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CX Speak

Nuances of Delighting Customers: An Exclusive Interview with Mr. Gangadhar Krishna, Customer Service Consultant

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. Gangadhar Krishna, an independent author, coach, trainer and consultant in customer service and excellence. He recently published an illustrative business book titled ‘Delighting Customers Is’, which is a collection of well-researched one-liners that delve into the philosophy of customer service using 202 thought provoking illustrations.

Mr. Gangadhar has presented his theory on Service Excellence to various banks and private institutions, been invited as a guest speaker and has conducted development programs in excellent service delivery, outbound sales and supervisory skills. He has also launched his personal portal www.delightingcustomers.com with the sole objective of helping organizations develop their business with the philosophy of ‘Sales Heaps but Service Reaps’. He has to his credit over 90 articles on customer service released to various local dailies and magazines in the UAE. He is an assessor with Dubai Quality Awards and a passionate toastmaster. He has initiated a voluntary training program called MYPSR – Give Time, Get Happiness, for those individuals who cannot afford such trainings nor are sent by their companies.

Mr. Gangadhar’s 30 years’ career spans challenging experiences while serving customers in a multitude of industries such as travel, airlines, retail banking, courier services and credit management, spread over different countries as India, Australia and United Arab Emirates.

In this exclusive interview with Customer Guru, Mr. Gangadhar shares all the nuances of delighting customers and how all organizations across industries must focus on becoming customer-centric.

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

As a professional, you have contributed across geographies. What role has customer centricity played in your professional journey?

If men are from Mars and women from Venus, then customers are from Ceres – a planet that still is an enigma. Just as men or women in any corner of this planet are the same, so is the customer. Whether it is in the travel industry, banking, courier or construction, customer expectations don’t change much. Whether it is in India, UAE, and Australia, he has fairly similar needs, emotions, happiness, and mood swings. Go to any corner of this planet and I am sure it will be the same. Given this understanding, how can we be customer-centric? If expectations are similar, deliveries cannot drastically change. Satisfaction could be easily achieved when you are genuine with him or her. He usually thirsts for someone to listen to him, be understanding, respect him and his time, be honest, don’t cheat on him … to name a few. Apply some or all of these and more and you will land with delighted customers. My journey to these different parts of the globe and my passion taught me to view every customer in his own light and the way to be customer-centric. Looking back and connecting the dots, the seeds of customer service was sown when I was in Air Canada. This is the story of how I began moving ahead with full steam and with a passion and purpose.

I was one of the few who had the challenge of working in diverse and tangent industries. I started in the travel industry, working with travel agents and Air Canada. Circumstances forced me into retail banking in Dubai. I then moved to Sydney, where I worked for a division of TNT Australia. I returned to Dubai and joined an elevator company. How do you like that for diversity? It may sound interesting now, but not then. After some deep introspection, I picked the common link in all these industries – ‘CUSTOMER’. This was the beginning of a customer service journey.

My experiences and the ‘customer’ set me thinking about customer service and what goes into a great experience. I started penning my beliefs on customer service and urging the newspapers to print them. Managing to open doors, I launched my personal portal www.delightingcustomers.com with much fervor. Studying the gurus in service delivery led to contemplation and research gave birth to my theory of service excellence. The theory ‘SERVICE IS A PACT’ was soon awarded copyrights. Those were my first anxious moments in customer centricity.

Keen observation, interesting experiences, and contemplation during this journey resulted in the concept of a book. A book that I dreamt to be totally different from the rest. A book that would convey my belief ‘SALES HEAPS BUT SERVICE REAPS’ … but in a fun way. Finally, a first of its kind, an illustrative business book titled ‘DELIGHTING CUSTOMERS IS …’  is now available on Amazon and major bookshops in UAE and India. This is how I began treading a new and unknown path.

In your journey so far, which is the one CX initiative you had pioneered that you are proud of the most? What was the problem it was trying to address and what results were you able to achieve?

My journey in CX got so interesting that even after a hard day’s work, it energized me more than tired me. I did some extensive reading and started a personal collection of books exclusively on the subject. My contribution to the various dailies along with studying the gurus led to some serious contemplation.

In the process, I started searching for key aspects that held service in place. The subject was vast and varied. It was difficult to identify what really ticked the customer. Yet there must be some ways to identify key pillars of holding service in place – something that could act as the foundation of service excellence.

During one of my holidays in Manali, the concept started taking shape. My research on the subject gave birth to a simple yet powerful theory in service excellence that I was sure could be applied to any industry, be it Mom and Pop stores, an SME, or an MNC. I was excited yet apprehensive. Was I missing something? Were there any holes in my theory? It is said when you search in the right spirit, the path starts to unfold. A toastmaster friend, knowing my interest in the subject, asked me to address his employees on service excellence. I presented my theory for the first time. He was so impressed that he wanted to display it in his office. He suggested I get copyrights before he hung it. The theory ‘SERVICE IS A PACT’ was soon awarded copyrights from the UAE Ministry of Economy. Today, it is also covered under the Indian copyright law. My book ‘DELIGHTING CUSTOMERS IS…’ revolves around the theory of ‘SERVICE IS A PACT’. ‘Service’ to me is all about customer-centric Processes, right Attitude, effective Communication and on Time performance. You keep your side of the P A C T and the customer would keep his.

Another initiative I recently started was MYPSR-Give Time, Get Happiness.

With a view to giving back to society what I got from it over all these years, I recently started a voluntary program called MYPSR (MY Personal Social Responsibility) – Give Time, Get Happiness. Joining hands with a company’s CSR, MYPSR aims to conduct customer service training for blue-collared and semi blue-collared staff, who are not sent by their organizations nor can afford the cost of such programs. I wish to make this a lifelong activity and encourage the fortunate to share their knowledge and experience to help the less fortunate and the community.

 

Generally, teams are always caught up in initiatives that are already planned. In this endeavor to meet the existing KRAs, initiatives that could actually create a positive CX get missed out. How would you handle such a situation and align the team towards the CX goal?

I am easily smitten by creative thinking and out-of-the-box approaches. To me, anything bizarre is worthy of a second thought to see how to make it workable. My CX journey commenced when I was in the elevator industry. Here, I was left wondering on how to get people in elevator industry to think about customer service. The only way was to introduce them to the customer who is behind those elevators. They were so process-oriented and result-oriented that customer service sounded foreign to them. ‘Hold a spanner in your hand, but have a smile on your face’, was my approach to bringing customer orientation in a construction industry. Having designed roadmaps in CX, I was slowly making the maintenance team realize that there was a customer beyond the elevators.

I agree teams need to focus on KRAs. But, it is important to introduce them to the customer and ensure they are in sync and engaged, not only with their work but also with the customer. My approaches were viewed with skepticism initially. So, it was important to bring the change in small doses. Some ideas initiated were to share short video clips in customer handling, share weekly CX quotes, get involved in their regular meetings with the sole purpose of showing them the other side – the customer side of the business.

Some suggestions for ushering customer awareness would be conducting department presentations to all in the organization, making employees aware of what challenges other departments faced and making them realize that each and every one of them had a customer. All they had to do was identify and take care of them. What gets rewarded gets repeated and the reverse is also true. When you consistently talk customers to your teams, you slowly but surely get rewarded by creating that cohesive approach while handling customers. If frontline employees are the doers, then management ones are the drivers. It is imperative to set management KPI’s for CX initiatives in order to help them walk their talk. They are also entitled to their fair share of KPI’s in the CX journey.

 

What is your word of advice for businesses embarking on the journey of customer centricity?

Any organization embarking on customer centricity should be aware that …

  • Customer service rests equally on the shoulders of each and every employee right from the Chairman to the Charwoman, with the captain at the helm holding the pulse of the initiative.
  • Maintain a healthy service culture: ‘Hire for attitude, train for skills’.
  • Invest in your employees, trust them, train them, empower them, and let them take care of your customers.
  • Keep a budget for customer service training and initiatives.
  • Train your support staff as much as you train your frontline because a chain is as strong as its weakest link.
  • Run your business ‘Seeing Outside-In but Working Inside-Out’. Always remember, you are in the business of serving customers but you happen to be selling a product or service.
  • If you keep your side of the promise, the customer will keep his. The reverse is also true.
  • Finally, this may sound crazy, but do away with your sales department and have a team of top-notch ambassadors across the company. Take excellent care of your customer and let them take care of your sales. I know this is easier said than done but I firmly believe ‘Sales Heaps but Service Reaps’.

 

In summary, take good care of your customers and I assure you he will take good care of your business.

Try it, it works!

Connect with Gangadhar Krishna on LinkedIn


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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