Renata Liuzzi is a Customer Experience strategist with over 15 years of experience in the field and has worked in major UAE companies as Director of CX. She has also judged a number of times at the various Awards hosted by Awards International, where she assessed the best regional and international CX initiatives.

Renata, who is Managing Director at Axis Partners, spoke with Customer Experience Magazine to discuss her philosophy behind CX, her experience with judging at the Awards and how consumer behaviour has changed in UAE due to COVID19…

Hi Renata, tell us about your professional background and how you became involved in Customer Experience.

I am a Mechanical Engineer by degree with Masters in Motorsports. I also have an MBA from IE Business School. I have 15 years Experience in Customer Experience, Strategy and Customer Service mainly and have mainly worked with Consulting companies EY and Accenture, where I worked on major transformation projects for fortune 500 companies. I have worked in 4 countries and done business with more than 15 countries. Regionally, I have held positions with Emaar Group as CX Director and with Meraas as CX Group Director. 1 year ago, I founded Axis Partners, a science-based Management Consulting Company – we are currently engaged with Mubadala in CX and strategic matters. I am also certified from MIT Certified in Design Thinking and Columbia University in Strategy innovation. I am Green Belt Six Sigma certified by Accenture Academy.

I started in the world of Customer Experience 15 years overseeing the global transformation of the Customer Service department of Airbus Military. That project set my career towards creating customer-centric strategies and driving the rest of the organisation using the customer. Through real practice, I learned that the customer has to be at the centre– otherwise you won’t make money.  

The more I learn about CX, strategy innovation and design thinking, the more I discover how related that is to my Motorsports specialisation. We used to first analyse human behaviour to be able to design the vehicle behaviour. We used design thinking methodologies to come up with creative solutions that would reduce cost and increase vehicle performance. Every race was measured and every KPI was leading us to continuous improvement.

I have discovered that doing this is not only my passion, but it has been ingrained in my DNA and in my way of thinking and approach business challenges.

What is your philosophy when it comes to CX?

CX is not only about the present, it is very much about the future. It’s a very strategic practice. It is also a mindset, to the point that it becomes part of the business DNA. In successful companies, the CX departments are becoming the strategy department as part of the evolution towards customer-centricity.

Focus on your customer and not on your competitor as Jeff Bezos says. I would like to quote him on this: “Let’s say you’re the leader in a particular area, if you’re competitor-focused and you’re already the leader, then where does your energy come from? Whereas, if you’re customer-focused, and you’re already the leader, customers are never satisfied. If you’re customer-focused, you’re always waking up wondering, how can we make that customer say, “Wow”? We want to impress our customers — we want them to say, “Wow!”. That kind of divine discontent comes from observing customers and noticing that things can always be better.”

What’s more, customer experience is about continuous improvement – since your customer is never satisfied, there’s always room for improvement. Since customer needs evolve, there’s always new products and services to launch and space to grow in your organisation. I have launched an Axis Partners methodology that enables this continuous improvement cycle – it has elements of Lean Six Sigma and Voice of the Customer to support this cycle in a consistent and achievable manner.

CX is about evolution, strategy and growth, CX is about innovation and creation and complex transformations, this is why I am so passionate about CX.

If you want to know more, follow my company page, where I’m posting my viewpoints – happy to get discussions started! You can also connect with me here

You were a Director of CX in huge companies in Dubai, Emaar and Meraas to be precise. What does it take to be in charge of CX at such big enterprises of the real estate industry?

Resilience and focus. The role was covering Hospitality, Malls, F&B and Real Estate. In these organisations, CX plays an important role in the strategy of the company and in the next steps. It requires a rounded strategic, operational, analytical and service background to drive this type of department.

In addition to that, you must be willing to consistently advise the C-Level on what to consider to improve in the current business and to strategically advise of the long term CX objective, including where to focus the innovation and the future growth effort.

You have also judged a few times at the Awards hosted by Awards International. What would you say are the benefits of judging at these types of awards?

The ability to see how fast companies evolve in the CX agenda. It is fascinating to see how within 2 years that CX was a weird or new topic of discussion, nowadays you can see very senior members of renowned companies taking pride in how they have transformed their companies based on customer needs.

 

One of my personal “drivers” I would say is to add value to society and businesses. By being a judge you are able to add value to many companies in a very short period of time. It requires a lot of effort, but it’s worth it! It’s rewarding and it also helps your personal growth.

Last but not least, I have met fantastic professionals as co-judges and also from the finalists. It’s an enjoyable environment.

What is the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in UAE consumer behaviours? 

Axis Partners, together with Awards International and CX Dubai group launched a research campaign focused on COVID-19 impact in consumers behaviours. As part of the findings of this report, we have some interesting statistics, such as:

88 percent of respondents indicated that COVID-19 is a concern in their household.

The main element of concern (which is holding people back from visiting malls, hotels, restaurants, cafés, shops, …) is the risk of contracting the virus. The economic impact, however, is the second element of concern. But the interesting thing here is that one opposes the other, if people don’t leave their homes and spend money, the economy will collapse – as we are starting to see happening now.

73 percent of the respondents ensured that their hygiene standards have dramatically increased and will remain higher than before post-pandemic. Hygiene measures provided by public places is a key element to feel safe. I believe all business areas that require physical interaction will have to step-up their game in this aspect.

67 percent of respondents will be more careful with the interactions they have with other people – avoiding physical contact is a priority. They consider “Social distancing as the new normal”. Contactless experiences are now a need, not a nice to have.

Social nature will never go away. 60 percent of respondents reported friends/family and social interactions as an important element to re-activate post-pandemic.

The #1 ranked element that will make people come back to physical shopping is the experience, the services provided in the mall as well as F&B options, as malls are now a place to re-encounter will friends/family we haven’t seen in a long time.

43 percent of the respondents said they will continue to visit restaurants. We explored if offers would be the element to make them come back, but it’s not the main driver for visitation, it’s hygiene.

We have tons of interesting insights beautifully presented and here is the link to download the summary.

If you would like to have a discussion, contact me and we can arrange a video conference: renata@axis.partners.

Given the shift in consumer behaviour, what does the future hold for CX?

In my opinion, companies should fundamentally review how they engage with their customers as the landscape changes daily. If we look at historical patterns, new industries and even companies have been born as a result of the crisis. Right back to the great depression to modern day,  there are many examples of customer needs changing and industry changing to meet those needs. For example, Groupon was born in 2008 as a result of the Financial crisis, to provide people with access to lower cost deals with less disposable income.

Moreover, there are behavioural changes that will permanently remain. A change in habits takes 3 months and we are already 4 to 6 months in (depending on the country), and unless a vaccine is found, we will live this reality for at least 18 more months.

The pandemic is a CRISIS. Crisis means CHANGE. Adapting to change requires INNOVATION. True innovation starts by understanding your CUSTOMER. But your customer has changed.

That’s why it’s time to learn about the “NEW CUSTOMER”.

The pandemic has made companies nimble and faster when it comes to implementing disruptive solutions for a disrupted market. CX plays an important role to drive effective and sustainable innovation and change. CX is now more important than ever before, because in times of change, your best worth is your customer. We are changing during this crisis faster than we have ever seen or potentially will ever see again.

Another interesting point I believe, is that people have become aware that there are no borders when it comes to a pandemic – this indirectly has made people environmentally aware as we have realised that we all share the same world, no matter if the names of the countries are different. 51 percent of the respondents surveyed indicated that they have realised that the environment impacts survival at the same level that this pandemic does.

This pandemic has made consumers go to digital channels, we have a more critical and savvy customer that is nervous, shifty and very focused on the dollar. The future is to focus on innovation that solves problems of customers, that targets the big worries that are chasing everyone every day since this pandemic started.

The future of CX is people solutions for people. Really caring for what matters for people and putting the limited resources available to resolve it – that’s the way to survive in these times, especially when we have all realised how human we are, and how much we need to help each other. That’s our nature and that’s how business should be done.

Renata is Ambassador at the upcoming International Customer Experience Awards 2020.

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