Barbara Lehman, executive director of digital transformation at Comcast

Barbara Lehman has spent her career helping organizations to evolve and transform the kinds of digital experiences they offer to customers.

“As we become more digitally engaged, it is important to remember that we should look at technology as the tool to provide an experience in a way that offers the greatest value to the customer,” she said.

Lehman is currently executive director of digital transformation for Comcast Cable. In this role, she leads digital programs, products and strategies with a strong element of change management which aim at improving customer digital experience and adoption. After working for financial services companies Advanta and the Vanguard Group, Lehman joined Comcast in 2009.

Streamline Processes to Improve Customer Experience

“The development of digital at Comcast has changed drastically since 2009,” she said. “It’s gone from a small team that provided basic Comcast offer and service information to a fully functional team with advanced capabilities crossing over multiple mediums and providing ubiquitous access.”

Lehman has seen “great leaps” in the digital customer experience world as a whole as traditionally service-oriented industries have altered their underlying business models in order to support dramatic shifts in customer experience. She cites Starbucks' use of mobile ordering as an example. "[Customers] can walk in to pick up their order instead of waiting in line and then waiting for the order to be prepared — sometimes five to 10 minutes. This also had an operational effect of how Starbucks shops are managed."

One example of how Comcast is working to streamline experiences is in providing a more “automated and simple process” for customers who want to move their current services to a new address. Whereas the previous process could take several calls, it is now a task customers can complete online in several minutes. 

Lehman will be speaking at CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 12 to 14 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. She will give a session titled “Drive Change and Digital Adoption with Your Customer Base” on Nov. 13.

We spoke with Lehman about where companies may look to improve customer experience, her advice for organizations undertaking or refining digital transformation projects and Comcast’s approach to digital transformation.

Build on Small Wins to Gain Momentum 

CMSWire: Where do you see the primary gaps in the kinds of digital experiences companies deliver to customers today and the kinds of digital experiences customers are expecting? How should companies work to close those gaps?

Lehman: Gaps may vary by vertical and by individual company. In general, though, I think there are several areas where many organizations have key gaps.

The first gap is in providing a consistent experience for customers over cross-channel touchpoints. Customer experiences must be consistent in message, brand voice, and a unified policy approach to how and what is communicated to the customer. When these experiences don’t align, customers can become frustrated.

From a customer point of view, there is an exponential effect as customers become more familiar with digital tools and services provided online, they apply that knowledge to the next app. However, the adoption of the tools and services by customers varies across different segments of an existing customer baseline. Making customers aware of and willing to adopt technologies is an important component of the transformation. Complicated customer experiences with various paths to resolution also require additional innovation to make these experiences simplified and easier to complete for the customer base.

Closing such gaps will require continued investment in these experiences. Continuing to build out these digital experiences with the sustained evolution of AI, machine learning and personalization while also building awareness at the customer and employee level is the foundation to bridging DX gaps.

CMSWire: What advice do you have for organizations embarking on digital transformation or looking to refine their existing DT strategy?

Lehman: Each company has a unique culture and therefore the approach will vary based on norms and organizational structure. For most organizations, digital transformation can start out as a focus on one area. Create a digital experience that could provide value to customers for some task that usually requires them to call in or complete on their own.

The key to getting started is to develop a goal you want to achieve, a metric or metrics to measure progress to that goal, and a change management approach to bring everyone along with you. Once you have an incremental win, you have some momentum, and you’ll want to be more comprehensive in your approach.

Recognize that building out digital capabilities is primary to a digital transformation but there are also behind-the-scenes considerations and areas of focus that must be accounted for, such as employee adoption.

For example, do customer-facing employees understand these features and how they should connect to their role in the customer journey? What expected behavior changes should we expect from our employees and how will we measure that progress? Is there a plan on how to address this area so that customers have a seamless experience with digital and human interactions?

CMSWire: Which areas of digital transformation do firms tend to overlook?

Lehman: It is less about overlooking areas and more about the amount of investment in time and/or money to continue to move forward. In particular, I think on the change management front.

Many larger companies work in a matrixed environment which requires continued support from stakeholders and commitment to move forward with the next stretch of work. This must be worked and managed on a consistent basis to ensure that you do not lose momentum or sponsorship.

CMSWire: Why would you recommend adopting the five key pillars approach to digital transformation — digital enablement, technology advancement, organizational agility, adoption and digital shift?

Lehman: It provides structure and a comprehensive approach for how to think about a digital transformation journey. Digital transformation is not just about enabling digital capabilities. While this is obviously fundamental to the transformation, there are other pillars that should be considered.

These pillars include technology advancement which not only envelops the constantly changing technological landscapes such as AI, personalization, etc. but also the consolidation and streamlining of systems and processes across different channels.

Once we have the digital capabilities in place, we need to make customers aware of the capabilities and ensure employees are ready to support these capabilities as needed. And finally, what changes are required to shift customers from traditional channels and processes to a digital experience?

This approach has worked well for Comcast and has continued to evolve over the course of our digital transformation journey.

CMSWire: Where is Comcast now on its digital transformation journey? What has already been achieved and what’s next?

Lehman: Comcast is two years along in the journey and we’ve seen significant progress and change across the organization and with our customer base.

We’ve substantially increased digital interactions with our customers and have some big goals over the next two years to continue on this path. This has also provided significant cost savings for the organization as more customers leverage our digital services to perform transactions or to get information from Comcast.

Also critical to our continued success as an organization are the senior leaders companywide who have embraced and are supporting this effort, including driving innovation and opportunities within their own business areas.

Next for our transformation will be to focus more on some of the consolidation of our systems as well as further integration of AI and personalization technologies into our experiences. There will also be a focus on increasing speed to market.

CMSWire: If you could transform into someone else at any point in history, who would you choose to become and why? Would you relive that experience or make some different decisions? Which route would you opt for and why?

Lehman: There are too many things in my mind that I would need to overcome to select a specific individual. However, if I could travel back in time, I would choose to be part of the revolution and independence of our country.

This was one of the most transformational changes in history because it wasn’t just about a change in leadership of a country which happens many times across history. It was about redefining the leadership of a country including the framework for how a country will be run providing for the distribution of power and ensuring freedom and liberty for all.

While there has been some flawed thinking on the initial application of this and other missteps along the way, the framework and brilliance of how it is constructed has stood up across time and has provided for the evolution of broader thinking and application.

Learn more about the Digital Customer Experience (DX) Summit here