The challenges you face and the skills that you need while improving the experience of your customers.

An interview with experts on African Customer Experience management.

 

The Fleming team sits down with Grace Sikapokoo  (Chief Customer Officer | AIG, South Africa), Agnes Nalwanga  (Head of Customer Service | Umeme Limited, Uganda) and Taryn Morris  (Head of Customer Service SSA | Uber, South Africa) to discuss:
 
1> What are the 3 main challenges faced while delivering personalized customer service for today's customers?
2> What are the top 3 skills a next generation customer experience professional needs?
3> How can the importance of customer experience management be emphasized as a critical part of a business plan?

  • Grace Sikapokoo
  • Chief Customer Officer
  • AIG, South Africa

What are the 3 main challenges faced while delivering personalized customer service for today's customers?

I think there are many challenges that organizations face when they have to deliver personalized customer service; however, I believe there are 2 main key challenges: the first is to define what personalized customer service is and define it for every touch point, and the second is to actually deliver on it. This is where the organizational culture is extremely important because the environment needs to really enable the people in the organization to implement and deliver on the desired and designed customer experience. Data is another challenge that comes to mind, especially when I see the word ‘personalized’ because personalization comes only by understanding your customers and knowing what their preferences are – essentially understanding your customer personas.

What are the top 3 skills a next generation customer experience professional needs?

In this era, a CX professional needs to be adaptable, flexible, influential and probably one of the most important attributes would be to be patient. Achieving customer centricity in an organization takes time and cannot happen overnight; it takes intentional activities and support from leadership, including an enabling environment to inculcate such a culture. If your environment is not enabling, you need to develop a plan to get the environment to that level.

How can the importance of customer experience management be emphasized as a critical part of a business plan?

How can the importance of customer experience management be raised as a critical part of a business plan? As a CX professional, you need to show the link of CX-related initiatives to revenue or cost reduction, and this can only be done through real examples from the business. So one of the things I do is to try and use small wins as case studies, because once 1 or 2 members of the leadership understands this process and the value it brings, they become your sponsors to drive the message home. It also helps when the customer function is driven by the CEO or even the CFO. When this happens, driving the importance of what customer experience is becomes a bit easier. The essence of what I am trying to say is that CX professionals need to show how CX initiatives link to revenue or cost reduction and the language they use is very important as well – and that needs to be in C-Suite speak, not CX speak. So no ‘NPS improvements,’ but rather ‘this led to a decrease in costs’ …

  • Agnes Nalwanga
  • Head Of Customer Service
  • Umeme Limited, Uganda

What are the 3 main challenges faced while delivering personalized customer service for today's customers?

Personalized Customer Service is all about giving individualized service to our customers. It's service tailored to the individual customer’s needs, and it refers to treating each customer like an independent individual. Therefore, Personalized Customer Service is more than merely satisfying a customer’s needs.

Personalized Customer Service makes a business stand out, creates loyalty and reduces churn while improving customer perception and consequently the bottom line.

How to offer Personalized Customer Service:

  1. Show your human side in order to offer humane service; use the customer’s name and your own, show your face, smile and make eye contact and implement loyalty programs.
  2. Know your customer history and understand your customer; use CRM solutions, integrate systems – offer omni channel and multi channel service
  3. Use business analytics - collect and share Customer data.
  4. Solicit feedback about your personalized service.

Challenges to Personalized Customer Service

  • Personalized customer service means making the effort of tailoring service to a customer’s specific expectations and underlying aspirations. Delivering personalized customer service means adding a familiar, human touch to every interaction. This in itself is a challenge, especially as businesses get bigger and bigger!
  • While the increased number of communication channels provides more flexibility, they can also prove to be one of the challenges to personalized customer service. This is because customers expect individual attention in every interaction, like messages customized specially for them, and they expect all this across all channels too. Unless a company had dedicated teams for every channel, managing the customer expectations of personalization would be a challenge every single day.
  • Personalized customer service is the result of the conjunction of people, processes, and technology blended well to bring about great experiences. Hence, improper usage of technology by people within the set processes of the company will lead to customer dissatisfaction arising out of impersonalized treatment.
  • As we know, customers are now more impatient and demanding (evolving) – they refuse to settle for anything but the best, and we are not talking about products or services alone. For every interaction and experience they have with a company, they expect a personal and emotional connection. However, as companies grow, their customer base and the associated information grows with them, and managing the huge repository of data becomes extremely hard.  This is when companies face serious challenges in providing personalized customer service – they seem completely inept at providing it as they get drowned in the sea of customer data.

Despite challenges to personalized customer service, the fact is that this is one of the best ways for a company to build and sustain deep and meaningful relationships with their customers.

What are the top 3 skills a next generation customer experience professional needs?

Customer Experience is how customers perceive their interaction with a business. In all fairness, Customer Experience should be measured or graded by the customers and not the business. Customer Experience is not just a support operation for a modern business. It’s a key business department that can shape your brand image, improve customer perception, help you increase customer loyalty and consequently improve the bottom line. Every interaction with our customers is a chance for us to “WOW” them, and have them not only stick around as long-term clients, but also recommend more people to our business. Developing the requisite customer service skills can grow one from being a good customer experience professional to a great one, and will go a long way in helping to deliver unforgettable customer experiences. Any customer experience professional requires both soft and hard customer experience skills to deliver exceptional service.

  1. Empathy
  2. Patience
  3. Communication - listening more than speaking
  4. Product/service knowledge
  5. Personalization
  6. Effective time management, decisiveness and diplomacy
  7. Goal driven and solution finding

The top four challenges facing CX professionals are organizational culture, organizational structure, organizational processes, and resourcing.

How can the importance of the procurement function be improved as a critical part of a business plan?

1. Make it one of the business values, business pillars and/or business WIGS
2. Business leadership must be customer centric to drive the idea across the business – as role models
3. Create a service culture across the business
4. Create a vision, set the direction to drive a CX culture
5. Engage, focus and inspire the entire organization – leadership should talk the talk and walk the walk
6. Prioritize CX and commit resources accordingly

  • Taryn Morris
  • Head of Customer Service SSA
  • Uber, South Africa

What are the 3 main challenges faced while delivering personalized customer service for today's customers?

• Cost 
• Scalability
• Consistency

What are the top 3 skills that a next-generation procurement professional needs?

• Storytelling - turning data into actionable insights
• Integration with Ops and Product teams - need to have strong product knowledge and close relationships enabling CX to work closely with other teams and not in silos
• Customer Centricity - Exceptional listening skills and empathy

How can the importance of the procurement function be improved as a critical part of a business plan?

I think most importantly here is highlighting the cost of support, and especially bad support. As the ops team starts receiving more insights into their business from the CX team, this highlights both the issues that caused the need for the customer to contact support in the first place as well as what needs fixing – both strong support as well as less need for support in the first place will help a business to drive growth, improve brand loyalty and strengthen competitive advantage.