A public commitment to customer experience is the hot new industry buzz, even in B2B. The Chief Customer Officer title has become a key function in the C-Suite. It’s all driven by what’s often called the “Age of the Customer,” meaning the customer’s power and knowledge has been amplified, and the customer is the biggest determinant of brand perception, corporate reputation and product evangelism – versus the corporation itself.
A great customer experience program therefore starts with humility: genuinely listening to customers and acting on the feedback they offer you. Just as the customer displaced the marketing department as the prime driver of company reputation and product advocacy, customers are also challenging and disrupting traditional engineering functions.
Engineers become customer advocates
How can that be, when engineers have invested in technical degrees, architected complex technology and built elegant automations – all of which leads to solutions customers can’t usually solve themselves? The disruption that occurs is not that the customer is displacing the position of engineers as technical experts, but rather, one that has changed the engineers’ stance from instructors to guides. Looking through our own lens, our network architecture team is always working to innovate for the relentless market demand for bandwidth (big pipes), and combine them with efficiency gains (low cost) to design networks. We would tell customers where the network was going, and customers ideally follow.
Following the Customer’s lead to mutual success
Today things are different. Now, the network follows the customer. At Windstream Enterprise, our position has evolved to first understand where the customer is going with their business, what challenges they are trying to address, and then design a solution accordingly. We’ve dropped our assumption that we know what the customers wants. Now the mantra is solving for customer success.
While “Customer Success” used to be the domain of the Customer Relationship Managers and Customer Experience teams, we’ve committed our network and engineering organization to the same goals – ensuring that our solutions meet the customer’s strategic goals, and the KPI’s that they us to define them.
Conversation and careful listening is now the prime input for our architecture and network designs, a radical change in thinking, and a mandatory one in the Age of the Customer.
Maria Marino has lead product and customer experience innovations for over 20 years. She was worked in both the U.S. and European markets in a variety of technology and communications firms including MCI, Level 3, CenturyLink and now Windstream. Her passion is customer centricity, and bringing the voice of the customer into the DNA of an organization. At Level 3, she launched the company’s first wholesale Internet offering and first VOIP services. At CenturyLink she ran Customer Experience for the Enterprise division, launching new tools for customer listening including customer communities, and introduced methods like customer journey mapping to drive product innovation and design, and the requisite support models. Maria uses a formula of primary research to drive a deep understanding of the customer and the job they are trying to get done, coupled with the operational design to deliver, to drive market differentiation. She is currently Vice President of Enterprise Customer Experience at Windstream.