The awards event was held in London this week, and the conversational AI tech firm was congratulated on their win in a video message by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The nomination for the event follows the firm being securing Gold in the Use of Technology category at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards last month. The gong was presented following a joint presentation by ContactEngine and BT on their successful partnership.
ContactEngine’s proprietary machine learning algorithms are devised by a team of linguists, behavioural scientists, and mathematicians to perform automated human-like conversations. The company has also attracted leading scientists like former government chief scientific officer Professor Nick Jennings to their advisory board.
Dr Mark K. Smith, ContactEngine CEO, said: “We were honoured to be ranked in the Tech Track 100 and are very proud to receive this additional accolade amongst so many technology leaders in the field. We look forward to continuing our AI journey and discovering more ways in which technology can enhance business and Customer Experience.”
As the move to cloud platforms speeds up, the pressure is on to take advantage of bots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) – especially for IVRs.
Many businesses are at a standstill in adopting AI because they’ve done nothing to their IVRs for a decade or more. Their old IVRs are complex and slow to update, with mediocre customer experience, at best. But most are terrible. The State of IVR in 2018 noted that 83 percent of customers would avoid a company after a poor experience with an IVR.
I recently phoned my utility provider, and the IVR pushed me through eight different menu options. Each option took five to 20 seconds of listening time. By the time I got halfway through the eighth option, I had forgotten what the first one included – and I had to go back to the beginning. Consumers are frustrated by long IVR menu choices.
They’re even turning to online cheat sheets for ways to bypass a particular company’s IVR and get to a live agent.
Fear of change, even when it makes sense
Despite the evidence that customers are frustrated with IVRs, and the rapid decline of the old-school telephony, businesses are still reluctant to change. Some pushback occurs because of successful containment rates of IVRs. For others, it’s fear of changing menu options for customers who know exactly which number to press to self-serve.
One bank told me that they were reluctant to change because they have many customers who program their IVR options into their phones, including their PINs. Banks are exposing themselves – and their customers – to major security breaches, instead of doing anything about it.
While some try improvements like adding automatic speech recognition (ASR) with predefined expressions, they fail to recognise that it’s a short-sighted solution to a long-term problem. They need to fix their outdated design.
IVRs and the challenge of multiple intents
In traditional IVRs, customers select only one option at a time, and the IVR can process only that one intent.
However, most people multitask. Let’s say you dial into an IVR to change your address and open a new savings account. Then you remember that you need to add someone to your existing account. Typically, you’d complete one task and then return to the IVR or have an agent transfer you to another department to do so.
That’s because when those secondary intents come up within the conversation with an agent, the agent isn’t equipped to help. The secondary intent is often not dealt with, recorded or tracked. The customer still needs support, but the case is closed. And all that valuable customer information is lost – along with customer satisfaction.
Voicebots identify multiple intents upfront. They can handle many of them within the IVR and, if needed, pass all those intents on to an agent. Your IVR can become a conversational IVR, capturing context and vastly improving the Customer Experience through personalisation.
This is key to exceptional CX – and using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) within your current IVR makes it possible.
Voicebots and conversational IVR
Google led the modern revolution of conversational AI with NLU.
This technology makes it possible for a voicebot to hold a conversation and conduct back-and-forth questions, prompts and answers – without the customer having to use predefined expressions. In this way, every customer has a hyper-personalised experience.
Conversational IVRs go beyond understanding words as experienced with ASR, to determine what the customer wants and to help the agent understand and respond effectively. Machine learning capabilities enable these increasingly rich conversations – and continually optimise the IVR and improve the Customer Experience.
After the voicebot identifies the intents and self-serves where possible, customers can still go through a standard path within the IVR – or they can be routed to the relevant skilled resource to help them. Voicebots offer a massive opportunity to streamline the entire interaction process.
Let’s say I call my mobile carrier because I’m going on holiday and I want to know what the charges will be when I go overseas. With that one utterance of “I’m going overseas”, a voicebot would understand that this statement likely will require additional information.
The voicebot could ask: “Would you like to enable international roaming?”
If I answer yes, the voicebot could automatically process that request and then inform me of the expected tariffs. And, it can still pass this on to an agent if my questions are too complex. It’s a fluid, hyper-personalised conversation, and it doesn’t have to be complex.
You don’t have to change the entire IVR to use voicebots.
Voicebots move Customer Experience to the forefront
Voicebots not only solve long-standing IVR problems, they also take advantage of the data you already collect. Compare the advantages of conversational IVRs led by voicebots to traditional IVRs that put customer experience second to containment. The time savings, Customer Experience and overall improvement in operational efficiency blow traditional IVRs out of the water.
UK Customer Experience Awards finalist Confirmit has announced a new Principal Director of CX Consulting.
Howard Lax (pictured below) is a former Vice President, Customer Experience Practice Lead for Directions Research and held consulting roles with Kantar TNS, Harris Interactive, ORC and GfK Custom Research. He holds a PhD in Political Science from The Graduate Center, City University of New York.
With more than 20 years of consulting experience, Lax has a deep background in Customer Experience, Market Research, and employee engagement strategy. He has supplier and client-side experience in B2B and B2C space in industries like technology, financial services, retail, automotive, and hospitality.
In his role, Mr Lax will support clients in their efforts to design, develop, and implement their Customer Experience vision.
He said: “I am eager to bring a new perspective to the table, leveraging my experience and Confirmit’s wide array of services to help drive real change and better business outcomes for customers. In my experience, emotions are the driver behind the attachment a customer feels for a business. Driving a premium customer experience solidifies these relationships, and great technology is a critical enabler in this process.”
Chris Brown, Vice President of Global Consulting at Confirmit, added: “Adding a highly knowledgeable industry veteran to our team solidifies our commitment to providing our clients with access to talented consultants that can help their CX programmes drive real business success. Our consulting services ensure our technology can drive real insight and change. Howard’s expertise in customer and employee experience will help our customers further leverage our solutions to differentiate themselves from competitors.”
Among the successful partnerships at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards was ContactEngine and BT Enterprise, which together won Gold in the Use of Technology category.
The winning team secured the title following a presentation on the success of BT’s ‘Brilliant Installations’ initiative. BT Enterprise implemented ContactEngine conversations across broadband and landline customer services in order to deliver an unrivalled Customer Experience.
ContactEngine engages customers in intelligently automated conversations using Natural Language Understanding, from initial order through to appointment scheduling, billing, and surveying. The accolade represents the outstanding results achieved with ContactEngine, which exceeded the targets set out at inception.
These included a 40 percent reduction in customer-driven cancellations; a 50 percent reduction in customer calls related to enquiries; an 85 percent customer engagement rate; and a 38 percent improvement in NPS.
Dr Nicola Millard, Principal Innovation Partner at BT, said: “This is a fantastic example of how innovative technology can be deployed as a win-win for both the customer and the company. Using cutting-edge AI to create proactive, intelligent conversations with customers about things they want to know, whilst freeing human agents up to have the really important, value-add interactions.”
Dr Mark K. Smith, Chief Executive Officer at ContactEngine added: “We’re very happy to be recognised for our achievements in partnership with BT Enterprise. BT has long made it a priority to deliver a differentiated experience for both their customers and employees, and we’re pleased to be able to deliver that for them while achieving significant business benefits along the way. We look forward to continuing our partnership and to achieving more fantastic results together.”
If there is one lesson Phil Durand (pictured), Director of Customer Experience Management at Confirmit re-learned as a judge at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, it’s that there is real value in making things as simple as possible…
The aim of Voice of the Customer programmes is not to just to listen but to act.
In order to make this a reality, not a theoretical exercise, it’s vital that we all remember that creating a great Customer Experience is all about people. It requires a commitment to empowering people to use their initiative and to make a difference at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Technology is obviously an enabler, helping us to gather customer feedback, but the people that use technology to understand and harness the insight provided are the ones that make the real difference.
In the Best Use of Insight and Feedback category at the recent UK Customer Experience Awards, we were reminded of some of basic CX truths: ask the right people, the right questions, at the right time and in the right manner.
Continuous temperature checks on experience won’t necessarily drive response rates. In some cases they can do the opposite. Hands-on support was stressed, even if this means helping execs to access and make use of the VoC dashboard. Sharing voice recordings so that managers can literally hear the ‘voice’ of the customer can provide a shortcut to understanding what customers think and literally drive action to the next level.
In my view, best practice CX requires careful identification of the key challenges to be addressed. It needs razor-sharp focus on that end goal, whether it be culture change, boosting morale, increased revenue, or cost savings.
Just as important is the determination to share feedback to both the c-suite and the factory floor so that it can be used to take even the smallest of steps to improve the customer experience. Clear and effective communication is needed to make sure that the message is not lost in translation. And this means keeping it simple. If you bombard people with too much detail, you won’t take them with you.
Text analytics as a companion to VoC surveys has proven to be the ideal partnership in this respect. They complement each other because they provide insight into what the customer really thinks, in their own words, as well as what they may divulge in answer to a direct question in a survey.
Upon combining both forms of insight in a single dashboard, comments are longerregarded as ‘random’ but become representative, actively bringing ‘the numbers’ to life.
The idea, of course, is not to blind people with science or to hide behind the data. There’s no point empowering employees to go the extra mile if they can’t make sense of the insight you’ve gathered. It’s more effective to present insight in bite-size chunks that are appropriate for each stage of the customer journey and then share it in a digestible form with those responsible for delivering Customer Experience at that stage.
This is why I stress the importance of simplicity.
Yes, behind the scenes there may be some serious maths, crunching large quantities of data, but in order for people to engage with the insight there is no point in making it look more complex than it needs to be. Or making it too hard to find the nugget of insight that they need to do things differently.
That won’t empower anybody.
It’s still very true to say that people are more likely to be inspired by another person than a pie chart. They respond at a basic human level so while it is absolutely essential that we embrace data analysis in the background, make sure your employees can hear what customers are saying direct. So they can do something about it.
You book an entire day off work to receive a delivery. You spend the whole time waiting for the doorbell to ring because you don’t know what time the delivery will arrive. You nip out to the back garden to hang out the washing and find out you missed the delivery when you get back inside.
That might sound like an unlikely occurrence of Murphy’s law but the truth is that the growth of online shopping has more and more customers asking “Where is my order?” – so much so, that the industry has given it its own acronym, WISMO.
And, when they can’t find the answer, the first place they turn is customer service. So even in cases where brands use third party suppliers to ship goods to consumers, it’s still the responsibility of the brand to make sure their customers are informed and happy.
Research carried out by Zendesk found that good customer service outranks convenience and reputation when people are considering which companies to do business with. That means it’s not just the when and where of a delivery, but how you communicate and help the customer be informed that matters. But over the past five years, customer satisfaction is down 2.2 percent, from 94.6 percent in 2013 to 92.5 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, expectations are rising.
The rise of WISMO has the potential to increase the load on your customer service centres and turn waiting customers into angry ones. That doesn’t have to be the case though – here are three top tips businesses should consider to get ahead of WISMO and take control to improve on the delivery experience.
1. Help customers to help themselves
The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2019 findings show that 40 percent of customers prefer to use search or help centres before contacting support, yet only 20 percent of support teams provide self-service.
Companies can implement self-service tools that allow the customer to get quick and up-to-date information on how the delivery process works, with tools in place to push real-time alerts on delivery status and tracking to the customer. That way, they no longer need to set aside an entire day for a delivery that will take a few seconds to take place. It provides a boost in both convenience and customer satisfaction.
Setting up self-service isn’t a solution that you will implement overnight but the Zendesk customers I speak to tell me it’s worth it. Preparing self-service content enables a business to deeply understand its customers and the way they interact with the business about their questions and concerns.
Done correctly, self-service can speed up the time customers spend looking for answers and, at the same time, free up agent time to add value in areas where they are most needed.
2. Implement intelligence
It’s a big mistake to categorise artificial intelligence (AI) as a technology only seen in sci-fi movies. You also shouldn’t put AI on your ‘future’ list for a solution to implement when you’re flush with cash. The figures speak for themselves.
High performing businesses are twice as likely to use AI. It’s helping companies resolve tickets 21 percent faster, while handling six times the volume of requests. Yet 85 percent of enterprise companies still aren’t using AI.
AI can serve various purposes but if you want to give a better experience for customers waiting for deliveries, one function of AI is to recognise tickets that need urgent attention. Time sensitive questions or messages about an imminent or even late delivery can receive a macro response to both the customer and an agent. This ensures that customers’ needs are being prioritised while the agent is aware of the urgency of the case.
Whatever the channel that the customer uses to get in touch with the company, AI can be incorporated into an omnichannel solution that makes sure customers are dealt with quickly. When they receive the right response in a timeframe that reflects their level of query, it’s more likely to avoid escalated complaints – even if a delivery has been missed or is late.
3. Know that robots can’t do everything
No, this isn’t a direct contradiction to my previous point. No matter how sophisticated AI systems become, there will always be a need for human agents. To ensure that customers are updated on their deliveries, with the necessary customer support, it’s key to make sure human agents are in the best position to pick up more complex cases and be the most helpful.
Nearly half of customers we surveyed (46 percent) said their expectations are higher than they were a year ago. Customers quickly become frustrated when a chatbot can’t answer their detailed questions and if agents aren’t quickly and transparently brought in when needed, it becomes difficult to join the dots that lead to timely deliveries.
The key to the successful hand-off between bots and beings is the right information that prevents customers going right back to the beginning of the process when they pick up the phone or deal with a human agent on chat. No one wants to have to repeat themselves when talking to different parts of the same company.
By the time a human agent is presented with the case, they should have all necessary context – conversational history, product ordered, delivery information, and more. Connecting all this information in one platform – including integration with your order management system – helps ensure that agents have a full understanding of the customer and can manage more complex requests in a timely manner.
It’s important not just to deal with late or missed deliveries, it’s also imperative to counteract the frustration that comes with it. And when customer services start to become more proactive than reactive, with the use of AI, we can reduce the amount of anxiety from WISMO altogether.
At the heart of reaching this goal is an open flexible platform that enables collaboration throughout the business and integration with other stakeholders through APIs and app integrations to enable a complete view across the supply chain.
Jo Boswell is Founder & Director of Sentio-B, and one of the UK’s innovative CX consultants. This October she returned to Wembley Stadium to judge at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, where she was impressed with the calibre of finalists…
This was my second time at the UKCXAs, and my third time as an awards judge, having chaired a panel at the UK Digital Experience Awards earlier this year.
As a consultant, I spend my time helping organisations work out how to improve their Customer Experience, and so being invited to judge these awards is a privilege as it gives me the opportunity to hear about what other businesses are doing to innovate and improve their CX.
The recent awards day was made even more enjoyable as I got to work alongside fellow judges including Helen Gillett, Kathryn King, Victoria Orr, and Niranjalee Rajaratne. Once the scoring was done (without discussion of course, as that is strictly verboten’) it was a joy to share perspectives on a range of topics with these inspiring CX professionals.
This year I was allocated to the Customers at the Heart of Everything – SME category.When I read the written submissions, I found the standard to be generally high and an improvement on the previous year. On the day, I was even more pleased with the quality of the presentations, and impressed by the effort these finalists had put into the process, particularly as this represents a significant commitment in time and resources for a small business.
We heard some great examples throughout the day, showing how these organisations were getting a customer mindset firmly embedded in their business processes. What was also noteworthy was that most of them were able to attribute tangible business benefits to the bottom line as a result of taking this approach.
The Gold winners in the category were Trusted Housesitters, whose approach to improving the experience included a relentless focus on removing pain points for their customers. This resulted in a significant reduction in inbound calls to their contact centre, even though their customer base had substantially increased at the same time.
The Silver runners-up, AllClear Insurance Services, described how they had seen notable improvements in their employee engagement and retention numbers as a result of addressing customer issues that their front-line colleagues were raising – a great illustration of the close link between Employee Experience and Customer Experience.
Both examples are a reminder that simple and relatively low-cost approaches can reap some great results.
Overall, what struck me with all the presentations was the energy and enthusiasm the teams showed around improving the experience for their customers, and their ability to drive the internal change with relative ease – this is often an area that larger businesses struggle with.
There were some impressive examples of cross-functional processes being established to tune into the customer voice and to monitor the top customer issues needing to be addressed, and a recurring theme throughout the day was one of actively seeking out customer complaints, so that feedback could be acted upon.
Whilst it was encouraging to see the businesses in this SME category managing to deliver some great customer outcomes relatively quickly with reasonably simple approaches, it was also clear that as their businesses expand, they will face new challenges in sustaining these efforts. If they put the same heart and soul into meeting that challenge as they did to their UK Customer Experience Awards entry and presentation, however, I’m sure they will succeed.
In my recent discussions with UK banking execs, I’ve detected a fresh urgency when they talk of the need for change.
Banks have been speaking about greater customer centricity in their annual reports for years, but it’s really only in the past six months I’ve started to hear banking leaders highlight it as something that needs to happen “if we’re going to survive”.
I’ve been wondering why this is. After all, if we’re honest, UK banks have rarely done more than pay lip service to Customer Experience. Certainly, all their talk has amounted to negligible difference in our experience as customers.
So, what’s changed?
I think it’s the realisation that the rubber band that stretches between customer expectations (ever increasing) and service quality (flatlining) has finally reached breaking point – a hot topic which I discussed with The Experience Professionals in Medallia’s recent webinar Reimagining CX for Banking in the Digital Age.
This article will go further in outlining the specific risks for those banks that are still perhaps resistant to change, and what they should do about it.
Join me if you will on a journey back in time, in more ways than one.
‘Look at those cavemen go’
In January this year, I was in my local branch for an appointment.
I’d been on time, but the IT system had other ideas. I remember checking the clock; my Personal Banker had last appeared some 10 minutes before. At that point, he’d assured me we’d be up and running in five.
With no offer of tea or coffee to distract me, my attention fell to a poster on the wall, which ranked the UK banks by various perception metrics. Clearly it wouldn’t be on display if it didn’t have to be – my bank, one of the UK’s Big Four, didn’t have much to shout about. Under ‘Branch Experience’, for instance, it loitered somewhere in the bottom half of the list, below a number of challenger brands and building societies.
Bored of flicking through yesterday’s newspapers, I reflected on how I’d come to be there. I’d recently tried to open an account online. This included the usual process of KYC (Know Your Customer), where the bank attempts to verify a person’s identity. Now, despite my holding seven products with this bank, it turned out it didn’t know me very well at all. With the system unable to verify my identity digitally, and the contact centre unable to help, I was invited – a customer of 18 years’ standing, who hadn’t changed his address in nine – to pop in and prove that I was me.
First world problems of course. To be clear, I’m not suggesting my experience is uniquely terrible.
In fact, I’m sure most of us could rattle off stories about our banks – and many of those would be far, far worse. In 2018, a study by Medallia and Ipsos found that just seven percent of UK banking customers felt their experience had exceeded expectations over the past year. Contrast this with 19 percent in the USA.
And really, that’s the point. Reflecting on my experience, doesn’t it feel like something from a bygone era? After my appointment (which finally started a full half-hour after it had been due to finish), I remember thinking as I raced back to the office: “Why are banks such laggards in the UK?”
Focused on the wrong outcomes?
At first glance, it seems inexplicable.
After all, the links between CX and business results are well-documented. Take the ‘Likelihood to recommend’ survey question. The potential for financial impact is self-evident: if you treat customers well, they’ll be more likely to stick with you and tell their friends.
But it’s more than just common sense; there is hard data to back it up too. Farmers Insurance, for instance, attribute its CX investments with driving a three-point improvement in retention over three years, equivalent to $500 million annually in incremental revenue.
The Medallia-Ipsos research found that 40 percent of a bank’s customers would tell their friends and family after a positive experience. That’s 40 percent of a bank’s customer base happy to work as an extension of its marketing division – for free – helping to bring down cost of acquisition.
Meanwhile, as many as 18 percent said a positive experience would cause them to start using their bank more – a sizeable audience ripe for cross-sell. Why would the banks, of all organisations, be so lackadaisical about trying to capitalise on this financial linkage?
Perhaps the answer lies in part with another metric – one the banks have tended not to view as a cause for concern – attrition.
In contrast to other industries, in UK consumer banking, conventional wisdom has it that when a customer opens their first account, by and large they’ll remain a customer for life. For decades, acquisition strategies employed by the banks – visiting local schools, etc. – have borne fruit.
I still have the branded money box I received in what must have been my first interaction with any bank (and yes, that brand went on to become my primary provider). Great at attracting new customers, banks have been terrible at servicing existing ones – and it hasn’t mattered because those customers don’t churn. Even seven-day switching has failed to disrupt that paradigm.
With the banks laser-focused on efficiency ever since the global financial crisis, the levels of retention they’ve enjoyed have enabled them to concentrate on cost cutting, while deprioritising investments that would improve CX – even if those investments would lead to greater share of wallet from happier customers.
But there are signs that customer inertia may be a thing of the past. The Medallia-Ipsos research found that, today, 13 percent of UK customers will switch banks if their expectations are not met. While that’s a smaller proportion than the cross-industry average of 64 percent, still it remains far from negligible. And it should be a wakeup call for the big UK banks.
The end of customer stickiness
Branch closures have accelerated a trend that was already underway. A recent study found that a bank’s physical location is far less important than it was a decade ago, with only 10 percent of today’s customers citing it among their top three reasons for choosing a bank. Contrast that to the 42 percent of Generation Z customers and 37 percent of millennials who list “ability to manage services via a mobile app” among their top three reasons.
Take Monzo for example. Some recent hiccups notwithstanding, the asset-light UK challenger bank onboarded its two-millionth customer this year. Millennials and others, who will be the drivers of future growth, have realised that factors like proximity to branches are less important to them.
As consumers increasingly look to their banks to meet them wherever they are, the old rules of attraction and retention are breaking down.
Banking leaders have long talked of the threat of disintermediation – of some nightmare future (for the banks) where the fintechs have successfully interposed themselves between customer and bank. In that dystopia, the fintechs own the distribution layer, ultimately winning the end relationship with the consumer, leaving the traditional banks to do the fulfilment behind the scenes.
But, as with climate change, arguably the future is already here. Monzo is currently growing at a rate of 35,000 customers per week. Have banks truly grasped the urgency of their predicament?
In January this year, around the same time I was struggling to open that account, I asked some industry contacts for their opinions on Monzo. I found their opinions surprising:
“Smells like emperor’s new clothes.”
“They are a comms company not a bank.”
So, in the UK at least, a degree of complacency remains. CX is generally treated as a matter of compliance (see the poster in my local branch, on display at the stipulation of the Competition and Markets Authority), rather than being seen as an opportunity to drive meaningful change. While most of the big banks have a CX programme in place, too often it’s merely a case of sending out surveys. And surveys aren’t the answer.
Why surveys alone can’t work
Take the example of my account opening fiasco. Sure, a survey would have allowed me to tell the bank about it – but only after the fact.
Best case, someone calls me to apologise. Think how more impactful it would have been – and how more satisfying for me as the customer – if the bank had resolved things in the moment. Multiple signals were generated over the course of my experience, from the unsuccessful digital application, to my unresolved query with the contact centre, to the operational signals at the branch (i.e. the IT failure occurring at the same time as a known customer appointment).
Any or all of these together should have alerted someone that a customer was having a bad time.
So far, UK banks’ over-reliance on the survey companies has bought them nothing but stagnation. When it comes to service quality, the UK Big Four are all competing in the same narrow range, while challengers put clear blue water between themselves and the traditional providers.
Learning from other regions
UK banks would do well to take note of what’s happening across the Atlantic and elsewhere in Europe. I like what I’ve been seeing from Bank of America (BofA) for instance – a bank that has recognised how today’s customer expectations are shaped by the likes of Apple and Airbnb.
I also like what I’ve seen from ABN AMRO. Based on customer signals, ABN completely overhauled its mortgage process, which now includes a personalised video to guide customers through their journey (e.g. the time of their appointment, where they need to go, what paperwork they should bring).
ABN’s mortgage perception scores have moved from -30 to +30 as a result. Indeed, ABN has seen a +16 point improvement in overall customer perception and a +20 point improvement in Customer Care, all without ever displaying an aggregated score on anyone’s dashboard internally. ABN recognises that impactful CX is not about score-watching; instead the focus should be on keeping employees engaged. Consequently, ABN trials initiatives like handing out customer stories in fortune cookies – fun things like that – and much of ABN’s success is due to leveraging employee ideas.
To make all of the above happen, ABN and BofA equip their colleagues with empathetic tools that enable them to understand the true picture of CX. As ever, technology can provide a solution – but first a bank needs the vision to move beyond using surveys as a blunt instrument. And, frankly, also the courage to stand up and say “this is worth investing in”.
It’s clear that good stuff is happening elsewhere. It just hasn’t taken hold here yet.
Sure, that’s often the way with tech-enabled innovation: it starts in Silicon Valley, migrates to the East Coast, then makes landfall in Europe a couple of years later. Even by that standard, however, the UK banks are starting to look decidedly behind the times.
With the fintechs no longer merely yapping at their heels but actively winning market, it’s finally do-or-die time for banks. The days of “too-big-to-fail” are demonstrably over, as the execs I mentioned at the top of this article are starting to verbalise. It’s time for the UK big banks to stop issuing mealy mouthed platitudes about “Customer Experience”.
Time at last to demonstrate to consumers why on earth they should continue banking with them.
Medallia recently published The 4 Pillars of CX Excellence for Banking. In addition to the steps outlined in that whitepaper, below are my urgent recommendations for those banks that are still dragging their feet:
1. Revisit the business case for CX
Sure, balancing efficiency targets with CX projects will always take careful calibration. But deprioritising customer-focused investments in favour of cost reduction inevitably leads to a race to the bottom.
Evangelists for CX within banks need to be able to equip their P&L-owning execs with the arguments – how good CX leads to reduced cost to serve, lower acquisition costs, improved retention and greater share of wallet. CX has earned its seat at the top table; if banks are going to stop treating it as a compliance function, it has to be top-of-mind for execs with decision-making and budgetary authority, not just analysts.
2. Look beyond the survey
Start meeting customers where they are, by bringing together signals from across channels – SMS, social, “emerging platforms” (Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, etc.) to understand the true picture of Customer Experience. Customers are less willing than ever to respond to surveys; banks need to be smart about gathering and interpreting signals wherever they may be harvested.
3. Think in-the-moment
Don’t let customer signals disappear into some analytical black box.
That won’t wash any more.
Even just apologising to customers 24-48 hours after an incident feels woefully insufficient in today’s Uber-ised marketplace. Think about customer signals not simply as data, but as a way to deepen relationships and uncover underlying issues and unmet needs. View each signal as a potential opener to a dialogue, and start engaging in those conversations now.
4. Activate the entire organisation
It’s easy enough to engage frontline colleagues with customer feedback – and most banks do at least an element of this – but what about product and proposition teams? They may not interact directly with customers, but still they play a pivotal role in shaping their experiences.
To keep pace with ever-changing customer demands, it’s crucial that middle – and back – office teams are supported to develop greater empathy for customers’ experiences, to design more empathetic experiences.
5. Above all, recognise and listen to your people
Engaged employees are more likely to manifest customer-focused behaviours that lead to bottom-line impact. This is hardly new insight – it’s the central philosophy of the service-profit chain that a trio of Harvard academics evidenced as early as 1994.
But have the big UK banks truly embraced this? When CX becomes a score-watching exercise, when employee ideas are either not solicited at all or disappear into the ether, what does that say about the value the bank places on its employees’ ability to change customer’s lives? Recognition, positive coaching and effectively harnessing employee ideas at scale are key.
It’s not too late for the banks to decide to compete to win and survive. It will, of course, require a new approach. But will any of them have the courage to change?
In this exclusive book excerpt for Customer Experience Magazine, the authors explores why CEOs must embrace the new customer economy, or face extinction…
Being customer-led is not a new concept.
The difference today, however, is that being customer-centric is no longer an option – it is a necessity for survival and growth. And, as the principle of customer-centricity has existed for a long time, it has taken many forms, having been reinvented on many occasions to suit the zeitgeist. Same person, different attire.
For example, when Levitt argued in the 1960s that the essence of marketing was all about satisfying the customer, the marketing purists would, in turn, claim the higher ground that sales was short-term, and that marketing was all about building a sustainable business. Hence, today, marketing professionals and leaders still claim to be the ultimate customer champions within any organisation – even if they are viewed upon as a mere executor of product and solution-led communication campaigns. And even, in the worst-case scenario, when marketers have very little customer interaction at all!
Later followed the CX movement, championed by the likes of Don Peppers, where the idea of satisfying customer needs rather than gaining market share for products and solutions became the ‘new’ mantra. Ultimately, this movement spawned today’s huge global community of CX evangelists and experts, including the likes of Jeanne Bliss, Shep Hyken, Annette Franz, the Temkin Group, the CXPA, etc. Also, it gave rise to many voices in the customer communities and the net promoter system (NPS), pioneered by Fred Reichheld, Bain and Satmetrix. It also led to the seminal book by Kerry Bodine et al., titled Outside-In.
In addition to the CX community, there is also a sizeable contingent of Customer Advocacy professionals who champion the cause that a referenceable client base is key to company growth. Bill Lee, author and founder of the Centre for Customer Engagement, rightfully claims the moniker of ‘Customer Advocacy & Engagement King’, a concept which even now is being reinvented and repackaged by technology vendors such as Influitive who are looking to create a new market category under the theme of the ‘Customer-Powered Enterprise’.
Finally, and most recently, is the Customer Success movement, created and championed by the Customer Success platform vendors – first and foremost Gainsight (whose COO wrote the book on Customer Success), but also its competitors such as Totango and consultancy organisations such as TSIA (the Technology Services Industry Association). The Customer Success movement is impressive, amassing thousands of Customer Success professionals at annual conferences in the United States, Europe and Asia. The majority of Customer Success professionals come from a technical support background but have been rebadged and repositioned as customer champions of many organisations, especially in the B2B technology/SaaS world.
In reality, there is a significant overlap between all of these concepts, ideas and customer communities. By way of example, Annette Franz, CX thought leader, wrote an article in October 2018 to describe the difference between CX and Customer Success. She curated quotes from Customer Success thought leaders such as Gainsight and the Customer Success Association in an effort to compare and contrast the two disciplines. After dissecting the two concepts, she concluded as follows:
“It makes me question if the Customer Success role and discipline are really necessary. What do you think? Customer Experience is the umbrella. Get the experience right – listen to customers, understand the problems they are trying to solve, innovate, and design and deliver a better experience – and Customer Success management becomes obsolete, no? After all, it’s all about the customer.”
We have seen this before with the crossover between VoC (Voice of the Customer) and Customer Advocacy professionals. VoC teams state that the golden NPS question – likelihood to recommend – is their raison d’être. At the same time, the ultimate goal of Customer Advocacy professionals is to deliver a referenceable client base to advocate at every step of the customer journey. So, what is the difference?
The simple answer is that all of these communities present valid arguments and have important contributions to make when it comes to helping their company drive customer-led growth. Yet, no single community on its own has the silver bullet when it comes to achieving this. In truth, it is the combined set of activities that will help a company achieve its vision for customer-led growth. To coin a phrase, it is a war on all fronts. And, as we mentioned in the introduction, it is no longer a recommendation, it is a necessity.
As CX leader Claire Sporton puts it, “Investors now look for sustainable growth, not short-term wins each quarter. The M&A community are recognising that a commitment to customer centricity is a leading indicator of sustainable business growth.”
The Angora Rabbit: Why do customer-led transformations often run out of steam?
According to Sporton, “The challenge is that no one would say that the customer is not important – just like the rabbit, every-one will give it a stroke. But when it comes to looking after it, people quickly get bored. And then the fox (the maniacal pursuit of short-term revenue gain) eats the rabbit.”
Sporton makes the key point that the pursuit of customer-centric growth needs to be deeply embedded in the organisation: “There’s no business growth unless people change their behaviours. Two-day change programmes don’t work. Executive leadership must rigorously champion customer-centric values all the time, ensuring that actions are made, and impact is measured. CEOs must create sustainable, viral change.”
CX leader, Shep Hyken builds on this point: “One of the most important factors in driving growth is to establish a simple, clear and easy-to-remember customer vision statement. And then repeat it over and over again, so that everyone across the company knows it and applies it in their day-to-day activities. Leadership must set an example and constantly defend the culture. Whether it’s training, workshops or simply leading by example, the customer vision must be continually re-enforced.”
Take, for example, Horst Schulze, the founder of Ritz-Carlton. His customer vision statement was simple: “We’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.’ This statement is still used today, and Ritz-Carlton remains one of the most successful hotel chains ever.”
In summary, it is imperative that customer-centricity be hard-wired into the company’s DNA, culture, operations, processes, products, systems, etc. – ideally, from day 1; but, if that is not possible, then starting tomorrow.
Earlier this month, Ian Golding, Founder of the Customer Experience Consultancy and leader of the CX Professional Masterclass, joined Peter Dorrington, Director of Analytics at TTEC, at a CXPA & TTEC Breakfast Workshop.
In a joint article for CXM, Ian and Peter explore how the advances in CX measurement can curb this trend…
The Past, Present and Future of CX Measurement – Ian Golding
Although companies are using a number of CX measurements and capturing details, the majority are not taking action or worse, applying them incorrectly and so they come to the wrong conclusion.
NPS and CSAT scores are cost-effective and easy ways of getting feedback from customers and an easy way for customers to provide feedback.Many would argue over time they have been shown to be valuable, credible systems for customer-focussed companies.However, many companies are failing to apply them correctly and increasingly they are being used as a tick-box to please stakeholder and shareholders.
Consumer experience is fast becoming a dominant theme for financial services and the FCA is increasingly focussed on quantifiable customer outcomes. To ensure the reliability of measures of satisfaction, they have issued a mandate that results are collected independently and widely published. Improving CX can influence people to switch supplier with the promise of getting better customer service, but consumers need a reliable way of assessing the experience that organisations provide.
More CX measurements will be regulated if companies cannot do it accurately and continue to publish inaccurate results as part of their advertising and brand promotion.
The Voice of Customer (VOC) and Voice of the Employee (VOE) are often listened to and treated entirely separately. Organisations that run VOC and VOE programmes usually conduct them at different times, using different teams – for example VOE is often confused with Employee Engagement. What’s more, they’ll invariably have entirely different objectives and different KPIs against which outcomes are measured. It is vital to check that your employees feel the same way about your service as customers.VOE can provide a vital check and balance to VOC, with a wide disparity between the two being a cause for concern.
VOC and VOE results should be broadly similar.Something is wrong if they are not.Also ensure your Voice of the Employee surveys are anonymous and that something with the results – both programmes should provide the impetus and insight for action.
The most robust CX measurement systems are structured by correlating business processes with the customer journey. If we think of all organisations as a combination of ‘layers’, whilst the top layer is the customer journey, the middle layer is made up of business processes. It is a business’s processes that enable the customer journey to happen. The bottom layer comprises the technology that enables business processes to deliver the customer outcome. However, all too often, it is the technology that is forcing the customer process, so the customer gets whatever that manifests itself as.
For a business to be focussed on knowing what to address to improve the customer journey it must be able to measure “cause and effect”. If you measure how capable business processes are at doing what they need to do, you should see an improvement in the way customers feel about what you do.
Unfortunately, too many companies are mapping customer journeys without measuring their experience of each touch point as it relates to customer needs.
Using Emotion Analytics to Understand What Customers Value, and Why – Peter Dorrington
“Customer experience management is the art and science of coaxing lifetime loyalty from daily transactions.”
“Customers who are emotionally connected with a brand are 52% more valuable than customers who are just highly satisfied”
Harvard Business Review
The above quotes show the power of emotion.
Imagine being able to use that to not only measure how well your CX strategy is doing but to increase loyalty and revenues.
Work in the field of behavioural economics has demonstrated just how dependent on emotions we are for decision-making – even very big decisions, where we think we are acting ‘rationally’. Research into the placebo effect demonstrates just how powerful the brain is in influencing the body and decisions. Emotions are an important part of how we experience and how we make decisions and It is now possible to anticipate the emotional state of every customer, whether you are in an active conversation with them or not.
A lot of organisations have recognised that if CX is the new competitive battleground, not only does it have to be good, but it has to be relevant and valued by the person experiencing it – and therefore you have to address their emotions; what they care about.
TTEC’s research shows that business can make quantifiable improvements in their customer-facing decision-making if they have a way of knowing what the customer feels. At the highest level of abstraction, emotion analytics could support the design of more efficient and effective customer experiences at the strategic level – by putting the ‘relationship’ back into customer relationship management. When it knows that a customer has emotional, as well as practical needs, a business is better able to meet all their needs.
If a business could understand within customer journeys how customers feel at different stages – what might be motivating them, what might influence their decisions – then it is better able design a better experience; resulting in a better experience, higher satisfaction, and all the benefits that brings; increased revenues, lower churn and more powerful advocacy.
Turning CX insights into hyper personalised experiences
One example of how this insight could be used would be in the arena of receptiveness. An organisation could convert the emotions into understanding whether a customer would be receptive to hearing from it. This would therefore influence whether they are marketed to, what is marketed to them and how it is done.
Think of upselling someone from a gold card to the platinum card. But just before we send the messaging, we do a check to see if the person is receptive and it becomes clear they are not – perhaps there has been a transactional issue, or there may be more of an emotional zeitgeist thing where banks are getting hammered in the press.
Not only should we consider emotions in the operational aspects of our business, we need to think about the role they play in the product or service itself.
Elsewhere, there are also implications for the way that inbound interactions are handled. For instance, an organisation may be able to anticipate that the customer will call and that if she calls she will be upset, so the company can put her through to a senior handler who is better at dealing those kinds of conversations (i.e. have high EQ).
The use of emotional insights could also extend into the world of bots and AI, enabling organisations to choose which script to use and which tone of voice to adopt. And the evidence shows that people will pay a premium to those organisations that they believe will make them feel the way that they want to expect to feel as well as which actions could be taken to cost-effectively strengthen the relationship.
Not only should we consider emotions in the operational aspects of our business, we need to think about the role they play in the product or service itself: as well as considering the functional needs of the customer, think about their (changing) emotional needs as well; it affects everything they do and research shows that customers will pay a premium to organisations they think will meet their emotional needs better. And our own research shows that customers are more loyal towards companies that meet their emotional needs.
Finally, TTEC’s research also shows that customer don’t always need a ‘better’ Customer Experience, preferring that the experiences they have predictable meet their expectations on a consistent basis. The implications for organisation is this; it is often better to maintain the level of the experience, but focus on aligning it to customer expectations and reduce the cost and complexity of delivery.
Companies must upgrade their CX measurements to capture customers’ emotions. How customers feel about their experiences with a firm can damage – or improve – their perception of the overall experience and the brand!
Last year, the 90s masterpiece Friends, which has been running and rerunning on TV for the last two and a half decades, caused joy and uproar when it made a return to the small screen via Netflix.
It was back! Hardly daring to believe this stroke of luck, many people of a certain age (these fearsome millennials we’ve been hearing about) took to their sofas to binge watch.
As one of these millennials, I was a happy cog in this machine of nostalgic fervour. However, alongside my uncritical enjoyment of this frankly problematic TV show, as I watched there was one aspect that stuck out, which I hadn’t paid much attention to before…
Phones and phone calls, and the sheer amount that these are used. Friends was filmed in the 90s, so there weren’t really mobile phones yet. They appear in later seasons, but they’re not a big feature. What struck me, though, wasn’t just the absence of mobiles and internet and so on, but rather the easy, natural, unstressed way they all use the phone. They ring each other constantly! They call strangers and service people! They’re always just picking up the phone and…ringing! Unannounced!
Fast forward to the present and things are quite different.
Firstly, our phone usage has decreased – we’re all calling each other far less. Three years ago, 96 percent of smartphone owners were making at least one voice call per week. Now, only three quarters of us do, while a quarter of us don’t make weekly phone calls at all.
Research commissioned back in 2012 by O2 found that the ‘telephone’ app is only the fifth most used app on the general public’s phones. Based on the rate of development of smartphones and communicative practices, chances are high that this has decreased again in the seven years since.
Secondly, phone calls make us nervous. A new, but increasingly prevalent problem for the modern age is so-called “telephone apprehension”. And it’s not only millennials who suffer from this (although they famously do). Around 10-15 percent of the population suffer from anxiety or fear when using the telephone; of these, around 2.5 percent are so anxious that they can be described as truly “telephonophobic”.
But where is this anxiety coming from? One argument is that for some, it’s about politeness. People born since the late 80s and 90s have grown up with numerous methods of communication, and as such, are never out of reach. Accordingly, they might be more likely to choose written rather than verbal communication, because it’s less intrusive – it doesn’t create an immediate demand on someone’s time.
For many, it’s not the case that phone calls are The Worst and to be avoided at all costs – but their intrusiveness needs to be managed. It’s become common courtesy to send a quick message before you pick up the phone, to check whether the person is free. This might seem odd, but it’s commonplace in the workplace – in many professions, people are far more likely to schedule non-urgent calls than to pick up the phone and demand immediate attention.
This is something to consider for companies like ContactEngine, which conduct multichannel customer conversations. It’s all very well sending SMS or email or other written comms, but voice calls are a different beast.
Because looking at the above in reverse, if people are making fewer calls, they’re not answering calls either. Another new (or not new anymore) aspect of phones is caller ID. We used not to know who was calling us when we answered the landline. Without caller ID, you just had to risk it. And we did!
But now? How many of us actually answer calls from an unknown number?
When designing our communications, we talk about the problem of customers not answering phone calls – but when I asked my colleagues if they answer calls from an unknown number, none of them said they do. I know I don’t. And we’re not alone, as some recent ContactEngine research indicates…
As shown, when receiving a call from an unknown number, some people decline the call (27 percent), some wait for a voicemail (21 percent), some Google the number (18 percent), and some do nothing (20 percent) – but none of these pick up the phone. Only around 14 percent of those we asked said they would actually answer the call.
As a business based around conversations, if people simply don’t answer their phone – whether because they’re anxious or they just don’t want to – what can we really do? Receiving cold calls isn’t nice, and especially not from an unknown number.
Well, there’s a couple of things we can do. First, we can consider the customer journey as a whole and take a holistic view of the communications. For example, ContactEngine may try to call a customer about their delivery details.
They may not pick up. Fair enough. But we can configure the conversation so that if there’s no answer, it leaves a pre-recorded voicemail explaining why we called and setting an expectation about what will happen next – for example, that we will send an email, and asking them to look out for it.
Or we could send an SMS – ‘We tried to call you earlier’ – and let them know what our next move will be: ‘We’ll try again tomorrow’. Adding context, or attempting contact via a different channel, makes the communications more trustworthy and increases the chances of contact.
Secondly, we can ask people when they’d like to be contacted. If a phone call is really necessary, we can ask via a written form of communication when would suit them. Our AI can interpret responses and book a slot, and they can be called back at that time by a human. If you’re expecting a call, you’re more likely to answer the phone.
As argued here, gaining permission is key to a successful phone call, and this could be a key to solving telephonobia too.
Consensual telephoning, basically.
These approaches might be unrecognisable to Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, et al – but times are a-changing. Friends celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. If this much has happened, technology-wise, in just those years, I wonder where we’ll be in another 25? Hopefully Friends will still be available on Netflix, anyway.
It’s a comfort thing. Don’t @ me.
This article was written in partnership with Zoey Planjer, Head of Customer Journey at ContactEngine.
B2B companies know the kind of Customer Experience they should be offering.
Buying experiences should be seamless and rich, with tailored product information, relevant pricing, and payment options, and the right combination of flexible and adaptable buying and selling touchpoints. These features are more important than ever for B2B buyers and sellers as retail giants like Amazon encroach into B2B territory.
Unfortunately, based on Elastic Path’s study of 300 B2B eCommerce decision makers, it seems the reality of the B2B experience lags well behind the expectation. Nearly half (45 percent) of B2B businesses have lost customers as a result of their commerce experience. Eighty-two percent believe that they will likely lose customers if they don’t make improvements to the commerce experience within the next year.
Despite company leaders seeming to understand the urgency for CX innovation, few are making the right investments. In an attempt to meet the needs of digitally savvy customers, most B2B companies have to turn to B2C-focused commerce platforms. But these leave buyers unable to complete the fundamentally different and more complex steps required in a B2B sale.
Instead, B2B businesses must focus on digitising the B2B buying experience rather than attempting to mimic B2C commerce. The Customer Experience must be the driving force behind B2B commerce innovation.
Enabling the true B2B experience
Many brands have implemented technology to improve Digital Experience for customers, but few are offering the tools required to truly enable B2B buying online. With platforms designed for consumer sales, buyers are left without the ability to complete orders online in the same manner they have completed orders historically.
Nuances like contract-based pricing or project-based ordering – activities traditionally handled over the phone with a rep – have not been accounted for on digital channels, leaving buyers frustrated and confused. Most B2B commerce sites today are basic, B2C-like, digitised catalogues with the ability to personalise recommendations.
But B2B buyers are buying for their businesses, not their lifestyles – basic digitised catalogues and shopping carts aren’t enough. For these buyers, it’s all about enabling efficient buying and selling, and solving both long-and short-term problems.
For example, a buyer might need to create a new order for a quickly moving project. But in a traditional shopping cart set-up, that buyer would need to discard any orders started for long-term projects. It’s a frustrating and inefficient process.
The missing piece of the puzzle
What B2B brands really need are purpose-built systems with features designed specifically to ease the complexities of B2B buying and selling. These systems position B2B businesses to evolve right alongside buyer expectations. A purpose-built B2B commerce system should:
1. Elevate your sales team beyond administrative order-taking roles.
2. Support organisation-specific digital catalogues on a single platform to deliver buyer and organisation-specific product assortments.
3. Provide account-based experiences and provide division and role-specific pricing depending on contract agreements.
4. Offer streamlined reordering and guided selling experiences that ensure products and services ordered together are compatible with one another.
5. Support flexible pricing models through account-specific pricing, subscription billing, usage pricing, tiered billing, or negotiated and contract billing.
6. Deliver unified experiences across channels using API-first platforms to power both online and offline CX as buyers traverse channels.
With a purpose-built B2B commerce system, the pieces just fall into place. They support the enormous complexity of the industry whilst allowing you to offer the quality experience buyers expect.
Happy customers make for better results
More than half (53 percent) of respondents in our research that have achieved profit margin growth in the last few years strongly agree that this has resulted from investments in digital buying and selling tools to provide better service to customers.
When customers are given the buying experiences they expect, they buy more and remain customers for life. Our findings make it clear that the missing piece of the B2B commerce puzzle is a purpose-built system designed specifically to address the complexities of B2B buying and selling.
B2B sellers should abandon the B2C-like methods hamstringing sales and implement solutions that empower the business to deliver customer experiences that meet increasingly elevated expectations. The message is simple – B2C commerce tools do not work for B2B businesses, and they never will.
FOMO, or ‘fear of missing out’, has become a phenomenon among the millennial generation.
Millennials are spending more, travelling more, and seeking experiences more than any other generation, with Gen Z close behind. Of course, millennial instincts for sharing are well documented, as they are constantly in search for places to post about their experiences. Social media only adds fuel to their FOMO fire, enticing them to spend ever-increasing shares of their disposable income on experiences so they feel like they are keeping pace with their perpetually posting peers.
While these behaviours may strike fear in the heart of retailers attempting to capture their share of millennial disposable income, they actually point directly toward new and unprecedented opportunities to differentiate. For perhaps the first time in my lifetime, price is no longer the defining factor in purchase decisions. In fact, just the opposite is the new norm: millennials are consistently willing to pay premium prices for products, when they are accompanied by engaging experiences.
Taking full advantage of this unique opportunity requires more than the occasional loyalty perk, trunk show, or Instagrammable moment. Building a dedicated community of loyal customers requires one to become an active part of that community. And there really are no shortcuts. Joining a community takes time, dedication and persistence. If retailers ultimately want to bring the community to their brand, they first have to bring their brand to the community.
To date, few retailers have capitalised on this rare opportunity to differentiate on something other than product or price, generally by investing in mobile engagement strategies that extend beyond the smartphone. Those who have succeeded at becoming a meaningful part of their communities, have done so through innovative content tactics that engage with people who share a core set of interests, beliefs, and behaviours:
1. They develop a sense of purpose for their brand, and they design brand experiences that reflect that purpose, to create connections with people who have similar lifestyles and values.
2. They consistently go where their customers gather and bring their brands to them through pop-up experiences and shopping opportunities.
3. They develop a mindset and culture that embrace mobile engagement first – and then design each experience accordingly.
Creating a reason for millennials to connect
In a world of endless choices filled with new competitors around every corner, brands that have lived by the ‘one-stop-shop’ mantra are being picked off one by one. Meanwhile, more focused niche brands are thriving. These brands – which most typically have a clearly defined sense of purpose – understand that “finding your tribe” is critical to developing meaningful connections.
Finding your tribe requires that you identify a community based upon shared interests, values, beliefs, and behaviours. Doing so can reap both short – and long-term – benefits for the business:
Developing and nurturing a tribe can help brands identify, establish and design experiences based upon a value proposition that is relevant to and resonates with their target community.
Identifying with people of similar values and lifestyles can help nurture authentic relationships that tend to be durable and long-lasting.
Relationships built upon common beliefs and shared values typically engender feelings of loyalty that can lead to greater long-term recurring revenue.
Brands that will thrive for the long term will do so by recognising that they must continually contribute to and empower their communities, which will result in deeper, more meaningful relationships.
Nurturing relationships requires a commitment to being an active part of the community, and retailers can no longer rely solely upon their stores as the centrepiece to their community-building strategies. Once again, we can learn from the emerging niche brands. Most emerged as digital natives, but they quickly learned that physical, ‘in real life’ (IRL) connections are critical to nurturing community, particularly with the millennial generation. Many have looked to pop-up shops as a key element of their IRL engagement strategies, and the pop-up industry is suddenly booming.
As the experience economy continues to expand, the number of opportunities to connect where your community gathers grows exponentially. Festivals, for example, exist to bring like-minded people together. Today, people – particularly millennials – gather in large numbers at Harry Potter festivals, craft beer festivals, cat video festivals, yoga festivals, chocolate festivals, duct tape festivals, The Big Lebowski festivals and, yes, even FOMO festivals.
From portable canopies at local events to elaborate temporary shopfronts in high-rent city centres, savvy retailers are investing in imaginative pop-up experiences that bring their brands directly to those places where people gather. By their very definition, pop-up shops – temporary, soon-to-disappear experiences – are perfectly suited to capitalise on Millennial FOMO. Unsurprisingly, pop-ups have grown into what many analysts estimate to be as much as a £60B industry.
Creating connections that last
Whether it be through pop-up shops, permanent shops, social media or digital channels, retailers need to connect with millennials on their own terms. Each experience must be designed to reflect the values, behaviours and aspirations of these FOMO-fearing shoppers. Because FOMO is here to stay. It’s simply time to learn how to benefit from it and to create connections that last beyond the next promotion or offer.
Retailers can tap into this rapidly expanding opportunity by considering their audiences values, finding where they gather, and becoming an active, engaged part of their community.
Otherwise, I fear it’s retailers who will be missing out.
Managing a large customer service operation can be a tricky and complex task, especially if an organisation is having to juggle multiple CRM platforms that can’t share information effectively.
This impacts customer service agents, making it hard for them to deliver great Customer Experience. There is a real need to manage this complexity and to help agents use fewer resources but provide a better and faster CX.
Optimising customer data
Out of the four most common types of CRM on the market – sales, commerce, marketing, and service – service CRMs have seen the fastest growth. This is unsurprising when you look at how many organisations are prioritising Customer Experience. What is surprising however, is that 60 percent of that market is still filled with homegrown solutions, of which many are only capable of providing simple case-logging abilities, which is causing all sorts of headaches for those trying to achieve fantastic experiences for their customers.
What’s needed is a solution that brings together core capabilities such as omnichannel, case-management, and self-service features and uses digital workflows to easily connect the customer with the right information or agent via their channel of choice. This creates an end-to-end experience that for many customers, means the difference between a frustrating and slow experience and one that gets to root causes and solves problems faster and more effectively.
For example, by connecting the customer service agent with the back-end operations team or the engineering team that built the product customer service, employees can identify the issue more accurately and fix the issue once and for all.
Because great service means more than just engaging your customer, it’s also connecting customer service with other teams to resolve issues quicker and proactively.
Adopting a single platform model
A single platform approach enables users to access a single data model rather than having to navigate and integrate a myriad of data models from different platforms into their customer service workflows.
The result is that you are able to take full advantage of capabilities that are either missing or difficult to manage in legacy platforms such as machine learning, native mobile experiences, and self-service portals – all features that customers are coming to expect from every brand.
Such a platform is also built to grow and evolve alongside the enterprise. Third-party capabilities can be added, or new different data sources integrated if the business requires it. Or a virtual data source capability can be added, which allows customer service agents to access external information, such as account records, that aren’t native in other customer service management tools.
Creating a Customer Experience that drives loyalty
A great example of how customer service can be improved with this approach is ServiceNow customer, NICE Software, a leading analytics software company.
NICE was handling 70,000-plus customer cases a year, with 1,000 cases a month that required individual attention. However, they lacked the capabilities to assign cases to the most appropriate agent based on their skill set, so many were allocated to the wrong people. When a case finally reached an engineer with the right skills, often they’d in fact not come across many of the issues before and lacked access to a knowledge base that could help resolve the issue. As a result, it was taking an average of 24 days to resolve a case.
By implementing a single platform model, NICE was able to automate and accelerate case management. Within a week of implementation the volume of assignments had reduced by identifying the required skills during case creation and automating routing enquiries to the right agent straight away. Thanks to these intuitive processes and a more engaging user interface, NICE reduced back-end case volume by 72 percent, saving $450,000 a year.
Another success story is Vodafone, one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies. Prior to the implementation of ServiceNow, the customer service team were dealing with siloed systems across multiple platforms, meaning it was a very complex environment with a lack of unified data. Often a customer would know about a problem before the business did.
By streamlining all of this data into one platform, Vodafone can now be proactive and notify a customer that there’s an issue and that its being rectified, thanks to a single 360 degree view of them, with one application that is simple, intuitive and streamlined to clearly see their journey. Customer satisfaction is now up by over 25 NPS points and customer agent productivity levels have increased by 45 percent.
Start delivering a better customer service today
In today’s competitive environment, the kind of customer service you provide may mean the difference between you and a competitor. And today’s customer expectations go far beyond what traditional CRM systems deliver.
The modern customer service organisation must connect with every corner of the enterprise to diagnose, fix and prevent issues. This multidepartment functionality resolves problems at once, meaning agents can respond faster and provide real solutions, as well as free them up to deliver proactive strategies that drive business improvement and growth.
Hundreds of guests arrived at the event as finalists presented details of the country’s most innovative CX strategies in front of an expert judging panel before results were announced at a glittering evening gala ceremony.
The most important CX title in Britain today, the UK Customer Experience Overall Winner award was claimed by Aviva’s Solus Accident Repair Centres, which earlier in the evening won the Customer Centric Culture Gold award.
The Solus team were also presented with Silver awards in the Customers at the Heart of Everything and CX Professional of the Year categories, with the firm’s National Customer Experience Manager, DeAnna Avis, earning the latter title.
Meanwhile, 2019’s CX Professional of the Year title was awarded to Jo Mayes of Business Stream. Her outstanding work this year secured her the highly coveted Gold award, and she said afterwards: “It was an amazing night and I am delighted to have won. A huge thank you to the Business Stream team for their hard work and belief in me.”
Business Stream’s dream team also secured Gold in the B2B Customer Experience category and Bronze in Utilities.
Other big winners on the night included estate agents Knight Frank, which took home an incredible four Gold category titles, and Direct Line Group, which landed three Golds to add to the firm’s trophy cabinet.
Guests partied late into the night after the ceremony, deftly presented by CX consultant, awards chairman, and author Ian Golding, while attendees were also treated to a live performance from the legendary Heather Small, a star possessed with one of the most powerful and recognisable voices in the British music industry.
CEO of hosts Awards International, Neil Skehel, said: “This has been an incredible year for Customer Experience in the UK, and this event celebrates those who continue to make it the key brand differentiator for modern consumers.
“The teamwork on display during the presentations and the infectious enthusiasm of the finalists is inspiring, and it’s safe to say CX in the UK is in safe hands with the organisations represented at this, our flagship event.
“Congratulations to all who made it to the finals, and of course a special congratulations to our winners, who will be setting the trend for others to follow as we head into 2020.”
In their earliest days, dynamic startups are so intently concentrated on the product or solution they have created, and the innovative, creative concept behind it, that they lose focus on the key process of taking it to market, engaging with prospective customers, and driving up sales volumes.
If you are a budding entrepreneur, you will recognise the scenario: you wake up with the best idea ever – an idea that creates something you see as ‘incredibly unique’ or that solves a problem that your ‘customers-to-be’ didn’t even realise they had. You start working on it with dogged intent, overtaxing your energies, getting all the raw materials together and assembled, until one day you have a product in your hands. All you have to do now is let the customers roll in.
But as time goes by, you realise your plan has a flaw. Your products are still on the shelf. Prospective customers are not jamming up your email or heating up your phone lines. Sales aren’t rolling in. Why not?
Because people have no idea your product even exists.
If you are developing a startup, it should be no surprise that marketing is key to the success of your business. It’s your route to customers and enhanced sales revenues. In fact, it is just as vital as the product itself.
One doesn’t work without the other. Understanding that is the easy part. But if you don’t have a marketing background or knowhow, you are likely to find it difficult to decide how much to spend on marketing and then how to allocate your budget.
A great place to start answering these questions is to see where other companies spend their money and how that’s working for them.
Marketing spend as a proportion of revenue
A good way to analyse different marketing budgets is to look at them as a percentage of revenues. This way a single metric can be tracked and measured against a key performance figure and more easily compared with the strategies of other businesses.
In its CMO Spend Survey 2018-2019 report, Gartner found that among companies (with $500 million to $10 billion or more in annual revenues) in North America and the UK, had levelled off in 2018 to an average of 11.2% of company revenue. Of course, these figures represent relatively-established businesses and brands that have already made their mark in their desired target markets, whereas start-ups and smaller businesses need to invest significantly more to achieve the same level of market awareness.
Bright prospects for digital marketing
Moreover, despite the slight levelling off in chief marketing officer (CMO) spend over recent years, the future of marketing does look bright. According to the 2018 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey,57 percent of CEOs expected to increase their investment in marketing in the coming year. In addition, it is also true that digital marketing is rapidly accounting for a bigger slice of the pie, often at the expense of traditional marketing.
Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey broke down the numbers.
The report states: “Spending on digital commerce chimes with CEOs’ digitisation goals. In a Gartner survey of 460 CEOs and senior business leaders last year, 62 percent of respondents said they have a management initiative or transformation program underway to make their business more digital. In short, the majority of CEOs recognise that they need to transact with their customers online, be they in B2B or B2C brands.”
These figures indicate the ongoing journey that many businesses are on towards digital transformation today. If you are a budding entrepreneur or start-up business, this growing focus on digital should also act as a clarion call that you must not neglect marketing as you launch new products, solutions and innovations but also that you are likely to need a strong focus on building a digital approach.
There is no magic number of how much to invest; it depends on your industry, your product, your growth aspirations and you have to keep the stage of your business life cycle in mind. Digital marketing provides a cost-effective and measurable way of targeting and engaging with a defined group of prospective customers. And it also provides a great way of educating them about your business in that crucial early engagement phase. Given its benefits in attracting prospects and building customer interest, it should come as no surprise that, for any start-up business, digital marketing is here to stay.
It can be easy to think of customer experience programs as one homogenous aspiration for organisations, but with a little probing, what often emerges are two discrete types of programs: analytical, and operational CX.
In both cases, CX professionals will use operational data (such as customer attributes, financial data, product data) along with customer interactions, feedback, and social conversations, plus agent and employee feedback, to understand and improve the Customer Experience. Programs are designed to help understand and improve experiences and drive financial or market advantages to the company. But there are significant differences between the two approaches.
Analytical CX programs are often outgrowths of traditional customer insights, market research, or even agency-led initiatives designed to look for specific answers to specific questions about the customer. Analytical CX programs typically display these attributes:
1. Analytical CX is project based
A project has a discrete objective, desired outcome, and deliverable designed to answer a specific type of question about a product, a service, a marketing campaign, or a customer service initiative. Often the project is timed to a strategic initiative about to be taken or underway.
2. Analytical CX is driven by hypothesis-testing, scientific method approaches
A customer insights analyst might want to test assumptions about customer affinity to a new product. Or hypothesise on the reasons a website is or isn’t meeting customer needs. Using customer feedback, surveys, social content, or conversations, that analyst will test his hypothesis, adapt it if it fails, and iterate until proving or disproving the theory.
3. Analytical CX is performed by analysts or data scientists
This is typically done in a dedicated customer experience function, or by marketing, operations research, or even IT personnel whose day job is to live in the data and analyse it. These are people fluent in many types of research, comfortable with advanced tools, and with wrangling data from diverse sets, often on a whim, to answer the pressing question of the day.
There is a home for Analytical CX in most large organisations. As businesses become more complex, data becomes more diverse, dynamic and increasingly more unstructured, analytical CX professionals provide the technology, tools, and process skills to answer the strategic questions of the day.
Operational CX programs, by contrast, are designed to help organisations manage their own performance to achieve operational goals, business improvement goals or successful transformation goals. Operational CX programs typically display these characteristics:
1. Operational CX programs are ‘always on’ because businesses are always on
They are visible to employees for whom analysing data isn’t a full-time job, but for whom receiving insights to drive continuous improvement and performance to goals is valuable and useful both personally and organisationally.
2. Operational CX programs go through long-term evolution
Just as performance objectives evolve and as business practices and customer interaction channels evolve, Operational CX programs evolve but it is measured in quarters and years, not days and weeks.
3. Operational CX programs aren’t projects with a start and end
They’re initiatives that persist until goals are achieved, and then often persist further to ensure goals are maintained.
Typical CX goals that are aligned to operational CX programs would include:
Increasing customer satisfaction, or NPS scores
Achieving and/or maintaining product quality, and competitive differentiation
Streamlining support procedures to improve first call resolution, increase contact centre deflection from high cost to low cost channels, or to maximise utility and capability of newer support channels such as self-service, mobile apps, or online chat, chatbot, and messaging clients
Driving increases in marketing outcomes like brand equity, loyalty, or market awareness
Driving increases in sales outcomes like rep sales achievement, or improving sales organisational performance
Reducing product safety, financial or regulatory risk
In an Operational CX paradigm – regardless of the type of outcome an organisation is aiming to achieve – the program is structured using a programmatic approach:
Outcome measures are established (NPS, call centre performance metrics, sales goals)
Input drivers are collected from operational, feedback, and conversational sources. Typically input drivers would include cost information, performance characteristics of agents, sales reps, calls, and most importantly, conversational attributes and feedback attributes extracted from call transcripts, surveys, social conversations, chats, chatbots, and more.
Where needed – input drivers, if contained within unstructured sources such as calls, transcripts, text, etc, are extracted and tagged using text analytics solutions designed for such purposes.
Lastly – reports, and dashboards, based on performance management best practices and templates, are created and disseminated across the organisation to provide performance feedback to staff, management, and executives. These dashboards provide a feedback mechanism so that staff can identify ways to improve to achieve outcomes, and provide management tools to help management and executives manage their teams to achieve their goals.
To drive CX maturity in an organisation, it’s often easier to start with an analytical approach, but sustainable cultural alignment to CX best practices, and more importantly financial return on CX initiatives (through saving money, improving loyalty, or reducing risk) is most likely to come from an Operational CX approach.
An upcoming webinar will shine a light on how midsize call centres can adapt and thrive in the digital era, with expert advice from Genesys and Frost & Sullivan.
Hosted by Customer Experience Magazine, the free webinar will take place on October 17 at 11am BST, and will feature Alexander Michael, the Director of Consulting at F&S, who will be joined by Genesys’ Nick Wingrove, the firm’s VP of Solutions Consulting for the EMEA region.
The pair will deep-dive into a collaborative report, Midsized Call Centres take a Digital-first Approach, which examines how how call centres in the UK, France, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands are dealing with the changes in customer engagement and their impact on business.
The whitepaper is part of a global series on how CX is the main factor in call centre operations, and explains how most call centres are taking a digital-first approach to customer engagement, with the majority considering, or utilising, cloud technology to boost performance and meet goals.
The webinar will see Alexander and Nick discuss how mid-size businesses approach CX and which technology trends will shape their operations going forward. The CX approaches of these firms will be compared with that of larger organisations, to provide insight into the most effective methods of customer engagement today.
CXM Editor Paul Ainsworth said: “Competition is fierce, no matter which industry you operate in. Mid-sized businesses face consistent pressures to define and implement strategies that will enable them to successfully acquire and retain customers.
“Knowing how your peers have accomplished this gives you an advantage. Leveraging the results from the recent Frost & Sullivan global mid-market study, you’ll get details on real-world Customer Experience initiatives.”
There was something strange in the neighbourhood of Denver, Colorado this summer at the Xperience19 conference, hosted by Genesys.
The theme for one memorable breakout session on how to build a chatbot was spooky comedy classic Ghostbusters, and as you might expect, plenty of fun was had along the way.
Armed with a Dialog Engine Natural Language Understanding (NLU) model, Intelligent Automation, our Genesys skills, and the Genesys® PureConnectTM application, our attendees set off to build.
As in all ‘Build-a-Bot’ workshops, a team of experts was in attendance to provide information on how to build a chatbot – but not just any chatbot!
This was a Ghostbusters chatbot, and to get into the ‘spirit’, the Genesys experts were decked out in Ghostbusters hooded jackets, thanks to Joe Ciuffo.
As more businesses embrace bot technology and understand its value, more people come to us for advice and instruction.
This session was no exception, with around 80 keen delegates in attendance. Armed with laptops open and ready to go, Marc ‘Venkman’ Sassoon took to the stage, first asking the audience if they remembered the famous 1984 movie itself (thankfully they all did, despite some being born after the year of release)
He then created a use case: in the movie, Janine, the Ghostbusters’ sarcastic secretary, struggled with customer service. Due to a ghost invasion in New York City, the team’s phone was ringing off the hook, making it tough for Janine to keep up with demand.
This Genesys Ghostbusting team had a solution – it quickly deployed a Genesys artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbot that uses Intelligent Automation with Dialog Engine.
Yours truly, Jonathan ‘Stantz’ McKenzie, joined Venkman onstage to showcase the power of these technologies. The process was simple – we just needed to assign it with Dialog Engine utterances, intents, entities, and slot values, before letting it get to work.
Build, test, and update the bot
Armed with this intent – to use a bot to handle customer conversations by chat or voice demand – Marc showed the attendees, in detail, how to build a chatbot using Intelligent Automation. He selected some of the 80-plus pre-built microapps Genesys offers. These include the Intelligent Automation Natural Language Menu microapp, which seamlessly integrates with Dialog Engine NLU.
The chatbot was taking shape.
For the bot, NLU does an analysis of each utterance, classifies the entity, and selects slot values from each utterance, as shown below.
Once Intelligent Automation and the Dialog Engine are configured, flow and NLU combine to deliver the chatbot.
The next step was to test it, with attendees using a conversation about ghosts spotted in the boroughs of New York.
The final task was to make changes to NLU models, update the utterances, add more entity types, and of course have some fun. Each update occurred instantly and was visible in both Intelligent Automation and the chatbot.
Give chatbots and voicebots a try
According to Accenture, well-designed bots can resolve 80 percent of customer interactions. Bots also make it easy for customers to engage with you in the ways they prefer – whether it’s calling to schedule a Ghostbuster, chat online, or self-serve in any number of ways.