Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 10, 2017


As the clock ticks towards the deadline for entries to the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2018, CXM looks back at one of 2017’s success stories – Co-Op Food.

With a loss of £660m in 2013 and £2.5bn by 2014, it was clear CO-OP Food was in crisis and on the brink of collapse.

Despite being one of the most trusted retail names in the UK, there appeared to be no immediate plan in place to rescue this shopping stalwart from the same fate faced by old faithful names that had gone before, such as Woolworths.

In a talk by food boss Steve Murrells at Retail Week Live in 2016, he described the food business as being close to “a busted flush” when he started in mid-2012:

There was no plan, there was no agenda, the organisation tended to flip-flop from one initiative to another, and we had stopped listening to our front-line collages, and in truth, we had been pushing members and customers away for decades,” he said.

With customer loyalty low, meetings with the team uncovered a simple synopsis that ‘if the CO-OP didn’t have a purpose, that there was no purpose having a CO-OP’.

As a result, turning around the company was now of paramount importance.

The plan to return to their pioneering roots and ensure a bright and exciting future for both members and customers was encapsulated in a simple mantra:

Rescue, Rebuild and Renew.

This was not going to be an easy task by any means, but with a list of targets and a roadmap created to reach them, the company were ready to win back customers.

Market Research showed that the days of the traditional shopping list and monthly shops were gone; customers wanted quick and convenient shopping that could be done throughout the week, and this ‘little and often’ concept was where CO-OP knew they could win.

Today, far from being on the brink of closure, CO-OP has been re-embraced by the nation’s shoppers and is the fifth biggest food retailer in the country.

Yet the firm’s focus on convenience shopping is only part of the story of CO-OP’s revival – a major reason for its spectacular turnaround was how it rebuilt relationships with customers.

Re-establishing the trust between brand and customer following a stagnant period is a herculean feat – one that would see even the most dedicated customer-centric professionals fall painfully at one of the many hurdles on the track.

However, this was a challenge taken on with relish by the CO-OP Food team, and their victory has been immortalised in the form of the Dispute Resolution Professional trophy, handed to them at the 2017 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

Their Customer Relations operation is based at their Manchester HQ and includes a multi-channel contact centre of around 25 staff.

This dedicated squad takes up to 60,000 complaints and queries from customers each year, and it was the keen business eye of CO-OP Transformation Director Jane McCall – who headed an executive team tasked with reviving CO-OP Food – that spotted the opportunity to put the contact centre at the heart of the plan to reboot the company’s fortunes.

By May 2015, under Jane’s watch, colleague Claire Carroll was put in charge of a new team that merged the ‘Membership’ and ‘Customer Care’ centres.

This new team’s ethos was to change the entire culture within the company to one that put the customer at the forefront of its growth, through shrewd use of the contact centre’s resources.

Within a year, the new plan was working, with CO-OP delivering operational performances to target, and the firm even topping the ICS’s Complaints Index for the food retail sector.

The fast results caught the eye of judges in both UK and Europe-wide awards, and this prompted the company to go for the big one – a UK Customer Handling Award, and the rest is history!

But what exactly was it that Jane and Claire did to make their contact centre the humming engine room of economic revival it became?

They developed a roadmap that saw them create a new organisational structure, and calmly developed simple, customer-focused targets for staff to follow.

They empowered advisors by removing previous refund limits and even created an Amazon account allowing the purchase of personal gifts which would be offered by way of an apology to disgruntled customers.

Revised call-control training helped speed up the average call time and boosted ‘end-to-end’ complaints management across all platforms, including the vital area of social media.

Setting regular targets and making sure staff were singing from the same hymn sheet quickly eroded any resistance to change within the contact centre or general feeling s of ‘lack of purpose’ that can often permeate such teams.

The targets continued to be hit, and by Spring of 2016, the average number of days to resolve a complaint had plummeted from seven to two.

This success has been built on a key factor that any firm should remember – complaining customers are worth 60 percent more to a company than any others.

Keeping these valued customers on board is estimated to have saved the CO-OP around £3.9 million and counting.

Not satisfied with simply helping complainants, Jane and the team are even developing a ‘pre-emptive’ strategy to potentially spot and satisfy unhappy customers before they even complain.

Now, with CO-OP’s delicious range back on the tables and the brand back in the hearts of the nation, the team are well on their way to being industry leaders.

Their UK Complaint Handling Award will help them do so, as Jane explained when entering:

“We’d like our story to inspire others to bring their contact centres to the forefront of their business transformation plans – and if we are successful in this award submission, more people will want to hear it.”

If CO-OP’s story has inspired you to share your complaint handling success and reward your front-line staff then the UK Complaint Handling Awards are the perfect platform to do this. Find out everything you need to know about the awards here or enter here.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 10, 2017


Digitisation is the main Customer Experience priority for US firms, new research has revealed.

A report by the National Centre for the Middle Market (NCMM) found that 74 percent of middle market firms surveyed believed digitising CX was essential to growing or transforming their business to meet future goals.

Their report, titled Digitizing the Customer Experience: Are We There Yet? found that 70 percent believed digitisation was the key to overall company growth, and 69 percent saw it as essential for delivering a “seamless” Customer Experience.

Despite this, only 38 percent of middle market companies said the digitisation of their CX was highly effective, while just 12 percent have reached an end-to-end digital experience on all platforms.

The data confirms that digitally strategic firms enjoy 10 percent year-over-year revenue growth and 4.6 percent year-over-year employment growth, compared to non-digital forms who sat at 4.7 percent and 2.7 percent respectively.

The NCMM – a collaboration between The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, SunTrust Banks Inc., Grant Thornton LLP, and Cisco Systems – identified four types of companies from the survey.

These are: those who are not actively digitising CX; “defensive” companies that are doing what they need to do to keep up; “advanced” firms with strong digital CX aspirations but spotty capabilities and platforms; and a group of “strategic” digitisers.

Companies in this last group have a specific strategy for digital integration and have invested heavily in the necessary tools and talent to bring this strategy to fruition.

For those firms failing to keep up with digitisation, cost has been named as a prohibiting factor.

Speaking of the findings, NCMM Executive Director Thomas A. Stewart said:

“The biggest challenge to digitising the customer experience is capturing the financial return from the company’s investment.

Customer Experience digitisation is not streamlining processes digitally – it involves digitising what customers see, feel, touch, and do.”

Doug Farren, NCMM Managing Director, said:

“For many companies, digitisation of the Customer Experience is reactive, or just ‘happening’ without a clear path to drive it forward.

By developing a strategic path, middle market companies will have countless opportunities to transform the way they do business, which in the end will help them not only retain happy customers, but also achieve their growth goals.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 8, 2017


Award-winning call management software firm Sesui has appointed a new Head of Marketing Strategy.

Oli White will support Sesui’s growth and business development amidst the rapidly growing demand for cloud communications solutions in the public and private sectors.

Oli joins from leading PaaS video capability TokBox, where he held the position of Marketing Vice President between offices in London and Silicon Valley, with the primary goal of generating qualified leads for a growing global sales team.

With 20 years’ experience within the telecommunications industry, working for companies including O2, Telefónica, and Cable & Wireless, Oli is well placed to drive Sesui through its next phase of development with innovative, technology-based marketing, the firm has said.

Speaking of his new role, Oli said:

“Sesui has been operating in the cloud for 15 years now, perfecting its cloud communications solutions and establishing a long-term customer base. With the business benefits of the cloud model now clear to see, many companies are looking to either establish or reinvent themselves as cloud-based.

Also as a result, Sesui has seen significant interest in its solutions over the past 12 months and my role will be to develop the marketing strategy that will support the sales team and drive growth. It’s an exciting time for the industry and for Sesui especially, and I am delighted to be a part of the team and the company’s future success.”

Lee Bryant, Managing Director, Sesui, added:

“We are delighted to have Oli on board. He brings with him a wealth of knowledge and expertise to help Sesui on its path to becoming the leading provider of tailor made cloud communications solutions, solving complex problems and improving overall profitability for our clients.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 8, 2017


Helping those living with dementia lead full and active lives earned a branch of Skipton Building Society a UK Customer Experience Award.

The team from the Bury branch were among the winners at the gala awards final at Wembley Stadium back in September, and they grabbed the attention of judges with a presentation on how they are “leading the way by putting the needs of those with dementia first”.

They outlined how Skipton’s services are aimed at making life easier for customers with conditions such as Alzheimer’s, and during the evening’s award presentations, they were named winners of the Customer at the Heart of Everything (Financial Services) category.

Among the branch’s amazing work is the supporting of a local dementia group project called Dorothy’s Memory Café.

Skipton staff helped the Bury café – run by local man Peter Bennet, whose late wife Dorothy lived with dementia in the years before her death – secure funding to remain open.

The big-hearted staff helped print and distribute fliers for the project, and donated equipment such as a video monitor to allow those who visit the café to watch cherished films that stir memories.

Speaking to CXM about their award success, Skipton Regional Manager Diane Falconer said: “We were extremely proud to win the ‘Customers at the Heart of Everything’ Financial Services award at the Customer Experience Awards 2017, and had a fantastic time at the evening awards event.

“This is the first time that Skipton Building Society have entered the awards and we were delighted to be celebrating alongside many other illustrious organisations. We are very proud to have received this recognition; we found the whole experience very enjoyable and rewarding.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 7, 2017


Sometimes in life we need a little push in the right direction to help us realise our goals or follow our dreams.

In some cases that push is a gentle nudge, while in others it’s getting shoulder-charged by a New Zealand All Black.

For freelance Customer Experience consultant Paola Rimini, it was most definitely the latter.

The wake-up call she came face-to-face with a year ago was the kind that no-one wants to have to be told.

That wake-up call was cancer.

Originally from Milan, Italy, and now carving out a successful career in London, Paola’s time in the UK did not have the most exciting of beginnings, taking on general shift employment upon arriving in 2013 after leaving her home country due to a lack of opportunities.

The role as a waitress was far from what she really wanted to do, but at this stage that goal had yet to be solidified.

Although waitressing was a useful way to hone the skill of customer interaction, Paola’s previous work in Customer Experience roles back home in Italy was nagging at her in the back of her mind.

That voice was suggesting that perhaps she could be more, but the daily grind of London life has a way of blunting ambition, and she did not fully face the possibility that a worthwhile career in the field might lie ahead.

That is until deep personal difficulty torpedoed its way into her life, forcing an eventual ‘now or never’ moment that altered her career path forever.

Paola told CXM: “When I moved to London, I didn’t have any job lined up, but it was better than back home, which was experiencing a huge crisis in the labour market.

“I decided London would be a new adventure, and I did it without having any friends or family in the UK to rely on once I arrived.”

Explaining how she started “from the bottom” with her waitressing work, it was doing this that brought Paola into regular contact with customers.

“I really enjoyed this, but it wasn’t far from the Customer Experience specialist role that I would eventually step into.

“There was a real sense of satisfaction in making customers feel happy and wanting to return. Subconsciously I was forming my future career and I didn’t quite realise it.”

Paola eventually moved onto office jobs, away from the customer coal-face, and it might have been the end of that burgeoning passion had she not been struck with terrible news.

Following visits to her doctor, tests confirmed Paola had breast cancer, and she was told she would need a mastectomy to survive.

Describing the mental blow, she said: “When I received the diagnosis it was obviously a shock, but even at that point, I was determined not to let it bring me down.

“To cope, I began imagining a new life that awaited me after surgery, and eventual recovery. I was forced to use my resilience to stay focused on my future, taking one step at the time, recovering first and figuring out what I wanted to after that.”

Eventually, amid the bleakest of circumstances and the toughest of mental and physical challenges, a thought began to surface in the sea of worry – a clear goal inspired by her previous work.

“I thought to myself, that when I recover I’m not going to waste another second; I want to help customers – it’s my passion, and I want to make it my full-time role,” she said.

“It really was like an illumination. I just knew that if I wasn’t working towards helping customers, then I don’t want to work.”

Thankfully, after a gruelling two operations within the space of three months – including the mastectomy – Paola was given the all-clear.

She left hospital with a newfound purpose, one that led her to set up her own consultancy business, which is now flourishing.

“Looking back now I think I was like a hamster on a wheel, just running and running, and never getting anywhere. The cancer came and pushed me off the wheel, and I would have just climbed back on and begin spinning again, but I decided instead to say no.

“Instead, I focussed on what I knew I wanted to do – engage in my passion to work with customers. CX was the perfect role for me, linking my knowledge and experience.

“Now, instead of running on the spot in that wheel, I’m running and actually getting somewhere.

“As people we are prone to procrastination, and I just wish it was something less serious that made me realise I needed to change. I just hope that anyone reading this will see that they can go for their goals without having to face what I did. Just do it.”

With her trauma firmly behind her, Paola is now 100 percent devoted to her passion, helping companies create exciting, dynamic customer strategies.

“I want to help firms deliver a ‘wow’ experience for their customers, using the motto ‘give value to your customers and they will return it’.

“I might not be where I am today had it not been for the horror of cancer, so I would urge anyone reading this to follow those dreams now, without needing such a dramatic push in the right direction.

“You will not regret it.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 6, 2017


Customer expectations are proving problematic for some of the UK’s biggest brands, new research has revealed.

The Eptica Multichannel Customer Conversation Study has evaluated 100 leading UK brands, focussing on their ability to offer answers to ten routine questions online.

The study by the Customer Experience digital software provider also judged the firms’ speed and accuracy when responding via email and social media.

It was found that the companies could only answer 44 percent of routine questions – down from 49 percent in 2016.

Using Twitter, the firms’ ability to answer fell to 34 percent – a significant drop from the previous year’s 48 percent – while Facebook answers fell from 45 percent in 2016 to 35 percent this year.

However, despite these failings, researchers found that the speed in which responses were issued through both social media and live chats improved.

Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder of Eptica, said:

“Brands today face a growing challenge when it comes to Customer Experience.

Consumers are ever-more demanding, and expect fast, high quality and informed conversations with brands if they are to remain loyal. However, our research shows that many brands are finding it difficult to cope with the sheer volume of queries they receive, particularly on social media.

Failure to dedicate sufficient resources to Customer Experience, or to deploy new technologies such as artificial intelligence to support staff will ultimately hit the bottom line, as consumers switch to rivals who offer them the service they demand.”

Additional findings in the research showed that a number of firms claimed to offer chat (49 percent), when just 22 percent of the chat systems worked fully.

Also, the firms most likely to respond satisfactorily were banks, with entertainment retailers the least likely.

For more information on the annual survey’s results, click here.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 3, 2017


Research has shown that consumers have increasingly lofty expectations in our digital world, and woe betide any organisation that fails to take this on board.

Gone are the days when customer dissatisfaction meant a polite letter posted off and eventually forgotten, or a reserved whisper with a manager in a corner, only to be made to feel you are the one at fault for complaining.

Slinking sheepishly away feeling powerless is quite simply no longer an option for customers who are equipped with the latest in communications technology…and not afraid to use it.

Research is proving that more and more consumers are now expecting businesses to respond ever-faster to our complaints, and this is down to our increasing social media engagement combined with our reliance on mobile communication.

In research carried out for Altitude it was established that as of 2016, customers are becoming very demanding divas indeed.

They expect a response to a request made online to a company within seconds…literally in extreme cases.

The case study found that almost half (47 percent) of those who post to – or about – a business expect a reply within an hour.

A whopping 84 percent, meanwhile, expect to hear back within a day, proving that we are impatient for results. However, if we live in an ‘ever-on’ world, then we expect the businesses we spend money on to do likewise.

As the survey author states: “If a paying customer is able to contact a supplier anytime, anyplace, in a matter of seconds, why should they not expect the same back?”

So, which social media platform does one choose to get their voice not only heard, but responded to?

Another survey carried out by Lithium Technologies shows that of those who use Twitter, a total of 53 percent of tweeters expect a response within an hour when they reach out to a company’s profile.

If that doesn’t set alarm bells ringing among the few firms who remain non-social media savvy, an incredible 70 percent of tweeters expect a response in under an hour if their contact with the company in question is a complaint.

In the case of Twitter, consequences for firms who fail to meet these expectations can be dire. Aggrieved tweets can spread like wildfire, and can spark a chorus of fellow users standing up with their own tales of turmoil about the organisation in the spotlight, like so many Spartaci.

These include people who had previously been content to keep their negative experiences to themselves.

It could not be clearer – how we complain as a consumer body has changed, so should how those complaints are responded to.

A nine-to-five costly helpline isn’t going to cut it anymore; complaining has become a public process, where your response times are on show for all to see and compare.

Make sure yours are nothing to be ashamed of.

Entries are open for the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2018, with an entry deadline of November 17. For further information on the awards, categories, and entering, visit the homepage here.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 30, 2017


Halloween is traditionally a time of good-natured spooky fun – unless you’re a character in one of the season’s many linked horror movies, in which case, why are you reading this? Go and hide in a closet.

Yet in the world of Customer Experience, there have been stories that will make your blood run cold, and sadly, these are not the fevered fiction of scary cinema, but all-too real terrors.

From the clumsy to the downright inconsiderate, some organisations that should really know better have boobed in a big way, and in today’s digital era, these blunders do not go unnoticed…or unforgiven.

Here CXM presents some truly ghoulish examples of Customer Experience in time for Halloween. Just don’t read these after dark…


If any company should know better on CX matters, it’s Amazon.

The retail behemoth has many satisfied customers across the globe, but when they get it wrong, they can leave buyers fuming.

That’s what happened in a now-famous incident with a customer who sought advice from an Amazon employee in an online live chat.

Fearing he had been the victim of a phishing scam, the customer asked the employee about disassociating the email from his account.

However, instead of taking a matter of minutes to conclude the simple task, the customer endured almost an hour of attempting to explain his request to a bemused support worker, who repeatedly called him ‘Brittni’ and ‘Maam’, despite being told he was, in fact, a man.

You can read the full transcript here…if you dare.


Next, to the land down under, where clothing firm Gasp cast a dark shadow over one customer’s wedding preparations.

Now shopping for wedding attire is not something to rush if planning your big day, and a lady and her troupe of bridesmaids at a Gasp outlet were perusing stock to select the perfect items to compliment her own dress.

Despite initial polite service, one staff member soon lost patience, and told the group: “I knew you girls were a joke the minute you walked in.”

There goes the bride…and her custom, as she had every intention of forking out for three pricey dresses. Unsurprisingly, the sale was lost…but the horror didn’t end there.

Instead of issuing an apology when contacted by the bride, the Gasp head office told her in a letter that the firm’s target customer was “fashion-forward” and that the sales assistant who insulted the group was “too good at what he does”.

 The letter added: “He knew you were not going to buy anything before you even left your house,” and concluded with: “I am sure there are plenty of shops that appease your taste.”

Gasp indeed! For a full run-down of the customer’s ordeal, lock your doors, check under the bed, then read her account here.


Another big online beast with countless happy users, eBay has however made errors in the past that would turn your hair white.

In an incident highlighted by a UK Guardian reader and eBay user, he described selling an iPhone 6 on the site for £633.9.

The purchaser claimed upon receiving it that it was locked to the wrong network, and so the item was arranged for return.

Yet when the seller finally got the parcel he thought contained the original handset, he opened it only to discover an iPhone 4S…and a broken one at that.

Naturally, the seller contacted eBay and was told to use the site’s system for raising the issue. Yet because the person he sold the phone to had not notified eBay about returning the item, the claim could not be made.

After a long 30 days of being unable to contact eBay due to the stand-off, the site refunded the buyer the £633.99, without notifying the seller. As he did not have enough money in his eBay account to cover the cost – and endured waits of up to an hour before getting through to unhelpful sales staff – he was later contacted by a debt collection agency demanding £741.


British Airways

One of two airlines on our list, British Airways has established a polished reputation over the years, but one failure to effectively deal with a major customer issue was played out in front of millions of social media users.

When his father’s luggage was lost following a transatlantic flight, customer Hasan Syed became fed up of getting nowhere with the traditional means of complaining.

In a last-ditch attempt at getting the airline to take notice, he paid for an advert on Twitter, in which he described BA’s service as “horrendous”.

Yet the truly scary thing is that despite the humiliating promoted post, BA’s response was a limp tweet – eight hours later – advising him that social media staff only worked nine to five.

Mr Syed demanded the firm send him a direct message to receive his luggage details, only for him to be told they could not send the message as he was not following their twitter account.

Guess what…he was.

Not only did the social media staff fail to respond within an appropriate timeframe, they also failed to adequately investigate who the complainant even was…all while countless twitter users watched the drama play out live.

United Airlines

Perhaps the most well-known tale of terror on our list…the legend of United Airlines failing to correct a big CX mistake now has its own ballad that will be forever sung to remind them of how costly bad Customer Experience can be.

The horror story begins in 2008 – a full eight years before another frightening video nasty was released, infamously showing a passenger getting violently dragged off a plane because of an overbooking.

Passenger David Carroll was sitting in his widow seat when he recognised a guitar case flying through the air as it was tossed carelessly by baggage handlers below.

Watching it smash to the tarmac, he was later greeted with a broken guitar when he opened the case, and immediately launched a complaint.

Incredibly, three different staff members failed to help, and so, using his natural talents, he wrote a country song, United Breaks Guitars, that he uploaded a performance of to YouTube.

Instead of paying the relatively minor cost of the damage, and issuing an apology, United Airlines is still to this day haunted by the unflattering ditty, which has had almost 18 million views.

Don’t have nightmares!

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 30, 2017


The record-breaking rise of bitcoin is continuing unabated, with a new high value of $6,300 marked as October drew to a close.

The cryptocurrency is surging in popularity, but its attraction is not translating to all corners of the world.

Despite neighbours in the United Arab Emirates taking bitcoin to their business hearts – with Dubai’s first ever real estate project to be priced in the digital money launched in September – Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Tahal has publicly denounced it.

The billionaire investor has dubbed it the “next Enron”, and predicted it will implode, adding in a recent interview:

“It just doesn’t make sense. This thing is not regulated, it’s not under control.”

Meanwhile, doubts about bitcoin’s ability to hold its value as the market reaches a value of $100 billion have also surfaced in South East Asia.

The State Bank of Vietnam has banned the use of the virtual currency as payment, describing it as “not lawful”.

The move follows China’s shuttering of bitcoin exchanges in September, which caused a temporary drop in its value.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 25, 2017


After a period in which McDonald’s learned the hard way about holding onto customers who seek value in their fast food, the chain plans to unveil a new line-up to replace their famous ‘Dollar Menu’.

That revamping of a modern US dining tradition is, however, being led by a figure whose background began far from the American dream.

Steve Easterbrook, who rose from humble beginnings in Watford, England, to become the boss of the world’s most recognisable fast food brand, admitted at the beginning of this year that scrapping the Dollar Menu in 2014 had led to the chain losing out significantly in the value-centric corner of the market.

Despite a wide-ranging menu, the customers who preferred McDonald’s for it’s cheaper offerings began to go elsewhere to eat, leading to a 2.1 percent drop in overall visits to US outlets in 2016.

This prompted Mr Easterbrook to announce a rethink of McDonald’s value food, and now the company has told investors that a new menu will be rolled out in early 2018.

The planned selection will include items priced at $1, £2, and $3, and a Twitter account, McD Truth, which is understood to be run by an anonymous insider, described the return of dollar items as “the biggest McDonald’s news in years”, claiming it could turn the chain’s fortunes around.

The news was hailed as evidence the British-born CEO is a “phenomenal leader”.

CXM proprietor Neil Skehel, who was the former Director of National Operations for McDonald’s in the UK, praised his old colleague, with whom he worked while Operations Manager for 45 outlets in London.

“The task of leading the global restaurant behemoth is more difficult than it has ever been and Easterbrook seems to be cutting the mustard, excuse the pun,” said Mr Skehel.

“In the US, McDonald’s has experienced quite protracted periods of stagnation a number of times in its history. Difficulties in moving the needle on like-for-like sales in the home market, have often been masked by a huge new store opening programme – at one stage in the late 1990s a rate of 1000 new stores per year.”

Describing the phenomenal rate of the chain’s UK growth, Mr Skehel described overseeing the opening of around 100 McDonald’s restaurants per year in the decade between 1990 and 2000.

“Needless to say, with many of those openings in international markets the focus was never really on like-for-like sales. For various leaders the growth in income quarter-on-quarter through new store openings has satisfied the shareholders.

McDonald’s was very lucky to have a trio of great leaders in Jim Cantalupo, Charlie Bell, and Jim Skinner who as CEOs following the McDonald’s Plan to Win were able to see the corporation through a period of increasingly less reliance on new store openings and more of a focus on growth in existing locations.

Skinner’s two or three successors were dire failures, but now It’s great to see that a new guy has stepped in and – through insight and courage – is turning the corporation around.”

Speaking of the drastic leaps in CX at an average ‘Maccy Dees’, Mr Skehel concluded:

“My own view is that the McDonald’s customer experience has improved immensely since my day when a restaurant visit was always somewhat hit and miss.

This is through the refurbishment programme, the introduction of a new cooking system worldwide, and a bit of modernisation of the menu, but other initiatives such as extension of opening hours, determination to make delivery work, and quality coffee means that McDonald’s really remains the one to beat in the international fast food market.

Congratulations Mr Easterbrook and good luck to you.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 24, 2017


We’ve all been there – whether it be at a job interview, a board meeting, or speaking directly with customers – sometimes you are hit with a question that, for whatever reason, you simply cannot answer.

Or at the very least answer competently and concisely, the way you wish all answers would emerge from your quivering lips.

Always knowing the right thing to say at the right time might very well be a natural talent for some lucky people, but for the rest of us, it’s something we must knuckle down and learn the hard way.

Thankfully, some of the experts are willing to share their secrets, including one man, Michael Dodd, whose book Great Answers to Tough Questions at Work is pulling many people out of the gaping maw of embarrassment caused by fumbling words at crucial times.

Published by Capstone, Great Answers is a tightly written volume on how to navigate tricky situations using tools presented by Dodd.

The author aims to sooth those who have been sizzled in the past by what he terms ‘blowtorch on the belly’ questioning – those scenarios where you experience the unblinking wrath of an authority figure, who refuses to go easy and turns the heat up after each question until your lack of knowledge (or apparent lack) is exposed.

Think Jeremy Paxman on steroids.

Dodd uses his experience working with international business leaders to refine their speaking skills to let the reader in on how to handle such terrifying situations, and allow for calm and confident answers to emerge naturally.

He presents examples from personalities including Virgin boss Richard Branson – showing how he fended off questions over a train tragedy that could have otherwise sunk him – and outlines ways to ensure the reader can craft the correct message to underpin every possible answer.

You will learn how to adapt the perfect answer for a range of different personality types you might face at a big interview, and sales people will rejoice at Dodd’s guide to handling challenging price negotiations – every facet of difficult questioning is covered here.

Among the previously mentioned tools presented in the book are Dodd’s two ‘Golden Formulae’, that help you answer – in detail – any possible question while keeping things simple and positive.

They will also help you recover fast when things start to go wrong and you are faced with those ‘life-or-death’ questions – such as in the aftermath of a financial blunder – that could literally mean your very employment hangs on the answer you give.

Thankfully, Dodd’s manuscript of communication magic is far from a dry read, and is written with a charm sadly lacking in a lot of the work of his contemporaries.

His work is peppered with pleasing anecdotes that help the reader visualise and understand situations they may face in a grilling, and he serves up his snippets of message crafting goodness in easy-to-digest morsels that can be effortlessly remembered.

One of the few downsides to reading this book is that it may dredge up memories of past quizzing that you would rather remained forgotten, but at least you will learn how you should have handled them, and will now be equipped to tackle such scenarios head-on in future.

From advising on just the right amount of emotion to offer in an answer, to teaching the power of stories in responses, Dodd’s work is a revelation that will literally have you eager to put your newfound skills into practise.

You’ll feel like a battle commander confidently leading troops to certain victory having just digested Sun Tzu’s The Art of War!

In fact, reading this book before a tough interview almost seems unfair, due to the immense advantage it will provide; it’s quite simply performance-enhancing.

Don’t just take CXM’s word for it though – since its release last year, Great Answers has garnered rave reviews and even been shortlisted for the CMI Management Book of the Year Award.

High praise has also been offered by the likes of international business mentor and speaker Ian Berry, who said of Great Answers: “This is the ultimate handbook for the modern leader for whom inspiring communication, communication, and story-telling skills are must-haves.”

So, should you buy this book? This is one question I don’t need Dodd’s help to answer…YES!

Great Answers to Tough Questions at Work is available to buy now at Amazon in both paperback and e-book editions.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 23, 2017


Customer Experience software firm Medallia Inc has released a new digital solution for firms seeking a “360 view of the customer across all touchpoints”.

The Californian firm’s Medallia for Digital – a key component of their Medallia Experience Cloud – enables companies to capture feedback from customers on the web and mobile and integrate it with data from retail stores, contact centres, and other touch points.

By combining, organising, and analysing the data, companies can more deeply understand customer behaviour and take action in real-time, Medallia claims.

While a vast majority of customer journeys begin – and many times end – on web and mobile devices, many companies still struggle to understand their customers as they interact on digital channels.

They rely mainly on analytics and other technologies to understand what is happening. With Medallia for Digital, companies can engage customers directly throughout their digital journeys to understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what,’ connecting the user’s perspective with analytical data to gain a deep understanding of their users.

“In just over a year, we have doubled the number of customers using our digital solution and are now processing more than 2.5 billion digital interactions every month,” said Ori Soen, General Manager, Medallia for Digital.

 Today‘s integration with Medallia Experience Cloud enables companies to take advantage of Medallia’s powerful reporting and text analytics to gain even deeper insights and connect the digital channel with other channels along the customer journey.”

Since the launch of Medallia for Digital last year, Medallia has made improvements to embed digital feedback into a company’s overall CX strategy.

These include: creating a unified view of the customer by combining offline and online feedback; unlocking and understanding customer insights with powerful AI-based text analytics; and taking action throughout the organisation with role-based reporting and real-time alerts

 Companies using Medallia Experience Cloud are able to anticipate customer needs and adapt their organisations to meet them, leading to improved customer satisfaction and top line growth, the firm insists.

 “We listen to our customers every day with Medallia, in more than 50 countries and 20 languages,” said Rachel Gelman, Senior Manager, Customer and Agent Insights, Western Union.

 “Now, with Medallia for Digital, we’re able to understand in-the-moment customer experiences and tell the customer story in a more complete way.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 23, 2017


Most would agree that running a successful business requires investing in, and taking care of, employees, and doing that is next to impossible without Human Resources.

The composite professionals of a good HR team are the bridge between staff and management, and remain crucial for the smooth running of an organisation – think of them as the nutrient-rich oil which lubricates the cogs.

Despite this vital role, HR staff are often overlooked when it comes to identifying key players within a business, and in today’s climate, this is fast tumbling towards ‘unforgivable’.

Step forward one man, Perry Timms, who has developed a transformational HR model that has been excitedly described as a “crucial blueprint” for businesses to adopt in order to drive them forward without staff feeling undervalued.

Perry has been described as a ‘HR Guru’, and for once, the ‘Guru’ tag is no exaggeration. As well as running his own organisation dedicated to bettering HR for the benefit of all – PTHR Ltd – Perry also finds time for consultancy work and blogging, in which he shares his valuable insights.

Now his thoughts on HR – and the way forward for businesses keen to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to their staff – are available in a new tome that by rights should become a fixture on the desk of any CEO who claims to care about people.

Transformational HR: How Human Resources Can Create Value and Impact Business Strategy is like the proverbial Ronseal, in that it does exactly what it says on the tin.

The book, published by Kogan Page, gives the reader the distinct impression that he or she is holding one of those future manuscripts that will be considered biblical among the business community.

In its pages, Perry – a former UK Digital Experience Awards judge – outlines how a new wave of HR thought-leaders are transforming entire organisations by utlilising smart thinking, and even smart technology, to impact on business strategy.

In a recent review by People Management Magazine, Transformational HR is described as “a call for the profession to prioritise and organise, to find a mission that will elevate it beyond being merely reactive and make it as indispensable to organisations as marketing or finance at a time when the relevance of people to business has never been greater”.

This succinctly sums up the book and highlights its importance in the current zeitgeist. People power is driving firms forward like never before, and Perry helps management conceptualize this way of thinking and put it to use by suggesting HR models.

Perry’s proffered model is his book’s title, dubbed T-HR, and has been observed as being based on “cooperation, joint responsibility, as well as sharing knowledge and mutual inspiration”.

Using his unique communication style that has enamoured attendees of his Tedx talks, as well as those who have enjoyed his direct consultancy work, Perry sets out with this book to truly transform the concept of HR within a successful firm.

Readers will agree he does it with aplomb. This could be one of those turning points in business literature, and by extension, a transformational milestone in business itself.

Transformational HR: How Human Resources Can Create Value and Impact Business Strategy is available now at Amazon.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 20, 2017


Budget, reduced staff numbers, and barriers to innovation are the biggest challenges to improving customer service in the public sector according to new research.

YPO, the UK’s largest public sector buying organisation and one of only a handful of public bodies to be a member of the Institute for Customer Service (ICS), has revealed the findings of national research among public sector workers and UK consumers.

The survey by YPO – which in 2016 won silver in The UK Employee Experience Awards‘ ‘Loving your Customer’ category – found half (49 percent) of those working in the public sector say budgetary constraints and reduced staff numbers are the biggest challenge to delivering good customer service now and in the future, while stretched budgets are also cited as a barrier to innovation.

Against a backdrop of rising financial pressure for public organisations, the advent of social media is putting further pressure on customer service as it changes the way consumers and service users communicate.

The social shaming power of Twitter and Facebook has seen public organisations formalise their digital approach.

The majority of public sector workers surveyed (83 percent) said the rise of social media has made public sector organisations take customer service more seriously, a development welcomed by 87 percent of workers as a “good thing”.

A third (34.3 percent) said their customers and service users should be able to share great experiences through social media and almost a quarter of customers and service users said they would use social media to express their satisfaction (23 percent) or complain (18 percent).

Jo Marshall, Executive Director at YPO said: “As public sector organisations face the challenge of decreased funding coupled with increasing demand, they are looking to find new, innovative ways of working to improve customer service.

This research explores what good customer service looks like in the public and private sector, challenges and barriers to good customer service and what it feels like for those who deliver and receive services.”

One area highlighted from the survey is the potential for sharing experiences and key learnings between public and private sector to create improvements and innovation. The research found that 72 percent of public sector workers were not able to compare levels of innovation across the sectors suggesting that increased collaboration would be beneficial.

“More effective collaboration across the public and private sector and with suppliers will create a more productive environment in which to innovate and will enable public sector organisations to continue to set the pace of improvement,” said Jo Marshall.

Other ways to innovate include moving services online, however the suggestion received a mixed response.

The majority of public sector workers say they are in favour (69 percent) while consumers and service users are less enthusiastic. Nearly half (44 percent) believe there would be no improvement in customer service as a result.

“The YPO customer service research raises some interesting issues and topics for debate and reveals key themes for public organisations facing difficult choices when planning to meet customer expectations today and in the future,” continued Ms Marshall.

“Together with developing on-line and digital responses, improving competencies through training and upskilling, implementing effective listening and creating a culture of continuous improvement are all revealed to be central to improved customer service.”

For more details on the findings, click here.

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Customer Experience Magazine is the online magazine packed full of industry news, blogs, features, reports, case studies, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience.



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