Do we really know what customers want?
As the MD & CEO of a very customer focused company, one of my obsessions is to keep a tab of what the customer wants and how do we deliver the best results to them. Initially our focus was to be the first one to deliver to the customer. So, if the general trend in the industry was to settle claims in 3 months, we said we would do it in 1 month. When other’s followed the suit, we said we’ll do it in a week’s time. Soon enough even that became an industry-wide practice, that’s when we said we’ll settle claims in a day’s time and kept pushing the benchmark. We thought that the customers would be very happy with us since we were exceeding their expectations.
Then one fine day, I looked at some statistics, figures and advertisements of my competitors; I realized that everybody is talking about settlement in a day’s time. I thought, as an industry we are spending a lot of time and effort for these incremental changes. Do these really make a difference to the customer; do these practices actually end in customer delight? No better way than to hear from the customer himself. So I spoke to some customers and the general consensus was that while an early settlement of claims is appreciated, a difference of an hour or two doesn't matter to them. Another input that I got from most of them was that they wanted simplification of the claims process.
That’s when the above classic quotes of Henry Ford and Steve Jobs came to my mind. So, does the customer really know what they want? Maybe. Are these quotes relevant to all the businesses? Depends.
If you’re simply looking at incremental change of processes, which every company should do, then these sentences may not be relevant. You may go ahead with seeking customer feedback to continuously improve your systems and processes. However, placing a lot of emphasis only on what the customer wants destroys a company’s ability to innovate and be different. So, if you aim to redefine or transform your business to give the customer a ‘WOW’ experience, which they wouldn't have envisioned, then the above quotes are very relevant. I believe an organization has to have both the segments.
One segment should solicit customer feedback and actively improvise their systems and processes by making the required incremental changes. Customers will probably bring to your notice improvisations which you may have failed to observe. So here I disagree with the sentiments of Mr. Jobs and Mr. Ford.
However, I agree with them that for transforming businesses you need to push boundaries and do the unexpected. I always tell my team that for us we have to think about ‘Relationship Beyond Insurance’. So that’s what we do, strike a fine balance between the two segments for a holistic approach to the growth of the company. To successfully run a powerful organization one has to consider both the segments very relevant and focus equally on both.
So fundamentally, yes, a customer knows what he wants from the current scenario- a better delivery. But they are not aware of the possible innovation in our space. That’s where we step-in as professionals who live our brands, industry day in and out. Nobody else can come up with better solutions and innovations to enhance the customer experience.
At Bajaj Allianz, our endeavour is to work aggressively in both the segments and be known as an innovator in the market. In fact, with our innovations in the past we have been able to achieve customer delight beyond expectations. But we don’t believe in basking in the glory of our past laurels. We don’t think of innovation as a race, we believe it’s a journey. Today, an innovation hardly lasts 7-8 months as it is quickly replaced by another one. So the journey is all about asking oneself ‘What next?’
I’m very happy to know that in India, we have a lot of people who are innovative and constantly thinking about what can be done better. People have the perception that in a traditional industry like Insurance, the environment for innovation is not very encouraging. As the MD & CEO, it’s my commitment to provide an enabling environment so my team can enhance the customer experience to a level where every time the customer just exclaims ‘WOW’!