Why Comcast’s VP of Customer Experience Always Keeps An Empty Seat In Her Boardroom

Since the beginning of her career, regardless of whatever industry she’s working in at the time, Tonya Webster has focused on prioritizing the experience of every one of her customers. At each workplace, from military financial services company USAA to Citigroup, Webster climbed the internal ladder (often from entry and mid-level positions) and learned the processes until she earned a seat at the leadership table.

“I’ve worked in sales environments, call center environments, training environments,” says Webster. “You really start understanding the areas of opportunities, the pain points. You start becoming a champion for those things that can improve the process. That’s really how my passion and my love for this space, helping lead the organization through the change it takes in order improve the process for our employees and customers.”

Three years ago Webster joined Comcast as VP of Customer Experience, where she oversees the customer experience processes in eight states across the Southeast. Her passion for loyalty, from both a customer and employee perspective, have helped her boost the communications provider’s end-to-end communication and marketing engagement.

Webster shares more about building your career from the ground up, why Comcast keeps an empty chair in their boardroom at all times, and why — even though it may be obvious — you always put the customer first.

Multiple times, you have started at a company as an entry-level employee and moved up the ladder to help them grow. How did you accomplish that?

It was more of a stair step. I started as entry-level and then going into managing peers and helping their voices be heard, followed by growing more in the tactical side of the business. Whether it’s call center re-engineering or technology development, it’s how I started getting more and more larger areas of responsibility.

My job right before Comcast, as an example, I worked for Global Citibank’s cards division, which is the largest piece of the Citibank company. It covered over a hundred countries and 27 million customers. You’re influencing more and more of what that customer interaction and that employee interaction looks like through all the different types of process improvement, technology improvements.

Your job is to analyze the current customer experience status. What are some ways you identify pain points within an organization?

One of the first things we do is make sure we truly understand and have measurements for the voice of the customer — and that’s in the form of surveys, focus groups, there’s a variety of techniques that we use. But, to make sure that we really understand the work that we do, what’s the perception of that from a customer’s perspective?

You really have to understand the use behavior, purchasing behavior, and demographics. You have to understand the ins and outs of your customer base so you understand them and anticipate what it is they really want.

At Comcast, we understood that our customers wanted to ensure that they have an omni-channel experience. They didn’t want to just have to call into our call center if they have a problem. They wanted to be able to to interact with us online, that we have the technology and the capabilities and the features for them to do that. That’s what helps — make sure that you’re making the mark that you want to make from an experience standpoint, that you’re not only having set the right expectations, but you’re delivering that expectation on to the customer.

You’ve been at Comcast for three years now and you already started putting new processes into place. What are some KPI’s that you keep in mind?

It was really important for us to make sure we accomplished what we said that we were going to do. An example of that would be our technical appointments. When a technician is scheduled to come to your house, we want to make sure that that tech is there on time. So, 97 percent of the time, we hit that mark.

We have some opportunity to close that three percent gap. But, when we do miss that gap, whether it’s weather related, traffic or whatever it is, we make sure that we’re automatically giving our customers a $20 credit for impeding on their time. We’re letting you know that something happened; we might not be there, but 97 percent of the time we are. That’s one example of a KPI that we track and measure.

We also, of course, look at for all the work that we’re doing from a digital perspective. We look at our digital adoption rates and our feedback around digital adoption to make sure that the enhancements and the features are being used by customers.

Since these processes affect different teams, how do you make sure the message stays clear to employees?

That’s so near and dear to my heart. You have to have a strong change management practice in place at the company in order for the adoption, from an employee standpoint, to stick.

Our communications processes are embedded in that. We make sure that our new changes, features, and training is communicated in a very timely way. We also have a system to survey our employees every month to get feedback from them on how these changes are going, what our customers are saying, what do they think about it. Those are rated and graded along with their feedback, and we use that as part of our customer experience strategy and integrate it into our roadmap.

We make sure that we have a sound, closed-loop system from both the employee perspective and the customer perspective in order to make all of this go so that we’re not leaving any stone unturned.

Any leadership lessons that have helped grow in your career?

In working with all of these companies, you just find that you have to help them understand that you’ve got to always remember to keep the customer and the employee at the center of everything that you do. We actually have an empty chair in the boardroom that says “customer” on it. It is a constant reminder to keep them front and center. Every single time we make a decision, how is that going to affect the customer?

If you’re building your company around that, it just takes away a lot of the re-work that you have to do, the redundancy. Always make sure that you’re thinking about things through the customer lens and the employee lens as you work with all the different functions that make up the overall experience for a company.