CX Speak

Defining Brands with The Kind of Customer Experience They Deliver: An Exclusive Interview with Mr. Viraj Verma, Marketing and Strategic Alliances Head, PVR BluO

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 have started the initiative of sharing a series of interviews with top-notch CX experts in India to spread this awareness. Our guest for this week is Mr. Viraj Verma, a leading CX enthusiast in India. We hope to inspire and guide more professionals in adopting and inculcating a customer-centric approach in their organizations.

Mr. Viraj Verma is currently working as the Head of Marketing and Strategic Alliances at PVR BluO, a one of a kind of entertainment concept in India. Mr. Verma has an experience of 17 years in the Marketing domain across multiple industries such as entertainment, hospitality, and retail. Owing to his expertise in Marketing Management, he has successfully planned and executed customer acquisition strategies and developed larger funnels for opportunity conversion into the business.

In this candid interview with Customer Guru, Mr. Verma discusses various aspects, such as training the employees right, building a customer-centric organizational culture, and implementing the right technology, that are instrumental in improving customer experience. This article truly reflects the fact that the growth of any organization depends entirely on the voice of the customers; customers would return for more business only if their experience in the past was par excellence.

As the Head of Marketing and Strategic Alliance at PVR BluO, what role do you think Customer Experience plays in marketing?    

Customer experience is what the brand is. A brand is what the customer experience is. The brand itself gets defined by the sort of experience it offers to its customers. In my opinion, how you deal with your internal customers is as important as how you deal with your external customers. This is very relevant to the retail environment and the environment that I am currently operating in. In many cases, the internal customers are barely considered important. Nevertheless, they are the ones who drive the external customers, both in terms of the acquisition and in terms of customer satisfaction. Based on the type of experience they receive, your customers may or may not want to come back to you. This is where the internal customers play a vital role – in making the external customers happy. At all the touch points of a customer’s journey, they are creating a great experience in two ways – with the typical manual intervention and with technology intervention. This is an organizational direction, basically how an organization would want to put it through, in terms of the investment and technology. Once the internal customer satisfies the external, positive word of mouth will go out and bring in new and fresh acquisition.

Thus, the role customer experience plays is of utmost importance and gives the marketing teams and leaders the direction to design their future campaigns and the highlights therein.

In a business like yours that is constantly evolving, you’re always trying to deliver a great experience to the customer. How do you stay on top of what your customers desire?

Currently, this is done quite in the primitive ways, i.e. manually; no major intervention of modern technology is available. Thus, a great experience depends on these three things – how I interact, how I deliver, and how I satisfy the basic requirements of the customers who walk into my premises. It must be in a way such that they are willing to come back to me later, and if not that, at least refer me to friends and family.

This is replicated by virtue of the team members sharing their experiences with each other, or trying to give a solution to a problem during peer review, such as, how they would have dealt with a certain situation. It is the voice of the customer that gets absorbed by the team and then delivered to us.

How would you want to capture the voice of customer effectively?

The voice of the customer depends on what the customer comes looking for when he walks into your premises, what his experience is when he is there, and what he carries back. For instance, a person who walks into a Mercedes showroom would not go just because he has that sort of money in his pocket. He’s there because he knows his product preferences and choices very well. But why would he want to make a purchase from you and not from somebody else? This is exactly what I am talking about. It goes back to the spreading of word of mouth or the experience that a family member or a friend had at your place. It also could be by virtue of a customer’s review or a blog one would have come across or researched. If customers read about a positive experience, they are curious to find out why the blogger is so appreciative. In case of an irate situation, they are not willing to get into it at all. All this is dependent on the kind of environment they are getting into, whether it is a product-environment or a service-environment. In a product-environment, external tools are available. In an environment like ours, it is only by experiences that have occurred in the past or a manager downloading it to the team members, essentially driving the voice of customers.

Effective capturing of the voice of customer shall best be through the completing a feedback process, analyzing it, and then being talked in the social forums (supported by case studies) to highlight your edge over the competition.

How do you ensure that the Operations team also keeps its processes updated to deliver the experience according to the changing needs of the customer?

Any positive note or feedback given by a customer, whether it is on the guestbook or the website, serves the purpose of a testimonial. These experiences are shared with the team members to keep them driven in delivering in a similar manner and to learn from it in a given situation. Once we invest in technology, it is not difficult to replicate this from the delivery side. Alongside, when you capture information about customers, it changes as soon as the technology investment goes in. You would know their choices, their likes and dislikes, when they last visited, how much they spent, and on what they spent that amount.

What is the best level of CX revolution that customers can expect that PVR BluO? 

This is exactly where technology comes in. Currently, for us, it is work in progress and what we want to do is that we want to connect the pieces of choice.

From the customers’ point of view, what benefits are you bringing in for the customers?

Imagine walking into a five-star hotel where you are a regular customer who has been visiting at least once every month for the past few years. In this scenario, there will be someone, probably even the host or the manager, who would know you by your name, your choice of accommodation and food, and other details. In the hospitality industry, teams are very well-trained to incorporate all of this in their services. This works for them partly because they don’t have to address thousands of people every day. In an environment where a larger number of customers walk in every day, some piece of technology tells you that a certain customer is revisiting, and all the details drop in. Imagine the impact it has on the customer when I wish him, “Welcome back, Mr. XXX.”

What role does culture play in customer experience and how do you address the issue of aligning everyone towards a customer-centric culture in a business?

I would like to relate it to one of my last assignment in Mahindra’s, where I was a part of the Acquisition Marketing team. We were driving multiple activities in parallel – call centers that were operating to invite potential customers to a particular venue, then the product details were being parted with, and finally, the sales pitch was taking place at the venue. At both levels –  when the call was being placed and when the product details were being parted with –  there were a lot of details that the employees would intentionally hide in order to get the customer invited to the venue or to get the sale closed. This was not due to the fact that people were trained this way, but because they found it easier to close a deal.

This is basically where we started working on the organizational culture. We created certain teams and we pitched them against certain roles without pointing out that they were not sharing this piece of information. We told them that we are getting into an experiment wherein we suggest ways to improve when compared to the existing way of dealing with the customers. We could easily get our message across of this being an experiment rather than an investigation or a fault-finding exercise. So, we created a script that they had to follow, and if they were sharing the complete information, how it would convert into a sale and a better and stronger relationship with the prospect or customer. What we saw was that there was a drop in the conversion at both levels at the first level. However, since this was a cautious call towards improving the overall customer experience, the organization was ready for it and eventually succeeded.

The good thing that came out of this exercise was that since employees started giving each and every information to the customers, it was not difficult to get back to them, follow up, and ask for anything. The customer experience thus was positive and inclusive.

At the beginning, bringing in and driving in such a change might create a hindrance because you’re trying to change the culture totally. But once everyone gets tuned to it, it is going to work for you as a brand and an organization. So, this culture gets internally developed, thus delivering an experience to the customers based on what they want and not what you want to push to them.

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