This article is part of CMO.com’s September series on the state of media and entertainment. Click here for more.
Four years ago, Verizon took a page out of Apple’s playbook and launched a series of multi-thousand square-foot destination superstores, where customers could test devices and interact with Verizon experts. The idea was to amp up its storytelling by offering compelling merchandise experiences and in-store interactivity integrated with the latest technology.
The stores are just one of the ways Verizon has improved its customer-centric philosophy.
As someone who has formed or led pioneering business teams, Scott Zimmer, Verizon’s new chief customer experience officer, is looking forward to implementing a next-gen, digital-first customer experience across all channels and touch points. Indeed, Zimmer, hired this past spring, has already made changes to lead Verizon’s effort to build a better customer-centric business model.
During his career, Zimmer has worked as brand manager for Disney, head of innovation at Ally Financial, and head of digital for Capital One. He received his MBA from the University of North Carolina and furthered his education at Stanford in a “Design Thinking Executive Education” boot camp. He currently serves as an executive coach at Stanford University
Here, he talks to CMO.com about the future of the customer interaction.
CMO.com: What interested you about joining Verizon?
Zimmer: Connectivity through technology shapes a lot of what we do in our day-to-day lives, and Verizon is at the center of it. So to be able to help define and develop the interactions that customers have with this hugely influential brand is a great opportunity. What was also attractive was Verizon CMO Diego Scotti’s vision to unite all parts of the customer journey under one roof. Typically, companies don’t connect the dots between creative and the customer experience, so the vision to have a centralized function was appealing.
CMO.com: What are your responsibilities as chief customer experience officer and head of customer experience?
Zimmer: My job is to connect the dots and unify the customer experience. Currently, ownership of the customer experience lives in several disparate places across Verizon, and I am charged with bringing it all together and making every touch point a consumer has with us consistent and cohesive.
CMO.com: What is the story that Verizon wants to tell in a 2017 world? And what is your role in helping to bring this about?
Zimmer: Our new brand approach revolves around communicating that Verizon is simple, reliable, and for [the consumer]. Consumers want to connect with brands that speak on a human and emotional level, so we are talking to them in a more conversational and fun way. You see some of that in our ad spots with [actor] Thomas Middleditch. My team and I are working to deliver this human tone consistently across the customer experience—inclusive of marketing but beyond.
CMO.com: What are your thoughts on how to enhance the in-store customer experience?
Zimmer: We’ve put a lot of thought into how we can create consistency of experience for customers. One shopping experience that’s intuitive and consistent across different locations and channels is an opportunity the whole team is very interested in addressing. To do so, we are rolling out Verizon’s new retail concept, which we are calling our Next Gen stores. We want customers to experience the same look and feel across platforms and stores. While we’ve been testing the concept in beta for a while, [it] officially launched with the opening of our flagship Verizon Next Gen Store in San Francisco in August.
CMO.com: What does the launch entail?
Zimmer: The new design is simplified and streamlined; part of our inspiration came from traditional service-oriented sources, including newsstands, bookstands, and coffee shops. A priority in the design of the Next Gen stores was to make the product the centerpiece. The redesign allows our customers to easily sample our products and have ownable product experiences. Our goal from the beginning was to do more storytelling at the store level, so we thought deeply about how people, especially young people, shop.
CMO.com: Can you provide an example of something you are doing or planning to do to meet that goal?
Zimmer: Most companies want to make their stores high tech, but for Verizon we are the technology, so we want to make our stores more comfortable. A guiding question for us has been, “In a store full of touch screens, how do we make the experience more human?” For example, our new stores have collaboration tables, inspired by the communal table at a coffee shop, that offer customers a more intimate area to connect with our products and each other.
CMO.com: How about enhancing the customer experience over digital?
Zimmer: Our goal is to create a unified experience for customers across all touch points, so we’ll be delivering an increasingly similar experience whether they’re engaging with us in a store, online, or on our My Verizon app. A single channel of interaction isn’t an efficient way to create a strong relationship with a customer. A physical store allows for deeper engagement by creating spaces where customers can experience and interact with our products.
CMO.com: How are you planning to do that?
Zimmer: For some consumers, their first retail experience is online, so coming to a physical store can be jarring and clunky. We know that these customers are more familiar with shopping online, so we wanted to replicate that online experience into a physical setting. For instance, we created areas that give suggestions to customers based on their particular needs—for example, “Going on a trip?” or “Looking for music?” Our goal is to connect the dots and tell a story that touches our customers.
CMO.com: How does mobile play into all of this?
Zimmer: Mobile is definitely a part of it. We want to improve and unify the customer experience, whether using their mobile phones or shopping at a Verizon store.
CMO.com: How is Verizon working to improve the customer experience overall?
Zimmer: We’re cultivating a strong, cohesive, and direct feeling of connectedness between our customers and the Verizon brand. My vision is to drive meaningful customer engagement and to champion the consumer’s ability to accomplish any task in an intuitive way, which, in turn, shapes their brand experience.
CMO.com: What is your goal in the year ahead and for the future, in general?
Zimmer: It is still early days in my role, but as I start to more fully understand the Verizon business and customer and our exciting assets, my team and I are already taking steps to unify the experience. Our goal is for the “company” that a person learns about before interacting with us to be the same “company” they experience when they’re a customer ensuring a unified brand across touch points, which builds trust and confidence. We need to deliver on our brand promise from the first interaction they have with us, across all interactions they’ll have over time.