Corporations can become successful in a wide variety of ways. If we look at the tech industry, we see that giants such as Amazon, Apple and Microsoft have achieved success based on constantly innovating their products and ensuring that the user experience is optimised in every aspect. On the other hand, if we look at sportswear giant Nike, they have created a very strong culture where employees are encouraged to not only focus on their professional development through various trainings and programs, but also get the opportunity to attain a healthy lifestyle by getting access to various sports facilities such as basketball courts, gyms, physiotherapists and much more.
This provides Nike with a content workforce that gets the opportunity to develop both physically and professionally and undoubtedly this has become one of the key reasons why Nike has become a household name all over the world. Despite there being different ways in which a company can rise to the top, one key factor is always present in all thriving companies. They always ensure that they focus on enhancing customer experience and ensuring that they have a customer centric approach whilst developing their products or services.
Customer experience or CX is your customers’ holistic perception of their experience with your business or brand. It is the result of every interaction a customer has with your business, from navigating the website to talking to customer service and receiving the product/service they bought from you. Everything you do impacts your customers’ perception and their decision to keep coming back or not—so a great customer experience is your key to success.
CX is one of the most fundamental aspects that a product or a company needs to thrive and compete in this world of cutthroat competition. The statistics on this are clear – there has been a very obvious shift of power from the sellers to the customers. Who gave them this power? The World Wide Web. Customers now have a plethora of options to choose from. Also, customers have the ability and resources to educate and gain awareness before making purchases. Not long ago, people chose products and companies based on pricing only, but today the ease of doing business has become the main drivers for people when deciding between alternatives.
This is why I believe that customer experience should be the core of any business. How can you gauge your customer service to determine what you’re doing well and where there’s room for improvement? Not long ago, when you would go to a bank to open your bank account or conduct any transaction, it was almost expected that you would be treated well by the employees and that they would make every possible effort to ensure that your experience was as smooth as possible. This included a warm welcome at the reception by a professional gentleman or a woman, answering all of your concerns convincingly, being courteous throughout the conversation, and, if in Pakistan, offering you the famous corporate ‘chai’ which has been a social catalyst for decades. If any of these elements were missing, the customer was likely to be unhappy with how they were treated and would leave with a very negative impression of the company. The service offered in terms of product and its applicability was at the lowest of the pecking order when deciding between alternatives. The ‘chai’ held power when making a selection between different banks. When a person goes to a bank, they want to know what the bank can offer but they also want to know that they will be respected by the bank.
However, as times change, people and their expectations evolve. Technology is embedded in every walk of life. Companies like Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, etc. have transformed customer expectations and have given a new meaning to customer experience and customer service. How were they able to do that? Technology, technology, and technology! Customer service has been shaped significantly by advancements in technology. These advancements in technology have raised the bar of consumer experience and now it is essential for companies to have well-integrated technology-based solutions to augment and complement customer experience.
Particularly now, technology has supplanted the element of cultural values in CX. Nowadays, companies focus on using technology-based solutions to optimize the customer experience in terms of convenience, speed, and ease. This is mainly due to consumers becoming more tech-savvy and increasingly aware. Recently, consumers have started to rely on digital support more than ever. The physical touch has slowly dissipated and has been replaced by better, more efficient and easy digital solutions. The reason Uber and Airbnb were successful in acquiring a large customer base in such a short time wasn’t because of how they greeted their customers or because they were courteous enough but based entirely on how they transformed the lives of their consumers by using technology. Customers have slowly increased their expectations of service and have been on a trajectory of a gradual shift to contactless transactions. This has become the new normal. Digitization is accelerating and end users’ demands are changing due to a monumental shift towards a mobile-first economy. You can either ride with this wave of technology or slowly get left behind opposing this.
Following market leaders, companies have now changed how they engage with customers and there has been a greater emphasis on developing and incorporating technology-driven solutions that are not only able to respond to consumers rapidly but also are capable of providing customers with a seamless experience. Looking specifically at FinTechs, we notice that there are countless examples of how CX has been revolutionized with the implementation of technology.
Monzo is a UK-based FinTech that has made life easy for its users. What has substantially differentiated them from other FinTechs is their excellent customer service. They have integrated customer feedback through the feature of Monzo Labs, where consumers are able to test new features of the app and provide feedback in terms of how the functionality can be improved. Monzo is therefore able to incorporate consumer feedback seamlessly into their final product and establish a strong relationship with consumers by showing that their input is valued by the company. Additionally, Monzo has focused on CX by making their app very easy to use and the concerns of consumers are responded to instantly and a transcript of the conversation between the customer support representative and the customer is also generated and provided to the customer for greater clarity.
This has been possible due to the use of technology and tools such as AI and machine learning which are employed by several companies to enhance the CX. Globally, this has been done so successfully that now consumers do not need to physically meet customer support for any help, and customer support representatives can easily work from home and still assist consumers effectively. Such a revolution has taken away the element of physical touch in customer experience in these countries, but such a change is unlikely to occur here at home.
In Pakistan, the importance of certain values cannot be understated. Pakistan is a country where Eastern culture and religious values are prominent in all walks of life. Values of hospitality, taking care of each other, respect and honesty are some of the most revered values in Pakistan. This is especially relevant for organizations which must consider incorporating these elements into their customer experience so that consumers can identify strongly with what the company is offering. Pakistanis have and will always take great pride in our values and their presence in customer service plays a significant role in shaping the perception of the company by consumers. Its absence will hurt any company that is trying to establish a strong relationship with its customers. The foundation of any company’s CX in Pakistan must incorporate the values that Pakistanis cherish dearly.
On the other side of the coin, there remains no doubt that technology is increasingly shaping the customer experience, particularly as consumers pivot towards wanting speed and convenience from their product. Consumers in Pakistan have now become self-aware. Mobile internet users have reached a total mass of approximately 100 million plus and the availability of the internet to the masses has educated the consumers on how superior products, technology, and ease of use are the real deal-breakers when deciding between alternatives. A company cannot hope to strengthen its relationships with customers without using technology-based solutions and as Pakistan transitions towards adopting digitalization, it is crucial that companies also develop more technology-based solutions to improve the experience that a customer gets.
Therefore, in the context of our homeland, it is not possible to build your customer experience on the basis of either technology or cultural values alone, but rather a shake hand of the two is needed to provide a customer experience that is best suited for this country’s consumers. The human touch will open the door and provide leverage to initiate relationships with customers. However, to enhance and build upon this customer experience you need to focus on technology-based solutions that will take customer experience to the next level. A combination of the two will allow any company to not only get the benefits of technology in terms of speed and convenience but also establish equity in the minds of its customers through the incorporation of cultural considerations. It is therefore imperative that organizations in Pakistan focus on both of these elements together whilst building their customer experience. This is especially relevant for the financial industry, where FinTechs are on the rise and although they should aim to incorporate as much innovation from technology in their products as possible, they should ensure that their customer experience includes the presence of cultural values and a human touch. Ultimately, I believe that Maya Angelou sums up the importance of customer experience quite beautifully when she said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”