You may think of gaming as simply a favorite past time of your children or nieces and nephews, but did you know it’s actually on track to becoming a 180 billion dollar industry by 2021? Gaming is a huge industry with a lot of devoted customers, which is why it was so interesting to speak with John Pompei, Head of Player Experience Operations Worldwide for Electronic Arts. From working as a training specialist for a computer training and consulting company in the Air Force, to operational and customer support work at Microsoft, then to Sears Holding to lead strategy for online support, John has over 20 years of experience leading strategic and operational work.
Over the years, much of John’s work has been about impacting customers, which made him a great fit for the player experience role at EA. In this conversation, John shares how his experience, coupled with his skill set for team empowerment helped him build the player journey and improve the overall experience for Electronic Arts gamers.
Spend the Time to See What Kind of Value Your Frontline is Delivering
As the head of player experience at Electronic Arts, John’s role is heavily involved with service delivery, managing a blend of insourced and outsourced support. He oversees risk management, workforce support, demand planning, and community and social support which was fairly new when he joined in 2016. As a new member to the team, here’s what John learned in the first three months of this role:
- Listen and see what value and experience you can bring to the transformation. As with many of our other customer experience leaders, John spent a majority of his time listening to and learning from other colleagues. Since the company was going through a transformation from retail and full package product to more of a digital and live service type of company, John wanted to figure out how to leverage his past experiences to help build a better experience for EA players.
- Spend quality time with direct reports and peers. It’s so important to understand the culture you’re coming into when in a new leadership position. Spend time with folks who’ve been on the team to understand their histories and where they think the company currently is, in relation to the industry and competitors. This will help you put things into perspective.
- Watch the frontline in action. John also spent time on the floor listening to live calls and read chat transcripts. Soon, he started questioning some of the experiences he saw that he believed didn’t meet the standard of what they should be delivering against. He looked further into the chats to see if players were really getting what they needed. Were customer support agents providing enough value? Were issues able to be resolved the first time or were players taken through multiple touch points? Additionally, John spoke to the frontline to get their feedback on the experience they felt they were delivering.
- Don’t underestimate the time you’ll need to understand your company’s operations. John dedicated about 25% of his time listening, learning, shadowing, and talking, early on, but wishes he would’ve spent maybe 75% of his time executing these processes.
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Work with Your Team Before Presenting CX Findings to Leadership
After examining all of the behaviors and processes, John went over these findings with his direct reports. Before he even went to the leadership team, he spoke to those responsible for the day to day operations. It was important to him that he shared what he saw as opportunities and to be able to get their feedback and input. After working collectively with his team to build a plan, he went to the leadership team to start influencing the change they needed.
John inherited a team who was already used to doing things in a particular way, so it was important that he spent time getting everyone on the same page. This happens to a lot of leaders that I’ve interviewed — you get to a point where not only are you transforming the CX work, but you’re also looking at your team with a critical eye, and determining how you may need to change the structure and alignment. This was challenging for John; in fact, he didn’t manage to do this successfully in the beginning, noting that although he had great one on one conversations with his direct reports, he wasn’t having the right conversations as a team.
John shared some realizations on how he could’ve improved his team management:
- Empower individuals, but empower the collective team. Though one-on-one conversations with direct reports seemed beneficial, there would sometimes be a disconnect at the larger level during team meetings. He didn’t always ensure that things which needed to happen collectively and collaboratively were happening. He had to make sure the team worked together as one.
- Weekly meetings need real value and purpose. Once John and his team identified some communication gaps, they transformed their weekly meetings. He didn’t want the meetings to become a routine obligation, rather, something that truly provided value. What are the priorities to address? How can international team members feel more included? What is the value of the collective time together?
- No “filling people in.” It’s important to leverage available technology. Often times, if someone can’t join a meeting due to a time-zone difference, teammates will say, “we can’t get everyone together so let’s have a meeting and we’ll bring them up to speed,” John no longer does this and ensures that all members can be present for a meeting – so they’ll wait until everyone is available and use all available technology (Skype, Zoom, etc).
- Create a process for understanding the players’ experience: John established an escalation team that handles escalations from executives and a separate team for customer escalations. The customer escalation team spends time going through the player experience from the time they purchase a game, install it, account management, playing the game – then interacting with customer support. Once the team went through and documented this journey, they were able to gain a lot of valuable learnings that helped them improve gaming operations and rollouts.
*John goes into more detail about how they built the player journey and the effect it had on their customer experience transformation. I strongly encourage you listen to the whole episode.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
- When coming into a new role, it’s important to be able to really commit the time to learn and listen and not feel like you need to jump in two feet as early as possible. I think sometimes we trick ourselves to believe that, “Oh my gosh, if I’m not adding value add right away, they’re not going to see me as a good hire.” If I took more time to listen, learn, understand, and go deep, I’d have a different appreciation for our frontline than I do today, and I appreciate them today.
- Step back and take as much time as you need to get as deep into the business so that you can really understand it because that will arm you to go and influence the changes that are going to need to be made in order to deliver the great experiences that we all want to deliver for our customers.
About John Pompei:With over 30 years of experience, John is a results-oriented leader, with extensive experience driving operational excellence in support of customers and partners.
He has experience in navigating large organizations, developing collaborative relationships and recognized for leading multi-cultural cross-functional teams, aligning them to a single vision and driving change that enables customer and company benefits.
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