Managing the Unprecedented IT integration of AT&T and DIRECTV Was All About Keeping Customers First

February 04, 2016
By Pam Parisian

We’ve had a rich merger history, and throughout we’ve kept our focus on the customer a top priority.

Keeping that focus was particularly important with the DIRECTV deal. We were attempting something different. Our previous mergers have been primarily about adding telephony services. Now, though, we were merging with one of the biggest video providers around.

With AT&T and DIRECTV, our goal was to become the premier integrated communications company in the world.

There was no time to waste.  Just 17 days after close, we launched our new all-in-one wireless and video bundle and our “Customer Day One” experience. Among other things, that meant giving customers the ability to buy DIRECTV in our retail stores and start streaming it immediately on their wireless device. They can “Walk Out Watching” even before we install their service at home. 

Here are a few other things we did leading up to that first day:

  • Provided our sales reps a single software app.  This made it easy  to sell any of our wireless, video or broadband products.
  • Merged separate AT&T and DIRECTV customer data into a single “data warehouse.”  This let our sales teams can see at a glance all the services a customer buys from us and recommend new services they might like.
  • Enabled a single credit check for all services across AT&T and DIRECTV.  Customers don’t have to go through a new check to get new services.
  • Provided a single bill for all customers’ wireless, broadband and video services.
  • Activated seamless authentication, single logon and self-service capabilities via directv.com, att.com and the AT&T mobile apps.
  • Routed customers who buy multiple services from us to integrated customer service centers. They can speak to single rep for help with anything they need.

We’ve also started to make things even easier with what we call a “single truck roll.”  We send the truck to customers who order both DIRECTV and U-verse high-speed Internet service. One installer can come to your home to set up both services. Now, that may sound simple to you. But it requires a major overhaul of our supply chain and inventory management systems.

I’ve been lucky to work on many of the acquisitions that made AT&T the company it is today since I joined in 1980. So we knew there would be some challenges. For example, until regulators approved the deal, we had to work under strict legal guidelines that limited the customer information the companies could share with each other.

But we also had technology on our side to help overcome some of the barriers. One way was using a high-definition video conferencing system that we called the “wormhole.” The tool let us work virtually face-to-face with our DIRECTV counterparts in California. We put in more than 2,500 hours of total use on the system for 10 to 12 hours per day. 

This was a total team effort. Mike Benson, my CIO counterpart at DIRECTV and now the CIO of our Entertainment Group, led an equally dedicated crew of IT folks from his side to make magic happen for our customers. That’s because they shared our customer-first culture. Overall, more than 3,300 IT experts at both companies worked together to make the merger a success. Those folks spent a cumulative 2 million hours writing and testing code across 200 apps.

We’ve done some great work. But bringing together all these different technologies and capabilities is a long process.  Now we’re getting rid of overlap in our systems. That’s critical to making the experience faster and simpler for our customers even as we launch new products and services. 

So now you’ve had a peek behind the curtain. And we’ve got more great customer benefits up our sleeve. You’ll continue to see great new video innovations coming out of the new AT&T. And the IT whiz kids around AT&T will continue to drive for effortless experiences for our customers.

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