5-Star Advice from Bona Li

Star Advisor Bona Li, Chief Empathy and Product Officer of Carigos, talks about the importance of truly understanding your customer.

Bona Li

Bona Li has the uncommon title of Chief Empathy and Product Officer at Carigos, a Singapore-based tech start-up that helps online sellers solve their logistics challenges. Working with partners from around the world, the firm offers a range of services, including ocean, air, land and express transport, as well as warehousing and last mile fulfilment. Bona’s job is to understand customers’ needs and frustrations, ensuring that the company is delivering a service that meets their needs.

We get his views on the need for companies to have new roles and skillsets in today’s fast-changing business landscape, and how he helps Carigos maintain an edge over the competition.

Can you explain what a Chief Empathy and Product Officer does?

The main goal of the Chief Empathy and Product Officer is to ensure that Carigos has a thorough understanding of our customers’ mindset and journey to ensure that the product we are creating is specifically developed for them. There must be a very real understanding of their experience, and not just our projection of what we think the customer is.

Why did Carigos feel that such a position was needed?

A product is only useful insofar as it solves a customer's pain points. Understanding a customer's pain points means that you must know who your customers are, what they do and how to address their concerns.

How does your role give Carigos a competitive advantage?

With the overwhelming range of services and products offered on the market, users are spoilt for choice. As a company, it is also easy to get too wrapped up with numbers, instead of the people. Having a good understanding of our customers ensures that we are utilising our resources correctly and creating a product that they would use. This also allows us to deliver a 'good' product more quickly to them.

What changes in the business environment are driving the need for new roles such as yours?

The idea of understanding the customer has become so critical because online search engines, like Google, have allowed consumers to look for specific solutions that solves their specific problems. Along with the multitude of options, reviews and product information available online, customers can now make informed decisions even before contacting a business. We are also in an era where the average consumer has access to traditionally professional-grade tools, lowering the barrier of entry for anyone to be their own boss. These factors mean that customers are not only fussier in their requirements but are increasingly particular about having personalised solutions. A business' ability to survive is dependent on its ability to adapt to this reality.

In what other areas do you feel businesses need to change the way they operate today?

Beyond empathising with customers, I believe businesses also need to demonstrate empathy within – do differing units understand how their work affects others, what others do, and why certain actions are carried out? Are staff asking the right questions about their work in relation to how the business impacts the customer? It is insufficient for only the ‘product team’ to understand their customer; after all, how can a salesperson sell something they don’t know? A business where the entire organisation knows their customers will not only understand how the product addresses and solve their problems; they will also become nimble, responsive and adaptive to the constant changes consumers demand.

As a DBS BusinessClass Star Advisor, Bona Li offers his insights and advice exclusively to BusinessClass members through networking sessions. If you require specific advice or support from any of our Star Advisors, get in touch with us here.

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