Marni: Hi, this is Marni Edelhart, Producer of the Pivot Conference, on the line with Justin Reilly, Head of Customer Experience, Innovation at Verizon Fios. Justin Reilly is an entrepreneur, innovator, strategist and thought leader passionate about the intersection of marketing, product and consumer experience. At Verizon, he is responsible for digital strategy and innovation, five year customer centric growth and CX practice maturity for the Fios brand. Hi Justin.
Justin: Hey Marni, happy to be here.
Marni: Very happy to have you. I would like to start by asking you when innovating on the customer experience where do you start, considering the ever increasing number of touch points?
Justin: Yeah, it’s a great question. It’s something that we tend to think about a lot at Verizon. And I think the best way that we have found a place to start and kind of think about is two different paths. So in a lot of the work that we we’ll do, you will see relative incremental return and then in the other sets of work and sets of work streams, you will see roughly 10X return. So an example of that is you may have an account experience that is under-serving your customers at a given touch point. And inside that experience, platform, infrastructure, people, process, you could realize incremental return by redesigning the experience, cleaning up some platform issues, streamlining people and process. And that very well may be the place you start.
But then you have to ask yourself should this even be an account experience at all? Or is there something else that serves this customer need that is something entirely different. For example you may have a traditional app experience with a dashboard menu structure and say, “hey this is the best way we can solve this to date”. And you may say “hey, well, we could redesign this, clean this up a little bit, and we get extra X return and solve this touch point”. But if you step outside yourself, outside of what you’ve already built, you may see that, a conversational UX user experience may actually solve this problem for the customer in a much more contextual simple manner. And that may do away with your kind of existing experience or existing touch point. And so it’s often a decision of looking across your customer journey and finding places to incrementally improve a given touch point, but balancing that with completely reimagining the entire conversation with a customer.
Marni: Got it. Thank you. So how do you advance the importance of customer experience beyond just your realm, to the whole Verizon Fios organization?
Justin: Yeah, absolutely. So it’s something we wake up thinking about every day. And I tell my team, most of whom come from innovation, venture capital, startup backgrounds that every day we wake up, we are selling our business. And on a given day that may be customer experience as a practice, or it may be a physical product we are building. But when we go into an executive review or a partnership discussion, we are either raising money in the conceptual sense or looking to acqui-hire skills and talent through partnership. And that mindset shift helps us proper for meetings differently, because change is hard. And it’s something that you have to be intentional about every day, deciding to be relentless.
And think of showing up to these encounters with product prototypes, something you co-created with a peer or customer. That often helps move the needle because the reality is if you are doing something disruptive it will be hard for most people to meet you halfway. And so ultimately you have to bring them 95% of the way. And then ask them to come that last 5%. I think that’s what we’ve used as steps and tools and mindsets to help take these ideas, and design thinking, and customer experience, and digital product, and all of these things outside of our org and really have them permeate throughout the Verizon Fios organization.
Marni: What other industries do you look to for inspiration when innovating the Verizon FiOS customer experience?
Justin: Everywhere but our industry. So a lot of what we talk about is this idea that 10 years ago, if you went out with your family for dinner on a Friday night you would have an experience. And let’s say a week later you said, hey when you go out to dinner again, you might go to a different restaurant and you might have an experience that night as well. And maybe there’s a chance that you would rate the second restaurant against the first restaurant.
But, if you had an oil change in between those two dinners, there’s never a world where you say hey that oil change wasn’t as good as that dinner. But now, if you are getting ready to go to the airport and you pull out your smartphone and order an Uber in one click, and then you remember you need to pay your Verizon bill or DVR show, if that experience isn’t as good or better than the Uber experience, you will judge us on that disparity.
So what’s happening is the proximity of brands in our lives is ever converging and we are ultimately always competing against our customer’s last best experience. Not necessarily just our immediate competitors or even our adjacent competitors in our industry and in our space. And so we look at every experience, every product from the obvious leaders in Apple, Google, Uber, Airbnb to the three person startup just entering an accelerator program, to the innovative NGO, like Watsi or what Tristan Walker is building in Walker & Company with Bevel and so on. Because ultimately diversity of thought becomes your competitive advantage in this space much more than anything else. And so we tend to take a no stone left unturned approach to inspiration and ultimately building what we tend to refer as building great big things.
Marni: Just a quick follow up on that, I am interested, how do you take something like Tristan Walker’s work at Bevel and translate to such a different industry?
Justin: Yeah, absolutely. So I think what Tristan is doing at Bevel is solving a problem that people really haven’t found a way to solve and one that I think a lot of folks thought you couldn’t solve and couldn’t innovate. And there’s a tremendous amount of online, offline real-life, tangible, contextual experiences that Walker & Company and Bevel are solving. When you think about the beauty industry and specifically in their first product in Bevel, beauty products for men of color and specifically around shaving and something has been innovated on for a lot of folks but kind of left a lot of folks out of that that process. What they really did was build tremendous partnerships with barbershops, with customers and co-create their product around an ecosystem that actually solved the problem, and isn’t just kind of a marketing ploy for the next razor right. I mean so what we tend to look at is say how do we do that in our space, whether that is the next account app experience that no one thinks in the cable and internet connectivity space could ever be innovative. Or we actually are not solving any of those problems.And there’s actually an experience outside of traditional way you get connectivity, the traditional way you watch TV that we are not even solving because we are not spending enough time with our customers. And so what has become a really key component for how we think about building product is spending a tremendous amount of time with our customers in co-creation. Putting prototypes in front of them before they’re even baked, so you build a prototype in a week and then you put it in front of 40 customers and you see exactly how they feel about it. And you start to see that some of these things we are building aren’t even solving their problems, and some of them are solving their problems in completely different ways. And we tend to try to lean into those solutions, and say okay maybe this is something entirely different than what we sat out on or what the business case was.
And so I think it’s largely kind of listening to the customer which is kind of a buzzword because people tend to do that through surveys in a lot of different ways. But if you get down in the trenches of your customer and understand how your product and services impact their day to day life as a mother, as a father, as a grandfather, as a son, as a daughter, as an uncle or an aunt, you will start to see that your decisions matter. And if you don’t take them seriously on every kind of key stroke or pen stroke or UX decision that that could be the difference between someone using your brand, someone enjoying your product or completely kind of despising doing business with you. And we want to be the former of that.
Marni: Thank you for that additional detail and thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. I am really excited to learn more from you when you come and join us at the Pivot Conference on November 1.
Justin: Absolutely. Thank you for having me. I am looking forward to it as well.