CX Speak

Driving businesses towards becoming Customer-Centric: an Exclusive Interview with Mr. Pratekk Agarwaal, Business Head, FTcash

Continuing with our initiative to share the experiences of successful customer experience leaders across India, we have another gem of an interview with Mr. Pratekk Agarwaal. Currently leading the overall Lending Business for FTCash, Mr. Pratekk Agarwaal has over 17 years of hands-on experience in implementing the best-in-class processes and operating models for organizations to drive business quality and growth for organizations. He carries valuable industry experience in setting up Customer Experience and Operations teams from scratch. His work experience spans across financial products and processes to establishing himself as an expert in creating sustainable and scalable business models and platforms across customer segments. An avid user and promoter of new age channels such as social media, mobile apps, and cloud services, Mr. Agarwaal uses them extensively to drive customer engagement and analytics through technology integration. His commitment, passion to learn, and ability to deliver on multiple facets has made him fast-track his career. Mr. Agarwaal is a Computer Science and Marketing Professional and an alumni of the prestigious, IIM–Kozhikode, where he pursued Global Strategy Management.

I invite our readers to comment and ask questions on similar challenges they might be facing in their organisations, 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 role has customer experience played in your journey from being a banker to turning into an entrepreneur?

I think customer experience has carved out a niche for itself, but there is still a long journey to be taken by most organizations in India. I have seen organizations being victims of the confusion between customer service (CS) and customer experience (CX). CS is responding to customers and their queries; however, CX reflects the shift in mindset to deliver a superior experience to each customer at each touch-point across the value chain.

Throughout my journey, I have always focused on designing and implementing simple yet scalable customer-focused processes. Driving CX across levels and departments is not easy and one needs to train one’s mind to get these results. One has to take ownership and responsibility of each customer throughout the customer lifecycle. If that is the thought, then automatically one will have the way through all the departments because customer experience cuts across the departments.

How can you align all employees in an organization so that there is a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the customer?

We are all humans and we all need to talk. If I am able to bring more value to an employee’s interaction with his customers, he will give me a hearing and that is my first step. I would then develop and establish processes that are beneficial for both internal and external customers.

Constant communication with stakeholders of all business functions on how their behaviors and actions impact the final customer experience has been critical in bringing everyone on the same pedestal. What organizations are realizing now is that the end experience is the core for a company to build a retention strategy. Along with picking the phone or replying to an email to resolve customer issues, companies also need to use this data to go back and improve business processes and functions.

What challenges did you face in delivering a one-company experience to customers?

I started with customer service and I eventually moved into customer experience. The biggest challenge I faced in bringing about a customer-centric change at various organizations was the internal resistance of teams across functions. For them, it was unimportant and additional work – something that is true even now for most organizations.

Implementing a CX strategy has to come from the boardroom if it needs to be sustainable. Else it would just be a marketing campaign and customers would realize that in no time. In most of my stints, I would validate the changes with the execution teams and then get them approved by the board. The management needs to be equally serious about making customers happy and retaining them.

What do you think is the need of the hour for the financial services sector in the customer experience arena?

The financial services sector is a regulated one. In any regulated sector, the customer understands the limitations that a business from this sector has to operate in and aligns service-expectations accordingly. Hence, a finserv business, like any other, needs to first understand and identify the basic needs of the customer. Then, it must work towards delivering the basics in every transaction while operating within the regulations and, further, consistently evolve the experience being delivered.

Organizations first need to understand the customer segments they want to focus on and the customers’ primary requirements for the product. Then, they must tweak the product and processes around it to enhance the experience. The customer needs to be at the core of the strategy.

What would be your word of advice to people who are championing the initiative of driving a business towards becoming customer-focused?

The most important aspect is that the board and management need to understand the role of a customer and the significance of customer experience. The management must be sold on the idea of building a customer-focused business. Customer experience is not the responsibility of an individual but of the entire organization.

It is imperative that the taskforce team driving the initiative is competent, committed, and not working in silos but working with each unit, cutting across departments. The team needs to operate with the mindset that “I’m here only because of my customers.”

Retention is the key to massive growth, and delivering good customer experience is the strategic answer to it. By focusing on customer experience and retention strategies, your operation cost will automatically come down, creating space for more products for your customers.

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