Here’s why the human touch will remain the boss of the digital era, enriching connected experiences, enhancing brand loyalty

Customer satisfaction surveys are as passe as the cash counter in banks with grilles.

Armed with digital ammo and sensors, new-age sellers rev up their act with real time redress. This learning came full circle peppered with anecdotes across the BFSI, telecom and offshoring verticals, as industry leaders converged for Verint and Cisco’s CXO Round Table Discussion on `Customer Experience Management’ recently in Mumbai. Moderated by ET, the session drew upon disruptive shifts in consumer behavior and what it means for companies to sustain the crosswind. Edited excerpts:

ET: Change has been rapid over the last five years, particularly from the customers’end. When customers are changing so rapidly, organizations have to align themselves to such changing needs.Broadly, how is customer experience changing in relation to companies? Laxmi Bhan Rajan, Country Head-Customer Experience & Operations, Vodafone India: We have seen a fantastic combination of new consumers and existing consumers, and about 7-8%reaching us through assisted care. We have learnt in our journey what you need to build for self-care, how you build a lot of information. So we have highly efficient agents, especially for the post-paid data consumers.

Kavi Arora, MD & CEO, ReligareFinvest:

Life is about managing customer expectations. The expectations have changed and the rate of change of those expectations is increasing. Specifically with regard to India, we skipped an entire generation, from desktop to mobile.We as institutions are preparing for the customer who’s digitally savvy on the internet and completely on the mobile platform.

Susmita Panda, Senior VP-Insights, Aditya Birla Group:

We have customer expectations changing because they’ve experienced something in the online space. We’re not just seeing it in retail but in construction, commodities.

Deepali Naair, Chief Marketing & Digital Officer, IIFL Wealth Management:

Most brands are looking at business and target customer definition as one.They’ve been saying this for 20-30 years. Due to different experiences and owing to the generation gap, in five years’ time, there are different consumers and organizations and their structures are not geared towards recognizing that we have four different customer segments with four different customer journeys.We’re selling the same product but can we augment the service, the experience and cater to the service levels differently. That’s where the organizations are failing to catch up.

Hitesh Sindhwani, Senior VP & Head of Customer Service, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance:

From an insurance standpoint, there are two takeaways.One is segmentation, but it has also gone slightly beyond that. Customers are now saying-can it be really customized for me.The second takeaway is from a digital standpoint. There is obviously a lot of interaction on the digital platforms.But the human touch is still very important.

Navin Gupta, Senior VP & Global Head BPO, Datamatics Global Services:

Our customers are looking for `task to action’. What matters is how your machine can take any action within a fraction of a second.

Lalitha Bhatia, COO, IDBI Federal Life Insurance:

In life insurance, you need the human touch. You could digitize the experience for very repetitive queries by volume but at the point of sale, you need the hu man touch to push it as also at the moment of truth, which is the claim.

Sandeep Mehra, Director & Country Head (Collaboration), Cisco India & SAARC:

In fact, I would say that if the `touch’ continues, that would drive even greater value. If we are con nected, it would create even more delight for consumers.

Alok Kumar, Chief Service Delivery Officer, Aircel:

Customer experience management is much larger than customer service. It encompasses the whole product and its functions, like marketing and sales. And if you are not integrating all of that together, we are not talking customer experience.


Sandip, how has customer experience changed in the outsourcing industry over the last 5-7 years?
Sandip Sen, Global CEO, Aegis Ltd: Over the last few years, thanks to the internet, there’s more information, more choice. So the customer is truly empowered. Second, customer expectation has gone up. Thirdly, the customer today has the ability to do more damage on social media. Fourth, the customer today expects customization of one, not mass customization. If you look at all the four parameters, you are looking at customer expectation differently. So what is the response from companies like us? Today, you must have highly trained and skilled agents. So instead of having 50,000 agents handling calls and paying them Rs 5,000 each, you need to have 5,000 agents who are highly skilled.Use technology–which means you have to use a lot of screens and be able to do analytics. It is also important to have the right products. Only then will you be meeting customer expectations.

Sanjay Tripathy, Senior EVP–Marketing, Analytics, Digital & E-Commerce, HDFC Life:

Customers are always strapped for time. It is not like putting in place a neural network and linking it up with 20 other things. If I can’t put enough humans, can I put in a system which almost understands the consumer as a human would? So rather than broadening it by saying that we have

20 channels and all these channels talk to each other, can I have just one channel that can solve the problem for me?

Navin Gupta:

That is exactly where you need intelligent systems embedded with machine learning that behave as humans.


Manish, what can companies do more so that the complaints go down?

Manish Shah, Vice President, Southeast Asia, Verint Systems Asia Pacific: Today’s cus tomer wants a consistent experience across channels that they choose to interact with. Two, they don’t want to see the silos when they interact. If they visit your branch, which results in sending them an email, customers expect to be recognized and provided the same level of service. It is not about making connect with the customer on the spot. It is about how do you empower your employee with the right information so that they can provide contextual solutions to the customer.This brings in brand loyalty.

Praveen Bhatt, Senior VP & Head, Digital Banking and Customer Experience, Axis Bank:

When you go to a circus, you look at a trapeze artiste and below, there is a safety net. So I used to say that the safety net is customer service. But you go to a circus to see the act and not people falling down. That act is customer experience. The role of the vendor, therefore, is to ensure that his staff is as well educated as the customer. Then the experience becomes great. Manish Shah: Banks have done exactly the same thing. They’ve used analytics on structured and unstructured data and invested into knowledge management solutions, which allow the employee to be empowered. Praveen Bhatt: Today, be it in a car showroom or in a bank, you have to follow the three Cs–consistent, contextual and customized. Sandeep Mehra: I’ll add an `A’ to that. We call it `agile’.It isn’t about going on a particular journey and then realizing that you cannot turn back. In the world that we’re in where there’s so much additional disruption, it needs vendors like us to bring in systems and platforms which are very agile.


Kavi, how big is the challenge of keeping the customer engaged in the SME space, since you’ll do a lot of work in that arena?
Kavi Arora: Consumer lending is very transactional.

In business lending, if you’re doing well, you grow be cause you’re doing well. Your requirement for capital is also that perpetual. When we started business, we started trying to connect people by saying what they stood for. And our tagline says, `In your success, lies ours’. So I don’t just come in as a lender, but as a busi ness partner. So when we partner with SMEs, we don’t just say we are there to give loans, which is incidental.

But when we partner with them, we would handhold them across their ecosystem.


Are organizations ready to deliver across mul tiple functions? How are marketing, sales, prod uct working together to give one single view to the customer?

Hitesh Sindhwani:

We know that by 2024, 65% of customers will be digitally savvy. But what happens until 2024? In the current year, about 10% of the business in insurance comes through digital channels.90% of the business actually comes from non-digital channels. Focus needs to be given to those areas for another 3-5 years.

Navin Gupta:

We should bring all chan nels together and do some sort of a work shop, at least once in six months, so that all of them look at the problem statement the same day. All of them are looking at optimi zation to give a better customer experiY ence. Such workshops have really helped where customers, suppliers and vendors are brought in together. It brings in pain points of every party and there is collabora tion to solve such issues.

Sandip Sen:

If customer expectations are going up, client expectations are obviously going up.

What matters is what value are we able to add to our customers, how we can increase the NPS scores of our customers. Clients are saying they are willing to pay much more if we get higher quality agents. In India, client pricing has gone up dramatically as they want that higher value.

Deepali Naair:

If consumers and clients are changing, why is that the CEOs and the head of HR are still intro ducing the same KPIs?

Susmita Panda:

CEO if he can just drive the vision and let the COO or the sales guy drive the money. It’s changing.


It requires a lot of change in the organization, in the IT department, to understand the customer in the right context. Is analytics able to make that change?

Praveen Bhatt:

Today, it is not just about using cus tomer data but deriving insights from there. tomer data but deriving insights from there.

Manish Shah: In one of the telcos, the customer started complaining about roaming charges. The agent was smart enough and empowered with a lot of information. Finally, after 10 minutes of blasting by the customer, the agent could convert it into custom er satisfaction. This particular call was then deployed as a best practice into the telco’s knowledge manage ment system so that if a similar situation arises, it is available to the next agent immediately.

Susmita Panda:

It is important for the CEO to believe in what you’re doing. If I need resources, I’ll ask for four and I’ll be given three. I knew I would need two and I was given three. I always ensure there is over-staffing.

If you don’t allow them to think and experiment, they are always going to turn out minimum viable product.

You will never see any benefit there because they are always trying to match up w i t h w h a t customers need. And custom ers’ needs can change way faster than what the business thinks of at that point in time.

Connecting the Dots

At the recently held CXO round table discussion on `Customer Experience Management’ held at JW Marriott Mumbai, Sandeep Mehra, Director & Country Head (Collaboration), Cisco India & SAARC, made the inaugural presentation on what the world looks through a connected digital experience.

Mehra pointed out that though 89% of companies nowadays compete on customer experience, less than 10% of them actually have gone to the point where they exceed customer expectation on a regular basis. So it is really about “connecting the dots“ that matters, observed Mehra.

This is where connected digital experience gains currency. “What we have been given to re-imagine is to having a concept of contextual journey across every part of how you are engaged with your customer,“ says Mehra.

In the past, the moment of truth used to be a customer care center.Today, that world is disrupted. “It is about how you’re building this ability of engaging with your customer through his entire life cycle,“ he says.Echoing how Cisco looks at the world of customer experience connected by a completely digital platform, Mehra contended that voice, video, speech, analytics and third party applications must seamlessly come together in one connected journey.

Human Touch at Core of Connectedness

Over the last eight years, compa nies which have embraced cus tomer experience, have seen their balance sheets soar. However, over the last two years, it is getting much harder to sustain that advantage. This was pointed out by D Daniel Ziv, Vice President Customer Analytics Asia-Pacific and Global Product Strategy, Verint.

So while companies have done very well with customer experience, they can’t just keep doing the same thing. It’s because the Ubers, Amazons and others are disrupting expectations.

From Verint’s point of view, Daniel was actually interested in sustaining that advantage. So when Verint surveyed 24,000 consumers around the world, including 2,000 from India, and asked them what is important for them, the learning was a big surprise.

While everybody spoke about digital and mobile and self-service, research indicated that when people have something simple, they don’t want to talk to anybody. “They want to look at their phones and fix it themselves.“ But obviously, the world is getting more complex. So if that doesn’t work, they want to talk to somebody. Consumers still want human to human engagement.Actually, says Daniel, it has become more important because the simple transactions are managed digitally. After all, it is human to human interactions that drive long-term loyalty.

Source : Economic Times

Date : 05-04-2017


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