Lessons from four Chinese customer experience kings: DiDi, Ctrip, Xiaomi & Meituan

Chinese dragons CX
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A handful of Chinese companies are creating a new kind of customer experience. So what can we learn from the way they deliver CX?

When people think about Chinese innovation, they tend to consider the usual suspects – Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu. But China is home to hundreds of exceedingly innovative unicorns that have a huge impact on society and the economy – some of which are completely unknown to the rest of the world.

Last year, China had a total of 186 unicorn start-ups, which have a combined valuation of more than 5 trillion yuan (US$736 billion). During the last year, a Chinese unicorn was ‘born’ every 3.8 days.

There are a few Chinese companies that are creating a new kind of customer experience:

1. DiDi

DiDi is the Uber of China – but A LOT bigger. DiDi counts more car-sharing rides per day than all other companies of the same type in the world combined and multiplied by two. That’s 25 million rides a day, and 300 million customers in 400 cities worldwide. The beauty of this is that they have more data at hand than all their competitors (75 terabytes of data per day), which allows them to better understand their customers and what they expect from mobility.

One huge difference between DiDi and Uber is that through their partners, they offer a lot more types of transportation services (designated drivers, taxi-hailing, private car-hailing, social ride-sharing, bus, minibus, car rental, enterprise solutions and more). Therefore, on top of having more customer data available, they also have data that is a lot more diversified and better at predicting. One of DiDi’s goals is to use big data and AI to understand and predict where vehicles should be before people even realise they need them.

DiDi can see averages. For example, they know that person X always orders a car at her office on Friday at 17.00 to drive to the train station. At the moment, they can predict this kind of event up to 15 minutes before, but they are aiming to increase this to an hour, in order to have a more efficient and high-speed service.

2. Ctrip

Ctrip is a travel company with one of the biggest customer service centres in the world. In such a huge environment, great customer service is a real challenge, but Ctrip have solved this by having 80% of all their responses being resolved with a chatbot.

Surprisingly, since the introduction of the chatbot, Ctrip has not downsized their customer service team – there are still multiple thousands of workers manning the desks and taking over from the chatbots whenever they need a more personalised answer. This is a beautiful case of digital helping to make a company more human.

Ctrip are also real Data Kings – they are able to predict where streams of tourists will want to go and when. If a certain city – maybe the Vatican, or Venice – is in danger of being over-saturated at a certain time, they can redirect the crowd to other places through reward systems. Aware of the fast-rising numbers of Chinese tourists, it’s crucial to manage and solve trends in tourism in order not to let things get out of hand and ruin the experience for everyone.

Ctrip manages this by encouraging communication between people traveling at the same time. Chinese people traveling who don’t know each other will start communicating with each other to help each other figure out what to do, and predict what is going to happen.

3. Xiaomi

Xioami have the largest offering of IoT wearable devices in the world. Their products are often referred to as “the iPhone of China”, but in reality, they are a lot more than that. Xiaomi sell basically every connected device that can be used in the home, at work, or while traveling. They are able to predict what their customers need through data – like refrigerators telling them when they need to purchase a new supply of milk, or automating the buying of it.

Imagine the predictability and faster than real-time automation that can be delivered when a company sells hundreds of IoT devices and connects them all through the same platform. This is a type of customer experience that Xiaomi is very close to attaining, but most European companies can only dream of. They use their Chinese sense of holistic thinking to measure and understand the contextual nature of customer experience and duplicate it in their systems.

4. Meituan Dianping

Meituan Dianping connects consumers with local businesses for takeaways, hotel bookings and film tickets through their apps. It is the biggest O-to-O company – offline to online or online to offline. With more than 600,000 employees riding around on scooters to transport packages everywhere around China, they are the biggest delivery company.

What’s impressive is that they know exactly when and where the packages need to be delivered – sometimes even before they are ordered. They do this by working closely together with companies that are just as data-driven, like Alibaba, and know in advance what people will want to order. This means they can predict which logistic companies, trucks, and scooters, need to be where to ensure that people will get their package in time. This type of partnership makes Meituan Dianping even smarter.

The real customer experience innovators are Chinese

It’s no surprise that Meituan Dianping was listed number one in the Fast Company top 100 most innovative companies list. Grab, the ride-sharing company from Singapore was second.

It’s telling that the first and second companies on the list are not from the US. It might show that big influential media outlets in the US are finally beginning to understand that the real innovation in terms of customer service and experience is coming from China. All of China’s innovations start from perfectly understanding – through data – what their customers want, and providing them with this very quickly. China is very quickly becoming the pioneer in data-driven customer service.

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem is an expert in customer focus in the digital world. He’s is an award-winning author, and his new book Customers The Day After Tomorrow is out now. Follow him on Twitter @StevenVBe, subscribe to his videos at www.youtube.com/stevenvanbelleghem or visit www.stevenvanbelleghem.com

About Steven Van Belleghem

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