CX Passport

The one where Oman is the Switzerland of the Middle East - Codin Caragea E98

January 03, 2023 Rick Denton Season 1 Episode 98
CX Passport
The one where Oman is the Switzerland of the Middle East - Codin Caragea E98
Show Notes Transcript

🎤CX Passport’s first guest from Oman in “The one where Oman is the Switzerland of the Middle East” with Codin Caragea Chief Manager, Head of Customer Experience at Bank Muscat in Episode 98🎧 What’s in the episode?...


⚡The energy comes from the demographics

🧑‍🍳The daunting AND freeing nature of starting a CX program from scratch

💡Need to understand the type of language a company speaks

📈Business results for Customer Experience

❓The reason behind the Customer Experience energy in the GCC

🥩The joy of a good steak

🙌Value in knowing your VOC complaints


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Hosted by Rick Denton “I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport”


💭“This whole energy is somehow the foundation…Education is extremely critical here in the region. And they want to bring together all the skills and competencies in order to create a future that has the local flavor, but at the same time, is extremely future oriented.” - Codin


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Episode resources:

Codin Caragea LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/codin-caragea-aaa3ba1/

Rick Denton:

You're listening to CX Passport, the show about creating great customer experiences with a dash of travel talk. Each episode we’ll talk with our guests about great CX, travel...and just like the best journeys, explore new directions we never anticipated. I'm your host Rick Denton. I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport. Let's get going. longtime listeners know this. I started CX passport with one goal to have interesting conversations with interesting people. In addition to that goal, I wanted to make sure that the voices on CX passport represented as much of the globe as possible. That's the passport part of CX passport. Today, we get an opportunity to achieve that goal once again and stamp one more location in our passports with our guest, Codin Caragea, chief manager Head of Customer experience at Bank Muscat in Oman. Originally from Romania with many years of European experience, coding moved to the Middle East around 10 years ago, he started his time there building customer experience from scratch for a bank based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. But syncing the opportunity for a new challenge coding recently moved to Oman to repeat that CX success by designing launching and leading the customer experience program at Bank musket. Leveraging his background in business process improvement. Codin knows how to build a customer experience approach that doesn't just work once. It works all the time. Sustainability, it's one thing to identify a great CX idea, it's another thing to create it in a way that lasts. codeine and I met through a former CX passport guest Olga Budieri episode 46. Have a listen. A fellow customer experience leader in the Middle East region, even from my distance, 9000 miles away, I sense the energy around customer experience in this region. There's something real, there's something tangible, it's exciting brewing here. I'm really looking forward to hearing that energy today Codin. Welcome to CX passport.

Codin Caragea:

Thank you so much, Rick, it's a pleasure to be with you. And thanks for the kind invitation. And for this overwhelming introduction.

Rick Denton:

Well, it's all true codeine. And I'm glad and thank you, for folks, it's late there. It's early here. It's great that we're able to talk. So I mentioned in that intro that you don't shy away from a challenge. You've started customer experience programs for from scratch for two banks in the region. So just start with me there. What is it like to start a CX program from the very beginning?

Codin Caragea:

Well, I believe daunting, can be a very good,

Rick Denton:

good start. Yeah, daunting.

Codin Caragea:

It's daunting and exciting. I really appreciate. First of all the I have to say that I'm self driven. And I like to challenge myself. And that's actually one of the reasons I left Europe, as you said, almost 10 years back, and I came to the Middle East, because I felt there is a certain environment, there is a certain opportunity, there is a certain appetite for change. Coming back to your original question, which to start a voc or a customer experience program, it's probably it's probably hard when you've started from scratch. Because you don't have a benchmark, you need to set this benchmark, you have some original expectations. Yes, people are looking to you and they want to you to deliver things and so on. But on the other hand, it gives you a freedom, it gives you the freedom of shaping of adapting CX program, the whole framework to the specific of that company. Yeah, what I feel it's extremely exciting is this freedom that you have when you operate in a Greenfield? Yes, there are high expectations, but in the same time, you can shape these expectations, you can actually utilize the opportunity of a greenfield to plant your seeds, and to show the crops in the best way possible.

Rick Denton:

But can I ask you about that right there coding, because I think that's one of the biggest challenges of starting from from scratch is absolutely Greenfield, you can do whatever you want. But then you're dealing with a company that's existed, and you've dealt with people, right? A company is just a collection of humans. And those humans have been doing the same thing for however long they've been doing it. How do you go about the excitement of that Greenfield? But balancing that with? Wait, that's not the way we do things? Why are you changing it? So how did you kind of get things moving?

Codin Caragea:

Oh, that's really a great question. And I think this is actually probably in the top three questions when you start such a program, especially in the very, very large organizations, because legacy Yes, it's, it's a burden in the same time. It's something it's a source of pride. So you need to understand what type of language what better organization speaks. Are they more into numbers, then you bring numbers, are they more into, let's say, stories? And then and then you you you start creating successful stories about what the customer what an excellent customer experience might look like what I've seen coming back again, to the financial sector, yes, definitely. Everybody speaks the language of numbers. My approach is to first listen as much as I can, and make a quick assessment. What are the key priorities for the key decision makers in that company? Secondly, but equally important, don't start any blame game.

Rick Denton:

Okay, it's way too easy to get going down the blame game, right?

Codin Caragea:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. It's extremely easy, especially coming as an outsider and meeting lots of people who grew up in that organization, right. And who achieved things historically, you position yourself, I always like to position. The customer experience area is a key enabler is the supporter or the business to make more money for the customers to be happier. And last, but not least for the employees. To be more happy.

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Rick Denton:

It's heck, it's something that we struggle with in customer experience programs later, if they've been around for years or decades around kind of proving their existence. And there's an ongoing debate around hey, look, we shouldn't have to prove our existence. HR doesn't have to prove it to finance doesn't have to prove it. It's just part of running a business. But especially as you're getting started explaining, hey, this is so that you have business results. This is for employee engagement. This is for customer connectivity. You know, how much of that let's, let's go beyond just sort of the banks where you have been, but let's just talk about that customer experience energy in the GCC region as a whole, that whole area there in the Middle East. Why do you think there is such a focus on customer experience? What is it that if there's so much energy around it today, then people have already been convinced? Why do you think that is specifically in that region?

Codin Caragea:

Right, right? Well, I'll start with a few facts here upfront for especially for our listeners who are not very familiar with the GCC region. So we talk about an overall population of around 54 55 million people located six countries. So we have we have Oman, we have Saudi Arabia, you have United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. And what is very, very interesting about this region, first of all, the average age in the region is around 27 years old. Interesting. If you go to the median age, the region, it's not far from from the first 132 years old. For a man, it's the numbers are even a little bit a little bit lower than the median is around three years old. So the energy first of all comes from from the demographics, we do have a very young population, a population that is a very well educated population that is extremely mixed. You have so many nationalities living here, in a relatively small space, the energy comes also from the fact that entire region is diversifying the economy. Okay. There is a certain pride to show to the world that look here. It's actually a fantastic place to live. You have young population energetic, you have a very strong commitment to diversify the economy. And I would say customer experience came almost like, like a natural, like a natural enabler to make a difference by both in the private sector and in the government sector. Because all the people here are heavy travelers, and they go around, not only in the region, but population here are traveling back and forth to Europe back and forth to East Asia, back and forth to Africa, back and forth to North America, or South America. And there is an appetite to change things and to bring a unique flavor of the place to create a brand about the GCC region. This whole energy is somehow the foundation, the skills are shaping the education is extremely critical here in the region. And they want to bring together all the skills and competencies in in order to create a future that has the local flavor, but in the same time, is extremely future oriented. Extremely modern, I would say to to a similar extent. I've seen this also in in Singapore.

Rick Denton:

Yes. And we certainly I think perhaps Singapore Story, at least was an earlier story to be told and one that a lot of us have heard. But to equate it to the energy of Singapore certainly will resonate with a a Global Traveler or you know, a global business person or someone who's kind of aware of that energy. I like what you said there about, and I've asked other folks from the region, what is it that's driving this excitement? And I think it's interesting how you mentioned the two things of the the demographics themselves, and then the desire to represent an economy that is beyond, you know, what many who are just perhaps not steeped in the economy think it's energy specific, or just exclusively oil and gas or whatever that might look like, but that there's so much more there and to enter represent the economy in that way. You mentioned something right there at the end. And he said, You know, there's some differences between the regions. And I think, you know, especially me as a Western or someone from the US, I don't have as great of an awareness of what those differences are between Saudi and Oman and Qatar and what that might look like. If the whole region is customer experience focus, but each country has its own flavor. How would you describe it in Oman? You're my first guest from Oman. So let's talk about it specifically, what are the expectations around customer experience? What's unique about the Oman region when it comes to customer experience?

Codin Caragea:

I like very much this question because Oman has actually a fantastic history, it's the oldest established country here in the region, it used to be a very large empire hundreds of years back used to be very active in the trade space towards India and towards the African Eastern African coast used to have again mixed population since longtime back. So, what is very unique about Oman, first of all is the stamp of tradition and the stamp of very small culture the population is almost 5 million people and Okay, those are anywhere like 60% having this huge historical background having this very unique tradition makes this displace when I say the stamp of tradition is visible, I mean, I mean literally is visible anywhere the architecture you will find this architecture only here the amount of the standards appetite for rules and norms that I see it even goes to the I always told my friends after the Saudi experience coming back to coming to Oman first thing I've noticed is okay, people are driving in a very nice way you don't feel stressed you don't feel you know that that whole that whole hustling in with heavy traffic with you know so

Rick Denton:

come to the don't come to the Dallas Fort Worth area if you don't have bad hectic traffic, so I was not expecting now and that's fun.

Codin Caragea:

You see very important focus on behavior. People are extremely polite. And this is a recognized not only in the whole region, but is recognized even outside the region or man has the label of being the Switzerland or the Middle East. Oh really? Yes. Okay. Yes. Yeah. And I found it interesting. Even some some friends back home, they were they were mentioning this this label to me it It comes again to the the fact that the population being small, everybody knows everybody. So it's, it's somehow shameful to do something bad or to have a bad behavior in public, where everybody knows you, and everybody knows your family, and everybody knows your history, so you are proud of your family of your roots. So you don't want any any bad behavior to put a bad label on entire family and so on. And there is a second very unique flavor of Oman, it has the best landscape in the region. Oh, the sea and the mountains are very close one to another, pretty high mountains, up to 303,000 meters, sorry. And you, you, you find it you've and you find fantastic, fantastic gems, when it comes to hidden places, even where if you if you know your way, and if you if you know, the right people, you can discover really untapped territories.

Rick Denton:

Codin all I can think about when you describe Oman, there's the comfort of the family and the beauty of the landscape. And the culture there and how that influences customer experience. Well, it makes me want to travel there. No surprise, right. I figured for sure. After this conversation, I'd want to travel there. But that's a long flight. And you mentioned how folks in the region love traveling and exposing themselves to the rest of the world. Well, those are long flights. And long flights are exhausting. And so it's nice to take a little break. So I would love to have you take a little break with me join me here in the first class lounge. Let's move quickly here and have a little bit of fun. What is a dream travel location from your past?

Codin Caragea:

Oh, top of my mind Portugal and Singapore, Portugal and Singapore? Oh, yes. Yeah, for different reasons for very different reasons. Portugal for being a place where you really, you really find fantastic food. You really find great people, great landscapes, amazing wine, and Singapore for a totally different reason. Or the fact that I find Singapore as a citizen centric country from the perspective that in you have very small size, have an island stroke the first time there was the amount of rain areas. Yeah, the amount of the amount of effort people are putting together to have a very healthy lifestyle.

Rick Denton:

Whew, that all sounds great. Oh, my gosh, that sounds fantastic. So that's the past. And now you've given me some inspiration. What's a dream travel location? You've not been to yet.

Codin Caragea:

Oh. So many. I would. I would start I would start with South America. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And and the ancient civilizations over there. Then I'll put again, I have to, I cannot find only one, one area. So I will go go also to Africa. countries like Kenya and Nigeria and Rwanda.

Rick Denton:

Those are where I actually had a guest early on Jonathan Daniels. I can't remember which episode but I think was in the teens. And his wife is Rwandan. And so he talked about traveling to Rwanda. And it just sounded spectacular. And I never would have added it to my travel list. And after hearing him like, yes, I want to go and now it's good to know that you want to head over there as well. What is one of the things I love about global travel? Imagine you're the same is food. So in general, what is a favorite thing of yours to eat?

Codin Caragea:

Oh, here it's very simple. A good steak is always interesting.

Rick Denton:

I'm a Texan. So when you talk about steaks I'm like That's right you head over here and we'll get you a good fit. So let me let me get you something good at one of our great steak houses now on the other side, what is the thing your parents forced you to eat but you hated as a kid?

Codin Caragea:

Vegetable soup?

Rick Denton:

Man I love it when a guest has a quickie answer like that.

Codin Caragea:

A specific shorba specific word for it is sure because it's used very much in the Arabic space as well the same word we are using it to Turkish people are using it that shorba was something that initially

Rick Denton:

oh my goodness, yeah, that vegetable soup can get folks it's amazing. I'll have to look those specific one up that you mentioned. Now let's go back and close out with thinking about travel. We got to get back in the air leave the first class lounge sadly, what is one travel item not including your phone that you will not leave home without?

Codin Caragea:

Well definitely the charger on a more serious note, I take my laptop and a book

Rick Denton:

Codin when we first met, you talked about how voice of the customer was key to getting the program going at Bank musket and and it's a key part of who I am the type of consulting I do. It's all focused on voice of the customer, because I think that's the foundation. I want to dive a little deeper with you on that. How did you get that voice of the customer program started? And then how are you using it today to drive those actual business results we talked about?

Codin Caragea:

This is really a great question. Yes, it is in voice of customers is indeed the foundational of any CX program. And data in general is actually the driver for so many changes. And I'm usually looking at the current IT landscape of an organization. So where you have your your your sources of data out is sources are talking to each other, if they are talking to each other. What sources of data are still missing? Because when when you talk about the voice of customers, yes, people are immediately associating the voice of customers with complaints.

Rick Denton:

Oh, yeah.

Codin Caragea:

And, and, and it is indeed a very powerful source of data. Knowing the complaints, knowing the main categories of complaints, so on, can can give you a lot of insights, where to focus in the future, to change things to improve things. But nevertheless, he's not the only one. And in my previous experiences, you're in the Middle East, when I started in Saudi Arabia, or here in Oman, there was absolutely nothing around surveying customers on a regular basis, and getting a more, let's say structured feedback about specific journeys. This is a very powerful source of data. Obviously, I'm happy to share that currently, we do have such a robust visibility around what's going on, on the critical journeys end to end in different touchpoints. A fantastic source of, of data is to start having regular focus groups, and start also having closing the loop and calling your dissatisfied customers and understand exactly what happened and trying to shape that expat experience into into into a source of delight, or you see,

Rick Denton:

listeners won't be able to see it. But you saw me grin as soon as you said that when that's one of my I love the focus groups as well. But I love it. Let's let's stop doubting that I'm interrupting your flow. I know that. But I want to stop down on that. That's one that i Obviously I believe in. But so how did you introduce that idea of the closed loop feedback and contacting customers not just to restore their relationship? That's one step. But then use the input to improve the company? How did you bring those two closed loop feedback elements into the bank,

Codin Caragea:

we created a series of aggregated dashboards that are going automatically to different categories of business users, starting again from their needs. So we've spent a lot of time talking to the business and asking them look, you do have a strategy, obviously, and you want your customers to be happy. That's a no brainer, right? So okay, what is missing right now, for you to perform better? What is exactly the let's say, need you have in order to streamline your efforts, because the resources are very limited. So while you once you sit with the business, and you understand first of all their strategy, and then you understand what is missing, it's relatively easy to start creating small quick wins. Sometimes it can be even one report. Oh, you know what, these are your top frequent complainers and weigh let's see, how important are they for the business? Are we willing to lose them? What can we do for them? So when you come this type of conversation in the room you can see the sparks immediate. We created this visibility across the organization, and we meet on a regular basis with everyone showing the numbers showing the issues and then bringing and also the quick wins on the table and the long terms solutions on the table. You know,

Rick Denton:

I like what you said there about the quick wins. And I think I may end with that I took a look at the clock, and I'm seeing that we're remarkably close to the end of time here. And that idea of quick wins to then build the credibility to go after the larger wins, which then helps support the governance because if you have the governance in place, you can achieve those successfully. Let me close out with one question. And it's a thought that I had of as we're thinking about you and I are recording this in December 22, the episode or at least in the beginning of 23. What are what are you thinking about for 2023? When it comes to your customer experience program? What's your pain point? What's your challenge? What are you hoping to solve in 2023? When it comes to your customer experience program?

Codin Caragea:

Great question. Thanks, again, 360 view of the customers to really have this visibility, understand their behavior, bringing tailored offers in a digital way as much as possible, because what we notice is very specific for our customers needs, there is a pretty good appetite for digital services. And we do have a pretty clear roadmap to translate all our or our products and services, journeys from from branches to digital channels in two to three years. So basically will not need to go to the branch anymore. And we see this especially in the very young segment forward. So 360 view is is one of the key things for next year,

Rick Denton:

that Okay, so the 360 view the introduction of digital now, you didn't ask me for this, but I would say please, please, please don't abandon the humanity in that digital as well. Because you still want to keep that humanity in place. Right. And here, we do have a culture where the face to face conversation is a must. Yeah, it's, it's embedded, as we like to say, it's embedded in the DNA of the people, when we do like receive ourselves and promote ourselves as a brand is listening Bank is a bank that is serving better every day. So you need the human touch, you cannot avoid the human touch, no matter what. Yes, do the simple things. Always give options? Always. Yeah. To say that we give the customers to choose how to interact with us, I love it, that is fantastic.

Codin Caragea:

You can do it digitally, you can do it hybrid..

Rick Denton:

Excellent That that's what we're gonna end on. Because I love that idea of give the customers what they want, when they want in the method that they want it be that digital, be that human be that hybrid, it's fantastic. I love it. Let's end there. codeine. If folks want to get to know a little bit more about you bank musket, how, what's the best way for them to learn more about you and the brand.

Codin Caragea:

So I'm pretty active on LinkedIn, posting frequently over there. I'm attending lots of events, here in the region, but also in other in other areas back in Europe. So whenever there is a customer experience event, I'm in the region here, I'm usually attending,

Rick Denton:

I will get all that in the shownotes. Certainly your LinkedIn URL I'll have there. And then just folks pay attention looks like you can meet coding in person if you happen to be at a customer experience event in the region, which is fantastic. Maybe I'll have to find a way to get there. coding. It's been wonderful talking with you today. Thank you for exposing me to more about customer experience in the region. Thank you for exposing me to the specifics of Oman as well. I have not had a guest from Oman. And that's got me really excited to have learned a little bit more about that. Great insights. And I do hope to some day offer you a good Dallas Fort Worth Texas steak some day. Thanks for being on the show Codin

Codin Caragea:

Thank you so much, Rick, thank you for having me. And you're most welcome to come over to Oman, especially now in the wintertime. That's the best time possible. And look forward to welcome you here with some local delights.

Rick Denton:

Thanks for joining us this week on CX Passport. Make sure to visit our website cxpassport.com where you can hit subscribe so you'll never miss a show. While you're at it, you can check out the rest of the EX4CX website. If you're looking to get real about customer experience, EX4CX is available to help you increase revenue by starting to listen to your customers and create great experiences for every customer every time. Thanks for listening to CX Passport and be sure to tune in for our next episode. Until next time, I'm Rick Denton, and I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport.