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American Express' Jeanette Harrison: Learning as a Service
Jeanette K. Harrison, vice president of the American Express Learning Network, truly believes in the power of education.
The stated mission of the American Express Learning Network is to “ready all those who serve.” That objective pertains to the approximately 15,000 customer-care professionals within the company’s Service Delivery Network, which is responsible for assisting cardmembers and merchants with needs ranging from processing new accounts to card remittance.
Jeanette K. Harrison, vice president of the American Express Learning Network, has spent more than three years leading efforts to better prepare the people who are providing these crucial services to customers. And although she’s rolled out a number of initiatives that have contributed significantly to improvements in performance during this time, she’s hardly getting complacent.
“We’re making progress, but we will not rest on that,” she said. “It’s simply too important to us to do better each and every day. One of our 2008 objectives in service is to enhance the culture of ‘will to learn.’ We believe — notwithstanding what we’ve invested to date — that all of us have to learn as one mechanism to stay ahead of the competition and ensure our customers are as well served as they can be. That gets to the issue of being exceptional. We’re not looking for service — we’re looking for extraordinary service.”
Harrison — who holds a master’s degree in student development and higher education administration from American University and a doctorate in public policy from the University of Southern California — began her career in university administration. She said this was when she first realized how technology could be harnessed as valuable tool for connecting people with knowledge.
From there, she moved through different development- and performance-related roles, including a stint as the director of knowledge and learning at Intel Corp., before landing at American Express. She said the common thread between all the jobs she has held is they involved driving the performance of people.
“My career has revolved around solving problems where we needed better or greater performance from our workforce,” she said. “In essence, I’m a corporate problem solver.”
When Harrison first arrived at American Express’ Service Delivery Network, she was part of a new group of leaders who had just joined that part of the enterprise. While this dramatic shake-up in senior personnel might seem precarious, it turned out to be an opportunity to re-examine how the function was running and what needed to change.
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