– Makes omnichannel experience a reality

Walmart, the famous American multi-national retailer doesn’t need an introduction to anyone, but probably their app / needs one 🙂

While everyone is still figuring out their customer journey maps to provide a true omnichannel experience, Walmart seems to be one step ahead of all, leading this space leveraging its great offline assets (physical stores) and growing online presence(

Omnichannel is a jargon for “Seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a bricks and mortar store” 🙂

For many of you who are not aware of Walmart’s online presence, it may be interesting to know that they stand No. 3 in e-retailing in the USA and do business worth ~$15 Billion annually.

Here are things I like about Walmart’s omnichannel experience.

  • You can place an order online / app and pick the product from one of the retail stores or get it delivered at home (basics)
  • Any product shipped to your home or picked from the store can be returned to any Walmart store and all purchase from online to offline adhere to the standard return policy of 90 days
  • You can walk-in to a store and if you like a product but don’t find your sizesimply scan the bar code in your app and look for your size in universe to get it shipped to your home right in the store.
  • Load your credit card in your app, scan the QR code displayed in POS machine before billing starts and make the bill payment with the card stored in your mobile and do the purchase without taking your wallet to the nearby Walmart store
  • The receipt of the offline purchase (along with other online) is in your mobile for your ready reference for an exchange / refund anytime in future and no hassles of searching around for bills to exchange / refund
  • Receive store pick-up notifications on online orders as and when the status change from Ordered to “ready for pickup”
  • Find out the nearest store in your app, set the one you like as your home store and get to know all info about the store from phone number to operation timings.

It is interesting to see how great technologies are converging to make true CX a reality.

I read in a recent article that Walmart is making a huge CAPEX investments in their offline assets and intend to leverage their true omnichannel experience to beat the number 1, you all aware of…

I would call this as a “Strategy” to build sustainable competitive advantage 🙂

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Schedule a meeting – The Modern Way

Getting an Opportunity to meet the person of your interest during Sales Cycle, is difficult and able to schedule it at a time that suits his availability is a lot more difficult.

The problem gets multifold if there are more than one participant needed for the meeting and these participants come from different Organizations like You / Your Organization, Your Partner Organization, Customer and Customer IT service provider etc.

Though CRM in general, has brought in improvements in Calendaring feature to schedule meetings internally with you and your team, it generally stayed within the boundaries of your Organization. A step forward in recent years is the introduction ofPartner Relationship Management (PRM) modules in CRM to extend the access of the data as well as to facilitate collaboration with your partners including but not limited to just meetings.

One of the welcoming features that I see in today’s CRM is about breaking the above boundary and extending it beyond your Organization as value add-ons

Recently got a chance to review through Hubspot team meeting feature that helps to send out a link in your request for a meeting where the recipient can  choose / select their availability considering your availability too. This is a fantastic aid to schedule a meeting without much of back and fro emails and most of the times if the person of your interest is a “Busy” executive, it is going to be a nightmare to get the response over emails …

Similarly, SalesforceIQ Inbox offers a fantastic toolkit that helps to embed inline in your email a range of available meeting slots for the recipient to pick and choose one that is convenient to him

I am sure most of the other CRM vendors are taking a note of it and it is a question of time to see this interesting feature in other products too…

Embrace electronic signature & integrate it with your CRM to cut down lead time

Signing a contract electronically is gaining legal acceptance across the globe and its penetration is widespread today in both B2C and B2B space.

Organizations running their sales processes in CRM should seriously consider integrating their CRM systems to e-signature solutions like Adobe Sign, DocuSign etc to collate and organize signed copies of contracts in their centralized CRM system, cut down the effort and time involved in the traditional wet ink signature process and provide a great customer experience (CX).

Most of the CRM platforms and e-signature vendors provide sophisticated APIs that can help you to generate contract documents on the fly from your CRM data (like account, opportunity info), push it through signature process electronically, get it signed by one or more parties electronically and tag it with appropriate CRM records for quicker retrieval for any future needs.

With ever growing support of CRM and e-signature systems to wide variety of handheld devices, you can virtually run the entire sales process right in your palm without any hassles. It also frees up your sales team’s productive time to be with your most important asset, your customers….

Empowering front line executives – My recent experience

It is a fact that empowering frontline executives would positively impact your customer’s experience on your products / services as after all they are the ones who your customers see every day.

Saying that not that many times you would have really felt it as in reality either most of the staffs are not really empowered enough to make decisions or even if empowered, they may not be the right material to leverage it .

My recent experience with American Airlines is a true demonstration of a positive experience with an empowered staff using her presence of mind to create an impact.

Was on a short (technically) trip from Atlanta to Raliegh recently and to save few bucks booked a 1 stop flight in American airlines with a stopover at Charollette while going and Miami on the way back …

The meeting overshoot by an hour at Raleigh but to my luck the flight from Raleigh to Miami too got delayed by an hour. But after seeing the boarding passes I realized that I am not going to make the connecting flight in Miami as there was only 20 minutes difference between the 2 flights ….

So went straight to the AA counter at Raleigh requesting them an alternative.With no options left (it being the last flight), the staff thought for few seconds and said, let me move you to the front seat in Aircraft to quickly get out of the plane to board the connecting flight …

I felt great …though technically it might not save more than 10 minutes, it created a big difference in my situation…Also, most of you may know the fact that AA sells every seat other than the one in Middle row at an extra price in the boarding pass kiosk… (This is my experience :))

The staff not only leveraged her empowerment to put me in the front seat that they can technically up-sell it for some bucks but also shrewd enough to think through and suggest the best possible alternative in customer’s interest in few minutes of interaction …

I know you might all be keen to know whether did I catch my flight from Miami to Atlanta …No, my flight from Raleigh to Miami got delayed further and ended up staying in Miami that night ….:) …Hmm, dreamt of vacationing Miami but never thought I would miss the flight and end up staying over night ….

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Machiavellian way to promote you as a paid customer?

I do love open source, free to use tools…

The freebie vendors have an array of options to make revenue from something as legitimate as selling advertisements with your consent to selling your personal data to third parties without your knowledge ….It is also common that many of these vendors offer a full-fledged version for a trial period (from good old Microsoft days, expectations set well in advance) and post that you are expected to pay for it or offer a product with restricted features for free and charge you for anything more that you would love to…(like say Hubspot CRM)

My recent experience with one such interesting product to log timesheets was frustrating…Before sharing my frustration I definitely would like to give a credit to the vendor to develop such a user-friendly product that can help you to track time across devices seamlessly …I love it from day one I started using it and over a period of time, they added more and more interesting features and created a great user stickiness …All free to use with no strings attached

Though I always expected that at some point of the time they would release a “Pro” version with great features beyond what is there in the free version, I was taken by shock when they started making existing features as a “Paid” one and making the product today as an unusable one for free usage …To give you an example I was able to add a “comment” (very basic feature you expect) after logging a task against a project / task and recently they not only force upgraded the product but also made that feature available for “Paid” users only …

Though the vendor might think this as a great strategy to force convert you, I feel disgusted and deceived….

In this world of free apps with several interesting alternatives and who legitimately makes money  in many ways, I believe this strategy by the vendor is going to earn only disgruntled customers ….


Citizen’s Experience at Bangalore Passport Seva – A perfect blend of people, process and technology

How many of you have seen a systematic well run Government Office in India? I am not sure about others but it is hardly any for me …The chaos and confusion in providing Citizen Services in most of the Government Organization in India, makes you to think twice before you attempt to get the work done by yourself…

To my surprise and disbelief my recent experience in Bangalore Passport Center, one of the passport issuing centers in Bangalore, was fantastic. Right from fixing your appointment till delivery of your passport at home, they used a perfect blend of well defined process, trained & qualified people and the latest of the technologies available to make the entire experience seamless. I am sure and you too agree even if any of the one doesn’t blend well, the system would be a failure leading to complete chaos.

It was time for passport renewals for me (after 10 years) and my family members and the journey starts with fixing an online appointment by submitting all applications over the web. The website as such is not very user friendly but yet I am delighted by the fact that even having an option to fix an appointment over web for a Government service in India is really a privilege. Considering the interests among millions of people in India to travel abroad getting an appointment scheduled in your desired date and time is no way easier than getting a tatkal train ticket in It is further complicated when you have to fix multiple appointments for you and family members together and that too at the same date and time to avoid multiple visits. But once you are done with it, you are all set for a smooth journey.

On the scheduled day we went to the passport office and to my surprise there was only a modest queue 30 minutes prior to the scheduled reporting time. After a quick security screening we were taken to a waiting area where after few minutes of waiting they started calling people as per the batch number in your appointment letters. Make a note that the passport seva office is second to none in terms of ambience, cleanliness and facilities right from well maintained temperature to a mini coffee shop. They are also accommodative to get you and all your family members in the same batch even if their batch numbers are different otherwise it could be very difficult with small children.

First there was a pre-screening of all documents that you are supposed to have at the reception to ensure you won’t waste every ones time in the next set of counters. Don’t worry if you haven’t taken photocopies of some documents or the photocopies are rejected for quality reasons as right there, there is a photo-copying facility available at a very nominal cost. In addition to prescreening the person at the reception puts all your documents neatly in a file and hand it over to you for further processing. This simple step just ensures no one kills time in searching, finding and providing the required documents throughout the entire process. Even if you don’t have all the required documents (primarily address proof & identity proof), they provide an option for you to reschedule an appointment in next 3 days without any additional fee.

Once you are done with the prescreening, you are given an electronic token number in a printed sheet along with all your documents neatly stacked in a file which forms the basis for rest of the processing.

Fist you have to go to one of the counter As as and when your token number is displayed in the electronic display board to get all your documents scanned and uploaded automatically to the server by a well trained and capable service agents (Thanks to TCS). The person at the A counter has most of the state of art facilities at his finger tip that you would have seen in any foreign embassies like facilities to bulk scan and upload of documents to an online server, taking instant photo of the person that eventually appears in your passport and a bio-metric scanning to complete the entire process in less than 10 minutes.

Followed by A counter you are put in B counter where a Government officer verifies all your original documents. If there is a signature mismatch you are expected to correct it there and you are sent back to one of the counter As again to get your documents rescanned. The entire queuing from counter A to counter B, back to counter A to upload the corrected document and re-verification again in Counter B happens automatically without any chaos and confusion. All you have to do is just relax and wait for your token number to get displayed in the display board and when displayed go to the appropriate counter number to get the process done.

After the B counter, there is final verification of your documents by passport granting officer in one of the C counters and with that you are done with your process. Finally at the exit your electronic token number is scanned to provide you a print out that contains all information you need to track the status of the passport in the web / over phone till you get your passport in your hand.

The one wish that I would have is a facility to process the applications of all family members together in one slot together at the same counter as managing it with small children is very difficult. By the time your processing is done, your daughter’s number may get displayed for some other counter and you would be in a bit of chaos in those moments of overlap.

I would wish one day services in every government office in India would be rendered as seamless like passport services and hope this blog article would put in ease someone who is stepping to the passport office for the first time to get their passport done …. – Long way to go to delight your customers…

Time to write about one more disappointing experience and this time it is with India’s leading Travel Portal MakeMyTrip (MMT)

For a change we (Venky, Naga, Ahmed, Suresh and Prashanth) decided to use the Customer Journey Map (CJM) as a framework to capture my experience with MMT.

To keep it simple a CJM captures various elements of customer experience in a structured format and ultimately serves as a rich source to identify key problem areas and potential innovative solutions to resolve them too.

The CJM is typically divided into three sections.

  • The first section is “Customer Centric” where it captures the customer’s actions in journey, his experience in each step, the kind of attitude / feeling that he experiences and the tangible / physical expectation that he looks for in each step.
    • The various “actions” performed by the customer performed during the journey can be as simple as making a hotel reservation over web as well as the actual journey to the destination
    • The “Experience” the customer has met with during the journey would include both positive and negative experience. The positive ones are definitely a source of differentiation whereas the negative ones are to be explored further for real root causes to resolve them
    • Customer’s “Attitude or Feeling” during each of his steps in the journey captures some of the subtle things like his eagerness to go for a great vacation, his hope, his need for an assurance, disappointment etc. Understanding and acting on these Subtle needs by Organizations can be a source to create a “WOW” experience for their customers
    • Customer’s “Needs” are tangible needs that the customer looks for in each step.
    • The second section is “On Stage” section that captures the people / groups involved in the whole journey other than the customer. It could be MMT’s Staff, the supplier hotel staff members etc
    • The third section captures all “Back stage” systems / things involved in supporting the people in the “On Stage” to perform effectively. It could be a combination of systems / people / processes. This map may not have many details on this as I don’t know the internal set-up of MMT.

The above introduction is to give you some understanding on what a customer journey map is to make it easier for you to appreciate the below journey map prepared. As the journey map is pretty wide, I have split this into 2 pieces and placed in a sequence (Click the above to zoom and view the Journey map in full screen)



As you see above, there are some great moments of Satisfaction as well as dissatisfaction. The moments of Satisfaction are availability of one such great brand like MMT as a single source for all your travel needs, multiple payment options including options to pay using your loyalty cards like Payback, an assured confirmation message about the hotel availability etc

On the other side there are serious disappointments created to the customer like Hotel supplier not able to honour the booking made through MMT, inability to effectively handle customer’s concern by my MMT staff when the customer is stranded in the middle of night, a poorly integrated system that sends an SMS to the customer to share about his great experience though the actual booking is cancelled as the hotel supplier is not able to honour MMT booking, unable to differentiate the booking as whether it is a customer initiated cancellation or MMT initiated cancellation, extended lead time to credit back the money and handling exception cases like credit of loyalty points back to customer accounts promptly without a need for multiple interactions.

Source of problems (as well as solutions) could be a poorly integrated system with Supplier inventory management system, disconnected system that fires email / SMS notification without even aware of the current status of booking, not having markers in the cancellation to differentiate between customer initiated cancellation versus company initiated cancellation, better training of customer staff and having in place some backups / alternatives if a customer is met with such a situation.

These solutions can probably only help to meet the expectation but to really WOW your customers you may to do a deeper introspection on customer’s attitude and experience section…