Alice Sesay Pope [Digital Transformation]


Alice Sesay Pope is the SVP, Global Head of Contact Centers at VISA

She talks about Digital Transformation:
· Who should have a seat at the transformation table?
· How to mitigate risk?
· How to build a business case to digitally transform a company?

The book that has influenced Alice the most in the past year:
✔️ Switch: How to Change Thing when Things are hard:

Her note all the customer service and CX professionals:
“Thank you.”

Nick Glimsdahl  0:00 

Welcome to the press one for Nick Podcast. I am Nick Glimsdahl. My guest this week is Alice Pope. Alice is the SVP of Global Head of contact center at visa. Alice, welcome to the press one minute podcast. Hi, Nick.

Alice Sesay Pope  0:13 

Thank you for the welcome.

Nick Glimsdahl  0:15 

Yeah. So what is one thing maybe people might not know about? Yeah.

Alice Sesay Pope  0:21 

That is an interesting question.

Nick Glimsdahl  0:25 

I asked everybody, so you’re not alone. It’s anywhere from I played hockey to I listen to classical music and everybody in between.

Alice Sesay Pope  0:33 

Okay, so I played tennis in high school. Okay. And I don’t play tennis much. But people can rarely believe that I did anything athletic. I’m more of a sports spectator. I love professional sports, tennis, basketball, football, golf. Yeah, but I actually played in high school.

Nick Glimsdahl  0:56 

That’s awesome. It’s always nice to pull that little tidbit that people might not know. But even if they work with you, or you’re like, Wait a second. Why. So that’s great. You know, one thing that we had conversation of prior was that we wanted to kick this conversation I was about operating in the kind of the post pandemic, what does that look like? And how should companies operate today,

Alice Sesay Pope  1:19 

the way how contact center leaders operate pulse, the pandemic is top of mind for all of us, I would say one, our digital transformation strategies extremely important to how we engage our associates is going to be important. And three is security. Let me start by talking about digital transformation. As it relates to digital transformation cards, contact center leaders, now more than ever are going to have to figure out what investments are priority, what are those investments that are going to eliminate some of the manual transactions that occur, expedite resolution to customer problems, give us a better understanding of the customer journey and at the forefront of everything that we do, what digital transformation tools will also provide the right data to us at the right time, so that we can take action quickly. So from digital transformation is going to be huge digital transformation and looking at the data. You know, today I posted on my LinkedIn, I don’t know if anyone saw it. But I say you know, any organization that is serious about client experience must be serious about their data. So as you’re thinking of your digital transformation journey, also think about how you look at your data and the tools that you’re investing. Do they give you the data in a way that’s fast, simple, that you could quickly react to it? So that’s what digital transformation is forefront of our mind? And how do you implement your digital solutions faster than we ever did? So pandemic is requiring us to do?

Nick Glimsdahl  3:11 

Yeah, I 100% agree. And maybe let’s break that down just a little bit on the digital transformation side, because there’s so many people that talk a good game about his own transformation. You know, I guess the first question I have is, when it comes to visually transforming your organization who should have a seat at that table,

Alice Sesay Pope  3:28 

I would say you definitely need to have your contact center leaders. But you also have to have some of your, your your product teams, you have to have your compliance it. If you’re serious about customer experience, it really needs to be full circle legal compliance, security technology, product teams, the agents that interact with customers on a regular basis, as well as various support functions within your contact center, the client experience and the digital transformation strategy should be top of mind for various cross functional teams to get to the right solution.

Nick Glimsdahl  4:09 

So when somebody wants to digitally transform their organization, which should goby,

Alice Sesay Pope  4:14 

you know, I’m a I’m a client experience fanatic. So I say put the client at the forefront of what you’re trying to do, right? Is this solution going to make it simpler, faster, and provide a better experience for your customers to engage with you because sometimes we come up with these great technology transformations. However, it’s complex for the clients as well as the agent that is not a good scenario. So really understand the impact to your clients. Yeah,

Nick Glimsdahl  4:46 

I am a huge champion the client experience too, which is why I enjoyed this conversation. But is digital transformation. Now something that all companies should do or is it more of a requirement Then a nice to have,

Alice Sesay Pope  5:01 

I believe is a requirement. It is a requirement, we’re in a stage that there are companies that customers are accustomed to utilizing. I take Amazon, for instance, people are accustomed to getting things fast, simple and easy with Amazon. So because they have interactions with companies like Amazon, they’re expecting that same quick, fast response, they’re expecting that they can go to their profile get answers in a really fast manner, they want to see the text messages, they want to see the email immediately, resolution time quickly. So expectations have changed, and expectations change during the pandemic as well. Because of the pandemic, in many instances, we can’t go into a retail store anymore, because of the pandemic, sometimes it took longer to, to talk to a live person. So they’re self service channels, SMS channels, that became utilize at a higher percentage by clients. And so they expect that. So if you’re not providing that you will lose clients, and you don’t want that, especially in this business environment.

Nick Glimsdahl  6:18 

That’s right. Everybody thinks that, oh, my customers will never leave until they leave. So when it comes to transforming your organization, from a digital perspective, how do you mitigate risk

Alice Sesay Pope  6:29 

for my organization, particularly for the type of work we do? Risk is really important. And actually, Nick, when I had, as we develop our customer, a digital transformation roadmap, I looked at what I prioritize first by the digital transformation solutions, that were able to best control our risk environment, right, for us to detect risks faster, so that we can take action, and in many cases to eliminate some of the security risks that we believe may exist. So for me, that’s top priority. One thing in the financial world is really important. Now there’s lots of cloud solutions, you need to really work with your cybersecurity teams to ensure that those cloud solutions are safe and secure. Because in in our case, we, we we hold very important customer data. And we want that data to be secure. So prioritize and make security controls number one. So for me, that’s a higher priority than some of the other factors that digital transformation provides.

Nick Glimsdahl  7:46 

Yeah, so remove some of the nice to have and double down on security.

Alice Sesay Pope  7:51 

You must, because so imagine having a great digital transformation strategy, but all of a sudden, your clients realize that there’s a big data breach, you lose all credibility.

Nick Glimsdahl  8:04  

Yeah. So I’m guessing when it comes to when this comes out, some of my listeners gonna say, Alice, this is great. And I want to transform our organization. And I understand your need to mitigate risk. But what advice do you have for these companies who can’t afford to digitally transform their organization? And maybe two parts? So the first one I would say is, how do you build a business case? And then the second one is for the people that say that they don’t have budget for it? What advice do you have for them?

Alice Sesay Pope  8:34 

So there’s three things that I always try to put into balance in my business cases. And it is the client experience, the shareholder satisfaction, the shareholder satisfaction, I look at cost and risk. And within that, I’m looking at company reputational risk, I’m looking at security risks, and also to ensure that there’s compliance. Sometimes you don’t know the specific cost avoidance by making those investment. But that’s extremely important. So in your business case, look at the efficiencies that it has for your associates the experience for your clients. And then also there’s lots of cost avoidance for your shareholders and factored those three things in. And if you you really look at the right data, I’m sure you’ll get a good return on investment because in many cases, the digital transformation is going to enable you to automate some things, eliminate some transactions, which will will definitely reduce your overall cost per contact. And then for the people that say, it’s not in the cards, I can’t afford it.

Nick Glimsdahl  9:53 

Hmm, what advice do you have for them,

Alice Sesay Pope  9:56 

find good partners. There are lots of great parts. nerves, whether it be great bpos that you can work with, or there’s some there, there are so many digital solutions that are out there. I know sometimes you get a million emails from people on LinkedIn. And sometimes you’re wondering, I don’t have time for this. But really, as a contact center leader and customer experience, fanatic, spend time, because there are some solutions that can be catered to your size of business, don’t give up, continue to learn and connect with the right partners for your business. It does take time, but it’s worth the time. Yeah, I

Nick Glimsdahl  10:42 

would say it definitely takes time. But I also need to know on who to weed out as quick as possible. Yeah, find the right people because a person of your title or even for that matter of my title, I’m getting overwhelmed by salespeople trying to sell me this the solutions that we sell. And I’m like, What are you doing? How can I help you not do that anymore to anybody else? Like how do you add value first, maybe listen? And then how so?

Alice Sesay Pope  11:11 

Exactly. Yeah, that’s a great point it, I would appreciate it. If when salespeople reached out to me, they clearly did their research, and they were able to provide me a clear value proposition. And so many times the value proposition is unclear. The value proposition is I need to sell this to meet a quota. Yeah, you’re not saying those Smith those words. But in the back of my mind, that’s how it sounds,

Nick Glimsdahl  11:40 

if they might as well say it in between the words like, oh, man, it’s coming to end the quarter. Have I got a great deal for you?

Alice Sesay Pope  11:47 


Nick Glimsdahl  11:50 

Yeah. So it looks like we do have a little bit more time. I do want to touch base on customer expectations. Since the pandemic, you kind of touched on that a little bit, but have customer expectations changed?

Alice Sesay Pope  12:04 

That’s a really tricky question. I want to say it depends.

By now,

everyone around the world is aware that we are going through a pandemic. So there are certain customer issues, that clients have been a little bit more forgiving. Right. But then there are other issues that are priority for that. There’s some issues that clients want answered immediately, for instance, there’s a fraud issue that needs to be immediate. So understand those things that are top priority for your clients, and understand those things that maybe you can give, I would say a response, but maybe it doesn’t have the complete solution right away. But they understand the end, there are even some issues that clients are very comfortable with a self service solution, as long as you provide it to them quickly. And it’s not a cumbersome manner for them to find it. So I would say it depends the way how you get through this. If you have to know your clients, you have to know them, you have to look at your voice of the customer surveys. And even though we’re in a pandemic, it’s still important to, to, to conduct those surveys and to look at them and analyze it.

Nick Glimsdahl  13:32 

Yeah. Yeah. And measure that data to make sure it’s the right data.

Alice Sesay Pope  13:37 

It’s the right data. Absolutely. Yeah.

Nick Glimsdahl  13:40 

So what are you guys are how do you measure customer experience.

Alice Sesay Pope  13:45 

So I look at the customer journey, I have key metrics that I look at my metrics ranging from customer effort to first contact resolution to NPS. And also I look at top customer pain points. So once again, I want to just give you my four, I look at first contact, I look at problem resolution, I look at customer effort. And then finally I looked at my top pain points. And what I want to know is when we have top pain points, are we taking action and eliminating them? If I see a top pain point in it, I see that same pain point, month over month, and usually I say timeout and I get together with my cross functional partners and say we have to do something about this.

Nick Glimsdahl  14:35 

Yeah. So how long have those been your top four?

Alice Sesay Pope  14:39 

You know, I would say it’s been my top four for maybe the past year, and it didn’t change even during the pandemic and we still have an opportunity to influence lots of our cross functional partners, but sometimes by repeating it over and over again. I say close how to what’s happening in the client experience world. And if they’re better metrics to help, definitely take a look at. Yeah,

Nick Glimsdahl  15:07 

it’s always interesting to see what people are measuring and why it’s important to them. So I’m guessing that you probably receive a dashboard or a report on a consistent basis, I do it and have it have a parameter. So you’re saying, Oh, this is what I need to start taking action, or I need to get a hold of this person. So very cool. When it comes to it sounds like your organization’s very customer centric, and your your client experience is very important to you. Yes. How do you create a customer centric culture.

Alice Sesay Pope  15:38 

So first of all, I want to say this, we are client centric, but we’re in a we’re on a journey. So I don’t want to give anyone the impression that we’ve arrived. And I think when any organization feels like they’ve arrived, they’re in trouble. That’s right. To me, it is making client experience a priority, making it something that all your leaders are aware of, and they’re accountable to some metrics, ensure that your customer service professionals are aware of what those metrics are, and you celebrate. So remember, this is culture, people pay attention to the things that you celebrate. So celebrate, when there’s a experience that exceed client expectations. I’ll give you an example. When we get unsolicited feedback from a client, I send an email to that customer service professionals say Way to go, these were the things were very specific, these are the things that you did that was a differentiator for us thank you keep up the good work. So it’s not just enforcing those metrics, celebrating them, and providing the right training. So that associates continue to improve the client experience. So it’s training, it’s celebrating those things. And it’s holding people to celebrating great client experience, holding people accountable. And it should be part of every part of your culture, your quality training, your quality, your digital transformation strategy, your quarterly business reviews, your monthly business reviews, your workflows, it should be a conversation in every part of your organization. It shouldn’t be a secret to anyone.

Nick Glimsdahl  17:29 

I love the passion behind that. And it’s so true, because there’s a lot of organizations. Now I won’t name any names, but there’s a lot of organizations that talk about a great cx write great customer experience. And I call it the pixie dust and fairy tales. Yeah, they’re not measured on it. So how do you get companies and or leadership to say, I know what I’m measured on when it comes to the customers expectations customers experience in 2020 and 2021? And then how do you keep them accountable?

Alice Sesay Pope  18:02 

I would say it’s how we influence, right? So you know, there’s no bad dogs here. Everyone has things that are top priority, right? But how do you influence them and show them that by focusing on the client experience, it’s better for the brand, it’s better for the business, it translates to improve revenue. So understand what their priorities are, and implements them and influence them in a way that they also see that they are, can make contributions to the overall client experience. So it takes time, and it’s having that conversation over and over again,

Nick Glimsdahl  18:45 

I always like to say to is take those metric metrics that these individual people or individual departments, and show how it aligns with business outcomes. Yeah. And if you can do that, and people are like, well, you mean, I have to hit this objective and still accomplish what I’m supposed to accomplish. Like, I don’t want to do that if I’m not measured on it. But if you can say if you accomplish these things, it’s going to solve these other two problems that you have to that you’re measured on. Yeah, so might be something to think about in the future. Not with VC. You guys, you guys got to figure it out. But I like how you said you haven’t arrived yet. Because anybody who says like they said it, I call it the Easy Bake ever we just set it and forget it. They’re like nailed it is definitely has some work to do they need to look in the mirror a little bit. So I actually close out every podcast with two questions. And the first question is, what book or person has influenced you the most in the past year? And then the second one is, if you can leave a note to all the customer service professionals, it’s gonna hit everybody’s desk Monday at 8am. What would it say?

Alice Sesay Pope  19:47 

I got on my desk. So in our organization, we have a culture of people who are avid readers, I consider myself an avid reader. The book that I just read is switch How to Change things when things are hard. And I think this this 2020 was really a year that things were hard. And so it really gives an overview of how to influence change, enable your teams to embrace change, when perhaps people are just so overwhelmed with all the the difficult things they’re facing. So that has been has really influenced me, I’m always trying to figure out how to transform, how to be creative, how do people keep people positive in the midst of significant change. So that was definitely one for me. And so because this year has been very difficult, the email or note that I would send to everybody is Thank you, you know, some people may thought I would have said, you know, you got to keep on focusing on the client experience. So you got to keep working hard. But this year, all over the world, and I have teams all over the world, and in almost every continent, what I’ve seen is I’ve seen people do the best that they can for our clients, even in the midst of illness, in the midst of loss in the midst of challenges, how to figure out how to work from home, in the midst of depression and loneliness, because some people are home alone, and they’re they don’t have much people interaction. And people who just wish our world would go back to normal, then we don’t know what that new normal looks like. So there’s a part of me that also has great empathy and great, great, great pride for what I’ve seen so many people all over the world, definitely it specifically in the United States have come together in the midst of challenges to be the best that they can to support each other. So I would say thank you and I, you probably weren’t expecting that. But that’s what I would say.

Nick Glimsdahl  22:06 

That is exactly what is needed at this time. Now, I think the data shows what I saw about a month ago, on average, the contact center representative is working an extra 2000 hours per month. So I think that a little bit of time. It’s not a whole lot of effort from you. Just say thank you, means a whole lot more than you can probably imagine. Yeah. What’s the best way for people to get ahold of you? They want to find you read up on your stuff, see what you’re up to.

Alice Sesay Pope  22:38 

definitely reach out to me on LinkedIn. I typically responding Remember, if you’re trying to sell me something, send me a value proposition. But we’d love to hear from you connect with me and look forward to hearing from from all the listeners today.

Nick Glimsdahl  22:56 

Yeah, thank you so much, Alex. I learned a whole lot and enjoyed the conversation.

Alice Sesay Pope  23:01 

Thank you so much, Nick. It was a pleasure.


The Press 1 For Nick podcast is both educational and engaging, and each episode offers listeners a dynamic blend of insightful stories, best practices, and invaluable lessons.

Nick’s guests – each with a unique wealth of knowledge – include leaders from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Some of his guests include:

  • Customer service & customer experience leaders
  • A hostage negotiator
  • Award-winning authors
  • Home Depot’s Senior Director of Customer Care
  • Former VP of Disney’s Magic Kingdom
  • Lyft’s Head of Partner and Customer Engagement
  • Deputy Chief Veteran Experience Officer from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs

On every episode Nick asks his guest two questions:

  1. What book or person has influenced you the most in the past year?
  2. If you could leave a note to all the Customer Service and CX professionals, what would it say?

You can find all the podcast guests’ answers under their episodes below.

If all you want is the guests’ book recommendations, you can go here.

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