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Companies must ensure seamless customer experience (CX) by smartly using digital platforms and driving brand loyalty

Kaveri Nandan

Over the years, customer experience (CX) and customer engagement have undergone many changes. But in the past 18 months, companies’ success has clearly been determined by the experience delivered to customers. Building loyalty has become critical and companies are trying their best to earn that. Industry experts discuss how organisations can give them a seamless experience and grow customer loyalty in return at the Zendesk-The Economic Times ‘CX Conversations: Navigating Today’s Challenges’.

Digital transformation was already taking place in India, but the pandemic-related lockdowns gave it a massive boost, especially with small merchants and kirana store owners. “People who used to buy things of, say, Rs 500, started buying things of Rs 5,000. As a result, kirana stores had to stock more and they needed working capital. This is an example of people entering the formal economy and becoming digitally-savvy. The POS machine business is growing at 17-18% month on month,” said Dhruv Dhanraj Bahl, COO, BharatPe. People are not only using cashless methods but are also moving their earnings into that space.

Farmers, too, have become big users of various digital services including not just payments but also cow management systems. “Dairy farmers could not meet the 15-days settlement cycle. So, we did a daily settlement cycle. While the situation has forced this to happen, the impact is huge. Dairy farmers have moved to getting services as well such as paying the fodder supplier,” said Shashi Kumar, Co-Founder & CEO, Akshayakalpa.

Moving from a 15-day to a one-day settlement cycle was possible because the customers, too, were paying online, explained Kumar. “My dairy to customer business has gone through the roof and I have 25 days’ advance from the customer. The business is digitally enabled and wallet based,” he added.

While some organisations digitised their operations in response to the lockdown, some had already set foot on the path to enhancing CX. Rahul Gupta, Director of Product Management, Jubilant FoodWorks, said the company knew that even without lockdowns, dine-ins would reduce drastically. “So, we started building our delivery capacities early on. We also developed our drive-in and pick-up channel. We saw customer behaviour changing early on and quickly found digital solutions.”

With little to no face-to-face interactions, digital solutions are the only way to maintain contact with consumers and ensure loyalty. But it’s easier said than done. “Many traditional industries like manufacturing that already have loyal customers were not prepared. To retain customers and get new ones, digitisation is a necessity. Even if customers are not able to step into your set-up, you still need to give them the same comfort for which they are loyal. It is not just a product that gets delivered, there is a whole mechanism working at the backend,” said Priti Kumar, Founder & Director, Padah Solutions. In terms of technology and CX, organisations need to figure out which mode of communication the customer is comfortable with.

However, with so many digital platforms available, which are the most suitable? The answer to this depends on the type and needs of the business, compliance, customer profile and budget. Therefore, one has to choose between omnichannel and multi-channel. “You have to offer the platform that you can service well. For example, we do not interact on emails. We use only chatbots and WhatsApp, and if the customer still needs to speak to an agent, the agent should have enough information to service the customer, which will come from analytics. Some organisations, especially startups, may not be able to service all channels,” said Bahl. But there are businesses that need to be omnichannel. “Food, for example, is an emotionally connected business. A loyal or premium customer does not want a long conversation with a chatbot. They want a personal touch and fast resolution. So, the platform options depend on customer profile, loyalty and affinity to the brand, and personalised solutions are needed depending on these factors,” said Gupta.

But customer personas can be highly varied, so one doesn’t have to be omnichannel as long as they can define the experience. “Define how a customer and a business should interact. It can start with a WhatsApp bot or a phone call. You define how the journey should be, but the pivot has to be convenient,” said KT Prasad, MD & RVP India and SAARC, Zendesk.

As a consequence to the change in communication and CX dynamics, brands have also adapted and adopted. “A fresh communication was given to brands in the QSR (quick service restaurant) category, such as for delivery versus dine-in. Typically, 80 percent of adex has been on ‘encounter’, which is when the customer first sees the brand. Brands wanted to digitise the ‘encounter’ stage by having agile media plans, and also tap into the ‘experience’ and ‘buy’ aspects,” said Vanita Keswani, CEO, Madison Media Sigma.

Advertising, too, has adapted to changes in the target audience. “In terms of adaptability and personalisation, brands with this (young) tonality and target audience require engagement in natural ways. Some brands want DIY (do it yourself), some want content, and some influencer marketing. Therefore, at the briefing itself, there is a lot of engagement with the client to understand the role that digital can play,” added Keswani.

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