Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpNovember 22, 2018


The Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers are no longer restricted to two days only; retailers capitalise on the opportunity a week or even two weeks before tempting consumers with bargains.

In 2017, £1.4billion was spent on online sales in the UK on Black Friday which was up by 11.7 percent from 2016 according to the online retailers’ trade body IMRG.

Retailers prepare for months in advance for the onslaught of the sales and online activity, ensuring that they have the correct offers in place at the right price and that their servers and technology can take the volume of increased traffic. However, it is not just about the technology, it’s about the customers’ end to end journey ensuring that it is as seamless and easy as possible for the customer from the outset.

Robust and reliant infrastructure

Retailers must ensure their infrastructure is robust and reliant to withstand the high volume of traffic that it will experience during this busy period. They cannot risk having servers that fail and web pages that take too long to load. By hosting their voice and data in a cloud solution they will benefit from resiliency.

A resilient phone system and contact centre with automatic failover leaves customers unaware of any technical glitches as the system seamlessly transfers across to its resilient location. Hosting a solution in the cloud means their infrastructure is more agile, so they’re able to scale up or down depending upon requirements.

Augmenting Service with Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Processing Automation (RPA)

Basket abandonment concerns are heightened during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales. Retailers do not want to miss out on capitalising on potential high volume sales. They need to offer seamless self-service on their websites and integrate it into their contact centre, making the process easy, intuitive and consistent for customers.

A staggering 61 percent of customers abandon their order at check out because of website errors, 60 percent because they have to create an account, and 46 percent because there is a long and complex checkout (Namagoo 2018).

New disruptive technologies such as AI, RPA and Web Real Time Communications can assist contact centre agents and enable self-service websites to offer a more seamless and enjoyable experience for the customer. For example, a customer may be looking for a product and they can use conversational AI, or digital agent to guide them to the specific product or information that they are looking for.

If the digital agent can’t answer the question, they will be put through to a human agent who can provide the answer with a personal approach, having received a summary of the interaction from the digital agent. Reducing any frustration and making the process smooth and efficient.

Not just about the sale

Retailers need to be aware that it is not just about the sale of the product but the overall customer journey. During Black Friday and Cyber Monday millions of products will be ordered but also millions returned so it is essential that the retailer provides an easy to use and seamless returns process to retain their brand image and customer loyalty. Technology such as AI and RPA can assist by engaging early with the customer, automating and simplifying the returns process.

An end-to-end journey

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the moments of truth in proving a retailer’s customer experience and the end to end journey the customer has to take from the: promotion, enquiries about the product, ordering, payment, delivery and returns process.

To protect their brand image, create advocates and loyal customers of the brand retailers need to make customer experience their number one objective. Utilising the right technology to elevate customer experience is imperative in the age of digital transformation.

Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpFebruary 8, 2018


Customer expectations are ever-rising, competition is fierce, and retailers’ number one priority at present is improving Customer Experience.

A study by Walker revealed that by 2020, Customer Experience will have overtaken both product and price as the key brand differentiator.

Customers do not want to deal with companies that offer a poor service. If you have phoned a contact centre and experienced inadequate service you will probably feel let down, and the company in question may well lose your business.

For customers to stay loyal to a brand and businesses to win new customers, companies need to invest in Customer Experience. A staggering 62 percent of companies view Customer Experience delivered by the contact centre as a competitive differentiator (Deloitte). Gartner even predicts that by 2018 more than 50 percent of organisations will redirect their investments to Customer Experience innovations.

A seamless journey

Omnichannel takes the customer through a series of touchpoints on their journey from online, to store, to purchasing, and delivery. Companies need to ensure that their omnichannel is seamless and easy to use. Businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies achieve 91 percent greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to businesses that don’t (Aspect Software). However, for those companies that do have an omnichannel strategy in place, 87 percent of customers think that brands need to put more effort into providing a seamless experience (Zendesk).

Customers now expect service to be slick and effortless without delay or errors, and for all the personal data consumers have become used to providing, they increasingly expect to receive a personalised service experience in return.

It’s all about you

Whilst personalised emails have been around for a number of years, the next level of personalisation has seen retailers create custom content and personalised promotional offers.

Major online retailers and music providers offer personalised content and some even deliver personalised home pages. With consumers time-poor and reluctant to sift through lots of product information, retailers use technology to predict what they are going to purchase based on their buying and browsing behaviours. Although many retailers are stuck at the level of ‘mass personalisation’ but new big data, cloud, automation, and communications technologies are heralding one-to-one personalisation at scale.

Increase efficiencies with technology

The advancement of technology in the contact centre is causing a stir, particularly around artificial intelligence (AI) where there is uproar on how AI will contribute to people losing their jobs. A study by Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 85 percent of customer interactions will occur without a human.

However, AI will also help contact centre agents to get rid of the mundane everyday tasks that are part of the job and hand them over to technology instead. This could include anything from call routing to answering basic questions that an auto attendant or Web Real Time application can assist with. Essentially, the more advancement in technology in the call centre, the more contact centre agents’ roles will be refocused on soft skills to deliver empathetic, personal service and advice.

Delivering the personal touch

With intelligent call-based routing using CRM records and intuitive self-service options, your customers can connect to the right people and services that they need to speak to – at the right time. This will help resolve their queries quickly and effectively. Inbound automation speeds up low-touch interactions and frees up your best-skilled contact centre agents to solve complex customer issues and add value to higher value interactions.

Agents will then be able to focus on more difficult queries that require a one-to-one conversation with the customer. Inbound automation will also enable companies to personalise content and offers by handing the enquiry over to an agent to speak with the customer, who can then deliver the personal touch over the phone.

With routine and mundane tasks being handled by AI, contact centre managers and agents can focus on creative strategic thinking to improve customer service.

Computer Telephony Integration (CTI) helps companies to create the ‘wow’ factor in personalisation by empowering agents with the technology and information they need to deliver a seamless Customer Experience. When a customer calls the contact centre the agent instantly gets a screen pop on their screen which tells the agent who the customer is and what their history is.

This reduces the repetition of the agent having to ask the same mundane questions to the customer and  eliminates frustration.


Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpDecember 22, 2017


Technology is now part of our DNA and businesses and organisations are realising that they have to consider it; not only to grow, but to survive.

Now, at the end of 2017, we are in the midst of a new digital revolution that will result in benefits tenfold, but the change has also brought about issues and challenges that we need to address.

An increasing skills gap

A study by Barclays has found that 43 percent of adults in the UK do not have basic digital skills that are required by around 63 percent of jobs and this gap is predicted to increase due to technology advances. Working with a Solutions Provider is one way of ensuring that your company will have access to the latest technology and expertise to deploy and manage your digital solutions.

The subject of ‘Big Data’ has also been huge this year with data collected by technology in retail, over social media, and on websites. The possibilities on how to use this data to maximise sales and marketing are endless but finding the staff to analyse it and put it into practice is challenging.

Big data and data analytics are vital to the UK’s digital growth, and are expected to be worth £241 billion to the UK economy by 2020, creating 157,000 additional jobs. However, businesses need to find the right people with the right skills. Without this expertise, the UK’s ability to capitalise on the big data revolution will be restricted.

Low productivity

The issue of productivity in the UK, or lack of it, has also been hitting the headlines during 2017. Productivity is at the same rate as it was in 2008, during the financial crisis. Economists have warned that the UK’s productivity continues to fall behind the US, France, and Germany.

One of the theories for the low and decreasing productivity rate is the lack of investment in technology since the financial crisis of 2008. Companies’ capital spending is only five percent above its pre-crisis peak, compared with a 60 percent increase over the decade after the 1980s recession and 30 percent following the 1990s slowdown, (FT, Oct 2017).

In the digital age, it is vital that companies invest in technology to retain and attract customers and survive in this fast, competitive world. This year we have most definitely seen a big take-up in unified communications technology, particularly around mobile, conferencing, and collaboration solutions, and multi-media contact centre solutions, all of which improve internal and external communications, business processes and customer service. It is a vital step in making staff more efficient and productive.

Welcoming artificial intelligence

Talk of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots has been present in the media this year with articles on how AI will threaten jobs. However, digital transformation and the new industrial revolution that we are all facing will inevitably bring about change, and change scares people. AI should be looked at as an opportunity for businesses and not a threat.

It will enable companies to deliver a more personalised customer service, bringing information to the customer and the contact centre agent in real time in a user-friendly format that they can engage with. This is called Web Real Time communications, where customers can talk to agents over instant message, phone, or video and share information instantly.

Digital transformation race

2017 has very much felt like a race with companies and organisations speeding ahead to get on board with digital transformation, fearful they will be left behind if they don’t adopt a digital strategy, and their competitors will steam on ahead.

During this year, we have witnessed a lot of companies that have not stopped to take stock and get back to basics. Companies need to make technology core to their success and work out why they require specific technology, and what they hope to achieve from it.

The market is saturated with technology and it is often difficult for people to know what they want and why. Especially as technology solutions are now increasingly complex, consisting of multi-vendor solutions.

This is where System Integrators come into play. They work closely with businesses to discover what their needs and requirements are. Then they will devise a technology strategy and road map that will help them achieve their objectives and yield results.

Digital transformation must be viewed as an evolutionary journey and not a quick fix by suddenly implementing the latest technology.

Access to a leading ecosystem

Technology solutions comprise of multi-vendor technology and applications. By working with a System Integrator and Managed Service Provider, you will have access to an ecosystem of the latest technology from their global leading partners. Moreover, it allows for a level of supplier consolidation that can result in valuable cost-savings, as you don’t need to constantly recruit, or train up your IT department on the latest technology.

Integration is the answer

Of course, it’s not just about having the latest technology and devices. It is vital that technology is seamlessly integrated into the front and the back office for it to be a success. Finding a technology partner with system integration expertise will kill two birds with one stone, in that it reduces the supply chain and, again, gives you IT skills that you may not have available in-house.

Managed Services takes the pain of integration away, ensuring that your new technology and applications are integrated into your infrastructure and work effortlessly.

It can be concluded that 2017 has been a very busy year and the new digital industrial revolution that is upon us is not scary or threatening. It is in fact exciting and we will continue to guide and advise companies and organisations in setting and delivering technology strategies and road maps, connecting technology with people to deliver results. Helping them with change management and accepting a changing workforce, environment, and culture.

So, bring on 2018, we’re ready!

Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpMarch 31, 2017


The division between the B2B market and the B2C used to be apparent but the distinctions are now blurring with the advancement of technology and the increasing demands from customers.

Demanding Customers

Customer Experience is at the top of the agenda of every company at present, regardless whether they are B2B or B2C. After all the B2B person is also a consumer. The consumerisation of technology has created demanding customers in both sectors with high expectations of a superior service, price and customer experience. Competition has never been fiercer.

B2B Catching up with B2C

The ecommerce market is forecast to reach 1.13 trillion $ in the US by 2020 and B2B companies are refocusing their customer strategies to catch up with the high standard of eCommerce that B2C has set.

The digital storm is forcing businesses to keep up with consumer expectations and they are implementing technology to improve business processes and customer services. Businesses are deploying multi-media contact centres and presenting customers with the omni-channel so they have a choice on how to contact the business whether it is by: phone, email, web chat, video etc. It is no longer a nice to have but critical to delivering a superior customer service.

Forrester estimates that in the US B2B ecommerce will grow from $855 billion in 2016 to $1.13 trillion by 2020.

The Right Tools

The right technology helps businesses create a compelling customer experience. By having a robust and resiliant infrastructure whether it is on-premise, hosted in the cloud, or hybrid, businesses can access the latest communications technology to communicate more efficiently and effectively with their customers.

Web Real Time Communications (WebRTC) is a disruptive technology that analysts predict will be used by 60% of the global internet population by 2019; 1.2 billion people. WebRTC is a real-time browser based application for real time communications such as voice and video calls, instant messages, file sharing and URL tracking and all without the need to download software plugins. This enables contact centre agents to communicate in real time, deliver a personalised service, increase cross-sell / up-sell and first time resolution rate. Companies can be assured that communications and access are completely secure as the technology requires permission from the user to allow the use of microphone and camera.

The Omni-channel is not just prevalent in the B2C world but very much present in the B2B arena as well. The customer is now well and truly king.

Customers want not only to choose the way that they contact a business whether it is by phone, webchat, instant message or text, but also to have a joined up experience, one where they don’t have to repeat themselves multiple times and start the conversation all over again via a different channel.

Businesses must provide the choice of communications and remove the silos between the different communications methods. Unified communications can augment the customer’s journey and back-office communications, while a multi-media contact centre will improve customer service and margins.

Although some lines of distinction between B2B and B2C are blurring there are still some that are very much widespread.

Strong Relationships

Consistent customer experience is vital in a B2B environment where sales cycles are longer. The products/solutions are often more complex than B2C, with a greater number of people involved in the process. Businesses are not just targeting a single customer they are targeting various people in the decision-making unit (DMU) and complexity of the DMU is dependent upon the product/solution.

Relationships need to be forged and it takes longer to build up strong relationships with the circle of influence. Customers and businesses need to be able to form a bond and relationship based on trust and reliance.

Strategic Partners

Today, third parties, in our case unified communication solution providers, are now viewed as strategic partners and not just suppliers. We work closely with the customer to discover their technology needs and work together to meet the customer’s business objectives. It is about working as a team together in a partnership and not simply a supplier.

Adding Value

The sales process from prospecting through to closing the sale is a lengthy process. Whereas in B2C there is often too much information to sift through, in B2B you must ensure that the information presented is relevant, informative and engaging. This is achieved through a plethora of communication tools and methods such as: seminars, campaigns and face to face meetings. Building on each touchpoint and educating, and updating on a consistent basis to ensure you are engaging and adding value.

Buyers in B2B are generally different to the buyers of B2C. The B2B buyer is less emotional and tends to more logical and rational, focusing on what benefits the product or solution will deliver, and what return on investment they will receive.

However, the B2B buyer is more accountable when they make a purchase as they don’t want to damage their or the company’s reputation through the purchase of an unreliable and poor quality product/solution that will not deliver the results. Aside from the product functionality, trust, reliability and security are fundamental to the sales process, the delivery and the customer care.

To deliver a strong B2B customer experience companies need to invest in a digital transformation strategy that includes eCommerce if necessary, deploying technology to improve customer services and business processes. By working closely with a trusted solutions provider to fully understand their needs, the appropriate technology can be put in place to help them achieve their objectives and produce results.

B2B businesses need to continue to build trust and develop relationships with their customers so they can consistently deliver a superior service, add value and differentiate themselves from the competition.

Interesting Links:

Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpSeptember 1, 2016


The world is moving faster than ever before and consumers now have better technology than most businesses. Millennials are demanding the latest technology and the digital revolution is upon us so companies need to react to this paradigm shift.

Keeping Up with the Pace of Change

Many companies predominantly use voice and email as communications tools but staff and customers need a choice of tools to use, depending on the purpose of the communication and their currentlocation.Thanks to a plethora of technology options, we can choose from numerous communications tools but, if not used correctly, technology can hinder rather than empower us. Email in particular is the frequent culprit with staff spending too much time managing their inbox rather than working. Knowing what tools to use for communication about the task at hand can improve productivity, increase efficiencies and simplify our lives.

Digital Transformation

Devising a digital transformation strategy is no mean feat and you will require a trusted and experienced third party solutions provider to assist you. They will advise you on technology strategy, take time to understand your business and your objectives. Plus advise you on what communications tools you require to increase staff productivity, improve internal and external communications and customer service.

It is important to mention that digital transformation and customer service needs to be championed by the CEO and senior management team. Customer experience has extended beyond the realms of the marketing department and the contact centre through to the Board. Customer experience should be the fabric and culture of every business.

The New Age Customer

Customers have changed and are now more mobile than ever, more digital and more social. Research shows that 58% of customers use online chat, 38% text and 37% use Twitter (Forrester 2015). The use of the different communication tools is coupled with increasing expectations of 24/7 availability, instant responses and resolution – 82% of consumers state that the number one factor that leads to great customer service experience is through having issues resolved quickly. If the experience is bad then 64% will defect and go to a competitor (SDL 2015).

Companies are now striving for first time resolution and need to deliver exceptional customer service to differentiate from the competition. A total of 68% of companies view customer experience as a competitive differentiator and 62% of companies are striving for first time resolution (Deloitte contact centre survey 2013).

Customers now want to choose how to contact agents in contact centres. It has evolved from phone and email communications to the creation of the omni-channel where there is a choice of communications to contact the company, whether it is by phone, email, webchat, video call or social media. Companies need to provide these communications tools to augment voice and email; extending to conferencing and collaboration solutions to create a blended omni-channel approach.

A Blended World of Communications

People think email is real-time communication but it isn’t. They write an email to communicate a quick message then fire it off and then forget about it while it is sitting in someone’s inbox waiting to be read. With email you often don’t get the instant response that is expected. Another annoying characteristic of email is the email trail and the fact that people copy others in, creating unnecessary workload.

If companies find that email is increasingly becoming an ineffective medium they can deploy a management tool. This will minimise any downtime and inefficiencies helping to improve processes and maximise productivity that will naturally enhance customer experience.

The management tool uses automated call distribution (ACD) technology and acts like a gatekeeper to determine how many emails are let through and how many sit in inboxes. SLAs (service level agreements) can be set against emails so that customers have an expectation of response time and breaches of the SLA can quickly be escalated.

Companies should work with a solution provider to understand how different communication tools can help them improve internal and external communications, and customer service. Unified communications is the integration of voice, video, web chat/instant messaging and screen sharing bringing the disparate tools together to create a powerful singular solution. United they are much stronger and more effective than when operated in isolation.

Real-time communication has increased to 76% in the last couple of years (Forester 2014) with more and more people embracing it. Instant messaging, Skype for Business, Facetime are all being used in our personal and business lives.

The most recent technology to disrupt the market is WebRTC (web real-time communication).This technology will transform the contact centre and improve communicationsand efficiencies with staff; moving companies away from ploughing through inboxes and playing voicemail tag. It enables users to communicate in real time via a browser-based application that can be used on any device wherever they are. Video calls, voice communications, instant messaging/webchat,co-browsing andfile sharingcan all be carried out via a single web browser.

WebRTC is estimated to be worth $4.7 billion by 2020 with 2 billion plus users,which is around 60% of the worldwide internet population (Disruptive Analysis 2014 WebRTC report).

The technology is very secure as it requires permission from the users to allow use of their microphone and camera. The end-to-end encryption between peers means data is always sent securely with the additional benefit that there is no software plugin to download.

It improves communications, increases efficiencies and delivers first time resolutions. Customers are just one click away from contacteither by video, audio or instant message/web chat.

A sales or customer service agent in a contact centre might find it particularly useful to be able to escalate a conversation from browsing to text chat, to video and co-browsing in a single session. This provides a consistent seamless service that leads to first contact resolution for the customer and improves customer experience.

The Power of Real-Time Communications

Unified communications and WebRTC empower the customer, but also allow staff and agents to decide what tools are best to use to respond to each situation, enabling the conversation to be seamlessly transitioned from one to another. It is about moving around the different channels accordingly and knowing where it is appropriate. Whether the conversation starts from webchat and then the agent makes the judgement that the request should be dealt with over a video call for face-to-face contact. It all depends on the conversation and the task at hand.

Blending communications tools into a seamless, singular solution demands integration of the new and existing technology. A trusted solutions provider can help you with this resulting in aunified omni-channel. Providing your staff with the tools they require to differentiate you from the competition, increase efficiencies and ultimately improve your customers’ journey and experience.

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