Hi Kheara, tell us about yourself and your background.
I am an overly energetic and enthusiastic individual, that thrives in a position that has an unusual blend of data analytics, creativity, and engagement with people. My current role at Fairtree as a Client Experience (CX) Manager ticks all those boxes for me which is just wonderful. However, much like client-journey mapping, I had a journey of my own arriving to this place, that I so enjoy. I have a Bachelor of Commerce Honours Degree in Corporate Finance and Investment from the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), a Master’s in Business Administration Essentials from London School of Political and Economic Sciences (United Kingdom), and will begin further studies next year (2022) in Customer Experience Innovation from Northwestern (United States).
How did you start working in the customer experience space?
I started my career in the financial services industry at Allan Gray, a company known for leader board client servicing in the asset management space for South Africa. My starting role was what some would refer to as ‘the trenches’; I prefer to call it the ‘heartbeat’ of the business – the client servicing department. Hours and hours of calls and emails, day-in and out. Closing cases, dealing with a vast spread of client scenarios and experiences. As time passed, certain trends became apparent, and business needs and opportunities to enhance client experience revealed themselves. I had the privilege of having the liberty to explore and implement various initiatives. I was a part of the Service Quality Ambassador team to assist in difficult client engagements, phone calls and emails. I was also tasked with maintaining and building tools, like calculation and projection tools, with the Product Development team which empowered both company consultants to help clients during engagement as well as clients themselves through website interactions. Later, I moved to become a Management Information Systems (MIS) Specialist running dashboards and data analytics to access companywide internal and external errors which directly affected client experience. This enabled us to identify pain points and better streamline systems, servicing, and processes. All of which had the client experience and journey as the focal point.
Can you tell us a little bit about your current role?
I am a CX Manager for Fairtree. Which basically assesses a client experience with the brand along all touch points of a client’s journey. This would range from brand ‘discovery’ (how potential clients find Fairtree through various digital channels and campaigns), then ‘explore’ Fairtree (looking at value offering, solutions, empowering educational content, etc.), to ‘evaluating’ Fairtree (product finders, ease of access to information, etc.) and lastly ‘deciding’ Fairtree (ease-of-business, ability to transact, transparency, clear processes & systems, and most importantly, friendly and helpful client servicing).
How can companies better listen and understand their customer base?
There are many things but most importantly I would say: Stay close to the client servicing team; they are the heartbeat of the business. They are the front line, your eyes and ears on the ground. Data speaks for itself, of course, it can show you through Business Intelligence tools where issues and gaps are. However, the client servicing team can tell you how to solve/close that issue/gap. Invest in your client servicing team; their needs, mental health, work-life balance. If your team is content, they will want to give clients the best service, take note of client needs/complaints and submit suggestions to do something about it. There is a whole host of things one can implement to make your team’s life easier (automation, tools, processes, systems, etc.).
On the numbers front, having website, social media and other digital channel analytics is also really helpful. Certain industries are thick with jargon, something that confuses clients sometimes. Often what we may think is simple to navigate/find could be covered in so much jargon for someone else. Through analytics tools, it helps you refine where you are lacking in ability to meet their need or not speaking their language. You get to see what people are looking for, where they click to try find it, if a pop-up irritated them and they left, if your website is too confusing.
Clients are always speaking; the question is are we REALLY listening?
What are some companies that you think are doing an excellent job at customer experience, and why?
I would say companies that have invested in digital transformation, without losing that human touch. Definitely a hybrid model, some say we are going ‘robo-everything’. I disagree, people are relational. I think the golden balance is having system automation doing the heavy admin lifting, to free up time for consultants to invest in client relationships. Companies really getting this right would be ones that have designed interfaces that invite process automation, are easy to use and simple.
Many companies are currently undergoing digital transformation processes – what are your tips on a successful digital transformation?
Implementing quickly is imperative, however moving too quickly can be counterproductive and expensive. As you tap into the digital world of endless possibility it gets exciting. You can start to imagine all these amazing ways that you are going to communicate and connect with your clients, build digital strategies, and refine the process flows of your business. So, beware of the rabbit hole and take one step at a time. Making sure that you are heading in the right direction is imperative. Otherwise, you are running very fast but nowhere valuable.
I’ve unfortunately seen some companies spend millions on a ‘smart’ idea that looks like it would add tons of value to a client, but because the person designing the idea isn’t really client facing, there is a big disconnect between what they ‘think’ a client wants/ needs and what they ‘actually’ need. The development team cannot be disconnected from ‘client design’ thinking.
Also, not biting off more than you can chew is important. Deciding on what you do really well as a business and harnessing in on that. You eat an elephant one bite at a time, take each bite and be excellent at it – otherwise rather don’t pick it up. If you need to outsource certain sections of your business as you build toward the end-goal, then do that.
Digital transformation is a lot of change management for internal staff to adjust to. During times of shift and change, prioritize team buildings and strategy sessions. Make a point of ensuring everyone comes along on the journey and embraces all the changes. People respond to change differently; there is room for everyone. Some may be hesitant (listen to their concerns, it could save you a lot of money and time), some may be extremely excited (allow them to champion things and take responsibility, they are often contagious).
So, in summary:
- Beware of the rabbit hole – make sure it’s really a client need;
- Decide what you do best – outsource the rest for now;
- Change Management – bring people with you.
What are some CX solutions or tools that you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
System automation for ease of business. Artificial Intelligence (AI) for client assist and personalized servicing, gamification, and goal tracking. Also, dynamic infographics and interactive reporting tools which display data in visually pleasing and simplified ways to clients.
Did you read any interesting books this past summer that you’d like to recommend?
I’m more of a video, webinar and short-course media consumer. There truly is a world of incredible skill and knowledge out there. I find myself listening to people’s stories, the do’s and don’ts, scenario building and great educational material from well-esteemed business strategists. My mother always used to say; “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason”. So, over the years I have tried to master the art of listening. I truly enjoy just hearing people and their stories, I learn a lot.