CUSTOMER experience management (CEM or CXM) is not the purview of marketers, but of the entire business from the CEO to the LEO (landscape and environment officer). Every employee has a role in CXM. The definition of CXM is given as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed their expectations, leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy”. I am from a technical dispensation but as I am interested in the fullness of “business transformation”, I also need to understand the CXM, which would be the reason why any business is set up.

In order to understand CXM, I will explain it from the perspective of a typical customer persona’s pain point experience with the touch points of one of the utility companies that provides essential services. I will choose Zimbabwe Electricity Transmission and Distribution Company, (ZETDC aka Zesa), among others. I proffer my advance apologies for choosing Zesa as a pain point archetype. The aim of my critique is to assist the Zesa team, whom I am sure are continuously strategising for improvements in CXM as part of the necessary “business transformation” (BX) exercise. Furthermore, other service providers may also take heed.

The customer persona I will create is a typical character representing a large segment of Zesa’s market, eg a person working for a living and trying to make ends meet in the tumultuous times of COVID-19 and economic downturn. The customer persona is called Patience, a 40-year-old mother of three, all doing e-learning from home. Patience stays in the suburb of Westlea, in a house she built together with her husband. The husband went overseas to work temporarily in the UK. He sends money every monthend for the upkeep of the family. Patience works hard as she is in charge of the IT department in a large retail company.

Currently, Patience is in a WFH (work from home) lockdown arrangement. Her company installed WiFi at her home because it is a job requirement that she has to be accessible online for 24/7 support. Patience and her IT team are not only providing IT support but are involved in the “digital transformation” (DX) portion of the retail company’s BX strategy to cater for on-line shopping required to counter the COVID-19 shopping restrictions. Her portion is to come up with an “omnichannel” approach for improving the customer on-line shopping experience using the company’s digital touch points, including website, on-line shopping, mobile apps, social media platforms, email etc.

So the IT team has been taught that the best tool to use in CXM assessment is a Customer Journey Map, which is a visual depiction of the experiences a customer has with a company. Of particular interest to her are the customer pain points, which are the bad experiences the customer can encounter when interacting with a service provider across all the brand touch points. Brand touch points are any points of the customer journey that depicts a B2C (business to consumer) channel or interaction, from pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase phases. Customer pain points can be mapped on the brand touch point matrix.

Furthermore, in her task of developing digital touch point solutions, she employs “user stories” to have a deeper understanding of customer needs. “User stories” explain the “who”, “what” and “why” of user requirements in a format that can be easily understood by the developer, and any other person in the supply chain. The format of a “user story” is written thus, “As a , I want so that ”.

Patience, normally aims to buy the Zesa tokens at the beginning of the month, which is when she receives some money from her estranged husband via international money transfer services. She first goes to the bank to get her money, which is cash denominated in US dollar. Coincidentally it is the first “juice” of the month and, therefore, the low tariff is favourable. Her meter only has very few units from the last “juice” on the very high tariff. She had to “juice” on the high tariff because of the kids who are on e-learning platforms due to the COVID-19-induced lockdown. She also has to provide IT support 24/7.

After an hour-and-a-half of “social distancing” with a suffocating face mask in a bank queue, she joins a fuel queue for petrol, as her car is low on fuel. While in the fuel queue, Patience attempts to buy the low-tariff Zesa tokens via a mobile money platform. The platform responds that the request has been forwarded for processing. Patience decides to practise what she has learnt on Customer Journey Mapping on her experience with Zesa. She starts by considering her own “user story” for purchasing Zesa prepaid tokens. She writes, “As Patience, a WFH consumer, I want to purchase the low-tariff Zesa tokens, anytime, seamlessly using any of the digital touch points so that I can have uninterrupted WiFi connectivity 24/7.”

In developing the DX strategy, the IT team has been taught that pain points can be scored on a “0-10” scale from an emotion of “zero” pain with a score of “0”, to the extreme end of “10” depicting an emotion of “excruciating” (unbearable, tortuous, crushing) pain. Since the attempt to buy a Zesa token using her mobile money service is Patience’s first pain point, her initial emotion is mildly painful, so she scores “1” on the pain point scale. She pauses a bit and tries again to no avail.

Thinking that it may be the mobile money platform at fault, she phones her son who subscribes to a different mobile service provider. The son tries and basically gets the same answer. This touch point becomes the second pain point, which she scores a “2”, depicting a “discomfort” emotion. “Well, that is not a problem,” she thinks as she can use her mobile banking application. She tries this, and again no luck. That is now the third touch point with a pain point, which she scores a “4” for “distressing” pain. The fuel queue is moving slowly, but she is patient as she needs about 40 litres for the week.

Now Patience has to conduct a 30-minute virtual meeting, forcing her into a WFFQ (work from the fuel queue). After the meeting, she thinks perhaps the other digital touch points, such as the web applications for buying tokens, may work. One of the web applications says after a few tries that “the Zesa token service has been suspended temporarily”. That is the fourth touch point causing a pain point, which she scores a “5” for “very distressing” pain.

“Alright, I will phone the Zesa faults and ask if there is any problem,” she reasons thinking that she may get relief with the “person-to-person” interaction. She tries the “Zesa faults” call centre numbers on the Zesa website, nothing, no answer. That is now touch point with pain point number five, which she awards a “6” for “intense” pain.

Patience notices on her WhatsApp that her colleagues are experiencing the same problem. She decides to peek at the Zesa website to see if there is any information on any fault, but there is none. That becomes the sixth touch point with a pain point, which she awards “7” for “very intense” pain.
She finally purchases fuel after three hours in the queue. She gets home and by this time electricity has run out.

Later on in the dark of the night, she is sent a social media release on one of her WhatsApp groups. It reads “ZETDC would like to apologise to its valued customers for the long turnaround periods in the processing of transaction in the purchase of electricity…….due to high volumes of token purchases during the beginning of the month and are putting pressure on the system, the position that we are addressing.” As an IT practitioner, Patience thinks to herself, “Was this not anticipated when the system was dimensioned, and was there no stress testing on the system?” Exasperation!

Patience surmises that if the Zesa team had used Customer Journey Mapping in considering CXM for the Zesa token platform, then they would have anticipated the peak demand and would have made provision for peak demand in the dimensioning of the system, with modular architecture for rapid expansion.

The Press release from Zesa’s public relations office concludes by “chastising” the customers who congest the system at the beginning of the month thinking that the low-tariff tokens are only available at the beginning of the month. Patience is now livid. Her purchase of tokens at the beginning of the month is dictated by the fact that that’s when she has some income and can afford to buy electricity and pay her other bills. All Zesa needs to do is dimension the system for peak demand and most, if not all the pain points would disappear. “If only I could churn,” she thinks, but alas, there is no other service provider. Currently solar pricing is a bit prohibitive for her.

She remembers to continue with the Customer Journey Map scoring of pain points, and she gives this last one a “10” depicting “excruciating, tortuous” pain, especially recalling that CXM is “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed their expectations, leading to greater customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.” She prays and goes to bed wishing for a better tomorrow.

 Tororiro Isaac Chaza is an engineer and he writes in his personal capacity.

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