Customer Experience

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 23, 2018


Manuela Pifani is proof, if proof were needed, that award winners go on to achieve amazing things – on top of the success that brought them to the awards podium in the first place.

Having been at the vanguard of helping a range of firms improve their Customer Experience offering over the years in fixed employment roles, 2015 CX Professional of the Year, Manuela Pifani, is now helming her own consultancy business, allowing her greater freedom in indulging her passion – helping customers.

The University of Bologna alumni, who has made London the centre of her business activity, is one of only eight people to have been named CX Professional of the Year since the UK Customer Experience Awards were founded almost a decade ago.

This honour was bestowed thanks to her pioneering work with Direct Line Group (no strangers to awards success in various categories themselves thanks to Manuela) where she spent just under four years as Head of Customer Strategy and Experience.

Now she is her own boss at CXellence, a consultancy firm helping companies fulfil their Customer Experience goals at a time when quality CX delivery is more essential to business success than ever before.

Speaking of her journey, she said:

“For the last 15 years I have been in customer-focused leadership roles and this cemented an understanding in me that it is crucial to put the customer at the heart of any business strategy. If a business isn’t doing this, then it will never be successful in a sustainable way – it’s as simple and as brutal as that.
Being a CX leader is both an art and a science that requires an understanding of, and a deep empathy with, customers, as well as a range of technical and strategic skills. Once you can grasp this, then you can hone your passion and go on to improve your customers’ journeys for the benefit of your own business.

When I worked for Barclays, over 15 years ago, the concept of Customer Experience had yet to be fully established, and my focus was on driving service excellence, by improving . I wanted to improve efficiency of process and service delivery.

However, as over the subsequent years attention progressively shifted towards CX, my focus moved also towards building an effective Voice of the Customer programme and defining a clear customer strategy to better meet the needs and expectations of customers. These became the foundation upon which we built our customer journey design and improvement programme, also feeding into the development of omnichannel journey capabilities.

But this is not enough; the most important part of a CX strategy is to drive organisational realignment and cultural change, to ensure it is fully embedded in the DNA of the company.”

As to where she goes now with her many years of experience, Manuela said:

“I’m at the stage in my working life where I realise that delivering CX is a passion as much as a profession for me, and I want to be able to do it with more organisations and more often, under my own brand. I have the right amount of experience to confidently achieve my goals. I’m still in the early days of this new venture, but I’m certain that we are going to do wonderful things with many fabulous people.

Winning awards, meanwhile, adds a level of credibility that simply cannot be bought – it must be earned. They are benchmarks that show you are doing the right thing and achieving the right results. The motivation from that feeling of reward is fantastic, not just for individuals, of course, but for your entire team and all the business stakeholders who supported you in your journey.”

Entries are now open for the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards. For more information, click here.

Claire BonniolClaire BonniolMarch 22, 2018


You might look at some other companies with envy, the kind of companies that customers love – which create buzz and are referenced by impressed CX professionals.

Yet your own company could be the kind that others look up to when it comes to offering the best in Customer Experience. At CXB Hub, we look to what we call the ‘ABCs of Customer Excellence’.

The four As in benchmarking

A for Apple: The famous tech firm, which gave the world the iPhone and other iconic gadgets, has raised the standard of collaborative, premium, community Customer Experience.

A for Amazon: The champion of e-commerce. Founder Jeff Bezos earned his customer reputation due to his incredible efficiency in logistics and large-scale algorithms which push marketing info to the consumer to advise them on other purchases they may like. Another ‘A’ would be Alibaba, the Chinese answer to Amazon, which gives its western rival a real run for its money.

A for Accorhotels: Hospitality is a great source of inspiration for any industry wishing to deliver better Customer Experience, and who knows hospitality better than this famous French hotel booking firm.

The four Bs of your business model

‘B’ in this case stands for ‘brain’, and these are the four brains you need to consider when improving your brand’s CX.

The Customer Brain: When deciding on your business model, you should be clear on the level of self-care you want for your customers and ensure that you listen to his/her needs.

The Customer-Facing Employee Brain: Everyone in the company should have those employees as a top priority, and ensure they get the best information, the best training, and the best tools to deliver the greatest service possible.

The Back Office Employee Brain: Teach them about what is important for customer-facing employees to deliver the right experience. Tell them about customer insights and share some real experience, so that they focus on the wellbeing and performance of the customer-facing employees.

The Hard and Software Brain: Ensure that you have the right amount of digital tools aligned with your exact business model, with the aim of making things simplified for the customer.

The four Cs of your customer service excellence programme

Customer and Employee Voice: This is a must. Do not act before analysing the situation properly because your resources are limited; this helps with successfully prioritising.

Co-Design and Collaboration: Design your services with customers and employees, and then innovate in the kind of collaboration activities you need.

Culture and Communication: This is about service delivery. If there are more than 25 people in a single office, you run the risk of discrepancy between the brand identity and service business model, and the real company culture. Work on your brand identity and your cultural traits. Train and communicate on how to deliver the experience consistent with your brand.

Calculation of the Impact: Carefully choose a few KPIs that will make you understand whether you have an impact externally (customer satisfaction and sales) and internally (employee engagement and performance).


Mandy HolfordMandy HolfordMarch 21, 2018


Mandy Holford is Director of Customer Services at contact centre solutions firm Echo-U, and recently judged at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards. Here she describes, in her own words, how she went from an award winner herself, to a judge deciding the fate of others seeking recognition for their own business success…

Happily, I have felt the pure joy of hearing my business announced as winners on a number of occasions throughout my career in customer service and customer service outsourcing; heart pumping, adrenaline rushing, pure delight at achieving such success.

It’s such a wonderful feeling and, like a proud mum, I have seen similar excitement and pride in the faces of the teams around me when they realise they’ve won. That always touches me the most – seeing others relish in that moment of confirmation, of achievement, of brilliance. It’s such a powerful blast of emotion when you and your team connect with the winners’ announcement and release that tension of expectation, of want and urgent desire to win.

So it was with some early reluctance that I decided to leave entering awards to others in our business and challenge myself to sit on the ‘other side of the fence’ and judge whether or not people like me got to have that rush of positive emotions and achieve award success.

Has it delivered on emotion and excitement? Has being an awards judge offered a buzz and a sense of success and accomplishment? Bizarrely, yes!

I didn’t expect it to; I am not sure what I expected of the judging process but it’s been a great and different experience I have relished, and one I’d recommend.
My first choice for judging was the recent 2018 UK Complaints Awards, hosted by Awards International. Why complaints? Well, who in the consumer world doesn’t get complaints? Where there are customers, there are invariably complaints, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to engage in a world with a common purpose of learning, implementing new ideas, and managing complaints better. I have no problem with pinching great ideas and making them work for my business. Why re-invent the wheel, eh?

I really connected with the opportunity to learn from other great brands and emerging businesses. What did they do that was worthy of entering an award process? How did they manage complaints differently? Was it good processes, new technology, strong leadership, emotional intelligence, or emerging training techniques that offered them a different perspective and approach to managing unhappy customers? And so it began – I paid my fee to judge, followed the webinar to learn ‘How to Judge’, and set about enjoying my new responsibilities.

The first stage of this judging process was online – reviewing documented submissions with standard entry forms, presentations, and accompanying support materials. To be honest, this was an uninspiring start to the process; I wanted to see and hear people, feel their energy and emotions, but I had to wait a few weeks for that to happen.

On day one of the judging process, I and the other judges, had to be happy with a webportal, downloads, and endless paper spread across my desk. However, it didn’t take long though for the ideas and concepts to captivate me. In a category of just four entries, I spent two afternoons reviewing the content several times – I wanted to be sure I had understood, fairly evaluated, and not missed a single thought from those precious entries.

While the judging process itself was in full swing, there was another hive of activity going on with Awards International promoting the event. There was a real social media flow of new names, new connections, and great conversations happening with likeminded people. My LinkedIn pinged several times a day with ‘new connection’ requests and fabulous messages from these new contacts. Several online magazines @mentioned both the awards and specific judges and Twitter was alight with award promotion. There was quite a party going on!

The awards finals date – February 22 – arrived and at the gorgeous Park Plaza Hotel in London there was a buzz of activity and energy as the registration started. So much noise for 8am! After a coffee and chat to get to really know my fellow judges, we took our seats and the entry presentations began. I loved this part of the process – real people sharing their precious stories of challenge, determination, and success all in their own unique ways.

Entries that I had scored conservatively in the documented stage suddenly emerged as new favourites – video clips, storyboards, and animated presenters captivated us with their uniqueness and personalisation.

I have to admit to being energised and exhausted all at the same time when the final number went onto the final scoresheet. I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and with a rumbling hunger, ate our delicious lunch and waited to see if my favourites won their categories.

It’s important to note that we as judges do not see anyone else’s scores, either in the documented review or on the day. All scores are kept private, giving a real sense of fairness to the process, so I had no idea who would win.

With over 400 people in the room, the winners were announced and excitedly took to the stage with all of those trembling emotions I have enjoyed many times before. I felt so happy for the winners; to see their faces and excitement was such a reward. One of my category favourites won several awards which also made me incredibly happy (and validated that I had judged appropriately) but another one failed to make either winner or silver (runner-up). I was personally gutted for them and made a point of offering some personal thanks and thoughts to this team, who had given us a really worthy entry. Some you win, some you lose as they say!

There were many whoops of joy, fist-pumping moments, and a few tears of shock, and I wouldn’t have missed it for a moment. I thought I would miss being a winner but felt so connected to the event and its purpose that I was totally elated with just being a part of a special day for so many.

One of my mottos is, ‘when you give, you gain’ and this is so true of the judging activity. I paid my fees to judge, costs of travel to and from London, hotel costs, and gave a couple of days of my time, but in return I gained so much more. The buzz and emotion is priceless, the opportunity to connect and talk with likeminded people is highly rewarding, and there were great opportunities to learn and bring new ideas back with you. I even picked up two leads for our business on the day, so all in all, judging was a superb experience, highly emotional, and blooming exhausting!

However, I shall be back and look forward to many more special moments with other excited and anticipating audiences.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 20, 2018


Skipton Building Society is the fourth largest building society in the UK, with 95 branches located across the country and a contact centre based in Bury, Lancashire. With entries now open for the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards, we look back at Skipton’s success at last year’s awards finals when they won their category with an outstanding entry…

Skipton Building Society provides a broad range of financial service products that support customers on their journey for the ‘Life Ahead’, while taking pride in offering outstanding customer service alongside quality products that make a difference.

Last year was their ever first entry into the UK Customer Experience Awards and they secured the top spot in the Customer at the Heart of Everything (Financial Services) category. Here, we take a look at Skipton’s Bury branch and its award-winning initiative focusing on improving services for people with dementia.

Context behind the initiative

As one of the largest threats to an ageing population, dementia affects over 850,000 people in the UK. With symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, and problems with speech and understanding, the branch at Bury knew they could help customers facing this challenge and become role models throughout the company.

They wanted to help this core segment of customers and were passionate about acting as influencers and encouraging others within Skipton to do the same.

The initiative and great Customer Experience delivered

The Bury initiative focused heavily on tailoring an approach suited to vulnerable customers with dementia. This meant that colleagues had to be educated and confident in their role to provide service and be able to better deal with situations involving vulnerable customers.

For the Bury branch, it was also critical that they educate the wider community, support those with dementia, and create a physical environment which was supportive and empathetic to the customer needs of this segment.

In order to achieve this, the following solutions were identified:

  1. The branch was taken out into the community where volunteering played a key part. Doing this allowed the Bury branch to raise local awareness of how dementia affects lives while also building brand awareness and consideration.
  2. National focus days were identified that engaged branches regardless of geography or location.
  3. The Bury team built a strong influence outside of the branch and connected with the wider community, becoming a force for change.
  4. Digital technologies were implemented that amplified learning amongst colleagues as well as in the Head Office.
  5. Recommendations were made to enhance and improve the experience for customers when visiting a branch.
  6. External experts were consulted to help support the team’s understanding and capability to provide support.
  7. The Bury branch had to demonstrate leadership by acting as role models in building and driving dementia awareness.
  8. Customer feedback had to be actively collected, listened to, and acted upon, and in doing so demonstrate that every customer has a voice and that customer input is greatly valued.
  9. Colleague feedback also had to be collected in order to build training and guidance that would help others and get them engaged in supporting customers with dementia, while also encouraging ideas and solutions from other parts of the business to improve and drive dementia awareness.

The implementation of these solutions also included a layered approach. The Bury branch influenced people both internally and externally in their community.

Their cause was taken to the local Mayor’s Charity and was commended and recognised locally. The Bury branch also engaged with many other local organisations and institutions that supported their cause, even being invited to a national recognition event at the Tower of London.

Internally, workshops have been created to engage staff which included training videos that support over 500 colleagues and counting.

Business impact and results

Apart from being praised by the Skipton Building Society at large, the Bury branch, along with its branch manager Imran Najeeb, demonstrated strong leadership and commitment to delivering colleague support, community engagement, and exceptional customer service.

The Bury branch also created a wave of viral change across the Skipton Building Society, inspiring senior leaders across the organisation to become engaged in providing more support for people with dementia.

The entire organisation has become much more supportive of this vulnerable customer segment and it continues to inspire and deliver exceptional results in both Customer Experience and community support.

The UK Customer Experience Awards 2018

Is your organisation delivering great customer experience?

If your company has already put the customer at the heart of everything, then entering the UK Customer Experience Awards is a fantastic way to achieve recognition for your initiatives.

Entering the awards is a valuable opportunity to bring your team together and celebrate your success. Not only that, the finalists receive a benchmarked feedback form from an expert panel of independent and impartial judges, following a live presentation at the awards finals in London’s Wembley Stadium.

For more information on entering this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, click here.



Andrew TavenerAndrew TavenerMarch 20, 2018


Online retailing has expanded rapidly; the growth of the internet and advancements in delivery capabilities have seen many small businesses take advantage of this, selling through online marketplaces to maximise their reach.

These global marketplaces are predicted to own 39 percent of the online retail market by 2020. On the surface, this approach is perfect for consumers who can easily shop from their favourite retailers all in one place. However, underneath, retailers are faced with the difficult and sizeable task of managing the deliveries and returns efficiently and at a low cost.

For while more marketplace exposure means more sales, it also equals more returns; made even more complex by the requirement to offer the return policies designed by the marketplaces. For example, Amazon now requires third-party sellers to accept “automatically authorised returns”.

This means retailers must accept returns without having any direct contact with the customer, exactly when many businesses try to resolve customer issues to preclude returns. There are, however, ways to improve the control of online returns in the face of changing customer expectations and marketplace practices, which are critical in this competitive environment.

Understanding how best to manage product returns to reduce costs and maximise efficiency is key. Here are four strategies online retailers can use to tighten the returns process:

Return policies must be a forethought

Marketplace policy changes give retailers the opportunity to rethink how they handle returns. According to recent research from Royal Mail, nearly half of shoppers (47 percent) said they would be unlikely to shop with a retailer again if it charged for returns, and 60 percent would be less likely to shop with them again following a difficult returns experience.

Clearly a well thought-out returns policy is critical to good customer relations. Sellers need to decide whether to offer one return policy – for example, Amazon’s – or different policies for each marketplace/channel or for various product offerings (for example: low-end versus high-end).

Some businesses set policies based on the most generous marketplace policy. If sellers choose an ‘Amazon-style’ return policy with instant returns and free shipping, this can be promoted up front as part of a company’s brand. Unmistakably, a simple online returns process helps drive sales and cement customer loyalty – and overlooking the impact of a poorly considered returns opportunity can be costly.

A free returns policy might not always work

Returns can have a big financial impact on profits. Depending on the industry, return rates can be very low or very high. Book and video returns can run two/three percent, while clothing and jewellery can run upwards of 30 percent. Companies should right-size return policies based on industry standards and actual return rates.

Businesses with healthy profit margins can build the cost of returns into a product’s price. Charging restocking fees or not accepting online returns is less common but, for certain products or industries, it makes financial sense. For example, companies selling new laptops might find a restocking fee may be the only way to support thin margins. Likewise, for clothing subscription services a restocking fee for returns makes sense, since the items are essentially specifically tailored for an individual.

Evaluating whether the return policy of a particular marketplace works is therefore a critical part of the business decision to sign up to the marketplace in the first instance.

Sellers should right-size returns automation based on business needs

Retailers with high return rates may need a great deal of automation. Small businesses with fewer returns can often manage them in-house using cloud-based shipping solutions that simplify printing, or electronically creating return postage labels that customers print themselves. Barcodes on labels quickly identify customer records and product numbers to speed the return process, cut down on errors, and save time.

Integrating with internal systems is important for large retail operations with high return volumes. Returned packages sitting on the warehouse floor cannot be effectively put back into stock without the right system in place. Connectivity must flow from the customer to the warehouse to the shipper into marketing, sales, and accounting.

For companies with few internal fulfilment resources, a third-party processing service can help. Merchants need to weigh the benefit versus the cost of using fulfilment and returns processing by marketplaces or third-parties. Another way to manage returns if there aren’t in-house resources is to monetise returns by sending returned merchandise directly to a reverse logistics partner that liquidates inventory.

Returns cut into profits so minimising them is important

Good customer service helps avoid unnecessary returns by solving a customer’s problem with support, rapidly replacing missing/damaged items, or making exchanges. However, heading off an unnecessary return is hard when marketplaces allow automated returns with no merchant contact.

To combat this, sellers should use ‘scan-based’ return labels when possible. With these labels, the retailer is only charged if the label is used. Some retailers report that 10 percent or more of the requested returns are never actually sent in, making scan based return labels an instant money saver.

Providing customers with current, accurate product information is also important. By connecting ecommerce marketplaces to internal order status, pricing, and inventory processes, customers know if a product is in stock and when it will ship. Detailed product descriptions and quality images help to avoid misunderstandings. Customer feedback/review functions provide even more information to support making the right choice.

Finally, it’s useful to track which products are returned and why. Develop a ‘reason for returns’ report by manufacturer and SKU. This allows vendors to troubleshoot and avoid future returns.

Changes in return policies by Amazon and other marketplaces are an opportunity for ecommerce businesses to take charge of returns. Online sellers can use this as a chance to create better customer communication and loyalty, whilst addressing how returns affect the bottom line and streamline logistics.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamMarch 19, 2018


The upcoming CX Professional Masterclass is now sold out, but there is still time for you to book your place at the CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop, held in Stevenage on April 18, with an Early Bird Offer available until the end of this week.

What are the CX Masterclasses and Workshops?

The Customer Experience Masterclasses are a must for anyone wishing to master their CX skills, or become a certified CX Professional. The next available Masterclass will be announced in CXM at a later date

The CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop is designed to help attendees prepare for taking the CCXP Exam. The Workshop places a focus on understanding CXPA’s six competencies and the exam methodology, while offering sample questions for each competency.

Who is teaching them?

Ian Golding, CXM’s Non-Executive Editor, is a world-renowned CX trainer and the first person authorised by the CXPA to teach the CCXP accreditation. Ian has mentored around a quarter of all CCXPs globally to date.

He is a highly influential Customer Experience consultant who advises leading companies on CX strategy, measurement, improvement, and employee advocacy techniques and solutions.

Why become a Certified Customer Experience Professional?

  • Obtain professional recognition for your high level of knowledge of the CX industry
  • Demonstrate your expertise and accomplishments as a CX practitioner
  • Get formal credentials that showcase your standing in the CX industry
  • Increase marketability and demonstrate your commitment to continuous improvement

Do you need to attend the Workshop to take the CCXP exam?

No, attending the Workshop is not a requirement for taking the exam. However, every exam re-sit or re-application carries a cost, and attending the workshop can reduce the likelihood of re-applying and make the whole process of becoming a CCXP more rewarding.

Ian’s Workshop Masterclass is designed to fully prepare you for taking the CCXP exam, boost your confidence and enable you to take the exam stress-free.

The early bird price (£195) is available until March 23.

Can you take the exam immediately after attending the CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop?

Yes. Everyone whose application has beforehand been accepted and approved by The Customer Experience Professionals Association is eligible to take the exam after attending the Workshop.

Check out your eligibility and the details about the application process here.

There are only a few spots left for Ian’s CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop. Those interested in attending are advised to book now.

CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamMarch 19, 2018


The 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards will bring the cream of British CX talent back to London’s Wembley Arena this autumn, and potential entrants are being encouraged to take advantage of the Early Bird Offer to save businesses an amazing £100.

The awards will feature finalists competing in 22 categories, with presentations taking place before judging panels on the morning of October 11, before the winners are announced during a black tie gala dinner in the evening.

Categories open for entry include Best Small and Large Contact Centre; Best Hospitality, Leisure and Travel; and Best Customer Experience Training.

The final deadline for entries is June 8, with the shortlisted finalists being announced on June 22.

However, entries secured before midnight on Friday April 27 will save £100 off the standard entry price. Big savings can also be made for companies keen to enter additional categories when the order is made at the same time.

Those who apply for the Early Bird Offer by the April 27 deadline will still have until June 8 to submit their final entry forms.

For more information on categories and entering, visit the official 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards website.

CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamMarch 15, 2018


A recruitment agency is taking an industry lead by publishing the results of a pioneering ‘scorecard’ on its staff’s performance.

Peace Recruitment offers every candidate and every client the opportunity to rate how well the Edinburgh-based firm’s consultants service their needs.

Immediately following a consultation and at other key intervals throughout the process, candidates and clients submit their scores directly from their smartphone and the results are instantly live on Peace Recruitment’s website. There is no intervention by the firm in the process.

The system has gone live and the first results are now in, with an average score of 8.9 out of 10 candidates and 8.8 for clients.

Managing Director Chris Peace created the Rate My Recruiter software with a web developer as an industry “differentiator” and says it has helped build relationships with clients and candidates.

“It is about giving control back to the customer, allowing them to make an informed decision about which agency they can trust with this important task,” Chris said.

Low scores are followed up with a personal phone call to gain further understanding on where staff failed to match the expectations of the customer.

“As we have grown it has become important to get this feedback, as it ensures my finger is always on the pulse. It’s the glue that holds the process together, and the response has been really encouraging,” Chris added.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamMarch 15, 2018


UK consumers are ignoring online retailers that address them by name or wish them happy birthday, research has revealed.

As brands continue to focus on how they can use customer data to deliver personalised messages to shoppers, new research from marketing automation suite Pure360 has revealed that only seven percent of British consumers are interested in messages that relate to their personal details such as their birthday.

Furthermore just eight percent said that they are likely to engage with online retailers that address them by their first name in their brand marketing.

The study, conducted by YouGov to poll a representative sample of GB consumers, highlighted instead the value of tailored promotions as the most important aspect of marketing messages – with almost half of UK consumers (45 percent) prepared to engage with a retail brand that uses personalised offers in their digital marketing.

Millennial consumers (18-24) were found to be the most enthusiastic demographic about personalised offers, with 54 percent reporting that they would engage with brands that contacted them about deals.

Wales was found to be the UK region with the keenest eye for such opportunities, with over half (51 percent) of consumers threre reporting that a personalised offer from an online retailer would engage them. By contrast, just 43 percent of consumers in Scotland said they would do the same, with the figure rising to 45 percent among consumers in England.

Komal Helyer, Marketing Director at Pure360 said:

“Our research indicates that there is a considerable degree of scepticism among consumers regarding the marketing and advertising communications methods of online businesses and retailers. While there is a case for personalised communications, when they represent value and opportunity for the consumer, our findings show that it is essential for businesses to know their audience and understanding the kind of personalised messaging that will lead to positive brand engagement. Personalisation as it was known may be dead, but relevant personalised communication lives on.”

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