Winning an award is a celebration of success, a cherry on top of your company’s achievements grounded on diligence, hard work and continuous improvement. To be able to gain recognition for our accomplishment and be awarded among the best of the best is an opportunity not to be missed.

At the Gulf Customer Experience Awards in February this year, I had a pleasure of speaking with the gold winner of The CX Professional of the Year category, Maya Khalifeh, Customer Experience Manager of INDEVCO Group about her experience at the Awards, her extensive expertise and valuable advice on what it takes to be at the top in the world of CX.

Maya is a seasoned expert, with over 15 years’ experience in setting strategies and systems that empower clients to elevate customer experience and build long-term strategic partnerships. She helps companies improve business results by becoming more customer-centric, grow sales by setting up and implementing customer experience management programs.

Maya has deep knowledge in development of active customer retention programs and customer divestment strategies. She helps businesses categorize customers and nurture them from one tier to another, as well as leverage digital transformation to retain customers. She also has thorough expertise in setting up B2B Lead Generation mechanisms, systems, and processes.

Maya holds Executive MBA dual degree from ESCP Europe & ESA Business School, she is Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP), she is certified by MIT Sloan Business School in Negotiations & Influence in addition to Customer Advisory Board certified professional. Maya heads the Customer Experience Management for INDEVCO Group, she is based in Lebanon. Maya is mom to Mikael, Alexander and Yasmina.

First of all, I would like to thank you for participating in the Gulf CX Awards this year and congratulate you on your amazing achievement! Having won the award for the CX Professional of the Year, how would you describe the experience?

Winning at Gulf Customer Experience Awards, the CX professional of the year category was a wonderful experience that I will forever cherish. Being present with such big talents, whether they work directly in customer experience or hold executive positions in customer-centric companies, was a big honour for me. Even if I haven’t won, competing was so worthwhile.

It was a lengthy positive experience not just the day of the event; as you know, the experience of the awards started from September 2019, where I went through the process to reach finalist category up till the moment I won the award, the day of the event on 18 February 2020.

Winning the award gave me an exceptional energy boost after all the many years of hard work, it fostered a sense of achievement and was a great motivator.

Can you tell us something about your background and how did you become involved in the world of Customer Experience?

Well, I used to manage the online lead generation and email marketing campaigns up till the year 2015 where I decided to venture into the Customer Experience world as I saw big opportunities and improvement areas in it in the GCC and the Middle East.

For me, customer experience journey is an extension from customer acquisition world into customer retention. I focused my international consultation project as part of my executive MBA studies on Customer Experience and leveraged on learning the theoretical part and implementing world-class best practices.

I made sure to have the proper baggage, as well, such as becoming CCXP (Certified Customer Experience Professional) in addition to other international certifications I hold. I believe that we should master whatever job we are doing and perform it in the most beautiful successful way in order to not just satisfy ourselves, but also to be an inspiration to our surroundings; our families, work colleagues and society.

How much have the global trends in CX changed since you first started working in the industry? Can you compare the state of CX then and now?

Digital transformation heavily influenced customer experience in recent years.

In previous years customer experience had a major role to break the silos between the different entities across management, sales, marketing and customer service and set up a seamless customer experience strategy that aim for the customers to be happy.

Now you see the heavy integration of the digital strategies with it such as the E-commerce, enterprise customer portals and bots that aim at not just delighting customers but with the least amount of effort put from their side, there is subsequently a lot of analytics involved that revolve around customer and market insights.

What would be your advice to companies on achieving excellence in CX? What do you think are the main drawbacks a company fails to overcome when it comes to CX?

My advice would be to center the business around the customer; companies never go wrong when they have the customer at the heart of their decision making process.

I would also add to keep the customer pain points in check at all times and leverage on what the customer believes are your competitive advantages.

The fact that customer experience does not work alone reminds us that we should also always put employee experience into the perspective. Many companies fail in customer experience as they put it within departments such as marketing or sales, CX should be an independent unit that underpins the overall organization customer centricity strategy, reporting to a C-level and at equal distance with all involved entities.

We are all witnesses of dramatic changes in the world at the moment, so many areas of life being affected at the same time. Many organizations are struggling to endure the difficulties the pandemic has caused. In what ways has CX changed during this situation? Are companies still adhering to their CX principles even amid the outbreak?

Now it is the time of resilience from leadership level down to all employees across the organization. It is very sad to see how companies are laying off employees, we should remember that the Pandemic is a short-term problem, soon enough all companies will be back to business. Both customers and employees will remember how the company dealt with them during these hard times.

On a positive note, COVID-19 accelerated the digital transformation and the online user experience must be at the excellence level at all times. We should keep in mind that CX is also about emotions; how customers feel towards the treatment, services and products they are getting both online and offline; so employees should be now more than ever customer-centric.

Where do you see CX in the future? And of course, after all of this is over?

I am very optimistic about the future of CX as it directly affects the growth of the companies. I believe companies will more and more set up customer experience improvement areas based on customer journey mapping, pleasure/pain gaps and. customer emotional curves.

Companies will also be more intriguing in building personalized experiences based on customer personas. I see that there will be more reliance on CX working closely with sales to grow clients and it will have a key role in setting up strategic customer partnership programs.

I also believe that CX will have a key role in the digital transformation that companies will go through after this is all over. There is a rising expectation from both B2B and B2C clients that organizations have to meet with if they want to stay competitive in business.

Companies should have a powerful bundle of CX initiatives to harness, more effectively, the latest developments in artificial intelligence, digital technologies and customer data analytics.