Career Snapshot: Janne Ohtonen, director of customer experience management, Openet
VanillaPlus: What was your first job?
Dr. Janne Ohtonen: My first unofficial job was in programming, a software that calculated axle masses for trucks. I was less than 10 years old and I did it with one of those old-fashioned computers — you know, the ones with a black screen and green text. Being such a young age, my father’s support helped me to do this and for that I am forever grateful.
From then on it was clear to me that my professional life would heavily involve computers and technology. In fact, I got my first official job in computer programming some years later at the age of 16 while I was still in high-school. We programmed websites for companies in the early days of the World Wide Web.
While in university, I focused on enterprise architecture but began to wonder why the software we were creating wasn’t helping companies as much as I wanted. This led me into business process management (BPM) where I helped companies across a variety of verticals to optimise their businesses before replacing their IT systems.
But I began to run into situations where companies couldn’t make money, even though they had been highly cost-optimised. Without a sales or marketing background, it was through BPM that I realised revenues and profit margins come from the customer value and how they perceive that. This is when I started to explore the operational approach to customer experience management in 2009.
At that time today’s buzzwords didn’t exist. For example, there was no such thing as customer journey mapping. Therefore, I created one of the first versions of customer journey mapping by using my BPM experience to look at this issue from an external perspective.
VanillaPlus: What led you into a career in telecoms?
Dr. Janne Ohtonen: I’ve held a number of senior consulting positions within customer experience and engagement management in the travel, retail and consulting industries. I’ve worked with brands including Apple, Avios, British Airways, British Telecom, and Satmetrix. In my opinion, there is no better time than now to focus on CEM within telecoms.
The ubiquity of smartphones and connectivity means that telcos are now crucial to our everyday lives – and the advent of IoT and M2M will only further this. As such, they are in a prime position to improve customer lives by serving them better every day, in every way.
Yet, this is an industry that often finds itself at the bottom of the customer experience league tables – take Net Promoter Score (NPS) for example. Telcos’ low rating isn’t surprising – after all, being truly customer-first isn’t a mindset that telco companies have traditionally possessed.
Instead, they often focus on price or technology as a main differentiator. With core profits stagnating and a move to digital expected for many, telco companies must realise that in order to succeed they have to place the experience of the customer at the heart of everything that they do.
Having helped a former telco client to define a new customer experience and align it to business operations for increased customer value, I’ve seen what a mind-set change can help telcos achieve. In just four months, the company increased its value offering for customers and made cost savings of over $1million.
My mission is to change the mind-set of the whole industry, to help it to serve customers better through an enhanced experience. It would be a shame if telcos were relegated to the role of commoditised service provider when they have the potential to serve us in so many other ways, too.
VanillaPlus: Without naming and shaming, tell us about your worst ever boss.
Dr. Janne Ohtonen: I’m lucky to have been blessed with quite a few great bosses throughout my career. Saying that, I have come across a few rotten apples too. Integrity and ensuring customer value are at the heart of everything I do, and so for me a bad boss is someone who prevents me from serving customers in the best possible way.
For this, one particular boss comes to mind. This person was often voicing concerns over my approach as a consultant. Yet, out of the eight senior consultants within the team, I was the only one who never failed to meet my targets. When I finally resigned, to my surprise, my boss was devastated and asked me not to leave. While I instantly forgave my boss, I knew I’d never want to work with them again. This experience made me realise that I want to work with people who hold similar values to myself, rather than battle with someone who doesn’t.
VanillaPlus: What has been your most memorable business travel experience?
Dr. Janne Ohtonen: I used to do a lot of work in China, and was actually quite fluent in Mandarin. The Chinese culture is so different to the western culture, and it never ceases to amaze me. One time I was invited to dinner and a game of 10-pin bowling with the CEO of a customer. We had a great dinner and then went on to do the bowling. So, being naturally competitive, I won the game and then celebrated very visibly in front of my hosts. This was a bad idea.
The CEO said that I had won by chance and that he wanted a rematch. I said yes. What no one had explained to me was the hierarchy that exists within Chinese business culture. This means that if you are perceived to be of a lower professional level then you must never cause the most senior professional public embarrassment – even by winning a game of bowling. Not knowing this, I won a second time. Almost immediately, I was escorted out from the building and then fired by the customer.
Now many years after I think this is quite a funny story, but it wasn’t at the time …
VanillaPlus: What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
Dr. Janne Ohtonen: As a young enterprise architect I created a material book-keeping application for a car factory. When I went to visit the factory a couple of years ago, I found out that they were still using that same software and were still happy with it. In fact, over the past 10 years, that software has ended up saving the factory hundreds of millions. I’m proud of this because I still remember the fights over accepting the new J2EE architecture that I was proposing at the time.
Later in my career, I experienced many big successes including increasing the Net Promoter Score for a company with a score of 82 by two points, in less than 6 months. While it doesn’t look like much, doing that profitably with such a high score takes big thinking and implementation. For me my proudest moments are those when a customer says that something went better or was executed better than they had expected.
VanillaPlus: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Dr. Janne Ohtonen: Instead of thinking about where I may see myself in five years, I like to think about the things I need to do now. This helps me to understand how to take myself, the people, and businesses around me to the best possible place. How I see it, the future may be much brighter than I could ever imagine. I focus on the best possible long-term outcomes in everything I do and optimise the value as much as it makes sense.
Having said that, I hopefully will have changed the mind-set of the telecoms industry. This will mean that telecoms is no longer at the bottom of the pack for customer experience and satisfaction reviews. If companies from all sectors don’t begin to put proper effort into customer experience, they are unlikely to exist in 10 years. At least in the same capacity they do today.
This is evident, for example, looking at life expectancy of companies on the S&P500 list. In the 1960s it was around 60 years, when today it is less than 20 years. This means the churn for businesses themselves is huge and that churn is driven by the customers.
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