The Customer Confidential Podcast
Cable companies connect people to the world via the Internet, their phones and TV. Given the central role they play in their customers’ lives, you might think they would love their cable companies. Of course, it’s no secret that they don’t. Consumer telecommunications generally include some of the least-liked companies across all industries.
Cable company executives know they have shaky relationships with many customers. In fact, most have been working to improve their customer experience. And one or two are taking truly radical steps to improve. Comcast, one of the biggest Internet providers in the US, is among those working hardest to earn customers’ trust and loyalty. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Charlie Herrin, Comcast’s chief customer experience officer. He’s helping lead one of the biggest Net Promoter turnarounds that I have ever seen.
In this excerpt from our discussion, Charlie shares what it took to get started:
ROB MARKEY: What mandate were you given when you first took the role? What did you and [then-Comcast CEO] Neil Smit work out?
CHARLIE HERRIN: We actually said it was three-year goal. We revealed that plan in May of 2015. So we went to the board of directors. We went to our business counterparts and our functional leads in the business. We went to the employees and said, “Look, these are the kinds of things we're going to be delivering over the next three years.” And we had a framework for that.
We knew we were going to have to do some investments. And we expected those investments to pay off. But we didn't say, “Year one's got to be a big payback.”
ROB MARKEY: That’s unusual for a public company.
CHARLIE HERRIN: It is. But this had been going on for a while. For example, in one of our divisions, they had already hired a customer experience person. They had been doing this for a while. And so we understood that good customer experience is good business. And there are lots of calls we are going to take out, which we did.
We had good business models. But it really was, “Let's lay out a program and let's be realistic with the program, that it's going to take some time to get there.” And so my first five or six months on the job, I spent a lot of time talking to other companies that had been through turnarounds.
ROB MARKEY: What were the goals that you laid out when you started?
CHARLIE HERRIN: I wanted a customer measure that we could incorporate into our business thinking. Just as we make business decisions at a revenue and profit and product perspective, I wanted a customer measure to be part of that discussion. So that was goal one.
We wanted to start to turn the tide on what our Net Promoter Score® would be, and start to see some movement in other external polls, whether it be ACSI or J.D. Power, et cetera.
ROB MARKEY: So agreement on a metric that everybody could rally around was No. 1.
CHARLIE HERRIN: Right.
ROB MARKEY: No. 2 is improvement against that metric and others.
CHARLIE HERRIN: That's right. And then the third was the bad volume. The calls, truck rolls. What can we take out of our business that is costing us money, causing customer's frustration, and it's just not productive. And the first year we really laid out pilot programs. And our intention was to show those pilot programs would work and then start to scale them in years two and three.
Charlie’s story of cultural, operational and technological transformation demonstrates the breadth of change required in a company that badly needs a customer experience turnaround. His approach to getting started, and the early steps he and the Comcast team took can be a powerful lesson to anyone trying to make dramatic improvements in their customer experience while also delivering solid bottom-line results.
Net Promoter®, Net Promoter System®, Net Promoter Score® and NPS® are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.