Back to Middle Matters

Love that Runs Deep: Scaling Customer-First Culture

October 27, 2021

Chief Experience Officer at Malaysia's largest network services provider shares her strategies to keep customers in the spotlight.

Businesses know that their relationship with customers is important. They patronize our products, and their insight can help us build even better ones. Once an emotional bond is established, data shows this can result in a 23% increase in per-customer revenue.1 Yet, CEOs spend roughly 3% of their time with customers.2 It is understandable when you think about the scope of their responsibilities but it does raise a significant question: How can leaders feasibly cascade customer-centricity throughout the entire organization in meaningful and sustainable ways?

Lolitta Suffian, a CX savant shows us how it's done. In our conversation, she draws on her experience scaling customer teams to thousands for the likes of CIMB, Grab and BigPay. As the Chief Experience Officer of Telekom Malaysia Berhad, she let me in on the strategies she has in place at Malaysia's largest network services provider to keep customers in the spotlight. 

Embracing customer-centricity

Lolitta recalls discovering the sincere satisfaction of helping others early on in her career. She had taught an older client to use a predictive text feature on their phone and their delight at the new ease with which they could reach their loved ones left a lasting impression. She makes it a point to share the ability to touch lives and experience the joy it brings wherever she goes. 

No matter how high up the ladder she goes, Lolitta makes it a point to stay connected with customers, modelling the care she wants to cultivate in her team. She jumps into customer chats, takes calls, reviews transcripts and plays the part of the customer. These things develop customer empathy and help the team improve.

Maintaining enthusiasm for customer satisfaction is easy when we believe in the products we represent. When we know that our product is the best, advocacy becomes second nature. As we use our intimate understanding of the product to improve lives, it affirms that our product deserves our team’s support and our client’s patronage. 

Sometimes the products we support may not be particularly mainstream or they might not resonate with certain staff members. There will always be those who don’t have a zeal for CX thinking that a job is just a job. While they might never become strong product advocates themselves, they may be able to connect customers in their network with the right people so their concerns can be addressed.

Finding Focus in the Noise

Technology enabling customer support has come a long way from snail mail and hotlines. There used to be a time when a lot of contact work was data entry. Now, prefilled databases are giving way to predictive AI, able to prime contact agents with client information, history, and behavior. The rapid growth in the digital marketplace is mirrored by the landscape of emerging support technologies. Statistics are emerging on the adaptation of virtual reality and augmented reality support channels. Even then, customers always still respond poorly to ineffective or unsympathetic automation. Deploying a customer-centric culture empowers every individual in the organization with the capacity and agency to deliver a positive customer experience whenever presented with an opportunity, however novel. Attention and feedback will best inform any exploration into emerging support technologies. 

Lolitta noticed that deploying in-browser chat solutions enabled her frontline staff to multitask. She remembers reviewing the work of one of her chat support agents. She was worried about the quality of responses clients were receiving as the agent was managing 10 conversations via chat simultaneously. The interactions passed quality standards and clients consistently gave the agent five-star ratings. This was an example of how new technology, combined with agents’ skills, can help businesses serve more customers without losing the human touch. 

Every initiative has to meaningfully connect with and empower the customer. Lolitta sums up the limitations of technology and the significance of customer-oriented support teams in this one statement: “At the end of the day, all customers want to talk to a person that can comfort them and tell them, yes, I care. I will listen to you. I will take action. I will solve this for you.”

Scaling CX culture

As our teams grow, we need to start thinking about how we can cast influence over a wider audience. We won’t get far if we’re spread too thin. Work closely with your direct reports and their first downs. If we’re attuned to the people we directly collaborate with, these people will transmit our vision, values, and culture throughout our organizations.

Nurturing customer-centric culture is no mean feat when you look after a team of over a thousand. Lolitta employs a dedicated service culture team focused on outfitting her organization with the right mindset. This structure pays particular attention to critical contact roles. Regular retraining is necessary to maintain extensive product knowledge. Soft skills workshops help agents improve their interactions with clients, decreasing the emotional and mental strain associated with assisting clients in varying states of distress. They are trained to maintain composure, deflect anger and calm people down. Providing front-liners with the support they need and at their convenience, ensures that they feel direct support from leadership. Empowered support staff means exceptional customer experience.

To round out her suite of strategies, Lolitta shares a succinct tool: The Persona. She describes a simple tagline or list of values that anyone at any level of an organization can apply. Individuals can express these values, whatever role they play or task they execute. At Telekom Malaysia, they use these words: “Friendly, Fast and Efficient.” Even now right, we can ask ourselves how we can be friendly, fast, and efficient. With everyone doing this it's easy to see how Lolitta makes TM culture sing.

Final Thoughts

Customer-centric culture guides the organization, and every individual in it, toward the best path to a positive customer experience. Three things to think about to drive CX where we are:

  • Genuine care for the customer and their problems is the starting point of great CX. 
  • Having an organizational persona makes the individual contributions of our people personal and tangible. 
  • Technology needs to build bridges, not barriers, to customer support.



Continue reading