Umer Asif is Global Program Manager of Customer Experience and is representing Pakistan as an Awards Ambassador for the 2018 International Customer Experience Awards, which are taking place in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, on November 20.

In an article for CXM World below, Umer discusses where businesses can fail when it comes to delivering quality CX.

The entry deadline for the awards is August 23. For further information about entering, click here.


If I were to pick out one area that has the most impact, whether positive or negative, on end-to-end Customer Experience, I would pick human interaction.

Be it the Sales Associate in a store, the Customer Services Agent at a call centre, the Chat Agent online, or the lack of any of these channels – the quality of people interaction, or the absence of it, can make or break a great experience.

To elaborate my point, I will quote two experiences with well-known brands.

Recently, Qatar Airways, the Skytrax No 1 airline in the world for 2017 and No 2 in 2018, decided to discontinue its call centre and in-person services for all transactions related to its loyalty program.

The sweeping changes were brought about for all tiers, including the most premium and loyal customers. Customer communications were sent out, where the airline announced that it would stop all such service channels and members should use the online portal for all their loyalty program needs.

Such a big shift to digital channel for customer support requires robust systems to be in place to provide a seamless experience that can replace the human element.

However, I soon experienced that this was not the case. I ran into a technical issue trying to upgrade a ticket and the online portal kept malfunctioning. Hoping to still get some respect as the most loyal tier customer, I contacted the service centre, only to be told that they cannot entertain my request as per the new policy.

I then sent an email to member services and got a standard response telling me that all loyalty transactions are now online, and they can’t help me. The issue reported was completely ignored and the ticket was closed.

I then reached out to the airline’s Twitter page and sent a private message with the issue and a video of the problem – again to be totally ignored and told to write to member services. I was flabbergasted!

How can a business completely ignore its loyal customers and refuse to talk to them, even when they are reporting an issue that is helping it fix its systems!  Relentless, I sent several other emails, chased the country manager on LinkedIn, and even threatened to stop flying with the airline. Finally, I made some inroads and got the matter resolved over a period of three weeks; my impression of the airline and willingness to fly in the future was, however, severely dented in the process.

Contrary to this, is Amazon. On two separate occasions I ran into issues: once with an order and the other time with my Kindle store migration. Instead of taking me through tiring FAQs and self-help menus, I was immediately presented with a phone number to call.

On both occasions, I was quickly connected to a Customer Service Agent, who in the most helpful and efficient manner, immediately solved my issue. I was provided with a refund and the case was closed within minutes. In the second instance, I even got a follow up call within 10 minutes to confirm that my issue was resolved…wow!

If I compare the value of business I do with both the companies, Amazon does not even come close to Qatar Airways.

While the economics of not providing phone and in-person services are understandable, businesses need to understand that ignoring the customer and making it impossible for them to reach out for problems, can be detrimental to customer loyalty. 

Customers don’t want to keep calling for nothing and millennials especially would be happier with online self-service systems – however the systems need to work. When the systems don’t work, the channel for speaking to a human should be accessible, friendly and responsive. Only then, can a business become truly customer-centric.