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Digital and technology have given rise to newer touch points for companies and they need to leverage a world of offline transactions—which continue to play a significant role when it comes to delivering unique customer experiences.
Digital and technology have given rise to newer touch points for companies and they need to leverage a world of offline transactions—which continue to play a significant role when it comes to delivering unique customer experiences.

Why customer experience should be a broad agenda

Customer experience (CX) is taking centre-stage in an era where superior products and services alone are no longer sufficient to attract and retain customers

India is witnessing a significant digital and technology transformation with e-commerce, artificial intelligence (AI), digital payments, mobile apps, etc. being adopted across different industries. This is changing the way customers perceive and interact with organizations. The way consumers consume and interact with products and services is also undergoing a radical shift.

Organizations, too, are trying to simplify and differentiate the way they manufacture and deliver their products and services. Therefore, customer experience (CX) is taking centre-stage in an era where superior products and services alone are no longer sufficient to attract and retain customers.

What is more, competitors are no longer from the same industry: Airbnb, Uber, Amazon, and fintech companies are among those disrupting traditional industries. All these firms differentiate themselves by offering superior experiences to their customers. The benchmarks for a superior CX are also seeing a significant change. CX is the single most important metric that will help companies measure the index of their customer-centricity in the market place and identify areas of improvement quarter-on-quarter.

But how exactly does one define CX? A very simple way to define it is to look at some parameters and questions from the consumer’s point of view.

Ease of interaction: Was it easy for me to interact with the company in any channel I reached out to them?

Relevance of information: Did I get the information I needed?

Completeness of information: Did I get all the information that I had sought?

Accuracy of information: Was the information accurate enough for me to go back to them again?

These are simple questions and impressions customers take back with them when they do business with companies. There may be multiple technologies and channels for customers to reach out to companies–call centre, website, mobile app, dealer, branch, sales/service adviser, store manager and retailer, among others. But regardless of the mode used for customer interaction, the above questions are the Holy Grail of customer experience—and for them to come back to the company and make repeat purchases.

In most organizations, there is no single department that can be responsible for this and all the channels need to work in an ‘orchestrated’ manner to deliver superior CX—be it sales, service, marketing, technology, digital or any other. For most companies, this represents an opportunity as well as a challenge.

In a recent consumer study, we measured the quality of CX by studying seven different industries across the above parameters: banking, insurance, mutual funds, automotive, retail, airlines and healthcare. And what we found was quite interesting. Only 21% of the total respondents were fully satisfied with their interactions with brands and as many as 47% felt that the information provided to them during the interaction was not complete. Further, a mere 14% were satisfied with their interaction with the company/brand representatives, while 46% said they were not satisfied with their (the representatives’) knowledge of the company or brand.

We also noted that traditional voice-based channels were more effective but, increasingly, mobile apps and social media were gaining prominence, even more than the email.

Implications of CX measures for companies

Digital and technology have given rise to newer touch points for companies and they need to leverage a world of offline transactions—which continue to play a significant role when it comes to delivering unique customer experiences. In addition, they need to leverage people working in companies to use, enhance and differentiate these customer experiences in their day-to-day interactions.

For building great CX, companies need to deliver a differentiated hybrid experience—by fusing digital and physical ones together. Here are some ways to make CX a part of a firm’s DNA:

Make CX a boardroom agenda: Emirates NBD Bank PJSC made CX as important a part of its agenda as financial performance and economic value creation. It was a part of its annual report and explicitly made it a key metric for all stakeholders in business. It has a CX road map and cockpit that measures how its banking products are designed and how superior customer experience is delivered.

Empower employees to deliver great CX: Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores Inc. changed how it trains its employees: from training them via computer-based courses to offering real-life retail lessons at in-store training academies. By the end of 2017, the firm was slated to open over 200 academies with dedicated teaching staff.

Think innovation and disruption in every customer management process: Delta Air Lines Inc. is using a facial recognition technology for self-service bag drops to improve check-in. Similarly, life insurance firm Aegon N.V. built a CX theme around its products—‘Easy to do Insurance’—with simple online calculators, seamless Facebook log-in to pre-fill the forms and linking to various databases to enable an “almost no-signature" process.

Companies need to start identifying themselves as “customer-centric" organizations and focus on customer-centric processes, if they want to survive in this fast-changing world. There are significant opportunities that exist to improve CX across industries in India and company boards need to make CX a “currency" that will be measured and improved consistently.

S. Swaminathan is co-founder and CEO of Hansa Cequity, a customer and data-driven marketing company.

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