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Susan is an independent digital communications and user experience strategist. She helps companies discover their brand voice and grow their business.
Shubharthi is currently part of the strategic marketing team at Regalix. His expertise mainly lies in the account-based marketing and programmatic advertising space.
Priscilla is a content writer who has worked for Infosys Technologies and other technology startups in India and abroad.
Moulishree is a freelance journalist with over 7 years of experience, she writes research-based analytical stories on technology and business.
Avanish is a Bangalore-based journalist who writes on business with a specific focus on technology companies.
Priyanka has covered every aspect of the IT industry as a tech journalist since its early days. She is now an independent writer, working on subjects like digital marketing, enterprise technology and high-performance computing, among others.
A freelance content writer, S. Sahu was the former editor of TCS's house magazine at Tata Consultancy Services. He developed tech marketing collateral for the company and helped compile and edit books and journal articles on TCS's technology innovations. He also ghostwrites print and online publications.
Prajwala is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist who writes on social issues, stories of human interest, and art and culture, among others.
Rajesh Nanarpuzha is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at IIM Udaipur. Previously, he has worked as a brand manager in Dabur, and as a business consultant in the retail and consumer goods domains at Cognizant and Tata Consultancy Services. Rajesh has an MBA from IIM Indore and a doctorate in marketing from IIM Ahmedabad.
Priyokumar Singh Naorem
He is a passionate UI & UX designer who thrives on creating engaging creative solutions.
A freelance illustrator, artist, graphic novelist and designer. She has designed and illustrated several book covers. Her personal illustrations so far have attempted to seize the fleeting absurdity and mood of places, things and people she encounters in a childlike, intuitive and expressive manner with closure, beauty and innocence – the things that she desires.
She is an artist and an educator who has taught and lectured at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Oxford University, the Victoria and Albert Museum among other institutions. Her installations, paintings, thread work and sculptures have been exhibited in Saatchi Gallery - London, C24 Gallery - New York, and Museum of Contemporary Art – Lyon, among other notable galleries and museums from around the world.
Purna Chandra Mahato
A commerce graduate from Delhi University, Parul pursued a masters in fine arts from Nottingham Trent University in the UK. As an artist, she is interested in line as a subject which has led her to follow architectural lines in built environments. She says she is also interested in how we perceive the environment that we inhabit and what happens when a subtle shift is made in things which we have been used to seeing in a certain way. We present six of her artworks here.
Shweta Malhotra is a graphic artist and designer from Mumbai, based in New Delhi.
After working with ad agencies and design studios for close to 8 years, she branched out on her own and currently works independently.s Her overall design aesthetic is minimal, bold and graphic, a response to the maximalist visual language prevalent in India.
Rithika Merchant (b.1986) received her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from Parsons the New School for Design, New York in 2008. She has exhibited extensively since her graduation. Recent exhibitions include a duo show “Reliquaries: The Remembered Self” at TARQ, Mumbai; “Language of the Birds: Occult and Art” at 80WSE Gallery, New York; and group shows at Summerhall, Edinburgh and Artry Gallery, Kochi. Her work has been included in multiple group shows at Stephen Romano Gallery and The Morbid Anatomy Museum, New York. Born in Mumbai, she now divides her time between Mumbai and Barcelona.
Aniruddh Mehta is an artist based out of Mumbai, India. Trained in graphic design from the London College of Communications, Aniruddh is a self-taught illustrator and currently works as an independent freelance designer. He believes in finding the right balance between art and graphic design. He has worked closely in collaboration with Bhavishyavani Future Soundz, Qilla Records, Taxi Fabric, Adidas, Dell and United Colours of Benetton. He also goes by the moniker, ‘thebigfatminimalist’ and his style ranges from bold minimal forms to more intricate pieces exploring patterns and geometry.
Paramesh is an artist who enjoys working in both the realistic and abstract style of painting. He loves working with water color. Featured in this issue are a set of water color works that he has created exclusively for us on the subject of digital transformation.
Based in Mumbai, Chandrashekhar Thakur is a Senior Art Director and Illustrator at Truebil.com and the Founder of HAPPiNESS For You. He loves working with new styles of art and considers illustration to be his forte. Chandrashekhar has completed his BFA from DY Patil College of Applied Art.
Concept and Direction
Head of marketing at Regalix, Nimish drives research in emerging technologies and customer experience, and takes a keen interest in creative arts.
Kia Puhm is the head of KIA CX Consulting. She has extensive experience in building world-class practices that accelerate business growth through Customer Experience innovation. Her proprietary ICE™ methodology provides clients with a disciplined and sustainable approach to increasing customer value and long-term loyalty. Prior to KIA CX, Kia held chief positions at Oracle, Eloqua, Day Software (Adobe), Intelex Technologies and Blueprint Software Systems. She holds a Bachelor's of Applied Science in Computer Engineering from the University of Toronto.
Here we talk with Kia about Customer Support and why she believes being customer-centric and understanding the customer journey is the key to providing a great customer experience.
Interviewed by Arunh Krishnan
/ / How has Customer Support evolved over the years?
Customer Support has moved from being reactive, independent and transactional to using data and understanding the customer journey to deliver what it takes for the customer to be successful.
/ / What are the technologies driving Customer Support today?
Today we have high expectations of not just how a problem should be solved, but how quickly it should be solved and which channel should be used in the process. To meet these expectations, technologies are also changing fast. I see a lot more AI being used, more advanced data analytics for insights, self-service tools, and in-app assistance providing help to the customer at relevant times. They are driving change in support, as is the connected experience. You have the social platforms and communities of people that can help each other outside of the vendor organization. All these help in how seamlessly our issues are addressed.
/ / How well are businesses coping with all this change?
I don't think I can make a general statement on that but what I'm seeing is that it is changing the way organizations are run. Companies, in general, tend to be more product-centric, focusing predominantly on helping customers understand their products; so they are organized to educate people on their products in isolation and not necessarily with the customer's business context in mind. And what is changing as products become more intuitive and easier to use is that the type of help and support we need to offer customers is not necessarily about how to use the product but how the product can change their businesses. And for that, we need to understand the customer's context, what industry they are in, and how we can help their end customers through the use of our technology.
We have to learn how to organize not only our technology but also our people and our processes so we can provide better support to our customers in the context of their environment.
/ / In your opinion, are companies investing enough in Customer Support?
The question I would think is not so much about whether they are investing enough, but are they investing in the right way. Do they understand what their customer needs are and what is the most effective way of addressing those needs? Do they have the right tools, the right processes and structures in place to provide the best support?
If you think of a customer-centric approach, using that as a guiding principle, how much investment is enough will depend on the context of the customer. Slack is an example of a product that grew remarkably quickly because they were able to deliver a product experience that facilitated easy adoption and didn't require much support because it was intuitive to use. So I would assume that a company like Slack will have a different investment strategy for their support function than a company that requires much interaction with its customers.
/ / In a recent study done by the Northridge Group in the US, nearly half the audience they spoke to felt that companies don’t make it easy for customers to contact customer service. How would you react to this finding?
I think it’s true to some extent. I think companies are using various channels without truly comprehending how they should be used to support their customers. Often I hear companies saying things like “We’ve got to implement chat support or be on social” because somebody else they know is doing it. It’s almost being done ad hoc. Instead, I think companies need to figure out which are the social channels that their customers go to, how these channels can be used strategically to help them, and whether there are more appropriate ways to provide support.
/ / Social media is being increasingly used by customers to request support. Are businesses coping with this trend well? What advice would you give them?
My biggest career ‘aha’ moment came when I truly understood the power of customer-centric thinking and how the customer journey map can serve as a guide to driving success for customers.
Understanding what that customer journey is like from start to finish - Why did they purchase your product? How are they adopting it? What are they trying to accomplish in their business with the use of your technology? - will shed valuable insights into how a company should support its customers.
When a company understands what the customer journey is, it will begin to know when customers are likely to require support, what type of support they will need, and how best to deliver it.
If you make it known to customers how to get support, you will find them using that media rather than needing to call out on social media hoping that somebody will answer them.
I think many requests via social media are made more out of frustration when support is not found through other means.
My advice is, therefore, know your customers, understand what help they need and how they need it, then align support channels to best meet those needs.
/ / What role does Customer Support play in the overall Customer Success framework? How critical would you say it is?
Support plays a very critical role in the overall Customer Success framework. Support is one of the important customer closed-loop feedback channels. Support helps companies understand how their customer base is using and adopting their technology and that information is vital for product enhancements, and in evolving a product experience that is more seamless and effortless, so customers won't need as much support as they do now.
/ / Do you see automation as a threat to jobs in the Customer Support space?
I see automation changing the way support is delivered but not necessarily as a threat. While automation may replace individual jobs for more repetitive tasks, I see a role for both. Automation frees up a lot of time for people to play a more strategic role in advising customers with their problems.
/ / Does this call for a re-skilling in the workforce?
I'm not sure if it can be called re-skilling, but in the digital transformation process, we all need to continuously learn and advance our knowledge. We need to learn how technology is evolving, and how our customers are evolving with technology. The customer journey is not a static process but a dynamic one, and it will keep changing as our customers evolve.
/ / In the near future, what trends do you see evolving in the Customer Support space that businesses should be aware of?
I see both opportunities and challenges for businesses.
Currently, we are reactive to the Customer Support needs of our customers. This is because we don’t understand what the customer journey is and the context in which customers are using our products. The challenge is to be able to predict what their needs would be next. The opportunity is in being proactive in providing the customer with answers to questions that they haven’t even asked, thus offering them a seamless experience.
/ / Could companies, especially the smaller ones, outsource their Customer Support function?
Good question. I don't think we can generalize on this. It may be completely inappropriate if the technology is complex and requires deep domain experience. On the other hand, if the product is intuitive, it might be quite appropriate to outsource support. So I think some industries may be ready for outsourcing, while some may not be.
/ / Not all people are equally technologically-competent. I find most companies today are reluctant to provide human support. Your reaction?
I think this is probably truer in the B2C space. Understanding personas and driving people to the right channels of support is perhaps the way out.
So technologically-competent people get self-service support while people needing human interaction can be offered that. Apple is a good example of a company that does this well.
When people feel the need for human interaction, a company should ask itself whether the technology requires human assistance or is it that your self-help is too difficult and complex for customers to follow.
In the end, however, companies need to continually look at how they can make their products more intuitive so it would require a minimum of support.
/ / What are the three things that businesses are not doing right in the Customer Support space?
Firstly, not using the data that they have available to them in the most effective way to understand how they can continually improve and drive adoption in seamless ways so that people don’t feel frustrated and need to call into support.
Secondly, not using the data to understand how they can continually improve their products for a better and improved customer experience.
Thirdly, not understanding how to set up support in all the various channels with all the necessary resources and tools in a way that aligns with the customer’s requirements.
To sum it up, I think businesses need to become more mindful of what the customer journey is and ensure that they are there to provide support seamlessly all along that journey.
Social media: Supporting customers on the ‘edge’
Digital technologies make organizations function smoothly and business function processes efficient.
Messaging through voice - that’s the trend that I see emerging in the near future
James Waters, Vice President, Customer Service, Booking.com
Top performing companies will use technology to make the human experience better
Ed Powers, Independent CX Consultant
AI-based chatbots are central to transforming CX for next-gen customers
Rajesh Balaji, Global Delivery Leader, Enterprise Application Service, Cognizant
I believe chatbots will be custom-built for different situations
Pradyot Ghate, Associate Vice President and Product Lead, Zomato
We live at crossroads of rapidly changing customer experience today
Immanuel Kingsley, VP and Head of Innovation Lab, Hexaware