Saturday, November 30, 2013

Are your products - Neighbors’ ENVY, Owners’ PRIDE ?

Ratan Tata recently acknowledged that positioning Nano as a cheap car was a mistake. It was international branding Guru Jack Trout , who 2 weeks back opined that positioning Nano as a cheap car was a mistake. 

Mr. Tata accepting this is a welcome step. Most entrepreneurs won’t accept their mistake and would try to justify their decision any how.  

Larger points are ;

- Even if price is your competitive advantage, competitive on price won’t work always and in some cases like this will spoil the brand. 

- Why to focus on price when product feature & experience can out weight price considerations

-  Irrespective of category of product or services, owners, users should feel proud of enraging with brands. In the case of NANO it was missing. 

Even in the case of low cost airlines, differentiation should happen on services, punctuality & feeling of getting associated with brands.  

Mostly companies forget this FEELING part. Owing NANO car means owner can’t afford costly car & using cheap car. This is a negative feeling for owners and will deter many others because of these negative feelings. 

Like the brand ONIDA has taught us years ago, neighbors’ ENVY, owners’ PRIDE should be the positioning for every brand. NANO is missing on both these counts. 

Focus and position on customer experience & how you make them feel & people will find out pricing of their own. 

When companies miss out on experience part or have no clue about it , they focus on price.

What is your view on positioning of affordable housing projects? 

Additional readings;  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

WHY & HOW of Clients Experience at Professional Firms

CX = Customer Experience = Citizen Experience = Clients Experience 

Yes principles of Customer Experience equally apply to all the entities whether for profit, not for profit, Govt entities, professional firms, B2B & B2C. It is not just B2C phenomena.  

Every product or service recipient expects better experience. There is always expectation gaps and scope for improvements which varies in degree.

In case if some enterprise is in the monopoly business orGovt entities like municipal corporation or railways, it is all the more important as bad experience will have social repercussions. Longer queues, longer time for approvals or attending application , indifferent staff attitudes everything adds up to personal  & social stress & frustrations. 

Professional firms (doctors/lawyers/accountants & the likes) mostly enjoy relationship of trust and confidentiality with their clients. There is an approach of one-up man ship by these professionals with their clients. In no other case service recipient is so vulnerable. Here again like the one in monopoly business better clients experience counts. It not only is necessary for better social impact but also counts as new and better service providers are around. 

In the absence of advertising  professional consulting is the area where most business comes through clients’ referrals & word of mouth. Creating a culture of offering delightful clients' experience is the prerequisite for these firms to grow. One may take a clue from Extreme Customer Orientation by Norwegian Insurance Company Gjensidige. Those who are keen about ROI of CX Initiatives may read this ; What CEOs should know before they ask for ROI of CX Initiatives ?

Now the most prominent question is HOW? Here is a ten step process. 

- Map the entire clients’ journey 
- Identify at all touch points
- Identify critical & good to have experience
- Check/Measure what is kind of experience is doled out at each of the touch points
- Internally discuss scope of improvements
- If require brainstorm entire new service design
- Train & retrain front facing and support staff
- Prototype the new or redefined service
- Fine tune with initial clients’ feedback
- Roll out the service 

Make clients feedback an integral part of services like billing. 

Remember HAPPY customers will refer others and unhappy will look for every opportunity to get out. Both will use social media subsequently to share their experience. 

To sum up in the words of management guru of our times Peter Drucker “The purpose of the business (incl profession) is to create customers (incl clients).  ” If this is the purpose ; HOW any forms of entity can ignore CX what will retain customers , create more customers & offers more pocket share of customers?  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Customer Feedback ? What , Why , Never !!

I am a customer of two of the largest private sector banks, one PSU bank, largest credit card company , some insurance companies, public utility companies , telecom companies and one thing is common in them ;  

NO Companies have asked me for any feedback ever or for last many years.  

I visited one recently open but popular restaurant and along-with the bill there was small crisp feedback form. Now everything happened precedent to the feedback form was almost perfect. Ambiance, food quality, customer service, attentive staff, clean & perfumed washrooms, food on display , presentation, menu card , light music & including valet parking etc.  Barring a few elements which could have made the experience delightful , everything was perfect. 

After a near perfect show when they are asking for feedback they are aware that they have done their best however still wish to know where they misused and open to improvements. They are aware they are living in times of Zomato. 

Companies those who know power of social media have stared improving their customer experience. However likes of some (no, many many) companies mentioned on top of the blog still think that they are doing good without even seeking customer feedback. 

Customer feedback is not only the MOST powerful tool but is the business critical tool. It tells you whether you are meeting the expectations for whom you are in existence. Jeff Bezos , customer experience champion CEO of, says " don't just listen customers, understand them." How would you do that without asking them? 

Customer feedback gives great insight, it makes customer feel you care, and acting on the feedback certainly adds value to the business. 

When the enterprise is concerned about feedback they will perform well in the first place and even if they have failed somewhere they will know from the feedback. Customers' anger will also dilute after filling the feedback form.  

When was the last time your enterprise has taken customer feedback? No excuse for B2B companies.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

9 ways to check whether you are in Obsolete Business

To continue from my previous blog Are you in the business of selling obsolete products & services?  , Usually obsolete products and services are not in demand or enjoy lesser demand. 

Look at erstwhile cinema houses and multi-screen multiplexes , look at Udipi South Indian hotels & fast food/pizza/burger chains, look at housing societies built 10/15 years back and present day housing societies,  look everywhere hospitals, retailing , banking - everything has changed and is changing. Everything is moving from being product & services to experience. 

It is the need of today. This shift happens with every new generation of consumers. With new generation of consumers comes new generation of entrepreneurs. They break the old way of thinking and create blue ocean for themselves. 

Therefore issue is to check whether you are in the business of selling obsolete products & services. Here obsolete doesn't means typewriter vs computer. Here it means old way of thinking about business. 

Yes , 

1) If CUSTOMER is not at the center of all your thinking and action , you are in obsolete business.

2) If EMPLOYEES are not considered most important asset of the business , you are in obsolete business.

3) If CRM is the only thing that is happening as far as customer services is concerned ,  you are in obsolete business.

4) If OFFLINE is the only mode of your doing business ,  you are in obsolete business.

5) If SOCIAL MEDIA and CONTENT MARKETING is not a part of your marketing plan, you are in obsolete business.

6) If your enterprise is not measuring customer experience and employee happiness along with ROI and ROCE, you are in obsolete business.

7) If your enterprise is only thinking about single bottom-line and not about social and environmental impact of your business, you are in obsolete business.

8) If your branding and advertising is not matching with actual customer experience,  
you are in obsolete business.

9) If your board is not comprising of professionals from diverse fields & Corporate Governance is only limited to compliance , you are in obsolete business.

If you escape all the above IFs , YES, you can congratulate your self , your business & its products & services are NOT obsolete. 

Even if your are selling TEA and not using any advance technology to produce  , all the above pointers will keep you out of OBSOLATION. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Are you in the business of selling obsolete products & services ?

Customer Experience  (CX) is more and more going to hurt companies offering bad customer experience. 

Forget offering WOW !! customer experience , even to survive better and better CX is critical. 

Those who think this is not applicable to their company soon will find themselves in Oasis, deserted by customers, no customer around the company. Company will be almost out of business.  

During last few days I came to know about two incidences where companies have left public sector banks with which they had long association. In one case it was more than 30 years of association and they left the PSU bank with whom they grew and become big. 

Reason in both cases, long indecisiveness & longer decision making process. Meeting the speed expectations and exceeding the same is great customer experience. Its delightful , its wow !!. 

Bad experience is bad even without cost like long waiting at hospital and restaurants however it becomes worse when it impacts customers' pocket. When indecisiveness costs , it not only painful but it impacts bottom-line. 

This is just about PSU banks but CX by private companies across the sectors is hardly any better. Unless the customer journeys are mapped, expectation gaps are mapped, silo-ed vision is converted into overall end to end vision, someone is put in charge of CX , company cannot comprehensively design customer experience which exceeds expectations and delight customers. 

Product & Services must have built in CX & service design elements in the first place to become viable business proposition. Products & Services without CX & service design elements are obsolete & just surviving on ventilator. 

Are you in the business of selling obsolete products & services ?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sanjay Leela Bhansali , Ram Leela & Customer Experience

Sanjay Leela Bhansali through his latest movie Ram Leela, teaches every entrepreneur what the customer experience is all about. 


Yes that is true. He teaches us how the story is to be told. Script is critical but that is not sufficient. Story must be told in a manner which captures all of our senses. We have many movies with great stories but failing commercially. This is one of the basic & important reasons.  

It must capture all our senses. Ram Leela is visual splendour. This is otherwise a violent love story but what stand the movie apart is its sets, costumes , colors , songs, dances, music & over all GRANDEUR experience.  

Someone after viewing the movie opined ; it has senseless violence & no story. If you go to movies to know the story, well you may better read the story book. This is like if you wish to have a coffee, well any Udipi hotel would be okay, but we have many many Coffee brands charging hell lot of money for Coffee PLUS & making huge amount of money.  

Cinema is a visual medium so it must be experienced with all the senses. Every director through his movies is telling stories & every entrepreneur is selling something. It is HOW you tell stories or HOW you sell good & services that sets you apart from the others. That decides the premium or otherwise of your offerings.

If you wonder your offerings is no different than competitors , not much effort is put on HOW part. If you wish to create new differentiate offerings, focus on HOW of the offerings. 

Sanjay Leela Bhansali not only knows about telling stories but he also knows HOW to tell stories which captivate his audience & make them spellbound. He could have just told the story without much focusing on HOW but it is his HOW which is fetching him 5 star ratings. It must be a very hard work but easier options never fetch 5 star ratings and rave reviews. 

Customer is a human being ; so he is coming to you for experiencing your offerings with all the five senses. More the senses you capture, more the differentiation you create, more the competitive advantage you gain.  

Watch Ram Leela and learn HOW offering truly differentiated Customer Experience makes it SPECTACULAR & offers competitive advantage to your business. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Does your enterprise own these new skills?

  1. You have used services of design architect to design your office promise
  2. You have used services of interior designer to design your office interiors
  3. You have used services of graphic designer to design your soft images , logo , stationery 
  4. You have used services of industrial designer to design your manufacturing set up
  5. You have used services of product designer to design your products even ; 
  6. You have used services of fashion designer to design your clothes

Designers are only used by companies & individuals for self use and benefits. However in a era of customer experience where every company is in service business , unless companies uses designing skills of following two class of designers, competitive advantage wont be achieved by use of all other designers. They are ;
  1. Customer Experience Designers
  2. Service Designers 
To an extent their role over laps but there is a clear cut need for their skills to design what is called excellent , delightful & memorable customer experience. 

Service Designers (SD) actually design the services how that will be delivered. Its about intangible ways in which customer feels WOW !! while availing the services. 

Customer Experience (CX) Design is a large canvas which includes HOW the experience will be created , unfolded at all touch points.  

Forrester Research Consultant , Kerry Bodine has written about interplay of CS & SD in her recent article  HOW DOES SERVICE DESIGN RELATE TO CX AND UX?

CX covers entire customer journey while SD covers each of the touch points separately & how actually services are delivered. Unless proactively designed services & customer experience will be listless , plain, undifferentiated and  many a times frustrating for customers. 

Its time businesses MUST embrace CX & SD skills - In house or outsourced. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Customer Experience in-times of Stiff Competition


Couple of weeks back my website vendor discontinued to host my website. I inquired about the reason & I was told by one of the employees of the company that domain renewal amount was not paid and due date is over. I told her but I confirmed over phone to renew & I will make payment in a week. She said no , we do not have power to renew without payment. 

I am their customer since 15 years, I confirmed to pay over phone, I paid all these year before the due date ,  yet the incidence took place. 


I took up the matter with their MD. His response; we do not authorize our employees to renew without payment. I said but my long relation and past payment record!!!. He said no in times of low margin & stiff competition we do not invest in such systems to track all these as it is costly. I said but before you people unhost any website shouldn't senior management look at the defaulters list to differentiate between habitual defaulters & onetime, big , long association based defaulters ? He said we have 50 renewals daily & we can't manually track like that. 

 CX issues: 

- All customers are treated equally - irrespective of longevity of association, past track record, size of the customer
- No value for customers' verbal communication
- No empowerment or system to monitor before discontinuance of services
- No communication on the day or after discontinuance from the company 
- No feeling of apology but all justifications for the action taken

I was told by the MD that 90% customers pay online. That means only 10% irregular customers. Management has no time even to monitor this 10% of customers also before taking such a drastic action. What a misplaced priorities !!

First of all I doubt this is happening in many companies as long term association and payment track records are the basic things to check while one decides to discontinue services or discontinue doing business. 

We all are dealing with many private & public sector vendors. Everyone offers time to pay once the services are availed. Here in this case for the want of advance payment services were discontinued. 

Big question is not about this vendor. Big Question is many such customer issues companies are either not aware of or ignoring. Lost customer is costly. As happy customers buy more & can bring more referral customers, unhappy & lost customers not only take away revenue but takes away some other customers too. 

Ask your sales team how difficult these days to get a new customer. After having one, it is up to the management to decide how to treat him. You can make him feel very special & go out of the way to help or treat him with all system, process & management shortcomings.  

In times of stiff competition when getting customer is difficult and losing can be costly , isn't it all the more IMPORTANT & CRITICAL to offer delightful customer experience ? 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Failure of Communication , Failure of Deal

Price negotiation is a part of business deal making process. It is business as usual and entrepreneurs should not mind involving in negotiation with customers. 

This is the response from one of the hoteliers in response to price negotiation request:  

Rs. XXXXX/- final.I will give u the old rates.sorry, if u want the experience,you have to be able to pay for it.specially if u want to celebrate an anniversary.

With the above response, deal was closed and customer was lost. 

Learning is when one is engaged in negotiation it is not always about one's affordability. Rather than talking about potential customers' ability, entrepreneurs MUST be able to explain WHY negotiation is not possible. This is true even if you are in monopoly business. 

Customer is a millionaire but he won’t pay whatever he is asked to pay. He will negotiate and will pay full when satisfied that wherever is asked is fair and reasonable considering what he is getting in return. 

Negotiation is not about customers’ ability but it is about convincing customers that whatever is quoted is the best possible quote. 

Following reply could have saved the customer and deal:

We appreciate and acknowledge that this is your special day and you would like to make it memorable by spending a few days with us. Let me assure you we will make special attempt to make it memorable. 

As far as pricing is concerned we have been able to maintain the property in such a beautiful way to offer best possible experience to our customers. You have acknowledged the same by referring to reviews about our property on tripadvisor. 

Therefore I request you please do not negotiate on price and we on our part make an extra effort to make your special day , very special with us. We look forward to welcome you on your special day.

Even if one is not able to afford Rs. XXXXX/- , the above communication could have saved the customer for future engagement and even for referral business. 

Point is ; communication plays very important role in business deals & customer experience creation. It can break the deal or make the deal and can bring more referral customers. 

Its always how you make customer feel while dealing with you, not only while using your product or services but during the entire process.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Everywhere Customer Experience Issues

Experience Design or Service Design, both requires mindset of HOW customer would behave & WHAT customer would want out of the service /experience. 

These are the major issues everywhere. Service provider neither engages with service designers nor engages with customer experience designers. 

Result: pathetic customer experience, unhappy customer, stressed and frustrated customers & even citizen when it comes to public utilities. 

Be it design, process, experience or communication most business fails miserably. I have a few experiences during last one week. Today I will share one of them.

In Mumbai, Mumbai Central is a station where from out station long distance trains leave. This is also one of the stations for local trains. Therefore many people get down from local trains at Mumbai Central to catch their long distance trains.    

Earlier there was only one bridge and way from local platforms to reach platforms for out station long distance trains. In between there was a ticket window which was also serving people who wanted to buy platform ticket to enter long distance train platforms. 

Since last few years they have built one more bridge , to enter platforms for long distance trains , which is closer from local train bridge than the old bridge. Everyone need not walk long distance to reach the long distance train platforms with their luggage. 

Good thinking. 

Now this new bridge can be used by three kinds of commuters:

- Actual long distance traveller - Need to know on which platform train will arrive to get down on proper platform with luggage
- People accompanying the long distance traveller - Need to buy platform ticket
- People just want to get out of Mumbai Central Station and are not long distance traveler - just need to walk till exit on the other end of the bridge

Now this new bridge does not have sign board indicating on which platform trains will arrive. This is absolute must requirement. 

Ticket window for person wanting to buy platform ticket was quite far & closed. I do not know whether it remains open any time during the day. 

Therefore only people who can use this bridge effectively are people who want to exit the station or want to enter local train platforms through this route.

For first two categories of people in spite of the new bridge there is no option but to travel through old route with their luggage to reach the long distance train platform. 

Therefore so much of investments in bridge just to cater to one class of people out of the three classes which requires this bridge. 

Issue is of design; issue is of applying mind to know who will use this bridge & what people wants while using this bridge. Design & experience mindset both were lacking here. 

No effective use of resources results in public inconvenience.These kinds of service design and customer experience issues are rampant across the industry and public utilities.