CMO Q&A: Mike Ritter, Verizon

Verizon's Mike Ritter speaks about blurring the lines between mobile and home and implementing a social awards program.

What are your main responsibilities?

I have all the traditional marketing functions, which include advertising, branding, loyalty, revenue generation, and the consumer business strategy function, as well as what I would call marketing operations, which includes customer experience for new products.

A few unique things come under my unit. I have the Redbox Instant by Verizon joint venture [DVD and streaming video service], which is a new national offering. I also have all of the digital units. We have a digital center of excellence, so I handle the demand stimulation for digital and customer care.

Where does communications fit?
Communications does not fall under me, but it's tightly integrated. Both internal and external communications are matrixed into marketing. For example, they will sit at our strategy and staff meetings and are very much involved because we determine strategy tactics. They have a really deep understanding in helping us with the positioning of the product weighed in terms of what we think is going to work or not.

To me, they are part of our team and to get the synergy and the one Verizon voice, we both report into a corporate office. I report to Bob Mudge, president of consumer & mass business for Verizon, and the head of communications reports to CEO Lowell McAdam.

What are you doing in social media?
I break our social media into three groups: conversation communities, sharing, and awareness. One of the things we are working on is a social awards program. It recognizes customers and tracks digital behaviors and engagement, so from a business perspective it helps with loyalty and revenue.

Things customers do, such as register an online account or follow us or share on social, will earn them points that can be redeemed for things such as products at Starbucks or they can give it to their favorite charities. When customers connect with their social credentials, the redemptions and earnings will be shared on social media, so it sets the stage for more social gifting. It is something new and it has the ability to create more awareness for our product.

Name an innovation you're working on.
All of the information we capture on a set-top box in every room lets us know where you have a TV, what you're viewing, for how long, your favorite actors, and so on. We can take all of the information and start making specific recommendations, right down to the specific TV set in your house.

Next year we will be able to know who is viewing that TV, as well. We can say, 'From 10pm to 12am, I know that typically this is when the kids are in bed and this is the type of content you like to watch,' and those recommendations can show up right on the screen for you.

We're trying to make everything more efficient and effective for our customers by using the data we have in a relevant way.

What is your goal going forward?
We need to be obsessed with continued innovation of our FiOS platform and continue to blur the lines between home and mobile. We have to break these antiquated content models and deliver what our customers want at a fair and compelling price.

We also need to have a burning curiosity about our customers' behavior and simulate that data to inform and develop our instincts around unique value propositions to audiences over different points of time.

If we do that, there is no reason why we should not have more than a 50% share in every market where we operate. We are at about 40% now with a relatively young offering with FiOS in the market. We've been in some markets for less than three or four years, and we're the number one or two provider in every market where we operate.

As we continue to focus on innovation and bring the mobile and landline experience together, we'll have a unique advantage on how we can move this market forward.

What are you doing right now with internal communications?
We want to have a service-delivery platform as good as our product, meaning we are obsessed with solving every single customer issue. We have more than 20,000 employees talking to customers every day. Because of our engagement with them, they know each call should not only be about solving the problem, but also about what we can do to be a better provider. All our executives sit and listen to calls every week, and we have technology that can come through to gain insights or see opportunities or gaps from customers.

We take those on two parallel paths. One is to see how that informs our product road map going forward. The other involved creating an employee group that we took off the day-to-day business and put on a two-year assignment to focus on how to improve those processes. When they return, they will have earned the right to go into high-level positions because they have proven they can tackle complex cases.

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