Freshwork's Mukesh Mirchandani:  "If you are not focused on creating delight,  you are focused on the wrong thing."

Long before Mukesh Mirchandani entered the customer service industry, he himself was a customer. More than anything else in his 20-year technology career, those experiences as a customer and his time shadowing call center agents helped shape his understanding of customer service.

He believes all customer service strategy comes down to one thing: creating delight.

"If you are not focused on creating delight, you are focused on the wrong thing," he said.

Mirchandani brings a deep understanding of both the technological as well as the human side of customer relationship management to bear in his role as solution engineering executive at Freshworks. He joined Freshworks in 2018 after a long career as a technology leader.

Freshworks is a sponsor of CMSWire's DX Summit, held online on Feb. 25. Mirchandani will present a session titled, "Use Customer Centric Design to Create Your Customer Service Strategy." We spoke with him about what it takes to build a holistic, high-impact customer experience practice, what successful service organizations have in common and the impact of COVID-19 on customer service.

Customer Experience Is Human Experience

CMSWire: How has your experience given you unique insight on building a holistic, high-impact customer experience practice?

Mukesh Mirchandani: When you provide technology that changes the way your agents feel about their job, it’s exciting and humbling. But long before I entered this industry, I was a customer and had experiences to reflect on. Those feelings of delight or frustration as a customer really shaped my understanding of customer service. Throughout my career, I’ve also spent a lot of time shadowing call center agents. Interacting with those agents has been fundamental in shaping my experience.

CMSWire: What part does technology play in the customer experience?

Mirchandani: Customer experience is first and foremost a human experience. When you call a number for support, you’re not calling the company, you’re calling a human being. Now, imagine if the agent has already identified you so you don’t have to spend time identifying yourself. Good technology enables personalized conversations and allows agents to engage with customers in a personal way.

Good technology also enables an optimized process. That’s overused rhetoric, but it means enabling customer service agents to do their job in the best way possible. Think about when you call customer service: you call when you’re having a hard time, and that agent gets to deal with your anger and frustration. That’s a hard job. As corporate leaders, if we care about the customer experience then we care about the agent experience, and we have to provide them the resources to do their job well.

CMSWire: What are the pros and cons of a turnkey solution versus a set of “best-of-breed” tools for customer relationship management?

Mirchandani: The real question is, do you have the resources to build integrations? Two decades ago customer service was about telephones and email. Now we have apps and chats and bots. When you call the service number it is routed through a telecommunications system, and the agent is using a CRM and ticketing system. The disparate pieces of technology have to come together to make your customer service experience work seamlessly. Unless you have massive IT support, my advice is to select a turnkey solution from a trusted service provider so you can focus on your customers rather than on the technology. Making it work seamlessly then becomes the responsibility of the service provider. The added advantage is having only one vendor to approach with your problems.

On the other hand, there are instances when best-of-breed is appropriate. In this situation, my advice is to pick platforms that are open, flexible, and have the right APIs. Every app needs to be able to speak to other tools, and every piece of data needs to be able to flow across the IT landscape.

CMSWire: Have you observed easy fixes for customer relationship management solutions or tools that are delivering sub-par results?

Mirchandani: I think about this as a long-term, holistic, CRM strategy versus a quick fix, and data is absolutely key. Make sure your technology has APIs to connect and create insights from data, whether it comes from a simple report or something more complex. Use data wisely to shape your customer service strategy.

It’s not always appropriate to redesign your whole system, so start with basic questions: Do you have the right systems? Do you have the right data schema? Is access appropriate? Does your technology have granular permissions, to allow people to see parts of the data that they need?

And don’t forget about chat, which is an easy value-add for your customer service strategy.

What Successful Customer Service Organizations Have in Common

CMSWire: What do successful service organizations have in common?

Mirchandani: This is by far my favorite question because this is what every customer service organization should think about. Fortunately or unfortunately, success is measured in a number of different ways when it comes to customer service. Executives will point to metrics like customer satisfaction and the cost of providing customer service. Those are wonderful metrics when you’re thinking about success, but the best customer service orgs put human beings first. This seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many companies don’t do this. If you don’t put humans first, you are absolutely missing the mandate that your industry has for you.

The second thing is to allow customers to engage with you on their own terms. Don’t force them to call, email, or chat; let them choose.

The third thing is train agents and design processes to be personalized. When you create business logic for your own convenience, customer service suffers. The best orgs have processes that put their customers first.

CMSWire: How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted customer service?

Mirchandani: Orgs have realized they can do their business so differently, with so little. For example, a large online ticketing company reached out to Freshworks for a solution that would help them handle the huge influx of customer service they were getting. We were able to work with them and in a matter of days, we set up an "Answer Bot" to handle a bulk of their incoming queries.

Orgs are rethinking their office strategy, reevaluating the role that chat bots have in their customer service strategy, and moving away from on-prem to cloud technology. This is only going to continue as orgs optimize the customer service experience and how they’re addressing it.

CMSWire: How can leaders align their organization’s people, processes, and technology to build a holistic, high-impact customer experience practice?

Mirchandani: For senior leaders, the number one thing to think about is what you are trying to accomplish with your customer service strategy. The answer should be, creating delightful customer experiences. If you are not focused on creating delight, you are focused on the wrong thing.

Think about the people in your organization and invest in your call center. Customer service agents have a really hard job, and empathizing with them is really important. I encourage leaders to experience their agent technology firsthand. Live a day in the life of your agents and you will be astonished at how incredible they are, how hard they work, and how despite all of the technology and process challenges, they do an incredible job. It is your responsibility to turn those agents into superheroes. Give them the right technology so they can do their job well.

Finally, even if it is a little bit expensive, build processes that put your customer first. Even though in the short term it will feel like an added expense, it will pay dividends into the long run.

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