Decoding the emotional journey of the customer

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Sarah Lattouf

After presenting a session on personalised moments in customer experience at Oracle OpenWorld Middle East, Namrata Balwani Head of Digital Marketing and Analytics, Landmark Group (pictured below) stopped to chat with CX Network’s Sarah Lattouf on building a single view of the customer and the importance of having seamless connections between online and offline experiences.

Customer insights and analytics

Sarah: Can you tell me a little about your CX strategy and how you feel CX has changed in recent years?

Namrata: “The fundamental point is that customers today are what Jeff Bezos called ‘divinely discontent’. The more you meet customer needs, the more they have expectations and then you have to continually do something to better the expectations. So today, because customers are empowered with so many channels, so much information, we have to keep up with that. A lot of CX transformation is where the customer is ahead of you and you’re always trying to catch up to him/her.”

Sarah: What has been the biggest challenge for you to date when it comes to providing a great customer service?

Namrata: “The very basic starting point of building a single view of the customer. That’s a big challenge, because even in our company we have certain legacy systems, cloud systems, industry specific third party apps, there’s a lot of customer data that needs to be joined up. You need to understand what would be the identifier of that customer.

“From the Landmark Hospitality standpoint, it’s not only about purchasing something online. The experience is lived offline. So you buy a gym membership, you visit a gym and you realise you have to eat after. We would hope you walk into our restaurant as the next step. In all those things, your offline experience and your online experience have to be seamless. Once we have the identifier or the single view of the customer, the next challenge is the seamless experience.

“All of this means everything from sales to marketing to product is data driven. So people in our teams need to be skilled at reading data. And not everybody is. So we’ll have a data analytics team, but even our marketing team, our customer service team, need to be able to use all these tools and understand what the data is telling them.”

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Sarah: Following on your biggest challenges, what has been your biggest CX success at the Landmark Group?

Namrata: “From a hospitality standpoint, in Fitness First specifically, we have implemented a set of these solutions that are helping us build that single view.

“We’re also trying to understand the emotional journey of the customer. Because when we do lead nurturing today, it’s not just about the name or the number or the demographics; lead nurturing is also about what are their interests; when they went to our website, what did they do? All those things provide us better intelligence so that we don’t just sell them a gym membership; we talk about the experience, their emotional needs and ask ourselves: how do we meet those?

“When I say emotional needs, when you join a gym, you want to get fit, yes, but it could be that you have a wedding coming up, or you’ve just had a baby or you have a goal to hit before your birthday comes up. We try to customise your fitness experience to that.”

Sarah: Yes. I actually can vouch for that, because I just joined Fitness First ahead of my wedding. The representatives really took their time to understand me and my needs and are really helping me reach my goals ahead of the big day! 

Namrata: “Excellent!”

Sarah: Newer tech like chatbots and automation are obviously dominating the industry right now. But how does the future of CX look like at Landmark Group?

Namrata: “Artificial intelligence may be a buzzword, but it does have many practical applications. Whether it’s in supply chain, ad serving or social media, AI is increasingly being used in many places. What that does for us is it enables us to utilise these tools and frees up people to spend more time on strategy. Because a tool cannot give you the human insight; only people can.

“Our experience of using ad serving platforms that use artificial intelligence or programmatic advertising has been positive so far.”

Sarah: Can you tell me about your top CX investments and which of those have taken shape in the past year?

Namrata: “One of our biggest investments has been in CRM. When I say CRM, it’s not just about the data management of customers. It’s literally looking at the lead, looking at the profile of the customer, then going onto sales, service, and then marketing. It’s the entire suite that I would put altogether under the house of CRM.

“I think the next step after this is using AI and marketing automation, and also assessing how our digital assets can be optimised through tools like maximisers, optimisers.”

Sarah: Is there any chance that you guys would be investing in AR/VR or is this too farfetched?

Namrata: “No, I don’t think it’s farfetched at all. For example, it has great application for some of the retail businesses where through the app you can see where furniture fits in your own living room. We’ve started on that in certain baby steps, but definitely with potential to build it up.”

Sarah: What has been the best customer experience that you’ve ever had?

Namrata: “There are brands that immediately respond to you when you have a problem, or they go out of their way to fix it, that really is something that stands out.

“Starbucks has always provided me with a great experience and that says something, because I’m a big coffee drinker.”

Sarah: I’m a big coffee drinker myself, too! Do you use their app to order your coffee and skip queuing up?

Namrata: “I don’t think they’ve launched it here. But, in India, we have the app and the Top-Up card. I use the app to pay, they’ve really made it seamless.

“The offline touch that I remember the most is when I return to India, it could be after a year or so, the barista at the Starbucks branch I habitually visit still remembers my name and my order. Now that is amazing.

“I have seen this go one step further. A former employee at that branch joined different coffee place that I visited and he managed to remember my name and my order. I think Starbucks has really drilled into their staff the importance of customer experience.”

Sarah: Yes, CX and employee experience really tie together. Invest in your employees and emphasize that they’re the customer experience touchpoint for the business.

So to close, what has been the biggest learning in your career to date?

Namrata: “Stay hungry. It’s really about understanding that things are always moving and you’ve got to adapt your own skillset.

“I’ve gone from being in media planning to setting up my own digital agency, running a start-up and then joining a big network. After consulting with clients in an agency, I wanted to venture to the client side to actually strategize and implement things for myself. This is where I have led the journey for our businesses in terms of digital transformation, digital marketing, customer analytics, and implemented a whole host of CRM solutions.

“It’s always about learning and adapting and there’s really no age at which you stop learning.”

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