Tell us the story of how you got involved in customer experience. How did your career lead you here?
My career began in the early 2000s as a technical engineer, solving problems for big companies. But beyond fixing tech glitches, I was fascinated by delivering true value – exceeding expectations and making every interaction a win for our clients.
Back then, "good customer experience" often meant just prompt support. While that's still crucial, I dug deeper. I talked to customers, organizations, and industry experts, uncovering the vast gap between promised experiences and reality. This "big picture" ignited a passion – to redefine customer support, success, and the entire CX concept, both within my team and the industry.
Seeking to learn from the best, I joined CXPA, connecting with brilliant minds and gaining a global perspective on CX across diverse industries. Over 3 years later, I'm still thriving in this community, even serving on the Asia Regional Council leadership.
This journey, sparked by a simple desire to deliver more, has transformed me into a passionate CX advocate, shaping standards and pushing boundaries for myself and the companies I serve.
In which industries, verticals or sectors have you focused your CX career?
My 21-year career has been a fascinating exploration of diverse industries, each enriching my understanding of customer experience (CX). I have served in many roles and addressed complex business markets in the areas of Strategy and Operations, Customer Service/Success & Experience, Technology, Design and scalable solutions, Cloud Engineering, Product Management, Marketing, Presales & Sales Engineering, and Product Delivery.
Here's a glimpse into my key focus areas:
- Unified Communications & Collaboration: I've helped businesses foster effective communication and collaboration, boosting employee and customer satisfaction.
- Contact Center: I've optimized contact center operations, ensuring efficient and delightful interactions for customers across channels via tech solutions.
- Hospitality: I've crafted memorable guest experiences, understanding the unique needs of the hospitality sector.
- Fintech & Payments, Healthcare, IT/ITeS, Governments: I've navigated the complexities of multiple highly regulated industries, ensuring seamless and secure experiences for customers.
I've also partnered with tech giants like Cisco, Avaya, Microsoft & many more and delivered cutting-edge technology solutions for their customers.
Beyond industries, my focus lies on:
- Strategic CX: Conceptualizing and driving large-scale CX programs that deliver impactful results.
- Client relationships: Building trust and fostering strong partnerships with clients to understand their unique needs.
- Team leadership: Guiding and empowering teams to achieve CX excellence.
This blend of industry expertise and functional focus has equipped me to tackle diverse CX challenges and my journey has taken me across continents, collaborating with industry leaders in India, SAARC, EMEA, APAC, and the US. This global exposure has given me a deep understanding of diverse cultural nuances and customer expectations.
Why do so many companies struggle with making CX a priority? What are some common mistakes companies make?
Companies often struggle with prioritizing Customer Experience (CX) mostly due to:
- Short-Term Focus: Prioritizing immediate financial gains over long-term customer satisfaction.
- Leadership Misalignment: Lack of unified leadership vision on the importance of CX.
- Metric Mania: Obsession with numbers misses the bigger picture of customer emotion.
- Siloed Operations: Internal departments working in isolation hinder cohesive CX.
- Insufficient Customer Understanding: Assuming customer needs without thorough research.
- Neglecting Employee Experience: Failure to prioritize employee training and engagement.
- Data Graveyard: Companies collect data but fail to unlock its insights for personalization.
- Channel Chaos: Inconsistent experience across channels confuses and frustrates customers.
- One-Size-Fits-All: Diverse customer segments need diverse CX approaches.
- Buried Negatives: Ignoring negative feedback misses vital opportunities for improvement.
- Technology Integration Issues: Inadequate investment in modern tools and communication channels.
- Inadequate Feedback Mechanisms: Lack of robust feedback systems to understand customer sentiments.
This isn’t even a complete list! Addressing these challenges requires a shift towards a customer-centric approach, strong leadership commitment, and a genuine understanding of customer needs.
You’ve been selected to give a keynote address at a major CX conference. What topic will you discuss and what major points will you touch on?
A few ideas come to mind:
- Disrupting the Status Quo: Reimagining CX in the Era of Transformation (Focusing on emerging trends, innovative approaches, and breaking away from traditional CX models)
- Humanizing the Digital Experience: Building Meaningful Connections (Emphasizing the importance of emotional connection, empathy, and personalized experiences)
- From Data to Decisions: Harnessing Customer Insights for Impact (Highlighting the crucial role of data analytics in understanding and improving CX)
Have you seen, firsthand, any AI impacts on the practice of CX? What impacts are you expecting in the next few years?
Absolutely, my extensive experience has afforded me firsthand insights into the transformative impacts of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the practice of Customer Experience (CX). Here are some observed impacts and expectations for the next few years:
- Personalized journeys powered by data analysis.
- Chatbots and assistants handle simple tasks 24/7.
- Sentiment analysis unlocks emotions for better service.
- Predictive maintenance avoids problems before they start.
- AI-powered content tailors to individual preferences.
- Hyper-personalization: Individual micro-needs met in real-time.
- Emotionally intelligent AI fostering true empathy.
- Hyper-automation - freeing humans from complex tasks.
- Immersive AR/VR experiences for deeper engagement.
- Predictive Issue Resolution: Anticipating and preventing issues proactively.
- Voice AI Sophistication: Handling more complex queries naturally.
- Evolution in Marketing AI: Granular segmentation for targeted efforts.
While the above are all being discussed and evaluated, one of the important
area still needs attention is the challenges & considerations of AI usage:
- Ethical guidelines needed for unbiased algorithms and data privacy.
- Workforce reskilling to navigate automation's impact.
- Balancing technology with the human touch for trust and connection.
AI is fundamentally reshaping CX, offering immense potential for personalization, efficiency, and proactive service. With responsible implementation and a focus on human connection, it's a future both exciting and full of possibilities!
What skills have served you best in your CX career?
In my CX career, a blend of key skills has fueled my success:
- Strategic Leadership: Envisioning long-term CX goals, aligning them with business strategies, and leading teams towards exceptional CX delivery.
- Analytical Proficiency: Demonstrating strong analytical skills to interpret customer data, identify trends, and derive actionable insights.
- Effective Communication & Collaboration: Clearly communicating internally and engaging with customers and stakeholders externally.
- Problem-Solving: Tackling challenges in the customer journey and enhancing overall satisfaction.
- Tech-savvy & Innovation: Leveraging technology for enhanced interactions, and exploring innovative CX strategies to stay ahead.
- Customer Champion: Passionately advocating for customer needs and their success.
These skills collectively contribute to a holistic approach to CX, ensuring a balance between strategic vision, data-driven decision-making, effective communication, and maintaining a customer-centric mindset.
What’s the best advice you’d give someone just starting out in their CX career, or just starting to transition from a related discipline like call-center or customer service management?
Here's the best advice I would offer in general:
- Customer-Centric Mindset: Prioritize customer needs in all decision-making processes.
- Embrace the customer lens: Shift your focus from processes and internal metrics to understanding the entire customer journey and their emotional experience.
- Develop Empathy & Emotional Intelligence: Learn to read between the lines of customer feedback and identify their true needs and frustrations.
- Become a data detective: Understand basic data analysis to uncover valuable insights from customer data for informed decisions.
- Build Relationships: Establish cross-functional relationships for seamless collaboration.
- Prioritize Feedback: Value and actively seek customer feedback for continuous improvement.
- Measure Impact: Learn to measure and demonstrate the impact of CX initiatives.
- Embrace Technology: Familiarize yourself with AI, analytics, and automation tools.
- Strong Communication: Hone clear communication skills for team alignment and customer interactions.
- Stay Humble and Open-Minded: Acknowledge room for improvement and be receptive to feedback.
- Network in the CX Community: Engage with professionals through events and online forums.
- Continuous Learning: Stay updated on industry trends and emerging technologies.
Additional inputs for someone transitioning from related discipline:
- Leverage your existing skills: Your experience in call center management or customer service has given you valuable knowledge of customer needs and pain points. Use this as a strong foundation.
- Expand your horizons: While your experience is valuable, be open to learning new things like CX strategy, design thinking, and digital transformation.
- Don't be afraid to take risks: Stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new things can help you grow in your CX career.
- Focus on outcomes, not just outputs
In my view, Success in CX involves a mix of knowledge, empathy, adaptability, and a relentless focus on improving the customer experience.
When did CX as a discipline pop up on your radar? How have you seen it evolve or change over that period of time?
CX first caught my attention in the early 2000s during my technical engineering career when I realized the significance of delivering prompt support for customer satisfaction.
Over the years, I've observed notable changes in CX:
- Expanded Perception: CX has evolved from being associated with customer support to encompassing the entire customer journey.
- Technological Revolution: Integration of AI, analytics, and automation has transformed CX, enabling data-driven insights and personalized experiences.
- Customer-Centric Culture: Organizations increasingly prioritize a customer-centric culture for loyalty and business success.
- Omnichannel Experiences: CX now focuses on providing seamless experiences across various digital and traditional channels.
- Employee Experience: There's a growing emphasis on employee satisfaction, recognizing its impact on delivering exceptional customer service.
- Real-Time Responsiveness: Instant communication platforms have heightened the need for real-time responsiveness to address customer concerns promptly.
- Data Privacy and Ethics: With increased data usage, companies navigate data privacy and ethical considerations to build and maintain customer trust.
- Strategic Differentiator: CX has shifted from a reactive function to a strategic differentiator, shaping and being shaped by dynamic customer expectations and business strategies.
What trend do you think will be most impactful in the CX space over the next three years?
Potential contenders for impactful CX trends over the next three years in my view are:
- Hyper-personalization: Leveraging AI and data to craft highly individualized experiences for every customer, catering to their unique needs and preferences.
- Emotionally intelligent AI: AI powered by emotional intelligence will personalize interactions beyond demographics, understanding and responding to customer sentiment in real-time.
- Predictive CX: Proactive interventions and personalized offers based on AI-powered predictions of customer needs and behavior.
- Immersive AR/VR experiences: Blending the physical and digital worlds to create engaging and interactive customer experiences.
- The rise of ethical CX: Growing focus on responsible use of AI, data privacy, and transparency in customer interactions.
- Building trust and connection: Reemphasizing the human touch and genuine connections to differentiate brand experiences in a technology-driven landscape.
These trends collectively aim to provide more tailored, immersive, and secure customer interactions, reflecting the evolving landscape of customer expectations and technological advancements.
If there’s anything else that you’d like to share with our readers, please let us know! You’re welcome to share any “hot takes” you might have on the practice of CX, or anything you feel sets you apart in the CX space.
My "hot takes" are:
- Automation will empower, not replace: Embrace their ability to handle repetitive tasks, freeing human agents for complex problem-solving and building genuine connections.
- Data is the fuel, but empathy is the engine: Don't get lost in data analysis. Use it to personalize experiences, but remember the human element – empathy and emotional intelligence are key differentiators.
- Beyond satisfaction, aim for advocacy: Don't settle for merely satisfied customers. Strive for passionate brand advocates who tell your story and drive organic growth.
- Collaboration is key, not silos: Break down departmental barriers. A seamless customer journey requires cross-functional teamwork and shared ownership.
- Ethics over convenience: Don't prioritize short-term gains over ethical practices. Be transparent, responsible, and respectful of customer data and privacy.
I set myself apart through a holistic approach, viewing CX as an ecosystem where every element contributes. My commitment to continuous learning and passion for customer advocacy position me to drive positive change and exceed expectations. I am eager to contribute my skills and experiences to enhance customer satisfaction and build lasting relationships.