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Comcast EVP On Reducing Effort, Making Connections In An Omnichannel World

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Brian Cantor

This past Thursday, Comcast's EVP of Customer Service Tom Karinshak delivered a presentation at the 19th Customer Contact Week in Las Vegas.  The presentation received strong marks from the thousands in attendance.

Prior to delivering that resonant presentation, Karinshak discussed the omnichannel revolution with CCW Digital.

Specifically, he demonstrated his organization's commitment to meeting customers -- and then delivering legitimate value -- "where they are."  Through journey maps, emphasis on the voice of the customer and new technology, Comcast works to deliver an easy, yet wholly engaging experience at each touch point.  Celebration comes not from being in every channel but from being customer-centric in every channel -- at all times.

Highlights from the discussion follow:

Social and mobile interactions are fundamentally different than voice conversations. So, when we preach the idea of “consistency” in the omnichannel era, what are we really advocating? Surely, we’re not saying the phone experience should precisely mirror the Twitter experience?

Consistency is integral to creating an excellent experience for our customers. We offer optionality so that customers can interact with us in their preferred channel and the data set and next best action should be consistent across all of those channels. Many of our customers prefer digital, which is why we continue to create and build out digital options. The experience of a customer who interacts with us on Twitter might be different in some ways from a customer who calls in but we strive for consistency in the overall customer experience. Our training programs emphasize certain behaviors that can be communicated in both voice and digitally such as “Be warm and friendly” and “Own” the resolution.

It’s easy to say “honor customer preferences.” That can, of course, be quite tricky in practice. We may not know what customers want. We may not be able to give it to them. Customers, meanwhile, may not have enough information about their issue or our business to HAVE sound preferences. So, what does it take to overcome those issues – and give customers the right experience at the right touchpoint? 

Our goal is to meet our customers where they are. We provide our customers many different ways to reach us including a variety of digital options. We also listen to our customers’ feedback every day and make operational and technological improvements in line with what they are telling us about how they want to interact. It should be easy for our customers to get what they need, when they need it and where they want it. It was customer feedback that led to the launch in 2017 of RealTime Assist, our SMS service messaging platform, that proactively texts customers real-time information about their installation process, repair appointment or equipment update. We engaged more than 6 million customers with RealTime Assist last year and the low opt-out rates and strong NPS tell us this is a preferred interaction for many of our customers.

What are the greatest “pain points” customers tend to face when they interact in digital channels?

Many customers who reach us through our digital channels often expect an instant response, similar to an instant message exchange. While our Xfinity Virtual Assistant, which is in our My Account platform and Facebook Messenger, is able to respond to a customer immediately, reaching a digital care agent may not be instant. Although our team’s response rate is one of the best in the industry, we are always working to make our response as close to immediate as possible. It is also extremely important to make sure that these digital interactions maintain the right voice and tone to match the situation, while always relaying accurate information. If we need to transition a customer from one channel to another, we need to make that as painless as possible and ensure the new interaction does not require the customer to start from the beginning.

  Everyone knows about the importance of “journey mapping.” But how do you actually make use of those maps? What are some ways your organization is orchestrating journeys based on customer intent? 

From a strategic perspective, we’ve used journeys to help us get to the ideal customer experience. We’ve set some pretty high goals for ourselves in terms of changing our culture and our customers’ perception of us, and we knew we had to rally all of our employees around those goals. To do that, we identified core journeys that focused on various aspects of our customers’ interactions with us and defined what the right experience would be if we were starting from scratch. From there, we developed a multi-year path aimed at transforming our business. Each journey map identifies the key pain points and principles we want to solve for and sets the framework for how we do business. We socialized it with employees from the executive level down to front-line leadership, and we engaged employees from across the business to participate in the work streams. From a tactical perspective, we use the journey maps to keep us on track, making sure the tasks and projects we are focused on are continuing to advance the journey. As we close out some of the larger initiatives within each journey map, we re-engage the business and identify the next big project or program that can drive the journey forward. Business changes more rapidly than ever, and the journey mapping process gives us a foundation for change, tuning, optimization, and helps us adapt in an agile and quicker way.

When we say “digital channels can be quicker, easier and more convenient,” we’re almost being reductive. We’re essentially presuming voice conversations, while less efficient, are superior from an engagement standpoint. Are there any situations in which digital can actually lead to more meaningful experiences? How might AI, AR or VR technology contribute to that? 

There are many types of transactions that we’ve been handling via voice conversations or voice automation for years that really don’t lend themselves all that well to voice. An example in our business would be the process of rescheduling an appointment. Having a voice agent or an IVR walk the customer through the various different available appointments is not nearly as simple as letting a customer see the options. Customers who complete this sort of transaction in a digital channel give much higher NPS scores than customers using the traditional voice channels. Second, our ability to leverage AI and ML to bring more contextual information into certain interactions is giving us the ability to predict the necessary steps required to resolve a customer problem, making a digital “conversation” essentially identical to what a voice agent would walk the customer through.