The Beat

breaking_into_the_industry_news_header_4_723x250.jpg POSTED BY Lucian Tucker ON Apr 9, 2012

Breaking Into The Industry: Jeff Bradburn, Customer Experience Technology

There's more to customer service than answering a few phone calls. Just ask Jeff Bradburn, the Senior Director of Business Systems and Tech at WWCE – and this week's interviewee. He's got projects in the works to personalize, modernize, and revolutionize the customer experience at EA, and he's always looking for a few more innovators.
 

What is your name and job title?
I’m Jeff Bradburn, Senior Director of Business Systems and Technology. I work in the Worldwide Customer Experience group (WWCE).

Jeff BradburnWhat does WWCE do?
WWCE is responsible for providing service and support for all EA products. We also represent the customer voice to the entire company. Our mission is: "Provide the world's best service for the world's best games."

Does that all boil down to traditional customer support, or is it more than that?
Traditional support is certainly a core part of our business, but we also do other things. For example, we watch social channels like Twitter and Facebook to identify emerging issues. When we see those, we proactively reach out to game studios to inform them of what we are seeing. We can also put messages on help.ea.com and our 800 number to let customers know that we are aware of a given situation, and where possible, to offer solutions.

We also are customer advocates. Anytime we see something that may drive the customer crazy – like 15 different codes in the box – we try to quantify the support costs and dissatisfaction generated by the issue and present alternate solutions that may improve the overall customer experience.

I just interviewed a Community Manager and what you're describing sounds a lot like what they do. Do you see that connection as well?
Absolutely. The social space is evolving. The entire industry is trying to figure out how best to listen to its customers and action the millions of daily social events in the cloud. We work with many of those teams to ensure that our actions are coordinated.

For us, we primarily want to identify things that might cause a customer to contact us. If they are having a problem, it is very possible that hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other people are having the same problem. If we can respond in a public forum, it can prevent others from having to call us for help. 

Let's zoom back into your role. Where does a Senior Director of Business Systems and Technology fit into all this?
I am responsible for all of the technology that makes our business go. That includes the infrastructure and code for help.ea.com, which gets 15 to 20 million hits monthly and is used by 1,200+ contact center agents globally; the telephony infrastructure, which allows our customers to call us and get to the right agent; the chat infrastructure, which allows customers to chat with us; and many, many other bits of technology that connect us to people and systems across the company.

What types of things do you do on a day-to-day basis?
Most of my day is spent working with my staff on technical roadmaps and design for future development, reviewing operational outages, and discussing new programs and innovations with our programs teams.

How big is your team?
I have a staff of 15 people onsite with me in Austin, Texas, and 30 to 35 folks in India depending on the number of ongoing projects.

You mentioned new programs and innovations. Is it your job to think of those programs?
Yes, in part. One of the core strategic objectives is to deliver a holistic and consistent experience through simplicity, innovation, and partnership. Everybody in our group is always working on innovative ideas. It’s my job is to figure out unique ways to employ technology to drive that innovation.

Sometimes the innovation comes from the technology side. Other times, it's a crazy idea that we have to find technology to support.

Are you able to share some of the things you're currently working on?
We are always focused on making every single interaction with our customers count. It's another core objective of ours: "Exceed expectations by delighting our customers, the same way our games do." So we want to know as much about our customers as we can and match them with the right agent for their problem.

Most people are familiar with the typical phone experience, where you dial a number and press 1 for X, 2 for Y, etc. We want to take that a step further. If we know our customers – what they own, what they've called about in the past, and (if they allow us to) what they like – we can find an agent that can connect with them based on their need, or even their interests. We are also very interested in the concept of allowing customers to choose their own agent. We've got some really interesting things brewing there.

Another interesting project is around community support. EA is very lucky in that we have very passionate customers that love to participate in forums. We think that there's something really special there for support needs. We want to let customers help other customers and in the process get something uniquely "EA" out of the experience. I can't disclose all of the details, but I think we've really got something special up our sleeves.

And we aren't just focused on our customers. We want to make sure we have the best Customer Advisors (agents) in the world, and we want them to have the best tools in the world. We are investing heavily this year in creating a single unified tool that streamlines the Advisor experience, which ultimately creates a vastly improved experience for our customers.

Changing topics a little, where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to the University of Texas at Austin and the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. I studied Business and Technology (BBA in Business Computer Information Systems). My entire career has been spent straddling the line between business and technology.

Your office is located in Texas, right?
It is. WWCE just opened a brand new office in Austin.

Are you also from Texas?
I grew up in Denton, Texas. My wife and I moved to Boston in the late ‘90s and lived there for 10 years before returning to Austin in 2007.

Where were you before you joined EA?
I worked at Apple for a handful of years as a Senior Manager at AppleCare. I had a team of folks that were responsible for building out programs for Apple's Global Contact Center.

Back to my straddling of business and technology; I was primarily on the business side while at Apple. My job was to envision innovative programs and ideas and hand them off to technical teams for implementation. At EA, I get to implement all the crazy ideas.

Apple is well known for their excellent customer service. Did you bring a lot of whatever it is that makes them great with you when you joined EA?
I definitely learned a lot about what creates a great experience at Apple, so I certainly brought some of that mindset to EA. That said, the challenges at EA are very different. It's been a fun challenge to reset my way of thinking to match that of an entertainment company which produces games every week, as opposed to a hardware/software/service company that produces five new products per year.

What drew you to EA?
Initially, a friend of mine from Apple moved over to EA.  When he and I talked about opportunities I was a little apprehensive, since at the time I didn't know much about the game industry. But the more I studied it, the more I realized that the industry was going through a fascinating transition – from packaged goods to digital distribution. It was similar to the kind of transition that's been made in the music and movie industries. I saw that disruptive things were going on and I wanted to be a part of that.

I've been in the games industry for over a year now and I absolutely love it. I've really immersed myself in the business and culture. My friends wonder why I have bags under my eyes. It's not from overwork – it's from staying up late playing Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect.

What games are you playing right now?
I play lots of Battlefield 3, SSX, and now Mass Effect 3. I'm also a big fan of Skyrim.

What advice do you have for someone who wants a job like yours at EA?
Get your foot in the door. Great people have a way of rising to the top no matter where they start. Many of the successful people in our organization started out on the phones. My boss is the VP of Customer Experience at EA. He started as a phone agent at Apple. I'd also say to stay grounded in the business. Great technology can only go as far as the business behind it. 

Finally, be passionate about what you do. Make sure you really enjoy the work you do and the people you do it with. If you don't enjoy it, find something else to do.

Is there any particular college degree that’s important for a role like yours?
Not necessarily. Technical degrees in Computer Science or IT are helpful, but many of the best people I've worked with are self-taught.

Lastly, do you think you need to be a gamer?
"Gamer" is a much more ambiguous word these days. For me, it was really important to understand our product and our customers, so I threw myself into our products. I spend a significant amount of my personal time using them. So, I didn't start as gamer, but I am now – and it gives me a much better perspective on what we're all about at WWCE and at EA.

Thanks for doing this!
Happy to!

 


Is there a specific video game job you'd like to know more about? Let us know in the comments! Plus, check out last week's interview with BioWare Community Manager, Jessica Merizan for more insight into the industry.