Ahmed Aly Shaban is a Customer Experience expert with a long history of delivering a high standard of CX in the UAE and beyond.
He currently offers his wisdom to the UAE Prime Minister’s Office in the role of Senior Consultant, and will be casting his sharp eye over aspiring entries in the upcoming Gulf Customer Experience Awards.
CXM World caught up with Ahmed ahead of his judging role to glean a glimpse into his thoughts on CX and how things have changed since he began his journey…
Can you give us a brief insight into your Customer Experience expertise?
Tactical and strategic Customer Experience processes are aimed at improving the overall service delivery, and the difference between them is obvious when considering their overall main objective.
The tactical Customer Experience will have a limited scope with specific objectives in a particular area, affecting the customer and the business, while the strategic Customer Experience requires a broader perspective.
According to Joe Tawfik in his book Experience My Brand, tactical Customer Experience aims to solve a specific problem without addressing the root cause.
With tactical Customer Experience, management and employees tend to end up feeling good since their action appears progressive and benefits customers.
However, the long-term outcome does not contribute directly to company profitability. Tactical projects mostly have negative returns, and rarely will the return of investment will be realised.
Strategic Customer Experience however, operates to solve problems from a different perspective, by addressing and considering brand promises, business processes, organization value and culture, and technology.
Such programs will focus on delivering long-term and sustainable value to the organization.
In your opinion, what are the most important qualities required to excel at Customer Experience? Can you offer an insight into the traits that helped you succeed?
The nine rules below are the roadmap to achieving CX excellence, and they helped me with my career trajectory.
- Before designing the customer experience, organisations should work to understand customers – who are they? What are their needs? This might sound obvious, but in fact most organizations are working under assumptions rather than facts about their customers.
- Fix the customer’s pain first! There is no point in actions that do not address the main points of concern for the customer – it’s simply a waste of money!
- Get feedback from both inside and outside the organisations. Customer Experience programs are not only driven by marketing or customer service teams – it should be mix of inputs, including employees and the rest of stakeholders.
- Innovate to reduce effort for customers. Measuring the effort required by customers to complete the transaction and working closely to minimize that effort is key. This could be done through redesigning the customer journey map or re-engineering service processes.
- Align the customer experience with what they value most about the brand. Customer expectation changes based on the brand they are dealing with. For instance, the expectation from engaging with Porsche will be much different from what they expect when dealing with a no-frills budget airline.
- Benchmark your services against the nearest emerging competitors. This will give an organization the competitive advantage.
- Deliver consistent experience from both a value and quality perspective. Consistency in delivering services through different channels over time is very important to customers.
- Create a work environment that can support a customer-centric approach. Do this by considering what is best for employees and their work environment, then translate to customer-centric initiatives.
- Fix root causes rather than focusing on customer experience scores. Focusing on scores alone is not enough. Collecting customer and employee feedback and tackling the root cause is very important in making real change.
Embed CX excellence in your organization’s DNA. Developing programs that engage employees will help your organization go the extra mile in serving customers.
How much the industry changed over the years and what is essential in keeping up with these changes?
According to Derek Allen in his book Customer Satisfaction Research Management: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrating Customer Loyalty and Satisfaction Metrics in the Management of Complex Organizations, businesses in the 1960s tended to focus on product-oriented mass mailings.
With the growth of information technology in the 1980s and 1990s, database marketing emerged, bringing an increasing emphasis on the customer.
The author explains:
“This shift dictates both structural organizational changes and a parallel development of management information systems that reflect a focus on the customer relationship rather than the product.”
I believe in the 21st century the focus is on data – data mining and data science that can help in exceeding customer expectations.
Technology is a great enabler in modern business, in fact, it has a great impact on organisation efficiency through automation, integration, and providing solutions for recording, monitoring, analysing, and predicting customer data.
This customer centricity is one of the best outcomes of using technology in the modern business world.
Can you offer an example of significant challenges faced that helped you to get where you are today?
From my experience, in the Middle East and the UAE specifically, communication with a customer can be challenging.
In the UAE alone we have a population of people from an estimated 202 nationalities.
That means 202 different backgrounds to consider; 202 differing sets of expectations; and 202 different ways to satisfy customers.
The main lesson I learned from this is that organizations always need to study customer needs, segment their customers carefully, then work hard to understand customer preference and expectation. For me this is 75 percent of the roadmap to success.
What are your thoughts about getting certified within the CX industry?
Being certified is a great idea, but it is not the way to learn. It should be there to crown the learning, so to speak.
I believe learning comes from three things – reading, reading, and more reading!
Read related articles, case studies, excellence models, and more to open your eyes to the power of data, which is the big evolutionary step for Customer Experience.