What I know about CX in Saudi Arabia: Mohammed Almokhem

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Saudi Arabia has the largest consumer market in the Arab world and is poised to grow its nascent ecommerce sector, yet providing a stellar customer experience (CX) is something that needs to be addressed.

The need for providing Saudis with better CX is one of the main interests of Mohammed Almokhem, a Riyadh native who founded CX Shift.

Studying abroad with the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, Almokhem followed up his time at UCLA by then working with startups in Saudi, and startups within the Los Angeles Silicon Beach community, providing CX counsel.

Looking at Saudi Arabia’s still relatively nascent ecommerce scene, Almokhem shared some tips on how to best create a winning CX experience.

CX is so valuable. CX as a concept is relatively new, yet Steve Jobs was one of the earliest advocates of having a laser-like focus on the needs of customers decades ago. In the 90s he said you had to start with the CX and then work backwards for the technology. “You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it." It’s not just customer support, it’s business methodology and culture that is applied to every single part of the business and includes elements like a ‘profitable value approach’ and ‘scenario planning’.

Mohammed Almokhem - CX Shift logo(1).jpg
Mohammed Almokhem knows CX.
(Images via Mohammed Almokhem)

Product-market fit needs to be snug. For many reasons startups have a 90 percent fail rate. Unfortunately, entrepreneurs and business owners, especially in Saudi Arabia, believe that financial capital is the backbone. When starting a business here, entrepreneurs tend to think that they are the customer of their business, so they build their products, services and marketing plans accordingly. However, they should think of identifying the needs and wants of their target market, then create and integrate value propositions (also known as benefits) in their products and services.

You can’t mimic CX. After the classifieds site Haraj went viral thanks to gaining many users in Saudi Arabia, many local clients asked me "can you design for me a website exactly like Haraj?" and I told all of them that was a bad idea and that Haraj succeeded because it was the first in the market. The bottom line is entrepreneurs should think of coming up with new ideas that serve new customer needs and make the world a better place, instead of following trends and only being interested in making money.

Measure to plan, plan to measure. You need to understand the product-life cycle. It is very critical to identify what to focus on for each stage and the indicators of when a product/service will decline, in order to prepare for updating a product or creating a new one. Start with an MVP as it will help them minimize the risk of failure and save costs by understanding many important factors, such as the market, customer experience, customer needs. Rather than dive in with an expansive app with a full set of features that you may not need later but have already spent so much money on producing, start with a minimalistic design.

Use the data. You should use analytics to plan your future. Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike said “You can’t improve what you can’t measure”. In building a new business, product or service, you need to study the market and its needs using metrics such as surveys, observations, interviews and usability tests. Businesses should keep a metrics system in place for on-going progress to measure their products/services and the overall business performance instantly.

Saudi entrepreneurs use the wrong set of metrics. For instance, I have a client that has an online store and is doing very well, however, they are not using some of the metrics we have set up for them, such as Google Analytics and online store reports and insight. They could have maximized their sales by using these insights to their advantage. By tuning in to these metrics, they could have utilized some other website traffic sources and improved the quality of content on them in order to have a better bounce rate, click through rate and purchase conversion rate.

Riyadh native Mohammed Almokhem (fourth from left, front row) won the CX Day Award for being an Outstanding Provider last year at the US-based Customer Experience Professionals Association’s annual CX Day.

The CX never ends. A customer’s experience is there at every point of your product’s journey. You go from discovery and awareness, to consideration, purchase, service and then loyalty to that product. One of the most important touch points is a company’s website, especially because many websites feature ecommerce elements nowadays. In Saudi Arabia online stores are trending and still relatively new; sadly some companies choose to favor saving money over the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) and how they are integrated with everything else in the business. Therefore, they end up with terrible websites, which results in low conversion rates and later spending money to improve the websites.

Don’t rely on social media for your CX. Internet and smartphone usage is at a very high level in Saudi Arabia. Instagram is particularly big, people sell on it, and that’s despite the fact that it wasn’t built for that. Many Saudis use social media for direct sales and push marketing strategy which mostly is a bad customer experience. We receive thousands of messages, in digital and traditional forms, each day, so pushing products/service in our faces every day on social media is annoying.

It’s all about pull marketing. This is about sharing entertaining and useful content with customers and prospects. These pieces of content mostly reflect what a brand stands for. If you do branding on social media correctly using pull marketing, you will stand out to people and may convince them to buy from you and tell others about you. The objective is to provide value propositions in products and services throughout all the organization that not only to meet customers’ expectations, but to exceed them.

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