Tanya Thomas knows how to fill a gap. Throughout her career, she has accepted roles requiring her to perform a function that didn’t always exist before she got there. “I am absolutely energized by opportunities like that,” she says. “I love problem-solving, so any time I’m faced with a pain point, I see it as a runway for innovation and creativity.”
These days, Thomas finds her runways at Experian Health, the healthcare business unit of credit reporting agency Experian. As director of customer and employee experience, she has ownership of insights, communications, and engagement activities as they relate to Experian Health’s clients and employees. She relies on her collaborative skills, industry expertise, and knowledge of data to enhance the experience of people interacting with the company—whether from the inside or the outside—and to support the mission of Experian Health as a whole.
Thomas started working at luxury department store Nordstrom when she turned eighteen, and she interned in the entertainment department of the Walt Disney Company while studying communications at Chapman University. Both Disney and Nordstrom, she discovered, went above and beyond for their customers. “I didn’t realize customer experience was an actual career trajectory at the time, but I was naturally going down that path by gravitating toward brands with highly differentiated experiences,” she says.
A few years out of college, Thomas joined the sales operations team at ifm, an industrial automation technology company. The role opened her eyes to the ways in which customer relationship managements systems and other technologies can impact a brand’s customers and the quality of its day-to-day interactions. Thomas carried those insights with her to fintech startup Happy Money, which recruited her to help develop its customer-facing vision and teams.
“I got to build out every customer-facing component from the ground up,” she explains. “My fascination and obsession with the technology behind the scenes really took off there as well because I had to start from scratch, with no prior experience evaluating things like call center technology, telephony technology, or live chat capabilities.”
In 2016, Thomas followed one of her mentors to Experian Consumer Services. The business had created a position—customer experience architect—specifically to suit her skill set, and she thrived in the role. “We created a customer care strategy team that I coled with the vice president of customer care,” she explains. “We put an infrastructure in place to evaluate all of the top call drivers—seeking to understand all of things that were causing the most friction for consumers—so we could then systematically tackle those issues and work toward better efficiencies.”
All the while, Thomas continued to hone her understanding of technology and data, along with their applications in a customer experience context. That understanding paved the way for her transfer to the healthcare business in 2017. “Experian Health has a compelling mission statement, and that is to use data-driven insight to connect and simplify healthcare for all. I am very passionate about and motivated by that mission, and I have the opportunity to make sure it’s front and center in all of our employee activities and communications,” she says.
Indeed, Thomas keeps Experian Health’s mission at the heart of her work across communications, insights, and engagement. She created a center of excellence to facilitate efficient communication, and she maintains various strategic advisory boards, focus groups, and other client and employee communities from which to gather data.
For instance, Thomas has partnered with vendor Alida to develop and deploy the Experian Health Innovation Studio, a digital community of Experian Health clients who offer ongoing feedback for innovation. These clients can use this platform to discuss industry trends they’re facing and weigh in on product roadmaps and future directions for the business. She also obtains client feedback through the “voice of the customer” survey program. “We collect quantitative data through surveys at critical points in the client journey,” she explains. “We use these to capture key performance metrics, so we can report, map, and measure the ebb and flow of the experience we’re delivering, and use that data for process improvement.”
Internally, Thomas conducts regular surveys to gauge how employees are feeling about their jobs. She then partners with human resources on engagement activities in response to the survey data as well as more qualitative data generated by committees of employees representing diverse sectors of the business.
Through one such activity—the “prioritizing purpose” challenge—Thomas and the leadership team have encouraged employees to give themselves the time and space they need amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve got this massive challenge going on across our entire employee base, to recognize and address the fact that employees have found it really hard to prioritize their personal well-being when we’re all so focused on taking care of our clients on the front line,” she says.
Thomas has leveraged her status as a communications leader to reassure clients and employees alike throughout the pandemic. She brings a collaborative perspective to the issues at hand––and she always has the data to back it up. “One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my career is that if you’re trying to drive transformation or change or process improvement, being as data-driven as possible takes the subjective element out of it,” she says.
Thomas’s colleagues outside Experian admire her approach. “Tanya and the team at Experian Health are incredibly collaborative, data-minded, and always lead with empathy to provide truly memorable customer and employee experiences,” says Ross Wainwright, CEO at Alida.
Given the cross-functional nature of her role at Experian Health, Thomas believes strongly in fostering collaboration within the business. She also understands that a company is nothing without its customers and the passionate employees that serve them. “I love that my role has expanded beyond just the customer experience to capture both customers and employees because there are so many natural dependencies between those two worlds,” she says. “I hope my role will continue to develop with both of those worlds in mind moving forward.”