Leaders’ Insights: Justin Conry, Three Ireland

2 Mar 2017

Justin Conry, head of transformation, Three Ireland. Image: Three Ireland

Justin Conry is head of transformation at Three Ireland.

With more than 20 years’ experience in the telecoms industry, Justin Conry knows a thing or two about team leadership. At Three, he promotes the value of customer experience and focusing on the overall output of a task.

Conry previously worked at such established companies as Vodafone and Microsoft, in a variety of directorial positions.

He is also a member of the board of directors at Boardmatch Ireland.

Describe your role and what you do.

I run the transformation department, which sits in the CRM directorate in Three. I used to describe my role as head of ‘changing stuff’; however, transformation is more about changing the form or structure of something permanently – so I guess that’s my job!

The team is responsible for a range of transformation activity aligned to the goal of building an ultimate service experience for our customers. Our aim is to enable service that is frictionless, with digital channels so good that customers want to choose them.

I really enjoy my role; the people I work with; the pace and scale of transformation that we, as a company, are driving; and the sense of achievement as we continue to deliver.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

I believe in ‘outputs, not inputs’. I tend to use this mantra as my prioritisation compass. It is very easy to get caught up in time-wasting activities, unfocused meetings and distractions. I have to constantly remind myself of what I am trying to achieve and keep focused on the outputs that my team and I will ultimately be judged on.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business and how are you tackling them?

Customer experience (CX) and the pursuit of ultimate service is a moving target. The reality is that customers’ expectations of service are rising faster than most industries can react. We have invested a lot in improving customer processes and building capability to meet customer expectations of service, and it is working well. Our customers have embraced digital and webchat, and are delighted that we service all our voice calls from Limerick.

Ireland is really well positioned in terms of certain domain expertise in CX. For example, my team has been working with a company called Qualtrics, to measure what it is like to be a customer of Three. We are measuring experience, not just across service dimensions, but everything from using our network to buying a phone. As a result, we have very rich data in NPS and, really importantly, in customer effort scores and deep channel-based data and insight.

Our job as a business is to isolate the biggest negative customer experiences and address them. Every time we improve something, it becomes the new norm in terms of service, thus the moving target.

What are the key industry opportunities you’re capitalising on?

There has been a lot of talk about Gen X, Gen Y and millennials as broad segmentation categories; digital natives versus digital immigrants. We are seeing an overwhelming shift in customer care channel preference, away from voice channels to online, webchat and apps. This brings a great opportunity to reinvest in the best voice services one can offer, for a smaller cohort of customers who want it, and also to keep improving the digital offering. Our focus is on what is being called Generation CX, and on delivering the best experience aligned to the channel preference of the customer, making it simple to do business with us.

What set you on the road to where you are in the technology industry?

It was by accident! I left college with a primary degree in politics and philosophy, but, in reality, was more skilled at playing pool. I started life in cold call sales and from there, moved into a series of change and project management roles. I have been really fortunate to have worked with four large multinationals over the last 20 years and was lucky to be working in a young industry, which meant I was part of shaping my own destiny. Now, even more than ever, is a really exciting time, where the boundaries of technology are constantly changing. Technology and experience combined can improve quality of life for everyone.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I make mistakes all the time (I hope my boss isn’t reading this!). The biggest mistake I ever made was actually overly focusing on mistakes – everyone makes mistakes. My biggest learning has been more to focus on my strengths. For example, if I can double my ability in one area, should I choose the area I score low in, or should I look to an area that I already perform well in? I believe the latter. Of course, I should address knowledge gaps as they arise, but development should be about harnessing strengths and pushing the boundaries even further.

How do you get the best out of your team?

Not sure I agree with the premise of the question! My role is to create the environment for my team to flourish and grow in, to double their own strengths and capability. If I am doing my job well, the team will continue to grow, evolve and get the best out of itself. I do have a few rules that I think can aid that continuous growth and development: always hire smarter people than oneself, empower people to really be themselves if you want the best out of them, give trust to gain trust, and maintain a sense of humour.

Who is your business hero and why?

So, there’s the obvious answer that I admire leaders such as Michael O’Leary and I think Ireland has a wealth of leadership talent. I meet business heroes every day, though. I meet them in Three, in our stores, in the call centre, in reception and across the business. I meet them in Starbucks as they hand me a ‘skinny’ latte. I meet them in the crèche my kids go to, or in the local shop. They all have a common denominator: they put the customer first, they understand the power of a positive experience and they are ruthlessly accountable for making that happen.

What books have you read that you would recommend?

I am currently reading Uplifting Service by Ron Kaufman, which I’d really recommend, as it gets to the heart of CX and service. For downtime, I generally read rubbish (if I’m not watching a box set). Most recently, I read the continuation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, written by David Lagercrantz.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

The support of my wife and kids, my team, my phone, my laptop, my attitude.