We live in a hypercompetitive world where the battle for the customer’s wallet will continue unabated. And only those who play the game better will win. Some organisations differentiate themselves on price and others on product features and quality; however, those advantages get nullified without fulfilling customer experiences (CX). In this scenario, arguably, it is investments in transforming CX to branded CX that yield the most significant benefits to organisations.
BRANDED CUSTOMER SERVICE
Janelle Barlow and Paul Stewart in their book “Branded Customer Service” talk about how many organisations look at CX as a cost, where the approach is tentative and the prevailing practices show scant respect for the customer; then there are others who have a better CX disposition. Some see it as a necessity which is manifested in policy, and take a tactical approach to CX totally dictated by a script; and there are those who see CX as a differentiator, where CX-related learning is imbibed, customer issues are resolved quickly and CX performance is measured.
However, it is companies where CX is a living expression of the brand, led by purpose with empowered employees eager to create change, who will rule this hypercompetitive world! This implies cogency and alignment in organisational thought relating to CX.
ALIGNING THE ORGANISATION TO CX
CX is an outcome of many arrows getting aligned! It’s about a differentiating strategy and impeccable execution. It’s about a fine balance being achieved across the value constellation! Themes that run through success stories are similar while of course, being different in their own ways:
- In the case of Titan it’s a combination of a trustworthy brand, design superiority and investments in equipment to ratify quality, running across all the industries they are in – namely watches, jewellery, eyewear and accessories.
- At Bata, it’s about targeting the middle-class without ambiguity; design and durability as levers of appeal and ensuring right-sized stores at the right locations.
- At Bajaj Auto, it’s about their positioning around powerful bikes, delivering more value for money and sharp execution across the value chain including a world class plant to deliver desired quality levels.
- Zappos.com an online shoe and apparel portal in the US has created a culture of creating “wow” for the customer with every interaction – a 24X7 call centre with no scripts, free shipping both ways and a 365-day return policy. It grew to a billion dollars of revenue in eight years and records 75 per cent repeat business.
- Metro Bank in the UK turned banking on its head by focusing on creating unparalleled retail experiences for its customers, where visiting a branch suddenly became enjoyable, opening up opportunities for showcasing and selling many more products to satisfied clients. They are open seven days a week, starting early and closing late to facilitate “store” visits.There’s also what you don’t want to see.
- A hotel chain repeatedly inviting a devout vegetarian to a non-vegetarian food festival despite many protests from the customer.
- A DTH provider denying service to a HNI (high networth individual) customer because information available in the system is incorrect and incomplete.
- A credit card company repeatedly attempting to sell a card to an existing customer despite a string of complaints.
In essence, it’s about a differentiating strategy and how it comes together across the value constellation to deliver outstanding CX. And of course, we must be equally conscious of the price to pay when our customers encounter bad experiences!
After all, in India we’re more vocal about our dissatisfaction than anywhere else in the world with 96 percent of us choosing to speak out and talking to 35 others. Ninety percent of us also like to reward providers of good service with repeat business, that too at a premium price. Underlying that is creating comfort for customers across all their touchpoints of interaction.
The market comprises millions of customers, potential customers and organisations, connecting through four touchpoints – the Contact Centre, Social/Digital Media, Face-to-Face Interactions, and the Product/Service itself. It is critical for organisations to have a holistic view of the customer because strategic leverage will come out of wrapping great experiences around products and services and it is finally about customers and employees being co-creators of differentiating, enriching customer experiences.
Finally, it is also about looking at the customer equation a little differently. In the words of Prof. Ranjay Gulati of Harvard Business School, “Focusing your business simply on giving the customer what he wants can be dangerous. An outside-in mindset allows firms to identify needs far more sharply as they are continuously exploring unstated customer needs and how to address them.” And Apple, an example quoted so often that it doesn’t need repetition proves that beyond a doubt, doesn’t it?