The concept of customer service or customer experience (CX) was quite alien to Indian consumers until liberalization in the early 1990s. Till then, the brand was the boss and the product was the king. We had to wait in a line to get our hands on a telephone line, had to line up for hours to buy a train ticket and even had to wait for years for the privilege of buying a Bajaj scooter or a Fiat car. In short, whatever was delivered, we as customers accepted without any complaint, irrespective of how good or bad the experience or level of satisfaction was.
Unfortunately, brands do not have that luxury anymore. They don’t just have to ensure that their product meets the customers’ discerning expectations but also have to be mindful of a million little things each time they interface with the customer—before, during and even after selling the product or service.
What is the result? More often than not, despite best efforts, customer service teams are inundated with complaints, millions of dollars spent on marketing efforts may even lead to little impact on sales, the highly researched loyalty programme is unable to retain customers, etc. The moot question, therefore, is: Why do all these customer-directed programmes end up failing or falling short? Is it lack of budgets or poor understanding of customer expectations or plain apathy? The answer may typically lie in between, where our own understanding of CX may be limited by how developed and refined our CFM is.
Martin Mrugal, global head of Customer First at SAP, describes the CFM as a mindset, an engagement model and an organization built around better customer engagement—all rolled into one. But it’s not just about an organizational mindset. Possessing and demonstrating a CFM is equally applicable to individuals as well.
Within organizations, CFM is embedded in the culture, values and beliefs which steer and guide organizational strategies as embodied in their mission and investments and direct execution rigour. It comprises not just well-drafted statements which are visible in their board rooms, conference rooms or websites to impress visitors; rather, it is evident in day-to-day practice. It is embodied in the passion and conviction that all rungs and functions of the organization demonstrate.
Turning to individuals or employees, CFM can be depicted across many roles and functions: customer-facing or noncustomer-facing, across hierarchical levels and irrespective of whether they are supervisors, managers or even entry-level employees working within teams. The truism ‘customer experience is everybody’s business’ reflects this sentiment. After all, organizations are made of people who are the building blocks. These human elements lend to or borrow from and live the values, beliefs and culture, which in turn propels behaviours. And it is these behaviours which are visible by internal and external customers who are in the business of creating great experiences. Thus, when a CFM pervades the organization, its development leads the process of change.