This year as we in India shrug-off the dampening effects of the pandemic, we head into the festive season with cautious optimism. Festivals are anyway a time to refresh and recharge and this optimism stems from reliable forecasts, which suggest that consumers will be more apt to loosen their purse strings this time around. Industry of course looks forward to riding on the crest of this positive demand. Significantly, the seemingly unrewarding toil and effort of the last year where companies revisited and re-engineered their processes now looks to pay rich dividends.
Rewinding to mid-2020 and amidst the haze of uncertainly, which prevailed, companies were forced to evaluate from very limited options. Figuratively speaking they drew a deep breath and plunged into creating structure with no historical data to guide them by simply falling back on the basic building blocks—process and policy, people or technology and hoping for the best.
As a CX practitioner and industry observer, it was particularly heartening to observe that across the board these initiatives started with the aim of making things better for their customers. Thus solutions, strategies, investments and programs actually prioritised the customers’ needs first while momentarily setting aside typical preoccupations with growth and profitability. Here the term ‘customer’ encompassed not just the retail consumer or, the institutional buyer but also other B2B entities for instance wholesalers, retailers, distributors etc. Therefore, by sharply navigating away from all things physical and focussing attention, effort and resources into servicing customers virtually, numerous digital programs that were gathering moth-balls now got a serious shakeout.
A year or so down the road those seemingly disparate acts now look to be either working for those companies or, are providing them with a strong launch pad. In fact, some have reported that these initiatives reaped early benefits in the second phase itself. Others are now encouraged to continue and build on those investments. Notably, this adoption of a customer lens was operationalised at two levels; that which was visible and directly experienced by the customer and, that which improved CX indirectly- as here the direct positive effects were experienced by various channel intermediaries or the workforce. The latter make up the back bone of organisations.
This quick tour enables us to pick up a few examples where the three delivery pillars of people, process and technology and systems worked to deliver better CX.
It was common knowledge that while pharma and select essential products were exempt from the lockdown, they too struggled with a myriad of problems hindered by the lack of physical access. One quick win pursued by multiple FMCG to FMCD marketers was to either open up or strengthen their D2C (direct to customer) channel. Action was initiated across the board right from companies such as ITC, Tata consumer products, Marico on one hand to durable companies like Crompton Greaves, Apollo Tyres, LG, Samsung, Whirlpool.
Demonstrating caution, many of the D2C moves (executed through the website or app) were undertaken in a calibrated manner; in early phases only some of the portfolio was available online with expansion following only after reaching satisfactory outcomes. Interestingly, jewellers and high-value fashion products like Bhima or Tanishq were pleasantly surprised at the customer receptiveness to the online medium underscoring that, smart use of technology can overcome hitherto insurmountable mind-blocks.
Similarly, existing ecommerce players like Nykaa or Purplle worked on online visibility and further improving user experiences. This included investing in the frictionless experience throughout the explore-enquiry-purchase-pay-deliver loop. Many of these players worked on ironing out supply and warehouse glitches by integrating diverse features such as virtual mirrors, co-browsing, video-calling, pre-booking slots or even click-to-collect functionalities all which enhanced customers’ need for convenience and safety at these touchpoints.
At the other end of the spectrum, logistics companies e.g., established players like DHL innovated on the vexed need to provide documents at the time of delivery acceptance. With a simple OTP, multiple problems were solved obviating the need for physical contact, eliminating customer pain, ensuringstaff safety while simultaneously reducing the carbon footprint.
Looking further, encouraging learnings also came from organisations who worked to setup a robust and transparent communication between centralised operations, channel partners and their remote salesforce. Mindful of how communication is essential to build transparency, strengthen business continuity and business performance, technology teams worked in tandem with cross-functional stakeholders to build that bridge.
Delivered through an app or website by providing direct information access to say employees, dealers or even wholesalers it strengthened pipeline visibility. This translated to improved decision making and better governance. Whether it is companies like Pidilite noted for their wide range of industrial products or large pharma players like Abbott or Sun Pharma, tech companies like Cisco and Bosch or even speciality companies like J&J medical devices, improved visibility for channel partners meant that the staff who typically managed them could be on top of the situation. Coupled with better salesperson productivity, revenue increases also followed.
Interestingly, low adoption and mindset hesitancy –hangovers from the pre-Covid era-were dramatically reduced with the workforce now making a more palpable effort to adapt to and adopt these new practices. With semi-normalcy knocking on the door, change is irreversible as companies across the spectrum plan to aggressively invest in these digital solutions. Exciting times lie ahead even though only history will later judge if the initiatives today have successfully laid the foundation of a new world order. Welcome to New!