I am a big evangelist of good customer experience: Geetanjali Bhattacharya, Vi

We, at Adgully, have always saluted and honoured women managers and leaders across diverse fields. W-SUITE is a special initiative from Adgully that has been turning the spotlight on some of the most remarkable women achievers in the M&E, Advertising, Marketing, PR and Communications industry.

Geetanjali Bhattacharya, Executive Vice President & Head of the National Retail Function, Vi (Vodafone Idea), possesses a remarkable journey across diverse industries, including telecommunications, airlines, retail, and e-commerce. In this insightful interview with Adgully, Geetanjali Bhattacharya shares her strategies for leveraging her multifaceted background to fuel innovation and growth in the retail sector at Vodafone Idea. She delves into the principles that guide her leadership, the integration of technology to enhance customer satisfaction, and her vision for Vi’s retail future. Excerpts:

With your extensive experience in various industries such as telco, airlines, retail, and e-commerce, how do you leverage your diverse background to drive innovation and growth in the retail sector at Vi?

I am grateful to have the exposure and the experience of working in so many diverse fields. I truly believe that when you have such a wide level of experience it helps you incorporate the best practices of that industry into your present assignment/ job. I was able to carry forward my learnings from the e-commerce industry where automation and handling volumes was the key into the telco retail space. My previous experience made me challenge the system and work on several innovative methods that one might not think would be relevant for the telecom industry. Similarly, my airline industry experience taught me the importance of building, re-enforcing and compliance of SOPs till it gets added in the DNA of the team.

Retail operations is a lot about governance and putting basics in place that could be driven with SOP management. Being a customer experience professional across so many industries has given me the power to look at the higher quantum of data and use that for consumer insights and data science.

Vi operates in a highly competitive telecommunications market. How do you ensure the retail presence, products, and services offered by Vi stand out among the competition?

I am a big evangelist of good customer experience. I strongly believe that a good customer experience can make or break a company’s reputation. Telco is a product that caters to both masses and classes. Yet each and every customer is special and should be made to believe so by the experience that he/ she goes through when given a chance to serve. The telco space is ever-evolving, fast-paced, intense and dynamic especially with the gamut of products available as options for customers. If a customer has had even a single bad experience, winning back is challenging. At Vi, we truly believe that if we continue with superior and an effortless experience which is seamless and cognitive, they will continue to make us the brand of choice. Customers will continue to choose us over competition as they know that each time they transact with us, the experience will be superlative. So, that’s what truly makes us stand out amongst competition.

As the National Head of Retail, what strategies do you employ to enhance the customer experience in Vi’s retail stores? How do you integrate technology and digitisation to improve customer satisfaction?

Firstly, we believe that if a customer has come all the way to our store physically, then he/she should not go back without a solution to their problem. Every interaction should be a “First Time Fix”. With this intent, we build our systems and processes. Why did the issue occur in the first place, what are the breakpoints, where did the ball drop, etc. All these data points help us in a continuous process of improvements so that we minimise our cutoff point and ensure that the same issues do not occur. To create a seamless experience for our customers, we have invested in technology and digitisation – to build UX journeys on the app and CX in all our touch points, etc.

Could you share some examples of how you have implemented change management and disruptive tech enablement in the retail space, e-commerce, and large customer experience touchpoints in your previous assignments?

At Reliance Retail, Nykaa and other organisations, we worked on quite a few disruptive tech enablements which could imagine digitised monetary transactions over bots and with no human intervention. Earlier, most of the user journeys required assistance from a customer representative. However, digital transactions have now become the new normal and that too in the brick and mortar retail space. I leveraged big data and analytics to constantly forecast consumer behavior and then use the insights in our systems via AI and ML. This was extremely useful for large-scale events such as the Nykaa big sale. Technology definitely helped us plan things way ahead and prepare to cater to volumes. When business is as usual, it is easy to deliver a good customer experience. But how you continue to deliver the same or superlative experience during the large sale season is a true testament to your systems and processes.

How do you approach strategic planning and management in your role? What factors do you consider when developing strategies to drive business growth and achieve organizational objectives?

I believe that no amount of strategic planning can hold well if you do not have your team’s buy-in. For me, the clear objective is that everyone is accountable and it is important to put the onus on each team – which I feel works very well in several ways. In addition, it is crucial to have an alignment on the overall vision for successfully executing the strategy. I believe that the more the plan is nimble – there is more scope for recalibration and course correction, especially if the market dynamics change. Also, the employees should be empowered to make their own decisions, whether good or bad, but it is essential for them to take those calls. The other important aspect is a proper stakeholder exploration and charting session to make sure that the exemplification of the true voice happens. This largely works well in a huge organisation like ours that is dealing with a category that is ever so dynamic.

Vi operates in a dynamic and rapidly evolving industry. How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies in retail and telecommunications? How do you ensure that Vodafone Idea remains at the forefront of innovation?

Yes, you are right. Reading and researching is the key. Keeping my ears and eyes open to what competition is doing is also helpful in many ways. In addition, networking with right stakeholders has enabled me to bring the relevant change in the system. Our philosophy focuses on being “Future Ready”. Keeping these in mind, we believe in constantly re-inventing whether it is technology or people management. Meeting new age tech companies and exploring solutions that they offer also helps me update with the latest trends and know-how.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the retail sector in the telecommunications industry? How do you navigate these challenges and leverage the opportunities to drive growth?

Pandemic has led to a massive change in the retail industry. Every organisation is driving its digital agenda and the consumer is overwhelmed with the amount of digital exposure, but at the same time he/she has become familiarised with technology and is comfortable to maneuver for daily needs. So, on one side we are bridging gaps via tech enablement so that the customer easily navigates online, but at the same time, we are reducing our interface with them as walk-in in the stores is impacted. Therefore, it is important to crack a sweet spot to make the retail telco space relevant for the customer. This is exactly where we focus our efforts on. Having said that, we are relentlessly working on making our stores as “Retail of Tomorrow”. We are constantly adding new initiatives that translate into store walk-ins.

As a leader in the retail function, what qualities and skills do you believe are essential for success in this role? How do you foster a culture of collaboration and innovation within your team?

I believe in giving teams and members the space and freedom to work as per their comfort. It is important that they bloom and flourish openly. According to me, this approach allows them to share ideas, exchange thoughts, build team bonds, explore innovation and more importantly, they will feel much more responsible for their task/ job assigned. With this, they feel more empowered, personally invested and feel that their role/ decision matters. At the end of the day, the job needs to be done!

How do you measure the success of your retail initiatives? What metrics and KPIs do you track to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies and the overall performance of Vi’s retail function?

At Vi, we strongly believe in data and this is our rulebook. At retail level, there are several parameters such as Higher NPS scores, First Time Fix (FTF), Number of Complaints, Opportunity Areas, etc., which form part of our retail KPI apart from Sales KPIs, which is the key. In addition to this, we also believe in qualitative aspects such as superlative customer experience, imbibing company’s culture, ethos and philosophy.

With your background in economics and statistics, how do you apply data-driven insights and analysis to inform decision-making in your role? How does data influence your approach to improving organisational efficiencies?

Having specialised in statistics academically, I am a big ambassador of data analytics and data intelligence. When strategising and planning, I use historic data as a proof of the pudding to be able to build and develop a proper gameplan to drive business growth. Each market is different and is nuance-based. I try to refrain from the “one shoe fits all” philosophy. This helps in having on-point business drivers for each market thereby garnering growth.

Could you provide an example of a time when you had to address a challenging situation or conflict within your team? How did you handle it, and what was the outcome?

When you are handling a large team, challenging situations and conflict within the team is a common factor. Like most of us, I have a secret sauce recipe that I follow: first I relax and try to see the issue from all possible angles. I look at all possible solutions that I arrive at through brainstorming discussions. Then go with the best possible solution. The other important point to remember is that you can’t always make everyone happy; however, we don’t sleep over a conflict as a team.

What excites you the most about the future of the retail sector in the telecommunications industry, and what are your aspirations for Vi’s retail function moving forward?

Truly these are very interesting times we are living in! The future of the retail sector looks bright and so does retail in telecommunications.


News in the domain of Advertising, Marketing, Media and Business of Entertainment