Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 6, 2019
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5min2074

The Customer Experience Masterclass is preparing to celebrate its fifth year of providing unparalleled CX knowledge to audiences in the UK and beyond.

2020 will mark five years since the founding of the Masterclass, and January will see international consultant and expert in all-things CX, Ian Golding, host sessions in Stevenage, UK, and Dubai, UAE.

The two-day Masterclass will see Ian – author of Customer What?: The honest and practical guide to customer experience – teach attendees a wide range of core competencies, including CX strategy and brand proposition, the role of employees in delivering the strategy, customer journey mapping, CX measurement (VOC, VOE and VOP), CX improvement, and CX culture.

A class of their own: Some of this year’s UK CX Masterclass attendees with Ian Golding (right)

The Masterclass in Stevenage takes place at the BTC Business Technology Centre on January 27 – 28, and the following day, an optional CCXP Exam Workshop is also available for those keen to seek CCXP accreditation.

Further UK Masterclasses and Exam Workshops with Ian Golding will take place in 2020 in March, April, May, July, September, and November. Click here for further details.

In-house training events with Ian are also available, with further details available here.

Among those attending November’s CX Masterclass was Carmen Barleanu, CX & Marketing Consultant at Endava. Speaking afterwards, she said: “I particularly enjoyed how Ian delivered the class – he managed very well to put order in a field that can be perceived as rather chaotic. He also came with inspirational and practical examples to demonstrate the concepts and tools presented.

“I found Ian as an exceptional CX professional, as well as human being, truly interested in adding value to the participants and to the CX field. Also, it was great to meet such a diverse group of CX practitioners and have valuable discussions on each other’s perspective on the subjects.”

Meanwhile, Merlin Iles-Jonas, Senior CX Manager at Avalara, said: “I’m looking forward to validating everything I’ve learnt so far through the CCXP accreditation, and view this coupled with Ian’s Masterclass as a significant chapter in my career as a CX professional.

“I’ve absorbed so much in the last few days it will take a while to fully digest. However, I am champing at the bit to implement all I’ve learnt and feel empowered to do this as effectively as possible with the backdrop of the methodologies and frameworks that Ian taught.”

The CX Masterclasses have a bright future and a busy year ahead, and Customer Experience Magazine’s very own Events Manager Antonija Kadarijan, told us of her pride in helping to bringing together people passionate about expanding their CX skillset.

“It really is a special feeling when you’re able to work with people across the globe and watch them grow in a professional way and place customers at the heart of everything they do,” she said.

Looking ahead: Masterclass Event Manager Antonija Kadarijan

Over the past four years, we have celebrated many CCXPs earning their qualification and it is wonderful to see people achieve recognition for their dedication and hard work.

“Working and learning from Ian Golding is also an honour. Having attended his classes I could feel his energy and enthusiasm, which helped me upgrade my own CX knowledge.

“I cannot wait to see what 2020 has in store, but our main purpose will remain the same – support even more professionals and organisations to deliver authentic and exceptional Customer Experiences.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 5, 2019
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2min2092

US Mexican food chain Chipotle is employing nurses to validate the claims of employees who call in sick, its CEO has revealed.

The chain, famous for its burritos, tacos, and guacamole, provides nurses to check the claims of workers who call in to let their colleagues know they are ill.

Despite sounding a touch extreme for some, once the illness claim has been validated, the employee will receive a full day’s pay while being told to stay at home and recover.

The practise, revealed at a conference in New York’s Barclays Center this week, is part of the firm’s improved food-safety initiative, and was implemented following an outbreak of norovirus in a Virginia outlet in 2017 which was partly attributed to an ill employee.

CEO Brian Niccol said: “We have nurses on call, so that if you say, ‘Hey, I’ve been sick,’ you get the call into the nurse. The nurse validates that it’s not a hangover – you’re really sick – and then we pay for the day off to get healthy again.”

He continued: “We have a very different food-safety culture than we did two years ago, OK?” Niccol said. “Nobody gets to the back of the restaurant without going through a wellness check.”

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 5, 2019
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4min1971

Companies must provide digital-first omnichannel experiences to meet consumer expectations and effectively compete in the experience economy.

That is the key takeaway from the third annual 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark report, which details how understanding younger generations’ use of – and expectations around – next-generation solutions like artificial intelligence (AI) and digital channels including private social messaging are fundamental to building exceptional, best-in-class Customer Experience.

As millennials and Generation Z become dominant consumer groups, with Gen Z purchasing already reaching an estimated $100 billion, according to research conducted by Barkley, their comfort level and familiarity with multiple digital channels including social messaging and chatbots means organisations, no matter their size, must provide digital-first omnichannel experiences to meet consumer expectations and effectively compete in the experience economy.

The global study reveals that almost 60 percent of Gen Z and millennials have used private social messaging for customer service. In contrast, just 38 percent of Gen X, 19 percent of baby boomers and 16% of those born before 1945 have done so. 

The majority of Gen Z and millennials also want companies to allow them to interact with customer service using private social messaging apps (72 percent and 69 percent, respectively).

Meanwhile, consumers are using AI more and feeling more positive about chatbots over time. Half of all consumers have used AI for any purpose (50 percent), compared to 2018 (45 percent).

This can be attributed to a significant increase in the use of an automated assistant/chatbot online (34 percent, up from 25 percent in 2018). Gen Z and millennials are more likely to agree that chatbots make it easier and quicker for their issues to get resolved, and are also the most likely of all generations to have used all forms of AI for any purpose, as well as for customer service.

Seamless digital-first omnichannel experiences, meanwhile, are vital to a positive Customer Experience. Most consumers (93 percent) want seamless omnichannel experiences, and yet they are increasingly giving companies a poor rating on seamlessly switching between channels – 73 percent give companies a poor rating, up from 67 percent in 2018.

This is especially important for meeting and exceeding the expectations of millennials and Gen Z, who are the most likely to have experienced omnichannel customer service (16 percent and 21 percent, respectively).

Paul Jarman, NICE inContact CEO, said: “Understanding the nuances of what consumers expect, and how they actually engage with brands via a myriad of digital channels, and integrating these in-demand channels seamlessly to deliver digital-first omnichannel experiences, is key to sustainable growth.

“The NICE inContact CX Benchmark looks beyond education around demographic customer service trends and gets to the root of what makes new channel options attractive. Millennials and Gen Z are bellwethers of what consumers expect and are increasingly likely to recommend a company on social media based on personal experiences – the influence they wield is tremendous.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 2, 2019
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3min1569

This year’s Black Friday footfall increased by six percent compared to 2018, despite challenges including Brexit uncertainty.

Official data from ShopperTrak shows that overall footfall for the year sits 0.2 percent up against the same period last year. Saturday, meanwhile was expectded to be the second busiest shopping day of the entire Christmas period, according to the Festive Peak Shopping 2019/20 Report released by Sensormatic Solutions.

The report maps the top five busiest UK shopper traffic days for peak trading 2019, based on insight from more than 1.5 million data collection devices in the retail marketplace and 40 billion shopper visits captured by the ShopperTrak brand each year.

This, the report suggests, demonstrates the increasing importance of the promotional event in driving in-store footfall – not just across the Black Friday weekend, but also in building momentum into Christmas trading, as retailers extend their in-store promotion strategies.

Having insight into how many shoppers are walking into their stores, along with the timing, helps retailers make informed decisions and create more impactful marketing promotions during the retail industry’s busiest shopping days.

Nick Pompa, Global General Manager at ShopperTrak, said: “We know that shoppers are in the driving seat now on how, when and where they shop, but our data shows that Black Friday still ranks as a key day for bricks-and-mortar. Our data helps retailers kick start their peak trading strategies and maximise their returns.”

“By leveraging insight from shopper traffic trends, retailers can optimise scheduling decisions, merchandising of floor sets, inventory fulfilment and even loss prevention awareness to help maximise sales opportunities presented during the busiest days of peak trading. Making the most of the footfall you have, is more important now than ever before.”

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 29, 2019
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17min2746

2019 has proven to be a successful year indeed for the conversational AI experts at ContactEngine, which is leading the vanguard in changing the fundamentals of how 21st-century customers interact with brands.

It’s been a year in which their trophy shelf found itself a little squeezed and in need of an extension, with added honours including a Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 title, and a UK Customer Experience Award, collected at Wembley Stadium in October and presented for the firm’s successful partnership with BT Enterprise.

The Gold category win for Best Use of Technology is testament to ContactEngine’s position at the cutting edge of what is the most exciting – and often most misunderstood – tech affecting the modern Customer Experience: artificial intelligence.

Their sophisticated algorithms offer intelligent omnichannel customer conversations, and the firm’s founder, Dr Mark K. Smith, is a man whose passion for excellence is evident as he explains what his company stands for, and where the advanced computing involved behind the scenes can lead for both businesses and customers.

AI evangelist: ContactEngine’s Dr Mark Smith

Speaking with CXM, Dr Smith described his firm’s work with BT as an example of what ContactEngine does for an organisation with a duty to communicate with countless customers through various channels.

“We start conversations and invite a response from our client’s customer,” Dr Smith explains.

“With BT, it was specifically to improve a process by better communication; by trying to reduce the amount of cancellations that would have occurred had there been no communication. It was to reduce the amount of calls someone would make to a call centre due to a lack of communication. Our goal is to increase the engagement rate and then ultimately to see if we can make customers happy as consequence of that.

“To put it simply, we start conversations – all automated – and invite responses. From there, we carry on the conversations using our own NLU (Natural Language Understanding) and a machine learning algorithm we call ALAN (Advanced Language ANalysis), and we deliver efficiency gains for our clients, making their customers happier.”

From this description, ContactEngine couldn’t be more suited to Digital Customer Experience if it tried, but surprisingly, the PhD that provides Dr Smith with his title stems from a science of an altogether less-computerised kind.

“Up until my late-20s I was a career academic, and my PhD is in Biochemistry,” he says, before explaining how he adapted his skills in that particular field to AI tech development.

“The biological sciences are all about generating mass data sets and trying to seek out trends in that data. Of all the sciences, biology and biochemistry present quite a lot of mystery, so you generate a lot of data and look for trends. That’s very similar to what AI is actually, so you can post-rationalise it. I love technology and always have done.”

Describing the business’ origin in the telephony-based live-streaming of events, Dr Smith said using the tech that would eventually lead to ContactEngine’s current offering through streaming the 2011 World Transplant Games in Australia led to the realisation that proactive communications could solve many of the problems faced in business.

“Firms such as Virgin Media used the tech for corporate social responsibility work – in their case broadcasting from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro through their social media channels.

“They asked us a simple question: can you improve the way we communicate to our customers in this omni channel-way that you have provided to us in a social media context?” continues Dr Smith.

“The answer for people like me is always ‘yes’ to any questions to do with IT. The real question is ‘how long and how much’ but the answer is always yes! You see, unlike my biochemistry days, computers can always be made to work.

“We stepped into the world of customer communication, and almost accidentally built an omnichannel outbound comms tool, so we can start conversations by phone, email, text, instant messaging, or collecting video.”

 

This powerful tool was soon utilised by clients such as American telco giant Verizon, which learned the value of implementing the technology and what it means for a company’s bottom line.

“When an appointment was missed, it cost Verizon well over 100 dollars. If you can improve communication with the customer to stop that from happening, then you can save that 100 dollars,” he explains.

“If a company has 100 million customers, then that’s a lot of money to be saved, and we can charge them a fraction of the money they save.”

As AI becomes ever-more central to even the most basic of customer communication, Dr Smith tells us that despite fears among some about where the tech will eventually lead, it will remain a benign benefit to society.

“I’m no great believer in singularity,” he tells us, referring to the theorised future in which AI outgrows the need for human masters and snowballs into an uncontrollable overlord.

“It’s not that I think it will happen in the future either – it just won’t happen!

“I start from the position of a rationalist – I’m not a believer in ‘Skynet’ or other fantastical problems that AI could bring. It’s important to realise that AI is often the only solution in areas where a human simply cannot compete.

“If you have a company with 100 million customers, as many do, it is impossible to have enough people to communicate well with all those human beings. You cannot do it!

“Computers are the only way you can do that, and what’s most interesting about the world of AI for us is a subset known as machine learning.

“This takes vast data sets – bear in mind we are dealing with hundreds of thousands of people a day – so we have vast amounts of data and responses to the questions we ask. If you have vast amounts of data, then you have some really tremendous possibilities for teaching your algorithm to be human-like.

“Machine learning is simply taking an algorithm and giving it sufficient data for the next piece of information it receives in order for it to have a pretty good stab at it in a manner which exceeds the way a human can respond.

“Think of the ‘100 million customer challenge’ and you’ll see why you want to have a proactive outbound conversation – only made possible through computers, not people.

“We automate a way to simpler conversations. A machine is better than a human for 95 percent of customer conversations. But there will always be the five percent where a machine just won’t cut it.

“Take an example; I was with an insurance company recently, and they said that with their life insurance product, they would only usually get one phone call, and that was from a bereaved partner.

“Now, it’s not wise to put that call to a machine, as a machine will never display empathy. They may display ‘faux empathy’, but a customer will catch that out pretty rapidly. A human needs to be involved in that conversation, and these calls were often taking up to two hours.

“However, once that conversation is completed, it’s perfectly reasonable for the machine to take over in order to inform the person of progress on their claim, or any other information.”

Other fascinating aspects of the tech behind ContactEngine includes a profanity filter, which detects when a customer needs to be transferred to a human as a matter of urgency, in order for that person to be talked to and returned to a level of calm where their issue can be resolved.

“Interestingly, there’s not an enormous amount of research about when humans are best and when machines are best, but I believe that by working together they can vastly improve the Customer Experience, and the Employee Experience of call centre staff also,” Dr Smith continues.

“We have a case with a European bank which commissioned us because they were losing their call centre people because they were doing too many cold calls after a certain customer process had failed.

“The customers were saying ‘why are you calling me a week after this happened? I’m really not interested in talking to you’.

“Machines fill that knowledge gap and can filter customers who actually do want a conversation with a human, then we broker an appointment for them.

“So what happens in this case? The person in the call centre has a better Employee Experience, potentially staying in their job for longer, while the Customer Experience was vastly improved also.

“It’s about knowing when humans are best, when machines are better, and knowing the exact best moment to flip between them.”

So with a successful foundation in telcos, where next for ContactEngine’s revolutionary CX tech? Clients already include household names including BT, Virgin Media, and Whirlpool, and the future looks seriously promising.

“We have enjoyed success in other areas including retail and banking; we have a foundational communication product that can be used in any industry, so we need to spread our wings and grow in other sectors,” Dr Smith says, adding that work is already underway with a “large UK retailer”.

Winning team: The ContactEngine/BT delegation collect their UK Customer Experience Award at Wembley Stadium

“On a technical front – what fascinates me about what we’ve done is, if you talk to companies in the UK and beyond, roughly speaking, three-quarters of them will be handling their AI over to the usual suspects.

“They will be using Dialogflow from Google or Watson from IBM. We made a conscious decision many years ago to build our own machine learning algorithm, and we did that because we wanted to be white box, not black box, and we wanted to be explainable.

“We have the benefit of: when you start a conversation, there are a limited number of intents that come back to you, so it’s quite easy for us to visualise and explain the decisions we made.

“We wanted to use labelled data sets for one client and not share that label data set with another client. We felt that was a GDPR problem. So, we built our own machine learning, and rather interestingly, when you take the training data we use to feed our algorithms, and you present that to others that I mentioned, we actually out-perform them!”

On the horizon for ContactEngine and its clients is the next generation of ALAN, with multi-intent capabilities, and developing further the concept of ‘human-computer rapport’, where the next customer conversation is informed by the earlier exchange in a more human-like way.

“We are incredibly excited for the future, and to see what 2020 has in store for us after the amazing year we have just had.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 28, 2019
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3min2220

Despite being a front for a criminal empire built on crystal meth, Breaking Bad fried chicken restaurant Los Pollos Hermanos is among the best fictional food franchises for Employee Experience, according to new research.

Food box company Gousto has revealed a list of the TV and movie eateries most likely to make it in the ‘real world’, and have rated establishments such as JJ’s Diner from Parks and Recreation, The Winchester pub from Shawn of the Dead, and The Simpsons‘ Krusty Burger based on the combined averages of their real-life counterparts through success markers including TripAdvisor reviews, length of time in operation, and Instagram hashtags.

Can I take your order?: TV villian Gus Fring would make a great boss, research suggests

Los Pollos Hermanos, from the hugely successful US crime drama about the rise and downfall of mild-mannered chemistry teacher-turned drugs godfather Walter White, topped the poll for Most Likely to Succeed, and was named Most Employable and Most Influential of the 20 fictional franchises, making it among the most desirable places to work for potential staff.

Gousto found that if it were real, the chicken restaurant chain founded by sinister meth kingpin Gus Fring would employ up to 39,000 people.

Rachel Chatterton, Food Development Director at Gousto said: “There’s a clear link between food and entertainment – they are both highly emotional and our Fictional Foodie Franchise ranking is a fun way to link these, drawing on inspiration from some of the delicious scenes in our favourite television shows.

“Our study shows that there’s no one clear ‘recipe for success’ – it’s much more complex than that and takes into account a number of factors.”

Chick-it out: The fictional stats of fried chicken chain and drug front Los Pollos Hermanos from TV hit Breaking Bad

 

 

 

 

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 28, 2019
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2min2054

Leading insights agency Kantar has named named First Direct the UK’s top bank for CX in a new report that compares brand perception with the thoughts of customers.

Kantar’s inaugural CX+ report on retail banking surveyed 8,687 retail banking customers who were quizzed on both the banks they use and the perceptions of others they do not, but are considering.

Behind First Direct in second place was Nationwide, with Barclay’s third, and  The Co-Operative Bank fourth.

In fifth place was HSBC, with Royal Bank of Scotland sixth, Halifax and Lloyds in joint seventh place, followed by NatWest in ninth. The tenth place spot was claimed by TSB Bank.

The results were calculated by combining the mean CX performance score across five factors (clear brand purpose, empowered employees, empowered customers, lasting memories, and exceptional delivery) with the experience gap between brand promise and Customer Experience, identified by comparing the experience of current bank users with the perceptions of customers considering using that bank.

Amy Cashman, CO-CEO, Insights Division at Kantar said: “We all know the importance of delivering an exceptional Customer Experience. But to be a truly customer-centric organisation, banks must go further and consider how their brand experience aligns (or doesn’t) with the promises they’re making to their customers. Customer experience and brand strategy can no longer sit in organisational silos.

“The magic happens only when brand promise and Customer Experience come together.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 28, 2019
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4min3542

The UK is trailing behind Europe in customer service as brands race to adopt AI technologies to transform how they engage with customers, according to new research.

Customer engagement software firm Freshworks found that just over half (54 percent) of UK senior decision makers state their business currently  uses AI – in areas such as chatbots, virtual assistants, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and facial recognition – for customer service departments, compared to 97 percent in the Netherlands, 86 percent in France, and 81 percent in Germany.

The company’s report, The Good, The Bot and The Customer Experience, shows that AI investment reached a record $1bn (£803.9m) in the first six months of 2019 according to Tech Nation, making the UK the third biggest AI market in the world behind the US and China.

However, this investment does not yet seem to be far-reaching for UK customer service. The Freshworks study, which surveyed over 800 senior decision makers in customer service departments, found that only 20 percent of UK businesses have invested more than £250,000 in AI for customer services in the last 12 months, compared to nearly half (46 percent) of German companies, 41 percent of French firms, and 35 percent of Dutch organisations.

Across all territories, chatbots (37 percent), NLP (34 percent) and Robotic Process Automation (31 percent) were the most popular AI technologies for businesses to be adopting to improve their customer service.

The report suggests people do not want to take on responsibility for bringing AI in to overhaul current systems. Over a quarter (26 percent) of senior decision makers in the UK claim no one is driving AI deployment within their customer service department. Yet, C-Suite executives are leading the integration of AI in the vast majority of Dutch, French, and German companies (97 percent, 95 percent, and 91 percent respectively).

Addressing the brand perception gap

The findings also suggest a large gap between business and consumer perceptions of how good their customer service actually is. Eighty percent of senior decision makers surveyed in the UK believe their customer service departments to be excellent, while only nine percent of UK consumers have no frustrations when dealing with customer service agents.

According to the research, a quarter (25 percent) of businesses are using AI to improve their customers’ experience of the brand, for example using AI-powered chatbots to resolve issues quickly by filtering through simple questions and channelling the trickier customer scenarios through to human service agents. Yet, one-in-four (25 percent) of the 1,871 British consumers surveyed who have previously used customer service channels said that being left on hold for too long is their biggest frustration.

UK General Manager at Freshworks, Simon Johnson, said: “Our research shows that British brands’ deep distrust in AI risks leaving them lagging behind Europe in their approach to customer service. It’s incredibly difficult for brands to keep up with consumers’ expectations, but it’s non-negotiable that they constantly evolve their technology to include AI and Machine Learning and approach to keep their customers engaged and happy.

“For those who get it right, it can be a game changer that distances them from the competition.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 27, 2019
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3min2580

The finalists for the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards have been revealed, with high street and household names among the brands vying for success at the upcoming gala ceremony.

The fourth year for the awards, the final of which will take place at London’s Park Plaza Hotel on March 5, is set to be the biggest yet, with finalists including The Co-op, Aldi, Npower, Yorkshire Water, Capita, and BT among firms competing across 15 categories.

Well-handled: 2020 will be the fourth year the UK Complaint Handling Awards 

This year, categories include Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year, Most Improved Complaint Handling, and Zero to Hero – Transforming Customer Relations.

The finalist with the highest score from the categories will leave with the highly coveted Overall Winner title.

Click here for a full list of 2020 finalists.

The expert judging panel for 2020 is continuing to take shape, and places are still available to join. Potential judges have until December 24 to take advantage of a special Early Bird discount on the judging package.

The event is hosted by Awards International and supported by partners Worksmart, Resolver, Huntswood, Cranfield School of Management, Professor Malcolm McDonald, and children’s charity Barnardo’s.

Awards International; CEO Neil Skehel said: “2019 saw an incredibly high standard set by UK Complaint Handling Awards finalists, yet we are confident that with the calibre of entries we will see that bar raised further in 2020.

“We cannot wait to hear what innovative complaint handling initiatives will be shown in March, and I would like to congratulate all finalists on making the shortlist, and wish them good luck.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 26, 2019
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4min1120

The winners of the 2019 International Customer Experience Awards have celebrated victory following the gala Final ceremony in Amsterdam.

The second year of the awards event saw contenders from across the globe descend on the Dutch capital, with the Dubai Health Authority being crowned the day’s Overall Winners thanks to their high scoring entry which also landed them Gold in the Best Use of Mobile category.

Meanwhile, UK winners accepting awards at the ceremony, which was hosted by Awards International, included Aspen Healthcare, whose Holly Private Hospital claimed Gold in the Best CX Strategy/Project category, while Aspen also secured the top spot in the Customer-Centric Culture – Transformation category.

World-class: The Aspen Healthcare team collect the trophy for Best CX Strategy/Project

Other British winners included Milton Keynes’ Centre M:K mall, winner of the Customer-Centric Culture category, and swimming lesson specialist Swimtime.

Hailing from further afield, global winners included pan-African great lakes region banking group KCB, which won for Best Digital Strategy, CX Leadership, and CX Team; and Telkom Indonesia, which topped the Customer Experience Team – Transformation / Solution category.

Click here for a full list of winners.

Speaking after the event, CEO of Awards International Neil Skehel said: “Congratulations to all of our winners, and to all finalists who travelled to join us in Amsterdam for what has become one of the most important dates in the global CX calendar.

“The standard of entries for this, the second year of the awards, has been absolutely fantastic, and we look forward to seeing more exciting customer-centric initiatives in 2020 a


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 21, 2019
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3min2281

Productivity, wellbeing, and staff retention are suffering due to a dearth of financial literacy among employees in the UK, a new report has shown.

A survey of 2,000 British workers across major industries such as retail, manufacturing, and financial services, shows that less than half (44 percent) offer programmes to help employees make informed financial choices and boost their overall financial wellbeing.

The report by payroll and HR software firm Zellis also indicates a clear need for more financial education in the workplace, as the majority of workers (58 percent) don’t fully understand their payslips, while only a quarter (24 percent) look at their statement every month.

Many also struggle to access important information about their employment package, with four-in-ten claiming they don’t know the total value of their benefits and rewards, despite ranking it as the second most important factor after base salary when looking for a job.

Additionally, nearly a third (32 percent) of employees said they aren’t given enough information about the benefits available to them, while a quarter said the same about their pension options, preventing them from making choices that truly meet their financial needs.

John Petter, CEO, Zellis said: “The best organisations are creating a modern, cohesive pay and benefits experience for their employees, with financial literacy and wellbeing at the heart of it. Unfortunately, they are in a minority. There is a real need to focus on the basics of helping colleagues understand the true value of their employment package, including their payslips, workplace benefits, and pension options, as the evidence suggests a need to significantly improve awareness. Organisations that get this right will enjoy better hiring, retention and performance – as well as happier colleagues.”

Gethin Nadin, award-winning HR author and Director of Employee Wellbeing at Benefex (part of the Zellis group) added: “The UK has some of the lowest rates of financial literacy in Europe. Add to this the effects of austerity, stagnated wage growth, and increased borrowing, and employees are really struggling. With little support available elsewhere, all eyes are turning to the employer to assist.

“This research confirms that a wellbeing strategy which focuses on improving knowledge of financial products and employee benefits is much needed.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 20, 2019
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2min1663

Black Friday offers will not be luring a majority of customers to the UK’s high streets this year, with new research showing most will stay at home.

Contact centre and CX tech specialist Genesys has released a study on the annual sales event, which shows that 74 percent of consumers polled say they will not venture to brick and mortar stores for Black Friday events.

Over half (53 percent) of those asked said they never attend Black Friday events, while 30 percent said they were put off by crowds. Twenty-one percent said they used to attend, but have since stopped.

Over a quarter of respondents (27 percent) said online shopping was an easier option. However, where this is seen as more convenient, 85 percent of UK consumers base their purchasing decisions on how well a retailer deals with customer service issues.

The second biggest influence on spending decision for 43 percent of consumers is value for money.

Mark Armstrong, Vice President for UK and Ireland at Genesys, said: “During this heightened shopping season, consumers not only look for the best possible deals, but increasingly base their purchasing decisions on how well businesses respond to issues, such as making returns and requesting technical support. Therefore, it is important that regardless of the sales channel, whether in-store or online, brands provide positive experiences and have the means to effectively communicate with customers to solve queries or complaints.”

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 19, 2019
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2min2562

Resourcing and consultancy specialists Huntswood has been revealed as a sponsor for the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

The company, which has featured in prestigious lists including the Sunday Times Top 100 Small Companies to Work For and The Sunday Times Profit Track 100 and Fast Track 100, are experts on the complaints journey and will join finalists next March at London’s Park Plaza Hotel.

Huntswood joins fellow event sponsors Resolver, Worksmart, Cranfield School of Management, Professor Malcolm McDonald, and Barnardos in helping to bring the annual Awards International-hosted event to life and celebrating the stars of complaint handling in the UK.

Describing Hunstwood’s approach, a company spokesperson said: “We help firms govern, transform and operate their businesses to drive better outcomes. When our clients need support, it almost always involves customer considerations, it is often multi-channel and always requires an approach that is compliant with regulation.

 “In our engagement with clients we are, above all else, collaborative and always at the forefront in the development of innovative, tailored and transformative solutions. These typically combine people, processes and technology to drive better customer, commercial, and regulatory outcomes.”

Welcoming Huntswood to the sponsor team, Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “It’s an honour to have Huntswood join the awards as a sponsor for 2020. This is a company that has its finger on the pulse of customers, and has gifted the UK business landscape with valuable insight through its Complaints Outlook research in 2016 and 2019.

“They are no strangers to winning awards themselves, and will no-doubt inspire our finalists as they compete in their respective categories.”

The full list of finalists for the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards will be revealed later this month.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 15, 2019
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3min2499

One hundred percent of the UK’s retail bosses claim to act on employee feedback, but only 67 percent of employees agree, new research has revealed.

HR solutions provider People First, surveyed 250 bosses and 250 employees across the UK, and along with the disconnect over acting on feedback, the research found just two-thirds (66 percent) of staff believe their bosses measure their satisfaction, even though 95 percent of employers claim to.

The research also revealed a growing sense of disconnection among new entrants to the workforce, with only 50 percent of 18-24s believing feedback leads to action.

In addition, only 56 percent of retail employers report the results of employee feedback monitoring to the wider company. More than seven-in-ten (71 percent) of those acting on what employees tell them say they do so at board level only.

Mark Williams, Senior Vice President Product at People First, said: “Trouble is brewing because although employers say they put feedback into action, it doesn’t ring true with workforces. This is just not good enough. Feedback needs to translate into action.

“If there is no feedback loop, it can do more harm than good, annoying employees and discouraging them from taking part in future.”

Indicating the importance of principles and beliefs among workers, the research found nearly half the workforce (49 percent) will accept or reject a job on values. The figure rises to more than three-quarters (67 percent) of Gen Z respondents.

Eight-in-ten bosses (80 percent) measure employee satisfaction through employee surveys, while 61 percent use structured review meetings. More than half (53 percent) use informal conversations, and exactly half use focus groups.

“Retailers don’t just need to listen to and understand employees so they can pick up warning signs of disenchantment, they must act on feedback,” added Williams.

“An ad-hoc approach is no good. That’s the same for gauging how employees feel about their own work and the company’s values and for putting that feedback into practice. This is an area that companies must tackle head-on in a much more thought-out and systematic manner, taking time to deploy the most effective and appropriate solutions to nurture employees throughout their time with a company.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 7, 2019
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3min1849
UK Customer Experience Awards winner ContactEngine has picked up yet another honour, being named Best Use of IP at the annual Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 national awards event.
The awards event was held in London this week, and the conversational AI tech firm was congratulated on their win in a video message by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The nomination for the event follows the firm being securing Gold in the Use of Technology category at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards last month. The gong was presented following a joint presentation by ContactEngine and BT on their successful partnership.
Prized partnership: The ContactEngine & BT team accept their trophy at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards
ContactEngine’s proprietary machine learning algorithms are devised by a team of linguists, behavioural scientists, and mathematicians to perform automated human-like conversations. The company has also attracted leading scientists like former government chief scientific officer Professor Nick Jennings to their advisory board.
Dr Mark K. Smith, ContactEngine CEO, said: “We were honoured to be ranked in the Tech Track 100 and are very proud to receive this additional accolade amongst so many technology leaders in the field. We look forward to continuing our AI journey and discovering more ways in which technology can enhance business and Customer Experience.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 6, 2019
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12min3012

It’s not your average job interview, but a description from Luke Murfitt, founder of Integrity Cleaning, of how one woman kick-started her career after a chance encounter shines a light on the ethos of his business.

Picture the scene: a dark, damp evening at a London train station, and after disembarking, a mother struggles with her children and bags as she attempts to scale steps up to the pavement and begin the long walk home.

“No-one else was offering, so I asked if I could help get her up the steps,” says Luke as he explains exactly why ‘supporting mothers back to work’ is more than just a media-friendly slogan for his firm

“We got to the top and I asked if I could help her further. She said she lived about a 20-minute walk away, so I offered her a lift in my car. During the drive I was able to ask her where she worked. She said she didn’t work, and that people didn’t want to employ her.

“I asked her what she would want to do, and she said she would like to be either a carer or a cleaner. I said ‘happy days, I have a cleaning company – would you like to start this week?”

Working with Integrity: Luke Murfitt, founder of Integrity Cleaning Ltd

It sounds like the happy ending to a feel-good film, but this was reality for the mum in this story. She was able to work as a cleaner, fitting her duties comfortably around school hours, and as a result was able to move into a larger home than the one-bedroom flat she had before. Thanks to her income from Integrity, was able to start planning for her future.

“She’s now a full-time carer, in the career she wanted,” Luke says.

“She calls me her angel, but she was pretty good to me too, working hard and driving Integrity forward.”

Integrity Cleaning has been shortlisted in the Best New Business category of this week’s 2019 UK Business Awards, and this achievement is part of the ongoing success story for a firm that was born out of personal adversity.

Luke is a former high-flying salesman at a blue-chip company, who in 2015 was handed a life-changing diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.

But rather than allow this to limit his scope for life, Luke decided to challenge himself and use the diagnosis to spur a career change that has led to a current total of 85 cleaners signed on for employment through his company, ranging in age from 19 to the mid-60s.

“After the diagnosis, which was obviously a bit of a challenge, I realised I didn’t want to wallow in self-pity, and so I used it as a catalyst to springboard me on to do greater things, and here we are,” he says.

That route first took him to his local job centre where he was told to seek benefits following his diagnosis, but his hunger for something more led him instead to seek advice on starting his own business.

“I felt I had a lot more to give. I told the staff at the centre ‘there are people over there who are looking for jobs, and I’d like to employ them’. I wanted to set an example of what can be achieved, and they said ‘fine, go for it’. So they sent me upstairs to the next level and a department that assists in setting up businesses.”

From the window of that same building, Luke gazed out at London’s ever-sprouting skyline, with gleaming new buildings taking shape.

What was simultaneously taking shape was his own business future, thanks to Luke “turning adversary into opportunity”.

He continues: “I looked into the cleaning industry, and spent six months planning. I was careful though, as I had seen people who set up cleaning companies and ended up cleaning themselves out!”

However determination, and the hard work and support of wife Diana, pushed Luke towards realising the recession-proof nature of his chosen sector, and what it could do for them as a family, along with the wider community.

“Cleaning has grown and grown and is a massive employer. I saw it as a chance to impact many more lives and provide better opportunities, rather than with, say, an office of five people.

“With around 33,000 cleaning companies in the UK, with 700,000 cleaners, there’s plenty of scope. I knew I needed only a small portion of that to be successful, and not to fear the competition, but actually be better than them.

“And also be something that they are not, because what I realised was – not many people actually choose to be a cleaner. Instead they often ‘resort’ to being a cleaner.

“I thought to myself, these are the people I want to help. They’ve found themselves in a situation they didn’t choose to be in, but I could at least assist them and make the area of work they’re in as pleasant as possible – give them opportunities and ensure they feel respected and are able to grow, move on, and not just remain cleaners forevermore.”

Mum’s the word: Integrity cleaning offers mothers a chance to get back to work in a supportive environment

Integrity continued to take shape, and the ethos of assisting mums at a crucial time of their lives grew from Luke meeting fellow parents at the school gates while waiting to collect his daughter.

“There comes a point when a lot of mothers want new working opportunities, but there are often few firms offering that. This was part of my plan – to offer such opportunities, and make a success of it.”

The company got off the ground when Luke secured a significant contract with a hotel in London’s Bromley borough, having first garnered a workforce ready and willing to put the hours in.

Low start-up costs and lots of hard graft helped Integrity gain momentum, and as the journey continued, so too did the cleaning contracts with churches, community groups, and other eager clients.

However, it was a return to the skyscrapers of central London that saw Luke land the firm’s most significant contract.

“I was at a training event and I looked out the window at these apartment buildings which were going up, 41 storeys high, and I thought ‘they need cleaning’. I had no experience of construction cleaning at all, but I walked over to the site, which had around 600 people all milling about.

“I was wearing a suit while they were in their construction safety gear, so I got some looks. I found a door saying ‘staff only’, walked in, and eventually located the project manager. I said to him, ‘Hi, I’m Luke from Integrity Cleaning, you’ve got some great buildings here, and we’d like to be the company that cleans them’.

“He told me my timing was interesting as they were just three days away from tendering for a cleaning company, so he took me to the senior management in order to apply.”

Several months later, having seen off competition from some of the biggest companies in the market, Integrity was offered the contract.

“They could see I wanted to do a good job, and we ended up replacing a company they had used for the last 25 years.”

Luke’s bold approach to securing employment for his team provided many months of solid work, cleaning 1,000 or so million-pound apartments, over four thorough stages each, to make them ready for residents.

And so Integrity rose to its current position as one of the UK’s most caring and community oriented commercial and construction cleaning firms.

“My primary goal isn’t about making money, it’s about helping other people,” Luke states.

“This year alone I’ve helped 25 mums back into work. Of course, helping mothers doesn’t just help them, it helps their children, families, husbands, and whoever else. It impacts lives.

“We help with their training, and we look towards assisting with transport costs, and being flexible with working hours. We’re also there to provide references for when they’re ready to move on. We work as a team, and they love it. To me, each of them isn’t merely a cleaner – they are a person; something they never normally hear in this industry.”

From year one to year two, Integrity has grown by 650 percent, and his nomination for a UK Business Award tops a hugely successful year that has also seen him share his story with thousands of listeners on radio station LBC.

“I have appeared twice on LBC’s The Business Hour, and plan to return to answer questions from listeners in the near future and share my advice.”

On the subject of advice, Luke leaves us with one final inspiring message.

“Never let a challenge – in my case my diagnosis – stop you from doing what you want to do. Never limit yourself.”

 

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Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 5, 2019
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3min2756

A fresh crop of eager professionals has benefited from the expert knowledge of CX and contact centre guru Daniel Ord at the latest High Performance Management for Inbound Contact Centres Masterclass.

Delegates from across the UK arrived in London for the two-day course, which equips participants with the skills to reshape their call centre through effective management processes and performance enhancement.

Masterclass leader Daniel is the founder and Director of OmniTouch, and has delivered public and in-house training courses in over 40 countries. This class helps students understand which metrics matter most for each call centre role, and comprehend the interrelationships between metrics and how to interpret results.

The class, which is delivered over the two days in four comprehensive modules, also debunks common call centre myths and misunderstandings, and provides knowledge on how to calculate budgets and effectively manage a team, while mastering effective wait time practises.

Ready to learn: Dan Ord (front row, second right) and his recent Contact Centre Masterclass students

Places are now available for the next Masterclass with Dan, which takes place in may 2020 at Cisco Systems HQ in London’s Park House at Finsbury Circus. A special Early Bird booking offer is available for those who secure their place before April 17 2020, saving an incredible £100 off the fee.

Further Masterclasses will be held in July, October, and December. Click here for further details on upcoming dates.

Meanwhile, those who attended the recent Masterclass have praised the experience, and are urging fellow professionals to take the plunge.

Sophie Tozer, Customer Service Manager at goto.energy, said: “It has been really useful to refresh myself in areas which are now more relevant to my company.”

Cary Rowland, Team manager at Santander Consumer Finance, said: “This is a very informative and well-run course. Dan is engaging and I would highly recommend the class to anyone running a contact centre.”

Meanwhile, Joanne Fullwood, Customer Operations Director at software firm Advanced, added: “We covered interesting and thought-provoking topics, and what we learned can easily be applied in the workplace. The pace of the course was great, and Dan is an excellent tutor, who provided us lots of opportunities to question and discuss what we were learning.”

Click here to book your place in the next High Performance Management for Inbound Contact Centres Masterclass.

 

 

 

 

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 4, 2019
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3min2345

New research offers an insight into how employers and employees differ on a range of issues, including being fully engaged in their roles.

A study by HR solutions provider People First found that 93 percent of UK employers think it’s important to be liked, but 90 percent of their staff want their day-to-day experience of work improved.

Exploring the attitudes of 250 bosses and 250 employees in UK firms, the research revealed how employers lack an accurate picture of how staff feel and the way it affects their work.

Eight-four percent of bosses think their staff are happy and 76 percent believe most of their employees are fully engaged in what they do. Howeverr, only 64 percent of staff find work makes them happy, and just 42 percent are fully engaged or absorbed in what they do to earn a living.

Mark Williams, Senior Vice President Product at People First, said: “Likeability is good in a boss. But with so many staff wanting their experience at work improved, you have to ask if employers really understand their workforces. There’s obviously a happiness gap where managers believe morale is better than it really is. They are clearly failing to measure staff engagement regularly.”

The research found men are more likely to say their work really engages them (48 percent) than women (37 percent), reflecting the longstanding difference in support and career development offered to women, as well as the well-publicised gap in pay between the sexes.

Meanwhile, lack of understanding plays a role in another difference between bosses and workers. Whereas 39 percent of employers believe most staff quit a job for emotional reasons, only 17 percent of employees say that’s the main cause of them handing in their notice.

The research also found more than half of UK employees (56 percent) regard being rewarded for excellent work as important to their experience at work, while 51 percent want more opportunities for flexible working.

“Poor productivity is a British disease which we can cure through better understanding of what motivates employees and gets them into the flow where time flies and work is more enjoyable and fulfilling,” added Mark.

“That’s why it’s important to rely on more than gut feeling about how happy or engaged staff are. Regular check-ins must replace the dated annual appraisal as only with regular conversations can an employer see the true picture of their employees.

“There are so many different aspects to any job, such as training, career development and flexible working, that making assumptions about what employees want is misguided. As an employer you need to know what makes your staff happy to work hard and what makes them leave.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 31, 2019
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3min1834

UK Customer Experience Awards finalist Confirmit has announced a new Principal Director of CX Consulting.

Howard Lax (pictured below) is a former Vice President, Customer Experience Practice Lead for Directions Research and held consulting roles with Kantar TNS, Harris Interactive, ORC and GfK Custom Research. He holds a PhD in Political Science from The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

With more than 20 years of consulting experience, Lax has a deep background in Customer Experience,  Market Research, and employee engagement strategy. He has supplier and client-side experience in B2B and B2C space in industries like technology, financial services, retail, automotive, and hospitality.

In his role, Mr Lax will support clients in their efforts to design, develop, and implement their Customer Experience vision.

He said: “I am eager to bring a new perspective to the table, leveraging my experience and Confirmit’s wide array of services to help drive real change and better business outcomes for customers. In my experience, emotions are the driver behind the attachment a customer feels for a business. Driving a premium customer experience solidifies these relationships, and great technology is a critical enabler in this process.”

Chris Brown, Vice President of Global Consulting at Confirmit, added: “Adding a highly knowledgeable industry veteran to our team solidifies our commitment to providing our clients with access to talented consultants that can help their CX programmes drive real business success. Our consulting services ensure our technology can drive real insight and change. Howard’s expertise in customer and employee experience will help our customers further leverage our solutions to differentiate themselves from competitors.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 31, 2019
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3min1652

Among the successful partnerships at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards was ContactEngine and BT Enterprise, which together won Gold in the Use of Technology category.

The winning team secured the title following a presentation on the success of BT’s ‘Brilliant Installations’ initiative. BT Enterprise implemented ContactEngine conversations across broadband and landline customer services in order to deliver an unrivalled Customer Experience.

Technology triumph: The ContactEngine and BT team collect their trophy 

ContactEngine engages customers in intelligently automated conversations using Natural Language Understanding, from initial order through to appointment scheduling, billing, and surveying. The accolade represents the outstanding results achieved with ContactEngine, which exceeded the targets set out at inception. 

These included a 40 percent reduction in customer-driven cancellations; a 50 percent reduction in customer calls related to enquiries; an 85 percent customer engagement rate; and a 38 percent improvement in NPS.

Dr Nicola Millard, Principal Innovation Partner at BT, said: “This is a fantastic example of how innovative technology can be deployed as a win-win for both the customer and the company. Using cutting-edge AI to create proactive, intelligent conversations with customers about things they want to know, whilst freeing human agents up to have the really important, value-add interactions.”

Dr Mark K. Smith, Chief Executive Officer at ContactEngine added: “We’re very happy to be recognised for our achievements in partnership with BT Enterprise. BT has long made it a priority to deliver a differentiated experience for both their customers and employees, and we’re pleased to be able to deliver that for them while achieving significant business benefits along the way. We look forward to continuing our partnership and to achieving more fantastic results together.”




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