Charlie Herrin was upset about an error message customers were receiving on their cable system: “This isn’t working. Call 1-800 COMCAST.”
Associate Director at C Space
Dan Sills produces C Space’s customer experience podcast, Outside In, which The Huffington Post called one of “The 7 Best Business Podcasts You Should Be Listening To” and Entrepreneur included in a list of “Best Podcasts for Entrepreneurs.” When he’s not locked in an edit suite, Dan talks at Story Slams and was a 2016 grandSLAM finalist for cult storytelling circle The Moth.
At the time Charlie was the head of product development, 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.
Charlie’s deep knowledge of the product, and passion about customers’ experience with it, got him noticed by senior execs at the company. So, when it was time to appoint someone to lead Comcast’s customer experience, they chose Charlie — even though he had no customer service background. It was now his responsibility to solve one of the biggest CX challenges of all time: turn the world’s largest cable company into one of the world’s best customer experiences.
Charlie started this transformation in 2014, and for the last few years, that’s what Charlie’s been doing. Recently, he sat down on the Outside In podcast to talk about the progress he’s made and the lessons he’s learned along the way.
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 also 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. And, 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 is on itis 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.
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