Execs In The Know- A Global Network of Customer Experience Professionals

CRS Chicago – Speaker Bios


Featured Speakers


Aileen Allkins leads the Customer Service and Support (CSS) organization, providing support to commercial and consumer customers and partners across all Microsoft products, services, and devices, through billions of support interactions each year. Passionate about delivering great support and customer care, Aileen is spearheading CSS’s transformation to become a differentiated, best-in-class customer service and support organization that is truly digital, quick and seamless, and expertly skilled. With over 25 years of experience leading Technical Support Delivery and Support Sales at country, regional and worldwide levels across a variety of organizations including Hewlett Packard, Peregrine Systems and Onyx Software, Aileen has a proven track record for leading change to drive improved customer experience and commercial success.

Brian leads Risk Operations at Square, responsible for protecting the company and its constituents against certain financial, legal, and business risks. Specifically, his teams focus on fraud, payment risk, chargeback disputes, credit risk, and recovery. Prior to joining Square, he ran Risk Management Operations at Facebook, was VP and General Counsel at Spring Rewards, and ran the Global Risk Management function at Groupon. His prior legal practice focused on corporate and professional civil litigation defense. Brian is a graduate of MIT and the Boston University School of Law.

Mary is the Vice President of Customer Experience and Trust at Lyft, working to deliver the perfect ride to drivers and passengers.  Mary focuses on understanding the voice of customer across Lyft to drive insights and improvements in Lyft’s product and processes.  Mary leads the work focused on all Lyft touchpoints with customers for problems or questions – social, email, phone, chat, sms, as well as Lyft’s Critical Response Line.

Mary’s passion for empowering people and communities carries on from her 12 years at Intuit where she spent time leading Customer Care for the Small Business Division (Quickbooks, Payroll, Payments, and Websites businesses) and Consumer Division (TurboTax, Quicken, and Mint) in addition to Process Excellence Leadership for Product Design, Finance, HR, Operations and Order Management.

Her prior roles include: Senior Vice President Global Technical Services at Sophos (network and endpoint security software), Director Operations at Pure Markets (high tech equipment leasing software), and Engagement Leader IBM Global Services.

Mary began her career at GE Capital and spent 9 years across various roles including Accounting, Lease Contracting, Mergers and Acquisitions, Operations Leadership, Product Marketing and Six Sigma Quality.

Mary is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in Political Science.

Amazon’s central mission is to be Earth’s Most Customer-centric Company, and as leader of the company’s celebrated Customer Service team, Tom has been at the heart of that mission for 20 years.  As leader of the Global Customer Service team, Tom leads customer service technology and operations for Amazon’s global consumer and digital businesses, leading a team of 70,000 globally, including technology and operations, across more than 100 operations and software development sites in more than 30 countries.  Tom’s team supports Amazon’s millions of consumer customers globally, as well as product and technical support for Amazon’s fast-growing array of digital products including Echo, Kindle, and Fire TV, and the groundbreaking Mayday support feature.

Tom joined Amazon in 1997 as a temporary employee, and in the 20 years since, has worked in a number of global customer service leadership roles based in North America and Europe.  From 2014-2016 Tom led AmazonFresh, the company’s fast-growing grocery business.  While leading Fresh, Tom led the team’s advancement into several new regions, international expansions, ongoing development of the Dash device, and several technology and product transformation programs.  Tom’s other roles have included operations and software development leadership roles, including the establishment and oversight of the company’s fraud prevention and product development groups.  Prior to joining Amazon, Tom worked at Seattle-area startups.

Beyond his duties leading customer service, Tom is a core member of the company’s CXBR team, which acts as an advisory and coaching service to teams across the company to ensure new product launches continuously raise the customer experience bar.  He is also a hiring Bar Raiser, and advisory board member for the Amazon Women in Engineering advocacy group.  Away from work, Tom is an avid nature photographer and ocean enthusiast.  Tom lives in Seattle with his wife and three children.


Michael started his career at The Home Depot in 1995 as a sales associate on the west coast. In his 21 years with the company, he has held a variety of positions: Store Manager, District Manager, Regional Director of Operations and Director of Tool Rental Operations. Michael now serves as the Senior Director, Customer Care at The Home Depot’s Atlanta Store Support Center and is dedicated to delivering a world-class, effortless customer experience through business intelligence and continual process improvement. He leads a team of over 600 associates and is most proud of the associates he has worked with during his tenure and the opportunity to support them and advance their careers.

He serves on the board of directors for the Better Business Bureau of Metro Atlanta, Athens and Northeast Georgia. He has served as a member of various committees for his local community as well.

Michael attended the University of Georgia and remains an avid bulldog fan.

Tony Drummond is a customer-obsessed story teller and inspirational leader.  As Vice President, Client Experience, with the Manheim Inventory Solutions group at Cox Automotive, Tony and his team work tirelessly to remind the business and team members at every level of the reason we are in business in the first place – to create and grow loyal clients.  Over the past three years with Cox Automotive, Tony has put client experience processes, tools and disciplines in place to help the company operationalize the voice of the client by focusing investments on the things that move the loyalty needle.

Prior to joining Cox, Tony spent thirteen years with IBM Global Business services where he helped IBM’s clients drive customer focused business transformation programs.

Alex Rivera is Vice President of Customer Care for TheMine.com. Headquartered in the Pacific Northwest, The Mine is a premier destination for fine furnishings unlike any other in the online retail space. Alex currently leads the servicing, fraud and fulfillment LOB’s. Before The Mine, Alex served as Vice President of Customer Service for Trupanion (a medical insurance company for cats and dogs). Prior to that he worked with Amazon where he played a key role in the launch of Mayday and implementing the servicing strategy for the launch of Amazon Echo and the support teams.

Currently VP Member Services Organization for Sears Holdings Corporation where he leads the organization responsible for strategy and execution of SHC member contact operations.  Mr. Bowden has over 35 years of management experience in a broad range of disciplines that include Finance, Marketing, Sales and Systems Development.  For the past 20 years, Mr. Bowden has gained significant experience in the areas of customer relationship management, contact strategy development, best process identification, self-service strategies and contact center optimization.  He has managed one of the largest in house service operations, was the senior operations executive at the 4th largest provider of outsourced contact centers and has lead consulting engagements in a variety of industries.

As Head of Performance Optimization for IHG, Tanya enables a team of 4,000 employees in IHG contact centers across the globe to provide sales and service to customers in the spirit of True Hospitality.

Tanya leads four functional centers of excellence that drive effective operational execution:

– Planning and Project Management – Gets the right people doing the right things in alignment across teams

– Business Innovation – Puts technology to work in the service of IHG customers and colleagues

– Global Sourcing – Optimizes a global operational platform with infrastructure and facilities to leverage our global scale.

– Workforce Management – Optimizes customer experience, cost of sale and revenue delivery by putting the right agent with the customer at the right time

Tanya has led many innovative initiatives at IHG, including implementing a reservation user interface used to generate revenue for IHG hotels and launching a virtual assistant to assist customers in digital channels.   She is also a customer advocate leading Customer Experience Management for personalized guest experiences and Voice of the Customer advances.

Involved as a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Tanya has been matched with her little as a mentor for 9 years.  She resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, home of the Greatest Snow on Earth® and when not working can be found travelling the world or enjoying the great outdoors with her husband and 2 children.

Bonnie has over 20 years’ expertise in call center executive management, account management, client services administration, and customer service.  Well versed in best practices of the customer experience  with multiple years’ operational oversight for large employee populations ranging from 50 to over 1,000.  During Bonnie’s current 15 year tenure with Road America, she also held positions of Director of Provider Network and Business Development.  Prior to her life at Road America, Bonnie spent 9 years as a contact center executive servicing customers at MCI (currently Verizon).

Bonnie attended South West Missouri State University and holds a Call Center Certification from Purdue University.

Sandra Peterson is the Vice President of MAPFRE USA’s Enterprise Contact Center. With a presence in 19 states, MAPFRE is the 21st largest Property and Casualty Insurer in the US, and the 19th largest private passenger auto insurer.  MAPFRE’s customers and a network of more than 5,000 independent agents and brokers are supported by the Enterprise Contact Center.

A leader of digital business transformation and customer experience, Sandra continues to focus upon introducing technologies to complement the traditional customer service channels.

Prior to her position in the Enterprise Contact Center, Sandra served as the Vice President of Regional Underwriting and Insurance Operations, providing oversight of underwriting, policy and premium administration and business solutions.

Sandra holds a BA in Sociology and Psychology from Dartmouth College and is a licensed P & C producer.

Michael Martin is Senior Vice President, CIBC and part of the Direct Banking, Innovation and Payments team.  In this role, Michael leads the overall business operations and administration for Simplii Financial, a direct banking division of CIBC.

Since joining CIBC in 1985, Michael has held a number of leadership positions across the organization, including Retail Distribution, Network Planning, Corporate Real Estate, Finance, CIBC Imperial Service, Business Planning & Controls, Alternate Channels, and Frontline Support.

Michael is an advisory board member for Execs In The Know, a volunteer role that advances the sharing, learning, and brand-to-brand mentorship of customer success strategies.

Michael holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University and a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University.

The Retail industry, as most others, is undergoing unprecedented change, which is consumer-driven and requires significant uplift in service and operational agility. Transformational leaders are required to enable the strategic priorities, specifically customer centricity and digital innovation.

Becky Ploeger has joined PetSmart as the Vice President of Customer Care leading the digital transformation efforts for Customer Care.  She’s responsible for building a best-in-class service organization and customer experience for all pet parents through self-service, phones, email, social, SMS and chat.  Prior to joining PetSmart, Becky was the VP of Contact Centers for Express Scripts where she led 24 global centers supporting patients. Before Express Scripts, she was VP of Digital Commerce Customer Care at Kohl’s Department Stores, leading customer service and sales contacts for all digital and omni-channel shopping.

She is a passionate thought leader, providing strategic execution of organization-wide initiatives that enhance productivity, quality, digitally-enabled and differentiated customer service, technology and bottom-line financial performance.  Her impressive record and repeated success in fearlessly delivering transformational change through innovative hands-on operational leadership, relationship building and project management has led to millions of dollars in revenue generation and expense reduction.

Prior to working for Kohl’s, Becky worked at Lands’ End in a variety of IT leadership positions supporting the International Offices, Contact Centers, Distribution Centers, B2B, and Catalog Creative business areas.

She currently serves as Chairperson of the Board for IQPC Customer Contact Week 2016, 2017 and 2018.

She is relocating to the Phoenix, AZ area with her husband and four children, and holds a BBA in Information Systems and Management from the University of Cincinnati.

Eric Messerschmidt is a proven marketing and sales executive with deep experience in technology, software, services, and retail industries. He has successfully led B2B and B2C marketing departments in established firms like AT&T and Sears Holdings, as well as mid-sized and early stage firms.  He has extensive experience in  loyalty marketing, CRM, customer insights and data analytics.  At Sears Holdings, he launched the Shop Your Way Rewards loyalty program, and over the last 6 years at Ulta Beauty, he has elevated Ultamate Rewards to become one of the leading loyalty programs in all of retail.   Eric graduated from the University of Illinois with an Electrical Engineering degree, and then earned his MBA in Finance & Marketing from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Experienced Director of Channel Management with a demonstrated history of working in the internet industry. Skilled in Operations Management, Sales, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Team Building, and Contact Centers. Strong driver of methodical business improvement for maximum ROI.

LeAnne was born and raised in Australia and New Zealand and through various job promotions and changes within Hyatt, LeAnne found herself in the USA eleven years ago heading up the Global Contact and Care Centres for Hyatt, which are based in Germany, India, China, Japan, Manila and the Pacific. Along with this responsibility LeAnne also leads the global efforts for learning and development across these centres, as well as the USA. Having spent 20 plus years with Hyatt, the journey hasn’t stopped her own learning and creativity. Having graduated from Cornell with a Masters in Hospitality Management she always enjoys giving back to those around her, helping them to learn and grow. In her spare time, when not travelling the world, LeAnne enjoys salsa dancing and cooking up a storm in the kitchen to delight her family and friends.

Case Study

Antony Brydon is CEO and co-founder of Directly. Directly’s community-powered chatbots reward your best community members for creating and optimizing bot responses and quickly answering customer questions. World-class companies like Airbnb, Autodesk, LinkedIn, SAP and Samsung are leveraging Directly’s unique community-powered model to deliver high deflection rates with greater empathy. Directly customers have seen support volume and cost decreases of 50-90%, together with CSAT increases of 10-20 points. The company is based in San Francisco, CA.  www.directly.com

Michael Lawder oversees all U.S. customer service operations, including contact centers, field and depot operations, walk-in support locations, parts supply and quality assurance. Michael’s passion at Samsung is to help customers get the most out of their products. The Samsung Customer Care team is committed to making each day simpler, more productive and more enjoyable for customers.

Prior to Samsung, Michael spent almost six years at Electronic Arts Inc. where he served as vice president of Worldwide Customer Experience. Prior to Electronic Arts, Michael had a 12-year tenure with Apple.

Joseph is CEO and co-founder of Gladly, a company he incubated at Greylock Partners with Dirk Kessler and Michael Wolfe. He believes that one of the keys to effective leadership is ensuring teams have the right tools to succeed. At Gladly, he’s working to empower customer service agents with a platform that turns them into heroes. This role builds on his customer service experience first as a co-founder and CEO of Connectify and later when it was acquired by Kana, one of the first digital customer service platforms which he helped take public in 1999. He also co-founded and was CEO of Vontu, the leader in data loss prevention, which was acquired by Symantec in 2007.

In addition to his role at Gladly, Joseph is a partner at Greylock Partners and on the Board of Directors of Sumo Logic, Grand Rounds and Trifacta.

Joseph received a B.S. in Applied Economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently a member of the Wharton Undergraduate Executive Board.

Frankie Littleford has served as a leader at some of America’s most iconic aviation brands. Known for her ability to drive business results and create high-performing cultures, she has built a reputation as an inspiring female leader in a fiercely competitive industry.

Frankie is Vice President, Customer Support at JetBlue Airways, one of the most successful airline startups. She joined JetBlue in 1999, before the carrier’s first flight, as a founding member and part of its original management team. Today she has oversight of customer contact centers in Salt Lake City and Orlando, leading more than 3,000 crewmembers; the majority of whom enjoy an innovative work-at- home agent model, a first-in- industry approach Frankie helped pioneer.

Culture is a top priority for Frankie, and she is an outspoken advocate for creating the kind of environment that drives satisfaction, engagement and customer loyalty.

Panel Moderators


Judi Brenstein offers 20 years as a management professional and consultant with an impressive range of expertise. As a COPC Inc. Vice President of Client Solutions, Judi specializes in the areas of performance improvement, operational management, change management, quality, training and development, recruiting and project management.

Judi consults with clients to provide solutions for outcome-based performance improvement results, benchmark reviews of current performance, provide Six Sigma-based contact center project expertise, and strategic planning. She is well-known and sought after by COPC clients who are looking for the specific expertise to come in, diagnose the high-impact, low-effort opportunities, determine ROI and recommended actions, and then oversee the ability of internal teams to make those improvements. Judi is also known for her sought-after presentations at industry events.

Prior to working with COPC Inc. Judi co-founded Customer Synergy Solutions, LLC in Houston, Texas. In addition to contact center operational management talents, Judi has a wealth of practical knowledge and hands-on experience gained from working with blue-chip organizations, such as Microsoft, Scholastic, Hyatt Hotels, CISCO, United HealthCare, Hewlett Packard, Beachbody, T-Mobile, United Airlines, Anheuser-Busch, Shell, Sprint, Groupon, Bright House Networks, PODS and Vectren Energy.

Judi’s previous led the COPC training practice area, overseeing the content curriculum, creating the COPC Training Center, an online training platform, as well as being a COPC Certified Facilitator for classroom programs, such as COPC High Performance Management Techniques, COPC Lean Six Sigma for Contact Centers Yellow Belt & Green Belt programs, COPC People Workshop, and COPC Quality training.

Judi holds an MBA in International Business from Houston Baptist University and a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Oral Roberts University. Judi is a Registered Coordinator to both the COPC CSP Standard and the COPC VMO Standard. She is also a COPC Certified Professional Manager, and a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt (LSSMBB).

Evan Dobkin is the Product Marketing Manager for Aspect CXP and leads Aspect’s pursuit of strategic partnerships. Evan focuses on the development of use cases for customer service chatbots. Additionally, he develops strategies for internal channels to improve the technology experience for customer-facing employees.

Dan Fox is the Field Marketing Manager at Interactions and is focused on creating strategic marketing programs to support field sales efforts. Dan started with Interactions in 2011, leading marketing communications and strategy. He has presented and facilitated at numerous conferences and continues to be the subject matter expert on speech and natural language philosophies. Fox is a graduate of the University of Delaware, and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

Joseph is an accomplished marketing executive with a demonstrated ability to create and execute strategies that increase sales and deliver new market opportunities for both startups and large tech companies.  His expertise includes go-to-market strategies, channel development, brand awareness, and digital marketing.  Prior to joining SmartAction, he led international marketing and global channel marketing at Ixia, a Forbes’ 14th fastest growing technology company.  Joseph was named a top 100 rising star in channel marketing by CRN.   He has authored three successful books helping service providers world-wide accelerate next generation wireless deployments.  Joseph earned a Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School.