Transforming Customer Experience at Comcast

During this period of rapid change, how does cable and media giant, Comcast, weave customer and employee experience into the fabric of business processes and operations? To learn more, we speak with Tom Karinshak, the Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer for Comcast Cable.


Oct 09, 2020

During this period of rapid change, how does cable and media giant, Comcast, weave customer and employee experience into the fabric of business processes and operations? To learn more, we speak with Tom Karinshak, the Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer for Comcast Cable.

Tom oversees all of the company’s customer experience operations, including Comcast’s Net Promoter System (NPS) functions, to ensure the company delivers a simple, consistent, and excellent customer service and customer care. As part of his role, he leads all call center operations including phone, chat, and social media agents, focused 


This transcript was lightly edited for length and clarity.


Michael Krigsman: Tom Karinshak, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer at Comcast.

Tom Karinshak: Yeah, so a little bit about my role. I'm the chief customer experience officer, as you said, Michael. With that, I basically lead the initiatives and strategies for our call center operations, which include our voice support, chat support, our social media agents. I'm focusing our digital and our technical teams on implementing innovative and creative technologies and solutions to be there for our customers and also around the employee experience, which is of equal importance.

If you think about Comcast as a company, a little bit over 30 million customer relationships across what I consider to be the best products in the world from a video perspective, from an Internet perspective, from a voice perspective, and so much more. Just a special shout-out to all of my colleagues and teammates that are watching as well, hopefully, today too. We're tens of thousands of Comcasters across the country and, with the addition of Sky, across the world who are part of this just incredible company that we call Comcast.

Michael Krigsman: We are Comcast subscribers and our Internet connection at CXOTalk has been totally stable, and so thank you for that because, you know, we do this show and we need good Internet.

Tom Karinshak: Yeah, you're not the only one, Michael. I would tell you, first off, just thank you for your business. Thank you for trusting us with your business. Definitely warms my heart to know that your Internet connectivity is rock solid. That's a big part of, I'm sure, some of the stuff we'll talk about today and the impact that it has on all of our consumers. It makes me really happy to hear that.

Impact of the global health crisis on Comcast

Michael Krigsman: Talking about consumers, the global situation, crisis, health crisis, that we have all faced has seen an explosion of working from home, online learning, and so forth. You're right in the middle of that, so how has the situation affected you at Comcast?

Tom Karinshak: First off, I just hope that everyone continues to stay safe. To everyone who is watching, those close to them, their family, their friends, as you mentioned, these are incredibly difficult times on a whole bunch of fronts. With COVID-19 and the current situation that it's put us into, I hope everyone continues to be as safe as possible.

To your point, in protection of our customers and for our employees, these very unique circumstances required us to make a significant amount of change. To start off, maybe just with all of our employees, our teammates, we wanted to make sure that they could work from home. Everyone who could work from home could be able to go through and do that.

Now, that sounds easy but, in actuality, there was an insane amount of logistics that we had to be able to go pull off to make that happen. Prior to the pandemic, we had folks who were working from home. Literally overnight, you're going to switch that to pretty much everybody working from home. How do you get those tens of thousands of folks to be able to get the right equipment, to make sure they have all the right access, that they can go through and perform their job in an incredible manner, be there for our customers, support our customers, and have the right experience too?

At the same time that that's all going on and you're changing everyone's work environments, to stick with the call centers as an example, we also had to change over 200 policies and processes. Again, in the spirit of being there for our customers and for our employees, think about the change we had to make to our technician experience. What would they come into the home for? What would they not come into the home for? How can we make sure our diagnostics were what they needed to be so we could diagnose the areas, whether they were outside the home or in the home? Do they have all the right PPE on their vans and so they could do that and follow all the right protocols?

Other tough decisions, like in our retail stores, being able to close them down for safety, again, of our customers and our employees. All of that literally happening overnight. It was just incredible to watch how the entire team across all of Comcast rallied around that.

I've got so many pictures and cool videos and we've actually pulled together stuff—we're an entertainment company as well as a technology company—showcasing. You literally would see some of our IT professionals in a room just reimaging all these computers.

We had supervisors dropping off computers to people's homes so that they could get the access they needed. We had drive-bys where folks could come in and get all their equipment and their monitors and all this. It was just incredible to watch how the company rallied around that in just a few short days and weeks to be able to migrate all of those folks to be able to work from home and do it with great effect.

Work from home demand on Comcast

Michael Krigsman: While you as a business, as an organization, were having to make the transition along with everybody else working from home, simultaneously you had demand skyrocketing. I'm assuming you had demand skyrocketing, and that obviously puts stress on your operations, puts stress from a technology standpoint, and all of that ultimately has that impact on the customer experience because people were desperate to have solid Internet at that time.

Tom Karinshak: Absolutely. You think about and what it reinforced for us is the power of our products and services and how, literally, it's woven into the fabric of how our customers enjoy them and how they live their lives. To your point, you think about that. Our products have always been important, but even more so when now you're at home all day and that Internet connection could be powering you working from home. It could power you staying in contact with family and friends. It could be for your kids to do homework.

We saw a significant increase in overall network traffic, over 30%. Now, the good news is, our network is incredible and all of our network folks have just been way ahead of this, thankfully, in terms of the capacity, in terms of how they architected the network, in terms of the reliability and performance of the network, and then they continued to build upon that.

Think, Michael, back to what it was at the beginning. For me, I have three kids. As they were doing the schooling from home at the end of the last school year, it wasn't as synchronous and rigorous as it is now. We've seen those expectations and those demands continue to increase even from that initial load that was there.

You think about it now, people are in synchronous schooling where they might not have had to be in schooling, especially if they were in high school or something else where they had to be on video all the time, they had to be at the class at the same time as everyone else. Some folks were doing that. A lot of folks weren't. Now, everyone is pretty much in that thing.

At the same time, you have the parents working from home or others working from home. Think about what that does not only to the amount of traffic but also the amount of devices, the amount of people on at the same time. It's this exponential impact because of all these factors around how people are using the products and services. We have held up incredibly well, so just kudos to all of our network teams, all of our technicians who are working day and night, literally, out in the field to keep this network rock-solid, up and running, and being there for our customers.

Michael Krigsman: From a customer experience perspective, which is your set of responsibilities, how have you been dealing with the changing expectations of all of these people now working from home? The connection is no longer a nice to have. It's essential for education and all these reasons you were just describing.

Tom Karinshak: Look. Customer expectations have always been high around our products and services. We take that very seriously. We understand the power of our products and what they mean to our customers. I'm sure we'll talk about this a little bit too, but hence why we listen to our customers and our employees so much around the feedback that they give to us so we can make sure we continue to grow and get better based upon those expectations.

There is no doubt that, for this essential connectivity, customer expectations are at an all-time high and only continue to get higher and higher. I don't think that's completely unique to us. I think customer expectations are constantly evolving and continuing to get higher and higher, but it definitely had a spike for us because of that network traffic, because of that, because of everything we had to go through and do.

At the same time, when you see all that going on, we also have to balance, if there is an issue, whatever that could be. It might be our issue. It might be something that customers are trying to figure out.

We saw a lot of people, quite frankly, back to the device point, going through and saying, like, "Okay. We're all going to be at home at the same time. Let me go pull out some of my old devices, since we've all got to be connected at the same time," where before it might only have been one computer that was being shared or moved around for this.

Now you've got all that extra load, but you also have to help folks get those things connected. Even simple stuff like, "What's my password? How do I get this device connected? How do I go through and optimize what my performance is going to be on all these?" That's why we launched a lot of these additional resources and other troubleshooting things really in that digital space to help out with that.

My expectation is, we have gotten to a level now that we're not going to retreat back from. The demand is going to continue only to grow – current situation or not. People are seeing this. Environments are going to change in some form or fashion with probably more work from home. You see more and more companies detailing that almost every day, it seems like, with what people are saying, even post the pandemic stuff.

That just really means that these assets that we continue to build are going to be that much more critical. How do I go through and self-install things if I want to do it on my own? How do I have all the digital resources so I can troubleshoot on my own if I want to?

If I need help, I can go to a store. I can have a technician come to my house. I can call somebody. I can chat with somebody. I can go on social media. And I'm going to get all of the same levels of support. Customers have that choice at their disposal.

We have seen the digital man, not surprisingly, go up significantly over this time period for all of those reasons that we've been discussing. I think that's going to continue and we're seeing a lot of data and analytics that kind of point to that.

Measuring customer satisfaction with NPS (Net Promoter Score)

Michael Krigsman: Tom, consumer expectations have become more demanding and you must have mechanisms that you use for measuring consumer expectations and especially measuring how you respond. Tell us about that.

Tom Karinshak: One of the ways that we capture customer feedback is through our net promoter system. I'm sure a lot of folks listening and others that will watch this have something similar. There are a lot of different versions that are out there, whether it's around measuring customer satisfaction, satisfaction with representatives, satisfaction with our technicians, and we have really been leveraging that entire ecosystem, more than just any of the scores or anything else, around the feedback that comes in.

Of equal importance, both from a customer perspective and from an employee perspective, not only their satisfaction but, more importantly, the verbatims and the elevations that we create out of those verbatims to be able to make changes and put that in place.

You'll hear us talk about the net promoter system as our topic of conversation, not the net promoter score, the net promoter system. Even though we look at all the analytics, the data, and all that kind of stuff constantly, that system has been such an incredible part of our overall journey of success well before the current situation that we're in. But, during this, it's helped us to react very quickly and be agile to the feedback that was coming in from our customers and, again, with equal rigor, from our employees.

We enhance that with cool tools like Sentiment that we launched out, which measure the overall satisfaction from all of our interactions that we have, whether they're written or whether they're voice-related. It takes into account everything that we're hearing from the customers that way. We can go beyond just sampling customers, like what you get sometimes with the surveys, to accounting for all of their transactions. Then we couple that customer, that employee feedback with our own business insights and intelligence that we're seeing as well, too, and we garner that.

For example, we go out and we look. We partner with different companies. One of them we did was with the morning consult where we looked at 2,000 Americans, not just Comcast customers. Some of them were our customers. Some of them weren't.

We said, hey, we want to get a sensing around how their behaviors are changing from a digital ecosystem and their self-service channels. Not just during the COVID-19 stuff; before that, during it, and what do they plan on using post that, so we can be smarter on what we're building.

Not surprising, but just to give you some facts around it, 42% of the respondents said that they're using it more from a digital perspective than what they ever did before. They're more frequently engaging with it, but their expectations are that all the unassisted channels, the digital channels, are perfectly aligned with what they're going to get on the assisted side, so that conversation can be one – I call it.

Internally, I say it. I don't want to ever have our customers or employees feel the org structure, right? It needs to be that one, consistent, seamless conversation.

You're seeing now that two in three people, 63% of consumers, have said they're getting more comfortable with this digital customer service engagement. Again, unassisted and assisted: social media, written, chat, going to dot com. We've launched our Xfinity Assistant, which is a big part of that as well, too.

Here's the key thing for me. Forty-five percent of those said that they continue this elevated level of usage to continue even post the current situation that we're in. That led us, Michael, to say, "Okay, how can we be smart around all of this?" As we're building now, we also have to build for the future.

One of the things I'm really proud of for the team is, they were doing things like the Xfinity Assistant and launching that, to be a big part of it, all the increased traffic that we saw, and the feedback that we were getting, we really built that for now and integrated it, though, that it would be here for the longer-term too. Over 90% of the stuff that we changed and put in place was directly tied to our long-range plan, our LRP. We were building it for now in the current situation, but also going forward. That's going to give, I think, a lot of staying power to this digital ecosystem, the new tools, and new platforms that we've launched accordingly.

How to improve the employee experience

Michael Krigsman: Customer expectations have evolved but it sounds like your expectations of your own internal staff are evolving as well, kind of in concert.

Tom Karinshak: Yeah, they have to. Again, one of my mantras that we continue to really embrace here at the company is, you cannot have a great customer experience without a great employee experience. We put equal rigor and priority on both of them, both in terms of the enhancements that we make so that our employees can be there to serve our customers; for our customers, now we can continue to serve them.

But also, coming back on all of their feedback and how we have this great loop that's going on of feedback, to elevations, to get it fixed, to go get more feedback, make it an elevation, get it fixed, and tie all of that back to our business results of what we're getting. You see those three things working in tandem. It's really, really powerful where you're serving your customers, you're serving your employees, and you're also taking care of all of your business requirements at the same time.

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Twitter on this exact topic. Arsalan Khan says, "There's a strong connection between customer experience and employee experience. How are you creating a culture at Comcast that addresses both?"

Tom Karinshak: It starts being woven into the fabric of the feedback, which you've already spent a fair amount of time talking about. Let's go and click on a couple of things a little bit deeper.

One is around the metrics and the overall incentives. We have customer experience woven throughout all of our scorecards. We have it woven throughout all of our incentive plans, so our quarterly bonus program both for all of our employees as well as for our leaders; our annual bonus program, so that's an important part of it as well, too.

You think about that. Every person at every level of the organization has this tied into, so even Dave Watson who is our CEO, a fantastic leader. It's tied into what he has going on from an overall compensation perspective as well, too.

Then you also take the elevations one step further into the best practices that we have that we've put in place everywhere, so things like our ENPS huddles where we share this feedback, we close out elevations, we talk about what's going on. We share the results from the things that we're doing from the customer experience perspective, as well as our callbacks.

Everybody in the company does callbacks talking to customers directly, our senior leaders like myself and others. I'll stick with Dave as an example. He'll share his feedback that he has gotten directly from talking to customers to us and talking to employees to us through roundtables or other things. It really is woven into the fabric.

That is something that's been very deliberate. Again, back to that entirety of the system from how we compensate to our scorecards to our business requirements to how we have even just our dialog and the culture that's there in the company, and to have everybody doing those callbacks, looking at those elevations. Making that a part of what they go through and do has really been an important part.

The last one I would share just real quick, Michael, from my perspective too, just to give an example around some of the things that I directly own as well, with all of the elevations that we get, thousands of elevations across the net promoter system that we have had over the years, we go through every month and we review the top 25 for the company and the status of those elevations for the company. Then I'll literally go out and get the updates from those that are involved. I'll ping other folks through our tools and our systems to get other updates if we need to.

With great rigor, we track them, we make sure they're on track, we close them out. One comes off. Another one comes on.

Every month, I communicate out to the entire company around our elevation win for that month, both through email communications as well as what we call our internal site, Comcast Now, and so we'll have that. Then every time that we go through and close out those elevations, we'll pick one of them that we want to highlight.

We do the same thing with our folks that we celebrate those who have created great NPS experiences. We have a recognition platform that does that as well. You can see just all of these countless examples where it's woven into everything from recognition to bonus to incentives to scorecards just for how the company now operates as an NPS-based company.

Michael Krigsman: Customer experience then is genuinely woven—to use your term—into the fabric of operations, compensation, and incentives across the company at every level.

Tom Karinshak: And recognition and communication around what we celebrate, to the overall culture of us being a customer and employee-centric company with leaders that care about that, talk about it, use it, and direct feedback into their decision-making processes around investments, around everything that we go through and do.

Look. I view it as, it can't be off to the side in the shiny object that you're like, "Oh, look. Let's talk about our CX over here off to the side." We have worked really hard to integrate it into, just quite frankly, being BAU. It's just how work gets done here at Comcast. That focus, that energy is exactly what we do throughout everything that we have going on and it's really exciting.

Transforming technical support at Comcast

Michael Krigsman: Tom, it wasn't that many years ago that Comcast had a really poor reputation from customer support. I think it was probably as bad as the airlines. I know things have changed. How did you change what the situation was back then?

Tom Karinshak: There is a lot that we learned from and owned throughout this entire journey that we have been on. It has been a journey and there's always been a focus that was there. But I would say we really intensified it and turbocharged it over the last years, over the last decade.

It's been exciting to see that progress from where we've come from to where we stand now. It's one of those very delicate balances where you say, "Wow. I'm really proud of the progress that we have made," but we also have to remind everyone that we're nowhere near where we want to be yet and what our final aspiration are.

Part of that is just the simple fact that customer expectations change all the dialog that we have. We're a learning organization that has to continue to get better and better on all of these things.

How do you do that? How do you get it woven into the fabric of the company and what's going on to allow us to go and make all that progress that we've seen both from our internal measures as well as our external measures? Winning our first JD Power Award, for example, last year, which we are incredibly proud of, as part of that journey from where we were to where we came from.

The net promoter system, a huge part of it. The employee focus, a huge part of it. The integration of all that into how work gets done, a huge part of it. Key investments that we've done in our technologies, in our platforms, and the experiences, things that we've already talked about a lot on the digital part of it, but other very innovative things that we've been able to go and roll out as well, too.

Take for example when we were talking about for some of the COVID stuff. In just 30 days, our developers were able to go through and design, prototype, and pilot 100% virtual technician experience. Literally, you could have the technician outside the home, did everything that they could to make sure that everything going into the home was where it needed to be, and then be a companion with the customer virtually, while they're in the home, keeping the customer safe, keeping us safe, be able to go through and troubleshoot, repair their connection, leveraging the camera on their smartphone. No need for the technician to step foot into their house and, to pull that off, we prototyped that and delivered it in 30 days. Just a huge response.

We've been able to really go through and build things like that and have that woven into how work gets done here. I just share that as another example that's been able to really turbocharge those efforts.

I would caution everybody. For us, at least. It wasn't any one thing. It wasn't like, hey, there's this one just glaring issue that we've got to go through and figure out. It was a whole host of investments and things that we wanted to do: increasing the training for our employees, increasing the efficacy of the agent desktop, doing cool tools like the virtual technician thing that we just talked about – any of those kinds of things.

A lot of this was just blocking and tackling and getting better at all that type of stuff while having the eye towards innovation. It wasn't any one thing. It was a lot of things that the company rallied around and just went after one, two, three at a time. Knock them down. Onto the next. Learn from it. Knock it down. Onto the next. Learn from it and just keep going.

I worry sometimes. A lot of folks will think, "Well, what's the one thing that you want to go through and do that's going to turn all this around?" That's just not the case. It's a lot of things that we've been working on and grinding through and proud of progress but still a lot more to do.

Michael Krigsman: Definitely, one of the key takeaways I'm getting from this is, to change customer experience requires a concerted, serious, ongoing investment over time. In other words, you have to really want to do it. It doesn't just happen.

Tom Karinshak: You have to really want to do it. You have to be committed to it. You have to understand that a lot of these things could take some time.

Especially if you look at us with the scale that we're at, as you're training your folks, for an example, or as you're rolling out new tools and technology. It's going to take some time, you're going to make some mistakes, and you're going to have to learn from those and continue to get better.

If you think about it and just stick with the employee side of that as well, too. We focused on better tools, better training, streamlining processes, changing the policies, doing everything we possibly could so that all they had to focus on was being there for the customer. Let me make your tools better. Let me make them more intuitive.

Let me leverage all the IQ and the machine learning work that we have done. Let me make the IVR better. Let me measure the NPS of our IVR to see how that's performing.

As we've learned from that, getting it into double-digit positive territory from an NPS perspective with an IVR, things that you wouldn't even think that you could do. Making sure that we measure that everywhere, all of our digital experiences, the Xfinity Assistant that we were talking about, and all the volume there.

Then as we see things that need to get better, we'll continue to do it, but it's not any one thing. You've got to have the staying power, the commitment. You've got to include it as part of your current stuff that you're working through. And, Michael, back to the earlier point, just have that real important tie-in to the long-range plan so you can build for the future as well.

Impact of customer experience on remote work from home

Michael Krigsman: From Twitter: "As employees and customers cope with challenges like remote school classes for their kids, any creative ways that customer experience best practices can be leveraged and extended?" She says, "For example, like helping students get a doctor's note for being absent from class." Creativity around customer experience in our changing home lives.

Tom Karinshak: Yeah, it's interesting because there has been so much change. We actually launched an initiative coming out of this summer called Back to School, but then we put the virtual in the middle of it, so Back to Virtual School. We put a whole set of best practices together for our customers around how do you go through and operate in this new environment.

Even things to think about, for example, and we're going through this right now based upon some customer feedback. "Hey, how do I use and what should I use around smart speakers?" A lot of folks don't think about that and how that could or could not be disruptive if you have multiple folks that are in there. "How do I make sure that I'm set up to get the best out of my Internet connectivity?"

Just a lot of tips and tricks that go along with that, that came directly from our customers saying, "Boy, we know you guys don't own a lot of this stuff, but could you really help guide us to be able to go through and look at this?" To definitely check that out in terms of just some of those tips and tricks that are out there to make for that better experience, why you're doing synchronous learning and what does that look like, and just share some of those with you as an example.

The other part that we recognized throughout this entire process, in addition to our responsibility where we want to keep everyone in America connected, we've expanded our Internet Essentials Program, we've gone through and done lift zones, we also wanted to do something special for teachers.

Look. You said it many times, Michael. You've trusted us with your business. We get the power of Internet connectivity.

It's really bad when a student can't connect, but it is a much more multiplicative effect when a teacher can't get our world-class, best in the world Internet and it works for them. So, we launched offers for teachers, both existing customers as well as for new customers coming in. Tips and tricks for teachers as well, too, to be able to get into the mix around how do they go through and make sure they have the connectivity and the other stuff along with it.

If a teacher can't access their class, then you have 20 or 30 students that are being impacted by that. I don't want anybody to be impacted by it. If it's one person, that's one too many, for sure. We want them to have a great experience. But, boy, if a teacher gets hit up on that, that's even worse because they have their entire class that could be at risk.

All of those types of things are out there so that folks can see what's going on. They can use the Xfinity Assistant to help with the troubleshooting. A lot of education that we've done around that as well all the stuff across all of our properties – dot com.

Look. Just as we said, if someone needs help and they can't figure it out, well, that's what we have all those great teammates out there for, either to tweet with, hit us up on Facebook, chat with us, whatever, so we can get their questions answered.

Simplifying complex marketing messages

Michael Krigsman: We have a question from Wayne Anderson on the topic of complexity. He says, "High-end offerings like Gigabit Pro and Multi-Gig—" clearly, he knows your offerings. He's been studying it "—are more interesting during this time of remote work, but they take forum insight to even know how to request and months to implement per customer. How can you simplify that and just tighten that up?" Obviously, he wants fast speeds and he's trying to figure out how to do it in the simplest way.

Tom Karinshak: How everyone uses our products and services is unique. I liken it all the time to when our technicians go into a house. Every house is different and every set of customer expectations that people have in their house is different. I do want to make sure that we can go through and get them taken care of for that.

Go back to the gigabit and the importance behind getting that speed and that delivery into someone's home. The speed is an important part of it, but what's most important is getting it right-sized for whatever it is that that customer is going to go through and use it for, which goes well beyond speed.

It's about speed. It's about the coverage within their home. It's about the number of devices that they're going to have that are being used potentially at the same time.

It's about the devices themselves. We see it a lot of times where folks will say, like, "I'm getting a gig to the house," why can't I go through and get a gig on my laptop that's six years old?"

Look. It's our responsibility to make sure our customers understand all that stuff, right? We can deliver to the house and to the gateway. If you need to extend the coverage, we can make sure you're set up with pods so you can create a mesh network around the entire house, so you can get that coverage.

But then, so much of it comes down to the device, to the configuration of your home, the placement of your gateway, what you're going to use it for that you want to go through and do. Are you uploading, downloading, streaming 4K video? Whatever those different uses are, you've got to right-size that package.

The other part of it, beyond just the speed elements and the coverage elements—again, both really, really important—is the control elements of that as well, too: security, safety. If you have a family, who uses it, who doesn't? The protection of your passwords. That's why everything we do from the xFi perspective is so critical because it gives you that.

You hear me, definitely, Wayne. I want to make sure he's right-sized and he's got everything it needs and we make it as simple as possible. It's a lot more than just the speed elements of this because you've got to take into account.

Our technicians, every time they're out there, or for our customers when we walk them through it remotely or they do a self-install, how can they optimize their experience? Every home is unique. Every home is a puzzle. We've got to be able to go through and make sure that they can get it right-sized for what they want to go through and use it for. Anyway, just some thoughts around how all those kind of work together.

Michael Krigsman: I really appreciate your sharing the complexity that's behind the scenes because, for most of us, it's like we want it to be faster and that's all we think about.

Tom Karinshak: Well, and it's funny, Michael. I do simplify it for all of my folks, all of my great teammates. I'm like, "Look. From a customer point of view, they want to connect to the Internet. They want their kid to be able to submit homework. They want to be able to work. They want to be entertained and watch TV. They want to do whatever, and we need to be able to mask all that complexity so they can do those things. That's our job.

Our job is to make sure that we can get their home set up so they can do those things that they want to do. Quite frankly, you never have to worry about all of that stuff: nodes, head ends, all of those other kinds of things. You can just focus on getting done what you want to get done.

Role of CIO and IT in customer experience

Michael Krigsman: Arsalan Khan, he's a technologist and focused on IT, and he wants to know the relationship of IT to customer experience.

Tom Karinshak: Rick Rioboli, who is our CIO, Matt Zelesko, who is our CTO, Charlie Herrin, my boss, who is our chief product officer, we're all on the same team, and the technology and the support from folks like Rick and others is absolutely critical. As a matter of fact, literally earlier this morning, I was having a great discussion with Rick around some prioritization and what we're looking at from the overall technology perspective.

In this day and age, the partnership, I believe, with the technology team, with the product teams, through the net promoter system is more important than it's ever been and, from my perspective, one of the most important relationships that are out there. We would not have made the progress that we have made had I not had great teammates, colleagues, and partners to do all this stuff and joint goals to go after on this.

I know we're going to talk about employee experience. Think about the agent desktop. We wanted to do significant enhancements to the agent desktop, to streamline it, to make it easier, more intuitive, have more predictive intent. Those folks are right there with me.

On the customer experience side, all the digital assets we talked about, getting the Xfinity Assistant launched, getting all of the intents prioritized, figure it out, learning from them. Which intents are we going to change? Coupling that with some of my agents to be able to ghost ride with customers when they've tried to use the Xfinity Assistant. Let's say they can't get their issue resolved.

Great. The agent would say, "Great. Here's what I think we could do differently next time." Let's run a scrum. Let's go through and get that put into the next intent. We'll launch it into the next sprint that we have.

That relationship has just been very integral to our overall success. I will say, though, as important as the IT is, we believe that everyone has to participate: legal, finance, whomever. We look at it as everybody in the company. But to the specific question, we could not have made the progress we have made, either on the customer or the employee experience, without just great partnership and real, real innovation with our technology partners.

Michael Krigsman: How does scale affect both the ability to evaluate customer experience and to address it?

Tom Karinshak: Scale has so many great parts to it in terms of being able to get the resources and the other things that we wanted to go through and put in place and all the learnings that go along with it. Scale also can be a little bit of a challenge sometimes if you think about the speed and the rapidity of what we had to go through on this transition.

When you're talking about tens of thousands of front-line colleagues that you've got to go through and adjust their training, adjust their policies and processes, and roll that out. You might have given them new pieces of technology. You've got to get them equipment deployed, all that kind of stuff.

The one thing that I would say that has really been a huge impact for us on the scale side is how well we've been able to systematize all those types of things. We have a communications team that is fantastic that works from the global level all the way down to the individual teams to get the word out, at scale, pretty much in real-time when we have to go through and adjust things.

We flattened the organization from a structural perspective. When we were going through this, we were having meetings every day, 10:00 a.m., Monday through Friday, Saturday, Sunday, all of the ops leaders. What do we have to do? Let's get it done. Here's what we'll get done tomorrow, the next day. Check-in on it. What's the next thing?

We just really were able to get the communications, the systems, the processes to be able to leverage that scale and be able to get it out quickly. But you have to be able to go through and systematize it. There's a whole bunch more we could talk about there, Michael, but that's probably the biggest one to walk away from. Systematizing all that stuff and having the infrastructure to pull that off on people and technology – critical.

Importance of employee experience at Comcast

Michael Krigsman: Let's talk about employee experience. Why is that so important for you?

Tom Karinshak: From my perspective, they're where the brand comes to life. It's where the brand becomes real. When somebody is in a customer's home, when we're talking to them on the phone, when we're engaging with them in one of our written channels, whatever that ends up being, that's where the brand really, really comes to life.

We spend a lot of time—Sophia, who is our CMO—making sure. We do a behavior-based quality program. We haven't even talked about that that. That was another big part of the employee experience, as we made that migration to Sentiment, behavior-based quality, and some of our other training and policy and process changes.

It was absolutely a critical part of our overall progress that we have made and we line that up with our brand behaviors and attributes as well. It's one consistent thing across the board in terms of what's going on. That's kind of it at a high level.

Now when you double-click into that a little bit more, I need our employees. I don't want them to be the best at, like, data entry. I don't want them to be the best at grinding some of this stuff out. I want them to be the best at being able to engage and be there for our customers.

Through our journey, we've had to go through and launch new tools, things that were just much more intuitive. We do all that, just like you've heard me say before, on the feedback. How can we support them better?

It was a multi-pronged effort. We increased the training time for what we were going to do, not just as we looked at how we enhanced the new hire experience, but how do we go through and enhance the existing training experience? We changed our policies. We improved our processes.

Employees would come to us and say, "This process is cumbersome. You guys need to go through and change it." We'll go through and do that.

"This policy is getting in the way of me being able to put together the experience that I want to do for these customers." Let's go through and change those policies.

All of that comes up through those elevation experiences and how do we make all of that progress. The employees love it because they know we're listening to them and making the changes. At the same time, the customers love it because they're getting a better outcome. Then we use all of that from the employee feedback to help our digital channels and the alignment there from an unassisted perspective.

Beyond just the service that they do on behalf of all of our customers, our employees also give us just that great feedback on where the brand comes to life, but they also give us pretty clear expectations around what we could be doing better as leaders. As a learning organization, that helps us to get that much better as well, too.

We've got to do our part to make sure we're taking care of our employees. You heard me talk a lot about, through this period, how do we get them the right work environment? How do we get them the right computers, the right tools? But also, how do we take care of them?

One of the things I'm incredibly proud of is, there were so many companies that were out there during this time period where they were, "Hey, if you want to keep your paycheck the same way, you're going to have to use your time off," or "We're going to reduce your pay," and that kind of stuff. "We're going to take some hours away from you."

We actually did the exact opposite. We went through and gave all of our employees an extra week of what we called Family Care PTO because we knew it was a challenging time, so we wanted them to be able to go through and make sure that they could take care of themselves and also be able to take care of our customers.

It's been just fantastic. You do some little things like that. It makes all the difference. Then I feel comfortable that they're going to pass that on to our customers.

Michael Krigsman: The changes that Comcast went through obviously are the result of all of these many pieces, as you said earlier.

Tom Karinshak: Huge, right? Again, probably a show on each one of those that we could go deeper with. Shawna, who is our chief learning officer, working with her closely around the training aspects of it, looking at the policy and the process. All the folks that lead our customer journeys, there's a whole course on that.

We have six key customer journeys that we do across the entire company. Technology is involved. Marketing is involved. Ops is involved. Everybody, right?

The celebrations and the recognition platform that we put in place. The thank you cards, even the small stuff. The thank you cards for all of the kudos that I get and that come into the corporate switchboard, we make sure we recognize every one of them. I thank the customer for sending it and we go through and I sign a thank you card to every one of those that I get. By the way, now, for the last several years, I also send those out to a list of the leaders here so that they can see the kudos that are coming in from how well our folks have done, what we do in social media.

On those ops calls that I was talking about, while we don't do them every day, we do them three times a week now, kind of into our normal rhythm. We start every call with either a customer or an employee kudos, just a recognition celebrating that stuff. It's all of these things, some big and some little, that have helped us make the progress that we've been able to make.

Even just recently this week, it was Customer Service Week. A huge set of initiatives to thank all of our front-line teammates for the work that they're doing every single day. Thank you videos.

Normally, we would do much bigger celebrations in person. You obviously can't do that, so we did them virtually. We did them remote. We did them safely. We did a lot of them through video and all that kind of stuff, but a real celebration of the great work that the front-line teams are doing in service of our customers and this was another week just to celebrate that.

Michael Krigsman: All right. Tom Karinshak, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today.

Tom Karinshak: My pleasure. Thanks, Michael. Really enjoyed it and look forward to continuing the dialog.

Michael Krigsman: We've been talking with Tom Karinshak, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Experience Officer at Comcast.

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Published Date: Oct 09, 2020

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 673