Continued reliance on technology and innovation: Attracting customers to retail is an ever-changing and always evolving process. Customer experience innovations include the latest technology for shopping, support, entertainment and convenience. Thinking about these innovations and keeping our customers happy and loyal are all important pieces of our ongoing strategy.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Krista Bourne, Senior Vice President, Verizon Sales and Operations.
Krista Bourne is Senior Vice President of Sales and Operations for Verizon. In this role, she is responsible for delivering all aspects of industry-leading wireless and wireline services through an omnichannel experience to more than 100 million customers nationwide.
During her 20-year tenure with Verizon, Krista has focused on providing extraordinary customer experiences across several parts of the business. She began her career as a mailroom assistant in upstate New York. She has since held various positions of increasing responsibility including director roles in customer service and retail sales and regional president for Houston Gulf Coast and Carolina/Tennessee regions. Most recently, she served as market president of the 12-state South Central market where she led her team to consistently exceed financial and operations targets while returning the market to revenue growth.
Krista is passionate about the role technology plays in keeping people and communities connected. That passion has fueled her drive to lead her organization through transformational change in challenging environments while mentoring the next generation of leaders to prepare for the adaptation and evolution that is necessary to successfully navigate the business.
In 2020, she was recognized with a WeQual Award for her outstanding career contribution and potential future impact. Krista’s commitment to addressing digital literacy and the underrepresentation of minorities has been recognized by the Dallas Business Journal, C-STEM and MAKERS.
As an advocate for women’s rights and advancement, Krista uses her voice to encourage women to relentlessly pursue their dreams and create opportunities for others along the way. She currently serves on the board of Dress For Success Worldwide. Her past service includes appointments on the boards of Houston Area Women’s Center, Houston Technology Center and the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce.
Originally from Rochester, NY, Krista earned a Professional Retail Sales Management (PRSM) certification from Bellevue College. She and her husband are proud parents of a son and a daughter.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My career path has been unconventional. I started in the mailroom at one of Verizon’s legacy companies. Every day, I read letters from customers who wanted us to be aware of a problem that needed to be solved. I also learned how the business operated. The curiosity involved in providing solutions for our customers has been a driving force for my career. From that role, I moved to the call center and worked my way up to director positions in customer service and in our retail stores. Those moves were different because they tend to have a very defined path, and I had not been a frontline employee for neither customer service nor retail. Moving from a customer service director to a retail director was different, as well because it wasn’t a common career path, despite me finding that my skills were transferable. From retail, I took on regional leadership positions where I was responsible for all sales, marketing, finance and more. Today, I lead an organization responsible for hundreds of millions of customers across the country. I’m always interested in hearing what our customers want and need. I am constantly thinking about what we can do to make their experience better. I love what I do!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
In my last role as market president responsible for 12 states, when the market formed, our leadership team realized that we had a big task ahead of us to meet our employees, visit stores and get to know each other. We decided to embark on a 20-city Town Hall Tour over the course of four weeks. Many store visits and employee rallies, as well as plane, bus and car rides later, I believed that adventure helped us build trust and start strong as a team. It was a very memorable experience!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
The example I’ll share is not at all funny, but it provided me with a big lesson that I hope others can use. In one of my early roles, I failed to recognize that people misunderstood me. I was not as likeable as I thought in my approach to my peers and direct reports. I thought it was working out very well. For at least a year, I walked around completely misunderstanding the people around me. My Director provided feedback which took me time to understand and accept. I felt like a failure. If you want to lead people, you have to take responsibility to adapt your style for people to want to receive it. Otherwise, you won’t get results; you’ll get a culture of compliance. I don’t want a culture of compliance. I want people committed so that when I do give the wrong directions or I take us down the path that does not yield what we want, I want to know that we’re in it together. I was not exuding that kind of environment. I was not casting that shadow. That was a bit of failure for me, but I caught it early and made the adjustments.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
I’m always thinking about the retail experience for our customers. It’s always evolving, but the one thing that’s constant is that customers are looking for efficiency and convenience. During the pandemic, we re-introduced the ability to set appointments to transact business in our stores. That decision proved to be wildly successful and a big part of our protocols moving forward. Right now, we’re working to deploy an artificial intelligence (AI) feature to our digital chat function on our website. This will give customers 24/7 access to resolve their issues without having to leave the comfort of their home. The key to everything is showing up where customers want to do business.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
I recommend showing up as the individual you are. That’s the superpower each of us has. No matter the outcome, we know we will not regret showing up as our authentic self. Along those lines, I’m introspective, which allows me to assess and correct as I go, rather than when I’m depleted. I find that sometimes people don’t take a minute to pause and reflect but doing so can help prevent burnout later down the road.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
It may sound cliche but the support of my family has helped me the most. My success is their success. My husband has been in my life since I was 18 years old. He keeps me focused on what we believe is possible and he pushes me to achieve that. We’ve taught our son and daughter to do the same. Early in my career, we decided that we would take advantage of every opportunity that came my way because I wanted to be better and I wanted more. However, we were more calculated when it came to opportunities that require relocation. It wasn’t until eight years into my career that we had our first move. Once we became open to relocate, my career escalated quickly. While that meant roles with increasing responsibility for me, my children experienced multiple school systems and my husband varying job opportunities. We’re happy with our choices, though these have not been without sacrifice. I am thankful that we’ve been in it together from the very beginning.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m passionate about Dress for Success, a global non-profit organization that empowers women to achieve economic independence. I’m on the organization’s board of directors. Helping women helps their families and society as a whole. Dress for Success provides a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and life.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?
Verizon has been focused on retail innovation beyond brick-and-mortar stores for some time now. Recent events have accelerated this focus. Five examples of some trends you’ll see from Verizon include:
- Omnichannel shopping: Customers’ busy lives and reliance on devices have created a demand for shopping everywhere — website, in-store and in the app. A customer may start the transaction online, then decide to visit a store but ultimately make the purchase in the app. As retailers, we have to ensure that process is user friendly. It goes back to showing up where our customers are.
- Touchless retail: During the pandemic, we implemented physical and digital elements that made it easier to maintain safe distancing in our stores and allowed us to be more efficient at transacting business. Many of the elements, such as in-store pick up of online orders and curbside pickup, were in place or on the horizon before the pandemic. Other elements such as touchless cash and credit card payments, along with the ability to check out and even sign terms and conditions, will continue to be important for the foreseeable future. Anything that can be done to limit the transaction time, and just as important, limit the amount of personal information changing hands will remain on the forefront of the retail strategy.
- Apps: Customers don’t want to download your app just to use it once or twice. They want to be able to do just about everything within that app. There’s so much customers can do within the MyVerizon app today. They can set in-store appointments, buy products, upgrade their devices, change the language, access support, pay mobile bills online, set up pre-paid access and travel plans and so much more. We’re making our MyVerizon app more robust with each update and this will continue to progress over the next five years.
- AI experiences: AI is no longer a technology only found within a sci-fi movie. Now AI can exist in the form of an online customer service chatbot or a virtual voice activated assistant. AI helps our customers with customer service support with their service and phones, custom tailored recommendations based on browsing history and much more. AI will continue to evolve to provide more data/information to our customers to make their lives even easier over time.
- Continued reliance on technology and innovation: Attracting customers to retail is an ever-changing and always evolving process. Customer experience innovations include the latest technology for shopping, support, entertainment and convenience. Thinking about these innovations and keeping our customers happy and loyal are all important pieces of our ongoing strategy.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Diversity, equity and inclusion is an important topic of conversation right now. As a black woman, I can certainly identify with that. I’m accustomed to being the only person of color or the only woman in the room. I’ve learned to own that difference. If I could start a movement, I would encourage each person to own whatever their difference is. The diverse perspective that each of us has can create pivotal moments in business and for our society.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can find me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristabourne/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!