Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 30, 2019


The UK’s ombudsman system has been dubbed “as useful to consumers as a chocolate teapot” amid calls by MPs for reform.

Westminster’s All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Consumer Protection – a cross-party group of politicians including MPs and a peer from the House of Lords – has published a new report calling for the issue of ombudsmen reform to be referred to the Law Commission – an independent body that reviews and recommends reforms to laws.

The APPG’s Consumer Protection’s Inquiry into ombudsmen was backed by, which had previously called for change in its 2017 report, titled Sharper Teeth: The Consumer Need For Ombudsman Reform.

The new report suggests a number of changes, including banning schemes that do not have mandatory membership and/or cannot enforce their decisions from having ‘ombudsman’ in their title.

Other recommended reforms are a maximum four week wait before complainants’ cases are passed to an ombudsman; ombudsman schemes to publish annual reports, including anonymised examples of complaints; and commitment to research into the viability of a ‘single portal’ for all consumer complaints.

MoneySavingExpert’s founder Martin Lewis said: “Ombudsmen should be the gold standard in independent dispute resolution, with the ability to force all players in their sector to comply with rulings. Yet not all ombudsmen are equal. Some are little more than opt-in trade bodies that firms can ignore with impunity, and are about as useful to consumers as a chocolate teapot. 

“We exposed these problems in our Sharper Teeth  report in 2017, and the APPG on Consumer Protection has agreed with many of the recommendations we made and asked the Government to refer the whole mess to the Law Commission. To be called an ombudsman, you should have the statutory powers needed to enforce decisions and be under proper scrutiny, so consumers have confidence they’ll get a fair hearing.

“Plus we need to change the antiquated pre-digital rule that means consumers have to wait a ridiculous eight weeks to escalate a problem to an ombudsman after complaining.”

Yvonne Fovargue MP, chair of the APPG, said: “We make a number of suggestions for improvement that could be quickly implemented. But ultimately, we would like to see the ombudsman system overhauled by the Law Commission, who are best able to consolidate and extend the current statutory landscape. The ombudsman system has the potential to be the ‘gold standard’ of alternative dispute resolution if the standards of the rest can be brought up to the standards of the best.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “It is vital that consumers have access to an effective, accessible and transparent system of redress. Our review of the alternative dispute resolution landscape is looking at how the ombudsman system can be improved, and we expect to publish a white paper later this year. We will study the recommendations of the APPG with interest.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 30, 2019


Research by the British Safety Council has identified significant levels of uncertainty in the UK about wellbeing at work.

Its new report Not just free fruit: wellbeing at work, found that employee wellbeing is often ignored or misunderstood, with employers unsure how to define it or improve it, what priority to give it, and how to measure the effectiveness of wellbeing interventions and programmes.

Now, Professor Dame Carol Black, an expert Government advisor on health and work and a campaigner for better mental health and wellbeing, not only explains how it can be done simply but also the reasons why it should be done: improved welling in the workplace can improve productivity by up to 25 percent.

At a time of high job insecurity and the uncertainties of Brexit, she said: “There is no better time than now to say that we must support the staff we’ve got because we don’t know how many of them we are going to have in the future.”

Her views and advice were recorded by the British Safety Council in a series of filmed interviews about the nature of workplace wellbeing:

Professor Carol Black defines wellbeing as: “A sense of contentment which is made up of mental health, physical health and a feeling that where you are at any time is a good place to be. That good place can and should be the workplace.”

Speaking of the role of line managers in promoting wellbeing: “You have to help them understand that supporting their staff is going to give them a more engaged and productive workforce. You must enable them to do this. It’s not just about putting managers on training courses, but also ensuring that they can maintain these skills and are supported by the top of the house.

“You could incentivise them through their appraisal, which in many companies is linked to promotion and remuneration. Some organisations’ appraisals expect managers to meet certain requirements relating to the health and wellbeing of their staff. You can also incentivise managers financially.”

On measuring wellbeing, she continued: “You can measure wellbeing through sickness absence levels. You can also do this by reviewing staff turnover figures, because if staff are not content with a workplace, they leave. Additionally, you can measure engagement scores. You can also measure productivity loss, by adding presenteeism and absence levels.”

On SMEs’ requirements in relation to wellbeing, she added: “Many SMEs are very small and have limited resources, no occupational health and no HR function. Anything you’re going to offer them with regard to wellbeing has to be easily and quickly accessible. You can’t give them a large, however impressive, toolkit and expect them to read it. It has to be available online.”

Matthew Holder, Head of Campaigns at the British Safety Council, said: “We are delighted that Professor Carol Black has agreed to share her expertise with us. She is an authoritative voice on workplace wellbeing, which, although high on the corporate agenda, it is still perceived as ‘fluffy’ and difficult to measure.

“Her suggestions are accessible, practical and instantly actionable. We hope that together with the intelligence gathered in our wellbeing at work report, Professor Black’s videos will become a first point-of-call reference source for companies wishing to develop a culture of wellbeing.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 29, 2019


A quarter of UK business customers would shun a company that had poor website usability and choose to shop elsewhere, according to new research.

The findings by full-service e-commerce agency PushON show that of the 500 UK business decision makers that were surveyed, 25 percent said a website’s usability is the most important factor when deciding where to purchase supplies from online – more so than user reviews (21 percent) or product offering (18 percent).

Aside from poor UX, the other most common issues B2B customers faced when shopping online was a lack of customer service (32 percent), issues with visualising products (20 percent), and problems with bulk orders (20 percent).

Sam Rutley, Managing Director at PushON, said: “Our research has shown that the majority (80 percent) of B2B customers would be more inclined to purchase products for their business online than in a physical store. However, our research has also uncovered that, worryingly, a large number of e-retailers do not appear to have their online offering ready for this yet.

“In a world where online commerce is rapidly overtaking the physical store, business owners need to ensure their websites are up to scratch if they are to remain competitive. Websites need to offer a good online customer experience and our research shows that they need to be easy to use and navigate, offer strong customer service, as well as clear, concise product information.

“There is no point having an online proposition, if the front end provides an off-putting experience for anyone using it. In today’s competitive and challenging retail landscape, customers expect their B2B shopping experience to match the B2C experience. Now is the time for B2B e-retailers to review their offering in order to maximise their sales opportunities.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 24, 2019


UK Customer Experience Award winner Business Stream has bought the customer base of competitors, doubling its market share and cementing its position as one of the top three retailers in the British water market.

The acquisition will see Scotland’s largest non-domestic water supplier absorb the customers of Yorkshire Water Business Services (YWBS) and Three-Sixty, both part of the Kelda Group.

The deal will take effect this summer, subject to regulatory approvals, and Business Stream will manage water and waste water services for around 140,000 new customers in the Yorkshire area.

The retailer will work closely with Three-Sixty and YWBS throughout an extended transition period to ensure that the experience is seamless for customers. In addition, a number of key account managers will transfer to Business Stream as part of the deal in order to maintain existing relationships and provide continuity of service to the YWBS customers.

The acquisition is the second for 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards finalists Business Stream, which acquired Southern Water’s non-domestic customer base in 2016 just prior to the English retail water market opening, doubling its customer base in the process.

On 1 April 2017, 1.2 million businesses and public bodies in England were able to choose their water supplier for the first time, an option previously only available to the largest users.

The acquisition by Business Stream is a significant milestone in its plans to establish its position as one of the biggest players in the market and to grow its existing customer base. Recent wins for the retailer include the UK-wide portfolios of Lloyds Banking Group, Network Rail, Greggs, Morrison’s, and Regus Management (UK).

Jo Dow, Business Stream’s Chief Executive, said: “The opening of the English retail water market in 2017 created huge opportunities for Business Stream. As we look ahead to the future we recognise that scale will be an important factor, enabling us to deliver a more competitive service for our customers across the UK.

“We will use the experience we gained from the Southern acquisition to ensure that the transition is seamless for our existing and future customers, providing them with a market leading customer experience, and access to innovative services that reduce their costs, risks and environmental impact. As a specialist supplier, with over a decade of experience operating in a competitive water market, we know we are ideally placed to deliver these benefits for our customers.

“This acquisition will cement our position as one of the key players in the UK retail water market and help build a strong future for our staff and customers.”

Liz Barber, Yorkshire Water’s Director of Finance, Regulation and Markets, added: “Business Stream has a strong track record of delivering excellent customer service and are very experienced in the market. We are confident that they will continue to provide customers with the same high level of service they have had from Yorkshire Water Business Services. We are working closely with Business Stream to deliver a smooth transition process for our customers.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 21, 2019


One-in-ten UK consumers has never experienced good customer service, according to new research.

The findings from Zendesk Inc show just how damaging poor customer service can be, with 70 percent of UK respondents remembering negative experiences from more than a year previously.

Poor customer service also resulted in 50 percent terminating their relationship with a company completely, with 32 percent recommending that others avoid them.

A total of 74 percent cited the number one priority for good customer service to be simply getting issues sorted, and 53 percent said they expect customer service to be faster than it was five years ago.

Along with the UK, the survey also involved customers from France and Germany, and Zendesk’s Prelini Udayan-Chiechi said: “Our research into consumer behaviour in Europe validates our efforts in transforming the way organisations develop meaningful relationships with their customers so they stay with them over the longer term.

“After surveying consumers across the UK, France, and Germany, the data is clear – customers just want their problems solved. When it comes to common questions, consumers don’t want to get stuck in small talk and hold music, they just want brands to get out of their way.

“However, when things get more complex, a human touch goes a long way. Brands need to make sure they are striking the right balance between self-service and human kindness, equipping their teams with the right tools to scale the empathy their customer service teams can provide.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 21, 2019


Mental health in the workplace remains a difficult subject, with most professionals uncomfortable discussing issues with colleagues, research has found.

The findings are included in a whitepaper from recruitment consultancy Robert Walters ahead of Blue Monday (21 January), which is commonly cited as the most “depressing” day of the year where people are said to feel at their lowest due to a combination of factors including Christmas debt and weather.

The report shows that 76 percent of professionals believe people at their place of work would be uncomfortable discussing mental health – citing anxiety of how they might be perceived by co-workers (82 percent); concerns over harm to career prospects (78 percent); embarrassment (76 percent); and fears they would not be trusted with more responsibility (69 percent).

Less than a quarter (23 percent) “strongly agree” that attitudes towards mental health in the workplace have changed in recent years.

Almost 80 percent of employees claim that management simply “making clear that mental health is a priority” would be a highly effective strategy in removing the barrier to talk. However, only a third (36 percent) of management feel that this approach would be necessary or effective.

According to the research, only half of UK employers have a mental health policy in place, despite the fact that 97 percent of professionals believe their employer has a responsibility to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff.

Chris Hickey, UK CEO at Robert Walters, said: “In our own industry we have seen a shift in professionals (88 percent) wanting to know more about a prospective employers approach towards mental health and wellbeing. However many employees (64 percent) are finding this information difficult to come by, not helped by the fact that just three percent of companies mention their mental wellbeing strategies in job adverts.

“As a result, more and more professionals (42 percent) are resorting to using employer review sites to find out about an organisations mental health policy.”

Only 17 percent of employers currently have a partnership in place with an external (mental health or wellbeing) organisation, despite most companies (89 percent) recognising the benefits it would bring. Meanwhile, only 18 percent of general staff – outside of HR – receive mental health training.

Chris Hickey continued: “Just six percent of hiring managers specifically recruit staff with expertise in mental health, and of these less then 10 percent feel that their skills are being used as effectively as possible.

“In addition to reviewing the recruitment process in order to seek professionals with specific skills and experience of dealing with mental health barriers in the workplace, employers should review their current workforce to identify staff who already possess expertise in the field and help to train them up.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 17, 2019


UK Business Awards winners indaHash, the influencer marketing platform connecting more than 900,000 digital influencers with brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and L’Oréal, has announced it is expanding its global footprint into Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

Rodric Leerling is the newly appointed indaHash representative offering automated cross-market influencer campaigns with international reach. Leveraging indaHash’s technology, brands and agencies are given end-to-end solutions to work with global influencers at scale, with speed and convenience.

indaHash technology, along with their newest insight tool, indaHash IQ – powered by Amazon Rekognition – enables the analysis of millions of influencer images and videos, significantly increasing the relevant partnering of influencers and brands. indaHash focus on the internet’s ‘power users’, micro and mid-tier influencers. Campaigns however combine influencers from multiple tiers, which until now has generated over 50 million engagements on branded content.

Prior to working for indaHash – which in 2017 won the Disruptive Business Model category of the UK Business Awards – Leerling was engrossed in new media technology and projects, taking brands from traditional advertising into the digital age.

Working in Benelux, DACH, and the US, Leerling has worked for renown publishers such as Time Magazine and Nikkei Business Publications. He has dealt mostly with international brands and successfully introduced new publishing concepts such as Crowd Sourcing, Advocacy Marketing, and Online Reputation.

Barbara Sołtysińska, CEO and co-founder at indaHash, said: “With the headquarters of many international brands being in Benelux, indaHash is a solution for them to run cross-market campaigns in an easy way, thanks to our tech. We have successfully run indaHash campaigns in 34 markets for Catrice, eight markets for Sony, and many others. We have chosen further development in Europe and with Leerling’s local and global expertise, are offering clients high quality campaigns at scale.”

Rodric Leerling added: “I’m not only here to drive the growth of indaHash in the Benelux region, but also to educate, assist, research, debate and advance the progression of influencer marketing.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 17, 2019


Fashion brand PrettyLittleThing has announced a partnership with tech firm Narvar to enhance post-purchase Customer Experience.

Narvar’s role in PrettyLittleThing’s CX improvement journey has centered on its post-purchase communications. Before working with Narvar, PrettyLittleThing directed customers to third-party websites for delivery updates. These communications were unbranded and purely functional, meaning they did little to engage or delight customers who had just purchased.

Passing on delivery communication responsibilities to external carriers also meant the experience customers received after the buy button was out of PrettyLittleThing’s control.

Now, using Narvar’s enterprise-grade SaaS post-purchase platform, PrettyLittleThing customers receive proactive, convenient, engaging, and branded delivery and tracking messages – via the communications channel of their choice.

PrettyLittleThings focus on improving the post purchase experience for its customers has already resulted in tangible gains in both customer satisfaction and brand loyalty: the rating that PLT customers assigned to its overall post-purchase experience increased by over 30 percent and the average time to next purchase reduced by 57 percent.

By taking control of the post-purchase experience, PrettyLittleThing has enjoyed greater engagement from customers who have made a purchase. Branded delivery communications have brought customers back to the retailer’s website, boosting site visits – which previously would have gone to external carriers’ sites.

The retailer also enjoyed a 44.3 percent Marketing Engagement Rate vs an industry benchmark of 14 percent. This incremental brand engagement and the resulting additional revenues were key to PrettyLittleThing seeing a massive 24x Return on Investment (ROI) in just five months since working with Narvar.

With its core audience in the 16-24 age bracket, PrettyLittleThing also realised it needed to expand the number of channels to communicate delivery updates to customers. To meet the experience expectations of increasingly mobile-first customers, PrettyLittleThing now offer SMS delivery notifications, which the retailer has seen high opt-in rates for. With Narvar also offering customer care via Chatbot, Facebook Messenger, or Voice-Assistant (e.g. Alexa, Google Home), PrettyLittleThing is now considering extending the number of channels on which it communicates with customers.

Nicki Capstick, Head of Marketing at PrettyLittleThing said: “We’re at the cutting edge of fast fashion, but a sub-optimal post-purchase experience was disrupting our otherwise seamless customer journey. To keep customers coming back, we worked with Narvar to provide our customers with valuable and meaningful experiences after the buy button, not just discounts or next day deliveries.

“A key element of this has been the fully branded, personalised tracking dashboard which Narvar has helped us execute. Making sure our customers stay engaged after they have bought is fundamental to increasing their lifetime value. We know it works – the results of the investments we have made in the post-purchase experience speak for themselves.”

Anthony Gavin, EMEA Director of Narvar said: “Brands and retailers which fail to recognise the importance of Customer Experience beyond the buy button are missing a trick. The post-purchase experience that customers receive is fundamental to keeping them engaged and turning one-off sales into loyal customers.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 14, 2019


A Reading-based rugby club is reconnecting with supporters after pioneering a ‘fan experience’ similar to the Customer Experience initiatives that have revamped the fortunes of firms across the globe.

London Irish RFC, which was founded in 1898 by Irish expats, currently shares its home with Reading Football Club at Madejski Stadium, and is a founding member of Premiership Rugby.

However, with a fan-base spread across a wide geographical area, along with a recent league relegation, the club has struggled with ticket sales for games. This has been compounded by the fact that the club relied on its soccer team stadium-mates Reading FC to provide ticketing support.

Despite keeping costs manageable, the set-up limited the amount of fan engagement London Irish could provide.

In a bid to revamp what they could offer fans, London Irish approached voice and message solution provider Apifonica to re-engage with supporters and tailor personal communications to keep them updated with club news and offers.

The bespoke campaign focussed on providing relevant information to season ticket holders and other fans via what is now seen as a more ‘traditional’ means of communication – SMS. The club agreed to the initiative due to text messages having a 90 percent open rate compared to 20 percent for emails.

Speaking of the campaign’s success, Head of Commercial at London Irish RFC, Sam Windridge said: “We have seen a significant uptick in attendance in light of the messages that have been sent. The impact is almost immediate. We send out a message and within an hour we see a significant increase in ticket sales.

“We see a significant jump in social media engagement as soon as messages are sent. This is important because we have worked hard with Apifonica to ensure our season ticket holders do not simply see these messages as an opportunity to exploit them. 

“The reality is that it is an opportunity to engage with them, understand more about what drives them and help us serve them better.  The reaction that we have seen has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive, meaning that the messages are appreciated as well as commercially successful.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 11, 2019


2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards finalist Zurich has announced a new sign language service for deaf and hard-of-hearing customers.

The firm, which has its UK headquarters in Whiteley, is partnering with British Sign Language (BSL) Online Interpreting Service SignLive to introduce the scheme.

Zurich is the first insurer to offer this flagship service, which enables customers with impaired hearing to contact the insurer using a SignLive video interpreter. The interpreter acts as a middleman on behalf of the customer, carrying out their instructions, liaising with the insurer, and sharing feedback with the customer.

Customers using the service for the first time need to register with SignLive to complete online security and video quality checks before accessing an interpreter. Once registered, customers can access this free service from any mobile device by downloading the app from the App store or Google Play. They can also access it by installing the SignLive system on their desktops without having to download additional software.

Richard Pash, UK Marketing Director at Zurich UK said: “We’re very proud of our partnership with SignLive. It’s a fantastic service which we think will make a real difference to our customers with hearing difficulties enabling them to engage with us in a meaningful way which really works for them. We’re confident that this service will be well received and continue to look for ways to innovate and enhance the customer experience for all our customers.”

Joel Kellhofer, Director at SignLive added: “We’re delighted to be working with Zurich as the first insurer to be using the service, helping Zurich enhance the customer experience for its Deaf British Sign Language users. We’re confident that the service will prove popular with Zurich’s customers.”

The 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards are taking place in London on March 8 . Click here for a full list of finalists.

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