We got a lovely chance to connect with Faran Niaz and discuss his professional journey and views. He is a global CX professional with outstanding experience in the field of CX. We had heard his previous interviews where he shared some of his stories related to customer experience, which really caught our attention. So, we got curious about knowing more about his journey, experiences, and valuable advice, which I believe can benefit our readers as well.
Faran Niaz is the CEO & Founder of ‘CX Future’ with over 25 years in the field of Customer Experience as a practitioner who established and managed CX Units for some of the top financial institutions.
Let’s hear it all in Faran’s words:
Faran, you are very well known Globally as an established Customer Experience professional and practitioner spanned over 25 years. How has your CX journey evolved over the years?
Faran: I am privileged to have been associated with the service world from the beginning of my career. My journey started with Citibank Call Center in Pakistan, and from the early stage of my career, I realized that I loved dealing with people. Either customers or my fellow colleagues. Later having managed large CX units with over 400 staff members at times, I learned the art of listening, understanding, and analyzing the world of customers and, more importantly, the employees that are the true assets of any organization. So, for me, it was always Human Experience (HX) which today is a combination of Customer (CX) and Employee experience (EX).
I worked in many parts of the world, including a very exciting 3 years in Russia, stationed in Moscow as the Head of Service at Citibank. I came to the UAE about 18 years ago when Mashreq Bank hired me as the Head of Customer Service, managing their Call Center & Alternate Channels. In 2009, I was picked up by Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank as Global Head of Customer Experience, looking after the entire CX strategy and implementation in 7 Countries where ADIB operated. I am incredibly proud to have brought the Bank from 23rd position to the No.1 Bank in Customer Experience in UAE in just 3 years, and it stayed on Top for 7 consecutive years, a record parallel to none. I stayed with ADIB for 11 years, and during this time, we won every possible CX Award, including the prestigious SKEA (Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award) for 3 consecutive years. In early 2021, I established my own Customer Experience Consultancy’ CX Future’ to utilize my 25 years of experience and help organizations elevate their CX.
I learned a lot, having worked in multiple countries with diverse cultures. I feel so privileged to be in UAE, where Customer Experience is part of the DNA of all organizations that operate here, especially when the dynamic leadership of this country leads from the front and ensures that people here get the best of everything. Hence there is a strong emphasis and drive on enhancing CX. During covid, when the rest of the world was struggling, we could live an everyday life here in UAE. Being recognized now as one of the Top tourist destinations in the world, hospitality is at the core of all activities here, and exceptional service delivery is a reality. After all, the UAE is perhaps the only country in the world with a ‘Minister of Happiness.
The last couple of years have been revolutionary for me. I got recognized on the Global stage as a CX subject matter expert. I am now listed amongst the Top 100 Global CX Thought Leaders of the world and recognized as one of the most experienced CX Awards Judges, having judged in over 30 events covering every continent with ‘Awards International,’ CXPA, ARCET, and multiple other top Award organizations.
I am also a very proud co-author of the Book, ‘Customer Experience 4 – CX4,’ which is a Best Seller on Amazon in multiple parts of the world.
As an Internationally recognized Motivation and Key Note speaker, I attend several conferences and events globally, sharing my knowledge and views on various aspects of Customer Experience. I have had the privilege of chairing entire CX events and moderating key panels too. During the last couple of years, I have also been featured in multiple publications, interviews, and podcasts. One of my interviews with the renowned Podcast CX Goalkeeper’ run by Gregorio Uglioni, has been Ranked No.1 in the Top 10 list as the most downloaded and viewed podcast for 2022 amongst over 80 podcasts. For this, I am highly thankful to the viewers and everyone who enjoyed and appreciated my candid views
The complete podcast can be viewed here:
You just mentioned that you moved one of the Banks in UAE from 23rd position to the No.1 Bank in Customer Experience in just over 3 years. What do you believe was the most crucial factor that made this remarkable achievement possible?
Faran: I found it to be a very exciting challenge. Not an easy task to raise the level of service commitment of an organization from the bottom and aim for the top, competing against the best in the market. It was not one single factor but a combination of multiple key strategies backed by the commitment and drive of all key stakeholders aiming for a single goal. And that’s simply what I did—created a clear CX vision, a defined goal, and measurable performance indicators at every customer touch point. There is no secret formula to ensuring that your organization becomes the North Star of Customer Experience. We did three things – listened to the customers; giving them a platform to register their voice. Captured their sentiments, analyzed their needs, and formulated strategies to ensure they received the personalized, seamless, and timely service that they asked for with an added wow! A factor that stood us apart from our competition – secondly, I made sure that our most important asset, our employees, were taken care of, motivated, empowered, recognized, and rewarded for exceptional service delivery and had their voice and opinion added to all CX strategies and innovations we implemented. I got my staff trained through the Emirates Institute, which trains Emirates Airlines and Jumeirah Group of Hotels to bring hospitality into banking service. I trained through Disney CX Institute and went to Zappos to study their customer experience delivery, which is considered the best in the world. And third, I ensured that we monitored our performance and success through key Metrics and KPIs based on Global Benchmarks at every step and data shared at all levels owned by each stakeholder.
We created a unique CX culture where everyone felt pride in every step of the success we achieved, then winning truly became a habit.
You recently started your own consultancy CX Future. What’s the idea behind your consultancy, its vision, and what services do you offer?
Faran: With 25 years in the corporate world and having managed large CX setups Globally, I thought it was time to give back to the CX world and share my experience through my Consultancy, CX Future, with the added advantage of being a partitioner. I come not only with knowledge but vast practical experience. My passion is about the customers and working with organizations to help develop a culture that ensures not only customer retention but creates deeply loyal customers and enhances their CX to maximize ROI/ROX & STAR Rating. Assisting organizations to make that kind of magnitude of experience is what my work is all about.
I established my consultancy CX Future in 2020 with the aim of helping organizations elevate and transform their Customer Experience to the next level from all sectors, including Consumer, Corporate, B2B, B2C, Retail, SME, Fintech, Institutions, etc., providing in-depth analysis and evaluation of their existing state of CX based on advanced CX Maturity Matrix models. We identify gaps, weaknesses, and opportunities and suggest a comprehensive framework to enhance their customer experience and digital transformation to compete against Global Industry standards and benchmarks and even create new ones. CX Future services also provide advanced VOC (Voice of Customer) programs, including NPS, CSAT, Mystery Shopping & VOE (Voice of Employee) programs. Multiple sets of key Metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are set at corporate, customer and process, and transaction levels to ensure success is measured at all levels on a regular basis. We have full Omni channel contact center frameworks, too, along with advanced training modules and Masterclasses for all levels.
I also specialize in preparing organizations to participate and WIN! Prestigious International Customer Experience, Employee Experience, and Customer Centricity Awards which helps them recognize, celebrate and showcase their achievements in the field of CX on the Global stage.
Why is there so much emphasis on customer experience now, especially digital transformation? What do you see as the future of CX in the region and globally?
Faran: Transformation is happening now at warp speed. We owe this sudden surge and race of Digital Transformation to COVID. What companies had planned for years had to be done in months. And that’s where many organizations found the right formula for success and yet many others failed too, simply because the adoption of technology for the sake of implementation without proper customer feedback and input has very little chance of succeeding.
No doubt, digital transformation has brought significant benefits to our lives and made several services easily accessible at the touch of our fingertips. Online food delivery, and many Government services here in UAE, such as visa and license renewal, certificate issuance, Banking, online shopping, etc., have made it so much easier through the right use of technology. However, this is where the caution needs to come in. I always emphasize in my talks and writing that technology is an enabler of service, not its replacement. Nothing can replace a genuine smile, a warm welcome, human touch, and empathy, which this world desperately needs today. It’s good to benefit from the world of Virtual and Augmented Reality, but it must co-exist with a human touch. The organizations that have found this right balance between human and digital are the ones that will advance. Amazon and Zappos, to name a few, are perfect examples. Where even today, with the best digital services, their vision is to be customer-centric with the availability of human interaction as an option at every step. A choice they give the customer for them to decide.
That’s why the new buzzword is PHYGITAL. That’s digital with a physical presence. That’s the way to go for better CX!
Metaverse is another fast-becoming popular phenomenon, especially in the Retail and Hospitality sector. I believe that it’s too early in its development stage and the right technology with full benefits is yet to be discovered in this space. Personally, at this point in time, I am worried about interacting with virtual Avatars and living in a day-to-day virtual world instead of real humans in the near future.
‘Museum of The Future’ Dubai has just announced that a Humanoid Robot will greet visitors. The robot is designed to interact with visitors and answer their questions. It is capable of making facial expressions and even has a sense of humor.
GITEX has also just started in the UAE. This is now the biggest display on earth showcasing future technologies. Let’s see what it has to offer for Customer Experience. I have already seen the first flying driverless car in the world.
How exciting is that!
We are sure that viewers can benefit a lot more from your experience. How can they contact you?
Faran: I absolutely love to interact and meet anyone who finds Customer Experience exciting or even likes to have an interesting discussion on any topic. I am very approachable, and anyone can connect with me through my Social Media on LinkedIn and Twitter. WhatsApp on +971502867916 or even pick up the phone and directly call me.
If you are interested in enhancing your company’s Customer Experience and improving your customer satisfaction, or you want me to help you prepare and enter Global CX Awards, I would be happy to offer you my services through the CX Future platform ( www.cx-future.com ). Write to me at [email protected] or call me directly.
Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself? Other than your CX and professional journey?
Faran: Although I live and breathe Customer Experience, I am passionate about photography. I am an award-winning photographer. and won Best Photographer Award in UAE in 2010. My photos have been exhibited in Italy, Thailand, UAE & Pakistan. Anyone who loves photography is most welcome to connect with me for it. Apart from this, my hobby is LEGO. I have a vast collection that I absolutely love!
Faran’s WhatsApp Number: +971502867916
CX Future Consultancy at www.cx-future.com