As the year winds down, my inbox and social media stream have started being flooded by the inevitable”2018 CX forecast”, listings. Undoubtedly most of these lists make excellent reading, however, given the origins of these articles they come with a marked U.S/EU centric perspective. Having been CX practitioners in India over the last decade and having worked with some of the country’s finest, our take on where customer experience is heading has a distinct India flavour. Here, then are our top 10 thoughts on CX for India- 2018:
- War for talent: If corporate India has an overall talent deficit, in customer experience things are alarmingly bleak. As organizations run through the first wave of what they call customer experience, which is basically fixing customer satisfaction, they will find an absence of bench strength to kick-start the second wave of designing CX as a competitive differentiator. Cross hiring from supposedly “customer friendly” industries such as hospitality, telecom will continue, with mixed results. Flawless execution of CX will be impacted. Some organizations will realise this and strengthen the talent pool while others, will throw the baby out with the bathwater and blame CX itself as ineffectual.
- The business case: The elephant in the room. Boards and management will demand an unambiguous linkage between CX initiatives and business outcomes. They would not be entirely in error doing so. The only way CX can capture organization budgets (and imaginations) is if this linkage is well articulated. This will necessitate, a cross-function approach and ownership, between marketing, technology, service and the operating business. This poses interesting challenges with regards to turf protection, ownership and recognition (see point 4)
- QSQT: The quintessential Indian time horizon “Quarter se quarter tak” and no, we are not referring to a popular beverage unit of measure. We are referring to the universal KPI of most business divisions in the country and how this would be reconciled against the spend: income equation of CX projects. In an ecosystem, where managers have short shelf lives and bonuses drive gross incomes, will managers have the stamina and patience for CX over other supposedly shorter-term income measures? Who will helm the long-term win over short-term gratification?
- Ownership: Who really should own CX? Marketing? Service? The operating business? The CEO’s office? A CX head? Line function? Staff function? Hybrid? CFT? Matrix? Organizations grapple with this question. In the absence of a clear understanding, many muddled models will emerge before clarity emerges. (Please refer to, Terragni research report on customer-centric culture –“ The India Study 2017, Customer Centric Culture)
- Go Digital: As physical touch points come under pressure (manpower, training, throughput), organizations embrace digital. Digital journeys and touch points get into sharper management focus. This is welcome, but unless organizations give compelling “experiential” reasons for consumers to “go digital”, overall CX will not improve as a natural consequence. Additionally, in India, a majority of consumers prefer a hybrid of physical and digital seamlessly. This, in turn, will put additional pressure on organizations to tightly integrate and execute both experiences and stretch already thin resources.
- The Frozen Middle– Ever since this term came into prominence, it has found usage in many contexts. The “frozen middle” refers to the conservative middle management layers of organizations which find it hard to adapt, to change. This is magnified when it comes to executing and delivering class-leading customer experience. The top management lays the vision, the lower rungs are enthusiastic of the change, the middle is the deer frozen in the sharp headlights of the oncoming wave of shifting consumer desires. Organizations will need to bring in incentives, education and motivation to unfreeze this middle.
- Growth Paradox: As the Indian economy seeks to get back it’s mojo, we will see many organizations grow simply as a natural consequence of being around. This growth brings its own attendant challenges and management attention will naturally focus on these needs. Customer experience once again sees the danger of being seen as “nice to have but not critical to growth”. Some organizations will shift customer experience into “maintenance” mode; where customer satisfaction gets re-labelled as customer experience. Smart organizations will factor this in and keep a laser focus on driving customer experience despite growth. They know this is what will be their competitive edge in times good and bad.
- The Mass in the pyramid: Organizations in businesses that focus on the mass or the bottom of the pyramid, will face tough logistic, execution delivery and scalability of customer experience initiatives. Many will console themselves on trying to be cost leaders. This is a trap. Consumers at the bottom of the pyramid are constantly seeking enhanced value. One key attribute of such desired enhanced value is the elimination of effort induced pain. Worth remembering that.
- Where is the Context? – Insights and Data woes continue: Despite the wealth of data, big and small being available, organizations still scramble to align desires with deliverance. Organizations will seek a valuable catalyst for the data that they have available-Context. Contextualization of data and insights with the current state of one’s own offerings, the competition and market forces will be the “x” factor that drives value from data towards building experiences.
- Liquid Expectations: Consumers who experience Uber like convenience when they book transportation in their personal lives are not going to be happy with welding rods or widgets being delivered in 4 weeks, or a confirmation of their loan EMI digital payment coming in after 3 days from their bank. Superlative experiences from one industry will traverse as desired expectations at lightning speed across industries. It will no longer be important to be best in class in your industry alone. It will mean an entirely new set of capabilities of tracking best in class experiences across multiple industries.
These then are our list of 10 India centric customer experience thoughts, do feel free to add on.
Have a blessed, creative, great year ahead and here is to differentiated profitable customer experience.