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Igniting experiences through real-time customer intelligence: Q&A with Verizon and Adobe

Transforming your customer experience from a siloed multichannel approach to a digitally-led end-to-end omnichannel experience is no easy feat, especially for an organization as large as Verizon. 

The telecom giant has spent the last few years maturing its customer experience strategy and digital capabilities so that it could reach its customers on the right channel, at the right time, and with the right, most contextually relevant messages possible. As part of the journey, Verizon reorganized to focus outward on the customer and invested in digital and technology to enable this strategy. Among the investments is a strategic partnership with Adobe across many tools including Adobe Experience Cloud and Adobe Experience Platform.

In this exclusive interview, we sat down with Sasha Lucas, VP, Head of Consumer Digital at Verizon, and Anjul Bhambhri, SVP of Experience Platform and Solutions, Adobe, to get a better understanding of the digital experience landscape, how COVID-19 has shaken things up, the trends, challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. 

What does experience mean to you, especially now?

Lucas: Traditionally, when we spoke of experiences they were tied to the service industry. Experiences were the intangibles: the things that you couldn’t touch. Today, we are in a place where experiences are everything we do and the bar is constantly being raised.  Experience has evolved dramatically to be everything that we do across physical and digital channels. It’s no longer industry specific either as consumers are comparing each and every brand with the last great experience they encountered.

Take an example such as going on a holiday. That was an experience. Now the experience starts when you first start to think about a vacation. Everything starting with getting the right offers, hotel, to preparing with the right tours, the right restaurants, from conception to your return home—all of that is now part of the experience. 

Bhambhri: Experience has evolved from making a discrete event delightful to making an entire journey engaging and compelling. It’s not just about the holiday, like Sasha said, it’s about the entire planning process and the various touch points that the consumer engages on during that planning. For brands the big question is around how do you deliver that continuum of experiences? This is something that has become a boardroom conversation. The focus is on the entire journey and removing friction across all these touch points, as well as adding novelty to the various touch points because that really adds to the definition of a good experience. Verizon has been, I would say a leader in both delivering the experiences as well as the technology innovation, which is making all of this possible.

What does real-time mean to you?

Lucas: We have very big ambitions and are starting to deliver on those as it relates to real-time marketing and using the real-time nature of data and technology to deliver highly personalized, relevant, and contextualized experiences and Adobe has been an important partner here. The words “real-time” can insinuate that it’s about speed, but that is not always the case. It’s about using data at pace and making sure it’s getting smarter along the way. Consumers expect brands to take what is happening at a moment’s notice and incorporate it into the next point of engagement. Being as famous for our experiences as we are for our network is core to our strategy — our consumers expect hyper personalized experiences, making real-time response required.

Bhambhri: Real-time means having the appropriate timeliness across every step of the customer journey, which really makes the experience seamless and continuous in that each experience builds off the last one. When we say real-time, it means responding with appropriate timeliness across every step of the journey — without causing customer fatigue. For relevant experiences, often there is a lot of curation of data that is required. Leveraging the right technology and experience architecture that makes the right data available at the right time is foundational. It is the “right time” experiences which lead to relevance for the consumer. 

Can you give us some details around the partnership between Verizon and Adobe?

Lucas: Verizon and Adobe have been in a strategic partnership for a number of years. It is truly a collaboration where we invest in each other to move the strategy forward.

I’m excited about the work we’ve done together in the digital space. Recently, we took it one step further to build a 360-degree understanding of our customer. We’re leveraging the capabilities across all channels to understand the next best action, to execute real-time marketing, as well as campaign orchestration and delivery with Adobe. 

Bhambhri:  A lot of Verizon’s requirements in terms of delivering personalization, and doing that in real time, has helped us pioneer the architecture to deliver personalization in milli-seconds at massive scale. Verizon pushes the envelope – we cannot just build something and rest on our laurels. The fact that they constantly push the envelope is something we are delighted by and it is helping us innovate, especially with Adobe Experience Platform. This technology has been awarded three dozen patents, a recognition of the innovation.

Adobe Experience Platform brings together all of the data from across channels and stitches it together through complex identity resolution to build a holistic view of the customer. The freshness of this view of the customer is maintained due to real-time data collection and transformation. With Adobe Experience Platform, for example, Verizon is able to personalize the onboarding experience of 100 million users, across every touch point, every one of which has a personalized journey. Being able to do that—at scale in real time —is something that is truly innovative.

How do Verizon and Adobe use data in an impactful way?

Lucas: Our customer experience strategy is about memorable moments delivered through our front line workforce and our self-serve channels. Data and technology are key enablers to designing those end to end experiences and making them richer and more personalized.

We’ve invested in a Northstar technology architecture inclusive of Adobe that allows information, data, and technology to flow together to meet customer expectations. Experiences are moments of delight, but they’re also points of failure. They are moments to get it right, but they are also moments to get it wrong. The data is what allows us to see that clearly and continually improve while protecting the privacy and security of our customers.

Bhambhri: The role of data in delivering experiences to our audiences is fundamental, and now that all these experiences are built on digital interactions, there’s a ton of data that is being collected. And in the digital world, this data is distributed. It’s big. It’s fast. And all of it has to be analyzed in real time and at scale. 

At Adobe, we don’t look at experiences as just disparate events. They are all of the touch points with the customer. The data is coming in from many different channels, like websites, mobile, customer reviews, and social media. All of these interactions need to be captured to deliver more relevant experiences. 

In order for businesses to deliver those rich experiences, they need technology to quickly construct the person behind all of these transactions and interactions: Who are they? What do they want? What is their intent? Are they satisfied with us or not? And all of this has to be done while respecting the consumer’s data sharing preferences. We provide technology that allows businesses to support their consumers by providing them transparency and control of their data. All systems of engagements that are acting on this data get the benefit of “privacy by design.”

What are the future opportunities with digital experiences?

Lucas: Where we’re headed is much more experiential and immersive. Digital as a channel is not going to remain in its current state. It’s going to surround us. It’s going to take on new heights. We’re paving the way for that at Verizon as the leader in 5G. We intend to make 5G impossible to ignore through next-level experiences that weren’t possible in a 4G world – digital is simply just an enabler of making that happen. I also believe that next year we will see a big comeback for voice and conversational experiences enabled through digital channels. 

Bhambhri: COVID-19 has pushed technologies such as AR and VR more into the mainstream, bringing to light the convenience of these more immersive mediums at a time when in-person interaction is not an option. For example, people wanting to buy a home during this pandemic, want to go in and tour a potential house, and instead of visiting it right away, they can do an immersive experience online that can help them save time.