Rick Clinton, associate director of knowledge management for Verizon Wireless, has a big job. And he’s part of a big team—over 1,000 people manage the business of customer service, building tools and offering content that supports call centers on the company’s 800 line and technical support line, as well as on Verizon’s website.
Like many companies, Verizon Wireless has put increased focus on knowledge management, says Clinton. The company’s ongoing challenges and opportunities arise from the dramatic evolution in wireless technology: smart phones now function as portable computers, and have been widely adopted—95 percent of people in the U.S. carry some kind of cell phone.
“Now people are in the process of going from lines of service to points of connectivity,” says Clinton. “The average family will have over 100 points of connectivity in their house. That is how Verizon manages customers now—it’s not really about lines of service, it’s about connection and data consumption.”
That business model change has also brought a change in the company’s value proposition, which has shifted to providing data for everything that needs network connectivity. Competition in this space is fierce. Companies with the biggest throughput will be the ones to attract and retain customers, says Clinton, which is why Verizon “doubled down” on FIOS and towers and its 4G network. Verizon also aims to compete on customer service, which is why Clinton’s role is so important.
“What I’m trying to figure out these days is how do we become the best in customer service without the customer having to call us?” says Clinton. “When we create tools and content, we’re shifting the focus to making everything available to customers directly, so that customers can do exactly what they want, when they want. People don’t want to pick up a phone, wait in line and talk to us. They want to solve their problems at their own pace, in their own time.”
Clinton has been with Verizon since 1995, when it was still Bell Atlantic Mobile. He started by running a store in Frederick, Md.; went on to became an account executive in corporate sales, then moved into marketing to expand his understanding of the industry. He went on to be a product development manager, then an associate director managing flash services. Clinton transitioned to his current role earlier this year, due in part to the skills he gained in the Smith School’s Executive MBA program. “After I finished my EMBA, I went from a team of 9 to a team of 35. The value to the business I deliver is significantly higher,” says Clinton.
Clinton says he chose Smith because of the focus on leadership and entrepreneurship. “Although I work for a big company, I consider myself an intrapreneur,” says Clinton. “That’s what appealed to me, having the skills to build something that is enduring and will survive.”
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