Atithi Devo Bhava – ‘The guest is equivalent to God’ is a philosophy that has been touted as the root of Customer Experience (CX) in India.
Another quote which has depicted the beleaguered Indian customer is one that is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi; “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”
Both express the ideal and the intent, as such, resides in most organizations. But in a high growth economy such as India, there is constant friction between efforts to retain customers and efforts to acquire new customers. New start-ups often tend to pursue revenue at all cost, often because it is just the easiest way to grow. However, as customers in India get more sophisticated in their shopping habits – and with the rise of smart phones – they have access to product and pricing information in near real-time and seamless customer experience is increasingly playing a key role in repeat purchase and brand loyalty.
So how do we take the homey friendliness of the neighbourhood kirana store (local grocer) and transpose it to large, scalable digital-enabled businesses? Or, to put it in marketing lingo, what are the drivers of CX differentiation?
In a recent study, titled Predictions 2017: The CX Quality Split1, Forrester predicts that in 2017 only a small number of elite brands will graduate beyond CX fundamentals while others are left behind.
The key areas where the convergence towards CX parity will be noticeable include:
- Emotional – Drivers Brands will embrace the power of emotion in CX, but few will get it right.
- Conversational Interfaces – Overeager rollouts will earn companies a bad reputation.
- Metrics – Companies disenchanted with Net Promoter Score (NPS) will fabricate unsound alternative metrics.
- Data Security – Most security clampdowns will skimp on CX — and backfire.
Enabling the progress of these will be the customer journey design and of course, the technology that drives this change.
To truly meet the emotional needs of customers, we have to view the customer relationship as a journey, rather than a transaction. The journey has a number of ‘transaction points’ but also detours, pitstops, and of course displays moments of joy.
First, brands must perfect their interactions with customers and minimize negative experiences. Often brands allow a degree of ‘not so positive’ experiences because they find the cost of elimination is prohibitive. But if we view customer experience not merely as an exercise to increase revenue but as a ‘value goldmine’, it is possible to justify the added expense of a 100% perfect experience through segmentation, by pricing the added reliability or innovating the business model.
Chatbots are fast gaining traction. They can make the discovery process much more exciting. Take a travel chatbot – it can help you ‘plan’ your perfect holiday. Or consider recruitment assistants, they can streamline and automate tedious tasks and deliver a faster, more accurate experience to jobseekers by deciphering and verifying government and academic documents mandated for the role, show jobs closer to their home locations and run job screening tests. And all of this can be done in multiple local languages.
The potential and benefits in a multi-lingual country like India with low literacy is immense. Marketers should however be aware that there are pitfalls – processes ‘as-is’ cannot be automated as these have been designed with human limitations in mind.
Metrics must reflect what the customers find of value. But they also have to be designed so that the organization perceives Return on Investment (ROI). NPS is valuable as it measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services to others. It is used to gauge the customer’s overall satisfaction and loyalty to the brand. But unless you are able to demonstrate how NPS enables better business results, CX initiatives are likely to be short-lived.
A recent security breach at a popular restaurant review site has shown how data security is tied to customer perceptions and trust in the brand. This example shows that it is important to have precautions in place, a quick and transparent communication policy and an ethical hack/bounty program.
In India, security and privacy are at a nascent stage. It takes just one breach to result in financial loss and destroy the reputation of the brand.
This is the modern equivalent of bugs in the chocolate and just as the impacted brands took extreme steps of changing their packaging and refrigerating the supply chain to ensure customer safety – modern marketers must treat customer data safety.
Being a scarcity economy, Indian customers have traditionally not received much attention post-sales, but that is all likely to change.
The increased focus on customer experience is what will differentiate winners from also-rans.