Lenovo’s Dilip Bhatia: “Word of mouth”

Often, “word of mouth” is your best friend — especially in the commercial business space where it’s not uncommon to share best practices in the community. Particularly in the financial services industry, I’ve seen CIOs and IT staff develop strong relationships and share product reviews, customer testimonials, and marketing campaigns that highlight some of our solutions. As […]

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Often, “word of mouth” is your best friend — especially in the commercial business space where it’s not uncommon to share best practices in the community. Particularly in the financial services industry, I’ve seen CIOs and IT staff develop strong relationships and share product reviews, customer testimonials, and marketing campaigns that highlight some of our solutions.

As part of my interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dilip Bhatia. Dilip is Vice President of Global Marketing, User and Customer Experience within the Lenovo PC & Smart Device Business Group. He has responsibility for Marketing, User and Customer Experience of all consumer and commercial PC and smart device-based offerings, including Think and Lenovo branded PC offerings, such as the famous ThinkPad X1 Carbon and Lenovo Yoga branded PCs. Dilip has a combined 20 years of experience at both Lenovo and IBM in various roles.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Everyone has a unique journey. For me, I was always the ‘product’ guy. My background includes various product roles, including running Lenovo’s ThinkPad business unit as the general manager. Since then, the most important thing I’ve learned is that to launch a successful product, customer-centricity is key. To have success in customer experience, you need to know who your target customers are, how and why they will use your product. I have spent a lot of time with customers around the world — from Fortune 500 companies to individuals who purchase our ThinkPad products for their personal use. In doing so, I noticed that many times the challenges our customers faced were beyond products and related to the purchase or service processes, which are outside of what you would classify as “traditional product challenges.” From these customer conversations, I soon realized that we need to approach ALL our customers from an end-to-end perspective. I then proposed to my boss that we invest in a team to investigate customer experience holistically to best serve our customers — and fortunately he agreed.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

When I ran the ThinkPad business unit at Lenovo, I had the opportunity to present it to our CEO every quarter. During one of my quarterly presentations, I wore a tie with dollar bills on it because I was particularly proud of our industry-leading products and was boasting about our success and profits. After my presentation, our CEO asked how we were doing from a service perspective, and if our customers were happy. Without thinking, I said that I focused on the product and that a separate team focused on service. After that moment, I was humbled to be reminded to think of all aspects of our customer engagement — not just the product. This was a big takeaway for me and from then on, I knew I needed to think of customers holistically. Now my team and I look at customers’ entire experience with us — from product research, usage, service, and disposal, through the lens of always putting the customer first.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am fortunate that I’ve had a number of great bosses and mentors at IBM and Lenovo including Sam Dusi, Lv Yan, Johnson Jia, Peter Hortensius, and currently Gianfranco Lanci. All of these incredible business leaders have one thing in common, which is having trust and support for unconventional ideas. My belief in “Know Thy Customer” resonated with them. When I pitched new product ideas, like the ThinkCentre All-in-One or the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, they gave me freedom and the resources to make it happen.

In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience are essential for success in business?

○ Technology is essential to our everyday life, so when a customer purchases a Lenovo product, we know that this is an important choice. Today’s consumer is savvy and well informed, and they are not just choosing the device or solution itself, but also the customer experience they expect to receive. We analyze the holistic customer journey instead of a single touchpoint to make sure we are constantly improving and delivering the best possible customer experience and service. Ultimately, for every business, loyalty matters and if you provide customers a great experience they will keep coming back.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

I don’t think the problem is that companies do not make customer experience a priority, I think the disconnect lies in their approach. A successful customer experience journey starts by listening. At Lenovo, we are constantly working on improving our customer experience across every customer interaction. Using a data-backed process, we apply customer journey analytics to map customers’ experience with Lenovo — from products/solutions to how consumers are using our website — which helps us proactively identify what is working and what isn’t. These (and many other) insights power the experiences we create.

Another disconnect is in the details. Every piece of the customer journey is part of the larger customer experience, even after a sale is completed. For example, Lenovo designs and engineers our products to maximize the product lifecycle, offering three-year standard warranties, and five years of replacement parts availability on many of our commercial PC products to support this extended lifecycle. For us at Lenovo, the customer journey does not end with the transaction.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

We’ve always believed in offering customers more choices. Especially now, COVID-19 has forced customers to reexamine their purchasing habits, making the customer experience more important than ever.

While external pressures might dictate a company’s customer experience, customer-centricity is fundamental to who we are and how we operate at Lenovo. We engage with thousands of customers through a variety of touchpoints to glean tangible insights, which help power the experiences we create.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

When Lenovo purchased the IBM PC business years ago, I had the opportunity to move to Beijing to lead Lenovo’s desktop business and run the product marketing team. At the time, we had significantly improved our processes and operational costs and were looking to launch a commercial-grade all-in-one desktop. However, we faced the challenge of not having a halo product (i.e. a product that consumers were loyal to due to a favorable experience). During a meeting with our sales team and a number of our Fortune 500 customers, we shared with them our plans to create a halo desktop product. The sales and customer feedback was unanimous in that customers wanted a device that was easy to service and did not cost more than a combined desktop and monitor. Later on, when we first launched our commercial ThinkCentre all-in-one desktop, I knew we had achieved our desired goal because we listened to the direct feedback from our sales teams and gathered customer insights to inform our decision-making.

Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

After my stint in Beijing and the launch of our commercial ThinkCentre all-in-one, our profits shot up because our sales teams believed in our desktop offerings. This was a huge win for Lenovo because we were able to apply our core values of customer-centric innovation to achieve great business success. Through listening to our customers, we now have close to the #1 market share in commercial desktops.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

Good customer experience is essential for business success. Customer centricity is in the DNA of everything we do at Lenovo. Some of the most important elements to outstanding customer experience are:

Data-Driven CX: Lenovo is constantly improving our customer experience across every customer interaction. A data-driven approach creates a personalized customer experience to drive loyalty among customers.

Co-creation: We listen to user needs and customer feedback to co-create solutions.

Personalized Tech: Lenovo is innovating and iterating personalized technology to suit a vast and diverse community of customers to create a more seamless experience.

Variety of Insights: Lenovo derives customer feedback through a number of channels, from insights communities to research forums, surveys, and more. The customer experience is not “one size fits all,” and our customer communities reflect this diversity of insights.

Diversity: Operating in 180+ markets and serving over 1 billion customers, Lenovo offers localized operating models to ensure that our customers get a solution to meet their needs through a wide choice of offerings.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

Often, “word of mouth” is your best friend — especially in the commercial business space where it’s not uncommon to share best practices in the community. Particularly in the financial services industry, I’ve seen CIOs and IT staff develop strong relationships and share product reviews, customer testimonials, and marketing campaigns that highlight some of our solutions.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Technology has the power to enable people to solve some of society’s biggest challenges — from healthcare to education to the environment — and is a movement that I am excited to be involved with. Delivering smarter technology to all is Lenovo’s vision and something that I am passionate about. Our purposeful innovations have played a role in some of society’s biggest moments — in fact, American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first words from the moon were transmitted on a Motorola radio transponder. Whether connecting us to those in space or helping collect and interpret scientific data collected in the Arctic, Lenovo and the technology industry is creating an important piece of history, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @DilipBhatia

LinkedIn: Dilip Bhatia

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