Tom Eggemeier, '97: Applying Law School Skills in Silicon Valley Customer Service

Tom Eggemeier
Tom Eggemeier, ’97

Tom Eggemeier, ’97, became president of Genesys last fall. The largest privately held software company in Silicon Valley, Genesys does business in more than 100 countries, helping companies improve their online, email, and voice interactions with customers. Its clients include Apple, Airbnb, and Emirates Airline.

“A customer’s experience with a company is a critical factor in creating brand loyalty, and that’s a major business battleground today, when consumers are far less brand loyal than they once were,” Eggemeier says. “We match individual customers’ information with a company’s communications and services, so people are far more likely to get the help or information they need quickly, smoothly, and accurately.”

He gives an example: “Let’s say that you’re an air traveler who speaks only French. You’re in Tokyo, your flight is canceled, and you need to rebook. When you call for that new reservation, you would typically expect to reach a Japanese-speaking agent and then experience a chain of frustrating, time-consuming interactions before getting to someone who could help you. With Emirates Air, for example, it’s different. In the best of cases, our software will identify you as French-speaking when you call, based on your cell phone number and the profile Emirates has of you, and you will automatically be routed directly to a French-speaking agent. At a minimum, the agent you reach will see your profile, realize immediately that you speak only French, and be able to very quickly connect you to a French-speaking agent.”

“It’s a win/win,” Eggemeier says. “The customer gets unexpectedly great service, and the company saves time and money. And you can be very sure that that customer will tell plenty of other people about that amazing experience, which builds the brand and attracts more customers.”

Eggemeier started working in tech not long after he graduated, having quickly realized that law firm life was not for him. “I summered at two big firms, and just didn’t like it much. The firms were great and the people were great, but I wasn’t really happy. After graduating, I tried a smaller firm, but within a year I was ready to do something else.” A friend who worked at Compaq told him that the company was hiring. “It was a time in Silicon Valley when if you had a pulse, you could get a job,” Eggemeier recalls. “I had a pulse. They put me in marketing, and I found that I liked it.”

Four years later he joined Alcatel, and eight years after that he became the company’s senior vice president of enterprise global sales, based in Paris and traveling nearly every other week throughout Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Genesys, which had been a software division within Alcatel-Lucent, became a standalone company after its acquisition by the private equity firm Permira, and Eggemeier went with the company, serving as senior vice president for four years before stepping into his current leadership role.

“People ask me whether I would still have gone to Law School, given the way my career turned out, and I answer that with an unequivocal yes,” Eggemeier says. “Every day I apply skills I learned there: analyzing problems, speaking and writing clearly, listening closely to others, recognizing and weighing risks and opportunities, and so many other things. If I had it to do over, I might also have gotten an MBA, but for sure I wouldn’t have missed out on what the Law School gave me.”

“There’s another way, maybe more subtle, in which my Law School experience helped me,” he adds. “At Genesys, we create and power the world’s best customer experiences with a focus on highly personal and individualized interactions. Perhaps uniquely among law schools, Chicago has those qualities—faculty and administrators know you as an individual, and you have open-door access to all the attention and information you want, completely focused on you and provided by great subject-matter experts. That’s the way our customers want their customers to feel. I was fortunate to grow up seeing an intense customer-service ethic in my parents and grandparents, but the Law School really locked it in, and it has helped me throughout my career. Brand loyalty? The Law School sure earned that from me.”