Putting the Customer at the Center of Everything We Do with Rob Simek

  • Date: March 25, 2019
  • Hosts: Jon Gaul

Episode Summary

We are thrilled to officially launch our podcast with a true innovator in the customer conversation space – Rob Simek.  Rob is the Executive Director of Customer Experience at Xfinity Mobile and has been an integral part of helping shape the customer experience at Comcast.  In his current role, Rob was able to design the customer experience for mobile from the ground up.  In the two years since mobile was introduced, Rob and his team continue to work with their partners, customers and employees to put the customer at the center of everything they do.

Guest Bio

Rob Simek is the Executive Director, Customer Experience at Xfinity Mobile. In this role, he seeks to understand employee and customer sentiment, prioritizes issues for the business, and ensures consistent and transparent communications in an effort to maintain positive customer relationships. Prior to helping launch Xfinity Mobile in 2017, Rob led numerous customer experience, marketing and sales operations programs within Comcast since 2004. Before Comcast, Rob managed a broad portfolio of client relationships for several marketing communications agencies. 


Jon Gaul: Welcome to the Brand InnerActions podcast. I’m Jon Gaul and I’m excited to be your guide as we go behind the scenes with some of the brands you know and love. This podcast will explore the moment of truth for these brands, the customer conversation. We journey inside the minds of the brand architects to learn how companies are rethinking human to human interactions and mobilizing their employees to be brand ambassadors. I’ve had my boots on the ground with frontline employees and have seen firsthand how company communication impacts the ability of teams to deliver a strong consistent message to their customers. We are thrilled to officially launch our podcast with a true innovator in the customer conversation space, Rob Simek. Rob is the Executive Director of Customer Experience at Xfinity Mobile. Comcast built Xfinity Mobile to offer their 25 million customers a better wireless experience for less money. It combines access to the nation’s largest and most reliable 4G network with the largest and most advanced wifi network. Rob has been an integral part of helping shape the customer experience at the media and technology leader. Over the course of his 15 year career with Comcast Rob has held roles in marketing, sales support and customer experience across various channels within the organization. And now, my conversation with Rob. Rob, thank you for being our first guest.

Rob Simek:It’s my pleasure, Jon, thank you.

Jon Gaul: I’m sure you wear a lot of hats. What are your key responsibilities?

Rob Simek: So primarily it’s quite simple actually. One is trying to understand the customer sentiment regarding their relationship with Xfinity Mobile, specifically. I have really good partnerships with the core customer experience team for cable so we do a lot of collaboration and in regard to researching customers and their sentiment and we’ve adopted a lot of their best practices in doing so. It enables us to really get a good understanding of what are our top drivers of satisfaction of dissatisfaction. And for those where customers are dissatisfied, we really try to bubble those up and push them back into the operations team to say, hey look, these are customer pain points or points of extreme customer effort that we can try to smooth out for the journey. So, we push that into another team and their role is to prioritize those with the product teams and try to make sure that the relationship with the Xfinity Mobile product is as good as possible. On the opposite side of that, we speak back to customers and I have a communications group that does that, not from a marketing perspective, but more from a service perspective. If we’re changing the service for whatever reason, enhancing it, we’re a new product so we’re constantly launching new things on the roadmap and we want to let customers know about the value that we’re adding to the product. So, my team is responsible for that. They’re also responsible for letting them know what we’re doing for them in times when something might not go as planned, like a device delivery may be delayed or something more extreme like a hurricane or a wildfire pops up. What can they expect from Xfinity Mobile and their relationship with us in those scenarios. So, in summary, it’s really about maintaining your relationship with the mobile customer, understanding what they need and responding back to them with our point of view.

Jon Gaul: You brought up the focus on customer sentiment and I’d like to take a deeper dive into that. How do you gather feedback?

Rob Simek: We started looking at customer feedback through NPS surveys, which is widely practiced across Comcast. And then we also started to have an eye and broaden that listening, if you will, to other places where customers choose to post sentiment, social, calling into our call centers. We have a dedicated social media team that handles the Xfinity Mobile social handles, specifically. By establishing those specific channels, we’re able to kind of consolidate feedback pretty well. And the community management of that has been an integral part in helping us understand what customers are saying about their relationship with us. So, essentially we have folks monitoring those sites all the time. There’s a Twitter handle, there’s also a Facebook page and mainly it’s about just keeping up a conversation with the customers on those sites. But, if something critical pops up where a customer needs help, we’re also there to respond and try to get them into the right queue. We have a sister queue that is customer care that handles all Comcast products. They’ve been really active and great partners with us in terms of doing those handoffs. So, if from an initial community management perspective, we can’t help a customer by just giving them a talking point or two about something they might need to be educated on, we can quickly get them into a queue that can dive deeper with them offline and get into their accounts specifically and see if we can’t help right the ship so to speak.

Jon Gaul: I’ve heard and seen the impact that NPS has had on organizations, especially Comcast. I really liked the approach that you’ve taken in monitoring unsolicited feedback from social media sites. Why did you decide to include social media feedback as a compliment to NPS surveys

Rob Simek: So, the interesting part is that we were paying attention to NPS most primarily, which was great because it does provide us a lot of good feedback, but we understood that not everybody that responds to a survey always lists the most important issues or the most important issues aren’t always brought to us through those surveys. So we found out that initially when we launched in early 2017, we were missing issues that weren’t brought up to us in the NPS surveys. An easier way of saying that is by broadening our listening posts we are better able to understand what types of things are bothering customers the most. So that’s what we’re working on now, general issues with the services, more maybe annoyances that maybe popped up with them, we were able to address because they weren’t coming back to us as official detractors. They were just going to airing slight dissatisfaction over some things that turned out to be easy fixes for us in the end.

Jon Gaul: I couldn’t agree more about how responses to surveys don’t always tell the whole story. And it sounds like you and team are really focusing on getting a better understanding of what the customer wants. Rob, how does the brand positioning impacts the customer experience that you want to deliver?

Rob Simek: Well, there are a couple of things on the brand position. So, first of all we launched with this idea that we’re a new kind of wireless network and we’re designed to save you money and that’s a little bit different coming from a company like Comcast. We specifically state we’re out there to try to help you and provide more value for your dollar and your overall Comcast relationship. The great news is that the underpinning of that public facing mantra, there are a couple of qualities that the product team basis the Xfinity Mobile product on, mainly simplicity, transparency, piece of mind and being as human and personal again as possible. These are the types of things that we learned from a couple of years of deep dive customer experience surveying, etc. on the core cable side. We tried to take those things that customers seemed to be most dissatisfied with against the core product and bake them into the mobile product before we even launched. So, it’s been a really great opportunity to kind of live up to that brand promise. We’ve been keeping it extremely simple with two data option price points. We’re transparent. Again, my team is constantly between social and email and call backs and other types of forums, really trying to get back to the customer and keep them up to speed as to what’s going on. I think that breeds peace of mind amongst the customer base and keeps them more satisfied with their relationship with us. And again, really trying to have that human touch. Technology is a complicated world and we’re trying to, in our tone and the way we present the brand and ourselves, the brand voice, trying to keep it as simple as possible so that we address their basic need and not get into the details of why something might be happening and not get too technical and get into tech speak.

Jon Gaul: You brought up the importance of using a human touch when interacting with wireless customers. As a customer myself, I’ve experienced more of a human interaction and I’m definitely appreciative. How have you been able to cascade that approach down to the frontlines?

Rob Simek: Yeah, it’s a great point. It’s a difficult one to do. I won’t lie because we have so many great frontline teams that interact with Xfinity Mobile customer, specifically as well as overall. The best job that we can do and we’re constantly improving this, is to let folks know on the frontline, keep them as up to speed as possible. A lot of those other qualities that I talked about in terms of how the product was built, we tried to build that into the communications as well. So, as we cascade items down to the frontline, trying to ensure that those items are presented in a very simplistic way, that we’re very transparent as to why we’re doing this with the product. We constantly encourage people on the frontline to remember that these are customers on the other side and how it may be negatively affecting them if we don’t do this right. Or more than that, try to present the case for how this might improve either frontline employees ability to help a customer or how our product enhancements helps the customer directly. So, as an example, we went through a billing migration recently, within the last six months. It was a big change for everybody because these types of things are always pretty massive in terms of how we need to make sure we handle that. But, to the customer, we needed to make it as seamless as possible. And overall, it went very well, but there was some impact to the frontline because there were some changes to things that they needed to do. We tried to manage that as transparently as possible and we’re still sort of tweaking the system a little bit and listening to their feedback and trying to make the new biller as simple and transparent as possible so that those frontline teams can better help the customer and have as much knowledge about the customer’s account as possible without having to do too much digging. So, much like we treat the customers and our philosophy with that, we also try to treat the frontline teams because they’re our best assets. They’re trying to help the customer and the more we can empower them to do so, the better off we are.

Jon Gaul: I really like what you said about how you translate the importance of a human interaction to the frontlines through simplicity, transparency and empathy. I see new product launches that lack those key points and there has to be a recalibration down the line. You mentioned you launched Xfinity Mobile two years ago. What did you do to get the team’s excited and educated about the new product?

Rob Simek: Well, I think there was a bit of pent up excitement about it. There were some rumblings that we were going to launch this at some point and I think that was catching some folks attention. But the real thing that we did is, we actually launched to employees first. We gave them the opportunity to sign up for the product, go through the experience of purchase, activate the phone when it arrived to them. When we first launched, retail wasn’t up and running quite yet, so it was really a call center or an online sale. We got a good solid six to eight weeks of customer feedback and customer experience under our belt from our employees first. And the great thing about Comcasters is that they’re not shy about sharing their opinion and there was an open forum for which they could express those opinions pretty openly. We promised that we were listening, which we were, and we actually were able to change a couple of things before the public launch based on the input of the employees. That rumbling I think, that sort of skin in the game if you will, really helped when we did the public launch because there was for those that were early adopters from an employee perspective, a couple of months of really understanding what being a mobile customer was like. And then once the retail stores launched over the course of a couple of months throughout our three divisions, we really saw an increase in traffic and excitement there amongst those teams. So, it was actually a really phenomenal experience. I think that one of the best decisions we made was to really launch to employees first and get their feedback because it really helped shape how we went to market.

Jon Gaul: I feel that there is always impactful feedback after a product is launched and what a great idea to gather feedback from employees first. It also helps when employees have an avenue to share honest feedback and also have high expectations for how products perform. The wireless space is incredibly crowded. What strategies have you implemented to stand out?

Rob Simek: Yeah, it’s a great question because we’ll often get the question, why are we in this space? But, in all honesty, it was when you start to look at some of the statistics around usage, wireless usage patterns of customers or even just consumers in general, we started to notice that, I think it’s over 70% of wireless customers were actually paying for more data than they actually use. Basically what was happening in very simple terms is that customers were paying for internet service inclusive of wifi and they’ll pay us for that because we provide that service. Then they’re going out and spending a significant amount of money on their wireless or cellular data plan with their cell phone provider. And what was happening is that, like I said, 70- 80% were ending up using a large percentage of their data traffic over wifi cellular. So they were still consuming data on their phones, but they were doing it through their wifi connection. Well, our customers are already paying for that. So what we basically did was we combined our largest wifi network, which is about 19 million wifi hotspots now, with America’s best LTE network. We’re an MVNO to one of the major wireless carriers and we’re basically using that cellular spectrum as sort of a safety net, if you will, for when you’re in between wifi hotspots. We provide that at a cost where if you tend to be using cellular a lot, you can still buy an unlimited plan, but our most popular plan is actually by the gig. So a customer can pay $12 per gig and we find that the bulk of customers end up using less than five days per month. So it ends up saving them money and it still allows them to leverage the wifi that they were paying for to consume the content that they want. We basically delivered a product that supported habits of consumers already versus forcing them into payment plans of both wifi and cellular, to a degree that it was becoming taxing sort of on the wallet.

Jon Gaul: Your point about leveraging the wifi that customers are already paying for to reduce their mobile costs is a great answer to why Comcast has joined the wireless space. I’m very appreciative of this pricing model, especially with March madness right around the corner. Have you been in the field or in call centers to observe your team’s interactions with customers?

Rob Simek: Yes, so we try to get out as often as possible. In fact, I’m flying up to one of our call centers early next week to just visit them and make sure I get a good understanding of what’s facing them now. We try to visit both call centers and retail stores. I have to say that I’ve been attached to retail for most of my career at Comcast and seen its evolution to the new Xfinity stores and the excitement that I see off of the sales consultants that are on the floor is amazing in regards to mobile. It sort of brings a whole new element and a whole new audience into the stores. We used to be before sort of a showcase for education as well as service, folks need to return equipment, etc. Maybe they don’t understand all that you can do with an X1 guide as an example, but this brought a whole new element in terms of real live, tangible devices that customers might pick up. And having that discussion about data option plans, et cetera. Do I need a case or that series for my phone? It’s just an entire new experience coming into the stores. It’s really gotten the sales consultant really excited about it, which has been phenomenal. From a call center perspective, it adds another product to their portfolio. So it’s another opportunity for them to have a conversation with the customer about Comcast and all the services that we have to offer. Obviously there’s learning curves there because the products different, but I think one of our best assets are our frontline teams. They do a phenomenal job of navigating all of the products and knowing what might be best for each customer and trying to customize a package for them. So, overall, I would say the front line’s have been handling it really well and they’ve been rolling with it and have been generally receptive to everything we’ve sent down to them.

Jon Gaul: Rob, what’s next for you and team in 2019?

Rob Simek: Well, we’ve got a lot of work to do. So as a startup and our customer base grows, we uncover new things all the time and new opportunities of where we think we can serve the customers better. On the listening side, we’re investing in working on a new platform to help us better aggregate customer sentiment and customer effort so that we can bubble those up into better business priorities for the whole organization. Sort of a lot of what we were doing in a more manual basis, will become automated as we look across all of those customer listening posts, if you will, so that we have a really good handle on reconciling what are the top five issues of both good things and bad. We can address those or if there are good things, keep doing that and then make sure that we don’t degrade the customer experience in any way, especially based on what’s important to them. And then on the communication side, just constantly trying to get smarter about making sure all that we learn about a customer we leverage before we communicate back out to them. So again, providing that transparency and that personalization that we want to do, a lot of that is fueled by data that we have. We want to be as smart as we can when we talk to them and not assume that every customer is the same and continuing to build our team and continuing to build our resources. Doing a lot of partnership on the cable side in terms of what’s happening from a customer communications and customer relationship management perspective over there. We have a lot of opportunity this year and next to get better at both of those things.

Jon Gaul: What stands out to me is what you said about taking feedback. It’s not just about getting constructive feedback, but also the importance of understanding what you and team are doing well. Getting both sides of the coin is very powerful and I love that you embrace that philosophy with your team.

Rob Simek:Yeah, a lot of times people focus too much on the bad and there’s always room for improvement and learning about the bad. But sometimes, we need to celebrate the things that we do really well, just to make sure that we don’t stop doing them. So we want to make sure that that gets out there as well.

Jon Gaul: That’s very well said and I couldn’t agree more. Rob, thanks so much for your time. We really appreciate your insight and learning about your experiences with Xfinity Mobile.

Rob Simek: It was great chatting with you and hopefully for folks listening if their Xfinity Mobile customers, I hope that you’re having a great experience.

Jon Gaul: I hope you enjoyed my discussion with Rob. As technology becomes more and more complex, the wireless customer journey requires a new level of human touch. By listening to customers, collaborating with their partners on the cable side, and engaging their frontline teams, Comcast continues to transform the customer experience. To learn more about Rob and Xfinity Mobile, please go to xfinitymobile.com. The Brand InnerActions podcast is brought to you by InnerView Group and hosted by myself, Jon Gaul. To learn more about InnerView or to obtain a transcript, good to innerviewgroup.com. Please make sure you subscribe to get the latest episodes.