How to Navigate the Dynamic Landscape of Customer Experience

By: Lolitta Suffian, Vice President, Group Customer Experience, Telekom Malaysia | Thursday, 23 May 2024

Lolitta Suffian has over two decades of experience in the CX industry and holds 11 logos under her name. She has extensive experience, working with various companies such as CIM Bank in Malaysia, Uber and Grab in the Asia-Pacific region. Lolitta started the CX Team in Malaysia's pioneering FinTech card, BigPay in their early stage of set up.

In a recent interaction with the Global Woman Leader Magazine, Lolitta talks about leveraging data for sustainable CX as well as CX strategies and omnichannel integration. She also sheds light on the Malaysian Market and ESG trends. Read the conversation to know more.

The landscape of CX and sustainability is dynamic and is in the stage of continual evolution. How are businesses capable of harmonizing their activities including human agents and the use of a variety of channels to create seamless, efficient, and personalized customer journeys across multiple interaction points?

Businesses can effectively harmonize activities across human agents, all channels, and various interaction points by commencing with customer journey mapping. This entails understanding the journey from the customer's perspective, mapping potential touchpoints, spanning from initial awareness to post-purchase support, and even the process of seeking support. It's crucial to identify opportunities to streamline processes, eliminate friction, and personalize interactions at each stage. My team rigorously undertakes this endeavor, categorizing it into the join journey, stay journey, usage journey, engage journey, and leave journey. We then analyze this end-to-end journey using data across the organizationto drive improvements and enhancements.

Following customer journey mapping, the next step is to delve into omnichannel integration. This involves breaking down silos between departments to ensure consistent information and experiences across all channels. This includes websites, company apps, social media, phone, and email. Investing in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system can facilitate this by unifying customer data for a holistic view. Regardless of whether customers interact via the call center, chat with an agent, or visit retail stores, their experience should be seamless. Omnichannel integration ensures that everyone within the company speaks the same language and can support customers across all touchpoints.

With the current buzz around AI, leveraging it to personalize interactions and anticipate customer needs is essential. For instance, utilizing chatbots for basic inquiries can free up human agents for more complex issues, particularly those involving customer emotions. However, it's vital not to overlook the human touch. While bots may be popular, human-to-human interaction remains significant. Therefore, empowering human agents with adaptability and comprehensive knowledge across all channels is key. They should be equipped to efficiently resolve complex issues while providing a personalized touch.

Furthermore, establishing feedback loops and focusing on continuous improvement is paramount. Actively soliciting feedback from customers through surveys and reviews enables businesses to identify areas for enhancement and refine their CX strategy accordingly. This iterative approach not only contributes to sustainability by reducing rework and wasted resources but also enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty. Retaining loyal customers is more cost-effective than constantly acquiring new ones, considering the expenses associated with customer acquisition. Data-driven decision-making plays a pivotal role in understanding customer needs and tailoring products and services accordingly, thereby minimizing waste and unnecessary production. In summary, by harmonizing these activities, businesses can significantly impact both CX and sustainability, fostering long-term customer loyalty and gaining a competitive edge.

As Asian businesses work on CX strategies, integrating data could pose what problems? How can predictive analytics contribute to the solution the stated problems associated with the customer experience from the inside out?

Data is crucial for effective CX strategies. Integrating it into Asian businesses presents unique challenges. Number one, data silos and legacy systems. Many Asian businesses operate with legacy systems from the 70s and 80s, which are not designed for easy data sharing. Information might be fragmented across departments such as marketing, sales, and customer service, making it difficult to get a holistic view of the customer. Data privacy concerns also vary from country to country.

Businesses must navigate complex regulations based on the country they operate in, ensuring customer trust through transparent data collection and usage. In Malaysia, where I currently reside, language barriers are prevalent. The multilingual nature of our Asian hub poses a challenge in data collection and analysis, requiring businesses to consider language variations and ensure accurate translation. Cultural differences also play a significant role, with customer preferences and communication styles varying across Asian cultures. A one-size-fits-all approach to data analysis won't suffice, requiring businesses to be culturally sensitive. Predictive analytics offers a powerful tool to improve CX by creating a unified customer view, understanding individual needs and preferences for more personalized experiences.

Secondly, businesses can proactively enhance customer service using predictive analytics to identify potential issues before they arise. With this foresight, businesses can reach out to customers preemptively, preventing problems and increasing satisfaction. Let me provide an example from TM, the company I'm currently with, where we employ Proactive CX. We offer broadband and Wi-Fi services.

As mentioned earlier, our NOC center monitors our network for service issues. For instance, if network service is at 100% but gradually drops to 95%, 90%, or 80%, we predict potential upload or buffering issues. Instead of waiting for customers to report problems, we proactively notify them, informing them of potential internet connection issues and our efforts to resolved them within a certain timeframe. This approach is particularly beneficial in the current hybrid working environment, where many people work from home. By receiving such notifications, customers can adjust their plans, perhaps resorting to mobile for meetings until the issue is resolved. This proactive communication reduces the need for customers to contact us and ensures they are informed and can plan accordingly, significantly boosting satisfaction.

Additionally, we utilize targeted marketing. Through the analysis of past behaviour and preferences, businesses can leverage predictive analytics to optimize marketing campaigns, leading to higher conversion rates and reduced campaign wastage. Predictive models also assist in resource allocation by anticipating customers' needs, enabling businesses to allocate resources efficiently, and ensuring availability when needed, and minimizing wait times for customers. By harnessing predictive analytics, Asian businesses can surmount data integration challenges and devise a data-driven CX strategy that is both personalized and efficient.

What contribution does cross-functional collaboration make to the successful implementation of data-driven CX sustainability strategies? What are the risks associated with relying solely on data for CX improvements in the Malaysian market, and how do you mitigate them?

I'd structure it into five key points. Cross-functional collaboration is crucial for implementing a data-driven, CX sustainable strategy. First, breaking down silos and facilitating data flow: departments like marketing, sales, CX, and product development hold valuable customer data within their own realms. Collaboration ensures open data sharing, creating a holistic view of the company and enabling a unified strategy across touchpoints. Second, aligning goals and priorities: collaboration allows teams to objectively align their goals with overall CX and sustainability objectives. For example, marketing campaigns can target customer needs identified by customer service, reducing wasted spend. Third, enhancing data integration and action: collaboration leads to a deeper understanding of customer behaviour and more effective action plans. Product development can use feedback from sales and support to create more sustainable products, aligning with ESG trends. Number four, I would say the fourth point is driving innovation and continuous improvement. Sharing of ideas and expertise across departments can really spark innovation. Collaboration fosters a culture of continuous improvement where teams constantly seek ways to redefine the CX strategies and their sustainability impact based on data insights.

The final point emphasizes building a customer-centric culture, which isn't solely the responsibility of CX. All departments must collaborate with the customer in mind to cultivate this culture. This ensures a focus on delivering a seamless, personalized, and sustainable customer experience, leading to reduced wastage, improved resource allocation, and enhanced operational efficiencies.

In conclusion, cross-functional collaboration serves as the backbone of a successful data-driven CX strategy. It promotes data flow, aligns goals, fosters innovation, and leads to a more customer-centric business model.

How do businesses leverage customer experience initiatives to exceed expectations, differentiate themselves from competitors, and gain a significant competitive advantage in the marketplace?

To exceed customer expectations in today's competitive landscape, focusing on three key areas is essential. Firstly, personalization goes beyond basic demographics. Leveraging data to understand individual customers' needs and behaviours enables targeted communication, product recommendations, and loyalty programs, fostering a sense of being valued and understood. Secondly, ensuring a frictionless experience across all touchpoints is crucial. Whether it's the website, app, social media, or phone support, customers should seamlessly navigate between channels without the need to re-enter information or start anew. It's frustrating when support centers fail to maintain consistency, requiring customers to repeat themselves across interactions.

Personalization extends to anticipating and fulfilling customer needs through data and AI-driven solutions. Predicting preferences and offering tailored recommendations or preemptive support enhances the customer experience. Building an emotional connection is paramount. Empathy and active listening are key elements. Resolving issues efficiently and demonstrating genuine care fosters trust and satisfaction. Memorable moments, such as handwritten notes or unexpected upgrades, enhance the emotional bond with customers. For instance, last year at TM, we offered free upgrades to loyal customers, such as increasing their network band width without charge. To deepen the emotional connection with customers, fostering a sense of community around your brand is vital. Encouraging interaction and feedback cultivates a loyal customer base invested in your success. Utilizing social media and forums facilitates this engagement effectively.

The third point emphasizes continuous improvement, a principle embraced at TM. Actively gathering customer feedback through surveys, reviews, and social media enables identification of areas for enhancement in the CX strategy. Embracing innovation and leveraging new technologies like AR, VR, and personalized self-service options streamlines processes and empowers customers, catering to preferences, especially prevalent among Gen Z, Gen Alpha, and some Millennials, for self-service solutions.

Moreover, continuous improvement entails data-driven decision-making, utilizing customer data to inform product development, marketing campaigns, and resource allocations. This ensures efforts are targeted towards areas with the most significant impact on customer satisfaction. Ultimately, prioritizing CX leads to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, thereby reducing churn and enhancing competitive advantage. Prioritizing customer experience initiatives not only enhances brand reputation but also boosts employee engagement. Empowering employees to deliver exceptional service fosters motivation and positivity in the workplace. As a result, businesses focusing on personalization, emotional connection, and continuous improvement gain a powerful competitive edge. By exceeding customer expectations, they cultivate lasting brand loyalty in the marketplace.

With extensive customer experience background and leading large-scale data-driven sustainability CX in Asia, what future trends do you foresee shaping this field locally, and how should the businesses adapt to the changes?

I researched trends in other telcos and CX to stay informed. Businesses must adapt to hyper-localization, where preferences vary across Asian regions. They'll need granular data and AI to personalize experiences, considering cultural nuances, language, and regional trends. What works in Malaysia may not work in Thailand. For instance, during my time as head of Uber CX, I managed seven countries.

I've led teams across Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, totaling seven regions. Each country requires hyper-localization; what works in one may not work in another. Understanding customer preferences through data is crucial for adaptation. An emerging trend is the rise of prosumers—customers transitioning into producers and consumers, actively shaping brands. Businesses must foster open communication and integrate customer feedback for product development and sustainability. There's also a growing focus on well-being and mental health, extending beyond transactions. Providing mental health resources, mindfulness tools, or stress-free shopping experiences can give businesses a competitive edge in customer experience.

I've noticed a rising trend in gamification for sustainability, driven by increasing awareness of ESGs and environmental concerns. Gamification makes sustainable choices more engaging, such as loyalty programs with eco-points or rewards for eco-friendly actions like using reusable bags. For instance, in Big Pay, we planted a tree in Borneo for every RM1000 spent by a customer, demonstrating gamification for sustainability. Furthermore, AR integration is gaining traction, offering immersive experiences like virtually trying on clothes or visualizing furniture placement in your home via smartphone. This technology revitalizes product interactions while reducing the need for physical samples and minimizing wastage.

To thrive, investing in advanced analytics is key. Hyper-localization demands sophisticated data analytical tools capable of handling diverse datasets and cultural variations. Open communication channels for customer feedback are vital, soliciting suggestions for product development and sustainability efforts. Prioritizing customer well-being and gamifying sustainability aligns with emerging trends. Embrace these approaches to position your business as a leader in data-driven sustainable CX within the dynamic Asian market. This not only fosters customer loyalty but also contributes to a more sustainable and customer-centric future.