Simplifiers Interview: Ronan Dunne, EVP and Group President at Verizon Wireless

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Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. Here I interview leaders, often CMOs or CEOs, that we deem simplifiers. In this Simplifiers interview I speak with Ronan Dunne, EVP and Group President at Verizon Wireless.

MM: What does Verizon Wireless stand for and how does it deliver on that promise every day?

RD: Verizon Wireless transforms connectivity into possibilities for everyone and everything.

By being simple, transparent and easy to do business with, we earn our customers’ trust. By knowing and understanding our customers better, we turn insight into actionable possibilities. By our commitment to superior connectivity, we enable the future. And by engaging, enabling and empowering our employees, we give meaningful choices to our customers.

MM: What role does simplicity play in delivering on that promise?

RD: Here’s an example. With the launch of Verizon Unlimited, customers no longer have to choose between the quantity of data and the quality of their wireless service. By offering an unlimited plan on the best network, we massively simplified the choice customers had to make. A corollary benefit of Verizon Unlimited is that you don’t have to look at your bill, which simplifies the customer experience.

MM: How does Verizon Wireless strive to create simple experiences?

RD: The first phase of technology tends to develop by optimizing the past for the present. New technology capabilities are often first used to go 10% faster or 5% cheaper. What we don’t usually do is reimagine the potential of a capability in the context of an entirely different future. At Verizon Wireless we’re fundamentally rethinking what can be done on a wireless platform.

We aim to make it possible for the customer to do what he once did at his desk while out and about. With superior service and by creating a continuity of experience across channels, we take direction from customers on how they can get the most out of their partnership with Verizon Wireless. For example, our app creates a mobile-first, digitally oriented process that reflects customers’ needs and behaviors. Instead of replicating all 19 steps that are true to the process, we create the three choices the customer needs to make, and present them in an intuitive way.

This co-creation experience allows the customer to feel they have a sense of choice while simultaneously having a curated experience. A huge element of simplicity is trust. Sometimes when you give customers many choices, they feel more scared about missing out than empowered. Because we know our customers, we provide choices that are meaningful to them.

MM: What benefits has Verizon Wireless experienced from simplifying?

RD: We’ve seen a dramatic reduction in the number of calls to our customer service centers as a result of the way we’ve simplified processes. Since your mobile phone is the remote control for your life, you want to be empowered to do most things yourself. Your preferred experience is rarely to call or go into a store so we can do something for you.

However, when customers call the customer service center, it’s a value added engagement because it involves customers who want to do even more with their connectivity.

MM: As a leader, how do you strive to keep things simple?

RD: I’m an outcomes-oriented leader. By simplifying the common objectives everyone is working to achieve, and articulating them in the context of customer outcomes, I help senior leadership focus on creating conditions for success.

I’ll give you two examples. First, our business strategy can be boiled down to a mantra: get them, grow them, keep them. We spread this idea widely so our employees understand what their actions should be accomplishing. Second, with our employees, our philosophy is: engage, enable and empower. Engage everyone with a simple and compelling narrative that explains why we’re in business. Enable employees with the tools they need to get the job done. And empower employees by getting out of their way and letting them do what they do best.

MM: What’s the most recent simple experience you’ve had as a consumer that inspired you?

RD: I’ve found United Airlines personalizes their experience in a way that makes my travel experience quite simple. For example, when I log in to my account, I’m presented with a series of choices curated to the trip I’m booking that allow me to co-create my travel experience along with United. This environment of curated choices, presented to me in an intuitive way, means that I’m empowered to easily design my journey.

MM: What do c-level executives need to do to operationalize simplicity?

RD: They need to be crystal clear about the outcomes they’re working to achieve. Simplicity isn’t an outcome in and of itself; it enables you to attain defined customer outcomes.

MM: What metrics indicate that simplicity is driving your business at Verizon Wireless?

RD: We measure customer effort, especially transaction times. Customer engagement with Verizon Wireless is another important metric. How much of customer’s available share of wallet for telecoms are they spending with us? Do they use our app and are they a member of our loyalty program? In short, are we providing a simple to use and valuable service to our customers?

Then we have a set of metrics that measures our performance against our peers. We ask, are we defining the rules by which the market plays or are we playing by other’s rules? If you’re truly going to make a difference to customers, you have to set the agenda—which requires breaking and rewriting the rules.

MM: How would you define simplicity?

RD: Simplicity is creating meaningful choices and outcomes, which customers truly value.

MM: What is the most important tenet of simplicity?

RD: I believe that consistency is the gateway to simplicity. In other words, intuition can be trained—by delivering something consistently, it will in due course be seen as intuitive. Consider when Steve Jobs decided we should swipe on the smartphone as a way of doing things. There was nothing initially simple or intuitive about swiping other than that, once we did it many times, it became second nature and is now seen as intuitive.

MM: Any other piece of advice you’d offer to brands that want to embrace simplicity?

RD: Brand differentiation is delivered at the nexus of simplicity, choice and trust.

People do business with brands they trust. Trust is an important element to think about when simplifying because it sets constraints on what can and cannot be simplified. Never simplify at the expense of your customer’s trust and the integrity with which you deliver your service. For example, when you call a Verizon Wireless call center, we ask that you identify yourself and authenticate that you are who you claim to be. It would be simpler if we didn’t ask you to identify yourself, but to do that would be to compromise the trust on which the relationship between the customer and Verizon Wireless is predicated.

MM: Thank you.

This is this an ongoing Simplifiers series. See interviews with Director of Strategy and Innovation at Cofra Holding Ltd, former CEO of C&A China,Lawrence Brenninkmeyer; CMO at The Recording Academy, Evan Greene; CMO at Mary Kay, Sheryl Adkins-GreenHead of Marketing at Home Centre, Rohit Singh BhatiaSVP, CMO of Aflac, Gail GaluppoSVP and CMO at Cambia Health Solutions, Carol KruseManaging Director of The Nature Conservancy, Geof Rochester, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of Motorola Solutions, Eduardo Conrado, EVP; SVP, Chief Marketing & External Affairs Officer at Abbott, Elaine Leavenworth, GE CMO, Linda Boff; McLaren Automotive Head of Brand Marketing, Stephen Lambert; Ascension Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Nick Ragone; Hertz CMO, Matt Jauchius; Direct Line Group Marketing Director, Mark Evans; McDonald’s CMO, Deborah Wahl; President, Liza Landsman and VP Marketing, Sumaiya Balbale; Target CMO, Jeff Jones; Spotify CMO, Seth Farbman; Ally Financial CMO, Andrea Riley; Gannett CMO, Andy Yost; CVS Health CMO, Norman De Greve; Dunkin’ Brands CMO, John Costello; Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh; Southwest Airlines CMO, Kevin Krone; and Google CMO, Lorraine Twohill.

Know a simplifier or would like to be included in the series? Please recommend an executive for my next interview:

Margaret Molloy is global CMO and head of business development at Siegel+Gale. Follow her on Twitter: @MargaretMolloy and Instagram:@MargaretMMolloy

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