While working at a Wendy’s during his college years, Mukesh Mirchandani learned a lesson that carries through to his career today: Customer service is everybody’s problem. He understood that people are driven by emotions, and although he didn’t prepare the food, people were upset with him if their burger wasn’t cooked just right, or their Frosty wasn’t icy enough.

“Working with customers helped me understand that I owned the problem, whether it was my fault or not,” said Mirchandani. “I realized that it’s the collective responsibility of the organization to provide excellent service. The customer doesn’t care who the person is. They care that they get what they want.”

Mirchandani is vice president, global field solutions engineering at Freshworks, which provides an AI-powered customer relationship management (CRM) solution. Freshworks is a sponsor of CMSWire’s DX Summit 2021 Spring Session, held virtually on May 27. Mirchandani will present “Using Design Thinking Principles to Build a Customer Experience Stack,” from 1:15 pm – 1:40 pm ET. We spoke with Mirchandani about trends, challenges and proven approaches organizations can take to develop customer experiences that increase loyalty and grow your business.

What Today’s Customers Expect from Your Brand

CMSWire: What are some of the major trends you’re seeing in customer experience today?

Mukesh Mirchandani: Technology innovations in the last decade or so have driven customer expectations. But fundamentally, expectations haven’t changed. Customers want a good product or service, and they want it to work as promised. When it doesn’t, the company is expected to fix those problems. And while technological innovation is supposed to help, the question is: Has technology enabled you to deliver exceptional customer service?

More than ever, customers expect empathetic discussions with brands. When you call customer service at a bank asking about your credit card, you expect to be identified, speak to a representative that has empathy for your situation, and get your problem resolved quickly. You also want to get in touch with the brand on your own terms, without being forced to email or text someone.

Your customers are saying: Give me a choice, know me, empathize with me and help me fix my problem.

CMSWire: What are some of the biggest challenges organizations face when trying to build relationships with their customers?

Mirchandani: All businesses exist to be profitable. They have cost and profit in mind when designing their systems. But when you think of customers in the form of profit and loss, you’re not putting the customer first. Many times, organizations get caught up in efficiency and the cost of managing customer service. They fail to understand what customers want from them.

When you put the customer first, you can impact your profit. Start by mapping out the customer journey. Make the customer journey the backbone of your customer engagement strategy, and then build everything else around it.

Putting Customers First With Design Thinking

CMSWire: During your presentation, you’ll be discussing how to use design thinking to drive customer experiences. Can you give us a preview of what that means?

Mirchandani: I'm sure that many of our readers are familiar with design thinking and how that has been applied in product development as well as UI/UX design. Simply put, design thinking is a human-centric way of thinking. Design thinking changes the way you approach building something. Instead of thinking about which feature to build in your product, you think about how your users would use the product. I think that’s a very powerful concept that needs to be brought to customer service as well.

During my presentation, I plan to cover how design thinking can simply be applied to your customer service strategy. We’ll discuss how you can use human-centric design to create a service blueprint and strategy for your CX organization. We’ll talk about your customer journey and how that maps to the front-stage actions that your employees can take. We'll also cover the right back-stage actions as well as human-centric processes that can align with your customer journey.

CMSWire: When it comes to the organizational processes that companies build around the customer experience, why is it important to start with the customer journey?

Mirchandani: In my opinion, the customer journey is probably the most important thing that should drive your organizational processes. The customer journey is full of insights around your customer behaviors, preferences and frustrations. When you build your organizational processes with the customer journey in mind, you will create workflows that eliminate customer friction.

So, whether a customer wants to buy from you or get support, processes built around the customer journey will create convenience for your customers and drive efficiency for your agents. This, in turn, drives up the long-term revenue and wallet share that you have with your customers and drives down organizational cost. This can be the single biggest source of ROI in the long run.

CMSWire: What role does empathy play in the customer journey, and how can organizations encourage employees to empathize with their audience?

Learning Opportunities

Mirchandani: The worst way to do empathy is to script it. Scripted empathy won’t get you too far and certainly won’t inspire trust. If you want to build a culture that puts the customer first, figure out how to gather your customer data in one place. That way when a customer contacts your organization, your reps can go to a single place to find what they need and they know exactly what the customer is going through. Design your workflows to put customers first. Injecting empathy into every experience goes a long way in making people feel good.

The customer journey is never linear. It goes up and down, criss-crosses and goes all over the place. You need to map the customer journey to the front-stage action your agent takes. For example: A cable company customer looks online for a support article regarding a problem with their cable. The article instructs the customer to restart the modem and the cable box. After the customer tries this and it doesn’t work, they call the cable company. The rep tells them to do the same thing the article stated. By not recognizing the actions your customer has already taken, you’re demonstrating the opposite of empathy.

You need to let your agent know that the customer has already read the article and restarted their modem. By mapping the front-stage action to the customer journey, you can build empathy.

How to Raise the Bar on Customer Experience

CMSWire: What are some of your top recommendations for organizations that want to take their customer experiences to the next level?

Mirchandani: My number-one recommendation is to use your customer journey as a foundation while designing customer experiences. If you don’t already understand the journey that your customers take while interacting with your company or brand, put in the time to understand it. Try to have as much clarity on how your customers buy from you, how they interact with you, how they reach your customer service, and how easily they’re able to get their issues resolved. Try to use data as much as you can to drive these insights.

Next, I recommend focusing on customer convenience or customer effort as a vector to guide your customer experiences. Make it easy for your customers to do business with you and to seek support from you. Convenience means different things to different people. In some cases it can mean an easy checkout process that doesn’t require human assistance. In other cases, it can mean interacting directly with a human being rather than starting with a bot. For certain urgent issues, convenience can sometimes be about making a quick phone call and being routed to the right person the first time. If you’re not designing your systems for convenience, you’re not going to be designing pleasant customer experiences.

Finally, I recommend taking a close look at your employees and the tools and technology they use to engage with your customers. Remember that you can’t drive excellent customer interactions unless your agents have the right data and tools. While the customer journey is really important, you have to ensure that the front-stage actions your employees are taking while engaging with your customers align with that customer journey.

CMSWire: What are you most excited about when it comes to the future of customer service and customer experience?

Mirchandani: I’m most excited about the proper use of technology to drive customer experiences. There’s a lot of good technology available today to improve the customer experience. But have we truly designed our tech stacks to serve customers, or simply to create efficiencies and more revenue? It’s possible to build a customer-centric tech stack and a lot of revenue and profit at the same time. It means building empathy models into your technology workflows.

I’m also excited about customer empowerment. A lot of customers can find the information they need to help themselves. Automation-driven technology is becoming more powerful. Take self-service, like automation and bots, and build empathy models around that. The best workflows start with empowerment and seamlessly move to human experiences.

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