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CX Speak

How To Create WOW Experiences For The Customers At All Times: CX Lessons By Mr. Premanshu Singh, CEO, Coverfox

At Customer Guru, we believe that Customer Experience (CX) should be the number one priority for all the Indian businesses so that they become more sustainable and successful globally. Thus, we are on a mission to spread this awareness, inspiring and guiding professionals to adopt and inculcate a customer-centric approach. We are certain that this is a first step to help organizations WOW their customers and create raving fans for themselves.

Continuing with our initiative of sharing experiences of top-notch CX experts, we have another gem of an interview with Mr. Premanshu Singh. Mr. Singh is the Chief Executive Officer of Coverfox Insurance Broking Pvt Ltd, which owns the online insurance broking portal www.coverfox.com. He has over 14 years of experience in FMCG, technology and start-ups.

In this candid chat with Customer Guru, he shares his entire journey as a professional and the lessons about CX that he took from each phase. Additionally, he elaborately discusses how he has led his team in creating unmatched experiences for all the customers of Coverfox.

We invite our readers to comment and ask questions on challenges that they might be facing in their organizations when it comes to setting up systems and processes to deliver a great experience. This article is framed in a question-answer format; please feel free to share your feedback on the article too.

Your professional journey has spanned across diverse industries. Could you let our readers know more about this journey? What role did you see customer experience play in this journey?

I became a professional 15 years ago with ITC Limited. I was really fortunate to be given the opportunity to scale e-Choupal (bottom of pyramid) model for the state of Rajasthan. Working across Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh gave me great experiences and understanding of ‘Bharat’ that I still cherish.

Post that, I moved to Mumbai to work with Johnson & Johnson for five years. My experiences here were in stark contrast to ITC Ltd. I learnt Marketing and even did my first TV commercial here. My customers here were high-end, urban, and sophisticated doctors from across the globe. That is where I had B2B user experience.

My curiosity for technology and startups landed me at Webaroo. We ran SMS GupShup, world’s largest messaging social network platform on SMS. It had roughly 35 million active users belonging to all kinds of sections of the society. Webaroo made me fall in love with products and technology and I decided never to return to the corporate world.

I along with Kapil, started a2zbaby.com, a full-stack baby e-commerce portal. Those were exciting times. We ran it for 2 years, selling everything from diapers to strollers. I learnt more about running a business than a MBA at IIM-A.

I had met Anupam Mittal, founder of Shaadi.com during my entrepreneurship days and had developed a liking for his wisdom. I joined his team as Head-Emerging Business. We launched VIP Shaadi, Regional Shaadi and scaled Select Shaadi.

I moved on to head marketing for Practo. Here, I got a better understanding of both the B2B side, which is the doctor and the B2C side, the patient.

At Coverfox, I have been trying to utilize all the learnings I have had on customer experience.

My understanding of India from the CX perspective is that India is very fragmented. It is not one country; it is possibly 50 countries, if not more. Thus, people have a difference in their tastes, languages, social influences, affordability, needs, and likes. Some people could own a private jet and some of them cannot even afford a meal. So, in this fragmented market, it is very difficult to create one user experience. This means your customer experience could largely be like a collection of microstructures. Eventually, the objective of CX is to ensure that a customer has above-satisfaction experience in his interactions with an organization.

One way to measure this is Net Promoter Score (NPS), which we use regularly at Coverfox. Firstly, Indians are very skeptical about things and there are a lot of trust issues. The moment you tell a person that I want to help you, he would rather ask why. My learning is that there are two sides of CX. The first side is that people should be better listeners than talkers. The other side is that the technology should improve CX, not by creating a new platform but by helping users where they already are right now.

Where do you think brands are typically failing in being able to deliver the experience that customers want?

As per my experience, for most companies, customer service is not the core of their strategy – customer service is just another function in the organization. The primary aspect that companies look into is their current sale or current revenue. Most companies are hunting ecosystems. They hunt a customer, make a sale, and then move on. But Coverfox is built around the farming philosophy. We don’t sell, we offer. We would rather tell a user about our product and would want to know why he would want to or not want to buy the product. We would help customers in their buying decisions.

When we look at the investments that Indian companies make, customer service gets a very small portion of their budget. Indian startups haven’t learnt enough from Zappos. They introduced the ‘no question asked’ policy on shoes. Even if a customer called asking for the number for Domino’s, it would still help the customer.

I see that we too are moving in the right direction now. With increased competition in the Indian market, organizations are trying to move away from just hiring more agents in their call-centers to actually setting up the right KPIs and processes to deliver better customer experience.

What is the one initiative that helped you make a big impact on the kind of experience delivered to customers? What was the problem you were addressing and what results were you able to drive through that initiative?

I can’t forget my first sale! ITC had just launched John Players and was distributing it through the e-Choupal network. It was a Rs. 700-800 shirt. I was in a village in Madhya Pradesh and a stall was put up to display the shirts. I was reasonably sure that we won’t be able to sell because in rural India, nobody would buy shirts that expensive. However, I was able to sell a shirt to a labor-contractor in a warehouse. While I was going with a perception that these shirts would be unaffordable for the people there, I was just looking at price as a parameter for them to decide. But, that labor-contractor came with 8-10 laborers just to see the shirt. He saw the price and bought it for Rs. 800 because for him, that had aspirational value. My learning there was typically that price is not the only determinant of making a sale. He bought the shirt and told his people why he bought the shirt and why it was a great shirt. He was practically doing sales for me. This experience taught me to never underestimate what the customer can do. We just need to help them buy the right trigger for them.

The second experience I had was in Johnson & Johnson with a doctor who refused to work with us because he had a bad experience in the past. He is a renowned doctor and my Managing Director told me how much we needed his business. The way I approached this customer was in not trying to sell anything to him. I just started solving problems for him by helping him manage his work better, and how to create an unparalleled patient experience. It took me six months, but that customer got converted because I went with an intention not of selling but of serving him. This is really important when one is dealing with a customer.

The third experience was an emotional one when I was running my own business, a2zbaby.com. There was a customer who bought diapers in bulk for 3-4 months because we were giving some amazing discounts and we had a no-return policy on diapers. Unfortunately, the baby could not survive. One day, we got a call from the customer saying he had tons of diapers and he could not use them because his baby was no more. He did not want to throw them away because the diapers were for the baby. However, he said that he could not keep them because they reminded him of the baby. He asked us whether we would consider taking them back. Instead of sticking to our no-returns policy, we understood and sympathized with the customer, picked up the diapers, returned his money, and even wrote him a heartfelt note. That customer was so touched by the gesture that he referred us to a lot of people, just because we had refunded all the amount estimated to around Rs. 12,000 to 15,000. Only because of that customer’s goodwill, we must have received another couple of lakhs of rupees.

How do you think a brand like yours is delivering a differentiated experience to customers?

We have a model that I learnt in Practo – VUCIM – for setting priorities for the organization. It says, whenever an organization is indecisive about making choices, V, U, C I and M are the things that one needs to optimize for. V stands for ‘Vision’, referring to why the company was started. U stands for ‘User’, which means that the organization needs to believe that whatever the customer says is the truth. If one thinks that there is a misunderstanding, then they need to explain it to the customers, but let the customers have their way at the end of the day. C stands for ‘Coverfolks’, the people who work at Coverfox. I is for ‘Investors’ and M for ‘Me’.

So, we have put users at the top of the list of priorities, believing that they are at the core of the product. We said that we would not have customer experience as just one of the departments; it would be at the core. This means that our products and technology, our relationship with insurers, and how we deal with them should be around customers.

Firstly, at Coverfox, we know that Indians, especially the evolved customers, do not want to be called by a call-center executive or spammed with e-mails asking them to purchase an insurance policy. So, we have strict guidelines to avoid such situations. For instance, in the motor business, where we sell around 30,000 to 35,000 policies a month, we do not have a sales call-center. We have been helping the user in the product journey, wherein they can figure out things by themselves – compare features and choose the right insurance. We might be sending support e-mails to only those customers who want it, but we do not spam the users. Thus, our product technology truly reflects our ethos.

Secondly, we realize that the insurance industry is a highly competitive industry – everybody just wants to sell their policies to the user just to make money. However, at Coverfox, we want to build an engaging relationship with the user. We know that users would need more help when they are set for a claim. For example, the users would need more assistance when their vehicle meets with an accident than they would while purchasing it. So, we have launched a program called the ‘Express Claim’. In metropolitan cities and a couple of Tier I cities, we have tied up with insurers who have a priority queue for all our customers. Under this program, we promise that the vehicle will be back in their garage within 72 hours from the day of the accident, free of cost. If the same user goes through another channel, he would have to follow several procedures such as call up an insurance call-center and get a surveyor in place. All of this becomes a hassle and it would typically take about 8-9 days to get the vehicle back.

In the case of life insurance policies, nobody buys it thinking he/she would die. The beneficiary of the policy would generally be a spouse or the nominee. However, in most cases, the nominee doesn’t even know the details of the policy or how to claim it. A housewife might not even know how many policies the husband had purchased in his lifetime, where the documents would be, and how she could claim it. Thus, at Coverfox, we started a program called the NASPRO, which stands for the Nominee Assistance Program. Under this program, anyone who purchases a life insurance from us is asked for the details of the nominee, such as the name and contact information of the nominee. We then send a copy of the policy to the nominee in a PDF format. We have also created a vault, where all the user policies are stored in one place. We become aware of the death of a user because someone would want to claim the policy. This is when we connect with the nominees, provide them with all the documents, and help them in settling their claim. Thus, our services truly reflect that we realize what is important for the users.

We certainly do not take shortcuts at our company. If a customer is unhappy, we do not quit – we keep on interacting with him. Looking at the metrics, our NPS is 73, which I think is the best in the country. Apple has an NPS of 72 in the United States. Looking at our social ratings, we have a 4.5 rating whereas other companies have a much lower rating.

What is the next level of customer experience that users of Coverfox could get and what would be your vision around that?

There are two philosophies that we believe in at Coverfox. The first one is that customer experience is going to move from being generalized to being very personalized. This means that we need to have a better understanding of the users and give them an experience that they want. As we are growing four times every year, we have been acquiring more customers. This enables us to have a better understanding of the needs of our users and their behavioural patterns. Further, we have also deployed bots for filling forms. As most of the users are on mobile phones, we are trying to make their experience easier and simpler – the users need not type, instead they could just tap on their screen to enter information. We are also trying to replace any kind of call-center interaction either by scratching data from other resources for user identification or by giving customers enough time to disclose information. For instance, for a motor insurance, it is extremely difficult for a customer to remember the engine number, chassis number and such details while purchasing an insurance. To solve this, we tied up with all Regional Transport Offices across India. Now, if a user just remembers the registration number of his vehicle, we can pull out all the required information on our portal. At our portal, one can buy a policy in less than 3 minutes.

The second policy that we believe in is to maintain consistency with the use of technology for customer service. This is in terms of understanding user behavior, such as the best time to connect with a user, to send them an e-mail, and the like. Basically, we are trying to minimize the communication points with them. Thus, instead of sending, say, five e-mails a day, we try to understand whether we could just send them one e-mail in two days to get the same kind of effectiveness.

I would also like to share one more thing that was followed at Practo – it had an empty chair in each meeting that was covered with a red cloth. The chair represented the customer, and nobody was allowed to sit on the chair. In every meeting, somebody was supposed to represent the customer. This was, obviously, adapted from Jeff Bezos’ brilliant empty-chair techniques. I think that’s a wonderful thought for aligning the whole organization towards being focused on the customer at all times.

What would be your word of advice for companies that are embarking on this journey of customer centricity?

The first thing for companies is to put aside their ego and internal brand image. They should rather believe that they are students. Unfortunately, customer service has not been solved or not written about enough. There are certain best practices around it but there are no playbooks. So, companies need to figure out their own unique journey. They need to observe and learn from other companies that are the best at delivering customer service and then pick up whatever works for them. The first step to do so is to bring the customer to the center of every conversation, making all the employees at the organization see the need of being customer-centric.

Secondly, they need to decide whether they would want their business to run for 2 years or for 100. Once they realize that they would want to build a business for a long-term, they need to know that the only way to do so is by being customer-centric. There is no point in acquiring customers and losing them the next day – every business would want their customers to be their advocates. The first thing to achieve this is to start small, get an idea, experiment with some people, understand the customer feedback, and then scale. Unfortunately, many companies set up a large call-center in the name of customer-centricity without having a process in place. And then, they set up metrics for the customer service executives, calling it a customer experience initiative.

Another very important element is to be honest with the customer and set the expectations right. For instance, if one knows that there are 95% chances of fulfilling a customer’s request in two days, one must promise to deliver it in four days. Delivering on the promise in two days after setting a deadline of four creates a wow experience for the customers.


Do you want to
improve your
Customer Experience?

Get FREE web class to uncover the secrets that Startups to Fortune 500 companies are using right now!

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