Past events

Custommerce India Chapter 5 Round-up

Does the past prepare us for the future?

Custommerce goes ‘back to basics’ for better customer centricity

Our past can give us quite a lot of lessons in customer service, believes Custommerce – India’s first and only national movement for customer centricity. In line with this thought, Custommerce hosted its fifth national chapter on customer centricity – Custommerce India Chapter 5 at The Leela Kempinski Kovalam Beach, Kerala, India, presenting a formidable line of speakers who challenged the regular thought process on customer service and satisfaction with thought provoking tracks built on the five forces of nature – fire, sky, earth, air, and water.

Custommerce India Chapter 5 draws inspiration from the 5 basic elements of nature in its quest to understand the uncanny parallel between their characteristics and basic requirements of customers’ expectations. The five tracks include:

  • Fire - Emulating the intensity of fire to forge strong bonds with customers
  • Sky - Creating an open and accessible culture for all customer interaction/ service needs of your customers
  • Earth - Providing an earth like, sustained, constant, foundation to customer service initiatives
  • Air - Building the all pervasive customer centricity DNA throughout the organization
  • Water - Bring innovation, fluidity and flexibility of water to redefine boundaries and processes that limit customer centricity

Dr. M. B. Athreya, Mentor and Chairman of the Custommerce board and Mr. K Balakrishnan, MD & CEO of Servion Global Solutions inaugurated the event which witnessed keen participation from over 100 senior executives from diverse verticals such as banking, BPOs and Call / Contact Centers, financial services, insurance, logistics, manufacturing, retail, travel and transport, telecom, government and utilities.

According to Dr. Athreya, "Organisations are forced to sweat the small stuff, especially the training for frontline staff who deal with customers on a regular basis. Very few do it voluntarily but when they see that if they don’t do it they lose market share and margins and there is a survival threat.”

Examining how Indian firms stack up when it comes to customer service, Dr. Athreya observed, "The country has generally been behind global practices in most fields. Small mom-and-pop stores in the country practice exemplary customer service. However, the large organisations get so mired in structure and bureaucratic practices that they lose focus. I am optimistic that good training never goes waste so today the seeds are being sown for a customer service movement.”

Internationally acclaimed thought leaders and speakers like Geet Sethi - 8 times world billiards champion, Sunny Rao - Managing Director Nuance India and South East Asia operations,
C. K. Venkataraman - COO, Tanishq, V. K. Madhav Mohan - Management Mentor, M. Mahadevan - restaurateur spoke on the importance of the customer and customer centricity as the core of any business. Mr. Shiva Subramaniam, one of the six trainers in the world for Edward de Bono’s Six Hats technique complemented the presentations with track interventions.

Geet Sethi drew a fitting parallel from the world of sports to illustrate what one can do in organizational life. James Wattana,
a former billiards world champion from Thailand, says Geet, constantly reined in his mind. “You need to rein in your mind even when the pressure is on, even though you heard disturbing news; you need to serve your customer. Concentration can improve with constant habit. That will define customer service from being a mediocre experience to a superlative one. The mind is a funny thing; it has a mind of its own and needs control by constant training. At the moment of truth you need to be there, all concentration, like you need to be when you are with a customer,” Geet elaborated.

For Geet it’s not so much passion for a task but an obsession,
“a burning desire” that will set firms apart. He explained giving the example of former badminton champion Prakash Padukone who trained with obsession and whose focus made him the world champion in the early ’80s.

Speaking in line with the 'Sky Track' - creating an open and accessible culture for all customer interactions, Sunny Rao, Managing Director, India & Asean, of Nuance firmly declared “that technology is not going to solve what you want to or need to do; you can get it wrong with all the hi-tech you have”! A point that Sunny drummed in was that customer service has to be open, inclusive and accessible. “It is value versus values – value of the commodity you sell and what values your organization stands for which will make the difference,” he emphasized. Quoting management guru C.K. Prahalad, who said “experience is the brand”, he said “customers have to believe that your people are competent and well informed and empowered to take decisions”. He outlined a few thumb rules: “get the right attitude; treat your customers as you want to be treated; innovate — don’t be mired in policy and procedure as many innovations come out of adaptation; nurture — act, listen and respond; guarantee — make it mean something to your customer. All this is tough, but you have got to do it.”

Talking in line with the 'Earth Track', C. K. Venkataraman, COO, Titan Jewellery drew out the essentials of business –“Never judge a customer by his attire or by looks, evangelize the importance of customer centricity with the staff. The frontline staff is the face of the company to customers, and mostly organizations miss the importance of this" he said. He also described the development of the 'Customer First' program at Titan.

V. K. Madhav Mohan, the Kochi-based management consultant, had some radical suggestions for companies to get more customer-centric. “Provide the customer a seat on the company’s Board. This will take the customer’s voice throughout the organization. The CEO plays the most important role in the customer-centricity of the organization; let the CEO’s perception rating / compensation be dependent on a third-party customer satisfaction audit.”

M. Mahadevan, Director, Oriental Cuisines Pvt Ltd and the final speaker at the event believed, “I’ve always judged my customers well; I followed the Indian immigration trail to the US and other countries and set up restaurants there which cater to their tastes”. Mr. Mahadevan further illustrated, “Give the customer what he wants; sell what the customer needs, not what you want to sell; accommodate the customer at any cost”. But in doing so, “keep your dignity intact”.

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