Doing the Most to Win Customer Loyalty
Customer-centric evolution is the name of the game as brands strive to maintain customer loyalty in the face of transformation and ever changing priorities
Businesses are reconsidering having dedicated apps for engaging customers, with an inclination towards platforms like WhatsApp. The focus at the moment is on contextual engagement, forming a bridge between digital efficiency and human connection. Staying competitive requires ongoing adaptation to evolving customer preferences, strengthening loyalty and enhancing customer experience. Data security also takes center stage, emphasising the need for responsible data management to safeguard against leaks and threats.
As India's leading ICT services provider Airtel Business, in collaboration with YourStory, launched TechBlaze. A platform where entrepreneurs and tech leaders discuss the evolving customer experience landscape and its impact on business growth. In the fourth edition at TechSparks 2023 Bengaluru edition in September 2023, entrepreneurs explored the shift from traditional to integrated customer touchpoints. Here, we highlight key insights from their discussion.
Adapting to the new normal: The changing face of customer engagement
We observe a rapid change in how brands are engaging with customers. Many consumer-facing brands are moving away from the once-revered concept of owning a dedicated app for customer interaction.
Anandha Raghavan V, Business Head of Startups and Digital Native Businesses at Airtel Business, gave an insight into this issue :“The overwhelming proliferation of apps has led to people blocking push notifications, creating a challenge for companies. Instead, businesses are adapting by engaging users through platforms like WhatsApp, which users are already comfortable with,” he said.
The need to balance the development of a proprietary app with investments in making these alternative channels more native and user-friendly. does not negate what brands today need, to adjust to, and meet customers where they are most comfortable, rather than expecting them to flock to yet another standalone application.
Navigating the app dilemma: Contextual engagement versus convenience
Yash Dayal, CTO of Wakefit, gave us an insight: “Most of our customers shop from our website with tools like virtualisation. We also have omni-channel options at retail stores. Since mattresses are something that last for years and are not a frequent buy, it made sense for our brand to communicate through WhatsApp and leverage push notifications to enhance customer engagement,”
Fasih Abbas M, Senior Director and Head of Customer Success at Cashfree, highlighted the challenges of maintaining app stickiness. “For B2B brands such as Cashfree, which enable businesses to collect payments, native apps struggle to retain user engagement, while WhatsApp simplifies initial contact,” he said. However, while WhatsApp offers convenience in initiating conversations, native apps excel in building and maintaining context, making them valuable for brands seeking a deeper connection with their customers, he added.
Balancing tech innovation and personal connection in customer engagement
The need of the hour for businesses is to engage customers on an individual level, build customer loyalty, and ensure habit formation, leading to overall experience.
Pavan Kumar BVS, CBO of iD Fresh, shared their journey in building customer connection with tech-enabled human interaction. The company sought to leverage technology through WhatsApp to streamline order management. This approach initially worked well but eventually plateaued. The challenge was building personalisation. Retailers missed the human interaction, relationships, and the familiarity of dealing with a salesperson.
To strike a balance, iD Fresh implemented a mix of WhatsApp and personal sales visits. Utilising features like GST and e-invoicing, the company provided an online platform for retailers while also maintaining human touchpoints. “It's crucial that technology is complemented by a personal, handheld approach. Even in tech-based service, the human interface remains essential; without it, the strategy loses its effectiveness,” Kumar concluded. .
Customer engagement and the quest for monetisation
The trifecta of customer acquisition, discoverability, and monetisation is paramount for driving effective customer engagement. These elements ensure not only the initial connection but also the sustainability and profitability of relationships, enabling businesses to thrive in the digital age.
Abhishek Sudhakar, SVP, Business Excellence at Captain Fresh, emphasised the importance of real-time communication through WhatsApp in their fresh seafood business, where time is of the essence due to the product's short shelf life. WhatsApp's instant messaging capabilities played a pivotal role during COVID, connecting fishermen and customers seamlessly.
However, the challenge post-COVID was the inundation of messages, transforming WhatsApp into a broadcasting channel, prompting some retailers to shift to Captain Fresh for streamlined communication. To address this, Captain Fresh introduced Fishgram, a platform that decoded multiple WhatsApp conversations and tracked negotiations, thereby enhancing pricing models.
Nilesh Gupta, Chief Growth Officer at Meesho, stressed that brands today need a synergy between apps and WhatsApp to optimise purchasing behaviour and interactions. “While apps offer superior visibility and personalisation, WhatsApp presents an untapped opportunity for conversational commerce, particularly for users less familiar with apps,” Gupta said.
Fasih, of Cashfree, emphasised the critical role of affinity modeling in customer engagement. Affinity modeling, now integral to AI-driven strategies, enables personalised product recommendations based on users' shopping patterns.
Strengthening customer relationships in real time
Being there for customers in real time fosters trust and loyalty,and alleviates customer anxieties especially in industries like finance, where the need for reassurance during transactions is significant.
Srividhya Srinivasan, Co-founder and Chief Customer Success Officer at Amagi,, discussed their approach to customer support channels using dedicated channels where customers can ask questions, report issues, and receive immediate support at any point of the day. This real-time communication is further augmented by traditional ticketing systems for emergencies.
Saurabh Sharma, Head of Customer Experience at Fi Money,, added “For financial companies, WhatsApp plays a crucial role in reassuring customers about their transactions, providing a proactive view of their journey.This approach underlines the significance of a reassuring presence in a customer's journey,, where trust and clarity are the utmost importance.,”
Fostering loyalty through customer-centric evolution
To keep a competitive edge, businesses today need to exhibit the capacity to keep evolving their offerings to maintain customer loyalty as preferences and needs continually change.
Rajneesh Mittal, Business Head, Growth Accounts at Airtel Business, highlighted the power of bundling and comprehensive rewards programmes in enhancing loyalty. The creation of bundled services, exemplified by Airtel Thanks, significantly reduced churn rates, he said. The introduction of Airtel Black, a comprehensive service bundle, further solidified customer loyalty.
Airtel Business adapted its approach by recognising that startups were heavily investing in services around traditional telecom. By diversifying services, such as cash management and customer engagement through CPaaS (Communication Platform as a Service), Airtel positioned itself as a valuable partner for startups. Additionally, it ventured into selling ad spaces to these companies, aligning with their growth strategies. This evolution not only met startups' emerging demands but also led to substantial growth in Airtel's business catering to this dynamic sector.
Mittal's insights reflected the need for brands to pivot and align with evolving customer demands to maintain loyalty, especially in the fast-paced world of startups.
Gupta, of Meesho, shared how loyalty evolved through the platform's journey. Initially, Meesho focused on empowering women resellers through WhatsApp, creating financial independence and strong advocates. Over time, it recognised that price and convenience were key factors in customer loyalty, leading to a pivot towards ecommerce, particularly in categories like women's ethnic wear.
Prioritising data security in the age of customer engagement
The conversation around data security has become increasingly critical.The discussion explored the challenges of sharing customer data with third-party vendors and the potential risks involved.
Ajeesh Achuthan, of Open Financial Technologies, emphasised the importance of adhering to regulations and conducting thorough audits of vendor APIs to ensure data security and responsible handling, while Deepak Nanwani, of Yuma Energy, spoke about the current scenario in data ownership and the need to understand where and how consumer data is stored, especially in emerging industries like e-mobility.
Saurabh Sharma, of Fi Money, raised the concern of data exposure at different points in the customer journey and the need for rigorous checks and balances to prevent unauthorised access, while Nishchay Ag, of Jar.Ai, emphasised the need for comprehensive collaboration among regulators to address issues of mis-selling and fraud, advocating for user consent and collective responsibility across industries.
Prashant Sharma, Vice President Customer Experience at GamesKraft, spoke about the importance of data minimisation and anonymisation. “To limit the amount of data being sent across teams and ensure that customer information is safeguarded.”
Sandesh Gupta, Director Growth at MPL, highlighted, “Implementing encryption measures and tools that restrict access to certain information are vital components of this strategy.”
As businesses navigate growth , the resounding message is clear: businesses must adapt, innovate, and prioritise customer trust and engagement to thrive in the ever-changing digital age. The insights shared during the fourth edition of TechBlaze conversation served as a compass, guiding business towards a future where customer-centric evolution and responsible data management define the path to long-term success.