CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 11, 2019
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7min569

In the world of customer contact, the nurturing of a diverse and inclusive culture not only creates a team that reflects the market it is serving, but it generates an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work and unlock their full potential, which ultimately yields productive employees and stronger, more creative teams.

In a recent interview with Helen Gillett, Managing Director of Affinity for Business, and Petra Mengelt, Head of B2B Business Relations at Mash Group Plc, we explored the role of D&I in the world of customer contact and demonstrate how your biggest asset – your people – can set your business apart from the competition.

Here, we explore some of the key takeaways from the interviews.

Why diversity and inclusion can benefit customer contact

For many years, companies have thought of diversity and inclusion as affirmative action or box-checking, but it is everything but that. Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) is not an HR issue. Instead, it is about diverse thinking, perspectives, experiences, work styles, and cultural backgrounds, as opposed to counting heads.

Statistics show that organisations that embed D&I in their culture have a distinct advantage to their competitors. Research by McKinsey & Company shows that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams are 21 percent more likely to outperform in profitability and 27 percent more likely to have superior value creation. Additionally, the most ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform the least ethnically diverse. Meanwhile, leading consultant John Bersin also shares that diverse & inclusive companies have 2.3x higher cash flow per employee than homogenous companies.

From a customer contact perspective, an environment of diverse cultures combined with individuals of different ages, genders, abilities, and sexualities creates a plethoric pool of opinions, skills, and ways of approaching challenges that work to benefit both the business and its customers. In a setting where unique challenges arise frequently, it is only favourable to have a diverse team that can share ideas and create best practices through collaboration.

How to create a culture of diversity & inclusion in your organisation

When it comes to creating a culture of inclusion, good intentions are a start, but implementation and accountability matter more. It is vital that organisations seek to cultivate a culture of D&I and make it a core part of their DNA. Here, we share three actionable steps to making a culture of D&I a reality in your customer contact centre.

1. Start from the top

Responsibility for affecting change should not be driven by HR. Instead, it starts with business leaders. Accountability is an essential factor in establishing a culture of D&I. When executive leadership incorporate talent as an active agenda item, that’s when it becomes intrinsic in the culture of the company.

2. Communicate to educate

Creating opportunities for employees to learn more about one another as people, rather than just colleagues, is a great way to build a sense of trust and community in your team. Petra encourages a culture of always asking questions to aid this, and also to dispel any negativity that may stem from misunderstandings.

“It’s important to never ever leave anything that stems from cultural difference hanging or unresolved, otherwise there is always a risk of encouraging negative stereotypes. I am always asking questions such as ‘can you explain what you mean?’ to create clarity,” she says.

3. Lead by example

It’s a well-known mantra that people don’t leave companies; they leave leaders. In order for a culture of D&I to thrive, employees must feel as if they are being coached by a leader who truly has their best interests in mind.

As demonstrated by Helen’s own comments on being honest about her journey, an effective way to do so is by leading by example. If a leader can bring their authentic self to work, their employees will feel confident enough to do the same. This can be especially important when discussing inclusion and mental health, as Helen shares: “Having leaders tell their stories lets people know that mental ill-health can happen to anyone and it’s not anything to be ashamed of – it’s ok not to be ok.”

Click the image below to learn more about how a culture of D&I can improve your customer contact experience.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 3, 2019
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3min813

Financial services compliance solutions firm Worksmart has joined the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards as a sponsor for the event, which will take place in London next year.

The firm, which has been supporting Britain’s leading financial service businesses through the challenges of regulatory compliance for over two decades, is bringing its considerable influence to the awards final next spring, where companies will compete in 15 categories, including Best use of Insight & Customer Feedback and Complaint Handling Professional of the Year.

Worksmart is the firm behind cutting-edge complaints software Caresmart, which has revolutionised complaint tracking and resolving for organisations keen to protect their reputation with both customers and regulatory bodies. It joins fellow partners Cranfield School of Management and Professor Malcolm McDonald in backing the awards, which are once again also sponsored by children’s charity Barardo’s.

2020 will be the fourth year of the event, hosted by Awards International, and finalists will descend on the Park Plaza Riverbank on March 5 to present details of complaint handling initiatives before a panel of leading experts including representatives of award-winning firms such as Capita.

Entries remain open for the awards, and hopefuls have until October 18 to take advantage of an Early Bird discount offer. The final entry deadline is on November 14, with shortlisted finalists set to be announced on November 26.

Julie Pardy, Director of Regulation & Market Engagement at Worksmart, said: “We’re delighted to be a sponsor at the UK Complaint Handling Awards, as it promotes best practice in complaint handling. Our complaints product, Caresmart, helps companies resolve complaints compliantly and in a way which ensures the best possible chance of retaining the relationship with the customer for the future. As such, sponsoring these awards is the right thing to do.”


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 2, 2019
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2min918

Customer Experience Magazine is giving away three tickets to this month’s Winning With Complaint Handling Conference, which is taking place in central London.

This not-to-be-missed one-day event on September 25 will bring together Gold winners from the annual UK Complaint Handling Awards for a series of panel discussions that will help you improve your brand’s complaint handling techniques and strategies, and offers insight into how to bring your level of customer service to an award-winning standard.

Brought to you by Awards International, the event will be chaired by CEO Neil Skehel, who will be joined by the one-and-only Daniel Ord, founder and Director of OmniTouch International, to oversee the day’s activities, which include discussions from award winning brands including Capita, Three UK, HSBC, and more.

Held at the Park Plaza riverbank, the conference will offer unparalleled networking opportunities to help boost your complaint handling power.

Neil Skehel explains: “This isn’t just another conference – you are an integral part of this event and your priorities will shape what we discuss. It promises to be an educational and inspirational experience for everyone involved.”

For your chance to win, follow these simple steps before the closing date of this Friday September 6:

1. Follow Customer Experience Magazine on LinkedIn
2. Like the contest post
3. Complete and submit the Contest Entry Form below


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10min4890

Explaining to a child how to cross the street in front of their school without being hit by a car only takes a few repetitions and their knowledge can then be generalised to most roads and vehicles.

It would instead require huge quantities of images for an AI to learn the same and it would make mistakes as soon as confronted with situations which are slightly different from what it had seen in his training data set.

The current breed of artificial intelligence – in its most advanced version – is built upon a metaphor of the human brain as a computer made of interwoven neurons. Through a ‘training’ process, the system can ‘learn’ to ‘recognise’ identical patterns without being programmed by a human and then apply this ‘knowledge’ to real world situations, more and more with a better accuracy than humans themselves.

The limit of this metaphor is that it takes a huge quantity of data to obtain this type of result and those hard-learned skills are confined to the very domain where the AI was trained.

The abstraction and generalisation capabilities of humans are still a mystery to AI researchers, but an element that may guide them in their quest is the emotional nature of human beings. We memorise much better when feeling strong emotions than in ‘boring’ situations. Children’s ability to quickly learn how to properly cross the street is certainly related to their feeling of danger and somehow fear of what could happen if they made the wrong decision.

A machine obviously doesn’t feel – we’ll leave to the sci-fi fans the debate of whether consciousness could emerge as a property of complex systems such as neural networks. AI is high on IQ and low on EQ some might say. But progress in mimicking the functioning of the human brain could require an acknowledgement and a modelling of the emotional nature of homo sapiens.

Current AI algorithms are not yet able to learn from less data and improve their abstraction and generalisation capabilities using emotions. But they are improving at recognising them within humans, exploring correlations between symbolic representations of emotions and human expressions, whatever their format.

Progress being made

Some research has already be done on the range of human emotions, thanks to the EU-Emotion Stimulus Set, and people like Houwei Cao, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at New York Institute of Technology, who is busy working on algorithms that can read emotions.

Initial efforts were called ‘sentiment analysis’, trying to guess an individual’s state of mind based on what they write or say. This has now taken a larger perspective by adding language patterns, voice tone, facial movements, sentence structures, and eye motions into the mix.

For instance, a mouth shaped in a particular way, plus voice with a specific pitch compared to its baseline, plus use of words tagged as being positive, equals happiness. Of course, to the average philosopher, that is a rather partial and limitative definition of happiness. But it only needs to be operational in the specific context where it is used.

Emotional AI applied to customer engagement

Indeed, those efforts are improving AI’s relevance to the business world and the fields of application are numerous.

Whether it’s customer engagement or support, a hiring process, or addressing disputes, emotional AI can play an important and useful role for humans. Employees can base their interactions on its insights, adapt their response to emotional changes in the customer and have a more effective communication with the person on the other side of the line or table.

For instance, the stakes are high for the call centre industry: born out of financial necessity so businesses can afford to serve and support large customer bases, it often turns out to be a source of frustration for users despite well-scripted conversation scenarios followed by the responding agent. When there’s pressure, good manners and empathy can be forgotten. Emotional AI can act as a reminder to employees, so it doesn’t happen.

It is also true of the sales forces whose likelihood to convert a prospect into a customer is directly linked to their ability to empathise with the individual(s) they want to strike a deal with. Indeed, approaching another human with an offering that is rational (adapted to its needs and budget for instance) but presented without taking into account their current state of mind is at best a waste of time and at worst a loss opportunity.

Emotional AI can help a business stand-out from its competitors for the quality of its customer engagement. But what will be the acceptance of emotion-driven algorithms by humans?

There will be challenges

In the age of GDPR and stringent privacy rules, considerations about voice, face, and writing being processed by emotional AI algorithms is something that businesses will need to explain to customers, since there is a very thin line between individual mood monitoring and intrusive Orwellian surveillance.

Will a customer value consideration for his or her feelings or mood by a computer as much as genuine empathy expressed by another human-being? If after asking how I am doing – something most people won’t need an AI to remind them to ask – the next question about my latest holiday is in fact an AI-scripted line, the whole introduction might sound a bit phony.

Eventually, could overly relying on AI to read other individuals state of mind turn us all into sociopaths unable to properly relate to other humans, like GPS has slowly but surely decreased our ability to use a map to navigate in the real world?

However, those questions might be irrelevant in the not-so-distant future. With the growing sophistication of virtual personal assistants – think Alexa, Siri or Google Home – we may soon delegate our buying decisions to those machines. This would imply that vendors’ own AI systems now have to pitch our AI agents instead of ourselves. And the billions spent annually by marketing departments on branding and ads designed to appeal to our emotions would fall flat.


Becky LynnBecky LynnAugust 7, 2019
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5min1044

There are many common customer service metrics in place in contact centres: CSAT, NPS, FRT, CES, AHT, FCR, the list goes on.

Some are more valid than others and some are simply outdated and add confusion and conflict to both the organisation and customer. When measuring customer service, it’s important to firstly be clear as to what you are scoring against.

The front-line agent? The organisational growth? The customer journey?

Different measures all suit different purposes.

When we look at the front line, the first thing organisations need to do (if not already done) is remove AHT (Average Handle Time). 

This antiquated stat only serves to pressure the agent into a quick wrap-up and offers nothing to the customer in return except reducing the quality of service. Whilst it may be important to measure AHT as a business to understand trends and consumer behaviour, this should never be used as a KPI at the front line.

NPS (Net Promoter Score) is the most commonly used measure for organisations when tracking their customer service standing. But again, is this really a fair way to verify front-line performance when so many other factors contribute to the decision the customer makes?

The initial reason for their interaction, the organisation processes and tech, the level of empowerment the agent has to enable them to assist – an agent cannot be rated on NPS alone!

So what can you use to measure your agents’ performance? At Top Companies for Customer Service we use five key criteria to evaluate the Customer Experience, all of which can be used at both front line and an organisational level.

These are: Timeliness, Ease of Use, Reliability, Staff Knowledge, and most important of all, Personalisation.

These pillars of excellence are adopted from customer expectation research carried out by our partner Ipsos Mori, and encompass many elements of other classic metrics. The difference is that all our findings are gathered from a customer perspective and provide the measure of a journey from start to finish. For example, we do not measure AHT, but instead ask if the length of time of the interaction was reasonable based on the specific experience had.

Our research shows the key Drivers of Customer Dissatisfaction are a mix of both soft skills and basic hygiene factors, including: Agent Knowledge, Understanding and Caring Attitude, and Ease of Access. Whereas the Drivers of Satisfaction – Effort, Loyalty, and Advocacy – are predominately enhanced by strong personal skills.

Our findings reveal the measure that should be top of contact centre KPIs is FCR (First Contact Resolution).

When you have trained, coached, and empowered your agents to enable them to confidently, calmly, and swiftly respond and resolve the customer enquiry without barriers and technical issues holding them back, you will see FCR increase and in turn Customer Satisfaction, Effort, Loyalty, and Advocacy stats will advance in the right direction.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 1, 2019
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2min973

The UK’s largest independent multi-sector ombudsman, Ombudsman Services, has created a new partner platform to facilitate its communications with businesses operating in its four key sectors of energy, communications, heat, and private parking.

Designed and built by digital agency Code Computerlove, the creative for the new site reflects Ombudsman Services’ refreshed brand identity that was launched on its new consumer platform last year.

Ombudsman Services’ partner site – partners.ombudsman-services.org – features clear and concise information, cleverly presented with the use of bespoke-designed icons and use of video.

It emphasises how Ombudsman Services can help to resolve disputes in an efficient and ethical way, reduce service failure cost, and drive improvements in customer service.

Jodi Hamilton, director of relationships at Ombudsman Services, said: “Improving our digital capabilities lies at the heart of our organisational strategy and the launch of our new business-to-business partner platform forms part of our ongoing programme of digital transformation.

“Further features will be added to the partner site as we base our iterations on data-driven insight and our business customers’ requirements. There is increased competition in our sector, so getting ahead and staying there with regards to our digital presence is a vital element of our growth.

“The aim is to create increased visibility of our services. By giving our business partners a dedicated place to come for useful information, resources and content, we aim to increase B2B engagement across our key sectors. We have worked hard to define both our consumer and business-to-business proposition and our new site is an excellent reflection of our strong brand identity and brand difference.”


Rob CrutchingtonRob CrutchingtonJuly 31, 2019
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6min939

Contact centres are challenging places.

There is certainly plenty to think about with the rising cost of salaries, managing schedules to meet customer demand, looking after staff wellbeing, PCI DDSS compliance, and now the added requirements of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

Initial concerns about how the new GDPR regulations would affect contact centres, in terms of increasing costs and complexity of managing enquires, have to some extent dissipated. For those contact centres taking payments and already PCI DSS compliant, it was a relatively straightforward process to embrace GDPR regulations. They had typically invested in secure technologies, encryption, and working with third party compliant companies in terms of PCI DSS. On the whole they were able to extend their technology and processes to protect personal data and meet GDPR requirements.

However, other organisations are still evaluating how new ways of streamlining processes can help meet GDPR data governance and management regulation, but are uncertain how to choose the best solution. We have identified three ways that contact centres can apply technology to help them remain compliant:

1. Mobile automated identification & verification (ID &V)

Often a significant amount of time can be spent on identifying and verifying the caller. Having a person perform this task is expensive and means that customer data is at risk. A customer engagement platform is an alternative way to offer a cost-effective, secure solution to automate the screening and identification process.

It can take the customer through set identification questions using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to simulate agent conversations, or it can use SMS text messages to authenticate the device being used. On initial registration and once the two-factor authentication process has been successful, the platform will accept and authorise payment requests that are automatically debited from the card holder’s account.

The advantage of this approach is that all information is encrypted and the agent is not exposed to any personal data, thereby complying with GDPR and PCI DSS. The data is processed and stored securely elsewhere. In addition, having signed up to the service, the customer has agreed to a data handling agreement that sets out how their information can be shared with a third party, ensuring confidentiality.

2. Customer self-service screening using IVR

Accepting credit and debit cards via IVR has long proved to be an effective and secure way of taking payments. It allows customers to pay quickly, via their own unique identifiers – a PIN, date of birth, even voice recognition. Again, reducing or removing agent contact time is a more secure way for contact centres and their customers to comply with PCI DSS. Since everything is fully automated and confidential, the client information is stored centrally and securely within the system hosting the data, taking it out of scope for both PCI DSS and GDPR.

Capturing customer data via IVR also enables calls to be routed to the right agent with the correct skills, in the event of a request to speak to an advisor. The agent then has all of the relevant information available to manage the call successfully, but with key identification data screened, thereby ensuring GDPR compliance.

3. Cloud-based third party payment solutions

The third option to consider, and one that has gained significant traction over recent years, is to choose a cloud-based payment service provider. A trusted third party that complies with PCI DSS demonstrates proven adherence to a recognised security standard, which can also help contact centres to meet the GDPR legislation. Companies can apply a process of ‘de-scoping’ to reduce the number of requirements (tick-boxes) for GDPR, in the same way that they might do for PCI DSS compliance.

Of course, like PCI DSS compliance, the responsibility for GDPR cannot be entirely removed from the contact centre, however the effort required can be dramatically reduced by working in partnership with a payment solution provider.

Aligning GDPR and PCI DSS: the route to successful compliance

There is no doubt that GDPR has improved standards around privacy and data protection, but at what cost? Contact centres that have worked hard to blend people and technology to enhance data and payment processes in the last year, have typically done everything they can to comply with both GDPR and PCI DSS.

For the rest, the good news is that it’s not too late to review what’s in place and make the switch, to new technology and/or a third party solution provider, to enable a secure, multi-channel seamless route for customer payments. The choice is there for the taking.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 29, 2019
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3min1015

A global research study has found that businesses in the UK and elsewhere are overrating their Customer Experience, and are underperforming when it comes to providing omnichannel communication.

The 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark report polled contact centre leaders in the UK, US, and Australia. Results reveal that businesses are confident in artificial intelligence’s (AI’s) role in delivering exceptional Customer Experience, but they overrate their own CX performance.

The CX Transformation Benchmark found that 63 percent of contact centre leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved, and 68 percent of those surveyed agree that consumers want to use virtual assistants to interact with them.

However, compared to consumers, businesses give themselves higher net promoter scores for every method of communication tested. Businesses overestimate most channel-specific NPS by broad margins. For example:

Automated assistant/chatbot: While consumers award automated assistants an NPS of -8, businesses estimate they earn an NPS of 25, for a gap of 33 points.

Email: The consumer NPS for email is -9 while the business NPS is 19, for a gap of 28 points.

Text: Consumers give text a -2 NPS while businesses estimate 25, for a gap of 27 points.

Meanwhile, the report shows that businesses are 15 percent more likely than customers to agree that they make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved in their preferred channels, and that they provide a consistent Customer  Experience across the purchase journey.

While 93 percent of businesses surveyed agree that consumers expect companies to provide a seamless experience when moving between channels, only 24 percent of businesses globally give themselves an excellent rating on allowing consumers to switch seamlessly between methods of communication.

Paul Jarman, CEO of NICE inContact, said: “We are at an inflection point for AI in the contact centre. AI innovations are at their best when paired with the human touch and deployed to address targeted customer and agent experience opportunities. AI in the contact centre has the potential to add significant value to CX outcomes and operational performance.


Joey GreenwaldJoey GreenwaldJuly 26, 2019
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11min1510

I rarely use and never want to pick up my phone anymore.

That is, the phone part of the phone. I happily use my mobile phone all of the time – to communicate, read, and for entertainment. But using the call functionality and dialling a human? No, thank you.

It’s partly because I get dozens of unwanted robocalls every week, and partly because I’ve wasted a lot of time on hold. It’s also because one of the few things that I can control in life is my time – and when I’m on the phone, the person on the other line has effectively hijacked my time.

This is especially true when it comes to getting customer support via the phone. If I need help, I’m probably not feeling particularly sociable. The last thing I want to do is pick up the phone, talk to an agent and hope they can solve my problem – or worse, risk bouncing around a poorly implemented interactive voice-response system (IVR). I’d much rather search for and find an answer online. Better yet, I’d like to type a question and let a well-trained chatbot instantly find the answer for me.

I’m not alone

It’s human nature that we don’t want to rely on other people – and the phone – to accomplish certain tasks or gather information. That’s part of what’s driven the internet explosion.

Take Ticketmaster. The event ticketing company launched a self-service website in the early 90s, where event-goers could, for the first time, purchase tickets online rather than going to in-person kiosks – or making phone calls to human ticketing agents. This is illustrated perfectly by the following excerpt from Paul Allen’s memoir, The Idea Man, about Ticketmaster’s very first online sale:

When customer number one had completed the first transaction, our Web people called him and said, ‘Congratulations, you just bought the first concert ticket in the history of the Internet! Can you tell us why you decided to buy online?’ The man said, ‘Because I don’t like talking to people, and I don’t like talking to you.’ And he hung up.”

More than 25 years after Ticketmaster’s first online sale, there’s proof that people are relying less on phone calls than ever before – and it’s having repercussions across various industries.

A few stats to consider:

  • The number of landlines in use is down dramatically. A report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (via Statista) showed that, in 2004, 92 percent of U.S. households had a working landline. By 2018, that number dropped to 42 percent because of the growth of mobile phones.
  • British telecom service provider Ofcom released a study in 2018 revealing that the number of monthly mobile voice call minutes was on the decline among its customers, from an average of 159 minutes per month in 2016 to 157 minutes in 2017. But while phone calls were down, data consumption skyrocketed, from an average of 1.3 GB in 2016 to 1.9 GB in 2017. 
  • Pew Research reported that response rates for phone surveys plummeted to six percent in 2018. The steady and sharp decline has continued since 1997, when response rates were as high as 36 percent.
  • Nearly 60 percent of contact centre leaders believe inbound call volumes will decrease over the next five years, according to a 2018 McKinsey survey, while 40 percent said the number of calls will fall dramatically, perhaps to zero, in the next decade.
Dial it back: Inbound calls to contact centres are dropping dramatically

Automation takes over self-service

In this era of internet-enabled instant gratification, we as consumers expect to get fast answers to virtually any question – without making any calls.

This includes the realm of customer support. The phone call is no longer the primary medium for support – instead, phone calls are the last resort, and this isn’t just because consumers (like me) prefer it. Businesses do too, as companies are implementing AI-powered support automation technology to both improve the customer experience and better manage operational costs. Here’s some data behind that shift:

  • A recent report by call centre industry analyst firm ContactBabel found that only 25 percent of customer support agents believe that customers prefer human support.
  • 41 percent of consumers would choose live chat as their preferred support channel, according to a study from Kayako, while 32 percent prefer phone calls, followed by email and social media (note: the survey did not include chatbots or virtual assistants as an option).

This doesn’t mean that businesses can totally dismiss phone support. However, it does point to the fact that most consumers would prefer not to dial company support unless they absolutely have to. 

As Forrester analyst Kate Leggett wrote: “Today, customers have more choice: more products to buy, more information to influence purchasing decisions, and more devices and channels over which to seek customer service. What they don’t have is more time. It’s no wonder that self-service interactions have overtaken all other channels.”

It’s worth restating Leggett’s words: “What they don’t have is more time.”

That’s why we often turn to Google or a company’s online forums for answers. But a traditional search online or in managed forums can leave you with an endless list of links to sift through. This is where AI comes in. It might take us several minutes or hours to find an answer amidst a library of online information, but applied machine learning (ML) technology can surface the information we need in an instant.

AI also allows companies to provide a uniform quality of service, 24 hours a day, with little to no downtime. Effectively trained chatbots (a.k.a. virtual agents), with brains powered by AI, are becoming the new face of customer support.

The ContactBabel report found that 16 percent of all companies plan to implement artificial intelligence solutions for customer support within the next year, more than doubling the current installed base. Additionally, 27 percent of large contact centres (with 200-plus agents) expect to implement AI/ML within one-year, which means more than 50 percent will have AI/ML in place by 2020.

I know I speak on behalf of consumers everywhere when I say that the era of AI-led support can’t come soon enough. To paraphrase the great R.E.M., it’s the end of phone support as we know it…and I feel fine.


Ruby KhaliqRuby KhaliqJuly 19, 2019
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11min1449

We’re flush with new ways to engage with customers, but businesses should be more data-driven, rather than simply throwing more manpower on the frontlines.

In the era of new contact centre touchpoints, the touchpoints themselves matter less and less because they should be managed in a unified way. That’s not to say we should disregard the touchpoints – in fact the opposite is true. We should be able to add them and monitor the data from customer interactions to create contact centres that offer better service and embrace innovation when it comes to engaging with customers.

In real terms, that means putting an end to seeing telephone, web chat, or mobile app communications as an island in their own right. Each channel will have its own considerations and technological challenges to take on board – that much is true. Yet as agent desktop interfaces better integrate the new channels that emerge, we should start to think of how we can solve new business challenges and get smarter, as well as becoming more efficient.

Hearing the voice of the customer

For many contact centres, voice has been their bread and butter for years. The difference now is that voice is used less – at least in its traditional sense. Meanwhile, phones are being used in different ways, particularly with the growing use of smartphones. Voice now has a closer relationship with other digital channels, and as a result, firms should prepare all channels to account for customers flowing between each.

Smart move: Digital channels are becoming ever closer for customers

Although customers are generally using phones less for voice calls than they used to, we’re now seeing an increase in phones being used as a digital backstop. If a customer doesn’t get the response they expect from digital channels, they will probably pick up the phone to speak to an agent. This brings to the surface the importance of managing the two types of contact centre interactions – those driven by bots and those driven by humans. Human agents will want to deal with the queries where they feel like they can add value. The simple issues such as the loss of a password can be dealt with automatically.

Agent time is both precious and costly and so should be used for issues where it is necessary. It’s important then, for businesses to find the right match between interactions handled by chat bot, and interactions that require a human touch. The best approach is to use a mix of both, where bots escalate to an agent when needed, without customers feeling like they are being passed between non-connected entities. 

We also have to prepare for a new era of voice interaction. There were 9.5 million active smart speaker users in the UK last year, which is an increase of 98.6 percent against 2017, according to eMarketer. Consumers are getting more comfortable in asking these devices to perform basic tasks and provide them with information. The next step is for them to be the conduit to getting in touch with the outside world. That doesn’t just mean communicating with close friends and family as is the case now but increasingly, with brands. In fact, voice assistants are just one part of a larger move towards a more integrated IoT service, which also includes connected cars.

We’re using bots to answer more customer questions with speed and accuracy. Doing the same thing with voice-activated devices will cut out the middle-man where needed, while still basing the approach on the voice model that has operated in contact centres for years. But as with any channel, it’s vital that voice plugs into a bigger picture view of customer interaction. Omnichannel rules the roost and provides a great deal of insights that are valuable for businesses.

Data insights enhancing Customer Experience

On the whole, companies have to get better at proactively engaging with customers and artificial intelligence (AI) will help to do this. For example, with the right data coming from previous customer interactions and insights it is able to obtain from initial contact, AI can be used to provide a more targeted response, and through a combination of virtual assistants, machine learning and customer data analytics, businesses are able to predict customer needs.

Insight: Data can provide a more targeted response for customers

Not only that, they can proactively address these needs to prevent repeat contacts for similar issues, deliver superior experiences to retain existing customers and improve offers or interactions in a way that attracts new customers. 

There’s also the intelligence that businesses can uncover to shape their products better – all from the way they monitor customer interaction. When firms automatically capture and analyse interactions, they can make sure they never miss the vital signs that should be spotted immediately. They are able to identify gaps in products, processes, and interactions – and make sure agents meet the needs of demanding customers.

One of our customers is a coffee company who was looking to carry out a strategic launch of a premium product. They automatically analysed all their calls and as a result, they were able to better train underperforming agents with targeted coaching. By analysing interactions at the contact centre, it enabled them to better understand how agents were pitching the product and it also helped them to see how well the new product was being perceived. Using these measures, the company increased sales penetration using best practice, and increased basket size by pushing promotions at the right time.

Finding focus

I’m excited by the prospect of new touchpoints and technologies coming together to offer a better service to customers, better performance for agents and better efficiency for businesses. And with voice assistants, IoT and other connected ways for businesses to interact with people, the whole area of customer services has been blown wide open. There’s so much potential for innovation.

World of possibility: A connected planet is changing how we look at customer service

But with all these touchpoints, it’s vital that businesses can connect the dots across the different channels they use. It’s an approach that includes not just the communications channels but the knowledge captured from CRM systems and contact centre insights. We know that the channels will probably change in the future as consumers find new ways to interact with brands but in the grand scheme of things, that shouldn’t matter. What is important is a technology agnostic approach through providers that incorporates the channels, and provides a single dashboard that enables businesses decisions to be made based on insights, rather than just intuition.

The thing with data is that the findings are hard to dispute, so long as you are confident in the original sources, sensors and algorithms. The future won’t necessarily be dictated by the latest flashy communications channel. Instead it will be led by smart approaches, and increasingly, that means taking steps to focus on automation, analytics and innovation of Customer Experience in a meaningful way. 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 15, 2019
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4min1077

UK financial services and utilities businesses are underperforming when it comes to complaint handling, despite their growing belief that customers are satisfied with their performance.

That is according to Huntswood’s Complaints Outlook 2019 report, which combines research from financial services and utilities firms with survey responses from over 5,500 consumers. The nationally representative survey was carried out by Huntswood’s research partners, YouGov, and has revealed a perception gap between businesses and customers – 69 percent of firms believe that their customers are satisfied with their complaints are handled, while the reality is that only 26 percent of customers actually report being satisfied.

When asked, 87 percent of firms interviewed also said that their complaint handling staff are well equipped to do the job, however 61 percent of customers are currently dissatisfied with the empathy of the staff member they interacted with and 59 percent are dissatisfied with the knowledge of the staff member they interacted with.

Resolution times also remain an issue – 49 percent of firms believe they are resolving complaints at the first point of contact, yet only 18 percent of customers claim that their complaint was resolved immediately.

Complaints Outlook 2019 also reveals a disconnect between the perceived importance of complaints handling by businesses and a lack of focus on building required professional skills. This is evident in the fact that, despite 96 percent of businesses agreeing that the impact of the complaint handler on customer satisfaction is high or extremely high, 52 percent admitted that their employees do not complete professional complaint handling training programmes or qualifications.

With increased regulatory scrutiny around the treatment of vulnerable customers, 75 percent of the firms interviewed believe that their staff are equipped and empowered to deal with customers in vulnerable circumstances, with the remaining quarter feeling they are only part of the way to achieving this.

Furthermore, 57 percent of firms believe they are creating advocates in at least half of all cases, however only eight percent of customers surveyed had a positive complaints experience and shared it with friends and family.

This perception gap should be treated as a warning to firms, with 60 percent of customers adding that they would change provider as a result of a poor complaints experience.

Paul Scott, Chief Commercial Officer at Huntswood, said: “Firms are increasingly recognising the value that can be derived from the complaints journey.  However, despite this, our research shows that there are discrepancies between how financial services companies believe they are dealing with complaints and the reality for customers. Complaints are an unavoidable part of business, so it’s critical that they are handled well and that customers feel valued throughout.

“Firms should therefore be looking to create an effective complaints handling operation, underpinned by a robust strategy which focuses on providing the best possible outcomes for customers. Doing so can deliver enormous benefits, such as deeper relationships with existing customers and an increase in new relationships from customer advocacy.”


Sharon WilliamsSharon WilliamsJuly 10, 2019
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7min1167

Recruitment has never been an easy task, regardless of which industry is facing the challenge.

Difficulties in finding the right people, at the right time, with the right skills, is something all organisations encounter. One such industry is contact centres. Outsourced contact centres are extremely people-focused, meaning that it’s imperative to get the recruitment process right from the offset and meet the challenges faced head-on.

In a contact centre environment, there is a need for recruiters to not only meet seasonal demand, but to be able to find the right person for each position, focusing on retaining employees that are skilled, motivated and committed to the role. A successful contact centre will find, train and retain staff that can meet customer expectations and work to make sure teams have the right attributes to properly represent the organisation they work for.

However, there are numerous outsourced contact centres getting recruitment right, and by following a few simple steps, recruiters can build a successful recruitment strategy that gets it right every time.

Staff on demand

Numerous industries are known to face issues with peaks and troughs of demand, but one that certainly suffers the most is retail. With huge seasonal spikes throughout the year – Black FridayChristmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter – this industry understands what it’s like to see a huge rush of customers that can vanish as quickly as they appear.

Seasonal spikes: Retail knows all-too well the pressures of fluctuating demand

To cope with these hectic periods, it’s essential for organisations to be confident that the recruitment channels being used will reach the right people, quickly and effectively. Advertising locally on buses and billboards, for example, can be more targeted and help to enhance brand recognition for an organisation looking to seek local Customer Service Advisors, as an addition to online.

Additionally, contact centre organisations need to prepare for these peaks by working closely with their customers to understand when the demand might rise and fall, and what levels of staff will be needed accordingly. By reflecting on busy periods of the past, recruitment teams can work in harmony with marketing teams to figure out what works, what could change and then put a plan in place for the next peak time.

Talking the talk

Contact centres have undoubtedly evolved. Just look at the name; what was once referred to as a call centre has grown to become much more. The omnichannel world that consumers now live in means they expect to receive the same customer experience, regardless of which channel they use – whether it’s social media, a phone call, email, online chat, or through instant messaging. They expect answers instantly, and they want their queries answered or issues resolved in as few steps as possible.

Digital demand: Customers need queries answered – quickly – across all channels

Because of this, the skill sets required of Customer Service Advisors has also changed. Advisors now need to be proficient in communicating across a variety of channels, utilising strong written and verbal communication skills to make the experience as seamless as possible for the customer. This eclectic way of working means that Advisors need to be flexible, adaptable, and able to multi-task, providing the same, exceptional experience with each customer interaction. A coherent selection process will ensure that recruitment teams are finding the right people for the job.

Capturing brand personality

When it comes to the selection process, this not only needs to be tailored for each job role, but also for each brand – this is the very nature of an outsourced contact centre. Each organisation that is represented by the contact centre will require something different, and this shouldn’t just come through when the Customer Service Advisors are answering queries; it should start at the beginning of the recruitment journey.

CV savvy: Recruitment strategies should must help brands find the best people

Recruitment teams should actively work with the client to build the job description, which should then underpin the selection process. Recruitment strategies should also be tailored for each brand to find the most suitable people; who are the organisation’s target market? How do they communicate? Can brand advocates be chosen to ensure the Customer Service Advisor has a genuine interest in the brand? This ensures the brand’s personality can be captured in each customer interaction, through style, tone of voice and language used.

The recruitment journey

Developing a CX strategy starts with recruitment. With the end customer in mind, a recruitment strategy can be developed that ensures the right team is sourced and trained in line with the organisation’s requirements. Recruitment doesn’t have to be a challenge; a clear understanding of the organisation’s values from the outset is a simple way to get the journey heading in the right direction and, coupled with the right approach to customer service, means that contact centres can commit to delivering an exceptional CX, every time.


Bradlee AllenBradlee AllenJuly 9, 2019
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6min1247

As any reader of CXM knows, Customer Experience is a key business differentiator.

Businesses working in every sector, from IT to healthcare to retail, needs to deliver fast, effective, and memorable customer service to stand out from the crowd.

Consumers are fickle, and with positive, memorable experiences now driving their choices over which brands to engage with, they won’t be afraid to shop around if a business fails to meet their expectation.

Yet while CX is a top priority for business leaders, the task all too often falls elsewhere – to the customer services team. Ensuring the drive of the leadership team is mirrored by those on the front line who are interacting with customers first-hand, is critical.

The right technology will empower frontline workers to deliver the best experience possible, even when they’re spanning different geographies and time zones. Without it, the disconnect between a brand and its workers can damage relationships and make it more challenging to attract and retain the best talent to drive successful CX.

What do customers expect when communicating with brands?

Can it: Is your customer comms lacking?

Knowing that customers want fast responses and resolutions, here are five ways that cloud communications can better empower customer services teams and deliver experiences that delight customers every time:

1. Access to the right agent at the right time

In traditional on-premises systems, customers must be dealt with by whichever agent is present and available in the contact centre at that time. In contrast, a cloud-based system removes these limitations, meaning that the most experienced or relevant member of the team can be connected to customers even if they’re not in the office

2. Any device, any location

Switching to the cloud means frontline workers can log in and access the same dashboards and communication applications from any location, using any device. This not only opens up a huge opportunity to bring in remote agents, but also ensures that everyone is working with the same information, providing a more unified interaction with the customer.

3. Improved availability

The cloud enables better support of different time zones and language requirements, allowing businesses to expand their skills pool to attract specialists. This support can also make the business more accessible and attractive to international customers.

4. Managing workflows

By switching to a cloud-based system, businesses have the flexibility to bring in remote agents as soon as a queue starts to build. At the same time, analytics dashboards can allow businesses to pre-empt such queues before they even happen, ‘switching on’ additional agents when needed. This feature is ideal for companies with seasonal peaks and troughs where the business requires ‘all hands on deck’ one week then a skeleton staff the next.

5. Consumer-like experiences

Lastly, switching to the cloud ensures companies can provide a consumer-grade experience with ongoing upgrades to keep technology fresh and relevant. This makes it easier for agents to interact with colleagues and customers in a way that feels familiar and easy.

Digital workplace transformation is happening across the business world to support the increasingly fluid nature of modern workforces and an ever-demanding customer base.

In these highly collaborative environments where workers are logging in from outside the office, the seamlessness of cloud-based communication platforms will enable businesses to keep up with this pace of change, ensuring customers always receive the experiences they want and deserve.


Sion LewisSion LewisJuly 5, 2019
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8min2137

Working in a call centre has been seen as the very epitome of the “McJob” – a low-paid, unrewarding role that’s usually viewed as a stepping stone to more responsible, better-paid and more meaningful employment.

It shouldn’t be this way.

Customer service representatives (CSRs) play perhaps the most important role in any organisation. They are a business’ window on the world; the face of the corporation. Great CSRs are worth their weight in gold- they solve problems, mollify irate customers, and turn anger and frustration into loyalty and respect.

Businesses need to treasure their CSRs and give them the support to solve customer complaints. If businesses are serious about delivering quality customer service, two things need to change. First, there needs to be a revolution in the way that we view contact centre work. Secondly, we need to give these workers the tools they need to conduct efficient conversations and to resolve customer questions quickly.

It’s time to value CSR

Businesses have little hope of delivering first-class customer service if they don’t value their CSRs, and a look at the hospitality industry is instructive here. In the UK, being a waiter is seen as a low-skilled ‘starter’ job.

But across the Channel, the French take waitering incredibly seriously. Waiters and sommeliers are typically highly trained and very knowledgeable about food and wine, and anyone who has eaten at a decent French restaurant will be familiar with the waiting staff’s air of authority and gravitas – all of which adds to the dining experience.

It’s the same for any sort of customer service. You can have the best product in the world, but if you don’t provide a great customer contact experience you will likely lose much of the goodwill that customers feel towards your brand. Unfortunately, many CSRs today lack the tools and the insight they need to provide fantastic Customer Experience.

Change is on the horizon

When a call comes in, it’s common for customer service staff to spend a significant amount of time authenticating the customer; once they’ve passed security, the CSR can then find themselves without a full picture of the customer and their history, and often lack the information they need to resolve the complaint quickly and efficiently.

There are signs that this view of customer service is about to change, however. AI-powered chatbots, for example, are increasingly taking responsibility for more routine enquiries, removing much of the drudgery of customer service roles and enabling operatives to focus on higher-value tasks.

But chatbots alone won’t transform the role of the CSR. If we are to change perceptions about customer service and make it a fulfilling line of work, we need to get rid of the irritations and inefficiencies that continue to bedevil the role. For example, CSRs typically spend only a quarter of their time actually helping customers. And here, AI can again come to the rescue.

The bigger picture: Businesses can now provide every CSR with all the information from an entire customer journey

Equipping CSRs for success

Smart companies that put a premium on customer service are deploying AI-powered contact centre software that enables them to provide a more in-person experience for online customers by anticipating questions and needs based on their history and where they are in the current journey.

Unfortunately, CSRs often do not have access to vital information such as purchase history or previous complaints. As a result, they go into conversations blind and spend significant amounts of time establishing basic facts before they can resolve the customer query.

Anyone who’s spent time on the phone to customer services will be familiar with the frustration of having to explain their situation multiple times to different customer service employees. By harnessing the latest generation of customer contact tools, businesses can provide every CSR with all the information from entire customer journey, from acquisition, through conversion and into post-sale support, providing companies with everything they need to create an exceptional CX.

Artificial intelligence can deliver meaningful and immediate benefits that put CSRs in the driving seat in every conversation. The benefits are legion: AI can filter out routine customer interactions that can be resolved by a chatbot or self-service, enabling agents to focus on more complex or high-value work. It can ensure seamless transition from bot to agent within the same chat window, meaning the customer doesn’t have to repeat themselves.

Meanwhile, the latest generation of contact centre tools consolidate data from every customer interaction and manages data from disparate systems to deliver real-time actionable insights for faster issue resolution – all of which means that customers spend less time explaining and complaining.

Small wonder that Forrester found that businesses with mature deployments of AI-powered contact centre software saw a 63 percent increase in net promoter score (NPS) and reported an average of eight points higher than their lesser mature counterparts. Furthermore, half of these organisations saw an increase in conversation rates, 56 percent reported an increase in revenue, and 40 percent saw an increase in order size. Even agent satisfaction increased under the more mature organisations with nearly 50 percent reporting an increase in overall job happiness.

If businesses are serious about putting the customer first, the place to start is in the contact centre. They must value these problem solvers and provide them with the tools they need to turn angry, frustrated patrons into loyal customers.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 1, 2019
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4min1323

Entries are now open for the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards, Britain’s biggest celebration of CX-inspired initiatives to resolve consumer problems.

2020 will be he fourth year the awards ceremony will be held in the heart of London, and March 5 will see finalists descend on the Park Plaza Riverbank venue to present before an expert panel of judges from across various sectors.

Some of the most recognisable brands in utilities, finance, and more were represented at the 2019 finals earlier this year, and now organisations have the chance to join the winners in the Hall of Fame by entering before the deadline of November 14. Those who enter before October 8, meanwhile, can take advantage of a special Early Bird discount, that can save up to £100 off the standard entry price.

There are 15 categories to choose from for 2020, encompassing both industry and discipline-specific areas. They incorporate both B2B and B2C initiatives, and include categories specifically for SMEs, so that all types of organisation have the chance to earn recognition.

New categories include Zero to Hero – Transforming Customer Relations, while as always, the day will see one Overall Winner crowned from the category champions.

Celebrating success: Firstsource Solutions was named Overall Winner at the 2019 UKCHA finals in March

Event host Awards International has been accredited with the Gold Standard in the Awards Trust Mark Scheme from the Independent Awards Standards Council, meeting all 18 criteria to qualify for the highest trust mark possible.

Awards International CEO, Neil Skehel, said: “We are thrilled to launch the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards, and are excited to see the initiatives put forward by organisations, big and small, from right across the UK.

“This annual event has become one of the most relevant dates in the business calendar for companies that are revolutionising how they interact with customers and implement resolution strategies.

“The best companies don’t shy away from complaints – they use them to strengthen their reputation and retain a loyal customer. Joining the awards this year means you can showcase your amazing initiatives whilst rewarding your team’s dedication.

“As with events such as the upcoming UK Customer Experience Awards and UK Digital Experience Awards, the UKCHAs will also be a prime networking opportunity, promoting excellence and best practice sharing, by gathering hundreds of leading business professionals together under one roof.”

Click here for further details on how to enter for 2020.

Meanwhile, for those keen to glean insights from previous winners, the Winning With Complaint Handling conference is taking place in London on September 25. This unique one-day event will offer practical techniques on transforming complaints into improved products and services, and provide guidance on creating customer loyalty through outstanding complaint handling strategies.

Click here for details on applying to attend, and for a special discount offer.


Martin EllinghamMartin EllinghamJune 28, 2019
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10min2335

金継ぎ

This might sound like a strange question in the context of financial services, but have you ever heard of Kintsugi?

No matter if not because I’m about to explain exactly what it is – and why it matters to your complaints handling team. For those who haven’t come across it before, Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery. Fixing broken pots and dishes might not sound that impressive (or seem to have much bearing on complaints and Customer Experience) but the philosophy behind it is both fascinating and highly useful.

In Kintsugi (which translates as ‘golden joinery’), the broken pottery is repaired in a specific way. The pieces are held together with a special mix of lacquer and gold powder – creating a golden seam that serves not to hide the break but highlight it. The piece of pottery is not as good as new; it wears its golden scars with pride.

New beauty: The art of Japanese Kintsugi can be applied to complaint handling

They are now part of its history and something to be cherished. Whatever caused the item to break has, instead of rendering it useless, helped it become more beautiful. For people used to seeing broken things as being at the end of their journey, it’s an interesting concept to get used to.

However, it’s a philosophy that I think can have a profound effect on how you approach complaint handling – and the entire Customer Experience.

The problem with product-driven CX

Delivering great CX is a challenging task for any company – especially in the complex world of financial services. There are so many different elements that need to come together to keep each customer happy. Some of them you won’t even have control over. After all, how can you account for the things going on in a person’s day that will influence how they interact with you?

Thankfully, overall, customers are incredibly happy with the products and services they receive from companies. The UK banking sector is above the all-sector average for customer satisfaction, so it must be getting something right.

The problem arrives when customers aren’t happy with the products and services they receive. Too many businesses build their CX around the core product. So, when this doesn’t suit the customer’s needs or doesn’t work out as planned, the company isn’t sure how to handle the situation. Sure, it has a complaints handling team, but when the sole focus of CX is on delivering a great product, there’s little any agent can do to add value or retain the customer.

The importance of repairing relationships and building customer trust

When businesses lose a customer, there’s a tendency to label each case as a ‘lost cause’. This is especially the case when a product or service hasn’t lived up to expectations because companies don’t want to be faced with their failures. I don’t mean this as a harsh criticism; it makes sense when an organisation’s outward-facing reputation is built on the success of its offering.

Customers want to purchase from a company they can trust to deliver the goods. However, businesses have less and less control over how their brand is perceived. When a customer has a poor experience, they’re easily able to post reviews online detailing exactly went wrong. There’s no way for companies to prevent this – other than to deliver the best possible CX.

Review regret: Only the best possible CX will prevent online reviews from negatively impacting your brand

In situations where customers are already unhappy, aftercare and complaint handling become vital. Too many customer relationships break down because there’s no effective way to resolve issues and mend the trust between consumer and company. This is where the following philosophy of Kintsugi could make all the difference – both to the retention and acquisition of your customers.

How to apply Kintsugi to complaints handling

As I’ve mentioned already, there are so many elements that go into creating great CX. You can’t deliver the perfect experience 100 percent of the time – it’s simply impossible. However, when things don’t go completely according to plan, you can pick up the pieces and mould them into something new; something stronger.

If you apply the idea of Kintsugi to your CX, you can change the way you look at the customer journey. Instead of hiding the issues customers have had with your products and services (again, you can’t), focus on mending these relationships through complaint resolution to make sure people come away with a positive experience of your overall business.

Resolve to evolve: Mending customer relationships is essential to positive experiences 

By accepting that the customer journey doesn’t always go smoothly, you can transform the perception of your CX and your brand. When people look at a Kintsugi bowl, they don’t focus on how it broke – they see a new, more beautiful object that has taken the place of the original. The same will be true of your CX if you have an effective complaints-handling operation in place to rebuild trust with customers who have had a less than positive experience up until the point they complain.

Creating an opportunity with complaints

If you can make golden repairs on your customer relationships, you can turn negative experiences into positive ones. As well as making those consumers more loyal to you, the approach means people are far more likely to become brand ambassadors – helping you attract new business. This is why complaints are an opportunity for financial services companies, rather than a source of shame.

To make the most of this opportunity, however, companies need to know that their complaints handling teams are operating as effectively and efficiently as possible. For an unhappy customer trying to resolve a complaint, the frustration of having to do something as simple as repeating their details and queries to several different agents is magnified hugely. It’s just one example of how poor complaints handling can exacerbate a negative CX and highlights the need for companies to get the basics right.

When a customer gets in touch to talk about their complaint (whether over the phone or online), they have to be given the confidence that their issue will be resolved as best as possible – regardless of who they talk to. This means making sure that every agent has access to up-to-date information on each case, allowing them to make progress, support the customer and take important steps towards improving the overall CX received.

The way you approach complaints in your company will make a huge difference to how successful you are. If you apply the ideals of Kintsugi to complaint handling, you’ll shift the whole focus of your CX – and your business will be better for it. However, having the right mindset is just one piece of the puzzle.

金継ぎ

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 26, 2019
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12min1915

The UK Complaint Handling Awards has established itself as Britain’s premier showcase for customer service talent, and this year saw one of the event’s most sought-after Gold gongs go to one of the world’s most recognisable names in outsourcing and professional services – Capita.

Well-deserved: Becky Horsey accepts Capita’s Gold Complaint Handling Award

With entries now open for the 2020 awards – and an Early Bird Discount available until October 18 – Customer Experience Magazine spoke with Capita’s Business Development Director, Tracey Roberts, and Capita Business Management Director of Operations & Change, Becky Horsey, about their winning initiatives and future awards goals.

Capita was one of the day’s big winners at the UKCHAs 2019. Can you tell us a bit about the initiatives you put forward?

Tracey: This was our first time entering the UKCHAs, and we entered with three separate initiatives in different categories.

The first was entered in the Customer Relations & Remediation category. It detailed our end-to-end approach to remediation, which encompasses the way in which we assess the size of the problem, design the treatment strategy, and build and deliver the solution, which can include tracing, customer communication, investigations, and payments. The reason we chose this initiative was because our approach has generated significant benefits for our clients and, most importantly, their end customers.

Our second initiative was entered in the Innovation in Complaint Management category and it centred around the introduction of groundbreaking technology that had not previously been used for the type of project our client wanted us to engage with. Our innovative solution mitigated the potential for a high-risk manual solution and enabled the client to save over £1m, meet their regulatory commitments, and ensure customers were remediated quickly.

Lastly, our third entry in the Best Complaint Handling Training category focussed on our fit-for-purpose PPI Training Academy, which was set up to respond to the demand for large volumes of resource from one of our key financial services clients. Our Academy is a best-in-class method of training delivery for staff which has now expanded to include the client’s own permanent staff, as well as other supplier resources and it has generated a saving of over £8m for our client.

We were delighted to win an award in all three categories entered – Gold for Customer Relations & Remediation, Silver for Innovation in Complaint Managementand Bronze for Best Complaint Handling Training –   acknowledging Capita’s drive to constantly deliver better outcomes for our clients and their customers through delivery of effective, innovative complaint solutions. We hope to emulate the same success this year with some of the new initiatives that are taking place across our business.

Analytics were a key part of Capita’s initiative. How crucial is such technology in delivering first-class complaint handling and Customer Experience for firms today?

Becky: Technology is fundamental to ensuring we deliver a first class complaint handling service and Customer Experience for our clients’ customers.

To give you just one example, we have used our 20 years’ experience in delivering successful complaint handling projects to tailor one of the UK’s leading case management systems in order to support the end-to-end complaints customer journey and provide a complaint-focused analytics capability to drive continuous improvement.​

The system has integrated CRM, workflow, and task management functionality as well as robust data controls and flexibility which allows us to work with each client to re-configure the system quickly and create a bespoke purpose-built solution to meet their specific needs.​

All customer interactions are stored to provide a holistic view of the customer journey. This provides us with a rich source of data which we can analyse to understand customer behaviours and identify the root cause of complaints to ensure we continually improve our operations, with the ultimate goal of helping our clients to reduce their future complaint levels.

How has the awards success inspired the Capita team?

Becky: Our success was only possible due to the hard work, ingenuity, and dedication of the teams who designed, built, and delivered all three of our initiatives. Not only did these teams inspire our entries and give us initiatives which were worthy of a place at the awards, but they had a direct impact on our success.

Those behind each of the initiatives were directly involved in the production of our award entries to ensure that we included as much detail as possible and were able to tell the story from the perspective of all stakeholders – the client, our operational management team and front-line colleagues, as well as the end customers. It was key members from our delivery teams who presented our initiatives in front of the judging panel during the UKCHA finals.

Not only did this ensure the panel was hearing about the initiative first-hand from those on the front line, but it also allowed our key team members to reap the rewards of their hard work.

Inspired by this success, our teams are already considering what initiatives they want to submit for the 2020 awards!

Would you encourage other companies involved in first-class customer service and complaint handling to enter awards? 

Tracey: Yes we would highly recommend that any company truly invested in delivering first-class customer service and complaint handling should enter these awards. We won’t deny it requires hard work and a lot of extra effort from people who are already focussed on delivering service to our clients, but taking part and being rewarded for our efforts greatly outweighed this.

Not only is it a chance to showcase your company’s successes and gain external recognition, we have also found that it has been a great motivator for our teams, due to the internal recognition they received as a result. From their management teams who felt their work was worthy of entering in the awards, through to the internal communications which have been spread across the wider Capita group, we are seeing more and more of our staff keen to get involved in the awards process. As a result we are hoping to have even more entries to submit in 2020.

Enter now: The 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards finals will be held on March 5 at London’s Park Plaza Riverbank

Where, in your opinion, does the future of quality complaint handling lie? Is it solely in technology, or is it important to maintain a ‘human’ element throughout?

Becky: As mentioned previously, technology plays a major part in the future of complaint handling. Not only can it help improve the quality of operations to ensure that our clients’ customers are benefiting from fair and consistent outcomes, but recent advancements in technology such as speech analytics are also helping us to support our clients to reduce – and ultimately prevent – their complaints.

That being said, due to the emotive nature of complaints and the importance we place on the effective management of customers with vulnerability – particularly in financial services – we believe it is of the upmost importance to maintain the ‘human’ element within complaint handling operations.

At Capita we pride ourselves on having a team of experienced, skilled, and dedicated colleagues who understand the importance of using technology as an enabler to improve the experience they provide for our customers day-in, day-out.

For the full list of categories to enter in the 2020 UK Complaint Handling Awards, click here.


Stewart KitsonStewart KitsonJune 26, 2019
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6min1622

There is ever increasing interest in the role emotions play when managing Customer Experience in the contact centre.

At the same time, there is a drive to introduce technology such as chatbots to make customer service teams more efficient; removing repetitive tasks and providing ‘always on’ customer service. These potentially conflicting trends are happening at a time when the demand for customer service is growing, and organisations are fighting to differentiate themselves through their customer service offering. 

A recently commissioned study by Forrester Consulting suggested that 90 percent of customer service leaders agree personalisation is core to the future of automation, and existing chatbot technology is stalling their efforts. The key challenge is to build simple yet personalised experiences for customers.

As Maya Angelou famously said: “People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.” If your chatbot or AI solution leaves the customer feeling frustrated or angry because they have to put in more effort to get the answer to what they perceive is a routine query or task, all that is being achieved is an increased chance that the customer will look for an alternative supplier who can make this task easier.

In addition, quite often humans want to talk to humans. A study by PwC found that an average 74 percent of non-US consumers want more human interaction in the future and that 59 percent of all consumers feel companies have lost touch with the human element of Customer Experience.

Certainly, there have been strategies employed whereby chatbots are being disguised as humans which can only lead to frustration on behalf of the customer when they find they are being deceived and the bot cannot fulfil their needs for a more emotional or complex issue response. While customer views are constantly evolving, I still think Userlike got it right with their view on avoiding the ‘uncanny valley’.

Organisations need to be up front when a customer engages with them by disclosing that they are talking with a bot, and take advantage of the benefits that can be gained when effectively deploying it for more routine and simple tasks. In addition, they need to give the customer the opportunity to seamlessly switch to a human agent, without the need for the customer to repeat themselves. In short, make it easy, make it simple and, when the customer is speaking to an agent, make it personal.

No one can deny that AI is getting better and better, and chatbots will certainly have their place in our future. A well-designed customer-centric journey will allow the bots to tackle low level tasks, but companies also have to be cautious in blindly launching bots into the contact centre eco-system. When poorly executed the effect upon customers can be detrimental to their overall experience. It’s all too easy to deploy a chatbot that can get stuck in a loop, resulting not only in an increased cost to serve but also a decrease in overall customer satisfaction. 

Hockenbury & Hockenbury in Describing Psychology (1997) described emotion as “a complex psychological state that involves three distinct components: a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioural and expressive response”. Delivering customer service for an organisation dealing with often highly emotive subject of money, we have yet to find an AI solution that can effectively replicate the human touch our industry-leading customer service team can deliver. They can handle the simple routine tasks well, but then so can a well-designed FAQ or Help Centre. Until such a time as when chatbots can manage all three psychological states, there will always be a need for humans.

Human agents have a big advantage. They understand compassion, they can demonstrate empathy and they have their own shared experiences of everyday life which continues to become busier and more stressful for us all. In having this unique skill set, the human agent is here to stay and will own the complex matters where a human touch is needed.


Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpJune 19, 2019
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12min1725

The future is upon us, with companies digitalising their contact centres with disruptive technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Processing Automation (RPA), that are improving the Customer Experience beyond recognition.

In the age of Brexit and political and economic uncertainty, more companies are tasked with the hard remit to cut costs and improve services at the same time. Mission Impossible? Surprisingly, it’s not!

By using AI and RPA solutions in your contact centre you can reduce the cost to serve by as much as 95 percent compared to other communication methods such as telephone call, email, or live web chat – and at the same time improve the experience for both agents and customers.

The aim is to make the customers’ journey seamless at every touch point helping you improve customer experience and reduce cost to serve. In turn this helps to reduce customer churn (retain existing customers) and increases their willingness to buy again from you and buy more.   As we know consumers are more vocal than ever before, especially within the social sphere and review sites.  Great customer experience increases advocacy, helping you to attract new ones – becoming your best marketing channel.

By removing wasted effort and the repetitive and mundane, your people will have the time to not only do their job more efficiently but importantly support the shift towards an innovation and value driven culture. This in turn presents new opportunities to transform, differentiate and develop new target operating models, helping to drive accelerated revenue growth.

The future is now

Customers expect to be able contact you 24/7, using whatever communications method they choose whether that’s text, phone, email, video call, or web chat. More than 60 percent of customers interact through multiple channels and they expect a consistent service (Deloitte research). We often see IT managers responding to a CEO requesting a webchat solution and then rushing into buying an off the shelf product that it is not suited to their needs and not part of an overall strategy. We must emphasise that it is vital from the start to set objectives and have a strategy in place before you embark on any AI or RPA project.

A digital transformation strategy does not need to be a huge and overwhelming project with endless budgets and deadlines. By working with a Solutions Provider, you’ll be able to deconstruct it into manageable projects which will aid you in getting approval and devising a strategy.

Mapping out the customer’s journey

It is crucial to know which business goals you want an AI and RPA project to achieve. If your objective is to improve tCX with a view to increasing sales and revenue then it is advisable to study the existing journey that your customers take and question what works and what doesn’t.

With the guidance from a Solution Provider you can then look at how it should be improved by asking agents and customers how they want to communicate and what improvements they think would benefit them. By involving all stakeholders, you are not only helping with the buy-in for the new technology but also enabling them to envision how they will collaborate with the AI and RPA solution. It is crucial that companies understand how humans can augment technology and how technology can enhance the roles of humans. This is an imperative step in the process of redesigning business processes to support your objectives.

Integration is everything

A Solutions Provider will ensure that AI and RPA is integrated into the front and back office so you can utilise what you have and maximise your new solution.

A survey from Forrester revealed that 64 percent of respondents commented that a lack of single view of information was one of their biggest challenges in CRM. Often companies deploy an ad hoc AI solution that doesn’t integrate with their existing technology and the contact centre agents then have multiple screens at a time to view all of the communications. We have more technology and communications methods available to us than ever before but if we do not plan how and where to use them, then it can be counterproductive.

The aim is to create a single view of all communications and essentially to have one ‘smart in box’ so the agents can view everything on one screen. All interactions are integrated over an orchestration layer connecting the front and back office together. Then you can truly revolutionise your contact centre, CX, and your business processes.

Segmenting and prioritising customers

Customers want easy to use communications, they don’t want to be left on hold, stuck in a queue, and transferred from one department to another. They expect to move seamlessly between communication channels and not to be asked who they are and what the purpose of their call is again and again.

With AI and RPA, you can segment customers on value and expectations, for example you can prioritise high value customers so they can jump the queue to talk to an agent or provide a call back option when is convenient with them. As the customers are high value you may want to provide them with real time communications, such as a phone or video call, offering a more personalised service.

Agents can also see on their screen that they are your top tier customers and have visibility of their details and history so they can personalise the service and making them feel valued.

Data used to segment customers can be managed, used to upsell and utilised for sales and marketing. The key is that people are required to analyse the data  to encourage departments to knock down the silos and share what they are working on.

Re-thinking business processes

The beauty of AI and RPA is that it forces companies to re-think business processes and how technology can be utilised to increase revenues and return on investment. Particularly around one of the biggest investments in your business – human capital. You can realign agents to focus on high value customers or queries that require more empathy and detail whilst offloading the daily mundane administrative duties to a Conversational AI. Enabling you to save cost and reinvest in training your agents to be more specialised to get more return from your investment.

Workforce optimisation

These disruptive technologies provide endless possibilities; redesigning CX and business processes.

Conversational AI solutions can learn content from your website and their customer conversations, so they can pre-empt needs. Relieve your agents and set up a self-serve option where customers can access answers to basic questions on your website. If the enquiry becomes too complex, then the digital agent hands the query over to a human agent.

Employees fears of being replaced

Digital transformation creates an intelligent blended workforce of humans and technology.

Employees must be reassured that with they will not be replaced with an AI and RPA solution, in fact it will complement them. Digital transformation is an opportunity for them to upgrade their skills and specialist areas. They will be able to focus on more valuable interactions as the AI solution frees them from mundane tasks. They will receive more job satisfaction from the new intelligent blended workforce. When rolling out AI and RPA, it’s crucial to ensure your culture is right first, otherwise your employees will reject it. Work on an open culture that empowers employees to share their opinions, digital transformation is a never ending process of continual improvement.

Mindset of a start-up

Digital transformation brings new everything – new technology, new ways of working, new business processes. Companies need to embrace the new culture and change existing ways of thinking, and adopt the same mindset of a start-up. By working with a Solution Provider they will reduce the risk through piloting any technology finding our what works and what doesn’t. They will also hold ‘discovery workshops’ to work closely with all of your teams conducting in-depth discussions on what technology they would like in place.

So, rather than ‘mission impossible’, it is very much ‘mission possible’; especially when you select the right partner.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 17, 2019
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4min1567

The most exciting gathering of award winners and experts in the field of complaint handling will take place London this autumn at a brand new conference, and now is your chance to join them for a special  discount price.

The Winning With Complaint Handling conference is hosted by Awards International, and will feature six insightful panel discussions from UK firms which have wowed judges at the annual UK Complaint Handling Awards.

Taking place on September 25 at the Park Plaza Riverbank in the heart of London, this unique one-day event will offer practical techniques on transforming complaints into improved products and services, and provide guidance on creating customer loyalty through outstanding complaint handling strategies.

Industry insight: Winners of the UK Complaint Handling Awards will discuss strategies for success
Attendees will be able to interact in real time with each panel using the Slido app, to put questions to panelists and vote on issues as speakers discuss the need to adopt dynamic, technological solutions instead of traditional approaches.
As with all Awards International events, the conference will be an excellent networking opportunity, as guests will include representatives from a wide range of sectors. A full line-up for the conference will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, joining Awards International CEO Neil Skehel as Co-Chair of the conference will be Daniel Ord, Founder and Director of OmniTouch International, and one of the world’s leading authorities on contact centre excellence. Daniel also leads CXM’s Contact Centres Masterclass.
Co-Chair: Contact centre expert Daniel Ord will welcome guests to Winning With Complaint Handling
“I’m thrilled to be welcoming attendees to London later this year for what will be one of the best opportunities to learn the skills and strategies of award-winning firms,” Daniel said.
“Our panel discussions will feature valuable insight into what the very best brands are providing customers when it comes to complaint handling.”
Neil Skehel added: “This isn’t just another conference; you will be an integral part of this event and your priorities will shape what we discuss. It promises to be an educational and inspirational experience for everyone involved.”
Tickets for Winning With Complaint Handling are now available, while those who book before midnight on July 19 can enjoy a special Early Bird Discount, saving them £100 on the full price. Click here for further details.



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