Ambarish Gupta

Ambarish Gupta is the CEO and Founder of Knowlarity Communications– the leading player of Cloud Telephony in Asia. Ambarish has held positions in various companies across the globe since his early working days. He has held positions in Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics (Germany), EFI (Australia), Booz Allen Hamilton (Ohio) as a Strategy Associate and moved on to McKinsey as a Senior Associate in Greater Pittsburgh for two years. He was working as a consultant with Microsoft in Seatlle when he decided to come back to India and start his venture Knowlarity.

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Embracing the Age of the Customer

So what can you do to become a customer-centric organisation? And just how do you embrace the age of the customer? Here’s a quick look at the issues involved; see what applies to you, and then jump in headlong.

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The customer is king. To some of us, this might seem like an irrelevant concept in an age when it sometimes feels like we’ve all been relegated to a mere ID or complaint number. And there might be a grain of truth to this – as any one of us who’s had to argue with a customer support executive can confirm.

But to say that the age of the customer is past would be very wrong. In fact, while this seems true on the surface, the reality is very different. Social media has empowered the customer, the cellphone revolution means he can reach out at any moment, and the Internet has given him the power to switch his loyalties to another brand in an instant. What does this mean for today’s business? Simple, the customer is king once again, and to survive against new, even more agile upstarts, your company will have to once again embrace the customer. Fail to do so, and you risk becoming a dinosaur, a business that is slowly overcome by nimble, customer-centric organizations led by creative minds who know exactly what the customer wants.

So what can you do to become a customer-centric organisation? And just how do you embrace the age of the customer? Here’s a quick look at the issues involved; see what applies to you, and then jump in headlong:

Product vs experience

Too many companies – especially large corporations – have made the mistake of focusing solely on the product. That doesn’t work any longer in an era when the ‘service provider’ form of working is what the customer is best acquainted with. Thinking of your business model as ending when you sell the product is a recipe for disaster. Customers expect a long term association, so make sure that the entire experience is what they remember. The customer will come back only when the ownership experience is full of delight, and will recommend you to friends and family only is he perceives a value lasting beyond the initial sale and honeymoon period.

Agility is critical

Too many businesses have made big social media blunders. Too many companies have failed to respond to new trends. What you need is agility. If you want to take on nimble startups that have the advantage of responding quickly, you’ll also have to adapt. What if you think your size and market heft makes you immune to this? You’d be very wrong. Large corporations have learnt this lesson the hard way, and now if you look around, things are changing. Fortune 500 companies are now trying to become quick on their feet, as they risk becoming irrelevant to a young generation that’s grown up in an age of ‘instant-everything’. No one likes dealing with a faceless, monolithic entity! So go on, learn from the young upstarts from the world of startups, and make your customer service department a place where the customer is engaged in a meaningful, two-way discussion!

Personalised attention

All your customers are not the same. And now that you have the tools – social media, cloud telephony, web integration… why do you persist in seeing them as all the same? This is especially true for any business that deals with a range of customers across age, gender, background, and other such segmentation factors. If your customers range from software professionals in their thirties, to retired grandparents, to young graduates, you need a different tack of dealing with each. And this doesn’t just apply to your advertising or marketing strategies – it also applies to your customer service. Perhaps a retired grandparent prefers to deal on the phone, while your youngest customers might be more comfortable communicating over chat and social media. So make sure you utilize all relevant channels to reach out. It doesn’t just stop here. Are you plugging in your databases with your customer service systems? Do your execs have up-to-date information? Or are your customers getting annoyed by every contact experience becoming an exercise in frustration by having to explain the issue all over again? Your customers expect personalised attention – better give it or they’ll find another brand which is more than eager to do so!

The age of the customer never went away. It was just waiting for the right time – when technological changes and expectation converged. Now, in this age of social media and smartphones, there’s no excuse not to be customer-centric in every way possible. Embrace the customer and embrace the future!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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