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CXBuzz Interview With Priya Hunt, Director of Customer Experience Design at Thames Water

Hi Priya, tell us about yourself, your background?

I head up customer experience design at Thames Water, leading a team to help improve customer experience, deliver brilliant digital experiences, and inclusive, insight-led customer journeys. Thames Water delivers life’s essential service so that its ~15m customers, communities, and environment in London and Thames Valley can thrive. I have been working in customer experience for several years, previously driving large organisational change programs including service transformations and strategic product launches in the Telecomms (BT) and Airline industry (British Airways) within the UK and globally. I have a real passion for people – customers and colleagues and believe that true change can be only delivered if you bring people along with you. As a result, I am also passionate about coaching and am a certified executive coach from Henley Business School and also doing another Master’s in coaching and behavioral change currently.

In order to truly understand customers, I feel it is really important to understand what inclusive service means and I am really proud to be the senior sponsor for Diversity and Inclusion in Thames. London is one of the most diverse cities I know and being aware and constantly working towards making sure everyone gets equal opportunities irrespective of any of their traits and characteristics is really important to me. I was born and brought up in India but with British Airways, I worked across Africa, Middle-East, Asia, and the Pacific region and therefore have been exposed to a variety of wonderful cultures and people and have always appreciated the beauty that diversity brings.

On a personal note, I am really fond of travel (which has been severely restricted by the pandemic, but one can dream), books (I read and write voraciously) and cooking.

Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?

The online commerce boom makes everyone savvier and rightly more demanding of digital customer experience. This data is really precious – in this world of agile development, it gives us the insights needed to identify what’s working, what is not, and being able to learn from each other, irrespective of industry. Finding a way to correlate all the data available – internal and external – would be a good challenge for brands. There is a lot of data out there – it’s essential that brands are able to identify what they should focus on and prioritise for the biggest benefits for their customers.

What is one element that must always be considered when working on a CXM (customer experience management) strategy?

People! And this includes both customers and colleagues. You can have a brilliant strategy that is very visionary but if it doesn’t consider the needs and enablers for frontline colleagues and other parts of the business that need to deliver this experience. Using David Rock’s SCARF model – it is important that we consider the following elements when thinking about people (both customers and colleagues). Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. If the strategy can consider all these points and make it easy for both customers and colleagues and deliver what customers want, then the strategy should definitely be in a good place to work effectively. Customer-centric organisations are made so because they have customer-centric, engaged employees.

Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so?

Absolutely. The digital world is getting increasingly personalized – so the capability is very much there. Correlating multiple data sources to be able to tailor what you offer to the customer is becoming technically easier and almost expected. However, data protection and making sure we are only doing this to benefit customers becomes paramount. All of us know how creepy it feels when you get tailored ads on one of your personal social media site if you have been googling it on another device altogether. Some of us have come to expect it now and as long as you have the ability to make a choice about whether or not to receive this personalisation (and be able to make that choice easily), I think it is ok. Data sharing to benefit customers is ok – but important that it doesn’t become intrusive or a sales pitch. With the pandemic, I think some data sharing will become the norm – e.g. vaccination status, test outcomes.

What are some of the ways companies can strive to eliminate the CX Gap?

· Listen to what customers want: This sounds obvious – but there is a point about analysis-paralysis and getting lost in the data. Really honing in on the top 3-4 things that customers consistently tell us and ruthlessly prioritizing those is critical. Also when you are interacting with a customer at 121 level, it is so very important to listen and understand what are they really talking about. If customers feel listened to every time they contact you, through any channel or touchpoint, you are very likely to be at the top end of the CX tables. Unfortunately, this is not easy to do – as much of the gap will indicate.

· Make it easy: This is about every touchpoint – internal or external. Make it easy for customers to report things, get updates and choose how they want to interact with you. And in order to do this, you may need a simple integrated back-end at your side. This is one bit

that frustrates me personally as we are striving to be better in this space for customers but we are not yet there as we have much internal engine-work to do before the change becomes apparent to customers. Making it easy for the customer means you are proactive, speedy, and give them the control to choose.

· Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good: One of my favorite mantras. In this world of agile technology, if you keep honing something to be perfect, you’d have been leap-frogged by someone else. Think of classic things like CD players and even Blue rays. In the world of multiple TV channels being available without any additional device, it is more important than ever to learn by doing and releasing things in the market. Of course, you have to make sure you’re happy enough to stand behind the quality of what you release and this saying is not an excuse for shoddy products.

· Make technology work for you and the customer – not the other way round: There is so much technology available to us – however, deploying this without having a clear vision of what the end-to-end customer journey feels like is a sure-fire technique to create a CX gap. Technology makes a great servant and a poor master

What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?

One of my colleagues gave me a book to read “The Customer Catalyst” by Chris Adlard and Daniel Bausor. I loved it – very easy to read with some great case studies and stories. And going a bit off piste, I am reading another book now that is fascinating. Robert Wright’s “Why Buddhism is True”. I am not reading it as a mystical book about ancient religions but more from the perspective of how can we live an enlightened life in a world so full of data, noise and clutter. Really interesting.

What are your predictions for trends in customer experience in the coming year?

I feel data-sharing for customer benefit is something that we will start seeing (especially related to Covid). Omni-channel customer experience is now an old phrase but I think a number of brands are still trying to make this work and the new order of the world should make this easier and more relevant this year. I think humanity should rise to the fore-front in the coming year. We have all been ravaged by the pandemic – so I predict that more and more brands will be thinking about how they can add public value, support communities and help customers who need more support. Finally, I think we are already living in a world where people compare everyone and everything to the best customer experience they have received, irrespective of industry. So, I predict that more companies will be investing in their customer experience which can only be a good thing.

Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?

Ah, there are so many but I am still sticking to Customer advocacy. If your customers are truly engaged with your brand, they will automatically carry you up to the top of the CX league tables. But another related metric, which we often don’t think of as a CX metric is how engaged are your people with your brand. So understanding internal and external customer advocacy and doing your best to improving both is the ticket for me.

About the author

Efrat Vulfsons
Efrat Vulfsons
Efrat Vulfsons is the CEO & Co-Founder of PR Soprano and the editor of CXBuzz parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance.


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