Throughout Paulette Carter’s career, the voice of the customer has always provided her with a guiding light.
Her customer experience journey started in the call center at MCI, at the brink of the divestiture of the telecommunications industry when the company became a key player against AT&T. At the time, customer experience wasn’t what it is today, but Bill McGowen, founder/president of MCI was a proponent of Total Quality Management (TQM) and a champion for his employees and customers.
Paulette not only worked in the call center at MCI, but she also was assigned to workforce management, where she was tasked with creating the global workforce management team for the company. “We had multiple call centers, but they didn't connect--we didn't align the resources and we didn't have modern-day workforce management practices,” she explains. “We tested a little bit of everything.”
Paulette and her team designed what is now known as a center of excellence. “We had best practices. We had standards. And we put all that in play,” she explains.
When Paulette was presented an award for her management work by McGowen, he told her something that would stick with her: “You understood to use technology as a slave and to treat your people like royalty,” she recalls. “I’ll never forget him saying that to me, and at the time, it just didn’t mean a whole lot. And then over time, that changed. I realized it’s a royal approach to a business problem for our people. The work we did made a huge difference—it made that company.”
During her 11 years at MCI, Paulette saw her work evolve as the call center team started making bigger impacts for the company. “There was a lot of collaboration, a lot of customer sensitivity, a lot of things that we needed to do because we were learning from those interactions with our customers,” she says.
When Paulette started working for GE Capital, she was hired to build standards and best practices for the organization from an early customer experience standpoint. While doing that work, she was selected to be in the first group of GE employees trained on Lean Six Sigma and certified in management performance.
“By working through that process, I got even more in my DNA around customer experience because I was assigned to different manufacturing processes,” she explains. “I had to bring in the Six Sigma practice and bring in data to be successful. But the thing that always resonated most with me from a data standpoint was the voice of the customer.”
As Paulette’s career path moved through different management positions at AGL Resources, Avaya, Arbitron, ShoreTel, and EarthLink Internet, she continued to unlock the voice of the customer as her job responsibilities branched out to include data operations, financial management, project management, compliance and risk management, and customer experience design and measurement.
“My Lean Six Sigma discipline had become part of my DNA, and CX was starting to evolve. And I believe the voice of the customer is always the answer. The bottom line was, I believed all these things were coming together around me,” Paulette says.
A NEW CALLING
Although she was promoted to higher positions in her career and often sat on boards and advisory groups, Paulette knew a career shift was in order. “I wanted to make sweeping changes in the nonprofit world.” This decision led to a career pivot, as she joined the American Cancer Society as the Senior Director of Customer Experience and Integration.
The move changed her life.
“I've never really looked back. I get to work on customer experience with some of the most passionate people, and I’ve gotten to really flourish and do a lot of things that I wanted to do.” Paulette and others on the team champion critical high-level initiatives that impact customers and are helping the organization navigate the impacts of COVID-19.
She says there’s too much at stake to be thrown off course.
“Cancer never stops, so we have to continue attacking from every angle--we want to move the needle and make sure we do it in a manner that always has the customer at the center of everything.”
Paulette still thinks back to the advice she was given early in her career that has forever given the role of people and technology their proper place.
“People are your service delivery model,” she says. “If they believe in your mission and your vision, and you let them know how important they are along the journey, you’re always going to lead. You’re going to be customer-centric when you have employees who fight for the customer. They’ll make sure that your organization will never become antiquated.”