If Yoda were to discuss hyper-personalisation in 2020, he might say: “Trust leads to data, data leads to knowledge, knowledge leads to wisdom, wisdom leads to hyper-personalised experiences, hyper-personalised experiences lead to loyalty and finally – loyalty equals survival.”
But while hyper-personalisation has been cited as key to helping many businesses remain competitive, organisations still struggle to balance creepy and convenient without losing the trust of their customers. And while a personalisation mishap might seem inconsequential, it can have a serious impact.
A survey by TrustArc found that even after GDPR, only 36 percent of UK customers have greater trust in companies. Loss of customer trust and relationships can lead to less data collected, resulting in more generic experiences, which ultimately creates a commoditised service, meaning companies must now compete with their counterparts on price. This is the dark side.
But where do digital identity and authentication fit into this puzzle? After all, this is an essential part of delivering a remarkable Customer Experience.
Personalisation isn’t just about being digital, it’s about offering users journeys that suit their unique needs, means and capabilities. And what differentiates the organisations that will succeed from those that fail will be the ability to offer personalised journeys based on transaction type, access, and ability. By dynamically injecting passive and active authentication into the customer journey while allowing for timely feedback loops for learning, organisations can ultimately build trust and loyalty with customers.”
One way where we can observe the role of digital identity and authentication in real time is in the airport, where travellers undergo and strategic mix of both passive and active identity checks. From before they even arrive at the airport (if they check in via their app) to when they depart their gate and board, they are faced with a number of active checkpoints to prove their identity, all the while having their identity passively checked throughout the process.
This is a carefully-built customer journey, since too many active identity checks could frustrate the traveller with the amount of times they must show their ID (friction), but too few active checks on the other hand could lead a traveller to feel that the airport/airline is not following stringent security protocols, and thus the reputation of the organisation suffers.
In 2020, FinTechs and digital-forward banks are succeeding in an ecosystem where changing customer habits mean there is little loyalty to a single provider, and incentive to jump from provider to provider for the best offerings and experience.
But while Banks and FinTechs alike can offer tailored, personalised mobile experiences related to a customer’s spending habits, banks are still mostly unable to offer personalised journeys for those who don’t have the same level of access or ability as the general population.
This means that they are still digitally isolating portions of the population who may not have access to the latest smart phone or be able to leverage fingerprint biometrics, for example.
As the larger banks follow nimble FinTech’s lead with the way they represent data in their apps, they will be able to more easily serve all possible populations.
So, how can organisations find the right balance throughout the journey, serve customers in all populations and keep the customer informed? Here are a few tips:
To avoid the creepiness factor, even when an organisation has the right data to personalise a customer journey, they should approach it with caution.
Perhaps start with diluting the personalisation and corellating with other customers with a similar profile who showed interest. Then organisations should grow with the customer and build preferences over time – becoming wiser.
Present the option
Organisations should also validate assumptions by allowing them to choose whether they receive the personalisation with an option, i.e: “We think you will enjoy this,” letting them validate yes or no.
When creating a hyper-personalised experience, organisations should remember to consider identity and authentication as a key component. For example, a frictionless experience with minimal authentication can be problematic since the customer’s perception of security contributes to the overall experience.
Similar to how in Star Wars the balance of the force changes over time, so do security needs, so it’s important to blend passive and active identity and authentication to ensure it can dynamically change over time.
Follow best practices
Organisations should also be transparent about what they intend to do with the data they are collecting, and clearly outline the benefit to the customer.
When it comes to personalisation, digital identity and authentication can truly make or break the customer experience. Overall, organisations must be able to offer personalised journeys based on transaction type, access and ability. A user looking to check their account balance at the same time and a place each week doesn’t want to jump through hoops, and extra friction during these regular transactions could lead to huge dissatisfaction.
On the other hand, if a customer is transferring money while riding a train through the countryside, authentication may need to go beyond simple SMS verification. Getting user journeys right based on transaction, location, device and passive behaviour will be key to delivering personalised experiences while maintaining security.
Global CX and market research solutions provider Confirmit is set to merge with data visualisation reporting firm Dapresy following Confirmit’s acquisition by North European specialist growth equity investor Verdane.
The major investor in Dapresy, Verdane will merge the two companies to create a combination of solutions that “will be unmatched in the market research and Customer Experience arena,” according to Verdane partner Pål Malmros.
As news of the merger broke, Tobi Andersson, CEO of Dapresy, said: “Dapresy has comprehensive CX and market research reporting software, and Confirmit provides the technology that underpins some of the world’s most sophisticated insights programmes. Together, we will provide customers with state-of-the-art collection and reporting for marketing research and customer experience management.”
Ken Østreng, CEO at Confirmit, explained: “This is a hugely exciting move not only for both businesses and their customers, but also for the wider market. As companies who share our goals and values, we’re delighted to be working with both Verdane and Dapresy as we enter this new chapter.”
Confirmit and Dapresy already share many clients. All customers of both companies will enjoy the benefits of further investments in existing products, and “a seamless integration between Confirmit’s solutions and Dapresy’s reporting, which will provide a highly efficient, end-to-end solution that delivers accelerated customer value”.
Employees of both companies will benefit from working with a larger team with exceptional expertise, which will continue to deliver client value through market-leading technology solutions.
Commenting on the news, Faith Adams, Senior Analyst at Forrester, said: “CX is finally getting its due – truly becoming a critical priority for many companies. And because of this, the vendor space to support it, both technology and services, continues to rapidly evolve.
“With this, there continues to be convergence – often happening by way of acquisition. This convergence is not just about specific features and functionality of CX tools, it is about the convergence across the business – employee experience, customer insights, market research, data and analytics, and more.”
Confirmit has a history of highly successful mergers and acquisitions that have strengthened the business and delivered significant value to customers. Previous mergers include: Pulse Train, CustomerSat, Techneos, Integrasco, and IRM.
Verdane is joined by Zobito, the equity growth investor, as co-investor. The Zobito team will bring its “go-to-market expertise and experience” from working with companies such as QlikView to the journey.
The upcoming Unlock Your #CX Potential conference is set to bring global Customer Experience leaders including Christopher Brooks and Clare Muscutt to Birmingham for the unique one-day event.
Taking place on March 25, the conference is hosted by the the Midlands Retail Forum, under the guidance of CX consultant and author of Customer First, Naeem Arif, and will see delegates gather at the Jaguar Experience Conference Centre for a day of workshops, keynote speeches, and networking.
The event, sponsored by customer service review app Raggit, and hosted with the backing of Birmingham City University, will see award-winning Customer Experience case studies presented throughout the day, while each attendee will leave with a goody bag including essential CX books.
Among the speakers on the day are Christopher Brooks (pictured left), global consultant and Managing Director of customer strategy experts Clientship.
Christopher will be joined by Clare Muscutt of consultancy CMXperience, and Chloe Woolger, CX Commercial Director of global research and in sight leader Kantar.
Also confirmed as speakers are Caroline Cooper, founder of consultancy Naturally Loyal, and Kate Birtles, Director of Customer Service at BMI Group.
Case studies presented on the day will include Jaguar Landrover and United Carpets, with their successful CX strategies aiming to inspire delegates as they embark on their own journey to improve Customer Experience.
Speaking to CXM, conference organiser Naeem Arif (left) said he is very excited to establish Unlock Your #CX Potential in Birmingham, offering a new event for Midlands-based entrepreneurs and established firms to reshape their relationships with customers.
“We have been inundated with speakers who wanted to share their experience, so we have been able to put together a schedule that will amaze our delegates. Our last few speakers and sponsors are being confirmed this week,” Naeem said.
Customer Experience Magazine is a proud media partner of Unlock Your #CX Potential, and a special discount on the ticket price is available by using promo code ‘CXM’ at the following link:
CXM is a proud media partner for this event and delegates can get a CXM specific discount by using Promo Code “CXM’ at this link.
A new whitepaper from business guru Tony Lynch aims to help chart your firm’s way forward with steps on creating the ultimate business strategy.
The Managing Director of Keep Thinking Big, Tony has unparalleled experience in guiding business leaders as they develop strategic plans, and helping firms close the gap between expectations and results.
An in-demand speaker, Tony has turned his attention to building strategies in Keep Thinking Big’s latest whitepaper, What to Consider When Developing a Business Strategy, which is available free to download now.
The document will offer insight on:
The advantages to developing a strategic plan
How to know if you need a strategic plan
Where to start in developing your strategic plan
Developing a business plan
Getting employee buy-in of your strategic plan
The four main audiences of your strategic plan
The connection between your strategic plan and your business plan
Speaking of the whitepaper, Tony said: “There are few companies, if any, that have experienced long-term success without having a strategy – a plan to attain a long-term vision. But creating such a vision and business strategy is more than just a weekend retreat, a little Googling, and a pretty report.
“A strategic plan is a detailed specification of your long-term vision and how you plan to attain it. It is a great place to start. A strategic plan typically focuses on a business’ mid to long-term goals and the strategies you plan to use to achieve them.”
A seminal piece of research into the breakdown of marriages has inspired a new whitepaper that might just help you salvage a strained relationship with your customers.
Performance improvement specialist Blue Sky has made its new document, The Four Horsemen of the Customer Service Apocalypse, available to download free of charge from their homepage.
A must-read for any business wishing to get insight into the signs that a relationship with your customer could be about to hit the rocks, the whitepaper was inspired by the work of US clinician and relationships expert Dr John Gottman, whose famous ‘Love Lab’ has welcomed thousands of couples seeking help with their marriage.
Dr Gottman’s studies saw him spot what he coined the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ – four signs that a marriage was certain to break down.
The team at Blue Sky have been inspired by this to spot four serious warning signs that herald customer ‘divorce’, or harmful dissatisfaction that could lead to your customer looking elsewhere to do business.
Over the past three years, Blue Sky has conducted in-company research involving over 9,000 customer service agents from 63 blue chip organisations, either within the Fortune 500/ FTSE 100 or large government departments, to help create the research
The document offers insight into how to repair frayed relationships and avoid the heartbreak of watching your customer fall into the arms of another.
Treat them otherwise, by failing to satisfy their pain points, and they have no problem bad-mouthing your brand. And guess what – bad-mouthing is just the least of your problems when you deliver a poor Customer Experience to your audiences.
In this highly competitive world, customers have no problem jumping on the next moving train – your competitors – when you don’t give them the best of experiences, or at the very least, an equivalent of what your competitors are offering.
I’m pretty sure no business owner wants that. So to avoid that, it is imperative that you understand the concept of customer experience perfectly well. To this end, here are a few tips to get you started on that front.
Know your customers
Take it or leave it; a business isn’t only about delivering products or offering your services – instead, it is as much about your offerings as it is about the manner in which you’re going about it.
Even if you have the best of solutions to the pain points of your target audience, you still won’t be able to convince anyone to keep patronising you if you don’t offer them an awesome Customer Experience. And the first step you need to take to achieve that is by understanding your customers.
I know you’ve probably read that somewhere before, but trust me, there is no giving anyone an awesome experience if you don’t understand what exactly appeals to them. Do you have a customer base that appreciates visual and not audio communication, or a base that hates long queues, or perhaps your customers are the type that fancy engagement?
Whatever the case may be, trying to decipher the nature of your customers is absolutely a great step in the right direction.
Enhance the experience you’re offering by going multichannel
It is true that we now live in a digital age serviced by social media.
As such, your customers are most likely scattered on the different platforms of social media. To enhance the experience they’re getting from you, try to interact with them on the platforms they enjoy most. Even though you cannot afford to be present on all social platforms, at least being active and engaging on the most popular ones should do your customer base a whole lot of good.
Creating a profile on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, etc., will go a long way in addressing issues, complaints, worries, and solving problems as soon as customers demand it.
This tip is not only essential for businesses looking to build a loyal customer base, but also for existing businesses with an already established base – especially if you’re in dire of a larger revenue generation to combat your business debt.
Use Customer Experience innovation to raise the bar
Look at the Customer Experience of Apple, Disney, and Tesla – what are they doing differently?
They use innovation in their approach to Customer Experience to connect with their customers and stand out from the rest. Innovative solutions are not only authentic and effective, but they are also cost-efficient as well.
Little wonder why we constantly see these brands enjoying great profit margins, and not having to worry too much about common business issues like how to resolve debt, or what an IVA’s ability is in combating debt or how to stop bailiffs from disrupting visiting their companies.
Develop a CX management program
Customer experience management (CEM) is the art of controlling, tracking, and designing customer interactions at all touchpoints to meet or exceed customer demands. There are many benefits of CEM, such as increased loyalty, engagement, and positive word-of-mouth marketing, all of which ultimately leads to greater revenue generation.
Work on developing an active CEM program in your business to proactively improve the Customer Experience at every step along the customer journey. Additionally, in the event that your business becomes burdened with debt and you need debt help like Moorcroft , this strategy can help you generate as much revenue as you may need to settle your debt.
Let your customers help themselves with self service
Modern customers don’t want you to help them – ideally, they would want to help themselves.
According to a recent study, 45 percent of companies offering web or mobile self-service reported an increase in site traffic and reduced phone inquiries. Post resources, books, and FAQs on your website to help customers service themselves and look for solutions to their problems.
Think about it, what would you rather do – wait in line for an agent to answer your query, or browse a forum to look for the answer?
In 2016-17, leading Irish food retailer Musgrave Group were in the midst of a price war within the parental shopping segment, with competition heavily focused on price and many products sold at or below cost.
To build a competitive edge, Musgrave turned to customer-led service design to create a compelling value proposition and differentiating customer experience. Ultimately, the aim was to increase footfall and time spent in-store, driving significant revenue growth in the segment across both baby products and in-store spend overall. Hellon, the world’s most awarded service design agency, was selected as the partner for the project.
The identified business challenge was tackled with a human-centric design approach including insights, ideation, and prototyping phases.
Insights were gathered through diary studies, in-depth interviews, and mystery shopping to understand parent shoppers’ underlying needs, motivations, and challenges, their main drivers for selecting where to shop, as well as exploring best practices in the industry and beyond. Analysis of the insights revealed stress to be a key factor in the shopping experience, also influencing time spent in store and basket size. As readers with young children might be familiar with, when a kid throws a tantrum in-store, parents just want to get out as quickly as possible.
Ideation and co-creation, together with Musgrave stakeholders, therefore focused on generating solutions which reduce the feeling of stress and make parents’ shopping experience easier. The concept borne out of the ideation phase was the Parent VIP-hour, a time of the day during which parents received additional support in-store, including ideas such as free fruit for kids, sweet-free aisles, help in packing groceries, and preferential parent parking.
Following ideation, the VIP-hour was tested during a prototyping phase (LiveLab) and trial period in two stores. Hellon designed and ran a LiveLab, in which Hellon designers and Musgrave employees brought the VIP-hour concept to life in-store by using physical mock-ups (such as temporary signage for parent parking), service gestures (e.g. free fruit/ tea/ coffee, advice on baby products) and visual prompts (e.g. guidance) to test the concept with real customers to gain their feedback on the live experience.
Following the LiveLab, a six-month pilot was launched to further test the commerciality of the VIP-hour and its effect on shopping behaviour and revenue.
Analysis of sales following the pilot revealed a 3.3 percent increase in baby category revenue and 5.2 percent increase in overall store sales when compared to pre-pilot figures.
Seventy percent of shoppers also indicated lower levels of stress during their experience and 90 percent said they would spend more time in-store or make more frequent shopping trips.
The impact on brand impression was also high, with an increase of 643 percent in social media reach and 512 percent in engagement during the project. For the stores involved in the service design project and commercial pilot, the total annual revenue impact reached €678,000, however, based on the improved customer experience and new solutions, Musgrave estimates an incremental revenue of €4.84 million annually as a direct result of the Service Design project.
Several initiatives have also been deployed across Musgrave stores nationally, such as free fruit for kids, doubled parking spaces, and hotel grade baby changing rooms in all new build stores.
The project has also gone on to win awards for customer experience design, proving the approach as an impactful way of solving complex business challenges.
Hellon is a service design agency based in London and Helsinki, with a track record of over 1,000 successful projects across 20 countries. Eager to understand how service design could impact your business? Get in touch with us!
Customer demand for cannabis-derived CBD products in the UK has skyrocketed, with brands urged to capitalise on the trend as consumers increasingly aim for healthier lifestyles.
Ecommerce specialist Bloomreach has released data showing CBD products have seen a 1300 percent year-on-year rise in searches online – soaring to over 31,000 in January alone. Sales of CBD-related products are up 1219 percent year-on-year compared to January 2019.
Derived from cannabis, which is currently an illegal Class B drug in the UK, cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the non-psychoactive cannabinoids found in the plant that consumers use for pain relief and its anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties.
The ingredient, which is legal in its derived form, is contained in products including edibles, oils, balms, and vape liquids, and its rise in popularity is attributed to customers seeking healthier lifestyles.
Michael Schirrmacher, UK MD at Bloomreach, said: “CBD is a largely untapped market with no clear market leader in the UK. This leaves the door wide open to any brand who wants to push these products as an alternative to traditional segments.
“Retailers who are considering turning CBD into one of their differentiators would do well to start communicating about these products online to meet the expectations of ecommerce-savvy Brits before large players harness it to attract health-conscious customers.
“Brands have access to huge amounts of data, from the products that resonate best with their customers to the way their audiences like to shop. This gives them a great avenue to explore how they can introduce CBD-related products to their audiences, and whether the trend is right for them.
“Now, they just need to crunch their data to see how the can use CBD to boost their sales or reach new customers, and how to do so.”
Contact centres have become as synonymous with scripts and targets as meerkats are with price comparison websites.
So what happens when you rewrite the rule book and take a completely different approach to customer service?
CXM spoke with Caroline King, Director of Sales and Service at insurance firm Ageas, about how challenging the status quo and switching to a systemic approach has reaped benefits for customers, staff and the company’s bottom line.
The firm won Gold in the Contact Centre Large category at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards last October, which topped off a three-year “transformational journey”.
Caroline said: “I’ve spent my entire professional life running contact centres and there’s always been an industry-wide perception that people are just there to answer the phones and complete the transactions. That’s it.
“I suppose there’s an element of truth in there, but we wanted to change that at Ageas. We exist to make insurance easy and actually a pre-requisite to that is really listening to the customer, to understand their needs, rather than complying with a pre-prescribed script.
“How can you truly help someone if you’re not listening, how can you truly listen if you’re confined by a set of standard questions and how can we meet each customer’s nominal value with set processes too rigid to cope with the inevitable variation humans bring to conversations?”
In a world where consumers are bombarded with more information and data than ever before, Ageas’ focus is to make insurance easy. It’s one of the largest insurers in the UK and offers a range of general insurance products to around five million customers through its direct brands Ageas and Rias, and through brokers and high-profile brand partners.
Ageas’ sales and service operation is based across three sites: Bournemouth, Gloucester, and Stoke, and its team of more than 780 deals with four million calls every year.
“We knew a transformation project of this scale would be a big undertaking,” said Caroline.
“We had to help hundreds of people understand their job isn’t to answer the phone, it’s to make insurance easy for our customers. For anyone to go from transaction to a purpose-driven function is a big change. As leaders it is our job to create the culture that allows delivery in this way to thrive. That means letting go of some of the ingrained beliefs and biases that exist in all of us, which is easier said than done.”
Ageas’ transformation programme was driven by its ambition to grow in the increasingly competitive general insurance market.
The company’s senior management team knew it needed to tackle the competitive market challenges in order to grow. But rather than taking the traditional answer to contact centre performance – setting higher targets – it set about creating a cultural change that would ultimately engage its people, improve customer service, increase income and lower costs.
“The first step was getting people on-board and ready to take that journey with us,” Caroline continued.
“We called it ‘Destination Brilliant’ and developed the ‘Ageas Way’, which states our customer purpose and focused on nine redesign principles which describe the future of service delivery – the destination if you like. We created the mechanisms for everyone to test every action against our purpose and those principles and decide if it was the right thing for the customer.
“We changed so many things that are synonymous with contact centres. When you think about it, it’s bizarre that contact centres take these vivacious, energetic people then train them to follow a script and turn them into robots. Consumers don’t like robots, they like other humans.
“So we threw away the rulebook and started to trust our people to have more open conversations with customers. We removed unnecessary complexity, measured the outcomes in a different way and allowed them to really listen to what the customer wanted and deliver on whatever that need was. Of course being in the heavily regulated financial industry, there are some instances where we still have to use scripts but on the whole we’re so much more flexible.
“We were then able to educate our teams to understand and call out failure demand and waste and involved them in designing those things out.”
Another huge change for Ageas was removing target-driven bonuses.
“I can see how, from the outside, it could be considered a big gamble,” said Caroline.
“It’s definitely a switch from the status quo. But it’s really worked and we’ve found staff are happier. What we’ve said to our consultants is: ‘We’ll trust you and take away the ambiguity of what you might earn each month’. Now they get a flat bonus up-front.
“We’ve redefined a good day’s work. Now it’s not how many products they’ve sold, it’s the feedback from customers that matters.”
Ageas has stopped measuring contact centre success solely through sales volumes and replaced it with what’s important to customers. It now provides consultants with real-time feedback from customers on experience and ease of service.
The results of Ageas’ transformation programme have been, perhaps unsurprisingly, transformational. The company’s net promoter score has increased by an impressive 14 points to 40.
Customer retention has increased, processing time for all customer account functions has reduced from days to minutes and Ageas’ Trust Pilot score is now 4.5/5 (excellent).
Operating costs have reduced and first contact resolution has improved by seven points – meaning 100,000 less calls to the Bournemouth site alone every year.
Caroline said: “What’s been really rewarding is to see the impact on our teams. 94% of employees believe the programme has made a positive difference to their role and we’re seeing unprecedented low levels of employee absence and attrition.”
Looking ahead, Caroline says she refuses to rest on her laurels.
“You can never take your foot off the pedal. This is not a sprint, this is a long distance marathon and we’ve got to keep doing more of what we’ve done.
“Across the whole customer service industry, no matter what sector you’re in, it’s the same – customer expectations are changing. What we all need to do to give good customer service and excel.
“In insurance, particularly with the rise in price comparison websites, there’s not much differential in price so standing out in terms of service is even more important. Customers tell us their number one priority is ease of business and luckily for them we’re not just good at making insurance easy; it’s everything we stand for.”
Finalists will compete across 12 categories at the event on May 29, presenting before a panel of expert judges details of their CX strategies.
Among those aiming for awards success is the PRO-MENS Centre, a unique education project based in the city of Niš which offers a teaching programme with a twist – a powerful combination of methodology and psychology helps youngsters undertaking the course to significantly boost brain power, and their confidence along with it.
The centre’s SuanPan Mental Arithmetic course and franchise extracts the highest potential of young students through visual and auditory training and a set of psychological tests and games, which combined makes for an educational stimulation that is changing the lives of those on the receiving end.
Though based on the iconic Chinese abacus counting instrument, the SuanPan course is not merely for boosting the mathematics skills of those who undergo it. The students see improvements in reading comprehension, memory, attention, self-confidence, and overall focus.
Which is lucky for PRO-MENS co-founder Dušica Milosavljevic, who told Customer Experience Magazine that mathematics was far from her favourite subject.
Dušica is a qualified English teacher, with a degree in language and literature – not what you might expect for someone overseeing a course with ‘arithmetic’ in its title.
However, it is her methodology skills that are the basis of SuanPan, combined with the experience of her psychologist sister and SuanPan co-founder, Milica Vukotic Yıldırım.
Together, their expertise has given birth to a radical new course that is improving the very lives of their students, who range from ages 5 to 14. Now more youngsters than ever before are able to benefit thanks to a franchise programme that aims to spread the SuanPan message right across Serbia and the Balkans.
“We use a mixture of methodology, which is my strong point, and psychology which is the strong point of my sister,” Dušica told Customer Experience Magazine.
“Personally I love languages and working with people. It has always been my dream, and helping children is something which I believe is my calling in life.
“The idea of PRO-MENS was born in 2013, when my sister shared with me a plan to use innovate programmes that she knew would make a huge difference to the lives of children who face issues with attention and mental development.
“At that time I was working in a school, and Milica knew that my methodology skills could help bring this vision to life. I personally had never been a huge fan of maths, but my sister explained the concept to me. She was working on a team developing different programmes in Turkey, and they were ready to support us in getting this initiative in Serbia off the ground.”
Through hard work and sheer passion, the PRO-MENS Education and Development Centre opened and the sisters and teammates began piloting the SuanPan course.
“We started and the results were great. We have measured each and every step with each and every child with all the psychological mechanisms available to us. Together, we have created a package that gives full and transparent results in the development of children aged 5 to 14.”
Such was the success of the PRO-MENS centre and the SuanPan course that Dušica was able to commit to the project full-time. This meant giving up her job as a school teacher.
“Here it is considered a little strange to quit a job that is so stable, such as teaching,” explained Dušica
“Many people have the same job until they retire, so it was a risk. However, I knew this was a challenge worth taking. SuanPan is a programme that doesn’t just ‘teach’ children – it empowers them. We are essentially offering education for life!
“That development and empowerment component is very important to us.”
SuanPan participants are strictly measured, while the results can be demonstrated in a clear and concise way for both pupils and parents.
“We are trying to make people’s lives better and show that it’s never too late to improve,” Dušica continued.
“Working on cognitive abilities helps improve overall quality of life. After all, our brain is the mightiest machine we have at our disposal, and we need to teach children how best to use it.
“It’s an incredible feeling when you hear people thank us. Parents tell us we have helped improve the lives of their children, and we tell them that working with their children is a privilege – children are an endless source of positive energy for us, that inspires us to achieve more.
“Making a difference in a young soul’s life as an educator is incredible, and when we see this happen, it makes us feel unstoppable. Their triumph is our triumph.”
This year’s South East Europe Customer Experience Awards offer Dušica, Milica, and their small but dedicated team the chance to share their success and show how their customer’s lives are changing for the better.
PRO-MENS will be contesting three categories: Customers at the Heart of Everything, Digital Customer Experience, and Team of the Year.
“Of course, it would be amazing to win, but we aren’t entering the awards simply to attend a glamorous event – this is an opportunity to share our story – to let even more people know what we do, and how we do it,” Dušica adds.
“We have a long way to go on our journey, but I have managed to find a new purpose in life with this, and want to see us go to the next level.
“We will do this thanks to our incredible team at PRO-MENS. Of course, I work with my sister, but the entire team is like a family. Teamwork is key to our continued success, and we hope to show all this and more when we present before the judging panel.”
With Brightpearl’s latest study on the US retail market indicating that just over half of retailers (53 percent) have invested in loyalty program software in the last twelve months, and 59 percent have invested in customer service technology, it’s clear that customer retention is a high priority in a fickle purchasing environment.
But how can retailers ensure the retention of their customers when there is often an array of price competitive alternatives on offer? And what can they do to safeguard their existing client base against the allure of a better offer?
Well, it begins with your own staff, and it ends with your competition – read on for some stellar strategies on how to keep your customers happy!
Invest in training, not just software
This was one of the more surprising findings from Brightpearl’s Retail Tech Stack report on software investment in the retail industry: 35 percent of respondents indicated that someone with no direct expertise in software deployments or technology roll-outs, are cited as responsible for the implementation of new technology.
As far as statistics go, this is a little ludicrous. How can you provide your customer with the best buying experience possible if you are unsure on how to best integrate and utilise your own software?
Time is valuable, particularly in a work environment that demands longer hours and constant personal development, however, in this instance it is really a case of short term investment to make long term gains. Prioritise staff education and training now, and it will pay dividends in the future. Your customers will enjoy a seamless experience and your workforce will be well equipped to handle any technical issues.
In excess of half of all US retailers have allocated spend for loyalty software in the past 12 months, but what do these loyalty programs look like? They can be anything from a branded, points based app to an e-voucher campaign that provides discounts for a predetermined amount of spend. We like to be rewarded for our loyalty.
That being said, the retail sector is in the midst of a change, consumers are now acutely aware of the environmental and social impact of their purchasing decisions, and for the most part, want to act more responsibly. Therefore, it is imperative that retailers give them this option, if you provide an environmentally responsible product and an ethical brand that gives back to the community, your customer will feel infinitely better about shopping with you.
Customers appreciate transparency, they want to know the specifics of the brand that they are buying from. In particular, whether or not the materials are ethically sourced, do they use biodegradable packaging, do they have any charitable or sustainability initiatives?
Therefore you need to make your brand and your staff accountable, no matter your product, there are always things you can do to reduce the negative impact that your business is having. Start with simple fixes like in house initiatives to reduce your carbon footprint and outreach programmes to give back to the community.
Go beyond the buy button
Brightpearl found that on average, 77 percent of negative reviews arise from issues that occur after the buy button. Don’t let poor organisation of your back office let you down, because this post-buy process can be beneficial for your company and your client. The fulfilment and delivery process can be an excellent time to send targeted, personalised adverts and updates to your customer when they are at their most engaged with your product.
However, if you don’t have a proper handle on where their order is, then it certainly isn’t the best time to engage with them, investing in the right back office solution will help to eradicate the mistakes that lead to this type of negative feedback.
And finally, keep tabs on the competition, a little obvious perhaps, but there is a world of data at your disposal. Check what your competitors are doing and where the industry as a whole is spending. Identify the areas in which you are lagging behind or could be leading the way, and make use of your budget to keep your core customer happy!
2020 is set to see further advancements in Customer Experience.
Here, seven industry experts have their say on the trends they believe will make an impact in the coming months…
Lucia Juliano, Sector Head CPG at Harris Interactive
“Over the decade, consumer expectations from brands have not only risen, but have begun to change at a faster pace.
“Customer loyalty is decreasing, with consumers being quick to drop a brand that doesn’t meet expectations – particularly those in the key 23-38 age range. As a result, the experiences brands offer have become critical to retaining a client base and ensuring relevance in today’s fickle market.
“From our research at Harris Interactive, we’ve seen that the material experience can be as impactful as the digital one, particularly with regards to packaging and products themselves. Concerns over environmental impact are growing and this will continue to influence consumer choices in the coming year.
“More and more customers will choose brands that reflect their desire for sustainability, meaning brands need to respond to this trend to meet consumer expectations.
“This will require development teams to not only keep in touch with current trends, but employ innovative means to predict and react to them. Adopting technologies that facilitate smarter, agile decision making will enable brands to make impactful updates to their offerings. Quick access to consumer insights are essential in this process, to make sure that product or service developments reflect customer expectations in the moment.”
Michael Patterson, Managing Director EMEA at DynamicAction
“Over the last decade and the rise of the digital native, customers have come to demand more of retail, expecting the personalisation, speed, and convenience they’re used to in other areas of their digitally-enabled, always-on lives.
“As the high street struggles to meet this demand, it’s become increasingly vital for retailers to fundamentally re-frame their mindset and shift towards a more intelligent, customer-centred operating model. Only then can retailers keep ahead of new trends and weather the current industry storm.
“This isn’t the first time retail has faced change, and it’s likely consumers will maintain their deep cultural connection with the UK retail sector – something they see as being at the heart of British lifestyle.
“However, going into 2020, this relationship will need to be actively nurtured with a seamless combination of both the physical and digital worlds. Captivating consumers with an immersive and interactive experience is already being used to great effect by retailers like Nike, and now it’s time for others to embrace the theatrics of digital in-store if they are to successfully evolve into this new decade.”
Darren Guaranccia Chief Product Officer at Crownpeak
“Over 80 percent of organisations expect to compete on customer experience and with 86 percent of consumers saying they’d pay more for a great Customer Experience, we can expect ever increasing competitive pressure in this area in 2020 and beyond.
“As with everything, AI and ML will have a big role to play here. By examining interaction data, algorithms can predict likely churn accounts.
“By scanning transaction data, they can automatically identify and predict the most profitable customers allowing the organisations to double-down on the quality of experiences for their most valuable customers, perhaps even before they become profitable. Scanning interaction transcripts, first line support can be pushed to AI that can solve problems and route customers more efficiently.
“Voice technology will also continue to become more widely used as we move into 2020, becoming more contextualised – using more environmental cues to help answer customer questions and perform actions. With this, however, comes increased levels of scrutiny. Many people believe voice systems like Siri and Facebook are listening in to their conversations, and as they perform everyday tasks. Brands will have to work hard to make their voice activated systems as helpful as possible, while not appearing creepy. Customer trust will be essential for brands in 2020.
“But ultimately, great customer experience will still come from the human understanding of your audience and their needs. Organisations that invest in CX leaders to drive the human, technology and process changes required will be the real winners in the coming CX economy.”
Gareth Stephens, CEO of UK and Middle East at 4C
“As the digital transformation continues to gather momentum, businesses clamour to hit the headlines with the latest revolutionary tech that will change people’s lives and set them apart from the competition.
“But in many cases, the drive to be the first to have the most impressive technology has blinded them to keeping consumer needs at front of stage. Take drone deliveries as a case in point. Heralded by Amazon back in 2013, the idea has been dogged by scepticism, regulation and a host of logistical concerns since – hardly the consumer reaction the business had clearly anticipated.
“In 2020, businesses must keep their feet firmly on the ground when approaching the lure of latest technologies. After all, tech innovations are only as good as the consumer need they fulfil. Tech that can reduce call waiting times may be far more welcome than the latest function on a website, for instance.
“Data will be key in understanding audiences, building consumer insight, and analysing changing behaviours. That data will help you find the right technology to delight the end-user – and adapt as their needs evolve. The digital transformation is changing the way we do business – but it must have the customer at its heart.”
Lindsay McEwan, VP and Managing Director, EMEA at Tealium
“It’s vital that businesses keep up with the expectations of consumers to succeed in 2020. With competition fierce and consumer expectations increasingly high, customer centricity should be at the forefront of all businesses’ growth strategies. The organisations that thrive will be those that provide a seamless experience – no matter the device – through a holistic understanding of their customers’ wants and needs.
“Building lasting relationships that drive returns means delivering relevant and engaging experiences that consistently provide real value for customers. And to do so, marketers must first create a solid foundation of insight where all the pieces of an individual’s journey – including every interaction across every channel – are connected to create a single source of truth.
“While long-standing silos between marketing, sales, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems have been holding this back, the careful selection of the right tools can make it easier to close the gaps. Now, the implementation of solutions such as Customer Data Platforms (CDP) is crucial to empower the quick and flexible linking of data from all sources to better understand consumers and, crucially, retain them.”
Jeff Pfefferkorn, Head of Sales UK at MainAd
“Following the decline of the third-party cookie, brands in 2020 will adopt people-based marketing to reliably map customer journeys.
“With cookies unable to adapt to the growth in omnichannel, marketing will need an alternative solution to understand consumer behaviours across multiple devices and channels. To engage users in a fragmented digital landscape, brands must focus their efforts on mobile in particular as users are accessing more content on the small screen than anywhere else.
“Mobile and in app advertising will drive innovation in the waybrands interact with their target consumers, offering a wealth of behavioural insights through first-party data. Coupled with the rise of sophisticated, AI-powered tools, marketers will be able to use these insights to serve personalised messages to highly targeted demographics.
“Basing ad delivery on a consumer’s previous behavioural history will also allow brands to effectively re-engage users through their preferred digital channels – this will allow marketers to understand the full customer journey, closing the gaps between touchpoints.”
Ben Samuel, VP Sales EMEA at Nielsen Marketing Effectiveness
“Customer disloyalty is the new name of the marketing game. In fact, recent Nielsen findings show long-term devotion is no longer an asset brands can bank on, with just eight percent of global consumers considering themselves as loyal.
“With 46 percent of consumers more likely to try new brands than they were five years ago, adapting campaign strategies and tactics to these shifting dynamics will be essential for success in the months and years ahead.
“Loyal groups are generally niche and not substantial enough to support the majority of sales. Therefore, marketing initiatives will need to focus on those consumers keen to try new brands and outclass competitors on the factor that counts most: Customer Experience.
“Today’s consumers are looking for personalised experiences that cut through the noise and emphasise the unique purpose and value brands can offer them. Effective measurement will, more than ever, be key to this. If you can understand which creative messages, offers and content resonate with key audiences, then you can entice ‘disloyal’ consumers to make the switch.”
An upcoming event will help businesses and CX professionals “unlock” their Customer Experience potential with guidance from expert speakers and relevant case studies.
Hosted by the Midlands Retail Forum, the Unlock Your #CX Potential gathering will bring together a host of CX experts and business owners to Birmingham for a unique day-long conference that will provide vital insight into improving customer service and meeting the expectations of the customer at a time when they are continuing to reshape the retail landscape.
Customer Experience Magazine is among the media partners for the event, which is taking shape under the expert leadership of author and Top 50 CX Star Naeem Arif, the founder of NA Consulting.
Seven soon-to-be-revealed speakers will join the line-up for the one-day conference, which will take place in Birmingham’s Jaguar Experience Conference Centre (pictured below) on March 25, with the event set to provide priceless networking opportunities for attendees.
Beginning with registration at 8.30am, seminars will begin at 10am, with further afternoon sessions planned until 4.30pm. Throughout the day attendees will benefit from exhibits and a “lunch and learn” workshop.
Details on the event’s speakers will be revealed soon, and speaking to Customer Experience Magazine, Naeem Arif described what the MRF are aiming for with this exciting event.
“In an age where there is so much competition in every industry, how do companies stand out? The answer is by offering a an amazing Customer Experience,” he said.
“But what exactly is Customer Experience? Many people know they need to work on it, but do they’re actually know what it means?
“The Unlock your CX Potential conference will not only help you understand, but it will also empower your own CX initiatives. The conference is designed to help you connect with other CX professionals, grow your knowledge, and create a better User and Customer Experience for your organisation.”
Look out for further details on Unlock Your #CX Potential in CXM in the coming weeks.
The first annual sales drop since 1995 is a blow to British retail, but it’s only the latest in a series of setbacks.
In the past 10 years, high street institutions such as BHS, and Barratts and Maplin have toppled like dominos, with Mothercare UK the latest to enter administration in 2019. Now, the news that retail is suffering its leanest time in decades comes as more confirmation of the obvious than a reason to hit the alarm bell.
Blame for this decline is typically laid at one door: ecommerce. Offering limitless choice, low prices and greater convenience, online shopping has rapidly won consumer hearts and purchases. But while it accounts for a sizeable slice of spend, ecommerce doesn’t have a monopoly – accounting for 19 percent of UK sales.
So, why is retail struggling?
According to the experts, the industry’s current plight isn’t just about online versus offline; it’s also about the evolution of consumer habits. To survive, retailers must adapt their strategies and experiences to the new world of multi-media shopping.
CXM spoke to industry experts to gauge their thoughts on what’s next for retail…
“Amongst political and economic uncertainty, rising competition from ecommerce, and a new generation of hyper-connected consumers who are making fewer trips to bricks and mortar locations, the current challenges facing the retail sector are understandable.
“At Nielsen we have been surprised to see that some marketing strategy is still being driven by perceptions and old school metrics rather than hard data, leading to budget waste and missed opportunities. But in today’s highly competitive world, this approach won’t provide brands with the insight they need to uncover the consumer decision process, which is influenced by many factors long before the shopper sets foot in the store.
“Tapping into data generated from consumer-brand interactions, online and offline, enriched by meaningful and actionable analytics is critical to not only understand shopping habits and improve marketing effectiveness, but to also make more informed decisions in areas such as forecasting products with higher return, optimising retail assortment, improving customer loyalty, and securing the right store location.
“Retailers who smartly analyse and adapt to the purchase behaviour of consumers – anticipating their wants and needs, offering the right product, in the right place, at the right time, and for the right price – will have a better chance to withstand the challenges.”
Andrew Morsy, Managing Director International at Peer39
“Last year’s poor retail performance, particularly during the festive months, is further reason for e-commerce and all retail brands to focus on placing their seasonal ad campaigns in the right environments. Customers are increasingly cautious with their purchasing habits, which means retailers need to be certain their offerings are highly relevant to consumers – reaching them at the right place and time to drive a sale.
“The best way to optimise ad placements is by ensuring they appear in the right environment. As an example, when individuals consume online content about holiday destinations, in that moment they are more likely to be responsive to brands offering airline tickets, travel insurance, or accommodation. Understanding and analysing context and sentiment is key to targeting consumers, and for marketers to determine the most relevant environments for digital campaigns. With effective placements, retailers can be sure to not miss out on revenue during the prime months when consumers are looking to spend.”
John Squire, CEO at DynamicAction
“While 2019 saw bright spots for customers, with free shipping more available than ever and delivery times cut dramatically, this didn’t translate into success for retailers. In addition, initial indicators are showing that vital Christmas profits have also taken a hit, with returns in 2019 starting as early as November (up an average of 11 percent 17th of Nov through the end of 2019), kicking off the ‘Retail Vortex’ of increased returns, higher marketing costs, and inventory concerns.
“Retailers continued to up their marketing spend per order during the ever-earlier ramp up to Christmas, offering incentives of free shipping and discounts that monumentally impacted their already thin margins.
“These factors highlight retailers’ increasing efforts to compete with retail giants like Amazon and innovative DTCs like Birchbox. But attempting to emulate its offerings without understanding the value to your unique shopper can be costly. Retailers must ensure they balance the rising costs of luring in customers with the significant impact of high promotions and numerous returns.
“The retailers who are going to survive are the ones that understand the key elements eroding their profit, allowing them to steer away from the “Retail Vortex” and create strategies to understand the tactics that will truly drive profit. To achieve this, retailers in 2020 must move away from the antiquated goals of the high street’s heyday to embrace the necessities of the digital age.”
Jeff Pfefferkorn, Head of UK Sales at MainAd
“The biggest decrease in retail sales in 25 years is disappointing and highlights a disconnect between consumer spending and brands’ marketing budgets, as the latter has remained stable in the past year. For retailers, this strongly suggests their marketing strategies could be improved to be more effective at generating conversions.
“To recapture consumer attention and counteract this dip in sales retailers should adopt highly tailored, dynamic targeting methods to deliver impactful digital ads, and strengthen their brand message across their wider marketing channels. They should also turn to alternative platforms, such as in-app advertising, which have the potential to reach a more receptive consumer and produce a greater response.”
Anybody who has spent any significant time on the internet will be familiar with the following scenario…
You’ve searched for a product, let’s say running shoes. Maybe you decided to make a purchase, or perhaps you were just looking for information. But now, adverts for various running shoes are following you to every corner of the web, from news sites to social media platforms.
This can be an unsettling experience, with many people flocking to digital detoxes or attempting to reclaim their data after being ‘creeped out’ by ads chasing them around the internet. As we enter this new decade, how can brands better balance connected experiences, data collection and personalisation against the perception they’re crossing the line into invasive behaviour?
Consumer catch 22
I’ve worked in tech for over 13 years but, perhaps surprisingly, I don’t have an Alexa or Google Home as I worry about privacy issues. I’m uneasy at the idea of an Oyster card being able to track my whereabouts and I left Facebook about three years ago.
So as much as I understand how data collection works and have a healthy distrust when handing over my information, the irony is that I am prepared to embrace it if it makes my life significantly easier.
And I’m not alone in embracing this contradiction. A recent consumer survey from Boxever found that 60 percent preferred offers that are targeted to where they are and what they are doing, but 62 percent said that they do not want retailers tracking their location.
A large-scale global study from Microsoft called The Consumer Data Value Exchange, highlighted a similar paradox and Gartner research has shown that the more data points marketers use to personalise communication, the more consumers see that communication as invasive.
So, what can brands do to break out of this catch-22 scenario?
Transparency and timing are key
According to Accenture, 66 percent of consumers want companies to earn customer trust by being more transparent about how their information is being used. Other recent research shows
it’s possible to achieve a balance between personalisation and privacy – outlining that 64 percent of consumers are happy with retailers taking their purchase history as long as it led to more bespoke offers.
A Forrester report predicts that the industry will “say goodbye to third-party data and hello to zero-party data – data customers own and willingly provide to brands”.
But brands must be careful to be useful at exactly the right time. For example, the easyJet app offers tailored promotions to customers at the time of travel through mobile vouchering. They’re adding value to the customer journey, both literally and figuratively.
Customers aren’t faced with a deluge of marketing material at all times. Instead, it’s ideally timed, relevant and therefore more likely to be viewed as non-invasive.
Don’t be over-familiar and treat people as individuals
When retail giant Target identified 25 products that, when analysed together, allowed them to assign shoppers with a ‘pregnancy prediction’ score, they unsurprisingly received lots of negative publicity.
“With the pregnancy products, though, we learned that some women react badly,” a Target executive said. But they learned their lesson – not to be too familiar – and started using a different approach.
“We started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random,” the exec added.
“We’d put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We’d put a coupon for wine glasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance. And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons.”
This proves it’s more about the positioning than the actual offers themselves. People like to be treated as individuals, not lumped into a broad category such as ‘pregnant women’. A perfect example of this preference for individualisation was the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign run by Coca-Cola.
Not only was it a clever way to capture customer data – people really wanted their names on bottles of Coke – it actually increased sales for the first time in years.
The golden age of personalisation
As brands become more experienced in the relative cost and reward of personalisation, they will get smarter about how to engage their customer base in a mutually beneficial manner.
Rather than just adding to the noise, brands will see returns from creating relevant offers that cultivate non-invasive relationships. When executed well, personalisation can drive impulse purchases, lead to increased revenue, and fewer returns. But if poorly implemented, brands risk irreparable damage to their already cautious customer base and being thought of as ‘creepy’.
For brands, the golden age of personalisation will come when the experience is so frictionless and positive, that customers don’t notice its persuasive influence anymore.
Ever-faster change, greater customer choice, and channel proliferation are realities every business faces today.
In this still-challenging time, developing an exceptional brand that will differ from the competition is more crucial than ever; businesses need to focus their attention across multiple touchpoints, Employee Experience, Customer Experience, and Sensorial Experience to enable them to build loyalty so they can grow their profit.
To achieve this, you need to understand your internal and external customers’ behaviour, experience, and emotions. A retail study by Motista shows thatconsumers with an emotional connection to brands have 306 percent better lifetime value than satisfied customers.
Connecting at an emotional level means putting the five senses into practice.Smell, touch and taste are linked to our limbic system, the right side of the brain which is responsible for creativity, memories, feelings, and emotions. It’s these senses in particular that can make a brand more impressionable to a consumer and influence their purchasing habits.
However, it is estimated that 83 percent of all branding only appeals to the eyes. Visual cues, such as gifs, pictures, and videos are processed in the cortex, the left side of the brain, which is responsible for thoughts and actions – the analytical, logical brain that is also linked with hearing.
Of course, it’s not physically possible to wear a car, nor to eat clothes, so brands must use sensorial experiences to create associations instead.
By tapping into the emotional triggers that prompt consumers to make unconscious decisions and to buy on impulse and desire, brands can create long-lasting memories.
When McDonald’s wanted to get rid of the negative perception that its outlets smelt of stale French fry cooking oil, they asked for the help of sensory branding experts, Simon Harrop & Partners.
They created a signature fragrance designed to capture and express all the good things the brand stands for. The fragrance could then be used everywhere – incorporated in cleaning products, and diffused in the restaurant, creating a subtle aroma effect, which after research based on scanning some of their consumers’ brains, they concluded that activating the olfactory receptors more than doubled the emotional impact of the dine-in experience.
So here is my challenge to brands – how can you get your customers to taste something that can’t be eaten?
How can they smell something that has a non-descriptive scent? How can they hear something that can’t be heard?
Customer Experience Magazine is profiling the top 10 Professionals and Influencers from our Top 50 CX Stars list.
Here we conclude our list with a look at the well-deserved Number 1 in each category. Amanda Riches of is today’s featured Professional, and our Influencer is James Dodkins.
We welcome feedback on our CX Stars list, and all correspondence should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Professional Services at Medallia
CXM’s first Number One Professional CX Star is Amanda Riches, who leads CX Consulting for experience management software firm Medallia’s Professional Services division in the EMEA region.
There she helps organisations operationalise customer feedback programmes in order to deliver maximum impact, and London-based Amanda is putting her valuable years of CX experience into the role, to magnificent effect.
Fellow CX pros will know Amanda for her inspiring work in years gone by establishing the service formula for Premier Inn through her role as Head of Brand Excellence and Customer Service. Her success in the role saw her go on to become Head of Quality and Guest Insight for the hotel chain’s owner Whitbread, where her skills continued to grow through a range of successful Customer and Employee Experience projects, including innovations such as creating an ‘e-panel’ of hotel guests to harvest and better utilise feedback.
Confidence in her skills pushed Amanda towards creating her own CX consultancy, and in 2008 she founded Enrich. Later, joined by Employee Experience expert Fiona Tweedie, together they promised – and delivered – “No fluff, just simple, clear, engaging programmes,” for clients.
Today, at Medallia Amanda continues to help firms make significant and lasting changes to their CX offering, including Fidelity International, which took not one, but two Gold category titles at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards (UKCXAs).
Fidelity’s wins for Use of Insight & Feedback – Customer Satisfaction and Financial Services in partnership with Medallia have been cited as among Amanda’s proudest career moments, as she has worked closely with the firm in previous years.
Speaking of awards, Amanda is in high demand for judging roles due to her expert eye, and along with appearances on panels at the UKCXAs over the years, she has also judged at the Patient Experience Network National Awards. Patient Experience is an area very close to her heart, and Amanda leads workshops to improve experiences for those using NHS services, among other worthy initiatives.
Amanda says: “Successful customer-centric organisations must relentlessly search for actionable insight and improvement opportunities. Listen, learn, prototype, test, iterate, validate, repeat!”
She tells CXM that her biggest inspiration is the frontline CX workers across all sectors who contribute in many ways, big and small, to making memorable and lasting experiences every single day.
Amanda is herself one of the UK’s most inspiring CX professionals, and a role model for everyone working towards greater customer centricity. We look forward to seeing Amanda’s influence reach exciting new heights in 2020.
The face of a new generation of CX influencers, James Dodkins is the founder of Rockstar CX, a consultancy which promises “fast, heavy, powerful customer experience transformation” for progressive firms unafraid to think outside the box.
The energy, enthusiasm and stage presence of James has its roots in his time as an actual, honest-to-goodness rock star, and now instead of wielding a guitar in front of heaving crowds of heavy metal fans across the globe, he is bringing a vibrant new take on Customer Experience to an audience of thousands in the form of bestselling books including Foundations for Customer Centricity, videos, and speaking engagements.
A savvy social media star, engaging fans through now-traditional platforms such as Facebook, and even emerging ones such as TikTok, 2019 also saw James make the move towards a new realm for Customer Experience influencing – television.
His This Week in CX show was launched on Amazon Prime, and offered a snappy weekly round-up of CX news, pulling no punches with his assessments of big name brands and where they were going right, and wrong, with customers.
James brings his signature style to every aspect of his influencer role – a poster for his upcoming ‘Disrupt CX’ UK Tour looks for all the world like a flyer for a series of gigs, but instead of head-banging in the mosh pit, delegates will be jumping head-first into the Rockstar method of CX delivery, while learning from James’ own experiences working alongside some of the planet’s biggest and best-known brands.
These include Disney, Mercedes, Adobe, Nike, Microsoft, and Lego, to name but an impressive few.
Meanwhile, alongside his Rockstar CX duties, James acts as a Principal Consultant for Customer Experience and Process Management firm BP Group.
James says: “Knowing your customers at a deep level allows you to understand their Successful Customer Outcomes and associated needs, and then allows you to design ideal experiences that achieve those outcomes.”
Globetrotter James is the one rock star hotels are happy to welcome – instead of throwing TVs out the window into the swimming pool, he’s more likely to be found engaging with staff on ways to make guests’ stays more memorable.
With an incredible few years already under his studded belt, 2020 looks set to see more businesses than ever before benefit from a blast of the CX Rockstar’s passion.
Customers are turned off by a 100 percent fully automated service, while high levels of customer service are more “essential” for B2B customers than B2C, a new report into CX expectations has revealed.
Leeds-based Romero Insurance Brokers have released their Customer Experience Report 2020, for which they surveyed hundreds of UK professionals to gauge their stance on CX expectations,
The report asks what the future of customer service will look like, how digitalisation will affect the customer service landscape, and whether upcoming generations will change the way businesses handle customer service.
As expected, Customer Experience is a key differentiator, with 96 percent of purchasers stating that high customer service levels are very important when making a business decision, while 34 percent labelled it absolutely essential.
The research shows customers expect a great level of customer service, but the majority of the time less than 75 percent of business purchases provide an exceptional Customer Experience.
Meanwhile, 45 percent of respondents would be more likely to choose a vendor that had digitalised their customer service offering, citing speed and ease of service.
However, although digitalisation is increasingly growing in popularity, no consumers are prepared to deal with a 100 percent automated service. Instead, customers prefer to choose from a wide range of communication methods depending on their personal situation. For example, 49 percent would choose real-person communication to resolve a more complex query.
There is a notable correlation between CX expectations and age. Twenty-nine percent of those aged 65 and over say they have never received customer service below their expectations, compared to just seven percent from other age ranges. This could demonstrate that younger generations expect more from businesses.
The report also shows the correlation between age and the importance of more personal and personalised customer service. For example, 85 percent of 18-24-year-olds feel access to good sales people is very important, compared to just 60 percent of those aged 25 and over.
A larger percentage of younger purchasers also feel a personal relationship with a vendor, a personalised buying experience, positivity and enthusiasm of sales staff, and empathy are very important. Businesses can ensure consistent, empathetic service by investing in staff training and ensuring they have an engaged, passionate team. This enthusiasm and care is then naturally passed on to customers.
Simon Mabb, Managing Director of Romero Insurance Brokers, said: “Our research shows the real value of quality customer service. It’s clear that the future of customer service lies in choice, flexibility and personalisation. Customers want to decide how they communicate with a business, and expect an empathetic, personal experience whether they’re chatting to an adviser on the phone or typing out their query on a website live chat.
“Customer service should be all about people, and genuinely connecting with each customer.”
Click here to read the full Customer Experience Report 2020.
Ever since the introduction of the internet, and online shopping in particular, the relationship between customer and vendor has had the potential to become impersonal, distant, and in some cases strained.
As consumers find themselves bombarded with marketing emails as soon as they make an online purchase, and vendors are relied on to provide as many communication channels for customers as possible, both sides are under pressure.
To mark the first Get to Know Your Customers Day of 2020 we spoke to nine industry experts for their advice on how businesses can keep customers sweet.
The popularisation of the subscription economy
“The subscription economy is booming,” explains Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru.
“Whether it’s movies, music, groceries or even razors, consumers are increasingly turning their back on traditional ‘one time’ purchases in favour of forming long-term relationships with trusted brands.
“As such, it is absolutely critical that all organisations understand how to nurture happy long term relationships with their customers. The demand for ‘as-a-service’ offerings across all sectors is clear, and now the key differentiator for businesses is not just understanding how to reach the right customer, but how to implement a consistent, successful and tailored journey across their entire customer base.
“Organisations at the forefront of today’s subscription economy rely on sophisticated customer engagement technology, such as AI-driven Natural Language Processing, to ensure they can meet changing customer demands as quickly, smoothly and effectively as possible. Increasingly delivered through the cloud, the importance of these contact centre technologies only grows as customers not only expect an attentive and efficient long-term relationship, but one that can take place seamlessly across every channel.”
Go the extra mile
“How many businesses can honestly say that they really know and understand their customers?” questions Jon Lucas, Co-Director of Hyve Managed Hosting.
“And by ‘really understanding’, we’re not talking about an annual customer survey or the occasional check-in – genuinely knowing your customers is about being able to anticipate their needs, solve their problems and help them to succeed.
“Obvious? Perhaps, but for just about every business, taking it seriously comes down to a conscious choice about how important customers are. Ultimately, any organisation of any size that wants to live by a strong customer service philosophy needs to make a commitment – both financially and culturally – to go the ‘extra mile’.
“The alternative would be a business that just ‘survives’ despite customer churn, thinks that winning new business is cheaper and easier than keeping customers really happy, and where reputation is ‘nice to have’, rather than a daily imperative.”
Tom Needs, COO at Node4, furthers this point, stating:
“For any organisation it’s important to always validate the customer service part of the equation, but this is especially the case from a managed service provider (MSP) perspective.
“With the MSP market continuing to grow, it’s vital that MSPs keep pace with changing customer needs and preferences, pairing them with the best technology to champion the type of exceptional service that ensures a customer’s business stays successful.”
“One way of doing this is to own the service level agreements (SLAs) and end-to-end infrastructure, because this gives partners and customers control, visibility, and better service levels. However, the most fundamental element is the customer relationship – knowledge of unique needs and preferences comes with constant engagement. If an MSP can act on that knowledge to deliver a better service that works in line with the objectives of the customer, can anticipate their future needs and do a first-class job should something go wrong, satisfaction is going to remain high.”
Paul Zuidema, Managing Director EMEA at Ergotron explains how it’s not just technology that businesses should be thinking about, but also those products that affect work environments:
“The business world is ever-evolving, but one constant that anchors any business is its customer base,” he says.
“Knowing them and anticipating their needs and preferences is key to business continuity.
“For us, employees working in desk-based, seated office environments are our end-user customers.
“As experts in designing and producing kinetic work environments, it’s important that we understand how to support their health and wellbeing while they’re at work, and promoting better physical and mental wellbeing through the use of the right ergonomic furniture, in the right kind of work environment.
“In a similar way, businesses would do well to also regard their employees as a type of internal customer base, providing the appropriate support and working conditions that will ultimately elevate their business bottom line.”
Reap the benefits of data
“Organisations are continually working to better understand their customers and efficiently deliver tailored services that meet the individual needs of every customer,” explains Krishna Subramanian, COO at Komprise.
“To do this successfully, a business needs to be able to store its customers’ data efficiently and cost-effectively, and extract relevant knowledge from this data.
“Typically, this isn’t too complicated for transactional structured data, but it is often much trickier with unstructured data (such as videos, genomics files, IoT data, etc).
“Increasingly, the majority of a business’ customer data is unstructured, and it’s growing very rapidly. Businesses are now in need of data management solutions that help them understand, successfully manage, and extract value from this overwhelming amount of unstructured data, to keep customers happy and confident in the business storing their data.”
Tulin Green, Senior Director, EMEA Marketing at Commvault agrees.
“In this digital era, customers of nearly every business will interact with them online in some way, creating a data trail. Strong data management is therefore integral to the operation of any business, especially with the increase of technologies that utilise personal customer data to provide personalised experiences online,” she says.
“After all, the business that connects with potential customers best will stand out from the competition.
“However, the increase in customer data being collected and stored also comes with an increased risk. Companies that fail to prioritise data privacy and protection for their business assets – including customer data – will risk not only severe damage to bottom line profits, but to their brand reputation and customer loyalty too.
“To avoid this fate, businesses should prioritise their ability to securely manage all data, and ensure that comprehensive recovery measures are in place.
“In the instance that security measures fail, being able to resolve the issue and get data protection back in place quickly is crucial.”
Keep security threats at bay
“While living in an increasingly networked world has its advantages, it also leaves organisations vulnerable to exploitation by malware, inadvertent employee actions and malicious attacks,” points out Jan van Vliet, VP and GM EMEA at Digital Guardian.
“For security analysts, spotting security incidents arising from within their company, which is arguably their own customer base, is particularly tricky because the attacker may have legitimate access.
“If the credentials being input are valid, the same alarms are not raised as when an unauthorised user attempts entry from the outside. Deploying data-aware cybersecurity solutions removes the risks around the insider threat because even if an adversary has legitimate access to data, they are prevented from copying, moving or deleting it. What’s important when it comes to insiders, in whatever guise, is to be able to detect malicious or suspicious activity and produce real-time, priority alerts that analysts know must be addressed immediately.”
Nir Polak, CEO at Exabeam, highlights how data science can identify unusual activity.
“Securing the network is fundamental to protecting the business and a variety of tools exist to understand traffic flow over a network and to analyse security impacts from that flow,” he says.
“However, despite the capabilities of these tools, attacks and breaches continue to happen. It is time to expand the definition of network profiling to include the riskiest asset on the network: the user.
“Advances in data science, combined with computing power and applied to data already collected within most organisations, can connect the dots and provide a useful profile of network user activity.
“While data science – i.e. Machine Learning – has become an overused buzzword, in practice it can provide very useful answers in certain applications. For example, Machine Learning can discover the connections between seemingly unrelated bits of identities, to create a map of all of a user’s activities, even when the identity components are not explicitly linked.
“Other techniques can create baselines of normal behaviour for every user on the network, making it easier to understand whether each user is acting normally or not. Still other techniques can build better asset models, including which machines are likely ‘executive assets’ and at higher risk of attack. Profiling individual users enables an organisation to understand in great depth and with deep context exactly who is on the network; what they are doing; whether they should be doing it; and what it means to an organisation’s risk and security posture.”
The future in the cloud
“The cloud has brought analytics back into the hands of business users, particularly in HR,” Liam Butler, AVP at SumTotal comments.
“In the ‘old days’, business analytics tools were shrouded in secrecy and owned by IT and MIS as part of the on-premise ERP system. Analytics are now part of our daily life, being used to enable insightful decision-making and to predict business outcomes.
“For example, the linking of workforce management data with training data allows manufacturers to predict workforce capacity planning issues in advance of a product launch, train employees prior to manufacturing demand or move shift patterns to meet demand.”
As demands from consumers grow and the technology landscape becomes ever more complicated, it’s time for businesses to ensure the customers that keep their profits rolling in are satisfied.
Customer Experience Magazine is profiling the top 10 Professionals and Influencers from our Top 50 CX Stars list.
Here we look at Number 2 in each category. Nick Macfarlane of Sky is today’s featured Professional, and our Influencer is Ian Golding.
We welcome feedback on our CX Stars list, and all correspondence should be sent to email@example.com.
Head of Customer Experience at Sky Spain
Nick McFarlane has been living and breathing Customer Experience since 2005 when he joined Renault UK as a Senior Customer Relations Manager, and has since cultivated his skills in CX roles at household brands Vodafone and Sky.
Reading-based Nick joined Sky in 2011 as a Senior Customer Experience Manager for their Broadband & Talk division before going on to develop the end-to-end CX roadmap in the vital role of Customer Journey Programme Manager.
He is now Head of Customer Experience for Sky Spain, and helped design the journey for Spanish customers in what was Sky’s first ever organic launch in a new country.
It’s a changing world for the pillars of traditional media, and the behemoths such as Sky have a need for laser-focussed customer insight as it adapts to new landscapes. Looking at the last two decades alone, significant changes have included a boom in digital subscribers, and the launch of services including Sky Broadband.
Dramatic evolving of services requires the skilful handling of customers, and Sky continues to be in good hands with Nick as he brings his leadership and drive to Sky’s newest market in Spain. There he has helped build an enterprise-wide CX function that gathers insight from across all touchpoints and turns it into tangible benefits.
His success with leading CX in Spain is also inspiring Sky as it look towards other overseas markets.
Nick says: “For me, great Customer Experience is all about creating a human connection and keeping it simple.”
Nick is a devotee of the contact centre, and believes it to be the nucleus of any firm’s Customer Experience delivery. In recent years he has begun preaching his vision with a busy schedule of keynote speaking engagements, from Europe to Australia, where he presents his Five Rules for Great CX to eager audiences.
Ian Golding’s influence has grown exponentially in recent years as he coaches the CX stars of the future not just in the UK, but across the world.
His CX Masterclass, in both the UK and the UAE, is responsible for revamping the CX strategies for countless firms, from bigger brands to budding start-ups, and through his Customer Experience Consultancy is setting the standard for other firms in the ever-growing consultancy realm to match.
Ian was the first person in the world to be authorised by the Customer Experience Professionals Association to teach the CCXP accreditation, and it is estimated that he has mentored up to a quarter of all of the world’s qualified CCXPs to date.
Ian’s inspirations include Jeff Bezos and Satya Nadella, recognised for their pioneering work in transforming the relationship between customer and brand, but Ian admits his biggest inspiration in CX is simply the enthusiastic members of the CX community that he meets and inspires himself, on his global mission to supercharge Customer Experience.
Ian says: “Creating an emotional link with customers demonstrates the ability to identify the ‘WOW moments’ in the customer journey – the compelling brand proposition that leaves customers in no doubt as to why they keep coming back – and telling all their friends to do the same.”
In 2020, Customer Experience will continue to shape the modern business landscape, while Ian himself will continue to shape our understanding of Customer Experience.
Click here for profiles of our Number 3 Professionals and Influencers.