Faran Niaz’s skills as an award-winning photographer have given him a unique vision and perspective as a global CX professional.
“Both photography and CX are creative arts,” he grins. “You get a chance to develop something that didn’t exist. You put a smile on someone’s face, and you feel proud that you did something, even if it was just a small change or a tweak. You created that and it makes a substantial difference for the customer.”
Zooming out, when Faran began his career in a banking call center in 1996, customer experience was known as customer service. As his career began to develop, he found himself drawn to the role of a change management expert running alternate channels, call centers, customer service units, complaint resolution departments, quality setups and CX digital transformation for Citibank, Mashreq & ADIB.
Faran says the most challenging parts of his career have also been the most rewarding, often enabling him to adjust his lens and find just the right perspective.
For example, one of his biggest success stories came when he was tasked with improving customer satisfaction at a large bank that ranked 23rd out of 27 among its regional competitors. Within a few years’ time, Faran’s bank was #1 in Customer Experience and has maintained its top position for 7 consecutive years.
But the journey to the top wasn’t easy. Faran says the most critical aspect of improving CX starts with listening to those who are closest to the customer and bringing their perspective into the improvement process. “If you take care of the people, the people take care of you,” he says, “so when I train people, I empower them to make sure they understand customer experience.”
Faran has worked hard during his career to make sure the people he is working with to improve CX do not perceive CX interventions as an audit. “People get defensive, so wherever I went, I felt that resistance,” he says. “I started by creating a rapport with them and sharing my perspective and my vision. The staff quickly began to understand that I was there to help them, and to help our customers.”
Faran has also taken the time to explore CX in other industries and bring some of those best practices back to the banking industry. He said that work has revealed to him that empowerment is critical – for both the customer and the employee.
“You spend time with people to look at what they are doing – for instance, what is this person doing that can either be digitized or sent to a different channel so the customer is given options. Then you start looking at the processes, how those can be improved,” he says. “And, of course, you must build a culture of recognition for the employees.”
That culture of recognition – a certificate, a call-out in a newsletter, a pat on the back from the boss – provides pride, which is priceless. “You acknowledge them and each of their ideas from the heart—regardless of whether or not they’re ultimately feasible,” Faran says.
Faran also used positive and negative customer experiences to teach about CX, making sure to keep his stories fun and engaging. “I would write about what happened, what was good or what could have been done better,” he says, “That way everyone learns. I would also share my stories from other industries, or from the perspective of a certain kind of customer.”
Just as he sees the beauty in each of his photographic subjects, Faran says that it’s important to recognize the beauty of CX, too. “I love customer experience. A person who knows CX can go and create a strategy anywhere – banking, hotels, telecom, or airlines. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling or what the product is, every action ultimately brings a smile and happiness for the customers, resulting in greater loyalty for any organization,” he says.
Faran frames his final advice for CX practitioners simply.
“You create the passion. You can be different. You can control the experience your customer has with you.”