2020 goes down as the year when “connection” was redefined. In a time when COVID-19 isolated many of us in our homes, connecting to the workplace expanded beyond technical ties to emails and databases to instead reference our psychological understanding and solidarity with colleagues and customers.
Few understand connection better than Diana Anderson, CPTD, Vice President of CX for Comcast’s Greater Chicago Region, which includes Illinois and parts of Indiana and Michigan. Comcast is the second largest broadcasting and cable TV company in the world and the biggest U.S. internet provider.
“Last year, it was about keeping our people safe, not just physically but emotionally safe, too, and providing a lot of care” both to customers and employees, Anderson says.
Comcast recognized its pinnacle role in everything from enabling schoolchildren to keep learning and making it possible for millions of people to work at home to distributing the latest pandemic news to the public, to supporting business and government operations.
“We really emphasized ‘quality behaviors,’ as we call them,” Anderson says. “We urged our employees to own that they are Xfinity ambassadors. You are the face of Comcast if you are a team member interacting one-on-one with a customer—showing appreciation, showing empathy, being warm and friendly, and educating. It’s the difference between saying, ‘You can just do that on the app,’ versus ‘we have an app that can help you get this done when you want to do it as fast as possible.’ That’s a different conversation.”
Switching Channels on Employee Care
It’s not as if employees weren’t hurting, too. They’ve been subjected to the same stressors as customers, so their support by Comcast was critical. Regionally, the company moved massive numbers of office-based, call center, and retail employees home in a two-week period, and changed protocols for technical support operations and other teams in the field.
For Anderson, the shift to remote was negligible; she had worked at home regularly in prior jobs. Aside from Comcast “virtual care agents,” however, the change to work-at-home was harder for some employees.
“Comcast had already created training and learning that would accommodate that experience” for care agents, so there were tools within our organization that were leveraged and accelerated” to help normally in-person employees adjust. The transition has been a good experience, according to Anderson: “People adapted, and I occasionally schedule time with someone and label it ‘water cooler connection’ to maintain that sense of community.”
Relationship-building has been core throughout Anderson’s career trajectory, starting with an original ambition to become a teacher or earn a public relations degree. Instead, she earned a B.S. in business administration and an M.S. in human performance improvement, which set her on a path for human resources, talent development, culture transformation, collaborative partnerships, and engagement.
“I’m a textbook case of transferrable skills,” she laughs. “It’s through the value that I placed on building those relationships, though, that the opportunity to lead CX came to be.”
Today, Anderson reports to Comcast’s senior regional vice president and has a dotted line to the division CX leader. Overall CX strategy is developed at Philadelphia-based Comcast headquarters in close partnership with divisions, which execute and pilot digital options and support customers through various CX journeys.
“What I think we’ve done well in Greater Chicago Region is our Network of Champions,” Anderson notes, explaining that each business unit has at least one designated champion who devotes 10% of their monthly time to acting on customer insights within their sphere of influence. She credits the structure with strengthening her department’s outreach and interconnectivity. Also helpful is a robust elevation platform that is part of Comcast’s Net Promoter System.
“We're hearing from our frontline folks who bring our strategies to life,” she says. “When we provide a digital option on an app or on our website for a customer, and it’s not a good experience, our technicians in customers’ homes or our retail representatives in retail environments hear about it and share the information. It’s an interconnected ecosystem,” she says.
Taking Her Own CX Journey
In Anderson’s early days in learning and development in 2007, she bore the title of research developer, but her many learning projects—including evaluating 10 complex training programs, creating a leadership development course, and crafting a decision matrix for selecting appropriate learning delivery vehicles—read like duties of a senior instructional designer and director.
Anderson then spent nearly a decade as senior manager of learning and development at Walgreens, which was experiencing rapid growth. Her team handled onboarding and leadership development training of the large numbers of new managers for stores and districts. It also played a key part in transforming corporate culture and managing change to boost efficiency as the economy shifted in 2008-2009.
“There are very deep relationships in that organization,” says Anderson. Professional development, too, is core to Walgreen’s values, which inspired her favorite project: launching a brick-and-mortar corporate university to centralize leadership training.
“It was just remarkable to see that vision come to life,” she recalls.
In early 2017, she joined Comcast as the regional director of Comcast University in Greater Chicago. After three years in that role, she transitioned to Vice President, Customer Experience. She credits her exposure to Six Sigma principles, project coordination, and change management while at Walgreens and nurturing strong partnerships at Comcast with prepping her well for the high-pressure solution-finding and CX binge-watching required at Comcast since declaration of a national emergency.
Anderson also received support and guidance from CXPA staff, as well as a member of her team, Brandon Jones, who is a CXPA member. Jones recommended CXPA, and both have benefited from the association's contacts and resources.
Channel-surfing Post-COVID Opportunities
As of June 2021, Comcast began to revise its pandemic protocols. “It’s so important that we continue to the follow the science, as well as guidance from local and state authorities,” says Anderson, noting that some technicians may still prefer customers to distance from them when in a home or during face-to-face interactions; and vice versa. “Our quality behaviors help frontline teams have courageous conversations with customers and live those values,” she explains.
Anderson, meanwhile, anticipates more personalization in and diversification of customer experience. “How do we, for example, get better at identifying in a warm and friendly, caring and empathetic way, the customer who is not likely to do a self-install? We also have customer segments that want to be empowered to push a button or send a text and not talk to anybody. How do we do learn what our customers want in a way that's not invasive, not disrespectful, but still helps us better identify those folks?” she asks.
Questions about serving diverse customer segments are universal across the CX universe, especially with the added disruptor of COVID-19. Anderson is proud of the Internet Essentials program for low-income customers, as well as services and support Comcast provides in communities with Lift Zones and the RISE program for minority-owned small businesses. Although Anderson can’t fast-forward for answers, she finds that adding some CX data to enhance business decision making at this critical time “was very gratifying. I like that piece of this role a lot.”