Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mont Blanc. Customer Experience.Same thing.

Some time in August this year the Google Doodle commemorated the 229th ascent of Mont Blanc. And here I quote:

"Capped by snow and shrouded in mist sits Mont Blanc, the highest point in the Alps. Its summit, forever white, towers 15,000+ feet above Europe’s sea level. Lord Byron called it “the monarch of mountains.” And for centuries, no human had ever reached its peak.

Until 1786. That year, armed only with alpenstocks and measuring equipment (the trek was for scientific purposes), Frenchmen Michel Gabriel Paccard and Jacques Balmat set foot at the top. Now, 229 years later, thousands of hopeful hikers annually descend upon the Alpine towns of Chamonix, Saint-Gervais, and Courmayeur to recreate this exceptional feat, and take in this incredible view.

So what has this got to do with Customer Experience?
Three things clearly. And I'll mention this as the story goes along. The story of the first ascent is interesting.(You can read it in greater detail in the link below) In a nutshell, the first ascent was actually what can be called in today's world a 'sponsored event'.  
1. Customer Experience Management needs an obsessive sponsorAs one of the highest peaks in the Alps the Mont Blanc had as much fascinated the 18th Century world as challenged it. Of these, one of the most obsessed was Horace-Bénédict de Saussure. Knowing he'd not be able to scale the daunting heights, he offered a reward to whoever did it. That made a crystal  and chamois hunter come forward. Armed with grit, a dream and a doctor, (and the promise of a reward) Jacques Balmat and Dr Michel Paccard conquered the peak on that historic day.
Customer Experience is somewhat like that peak - elusive, daunting, difficult. And unless someone in the organisation is obsessive about making it work, sponsoring it and of course, rewarding it, it is likely to get lost in one of those experimentation bids that get lose steam in many an organisational tangle of red tape and ROI charts. But get a CXO-level sponsor who believes in the merit of investing not just time and money but also a high level of involvement and interest and it's bound to succeed.
2. It's a challenge but it's not impossibleIt's not like Balmat got it right on Day One. It was also serendipity that he met Dr Michel Paccard. And even with him they had to turn back after almost reaching there due to bad weather.
You need all that for your Customer Experience programme to succeed. Is your Customer Experience team ready to weather the storms of criticism and discontent that stems from not getting it right the first time? Are they willing to learn from their mistakes? Are they willing to team up with those who are not just like-minded but also bring their own set of capabilities to the table to make a success of it? If yes, the rewards that lie in wait are many and continue to delight every time. And if the rewards make a Ka-ching sound, don't be surprised. 
3. Customer Experience is an ongoing journeyIf you've read Balmat's story, you know that after his first ascent, he never stopped climbing. For him that was more of a beginning and not an end. So is a successfully driven Customer Experience Programme. An ongoing, constantly evolving programme that continuously reinvents itself and reaches one peak after another. And for this subsequent scaling of peaks, every ascent offers its own reward.
So where are you with your Mont Blanc? Have you found your Balmat yet?
Read Balmat's story here: The Story behind the first ascent

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Auto Industry is on self-drive. Does it need Customer Experience Management?

The wheels of the auto industry are rolling quite well in India, thank you. And yet, is mileage the only factor that makes an Indian choose his car?
Some time ago a colleague wanted to buy a car.
While all background work had been done as to which were the possible choices, the final decision was going to be (obviously) based on the test drive. Read that as the Showroom Customer Experience.
It was shocking then to realize that some of the finest brands left much to be desired.

First a couple of brands did not return his call for a test drive.
Second a couple of brands did not, I repeat, did not have a test drive vehicle!
Third, the gap between advertising, marketing, sales and finally the actual sale was huge.

In my mind the auto industry is the perfect show space for Customer Experience. Not only do people buy cars but people keep on buying cars. From one car to another car. From a smaller car to a bigger car. From a hatchback to a sedan to an SUV. The upgrade is almost endless. Which means customer loyalty is already a given. Why wouldn’t you cement this loyalty with the right experience?

Keeping the wheels of Customer Experience turning.
Here are three key factors that could ignite brand loyalty through a better Customer Experience
1. The Auto Customer is a Customer for life
While you are measuring the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer remember, once a car owner, always a car owner for a lifetime. This is not true of any other vehicle – and this is why the customer experience management becomes even more important. A customer who is engaged with a brand is most likely to be a repeat customer - this one for life.

2. After-sales is pre-sales in the automobile industry
Microsoft’s annual Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report 2015 shows that
97% of global consumers surveyed said customer service is somewhat or very important in their choice of or loyalty to a brand. 62% also said that they’ve stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service.
The investment in service and engagement and innovations to empower agents, employees and customers can no longer be ignored or postponed.
In the automobile industry particularly, after-sales is tantamount to pre-sales. I continue buying a brand well after I have outgrown the product. And this is where terms like upsell, cross-sell and retention make more sense.

3. Your Customer Experience is your brand champion
A positive customer experience is what makes for stickiness to the brand. It makes the customer come back for more. It is what makes the customer loyal to the brand – to a point where the customers not only repeatedly use the brand but also endorse it and become credible champions of the brand. That is the best form of advertising your brand can ever get. And the investment in it pays off in huge numbers.

To the car manufacturers who’ve taken Customer Experience seriously, I’d say there’s no looking back. To those still in neutral gear, I’d say it was time to shift to drive.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Softer pillows or Connectivity? The key to better CX in the Hospitality Industry

(If you’ve not read the precursor to this dialogue you might want to at this link, at the end of this post)

One always thought customer experience reached its pinnacle at the way larger 5-star (even 7 star) hotels treated (read that as pampered) their customers. It was always about lavishness and luxury, about large intimidating lobbies, plush sofas and hushed tones. It was about how your car drove up to the imposing podium and how you were greeted there as you stepped out of your car. It was about choosing the softness or hardness of the pillows you were used to back home.
But today customer experience in hospitality has moved up (that too in transparent high speed elevators!). 
What will you remember?
Years ago I was on a business trip to Singapore. As an agency we were pitching for what was to be a large and significant project. I was the Creative Director leading the team and I was then taking a presentation to be made to a global team of the multinational organization in Singapore.
Like in any other situation the work to be presented was finally finished minutes before I was to leave for the airport. A red-eye flight landed me in Singapore the next morning. With the late night flight, the time difference (I lost time) and the stress of the day before I arrived frazzled at the airport. It was 8 am. My presentation was slotted at 9 am.
I rushed out, caught a cab, discovered through a conversation with the taxi driver that the hotel is not too far away and settled in for the ride. It was only when I got off, that I realised that I had no local currency. Those were the days when the taxis accepted only Singapore dollars. I gasped. But only for a moment. The bellhop that opened the door asked me what the problem was. When I told him, he dug into his pocket; paid the cabbie the full fare in Singapore currency, took charge of the receipt and my luggage, and marched me inside the hotel to the check-in desk. I quickly changed currency as I checked in and handed him the amount due. I was beyond relieved. Not only would that have delayed me for my presentation but it would have really taken the edge of my confidence.
 Yes the hotel was comfortable. The room was lovely and yes, the presentation went on well and yes, yes, we did win the business but what do I remember most to this day? I remember the enthusiastic bellhop with ready cash in his pocket. I remember an organization that had thought ahead, a leadership that had acted on an insight and a ground level employee who was empowered to take quick decisions on his own. What an unforgettable customer experience! And no, I don’t remember how soft or hard the pillows were!

 Connectedness. Connectivity.
If you look at customer segmentation in the hospitality industry the obvious one is the business traveller and the holiday maker. But think of yourself now – you are both. And sometimes you are both at the same time.
Here’s a case in point.
A resort I stayed in recently for a family holiday very graciously offered us ‘free wifi’ as part of the “summer package. Great, I thought. But here’s the catch: the ‘free wifi’ was meant for only 1 device per room. Can you think back to an age when you went carried only one device that needed connectivity either on business or a holiday?! Even a couple on their honeymoon will have two phones that need to be ‘connected’!
Isn't the hospitality industry losing connectedness because of lack of connectivity?  Today if Customer Experience is a recognized battleground, hotels will offer free wifi (of course with seamless connectivity). And it doesn't matter now how good the view or the food is – the Lord and Mark Zuckerberg know that if you have not put up your holiday on Facebook or Twitter, it really wasn’t a holiday! Which means a holiday without connectivity is no holiday at all!

The blurred lines
And then there are the blurred lines in customer segmentation – which means the business traveller is also the holiday maker is also the decision maker in terms of choice of holiday destinations. What is the hospitality industry doing for this new product of the sharing economy?
With the advent of the Airbnb challengers the hotel industry has to be even more on their toes to make every experience not just memorable for that time but enough to get more loyalty. And by that I don’t mean the meaningless point programmes that some chains run.

Three keys to better CX
For a start there are three things that the hospitality industry has to do.
  1. View the customer differentlyThe customer today is a bundle of personalities that can no longer be slotted in one clear box. Instead of fighting that, why not create a ‘bundle’ of offers for the new customer? 
2. View the positioning differently
There are business hotels and there are holiday resorts. But today business hotels because of their competitive costs are used by holiday makers on a budget and the resorts are used as conference destinations. And yet we have resorts without wifi connectivity and business hotels with no amenities for couples with children. While positioning is important, isn’t it time repositioning happened?

3. View your employee differently
Customer Experience starts with the customer but it is up to the last employee to deliver that experience and that will only come from the empowerment of that employee. In the new world, every employee in his space is the CEO – able to take decisions in favor of the customer at that moment. Like the bell hop in the hotel in Singapore, who with my luggage took charge of my woes. Something I'll always remember. And isn't that what great Customer Experience is all about?

Related Links
So who needs Customer Experience?
6 reasons why you don't need Customer Experience

Friday, October 9, 2015

So who needs Customer Experience?

So who needs customer experience?

Frankly no one. Except, those business that need ...well... customers.

So if you are in a business and want to get new customers or engage with existing customers or even  hold on to the customers who are planning to leave, you need to take a cold hard look at the experience you are offering your customers.

For the longest time, customer experience was limited to the hotels or the hospitality industry.

The world of hotels bent backwards for this. In India, 5 star hotels have tall large turbaned men welcoming you at the entrance, women in traditional attire garlanding you with the saffron flowers and walking you through marbled passageways to your luxurious rooms. But is that enough? Is that experience enough. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. What is it that will really make an impact on you? What is it that you will remember?

I’m now beginning a series of posts on how Customer Experience is integral to different industries. And when I say integral I mean it’s no longer an option. It is as important as sales and marketing. In fact, it’s as important as the customer himself. And you’d agree with me when I say the customer is important… won’t you?

Watch this space for more.

Monday, October 5, 2015

6 reasons why you don’t need Customer Experience

Is Customer Experience - CX - just the new buzzword around the block?
The right words to use at a new client presentation?
Just the new way to impress those on the panel for your next career move?
Do you really need it?
Maybe it’s not for your industry, your sector, your specialty, your domain.
Well, you know what? You may be right.
Here are 6 reasons why you don’t need Customer Experience.

1.       You don’t need customers
Strangely, for any business to survive, thrive or grow, you need customers. Now you could be inward-looking and wax eloquent about the benefits of your product or service but eventually you will have to go and find that one person who will buy it. That, dear seller, is your customer. And as luck would have it, that customer needs to buy your product as a start. (Let’s call him Customer A). So you do have a customer. Now would you want Customer A to come back? That is Point Two.

2.       You don’t need customers to come back
Your business is doing well. You have managed to sell your unique brand of services to Customer A. Wouldn’t you want him to remember you the next time he wanted similar services? Wouldn’t you want Customer A to buy more? Well. Enough said.

3.       You don’t need customers to buy more
You are on a growth path. It’s so convenient that Customer A bought up your entire gamut of services. Now you have a new lot of services. Doesn't  it make sense to tell Customer A about it? And help him help himself to some more?

4.       You don’t need more customers
While Customer A was in your store, in walked Customers X, Y and Z. While they did not buy as much as Customer A, they still did make your cash register ring. And the continuous ringing was melody to your ears.

5.       You don’t need customers to get more customers
Back to Customer A. On his way home he meets B and C for a drink. If he does remember you he talks about you. Next morning Customer C is knocking on your door. And this continues. Or doesn’t it? At least you wish it continues, don’t you?

6.       You don’t need customers to remember you
This again is a no-brainer. Why would you not want Customer A, B , C and X, Y and Z to remember you when they want the same product or service again? Why would you not want them to mention your name to someone else like Customer K who is seeking this kind of service? 

If all of the above seems too simplistic, it really is. I’ve stayed away from a lot of Customer Experience terminology – I could have peppered this with touch points, upsell, cross sell, retention, NPS and such, but the reason why I haven’t is because while Customer Experience needs to be explored in detail – what it rests on is a simple decision – to make Customer Experience an essential function in the organization.

Research has proved that organizations that opt for dedicated Customer Experience reap enormous benefits. It results in enhanced customer satisfaction, reduced churn, increased revenue, and greater employee satisfaction – to start with.

And if you just look at increased revenue as one of the benefits, then you have 6 reasons not to bother with Customer Experience and just about a million to get started with it!

What’s holding you back?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Global brands - Indian customer service???

It's amazing how the best of brands feel they don't need to give Indians the same level of service that is demanded of them elsewhere in the world. I could rattle off a list of names but a case in point is a big name below. Although this experience is not mine, it can be any of us brand-conscious people.

Do we not get enough because we don't demand it? 
As written by a friend and Lenovo customer

Over the last two decades we have seen hundreds of multinational brands come in India to sell their world class products. What unfortunately has not followed these products is their customer service. I have faced issues with Nissan, HTC and now recently with Lenovo. It is an irony that I type this blog out on a Lenovo, however this belongs to the organization I work in, while I have the issue with my personal laptop.

Lenovo S210 Ideapad - Keyboard issues
I had bought a Lenovo S210 Ideapad from the US in November 2013. By Jan 2014 the keyboard was misbehaving even though the machine had hardly been used since I had bought it. Being covered under the international warranty I took it to the Lenovo Service Centre in Kurla (TVSe), Mumbai. The staff was courteous and knowledgeable, said they would replace the keyboard. They immediately placed the order in front of me and I went to work satisfied. Finally someone understood servicing a customer in India. This was 18 Feb, 2014 and expected date of delivery was 25 Feb 2014. Within 2 days I got a mail from the company saying that the part was dispatched. Very impressive! Another mail stated that the part was received by the service centre and I should collect by machine by 23 Feb! It felt like a dream, I kept telling everyone how impressed I was with Lenovo’s service. Then I placed a call to the service centre as to when should I come to collect my machine? This is where everything started going downhill.

Wrong part
The Service Centre said that a wrong part had been delivered and hence I will have to wait for sometime till the correct one is delivered to me. Since then there has been no update from either the service centre or the call centre of Lenovo. When I call the helpdesk, they say that the part is delivered to the service centre; we shall inquire what has happened and will come back to you. They never call you back! Every time I call, I have to repeat the entire history of what has transpired, which is surprising because the executives are supposed to update the information of every interaction they have with the customer but somehow they always feign ignorance. I have been assured that someone senior will call and speak to me, I have not received any call till now. On the other side, there is no response from the service centre. No one ever picks up the phone there.

Poor service
What does a customer do in such a circumstance? Where do you go? If the large multi nationals like Lenovo, HTC, and Nissan cannot integrate their front end CRM systems with the back end systems how do they expect the customers to be serviced?
Lenovo’s tagline says – for those who do…but will you please hand back my laptop so I can finally ‘do’ something?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Is Social Media just a tick in the box?

You’ve got your new business set up. You’ve got a five-year plan. You’ve got the funding.

The space, the resources, the will to succeed. And, you’ve been smart enough to add marketing to the mix.

Not only that, you are a new age entrepreneurial venture. You’ve added social media!!!!


You’re all set to succeed. You are all set to gear up for all the numbers that will come in.

But are you set up for failure?

Are you prepared for something going wrong? To give you an example here’s what happened with a friend on #Flipkart.
Read the post here.

In short, it’s just a cancelled transaction.  But to make it long it has taken two months for #Flipkart to reverse the transaction and even now there is no sign of ANYONE in #Flipkart knowing what to do about it and doing something about it.
Last week I posted that on my blog. An overeager social media team responded. Saying they will get in touch.

After more ‘social media’ interaction a call was made to my friend. It took 24 hours for that call.
The call? Said that they would get back in touch.After that there was SILENCE.

Once again, I tweeted.
The overeager social media team promptly responded (A big WOW for getting social media right.)

But the response sadly was a lie. They insisted they had sent an email. No sign of an email even today. Wonder who the team sent it to.

My point is:

You’ve got your business set up for success.
How about for failure?

You’ve got your social media right.
How about your backend responding to the demands of social media?

You’ve got your listening services sorted.
How about actually ‘listening’ to what the customer is saying?

And to repeat what I said earlier – can the customer services officer please please speak to the customer?
Was social media just a tick in the box?  
Really #Flipkart… you’ve disappointed a whole lot of people.

As of now(8th Nov 2013) this matter has been sorted. Thanks