voice of the Customer initiative.

“We established a center of excellence at the corporate level,” Clark said. “We streamlined multiple processes and systems to collect input from all our customer touch points, market analytics, and social media. And we set up a network operations center called Verizon Central Insights—a one-stop shop for aggregating customer insights and making them visible to decision-makers. This has been a whole new way to look at marketplace information and make faster, smarter decisions. We now have a way to take what can sound like chaos … filter out the noise so we can hear what customers really care about … and turn it into intelligence our people can use to solve problems.”

Clark said the initiative helps Verizon employees zero in on the pain points that drive customer dissatisfaction, “and by using the tools we’ve learned through Verizon Lean Six Sigma, we can mobilize the organization to address them.” 

Here’s an example Clark offered:

“Through our retail stores, we sell millions of wireless devices, most of them smartphones. All too often, customers were returning their phones thinking they were defective and asking for a replacement device—at rates that were much higher than we were accustomed to back in the days of the simple flip phone. Keep in mind, this was happening at more than 1,700 Verizon Wireless stores across the country, every day. This was a huge pain for customers … a huge frustration for employees …. and a huge expense for Verizon.

Using voice of the customer, we spent many hours listening to and analyzing customer calls to find out what customers were reporting was wrong with their device. Then we had our engineers try to replicate the problems in our centralized testing labs.

We found that the issues fell into two categories: First, there were device problems, so we set up Verizon Lean Six Sigma process-improvement projects to work with device manufacturers to engineer the hardware and software problems out of the devices. Second, there were training and education problems. Neither our reps nor our customers fully understood what to expect from the new generation of smartphones. So we also set up process-improvement projects to better train our service personnel, so they in turn could better educate our customers.

All in all, we had more than 20 separate process-improvement projects to continually fine-tune the issues we had uncovered. As a result, even with huge increases in our customer base, in device complexity, and in customer reliance on cell phones, the number of phones we have had to replace has decreased by almost 70% since 2009.”

Clark said Verizon focuses outward on the customer, not inward.

“We have six to seven million interactions each day,” she said. “For us, Customer Experience can’t just be a slogan. We have to execute on it through employees, across geographies, and across businesses literally millions of times a day. Let’s apply our strong engineering background and apply it to Customer Experience.”

Clark compared Verizon employees to firefighters each day, putting out customer “fires” each day.

Another key customer pain point has been technicians arriving on schedule. Clark said Verizon solicited feedback about this from customers and the company found that many customers are mechanically inclined and can take advantage of self-installs – so much so that “we’ve done from 11,000 self-installs to 200,000,” Clark said.

What’s more, technicians are equipped with tablets that have helped increase the customer experience.

“We have new Smart stores in 130 locations,” Clark said. “The typical customer only uses about 10% of the capabilities of a smartphone. We have new roles for employees, training, and new measurements of success. We have an employee innovation engine to capture ideas from employees and two innovation centers in Boston and San Francisco to partner suppliers, customers, and enterprises. The last line of our credo is: Our best is good for today and that’s what we hope to do. Tomorrow, we’ll do better.”

About the Author: Mark Johnson

Mark is CEO & CMO of Loyalty 360. He has significant experience in selling, designing and administering prepaid, loyalty/CRM programs, as well as data-driven marketing communication programs.

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