Emily CollinsEmily CollinsJune 4, 2020
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6min375

Brands have a personalisation problem.

While marketers and CX pros alike share visions of delivering individualised and anticipatory experiences that earn loyalty, the execution usually undermines customer relationships.

They can’t even get the basics right: only 7 percent of UK consumers agree that emails are usually timed well with their needs.  Right now, amidst a global pandemic and economic crisis, the stakes are high. You can’t afford to alienate customers with:

  • Personalisation that puts the business, not the customer, first. Personalisation efforts today are often narrowly focused on product recommendations or next-best offers that drive incremental purchases. A “buy this, do that” mentality prioritises the product and short-term revenue targets over what the customer wants.
  • Mounds of data that don’t yield the right insights. Much of the first-party data brands collect helps link purchases to a single customer, but it doesn’t provide much insight into who the person is, what motivates them, or what they’ll need in the future – all elements of a more meaningful personalised experience.
  • Tools, processes, and goals that reinforce the wrong priorities. Many of the personalisation tools out there are built to market products and drive sales – not meet customers’ unique needs. And since personalisation can manifest in marketing, service, sales, product, and other experiences, organisational silos and resource constraints only add to the challenges.

Success starts with a shift in perspective: reframe your personalisation program to put the customer needs front and centre. This means focusing on what value you can deliver for the customer, rather than the value you can extract from them.

Ground yourself in the customer’s journey and ask questions like, “What will they want?”; “How do they feel?”; and “How involved do they think our brand should be?” to define key moments where a personalised interaction might be welcome. And when you do start to test new kinds of personalised experiences, don’t forget to involve customers in your efforts by asking them for feedback in real-time.

Then, to enhance customer interactions and experiences based on context and preferences, you need data that’s going to tell you what those things are. A multi-national eCommerce retailer saw a 40 percent uptick in lifetime value when it used both purchase intent and customer motivation data in campaigns.

Lean on preference centres and progressive profiling to gain insight into lifestyle preferences that cannot be derived from what your customer bought last.

Whether you’re using customer segments to targeting offer content or machine learning algorithms to dynamically modify website experiences, check your personalisation efforts against three key questions. Does it:

  • Deliver relevance? This means determining what kind of value your customers want – and finding ways to provide that value, not just hawking the latest and greatest from your brand.
  • Build emotional resonance? This is all about creating memorable moments and feelings that have the strongest connection to customer loyalty. Demonstrate that you have a deeper understanding of your customers by talking to them about who they are and what they value, not just what they’ve bought lately.
  • Show restraint? Brands assume that if they have customer information, they should use it. But consumers already feel inundated by emails, and many crave privacy over personalisation. Respecting customer preferences might lead to some surprising results: a US footwear and accessories manufacturer found that shorter emails led to high customer interaction.

Done well, personalisation captures customer attention and creates value for your customers, which in turn drives customer loyalty and long-term profitability – all things you should be focusing on in this time of crisis. It’s never too late to leave your short-sighted product-obsessed personalisation ways behind. Your customers will thank you.

Emily Colins is a Research Director at Forrester Research.

Learn more about Forrester and their research content here.

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Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 3, 2020
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3min447

According to the latest industry research from the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA) in partnership with data specialist GlobalData, gift cards for self-use of the purchaser is now one of the main drivers of gift card purchasing, representing 22 percent of consumer spend on gift cards.

The value of this trend amounts to just over £1 billion, as more and more shoppers are purchasing gift cards through B2B channels (e.g. employer programmes) rather than waiting to receive them from someone.

The factors that have contributed to this trend are the rise of gift card and loyalty card hybrids where the primary mechanism for online purchases is the gift card itself, as it is the case with video gaming industry.

Another gifting trend may have also promoted the increase, termed “sunny day gifting” referring to gift cards purchased with intention to be used at a later date once everyday life returns to normal. This new trend has already been largely adopted by the UK consumers, who have been purchasing gift cards for their favourite shops, bars and restaurants to support businesses through the pandemic.

Gifting for others still remains the most popular purchase driver of gift cards, making up 70 percent of the market. A small percentage of the total market (6 percent) makes up purchasing of gift cards by company bosses for staff to recognise loyalty and hard work.

Gail Cohen, director general of the GCVA, commented: “Our gifting habits continue to evolve over time, as evidenced by our latest research which reveals that, sometimes, we just like to treat ourselves, for which gift cards are the perfect solution. ”

“Gift cards’ versatility, despite the name, in fact extends far beyond being used as a gift for others. Whether rewarding key workers, helping to provide free school meals to schools or even just being used to pay for the weekly shop, gift cards have emerged as the safe, flexible payment option of choice throughout this pandemic. Given this, the continued rise of gift cards for self-gifting, at a time when we all need a little lift, comes as little surprise”, adds Cohen.


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 2, 2020
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4min375

The finalists for the 2020 UK Business Awards have been announced, with a shortlist of hopefuls representing the very best firms in the country this July.

Hosted by Awards International, which brings events including the UK CX Awards to the capital each year, the UK Business Awards recognise the finest accomplishments from the world of British business.

Now in its sixth year, ‘The Dons’ are back with 16 categories, in which businesses of every size and sector have the chance to do well.

Among those shortlisted as finalists are Greater Manchester Police in partnership with HCL Technologies, The Green Energy Advice Bureau, Swimtime UK, The AA, and many more. For a full list of shortlisted finalists, click here.

Categories for 2020 include Best SME, Business Change or Transformation, Well-being at Work Award and Leader for the Future.

Known as ‘The Dons’ in honour of Awards International Chairman Don Hales, the event is celebrating its sixth anniversary in 2020, and the ceremony will be held on July 9 on Videoconferencing Platform.

All the biz: The UK Business Awards is celebrating its sixth year

Those who wish to attend can take advantage of an Early Bird Discount offer until June 15.

Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “We are all about celebrating and rewarding business excellence, and the UK Business Awards have become one of the country’s premier platforms to do just that.

“This will be the sixth year of The Dons, and will be the most significant to date, with a wide range of categories across B2B and B2C disciplines. As ever, the event itself will be a fantastic opportunity to network with business peers and share best practise, as well as celebrate our category champions, this time live online. A huge congratulations to all those shortlisted.”

WHAT’S NEW THIS YEAR


Oliver EhrlichOliver EhrlichJune 2, 2020
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8min520

The COVID-19 global humanitarian and economic crisis has forced individuals and companies to rapidly change how they live and work.

Many elements of business and life are being challenged; in some cases, the next normal may look very different as new ways of working are carried over into the future.

Customer experience takes on a new meaning against this backdrop. Leading organisations are re-orienting their customer experience- and communication efforts to meet their customers’ primary needs, such as safety, security, and everyday convenience. By consciously providing empathy and care for their customers during this crisis, companies can build a foundation of goodwill and long-lasting emotional connections with the customers and communities they serve.

Seven actions to demonstrate empathy for customers in times of crisis

Over the past few months, companies had to quickly act to stabilise operations and safeguard their own employees. With this foundation established, companies have started finding genuine, creative ways to show empathy and emotionally connect with customers.

The following seven actions outline how companies can address essential customer needs around individual safety, security and stability, convenience, ease of use, emotional bonds and trust:

1. Minimise risk by reducing physical interactions

Society’s first responsibility during a pandemic of this scale is eliminating opportunities to spread the virus, especially among the most at-risk populations. Companies have been doing this in lots of ways, such as limiting the number of people in stores, and providing markings to guide shoppers on the right distance to remain apart.

Grocery retailers, for example, have also responded by taking extra precautions, such as extending opening hours for the elderly and healthcare workers as well as free home delivery for the vulnerable and elderly.

2. Actively contribute to safety by innovating the product portfolio

Companies should ask themselves two critical questions: Do we have a product the world needs right now? Or can we contribute to society and rapidly adapt our product portfolio to provide goods that are urgently needed?

For example, some distilleries are using their ethanol supplies to provide materials for hand sanitisers through partnerships with refineries. Others using their manufacturing facilities to support the production of personal protective equipment, or ventilators.

3. Provide pragmatic help to customers in financial distress

As companies are forced to decrease operations for an uncertain time period, individuals and millions of small business owners face massive income and liquidity issues. Providing flexible solutions when dealing with financial challenges is now both a responsibility and a huge trust driver for companies.

Financial institutions and utility providers for example are not penalising customers with charges or service termination for those unable to meet payment obligations.

4. Bring joy and support the emotional needs of customers ‘trapped at home’

Many people are still forced to stay at home, and experience all the concerns that come with that. Companies are acting to make homelife more enjoyable and to also ensure the well-being of their customers.

Families have to entertain children at home, making easy access to online content a truly fundamental need. Telcos are providing free unlimited data, and entertainment companies have released new content ahead of schedule.

As another example, meditation and mindfulness providers, such as the Headspace app, will be providing free subscriptions to healthcare professionals and unlocking free content for consumers.

5. Actively shift customers to online channels

With so many directives around the world to remain at home, companies that previously relied on physical operations have had to direct customers to online offerings.

As an example, since many gyms have been directed to close all physical facilities, they are now offering hundreds of free online home workout courses to members. Companies offering virtual capabilities, as with Cisco’s Webex, are assisting schools and universities as they transition to remote learning by offering free tools for teachers, parents, and students to support the development of online-learning plans.

Companies without online services can find ways to establish and scale online offerings to meet the customer’s digital experience needs. This shift to online and digital channels has the potential to dramatically increase online traffic post-recovery.

6. Stay reachable and treat customers with care in personal interactions

With physical channels such as bank branches and stores less accessible, many customers are turning to other channels for queries and requests that need personal attention and care.

Service companies in telcos and banking are currently experiencing increased inbound call volumes in their contact centres, while at the same time having to shift their customer-service centres to remote-working arrangements. For example, a leading European telco equipped 10,000 call-centre agents with laptops and tool infrastructure within a week, enabling them to take calls from their homes. Companies that provide customers with additional guidance and support can maintain communication and engagement.

While most companies must address reachability, some companies, such as those in the medical industry, face callers who have significantly different types of questions than they did prior to the pandemic. Another key priority is proactively training call-centre agents to manage these new questions.

7. Demonstrate care for the community through company values

Companies can stay true to their vision while showing that they genuinely care about their customers. Actions taken during crises can help build trust and reinforce brand values.

One of the most talked-about company initiatives in Germany came from McDonald’s and ALDI. The two companies initiated a staff sharing plan so that interested McDonald’s workers from temporarily closed branches can redeploy at ALDI stores to ensure that the retailer can meet the currently increased customer demand. Supporting local communities while linking these efforts back to company values is exemplified by companies delivering free, fresh meals to medical workers in the cities they serve.

Forging lasting connections with customers

During times of crisis, leading companies are pivoting from marketing to helping, and from fulfilling customer desires to meeting customer needs. Socially conscious organisations across sectors and geographies are finding ways to get involved and support their customers and communities.

In this respect, the current COVID-19 outbreak is an opportunity to re-think the connections companies have with their customers. Leading in a caring, empathetic manner during these difficult times has the potential to create real connections and new customer experiences, that will outlive the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

The author would like to thank Fabricio Dore, David Malfara, and Kelly Ungerman for their contribution to this article.


Paul BidderPaul BidderJune 1, 2020
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9min488

More than ever retailers must be high alert during for unexpected trading shifts.

During these uncertain times, inventory is crucial not just to manage spikes in demand but also to provide a positive customer experience – here, stock visibility, analytics and forward planning play a crucial role.

Digital services have made managing the customer experience much more complex than it once was. Where we used to call a business to enquire around stock availability, use teletext for last-minute deals or look through the Yellow Pages, we are now spoilt for choice and have everything we need at our fingertips.

Spoilt for choice

Brands have rushed to supplement traditional customer service channels with digital equivalents – while the benefits of doing so have been plentiful, it’s also come at a cost in the way we react as personalities.

We now expect instant answers, quality customer service and contextual experiences. Additionally, the advent of faster mobile data services and improved capabilities has fuelled the desire to be able to “reach out” at any point to anywhere in the world and find what you are looking for, from brand information to product pricing to reviews.

A core area of the industry that is most visibly impacted by this is retail, and one of the areas that needs addressing and urgent attention for many brands is inventory.

For years we spoke about the age of mobile and realised we could use these devices for much more than calls and playing snake – but also to interact with brands and shop right there and then. Utopia, right? Wrong…

Keeping customers loyal

This kick-started a spiralling issue for brands: loyalty. How would brands keep their customers loyal? Price played a big part, but so too did customer service and customer experience, with inventory being a key part of being able to maintain that experience.

Early movers such as Schuh understood the importance of this. If they did not have your shoe size or type in store but had it somewhere else, then it would be shipped free of charge to any mainland UK address for your convenience.

And Schuh continued investing in this area of customer experience. Next-day delivery six days a week is now driven by a warehouse that can pick 12,000 items an hour while its analytics tracks KPIs for delivery, delivery accuracy, and a nimble replenishment model that helps stores to stay stocked. They also fulfil orders from store so customers can reserve shoes online and pick it up in store just 20 minutes later, raising the bar for competitors.

Consumer expectations on the rise

Those who could not adapt relied on spreadsheets, siloed systems and even paper-based in-store stock checking. Essentially, they were unable to give an honest and truly convenient customer experience to their client base, spelling disaster for consumer loyalty.

The age of Amazon Prime and Click-and-Collect means consumers are expecting stock visibility on any device, fast fulfilment, transparency throughout the entire fulfilment chain, and not to mention easy returns. Remember that the cost of retention is significantly lower than the cost of acquisition.

survey of Gen Z consumers found 60 percent always or sometimes check a store’s in-store inventory availability online before going to make a purchase. Stock visibility is crucial, and if you are not owning the customer experience by managing your inventory and offering full visibility, you can be sure one of your competitors will be.

Keep things consistent

A clear omnichannel customer experience should allow customers a frictionless experience on any channel or device. Customers use various digital and physical channels during the buying journey, and it’s vital that these mirror one-another. This can be extremely difficult for businesses whose data is stored disparately across multiple sources, making it hard to give a real-time view of inventory at any given time… which is the holy grail for many a business.

First come, first served: Sorry, the item you ordered is no longer available.

Traditionally, one of the reasons consumers visit brick-and-mortar stores is for a higher quality of customer service. However, inventory can be an issue for physical retailers, increasingly as many stores diversify their product lines and offer in-store experiences, with shelf space at a premium.

But a lack of in-store inventory shouldn’t mean a lost sale. Aligning in-store technology or mobile sites and apps with inventory management systems provides customers ample opportunity to purchase their goods.

It’s an opportunity to offer fulfilment options – pick up in store, free speedy delivery – and make buying frictionless and attractive, as opposed to the customer leaving the store and finding a competitor.

What do customers really need?

Online and mobile shoppers will be comparing like-for-like products on various sites. Differentiators here will be price, availability and fulfilment options. This is where retailers need to display their inventory, create urgency if possible, and highlight fulfilment, loyalty or discount options to stand out from the crowd.

On the front end, AI-driven analytics tools and inventory management systems, plus cloud-based platforms mean accurate, real-time inventory information can be personalised and displayed to customers anytime, anywhere.It’s vital these customers are given the information they need at key moments in the buying journey.

If the warehouse is low on stock, create buying urgency with a low stock warning. If the warehouse is out, signpost to a click and collect option if stocked in the nearest store, or even better ship directly to the customer from that store. A single view of inventory makes this possible.

Inventory visibility is mission-critical

Ultimately, brands cannot ignore inventory visibility. Clarity on stock levels is now fundamental to success, informing decision making on discounts, upselling, as well as communication.

The pandemic has served to make the relationship between supply, demand and stock availability mission-critical. Businesses which have proactively supported customers during this time and taken steps to provide seamless experiences will likely build meaningful relationships moving forward.

Meanwhile, the consequences for those who have failed to do so could be severe. As we return to normality, we’ll enter a world where eCommerce rules the roost and where full visibility around inventory will be crucial.


Darrell ColeDarrell ColeMay 28, 2020
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8min848

As a customer, getting service in the digital age can be very trying. 

Hoping that your email messages don’t end up in spam filters or disregarded, getting lost in automated telephone trees, having conversations with chat-bots, among others, leaves most people screaming for interaction with a fellow human being.

Email Fails

One of the most common methods for businesses to interact with their (potential) customers is through email. Have a question, complaint or request? No problem. Just email us (typically through Info@).

Despite claims of easy access and quick responses, my experiences over the past year have been anything but. I was experiencing what seemed to be a decline in customer service when dealing with organisations via email. This feeling was so significant that I decided to track my interactions over a four-month period (pre-CoVid19), just to see if what I was experiencing was real.

Here are the results.

I was seeking a local brew pub to partner on an event and sent a detailed email message to several through their respective websites. Of those contacted, only one replied. As a follow-up, I decided to personally visit two of those establishments. One of them told me they would have to discuss it with the owner and get back to me. They never did. In the end, we held the event at a local restaurant who responded to my email message the same day. It was a roaring success and they gained profile and customers.

I am a season ticket holder of a local dance company. I wanted to buy a second ticket and sent them a message asking how to do that. After four such email messages over the span of a month without a response, I tried calling.  I never received a response to my call. I also visited their office twice, hoping to catch someone there. They were closed both times (no office hours posted). I was finally able to get a response after the fifth message. I won’t be renewing with them next season.

Our company belongs to a local business association, one that we pay for a membership in and correspond with frequently. Its primary mandate relates to providing services for its business members, yet my email interactions were something less:

  • I sent an email asking about a policy position. I received no response.
  • I sent an email informing the association that I could access a free resource for interested fellow members. How could we best approach getting the word out? No response.
  • I sent an email asking for clarification regarding event dates as a couple of them had contradicting dates between the brochure and the website. No response.

I finally informed an employee of the organisation of my struggles and he apologised, citing that “they had been very busy” and he would call me the next day. I never heard from him again. I doubt that our company will be renewing our membership next year.

I contacted a local company about a group gathering they were hosting that I was interested in paying to attend. I emailed them twice before getting a one-line response that did not answer my question. I tried emailing them once more but received no response. I never joined their event and they lost the sale.

I emailed a winery asking them if I could get their product in a city I would be travelling to, as I wanted to purchase a case. No response. I never purchased any of their products.  

Somebody Gets It

Now, let me now tell you about another example of customer service I experienced that started with an email message.

I contacted a local grocery store (national chain) to ask them why they put their high-end products in re-sealable bags with seals that don’t work. I was contacted through email the next day by the manager, who thanked me profusely, telling me that he would bring this matter to the attention of the national office and the bag producers. A short while later I received a second message saying that the concern had been brought to the attention of the bag producer and they were considering the situation. Shortly thereafter, I received a third message thanking me for helping to improve their products and would I please come down to the store to pick up a gift basket.

I was a little taken aback by their response (I just wanted them to fix their bags) but I went down to pick up the gift basket. When I got the basket, I found it filled with a variety of edible goods, each in its own bag WITH AN IMPROVED SEAL. And when I looked at their bagged sections, all of their goods were now in bags with improved seals! I will never stop shopping there.

Assessing the Quality of your Email-Based Customer Service

It still isn’t clear to me why I am experiencing so much trouble with emailed based customer service. Whatever the reason(s), it’s clear that some businesses are dropping the ball and that it is costing them dearly.

So, if you are running a business or are responsible for customer service or service design within your company, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have an “info@” and is someone designated to check it?
  2. Are your employees over-burdened by work/information overload and are unable to deal with what they are expected to do?
  3. Do your employees understand the negative impact of not responding to folks who send in messages through your email? Have they received any received e-customer service training?
  4. Do you undertake regular (and meaningful) quality checks on what email has come in and how customers have been dealt with?

Attracting and retaining customers can be a challenge in a highly competitive business world. By remembering that you, too, are a customer, and taking the time to reflect on what makes you happy, can be one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve the customer service experience.


Chloe WoolgerChloe WoolgerMay 27, 2020
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8min1139

According to Kantar, the world’s leading data, insights and consulting firm, ensuring that the customer is put first by focussing on customer experience (CX) is one of many crucial factors that can determine what makes or breaks a brand.

Perhaps your customers’ expectations have now changed? If so, it’s important to understand what the experience might now look like and think about which parts of the customer journey might need to change.

It may come as no surprise that as the Coronavirus crisis intensified, consumer confidence throughout Europe dropped to record lows not seen since the financial crisis of 2009.

With the closure of all non-essential high street stores in March, convenience and necessity may explain why more people have switched to shopping online. However, recent research from Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer research, reveals that three-quarters of British consumers agree that physical shopping in-store offers a more positive experience than purchasing goods online.

The challenge for many stores that offer online services will be how to retain these customers once social distancing measures are relaxed and people start gradually returning to the high street. And, as stores start to consider reopening over the coming weeks, how they can maintain a good experience without compromising safety.

In China, where lockdown measures have been gradually easing, we are seeing new emerging trends.

Whilst trust continues to be a high priority, there has been a move by brands looking to ‘Engage & Inspire’ consumers as they resume life adapting to the ‘new norm’.

They are looking for trusted brands to provide them with a sense of safety and security in these testing times and want to see brands deliver real value, act responsibly and do the right thing by the community, which also includes employee welfare.

As lockdown measures are tentatively eased, physical customer experiences will resume alongside digital ones. The challenge will be to continue gathering customer feedback that demonstrates brands are delivering a personalised approach. With many businesses adopting online as a primary customer feedback channel, it is important to get this right.

Here, timing, tone and target audience play a key role in formulating new, and if necessary, revisiting existing CX strategies, particularly when customers’ emotions are running higher than usual.

CX enters tribal territory

During the current pandemic, the usual ways of segmenting customers – by age, gender or relationship status, for example, have changed.  Kantar has conducted research to help identify behaviours and attitudes within different UK-based groups – meet the Covid-19 Tribes.

Each Tribe displays a different mindset and are positioned at various emotional ‘event stages’ depending on their outlook and attitude towards the current health crisis.

For example, some of these tribal groups include Ostriches that don’t really care and fail to understand what the fuss is about; Patiently Waiting believe everything will be fine and are most concerned about missing other people; and Precarious Worriers are finding things difficult with having to balance home, schooling and financial matters. The emotional stages are shock, denial, acceptance, depression, experimental, decision and engagement.

Having segmented each Tribe, it then becomes possible to blend Tribe data with other forms of customer data, ultimately to help improve digital feedback for different audiences. It also helps shape internal and external communications, evolve innovation and perhaps most importantly, advance and re-imagine CX strategy. Depending on which tribe is being targeted, a series of steps may be taken. For example, clear information may be required to minimise friction; connection and inspiration for customers might allow them to discover new experiences and offering rewards for those who are patiently waiting will help create those all-important CX ‘moments that matter’.

Having successfully identified a Covid Tribe it then becomes possible to meet the rising demands of consumers through careful communications as they seek reassurance, comfort and advice. This in turn provides opportunities for enhanced CX and serves to strengthen future brand relationships.

The following guidelines can help to ensure trust is built and maintained from digital feedback provided to customers:

  • Build a deeper sense of empathy with the customer around those issues that really matter according to your ‘Covid Tribe’
  • Ensure brand communications are not seen as profiting from the pandemic, and that customers are clearly at the forefront of concern
  • Let customers know they are supported; let them know you care and that they are your top priority – avoid just do nothing
  • CX is a shop window for delivering on brand promise so ensure consumers’ expectations are being clearly met
  • Try and be meaningful and different in your CX delivery. This will insulate your brand in both the short and long term and help drive future growth
  • Customer feedback may not be a top priority so be prepared to see a dip in response rates. Tap into other data sets to help you understand customer priorities right now
  • Often actions speak louder than words so where possible highlight any practical and helpful steps you are taking to help improve customers’ lives. Empathy and practicality are a potent combination

Step-change for CX

A CX strategy that has worked well in the past may be proving less effective now. We don’t know exactly how long social distancing measures will last, or whether they’ll be re-introduced once lifted.

What is certain however, is that during these uncertain times, we are entering a new era of CX; one that should aim to enrich customers’ lives rather than simply meeting their existing needs. We have an opportunity to redesign what needs to be done rather than doing the same thing differently to provide a seamless and frictionless CX journey.


Sonja KotrotsosSonja KotrotsosMay 26, 2020
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8min1137

Customers have increasingly high expectations regarding customer experience (CX) because the corporate giants whose products and services they use daily set the bar incredibly high.

Whether a business is consumer-facing or B2B, customers expect seamless convenience and personalised attention that immerses them in the brand experience — no matter where they are.

Thankfully, this level of CX is no longer just the domain of giants. Today, the technology that makes this kind of customer experience possible is becoming more mainstream and affordable, making immersive CX achievable.

What is Immersive CX?

At its most basic, immersive CX facilitates a seamless customer experience. The customer becomes fully immersed in the purchase journey, effortlessly navigating from one channel to the next without interrupting their day-to-day activities to do so.

On the more advanced side of the immersive CX spectrum, technologies such as augmented reality overlays and virtual reality headsets facilitate experiences that literally immerse the customer.

Immersive Customer Experiences Start with a Roadmap

A CX experience roadmap is simply a plan outlining the measures necessary to improve customer experience and the timeline on they are planned. Any CX roadmap should address both short-term and long-term goals for establishing immersive CX.

Defining clear goals and timelines makes it easier to gradually roll out immersive CX initiatives, helping businesses to capitalise on “low-hanging fruit” and meet long-term goals. Chopping up the plan into smaller parts makes it much more manageable.

Additionally, having a CX roadmap makes it easier to set goals and measure the CX program’s success or ROI. Setting up a customer satisfaction score (CSS) or net promoter score (NPS) benchmark helps to tie CX efforts to the bottom line.

On the mindset front, a CX roadmap will help an organisation remain committed to staying ahead of the curve by continually innovating and iterating the CX program. Customer expectations will continue to evolve, and so should a business if it wishes to remain competitive.

CMS for Immersive CX

At the outset it is worth remembering that a content management system (CMS) plays a massive role in delivering exceptional customer experiences. It’s instrumental in aligning the data, processes, and people needed to create and deploy consistently immersive experiences.

A headless CMS uses application programming interface (API) technology so content can be created and stored separately from its presentation. This separation enables content and marketing to create, optimise, and distribute content while designers and developers are building the best front-end display for that content on every channel and device.

With this in place, there are then five pillars to creating a successful CX roadmap:

1. Customer intelligence

Collecting customer feedback can be as simple as asking for ratings, making it easy to leave comments, and incentivizing survey completion. However, if possible, focus groups that can discuss the customer experience with actual customers are ideal.

Businesses need to facilitate the discussion but not steer responses.  The objective is real, organic customer thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. This needs to encompass the entire experience of a brand to gain a complete insight into the customer journey.

If a business already has analytics in place, this data can speak on the customers’ behalf to measure which aspects of existing CX initiatives are successful and which ones need to be adjusted.

2. Customer understanding

An analysis of the data collected should enable a business to better understand customers’ current pain points, where they’re happy with a business, and where there is room to improve.

Customers’ impressions of a brand are very different from the expectations of the business. This might not be a bad thing, but a business must decide to either take steps to alter this perception or lean into it.

The fundamental goal in this step is to identify ways to improve the customer experience. This may mean doubling down on some aspects of a CX approach and overhauling others completely.

3. Customer journeys

All of the above information should be compiled into a fully mapped out customer journey.  The objective is understand how each of the most valuable customer segments interacts with a brand.

Questions to consider include:

  • How did each customer discover the brand?
  • What was their experience at each touchpoint?
  • Which touchpoint convinced them to choose a given business above others?
  • How did they experience the purchase process?
  • Would they repeat the process?

At each leg of the customer journey, mark the pain points and CX features that customers commend, and identify opportunities to implement immersive CX upgrades.

4. Customer Experience Goals

Once the areas of CX improvement are identified, a business must commit to a timeline.

This is determined by impact and feasibility: and this can be assessed by a few quick questions

  • Which CX improvements can be implemented right away?
  • Which CX initiatives does the business view as the most urgent?
  • Which changes will have the most immediate impact on the customer experience delivery?
  • What resources, infrastructure, or expertise are required to roll out the more critical items?
  • Which actions are dependent on other activities or infrastructure being in place first?

This creates a plan of action with all the relevant stakeholders. As always, businesses should focus on easy wins or “low-hanging fruit” first and allow plenty of time to work towards more complex goals.

5. Customer Milestones

Setting milestones and benchmarks are perhaps the most crucial part of the whole immersive CX roadmap process. They are the very definition of if a given CX initiative is yielding any positive results.

Benchmarks such as a desired NPS or CSS score should be set and a business then needs to decide how regularly it will review these metrics to assess if a given CX strategy is working. These milestones should be included in the roadmap and used to take stock and adapt the strategy periodically if necessary.


Alon GhelberAlon GhelberMay 25, 2020
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6min746

Recent events forced many companies to convert to a work from home routine. Some companies were quick to adapt to this abrupt change, while others still suffer from the impact in their day to day.

It seemed that after the initial shock, it was business as usual for tech companies, while brick and mortar retailers, real estate and manufacturers suffered greatly.

Brands that didn’t or had little to no significant online operation had to react fast to catch up in this race for survival. They suddenly had to take better care of their employees’ experienced, in the battle to retain their supply chain and customer experience.

In this article, I’ll discuss the chain of events brands had to overcome to stay relevant and function, as well as life in the ‘new normal’, were we might face a second outbreak. So how does the ‘new norm’ going to look like, and what are the main items to monitor?

Working remotely

Within a matter of days, brands had to overcome a surprise turn of event to their working environment and business operation. Companies suddenly had to rethink shipment and delivery during a lockdown, Zoom meetings, and other creative solutions to provide excellent customer service.

Acting fast was the only way brands could ensure the relevancy to the new normal of the COVID world. Brands had to navigate their way between their employees and fast changes in consumers’ taste.

For example, companies that value their employees’ experience made sure to provide them with a decent home office. By taking a look at the Amazon best sellers for this category, the best-selling items are mainly home office supplies.

Help your employees results in a better level of service

Customers seek support and reassurance from their familiar brands. Delivering rapid solutions to their changing needs and concerns will help to keep them loyal.

Here are some ways brands should address their employees and customers in a crisis:

  • Make sure that customers and employees are aware of the resources, care, support and concern the company invests in them. Let them feel that they can rely on the brand under challenging times.
  • Help your employees by understanding the needs of the customers. Provide the essentials for your service: Make sure your company is digitated for online access, establish a delivery system and a touch-free environment for physical shopping (plexiglass guards).

Taking care of your employees and trying to improve their lives during social distancing might even be more critical.

Brands that took an active approach and arranged their employees’ with online workouts during a workday sent small but thoughtful girts to their homes and established experience questionnaire witnessed an increase in customer experience almost immediately.

One of the most important things brands should focus on right now, is leading customers and employees towards the post-COVID world in a safe manner.

First, understanding and predicting the evolving needs and tastes of their employees and customers will lead to a better relationship and sentiment.
Second, analysing business and marketing strategies will allow brands to stay relevant.

Taking proactive measures by ensuring the brand has a stable array to face the world’s changes and comprehending peoples’ needs faster than ever.

Keeping consumer sentiment at it’s best

On the one hand, there are brilliant brands who were able to stay relevant and vibrant even though their product became less desired during the pandemic. Cosmetic companies, for example, used their resources to formulate essential products like sanitisers, donated products to vital workers and charity. They made sure that when the lockdown is lifted, consumers will have them in mind.

On the other hand, manufacturers of essential products had to adjust to their customer’s fast-changing needs rapidly. Companies added moisturising to their self-hygiene products due to frequent hand wash and sanitising.

Brands who managed to adapt fast can stay vibrant and even thrive during a crisis— keeping their customers loyal during this pandemic.

Conclusion

Excellent communication and taking extra care of employees’ needs contributes to a brand’s sentiment in multiple ways. Empathy towards your staff will lead to higher morale ethic, trust and healthier working environment and positive atmosphere.

By embedding the above in their corporate toolbox, brands will discover their employees are more satisfied and productive. They will also likely witness other accretion in the company, such an increase in brand loyalty, customer experience and sentiment.


Rebecca BrownRebecca BrownMay 22, 2020
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9min1167

Author: Rebecca Brown

There are lots of different styles when it comes to leadership.

Lots of approaches, lots of management books and leadership guides. Volume upon volume of materials that you can digest online, on your kindle or even these days, in an audiobook. You can read up on just about anything. You can learn all there is about any subject. Any subject that is, except your customer.

No off-the-shelf book will be able to tell you which elements of your customer journey your clients love, and which bits they are finding most frustrating. It’s not because there aren’t plenty of (fantastic) books on customer experience out there – it’s more that your customers’ needs are a constantly evolving thing. They change with the economy, they change with trends, they change with advances in technology – Let’s face it, it can sometimes feel like they change with the wind!

Being the type of leader who relies solely on your years of experience, and the experience levels of your senior leadership team to shape your customer journey could mean you’re working with out of date material before you even begin. By assuming you know what your customers want because you knew what they wanted this time last year, you could end up like Bill, walking down a familiar road only to get a nasty surprise when you turn the corner.

Experience is no substitute for up to date feedback. The two need to go hand in hand. This has always been the case, but is true now more than ever.

We’ve all been impacted by Covid-19 in one way or another. Some of us are lucky enough to have the relentlessness of 24/7 childcare and the potential peril of stepping on duplo first thing in the morning be our biggest stressor, whilst others have been left in heart-breaking situations that no one should have to face. The world we knew is forever changed, and along with it are the consumers we want to attract and retain.

It’s predicted we’re about to enter the largest recession in recorded history. People are nervous and uncertain, with both their emotional and physical wellbeing under threat with no clear timescale for when that might end. Whilst most people are desperate for things to go back to normal, it’s a safe assumption that even when it does, the new ‘normal’ won’t resemble what we’re used to. How could it?

It’s a grim picture, but it’s not all doom and gloom – or at least it doesn’t have to be. We need to come to terms with the fact we don’t know our customers like we once did. We need to rekindle that relationship, and we need to do it fast if we’re to remain relevant in what’s about to become one of the most competitive markets any of us have seen.

But… here comes the exciting bit! If we accept that our customers are not the same, and that our old way of approaching them may no longer cater for their needs then we can start to open our minds to the possibility of nationwide innovation and maybe even cross-industry collaboration on an unprecedented scale.

By approaching your customer experience strategy as a priority, having an open mind, asking the right questions, and taking clearly defined steps to improve your customer journey through journey mapping, you could well be setting your business up for the best cultural shift it’s ever encountered, and in turn a strong recovery followed by a period of sustained growth.

Our top tips:

1. Look after your people

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 71% of people say that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever. We all know that looking after your people is the right thing to do, but now it’s also good business.

Our most recent instalment of Bill and Doug covers some ideas on how to check in with your employees if you get stuck for ideas!

2. Change the way you ask for feedback

Offer your customers the ability to provide feedback on their agenda, at a time, place and in a way that’s convenient for them. Don’t make feedback all about you and your company by asking old fashioned questions and long-winded surveys.

Utilising simple feedback tools that can be triggered by a customer when they feel particularly motivated to tell you about their experience will yield more results, and give you more relevant insights.

Then make sure you use that feedback in the right way. Share it with everyone in your business. They all play a part in the customer journey so they need to know how they impact it, and what they can do differently. Make customer feedback a part of your team meetings, and make sure that your team see your leadership embracing feedback as the positive and transformational tool it can be.

3. Map your customer journeys

Using current insight gained from feedback and customer focus sessions is the best way to map your current journey, your aspirational one and to complete a gap analysis of the two.

Plotting an emotional curve against your current journey will enable you to know exactly which areas of business change to focus on and which are just fine as they are.

4. Implement a Shadow Board

For those of you who have yet to come across this concept, a shadow board is where you select a diverse group of young individuals from within your company, not necessarily from existing high potential groups, and usually the same number as are on your actual board or senior team. Their purpose is to challenge and innovate, injecting fresh ideas and cultural change into senior leadership decision making and organisational processes.

In a lot of cases they will be far more likely to represent your customer base than those you have in senior positions. Shadow boards see things in a different way to you, and can offer new perspectives on age old challenges, not to mention it’s a great way to encourage employee engagement and personal development!

 

Check out the first instalment of Bill and Doug:
Easy as ABC: Employee Recognition and How To Do It Right

 


Sophie VuSophie VuMay 22, 2020
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7min1017

The global pandemic has forced businesses to quickly implement new working practices and customer communication approaches.

Although we’re all hoping to go back to normal as soon as possible, the old normal may not apply any more: Covid-19 is unlikely to be an isolated incident.

Businesses must prepare for further lockdowns and future pandemics – and for other situations that will demand operational resilience and agility. Organisations that have adopted remote working tools and found methods of managing employees, forced to work from home, will find that these stand them in good stead for the future.

Even more crucial will be the ability to ensure excellent customer service in these restricted working conditions.

Maintaining positive customer experiences

At the start of the lockdown in particular, many businesses received extremely high volumes of customer calls and emails. Keeping on top of customer contact, often in multiple languages, has been a challenge even without the need to move call centre agents into a WFH (working from home) model.

While customers have shown a degree of patience and understanding with regard to delayed orders or cancelled bookings due to this crisis, they still expect satisfying and timely online responses from brands, as a recent US retail sector survey reveals: “Virtually all shoppers are willing to give retailers more time to deliver items (94 percent)” but “70 percent say they are less likely to shop with a retailer again if they are not informed in advance of a delay”.

Maintaining relationships with customers by communicating with them on a personal level is key to retaining business as we come out of this crisis.

Tools for scalability

Automation and AI translation allow businesses to keep on top of increased volumes of contact, but for those that were unprepared for business continuity, dealing with third-party vendors and hardware/software issues has been problematic.

One of Unbabel’s clients in the gaming sector had to onboard an additional WFH vendor as their existing provider could not handle the increase in customer enquiries. As per the humorous memes, people at home and isolated are playing more video games and support demand is going way up for this company: at the beginning of February the business had 4000 tickets (customer – service operative interactions) per day. Now that figure is up to 9500 tickets per day and counting.

The gaming company also had to recruit and train a significant number of new customer support agents. With customer enquiries coming in many different languages, Unbabel’s AI-human translation enables these new operatives to real-time, authenticated responses to a customer in their own language.

Motivating homeworkers

Even for remote-friendly businesses with the systems and processes to support WFH, this has been the first time entire organisations are working from home at the same time. Customer service agents are typically office-based and the person who fulfills that role generally differs demographically from someone who chooses to work at home. Many workers are missing the workplace as somewhere they can make friends, have lunch together, and share harmless gossip.

Regular and open communication from the organisation’s leaders to employees is vital. It is important to recognise the current challenges employees are facing, such as entertaining children at home or balancing supporting their online schooling schedule against business meetings and focused working time.

Employers can help by providing tips on how to balance work and home life, by offering more flexible working times and by finding ways to keep teams connected even when they’re not sharing the same physical space, such as regular online social hangouts during the working week.

When everyone is working remotely the focus needs to move from time spent to output. This means managers need to assign clear deliverables and outputs and accept asynchronous communication and workflows.

At the same time, regular and frequent communication with remote teams is paramount to ensure independent but coordinated work.

Planning for the unknown

The ability to adapt to new ways of working is all about operational resilience and businesses need to build this into their customer experience – ensuring business continuity with agile operating models that can adapt fast to new contexts. A good place to start is to reduce the risk your operations are exposed to so you can adapt quickly to different social and economic environments. When companies are less dependent on and tied to providers, locations or technology, for example, they are freer to adapt.

This “forced” agility is here to stay. The new processes and tools that we have adopted, as a result of this crisis will serve us well as we finally move out of lockdown.

 

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Laura MolloyLaura MolloyMay 21, 2020
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4min597

In light of the current situation we knew many of our customers would be extremely worried and it was decided that a simple phone call might be able to alleviate some of their concerns.

Many colleagues within PA Housing volunteered to make these calls in addition to their normal daily job role tasks. Within the general needs stock we are aware that many of our customers would be considered to be in the ‘at risk’ category with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak. A majority of these customers would have been living a very independent life without the need of any support at all.

However, due to the government guidelines, asking all over 70’s to stay in for at least the next 12 weeks, many of our customers could be left feeling very isolated.

Initially, the welfare calls would be for all the over 70’s to check if they are feeling well, have they got support from family or are they self-isolating? In addition to the questions about their health, we also asked about financial their situation and if they have food, often advising them where they can order food locally and from any foodbanks located nearby.

Lastly, we asked if they would like a call-back on a weekly or fortnightly basis just in case any issues arise or if they simply would like a chat.

Many people we spoke to said that they would appreciate a call back just for peace of mind. Anyone that we spoke to that we deemed to be not coping or in need of further support we had an emergency email to send details and issues.

I personally called about 100 customers and the reaction I received was so heartwarming. People were so touched and appreciative. One lady I spoke to said that although she was fine I was the first person she had spoken to in days, and this call lasted for 35 minutes. Another lady who was 96 said she was waiting for a district nurse to visit to dress a cancer wound as they normally do twice weekly. No one had turned up that week and she was extremely worried and in a lot of discomfort. I managed to find out after a few calls and being on hold for about 20 minutes, as understandably they were extremely busy, that someone was attending her property later that day. When I called back the relief in her voice was palpable. There are many more examples across the organisation of good service like this.

As this has worked so well with the over 70’s we have now extended it to the over 60’s. Currently, a total of 3,623 call requests from customers over the age over 60 have been allocated to around 160 members of staff. So far we have made contact with 2,378 customers either by phone, email or letter. Regular call-back contacts are being made to 659 customers fortnightly or weekly. A great achievement, I think you’ll agree.

PA Housing is a registered provider of social housing, offering more than 23,000 homes across the Midlands, London and South East with a range of housing solutions.  PA Housing is so much more than a roof over someone’s head. It offers a wide range of services from support with benefits entitlement to help getting back into employment.  We see it as a priority to deliver a consistent and high standard of customer service as well as caring passionately about the wellbeing of the people we serve.


Mark K. SmithMark K. SmithMay 18, 2020
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5min1003

Recently I have found myself comparing COVID-19 to 410AD, but not because it was the prelude to a new Dark Age, but rather the reverse, that we have been sleepwalking for decades into an apocalyptic future, with no regard for what we are damaging in the process.

In fact, COVID-19 might lead to a new age of enlightenment, where we accept that post-COVID-19 we are all in this together, we need to look after the planet better, and we will be nicer, and better people for it.

So, here are my five post-COVID-19 predictions:

1. Working from home

COVID-19 has necessitated home-based working.

It turns out that working from home can, at times, be more beneficial – take call centres for example. Enabling agents to work from home not only makes sense from a business continuity point of view, but it could also open up access to a new and geographically unconstrained workforce with the desired skills and experience to handle complex queries.

What’s more, with no time wasted on tiresome commuting, likely a more productive one. Read our latest whitepaper to find out more.

2. No-growth economies will become the norm

We have just the one planet, we have just the one atmosphere, we have just the one set of natural resources to use. The economic madness of continuous growth will stop. It does not make sense. An economy should seek zero growth, not up, not down – but enough.

3. Local power production

The power needed to work from home is minimal – a laptop uses about 50 watts of electricity, the equivalent of 0.05 kWh. Using it for a day costs about 5p.

I predict that governments will stop building massive infrastructure projects – like railways, airports, motorways, and the like, and turn to renewable power – wind, wave, and solar. Planning laws will make for zero carbon new builds.

4. New non-profit corporations will emerge

I predict that new non-profit organisations will emerge through technology – whereby technology is the ‘people’. So the technology, with human oversight, of course, makes the profit and the profit is used to develop the technology.

If you want to know what I mean ask me – I have one lined right up and you never know it might help save the world.

5. Biodiversity will rise up the agenda

David Attenborough has shown us the incredible beauty of the planet that we share with loads of other beings. But over that 100 years, we have smashed this fragile museum up.

Worse than an ancient asteroid, we have driven at least 680 vertebrate species to extinction in the blink of a celestial eye. We kill things before we even name them. So with the canals of Venice clear and the pollution maps of the world showing clean air, maybe, just maybe, we will realise that we are part of an ecosystem and if we set fire to it, we set fire to ourselves.

This post-COVID-19 world will change us forever – in the US, pre-COVID-19, 3.6 percent of people worked from home, however, next year estimates suggest that 25-30% of the workforce will be doing so.

Any technology that makes this and life tangibly better, be that proactive communications like my company, or AI that optimises energy usage, or works out the best way to tackle say a virus… they will win.

But more importantly, I hope that we will move into a nicer, better, safer, and less angry world.


Claire SportonClaire SportonMay 13, 2020
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8min1084

We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ but for customers and businesses alike this statement has never been so true or so important.

Mission statements are quite rightly populated with encouragement: “We put the customer at the heart of our business” and “Customer First”. However, in these current extraordinary times, listening to understand our customers’ and employees’ rapidly changing needs, prioritising what is going to have the biggest impact and of course delivering change must be the number one priority to enable businesses to ride this storm.

Businesses are examining feedback about virtually every aspect of their operations – from policies and processes to messaging and delivery – but company culture is key. Culture is typically what you do when no one is looking but guess what? For many organisations shifting unexpectedly into remote working…no-one is looking!

Achieving the ultimate goal of becoming a truly customer-centric organisation may therefore appear to be an uphill struggle. It’s certainly true that there is no quick fix.

The answer lies in not simply collecting customer feedback about successes and failures but using it to help us change the way people think, behave and act throughout our organisations, even if they are working from home. In other words, to use customer feedback to shift company culture towards customer centricity.

The question is how do you actually inspire employees to make the change? We all know asking large numbers of people to move out of their comfort zones and do things differently is not easy at the best of times. An annual kick-off or away-day can be thought provoking but it doesn’t necessarily help people to break out of the mould when they are back at their desk.

The good news is that although we don’t currently have the opportunity to bring people physically together, we can focus on supporting more customer centric decision making and behaviours as the best way of delivering that culture change.

Listen closely

Being absolutely clear about what is expected is the key to moving the dial and this has certainly been the case for Cromwell, a leading UK and international supplier of high-quality industrial tools and services. It demonstrated its long-term commitment to delivering a truly customer-focused service by creating a dedicated insight function following its acquisition by W.W. Grainger, Inc. in 2015 and then centralising its customer service processes in 2018.

Elaine Barnes, Chief Customer Officer at Cromwell has explained that in order to minimise the impact of organisational changes on its customers, it needed to change its company culture – putting the focus firmly on the customer: “We needed to improve our ability to listen to and respond to customers so that we could enhance the experience across the entire the customer journey.”

Confirmit worked with the team to create and deploy a CX programme that is reflective of customer needs and what Cromwell can do to respond, empowering them throughout the process. In the first month after going live, the company immediately achieved a 12% response rate, delivering critical insights into the issues that matter to customers.

The feedback so far is extremely encouraging and it’s clear that Cromwell’s ability to listen more effectively and to respond immediately to what customers are saying means that people feel that their feedback is being heard. It has already resulted a significant jump in its Net Promoter Score®.

The ongoing challenge is to ensure that the CX programme acts as a catalyst for change outside of the core Insights team. No one person owns CX and the ‘Command and Control’ approach simply doesn’t work. It’s for this reason that around 200 of Cromwell’s employees have been trained to use the insight dashboards to help drive customer centricity across the organisation.

Providing as many people as possible in the organisation with a window into the feedback generated through the CX programme creates what I think of as mini control centres across an organisation, driven by a central hub. Each employee is therefore responsible for using that insight to impact the customer experience in their area of control, in their own way but aligned to a shared vision and ethos.

Cromwell will also be introducing text analytics and launching nine new listening posts covering different states and channels of the customer journey this year. These initiatives, combined with a Voice of the Employee (VoE) and Voice of the Supplier (VoS) programme in the future, will provide another layer of actionable insight from additional touchpoints, alerting and nudging people to make incremental changes.

The insight will not only enhance Cromwell’s ability to carry out root cause analysis to find out the source of customer and wider business issues. It will also enable Cromwell to build a network of champions inside and outside of the organisation.

Lead by example

For me, this is where the heart of customer centricity lies. Data is a great start, actionable insight and nudging people to think outside of the box can make a real difference but the ultimate goal is to create viral change that makes a lasting impact.

Champions shine a light on what is possible and inspire others to follow suit. They can not only answer questions and help to ensure that the value of the CX programme is understood, they can also become the catalyst for new behaviours that you are looking to cultivate. They can share their experiences and prove to others that those behaviours work, encouraging people to join in.

The simple truth is that people help people to make change happen. If, like Cromwell, you ensure that your teams have access to that mini command centre so they are basing their behaviour on something solid, you will also be on the road to achieving your goal of customer centricity.

 

Interesting Links:


Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpMay 12, 2020
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7min913

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that many companies had not implemented an adequate business continuity strategy, resulting in a frantic rush to roll out technology that enables staff to work from home.

However, business continuity planning spans much wider than using the correct technology and should encompass the entire business; not just the IT department.

Lockdown looks set to continue for a while providing you with time to optimise your remote workforce, customer engagement, and streamline operations. Discover new business opportunities and models to be able to respond better if a situation like this occurs again, and reduce costs with hard times yet to come without impacting on the customer experience.

From the Top

The pandemic has resulted in a large percentage of the UK working from home under lockdown and many businesses have struggled with the new conditions. The responsibility of a business continuity strategy lies with the Senior Management team to devise the strategy, set the culture and advocate it throughout the business. It needs to cover processes, people including staff, customers, suppliers and partners, and of course premises.

Businesses that have had an all-encompassing business continuity strategy in place already have been able to seamlessly transition all staff from offices to home in just a few days without impacting the business processes at all.

Integration for Seamless Service

Businesses who don’t have remote working technology in place, have either had to call in solution providers to quickly implement a remote working solution, or use conferencing and collaboration tools such as Zoom etc.

The issue here is that it doesn’t integrate with your front and back office systems. Plus, the concerns about the security, particularly when it comes to Zoom is a problem.

If your staff are working at home so long as your business still operates, and you are still providing a good customer service it is irrelevant where they are based.

It is key that your unified communications conferencing and collaboration solutions enable people to work from home and integrate with your front and back office systems so all operations, processes and customer service continues to run smoothly.

Cloud-based conferencing and collaboration solutions such as Mitel’s MiTeam Meetings or MiCollab and Avaya’s Spaces empowers employees to hold audio and video conference calls together over their desktop or via mobile. Send instant messages, collaborate on documents and presentations together. It is important to use intuitive technology that is easy to use, set up and to keep your documents secure to protect data and privacy.

Call in the Experts

The benefit of working with a solutions provider is that they will work closely with you to plan and implement a business continuity strategy.

During the COVID-19 pandemic enabling remote working is not the end goal; business must continue, and extra effort needs to be applied to withstand the hard economic times that will come after the lockdown period. A solutions provider can assist you with how to optimise your remote workforce, step up customer engagement and identify new business opportunities and models to save costs.

Connect with your Remote Workforce

The challenge now is how to improve the management and effectiveness of your remote workforce. Employees require clear direction of what needs to be done and key performance indicators can be put in place to ensure that employees are achieving. Software such as workforce management tools and collaboration software ensure you can access project progress and knowledge bases.

Optimise Customer Experience with Automation

Utilise this time to discover new business models, streamline operations, processes and increase the effectiveness of customer engagement with disruptive technologies such as automation and artificial intelligence.

During COVID-19 s lot of organisations including government, housing associations, charities, finance, insurance companies, suppliers, distributors and pharmacies are experiencing high levels of customer enquiries that are proving difficult to manage and respond, especially with distributed and reduced workforces. Automation can be used to manage digital interactions and streamline operations to reduce costs, increase efficiencies without impacting on the business’s performance or customer experience.

An automation solution can reside outside the contact centre acting as triage, processing large volumes of digital interactions such as email, web chat, social messaging or WhatsApp messages, presenting the agent with a single screen of all digital communications.

This enables businesses to only allocate human agents to deal with real time urgent enquiries, handing over the other requests to the automation solution where it automatically reads content, context and sentiment and can respond automatically using set bespoke answers from templates. It can also prioritise, categorise and create queues and tickets for fulfilment.

Businesses also need to address how they will cope once we all come out of lockdown.  There will be a surge of interest for many organisations, travel, of course, high amongst them. Being prepared and ready to cope with the upturn will be the secret of success for many organisations.

An Organic Approach

Business continuity must be viewed as a business strategy and not a technology strategy. It is essential that everyone in the business is briefed and knows what to do, and what their role is should a disaster occur. It is a circular process that constantly evolves and needs to be regularly fine-tuned and improved; the process never stops.

COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for a critical business continuity strategy and who knows maybe going forward the norm will be to work at home or other flexible working options. More opportunities and agile business models will be discovered in these surreal times we find ourselves in.

Stay Safe. Stay Connected.


Olga PotaptsevaOlga PotaptsevaMay 11, 2020
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8min1170

Back in January I was getting ready to present at a conference in London and the subject of my talk was going to be examining global social trends and their future CX impact. 

Naively, we thought we could measure, forecast, and quantify major social and economic trends. Until the unexpected happened…

The truth is though, any business and any CX team always operate under pressure from the unstructured external environment, unpredictable events, risks, and change. Over the past 10 years business planning and transformation cycles at least halved, ‘clear’ strategies get reversed mid-year and planning your CX initiatives is only relatively accurate at best.

So, how on Earth are you supposed to demonstrate tangible results from your CX projects when everything seems to change at the speed of light and there is never enough time, resources or people?

Consider the 7 pillars of agile CX management. Applying them to most common CX challenges, such as demonstrating ROI, creating a collaborative customer-centric environment and achieving management buy-in, delivers 3-4 times faster project execution, easy team re-focus supported by clear rules and work practices as well as reduced stress due to frequent feedback and continuous change management.

7 pillars of agile CX management:

Do this every year

1. Business strategy mapping

Your CX strategy should stem from and support the overall business strategy. Understanding your (evolving) business goals will ensure your team is clear on priorities, decision making is fast and reliable and CX projects get the investment, buy-in and attention they require. At the time of crisis business strategy may change which will require an emergency review of your CX projects and tasks.

Do this every month

2. Project maps

This is where you describe your main CX projects using a specific template that includes goals, purposes, success criteria, timing, risks and dependencies. You will map the main project stages and ensure to add a monthly status report and next steps, linking it to your tasks.

Do these 2 things every week

3. Weekly 1-1.5h progress & planning

This meeting is to set goals for the week by discussing what needs to be done, potential risks and first steps, as well as reviewing any tasks in progress. It is good time to discuss the status, next best action, and any learnings from completed tasks. We use it as an excellent team motivation tool with team members seeing themselves positively for achievements and achievable goal setting.

4. CX KPIs board

This is an excellent instrument for CX leaders to track how your tasks contribute towards achieving results in strategic CX projects. As an example, one of your projects could be to demonstrate contact centre cost reduction coupled with customer satisfaction improvement on at least 5 projects this year.

You may have planned a number of tasks, such as journey mapping to achieve this. The CX KPIs board allows you to track how each of the tasks advances you to the overall project success and prompts to re-focus effort if needed.

These 3 things you should do every day

5. Fill in a task board (we use Trello)

An online task board is a single repository for all ideas that ensures nothing is lost in notebooks, coffee stained pieces of paper or by the water cooler. It is visible to all team members ensuring full transparency and avoiding duplication.

For maximum effectiveness CX leaders use a task board up to 5 times a day to capture all, even very minor tasks! The task board should be used in 15-minute morning briefings and weekly progress & planning.

6. Use a template for setting tasks

In our CX Implementation Toolkit we always recommend using a specific template for setting tasks that ensures the task is aimed to achieve a specific result and everyone is clear as to why we are doing it, how  and by when we shall expect the outcome.

A badly written task (that I often see coming out of CX maturity assessment sessions) would be to map customer journeys. You can make it into an effective one: Organise a groups of 5 colleagues from Marketing, Service, Customer Experience, Finance and Distribution by 10th of June to map 3 priority customer journeys (X,Y,Z) that have the biggest impact on customer value.

A good tip is to ensure a task always starts with an action verb, has more than 5 words and will be as clear if revisited in 2 years’ time.

7. Conduct a daily 15-minute morning briefing

A morning briefing will help you gather all valuable ideas and understand any changes without disruption to the much-needed focus during the day. You will be able to eliminate instances of ‘This new product is totally going to rock, let’s discuss right now’ or ‘We should set up a fund for our contact centre agents for ‘gestures of good will’, let’s work on it once we have some time’ and ‘We wanted to interview that customer, but I thought it was due next week’.

A morning briefing is a quick review of what has been done yesterday, what is planned for today and any known obstacles.

By introducing the structure and the rigour of project management into you CX, you will combat uncertainty, ensure your projects fit in with the business strategy, are supported by meaningful tasks that get executed quickly. This will demonstrate tangible results 3-4 times faster and secure the buy-in from stakeholders, colleagues, and immediate team members.

Please support us in CX Maturity assessment across the world by filling in this 7 minute survey:  https://survey2connect.com/O/CXmaturity

All contributors will have a chance to register for a free report within the survey.

Daniel BaileyDaniel BaileyMay 7, 2020
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6min1102

The internet has been taken by a storm.

Simply google the word ‘refund’, and your search page will fill your screen with hundreds of articles, reports and links to online forums and discussions about companies offering vouchers in place of refunds for cancelled flights and holiday bookings.

Whilst some customers are more than happy with credit notes, with the intention to rebook trips once we return to some kind of normality, others are calling for better customer service and greater transparency as to when they can expect a cash refund.

Be it business owner, or consumer, we all find ourselves in an unprecedented situation, which means we require more support than usual. Therefore, as businesses begin to navigate the landscape of the ‘new normal’, it is important that they find innovative ways to address the new business model, to ensure that the customer sits at the heart of every decision and communication, to help mitigate the type of uproar currently taking place.

Increased uncertainty 

Both businesses and customers are having to take each week as it comes, with the situation changing rapidly. We’ve found that week by week, there has been a significant shift in support request volume, with Zendesk’s Benchmark Snapshot data indicating a 17 percent increase in companies average weekly ticket volume in the UK from late February of this year to mid-April.

Most notably, there has been a link between the spread of COVID-19 across the globe, and the number of service requests raised. With tickets up compared to this time last year, we saw Italy face the sharpest increase first, closely followed by the UK.

With service agents therefore busier than ever, how can they manage the current volume of calls for support with questions like; ‘When will I be refunded for my cancelled flight?’, ‘What happens when my credit note expires in a year if I’ve not used it by then?’, or ‘When will you get back to me about my request?’. 

The power of a proactive customer service

One of the ways that businesses can begin to build a new business model, is to anticipate customer questions before they arise, and get ahead of the game.

By considering, for example, the questions customers may have about a holiday package they’ve booked for September and providing the answer before the customer even thinks to ask the question – businesses are able to position themselves as a trusted partner, not just a one-off problem solver.

We’ve all been in the customer’s position and received an email from a company that’s surprised us as they go above and beyond. Maybe they were contacting us to explain how we can go about getting our refund before we had to spend time working it out. Or, maybe, they thought creatively about ways to surprise us – by offering us an extended grace period to return our recent clothes order that perhaps has taken longer to arrive than usual.

Being transparent and proactive like this is linked very closely to customer satisfaction scores (CSAT), and ultimately, customer loyalty. Our benchmark analysis has shown that across industries, whilst service requests have risen, CSAT has remained stable, increasing by 0.4 percent since the beginning of March – perhaps further emphasising the impact of the small things businesses are doing to show they value their customers, and that perhaps, customers are more forgiving in the current circumstances.

Embrace technology 

Another way businesses can adapt is by embracing technology and automation. This can play a critical role in alleviating some of the current pressure on agents as businesses scale their support services, linking customers with the quick answers already available on an organisation’s website.

Companies in the gaming, remote work, and learning and telecommunications sector in particular are leaning on AI to solve more of their requests. AI tools like our Answer Bot, have been solving more queries than before – having solved more than 70 percent more tickets for gaming companies recently than it did in late February.

There’s something incredibly special about coming together at times of hardship. Random acts of kindness, understanding and empathy in communications to customers, transparency over current wait times and a proactive approach will all go a long way to managing a more challenging landscape. Whilst the state of deliveries, holiday bookings and flights may remain up in the air, businesses can develop a new model to serve their customers in a fresh – and appreciated – way.

 

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Komal HelyerKomal HelyerMay 6, 2020
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8min1354

The coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented and unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in recent history. For many brands, this poses a significant challenge – particularly given that there’s no ‘rulebook’ to follow.

At times like these, brands and businesses need to show real agility as the customer experience becomes, above all else, entirely about empathetic engagement.

For certain sectors, providing experiences that are both relevant and considerate of the current situation can be extremely tough. For example, a brand like Secret Cinema usually relies on the physical presence of people attending an event; it’s not primarily geared up for providing remote entertainment. Many restaurant businesses are in the same position; there are likely more restaurant businesses without the operations to run a delivery service that is quite as lucrative as the usual sittings compared with those that run both successfully.

However, during this time, the key to adapting can be as simple as listening to your gut and leveraging emotional intelligence – asking yourself, what does a customer of ours want from us right now if what we’re providing is not an essential product?

As a society, we are all going through the same motions. Now more than ever, we can put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and better understand what they might be looking for from their favourite brands. What’s crucial right now is that brands listen and seek to improve the lives of the public with every touchpoint.

Providing a sense of connection

Whilst we are all in lockdown, the need for connection and keeping in touch with friends and family is heightened – as is the need for a sense of routine and activities to look forward to. With this in mind, the Secret Cinema brand has pivoted to provide a schedule of remote entertainment packages to its ‘community’ of customers through its Secret Sofa project.

Every week, the brand encourages its fans to create their own immersive film experiences at home by providing a series of well-loved films packed with surprises, bespoke content and interactive elements. They have also teamed up with HäagenDazs to provide ice cream deliveries straight to people’s doors. At the heart of Secret Cinema experiences is audience participation and strangers coming together to experience films in new and interesting ways.

As such, they have tapped into new needs – staying indoors yet remaining connecting – whilst maintaining an experience that is still very relevant to its core. Those taking part can dress up and take the participation element as far as they want to.

When lockdown is lifted, Secret Cinema will have continued to engage its customer base by providing them with a thoughtful experience true to its unique values. It will also have strengthened bonds with consumers looking to the brand for routine and a social connection.

Using resources for good

Similarly, when everything feels uncertain and unclear, customers will be looking to their favourite brands for reassurance that they are still going and navigating the crisis. With brands communicating in a way that was similar to before, customers may feel that this brings with it a sense of calm. However, the experiences that come with this need to be different in order to stay relevant.

For example, beauty brands right now may have less relevance in our lives given that we’re all hunkering down at home and interacting with strangers far less. That doesn’t mean to say we’ll never need them again. So, in order to stay relevant and encourage sales in the short term, several beauty brands are showing that they’re giving something back and using this down time to help the cause of fighting the spread of the virus. Some are donating their proceeds to charity, others allowing their warehouses and units to be used to create hand sanitizer, and some are even donating produce for free to key workers within society.

Those that are doing this well and getting through to customers will have secured a place in their minds when they are next in need of purchasing beauty products.

Another great example is Virgin Money’s London Marathon this year, which has been postponed from its original date of 26th April to 4th October. Rather than leaving the 26th April to pass by with no homage to the event that could have been, the event organisers encouraged participation in ‘The 2.6 Challenge’, which aimed to raise funds to fill the gap left by the postponement for many UK charities. The movement has had great success so far and has brought together all corners of society from runners, to athletes to primary school children and the elderly. Resources that would have been used to coordinate the event have now been utilised in a way that does good both to charities and society at large.

Focus on the now whilst keeping your eye on recovery

Likewise, right now, it’s important to stay present to what is happening in the moment but with thoughts also being dedicated to the recovery period. It’s likely that customers won’t be buying and spending in the same way that they used to for quite some time – even when the lockdown is lifted. This means that now is the perfect time to improve your digital customer experiences and prepare for an extended period of time where customers continue to adjust to an even newer ‘normal’.

The brands that survive and thrive will be those taking more proactive steps to engage customers, comfort them, go above and beyond – and really show that they are a support for the community as well as in it for the long-haul. Brands that do well now will earn themselves a great reputation, which will be essential in the future.


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3min1268

A recent report published by Revuze, a no-touch analytics platform examines the possible issues in understanding your customers while offering a self-service solution that solves it all.

Customer insights require time, effort and maintenance since all customer data today is gathered through some type of AI programme. Big organisations demand effective solutions.

Here are the three main signs that show you may be in need of a self-service customer solution:

1. Guessing all the sources and ways consumers talk about a service or a product

Data is not always easy to spot since consumers have a long list of topics linked to a product or a service. While consumers are still talking about your product, it can be expressed in so many different ways that it requires familiarising with the updated trends and even new phrases.

2. Long processing time

Dealing with consumer insights may take longer than we want it to be, having in mind that the pace at which businesses operate is not going any slower. This requires manual configuration and tuning which in turn takes a long time to process all the necessary data.

3. Consumers are looking for more

Consumers today are more demanding than before when it comes to choosing a product or a service. The number of aspects they consider before choosing is great than one might think, needless to say that not every customer values the same things in a product or a service. In reality, customer insights should be based on more than five to ten variables.

If any of these signs are present in your business, a self-service solution would take care of automation, access to different types of insights and the data is available to a larger number of roles in the organisation.

To see the complete report, along with two other papers from Revuze, free download is available for a limited time here.


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6min1038

At insight6, we have surveyed more than 80 business leaders from across the UK and Ireland and found that, unsurprisingly, 64 percent had less work than they did prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the obvious negatives, I feel it is also important to see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity. We likely have never had as much time to work on the business rather than in it to make improvements and that, of course, should start with the customer.

At the heart of the CX work we do at insight6 is Customer Journey Mapping. In a nutshell, a customer journey map identifies each of the customer touchpoints, from brand awareness through to being a happy repeat customer.

The idea is to focus on understanding how customers feel at each point in the journey, in order to look at how the experience can be improved. This helps to create a customer-focused mindset within the team, often resulting in a snowball effect in changing the culture within the organisation.

I believe now more than ever, the businesses that map and review their customer journey will be setting themselves up for success in the future – here’s why:

1.  A customer journey map creates a clear plan of action

Customer Journey Mapping is about identifying clear actions that will transform the experience your customers have with you.

This is not about creating pretty posters showing everyone that you have a customer journey map for your office wall; this is about action!

In every customer journey mapping workshop we have facilitated, we have witnessed immediate and clear action that has a profound impact on staff motivation, a greater focus on the customer and their needs, and an increase in sales.

2. Experience what it is like to look through the eyes of your customers

Once you have identified all the touchpoints on the journey, the brilliance starts when you can put yourself in the customer’s shoes and describe the experience at each of the touchpoints and how they might feel at each stage. Compare this experience to what each team member is actually doing at each touchpoint, and the insights start to overflow. The penny drops when team members see the gap between what they are doing and what the customer is experiencing.

3. Create a shared understanding and vision of customer experience across the business

Most of us know the importance of involving the team in any obvious changes in an organisation. When your entire team embraces and shares an attitude and belief system, incredible things start to happen.

Everyone has a role to play in customer experience, from the accounts clerk who sends out the invoices, to the cleaner who hoovers the floor. Every single detail has an impact on how the customer feels about your business and this is what creates a great customer experience.

4. Focus on the customer and how their differences impact on their needs

It is often the case that different customers have different needs. Recognising that you may have different customer personas using your product or service is vital in the customer journey mapping session. A classic mistake in any business is to assume that a new customer has the same expectations as a regular customer. They don’t!

5. You are solving problems by unlocking the causes

By identifying how the customer feels at each step of the customer journey, instead of from a business or personal perspective enables you to focus on the problem without getting defensive. This simple switch in perspective will allow you to uncover and understand what is causing the problem and finding a solution that will improve how the customer feels.

6. Independent facilitation keeps you challenged and inside the shoes of the customers

Having an independent facilitator to coordinate and direct the team in a customer journey mapping workshop is vital for staying focused, not slipping back into the old habit of looking at problems from your perspective and keeping the energy in the room to explore and discover how your customers feel.

Having someone from outside the business to ask those ‘stupid’ or obvious questions is gold dust when journey mapping.




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