Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are you worrying about Economic Crisis? Focus on Customer Experience.

Companies do not want to spend EXTRA during economic downturn. Who cares for customer experience during economic crisis ? General mood is negative, companies are struggling to survive, maintain sales & margins ,  lay off is imminent , big campaigns are put on hold, no new investments. Mood is sombre. 

To change the mood of every stake holders this is the right time to focus on customer experience initiative. When else you would focus on this? 

Good times are booming times , hence no time and need to focus on Customer Experience (CE) initiatives. Sales are anyway growing. Everybody is growing, expanding capacity  & happy. 

This is the time when you not only can retain your existing customers, make them spend same or more, get new customers , get new referrals. Yes in down time people are spending less therefore it is all the more important that you continue have your market share. That will only happen if and only if your enterprise is preferred by customers to deal with. Customers will remember how there were treated in bad times. 

Companies not focusing on CE will lose some so new customers are floating to be captured by better customer experience. Word of Mouth (WOM) & referral business is at all time high in bad times as people want to be doubly sure where they wish to spend.  

Most Important: Remember in down time customers are also in sombre mood.  In this time of crisis when companies focus on emotional customer experience, it will go long long way to win more & more customers in bad times. They will remember you in good times as well. Its a win win proposition. 

Following para from Forrester report will reinforce the need to focus on customer experience initiatives in down time: 

Faced with increasing competition from new entrants, coupled with the 2008 financial crisis that pummeled the shipping industry, Maersk Line was seeing its margins shrink. Firms in the industry were cutting prices to maintain revenues, threatening to erode margins even further. To avoid the “race to the bottom,” Maersk Line’s executive management team determined that customer experience would play an important role in creating customer loyalty and stopping this commoditization. In 2009, the executive team turned to a 17-year veteran at the company, Jesper Engelbrecht Thomsen, the firm’s vice president of customer service, to improve the end-to-end customer experience.

Within 3 years with the organisation level CE initiatives this company registered growth in Net Promoter Score (NPS) by 40%. Therefore irrespective of type of business & business cycle , it pays to focus on CE initiatives. 

Do you want more severe economic downturn to embrace CE initiatives? 

Place for odd man out is empty. Be the one to occupy that. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Customer Experience Lessons from Narendra Modi

Surprising but that is the fact, all organisations can learn quite a few lessons in customer experience from him. 

He visited a college in Delhi & addressed students in a jam packed hall, massive rally in Punjab in June, he addressed massive rally in Hyderabad earlier this month,  he tops popularity chart for the post of PM of a country of our size.  He was not a national leader & still he has built his solid brand across India. Charisma is the word but this charisma is built by experience people are experiencing about him. 

First and foremost he has huge fan base in Gujarat because of work he has done for the people of Gujarat and decisive leadership he has demonstrated.  Many innovative schemes are implemented which have impacted the lives of the citizen in quite a positive way.  

After doing what matters to the citizen of his state he has shown mastery in communication skills. Not only his oratory skill but he has used all traditional as well as modern social media to showcase what he could achieve for the people of his state. We have the concept of bestselling books and not best written books. To convert best written book into bestselling book, book must communicate, readers of the book also must communicate about it. In his case perhaps he is best performing as well as best selling CM & this is only because of communication skills and effective use of mediums. You cannot afford to lack either. 

Now he is making people across the country believe that same kind of growth , faster decision making  , efficient & non corrupt bureaucracy which is on the edge to help, support & execute  & most important decisive leadership is possible. These are the pain points for the people in other states.  

Lessons are as under: 

1) Focus single Mindedly in creating wow !! Customer experience which in his case he has demonstrated by series of innovative measures keeping citizen interest & pain points at heart. All machinery at his disposal have been geared up to help people of the state. This has created millions of fan follower. 

Whether your organisation is single mindedly geared up to offer delightful customer experience ? How many fan following your product/service commands ? 

2) Distinctly communicate to potential customers what have you done for your existing customers and how have you impacted their life for the better.  Use all possible medium to communicate. Allow your FANs to use platform you create to communicate with your future customers. 

What & How are you communicating with your present & potential customers ?  For , CEO Tony , message is clear Delivering Happiness, for Narendra Modi message is clear Development. What is your clear message to all your present and potential customers? (This will be more effective if this is otherwise a pain point for them).  

3) Demonstrate that you can address all pain points your potential customers are facing by their loyalty to competing brand. Your existing customer experience creating capabilities coupled with how that experience is addressing known pain points of customers is very important. 

Do you know what are the pain points of your potential customers which you can address ? 

  1. Create an experience (change culture, design and execute) 
  2. Communicate an experience (your fans will do it)
  3. Communicate it is possible for all i.e. for your non customers (use all possible media)
  4. Create Confidence that you can do it (all the above three at play at its best can do it) 
Lessons in CE are coming from everywhere, are you willing to look around & listen ? 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Is your enterprise surviving without Customer Xperience Audit?

When you are clueless about results of financial audit, think of customer experience (CE) audit. Yes CE audits can bring out many of the causes of good or bad financial results. Unfortunately no companies engage in CE audits. 

When your company's EPS is dropping, it is not necessarily due to higher capital deployment or higher input cost, it can be because of your lower pricing capability, it can be because of higher ad/marketing cost, it can be because of higher customer turnover, it can be because of low per capita buying by existing customers, it can be because of your faulty customer services design & it can be because you are neither listening nor watching your customers.    

VOC & Journey Maps / Customer Mirror are some of the ways in which you can know about kind of customer experience your enterprise is delivering while dealing with your customers. Remember Mystery Shopping is not CE audit. Its is just a one component of CE audit. 

Financial performance is the result of all these activities company performs during the year. We are too keen to know the result & then analyse it superfluously without even thinking about CE. 

Its like focusing on exercise for weight loss results without focusing on diet. If you keep analyzing and changing your exercise without proper diet plan it is neither a right analysis nor it will give desired results even in future.

Our intake is critical for weight loss programme, exercise just support and supplements it. You can reduce weight with proper and timely diet without exercise but without diet discipline only with exercise weight loss is not possible and even if it is achieved it is not sustainable.

Likewise without focusing on customer experience part , financial results shall not be analysed & it can not remain sustainable. For long term sustainable financial results which every company desires, focus on CE is critical prerequisite for analysing the results. 

Therefore immediately after financial audit , companies must commence CE audits. Both put together is the right recipe for performance improvement initiatives. Without CE audits and knowing what kind of CE your company is delivering , all performance improvement initiatives will  be incomplete and won’t give the desired outcome. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

ICICI Bank Customer Experience of Utter Frustration

Do you know how much effort it takes for the customers to deal with you ? This is my classic ICICI Bank Credit Card /Call Center experience during last 3 days. 

I wanted to report about fraudulent transactions on my credit card. There were 17 transactions in the time lag of 4 minutes. But it took 50 minutes for me to report it to the bank. 

There is neither emergency contact numbers not call center number on credit card bill so net connectivity is necessary to find their number from website. Even on website there is no separate emergency number. All matters are treated equally. 

There is no proper & complete instructions for emergency handling at cell center number punches. It took 50 minutes for me to reach them and report my issues which incl long queues and line disconnect in between the conversation.  

Call center agent handling emergency has no updated email ID where I have to send my written complaint. I was given an out dated email ID, which was corrected by other agent on the next day. 

Agent handling card loss issues which they classify as emergency and given priority does not know how to deal with emergency. He has asked me to come through normal route after punching so many keys even without knowing my issues. 

There is no system of acknowledgment for the written complaint sent. I was told it will happen in 24 hours. I am in 26th hour and still waiting. I am not sure whether they have received my written complaint which was to be sent within 48 hours. 

I have a feeling of pathetic ( fumbling at every possible instance ) , careless ( don't know which punches stand for what on call center punch menu ), negligent ( don't have updated email ID with emergency team  ) , thoughtless ( don't print customer care or emergency number on 4 page long bill ) & frustration  ( still awaiting for acknowledgement even after so much of communication and scaling up up to the level of MD ) about whole my ICICI bank experience.  

The point I am trying to make is, many a times it takes huge efforts of our customers to deal with our business.  Do you have any customer effort scorecard mechanism in place? Do you periodically ask your customers feedback about experience and efforts they have to put in while dealing with your business?  

It is extremely important especially in B2B scenario where per customer stakes are high. Don’t just focus on sales,  focus on customer experience your business creates , customer efforts it takes to deal with your business & customer emotions your efforts invokes before/during & after sales. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

We the People & Economic Crisis !!

Read any news paper and you are depressed for the day.  Times of great economic crisis when the country is headed by renowned economist. While we do not doubt his knowledge we sincerely are sure about his inability to deliver. His includes his Government. Be that as it may we have to live in this regime at-least by May 2014.

However points to ponder are politicians have no clue what is the solution to economic crisis. As we choose the candidate to represent us based on his caste, how much immediate gratification is offered to vote & not voting. We do not have a clue who will lead the Govt as selected candidates based on the above criteria will select their leader.  

Therefore expecting these kinds of leaders to solve economic crisis is not only bit too optimistic but foolish. 

I am not writing this to comment on our leaders and voting style. My limited point is they neither understand and nor can do anything. Therefore don't expect.  

Now it is our turn and we can certainly do. Yes we can remain insulated from the crisis and improve the situation by continue to do what economic activities we are doing without worrying about the future. Remember famous quote " You do not have Future, Only Present."

Make some smarter move which you are afraid to do all these years. Take some limited risks. Try new markets and products; try new ways of doing business. You will not get time to do all these experiment in boom time.

Best thing you can do is ignore negative news from entering your psyche & keep doing your bit of work.  This is the only solution. (& don't forget this when vote for the next time. )

Monday, August 19, 2013

Art + Science = Commerce

Yes. What you offer to your customers is Science & How you offer is an Art. Its a mix of the two creates total customer experience.

Many a times we are so much obsessed with science part that ART is completely missing.

However in an experience economy , it is an ART which commands premium. All great customer experience creating companies are focusing on ART part of commerce , of 
course after mastering Science part of it.

How you do what you do matters the most.

Are you still struggling with Science part of the commerce or graduated to the ART side of it ? A question every entrepreneur must answer. You can have clue to solve many business related issues by answering this.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Envy people about your CUSTOMERS.

Have you made your potential customers envy of your existing customers? 

Yes it is the role of every customer experience professionals. Every company MUST make endeavour to achieve this status.  Once upon a time Onida TV used to have slogan Owners Pride Neighbours Envy. Converting this slogan into reality is exactly what is needed in today's time of commoditisation. 

You customers MUST love, talk about and advocate your offerings. 

When i read the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh & I become member of very happy person group on their site I received gift hamper with one copy the book, t shirt and a pack of wafer from the US.  When I first used Flipkart to buy a book it was very simple and quick - a superior experience. Thereafter I have recommended both the companies to many through this blog as well as in person. One CM is making entire country envy of his state and people want him as PM. This is the power of making others ENVY about what you have to offer to your customers (citizen in this case). 

It is not only about physical appearance & rationality, it is about touching the senses , it is about human emotions. 

Make it a habit to please few of your customers every week - DELIBERATELY (Even if you are a b2b company). Do unexpected, go out of the way, and make them feel special. Words will spread and more & more people would like to be your customer.  Your DELIBERATE habit will make your company talk of the town. 

In this attention deficit world something unique will get the attention. It is far more easier and cheaper than huge Ad spend and marketing gimmicks (which no one believes) .  

How do you think you can make people envy of your customers ? Share your ideas. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Are you selling what you are making?

Are your brand management and product design teams in sync with the kind of customer experience your company wish to offer ? 

Most of the time it is seen that there is no connect between brand commitment company conveys through all kind of communication , product design team actually creating an experience and customer service team managing the gaps between the two. 

Customer experience design is a deliberate DESIGN & therefore involving CE team in inception of product design , process design , advertising , branding  , marketing and training is CRITICAL.  

When music symphony is orchestrated , every aspect are planned in order to achieve the kind of experience symphony director wish to offer to the audience. Everything is in sync with the expected outcome. 

Offering scintillating customer experience which is truly a competitive advantage requires entire company to behave in sync with expected outcome i.e. experience which company aim to deliver to the customers.  Your branding and marketing team shall not behave which makes people disbelieve your brand.  Unfulfilled brand promises can cause disaster for the brand it self. 

No company can afford to forget words of wisdom of Steve Jobs " You have to start with Customer Experience & work backward for technology, process & people." & even branding & marketing.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

RAQs in the world of FAQs

Yes we all are used to FAQs. Today I came to know of the term RAQ and realised it is these set of questions that are critical for everyone. 

An entrepreneur will always ask what the ROI of any initiatives is. He will rarely ask irrespective of ROI whether it is critical and important for the enterprise. 

As a citizen we always ask our politicians and leaders what they have done for us. We rarely ask ourselves whether we have fulfilled our duty as a citizen.

Venture capitalist and PE investor will always ask about ROI , EPS & Valuation but they will rarely ask what is the employee satisfaction level of the enterprise.

To a potential job candidate employers will always ask what the past experience is and what has been achieved till date.  Candidate will rarely be asked what he can do that can change the fate of the company for better.   

We always ask in our customer feedback form about how the company has fared on select parameters. We rarely ask them whether their expectations were met by the efforts of the company.

Asking RAQs will make us think about RTIs (rarely thought ideas). 

Converting RAQs in to FAQs is the real challenge and that is what truly differentiates winners.  

Prevention is better than Negative customer Experience

Prevention is better than cure. Yes this is applicable for health as well as for wealth. However it is also applicable in the case of Customer Experience

Customer can leave you for bad experience. She can do negative Word Of Mouth (WOM) and takes few more customers away.  Sales & Marketing efforts and cost will go up to get more new customers. However again they will leave you for negative or not so exciting experience. Every-time your sales team gets you new customers, retention is the job of product design which incl customer experience & after sales team. Let your sales team add more customers rather than replacing old with new ones.

Unless there is a built-in element of superior customer experience throughout the chain - product design, display, delivery, usage and soft skills associated at each of the stage, customer will experience bad and not so good experience. They will go and takes someone with them. 

In order to avoid such scenario companies must focus on creating better customer experience while designing the product. Prevent bad experience rather than allowing bad experience to reach customers and damage the brand. reputation.

Prevent bad experiences rather than reacting to bad experiences. Companies can retain customers, gets more by positive WOM , get more referrals. Cost & Pain of treating disease is always more than Cost & Pain of preventive cure. Same rules apply for Customer Experience.

In built better Customer Experience in your product than be sorry. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

What Mr Raghuram Rajan Cant Do

RBI Governor cant manage inflation. It is a myth we all are living with. Even present Governor's sustained efforts are not yielding the results. This also proves solution lies somewhere else. 

Role of Mr. Raghuram Rajan is to convey to the Govt that bottlenecks in the economy is the real problem for inflation , resultant erosion of rupee value , lower GDP and Current Account Deficit (CAD). 

Hoping that RBI and its governor can do wonders with mere monetary policy is nothing but day dreaming and in-actin at all other levels. 

In any company , CFO can create value upto an extent but even CFO can't do anything unless there is a efficient production system  , product innovation at regular intervals, flawless logistics , sufficient profit margin which enables future investments without much of the unsustainable debt. If these aspects are managed by the CEO and the management , CFO can add some value by capital structuring , lower debt cost (this again depends on performance of the company not entirely in the hands of CFO ) , raising money from various sources , budgeting & allocation etc.   However CFO cant act as a driver.

We are expecting RBI to drive our economy ,  manage inflation , manage rupee value and control CAD !!! All these are interlinked and only way to break the same is quick decisions , transparency and progressive policies at all level of the Govt. We need action on war footing but we are hardly taking any action, forget right action. 

Indecisiveness and lack of imagination in Govt cant be substituted by ably qualified and young RBI Governor. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

IN DEMAND - Script & Crisp Writers

5 days test match to 1 day match to 20:20 this is how game of cricket has evolved during last 30 years.  People cant wait for 5 days to know the result. Rules of the game have remained more or less same but wait for the outcome has reduced from 5 days to 3 hours. 

Attention deficit , impatient & speedy society needs new forms of everything.  

From magazine articles to blog to micro blog (twitter). Whatever is to be conveyed is to be conveyed in short & with speed.

Print to TV to Social Media , modes of communication has changed. People are changing their platforms to know what they want to know. 

From Commodity to goods to services to experiences.  Yes now customer needs and pays premium for experiences.  Needs and way of receiving the same has changed. Commodity providers are many , experience creators are in scanty.   

All communicators i.e. enterprises are the largest class of communicators to their customers and potential customers , must learn to know how the new society behaves , communicates and consume things.  

Movies are creating experiences and spend millions of dollars in communicating the same. 

Script writers ( writing business plans that delight and wow customers )  , directors of experience creation ( executing  wow !! script ) & Crisp communicators ( smart ,quick & innovative ) and are in demand in the new economy. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Are you selling Burger or Vadapav ?

Burger Vs Vadapav. What is the difference? 

Burger will cost you US $ 1 (Rs.55/-) while Vada Pav will cost less than 5th of US$ 1 (Rs.10/-). 

Burger is a Brand an Vapa Pav a commodity. 

Burger become a brand as it was presented in air conditioned outlet with a happening ambiance , hygienic condition & quality , unlimited time outlet allows you to sit. Perhaps cost-wise Burger may be costing few rupees more , taste-wise Vadapav may scores over Burger.   

In short both offers more or less same quantum of food and taste but price difference is 5 times. This 4 times difference people are paying is for experience not for food.  

Same is applicable to Starbucks Coffee vs Coffee at South Indian Hotels. Price difference is perhaps 10 times. Cost of Coffee itself may be 2 to 3 times more. They are charging 7 times more money for experience. This is called branded experience. 

Many a times professionally person with technically sound knowledge can’t command salary which a person with all round personality can.  

This DIFFERENCE in PRICING use to superior experience which people would LOVE to pay is critical. Critical for every business.  

In B2B or B2C all kind of businesses experience creators can command premium in pricing. You may be manufacturing best of Vadapav but even though you can’t command Burger pricing. You have to convert your Vadapav into BRANDED experience which is more than just meeting the need but meeting the need with ease and delight added.

Even small effort in this journey of customer experience creation will start fetching you better pricing and customer loyalty which all businesses are dying to achieve.     

Time for reality check and finding opportunity to add EXPERIENCES in your business offerings. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Are you making Balance Sheet for Self Use ?

Deep Pocket , Ignorance or Business Operations/ (realised) Profitability is keeping you happy in times of economic distress  ? 

Entrepreneurs with deep pocket is surviving thinking that this shall go and we will come out winners , many hand to mouth competitors will die. 

Ignorant Entrepreneurs have no cue what is happening and whether they are in financial trouble. As long as their cash flow is ticking they think they're are safe. 

& the last one is rare class of entrepreneurs thriving and flourishing on true business operation and profitability. They are able to produce, sale and recover their money. 

Economic conditions across business segment is stressed. Banks are finding it difficult to support but they are forced to do it. They are forced to do CDR.  Its time for every business to go for reality check. Its time to make real P & L A/C & Balance Sheet for SELF USE. (Usually its made for shareholders , lenders & tax authorities  and invariably its misleading). 

Making sense out of own financials is the most sensible thing for every entrepreneurs in today's time.