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AT&T's Thaddeus Arroyo: Tech will transform customer engagement

Mary K. Pratt | Dec. 11, 2014
Thaddeus Arroyo, president of technology development at AT&T, believes IT leaders must show their organizations how technology will transform both how they do business and how they engage with customers.

The three [terms that define] our digital DNA now are simple, empowered and immediate. It wasn't that we weren't doing it [before this position was created]. But when we wanted to elevate that, we had to bring a set of capabilities, so rather than doing digital as an afterthought, we create these digital experiences and make it digital first by design.

You talk about effortless experiences in the digital realm. Is it possible to give effortless experiences in the physical world, too? I don't think we can abandon the role we serve in delivering digital technologies to the human channels. We need to expand these same digital capabilities.

That insight I bring to the digital experience I have to bring to my sales representatives, so that insight of understanding what you [the customer] need and what you want, I have to extend those tools. It's also important as customers interact with our physical channels that those physical channels understand the digital experience we have so we can help our customers. We take time as they interact with us in the physical channel to show how easy it is for them to interact with us digitally.

Why, in this digital age, is the physical channel still important for the CIO? If you look at a retail store in a 2020 world, people still come in and they want to experience your brand. That's still a very relevant interaction. And there's still a set of complicated support issues that have to be handled by a higher-tier support that we can't digitize. So that's kind of what you're teeing up. And there are still customers who may be more comfortable with the physical interaction.

You've been recognized as a thought leader. How do you define that role, and how do you demonstrate that in your daily job? Technology advancements are changing how business does business. And the ability to transform business is forcing us to think differently about our products and services, how we operate our business and how we enhance customer experiences.

So it's [asking], How do these [technology advancements] need to be impacting our products and services? How should they change how we operate our business? And in what way should we be tapping into these to enhance our customer experiences? Those who tap into these can operate at a significant advantage. For me, that's what drives the engagement that I have with my peers across AT&T, and it's driving energy and excitement around the potential.

How do you foster creativity in your IT staff? For me, it starts with a simple concept of making sure that we change how we think. We're guided by this question: If we were starting from scratch, how would we want it to work? Our teams are coached to think that way, to think about new workflows and about how do we really want this to work.

 

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