CX Speak

Aligning Businesses to Customer Needs: an Exclusive Interview with Mr. Abhay Singh Chauhan, Customer Service Head, Avery Dennison

Customer Guru has taken this initiative of sharing the experiences of successful customer experience leaders across India to inspire and guide professionals in understanding and adopting customer centricity in their organizations.

In continuation of the series, we have another gem of an interview with Mr. Abhay Singh Chauhan, the head of Customer Service at Avery Dennison. Having worked with numerous reputable global companies in India for over 16 years, Mr. Chauhan has been recognized for demonstrating exceptional passion in putting the customers first and aligning business strategies based on the customer needs.

In this candid interview with Customer Guru, Mr. Chauhan shares his journey as a customer experience professional. He brings to light the various initiatives that he took in multiple organizations for inculcating a customer-centric culture, leading to major increases in profitability.

I invite our readers to comment and ask questions on similar challenges they might be facing in their organizations when it comes to setting up a customer-centric culture. I would be more than happy if I could be of any help. This article is framed in a question-answer format; please feel free to share your feedback on the article too.

What has been your journey as a customer experience professional? What is the biggest impact you have been able to create?

Through my varied experience ranging from sales to customer service, I have seen the customer from multiple perspectives. This has immensely helped me understand customers and, accordingly, improvise services. Long back when I was given an opportunity to reform the customer service, the first challenge was to understand the customer. Customers were buying from us but there was only a buyer-seller relationship between us. If a competitor would emerge, then we could get into a tough situation as a brand. No company likes to be in a situation in which customers are forced to buy from them. Customers must buy by choice.

When I was given this opportunity at Pentair India, I started meeting the customers. This was the first step I had taken in this organization. I met the customers with a perspective to understand their needs, problems, and desires – not for sales. I shared with them my intention of listening to the story of their journey of doing business with us. Then, I went back to my management with the need to reform our strategy and interactions across touchpoints of the journey. That was the beginning of our journey of customer retention. It was a great makeover and drastically improved profitability. The Indian domestic business was doing only INR 10-12 crore; this went up to INR 100+ crore in a four-year span just by transforming the way of handling customers.

What role do you think customer experience has to play in aligning the business to the need of the customer?

Our industry is very dynamic. If we receive an order today, it has to be serviced by tomorrow or maybe today itself. The need and demand of the customer also vary and you have to stay on top your customer needs to address it. In such a scenario, customer centricity will keep your business relevant in the future. It’s difficult for a business to survive in the long term without delivering a good experience.

This is a key realization and we put deep emphasis on it. Everyone in our organization clearly understands each touchpoint of the customer journey from the customer’s point of view.

How do you listen to the voice of your customer and stay on the top of the needs of your different customer segments?

It is all about finding the right customer for yourself. It was earlier always said that the customer is always right. In today’s world, we do not agree with that, but we believe that “right customers are always right.” Everyone wants to build a mutually profitable relationship, so it is very important for us to find out who our right customers are and then build a complete environment around this customer segment.

While it doesn’t mean you ignore customers, it’s important to identify the customer segment that you can serve best and channelize your energy in serving it like no other. Identify the customers that you want to go after and align your effort towards fulfilling their needs and desires.

How do you ensure that the stakeholders at your end prioritize the customer experience over any other initiative that they are running?

It’s about bringing people with different mindsets to a common platform. I might be totally aligned with customers, but a person who has never met the customer may not have similar thoughts. To overcome this, we conduct regular training programs, bring the customer feedback into the business, share real customer stories with the team, and encourage employees to think like a customer would. We define the ideal customer and communicate it to every stakeholder.

Once the customer persona is defined, we constantly communicate the customers’ journey along with the challenges that they face. In the process, we encourage the team to think from the customers’ point of view, empathise with the challenges they face, and analyse the situation to unearth root causes.

Our operations, quality, and sales teams are responsible for at least 2 to 3 strategically valuable customers. So once in a while, the teams meet and have a holistic discussion with such customers. A customer scorecard is prepared which mentions the complete service journey and the financial business volume of these customers. It creates a win-win situation for both the parties and helps us sustain the momentum in the initiative across the organisation.

What would be your advice to any organization looking to embark on the journey of customer centricity?

It is high time for companies across the globe to adopt customer centricity. The first step is to start the conversation with the customer face to face. This itself will be a big turn around. Based on the insights derived there, one should then focus on the whole process, the relationship with the customers, and most importantly a customer-centric culture in their organization.

Image Source: Avant8

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