Customer Experience has been a buzz word amongst C-Level executives for some time now and for good reason too. In fact, the term has extended its reach beyond the boardroom and is used just as frequently by tactical and operational teams alike, but what does it mean?
Customer-facing teams in sales and service-orientated environments embrace the concept. Marketing teams use it to get to know their customers, to personalise their brand reach and encourage brand loyalty. Finance teams do not particularly enjoy the first two to three years of most customer experience initiatives, but it is not too long before they are raving fans. Legal divisions have had to adapt their speech to be more understandable and much like the IT industry, consumer and data protection laws have completely disrupted their space. This list goes on.
Ask five different people what customer experience means to their brand and you would probably get twice as many correct, but different answers. The truth must be told. Customer experience means a plethora of different things to different people.
Customer experience is not the same as customer satisfaction or customer service and whilst there are some good guys doing some great work in the field of customer success, customer experience is quite different.
Customer satisfaction describes how happy customers are, after using a specific product or service. Satisfaction can then be broken down into perceived value – how customers expect to benefit from using that product or service versus what they actually experience, post-purchase.
Customer experience is most commonly misunderstood as customer service which refers to the types of assistance, advice, and levels of engagement customers endure before, during, and after a sales transaction. Customer service is managed by divisions within an organisation and results in inconsistencies in delivered experiences across the customer journey. For example, you may receive different levels of customer service from a contact centre service representative than you would from an in-store service representative at the same company. These inconsistencies in delivered experiences are the differences between customer service and customer experience.
Customer success is centred around making it easy for customers to achieve a specific goal such as purchasing a specific product or signing up for a new service. Leaders in this field have generally embarked on digitally transformative campaigns to allow for instant fulfilment such as internet-orientated and app-based self-help facilities.
Customer experience is all of these and so much more. From customer satisfaction, we have learned that customer expectations can be managed, met and exceeded. Customer service has thought us that there is much more to a ‘transaction’ and customer success inevitably reduces customer effort, making it easier for customers to transact.
Comprehensive customer experience ecosystems create customer memories that narrate specific brand stories. Underpinned by a rock-solid customer experience strategy, deliberate and differentiated customer experiences deliver business results by growing brand loyalty organically, by focusing on customer success, customer effort and customer emotion.
According to world-renowned expert in experience management and co-founder of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), Bruce Temkin defines customer experience as,
“The perception that customers have of their interactions with an organisation” – Bruce Temkin.
Let us unpack that a little.
We know that customers connect and interact with an organisation’s technologies, people, products, and processes across a variety of online platforms, through dedicated customer contact centres and at physical brick and mortar locations. Across this wide array of customer touchpoints, customers perceive a brand holistically and not the individual business units that make up the organisation.
Whilst these interactions are micro-moments in the end-to-end customer journey, customer perception may not be reality but is an undeniable belief system that belongs exclusively to its bearer. Perceptions will vary from customer to customer, based on their own unique experiences and are formed primarily on personal preferences and the human emotions customers experience when they interact with a specific brand.
It is no surprise that customers who enjoy dynamic and inspiring experiences often share the details of these exciting moments with their friends and family, on social media and by word of mouth. These brand ambassadors are willing to try, buy and recommend new products and services – often at a higher price for that heightened experience and are also far more likely to forgive you should something go wrong.
Premium or paid membership loyalty and rewards programs such as Discovery Health’s Vitality make a strong point here and according to a 2019 Customer Loyalty Report, 47 percent of South African’s conclude purchases that earn rewards or benefits at least several times a week.
On the back end of these loyalty programs, organisations have access to customer information that they harvest to deliver targeted products and services to a tailored audience. Whilst this may tick the personal preferences checkbox, we are not suggesting that a loyalty program will solve all your customer experience problems.
Customer experience ecosystems are complex and multifaceted with multiple moving mechanisms across many organisational silos – each with their own set of values, beliefs and key performance indicators. Customer experience synchronises and steers these cross-functional efforts towards a common goal – the customer.
Customer-centricity can be relatively difficult to achieve, particularly in larger organisations when non-customer-facing individuals are not entirely cognizant of their contributions within the end-to-end customer journey. Customer experience is disrupting this malpractice by breaking down internal barriers between front-line and back-office employees. Never before has so much emphasis been placed on external factors from inside an organisation and this outside-in approach can be great for your business too.
By unearthing the potential of customer intelligence, brands are now able to understand customer behaviour, predict customer wants and needs, and as a result, deliver personalised products and services to a completely tailored audience.
Frequently used customer experience metrics like net promoter score* are deployed to measure delivered experiences and the combination of solicited and unsolicited customer feedback guides ongoing improvements in customer engagement.
Through human-centred experience design, product and service-related teams are able to eliminate common pain points in the customer journey and this coincidentally, has a tremendous knock-on effect on enabling customer-facing teams to operate more efficiently, be more productive and still deliver dynamic and inspiring customer experiences consistently.
The result, engaged employees understand their roles in the end-to-end customer journey and deliver empathy-rich customer experiences that are fluid, highly personalised, and intricately designed using the six core competencies of customer experience to exceed the growing expectations of all customer segments and grow brand loyalty, organically.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
With this, Maya Angelou parted onto us what could possibly be one of the greatest pearls of customer experience wisdom.
At Being Human, we do not intend to redefine customer experience and whenever we are asked, we explain customer experience as, “The product of all your customer’s interactions with your brand are stored in their hearts and minds as memories, and the thumbnails of their experiences are the emojis of how you made them feel.”
We help organisations engineer extraordinary experiences through the application of human-centred experience design to create dynamic, inspiring and memorable moments of magic at every touchpoint of your customer’s journey with your brand.
Which emojis are your customers using to remember their experiences with your brand?
What are they telling their friends and family about you?
One of the most common obstacles to CX transformation is a misunderstanding of what CX is really about, among people who are not CX professionals.
And if you are a CX professional trying to explain it to colleagues, it can be hard to know where to start since you’re immersed in CX every day. So here’s some clarification that you might find useful either for your own understanding or to help some of your colleagues.
Let’s start with Forrester’s definition of CX, which has been widely accepted and cited since 1998 when the company launched its CX research:
CX is customers’ perceptions of their interactions with a brand: Those perceptions are the reality of CX. And CX encompasses all interactions with a brand, from seeing advertisements to using products and getting support. CX has another meaning, too, which is important to be aware of:
CX is a profession focused on understanding and shaping the experiences of a company’s customers and of others in its ecosystem who also influence its customers’ experiences.
What CX pros call themselves varies widely, but the activities that make up their work fall into six broad competencies:
Research, to understand the needs and motivations of a specific population.
Prioritisation, to decide which of those needs and motivations to address.
Design, to conceive and specify experiences that address those needs and motivations.
Enablement, to provide the resources required for experiences to be delivered as designed.
Measurement, to assess whether the experiences are producing the desired outcomes.
Culture, to instil the right values and behaviours in people who contribute to the experiences.
Let’s consider a concrete scenario of a company we’ll call Acme Bank applying these six competencies in sequence:
Research: Acme Bank digs deep into the banking-related needs and motivations of its desired customers by interviewing, surveying, and observing them — among other methods.
Prioritisation: It’s unlikely Acme can (or wants to) address all those needs and motivations, so it ranks them to decide which to tackle immediately and which to postpone or ignore.
Design: Acme invents new experiences (or refines existing ones) that it believes will address the needs and motivations it prioritised.
Enablement: Acme develops the resources it needs to turn the designs into customer-ready experiences — software for the digital aspects and employee training for the human aspects.
Measurement: Acme examines customers’ perceptions of the experiences it is delivering and compares its findings to what it intended for them to perceive.
Culture: Acme spreads customer-centric values and behaviours that improve and amplify the effect of employees’ activities across the other five competencies.
CX pros apply these six competencies to the experiences of all types of customers. Nothing about them is specific to traditional commercial relationships. They are equally relevant to the relationships between hospitals and their patients, universities and their students, governments and their citizens, IT departments and the employees who rely on them, and so on. The differences lie mostly in what motivates these organisations to improve the experiences of the people they seek to serve.
The key to achieving reliably good CX is to not only apply these six competencies, but do so with rigour, cadence, coordination, and accountability — the elements of disciplined CX management that are necessary to achieve real CX transformation.
The uncertainty surrounding the fallout from lockdown and consumers’ changed behaviour makes the task of forecasting the future a difficult one for brands. While commentators obsess about the performance of channels and the extent to which ecommerce is replacing bricks and mortar, we are in danger of missing the key factor. Namely the customer.
As the global population responds to the coronavirus pandemic, key trends are emerging, reshaping the consumers priorities and spending outlook in the UK. The real dividing line is between those who respond and offer a great customer experience with those who don’t.
A changed context: New patterns of behaviour established
Every aspect of our life has been impacted. This ranges from the focus on the preservation of health & wellbeing to the renewed focus on the connection with family and friends to cope with the impact on personal safety and security.
Meanwhile, new behaviour patterns for work & play have emerged. We are staying at home to reduce travel and human interaction. This is, in turn, is changing spending habits as consumers adapt and fill their time in new ways.
While we are spending more of our lives at home and digitally, concerns remain around a spike in cybersecurity threats. Recent YouGov research indicated that 51 percent of consumers cite data protection as a concern. The exposure of personal data is growing in proportion to the rapid shift towards online shopping.
Brands have had to find a new raison d’etre and are discovering new ways to communicate that emphasise empathy for employees and customers as they go into overdrive to overcome the downturn.
eCommerce can’t offer a true brand experience
While we have remained at home ecommerce has thrived and will be of growing importance. However, the evidence shows online sales will not completely replace lost revenue from traditional retail which needs to be examined.
Online retail sales share increased to 30.8 percent in May and June, however it is forecasted to decrease by 9 percent as stores open. The fact remains customer experience in considered purchases remain important as online can’t offer a true brand experience. Customers still long for the human interaction and advice that comes as part of the bricks and mortar shopping experience.
This was born out by a study we carried out last year that indicated 59 percent of people would always rather speak to a person than an automated system to find out more information about a product. Meanwhile, 73 percent preferred dealing with a human when trying to get a refund.
Innovation tackling safety concerns
So what lessons can retailers and brands take? The circle needs to be squared of people wanting an in-store experience when they are less likely to go to a shop. They also need to have their safety concerns considered when they do venture out.
Innovation in retail is going to provide a large part of the solution. This will include customer-centric digital and mobile as part of the experience at the point of purchase. Smart booking and appointment systems can be deployed to make instore visits COVID safe and efficient for nervous customers.
Interactions can be managed and ideally, some element of browsing can already have been delivered.
Bringing the shop floor to the digital realm
For those more nervous about venturing out, innovative technology can deliver the desired customer experience. For example, Ikea has acquired AR startup Geomagical Labs, driving shoppers to purchase more big-ticket items without needing to visit a store. Geomagical Labs’ key product allows users to scan a room using a smartphone, render that into a panoramic 3D picture, remove all the furniture currently in it and then change the layout of items around the room by adding new items to scale.
This type of innovation and AR more generally will create more engaging digital experiences to help customers accurately visualise their home with new furniture. The same could apply to a whole range of product categories. Smart brands and retailers will be able to gain an advantage through differentiation of this kind.
It’s good to talk
While this may replicate the ‘show’ part of the in-store experience, a gap remains for the ‘tell’ part led by an expert. Retailers need to consider new ways of delivering human interaction, often required with higher ticket items. For example, instore advice can be replaced by training staff in call centres which could replicate the expert advisor instore. The human advice so desired by customers can be given but at a safe distance. This could range from product advice to refunds.
The focus should be a seamless experience delivered across all touchpoints, instead of obsessing about the false divide between online and offline. Retailers and brands need to put the customer’s needs front and centre and understand the need for a human touch. This is the best way of preparing for an uncertain future.
The online retail giant plans on launching at least 30 physical stores across the UK where customers won’t need to pay at checkout.
In December 2016, it was announced that Amazon Go would soon be opening its first shops in Seattle, USA, allowing consumers to simply walk out the door with the products they wished to buy.
Five months later, it was reported that Amazon Go stores could make their way to the UK in the near future, with the firm filing several Amazon Go-related trademark applications with the UK Intellectual Property Office, including “No Lines, No Checkout. (No, Seriously)”.
Amazon has signed off on deals to open more than 10 Amazon Go shops in the UK, the first of which may open in the English capital by the end of the year.
Furthermore, the firm is reportedly holding discussions to open an additional 20 shops after the first 10, many of which are said to be located near public transport.
In order to shop at an Amazon Go or Amazon Go Grocery store, customers need to be registered as Amazon account users. They also need to have downloaded the Amazon Go app on a recent-generation smartphone, according to Amazon’s website
Shoppers will be able to use the app to enter the store, and then freely browse and shop as they would in any other store. Another advantage of shopping in this kind of stores is no checkouts and no lines.
When shopping in an Amazon Go store, Amazon’s “Walk Out Technology” is able to detect when customers take items from shelves and put them back, all-the-while keeping track of consumers’ virtual carts.
Once a customer has left the store with the items of their choosing, they will be charged on their Amazon account and will receive a receipt for their purchases.
In your office there will be rules; standard operating procedures that help with inducting new staff, training long-term staff and ensuring the smooth running of day to day business.
Sometimes those rules are well documented in step-by-step guides, and sometimes they are handed down verbally like a long-standing family tradition or folktale. Often, which style your business adopts will come down to your company values and your culture. Neither way is wrong and both have their advantages.
What about those elements of culture that are harder to define? Those elements that are just ‘understood’ to be necessary and are far harder to document in a handbook?
One of those elements is the ability to inspire confidence in your brand. It’s crucial that, if you want to attract, retain, and grow your loyal customer base, everyone in your business understands the term ‘inspiring confidence’. There are many little aspects of their day-to-day role that can either contribute to the overall customer confidence in the brand or detract from it.
Every action we take has the ability to do one or the other, and shifting towards deliberately inspiring confidence in everything you do has the ability to transform the customer experience.
So, what does inspiring confidence actually mean?
A quick search will tell you that inspiring confidence means to make people feel confident because they trust your ability.
This extends deep into the heart of your business and every staff member can shape the impression a customer has of your brand. Your ability to inspire confidence can be made or broken in the space of just a few minutes.
What can you do to take control and make sure that everyone in the organisation deliberately tries to inspire confidence with all they do?
Well, that is the hard part. This isn’t about training for grand gestures, or wow moments. Inspiring confidence is a quiet, gentle, and steady thing and it’s crucial that it is embedded in the values of your team if it is going to consistently build trust.
That said, here are some examples that might help get you started reviewing your own customer interactions.
1. Pause before you speak and consider the words you choose.
Inspiring confidence in the brand is really just another way to say – will this make us look good, reliable, trustworthy, and like someone that a customer would want to buy from?
It’s always good to try and place yourself in the customer’s shoes when you ask this question.
You can try saying it out loud and always include “I the customer” in the sentence.
Would I the customer be filled with confidence in our brand if someone answered the phone and said ‘Sorry it took so long to answer, it’s been so busy all day – the phones haven’t stopped ringing, we’ve been absolutely manic with new customers!’?
Let’s deconstruct the sentence and see what happens:
Does this message inspire confidence? No – it more likely sends the message that things are out of control, unplanned for, and hectic. These are all ingredients that make it likely for elements of great service to be overlooked, forgotten, or not considered in the first place. It doesn’t send the right message at all.
Try to think of a better way to convey your message; one that inspires confidence. For example – you could say: ‘Thank you for waiting, I’m sorry for the unusual wait and I really appreciate your time. We’ve just had a great response to our new advert and have been busier than usual – but you have my full attention so how can I help today?’
2. Ask yourself the question.
Get into the habit of asking yourself each time you make a decision, or each time you take a customer facing action – will this inspire customer confidence in the brand? To begin with it might feel somewhat strange, you might have to really consider how a customer would perceive an action, a response, or a statement. You will need to unpick sentences, play back conversations and look at documentation in a new light, but very quickly you will start to change the way you work and your output will naturally shift to one of inspiring confidence.
3. Show enthusiasm no matter the time of day
Do you greet each customer with the same level of enthusiasm, whether they are the first call of the day, or whether they just so happen to have called 30 seconds before you switched your phone off for the day EVEN if you now know you will probably be ten minutes later leaving as a result? That customer has called during opening hours and deserves to feel valued. It’s okay to feel disappointed that you might be late but it’s not okay to let the customer feel that disappointment. Try to always present the customer with a consistently positive experience.
If you find yourself regularly being late as a result then it might be worth reviewing the shift times and closing lines fifteen minutes before the last shift finishes for the day to assist with work / life balance.
4. Explain yourself clearly
Often, we think we have explained ourselves clearly. We assume there is a level of knowledge that the customer has that matches our own, when this is not always the case. Consider this example and how it applies to what you do.
You walk into your office. A strange woman in there. She smiles, walks towards you, points to a chair and then guides you to that chair. Once you have sat down, she takes of your shoes and takes out a tape measure. She measures first one foot then the other – all without saying a word to you.
How would you feel?
Confused, like your space has been invaded, scared and a little upset or all of the above?
Same setup – but this time the strange woman smiles, says “Hi I’m Claire, great to meet you. Would you mind taking a seat, removing your shoes and letting me measure your feet?”
How would you feel this time?
Probably still confused – possibly less scared but unlikely to just comply.
This time, she says: “Hi, I’m Claire – we haven’t met but your company has hired me to measure all their employees’ feet. They are going to provide you with new safety footwear that will help keep you safe at work, reduce the chance of foot injuries and the best bit is that it won’t cost you a penny. Do you mind taking a seat and letting me measure your feet?”
Now how do you feel?
Not only has Claire explained what she will be doing, but she’s explained why, and she’s demonstrated what the value will be to you.
This is a far more comprehensive answer that is likely to leave you feeling happier and more reassured.
Take a look at your own customer interactions and your common responses to customer questions. Can you confidently say that for all of them you have:
Clearly communicated – no jargon!
Explained why something is the case
Demonstrated the value to them
5. Check back in with your customer
Do you check that you have answered your customers’ questions fully? Often a customer will present one question, and we will answer it to what we assume to be their sat/isfaction. How often though do we actually ask, “have I answered all your questions today?”? It’s a simple thing, but often the answer is no. The customer may have only had one question at the start of the interaction, but the discussion can trigger more questions. Sometimes it may just be that we missed one of their concerns or misunderstood their main frustration.
By asking this question before finishing your interaction, you can catch anything outstanding and know that when you end the call your customer is left more satisfied.
There are so many ways that you can add to (or detract from…) your customer confidence, but the key is to ensure that everyone in the team is aware of the potential for this and understand the impact it can have.
Once they are thinking ‘inspire confidence’, they can apply this to any decision-making, any documentation they send out, any questions they answer… It’s not about writing a standard operating procedure that gives them the exact answers, it’s more about training everyone in the organisation to adopt ‘inspiring confidence’ as a core value. That way they can work out the answer on their own, be more empowered, and help drive the brand forward – inspiring confidence in everything they do.
So – give it a go. Put inspiring confidence into the core of your operations and take satisfaction in the positive changes it can make.
New centre is set to transform customer experience and drive improved loyalty, retention and advocacy
TTEC, a worldwide leading digital customer experience (CX) technology and services company has today announced its new CX service centre for Volkswagen Group UK, which includes the brands of Volkswagen, Audi, Škoda, SEAT and Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, has gone live.
Volkswagen Group UK’s five-year digitalisation plan aims to transform customer experience and drive improved loyalty, retention and advocacy. Currently delivered from work-at-home agents, the program intends to shift to a hybrid model utilising both work-at-home agents as well as the centre in Leeds.
TTEC’s solution includes an increased number and blend of channels, with both the Leeds based contact centre agents and remaining home-workers delivering a greater customer experience via phone, live chat, messaging, social media and through a virtual showroom/live tour.
Adam Axelrod-Harash, Head of Customer Service Centre Operations at Volkswagen Group UK said: “Planning and implementing a transition with multiple parties involved at the best of times is a challenge, but when you put the current COVID-19 situation into the mix, it requires that extra level of detailed planning, flexibility and tenacity to ensure a smooth transition. I am very pleased to say we are now out of the planning stage and implementing an operational transition with TTEC, and on day one it has been as smooth and seamless as you would want. There has been excellent collaborative work from both the TTEC and Volkswagen Group UK project teams, and I look forward to a successful partnership over the coming years.”
Iain Banks, Regional VP, International Markets at TTEC, commented; “Digital transformation strategies are no longer optional when employees and customers need alternative avenues to work and shop. We’re very proud to partner with an industry leader like Volkswagen Group UK who have not lost focus on their customers’ needs during these challenging times. I would like to thank everyone that has been involved as the versatility shown is testament to the strength of this new partnership, our people and the technology that we have been able to rollout. We look forward to welcoming the team into our new state-of-the-art Leeds contact centre.”
Since the start of lockdown in March, businesses across the UK have faced a multitude of disruptions and had to come up with creative solutions to overcome them. Naturally, some businesses have been more successful than others.
One sector that’s had to adapt their approach quickly has been the insurance industry. There was a flurry of holiday insurance claims, for example, once travel was no longer possible and destinations shut down. On top of that, the quick transition from office-based working to remote working forced firms to cope with a significant change in a short period of time.
Perhaps the most important change, and one which some insurance firms have struggled to cope with, is how they interact with their customers now. Where before much of the customer interaction took place over the phone, especially when dealing with concerns, it’s now largely taking place over email. This has proven to be a much slower and less efficient method. However, it doesn’t have to be.
Dwindling customer experience
Claims handling staff, particularly those who work in call centres, are at the heart of the customer experience in insurance. Often, when a customer has a problem, they will be able to call and speak with an advisor who will help them with their problem directly and quickly.
However, due to both lockdown and social distancing rules, the number of claims handling staff working in call centres dramatically reduced. This means that, aside from emergency contact, many customers are being asked to contact their insurers via email instead. At the same time, there is an estimated £1.2bn in claims to be settled associated with the pandemic.
For insurers, what this means is that there is still a constant stream of customer requests and concerns coming in, but the capacity to deal with them has reduced. While this may seem more of an immediate pain point which will ease as lockdown measures relax, insurers should be and – in many cases – are looking to improve the customer experience.
Far too often, even in more regular circumstances, customers are left on hold while trying to contact the firm to resolve an issue, which leads to frustration and lost business.
While some customers may be more understanding of a less streamlined customer experience given the circumstances, this reprieve will not last for long and insurance firms must act on this gap in their customer experience.
Your request is now complete
Moving forwards, how can insurance firms improve their customer experience? The most important factor is to be able to deal with customer requests both accurately and efficiently. Having an effective online customer experience can help with this dramatically.
Currently, for many insurance firms, the online customer experience has been a pain point, particularly in recent times. The handling of claims sent in via email or online forms is currently a slow and laborious process, especially when relying solely on staff to review.
A solution to this problem would be for firms to implement text analytics to assist staff with this process. Nationwide Building Society did exactly this and to great effect.
Using AI and natural language processing, Nationwide Building Societ was able to identify elements of customer communication that could be improved. They realised that over half of all email enquiries could have been resolved by guiding customers towards digital channels.
However, to achieve this insurance firms must get their ducks, or in this case their data, in a row. For the technology to work effectively, the algorithms must be fed by strong and relevant data to enable the best decisions.
Getting your ducks in a row
First thing’s first: insurance firms must ensure that they have full visibility of their data before they start implementing analytics technology. To make this a reality, customer data cannot be siloed within a variety of different environments, as is often the case. Instead, it should ideally all be accessible from a centralised cloud system so that it is all in one place.
From this vantage point, insurance firms can assess all of their data and cherry-pick the data which is strongest and most relevant. This is particularly important for insurance firms, given much of their data comes from online completed customer forms. These often have unique fields such as policy ID, customer names and dates of birth, which can be difficult to manage as the data is sometimes inconsistent or formatted strangely.
With full visibility over all this data, firms can clean up any data issues, while ensuring only the most pertinent data is fed into the algorithms which power AI and natural language processing.
However, they must also be realistic about what they aim to achieve. A manageable target would be to aim for a prioritised list of customer interactions with key data items validated and passed to other systems where appropriate. This will allow insurance firms to enjoy a similar experience to Nationwide: identifying customer concerns which can be redistributed to digital channels while prioritising the concerns which need human interaction.
While nobody could have predicted the recent disruptions and their magnitude, it has highlighted deficiencies in business models which must be addressed. Insurance firms cannot afford to leave their customers in a waiting room. Now is the time for them to properly manage their data and implement analytics to simplify and streamline the customer experience exponentially.
I would hope that in every business that it is clear who is responsible for sales and who is responsible for post-sales service. What may not always be clear is who is responsible for what happens in between.
Who is responsible for helping the customer move from one stage to the next? Is it the sales team or is it the service team? Or perhaps there needs to be a dedicated customer onboarding team. If no one is responsible, and it is left to chance, customers may fall into the “CX Chasm” never to be seen again!
Recently a friend of mine bought some furniture from a well-known UK furniture brand. She had made her choice, placed the order with the salesperson in-store, and paid the invoice.
She was given a delivery date and all that was left to do was wait. Delivery day came, she waited but nothing arrived. She contacted the furniture company only to be told that the products that she had ordered were out of stock and no longer available. She was fuming! She had fallen down the “CX Chasm” and no one had realised. It was then up to the service team to get her out. They did their best to help and I am pleased to confirm she now has her furniture and although it was not her first choice she did get a more expensive product for the original price she paid. However, the damage has been done and she will not be recommending this company to friends and family.
There are so many things we could analyse in this case study but I want to focus on the idea of the “CX chasm”. Why make the service team’s job so much harder, and less enjoyable, when a bridge can be built across the chasm. The bridge is a framework of systems and processes, with clearly defined responsibilities, that help the customer transition from sales to service. This part of the CX journey is critical because it is the point where a customer is judging whether a company lives up to their expectations. If they don’t, the customer will be left feeling disappointed and let down and will likely take their business elsewhere.
The bridge that a company builds across the “CX chasm” will depend on the products and services it offers and its business model. For example, for low risk, impulse buys the bridge may be very short and simple. Take Starbucks, the partner takes your name and order and passes it to their service colleague. Next, they take your payment and wave you on your journey but not before setting your expectations that your order will be available at the end of the counter when it is ready. If clarification is needed, the service person communicates with the salesperson and/or the customer. When the order is ready the service person hands it over to the customer whilst double-checking the order and signposting to the milk and sugar should they be required. Whether you like Starbucks or not, you cannot deny that they have thought through their customer experience and it is probably the most consistent and efficient coffee shop experience in the world.
For more considered, high-risk purchases the bridge will be longer and more complex and the customer may need to be guided along to ensure they stay on the right path. Buying a new house is a perfect example. You wouldn’t expect to just agree on the sale and leave the rest to chance. The best property developers use a combination of human interaction and automated updates to guide their customers across the bridge over the “CX chasm” before handing them over to the customer service team. Another example would be enterprise software when the salesperson hands over to a dedicated onboarding team to guide the customer across the bridge. Once the customer has successfully crossed the chasm they will be handed over to the customer success and/or support/service team.
The final point to consider is whether a company would benefit from multiple bridges. For example, my local meeting venue offers a different experience depending on the package purchased. For breakfast meeting bookings, customers receive a series of automated emails in the period between making a booking and the day of their meeting. These emails, whilst automated, are signed off by a specific member of the hospitality team. A week before the meeting this same member of the team phones the customer to confirm the final details. For half-day conferences, the process is similar, however, the emails include videos from their dedicated contact including a tour of the venue and their chosen meeting room. For full-day conferences, the human touch is increased further and includes a live virtual, or face-to-face, meeting, and a physical welcome pack with a handwritten note from the customer’s dedicated contact.
In summary, it is important to bridge the chasm between sales and service to ensure that customers don’t get lost, have a positive first impression, and have a consistent style of interaction as they make the transition from a new customer to a loyal customer. The bridge will consist of systems and processes that guide customers on this next stage of their journey.
The mix of automation and human touch will depend on the product and services offered, as will the time it takes to cross the bridge over the “CX chasm”. Investing time to view this part of the journey from the customer’s perspective, and mapping out a process that surprises and delights, could be the key to unlocking customer loyalty and increasing the lifetime value of every customer.
Emerging from the coronavirus lockdown, brands and retailers are expected to shift towards sustainability as 37 percent of UK and Irish consumers became more conscious of their online shopping habits and the impact it has on the environment.
The research conducted by PFS and LiveArea has found a growing environmental awareness in consumers, with over 70 percent looking for recyclable or minimised use of packaging when buying from brands.
The temporary closure of brick-and-mortar stores resulted in many consumers reevaluating their shopping habits and how it impacts the environment. The report ‘Selling Sustainability: Adapting to the New Conscious Consumer’ reveals more and more consumers turning to more sustainable ways of buying, a result of the change in shopping habits.
During the worldwide lockdown, many consumers had in mind the process retailers go through prior to each successful delivery, which caused only 37 percent of them to be satisfied with the communication from online retailers or brands on the environmental impact.
Inquiries such as where and how a product is sourced are also becoming more important in the purchasing process, leading to 35 percent of consumers now only make a purchase if a product is naturally and locally sourced or sustainable. Fifty-six percent of respondents prefer to buy products produced in their own country.
Just below half (43 percent) of the surveyed consumers prefer to purchase in-store or to buy online pick-up in store (BOPIS), believing that these preferences have a lower environmental impact compared to online-only shopping.
Over-purchasing is another of consumer habits that has decreased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with over a third (37 percent) of all shoppers having stopped over-purchasing in aim to reduce pollution caused by delivery vehicles. Item returns have fallen as 30 percent of respondents are returning fewer items than before the shift towards sustainability. This change in habits could greatly impact on how online retailers and brands approach promotions in the future.
There is still a considerable lack of information provided by online retailers and brands on how they are handling returned items. Only 26 percent of consumers say that they are aware of what happens to products when they return them to online retailers and brands.
According to the figures from Optoro, a technology company that works with retailers and manufacturers to manage and then resell their returned and excess merchandise, 5 billion pounds of waste is generated every year through such waste. Fifteen million metric tons of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere during the handling of returned items.
Contrary to this, the research found that 42 percent of consumers believe the returned products are reused or recycled, while only 22 percent is aware that the goods are often thrown away. Indicating a need for change, more than 70 percent of consumers would change their online shopping habits if they were aware of the amount of returns that go to landfill.
On a positive note, consumers are actively seeking online retailers and brands who stand by their sustainable credentials. The findings reveal that over half of French consumers are diligent in checking an item’s credentials, while there are only 38 percent of those in the UK and Republic of Ireland.
Christophe Pecoraro, Managing Director of PFS Europe, commented: “For retailers, a change in behaviour and beliefs means they must work even harder to gain and maintain loyalty from consumers by positioning themselves as a brand that understands the needs and desires of its customers throughout the entire buying journey. Getting the balance right is important, but so too is authenticity. Consumers can see through empty gestures – substance is essential.Consumers are now more carefully considering what, where and how they buy items. The brands that meet these needs will be best positioned to thrive in the future.”
Benoit Soucaret, Creative Director at LiveArea EMEA, said: “Our research clearly highlights the immediate need for brands to be more environmentally responsible. The COVID-19 pandemic has made consumers reassess what’s important to them and their own personal impact on the planet. Now more than ever these conscious consumers expect brands to deliver on sustainability and are looking for them to communicate how they are doing this.”
In times of crisis we re-evaluate what we think. Tried and tested concepts no longer feel appropriate as we turn a critical eye on brands, institutions and governments based on what they have said and done and what they will say and do.
Lockdown has forced many of us into a period of reflection from the value of human connections to the craving of familiarity and even the benefits of having a simpler lifestyle. Many have been left feeling cautious and critical which, as consumers, has upped our expectations. This new mindset needs to be taken into account if retailers are to help get the economy moving again which means the role of digital innovation in the customer experience is greater than ever.
In an ever-digitising world, risks from coronavirus are forcing us to completely reimagine retail experiences. Where once bricks-and-mortar stores turned to automation to speed up the shopping experience, the emphasis is now on reducing human contact post-lockdown. As a result, we’re likely to see more self-checkout options – Amazon Go, Jack & Jones, Hema.
Facial recognition, checkout-free stores and click and collect will grow in importance. There will also be a rise in collection-only kiosks, as we’ve already seen with Boots and Amazon, and further crossover store concepts like IKEA’s central London Planning Studio, which allows retailers with larger warehouse operations to storefront new functional brand experiences.
The impact on physical stores has created fierce competition online, in the increasingly crowded e-commerce environment. Brands entering the online space for the first time would be mistaken if they think they can copy and paste their physical retail experience without making significant adjustments for digital platforms and consumption behaviours.
Patience is scarce online, so slick and seamless digital customer experience is key at all moments – from browsing and comparing, to checkout and customer service. Showcasing inventory is a struggle for most e-commerce retailers, as consumers have to work harder to find what they are looking for, thanks to an abundance of choice.
The use of AI and machine learning can considerably help speed up the decision process, refine recommendations and predict behaviours – critical to helping keep consumers focused finding what they need, rather than losing interest and navigate to a competitor’s site. But machines don’t always get things right, which is why CRM and mapping customer behaviours is a growing area of investment and hugely important.
Online shopping naturally presents more opportunity in consumer decision consideration – the information a customer can take in – than browsing aisles. Retailers can use this to connect customers with wider brand truths and product differentiators – to capture the visual and emotive cues of physical retail, but also to drive brand recognition and salience. If done in a novel or innovative way, it can be as impactful as visual merchandising and in-store creative activations.
In an omnichannel marketing mix, this must also be reflected on mobile. Many brands still don’t invest in optimising their mobile experiences, leading to poor buyer experiences, abandoned carts and – even worse – losing customers to competitors. Brands must test and then test again, to make sure their mobile site and shopping experience doesn’t have broken links, false claims or disconnects across your desired customer journey.
As many have taken to buying online, there’s been a fascinating revival of customer service and call centres.
Providing emotional safety net is key where consumers aren’t able to see a product, hand select it, or even get more advice. There are many options: an on-site integration ‘call now’ button while signed into your account; a web chat or ‘sticky’ help buttons throughout the digital customer journey; or even a backend system that helps retrieve the status of your order.
Whatever the solution, consumers find it more reassuring when they are speaking to a real person they feel they can hold to account. EE and Vodafone are particularly good at integrating customer service within an in-account experience – making it feel like you’re not having to ask the same question several times, thanks to meta technology that captures previous conversations and queries.
An older example we can still draw insights from is the Dominos Dom Bot – this creative device helped bridge an anticipation and expectation gap in a way we’d not seen before, other than in private delivery companies. It broke down the process of what happens post-purchase and made it transparent – creating peace of mind because often, the hardest part of buying an item online is simply not knowing what’s happening next. Put that into the hands of a consumer and they’ll come back for another slice of your brand as well.
This month alone Marks and Spencer, Ted Baker and Arcadia Group were among the many retailers announcing significant job cuts with numerous household names also announcing their relaunch as online-only stores. Digital customer journey has gained significant relevance and it is integral that brands offer exceptional experience across all of their touchpoints, to increase dwell time and sales.
But it requires constant testing of durability and user experience to mitigate bad buyer experience. Innovation and creativity are already proving essential to create cut through – if retail brands stand a chance of weathering this storm they must observe, learn and adapt.
“An excellent and well-constructed entry that showed that the business truly understands the benefits of putting the customer first.”
“A strong submission with supporting evidence of how the culture has joined up two parts of the business around the customer.”
“Fabulous presentation delivered with passion and precision. Interesting journey showing real thought about customers via mapping.”
These were just some of the comments Judges had after evaluating the initiative by Solus Accident Repair Centres, the overall winner of the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards.
Solus Accident Repair Centres, part of Aviva Group, presented their transformation over a 3-year period after which they became number one rated in their sector and grew their TNPS scores from 35 to over 60.
The company identified which areas needed focus and these are: improving the operational flow, changing their culture, customer-centric measures and remuneration redesign.
What particularly stands out in Solus’ initiative is the company’s culture: championing female technicians, focusing on wellbeing, diversity and inclusion and making sure that each employee feels appreciated and valued.
Thanks to their leadership model, customer experience was made to be the responsibility of everyone in the business, removing a split between the frontline and technical staff.
Before triumphing as the overall winner, Solus Accident Repair Centres won Gold in Customer Centric Culture category, earning recognition for a truly customer centric organisation.
The entry deadline is 7 August until when you can submit your entry and become a part of a worldwide CX movement, giving you the chance to meet and compete with companies from all over the world.
No matter the size, sector or scope of your organisation, you can choose the right category for you. Join the household names in the UK as a winner at the biggest and most compelling CX event in the world.
Are you ready to win? Try your luck or download the winning case study and prepare to conquer the UK CXA 2020!
As the importance of customer experience (CX) continues to be front and centre for businesses, it is crucial for brands to constantly engage with their customers through personalised content.
However, research by SoDA has shown that whilst most C-level executives (97 percent) recognise the importance of a personalised digital experience, less than 40 percent use even the most basic targeting criteria for personalisation.
Tailored content is essential for creating meaningful dialogue with customers and it can act as a catalyst for enabling unrivalled customer experiences and business growth. So why do many marketers see content as something that is difficult to control and manage?
The rise in demand for personalised experiences has led to an increase in challenges marketers face in their efforts to truly deliver a personalised CX. In fact, 44 percent of senior marketers believe they can’t produce content fast enough to power personalised marketing, which is a must-have to meet the expectations of today’s customers.
This recognised importance of personalisation is a reminder that it must be a priority for marketers – lack of budget or talent is not an excuse, and neither is legacy software and systems. Fortunately, there are a number of cost-effective steps which can meet the need for high volumes of quality content without breaking the bank.
Relocate centrally: Marketing teams often have trouble managing and sharing their assets because their content exists in siloes. To build a solid content foundation, organisations must get assets into a central location, such as Sitecore’s Content Hub, where all teams can access and edit all content.
Map the content lifecycle: Determining starting points and priorities requires that the milestones of the content lifecycle be broken down and defined. This can be a useful exercise to align content needs to customer journeys, allowing organisations to understand when and where assets are required and implement existing content where it can be most effective.
Embrace automation: Research from SoDA found that 39 percent of senior marketers believe their processes are too manual to meet content needs; automating content creation and management increases efficiency and productivity. This technology investment enables marketers to achieve true end-to-end content lifecycle management and improve workflows, while also reducing costs.
Establish leadership: Finally, once content is stored in a central platform for all users to access, the organisation must determine who is responsible for the management of different assets. Separate teams can then manage, edit and personalise content with ease across marketing, HR and social channels.
Star Cooperation is one example of where taking control of content, by managing it centrally and reusing it effectively, has shown impressive results. The company, which services a number of luxury automotive brands, needed to help one car maker serve differentiated content about a range of car models, to many different personas, across a variety of channels. This required content needed to be created quickly, mixed and matched for different purposes, and organised effectively. Star Cooperation supported the carmaker to create an end-to-end content management system, that connects and merges all content, making it easy to adapt and translate assets for different markets as and when it is needed.
Through the implementation of a content hub, Star Cooperation has helped the customer create millions of pieces of content per year, and to significantly reduce the time it takes to create them. What is more, because content is stored centrally and can be easily adapted across markets, the brand has seen faster time to market and increased sales, as well as better and more consistent brand communication across all channels.
Personalisation is at the heart of CX, but its execution and management across an ever-increasing number of channels is a problem faced by many marketers. To combat these challenges, rigorous processes need to be put in place, which can help identify the starting point based on the ideal outcomes for the business.
Centralising all content and shared assets in a single location enables widespread access and maintains brand consistency. It also allows for personalised customer interactions to be created with the right content and served at the right time and place. This level of personalisation provides customers with the ability to make informed decisions about purchases, which in turn highlights the role of CX as a driving business factor for online-first customers.
The CX technology market is hot right now. The pandemic revealed just how poor most companies’ CX infrastructure is and has exposed wide gaps in how companies interact with customers, especially through digital channels.
As a result, many companies have re-prioritised digital initiatives and are taking a hard look at their customer-related operations. In fact, Grandview Research predicts a 250 percent increase in CX spending by 2027.
Customer journey orchestration, digital channel expansion, AI and RPA are just a few examples. But the old ways of CX implementation won’t work anymore. The pace of change has accelerated to the point where long-term implementations are outdated before they are even launched. Customers demand immediate innovation to match the likes of Amazon. To help brands in this new normal, TTEC is partnering with clients looking to take an incremental, cloud-based approach to CX improvement that we call Customer Experience as a Service (CXaaS).
CXaaS serves the holistic customer experience with a mix of technology-enabled optimisation, automation, analytics and continuous improvement. It is not only the backbone but also the launchpad of true digital transformation. More than a technology refresh, CXaaS enables a foundational and cultural shift to digital, driven by innovation. It reimagines how a customer experience should be thought of, delivered, and paid for.
That’s where IT comes in. Most often, IT initiatives deliver big hardware/software implementations based on contact centre operational requirements. These can take years and get mired in operational and technical obstacles along the way. They typically focus on one slice of the customer experience, not the big picture. And the metrics for success tend to be operational and cost-driven, and not aligned with customer success metrics on the business side.
With CXaaS, IT aligns with the business and CX partners to continuously make improvements across all facets of the customer experience that build on one another.
Rather than consider IT as a cost centre responsible for capital expenditures (CAPEX), it plays an important role in managing recurring operational expenditures (OPEX) that can be mapped to revenue growth and cost savings. These benefits are then re-invested to drive even more benefit and continuous improvement. The focus is on meeting digital business customer-orientated objectives with enabling technology, not having just a sole technology focus.
IT is CXaaS’ secret weapon
In our work with clients developing CXaaS programmes, IT has emerged as a critical partner to help sustain momentum and avoid pitfalls during the strategy, contracting and execution stages of CX initiatives. Here are six ways that an engaged IT partner can improve CXaaS projects within the contact centre and throughout the customer experience.
1. Bridge the gap in the customer journey
Often the biggest impact on CX is outside of the responsibility of the customer-facing operation. In many sectors the back-office systems are key to complete the customer journey—paying an insurance claim, confirming the delivering of an item, etc. Integration with these operations and the associated systems and data is critical to achieving the desired customer outcomes. This can be tricky as often they are core legacy systems that can be bespoke to the brand’s operation and have a long backlog of changes and upgrades, not to mention huge risk management sensitivity.
The IT organisation is best to know if, how, and when integration is possible and can plan and manage expectations as well as accelerate the priority of customer integration. Without this forward thinking, the delivery of the business benefits can at best be reduced and at worst, severely delayed.
Successful integration requires co-working between the provider and the brand – not just defining the data flows required, but also who does and is responsible for what.
2. Share objectives and metrics
IT is largely measured on cost savings and time to implementation. With CXaaS, there’s a recognition that technology helps drive other important metrics further down the value chain like cost-to-serve, customer satisfaction, employee longevity, reduced training costs and more. Both the business and technology side can share ownership of these metrics and outcomes. Each stakeholder group extracts value from the others’ systems (CRM data, ERP info, contact centre analytics, training results, performance management, etc.) to create a cohesive, interconnected end-to-end customer journey. It’s critical that there is transparency among all stakeholders (including IT) to set realistic goals and metrics focused on outcomes.
3. Mitigate financial risks with short-term commitments and flexibility
Clients are often stuck with long-horizon IT projects because of a long, drawn-out investment process needed to purchase and implement software and hardware. Many tech vendors require multi-year contracts to lock up revenue and keep clients in their programmes. Switching is often too much hassle.
A CXaaS model doesn’t depend on one specific hardware or software, so it can move at pace. IT organisations will still provide input or direction on CX technology to create an optimal programme, but leave the daily technology set up and maintenance to a CX partner while focusing on their own core IT needs.
IT should be at the table when operations and CX partners decide on the technology to be used within the CXaaS model, but also negotiate the right to change technology if the needs of the programme change. Their input upfront is invaluable to save headaches down the road.
4. Actively participate during contracting
In the contracting stage, IT can provide valuable insight into a number of critical areas. As mentioned above, they can partner with the business and CX partners to negotiate the types of technology to use, and what parameters would be acceptable to warrant switching during the program.
In addition, during the RFP process, they can provide CX partners with a better understanding of the types of CX data available at the client from day one, so that there is a clear knowledge of how transformative the project will be.
5. Reveal hidden value found in customer data
Customer data is the life-blood of a customer-facing operation. The systematic analysis and exploitation of customer data allows an operation to optimise efficient and effective customer interactions that ultimately will deliver competitive advantage. However, traditional IT organisations view customer data through a security lens: How secure is it, what geographical or functional siloes does it sit in, and which systems can access it? Yet customers often share data with a company because they expect value in return. With a strict security focus, there is a missed opportunity to extract the full value that customer data holds.
A CXaaS model is built on a foundation of data and insights. Working with the business and CX partners, IT can share their data expertise and expand their work beyond security to garner insights hidden in databases. They can also advocate for the safe use of that data by the business to strike an important value versus risk balance.
6. Futureproof your CX
A CXaaS model is built on joint work between a company and CX partner. Sometimes it is not clear as to who owns what both in terms of systems and the data they hold. So what happens when the contract ends? At what point does the brand take over or switch partners, and how is it done without impacting the customer experience? Having IT involved throughout the program will make these decisions easier and ensure seamless transitions as contracts end and new partners come on board.
Enable the CXaaS ecosystem with IT
CXaaS is designed to be more adaptable and flexible than traditional CX projects. It’s a team effort built on business objectives. But it can’t be done without underlying technology that is also flexible. Aligning IT with contact centre operations and the CX partner to create this ecosystem will generate the outcomes that companies (and their customers) are looking for, both today and tomorrow.
The story of how 2 CXers from across the Atlantic found each other, and their CX tribes while sharing their passion for Customer Experience with the world.
Both Hannah Foley, CCXP and Janelle Mansfield, MBA are authors of the bestselling series “Customer Experience”, each of them having contributed content on their favourite aspects of CX.
Together they support each other through regular skill sharing sessions, an accountability buddy system and additional project capabilities or capacity as needed. Through growing their relationship they have found a much needed enhanced support system to help them thrive while being solo CX entrepreneurs.
Hannah Foley’s thoughts on the importance of finding yourself a community of collaborative individuals:
I remember when I was setting up my first customer experience team, it was new for the business and new for me. I’d got the leadership buy-in I needed for the plans but I felt like I needed to ratify and bounce my ideas around with other CX-ers. I had to reach beyond the business and look for advice and experience outside of my immediate company network.
Janelle & I both left the corporate world on different sides of the world to become customer experience consultants. It sure as hell was a scary thing taking the leap from corporate life to the solitude of running your own business from home but with the help of a few people and places we have both found ourselves surrounded by CX love!
Fast forward several years and we’ve built our respective CX tribes that are supportive, collaborative and fun to be around (albeit virtually right now!). A professional network, especially as a consultant but also as a practitioner within an organisation is an invaluable resource for an assortment of reasons.
From this network I can source personal business advice, get an instagram like or share, we can find opportunities when we need them, it’s a great way to ask for examples of approaches to business challenges, we can pass opportunities on if they aren’t right for us and we can get ours hearts full to the brim with CX chatter. We even send each other happy mail across the globe to brighten up a postbox full of utility bills.
Finding a business tribe isn’t easy, it’s a bit like moving to a new town and trying to build a social life from scratch. Here are some tried and tested ways to find your people and feel the support of the wonderful worldwide CX community:
Become a CCXP – becoming a CCXP was like getting a big badge that said “I love CX too, come talk to me!’ It’s not just a confidence builder for clients or colleagues, it’s a great way to make connections. If you are already a CCXP then pop it in your LinkedIn heading ‘Hannah Foley CCXP’ and watch the invites pop up.
Be proactive on LinkedIn – if you went to a face to face (F2F) networking event, you would hear the host tell you – “you’ll get out of this what you put into it” – LinkedIn is a virtual networking platform. Find your fellow CCXPs and slide into their DMs with a connection request and a friendly / polite personal message. Comment on the posts of fellow CX people and join the debates and discussions – like & share them.
Find people on your wavelength – are you particularly interested in a certain industry, CX discipline or geography? If you were a runner and you moved house to a new town you would join a local running club – find the CX club that you can connect with and put in a shift to get to know them. Follow hashtags on LinkedIn, join groups and ask people for recommendations of events or people to reach out to.
Get out there – are there F2F or virtual events coming up? Find events that are good for you – are there CXPA regional events? Are there conferences organised by people in your network that you can support and get value from? Go along and participate – don’t just sit and observe, be social, be brave… you never know what opportunities might come up.
No online events that catch your eye? Why not create your own? Create a podcast series on a You-Tube channel or start a series of instagram lives and invite people you have connected with to take part. You’ll facilitate some engaging discussions, have lots of fun and make some brilliant connections.
Be brave and organise some 1:1 chats – you will find that the global network is smaller than you think. It’s like 3 degrees of separation in CX – everyone is somehow connected to everyone by just 3 connections on LinkedIn and some are even related! If there’s someone you think could be good for you and you might be able to have some good CX chats – invite them to a Zoom call! What have you got to lose?
Janelle and I met through a mutual connection with Naeem Arif who was looking for contributors to get involved with the first instalment of the Customer Experience book last year. This opportunity presented itself on LinkedIn and we put our hats in the ring, from that first book we not only became best selling authors but we also gained a Whatsapp tribe of wonderful CXers from around the world.
We have both supported each other on client projects and even though Janelle is in Canada and I am in the UK it’s been no different to if we were in the same country. Janelle has a very active and lively YouTube channel which features some of the authors from the Customer Experience book – take a look!
Janelle Mansfield talks the importance of having a trusted pool of colleagues to collaborate with:
One of the scariest things about going out on my own was knowing that I wouldn’t have the benefit of hallway or watercooler conversations with colleagues. I’m the type of person that thrives on those impromptu interactions with others to get inspired, to stay motivated and to come up with better answers to the problems I’m trying to solve.
The first few months as a solo-preneure were the toughest. While I was having fun being my own boss and building AmplifiedCX.com, I struggled with growing my knowledge on a daily basis. Flash forward to October 2019 where I lucked out by joining the Customer Experience book project and suddenly finding I had a network of talented, highly skilled and purpose driven CX colleagues from around the world. Not only was it incredible to be able to achieve my goal of writing a book, but more than that I now had that missing group of trusted colleagues to leverage and lean on. I finally had that CX community I had been looking for and that feeling of belonging that I’d been missing.
Through that experience I have come to grow my network, skill-set and CX knowledge further through many informal and formal interactions with authors of the Customer Experience book series, and through additional connections.
One thing I was most surprised by, yet shouldn’t have been, was the openness of this network to share their intellectual property, their contacts, their learnings and their time. CXers, on the whole, are a generous bunch, and this group is no exception.
Finding another solo-preneur to collaborate with has been a game changer. Hannah and I have become each other’s cheerleaders, supporting each other as sounding boards, and even helping each other on projects where we simply needed that extra bit of help. I remember a recent project where I was really struggling to be both the internal CX leader AND the external facilitator. One call to Hannah and she eagerly volunteered her time to help me out, just like a trusted long-time colleague might do. Being an independent consultant can be lonely, and it’s been so fantastic to have Hannah and others by my side whenever needed. I always know that a virtual coffee or pep talk is only a WhatsApp message away.
My guidance to any CXer, whether or not you work for yourself, a small company or a large enterprise:
Build Your Network – we have much to learn from each other, and sometimes getting close to someone who isn’t within our own business can really help with perspective, motivation or cutting through the clutter of politics
Share Your Insights – I have found that sharing my stories and experiences has been incredibly valuable for others, and incredibly rewarding for me. To hear that my perspective has helped someone else achieve their goals warms my heart.
Be Generous With Your Time – Time is one of our most valuable resources, and I find that the more I give it away, the more I get in return.
Bringing our stories to the world with the Customer Experience book series
The latest Customer Experience book, out now on Kindle, has seen some new faces join some of the CX1 authors for a great new release. The book brings together a community of 24 authors from a multitude of customer experience backgrounds to share their latest thinking and best practices. The book aims to support other CX-ers and leaders find ways to bring about more customer focus to their organisations.
Download today from Amazon Kindle or order a hardcopy from mid-August. We’d love to know what you think of our respective chapters so pop over to LinkedIn and slide in to our DM’s for a natter about all things customer experience.
Written by Janelle Mansfield and Hannah Foley.
Janelle is an experienced executive and management consultant in the disciplines of customer experience, marketing, communications, change management and strategy. She is an early-adopter of technologies that foster better collaboration and engagement with customers, employees and stakeholders. Janelle is known for her open and approachable leadership style, collaborative nature and strategic thinking. Currently, she lives her purpose and passion by helping leaders amplify their customer experiences for better business results through her consultancy, Amplified Customer Experience.
Or, connect with her on LinkedIn (include the note: “CXM” in your connection request).
Hannah Foley CCXP, Founder of Yak CX, is a passionate and energetic customer experience consultant and best-selling co-author of ‘Customer Experience’. She has worked in the UK construction and financial services industry for 15 years in FTSE 100 businesses heading up CX teams for Wolseley & Barclaycard. She is passionate about helping organisations to develop their CX strategy with solid foundations based on deep customer understanding. Hannah also supports SME’s to build their businesses with optimised customer journeys www.yak-cx.co.uk.
According to the 2020 State of Customer Service Annual Report by leading growth platform HubSpot, a third of customer service professionals believe that their organisation do not view customer experience as an opportunity for growth, which is an increase from last year’s 23 percent.
More than 85 percent of CX experts claim that customer expectations are at an all-time high, which poses a challenge for modern businesses to invest more in customer service.
The report surveyed more than 1,000 customer service professionals from the UK, US, Canada and Australia in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, showing that 86 percent of service teams globally agree that customer expectations are higher than ever. Ninety-one percent of UK service teams agree on the surge in customer expectations, while 29 percent of them still think that customer service is an additional expense.
The findings also reveal high growth companies to be more perceptive of customers’ thoughts, feedback, and feelings towards their business. In general, almost 40 percent of businesses are not tracking customer satisfaction at all, while 69 percent of high growth companies are making an effort in doing so. By providing seamless, effective service to their customers, these businesses are able to stay ahead of the competition.
The report also found 72 percent of UK companies successfully tracking customer satisfaction, which is above both the high growth average and American companies (59 percent).
When it comes to using tools and data to improve CX, UK customer service experts are at the top of the list, with 37 percent of UK businesses using CRM, 52 percent using help desk systems and 36 percent using live website chat. The vast majority of respondents (93 percent) agrees that CRM is key to managing data in order to improve customer service.
Inken Kuhlmann-Rhinow, Marketing Director, EMEA at HubSpot, commented: “The evidence in this report shows that the ability of customer service to drive business growth is being undervalued. It’s important we focus on our customers and take care of them by investing in the correct tools to listen to their feedback. This can no longer be perceived as a burden for companies, but a real growth opportunity and perhaps the most significant way to ensure sustainable growth. Remember that customer retention is also a two-sided long game that requires persistence and strategy, so as a growing organisation, it’s important to scale both the employee and the customer.”
With some countries facing COVID-19’s second wave and a lockdown lurking around the corner, many businesses are still unable to return to normal, while eCommerce retailers which saw a spike in recent years were able to thrive and teach us a valuable lesson for handling a crisis in this new reality.
The trend can be seen positively as people find a way to fulfil their requirements even at dire times and businesses reach out beyond the physical constraints of the walls of their store.
On the downside, this trend cramps out a lot of newcomers to an already saturated market where competition is brutal, to stand out smart measures needed to be taken and automation is the smartest long-term choice.
Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, and many more eCommerce platforms had become a staple name in societies around the world. Both young and adult alike will most likely experience the far-reaching impact of those retail giants by either receiving or purchasing items through their services.
Tablets, Smartphones, and laptops web accessibility led customers to spend more time shopping, and the more time they spent the better they learned to manipulate and use the available tools for their best interest. Prices, as a result, became more competitive than ever before.
Customers today are likely to visit several leading websites looking for the lowest price and shipping costs and start rating before committing to a purchase. Retailers seeking to compete with this easily accessible information should use the right tools, such as automating their price comparison process with the right applications.
Manual scanning for competitors is time-consuming and ineffective. Instead, automated tools will fetch the required product data and price on constant intervals from the web at ease. They will give the edge necessary for competing.
A better understanding of upcoming trends
Compared to traditional retail transactions, eCommerce had its share of cons. A known fear of customers was the difference between the shown item on the web and its functionality after arriving at the customer’s house. In an attempt to overcome this, technological tools were introduced, such as augmented reality and various other applications designed to bridge the gap of imagination and reduce frustration.
Tapping into sources such as vocalized search results, customized browsing experience, and human-like A.I. support systems can ensure ever-growing data pools which are valuable for assessing upcoming trends in retail and eCommerce markets alike.
Following this data crumbs will prove invaluable for business owners as understanding trends will drastically change the way they face the market and progress.
When it comes to intelligent design, research, and understanding results, the human element is still not out of the picture yet.
However, human labour isn’t as needed for collecting data as previously was the case, giving up its space to automated tools that can easily scan vast numbers of responses and consumer interactions in a more cost-effective and efficient way than any human can.
Gathered information such as relevant keywords used by your customers can then be automatically translated into shareholder presentations or visualised diagnostic charts to ease the process of achieving the desired insight. Due to the efficiency inherent in the low cost and speed, the sampling can be repeated for better effect or in personalised formats and smaller or larger scopes.
Cheaper, more reliable and faster the automation tools grant their user the vision needed to plan ahead. Aiding to plan the next step by learning who is the client base and how to reach it.
When a business reaches out to its customers, it’s much more than just seeking exposure it’s about understanding what they feel about your product. Each click, each second spent on examining a product or reading a promotional text is an indicator of interest and potential deal. Many programs are therefore developed and designed to pick up on this information and act, analyse, or both for the benefit of the business.
Automation’s diverse roles can be seen from the basic email delivery systems ensuring promotional material and surveys reach their destinations to complex appliances of voice recognition and analytical tools.
No doubt that expanding the client base and securing more growth is a factor of how efficiently data is collected, that coupons reach the right customer at the right time giving him that personal touch and nudge needed for the sale.
The change of goods from one hand to another is as important as the initial stages which lead to the transaction. Each of those steps is a two-lane communication road that will impact further business, tight well-organised shipping, and delivery system will speak in volumes and resonate with customers.
The greater and further a business aims to reach the more complicated those steps become, with more regulations and restrictions to adhere to. Each border crossing, local or international, different laws and tariffs introduced and demand abiding to.
In response services offer various automation tools that will make smooth work any operation from one end to the other, taking care of payment processing, invoices, shipping schedules, transfer routes, tariffs regulations, and much more.
We experience changes that the likelihood of which had not been seen since the industrial revolution. They are sweeping the web, automating much of the tedious heavy manual labour previously done by human hands. In order not to drown, one must ride the wave, learn about this change, and adapt it as the tools to stay competitive. Early adopters are known to be the biggest winners in eCommerce and the process has already begun.
When face masks became compulsory in shops and supermarkets across England on July 24, coupled with President Donald Trump wearing one for the first time in recent days, the issue has once again been thrust firmly into the spotlight.
For retailers though, safety is the issue that hasn’t been anything less than priority number one since lockdown began.
The measures taken by retailers, both essential and non-essential, to adopt stringent safety measures in line with Government guidance has led to a different experience for shoppers. But the latest decision around face masks once again demonstrates the fears around a second spike of the virus where people congregate in enclosed spaces.
It is a very visible move that will impact each and every shopper yet mustn’t draw attention away from the myriad other ways retailers are keeping their customers safe which, for now, has created a ‘new normal’ for the industry.
It has been a bruising time for retailers, but success depends on the ability to listen to the mood of customers and adapt accordingly.
So, what is it that retailers can do to maintain a competitive advantage? The answer, it would appear, is to use safety measures as a differentiator. In an independent survey of 2,000 UK consumers that we commissioned after ‘non-essential’ retailers opened their doors in mid-June, we uncovered just how important safety is to winning both the hearts and minds of shoppers.
The study found two-thirds (66 percent) of shoppers said the safety measures a retailer has in place to protect them against the spread of Covid-19 will determine whether they shop at a particular store. Just 20 percent said safety measures would have no impact, while another 14 percent were sat firmly on the fence.
The pandemic has clearly heightened the emotions of customers and shifted their priorities, which exacerbates an even more difficult time for retailers. However, it also demonstrates an opportunity.
With the importance of safety truly established, it is important to consider how this affects loyalty. For this, the supermarket industry provides perhaps the best test case. It has, for decades, been ground zero in the battle for customer loyalty. The rise of so-called budget supermarkets, as well as technological advancements allowing for more elaborate loyalty schemes, have fuelled a relentless campaign to win new customers, who are often staunchly defensive of their favourite supermarket.
The research found that 69 percent of shoppers would consider switching from their regular supermarket if the safety measures put in place did not meet their expectations. The loyalty landscape has shifted, certainly for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps most alarming, is that almost half (46 percent) of all shoppers felt the safety measures put in place by retailers or supermarkets were inadequate or poorly managed. Interestingly, of those polled, more than one in ten (13 percent) had not even ventured into a store since lockdown was introduced.
The Checkout Challenge
By its very nature, Covid-19 is a virus that can be spread in a huge number of ways, particularly in a retail environment where not only are people gathering but touching the same equipment. To view the introduction of masks as some kind of silver bullet would be a mistake. Safety measures need to be far more holistic to make shoppers feel protected.
It is in this regard that many are found wanting. One solution to ‘clean’ high touch point areas such as baskets and trolleys, or the checkout area, has been to wipe down surfaces with bleach or alcohol-based solutions. There is a common misconception that this will immediately kill Coronavirus. However, this can take as long as ten minutes to be effective. When you consider how many people might use a payment terminal in this time at a busy retail store, you can begin to see how measures need strengthening considerably.
The balance is in finding solutions that do not impact on the shopper’s experience. It is here that established technology, such as Ultraviolet-C (UVC) light, is coming to the fore. Attacking surface-clinging viruses in less than thirty seconds, it provides a viable way to neutralise Covid-19 at payment terminals between each transaction without impacting on the shopper experience.
Crucially, this type of system vastly decreases the amount of wipes and other cleaning products sent to landfill, so is vastly more sustainable.
A New Battleground
The research demonstrates that less than ten per cent (7 percent) have complete trust that the current measures adopted by retailers will keep them safe from infection, yet more than two-thirds (67 percent) said loyalty to their favourite retailers would be impacted if they did not feel adequately safe in store.
Retailers have never been under scrutiny like this before, largely due to social media and its ability to share damning stories instantaneously to a global audience. Those that don’t offer customers peace of mind with considered solutions are unlikely to be forgotten, while conversely, those that succeed will put themselves in a strong position to earn increased market share as the economy begins to rebuild.
The ‘new normal’ has clearly redrawn battlegrounds in the fight for customer loyalty. But for retailers that pathway to success is a clear one; put shoppers at ease and footfall will increase.
How to do cutting edge Customer Loyalty? For a question, the answer to which has long been a preoccupation of many enterprises, surprisingly few really get it right.
In fact, all too many companies pay little more than lip-service to loyalty and run outdated, unimaginative programmes that fall far short of surprising and delighting customers. So, how do you best address loyalty, how do you improve returns and reduce churn, how do you identify winning use-cases and suchlike?
A good starting point in answering those questions is defining what loyalty is. We’d propose this working definition: “Loyalty is when customers choose a particular brand more often than competitors, based on their belief that the chosen brand will be a better choice both rationally and emotionally.”
If we accept this, then we can see that loyalty has two aspects:
Behavioural: This is reflected when customers stick with a brand, buying more of it than they do of competitors’ products.
Attitudinal: This is reflected in the more abstract reasons why a customer might prefer one brand to its competitor’s offering.
So, if we’re looking to identify the components of an effective loyalty programme then the key question is “what drives behaviour and positive attitude towards a brand?”
The correct answer, beyond the transactional, might be that Loyalty is founded on something that’s hard to measure (which, perhaps, is also why a detailed definition is less straightforward than it appears). We believe that Loyalty can only be truly developed as an effective strategy if the basis of an offer (driven by price & service) is consistent in its appeal but we would also suggest that instead of creating an entire marketing strategy around what prices and services you want the customer to prioritise, you would to better to prioritise instead a strategy driven by how we want the customer to feel. In short, emotions and returns are not mutually exclusive.
Separating what we’ll call our humanity from your immediate marketing goals is important because real, lasting brand satisfaction is achieved through the application of different strategic parts, not just the obvious ones. And in our years of experience as loyalty marketing experts, emotion lies at the heart of true loyalty more than anything else.
Emotion is the glue that binds together all the other elements (service, price, trust, reliability, empathy, rewards, timeliness etc.) that contribute to satisfaction and creates a compelling, desirable offer.
In simple terms, what really counts is how we make customers feel about the component parts of the offer we’re presenting them with, how we wrap and position everything and how/when/why we communicate our offer and brand. These are the steps that will really define the kind of relationship and associated emotions we try to build to represent our brand. Accept this as true, and we believe it is, then only brands that build more positive emotional relationships with their consumers will enjoy a higher rate of long-term profitable revenue growth.
So, accepting that brands which build this (more positive emotional relationships) with consumers enjoy a higher rate of returns over time then we need to understand the drivers of Brand Loyalty in some depth in order to build these lasting relationships. To do this, you have to take a structured, data driven approach built on the following elements:
Total brand experience: This means excelling at every interaction with the customer by providing superior value. It involves anticipating problems and offering a relevant solution, tailoring personalised offers, pricing and experiences, and simplifying interactions to the point of eliminating any friction. The goal here is not to adequately meet your customers’ needs but to surprise and delight them.
Customer recognition: Acknowledging what matters to customers rather than exclusively to you is vital: time together, special days and events, dedicated offers and experiences, recognition of usage patterns, profiles, changing behaviour, aspirations, beliefs all count.
Rewarding experiences: You need to deliver tailored and curated brand benefits, gifts and offers; surprise and delight offers mean actions beyond that expected, such as exclusive and curated rewards, emotional and functional benefits, a proactive approach etc.
Customer participation: We know that active customer participation leads to higher memory ranking; gamified mechanics like challenges, milestones etc. driving interaction and engagement deliver better results.
Follow these steps as a starting point and the results can be pretty significant. One of our clients who took this path now has more than 50 percent customer engagement rate – engagement defined as customers redeeming benefits in the last 12 months – far exceeding the industry average.
Typically, traditional points-based loyalty programmes achieve around a 20-30 percent engagement. The same customer’s Net Promoter Score, another of its KPIs, has moved from 3rd to 1st place in its market in both prepaid and postpaid segments.
Harnessing emotion means surprising and delighting your customers. In the Digital Age, that’s a good idea.
Written by Xabier Miqueo (pictured), Senior Marketing Consultant and Keith Brody, VP of Marketing at Evolving Systems.
A proactive conversational AI technology used by large corporations across industries, ContactEngine Inc. announced on 15 July the appointment of two new board members, Michael Beckley and Tarita Miller.
Both Beckley and Miller have a proven track record in the technology industry whose expertise and knowledge add value to the company. Michael is Founder and Chief Technology Officer of software company Appian, overseeing customer initiatives and the company’s technology vision.
Tarita is a solutions implementation expert whose experience includes 30-year employment as a program manager at Verizon, supporting the operation call centres for the entire company and serving on various boards including Junior Achievement, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (New York) and the Visions – Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired (New York). Tarita joined ContactEngine in 2019 as a program manager, employing innovation and technology to deliver transformational customer experiences for clients.
Giles Bryan, CEO of ContactEngine Inc., said: “We are delighted to have both Michael Beckley and Tarita Miller join the board. Aside from their notable expertise, Michael and Tarita bring with them a passion for innovation. We pride ourselves on innovation at ContactEngine – it is an important part of our company culture and differentiates us. Michael and Tarita will be great stewards for ContactEngine as we look to provide exceptional customer experiences with our technology and capabilities.”
Michael Beckley commented on the new appointment: “It is a very exciting time for ContactEngine. As leaders in the global customer engagement software market, the company has a significant part to play in revolutionizing the customer experience for some of the world’s largest brands. I hope that with my experience in the software industry I can help ContactEngine’s growth and development in the Conversational AI space.”
Tarita Miller said: “ContactEngine has enabled me to combine innovation, technology, collaboration and programme management to create transformational customer experiences for our clients. I am thrilled to be taking this a step further by joining the board. I am very much looking forward to helping ContactEngine become even more of a leading force in AI-powered communications.”
Meaning is what a brand signifies or implies to the consumer. It is central to brand promise, and it contributes to expectations against which customer experience is measured.
Dr. Martina Olbertova puts it succinctly: “Meaning bridges the gap between brands and people.”
Martina is an expert on meaning and cultural relevance in business, the founder of UK/European consultancy Meaning.Global. She phrases the business goal as “to help brands and businesses stay relevant, meaningful, and profitable amidst global culture change.” Her work explores the changing nature of “concepts such as well-being, purpose, spirituality, diversity, gender, identity, trust, loyalty, luxury, consumption or post-truth, to understand how today’s global cultural context reshapes the meaning of brands.”
While these concepts are readily understood and their importance is obvious, it takes a combination of art and science to systematically address them in practice. Emotion comes into play. According to Martina, “emotion is an absolutely crucial part because if the meaning a brand creates doesn’t resonate with you on some visceral level and doesn’t elicit the right emotion – linked to your beliefs, dreams, ideas, wishes, fears or things you love and identify with – it cannot be successful.”
That last quotation is a small bit of an interview I conducted with Martina, as we approach the July 22 online CX Emotion conference. Martina will present the closing keynote, Lead with Meaning, a perfect fit given the event’s focus on customer, digital, and user experience strategy and enabling technologies. In the following interview, Martina responds to questions about meaning, culture, and business impact and the role emotion plays, questions that explore…
Meaning, Relevance, and the Consumer-Brand Connection
Seth Grimes: Martina, you’re an expert on brand meaning and cultural relevance. Why are brand meaning and cultural relevance important, and for whom?
Martina Olbertova: Meaning is the core of value exchange, so it’s the core value for businesses and brands to create. Meaning is how we relate to value – through what things we interact with mean to us and whether or not we can identify with them on a personal, emotional and cultural level, based on our shared values, beliefs and ideas of who we are, our sense of self.
Brands are in the business of meaning exchange. When meaning isn’t present, you can immediately sense it – the brand doesn’t resonate with people, it cannot deliver on its promise, fails to generate real value for the customers, its sense of brand value implodes and the market sales tank.
Meaning is what people value – be it in brands, products, experiences or in human relationships. That’s how we relate to one another. If you don’t create meaning – the inner symbolic value of a brand or a product – that your customer can identify with and that in some sense enhances and elevates their feeling of self, their own identity, you have failed your job as a marketer.
Marketers are commercial meaning makers. Their jobs aren’t about counting, their jobs are about managing meaning and understanding the role of emotions and human psychology in value creation and value consumption. Brand management is meaning management.
That’s why I have identified these gaps in meaning to help brands and organisations navigate the maze of symbols in our culture and in the marketplace and help them see beyond the constraints of their everyday work done mostly in excel spreadsheets.
We have all the data we could possibly want or need right now, but we lack sense. We lack the broader cultural and social interpretations of the value that brands and businesses provide to people to understand what things mean in their real-life context. If we don’t know what we’re counting or if we fail to create value, the data doesn’t mean anything.
My job is to help brand and business leaders understand this symbolic nature of their work and the business that they’re in to restore this lost or forgotten meaning and create new value so that the brands and business they manage can resonate with people on a more profound level, and thus maximize their market share and market value.
And for whom is meaning important? For everybody, albeit for different reasons:
1. For the brands to capture and retain their core essence in the market and a core strategic vehicle how they create value in the market and in the minds of their customers.
2. For the businesses and organisations to have healthy, emotionally and symbolically rich and well-performing brands that can deliver on their promise in real life and create meaningful value in people’s lives to have a positive impact on individuals and society.
3. For the stakeholders to have a sustainable, steadily and meaningfully growing portfolio with predictable future returns on investment. As they say, there is no better way to make short-term profits than by creating a long-term value.
4. For the customers to have brands that make sense to them, value what they value, brands they can identify with on a personal level, brands that reflect who they are and allow them to communicate their stance in their communities and society at large in relation to other people and to their cultural differences.
5. And lastly, for the culture and society – so that we are not buried in meaninglessness and noise, and instead can create a more meaningful environment overall where we only create the things that we want to consume because the ubiquitous noise and nonsense negatively impact our mental health and well-being. The quality of messages we send out into the world positively or negatively impacts the environment we live in. That is truly our “meaning footprint”. We care about the carbon footprint, we should care about the messaging trail we leave behind as well. It is a basic corporate responsibility – to say what I can deliver and not promise things that are not in my place to promise or that I don’t fully stand for as a company.
Cultural irrelevance and value fragmentation are the biggest reasons why brands struggle to grow and retain value today. With meaning and cultural relevance at the core, brands can become meaningful to people, resonant in culture and profitable in business again.
Seth: Your talk at CX Emotion is Lead With Meaning, identifying 4 gaps of meaning. What’s behind the meaning concept?
Martina: This concept is a direct response to the lack of meaning in the industry, the point that I touched upon above. When brands don’t walk their talk, they get into trouble. They lose their integrity, their values weaken, their sense of trust goes bust. Such brands have a hard time making rapport with their customers because they are not to be trusted.
‘Lead With Meaning’ is an overall philosophy of my approach to brand management at Meaning.Global, which is a strategic intelligence consultancy I founded back in 2017 to help offset the meaning crisis in the industry, largely caused by the unprecedented level of change, global cultural complexity, value fragmentation and technological disruption over the last decade. We need to come back to essence – to the core value that brands are supposed to create to be of value to people. You cannot have a valuable brand if you fail to create value for people to consume and to identify with. And that core value happens to be meaning.
We are buried in meaninglessness in the marketing and advertising world precisely because we don’t properly understand the consequences of our actions as an industry. What you say comes back. There is nothing like “just saying something” if you are a brand – everything creates meaning. So, you need to be extra careful about whether your messaging and campaigns align with the values you stand for and want to portray as a brand and a company, and if you’re not actually doing it in a way that might potentially alienate your core audience and target market. Which is what P&G did last year with the seemingly progressive masculinity portrayed in their Gillette ad. I’ll get to explain why it was so unfortunate from the meaning standpoint in my presentation.
What’s behind this initiative is my sincere attempt to strengthen the industry and streamline meaning in brand management to help brand leaders manage brands with sense and not against it. There are four core meaning gaps I was able to identify in my work pertaining to four different areas of brand value: The Culture Gap, The Context Gap, The Trust Gap and The Social Impact Gap. If you want to learn more about these and how they impact brand management and value creation, you are welcome to watch my talk on Wednesday.
Seth: How does emotion come into play?
Martina: Oh, emotion is an absolutely crucial part when it comes to meaning-making because if the meaning a brand creates doesn’t resonate with you on some visceral level and doesn’t elicit the right emotion – linked to your beliefs, dreams, ideas, wishes, fears or things you love and identify with – it cannot be successful.
There is no successful brand management without creating a powerful emotional bond with people. And that emotion is elicited precisely based on what people deem meaningful to them, what holds personal relevance to their own identity and in their lives, what they identify with and how they see themselves. It’s about them, not you – as a brand. It’s all about emotions.
Seth: What technologies do you use in your work?
Martina: I use a lot of quite different tools in my work as it is equally about the creation of new things and ideas and a constant market and cultural analysis. For analytics, I use sentiment and emotion analytics tools, I also use Google Trends and N-grams. From the perspective of my own brand management as an entrepreneur and a creator, my whole life is on social media – I use it for sharing ideas, thoughts and insights, for having interesting discussions with people and creating global networks to cultivate new business opportunities. I use social media analytics. I also publish a lot on various different platforms. I create all my graphic materials and websites for an online presence of my businesses. And recently, I created and started hosting my own online show using Zoom.
Seth: You’ve just recently started a new online show. What does it cover?
Martina: Yes, that’s true. This new show is the continuation of my journey towards educating the industry on the importance of creating real value and essence for their brands and businesses. And where else is this dominance of the symbolic value of a brand (meaning, emotion and aesthetics) over the functional value of its products (convenience, utility) more visible than in Luxury! I already did something on Luxury last year when I published The Luxury Report on Redefining the future meaning of luxury, but I wanted to take it an extra mile this year and the show seemed like a very fitting format. It is the right time to explore these ideas more in-depth and having a show gives us the opportunity to have a voice, gather new insights and spread the message around the world in a more personal way.
Angela Tunner, who is my friend and a publisher of the international luxury lifestyle magazine EAT LOVE SAVOR, and I decided to create a new monthly online show together on the true meaning of luxury. We call it The Luxury Renaissance Show. It is about the Rebirth of Luxury For a New World in the Post-COVID Times as we are not going back to the way that things were. Instead, we need to fully embrace these strange times as a new beginning of a new world and define what that new normal should look like to generate more value for people.
I spoke to Forbes back in March when COVID hit in the US and what I said was that this might very well be a blessing in disguise for luxury as it forces the luxury industry to transition more rapidly and fully into the space it was already venturing into, which is all about wellness, well-being, healing and essence providing real value to people that is more experiential, transcendental and connected to what truly matters and what they deem meaningful in life – our long-term values, connection to ourselves, our inner essence and to other people.
We have big hopes for this show! Our goal is to elevate the industry conversation on the future of luxury and bring the missing piece of the puzzle – the knowledge and insight from the fringes back to the epicentre of the debate – to stimulate new ideas and new business opportunities. We want to use this show as a unique platform to create a global community and create a new context for understanding the meaning of luxury for a new world.
We are currently working on the first video – our first-ever episode only aired last week. We are aiming to cover a great variety of subjects that will be important not just for the Luxury industry moving forward but to all brands, as they are deeply connected to humanity and the changes happening in global culture when it pertains to creation and consumption of value. Some of the topics we are looking to cover are the evolution of human values, wellness and well-being, spirituality, reconnecting with our human essence and soul, elevating human life through the power of beauty and aesthetics, the art of home, the social, anthropological and historical ramifications of luxury, philosophy of luxury and many others…
And all of that, to create a rich context and help brands create new meaning. Certainly applicable not just to the luxury brands, but across the whole market spectrum, so stay tuned!
Seth: Thanks Martina. I’m looking forward to your CX Emotion keynote and your new show.