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Twilio VP of Customer Experience Kristine Chin: ‘to win, delight the enthusiast’

As part of our Breakthrough Builders podcast series, our VP of Tech Jesse Purewal chats with Kristine Chin about how she uses delightful persistence to get things done, and which company’s customer experience she finds completely amazing...

Listen to the complete podcast episode of Breakthrough Builders with Kristine Chin.

Early reflections

The Oakland Firestorm of 1991 destroyed 1,520 acres and more than 3,000 homes, upending the lives of thousands of residents, including  University of California-Berkeley rising senior Kristine Chin.

“My apartment was lost. I spent my first and second semester of my senior year basically trying to recover from that,” says Kristine in her recent conversation with Jesse Purewal on our Breakthrough Builders podcast.

“But it also kind of gave me a couple of lessons learned,” says Kristine. “One, you can recover from anything. You know that you can be stripped down to almost nothing, and then it's on you as a person to figure out what your next move is.

“Two, the most valuable things are not the things that insurance can buy. It’s all the other stuff. It's the people you meet. It's the things you want to do. It’s your dreams.”

Kristine had long prepared for a career in law, but after the fire, she felt the need to get away for a while and sort out her thoughts. She delayed a decision about graduate school and headed to Central Europe.

Behind the breakthroughs

It was during an internship in the unlikeliest of places – an insurance company located in rapidly-deregulating Slovenia – that Kristine discovered the applications of one of her areas of fascination: systems thinking.

As she played a key role in digitizing the company’s processes, her training in Political Science and Economics helped her notice the interconnectedness and dependencies of parts and their relationships to the whole. She describes her enthusiasm for systems thinking with the same sort of excitement one might feel before a scientific experiment.

“What if I squeeze the balloon here? What happens on the other side?”

This thinking now undergirds her holistic approach to experience design and management as Head of Customer Experience at Twilio. “Don't get caught in siloed behavior. One of the magic pieces of customer experience is a capability to see an end-to-end customer experience through the lens of a customer journey map,” she says.

“It’s very hard to choreograph that into an experience unless you actually continually go back to the customer and not let the different silos impact that experience.”

Delighting the enthusiast

Kristine is a customer experience enthusiast – more than just an expert practitioner, she is a devotee, an aficionado. Like a sneakerhead scouring the internet for a limited colorway, she has enthusiastically scoured the ether for a “signal” from the customer since her first job in tech.

“What are your customers telling you? That was the difference, I think, between the telcos who were focused on continuing their voice lines and plain old telephone service and not wanting necessarily to invest in the internet and higher speeds. They weren't actually looking at new trends coming up and what customers were demanding.”

This conviction that customers have the answers enabled Kristine to move across industries and products, from telecom, to cars, to real estate, to high tech, with increasing impact. Her secret is her affection for and commitment to the enthusiast customer.

“The enthusiasts were very frank with us about what was working and what wasn’t. They were the original influencers so they were the core, so it was very contagious to hear from them. By focusing on the research and listening to these customers can we actually figure out how to shape our service.

“That's when we started crafting a business around helping our core enthusiasts to prosper.”

Want to hear more? Listen to Kristine's full conversation with Jesse Purewal in our latest episode of the Breakthrough Builders podcast.

Breakthrough Builders is about people whose passions, perspectives, instincts, and ideas fuel some of the world’s most amazing products, brands, and experiences. It’s a tribute to those who have the audacity to imagine – and the persistence to build – breakthroughs.

Listen to Kristine's full conversation with Jesse Purewal