The Era of Frictionless CX

Satisfying a customer has never been easy. But in today's fast-changing business scenario, it seems to be a mammoth task

15 APR, 2020

Customers have always been demanding, and the new–age one is no different. In fact, the 'always–connected customer' wants personalised, frictionless experiences delivered to him at a break-neck speed. It is this idea of constant transformation that is proving to be an insurmountable challenge for companies trying to survive in today's complex business environment.

Driving customer loyalty is tougher because spoilt for choice and armed with information, today's customer will not settle for anything but the best. In a bid to understand how companies are strategising customer experience, The Economic Times and ServiceNow (an enterprise software company), organised a roundtable discussion in Bangalore attended by some key leaders from the industry. The panel was moderated by Alokesh Bhattacharyya, Senior Editor, ET.


  • Empowering employees, building a trust-based system

  • Breaking silos within organisations to achieve true benefit of technology

  • Being proactive and reaching out to customers when something goes wrong

  • Using technology to understand customer's behaviour patterns, pre-identify issues

  • Maintaining simple organisation structures for seamless customer experience

Understanding customer behaviour is a must before designing your CX strategy. While the North American customer will not tolerate even one mistake, his Chinese counterpart (if you have good relations with him) may be much more accommodating. Indians are a mixed bag; they will be forgiving but not for very long. “Indian customers are becoming increasingly demanding and will not stay with you if you don't give them a cost–effective and seamless experience,” said Rohit Chatter of Inmobi. In fact, companies such as Mphasis work on something called behavioral AI to study the user's behaviour pattern, whether expressed through emails or call centre conversations or social media posts. “We try to identify the big five personality traits that the user falls in. Based on that we can brief our sales or the first line how to deal with the customer,” said Jai Ganesh.

“Customers today are increasingly demanding better quality of services at a fast pace. So, most CFO's today are pushing their companies towards being automated rather than people-dependent”

Rohit Chatter, CTO, Unified Marketing Cloud-In-mobi

“Behind every B2B there is a C. invariably, all our business are B2B and there is a C at the end. The C can be an internal user or a customer at the end”

Jai Ganesh, Senior Vice President and the Head of NextLabs, Mphasis

“Tech is just an enabler. We apply tech in different departments, but those departments keep working in silos. You have to break these silos to achieve the real benefit of technology”

Arun Balasubramanian, Managing Director-India & SAARC, ServiceNow

“The sheer geographical diversity of India is a challenge. If you try to look at your digital design by the English-speaking crowd of the top six cities. It's not going to work. You have to look deeper”

Manu Sivarajan, UST Global

Sometimes, even the geographical diversity of the country is a problem. Because your customer in a metro is completely different from the one in a Tier II or a Tier III city. Organisational structure can be a problem too. “Companies today have very complex structures with a chief information officer, a chief digital officer, a chief analytics officer, a chief data officer, etc. The idea for a customer should be to be able to talk to the company,” said Manu Sivarajan, Center head, Bangalore, UST Global.

One thing that is revolutionising CX today is technology. But many a times the real benefit of technology is not realised as departments accessing it keep working in silos. “We deal with multiple verticals, so there are customers within customers who work in silos within the organisations. That really complicates things,” shared Bala Navuluri of Yash Technologies. Relevance of the technology for the customer is also important. The digital natives and the traditional players know they will get disrupted and want help in knowing what they are missing. “People tell us they know artificial intelligence and want to know how it can work for them. They want us to help them see beyond where they are,” said Narendra Bhandari of Persistent Systems. Tech is also enabling preventive detection of issues. “If you identify your common problem areas and refer back to the recommendations, bots can be deployed to fix them,” said Puneet Chaddah of Relevance Lab.

“Helping customers drive frictionless business is something we strive to do. The basic ting that is coming across is the need for speed. Customers are demanding faster, cheaper and better customer experience”

Puneet Chaddah, Director and Founder, Relevance Lab

“Being proactive and reaching out when you know something has gone wrong works best. Customers loyalty is earned when the leadership of the company shows up at the customer's desk to reach out”

Narendra Bhandari, Senior Vice President, Persistent Systems

“The traditional enterprises that we deal with want to speed up but use old systems. Since we are the service providers, we are expected to do magic and perform and implement things at a high pace”

Bala Navuluri, CEO, Yash Technologies

Traditional industries such as water is also adapting to the digital wave. With customers expecting companies to be available at their service 24/7, veterans such as Suez –– with a humongous client base –– are transforming. “How much we are able to transform ourselves by knowing physics, chemistry and mathematics will have to seen. But this transformation is essential for the world,” stated Girish Iyer.

“Today, the water industry is about high reliability and maximum availability. Customer want data on their fingertips, look at data analytics and do trouble-shooting. For that, we have to look at a digital revolution”

Girish Iyer, Director & Center Head-Suez InSource, Suez

“Advertising is very creative and people driven. It is highly service-oriented with crazy deadlines, so we try to productise what we do. That's where tech comes in and marketing can be converted in simple equations”

Vinod Nambiar, Co-Founder & MD, Position 2 Marketing

“We have a concept called 'well-wisher'. We know that SMEs are very chaotic and demanding and if a businessman is taking out time to call us for a software product, it must be very important”

Joyce Roy, Business Head, India, Tally Solutions

“We invest a lot in automation and technology to meet the demands of the customer and at the same time make business sense. People come in where the human touch is required”

Saurav Mukherjee. COO-North India Business, Central Service Delivery & Analytics, ACT

What happens when something goes wrong? What can be the best way to deal with it? Experts echoed that being proactive and reaching out when you know something has gone wrong works best. The idea should be to build a partnership, not a transactional relationship. Creating a knowledge management base that can be used across the globe can also be the way forward. “If a problem is raised in India and isn't resolved, someone in the US or UK may have an answer to that. Creating a knowledge management process where you can pool your rich experience across the board and are able to resolve customer issues will be the true use of the digital revolution,” said Iyer.

“Our biggest challenge is to build a trust-based system. We are trying to achieve that by empowering the person on the field to take decisions by building certain boundaries around him”

Anand Ramakrishnan, CEO, MFX

“Tickets raised in the pharma sector are not random, there is lot of context to them. We try to unlock the content, map it to some of the standard responsible that are pre-approved, and respond in a shorter time"

Sharanjit Singh, Director-Strategic Solutions, Indegene

“Today's customer wants to feel empowered and take empowered decisions. And, from our experience we believe that business”

Pankaj Bajaj, Product Line Sales manager-CSM, ServiceNow

The panel agreed that data and tech can play a big role in CX but they can't replace the human touch or gesture. For companies to excel in CX, just assigning a team to that won't help. It has to be deeply engrained in the company. Each and every employee should know how their work impacts customers. It's only then that the road to frictionless CX would become easy.

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