Lessons learnt as a CX practitioner – misses & successes

Reflecting on 3.5 decades of working as a CX professional—with the benefit of rear view wisdom—it is important to share with my readers the lessons learnt, so that you may benefit and take the craft of CX management to the next level.

Starting off in Xerox was a perfect learning ground on the basics of Customer Service management, combined with allied skills of Total Quality Management (TQM—packaged as ‘Leadership through Quality’ programme), problem-solving, team management, etc. The importance of management by going where the action is (termed ‘Gemba’)—through extensive field visits to customer sites—instilled the discipline of listening actively to customers and aligning teams, processes, and measurements.

This helped us uncover special customer needs and prepared us better to deal with them. A specific illustration of this was taking care of customers who had short bursts of very high photocopying load during conferences, tendering processes, or similar events. During these periods, the requirement was zero downtime of machines, extra onsite availability of consumables (like toners/developers), and express service support in case of any machine failure. Creating a process of getting customers to inform us in advance of any such event allowed us to carry out preventive maintenance just before the start of the event to get the Xerox machine primed for peak performance. Also, we could estimate and stock the required quantity of consumables and vulnerable parts on site. The customer’s machine operator was provided with a basic troubleshooting guide to handle likely downtime scenarios. An engineer was assigned to be on call for round-the-clock availability in the unlikely event of a downtime that needed expert intervention. Having this special process created won us the loyalty of all large clients, who saw us as a more professional service provider than others.

Similarly, ‘listening to the customer’ closely helped us to develop a uniquely innovative service model that allowed us to extend our service reach deep into rural markets of telecom consumers at extremely low cost—an innovation that helped us win a few national awards, the ET Telecom award for service innovation being one of the most prestigious among them.

However, since the complete craft of CX management is new in its adoption by practitioners, the illustration of its effectiveness to business leaders has been slow and could have been done better. Having now worked with clients that have renewed the contract over multiple rounds, I have begun to realize that organizational leaders have to be kept engaged more with the business value that each CX initiative brings to uncover different customer segments, improve customer need gap assessment, policy and process redesign, and relationship management tools. Traditionally operating as a vertical specialization entity, the changeover to a horizontal delivery entity for delivering memorable customer experiences is a complex organizational change management that needs the CX leader to practice the skill of ‘positive politics’ management internally, carrying the CEO’s confidence and sponsorship visibly. This is something I feel I could have done better to obtain the visible sponsorship for key CX programs. Not doing it effectively leads to islands of work whose effectiveness can get diluted over time and business impact dampened.

CX, as a business-impacting function that delivers high value to brand salience, also needs a professional body setup for knowledge and thought exchange among practitioners. Few CX conferences that exist are sponsor-agenda-driven events and do not serve the purpose of functional value dissemination to business entities. I tried to create a forum—CRM Foundation in early 2001 and then within the telecom fraternity with CX leaders of other telecom companies—however, we failed to institutionalize these. We need the dynamic lot of younger CX leaders to reach out to each other and create a more sustained, mature professional CX body in India that will integrate different streams of CX to demonstrate the huge business value that CX practices can bring to organizations and even to citizen services of government.

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