Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 17, 2019
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25min99

The 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards is just around the corner, and CXM is shining a spotlight on how fantastic training can help your strategies burst out of the boardroom and become worthy of awards recognition.

Among this year’s finalists is finance and admin solutions provider Equiniti Group, which is partnered by First Impression Training (FIT), a firm that enhances CX by assisting companies in developing their employees to build better relationships with customers.

However, good training goes deep, especially when it comes to earning awards recognition for your efforts, and FIT have been assisted in crafting an entry worthy of judges’ admiration by the one-and-only Donna O’Toole, the force behind August – The Awards Consultancy.

Donna lives and breathes awards, and knows exactly what it takes to bring your in-house achievements to a wider audience, with the aim of garnering industry recognition that can open doors to future success.

In a special look behind the scenes of an awards journey, CXM spoke with Donna and FIT’s Training Director and co-founder Marie Cross, about how dedicated training can lift a business to new heights and, ultimately, awards glory…

Donna O’Toole

Hi Donna. Tell us about August and yourself. What inspired you to found a masterclass aimed at preparing organisations for an awards journey?

I started August – The Awards Consultancy in 2015 as a way of helping people to achieve their dreams. I’m a true ‘people-person’ and my background is in English linguistics, so I combined my geeky language skills with my deep knowledge of the awards industry to create an agency that empowers businesses by using awards as a growth tool. August actually means respected, celebrated, and admired, and that’s exactly what we help our clients to become. 

Over the years, I have overseen literally thousands of award entries, including nominations for high-profile awards like the Queen’s honours, and award panel presentations. I see every single entry as unique. It needs to reflect the true values of the brand or individual, but it also needs to deliver a powerful, highly-evidenced argument that makes the reader (in this case a panel of judges) truly believe in them and want them to win too. 

I continuously analyse award entry results, stories, evidence, and feedback, and I’m never satisfied with good results; I strive for excellence in everything – both for my clients and for my own team. It’s this determination to succeed, and to see people truly shine, that has driven me to develop a unique blueprint for awards success.  

I created the unique awards training programme for my own team, then expanded this to train individuals and teams around the world who don’t want to outsource their awards, but do need support to win. I also train PR teams and communications professionals in exactly what they need to do to help their clients win too. I think sometimes people think writing an award entry is just ‘copywriting’. Well, I can tell you for free that it’s not!

We are not a copywriting agency – we eat, breathe, and sleep awards, so the copywriters I train get a surprise when they realise what they have written for a website or blog is completely and utterly wrong for an award entry!

For a firm like FIT, how does the Masterclass help bring out the confidence to put themselves forward for industry awards such as the UKCXAs?

When Marie came to our training day she had the same issue that a lot of people have – she was so busy making sure her customers were achieving everything they wanted and needed to, that she had very little time left to focus on getting recognition for her own business.

First, she needed to think about which awards to enter, and be objective about the value they could deliver back to her business. Then she had to think about what she needed to collect from her own business and that of her clients’ in order to win. When you are running a customer-focused business like FIT, you really don’t have time to think about promoting yourselves, so this was a fantastic opportunity for Marie to take a good look at her achievements so far, and make a clear plan for the future progress of the business, using awards to support and drive further growth. The little time Marie did have to focus on awards needed to be used effectively. She needed a formula that would allow her to put an award entry together that had the right structure, story, content, and evidence right from the off. 

With First Impression Training, you were essentially ‘training trainers’. Did Marie’s training background help when it came to her adopting the skills she learned?

Working with Marie was a dream, because she was not only ‘ready to learn’, she is a trainer herself, so she knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the table! Marie has also judged lots of awards too, so she knows what the judges are looking for in a winning entry. 

Marie and I also have in common the fact that we work with global brands and organisations, as well as smaller businesses and leaders who want to bring out the best in their business. So she understands the challenges that her clients face and was able to use these in our awards training to bring out their unique qualities and achievements, as well as her own. This is so valuable for award entries where businesses are working in partnership, or where you have a supplier relationship and want to gain recognition for both brands. 

 

There is always a ‘eureka’ moment during the training day, when you see a light come on for the trainees. Suddenly, they can see exactly what their strategy should be; what their ‘win theme’ should be; what to include in their entries, and what to leave out.

They can also see exactly why previous entries haven’t been winning, and what can make them win next time. Marie was able to draw out what was both challenging and unique about the projects she had been working on with her clients, and see what she needed to do to present these in a way that would truly ‘wow’ the judges. 

As an awards industry expert, what would you say to a company that is considering taking the plunge and entering, but might have reservations about the process and what benefits it will bring?

The canniest businesses know that you really don’t have to be changing the world to win an award. And you don’t necessarily have to be the best in your industry to win!

You only have to know how to beat the businesses you are competing against at that particular time, in that particular category, to win.

However, when you do win, that’s when the value of awards comes into its own. Your team will be massively motivated by the recognition, and happy employees make happy customers! Your customers have another ‘reason’ to trust you, which means they are more likely to choose to spend their money with you rather than your competitors. And you can use your awards to leverage interest in your business for PR, recruitment, referrals, investment, and Thought Leadership, as well as in your advertising. We are constantly asking our clients for feedback on what’s been happening in their business since winning awards, and the results are always hugely positive. Winning awards can create an immediate uplift in sales, help you to secure significant investment (investors love to see you winning awards), help you to recruit the best talent, and even lead to personal benefits like promotions and pay rises.

What’s not to love?

However, the value in entering awards is not purely in the win – it is in the entire process. Many people are put off entering by the amount of time it will take to prepare their entries, or by looking at previous winners and thinking they are bigger/better and so they couldn’t possibly win, or by a previous awards experience where they didn’t win.

These are all big mistakes, and probably why their competitors keep winning awards and they stay on the sidelines looking like the poor relation in the industry! 

Going through the process of entering awards gives you an opportunity to do a gap analysis on your business – anything you don’t have ready for that award entry (evidence, feedback, growth, and performance stats etc) needs to be either gathered, created, or implemented. And once you’ve got this, you can use and reuse the information, usually for at least a year, to enter and win lots of awards. So you’re already adding value to your business just by starting the process! 

How does August help an organisation that has lots of talent and drive, but has less knowledge about what it takes to enter – and ultimately win – an industry award such as the UKCXAs?

We help businesses in lots of ways – not just by training them to win, but by doing all their awards work for them if they wish. Firstly though, and most importantly, before we can help a business to win, we need to get to know them. What do they want to achieve over the next few years? What are their biggest challenges? What are their biggest achievements? What are their company values? How are they different from their competitors? Why do they want to win awards, and what is their experience with awards so far? Just going through this process reveals so much and allows us to make sure our clients only enter awards where they will have the best chances of success. 

 

An awards event like the UKCXAs is outstanding for recognising and celebrating the success of so many different types of business, but it takes work to win it! And it is one of my absolute favourite awards to judge because the competition is fierce, and you know that during the presentations you’ll hear stories that make you proud to be part of the process.

It is an award that aligns completely with our own ethos too; it’s not just about doing the right thing by your customers, it’s about making their hearts sing!

Marie Cross

Hi Marie. Tell us about First Impressions Training and the work you do with firms seeking to boost their CX offering.

First Impression Training is a small organisation with a big pedigree, having worked with some of the giants of industry over the last 18 years since our launch, including AXA, Aviva, Kuoni, Equiniti, Legal & General, BUPA, and the NHS.

We’re an award-winning, people development consultancy specialising in the CX arena.

Wholly focused on developing the talent of frontline teams and leaders, we enable cultural and behavioural change that enhances our clients’ Customer Experience, increases employee engagement, and improves operational efficiency on the front line.

Our training solutions are tailor-made for each client we partner, applying our unique S.H.A.P.ETM methodology, which enables clients to fully own and internalise the FIT solution in a smooth and seamless way, so that the ‘FIT Way’ is kept living and breathing within the organisation, long after we’ve left the building!

 

You met Donna while judging at Awards events. Did your judging role inspire you to take FIT down the awards entry route, after seeing the success enjoyed by winners?

I’ve been involved with many award programmes over the years, since industry legend Don Hales and I first met (over 18 years ago) when he persuaded me to become a judge for the (then) National Customer Service Awards and the National Sales Awards. 

I was also heavily involved with the National Training Awards led by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills for five years, before the programme was taken over by the National Apprenticeship Service.

So yes, I’ve certainly been witness to some amazing winning entries during this time.

And this experience definitely does get you motivated to go for it yourself, partnering your clients – which is exactly what FIT has done this year with the culture change programme we’ve delivered for Equiniti’s 400-seat Customer Experience Centre, and now we’re finalists in four categories across three prestigious award programmes with them!

Donna’s Masterclass is the UK’s premier ‘how to win awards’ tutorial. What skills did you learn from August that FIT will use in its goal of achieving industry recognition?

Donna is a consummate pro! She’s an articulate awards expert, PR guru, and marketing whiz! I love what she’s about and I learned heaps from her at the Masterclass, from designing an award-winning strategy and creating your ‘win theme’, through to the very specific techniques she teaches for crafting your story, content, and evidence for your award entry.

She also shows you how to get the best out of your PR once you’ve actually taken your well-deserved place on the winners’ podium.

If you need a hand ‘bigging yourself up’ and getting your story out there, Donna’s yer gal!

While learning from Donna, what did you discover about your own organisation that you now realise needed improving, but might not have been aware of beforehand?

At the risk of sounding a little boastful here, what Donna really helped me recognise was that we’d spent the last 18 years helping our clients get the recognition they deserved, both inside their organisations and externally, putting them forward for the big award programmes, shouting from the rooftops about their commitment to employee engagement and staff development, without actually doing anything to ensure we stood out alongside them! 

As Donna said to me: “Why on earth would you not consider entering awards – both independently as a training provider and jointly with your clients – when you’re half the reason for your clients’ success stories?” 

So that’s exactly what we’ve done this year!

Donna helped us realise: it’s not that we needed improving – we needed to become our own publicity agent and stop hiding our light under a bushel if we really wanted to get noticed and stand out from the crowd in this increasingly busy marketplace in which we operate. And the result? As I said: finalists in four categories across those three prestigious award programmes: the UK Customer Experience Awards, the UK Business Awards, and the European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards.

Would you recommend other organisations to take the plunge and prepare for their own awards journey through August guidance? 

Yes, wholeheartedly!

I’ve already paid tribute to Donna and the August Consultancy publicly through my social media posting and our weekly blog to our ‘FIT fans’.

I know for sure that our written entries were as good as they were, resulting in us reaching those four finalist positions, thanks to the lessons I learned at Donna’s Masterclass. 

I’m a creative myself; I love to write and I’m told I’m good at it too! However, I also know that I couldn’t have crafted such a brilliant story – as I have done for the entries we submitted – if I hadn’t first learned the award-winning tips, techniques, and strategies that August has taught me.

The 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, hosted by Awards International, takes place in Wembley Stadium on October 10.


Angus BurrellAngus BurrellSeptember 16, 2019
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8min334

The ‘high street’ we used to know simply doesn’t exist anymore.

While independent retailers are struggling, household names are also feeling the pressure, shuttering at an unsettling rate. In fact, according to the British Retail Consortium, the number of empty shops in town centres is at its highest level since 2015, with over 10 percent of shops currently left vacant. This is only four percent lower than the figure of 14 percent a decade ago, which was recorded right after the 2008 global financial crisis.

The latest victims, Karen Millen and Coast, have continued the unfortunate demise of the high street, but the suffering extends past traditional high street retail. Bookmaker William Hill is closing 700 stores and axing 4500 jobs, indicating that the high street isn’t just taking a hit within the retail industry. As customers have flocked to quicker and more convenient online options, the traditional high street has struggled to retain a distinct role in customers’ lives. This has had an undeniable impact on what was once the beating heart of many city centres and local communities.

Time to revitalise

If the high street is to regain its former status, it has to focus on the needs of today’s consumers and put Customer Experience first as a way to differentiate itself. While this may sound obvious, right now this isn’t being done. Nowadays, customers want more than just products; they also crave an experience to go alongside the products – one that can only be facilitated in a physical environment. By differentiating on customer service and experience, retailers can reinforce their business, growing loyalty and driving continued engagement from their customers.

Microsoft, for example, recently opened their first European store in London. The three-storey shop on the corner of Oxford Circus has a gaming lounge, a learning theatre, and a dedicated business area. The store has multiple zones to cater to their customers’ needs, allowing them to immerse themselves in their latest innovations, and engage with them on a deeper and more personal level.

A shared responsibility

In order for the high street’s turnaround to be successful, all stakeholders must commit to a single vision for the high street, rather than sole responsibility falling on one party. This task won’t be easy, so it requires retailers alongside landlords and local councils to work together to make the high street an exciting and rewarding place to visit.

To make a change, each stakeholder has to play their part. Keeping Customer Experience at its core, local councils and authorities can focus on basic issues like improved transport links and free parking. Likewise, retailers themselves need to completely rethink the in-store experience. They can’t focus on only one channel – they must consider their physical, digital, and social presence and bring these elements together. By doing this, they can create a single experience of their brand, regardless of channel.

There’s no doubt that the solution to this transformation won’t be quick. However, listening to each stakeholder’s opinions and insights is critical. Failing to address fundamental issues or respond to areas of opportunity will contribute further to the high street’s demise. Such has been seen in Lowestoft, where expensive parking had a notable impact on footfall – resulting in numerous store closures.

Luckily, there are some British high streets that are leading the way and starting this transformation. Doncaster Council, for example, has prioritised the future development of the high street and acknowledged that it needs to be an experience destination. Doncaster Council plans to consolidate the quality of retail offerings in an area identified as their ‘Retail Core’. In turn, they will free up nearby areas where shop vacancy rates are higher, redeveloping and giving them a new identity within the city. It’s time that other councils around the country follow their lead and respond to local retail trends.

Rejuvenate the returns process

Kicking off a transformation is daunting, but starting with small changes can make a real difference – provided it doesn’t just stop there. Valitor’s recent research on the After Payment Emotional Experience (APEX) discovered that more than half (54 percent) of consumers expect at least a basic level of care after making a purchase.

Undeniably, returns are one of the main elements of the after-care experience. Their importance was highlighted again by almost two thirds (60 percent) of shoppers who claimed they wouldn’t shop with a retailer if there were any issues returning a product. With almost one in four (38 percent) consumers wanting to return items to a store, retailers must look at adapting their stores to facilitate an improved returns experience. Addressing such issues will make a retailer stand out from their competitors on the high street, helping them thrive in these difficult times. 

Ultimately, resurrecting the high street comes down to a number of stakeholders, who must be willing to work cooperatively. The question is, will they commit to put the interests of the consumers first? Retailers have to spark the changes to the high street, rather than simply wait for them to happen. Focusing on issues such as returns policies and perfecting the approach to this is an ideal way to encourage modern consumers to visit in-store.

The future for bricks and mortar stores doesn’t have to be bleak, but it’s crucial that we commit to a single consumer-led omni-channel vision of the high street to turn the situation around.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 12, 2019
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2min443

Customer engagement software firm Freshworks Inc has announced its Freshsuccess customer success management software, delivering an integrated customer view for marketing, sales, support, and success professionals.

From January 2020, all go-to-market teams can leverage unified, holistic data of both accounts and contacts yielding the most up-to-date account activity and health information to identify accounts that are either at risk or ready to buy more goods and services. 

With Freshworks’ Freshsuccess, users get detailed analysis of past behaviour to create and configure customer health scores, allowing companies to grow an established customer base, identify any red flags and increase customer retention rates. In addition, Freshsuccess helps teams operationalise customer success in other important ways.

These include keeping customer success teams organised, allowing everyone to centrally manage all of their customer-related activities such as alerts, workflows, and tasks.

Users will also be able to streamline business intelligence and easily identify behavioural trends while uncovering valuable customer insights.

Girish Mathrubootham, founder and CEO of Freshworks, said: “Our Customer-for-Life vision revolutionises customer engagement to take advantage of the never-ending customer journey. Meaningful customer insight doesn’t end at market, sell, and support. You need to engage continuously to get a customer for life.

With Freshsuccess integration, businesses will be able to leverage actionable data across the entire suite of products – including Freshmarketer, Freshsales, and  Freshdesk – for predictive analytics, customer intelligence and workflow management to proactively court, close, keep, and grow customers for life.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 11, 2019
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6min567

The G-Summit Europe event, hosted by global Customer Experience and contact centre solutions firm Genesys, is underway in Amsterdam.

The three-day conference brings together CX professionals from across Europe to share the latest in technology solutions and good practice, and features guest speakers including Huib Van Bockel, the former head of Marketing at Red Bull Europe and author of The Social Brand, and Dave carroll, whose famous viral video, United Breaks Guitars, helped usher in a new era of accountability to customers.

Genesys customers, including, HeinekenKiwi.com, and Lowell Group will illustrate how they are using innovative technologies such as the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), digital channels, and more. G-summit Europe will also celebrate agents from Swisscard, Harambee and Ving as Genesys CX Heroes for going above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service.

Merijn te Booij, Chief Marketing Officer at Genesys, said: “Through G-Summit Europe we aim to show attendees how immersive, experiential service is the new standard for every customer, every time. Attendees will glean insights from industry experts and businesses that have had success using innovative technologies to empower their employees and turn conversations with customers into the best-connected moments across marketing, sales and service.”

Meanwhile, Genesys is making it even easier for businesses to extend the power of its PureCloud software with the launch of single-click free trials for Premium Applications. Now available on the Genesys AppFoundry, this is the industry’s first fully self-service, automated free trial program available on a dedicated CX marketplace.

Jeff Wise, Vice President, Application and Developer Marketing at Genesys explains: “Our free trial program is a truly modern approach for companies to buy software. We’re offering a hassle-free way to try trusted apps, integrations and services that seamlessly tie into our leading SaaS solution, PureCloud.

“In a matter of minutes – not days or weeks – customers can test drive solutions to help them address real business challenges and deliver value. This is just the latest example of how we’re removing barriers to help businesses build deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers and enrich their employees’ experiences.”

Quickly and without risk, Genesys PureCloud customers can sample a variety of select integrations, applications and services that work in lockstep with their cloud contact center software. Currently, there are 11 free trial applications from AppFoundry partners including: Avtex, CustomerView, nGuvu, PureInsights, Softphone, Survey Dynamix, CoBrowse, SmartVideo, Outleads, and more. These span a variety of capabilities including business intelligence, workforce management, CRM and more.

With fully automated installation and setup, Premium Applications are built to accelerate speed-to-use and deliver optimal time-to-value.

Softphone, a leading contact centre solutions developer & system integrator, currently offers free trials of four Premium Applications on AppFoundry.

Alan Lugiai, Softphone chief executive officer said: “We expect free trial offers to generate an incredible response from Genesys customers. This is a tremendous opportunity to help even more businesses amplify the value of their Genesys Cloud Customer Experience solutions by giving them friction-free access to and integration of our products.”

Businesses have 30 days to evaluate the offering and can choose to license or cancel at any time without friction. In addition, Premium Applications are fully integrated with PureCloud’s subscription and billing system, further streamlining and simplifying the entire process for customers.

Learn more about Premium Applications providers and the full roster of Genesys AppFoundry partners here.

Genesys is sponsoring the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards in October. Click here for booking details.


James MarlowJames MarlowSeptember 10, 2019
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7min675

The connection between a good Customer Experience when people come directly into contact with a brand and business performance is now a given.

In the age of the smartphone, people have become used to fast, fluid access to information and services. Our tech-driven culture has pushed expectations of brands way beyond what heritage, siloed customer service systems were designed to deliver.

When it comes to brand perception, customer service has become an intrinsic and critical part of the overall brand experience and reputation picture. Huge investment in clever brand building or social media engagement will be instantly undermined by a frustrating service experience on the phone, or through digital channels that seem disconnected from people’s needs and expectations.

More than ever, brand reputation, differentiation, loyalty, and choice, are connected with brand performance and its ability to serve and communicate effectively. This is especially so as new generations of direct-to-consumer brands emerge, putting Customer Experience at the heart of the operational business and brand models.

Inevitably, brands in every sector are racing to answer the challenge through investment in technology tasked with speeding up CX processes, making both the management and delivery more efficient.

New digital platforms and avenues for customer engagement have completely changed the way brands interact with their audiences. Moreover, there are an increasing number of tools now that allow for broad spectrum analytics and automation that enable customer experience departments to increase efficiency at a scale that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.

But getting this investment right in a discipline that has for years been geared towards doing more with less, and partitioned from the brand marketing teams charged with out-reach and brand offering, has been a big challenge. Indeed there is a real risk that many brands will make strategic mistakes.

Most of the tools available to customer service teams sell themselves on increasing the speed of clearing actions first, and on guaranteeing a positive Customer Experience a distant second…if at all!

The ticketing system at the heart of most customer service platforms reduces people and their problems down to numbers, to the detriment of customer service teams’ abilities to empathise with customers – worsening the interaction for all involved. It’s an obvious fact that well-motivated CX teams that enjoy their roles provide better customer service than those that don’t.

So perhaps we should not be surprised that even though the choice and efficiency of digital service platforms and channels has expanded hugely and the concept of customer service has morphed into a much more holistic “customer experience”, a staggering 59 percent of consumers think that brands have lost touch with the human element of Customer Experience.

It seems that while many businesses have quite rightly aimed to enhance efficiency through automation, the other vital part of the equation – empathy and the all-important human touch – has been neglected.

The challenge and the opportunity for customer-centric brands is to balance their strategic path to first-class CX with humanity and a far closer connection between brand marketing and service.

The key to the humanity part is understanding how your people can be enabled to enhance your customer interactions. To shamelessly quote Richard Branson: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

If you ask any customer service agent what the best part of their role is, it will usually be when they get to solve a problem and actually help somebody – doubly so if the customer is grateful and walks away with a smile on their face. To put it simply, people like to help people, and tools that put anything in the way of this are stifling a natural instinct which should instead be encouraged.

It also means connecting digital efficiency with human interaction so the two become seamless and fluid. We all know in the right circumstances, CX will be enhanced with pure automation – a fast, efficient, digital interface. For example, when was the last time you called to order a pizza when you could do it via a couple of clicks through an app?

Nonetheless, 75 percent of consumers have said that they would like more human interaction and this is especially true of more complex interactions or those relating to sensitive or higher value products and services.

So, the next part of our journey as an industry will be framed by growing recognition that business performance can and will be achieved by a balanced or holistic approach that blends human, personal, friendly interactions with the huge advantages in terms of efficiency that automation is giving to brands.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 9, 2019
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6min891

Global companies are expecting to apply artificial intelligence (AI) within their organisations in the next few years, but are lagging behind when it comes to discussing the ethics of the technology, it has been revealed.

New research from CX and contact centre solutions firm Genesys has revealed that more than half of all employers questioned in a multi-country opinion survey say their companies do not currently have a written policy on the ethical use of AI or bots, although 21 percent expressed a definite concern that their companies could use AI in an unethical manner.

Genesys, which is sponsoring the upcoming 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, questioned 1,103 employers and 4,207 employees regarding the current and future effects of AI on their workplaces. The 5,310 participants were drawn from six countries: the UK, Germany, the US, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the employers surveyed expect their companies to be using AI or advanced automation by 2022 to support efficiency in operations, staffing, budgeting, or performance, although only 25 percent are using it now.

However, in spite of the growing trend, 54 percent of employers questioned say they are not troubled that AI could be used unethically by their companies as a whole or by individual employees (52 percent). Employees appear more relaxed than their bosses, with only 17 percent expressing concern about their companies.

Twenty-eight percent of employers said they are apprehensive their companies could face future liability for an unforeseen use of AI, yet only 23 percent say there is currently a written corporate policy on the ethical use of AI/bots.

Meanwhile an additional 40 percent of employers without a written AI ethics policy believe their companies should have one – a stance supported by 54 percent of employees.

Meanwhile, just over half of employers (52 percent) believe companies should be required to maintain a minimum percentage of human employees versus AI-powered robots and machinery. Employees are more likely (57 percent) than employers (52 percent) to support a requirement by unions or other regulatory bodies.

The Genesys survey found that millennials (ages 18-38) are the age group most comfortable with technology, yet they also have the strongest opinions that guard rails are needed. Across the countries, the survey questions about AI ethics resonated more with millennials than with Gen X (ages 39-54), or Baby Boomers (ages 55-73).

Whether it’s anxiety over AI, desire for a corporate AI ethics policy, worry about liability related to AI misuse, or willingness to require a human employee-to-AI ratio – it’s the youngest group of employers who consistently voice the most apprehension. For example, 21 percent of millennial employers are concerned their companies could use AI unethically, compared to 12 percent of Gen X and only six percent of Baby Boomers.

Steve Leeson, VP UK & Ireland, Genesys, said: “As a company delivering numerous Customer Experience solutions enabled by AI, we understand this technology has great potential that also comes with tremendous responsibility. This research gives us important insight into how businesses and their employees are really thinking about the implications of AI – and where we as a technology community can help them steer an ethical path forward in its use.”

He continued: “Our research reveals both employers and employees welcome the increasingly important role AI-enabled technologies will play in the workplace and hold a surprisingly consistent view toward the ethical implications of this intelligent technology. We advise companies to develop and document their policies on AI sooner rather than later – making employees a part of the process to quell any apprehension and promote an environment of trust and transparency.”

Read CXM’s interview with Olivier Jouve, Executive Vice President of Genesys Purecloud, for more on ethics in AI.


Ian HallIan HallSeptember 4, 2019
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17min670

You don’t have to be a retail expert to foresee an uplift in turkeys, alcohol, and mince pies through December, but in reality almost all products see a dramatic increase leading up to Christmas.

Simply put, people buy more of (almost) everything.

The week leading up to Christmas is by far the biggest sales week of the year for almost all suppliers (unless you are in the Valentines or Easter egg business), but an often overlooked fact is that the week after Christmas normally sees the lowest sales of the year. Fresh suppliers, in particular, need to consider the impact on waste and replenishment orders that comes from people having plenty of food in, living off turkey sandwiches for seven days, and shops that are barely open.

The graph below is a typical annual profile of weekly sales for a supplier that has ‘core grocery’ products (Jan-Dec):

 

 

Let’s start by making a key distinction – Christmas products vs seasonally affected products:

  • Christmas-only products are those which are ranged temporarily, and are sometimes even themed (such as dog toys that look like reindeers). They often come in as a job-lot, depending on shelf-life, and are cleared immediately after Christmas.
  • Seasonally affected lines can have just as big an uplift in sales at this time of year, but are ranged all year round (e.g. Stilton cheese). Almost all lines in a store are seasonally affected in some way at Christmas.

For Christmas-only products, there are limits to what you can do at this time of year, and seasonal product forecasts tend to be self-fulfilling, i.e. with products sourced from the Far East, the volumes are typically agreed in March, shipped through the summer, into retailer depot in September, and in store at the start of October ( often much to general public outcry).

 

 

Everything that is shipped to the retailer gets sold (sometimes on markdown post-Christmas), and best sellers can run out early – unless you are Mystic Meg you will have either guessed at (sorry, ‘forecast’) too much volume, or too little. The balance for the supplier is to avoid missing sales by supplying too little versus getting hammered for markdown rebates in January when the excess stock is cleared at a fraction of the RRP.

All other products in store will be affected, to a greater or lesser degree, by the general uplift in sales; but why does this matter if stores order more every time they sell one? Three important reasons:

  • If suppliers don’t forecast accurately they may not be able to produce enough to replenish orders
  • Depots are incredibly busy through December – it is not always easy to get delivery slots (if you supply washing powder you are going to be de-prioritised vs Christmas crackers and mince pies)
  • Most of the sales uplift occurs in the seven days leading up to Christmas – by the time products are replenished, it’s over

We would probably all recognise these typical Christmas shopper habits:

  • four weeks to Christmas – we load up the cupboards
  • one week to go – buy all the fresh stuff, and impulse/distress purchases
  • one week after Christmas – we live on turkey sandwiches, and the shops are not open for normal trading hours.
  • January – everyone renews their gym memberships, has some vague thoughts about ‘dry-January’, and lives off soup and Slim-Fast

But of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

There are some subtle trends to be aware of:

The ‘mother-in-law effect’

Most consumers trade up to more premium products in December. Nobody quite knows why – maybe it’s because you have more visitors, or want to impress the in-laws, but people buy more quilted toilet rolls and branded washing up liquid.

The shopper is not always the consumer

Of vital importance all year round, but amplified at Christmas; for example, most beer is purchased by women but consumed by men. Take this one step further when you consider pet food, and further still when you realise that people buy gifts for friends with dogs and cats! So whilst you might not have thought about it, sales of dog toys rise disproportionately in December (and not just on Christmas-only lines – even things like tennis balls may quadruple in sales). Just because dogs don’t eat more in December does not mean that pet food is a static category from a sales perspective!

Weather makes a difference

A cold snap will lead to panic-buying (even things like dishwasher salt and cat-litter to clear snow!)

Christmas Day falls on different days of the week

It is really important to know which day Christmas falls on (yes, I know it’s December 25th, but which day of the week is that?). Christmas is a Wednesday this year; that probably means that people will be doing their ‘big shop’ on the preceding weekend (Friday/Saturday/Sunday).

Very few people leave their main shop until Christmas Eve but, equally, if Christmas falls on a Friday, not many people are going to buy their sprouts and double cream five days before. This has a big effect on the last few days of sales, and is extremely important for suppliers of short-life products. In 2017 the peak trading day was Friday 22nd; this will probably extend to Saturday 21st this year

Depots have fixed capacity

Retailer depots will be bursting at the seams, and booking slots are limited, so you need to be precise with delivery planning and highly reactive to traffic challenges – get on the front foot and talk to your retailer customers in advance.

Planning and forecasting varies by category

Some categories are harder than others to get right. Some can be forecast at the category level, for example if products can be easily substituted, and are impulse purchases, such as dog toys – if one toy runs out, chances are that the shopper will buy a different one. In other categories, forecasting only makes sense at SKU level – if you run out of sprouts, people won’t simply buy broccoli as a substitute, and I for one would be dismayed to be offered Dairylea with my glass of port just because the shop was out of Stilton

Waste and availability remains a delicate balance

The age-old balance between availability and wastage is never more important than at Christmas. You don’t want to run out of stock and lose sales to competitors at this key trading time, but excess stock will turn into waste in the days after Christmas, or seven days, 21 days, 30 days later, depending on shelf-life

So what – what can you do with this insight?

1. Monitor sales daily – it is no good reviewing on a weekly basis and not being able to react in time.

2. Collaborate with your retailer now – share your forecasts for December, and share analysis from last year – poor availability can be eliminated with better forecasts, but time and time again we see suppliers losing sales in December because their lead times do not allow them to react quickly to sales that could easily have been anticipated. Get the stock through the depots and allocated to store ahead of the sales spike.

3. Use detailed historic data to forecast – blend sales and availability information to get the best picture you can of true demand. Where appropriate, ensure that you forecast at SKU, not category level; Stilton and Brie do not behave the same as the cheese category in general.

4. Monitor (depot and store) stock not just sales – you cannot react quickly enough to sales in late December, so track stock levels and use these to predict potential availability and waste issues.

5. Manage stock run-down on seasonal and short-life SKUs – remember those days afterChristmas when the stores will be closed, and nobody is shopping.

6. Plan replenishment and ‘business as usual’ trading for early January – unless you sell Weightwatchers products or Baileys

7. Analyse your data to win more business – analysis in January is the best way to predict order volumes for next year, and the earlier you do this, the more effectively you can begin to collaborate with the retailers.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 29, 2019
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3min663

UK and International Customer Experience Awards finalist Northern Gas Networks has been recognised for its innovative work to improve the impact of traffic management on customers when improvements to its network are taking place.

The North of England’s gas distributor has already been shortlisted in six categories for the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, and three categories in the 2019 International Customer Experience Awards, and now the firm has been nominated for a national award by the UK Society for Trenchless Technology (UKSTT) – a charity which promotes new technologies and practices which don’t involve digging.

Considerate: NGN aims for as little disruption as possible when carrying out upgrades or repairs

Traffic management, such as temporary traffic lights or lane closures, can be necessary when work such as the replacement of gas pipes is taking place. In traffic sensitive areas, a Traffic Management Plan (TMP) is always required before work can start; agreed with the local authority and other stakeholders. However, these plans can be complicated and slow to produce.

Now, the Innovation Team at Northern Gas Networks (NGN) is developing new ways to plan traffic management so that it will have less of an impact on people’s lives.  New software developed by NGN and project partner 1 Spatial now makes it possible to generate automated traffic plans far more quickly, with clear benefits for road users, local businesses, and other customers.

It’s this responsive approach which has seen the project shortlisted in the UKSTT awards’ category for the Application of Digital Technology, and winners will be revealed next month.

NGN’s Head of Innovation, Richard Hynes-Cooper, said: “This shortlisting recognises the ability for our designers, planners and engineers to generate traffic management plans, at the click of a button. This is a potential game-changer for the industry.

“It will save money on every traffic management scheme that we create, as well as ensuring that our key local stakeholders, such as councils, have quick and easy access to our plans.

“However, what is most exciting about this innovation for me is the ability to make our schemes even more customer-focused. Bu building in key information such as local traffic flows, we can design schemes which are less disruptive, and more sensitive to local issues.”


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamAugust 29, 2019
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4min896

International event management company Westrade Group has been quick to follow up on the enormous success of its inaugural event with the forthcoming and newly branded OSX, the only outsourcing summit and expo of its kind. 

ExCel London will once again play host to the event which takes place on 1 -2 October and offers a unique opportunity for professionals to forge new partnerships that could change the way we do business.

Last October, Westrade Group welcomed over 800 delegates through the doors across the two-day conference and exhibition, many of whom had travelled from Europe and Asia to attend the highly anticipated event. 

This year, delegates can look forward to a more open and airier exhibition space which will be carefully crafted into five designated zones: Digital Disruption, which will celebrate those using digital technologies to challenge the status quo; IT Design & Development, which will focus on those developing IT services on web, mobile and CRM/CMS; Customer Experience, which will focus on the importance of delivering high level CX; Business Process Services, where you can meet providers who can help streamline your business and reduce costs; and International, where we will connect ambitious companies looking for exciting new locations to base their businesses.

OSX has already attracted leading names synonymous with outsourcing as sponsors: household names such as Accedia, Innovify, Kogific Consulting Group, and Profitnit. The ‘live’ element has always been key to the success of many Westrade signature events and OSX is no different; an incredible array of talented speakers from across the industry have already been lined up for presenting duties, including Anthony Welfare of Oracle, Rob McCargow of PWC, and Emma Hall of Domestic and General.

Kevin Lloyd, Event Director of OSX, said: “All of our businesses, no matter what the industry, are either being transformed, digitised, automated, migrated to the Cloud, buried under a heap of Big Data, or liberated by the Internet of Things. The convergence of these great domains has created a whole new ecosystem, bringing with it opportunity and challenge in equal measure. 

“We believe that OSX meets these challenges head-on and can provide powerful insights into future developments in the world of outsourcing.  It’s a meeting place where like-minded attendees come together to unlock the untapped potential in their business.”

Register for free to visit


Bartek RozbickiBartek RozbickiAugust 27, 2019
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8min812

When it comes to property and real estate, virtual reality (VR) has a remarkable number of use cases that are set to transform the way brands engage with customers.

But before we dive into the many applications and benefits of VR in the real estate sector, it’s important to understand the technology and how consumers perceive it.

VR is a computer-generated simulation of a 3D environment that you can interact with using special equipment such as a headset and controllers. It sits under the wider extended reality (XR) umbrella, which also includes augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).

Agency SYZYGY XR recently polled 1,000 consumers in the UK to better understand their mindset, behaviour, and decision-making in relation to VR. Advancements in the underlying technology have brought the cost of consumer VR products down while increasing quality and functionality. When asked: “What are the biggest barriers stopping you from purchasing a VR headset?”,”quality” ranked as the lowest barrier to entry, with just three percent of consumers concerned about the quality of VR products.

Second, consumer behaviour has matured to a point of acceptance and anticipation – in other words, the modern shopper can now envision VR in their daily lives.

According to our research, 72% of consumers believe that VR will become part of their daily routine, just as the smartphone is now. Younger generations are even more bullish. In fact, 81 percent of 16- to 34-year-olds believe that VR will play a ubiquitous role in their daily lives.

Keeping up with change is pivotal, but adoption must be done in such a way that it solves existing problems in the business infrastructure.

The commercial case for VR in real estate

VR is a powerful tool for real estate brands, but most have yet to harness the technology in a meaningful way.

Get this: more than half of all shoppers (53 percent) would be more likely to purchase a product or service if it included a VR experience. While the public holds a positive view of VR, just 26 percent of consumers have taken part in a VR experience when purchasing a product or service.

This gap between consumer demand and brand activation highlights an exciting opportunity: today’s shoppers would be more likely to purchase if advertising included a VR experience. Yet brands either a) aren’t offering VR experiences or b) aren’t delivering VR experiences that provide quality, value and substance. As a property developer or real estate agency, now is the time to act.

Redefining the future of Customer Experience

Over the past decade, pioneers like Amazon have rewritten the rules of business, meaning today’s real estate brands must deliver purpose-driven experiences that are fast, reliable and super-efficient.

Consider this: in 2019, 81 percent of companies expect to compete on the basis of Customer Experience. While competition is high, the rewards are great. In fact, customers who have a very good experience with a brand are 3.5x more likely to repurchase and 5x more likely to recommend that company to family and friends.

In 2018, Danwood S.A., a leading property development company in Europe, approached us with a challenge: “How can we convince potential clients to purchase a premium house that is not yet built and can’t be seen real life?”

Designed by Danish architects, the property development featured luxurious, modern design with a clean look and finish. To capture the essence of the homes, we created software that would take the customer into a virtual house, so they could look, feel and touch.

Tasked with creating a line of premium houses named ‘Vision’, we crafted each home in 3D with astonishing attention to detail and light. The experience, which only requires VR goggles and a sales representative, means that the property line can be shown to customers in any market across Europe.

Vision for tomorrow

For the first time, property viewing has become mobile and agile. This is a bold move that redefines the future of real estate.

With VR, the customer and agent experience full immersion in the house. This technology serves as more than just a compelling visualisation; it actually enhances the selling process, since a salesman can enter the property with the customer and advise or even modify aspects of the home as they journey together.

For an industry that relies heavily on aesthetic appeal to drive marketing and sales, the use of lifelike VR simulations opens up an entirely new window of exploration. With in-store VR headsets, real estate agents can build virtual applications that thrust the customer into a rich, vivid, lifelike home.

For businesses skeptical about the significance of XR, we must learn from history: innovation speaks louder than words.

As the world hurtles towards a more immersive digital ecosystem, the convergence of VR and human behaviour will usher in a new era of discovery, interaction and purchase. 


Martin NewmanMartin NewmanAugust 27, 2019
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8min1072

Not long ago, I was across the Atlantic in New York City, filming for my series Fix the High Street.

Having recorded episodes in Glasgow, Newcastle, and London, I’d decided it was time to go further afield and to see if the Customer Experience was different; to see if the legendary American service culture really stood up to scrutiny. I spent three hectic days there with my team and emerged at the end, tired, but much better informed.

New York is an assault on the senses.

It seems to move at a speed somehow 50 percent higher than anywhere else in the world. And, of course, one of the strange things about New York is that it’s all so familiar to us, even on first visits, because we’ve seen it films and television since childhood. But, as regular visitors know, the reality doesn’t disappoint. It really is a Mecca of sorts – a strange kind of laboratory where the human race tests some of its wilder ideas, styles, and techniques.

Big Apple: NYC businesses aren’t afraid to embrace disruption

That’s certainly true of retail and customer service.

I tried to visit as many outlets as I could in my short time in town. I went to a giant Amazon bookstore, Forever 21, Covergirl, Levi’s, and H&M, among others. What I was looking for was the distinctive American flavour, or maybe I should say, even more specifically, the distinctive New York flavour to the way they do business.

What’s uniquely them? How are they different from the UK and the rest of Europe? What can we, on this side of the Atlantic, learn from them? And what can they do better?

One thing I certainly pay tribute to is the willingness of New York businesses to embrace disruption. Earlier this year, for example, Macy’s, having bought veteran brand Story, opened curated ‘Story’ boutiques in 36 of its stores; this is a perfect example of giving customers a reason to come into the store and discover new products, without needing to have an eye-catching sale running.

And it represents a new revenue stream, too, as Story has traditionally charged a fee to curate partners’ products. This kind of innovation is absolutely vital for retailers and other industries to do more than simply keep their heads above water in the difficult waters of the current marketplace.

So far, so good. New York is fun and edgy and progressive. Just as you’d expect. But there are areas in which they could improve, based on my experience and insight.

Numbers game: New York stores often seem to lack enough staff

The first is a simple numbers game: stores often don’t have enough staff. It’s a common misconception in modern business that technology can wholly supplant human sales assistants and operatives; certainly, there are a lot of tasks from which people can be freed by machines, but it’s not a like-for-like substitution.

There are half a dozen reasons why shoppers want to be able to interact with a real person, to ask advice and opinions, to get a sense of the sales environment in the round, and, much more fundamentally, just because some customers are more comfortable with the warmth and empathy of human interaction. So New York retailers need to think about that.

The other area in which I’d offer some gentle criticism, because it’s right in my field of expertise, is their relative lack of progress in the multichannel area.

I’ve argued for some years that a truly successful business will embrace all kinds of sales opportunities; every conceivable and practical way of delivering the product to the customer to maximum satisfaction. People are complex animals, and they want to shop in different ways. More complicated still, each individual may have multiple preferences: they may buy books or music or similar goods online, but prefer a face-to-face experience when purchasing, say, clothes.

They may be happy to have one kind of goods delivered but wish to collect another from in-store. The retailer must be ready and agile enough to be able to cater for these differing and sometimes conflicting demands. Multichannel propositions give you flexibility, adaptability, and, ultimately, drive profit.

New York was a great experience, and a real learning curve for some of the team. The edited version of the lesson is that it’s a business environment which is open to innovation and horizon scanning, but has yet fully to embrace some of the possibilities which already exist to sell products to consumers. 

Vision: NYC retailers should embrace more possibilities for improved Customer Experience

CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamAugust 27, 2019
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9min801

Businesses in regulated markets don’t have to choose between satisfying their customers and regulators, because compliance and CX isn’t a zero sum game.

Yet with the right tools and focus, they can do both.

Customer expectations are perhaps higher than ever. Conditioned by the interfaces dreamed up by Cupertino’s and Silicon Valley’s finest, we expect things to just work.

And those expectations don’t exist in a vacuum – we carry them with us into other areas of our lives, demanding equally great experiences from banks, retailers, and almost anyone else who provides us with a service.

For example, Salesforce research found 74 percent of consumers are likely to switch brands if the checkout process is difficulty, while 50 percent said they’d go elsewhere if a business doesn’t anticipate their needs or provide an easy-to-use mobile experience.

On-the-go: An easy-to-use mobile experience is a must for half of all customers

Regulation

It’s a particular challenge for businesses in regulated markets who have to carry out due diligence on their customers. These kinds of checks can add friction to an onboarding experience and give already flighty customers reason to abandon sign-up and go elsewhere.

Worse still – regulation is a moving target! To stay compliant, businesses have to continually adjust their processes to keep up with changes in regulation, leading to yet more risk of friction.

In financial services, for example, businesses are currently having to deal with new anti-money-laundering rules (The Fifth Anti Money Laundering Directive), the introduction of the Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and ongoing compliance with GDPR.

The consequences of failing to meet these and other regulatory obligations are serious. Those found guilty of breaches potentially face massive fines (GDPR infringement can result in fines of up to four percent of a company’s annual global turnover or €20 million – whichever is greater) and prosecution, not to mention the bad publicity and damage to their reputation.

Hefty: GDPR fines can be crippling for a company

The cost of poor CX

It’s understandable that a business faced with these challenges might err on the side of caution and in so doing, introduce the kind of friction that makes for a lesser Customer Experience.

But while the risks associated with poor Customer Experience might be less tangible, they’re no less real.

Customer Experience consulting firm Walker predicts that CX will overtake pricing and product as the key brand differentiator by next year. Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCooper’s Future of CX report found one-in-three (32 percent) consumers in the US will walk away from a brand after just one poor experience, while 54 percent say Customer Experience needs improvement at most companies.

Clearly, there’s a big opportunity cost to getting it wrong.

Again, traditional financial services have a particular problem here. Their fintech counterparts are more agile and, without the legacy systems and infrastructures of incumbents, are better placed to create great new experiences for customers – even if they’re subject to the same regulatory requirements.

‘Difficult balance’

Cathie Hall, Customer Experience Manager at identity verification specialist GBG, said: “Every single market is being disrupted by people who want the here and now yesterday; who don’t want to wait weeks to open an account; who don’t want to wait weeks to start a service or even get a product. They want what they want now and they want it personal to them.

“And in regulated environments and in a changing landscape, it’s very difficult to get that balance between compliance and the Customer Experience.”

Businesses need to find ways of complying with strict due diligence requirements without making it a chore for their customers, as the best Customer Experiences are frictionless, fast, and intuitive.

Reducing the number of key strokes, auto-populating as much customer information as possible, and performing background checks in real-time removes the burden of onboarding from the customer and speeds up the process, leaving less time or motivation for them to abandon the process.

Using technology to anticipate your customers’ needs and show that you respect their time also makes for a slicker experience that can instil confidence and trust in your brand.

It’s common in retail and other sectors, so if you’re operating in a market that struggles with abandonment, your customers are likely to already expect the same kind of experience from you…and if you don’t provide it, they may go elsewhere.

GBG and Customer Experience Magazine are hosting a free webinar, The Compliance and Customer Experience Conundrum, on October 3 at 11am, British Standard Time. CMG’s Head of User Experience, Henry Thomas, will share insights and CX hacks to inspire attendees. 

Click here to register.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 21, 2019
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4min991

Local authorities in the UK are failing to provide an acceptable level of customer service, according to a new poll.

Over a third (37 percent) of UK citizens have been denied critical information from their local councils because they couldn’t reach the right department through the customer service team, according to new research from cloud and contact centre solutions firm 8×8.

Difficulty getting through to their local authority has significant consequences, with one-in-five people (20 percent) missing council tax payments; 17 percent missing rent payments; and 14 percent signing up for the wrong benefits because they were unable to get hold of the information they needed.

According to the poll, it takes seven minutes on average for residents to get through to their local council, speaking to at least two different people before reaching the right department. As a result, 71 percent of residents believe that customer service at their local council should improve in line with recent rises in council tax.

The study also reveals that councils are offering a limited number of channels for residents to contact them on. Around half of the public can contact their local authority by phone (58 percent), but when it comes to digital communication, only 50 percent of all residents say they are able to contact their local authority by email, 14 by social media, and just five percent using a chatbot.

Communication concern: Councils are lacking in digital communication channel options, a poll has found

Nearly half (44 percent) of residents would value more digital communication channels from their local council to get a quicker and easier response to queries.

Despite residents facing a range of issues when contacting their local council, the vast majority (85 percent) say that they have also received good customer service from their local authority in the past.

When asked about what they value from these interactions, the most important factors were being able to reach a person to speak to (39 percent), getting queries resolved quickly (38 percent), and getting their query answered the first time, without being passed between multiple agents or having to contact the council again (35 percent).

Mary Ellen Genovese, MD of European Operations, 8×8, said: “While there are countless examples of local councils delivering great service for residents with a human touch, our research reveals that many people are dissatisfied with their experience. At best, this is an inconvenience but at worst, residents are missing out on vital payments or services because they can’t easily get the information they need.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 21, 2019
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3min914

Global customer engagement software firm Freshworks has announced a 61 percent year-over-year billings growth in the second quarter of 2019, driven by considerable momentum in multiple areas.

In addition to the Q2 growth, Freshworks broadened its corporate footprint in Europe by opening offices in Paris, France, and Utrecht, Netherlands. On the heels of expanding its existing office in London, Freshworks hosted Refresh19 London, its first ever UK user conference, attracting over 400 attendees.

Outside of the EU, the company also grew its presence in APAC by partnering with OrangeOne Corporation, a leading software services provider in Japan. Freshworks also opened its third office in India in the city of Hyderabad, and Melbourne, its second in the Australia-New Zealand region.

The company rounded its Customer 360 platform with the acquisition of Natero, which leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning-powered technology to help put actionable data in the hands of customer success professionals. With Natero, Freshworks helps companies engage with their customers from first web visit to latest inquiry.

Earlier in the quarter, Freshchat, the company’s modern messaging software added an integration with WhatsApp Business solution. As part of Proximity, a bundle of features aimed at bringing businesses closer to their customers, businesses can now send customers text, images, GIFs, attachments or canned responses via WhatsApp’s enormously popular messaging platform.

Additionally, Freshworks launched Freshrelease, an agile product management tool that helps teams quickly complete bug fixes and get new products to market faster.

Building upon this momentum, Freshworks has exponentially expanded its ecosystem of partners. The Freshworks Marketplace has grown to 700 apps and counting, created by more than 350 partners globally.

Overall, the business from the partner network from over 40 countries registered 100 percent YoY growth in the first half of the year ending June 2019, underscoring its value to solution partners and ISVs working closely with Freshworks’ customer engagement suite.

Girish Mathrubootham, Founder and CEO of Freshworks, said: “While we are pleased by our growth, we continue to invest in product development efforts to expand our addressable markets. The ultimate reward for us is seeing greater customer success as businesses court, close, and keep customers for life.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 20, 2019
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3min869

The North of England’s gas distributor, Northern Gas Networks (NGN), is having an outstanding year, and is aiming for an autumn of awards success as it competes for CX recognition nationally and globally.

NGN has been shortlisted for six categories in the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, and employees recently learned they will also compete in three categories at the 2019 International Customer Experience Awards.

The UK Customer Experience Awards take place at London’s Wembley Stadium this October, and NGN will present before judges overseeing the following categories: Team of the Year – Customer Centricity, Use of Insight & Feedback – Customer Satisfaction, Customers at the Heart of Everything – Initiative, B2B Customer Experience, Product or Service Development, and Employees at the Heart of Everything.

The following month, on November 21, the NGN team will be in Amsterdam for the second International Customer Experience Awards final, with the goal of winning gold in the Best Customer Experience Strategy – CX and Beyond, Business Change or Transformation and Customer-Centric Culture – Transformation categories.

NGN is hoping that 2019 rivals 2014 for awards success, as it was the year it secured an incredible six gold titles at the UK Customer Experience Awards.

Eileen Brown, Customer Experience Director at Northern Gas Networks, said: “We are immensely proud to be shortlisted for both the International and UK Customer Experience Awards. Our customers are always front and centre in everything that we do and to receive this recognition is testament to the quality of service delivered by our dedicated teams. We deliver gas to over 2.7 million homes and businesses across the North of England, and we are absolutely thrilled to be acknowledged for our service both nationally and globally.”

Global gathering: The International Customer Experience Awards is taking place in Amsterdam on November 21


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 20, 2019
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2min941

UK Customer Experience Awards finalist Three has activated its 5G service in parts of London, ahead of rolling out the service for mobiles in other areas before the end of the year.

The first wave of the service is for 5G broadband home hub users in three areas, Camberwell, Camden, and Southwark, meaning householders there can access wifi speeds without landlines or installations.

Three has, appropriately enough, been nominated for three titles at the UK Customer Experience Awards, which take place in London’s Wembley Stadium on October 10. The network provider will present before judging panels in a bid to win the Customers at the Heart of Everything – Leading Edge, Online Customer Experience, and Telecoms category awards.

Three aims to have mobile 5G active in up to 25 UK towns and cities before the end of 2019, including Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Manchester.

The switching on of the service means Three joins fellow UK Customer Experience Awards finalists EE in providing next-level coverage. EE launched 5G in six cities in May, while 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards finalist Vodafone’s network went live in July.

Meanwhile, O2, which has been nominated for an incredible seven awards at the UKCXAs, will launch its 5G network in October.

Speaking of the launch this week, Three CEO Dave Dyson said: “It’s clear consumers and businesses want more and more data. We have the UK’s best network for data and we have led the market on customer usage on both 3G and 4G technologies.

“We have worked hard over a long period of time to be able to offer the best end-to-end 5G experience.”


John BuniJohn BuniAugust 19, 2019
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6min1660

The technology that now infuses our lives can do many things.

It can connect us by video with someone on the other side of the world, post our thoughts or pictures to thousands (or millions) of strangers, or teach us foreign languages. It can hail us a cab, book us a holiday, or order us a piece of clothing right to our front door. It has its shortcomings – and I’ve written extensively about these before – but on the whole it’s made our lives easier, and that’s a fact.

It’s no surprise that we delegate so much of our everyday existence to the unassuming devices in our pockets and bags. They are amazing, after all.

Articles like that which adorned the cover of Forbes magazine in 2007 now seem ridiculous. (“Nokia. One billion customers,” read the headline. “Can anyone catch the cell phone king?”) But there was a time, not long ago, that tech didn’t dominate our lives so comprehensively. And though not all of us predicted it would, there is a feeling now that there isn’t a problem tech can’t solve.

But tech can’t do everything – at least at the moment. And that’s a point that has (let’s be honest) somehow escaped the notice of some in the business world. Like a wave, tech has rolled over industries where a genuine relationship once existed in the Customer Experience and carried that human connection out to sea. In the short-term, the convenience or novelty might have made up for it for the consumer, and the increase in sales might have made up for it for the business. But now, people are realising they miss that human element in their experience.

They might need it for practical reasons – in customer service, for example – or simply want it because it makes the buying journey more personal and more enjoyable. It’s no coincidence that florists, beauticians, and hairdressers have come through the ‘retail apocalypse’ without a hair out of place – at least not their own, in the latter case. The human touch is actually built into the product.

PwC’s consumer intelligence survey, ‘Experience Is Everything, found that for 80 percent of American consumers, the most important aspects of a positive Customer Experience are speed, convenience, and friendly and knowledgeable service. Tech may take care of convenience and speed, but only people can supply great service.

Nearly 60 percent of consumers in the US feel companies have lost touch with the human side of CX, and 85 percent of consumers want more of it in the future. Outside of the US, the number (74 percent) is lower, but still points to a widespread desire for more humanity in business.

In the US, $75 billion in revenue is lost each year due to a poor Customer Experience, and between mid-2016 and early 2018, as tech played a greater and greater role in business, call centre volume went up by 39 percent – a trend that’s set to continue. The human touch in Customer Experience, even at the level of customer service, is becoming a key differentiator in the Digital Age.

Tech isn’t the problem. The problem is the belief that tech can or should replace people.

Technology like the cloud makes businesses faster, more dynamic and more flexible, which frees staff from more menial tasks so they can pay more attention to their customers, or think about how they can improve customer experience.

Technology can help businesses familiarise themselves with customers through recording names and purchase histories and recommending products. Tech doesn’t need to take the human touch out of customer experience. The opposite: it can make it better.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 16, 2019
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4min1061

The CX Professional Masterclass is coming to Dubai in September, led by global consultant and author Ian Golding.

The two-day class will see participants learn from one of the world’s foremost authorities on all things Customer Experience, and receive direct advice on steps that will place customer centricity at the very heart of your organisation.

Topics covered include customer journey mapping, CX measurement, and how employees can affect and deliver CX strategies.

All graduates of the course will be provided with case studies, exercises, and stories that bring to life the skills needed to succeed as a CX professional. Attendees will create a relevant and personalised action plan that can start immediately and graduates will be able to demonstrate greater knowledge, confidence and credibility in Customer Experience within your organisation.

Ian’s many years of CX consulting led him to pen one of the best received texts in CX today, Customer What? The honest and practical guide to customer experience, and now is your chance to learn directly from Ian (pictured left) himself at the workshop on September 25 – 26th.

Following the class, graduates will also have the opportunity to take the CCXP Exam at a CCXP Assessment Centre in Dubai.

The Masterclass will take place at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel, and for those who register before Thursday August 29, a special Early Bird Discount offer is available. Click here for more details.

In the UK, Ian’s CX Masterclass is going from strength-to-strength, and the next takes place on September 16 – 17.

The Dubai CX Masterclass will allow those in the Gulf region to benefit from the same standard of excellence as the UK events.

UK attendee Rebecca Farnworth, a Customer Excellence Manager, said of her time at the Masterclass: “Ian is a very strong commanding facilitator, presenter, and teacher rolled into one. He makes you want to listen!

“His experience is immense which makes him very credible. I liked the stories and the videos which helped maximise learning in a very adult accelerated learning way. I have never left a training programme wanting to stay and learn even more. My three things to implement into my workplace’s current culture is already on the agenda at the next leadership meeting.”

Meanwhile, Dubai staff can also avail of Ian’s outstanding teaching without having to leave their office.

In-house training offers both employers and employees a whole new set of advantages compared to sending a few people from your team to external training. The entire training process happens much more naturally in the familiar environment and enables your employees to improve their skills without going out of their way.

For more details of in-house training in Dubai, contact Antonija@cxm.co.uk.

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 15, 2019
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3min888

UK Customer Experience Awards finalist Confirmit has announced a new Vice President of Global CX Consulting, to lead a team that will deliver CX consulting services to outstanding for clients worldwide.

Chris Brown has stepped into the role, and will ensure Confirmit’s consulting offering provides the clear, consistent guidance that its customers need to deliver successful Customer Experience programmes. Increasingly, this means aligning CX to Employee Experience to drive real business and cultural change.

Chris (pictured left) has worked with the CX Consulting team since joining the company in 2012. He has extensive experience across the CX and Market Research industries, and during his time at Confirmit has worked in close partnership with many clients to design and develop highly successful CX programmes.

His experience, combined with the team’s varied expertise, creates a world-class CX resource delivering best practices across different regions, industries, customer types, and partners.

Confirmit has been shortlisted as finalists in two categories at the UK Customer Experience Awards, which take place at London’s Wembley Stadium this October. Both entries are in partnership with healthcare provider Bupa.

Speaking of his new role, Chris said: “Technology is a huge enabler in the development of data-driven CX programmes. However, most businesses will also benefit from being able to draw upon real world experience and expertise to make their CX vision a reality.

“We work hard to form strong partnerships with our customers, enabling them to learn, apply and benefit from our experience. I’m looking forward to working with the growing consulting team to ensure that we deliver the added value that our customers require in their pursuit of CX excellence.”

Meanwhile, Ken Østreng, President and CEO of Confirmit said: “Chris’ promotion highlights the importance Confirmit places on building true partnerships with our clients. We are committed to providing world-class software but have long recognised the vital role that guidance and experience take in ensuring real business success. Helping our customers to unlock the full potential of our solutions not only delivers the results they are looking for, but also provides us with an opportunity to respond to market demand for continued innovation.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 13, 2019
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18min1907

A thought leader and visionary when it comes to bleeding-edge Customer Experience technology, Chris Connolly is an interesting man to know.

A man fortunate enough to be Vice President of Product Marketing at Genesys, his genial Aussie exterior belies a knowledge of exciting CX innovation that will make your head spin. That knowledge was among the fuel that fired this summer’s Xperience19 conference in Denver, Colorado, where the latest advancements in CX and call centre products were divulged and debated.

The hugely successful gathering was also where Chris (pictured left) spoke to Customer Experience Magazine about his role at the organisation which is changing how customers interact with brands forever, and as he explains, that’s an ongoing evolution – one that will never cease as long as creativity and the ability to identify and incorporate excellence remains a central tenet of Genesys, which is sponsoring the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards.

“I try and tell great stories about our amazing products,” is how Chris modestly describes his role, which involves keeping the company at the forefront of the technology curve as Customer Experience continues on its unstoppable rise to become the key differentiator for firms jostling to outshine others in a crowded commercial playing field.

It goes without saying that artificial intelligence (AI) plays a central role in keeping Genesys products, such as PureCloud, at this forefront, and Chris, currently based in Raleigh, North Carolina, tells us he believes that the time is right for innovation in company structures to match the growth in technological prowess.

This, as he explains, is all about establishing trust – and not just for customers.

“We have done research, and engaged in debates around the world which are focused on enterprises and how they perceive AI as affecting their customers, and their workforce,” he says.

“Through those debates, there’s a concept that’s becoming more popular in organisations – the role of Chief Trust Officer.

“They wouldn’t be in HR – they would be there to make sure data is clean; to make sure it’s not biased; and to make sure the bots are not taking the organisation down paths they don’t want to go. They could also look at human aspects, such was what happens if an employee is displaced by a piece of AI or automation, in which case they could have that trust officer on their side.”

As current AI tech has the ability to transcribe conversations in full and mine them for data to enable actions such as targeted advertising, there is, as Chris says, a concern over being able to trust the endpoint that you are talking to. 

“Some of the newer voice endpoints in your home, such as Amazon’s Alexa, or Google Home – they are listening to what you say, so do you trust Amazon to choose the brand of paper towels you put in your shopping basket?”

Speak up? Endpoints in your home, such as Amazon Echo, are listening to you

However, talk of trust and AI ethics can oftentimes overshadow the positives of the world of CX tech, and there is plenty of those to choose from.

Chris, as VP of Product Marketing, is all about that, and is excited to share details of the innovations Genesys has been working on for its wealth of global clients.

“One that comes to mind first is something we call predictive routing. There was a TV show in Australia in the 80s called Perfect Match, similar to Blind Date in the UK, which tries to pair a contestant with their ideal dating partner. Well  predictive routing is a little bit like that. What it does is look at everything we know about a customer when they call.

“So as that ringtone is ringing in your ear, we have a wealth of information about you – what you’ve done, what you’ve purchased previously, how many times have you called, how quickly you speak…that is all pulled up in real-time. Then we also know a ton of information about employees in the workforce – what training they have been on, who was the trainer that trained them, how many days off do they take a month, do they speak quickly, are they male – a ton of information!

“Predictive routing matches that customer and that employee together using machinery. And so, what I think people don’t realise is there is so much intelligence now that goes into who you speak to when you call an organisation or when you chat with them. It’s revolutionary in terms of what’s there.

Clever calling: Contact centre innovations include ‘matchmaking’ a customer to the ideal agent

“Added to that – and this is something people kind of know, but I don’t think they realise the ease in which organisations are able to do it – is understand your digital footprint on a mobile app or website.

“We can see in real-time genuinely every click that you make, where you are, what your screen is browsing. We can tell what you’re looking at with your eyeballs based on where the page is scrolling to.

“All of that information is being pulled in now to engage you better. Engage, in this sense, might be a piece of content, and that’s sort of traditional, but increasingly AI tech is being used to predict things like – should you speak to a human?Should you speak to a bot? What should the bot say? Should we rout you to another piece of content?

“The visibility and clarity surrounding your digital footprint when you turn up to someone’s dot com is amazing. I don’t think people realise that there are folks sitting in a building somewhere watching their web traffic in real-time.”

Tracked: Your digital footprint on a site can be observed in real-time

That might, of course, nudge us as wary customers back to the issue of trust, but Chris is what he describes as an “evangelist” on the idea of convenience trumping privacy for the vast majority of consumers. That’s not to say that extra protections shouldn’t be implemented to ensure responsible use of our data, hence his championing of Chief Trust Officers earlier in our conversation.

“This generation – in fact all generations almost – will happily yield their private info over if it makes things easier,” he says.

“And yes, it’s not for everyone and there will be hold-outs, but on the whole, they are giving it up. That said, this is where we need a bit of regulation, both from governments and from industry; self-regulating, for an organisation to be smart enough to know they have a responsibility not to abuse that power.”

Chris refers to the ongoing industry debate around data collection – how much “protection” does a firm like Genesys bake into their products, versus letting the buyer of the product choose it for themselves.

“We have to walk this fine line. So the steps we are taking include being very open and transparent about our AI  principals and ethics standards. We are publishing guidelines on what you should and shouldn’t do. We have debated that with industry analysts and lots of different customers, and have gravitated to a set of principles regarding transparency and responsibility.

“Another step is from a pure technology perspective: we are providing tools for anonymised data. So when data goes into our Genesys cloud, we strip it of anything sensitive and just put a number in place. Our clients still know who it represents, but we don’t, and that keeps us protected, and therefore customers protected from data breaches also.”

Thanks to his role at the coalface of creativity at Genesys, Chris is ideal to probe for tidbits of tech trickery – magic that will pilot our customer journeys as they wind ever-onwards to a future featuring myriad possibilities.

So what’s on the horizon? What’s the Genesys genius we can expect down the line, but “aren’t quite there yet” with?

“I feel like we’re so close to two things: one is what I’ll call interaction summarisation, and this is using sequence-to-sequence learning, or machine learning. This is when you provide a pattern and say ‘given this pattern, I want you to produce this pattern’. The inputs are words, so you give it text and say ‘here’s a sequence of words – I want you to reduce that to two sentences’.

“Where we are now is that we can do real-time streaming of audio into automated speech recognition and we can get the transcripts back in real-time – that’s achievable today.

“The next step is taking the conversation you are having with a bot, either by voice or by text, and summarising it to ‘this is what you’re actually talking to us about’. 

“What that then allows is for the employee to essentially do a ‘hands-off’ interaction. So the call might drop into their ear and they have a great conversation with the customer. Normally, at the end of that call they have to go ‘wrap’; they have to tag it – did you buy this or that? There’s follow-up notes to consider.

“Well with interaction summarisation, all that goes away.

“Now we have a conversation and the AI is listening to the call. It transcribes it, and the interaction summarisation says what’s going on and what’s needed as the follow-up. So the agent is basically hands-off, and that’s a very cool new way of working.

“Imagine not even needing screens, because it’s all done for you. So we are really close to that tech – that sequence-to-sequence learning or summarisation.”

The second innovation close to changing the face of customer contact forever, Chris states, is journey forecasting – tech that can replace the use of the Erlang C formula, which ‘predicts’ waiting times for callers.

“Where we are today is we have models being run to do forecasting, like workload demand forecasting, which can be applied to anything – such as how many street lamps are going to be broken in a particular city, or how many garbage bins will be intact after a storm.

“In the contact centre, it can be used to predict, for instance, how many agents you’ll need tomorrow. That’s current state, but we are on the cusp of journey forecasting, which goes beyond that one interaction. 

“Let’s look at the example of an expecting mother. In that pregnancy journey there are lots of milestones that happen – for instance, calling about health insurance. It’s not one interaction with the healthcare provider – it could be 10 over the nine months. We have the math now to forecast journeys and every business process along the way. We will also be able to forecast the impacts and the resource demand. That is so close, like within a 12 to 24 month window.

“The problem with manually mapping customer journeys is that no matter what you invent, a customer is going to do something different. So what’s happening is we can apply machine learning to do pattern recognition. It will actually have more of a profound effect on the workforce than the customer.”

With passion for his products on full display, Chris is a true advocate for the advancement of Customer – and Employee – Experience, and brands can feel safe in the knowledge that the quest for improvement with Genesys will never come to an end, no matter how many technological milestones are reached.

 

 




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