The inaugural International Customer Experience Awards is taking place this November 20 in the capital of the Netherlands, Amsterdam.

The gala event will reward the world’s most customer-centric businesses and organisations, that will be judged by an expert panel of key global CX industry figures.

Among these judges are the 2018 International Customer Experience Awards Ambassadors, each representing his or her country at what will be the planet’s biggest ever celebration of CX. In this ongoing series, CXM World is publishing exclusive interviews with – and opinion articles from – the Ambassadors, as the event draws near.

For more information on entering the awards, click here.

Ambassador: Marcus von Kloeden

Country: Singapore/Germany

Occupation: Managing Director of Omnitouch International

Hi Marcus, tell us a little about your professional background, and what drew you towards the concept of Customer Experience

I am a German national with 13 years of permanent residency in Singapore. Prior to Singapore I was an eight-year permanent resident of Switzerland, and bring more than 25 years of experience in the sales and service management industry.

My original background is applied science with a Master’s degree in Chemistry, which helps with my analytical skills and gives the right foundation for gap analysis and research.

At OmniTouch, I conduct Customer Experience-based Mystery Shopper programs, Customer Satisfaction Survey programs, and Focus Group discussions helping to inspire and improve client service delivery across all key touchpoints.

I help people and organisations to map their customers’ journey, to identify performance gaps across the journey and touchpoints. I also help to improve customer-centric service culture across departments and functions, and to improve efficiency and effectiveness in their service areas.

Over the last 25 years, I have travelled across the globe and trained in more than 60 countries, where I conducted training, made speeches, and became a recognised judge at Customer Experience and employee engagement awards in the Middle East, Europe, and the Singapore Region.

These include the Gulf Customer Experience Awards.

At the Othman Yeop Abdullah Graduate School of Business in Malaysia I work as an Associate Faculty Member in CX as part of Business Management.

My motivation to work in the CX field is fairly simple – I just want to help organisations and individuals to ‘make their customers’ lives better’. Every one of us is a customer ourselves, after all.

You’re a judge and Ambassador at the ICXAs – what themes do you hope to see in this year’s presentations?

In this year’s presentations I would like to see the improvements and achievements across different customer touchpoints. I look forward to seeing where the human side stands aside the digital world, and how companies face new developments in technology.

I’ll be looking at what contact centres are doing nowadays and how they improve delivery. There is a reason why we call them ‘contact centre’ and not only ‘call centre’. The channels are changing away from the phone and towards new channels. Email, live chat, and social media have become a huge part of the way we all communicate.

I’m glad to be part of the International Customer Experience Awards, as this is a great way to honour achievements, even if small, as long they benefit the organisation and the customer. There is no better way to listen and learn.

How do organisations set their priorities and where is the place of customers in their process? As there are no real international standards out there, how do you learn to do it better or different? This is what I’ll be looking out for.

What aspects of Customer Experience are popular among businesses/organisations in your region?

Over the last few years I have seen a lot of implementation of old and new technologies. I find it fairly surprising that certain companies implement CRM systems that have been around for so many years, but simply haven’t been used much yet. Also, the ‘silo-thinking’ is breaking down, and companies use technologies to link different departments together and make the customer-related information available to all employees.

In our training courses we stress that the contact centre is the hub of communication, the link between customers and the various departments. Who else can give you the best feedback from the customer than the customer? Organisations start to listen to the Voice of Customer (VoC) and start to adopt. Aren’t the customers the ones paying the bills after all? Organisations start to listen from outside to the inside.

Another trend I have observed is the use of a lot of ‘help to self-help’ options to reduce direct contact between customers and organisations. While many of the self-help options are a great tool that can create ease for some customers, there are still many customers out there who prefer personal contact. Using technology as an add-on service might be a better option than a simple replacement of contact channels.

What areas of CX could be improved in your country?

I would like to answer this question from two perspectives: that of Germany and Singapore.

In Germany, I have observed a trend towards digital. Apps, self-service options, and similar have been increasingly implemented. In the contact centres, the agents have been trained to educate the customers to use these options first.

While it is helpful in many cases, it may also annoy a customer, as they do not receive the help expected, and all ‘work’ falls on the customer. To reduce an agent’s workload, many companies send out automated emails and messages from ‘no-reply’ domains.

Often it is hard for a customer to even find a ‘human’ contact at these companies, which may cause annoyance and frustration for the customers. My main concern for German companies is that the customers are not ready yet for this dramatic change to all-digital.

To improve CX in Germany, I recommend organisations listen to customers, their team members, and what they have to contribute. It’s the human aspect and the personalisation that is lacking.

In Singapore, technology is used a lot. Singapore is well known for its technological progress, and the difference here is that customers are more willing to go these new digital channels.

More and more of the services are made available in apps, online, and through social media. Singaporeans are proud to be from one of the nations at the forefront of the digital world. There, you will find apps and online platforms are heavily used. Compared to Germany, Singapore follows more of the demand customers have to these options, rather than forcing their customers into this.

The positive initiatives that can be seen in Singapore are usually a result of a well-thought through process from the beginning. The Government especially does a lot in this field. The goal here is really to make customers’ lives better.

However, the digital world is not as forgiving as human contacts. We have seen many failed new services and channels that have not been designed or tested upfront. To be successful here, you need a strategy, design, and understanding of the customers’ needs and the training of employees.

To improve Customer Experience in Singapore I would recommend training across all levels of the organisation. CX does not come from nowhere; just because the CEO says “we are now customer-centric” doesn’t make it so.

What does the future hold in terms of CX? Can you offer any predictions, based on your experience, for the coming years?

That is a really good question! In my opinion, as CX moves towards digital and new technologies, it will take at least one generation to completely replace previous channels. It may even take longer.

We should not forget there are customers out there who reject new technologies. Just a simple example: my mother has an internet provider to ensure that the children have internet access, while she does not even have a computer.

She hasn’t see any of the monthly bills yet, because the provider automated the billing system and she gets her bills by email that she cannot access without a computer.

Her generation relies on the old fashioned way to communicate with organisations – the call centre.

Fortunately, I see very good trends towards Customer Experience and customer-centricity. Employees are getting more freedom in personalising contacts, and the average handling times are improving.

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