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MYC'D UP WITH CX LEADERS episode 10: Maneesha Bhusal, CX director, JD.ID

In the latest episode of our podcast series we speak to the winner of this year's CX Leader of the Year, Maneesha Bhusal, about why the award judges thought she was a worthy champion, and how her varied career has led to customer experience success. 

11th Nov 2022
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In this edition of MYC'D UP, we speak with Maneesha Bhusal, CX director at Indonesian etailer JD.ID, who was recently crowned the winner of CX Leader of the Year 2022

Maneesha beat off competition from over 150 applicants to land the prestigious award, and in this interview she discusses how her career path took her into the world of customer experience management and how her background has shaped how she approaches CX - and has influenced her success.

Most organisations focus on big wins. I come from a strong technical background, where we think about small wins when we write a programmes. So instead of focusing on big wins, as a leader I try to find small wins, that we know eventually will add up together to become a big project or big programme.

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DISCUSSION TRANSCRIPT

MYCUSTOMER: Maneesha, we must, of course, congratulate you on winning CX Leader of the Year 2022. How does it feel to have been voted above 150+ other applicants by a panel of the most esteemed figures in the customer experience profession?

MANEESHA BHUSAL: Thank you very much. First of all, it's a great acknowledgement. And thank you for the recognition for my work and CX it really feels awesome. There's no doubt it's a great honour to receive this special award. But then part of me feels like, I know that I have raised the bar, not just for myself, but for my peers and customer experience. I believe strongly that every opportunity comes with bigger responsibility. So for me, this is not a simply an opportunity to shine. But it's a very serious obligation. Now I have to come up with a plan of how I'm going to contribute more to this front.

MYCUSTOMER: One of the things that was picked up on by several of the judges as one of the reasons for your success was your background and your history. Now you've worked in over 39 countries, you have a track record of working in tools and technologies as well. Perhaps you could just tell us a bit about your career history and how you ended up moving into customer experience management in the first place.

MANEESHA BHUSAL: I ask that myself all the time! But in hindsight, I certainly did not have a linear path to where I am today. I do come from a very strong technology background. I was a programmer, web developer first, a few years before I moved on to become a technical consultant. I loved being technical consultant, it was merely because of me getting in touch with the clients and understanding their needs, slowly moved into function consulting, being a function consultant, and project manager, and then becoming a business consultant before I moved into operations, all these roles, I was facing the user, facing the customer, facing the client. It just felt right when I moved into CX operations or business operations, it just felt right that this is where I can bring a very strong combination of finance, technical technology, systems product and project management skills, and at the same time, a very strong business case as well. And that combination put together in customer experience, it just gives you that that boost, which is not available when you come from purely from either UI, UX or CX customer service.

MYCUSTOMER: One of the judges - Michael Hinshaw - suggested that you may have leveraged your background in technology and operations to be able to successfully embed customer experience tools, techniques, methodologies, and news where new ways of thinking of working driving products and services improvement, design, delivery. And you alluded to it then. How much do you think your background has influenced the way that you approach customer experience management?

MANEESHA BHUSAL: Oh, a lot. Actually, as I mentioned, I come from a technology background. At some point, I've as part of business operations, I was also handling finance operations. So one of the very big projects that I handled in Australia was Australian Tax Office, converting a complete manual business into a very automated business. This is year 2000. Similar project I managed was a procurement procuring NetSuite ERP. So when I look back, my knowledge of technology and and the mindset of how I approach technology that played a significant role, because in all these key roles, I have to think about the human psychology or the client psychology of why did they make the purchase of the system? What are they expecting out of the out of the system or even in finance if they want to move from manual processes to system to our ERP or SAP system? What is the need, what are they expecting do they want to, we don't just copy paste Excel files into the system that we have to go through, really understanding the needs of the of the user. So all that, including the project management skills, I always believe that me being PMP certified, helped me a lot becoming a better CX or me being certified and design or use product design. If you see when I used to design web applications.

Now, when we do web applications, we have to think about customers, we have to think about the users, we have to think about how the user is going to manoeuvre through different menus or how he's going to do right click or left clicks, or scroll up and down, first fold, second fold. So all these aspects of technology, aspects of operations processes always involve evolve around people. So that I would say, honestly, back to your question, it's like, I would say it 80 to 90% because of my background. Today, I can say I'm very confident with CX is because my background in technology and background in consulting and my background in working with people, it was never a siloed role, I had to take people into consideration. I had to take the psychology of human behaviour into consideration.

MYCUSTOMER: And you mentioned about the importance of taking people into consideration. That was one of the big areas that were praised for by our judges, that kind of setting up the culture that is considerate of the well being of employees. Online retailers, they don't always have a good reputation when it comes to the treatment of staff. Obviously, they can have highest profile cases, Amazon, which is good to fair, it's fair to say it's a bit of a chequered reputation when it comes to how it looks after its staff. Could you explain why you think employee experience is so important to customer experience management?

MANEESHA BHUSAL: One thing is most of us forget that employees are most likely your first customers. Now even whether it's a retail business, or it's a online business, it doesn't matter what business it is, there's a very highly, highly likelihood, they are your most likely your first customers and a lot of businesses forget that. Second, it's your employees who create the brand strategy. Now, if your employees are not convinced in the mission, then or they're not convinced with your brand strategy, then it is very hard for them to become your brand workers. In my personal humble perspective, they are the ones who are out there representing your business in the world. As a result, they are the ones that have the ability to positively impact how your brand is being perceived by their friends, their families, and they themselves as well.

Now, same goes for customer service agents as well. Now they are not just representing the company and servicing your customers and answering to some complaints or inquiries, but they are the ones who are representing the values that the company stands for. As a result, I think they're more likely to go above and beyond for customers in order to just create a positive experience. Now, it's just connects the dots. I used to hear this that people will not remember what you did for them, people will always remember how you made them feel. The same goes for our employees as well. How you make your employees feel on a day to day basis is going to translate into their actions, thoughts and perceptions, and then going to translate into how they make your customers feel. So for me, EX and CX go hand in hand. 

MYCUSTOMER: As part of your three year vision, you recruited a CX champion for each department to act as the voice of the customer in their decision making processes. That's quite a popular technique to drive customer centricity. But what are you looking for when you recruit those kinds of champion? What makes a really good candidate? And how do you ensure that those those champions can actually influence the decision making that you're intending to do?

MANEESHA BHUSAL: So there are three mechanisms. So when I'm putting CX teams into in other departments, generally I cannot force some other departments suppose it's a marketing department or its commercial department, I cannot force somebody else to become a customer experience, help or be a customer centric mindset. So there are three ways to do it. First is basically in the customer experience department, I grew people to a point where after one year's one or one and a half year, they can transition to other departments. So there's a horizontal move. I groom people in such a way that one person becomes excellent in logistics, one person becomes excellent in marketing, another person becomes excellent in warehousing. Now, they become so good at what they do that eventually they transition into another department. So somebody moves into warehouse now, that's my way of planting in customer experience people into another department and that's very successful because they have worked with me. They have worked with this department at the same time and they are also very customer centric mindset. As a result when they have a Getting another department their thought process and everything is already very customer based. As a result, it is easy to talk to the department and say that, hey, let him be the voice.

So that that is one way of doing it. Second way of me is doing is basically, when I recruit from outside, I have my own way of case studies where I analyse or look for certain skills. And those skills helps me identify that, okay, this person will become has a very good potential to become a CX person in the future, regardless of which department the person goes into. And third mechanism is a very traditional mechanism where basically we talk to the department heads, and then we look for the skills first is a customer centric mindset. Second is, as a leader, My job involves a lot of observing around and then taking a mental note of everything that is happening around so we look for skills example, how the person is taking actions, and does he or she has a technology background. Is he a good negotiator or diplomat? So when when I'm in meetings, I can sense how they're reacting or how they're interacting. And as a result, I take a mental note, and then I know that I go to the department head and say, okay, this person seems to be very customer experience oriented, can she be promoted to be the voice of customer from your representing your department. So whenever you guys take decisions, you don't take decisions in the silos, but you always have a person who speaks for the customers.

And I personally have created a framework, which basically includes a B, C, D, E, G, we call it as a customer experience tenets. So it's like A means Act, C means Champion Customers, D is Deep Dive, so on, so forth. So we also look for those skills as a result, and it helps us to have a customer experience person in that department.

MYCUSTOMER: Another one of the achievements that was lauded was your ability to turn your customer service operations from a cost centre into a profit centre. And we quite often hear that phrase, but what would you say were the main projects and programmes that achieved that in what really was kind of a fairly short space of time.

MANEESHA BHUSAL: Okay, most organisations, what they try to do is they focus on big wins. Now, I coming from a very strong technical background, we are brainwashed to think into small wins when we write a programme, we don't write a big programme that we write small, small quotes, is the same goes for even winning the big making big projects or big programmes. So instead of focusing on big wins, I as a leader try to find small wins, that we know that eventually all these small wins, adding up together can become a big project or the big programme.

So a couple examples. In our case, in ecommerce, our customers are cancelling orders. Now they cancel orders because it's out of stock, or they cancel orders because they couldn't deliver the product because it was damaged on the way to the customer. Now, on a helicopter view, it feels like okay, fine, we can just cancel the orders, it's fine. But if you look at it, the detail that we look at the numbers, how many orders are being cancelled? Can we see these orders? Can we offer a customer replacement? Can we call the customer and say, hey, you know what, we have a replacement, or we are going to delay the delivery by two or three days. So that's the revenue that we are saving. These are very simple, simple things. But when we started doing this on our initial basis, we didn't really think that it would be successful. But eventually, we started realising we were saving about 20 to 30,000 US dollars a month just by calling customers and saying that, hey, let's offer you a replacement because we don't have this product in stock. And customers are more than happy to take a replacement. So I feel that there are very simple steps that we take to convert a cost centre into profit centre.

Personally, I started by doing lean operations. Now, again, we take it for granted. But if you start looking at the overheads and inefficiency in the business, you'll be very surprised that just by overseeing the inefficiencies and overheads in the business and killing those overheads, I could substantially save about 100 - 250,000 usd per month. It's example like streamlining or with renegotiating the terms with the with the vendors. Again, one more example. A customer service BPO was an a pricing model of FTE, that is full time employee, now we negotiated the terms and we change it from full time employee to introduction base. That means we pay the vendors based on the number of inquiries that goes to them. We don't pay based on the number of headcount that they have. That dramatically reduced another $100,000. So we started finding all these areas that we can make more efficient. We can cut down the headcount overheads, streamlining the processes. And generally just working smarter to be honest, then fixing the leakages in the business small, small things. I gave the example of cancellation.

And last but most important is a mindset. Again, we take it for granted, but in my department, I always constantly ask them every month come back saying, How can you do your job differently? How can you make this organisation more appealing to your customers? I mean, we don't control the price of the products or the delivery speed, but we can control the quality of the product and control the service that we provide to the customers. So we come up with creative ways. When I have this something called as ideation programme that runs every month. And every month people, the team teams, especially the employees of my department, they start providing ideas. These are the small surveys that we actually converted our cost centre into profit centre.

MYCUSTOMER: One final question Maneesha, and this is one that we always ask all of our guests - perhaps you could just share one piece of advice for fellow customer experience professionals, perhaps something that you wish you had known when you were starting out in this field that would have benefited you. I'm sure that advice from the 2022 CX Leader of the Year will be warmly welcomed by the customer experience community!

MANEESHA BHUSAL: Sure, so if I were to start over again, probably the most important thing: I underestimated the power of listening to customers. We always say that Voice of customer listened to the customers but the way in the businesses listen to the customer is it's only in customer service, or it is only in operations team. It's very rarely you bring that to the management and distributed. If I were to give one piece of advice it would be to basically ensure that your agents to all the way to your partners, and all your management, including your executives, are listening to the customer calls and recordings and chats. Even if we'd listen to one every month or one every quarter, you just need the power of listening to a customer really getting upset about something very small. It can really make a very big difference in how the executives or the management or even generally day to day your peers and colleagues listen. So it's important that anybody who starts in CX, they arrange these customer voice listening programmes to all the employees take help from HR, because that's how I did I actually took help from HR. So I would suggest, don't underestimate the power of listening to customer voice.

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