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BW Businessworld

Indian Brands Need To Look Beyond Customer Satisfaction

BW Businessworld organised a roundtable with industry experts discussing on the revenue growth as a factor driving the push towards customer experience

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BW Businessworld organized a roundtable discussion inviting a select few heads of marketing and the brightest minds from diverse businesses to understand Revenue growth as a factor driving the push towards Customer experience. Sangram Aglave, Contributing Editor, BW Businessworld moderated the discussion.

We are already in the age of the customer and it’s here to stay till the internet remains truly secular. India is still a vastly unpenetrated market for several brands. Marketers know there is nothing benign about the pervasiveness of telecommunications and consumer internet. The age of the customer is characterized by accessibility at one’s fingertips and consumer choice. How can Marketing leverage Information Technology to acquire new ground and customers? How does the Customer experience spend to look like across diverse industries? What can the returns from the investments into Customer experience look like? These were just some of the questions that came up at the Roundtable. Some of the key takeaways are as follows

Extending the Customer Journey
All businesses exist to fulfil customer needs. Needs could be basic or discretionary or they could be known or unknown needs. Marketers understand the importance of being present wherever the customers start their journey. Susmita Nag, Head – Marketing, Fenesta said “Windows and Doors have a very long life and the market is largely a commodity market with very few brands. Fenesta is making a difference in this category by supporting the customer throughout their journey through an end to end solution from prospecting to after sales service.” Nomit Joshi, Head – Marketing at Gionee India said: “Customer journey can end if the customer wants to upgrade to a segment that you don’t have on your catalogue”. Swati Bhattacharya, Chief Marketing and Communications officer, CK Birla Group put across the same point in a more effective way and said “Sometimes customers don’t know what they want. Continuous value addition requires companies to think on behalf of their customers. We found that the ceiling fans market had got commoditized with barely any differentiation. Therefore, Orient Electric decided to break the monotony and create differentiation in our offerings. We brought to market a new range of ceiling fans called the Aero series that are silent and look premium giving us a 40% market share in the premium segment” Sumit Sharma, COO, Lacoste India said “customer experience is a mindset and should manifest itself across the board right from the product design phase to say in-store experience.” Rajiv Bakshi, CMO - Intex Technologies said “Customer expectations change with time. Brands need to match those expectations in today’s world and that is a significant leading indicator of the duration of the customer journey.” Vivek Mehra, Chief Digital officer, Altudo said “having a vision helps in knowing how deep you wish to go in delivering customer experiences. The relationship between Customer experience and Revenue growth is often limited by the vision and current context of the organization.” It is in the interest of marketing to not let the customer journey end. At the same time, we see marketers with a tendency to compress the transaction time at the zero moments of truth. Becoming part of Customer’s life and compressing the transaction time’s increases the likelihood of winning customer’s for life.

Personalization at Scale
Personalization is key in delivering Customer experiences and business have always known this fact. Personalization itself is not a challenge, personalization at scale is. Businesses are looking towards Consumer internet technologies to embed speed of thought personalization into Customer experiences.  Pankaj Raj, Co-Founder and Director, Search Value said: "If a customer walks into a coffee shop and always orders a certain type of coffee; a barista at the other end already pre-empting his choice with a smile can work wonders in personalized customer care”. He further added, “doing this in case of one customer is possible but how does one enable achieving the same in case of tens of thousands of customers is the actual game.” Kunal Arora, AVP – Marketing, Aviva life Insurance said: “‘ask it never’ is an Aviva Life Insurance initiative to eliminate repetitive paperwork and thus speeding up transactions for customers who have already submitted their information with the company once upon a time”. Rajiv Bobal, Director – Sales & Marketing, MMBPPL- Revlon said: “margin sensitive businesses are curious to know about the impact of the IT spend by marketing on the bottom-line of the company”.

Online to Offline experience
The online and Offline process is a widely used business vernacular in India. Semantics shift and change with time. What qualifies to be called ‘offline’ in a country like India with a pervasive consumer internet is a relevant question to pursue. How does omnichannel impact the offline point of sale experiences is another significant question. The secular trend of omnichannel is moving everything online; including aspects of the business that was primarily offline. Himanshu Khanna, Country Head, Sitecore said “Online to Offline experience is the biggest gap organizations face today. Offline (Human) experiences have a tendency to break and cracks might appear, where most times online experiences are consistent. The journey towards bridging the gap is long, but this is what we are trying to address as a Technology company”.

Asking the “Why” question
Rudyard Kipling in one of his poems and now way over 100 years ago conveyed the importance of questions in conducting our life and business. He said there are six honest serving men and they have taught me all I knew, and their names are What, and Where and When and Why and How and Who. Karan Kumar, Chief Brand & Marketing Officer, Fabindia alluded to the same when he said “organizations have a lot of ‘What’ data today. We know what was bought and in what quantity and at what time of the year.” He stressed the importance of the ‘Why’ question and said: “it is very important to know why consumers behave the way they do and that is a data gap we find everywhere”. The marketing community is split on pursuing the ‘Why’ question; the most common reasons being it’s too costly an approach and secondly, the ‘uplift’ in the top line in the short term is not guaranteed. Understanding the customer mindset through the ‘Why’ question has a lot of latent potential in delivering value over the long term.

Customer Satisfaction Vs Customer Experience
It is easier to translate memorable experience into loyalty than through another intangible measure on a typical customer survey. Not all Customer satisfaction surveys can overcome the limitations of normalizing the scale of measurement as perceptions about satisfaction change from person to person. Customer Satisfaction is what Indian businesses have focused to date, but such data points have rarely been able to bring in a paradigm shift. The likelihood of switching brands in case of your most satisfied customer and the least satisfied customer remains the same. Rajiv Bakshi CMO - Intex Technologies said “Customer satisfaction should become one of the metrics rolling up to the Customer experience. Customer Experience and not customer satisfaction should be the end goal” He further added “Customers are ready to pay more for a better experience. It is the business that is not ready to deliver good experiences on a consistent basis.” He further added that “Customer experience cannot be a department. It is everybody’s business.”

Acquisition heavy Vs Retention heavy
Marketing strategies can either be an acquisition or retention heavy. We find that the focus on acquisition Vs retention would change from market to market. Vikramjit Singh, President, LemonTree Hotels said “in the hotel industry a new customer is always a high paying customer viz a viz a regular customer” Kunal Arora added “it depends on the market and the company that you are. If you have a 70% market share then of course retention is important. If it’s a high-value product then again retention is important over the acquisition.” Vivek Mehra “some Digital marketing tactics cut across acquisition and retention for e.g. influencer marketing is equally relevant in retention as it's in acquiring new customers.”

Unified Digital Experience platform
Experiences matter to people and therefore some organizations are realizing the value of converging the experiences of all internal and external business constituents onto a single digital experience platform. Prashant Mishra, Director – IT, Aon added “there is a strong correlation between revenue growth and employee experience. Creating a digital ecosystem that would allow internal customers to become more efficient as that will inflect superior business outcomes.”  Annie Mathew, CIO, Mother Dairy said “we have a big network of concessionaires and distributors and the large number of them interface with the end consumer. Each constituent of the supply chain can feel aspirational about having a digitally enriched and enhanced experience. Currently, there is a focus on leveraging data and building direct connect with the end consumer through digital opportunities.” Therefore, it looks like the terms B2B and B2C are not relevant anymore. Its all about people to people and should then there be an omnibus digital experience platform is a good question to ponder upon.

Organizations should not be too cautious about digital missteps as they will eventually succeed in the long term. Marketers should work towards creating ‘Marketing capital’ as a non-GAAP metric that goes along with the balance sheet. Marketing is not a Profit and loss item but is by nature closer to the human resources metaphor of ‘Human Capital’. Customer experience is a broad topic and we could argue that not all initiatives require digital capabilities. The proof is in time whether Digital capability becomes the only existential dimension to the Customer experience. It is in the interest of the business owner to digitize any remaining offline parts of their business and truly becoming an ‘online’ business. The digital capability is not a sufficient condition but a necessary business resource for business growth.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Sangram Aglave

Sangram Aglave brings a unique perspective on topics related to Enterprise IT Applications given his diverse professional experience in all functions of the Enterprise IT Applications business like Sales, Product & content marketing , Project management & Software product management. He is a ex-Oracle Business Analytics product manager and has worked at various silicon valley based product startups.

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