“Son, keep your smile. It’s a free ticket to every person’s heart.”
Firas Mahasen, CCXP, took his father’s words seriously. As a young man working in his father’s textile factory in Syria, Firas would work in the morning and study at night, but he recalls the grueling schedule as a labor of love. “I loved the business world,” he says. “Whether it was managing client relationships or dealing with workers, it was so much fun to me.”
After graduation from university, Firas moved to Kuwait and began working as a retail store manager for Alshaya Group, an international franchisee. His career trajectory changed when he was approached by the Director of Customer Care for the conglomerate. “’ I’ve observed you,'" Firas recalls her saying. “And I like how you are interacting with clients. Do you want to help lead our customer care team?” Firas, who had never considered a career in customer care and didn’t know much about the field, agreed. “Over six years, I learned the foundation of customer service,” he recalls. “I was empowered to drive service improvement across the Middle East.” Firas is proud of his work standing up support operations in the region. “We implemented a performance support program where we collected the data, analyzed it, and created improvement plans,” he recalls.
During his time with Alshaya Group, Firas worked with clients such as Starbucks to drive performance improvement through the implementation of Voice of the Customer and Mystery Shopper programs, and he soon realized his aptitude for helping organizations deliver better service. His career evolution continued when, after a conversation over coffee, he was offered a position with Boubyan Bank and, despite the fact that he’d spent his entire career to that point in retail, he accepted. During his time with Boubyan, customer experience as a discipline began to emerge as organizations began to understand that service is only one part of a customer’s journey.
Together with a supportive manager, Firas oversaw service performance across all bank channels and helped to shift the culture at the bank to one that prized customer-centricity in recruiting, even going so far as to implement “mystery shopping” candidates to ensure that hiring processes were aligned with core values. And, as the bank evolved its digital capabilities, Firas helped to contextualize digital experiences with larger customer journeys. “We were launching our first mobile banking service. We mapped the customer journey from A to Z,” he recalls. “But it was not our job to simply report findings and recommendations. We saw the implementation through to make sure the intended journey was delivered.”
The emergence of CX taught Firas many lessons. “The most important thing that I learned moving from retail to banking is that customer experience is the mostly the same everywhere,” he says. “It’s a concept. It's DNA. Knowledgeable professionals can run CX programs everywhere, anytime.”
Raising the Bar
For Firas and his team at Boubyan, excellence wasn’t limited to its work with customers--the team wanted to raise the bar for themselves. Firas CXPA’s CX competency framework, and was surprised to see that Boubyan’s work aligned with the knowledge domains. “I realized that we were doing 90% of the things in the framework but just calling them different things,” he says. The alignment validated the work the bank had been doing and inspired Firas to sit for his CCXP exam. As a newly-minted CCXP, Firas took his years of experience in CX with him to Canada in 2020, where he operates Insight Research Group, his CX consultancy, and is a proud member of the Toronto CXPA Network. In addition to his work with the local network, Firas has served as a judge for CXPA’s Impact Award and a member of the CCXP item-writing committee.
Even with his knowledge, experience, and successes, Firas still remembers the lessons his father taught him.
“My father was a customer-oriented person by nature. And he taught me that, when you go visit a client, try to add value for them,” he says. “When you present your product to the market, show them the value of it and how we will meet our promise on quality and speed of service. It's about reputation. He always said that reputation is the most important asset for an individual or a business.”