Q&A With Phil Bienert, SVP Consumer Digital Experience, AT&T

It’s amazing to me how many times the telecommunications industry came up as we did the research for our new book, Outside In. From wireless service providers to cable companies, whether in the US, Germany, or Australia, it became clear that customer experience is the battleground of the immediate future for the companies that bring us our voice, data, and entertainment content.

That’s why I’m so excited to bring Phil Bienert to the stage of our Customer Experience Forum 2012 East next week. Phil is a longtime customer experience advocate and expert, whom we first met when he worked at Volvo. He’s always been a clear thinker and visionary when it comes to digital experiences, and he’s now bringing that thinking and vision to AT&T.

In advance of his speech, we put some questions to Phil about what AT&T is trying to do and how it’s planning to do it. Some of his answers will surprise you. Enjoy! Phil Bienert

How would you describe the experience that you want AT&T customers to have?

Effortless. Customers interact with AT&T across many touchpoints — online, mobile apps, our call centers, and more than 2,300 retail stores — and it’s essential that we make all of these interactions seamless, within touchpoints and across touchpoints, each and every time. We want to make it easy for customers to do business with us, however they prefer to contact us, and to get their question taken care of the first time.

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Q&A With Kevin Peters, President, North America, Office Depot

Yesterday I wrote a post inspired by insight from Kevin Peters of Office Depot. Today we’re going to hear from the man himself!

My co-author (Kerry Bodine) and I were so impressed by what Kevin’s been doing to reinvent customer experience at his company that we open our upcoming book with a case study about him. We’re also fortunate to have him to speak at our Customer Experience Forum 2012 East in New York just a week from today (June 26th).

Whether you’re going to get a chance to hear Kevin speak next week or not, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the insight he provides in his answers to some questions we sent him. My favorite nugget: Depot Time!

So without further ado . . . heeeeeere’s Kevin!

1.  How would you describe the experience that you want Office Depot customers to have?

We care about providing solutions, not just selling products. At the end of the day, we need our customers more than they need us. That philosophy must guide everything that we do. Our customers must feel that their business is valuable to us. To that end:

  • They are greeted at the front door and feel welcomed and appreciated.
  • Their success is our success.
  • Their problems are our challenges to be solved.
  • They are recognized and remembered when they return.
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You Need Your Customer More Than Your Customers Need You

Customers today have more choices than ever. Not only that, they have more information about those choices than ever. And they can get that information anytime, anywhere, and on whatever device they happen to be using at the moment. These changes have collectively put customers in the driver’s seat.

If you’re a fan of strategy guru Michael Porter, you can think of this as a shift in one of his five forces of competition: buyer power. But even without a sophisticated analytical framework, you can feel this change in your daily life. That’s because you’re a customer, too, by virtue of the fact that you buy goods and services, day in and day out.

Try comparing the power you used to have as a customer with the power you have today. I recently tried this exercise by comparing the way I picked my bank in 1998 — when I  moved to the Boston area for a job — with the options I have for picking a bank today.

In June of ’98, I wanted to switch to a local-area bank but didn’t know where to begin. I dreaded doing the research on top of moving my home and starting a new job. The woman who recruited me suggested that I sign up with Bank Boston because it had the most ATMs in our area. With a sense of relief, I did just that and went on with my life.

Over the intervening years, Bank Boston was acquired by Fleet Bank, which was later acquired by Bank of America. Today that makes me a Bank of America customer, even though I never decided to do business with it. Fortunately, the relationship has worked out okay. But what if it stopped being okay and I wanted to switch? How hard would it be to pick a new bank and switch in 2012?

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