Karen Quintos is the EVP and CCO of Dell Technologies, which came about as the result of Dell and EMC merging, which created the world’s largest privately-held tech company. Karen is a great leader, but I also thought this conversation was interesting because of the merger aspect, the tech industry aspect, and the privately-held aspects. Mergers can be common, but not at this size — and most CCOs probably don’t operate under a merger in their career, via sheer numbers. Karen’s perspectives on all this throughout the interview are very interesting.
Karen Quintos is Dell’s Chief Customer Officer (CCO), leading a global organization devoted to customer advocacy. Under Karen’s leadership, the CCO organization defines and develops Dell’s customer experience strategy and programs to maximize customer satisfaction, acquisition, retention and profitability. Karen is also responsible for Dell’s strategy and programs for Corporate Social Responsibility, Diversity & Inclusion and Entrepreneurship — business imperatives she is passionate about. Previously at Dell, Karen served as Chief Marketing Officer and also held senior roles within services, support and supply chain management. Karen joined Dell in 2000 from Citigroup, where she was vice president of Global Operations and Technology. Prior to this, Karen spent 12 years with Merck in marketing, operations and supply chain leadership. She earned a master’s degree in marketing and international business from New York University, and a Bachelor of Science in supply chain management from Pennsylvania State University. Karen is on the board of Lennox International and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She is also on the board of Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, and a 2014 recipient of its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award. Karen resides in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three children.
The Four Major Steps
In the new capacity, Karen had four major focal points:
- Define the role of the CCO
- ID priorities and create focus areas
- Engage the leadership team
- Evaluate and give herself feedback
Define The Role Of The CCO
This is the first part of our discussion. Here, we speak a lot about the types of research you have to do when you elevate to a role like this, especially at a merged company of this size. Some of her first actions included:
- Speaking with thought leaders (Karen and I did a working session together with her team last fall, too!)
- Road shows where she spoke with anyone who interacts with clients
- As many client conversations as possible
- Bring in data — but be sure to target the data, and not just collect everything (which can confuse people)
This is a real problem for companies, especially as they get bigger. Karen and her team identified 10 priorities, which were subsequently grouped into three focus areas. Those were:
- Design solutions to deliver high-value to, and earn advocacy from, the key customer segments of Dell Technologies
- Build out and continue to enable customer analytics and insights; the goal here was both being able to understand customers but also to use the analytics gleaned for top-quality service
- Expand corporate responsibility, giving, and entrepreneurship. How can Dell Technologies partner with customers on not just revenue plays, but higher-purpose missions?
Now we have the role defined and priorities set. It’s time to engage the leadership team.
Engaging The Leadership Team
Karen needed buy-in on the 10 priorities grouped into the three focus areas above. She knew that a lot of executive-level discussions would be anecdotal, but wanted to have a quantitative/qualitative basis on top of that. That’s where the big data/analytics side came in. She had numbers, but also stories/anecdotes, and was able to get the 10 priorities and focus areas approved. This, in turn, became the initial customer experience road map.
Now, she meets with the rest of the leadership team bimonthly. The goal is to have conversations and engage around the priorities, including seeing if anyone has questions, etc.
One big thing we discussed here is the idea of “culture work.” It needs to be easy for other people in the organization (individuals or departments) to (a) understand what you’re doing but (b) be able to reach out. Karen wants to make sure her team isn’t silo’ed and can work with other teams, other executives, and front-line management. It’s not just about specific CX metrics. It’s about what the company needs and how CX fits into that.
Karen evaluates constantly. Since she’s been in the role, for example, she has three key “wins” in her opinion:
- Metric improvements
- The thrill of creating a new organization
- Bringing together the organization under this new mission
She also sees three major areas for improvement:
- Considerable amount of time is required to communicate goals and priorities; can this be streamlined?
- Constantly trying to define out the new organization
- The amount of effort at correcting immediately, early-on opinions
As we’ve all faced, many of the challenges come from communication issues. Those are always very hard to fully tackle.
The Pay It Forward Question
What does Karen know now that she wishes she knew then?
- Unite the surveys
- Unite the data fields
- Unite the way data is captured and reported
- A one-company view of rich customer data is extremely powerful!
- The external customer is crucial, of course, but if you don’t focus on the internal organization, you will encounter hiccups
- Communication is absolutely crucial and essential to everything a company, and the individuals within it, are trying to do
At the very end of the interview (if you want to scroll forward), we talk a bit more about the Dell-EMC merger too.
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