Business Markets and SaaS, a division of Verizon Business, supports small to medium-sized businesses through their digital transformations by offering services and solutions to help them grow and thrive in today’s ever-changing market. I recently spoke with Aparna Khurjekar, the newly appointed Chief Revenue Officer for Verizon’s Business Markets and SaaS division, to discuss her customer-first leadership style, the strategic intent behind the creation of the new division and growing challenges for small and medium-sized businesses. She has been with Verizon for 15 years and has held various leadership positions including SVP and President for Verizon Business Markets and Chief Customer Officer for Verizon Consumer Group.
Managing with a Customer-First Approach
Putting the customer first is a fundamental principle for any successful business that aims to build long-lasting relationships and thrive in a competitive marketplace. Khurjekar believes her diverse background in technology, product development and her role as Chief Customer Officer has helped her hone in on what customers want and how to best support them. However, she believes that her secret sauce for managing with a customer-first approach is her ability to manage data. “I often say sales is the art of selling. People buy from people, but you can enhance it with science behind it,” she said.
Khurjekar explains by leveraging data to understand customers’ needs and where they are in the buying journey, Verizon can apply an omni-channel strategy and provide the right solutions to support them. She believes that one size does not fit all when it comes to customers and businesses. “You have to start with the customer and their needs and then be able to solve for that – through the plethora of solutions that you bring to the customer,” she said. She also emphasized that every customer wants to be treated like a friend. “What is it that you bring to them as a friend? Make sure you’re doing the same things for this customer as you would your friend and then they will come along with you, they grow with you, and it becomes a very synergistic relationship.” she said.
In today’s world, where technology has permeated every sector, every industry and every business, businesses need to differentiate themselves through technology.
Khurjekar explained that the role of her new team is dedicated to solving the tech needs of SMBs in every sector, whether it is connectivity, cybersecurity, SaaS or cloud-based software. “We take pride in making sure we come to the table with three things: a whole gamut of services and solutions, the ability to provide the right kind of support and last but not least, forecasting the future needs of our clients,” she said.
The Growing Challenges for SMBs
Many businesses are currently facing challenges related to supply chain disruptions, labor shortages, and changing consumer behavior. These challenges are making it difficult for SMBs to operate and grow sustainably.
One of the biggest challenges small and medium-sized businesses face is inflation. Khurjekar noted that over 80% of the businesses Verizon works with are seeing a major increase in costs and businesses must rethink operational costs as well as costs of supply chain and labor.
Khurjekar also noted that as businesses become more and more connected, they are noticing an increase in cybersecurity needs. “I’ve said this before but one of the things that we have to account for is that cybersecurity is not a one size fits all and it’s also not a one-and-done situation,” she said.
Verizon has a dedicated organization that assesses the clients’ digital needs and provides customized solutions to protect their endpoints, prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, and ensure the right antivirus protection and device management. “We always try to understand their current needs as well as their future needs so we can offer them the right solutions to grow alongside them,” Khurjekar said.
The tech industry is constantly evolving and shaping the world we live in through innovation and advancements in technology. “Well-established companies that are able to be flexible and resilient are the ones surviving in the industry. And the way you achieve that is through tech,” Khurjekar said.
Khurjekar mentions the four Cs of tech: connectivity, collaboration, cybersecurity, and cloud services. For connectivity, Verizon’s commitment to 5G and fixed wireless access provides small and mid-size businesses with affordable and flexible broadband solutions. For collaboration, there are solutions like One Talk and BlueJeans that grow with businesses and allow them to connect with their customers and employees. Cybersecurity is also a crucial part of the industry, and Verizon provides an array of services and solutions to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes. Finally, Khurjekar emphasizes the importance of cloud services for automation, data management, and augmented intelligence.
“These tech solutions are not just for enterprises. In fact, we are seeing the small and mid-size businesses adopt these solutions faster than ever. We take pride in solving their tech needs by providing solutions and growing with them as they grow.” she said.
Knowledge is the Best Equalizer
Knowledge provides individuals with tools and abilities to overcome social, economic, and cultural barriers and achieve success regardless of their background or circumstances.
Khurjekar believes that knowledge is the best equalizer and that it is what gets you a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation. “Once you have the knowledge, everything else is secondary. The hierarchical levels don’t matter—what really matters is who has the knowledge and who’s able to contribute to the conversation. One of the things I always try to do is seek out those individuals who’ve really gone and done it. Those are the people you want to bring into the discussions,” she said.
Khurjekar is committed to mentoring women and youth on this principle and encourages others to speak up with knowledge and conviction. She believes that empowering people with skills and talent is crucial for making informed decisions and ultimately driving change. Khurjekar’s approach aligns with the need for organizations to ensure the right people are in the room, helping to create think tanks where everyone’s voices are heard in order to make effective changes.
Leaving an Indelible Mark
When asked if there was a moment when she knew that her career was moving “up and to the right,” the spot on a two-by-two matrix where we always want to be, Khurjekar emphasized that her journey to reach this magic quadrant is still a work in progress, but she focuses on always bringing something unique to every situation. “One thing I always strive to do is make sure that I’m leaving an indelible mark on everything I do. The questions I ask are, “Why is this different because of me?” and “What is it that I’m bringing to the table?” This has helped me in that constant quest to be moving up and to the right” she said.
This mindset has helped her stay focused on her constant quest for growth, both personal and professional. Khurjekar also emphasized the importance of kindness and nurturing relationships with people and customers, as well as continuously growing and becoming a better version of yourself each day.