The art and science of customer obsession

A detailed roadmap in the guise of a practitioner’s toolkit to put customer first

The art and science of customer obsession
While putting the cart before the horse, the authors importantly reiterate the need for total employee buy-in, without which the external magnetism cannot be ensured.

By Shivaji Dasgupta

It is quite remarkable how in spite of a prolific business environment, customer centricity is still a distant destination for Indian businesses, succumbing consistently to the trap of a manufacturer’s bias. Which is exactly where Mundkur and Aggarwal’s book Customer First is a detailed roadmap to imbibe the same, albeit more as a practitioner’s toolkit and not so much a breezy helicopter perspective.

Built stoutly on the foundation of data cum experience driven CX (Customer Experience), the guiding beacon of the entire narrative is the CFM (Customer First Mindset), reinforced repeatedly, and indeed appropriately, as a persistent boardroom attitude without which the daily operational rigour is improbable. This, in turn, makes it a persistent engagement model, brought to life by an organisational culture built around this pillar, thus making CX a team effort and everybody’s business, and not a departmental prerogative as is a common fallacy.

Some of the episodes make compelling sense and, indeed, the case study with an expert opinion for every principle makes them holistic, albeit repetitive. Mindset Myopia talks importantly about the Intent-Outcome dissonance, as increasingly the operational convergence of strategy is a crucial instrument of accession. It was equally enlightening to read about the need for thinking on one’s feet, as we know very well in the digital age that the reasons for an organisation’s success change rapidly over time.

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While putting the cart before the horse, the authors importantly reiterate the need for total employee buy-in, without which the external magnetism cannot be ensured.

The identification of value creation as the secret sauce for businesses is also crucial and the focus on simplicity and integrated experiences is truly gold standard, as increasingly we are seeking categories like banking, aviation, hospitality and so many more where the advertising promise is only as good as the product delivery. In the chapter on More Bang for the Buck, the authors importantly connect the economic value of business imperatives with a customer-first approach, which really is the moot point of this entire exercise, as any serious organisational endeavour must add up to both the top and bottom lines in a sustainable manner. Bridging the physical-digital divide is yet another enormous post-Covid imperative that this book captures, from the relevant post-pandemic sensitivities and not just a theoretical lens. The most important lesson being building SOPs around personalisation, and the need to implement sharply the understated needs of the clientele.

Connected to the above is the cult of the Fast and the Furious, actually repeated in multiple ways across the narrative, where the rapid evolution in customer experiences is ably recorded and this needs urgent attention at a structural level, Perhaps the most significant points are made in the ‘Omnipresent’ chapter, which focuses on how to establish, measure and implement the chosen CX goals—mapping customer journeys, involving all stakeholders at the very outset and most crucially integrating the brand story with customer experience. The last is, indeed, a much-needed antibiotic for many brand organisations, which seem to distinguish the two, departmentally and in a mental space. This actually gets further amplified in the section titled Customer Experience is Everybody’s Business, urging for a seamless chain of command from the CXO suites to the sleeves rolled up last mile.

Further chapters talk more about unlocking future value in order to time-proof brand engagements and the connected necessity to build strong relationships, both of which are no-brainers surely in this dynamic universe of fickle customers, and some interesting anecdotes come to the party adequately. The fact the change is indeed the only constant is distilled uniquely in a dedicated section, but by now, the reader has surely been sufficiently immersed in this critical observation. At the end of the rather exhaustive narrative, nobody should complain about any ingredient being missed out, and the case studies with the expert view do add substance to the story.

However, in the interests of reader attention span, which is clearly a CX reality in the knowledge publishing trade, the book could surely have been much shorter and this excessive repetition of undeniably valuable concepts undermines their worth to a considerable extent. Which is exactly why it is certainly a well-crafted professional read (students and academia as well), but may be a dash unattractive to general business readers, who seek an engrossing and efficient access to new-age concepts like CFM.

Shivaji Dasgupta is an independent brand consultant and writer

Customer First: A Mindset that Spells Success in Today’s World
Jacqueline P Mundkur & Varun Aggarwal
SAGE Publishing
Pp 284, Rs 595

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