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Walk the talk: Customer service in India needs a cultural shift from the top

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By Vasudeva Rao Munnaluri, RVP India and SAARC, Zendesk

Give customers a great experience from the moment they interact with your brand and they’ll buy more, be more loyal and share their experience with friends. That’s what every company strives for. So why do 84 percent of Indian customers still feel customer experience is an afterthought? Perhaps more importantly, what has changed for customers that businesses need to understand?

Even as businesses invest in new technologies and tools to keep up with dramatic shifts in markets, one crucial aspect remains, which demands attention from business leaders: creating customer experiences that are most meaningful.

It boils down to an experience disconnect. Speed, convenience, and consistency make for exceptional experiences. But to make it meaningful requires a human touch – creating real connections by making technology feel more human and giving employees what they need to create better customer experiences.

When CX is a gamechanger for business growth, what’s causing the experience disconnect? Well, leaders need to walk the talk. Despite 79% of Indian leaders viewing customer service as a revenue driver, only half (51%) report it is owned by an executive-level leader, according to Zendesk’s CX Accelerator Report. To turn customer service into an engine for growth, organisations need both leadership buy-in and accountability at the top, to effect real change and innovation.

Fostering a customer-centric culture requires accountability from the top

Customers today are more selective about where they want to spend money and a large part of customer satisfaction relies on creating exceptional experience. 85% of Indian customers are willing to switch brands after just one bad experience. The consequences of poor customer service can be far-reaching as it ultimately leads to low retention rates. And happy customers have the potential of becoming loyal to a company, especially when they feel emotionally connected to a brand. The good news is that businesses can increase satisfaction by adopting a customer-centric culture.

When a company has a customer-centric culture, their actions and beliefs directly reflect the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction. Customer-centric companies are often in a better position to offer services that their customers love. This mindset can lead to high-quality services that help build loyalty.

Being customer-centric is not a responsibility that falls only on customer support or any single team, to earn for the entire business. It requires a shift in organisational culture and this starts with accountability from the leadership at the very top.

When experience is everything, much is at stake. Here’s how to get it right.

#1 Empowering staff and support teams: Businesses in India face a daunting challenge, where leadership at the very top views customer service as a hurdle. More than half (56%) of companies say their senior leadership views customer service as a drag on the business. But a business without a customer-centric culture risks losing out in the long run. Implementing a customer-centric culture starts with empowering staff and support teams, which calls for investments in technology that makes their job easier. When leadership at the very top acknowledges the need for a customer-centric culture, adopting the right technology would be a natural progression. Tools that enable seamless channel-switching, enhanced customer visibility, and artificial intelligence are essential for delivering great CX.

Since support teams are at the front line with customers, businesses need to adopt strong tech stacks to support them in performing better. Agile technology allows support teams to tap into customer data, and turn support tickets into sale opportunities, and ultimately, a customer for life. These improvements can reduce agent burnout, and benefit customers as well.

#2 Harnessing the power of data: Even after constructing an effective customer-centric strategy, becoming a customer-focused business does not happen overnight. It takes continuous adjustment to get it right and that includes harnessing the power of data. Considering the massive amount of data available, businesses no longer have to guess what customers want. Instead, they can look at the trends. Being customer-centric does not mean using data without context. It requires combining data with empathy. For instance developing insights into who is using your product or service and what they are looking for can help businesses personalise the purchasing journey for customers.

Companies that develop a more data-driven approach to the customer experience can win big. Metrics such as customer uptime or latency, dwell times and bounce rates can help business leaders identify pain points and implement strategies that yield better results. Data-driven decisions allow businesses a better understanding of the right messaging to reach out to customers. Being able to tie customer service to business growth is incredibly valuable. With 51% of companies in India saying customer service has a direct impact on business growth, it’s up to businesses to invest in the right tools to become CX Champions.

#3 Placing importance on customer feedback: Customer-centric brands rely on feedback loops. Whether it is to improve product features or the overall customer experience, asking consumers for feedback can help companies adapt operations to better meet their needs.

Equipped with these insights, companies can tailor CX strategies to decide which channels of communication their customers are on — be it Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, phone or email. Customer feedback is also invaluable in rolling out automation, self-service, and FAQ content at strategic touchpoints to create seamless experiences. These strategies help businesses exceed service expectations and ensure that customers don’t take their business elsewhere.

Gathering customer feedback to understand and empathise with them can create an open company culture that relies on learning and acceptance of feedback. This operational flexibility is critical to staying in business long-term. When top leadership acknowledges the importance of customer feedback and implements strategies to capitalise on it, customer service becomes the backup life support.

What businesses choose to prioritise, and how nimbly they can adapt, will determine whether they’ve set the trajectory for growth or not. Customers have made it clear they expect great service, which can be a tall order without leadership support. It’s up to businesses to decide whether they want to implement these changes as soon as possible or risk losing out on growth opportunities.

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