Hi Gautam, tell us about yourself and your background.
I am an engineer who works in management and changes mindsets and thought processes of people and companies.
I am the designer of the bottom of the Coke and Pepsi PET bottles. I worked for a Fortune 50 company in the United States for 17 years, and ran businesses for them. Our customers loved us and we gave them a great experience. For example, I would entertain a 3rd shift supervisor of a customer plant along with his wife. If I bump into him 30 years later, he and his wife remembered the time and the experience they had with me.
I became a Customer Value practitioner in 2004 and now run the Journal of Creating Value, jcv.sagepub.com, the Creating Value Alliance CreatingValue.co, and the 4thGlobal Conference on Creating Value, creatingvalueconference.com. Customer Experience is an essential component of creating value.
How did you start working in the customer experience space?
I actually work in Customer Value, and Customer Experience is a part of Customer Value.
Normally for everyday items such as a cell phone we prefer no experience, because the use experience is generally about the phone not working. This of course can turn into an experience to give good service and make the customer happy. This does not happen often
Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?
I mentioned what I do earlier, but one thing is I advise people on DNA (Do Not Annoy) the customer.
I wrote a book called Customer Value Starvation, where companies starve us and give bad experiences by not doing simple things right. Inordinate delay, not answering your question, telling you “Didn’t you know?”, keep on asking for information that they already have such as your telephone number or address. The list is endless. Also, the fact that companies prefer a one-way communication. They can reach you by mail or phone, but you cannot do that easily. Bad CX.
To give a good customer experience, do not become a person who practices value starvation.
How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?
Design everything from the customer’s viewpoint and not the company’s. Make the customer convenience more important than the company’s convenience. You will improve CX this way and increase value to the customer.
Do market research on what creates customer value. We do this with our customers. The study is always versus competition. You cannot compare yourself to yourself. Drive CX from the customers’ needs not the company’s needs.
The problem is that most companies give poor CX, and if that is true and if you are a little better you are the cream of the crap. You really have to differentiate yourself. CX is a way for doing it. Do not lose this opportunity to show the world you are better.
What are some companies that you think are doing an excellent job at customer experience, and why?
I live in India. The Tatas are generally good, though there is customer value starvation with some of them. Amazon is great till you have a problem with them. Most smaller companies tend to give better CX.
Uber is good in patches and so on. No one company is consistently good in delivering CX.
Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes – what are your tips on a successful digital transformation?
Embrace it but use human management and human touch to manage digital and AI.
What are some CX solutions or tools that you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
I rely on market research to understand the value we are creating for the customer versus competition. I avoid buzz words and look at the problems fundamentally. Many CX people do not understand the basics of CX, and why it is needed. They go after Customer Journey as if it is new, but it has been around for 50 years (it was called the Customers’ Waterfall of Needs), and so has Price Justification, now called Value Proposition.
Remember satisfaction is similar to CX and satisfaction does not lead necessarily to loyalty. AT&T proved this in the 80s, when they got high satisfaction scores but lost customers.
Did you read any interesting books this past summer that you’d like to recommend?
I suggest you read my books, Customer Value Starvation and How Creating Customer Value Can Make You a Great Executive.
What is your favourite CX metric?
Customer Value Added, which has a big component of CX. It compares the value added by your company to the value added by the competition. I am afraid for many people this is new, and CX people have to learn what really works. Otherwise they will waste their company’s time and money.