Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Navigating investments and returns on the journey to deliver enhanced customer experiences

CFOs share insights on the role of CX in long-term business success

Published: Nov 29, 2023 07:10:40 PM IST
Updated: Nov 30, 2023 10:22:43 AM IST

Navigating investments and returns on the journey to deliver enhanced customer experiencesIn the ever-evolving landscape of business, where competition is fierce and customer choices abound, creating outstanding customer experiences (CX) has become not just a goal but a necessity. This challenge is further compounded by the multitude of channels through which customers are approached—digital, physical, and the amalgamation of both, known as ‘phygital’. The power of social media to amplify both positive and negative CX in real-time, adds an extra layer of complexity to this endeavour. As a response to these trends, companies find themselves compelled to invest heavily in enhancing CX, seeking not only tangible but also intangible returns on these investments.

To explore how companies can navigate the challenges of creating exceptional CX and maximize the returns on their investments, CNBC-TV18 and Adobe presented a panel discussion between six influential minds in the field, under the banner of Adobe Experience Makers.

The panel comprised Venkatraman Venkateshwaran, Group President & CFO, Federal Bank; Giridhar Sanjeevi, Executive Vice President & CFO, The Indian Hotels Company; Niraj Shah, Executive Director & CFO, HDFC Life Insurance; Vimal Agarwal, CFO, Mahindra Lifespaces; Harvinder Jaspal, CFO, ICICI Securities and Raghuram Krishnan, CFO, Adobe.

The discussion commenced with each CFO sharing insights into their respective businesses' approaches to customer experience and the investments made to enhance it. Venkatraman Venkateshwaran explained that CX is at the core of the banking industry, particularly since most products are typically off-the-shelf in nature and similar to those available with peers. “At Federal Bank, we invested in state-of-the-art CRM about three years ago. It was the single largest investment outside of real estate which the bank had made so far,” he remarked, noting that this investment goes beyond providing customers with a superior experience; it ensures that employees have seamless access to customer interactions across all channels, fostering continuity and personalized service.

Coming from the hospitality sector, where CX plays a critical role, Giridhar Sanjeevi echoed the sentiment, stressing the fundamental role of customer experience in creating intangible brand value, particularly in the service-intensive hotel industry. “The difference between market value and book value is the intangible value created because of the brand and all that is a function of customer experiences,” he observed. “So, investment in CX is something we have to live with.”

Niraj Shah shed light on the unique challenges faced by the insurance sector, where the complex and intangible nature of products necessitates building trust with customers. He opined, “All traditional basic indicators of a sustainable business – returns and return on investment, etc. – are all easily linked to CX and that is even more so in the case of the insurance sector. Being a long term product, where the benefits can be expected many years later, when you are either not in a good state or no more, the importance of CX cannot be overemphasized.”

According to Vimal Agarwal, in the real estate sector too, successful customer engagement is typically long-term in nature and trust is the cornerstone for success. “If trust is established through interactions, customers are likely to return when they have the funds. This trust can also lead to referrals and, in the long term, it makes good business sense beyond just sales for the current year,” he said.

Harvinder Jaspal delved into the impact of digital transformation in the financial sector, where a no-touch business model is increasingly feasible. He highlighted the importance of the customer's digital experience and shared, “In our industry, CX is the major differentiator as pricing can vary in a very narrow range. Our investments in both in digital marketing and digital tech investments in the field of customer acquisition and retention have become 10x.”

Offering the perspective of service provider, Raghuram Krishnan underscored Adobe's commitment to helping customers invest in digital experiences through platform services. While he agreed that calculating RoI for customer experience is complex, he advocated a platform-based approach. “Studies have shown that the long term benefits of adopting a platform-based approach are 31% more than point-solution investments. Over a period of 5+ years, platform-based investment delivers a 10x return,” he informed.

The discussion concluded with the participants sharing their unique journeys in executing CX initiatives and the challenges and learnings that emerged. The consensus among the panel was that businesses are on a transformative journey to adapt to the rapidly changing demands of customers, regardless of their generation. The future, they predict, will see a universal wave of digital CX sweeping across all industries. Ultimately, the winner in this dynamic landscape will be the customer, who stands to benefit from the on-going efforts to create exceptional and seamless experiences across various touch-points.

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