Andrea WilliamsAndrea WilliamsMarch 22, 2019
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9min103

If you’re reading Customer Experience Magazine, then you’ll be aware that CX is a much talked-about business concept.

According to Forrester, it can be defined as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company”.

This is a concept with a very long history – it’s just never had a catchy name before. Customer Experience has had different forms, as it’s been influenced by technology and the prevalent customer preferences of each generation and era over time.

It’s hard to pinpoint where it all started. We know that on January 1, 1876, the red triangle of Bass Ale became the UK’s first official trademark. While businesses had been marking their products to show origin since time immemorial, the modern understanding of branding was arguably born alongside that first trademark. Even back in the 1800s, the idea of branding was an implicit recognition that the customer was on some sort of journey of research and discovery before making a purchase.

Let’s travel back in time and explore the transformations that shaped CX…

Everyone knows your name

The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, once said: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.” It’s an analogy that works as well today as it did in the past. It’s up to the host to be gracious and make guests comfortable.

Back in the 50s, there was no “customer experience”. No fancy business lingo – just service. This was the age of genuine, low-tech personalisation. Business owners chatted with customers and remembered preferences.

Have you ever watched the hit TV show Mad Men? If so, you know that when housewife Betty Draper wanted to go out shopping, she got the royal treatment. Salespeople remembered her, greeting her by name, inquiring about her family and making tailored product suggestions.

Indeed, the shopping experience of the 50s was familiar and comforting. That’s because it was a social experience; as a customer, you likely got to know the owners and employees of companies you interacted with on a personal level.

Don’t get too nostalgic, though. It gets even better…

You can shop on ‘The Internet’

Today we don’t even think twice about “going online”, but back in the early 90s it was a big deal! In this era the internet became commercialised; Amazon started selling books online and Pierre Omidyar founded eBay.

 This decade was characterised by excitement (perhaps with the exception of the Dot Com bust, which wasn’t as amusing). Online shopping made it possible to buy goods at any time, regardless of ‘store hours’, without even leaving the house. Ecommerce also brought with it the opportunity to order far more than what one could find on a store’s shelves.

On the other hand, the focus on service didn’t seem as important.

Because these technological developments were so new and intriguing, the loss of that special personal touch went unnoticed. Web ‘pages’, as they were called back then, were barely functional, much less optimised for the user’s enjoyment. It would take a while for the notion of ‘user-friendliness’ to gain traction. Yet even though there was no personalisation, there were cool new things to click.

After all, you don’t expect the royal treatment when you’re an adventurer heading off into the unknown – which is how people felt venturing to buy via personal computers.

Tech that ‘gets you’

Today we take all the convenience of technology for granted. In fact, we’re likely to get upset when things don’t work instantaneously and seamlessly (“This web page is taking more than five seconds to load…I’m outta here!”).

Yet we’ve also missed being remembered by companies; being treated with special care. That’s where modern Customer Experience enters the scene. Research from Salesforce estimates that 75 percent of people now expect a consistent experience wherever they engage with brands – be it through social media, mobile, or even in person.

CX has become all about providing both intuitive technology and automated personalisation capable of remembering preferences, making recommendations and offering help.

 Customer Experience has essentially come full-circle: it started out as an emotional experience, transformed into a display of ‘cool’ technology, and now it’s back to being people-focused. The question modern companies are asking is: “How do we apply all the tech at our disposal to delight the customer?”

Businesses want to forge personal relationships with customers again – albeit in the digital space. Business consultancy Walker suggests that by 2020, CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. No wonder everyone’s talking about it.

Must everything change?

While technology has raced ahead, people have remained relatively unchanged. No matter how much time passes, the customer still desires to feel special and valued. Making them feel like they got away with a great deal is never going to get old.

We may have moved past the quaint days when shop owners greeted us by name, but when we get the sense a company sees us as just a number, we’re quick to take our business elsewhere. Today we enjoy the best of all worlds: the customer comes first, and businesses have the technology to craft remarkable experiences. With the rise of omnichannel – another one of those hot buzzwords – service expectations have increased. Modern customers fully expect the royal treatment, anytime, anywhere.

What’s next? New experiences that fully merge physical spaces with digital tech. Future CX-obsessed companies will ensure the customer journey is always on and responsive to a customer’s location and overall context.

Told you it gets better!


Laurence GoasduffLaurence GoasduffMarch 22, 2019
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4min143

As businesses strive to become customer-centric, Gartner has identified 10 common habits of organisations exercising customer centricity.

Gartner predicts that, by 2020, poor customer experiences will destroy 30 percent of digital business projects. Will yours be one of them? What does it mean to be customer-centric?

Customer-centric organisations understand the unique problems and expectations of their customers as well as the context of those needs. They then consistently deliver products and services that meet those expectations.

“You must win at every interaction the customer has with your organisation,” says Olive Huang, Research Director at Gartner.

The pace of technology innovation has accelerated and is empowering people. Customers, users and employees expect more, complain more, are more willing to switch suppliers or employers – and share far more about their experiences.

“Your business results depend on your brand’s ability to retain and add customers,” says Olive continues.

“You must win at every interaction the customer has with your organisation, whether that be a marketing campaign, a call to a contact centre, an invoice, or a delivery reliant on the supply chain. Every department must play its part in a coordinated fashion.”

Not only have people become empowered by technology, but the next generation to enter the workforce – those born between 1995 and 2010 that represent 27 percent of the world population – has spending power.

“They are less inclined to trust companies and brands, expect to be heard and involved, are quick to switch preferences, and seek out employers and brands that offer authentic and transparent experiences,” adds Huang.

Preference and purchase will be driven more by personalised experiences, trusted peer-to-peer information, and real-time delivery of information and services. These experiences are delivered through many channels – the web, mobile apps, contact centres and virtual personal/customer assistants, powered by AI.

“In order to deliver an adaptive customer experience you will need to increase real-time capabilities by absorbing and analysing large volumes of data ‘on the move’ and react quickly to unexpected business events,” says Huang.

Gartner will be covering content like this at the upcoming Gartner Customer Experience & Technologies Summit, 22-23 May, London UK.

Save €325 on your booking by using CXM2019


Nick HagueNick HagueMarch 20, 2019
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6min285

There are only three ways to make money: sell more products, increase your prices, or cut costs. 

The easiest action may seem to be to increase prices, but if you don’t deliver additional value for the higher prices then it won’t be long before customers start to look around for alternative suppliers.  

So what about cutting costs? A cost-cutting strategy is only temporary as it cannot be sustained in the long term.  

That therefore leaves only one possible growth strategy and that is to sell more products, which is easier said than done. If it was just a question of hiring a new sales rep or spending money on advertising and watching the new flow of business, everybody would do it. 

Access to new customers in new territories is indeed why office-supplies chain Office Depot Inc. and Alibaba’s international wholesale marketplace Alibaba.com have inked a ‘strategic collaboration’. However, research shows that the most important factor driving long-term growth is great Customer Experience.

Market research company Forrester, for instance, found that customer experience leaders grow revenue at a rate of 17 percent compound growth – considerably faster than the customer experience laggards. Meanwhile, consulting group Accenture estimates that the business costs of poor Customer Experience is as much as $1.6 trillion from US customers who switch their service to a different brand or service provider.

There can be no doubt about it then: exceptional Customer Experience is critical to growth.

But what is a great Customer Experience? It isn’t just having the product delivered on time in full. It isn’t receiving a product that works as promised. This is a good experience but the customer is simply receiving what they expect.

Great Customer Experience is something which pleases the customer so much it may never be forgotten. A customer that is short of product and needs an urgent delivery will remember for a long time a supplier who pulls out the stops to solve the problem. It’s why a customer that has been struggling with a technical issue that is quickly solved by the supplier will almost certainly repay with loyalty. A supplier whose deliveries never fail, whose products never disappoint, who is always available to deal with enquiries and does so promptly, will be thought to offer a great Customer Experience.

Great CX is built on emotions, and small companies tend to know this. They will often work nights and weekends to solve a customer’s problem. They will bend over backwards to be nice to customers. They will deal with them promptly and efficiently. They know that without customers they cannot pay the rent. Small companies understand the importance of engaging emotionally with customers and offering great Customer Experience.

There is then, something that can be termed, the ‘corporate curse’. When companies grow, especially business-to-business companies, they can lose this emotional attachment. Large B2B companies need processes to ensure that their products are made efficiently. Departments are set up to run production, finance, sales, marketing and HR. These departments may be superbly managed but they can also become silos, working independently of each other, viewing customer requests as inconvenient disruptions to their efficiency. When customer satisfaction levels are measured amongst the customers of these large B2B suppliers, the results are almost always mediocre. 

A number of key Customer Experience pillars are required to escape this trap. These include total commitment to Customer Experience by the leadership; an avoidance of silo mentality, with everyone within the B2B supplier that can solve the problem taking ownership of it, and being quick and easy to deal with. This is vital, as Amazon well knows.

But beware: the things that please and excite today soon become standard. Providing great Customer Experience requires suppliers to constantly be thinking of different and better ways of serving their customers. It’s why Amazon and many other retailers seek to offer ever faster and more convenient delivery options and locations.

The only long-term way to make more money is to deliver exceptional CX. Alibaba and Office Depot, along with their very many competitors, need to remember this.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 19, 2019
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2min157

UK Customer Experience Awards winner EE has announced a new bonus for customers who love movies and TV.

The mobile provider, which won Best Contact Centre Large at the UK CX Awards in London’s Wembley Stadium last October, has announced that millions of its pay monthly customers will get a six-month subscription to the Amazon Prime Video and MTV Play streaming services for free.

The new offer will come with inclusive data, meaning users will be able to stream content from either service without impacting on their monthly data allowance. The deal is the latest signal smartphone users are increasingly using their mobile devices to stream TV and film content, with forecasts from last year’s Cisco Visual Networking Index report suggesting as much as 79 percent of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2022.

Marc Allera, Chief Executive of BT’s consumer division – which owns EE – said: “It’s our ambition to offer our customers unrivalled choice, with the best content, smartest devices, and the latest technology through partnerships with the world’s best content providers.

“In offering all EE pay monthly mobile customers Amazon Prime Video and MTV Play access, in addition to BT Sport and Apple Music, we’re providing them with a wealth of great entertainment they can experience in more places thanks to our superfast 4G network, and soon to be launched 5G service.”

Entries for the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards are now open, with an Early Bird entry offer available until May 31. Click here for further details on entering.

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 19, 2019
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5min164

Forty-one percent of British customers will never return to a brand after it’s been suffered a hack, according to new research.

The findings have been published in the Ponemon Institute’s 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study, which shows that UK consumers are harder on businesses that suffer data breaches, compared to US customers.

Daniel Markuson, a digital privacy expert at NordVPN said businesses need to assess their cybersecurity risks, make relevant company-wide changes, and improve the overall approach to security.

“Organisations need to enforce reliable security measures and inform their customers about how their data is collected, processed, and stored,” he said.

“Every company should start by establishing its security policy and ensuring compliance with any applicable regulations. If a company also chooses the right security tools and educates its employees, it can prevent many potential breaches.”

Steps to protect your business from data breaches

Define your security policy: You should start by developing the guidelines or best practices for all employees to follow. IT decision makers should evaluate and update corporate policies more frequently. Such policies may include a rule to lock computers before going away from desks and to never share accounts with coworkers.

Follow regulations: It is vital that companies have rules in place to protect their data inside and outside the organisational network. Organisations process hundreds of emails and other documents daily. Some of these may fall out of the scope of specific laws yet still represent corporate liability and reputation risks. To keep HR, legal, and other documents protected and secure, businesses should work internally and with their cloud vendors to know exactly where and how the data is stored and processed. When enterprises follow the regulations for data protection, they have a better chance to prevent data leaks and avoid fines or reputation issues.

Educate your employees: It is important to cultivate the secure mindset of every team member. Keep your employees informed about the dangers of clicking on links or attachments from unknown sources. Also, make sure to educate them about phishing attacks or social engineering. You can create a cybersecurity test to understand how much your employees know about security online. You can also put up memos around the office with messages such as “do not share your password with anyone” or “log out of the system when you finish”.

Invest in the right technology: Use firewalls, a reputable VPN service, network monitoring tools, and secure backups. Consider a solution for data protection. This might include a DLP or CASB tool to protect your systems against cyber attacks through malware prevention. Enterprise rights management (ERM) software can protect your content from accidental or malicious sharing and inappropriate use.

Keep your passwords and devices secure: Can your employees view sensitive information on their phones securely? If not, your data may be at risk. According to research by Cisco, approximately 63 percent of employees admitted to using a work computer for personal use every day, and 83 percent admitted to doing so occasionally. However, the transference of files between work computers and personal computers opens companies to cyber threats and corporate liability. Employees will continue to use their own gadgets for work, so companies should help them by providing secure ways to perform work activities on such devices. You can do it by installing a VPN.


Jeff EpsteinJeff EpsteinMarch 18, 2019
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7min310

To create the best possible Customer Experience, organisations must think strategically about implementing the tools that will support their omnichannel strategy.

As adoption of live chat increases, simply implementing the technology won’t be enough to set a business apart in terms of the CX they offer.

According to Walker, today’s consumers expect consistent and user-friendly experiences from any brand they interact with, which is why CX is set to surpass price as a key differentiator for consumers by 2020. A business’s CX offerings are no longer just measured against their competitors, but against what consumers know is possible with CX. To meet these high expectations, organisations must be mindful of how to properly service their customers while making good use of their agents’ time. It will also be important to prioritise quality over quantity and ensure customers are serviced on the digital channels they prefer.

Customers are making the shift to mobile in waves and, as this occurs, businesses must ensure they provide seamless and consistent CX regardless of device or channel. The fourth annual live chat benchmark report highlighting the future of live chat and its impact on CX from Comm100, a global provider of omnichannel CX solutions, found that last year, chat queries sent from a mobile device increased to nearly 52 percent, representing an almost eight percent increase from 2017.

As customers continue to pivot their primary device usage away from desktop to mobile, mobile chat optimisation is becoming a critical strategy for all brands, but particularly for those in the consumer services and recreation industries.

Focusing on improving CX metrics alone may not be the best decision for brands. Brands that scored 90 percent or higher for customer satisfaction had an average wait time of 46 seconds, while customers that reported the lowest satisfaction ratings had an average wait time of 25 seconds. While many organisations strive for short wait times and quick conversations, these metrics do not necessarily indicate more efficient agents and increased customer satisfaction. It is easy to sacrifice the quality of the Customer Experience for efficiency, but organisations who emphasise quality of service over arbitrary targets will have an easier time meeting overall business goals.

The report indicates that companies and agents are close to achieving the right balance between speed and quality. On average, chat duration saw a decrease of four percent, with chats lasting an average of 11 minutes and 53 seconds. This continued the trend of shorter chat times, following the nearly 15 percent drop in 2017.

Just as with wait time, companies with a 90 percent or higher customer satisfaction rating had an average chat duration of 12 minutes and 26 seconds – 13 percent longer than organisations with lower satisfaction scores. Having meaningful, personalised experiences that address customer needs is more important than only attempting to lower metrics like wait time or chat duration.

For longer chat durations that take up your agents’ time, AI can step in to help balance out the workload. To ensure resources are used efficiently, organisations can route chats through AI-powered chatbots to offset chat volume and free up their agents for more complex queries. Chatbots with Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning capabilities are now involved in over half of all chat interactions. They’re proven to be able to handle nearly 27 percent of those interactions without an agent, almost a seven percent increase from 2017.

Another tool that agents can rely on for optimising their workload is co-browsing. When an agent can view and interact with a customer’s web browser in real-time, it allows them to troubleshoot issues more efficiently, making co-browsing one of the quickest and most well-received ways for agents to solve customer problems. 

The report found that co-browsing sessions have an average satisfaction rating of 89 percent – six percent higher than the overall 2018 customer satisfaction rating of 83 percent. Customers may complain that canned messages are robotic or impersonal, but when used correctly it can help decrease an agent’s workload without sacrificing quality, which is why the use of canned messages has increased nearly 70 percent in one year.

The benchmark report’s findings indicate that consumers are readily embracing live chat, so long as the focus remains on improving their experience. To stand out from the competition and exceed customer expectations, brands need to focus on strategically implementing their omnichannel customer experience solutions in a way that prioritises personalised, consistent service without putting a strain on their resources.


Oliver EhrlichOliver EhrlichMarch 18, 2019
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7min226

You think you own your business, but you don’t…customers do.

Their perception determines what you can do, the competitors you can outperform, the trust you can command, and the new business opportunities you can capture. So, to maximise the value of your business, you need to understand what customers really want, what they might want in the future, to what extent they are getting it from your company, and how you can keep them coming back for more.

Insights tell a company what their customers value, to what extent their organisation delivers it, how market trends and consumer needs evolve, and which levers they can pull to improve their performance relative to competitors. According to recent McKinsey & Company research, organisations that leverage customer insights (CI) outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth and by more than 25 percent in gross margin.

Periscope By McKinsey recently conducted a survey of more than 200 businesses to help better understand the position of CI within their companies. It found that the overwhelming majority said that they aim to make CI a reality for their businesses, with 65 percent saying that CI should be a true “thought partner” (defined as the highest stage of CI maturity) to the entire organisation and a driver of transformational change.  In addition, 44 percent said that CI is a top marketing and sales priority in their organisations, well ahead of trending topics like digitisation (18 percent) and omnichannel (13 percent). 

While respondents clearly recognise the importance and impact of CI, results show they are struggling with attaining thought partner status.  For example:

  • 46 percent said that the CI function is a recognised counsellor, while 31 percent said that it is no more than a service provider with little or no systematic connection to commercial decision making.
  • Only 36 percent had the impression that their companies are already fully geared towards customer centricity.
  • 30 percent said that “processes” at their companies are insufficient to integrate CI systematically with decision making, and that they didn’t have the agility it would take to take continuous advantage of insights.

There is no single reason that the perceived role of insights is lagging at many companies. However, the survey revealed some common threads including a lack of C-level endorsement of insights as a driver of business success.

Businesses need to build a stronger, more agile insights function, leveraging not only the latest technologies but also ensuring such insights will be used for decision making. It’s also crucial for leaders to act as role models and sponsors to support this transformation. Collectively, this will enable businesses to actively steer towards customer centricity and growth.

Time to make CI a true ‘Thought Partner’

To drive growth with insights, CI needs to be recognised in all customer-related processes, from brand positioning and product development to distribution and CRM. When insights are integrated with decision making, they help companies differentiate their brands from those of competitors and sharpen their proposition to the most attractive target groups.

For example, as agile processes take hold across industries, companies bring new products to market ever earlier, often as minimum viable products (MVPs). In this situation, developers are hungry for continuous consumer feedback to iron out the kinks and introduce new varieties. CI also helps decision makers optimise their assortment, choose the right channels, cash in on consumers’ willingness to pay, and determine the most important drivers of loyalty.

An insights transformation is hard work – but it’s well worth the effort involved. Insights enable organisations to give customers what they want, sometimes before they even know they want it. The close link between insights generation and decision making will help companies to create a continuous stream of pleasant surprises for customers who will reward them with more purchases, increased loyalty and recommendations of their products to others. 

Click here to read more about the survey’s findings.

The author would like to thank Frank Kressmann, Senior Expert for Marketing and Customer Insights at McKinsey & Company, for his contribution to this article.


Ian GoldingIan GoldingMarch 15, 2019
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4min302

Customer Experience specialist Ian Golding, author of Customer What: The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience, writes for Customer Experience Magazine offering expert insight to help businesses improve their CX offering. 

To ask Ian a question on how to boost the Customer Experience provided by YOUR business, please email your question to editor@cxm.world. The best questions will be featured in future instalments.

Ian also leads the CX Professional Masterclass. Click here for details of upcoming Masterclass dates.

As a smaller business, should I consider customer loyalty schemes as part of my Customer Experience Strategy? Can they add value to my business, or is it common for customers to fail to engage with them?

I have always believed that if done well, customer loyalty schemes can be extremely effective as a way of maintaining engagement with those who interact with your products and services.

By “if done well”, I am suggesting that some are not!

Typically, the domain of large corporations in the travel, hospitality, and retail industries (although not exclusively), if the ‘effort’ is effortless and the ‘reward’ is rewarding, then a loyalty scheme could be a differentiating factor in the mind of your customer.

Personally, as a frequent traveller I will always look to fly or stay with an airline or hotel that will provide me with a benefit for using them regularly. To me, the reward of ‘free’ flights or hotel stays is a worthwhile incentive to keep using certain brands.

However, the loyalty scheme alone must only be perceived as just one touchpoint in the customer journey – if other things in the journey go wrong, I will gladly give up my perceived ‘benefits’ and take my business elsewhere.

There is absolutely no reason why the principle of a loyalty scheme should not be applied by smaller organisations – as long as it is sincere and commercially viable and a way of driving differentiation.

However, there is no sense putting a loyalty scheme in place if it will run your bottom line into the ground! Also, do not forget the ‘sincerity’ part of my statement. If a loyalty scheme is perceived by your customers as a way to try to ‘sell them more’ or spam them, then it may be better not doing it in the first place.


Claire BonniolClaire BonniolMarch 14, 2019
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8min455

I am always inspired by corporate brand image when assessing the Customer Experience maturity of a company, since these values and the brand positioning form the blueprint for future consistency.

Delivering a consistent, attractive service requires that a corporation explains the ‘why and how’ to its staff on a regular basis.

With this in mind, I recently discovered a Finnair brochure at a business event in London, and found it an interesting example of this form of communication. It also reminded me of some of the key questions we must ask ourselves when forming brand comms strategies.

What’s the journey?

The brochure tells us “Back to the Nordic Way” and talks about the “Nordic experience”, highlighting the strong values the company adheres to and evoking a specific time and place. This isn’t always easy for an airline. Air France did a similar thing when it used “le luxe, c’est l’espace” as it’s baseline, but this method of communication and promotion proved confusing for the audience, as it focused solely on business class passengers and overlooked those flying economy, who certainly did not have roomy flights to look forward to.

However, the Finnair brochure uses rich imagery, with wild, untamed Nordic landscapes and a mindset of freedom and respect, all of which sounds consistent and appealing brand-wide.

Which values will staff embody?

The Finnair brochure describes Nordic hospitality with three simple words: courage, commitment, and simplicity. These are modern customer values, which showcase a brand willing to move with the times.

Courage

We don’t live in a stable world, and emphasising courageousness allows Finnair to tell customers they will always adapt to meet new challenges. Anyone who has worked front-line knows courage is vital, as B2C customers become more and more unpredictable and even more aggressive in their approach. Courage conveys pride and pleasure at direct contact with customers.

Commitment

The brochure describes a “commitment to care”, which is certainly essential in today’s landscape. Surveys show that customer engagement is largely the result of care, not of luxurious features or even money spent. Customers like to feel that crew members and other staff are there to support their journey, and empathise with their feelings, fears and excitements. Kindness, proactivity, and good manners are evergreen in customer-facing industries.

Simplicity

This helps to differentiate the company from its competition, and is lofty goal which many of us are working towards. Considering the airlines which would cite simplicity as a customer value, I would have first considered a brand like easyJet. Yet hearing that Finnair believes in this concept seems logical, and aligns well with the Nordic values they have already espoused. Where once ‘simple’ might have conveyed negative connotations, today it is more about removing complications – something which is particularly important to travellers.

Providing evidence

Beautiful values and great use of language is never enough to attract or satisfy customers; they require tangible, measurable proof. Looking through the rest of the brochure, a few were clearly explained and outlined, which I felt helped to differentiate Finnair:

Time-saving

The company provides short connections such as the hassle-free transfers at Helsinki airports, which don’t seem as stressful as comparative trips from areas like Heathrow or Paris. In addition, flights are shorter thanks to the Eastern position of Finland, and Helsinki is one of the more punctual airports.

Sustainability

There is an emphasis on fewer emissions and greater fuel efficiency, green landings and an air filtration system on-board.

Differentiated comfort

The airport is fully connected, with spacious rooms and a calming atmosphere, utilising mood lighting to set the tone. Lounges additionally contain saunas.

What’s in it for me?

Every professional in the process of improving their Customer Experience must work closely with their branding and communication departments to see what messages are currently being delivered to customers – even long before they use the service.

This form of baseline – the values oriented towards customers – is often not communicated clearly enough for either customers or employees to grasp, so they are unable to move the agenda forwards.

It should be compulsory to check a couple of times a year that all materials embody brand values at each stage of the customer journey, whether that journey is physical or digital.

This is the first step of what we do at CXB HUB. We get to know the CX strategy of each brand and assess for consistency gaps and how we can solve them. This takes brains and experience courtesy of CX innovative practitioners. Working together with research and digital solutions, stronger CX experiences can be built from the ground up.


Merje ShawMerje ShawMarch 13, 2019
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11min459

Over the last few years, we have seen a shift to more conscious consumerism that values experiences over things.

This can be attributed back to several trends, such as the rise of mindfulness, the minimalist trend in homeware, as well as the tidying trends like KonMari and Swedish Death cleaning. These, combined with the very real effects of climate change, are changing the way consumers think about their purchases. This was spotted as a trend back in 2017 by Euromonitor and does not seem to be reversing any time soon.

What this change means for businesses

Remarkably, few large companies are truly adapting to this change in mindset. Even then, a lot of it is paying lip service to the consumer experience rather than embedding Customer Experience at the core of the organisation.

Persil’s “Dirt is good” campaign is a great example of how messaging has moved away from the product to focus on the experience the product enables. In fact, Unilever seems to be one of the few large organisations truly keeping in touch with the zeitgeist as their recent Sustainable Living Plan has shown. And it’s working – their sustainable living brands grew 46 percent faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70 percent of its turnover growth.

Even with these great examples, and the rise of the B Corporations with ethics at the core, traditional industries are constantly being disrupted by more nimble startups that put Customer Experience at their core. This is a bit of a no-brainer, really. Traditional companies can float happily on repeat customers whilst startups literally live or die on the experiences they provide. I recently wrote about this at length, but I very much doubt that this illusion some companies have that technology will save them is anything more than that.

How AI can increase productivity

First, it’s important to realise that what we term ‘AI’ is a bit of a red herring. True AI, in the science fiction, self-aware state, is yet to emerge. What we are using quite effectively in business settings are things like machine learning, natural language processing, and speech recognition systems. I talk about this at length here.

The best thing organisations can do to improve productivity is to take a long hard look at internal systems that enable staff to work more efficiently. What is the use of enabling chat function on your website if your customer support person still needs to log into three different systems to get a simple answer?

With machine learning, we have the option to automate a lot of the menial tasks that create busy work and detract attention from what should really matter to a company – providing the best customer service you can, ideally a human one.

The importance of visibility for improving the customer journey

We recently worked with a FTSE100 company to try and marry up quantitative data from their online real estate with qualitative data from the hundreds of research sessions that have been carried out over the years. Sadly this iteration didn’t work, but it is important to keep striving to solve this, as only by combining the information on “what is happening” from quantitative data with the “why is it happening” from qualitative data do we get a true picture that enables informed decision-making.

With this in mind, I would caution against solely relying on analytics as quantitative data tends to say a lot more about the biases and existing knowledge of those who form the questions and therefore only works when you already know the parameters that you are looking to confirm or validate.

We find that the best tools for truly forming a picture of the end-to-end Customer Experience is by mapping it with contextual research. Further value can then be added by overlaying this with the Employee Experience as well as mapping the third parties involved. This is known as service blueprinting. These maps can be used very effectively to set up analytics journeys and provide further validation for the issues arising in the customer journey.

Why businesses should strive for the perfect mix of automation and human contact

Over the last 10 plus years, we have been dedicated to letting customers self-serve. In fact, I have helped create a multitude of self-service help sites. They can be very useful. What has now started emerging in research sessions is that people really hate them…and chat bots (more on this in a minute).

One of the interesting things we found back in 2012 when running usability tests on the newest iteration of BT Business Self Service (which has since been updated several times) was that participants were far more likely to try using the self-service flows when they could clearly see the contact number.

This has stood the test of time. When you allow people to try but also provide an intervention point that enables them to talk to a real person, they are more likely to have a go first. eBay, with their impenetrable help flows, could do with taking this lesson on board, but they are by far not the only offenders in this category.  Royal Mail’s business help doesn’t look too great either for allowing human contact.

People have also started bring up chat bots as these often mis-interpret the text and provide rubbish answers whilst masquerading as real people. There was a fascinating article on this fairly recently, but in essence, what we keep seeing is that when people know they are chatting to a bot, they tend to be far more forgiving than when they feel another human is treating them like a fool.

I firmly believe we have reached peak Customer Experience automation and to further automate customers out of direct contact with the company is foolish. I recently wrote about this in a housing association context but it is very applicable to all other industries – have you ever been to a Tesco Express to be faced with a row of self-checkouts and no till staff? This happens to me all the time and I believe it’s not a great experience. There is merit in mixing the automation whilst still always providing human contact.




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