Hi Neil, tell us about yourself, your background?
Armed with my degrees in Physics, Production Technology, and Manufacturing Management, I entered the corporate world in the 90’s aspiring for a career in manufacturing. Little did I know that I will spend a substantial part of my professional life in banks and financial institutions, fixing their processes, improving quality, productivity, and customer experience.
My last formal employment was with HSBC – India as SVP & Head of Business Transformation and Customer Experience. For the past decade or so, I have been helping and guiding various enterprises across sectors such as manufacturing, telecom, banking, shipping, O&G, consulting, edutech, e-commerce, etc., to refine their customer experience practices and to instill data & fact-driven leadership.
Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience?
NLP, NLP NLP! There is plenty of data, and there are plenty of simple tools in Natural Language Processing to extract sentiments, key expressions, keywords, strengths, weaknesses, etc. With these, we can easily identify improvement areas and refine the entire value proposition of the product or service. It is also possible to use this information to recreate the customer journey to provide personalization strategies.
Neil’s tips for personalization
What tips do you have for companies that want to improve their personalization strategies?
Personalization strategies for e-commerce today are largely driven by recommendation engines. Usually, recommendation engines work with sparse matrix data, and hence many times, it produces inconsistent & awkward recommendations. For example, when you buy a rope, a footstool is recommended :-)How many times have you walked into a shop and ended up buying things that you did not intend to purchase?
Personalization has not so much to do with ‘Accuracy.’ In fact, it is to do with ‘Effectiveness,’ i.e., how can you support the lifestyle of your customer. And that is only possible through deeper & continuous refinement of our understanding of customer personas. Who exactly are our customers?
The good news is that using the customer reviews, abandonment data, and browsing patterns, purchase data, etc., customer personas are refined, needless to mention the importance of primary customer research. Then technologies such as ‘adaptive navigation’ can automatically personalize websites based on a user’s browsing pattern.
Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so?
Pandemic fueled rapid growth in eCommerce. Now we have over 2 billion people in the world using e-commerce; understandably, many are first-time users. Similarly, eCommerce companies have seen unprecedented growth for which their supply chain, sourcing, last-mile delivery, and customer support were geared up.
Delayed deliveries, charging extra for delivery, broken return and refund process, lack of sufficient seller screening, in-sufficient customer support touchpoints, poor empathy for customers in distress, transaction security, and customer privacy have all been roadblocks Customer Centricity among e-commerce companies. Giants like Amazon do have the resources to react and respond during a situation like the pandemic, but many small & mid-size brands couldn’t.
Those who recognize this need to fix these processes and with priority will not bleed on customer service and social media marketing costs, eventually challenging their existence.
Social media pages have become crucial for companies in most industries, especially in eCommerce. What’s the most common mistake you see in a company’s social media strategy?
To bluntly put it, as of now, many are overdoing it. There are many social media platforms today. For small and medium businesses, it is not possible to maintain all of them. So companies need to prioritize one or two social media platforms based on their target segments and stay focused on those. Data suggests that a revenue lift of 30% is easily possible with a well-maintained and current social media page. Isn’t that a good business proposition?
GenZ and Millennials’ fashion and apparel purchase decisions are strongly driven by social recommendations obtained through social media browsing.
So a comprehensive social media strategy should also include timely management of reviews, real-time social data mining, etc., far beyond managing a nice social media page with attractive offers!
What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020?
I read an interesting book on a lighter topic, not directly related to CX –
The Little Book of Contentment – zen habits by Leo Babauta
I’m not going to say much about it. But I would recommend you read it yourself. It has good lessons for building the right frame of mind in the current scenario.
It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future. How should Executives gear up to the changing times?
Though the current scenario forced us into a new mode of working, I feel this change is here to stay, not just because of the pandemic, but because of reasons such as cost, flexibility, agility for both employees and businesses. This has set off a race in terms of the adoption of digital technologies. To this means, both organizational capability and individual skills levels will have to be constantly assessed and improved to stay current and relevant. I know some who moved jobs during the pandemic and haven’t met any of their colleagues in person for 10 months now. So the ability to build e-rapport, e-interpersonal skills, e-influencing skills, e-change management will be a game-changer for executives.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
I always use Customer Churn or Customer Retention % as an ultimate metric of CX. How many customers come back to your website or app to make a purchase gives a very good measure of customer loyalty and your quality of services. And its actual metric or a score coming out of a survey. Once organizations achieve consistent retention scores, penetration in terms of cross-selling, up-sell % is a useful metric.