As technology continues to have a major impact on the waste and recycling industry, solid waste giant Waste Management added the position of chief digital officer as part of its 2018 strategic plan. After conducting a nationwide search for a qualified candidate, the Houston-based company opted to promote from within and named Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist to the newly created position.
Sjoqvist, who had been vice president of revenue management with the firm, was also elevated to the position of senior vice president as part of the move. In the post, Sjoqvist is responsible for all digital and technology functions for the company. This includes eCommerce and online self-service, information technology and advanced analytics and data management. He is also a member of the company’s senior leadership team.
Sjoqvist joined the company in 2012 and was previously vice president of pricing and then vice president of revenue management. In those roles, he had responsibility for pricing, disciplined growth planning, marketing and advanced revenue analytics.
Waste360 recently sat down with Sjoqvist to discuss his new role and how Waste Management will use technology in the future.
Waste360: What is your background in the waste and recycling industry? How long have you been with Waste Management and in what roles?
Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist: I joined WM at the beginning of 2012 as the vice president of pricing. In 2014, my role expanded to look more deeply at disciplined growth through a data and analytics-based approach. Data and analytics were not a new idea to WM but, as with many companies, with advances in digital technology, the collection and analytics of information has become more efficient, accessible and prolific.
Waste360: What were you doing professionally prior to the waste industry?
Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist: Prior to joining WM, I worked at McKinsey & Co. supporting a broad range of companies across multiple industries. These industries included telecommunications, hotels, airlines and publishing, among others. My work tended to focus a fair amount on product development and pricing strategies.
I also spent 10 years at Compaq and HP in a variety of roles including managing global pricing strategies. Prior to that, I was at PricewaterhouseCoopers in corporate finance.
Waste360: Why did Waste Management create this position?
Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist: As a company, we’ve always had a focus on the customer. We’re even more focused on that now. Today, we interact with our customers on any digital channel they want to interact with us on. But the world is changing and there’s more we can do, and will do, to meet our customers where they want to meet us from a digital customer experience perspective.
Doing more of that in a strategic manner will be better for our customers and better for our business. That’s really what this role is all about; creating an exceptional digital experience for our customers, and enabling our employees to serve our customers more effectively and efficiently.
Waste360: In your opinion, how important was it that Waste Management hire someone from within for this role?
Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist: On the surface, the waste and recycling industry looks, to some, like a pretty straightforward business. But it’s very local and actually very complex. For example, what matters to customers in one segment, doesn’t matter at all to customers in other segments, and it’s incredibly helpful to know what those needs and pain points are, so any digital strategy actually moves the needle.
So, I think it helps to have someone who gets all that and gets it quickly so that we can make a real difference fairly quickly for our customers and our business.
Waste360: What impact do you hope to have in this new role?
Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist: My expectation, one shared by (Waste Management President and CEO) Jim Fish and the entire leadership team, is that we’ll create some increased “stickiness” between our customers and our company. If we give our customers an amazing experience on digital, if we make life easier for them, and in turn easier for us as a business, then we’ll have been successful.
But there’s another stakeholder group that will benefit from this focus on digital, and that’s our employees. We need to give them the tools from a technology perspective so that they can easily deliver the services our customers expect and deserve.
Waste360: How will this role impact Waste Management’s strategic plan as far as technology is concerned?
Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist: For us, technology and the digital medium is a means to an end. We won’t lead with technology. Instead, our strategy will start with our customers, putting their wishes and needs first and foremost. I don’t see technology as the bright new shiny object. I see it as a way to enable us to provide exceptional customer experiences and get even more efficient in how we run the business.
Before we determine any technology strategies or build any new technologies we want to ask our customers about how we can delight them and improve their experience with us through the use of technology.
Waste360: What new technology initiatives are in the works at Waste Management and what would you like to see changed?
Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist: Many things are in the works, almost all of which start with the customer in mind. We’re going to be better at working from the customer viewpoint, so start with the customer in mind and work back from there. We do this pretty well today, but we’re going to get better at it, and extend this way of thinking to the digital experiences.
Waste360: What is the single most important technology used by Waste Management?
Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist: I don’t believe there is necessarily a single most important WM technology. Perhaps, at the moment, the most underutilized technology tool is wm.com. There’s more we can do with that platform, for sure.
Waste360: What do you see as the future of technology at the company and in the waste and recycling industry as a whole?
Nikolaj H. Sjoqvist: As an industry, there is an abundance of opportunity when it comes to technology, especially customer-facing technology.
At WM, we will work to evolve our portfolio of digital offerings to a point where we are continually creating exceptional customer experiences. We want to truly delight our customers and enable our employees use the right technology that’s going to help them service customers even more effectively and efficiently.