Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 20, 2019
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43min7645

We are in the midst of an age in which instant information is creating ever more savvy consumers.

As we enter a new decade, customers are ever more influenced by their experiences of a brand when considering a purchase. The role of Customer Experience as a profession, therefore, is so much more important than it has ever been before.

Meanwhile, for businesses to really get to know how customers behave, think, and feel, there are a growing number of CX influencers who continue to coach, guide, and inspire both company executives and the next generation of professionals to return customer centricity to the heart of their operations.

In celebration of these CX Stars operating here in the UK, Customer Experience Magazine presents a list of our Top 25 CX Influencers and Top 25 CX Professionals of 2019.

These are the people making a significant impact in Customer Experience, and who deserve to be celebrated. They will be the ones to watch as we enter 2020.

Some of our stars you will know, and others you certainly will know soon, as they continue on their career paths. Our researchers have ranked these CX Stars based on criteria including their achievements, industry activity and their influence within the UK CX sphere.

In the New Year, we will profile our Top 10 Influencers and Top 10 Professionals in more detail, offering you further insight into the amazing work they do. As CX matures from a buzzword to a vital professional realm, we are proud to be able to acknowledge those who are pioneering and making a difference. We can’t wait to see how these inspirational CX leaders grow, and look forward to discovering who will emerge to join them as CX Stars in 2020!

Directly below is our Top 25 CX Professionals list.

Scroll down further or click here to jump directly to our Top 25 CX Influencers

25

 

Name: DeAnna Avis

Role: National Customer Experience Manager at Solus ARC

Solus Accident and Repair Centre, owned by Aviva, has enjoyed a phenomenal year capped by taking the Overall Winner title at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards in October. Central to that success is DeAnna Avis, the firm’s National Customer Experience Manager, whose holistic approach to CX includes a focus on customer insight and employee engagement.

 

 


24

 

Name: Salman Sharif

Role: Senior Advisor, EMEA at Forrester

A former UK Customer Experience Awards judge, Salman works with senior CX leaders from FTSE 500 companies across the EMEA region.

He offers direction on how to help their company become more customer-centric by leveraging a combination of his own experience, Forrester’s research and analysis, and unrivalled peer insight.

 

 

 


23

 

Name: Hannah Louise Cox

Role: Executive Search Consultant at Douglas Jackson

Hannah identifies talent within the Customer Experience space to engage with for specialist roles, in order to shape business strategies and transform cultures. A passionate blogger and industry awards judge, Hannah earned the Outstanding Contribution to Judging gong at the 2019 UK Digital Experience Awards.

 

 

 


22

 

Name: Matt Currall

Role: Client Portfolio Director at Capita

An industry acclaimed CX leader, Matt is responsible for all aspects of customer delivery across a varied portfolio of Capita partnerships, including Tesco Mobile, The National Trust, and Vauxhall Finance. 

Matt is best known for his award-winning work on the use of psychological motivation theory to stimulate emotional commitment in employees to drive customer excellence.

 

 


21

 

Name: Stuart Bishop

Role: Director of Service at Cheshire Datasystems Ltd

A Companion Member of the Institute of Customer Service, Stuart specialises in transforming teams and creating a focus on the customer.

At leading UK tech company Cheshire Datasystems, he is exploring the potential of tech including AI and machine learning, and how to combine it with a human element for superior CX.

 

 

 


 

20

 

Name: Emma Donnelly

Role: Former Head of Customer Relations at CrossCountry Trains

Emma is an all-rounder, whose leadership skills ensured CX success for one of the UK’s best-known rail franchises.

In 2018, she enjoyed a prize year, being named Inspirational Leader of the Year at the UK Business Awards, Leader of the Year at the UK Complaints Handling Awards, and Professional Woman of the Year at the UK Customer Experience Awards.

 

 


19

 

Name: Sabrina Gross

Role: Customer Success Director at Vizolution

With global experience and a passion for customer centricity, Sabrina leads a team which engages with customers from pre-sale stages and right the way through the entire journey.

This ensures they can maximise the full value of the tech solutions offered by Swansea-based Vizolution.

 

 


18

 

Name: James Hardwick

Role: Industry Director for Gaming at Oracle CX

James is a recognised thought leader and advisor for CX in the Gaming and Gambling industry.

With a decade’s experience under his belt working with both start-ups and long-established brands, James has also been recognised for his achievements through various awards.

 

 

 


17

 

Name: Sarah Sargent

Role: Director of Customer Experience at Radian Group

Sarah Sargent became the first Certified Customer Experience Professional in Yorkshire in 2018, and has carved a successful career in both customer service and CX leadership across Financial Services and Telcos.

She is currently reinvigorating CX in social housing at Radian Group.

 

 

 

 


16

 

Name: Nick Lygo-Baker

Role: Founding Director at Paradigm CX

Having founded Paradigm CX in 2018, Nick Lygo-Baker’s passion for delivering CX strategies for organisations was seeded in Mystery Shopping and Customer Satisfaction research. Previously, Nick lead CX research teams in the UK and EMEA working with a wide range of SaaS technologies. As a CCXP and Certified member of the MRS Nick has built some of the most innovative customer measurement programmes across HoRECA, Retail, Telco and Financial Services.

 


15

 

Name: Chloe Woolger

Role: Commercial Director CX at Kantar

Chloe Woolger joined Kantar this year and is developing its CX strategy for clients including Bupa, Virgin Atlantic, and Nationwide.

A solid background in marketing has placed her in pole position to help build relationships that will ultimately benefit customers.

 

 

 


14

 

Name: Claire Sporton

Role: Senior Vice President, Customer Experience Innovation at Confirmit

Claire Sporton lives and breathes CX, and began her Confirmit career in 2011 before being appointed to her current crucial role in 2018 – a year that saw her land a CX Impact Award, given by the CXPA to “recognise individuals that exemplify excellent customer experience and make a profound impact on their organisation and its customers”.

 

 

 


13

 

Name: Jamie Thorpe

Role: Head of Experience Management at Ipsos MORI CX

With over 20 years behind him as a foundation for his expertise, Jamie Thorpe has long recognised the need for brands to be connected with customers, and the customers’ realisation of their own value.

Before bringing his vision to Ipsos MORI, Jamie worked with Kantar’s Customer Experience division, holding roles including CX Deputy Managing Director.

 

 

 


12

 

Name: Tiffany Carpenter

Role: UKI Head of Customer Intelligence Solutions at SAS UK

Tiffany has spent over 20 years helping organisations transform CX across their sales, service, and marketing operations.

In her current role at SAS, she guides firms in the application of advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to harness customer insights and deliver relevant one-to-one experiences.

 

 

 


11

 

Name: Laura Bowyer

Role: Head of Customer Excellence, UK and Ireland at KFC

CCXP Laura has transformed customer service teams for family favourite brands KFC and PizzaExpress, through the introduction of  VOC programmes and by creating effective training programmes for front-line teams.

Laura is also a former Secretary of the Inter Company Consumer Affairs Association.

 

 

10

 

Name: Phil Durand

Role: Director of Customer Experience Management at Confirmit

Confirmit has positioned itself firmly at the forefront of Voice of the Customer solutions, and Philip Durand’s expertise is ensuring they will stay there.

An advocate for customer insight and ‘keeping it simple’ for consumers, Philip recently judged at the UK Customer Experience Awards.

 

 


9

 

Name: Marion Ellis

Role: MD of BlueBox Partners

Marion Ellis began her CX career at Countrywide Surveying Services, which carried out mortgage valuations and home surveys.

Now a CCXP, Marion is creating an alliance of experienced residential valuers and surveyors committed to supporting the professional development of other valuers and surveyors through the Surveyor Hub online community.

 


8

 

Name: Sharif-Paul Anton

Role: General Manager Customer Support at Samsung Electronics

Sharif-Paul has 20 years of experience in CX, contact centres, and outsourcing.

He has worked with a number of leading brands, onshore and offshore, across numerous verticals including Banking, Consumer Electronics, Travel/Tourism, Gaming, and Retail.

 

 

 


7

 

Name: Iain O’Connor

Role: Senior Manager of Customer Experience & Insight at Aegon UK

Iain O’Connor is responsible for implementing a CX culture at Edinburgh insurance, pensions, and investment firm Aegon UK.

His work has included the development of in-house CX Labs, a CX Academy, and the creation of closed loop feedback and social media channel Aegon Cares.

 

 

 


6

 

Name: Christina Liciaga

Role: Head of Customer Service at HSBC UK

Christina has led HSBC’s customer service team since 2017, and oversees complaints and service recovery, root cause analysis, and customer insight.

She prides herself on being “the customer advocate who drives initiatives and interventions to make our customers better off everyday”.

 

 

 


5

 

Name: Alison Lawrie

Role: Head of Customer Experience, Quality & Continuous Improvememt at AkzoNobel

Alison Lawrie is  responsible for implementing the CX Strategy and Transformation Programme at AkzoNobel, the firm behind Dulux Paint.

Her dedication was recognised at national level in 2018 when she was named Professional of the Year at the UK Customer Experience Awards.

 

 


4

 

Name: Andrew McGuigan

Role: Director of Worldwide Customer Service Strategy at Microsoft

Before taking up his hugely influential role at Microsoft in 2017, Andrew spent four years at Vodafone, where he headed the UK Customer Services division before taking the role of Head of Consumer Customer Care.

At Microsoft, Andrew is leading the charge in placing the customer at the very centre of one of the planet’s most recognisable brands.

 

 


3

 

Name: Jo Mayes

Role: Director of Customer Operations at Business Stream

A former Head of CX at Standard Life, Jo Mayes is now making transformational changes in the water retail sector with Business Stream, and was named 2019’s CX Professional of the Year at the UK Customer Experience Awards.

Under her leadership, Business Stream has developed its ambitious Customer First Strategy, which has helped to transform its CX offering.

 

 

 


2

 

Name: Nick Macfarlane

Role: Head of Customer Experience at Sky

Currently Head of CX for Sky in Spain, Nick has a long and storied career in Customer Experience, including several years delivering world class digital customer service solutions for Sky’s International OTT customers.

Nick has also judged at the UK Customer Experience Awards, while Sky has also reached the finals of the event – most recently in 2019 when the brand was shortlisted in categories including Customers at the Heart of Everything.

 


1

 

Name: Amanda Riches

Role: Director of Professional Services – CX Consulting at Medallia

Topping our Professionals list is CX expert and Net Promoter certified associate Amanda Riches, who has enabled leading multi-sector organisations to drive customer-centric change delivering measurable business results over the last two decades. 

Previously Head of Quality & Guest Insight at Whitbread, Amanda established the successful service formula that sits behind Premier Inn, the award-winning leading hotel chain, before setting up Enrich Customer Consultancy in 2008. Now Director of Professional Services at Medallia, she continues to help large organisations operationalise the voice of their customers, employees, and partners, engaging senior and frontline teams to drive action on the things that matter most.

 

25

 

Name: Ben Philips

Role: Global Head of Customer Experience at Neilsen

Ben Philips is, in his own words, living his “dream role”, and travels around the world working to ensure clients are becoming fully customer-centric.

A passionate speaker, Ben also spreads his CX knowledge through his writing, including contributing to a new book on CX best practise alongside 21 other global influencers.

 

 


24

 

Name: Paul Weald

Role: Director of Multichannel Customer Experience Ltd

Paul is known by peers as the Contact Centre Innovator, and is the founder and Director of his consultancy firm Multichannel Customer Experience Ltd.

An inspirational speaker and prolific writer, Paul has also judged at numerous industry awards events over the years.

 

 


23

 

Name: Chris Little

Role: Founder of BeyondCuriosity

Having successfully established BeyondCuriosity, a specialist insight and strategy consultancy for innovation, CX and growth, Chris Little has championed customer thinking for over 30 years, starting with the customer facing revolution at Barclays in the 1980s. He has been actively involved in CX measurement and strategies since.

 


22

 

Name: Olga Potaptseva

Role: Founder of the European Customer Consultancy

CX mentor Olga has offered expert consulting around the world, and reaches a wide audience through motivational speaking roles.

Making use of her customer-centric employee engagement framework, she leads companies in multiple industries to transform their processes, policies, and products through her European Customer Consultancy. Olga was Chair of Judges at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards.

 

 


21

 

 

Name: Karen Swindells

Role: Director at Jigsaw Customer Solutions

Karen Swindells has developed her strong skillset over three decades in customer service environments, including contact centres.

Her background as a Operations Manager with Ombudsman Services led to her becoming one of the most respected judges at the 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

 

 

 


20

 

Name: Peter Evia-Rhodes

Role: Director of Customer Value at The Times (News UK)

In his role at The Times and The Sunday Times, Peter is responsible for increasing and maintaining subscribers for one of the most respected titles in British newspapers.

His CX approach, based on innovative speech analytics supported by award-winning data science, has been shared with audiences through Peter’s role as a keynote speaker and writer.

 

 


19

 

Name: Jo Boswell

Role: Founder/Director of Sentio-B

Jo is the brains behind Sentio-B, a consultancy firm specialising in CX transformation. Before this, she honed her skills at British Airways with a series of high-flying roles including Head of Customer Value Management.

She was the driving force behind the airline’s ‘Know Me’ initiative, a successful transformation programme that embedded personalisation at scale into their CX and service strategy.

 

 


18

 

Name: Chris Garthwaite

Role: Managing Director at CGA Experience

The MD of consultancy CGA Experience, Chris is a 35-year CX industry veteran. After a successful career driving Customer Experience transformation, including early-stage e-commerce launching Woolworths Direct and e-Kingfisher, he set up CGA in 2001.

Over the past 18 years, CGA has led the way in creating value through transforming customer journeys into compelling and commercial experiences.

 


17

 

Name: Ben Smithwell

Role: Director of Comotion – a Freeman Company

CX and service design consultant Ben Smithwell will be a name familiar to many in Customer Experience roles, both here in the UK and further afield.

Having founded his own Nottingham-based CX agency, Ben is also Director of Comotion, a Freeman company, while in 2015 he even delivered a powerful TEDx talk on how to tackle bullying.

 

 


16

 

Name: Donna O’Toole

Role: CEO of August Recognition

Donna O’Toole is a a Customer Experience champion through-and-through.

A writer and thought-leader, Donna now heads August – The Awards Company, where she guides business leaders and teams in improving their own CX and preparing them for awards recognition at various industry events.

 

 


15

 

Name: Simon Green

Role: Founder/Director of 3RM

The power behind 3RM Digital Marketing Strategy, Simon Green integrates communications and advertising into Customer Experience, intrinsically linking it with ‘Brand Experience’ for the benefit of large UK and global brands.

CCXP Simon helps organisations see the end-to-end consumer process as starting from brand advertising and digital personalised communications, and running throughout the cycles of pre-purchase, sales, consumption, customer service, and repeat sales.

 


14

 

Name: Marie Cross

Role: Co-founder of First Impressions Training

Marie is the co-founder of First Impressions Training (FIT), and a passionate CX influencer.

Through her on-the-ground role as FIT’s Training Director, Marie leads large-scale culture change projects for clients, developing the talent of front-line teams and leaders, in order to enhance CX, increase employee engagement, and improve operational efficiency.

 

 


13

 

Name: Caroline Cooper

Role: Trainer/Consultant at Naturally Loyal

An author, speaker, and trainer, Caroline is a life-long advocate of customer centricity, and regularly writes on a range of Customer and Employee Experience topics.

Caroline is the go-to authority on Customer Experience in the Hospitality industry, helping create loyal customers who will return again and again thanks to excellent service inspired by her.

 

 


12

 

Name: Stephen Parry

Role: CEO/Founder of Lloyd Parry

A name familiar to many readers, Stephen is a multi-award winning international leader and strategist on the creation of service enterprises that are adaptive, innovative and engaging.

London-based Stephen is the founder of consultancy Lloyd Parry, and has a global reputation for passionate leadership and creating organisations with superior service climates by changing the way employees, managers, and leaders think about the business.

 


11

 

Name: Mark Conway

Role: Founder of Contact Centre Partners

The driving force of Contact Centre Partners, Mark has been recruiting senior talent within the customer contact and CX industry since 2007.

Over the past 12 years, he has successfully placed hundreds of influential professionals across a wide variety of industry sectors, many of whom are multi-award-winning industry leaders.

 

 

 

10

 

Name: Claire Boscq-Scott

Role: Founder of The Busy Queen Bee Ltd

Known as the Busy Queen Bee herself, Claire Boscq-Scott is a global guru for brands dedicated to improving both customer and employee experience.

A Member of the Professional Speaker Association, Claire has toured the world to spread her enthusiasm and presented before thousands of people. She has also authored two books: Thrive With the Hive and Thriving by Caring.

 

 


9

 

Name: Nick Hague

Role: Co-founder of B2B International

As an original founder of B2B International, Nick has been at the centre of assisting some of the world’s biggest business-to-business companies design, implement, and track their CX strategy based on the grounded research B2B International carry out.

Through his work as a research practitioner, Nick knows what works and what doesn’t in getting change within an organisation and his first-hand experience led him to publishing his bestselling book, B2B Customer Experience in 2018.   

 


8

 

Name: Michelle Ansell

Role: Managing Partner at Douglas Jackson

Michelle is based at specialist recruitment and executive search consultancy, Douglas Jackson. She has worked with many award-winning business and brands, as well as start-up and disruptor companies, placing individuals who have gone on to make significant impacts.

Her skills have served the contact centre and burgeoning CX industry for over 15 years.

 

 


7

 

Name: Nick Meinertzhagen

Role: Founder of Experiential Consulting Ltd

CCXP Nick Meinertzhagen is a passionate CX strategist, management consultant, and entrepreneur.

In 2004 he founded one of the UK’s largest mystery shopping businesses 360 Perspectives, which he sold in 2018 to Yomdel.

Nick currently runs his own CX management consultancy, Experiential Consulting Ltd, where he designs customer-centric solutions that aligns to his clients’ commercial objectives.

 


6

 

Name: Dr Nicola Millard

Role: Principal Innovation Partner at BT

UK Customer Experience Award winner BT has benefited hugely from the oversight of its former Head of Customer Insight and Futurology, Dr Nicola Millard. Now a Principal Innovation Partner for the brand, she has been responsible for developing human-centred innovation thought-leadership for BT Global Services’ Innovation team.

A speaker, writer and thought-leader, Nicola got her PhD from Lancaster University in 2005 on motivational technologies in contact centres, & published her first book in 2009.

 


5

 

Name: Clare Muscutt

Role: Founder/Director of CMXperience,

Entrepreneur Clare Muscutt is recognised as a leading millennial voice in CX, and founded her own consultancy firm, CMXperience, from her kitchen in Hackney, London.

Now a global influencer, public speaker, and soon-to-be author, Clare is aiming to bring the CX skills honed at brands including Sainsbury’s, M&S, British Airways, and Premier Inn to a whole new audience in 2020.

 

 


4

 

Name: Naeem Arif

Role: MD at NA Consulting

Alongside running successful national flooring firm United Carpets Group, CCXP Naeem Arif has founded his own consultancy firm, NA Consulting Ltd, and has penned a whopping six books, including the hugely influential Customer First.

Birmingham-based Naeem has an unrivalled knack for business leadership and a dedication to customer centricity that is making waves in the UK.

 

 


3

 

Name: Adrian Swinscoe

Role: Influencer, consultant, podcaster, author, and founder of Punk CX

The author of books including How to Wow, Scottish-born Adrian Swinscoe is an influential consultant, speaker, and coach, who says his driving passion is “helping create, develop, and grow businesses that take care of their customers in the best way possible, and create the great teams that are required to do that.”

A man of many talents, Adrian’s new Punk CX book is a radical departure from the often-dry tomes found on business shelves.

 

 


2

 

Name: Ian Golding

Role: Founder of the Customer Experience Consultancy

No stranger to CXM readers, nor anyone with even a passing interest in Customer Experience, Ian Golding is among the UK’s foremost CX experts, whose thoughts on customer centricity are sought the world over.

Along with imparting his wisdom through CX Masterclasses and in-house training, he has penned one of the most influential books in the industry to-date, Customer What? The honest and practical guide to customer experience.

 

 


1

 

Name: James Dodkins

Role: Founder of Rockstar CX

Topping the charts for CX influencers is the man known to many as the ‘Customer Experience Rockstar’, James brings his passion for CX to a global audience through his energetic speaking engagements.

As his image implies, James has corralled the energy and enthusiasm from his days in a rock band, and turned it towards the world of Customer Experience

From writing CX books, and even launching his own line of Rockstar CX-inspired clothing, James is bringing customer centricity into an entirely new era. Among his latest projects is presenting the This Week in CX show, currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

 

Coming soon: CXM will profile our Top 10 Stars in both Influencer and Professional categories. Congratulations to all those who made it into this year’s Top 50 CX Stars!

 


Lindsay WillottLindsay WillottDecember 10, 2019
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7min1963

Love it or hate it, when December hits there’s one thing as sure as mince-pie overload – it’s also the time of year we all get our crystal balls out and start predicting what’s on the horizon for the coming year.

The last ten years have seen a rate of change in customer service faster than the last 100 years combined. Salesforce have dubbed it the ‘fourth generation’, where boundaries between the physical, digital, and biological worlds have started to blur. It’s fundamentally changed what consumers have come to expect from brands. No wonder that 80 percent of customers consider their experience with a company to be as important as its products.

However, despite these raising expectations, only 49 percent of U.S. consumers say they’re getting a good customer experience from companies. This disconnect was echoed in Forrester’s Customer Experience Predictions 2020, which warns “consumers continue to move faster than businesses.”

The upshot here is that businesses are still clearly missing a trick in how to differentiate their brand and delight their customers base – but will next year be any better? Well there’s huge scope for improvements, but ironically the ones that may fair best are the ones that focus on the basics over buzzwords.

And we all know the buzzword of the moment – artificial intelligence (AI).

It’s had by far the lion’s share of the word of mouth this year but there is still confusion as to the role it can play, especially in complex environments, as well as the consumer acceptance of it.

Looking ahead: 2020 trends being predicted include improved feedback provision

There’s also lessons to be sought given the changes taken place in the cyber security market. Even the least savvy of Internet user has seen the furore over election manipulation, foreign state hacking and increasingly credible phishing and social engineering attacks. This has influenced strategy because providers operating online channels have had to enhance the protection of data with pin numbers, confirmation codes, captcha boxes and two factor authorisation. The problem is that these things make for a terrible customer experience.

I can also see huge scope for improvement when it comes to receiving customer feedback, which is instrumental for CX programmes to succeed.

According to Microsofts’s 2018 State of Global Customer Service Report, nearly all customers (90 percent) have a more favourable view of brands that give them the opportunity to provide feedback. However, less than a quarter (24 percent) of customers are given the opportunity to provide feedback regularly.

In 2020, I think that the traditional ‘long format’ survey will become largely obsolete. I was speaking to a major retailer last week who said they had sent out 3,000 surveys and had just two responses.

Social media listening is useful, but they are a very self-selecting audience in terms of response. Forward-thinking brands will need to embrace the concept of “react with a gif”, “react with an emoji” and seek out more seamless ways of embedding feedback options into their day to day customer interactions.

Lastly, I believe the concept of gratitude from providers towards their purchasers and audiences will be really important. The “got to have this” type out outbound and social marketing we see has led to a purchase frenzy especially amongst beauty and fashion and lifestyle brands, but I often wonder if many consumers do not feel that their loyalty is rewarded.

Forrester’s report explains this well: “Consumers will evolve from recipients of a brand experience to participants in it.”

As we look ahead, deeper relationships between brands and consumers, with genuine rewards for staying loyal, feel like they will become important. It’s the modern equivalent of the corner shop throwing an extra item in with your shop because they know you – personal service, to delight and reward each customer.


Matt MoodyMatt MoodyDecember 10, 2019
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7min2026

You offered discounts, expedited service, and a weekend at your summer home, but your customer dropped you anyway.

Once you finish eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the bathtub, you have two options: move on forever or keep the door open for a potential return.

Even after customers leave, you can still win back their business in the future – and you should make every effort to do so. According to research consolidated by Small Biz Trends, a two percent increase in customer retention can lower costs by up to 10 percent. Further, your odds of selling to an existing customer are over 60 percent, while your odds of selling to a stranger are below 20 percent.

Customers who leave for a while still count as customers. They know your brand and your products, and despite their choice to stop paying for those products, they saw value in your services at one point. You can win them back, but to do so, you need a win-back strategy that provides consistent returns for your business.

What is (or isn’t) a win-back strategy?

Offering 10 percent off to all former customers three months after separation does not qualify as a win-back strategy. People leave for different reasons, and while a better price may appeal to some, focusing solely on price will not help you create the boost in customer lifetime value your company needs.

Ineffective win-back strategies share a few common traits. Most companies that struggle to win back customers don’t understand why those customers cancel in the first place. If you don’t collect data at the time of cancellation, all you can do is guess. Maybe they didn’t like paying so much money, but maybe they also wanted more variety in product choices or more helpful customer service.

Unless you ask, you’ll never know.

Back for good?: Improving products or services plays a huge role in winning back customers

Imagine a gym-goer who cancels her membership because she moved to a new area. Would a 25 percent off coupon inspire her to commute across town just to use her old treadmill? Probably not. A newsletter announcing new locations, however, might inspire her to find a new gym home nearer to her house.

Audience segmentation plays a role as well. Some customers will never return to your business, no matter how much you beg. Targeting those customers will only harm your brand as they tell people how annoying you are. When a relationship breaks beyond repair, don’t press the issue. Your customer won’t win his ex back by liking all her Instagram posts, and you won’t win your customer back by spamming unwanted communications.

Your business must also show consistent improvement to implement a successful win-back strategy. Customers who cancel often do so because someone else offers something better. By improving the quality and availability of your products, services, and customer experiences, you can greatly boost your odds of success in win-back attempts.

Designing a better win-back strategy for your business

Win-back strategies that consistently bring back old customers depend on timely, relevant communications. You should make your first attempt to reestablish a connection within 30 days of the separation, before your customers forget why they were paying you in the first place. Communications should get specific about why customers left to open the door for future business once you solve the issue.

To create those communications, segment your audience by departure reason. The better your segmentation, the more relevant your messages will be and the greater the odds customers will listen to you will grow. Continue to refine your segments to speak mostly to customers who are likely to return, not customers who have moved or otherwise no longer fit your business.

Identify potential win-back opportunities by using an exit survey or similar information-gathering technique at the time of departure. Relevant communication within the first month after separation will greatly up your odds of reconciliation. Discounts and promotions work well within this window, but only for customers who are more concerned about price than variety, service, or another issue.

Even if you can’t address the concerns of a departed customer immediately, keep the line of communication open to share news about new product features, customer service improvements, pricing changes, new locations, and other relevant factors.

Treat your customers like friends by keeping them in the loop. Regardless of whether you rekindle the spark with the one that got away, people who view your business favourably may tell their friends about your improvements, paving the way for a host of promising new relationships.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 9, 2019
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4min1536

It’s the end of an era for the great British railway network as Virgin Trains catered to passengers on the franchise’s final run.

The award-winning brand operated long distance services on the West Coast Main Line since March 1997, and last Saturday saw passengers at London Euston board the service for the final time, bound for Wolverhampton.

Virgin Trains, co-owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Stagecoach, has ferried almost 500 million passengers over its 22-year history, and had aimed to continue, but a row over pensions led to the Department for Transport disqualifying the brand’s bid to keep operating the line.

Routes operated by Virgin Trains are now by Avanti West Coast.

Good knight: Sir Richard joins Virgin . Train staff to say farewell to the 22-year-old service

The phenomenal work of Virgin trains staff was celebrated by Virgin Group boss Sir Richard Branson, who tweeted: “A huge thank you to all our wonderful people at @VirginTrains – it’s down to all of your incredible work every day that Virgin Trains has been the UK’s longest running and top-rated rail franchise.”

Just this year, Virgin Trains enjoyed success at the UK Business Awards, where it won Silver in the Innovation of the Year category, and was a finalist in the Team of the Year category.

In 2018 meanwhile, Virgin Trains won Gold at the UK Business Awards for Digital Team – Digital Marketing Campaign, before going on to win the biggest accolade of the day – Overall Best Digital Experience.

The Virgin Trains official Twitter account summed up the mood of the weekend with a characteristically humorous, but poignant tweet: “When leaving the train, please mind the gaping hole I’ll leave in your life.”

 


Martin EllinghamMartin EllinghamDecember 6, 2019
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10min1466

As we’re all aware, PPI represents the largest consumer mis-selling scandal this country has seen.

UK lenders collectively expect PPI to cost them close to £50 billion in total, having already paid out over £48 billion in compensation and admin by June 2019. But what now the PPI claims deadline has passed?

We can be certain that the massive claims management industry that sprung out of the PPI scandal – an industry that currently employs in the region of 20,000 people – won’t be going anywhere any time soon, but it does mean that the Claims Management Companies (CMCs) will be actively seeking new targets, something that financial services businesses are extremely aware of.

One potential issue for CMCs to pursue, and a much-discussed topic at the moment, is that of customer vulnerability – in particular how financial services businesses are ensuring the appropriate levels of not only service but care for vulnerable customers. Such is its importance that the FCA has made it one of the central themes of its business plan for 2019/20.

Underpinning this focus by the FCA is the idea that firms aren’t taking vulnerability seriously enough. However, as yet, outside of their own best practice framework, there are no set guidelines for businesses to follow when it comes to dealing with vulnerable customers.

Although vulnerability as a whole can be hard to define, harder to legislate for, and even harder still to identify, many financial services businesses are taking the opportunity to review their current processes. Aside from instilling best practice across the business, for many, it’s an attempt to pre-empt any regulatory requirements that the FCA could well introduce, not to mention helping to build a robust defence should the CMCs try to pursue vulnerability as their next source of income.

A challenging task

The main challenge faced by financial services businesses is identifying vulnerable customers in the first instance. For example, in the case of a disability, not all disabilities are obvious. Also, it may be that customers don’t realise they’re vulnerable, or even if they do, they’re loath to self-identify.

Others may be experiencing transient vulnerability, perhaps as a result of a major life event or upheaval, something that hasn’t been evident before and won’t continue to render them vulnerable in the future, but for the here and now, is a real issue for that individual. Not only does this make it hard for businesses to spot vulnerable customers, but it makes it nigh-on impossible to regulate for it, such is the scope and the scale of the whole ‘vulnerable’ label.

Alarm bells: Firms aren’t taking customer vulnerability seriously enough

Another hurdle to cross is to ensure staff have the training and tools necessary to help to identify vulnerable customers, as well as empowering them to do the right thing once vulnerable customers have been identified. On the whole, front-line staff are younger people, with not as much life experience as their older counterparts, perhaps making it more difficult to empathise with customers for whom major life events or circumstances have caused them to be vulnerable. It’s difficult to train for that but with greater clarity on what makes a customer vulnerable, from the regulator and the business itself, it’s certainly not impossible for staff to increase their awareness and understanding.

Empowered employees

Aside from increasing employee ability to recognise vulnerability, a vital part of the equation is to empower these very same staff to take the necessary action that vulnerable customers require. This might be by way of a triage-type process, where those identified as vulnerable are passed on to a special unit that’s empowered to deal specifically with vulnerable customers.

Or, again, through training, it’s possible to give employees the option to side-step the rules or standard Ts&Cs when needed, not only giving them the adequate time needed to consider what needs to be done differently, but furnishing them with the knowledge needed to know how to do things differently.

The role of technology

Even if you have the most empowered employees in the industry, the crux of the issue is still successfully and accurately identifying vulnerable customers. Training is good but ultimately it still relies on people to apply things learnt in training to everyday situations, something that doesn’t always translate, and something that still risks people falling through the gaps.

Technological developments are in the pipeline though, with consumer vulnerability detection systems incorporated into customer experience software or a case management platform able to detect patterns in customer language to flag up potentially vulnerable customers. It’s not a case of trying to take control and responsibility away from employees, but more a concerted effort to ensure the obvious signs aren’t missed.

However, even this isn’t watertight. Humans aren’t always right and it’s certainly very helpful to increase automation with technology wherever possible but you still need an element of quality assurance on top. To date, it’s this quality assurance that’s led to best practice development within a good number of financial services businesses, with the opportunity to reassess and review historical cases leading the business to realise that actually, certain policies are unfair or unreasonably applied.

This benefit of hindsight has triggered many to make the necessary changes to proactively help not only vulnerable customers but the entire customer base, too.

Raising standards

Do I think customer vulnerability will be the next PPI?

No, I don’t. It’s not as black-and-white as PPI and such is the breadth and scope of potential vulnerabilities, not only is it impossible to cover all bases from a responsible business point-of-view, but even the regulators are so far unsure how to regulate on it. If any direct enforcement action is to be taken by the regulator, what’s needed is greater clarity on how vulnerable customers are defined, not to mention how they should be treated. As much as CMCs are trying to find a new hook, customer vulnerability isn’t it.

What it does represent is a real opportunity for financial services businesses to raise standards in the industry, applying sound principles to every customer interaction, treating every customer in accordance with their particular needs, and constantly reviewing their own processes to ensure the appropriate levels of service and care for vulnerable customers.

I’m sure that regulators will continue to regulate as they understand it better but so far, financial services organisations themselves are taking the issue of customer vulnerability very seriously, driving best practice, raising the bar and setting the standards required for responsible business practices for today and the foreseeable future.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 6, 2019
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5min1533

The Customer Experience Masterclass is preparing to celebrate its fifth year of providing unparalleled CX knowledge to audiences in the UK and beyond.

2020 will mark five years since the founding of the Masterclass, and January will see international consultant and expert in all-things CX, Ian Golding, host sessions in Stevenage, UK, and Dubai, UAE.

The two-day Masterclass will see Ian – author of Customer What?: The honest and practical guide to customer experience – teach attendees a wide range of core competencies, including CX strategy and brand proposition, the role of employees in delivering the strategy, customer journey mapping, CX measurement (VOC, VOE and VOP), CX improvement, and CX culture.

A class of their own: Some of this year’s UK CX Masterclass attendees with Ian Golding (right)

The Masterclass in Stevenage takes place at the BTC Business Technology Centre on January 27 – 28, and the following day, an optional CCXP Exam Workshop is also available for those keen to seek CCXP accreditation.

Further UK Masterclasses and Exam Workshops with Ian Golding will take place in 2020 in March, April, May, July, September, and November. Click here for further details.

In-house training events with Ian are also available, with further details available here.

Among those attending November’s CX Masterclass was Carmen Barleanu, CX & Marketing Consultant at Endava. Speaking afterwards, she said: “I particularly enjoyed how Ian delivered the class – he managed very well to put order in a field that can be perceived as rather chaotic. He also came with inspirational and practical examples to demonstrate the concepts and tools presented.

“I found Ian as an exceptional CX professional, as well as human being, truly interested in adding value to the participants and to the CX field. Also, it was great to meet such a diverse group of CX practitioners and have valuable discussions on each other’s perspective on the subjects.”

Meanwhile, Merlin Iles-Jonas, Senior CX Manager at Avalara, said: “I’m looking forward to validating everything I’ve learnt so far through the CCXP accreditation, and view this coupled with Ian’s Masterclass as a significant chapter in my career as a CX professional.

“I’ve absorbed so much in the last few days it will take a while to fully digest. However, I am champing at the bit to implement all I’ve learnt and feel empowered to do this as effectively as possible with the backdrop of the methodologies and frameworks that Ian taught.”

The CX Masterclasses have a bright future and a busy year ahead, and Customer Experience Magazine’s very own Events Manager Antonija Kadarijan, told us of her pride in helping to bringing together people passionate about expanding their CX skillset.

“It really is a special feeling when you’re able to work with people across the globe and watch them grow in a professional way and place customers at the heart of everything they do,” she said.

Looking ahead: Masterclass Event Manager Antonija Kadarijan

Over the past four years, we have celebrated many CCXPs earning their qualification and it is wonderful to see people achieve recognition for their dedication and hard work.

“Working and learning from Ian Golding is also an honour. Having attended his classes I could feel his energy and enthusiasm, which helped me upgrade my own CX knowledge.

“I cannot wait to see what 2020 has in store, but our main purpose will remain the same – support even more professionals and organisations to deliver authentic and exceptional Customer Experiences.”


Richard HiltonRichard HiltonDecember 6, 2019
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7min1262

The nature of selling is evolving at an exponential rate.

Thanks to the internet’s provision of easy to access information, buyers no longer look to sellers to educate them on products and services. Research from CSO Insights reveals that 70 percent of buyers now say that they define their needs before engaging with companies.

The fact is that the artful delivery of information is no longer enough to secure a sale. Sellers need to provide their customers with solutions to problems that haven’t even thought about yet. And this means that sellers need to know their buyer inside-out, pre-empting their needs, rather than having a purely reactionary relationship – as has traditionally been the way.

So, what attributes do today’s sellers need to have in order to deliver this?

Technology competence and analytical skills

Across all sectors, corporations have realised the potential for technology to optimise decision-making and resource allocation. This has been no different within sales. Organisations that have not embraced the benefits of digitising their methodologies, will soon find out that they are no longer able to compete.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have revolutionised the game. Rather than having to rely on sellers’ instincts, specialist software now analyses and identifies the deals and new business opportunities that are worth pursuing. Evaluating past data on wins, losses and no decisions, AI generates guidance on how strategies can be improved. Over time, as more data is collated, ML refines its algorithms and provides recommendations of greater precision and sophistication.

As technology continues to provide smarter and superior means of selling, the cost of non-adoption has become greater. And this is having a significant impact on the sales organisation demographic. Leaders are beginning to place more emphasis on IQ over EQ when hiring, looking for individuals from maths, statistics and economics backgrounds. Equally, those already in sales positions are being required to upskill on data and analytical processes.

A propensity for learning and up-to-date industry knowledge

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for salespeople to follow the desires of buyers. The choices available to them have proliferated. Globalisation and the opening of new markets have resulted in increased competition, this in turn pushing through greater innovation and superior products and services.

While this is of course a good thing for all of us, it nonetheless sets a fast pace of change for sellers to keep up with. In such an environment, mastery of one’s craft can never be assumed. Sellers depend more than ever on the latest theory, tech and market knowledge to stay afloat. A hunger for learning must therefore be maintained throughout a career in sales.

Sellers should know their customer and markets on both a micro and macro level. The onus is on sales leaders to facilitate this. They need to ensure that a culture of learning is inculcated and that their salesforces have access to all the necessary resources, mentors and training.

With markets volatile and near-impossible to predict, though ultimately powerless to prevent such turbulence, an educated salesforce is one that is best placed to anticipate difficulties, react to change and to absorb shocks.

Empathy, persistence and broader EQ qualities

It would be a mistake to think that the digitalisation of selling means that traditional sales skills are now obsolete. Tapping into soft skillsets is essential for knowing how customers and team members tick; understanding what drives them and how to then best communicate and motivate them accordingly.

The notion of the ‘slick salesman’ is an old cliché but there is undoubtedly much truth to it. Industry knowledge is futile if not supported with excellent communication skills, a focus on results and post-sales relationship, and the ability to deliver perspective and insights.

Whether in person or on the phone, sales teams need to be having mutually valuable conversations to understand a customer’s challenge and ensure that they do not appear target-driven but instead eager to add value to their business.

Adapt or fall behind

While selling has always been a demanding task, it has never been more so than in our current era. Sales organisations have been able to rely in recent years on high customer demand. Strong global economic growth has driven this, but they need to be prepared should this flip. 

Sellers can’t lose sight of traditional skills. But those that want to be at the top of their game need to be adapting to the changing buying habits of their customers and taking advantage of innovations and methods that will make their jobs easier, approach more sophisticated and deliver better results.


Idit AloniIdit AloniDecember 5, 2019
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6min1718

Idit Aloni is Head of Product Marketing at Amdocs, and has over a decade’s experience consulting and leading Marketing and Customer Experience within large organisations globally.

 

Recently, I’ve been feeling like a child in a candy shop, as I had the pleasure and privilege to judge at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, where I was able to learn about how some of Britain’s biggest brands are delivering exceptional CX.

The event saw a range of winners rewarded for their initiatives, and as a judge I was able to identify many of the common factors shared by the top performers

1. Doing CX for the sake of CX

True CX practice is for the customer’s benefit first and foremost. Business benefits, operational efficiency, and cost savings naturally follow, but organisations that do it right set aside their ROI calculators.

2. Keeping it real

In an era of smartbots, authenticity goes a long way in establishing customer trust, and there are very simple and clever ways of achieving that.

One of our telco finalists told us how they run regional routing, so that agents cater to customers from their area. This way, they are “in” on local slang, and can even be up to date on the performance of the local football team!

True authenticity creates much more personal customer interactions – ones that are truly genuine and not just guided by system logic.

3. Rocking the boat

Firms should not be afraid to challenge the status quo and traditional norms that no longer apply.

One of the UK’s top insurers did an exceptional job in measuring success solely against NPS performance, while removing metrics like AHT and schedule adherence from KPI dashboards. These may still be tracked for operational purposes, but are not used to measure agent performance. The same goes for simple changes in terminology to inspire thinking, engagement, and personal ownership.

Provide intent, not instructions; ‘conversation guides’, not scripts; and ‘activity frameworks’ rather than job descriptions.

4. Getting the basics done

Many effective CX initiatives are grounded in plain and simple process improvement. There’s no way around it and there are endless options to go for, ranging from Six Sigma to Design Thinking.

So, like the top performers at the UKCXAs, pick your poison and go for gold.

5. Making people meaningful

Whether they are employees or customers, people want to feel that they matter, and that what they do makes a difference.

Winning firms encourage an organisational ‘brag data’ mentality to motivate agents to create story-worthy experiences as part of their BAU.

6. Talking about Human Experience (HX)

To me, this key differentiator sets the winners apart from the rest.

It’s the notion of impacting Human Experience rather than just Customer or Employee Experience only.

One of the UK’s telcos showcased a game-changing strategy around this concept by setting up their entire service centre to support people with mental issues, offering a unique employment environment in their community.

They created a comprehensive, well thought-through call centre operation that includes agent coaching, mindfulness sessions, a ‘buddy system’ for performing daily tasks, and so on – all to support those service staff members grappling with depression, anxiety, and other mental issues.

To me, delivering a game changing HX/CX/EX is about creating a meaningful impact on people’s lives. It could be about making small moments easier and stress-free, and offering some sunshine on a rainy day, or it can be about making a true social impact.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 2, 2019
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3min1216

This year’s Black Friday footfall increased by six percent compared to 2018, despite challenges including Brexit uncertainty.

Official data from ShopperTrak shows that overall footfall for the year sits 0.2 percent up against the same period last year. Saturday, meanwhile was expectded to be the second busiest shopping day of the entire Christmas period, according to the Festive Peak Shopping 2019/20 Report released by Sensormatic Solutions.

The report maps the top five busiest UK shopper traffic days for peak trading 2019, based on insight from more than 1.5 million data collection devices in the retail marketplace and 40 billion shopper visits captured by the ShopperTrak brand each year.

This, the report suggests, demonstrates the increasing importance of the promotional event in driving in-store footfall – not just across the Black Friday weekend, but also in building momentum into Christmas trading, as retailers extend their in-store promotion strategies.

Having insight into how many shoppers are walking into their stores, along with the timing, helps retailers make informed decisions and create more impactful marketing promotions during the retail industry’s busiest shopping days.

Nick Pompa, Global General Manager at ShopperTrak, said: “We know that shoppers are in the driving seat now on how, when and where they shop, but our data shows that Black Friday still ranks as a key day for bricks-and-mortar. Our data helps retailers kick start their peak trading strategies and maximise their returns.”

“By leveraging insight from shopper traffic trends, retailers can optimise scheduling decisions, merchandising of floor sets, inventory fulfilment and even loss prevention awareness to help maximise sales opportunities presented during the busiest days of peak trading. Making the most of the footfall you have, is more important now than ever before.”

 


Annette FranzAnnette FranzNovember 29, 2019
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10min1057

This article was jointly written by Annette Franz, CCXP, and Joakim Thorn, XM Scientist, co-founders and hosts of upcoming free online event Experia Summit.

 

Google the term “experience management” and you’ll find as many definitions as colours of the rainbow, and then some.

Here’s just a smattering of some of those definitions.

“The practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.” Gartner

“The management of customer interactions through each physical and digital touchpoint in order to deliver personalized experiences that drive brand loyalty and increase revenue.” PwC

 “The process of monitoring every interaction people experience with a company in order to spot opportunities for improvement.” Qualtrics

 “An effort by organizations to measure and improve the experiences they provide to customers as well as stakeholders like vendors, suppliers, employees, and shareholders.” Wikipedia

 “A concept that describes how a company takes control of how it interacts with its customers. [It’s] about viewing and then improving the interactions between your business and your customer entirely from the customers’ perspective – and across the entire journey they have with your business.” Medallia

So experience management is about designing, reacting, managing, monitoring, viewing, and improving. It’s about doing all of those things with regards to the interactions that people (customers, employees, vendors, suppliers, stakeholders, etc.) have with the organisation.

In other words, it’s all about the people. People first. People-centric businesses. Putting the people at the heart of the business. People before products, metrics, and profits – and on a deeper level, understanding how people’s feelings and emotions will lead them, your customers, and your employees, toward your company or away from it. 

That all sounds simple enough, right? People are important to the business, so let’s take the time to ensure that their feelings, emotions, and perceptions about their interactions with the business are positive. Hence, experience management.

But is it really that simple? Hold that thought.

We know today that more than 70 percent of transformation projects fail.

One of the biggest challenges that experience management practitioners face today is to go from ‘fluff to stuff’ and to connect all activities, behaviour change, and output metrics to a strong story, one that describes the business case and the economic impact every spent pound has, in order to secure the right funding for a successful transformation to a more people-centric organisation.  

Another challenge they face is to align the whole organisation with that compelling and engaging story – the story about a better future that experience management initiatives with people-centric outcomes can create for the company that also resonates with all stakeholders.

It’s important to align the organisation so that every executive, every manager, and every individual contributor strongly feels that “this is absolutely the right thing, and I will do everything to contribute and to make things happen with the appropriate actions in my day-to-day work”.

People need to feel this and to understand the WHY behind it to be fully committed to making things happen, to making decisions and taking small steps toward that better future every single day.

Experience management is an ecosystem that spans several disciplines, including customer experience, employee experience, brand experience, product experience, culture, and leadership. They are all closely linked and must all work together to achieve those positive feelings, emotions, and perceptions for all constituents. In doing so, the business achieves its outcomes, as well. Forrester found that experience-led companies have 1.6x higher brand awareness, 1.5x higher employee satisfaction, 1.9x higher average order value, 1.7x higher customer retention, 1.9x return on spend, and 1.6x higher customer satisfaction rates.

With that in mind, we developed Experia Summit, the world’s first virtual summit exclusively dedicated to experience management. Our mission is to bring together the world’s top thought leaders and practitioners in this field to inspire and to lead people to create passionate and authentic experiences – in every interaction and transaction, for all constituents.

We see experiences as the new currency for businesses – and we know there is a lot of room for improvement and endless potential to disrupt every industry. Experia Summit drives toward that mission through invaluable education, unbiased interviews, and inspiring content for individuals at every level of the organisation and with varying degrees of experience.

Our speakers will teach the audience how to build a people-centric organisation that not only puts people first but also experiences phenomenal growth as a result.

Speakers include global consultant and author Ian Golding, author, consultant and coach Mike Wittenstein, and New York Times bestselling author of Open Leadership, Charlene Li (pictured right).

Let’s turn back to the question of ‘But is it really that simple?’ Given the fact that experience management spans multiple disciplines; involves people, processes, products, data, technology, and more; must be led from the top down and adopted and evolved from the bottom up; and provides such weighty benefits to the organisation makes nothing simple but the answer to that question: “No.”

If it had been easy, then everyone would have done it already.

This is why we’ve gathered the brightest minds in this field to share their tools, tips, and techniques with the audience. We all agree experience management is a lot of work, and we all agree that it can’t be done alone – so we’ve brought together for you 35 ‘friends and family’ to help set you on the right course.

We’re excited about the content from each speaker. It is solid, and it is actionable. We guarantee that all content flows nicely together, with each speaker complementing and supplementing the next. We guarantee that you will be feverishly taking notes throughout.

As the godfather of Customer Experience, Bruce Temkin, has said: “This is the go-to online summit when it comes to actionable Experience Management!”

Read more and register for free.


Andrew MorsyNovember 28, 2019
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5min1342

Emotions run high in the build up to Christmas, with sentimental songs, moving charitable causes, and emotive TV ads all tugging at consumer heartstrings. 

So, in the midst of the festive shopping frenzy that starts this week with Black Friday and continues right through to the January sales, retailers mustn’t overlook the impact of sentiment on their festive campaigns.

Christmas spending remains strong, with a recent survey suggesting almost nine-in-ten are planning to spend the same or more than they did last year, so retailers have it all to play for. Despite some scepticism around the value of Black Friday deals, UK shoppers are still expected to spend over £2.5 billion on the day – a significant rise from last year.

With a continuing trend for consumers to move online during this busy shopping period, rather than face the crowded High Street, retailers need to pay particular attention to how their brand and products are perceived in the digital world.

The peak shopping days place a lot of focus on low cost deals, but getting the cheapest price isn’t the only thing that impacts a consumer’s decision to buy. Factors such as value for money, simplicity in delivery and returns, and the quality of customer service are also crucially important.

Merry CXmas: Sentiment should be affirmative this festive season

And, as consumers do the majority of their festive shopping research online, their opinions of a retailer or product are greatly influenced by online content in the form of reviews, articles, or blog posts.

As festive shopping drives an increase in online traffic around this type of content, retailers need to ensure their brand messaging and products are seen in environments where surrounding sentiment is positive. This can be achieved through a holistic, semantic approach to content analysis that goes beyond the words on the page and looks at the relationships between those words to gain an in-depth understanding of what the content actually says, before making the decision to place an ad.

Sentiment analysis identifies and categorises opinion expressed in written content such as articles and reviews to determine whether the attitude towards a particular product, brand or retailer is positive or negative. While constructive, positive opinions affirm the shopper’s decision and encourage them along the path to purchase, negative sentiment can just as easily influence undecided shoppers and can prevent a potential consumer clicking ‘buy now’.

In general retailers will want to ensure their ads and messaging appear in high quality, brand-safe environments, and at this vital time of year they should take advantage of relevant targeting segments such as ‘Black Friday bargains’, ‘Cyber Monday deals’ or ‘Christmas gifts’ to ensure their messages resonate with the contextual environment.

But they must also actively ensure their ads are kept away from negative feeling, and placed alongside content with an affirmative vibe, reaching consumers when they are feeling positive about the product and putting sentiment at the heart of their festive campaigns.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 28, 2019
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2min1452

Leading insights agency Kantar has named named First Direct the UK’s top bank for CX in a new report that compares brand perception with the thoughts of customers.

Kantar’s inaugural CX+ report on retail banking surveyed 8,687 retail banking customers who were quizzed on both the banks they use and the perceptions of others they do not, but are considering.

Behind First Direct in second place was Nationwide, with Barclay’s third, and  The Co-Operative Bank fourth.

In fifth place was HSBC, with Royal Bank of Scotland sixth, Halifax and Lloyds in joint seventh place, followed by NatWest in ninth. The tenth place spot was claimed by TSB Bank.

The results were calculated by combining the mean CX performance score across five factors (clear brand purpose, empowered employees, empowered customers, lasting memories, and exceptional delivery) with the experience gap between brand promise and Customer Experience, identified by comparing the experience of current bank users with the perceptions of customers considering using that bank.

Amy Cashman, CO-CEO, Insights Division at Kantar said: “We all know the importance of delivering an exceptional Customer Experience. But to be a truly customer-centric organisation, banks must go further and consider how their brand experience aligns (or doesn’t) with the promises they’re making to their customers. Customer experience and brand strategy can no longer sit in organisational silos.

“The magic happens only when brand promise and Customer Experience come together.”


Denise StewartDenise StewartNovember 27, 2019
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7min1264

In October, Legal & General Homes landed the Customers at the Heart of Everything gong at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards. Here, the firm’s Sales & Marketing Director Denise Stewart writes for CXM on why quality Customer Experience is an essential foundation for today’s housebuilding sector…

 

Buying a home is an emotional experience.

The process can take months, and for most people it’s the most expensive purchase they’ll make in their lives. Expectations, quite rightly, run high – and even more so when buying a new-build home. After all, people expect brand new clothing to be more durable than second-hand, and a new car to work better than one with 100,000 miles on the clock.

This is no different.     

When Legal & General Homes entered the housebuilding sector in 2017, we wanted to make the buying experience as enjoyable, exciting, and stress-free as possible and to make new-builds the preferred option. It was a no-brainer that excellent customer service would be a huge part of our vision.

Building for the future: L&G Homes has had a major impact on housebuilding since 2017

Customer service became one of the four key pillars which underpin the way we work, along with quality, social value, and sustainability. We took a proactive approach to CX so that we could get things right from the off, evaluating each step of a person’s home-buying process from the moment they first consider moving to the days and weeks after they’ve got their keys.

Most importantly, by doing so we could identify the most challenging times for customers when buying a new home and work hard to make them into something positive.

We are making our vision a reality. Every home we build is a home we would happily live in ourselves and every customer who walks through our doors is treated like a member of our own family. This spirit is championed at every level of the organisation.

There are no hidden costs; each home has the latest technology like Hive smart thermostats and energy-efficient Bosch appliances included as standard, as are the carpets, tiles, and lawns. There’s no hard sell, and our doors are open for anyone to have a look around regardless of the stage they’re at in the buying journey.

Our ‘meet the builder’ breakfasts give customers a chance to mingle with their new neighbours and ask our teams about their new home as it is being built. Then, on moving in, each customer has access to a handyman for a day – someone to help hang their curtains, put up shelves, and turn a house into a home.

That’s handy: L&G homeowners have access to a handyman for a day upon moving in

They also all receive a free iPad on arrival, with pre-installed ‘how to’ videos and manuals, and we can arrange for fibre optic broadband to be wired into every property from day one – so that they can get settled in straight away. 

For us, it’s about the little things that collectively make a huge difference, and by taking a holistic approach we can keep customer service front of mind for all our employees. Though there is always more work to be done we believe our efforts are getting results: to date, 100 percent of Legal & General Homes customers completing the NHBC New Homes Survey have said they would recommend us to a friend.

We want to look outwards and be known as a CX leader irrespective of sector. That’s why entering the UK Customer Experience Awards was so important and taking home the Gold Award in the Customers at the Heart of Everything category means the world to us.

As the first housebuilder to win one of these prestigious awards we’re making a positive statement that challenges the perception of the new homes industry and underlines our commitment to providing an exceptional experience for our customers.

Home run: The Legal & General Homes team collect their gong at the UK Customer Experience Awards

Tom WilliamsTom WilliamsNovember 26, 2019
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12min1212

It’s fair to say that customer expectations have evolved rapidly in recent years.

Across all sectors – public services, transport, even utilities – today’s consumer expects a seamless experience. If this is not delivered, people now have the ability to publicly vent their frustration, such as on social media, and find an alternative provider, as there are plenty of others keen to win their custom.

One sector which has particularly felt this shift over the past 10-15 years is retail. Gone are the days when delivery in 3-5 business days was exceptional, and page load times didn’t matter as people were used to dial up.

Now, online is king and physical retail lags behind, reeling at the news that 16 stores close every day. 

Online retail has opened up the sector and led to the emergence of a host of new competitors. Resultantly, UK retail powerhouses (think M&S, Debenhams, John Lewis) have seen market share cut due to faster, more agile competition branching into their space.

Woolworths’ decline coincided with Amazon’s rise – in-store customer service was no longer enough. Add this to changing customer preferences, and younger generations preferring to ‘self-serve’, and it’s easy to see why retailers are worried about ensuring customers come back. Acquisition and retention are harder than ever, meaning price and product range is no longer the be-all and end-all to consumers.

Today’s era of flexibility and choice has spoilt shoppers. The goalposts keep shifting and retailers need to offer consumers additional incentives to keep them coming back for more. In isolation, good end-to-end experiences are not enough – they need to be frictionless, exceptional, and across multiple touchpoints in order to form a seamless retail experience. Customer experience is no longer about physical service, but about ease and making the process effortless for shoppers in today’s always on world.

A prime example of a retailer which didn’t adopt the right strategy is Jack Wills. Ten years ago it was flying high as the brand of choice for university students; but it failed to keep tabs on the needs and wants of its target demographic. It acts as a stark reminder that continued relevance is more important than historic brand name and reputation.

By failing to prepare to meet the needs of new and evolving generations, the retailer recently faced collapse until a last-minute intervention.

So, what can retailers looking to offer optimal customer experiences learn from this? Other sectors should also monitor this trend, especially as the bar for Customer Experience keeps being raised.

Know who you want to sell to

This perhaps sounds obvious, but keeping up with a target demographic is key in order to effectively proposition new consumers but also to offer the experience they will demand. For example, the emphasis on online needs to be more prominent now compared with ten years ago – something that Jack Wills did not seem to adequately cater for.

The failure to meet demand as preferences for delivery changed may have been an issue. The retailer’s offering of a minimum spend of £50 for slow free delivery or a £6.99 price-tag for next-day wouldn’t have sat well with consumers who are now accustomed to quicker and cheaper delivery. Combine this with its high price tag compared with fast-fashion alternatives like ASOS, which today dropped the price of its annual next-day delivery subscription from £14.99 to £9.95 due to customer feedback, or Boohoo, and it’s not hard to see how heads were turned.

There’s also brand perception. Jack Wills always positioned itself as an elite brand – reflected by its preppy in-store experience and curated sales people, chosen to be synonymous with its image. For some this may be off-putting – especially when combined with its strapline of ‘outfitters to the gentry’, which it quietly dropped a couple of years ago.

In an era where aspiring to be part of a secluded social circle is far less of a priority, Jack Wills no doubt turned away many prospects with the exclusive attitude which had proved so successful in a different time. Abercrombie and Fitch suffered this same issue a few years ago in the United States. Others must learn the lesson that simply changing lines doesn’t keep customers coming back.

Court customers for years

Boohoo is a retail brand which is working wonders. Its profits and growth are extraordinary, and its figures show that is has tapped into a successful formula, with revenue up 48 percent this year and turnover growing 37 percent and 64 percent respectively in the UK and internationally.

It clearly knows what its audience wants – but not content with meeting this need now, it’s also looking towards the future. Its acquisition of the online businesses of Karen Millen and Coast emphasises this.

Boohoo’s online-only offering caters to younger people’s preference for digital shopping, whilst providing more ‘grown up’ options with Karen Millen and Coast will allow it to continue meeting its consumers demands as their tastes evolve. Boohoo is not giving its fanbase a reason to shop around as it is being sure to meet their current and future needs.

Couple this with its frictionless experience (fast, free delivery or incentives to unlock money saving offers) and it’s easy to see why customers love it. This is a stark contrast to Jack Wills failing to offer free returns, unless goods are returned by hand in-store (something time-pressed millennials were no doubt put off by) and the aforementioned delivery costs. It’s clear why younger audiences choose the easier, faster option.

Don’t let them down

It’s also important to remember that reviews matter, and in the age where a bad testimonial can haunt a brand for years, retailers must get better at delivering on their promises.

ASOS is an example of this, and some of its recent problems have related to stock issues and customers being let down last minute as a result. This highlights the importance of a frictionless experience – and one that doesn’t end when a purchase is ratified but extends to after-sale care. A simple way for a retailer to work towards the aim of a frictionless experience is to link its online offering to Order Management Software (OMS).

This will ensure that online stock predictions are accurate at all times so customers don’t lose out. Additionally, physical stores can be used as more than just a showroom – offering pick up from store is becoming increasingly common, and can provide a cheaper, quicker delivery alternative which is appealing to ‘generation now’ (whilst also being more profitable for the retailer).

Customer experience is perhaps entering its most transformative era, as online becomes more important than physical retail. Training for store staff may become less rigorous to match the preference for online, and AI will start to pick up the slack. For retailers, it’s a volatile time and they must be prepared to meet the customer at every possible touchpoint to keep them happy.

There is no doubt that this sky-high expectation will influence customer trends in other sectors too, as brands look to pull their socks up to fight off the competition. In my view, meeting and beating expectations in a timely and profitable manner will be one of the biggest issues facing brands moving forward. What can’t be denied is that firms need to start thinking in the long and short-term in order to court consumers and retain a loyal customer base.

No longer is this relationship simply a transactional one – it’s personal and connected to the feeling the brand elicits. My advice to all is to keep things simple and meet the needs of your audience, thereby not giving them a reason to go elsewhere, now or in the future.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 26, 2019
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4min750

The winners of the 2019 International Customer Experience Awards have celebrated victory following the gala Final ceremony in Amsterdam.

The second year of the awards event saw contenders from across the globe descend on the Dutch capital, with the Dubai Health Authority being crowned the day’s Overall Winners thanks to their high scoring entry which also landed them Gold in the Best Use of Mobile category.

Meanwhile, UK winners accepting awards at the ceremony, which was hosted by Awards International, included Aspen Healthcare, whose Holly Private Hospital claimed Gold in the Best CX Strategy/Project category, while Aspen also secured the top spot in the Customer-Centric Culture – Transformation category.

World-class: The Aspen Healthcare team collect the trophy for Best CX Strategy/Project

Other British winners included Milton Keynes’ Centre M:K mall, winner of the Customer-Centric Culture category, and swimming lesson specialist Swimtime.

Hailing from further afield, global winners included pan-African great lakes region banking group KCB, which won for Best Digital Strategy, CX Leadership, and CX Team; and Telkom Indonesia, which topped the Customer Experience Team – Transformation / Solution category.

Click here for a full list of winners.

Speaking after the event, CEO of Awards International Neil Skehel said: “Congratulations to all of our winners, and to all finalists who travelled to join us in Amsterdam for what has become one of the most important dates in the global CX calendar.

“The standard of entries for this, the second year of the awards, has been absolutely fantastic, and we look forward to seeing more exciting customer-centric initiatives in 2020 a


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 20, 2019
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2min1276

Black Friday offers will not be luring a majority of customers to the UK’s high streets this year, with new research showing most will stay at home.

Contact centre and CX tech specialist Genesys has released a study on the annual sales event, which shows that 74 percent of consumers polled say they will not venture to brick and mortar stores for Black Friday events.

Over half (53 percent) of those asked said they never attend Black Friday events, while 30 percent said they were put off by crowds. Twenty-one percent said they used to attend, but have since stopped.

Over a quarter of respondents (27 percent) said online shopping was an easier option. However, where this is seen as more convenient, 85 percent of UK consumers base their purchasing decisions on how well a retailer deals with customer service issues.

The second biggest influence on spending decision for 43 percent of consumers is value for money.

Mark Armstrong, Vice President for UK and Ireland at Genesys, said: “During this heightened shopping season, consumers not only look for the best possible deals, but increasingly base their purchasing decisions on how well businesses respond to issues, such as making returns and requesting technical support. Therefore, it is important that regardless of the sales channel, whether in-store or online, brands provide positive experiences and have the means to effectively communicate with customers to solve queries or complaints.”

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 7, 2019
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3min1489
UK Customer Experience Awards winner ContactEngine has picked up yet another honour, being named Best Use of IP at the annual Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 national awards event.
The awards event was held in London this week, and the conversational AI tech firm was congratulated on their win in a video message by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The nomination for the event follows the firm being securing Gold in the Use of Technology category at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards last month. The gong was presented following a joint presentation by ContactEngine and BT on their successful partnership.
Prized partnership: The ContactEngine & BT team accept their trophy at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards
ContactEngine’s proprietary machine learning algorithms are devised by a team of linguists, behavioural scientists, and mathematicians to perform automated human-like conversations. The company has also attracted leading scientists like former government chief scientific officer Professor Nick Jennings to their advisory board.
Dr Mark K. Smith, ContactEngine CEO, said: “We were honoured to be ranked in the Tech Track 100 and are very proud to receive this additional accolade amongst so many technology leaders in the field. We look forward to continuing our AI journey and discovering more ways in which technology can enhance business and Customer Experience.”

James WalfordJames WalfordNovember 1, 2019
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8min1578

As the move to cloud platforms speeds up, the pressure is on to take advantage of bots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) – especially for IVRs.

Many businesses are at a standstill in adopting AI because they’ve done nothing to their IVRs for a decade or more. Their old IVRs are complex and slow to update, with mediocre customer experience, at best. But most are terrible. The State of IVR in 2018 noted that 83 percent of customers would avoid a company after a poor experience with an IVR.

I recently phoned my utility provider, and the IVR pushed me through eight different menu options. Each option took five to 20 seconds of listening time. By the time I got halfway through the eighth option, I had forgotten what the first one included – and I had to go back to the beginning. Consumers are frustrated by long IVR menu choices.

They’re even turning to online cheat sheets for ways to bypass a particular company’s IVR and get to a live agent.

Fear of change, even when it makes sense

Despite the evidence that customers are frustrated with IVRs, and the rapid decline of the old-school telephony, businesses are still reluctant to change. Some pushback occurs because of successful containment rates of IVRs. For others, it’s fear of changing menu options for customers who know exactly which number to press to self-serve.

One bank told me that they were reluctant to change because they have many customers who program their IVR options into their phones, including their PINs. Banks are exposing themselves – and their customers – to major security breaches, instead of doing anything about it.

While some try improvements like adding automatic speech recognition (ASR) with predefined expressions, they fail to recognise that it’s a short-sighted solution to a long-term problem. They need to fix their outdated design.

IVRs and the challenge of multiple intents

In traditional IVRs, customers select only one option at a time, and the IVR can process only that one intent.

However, most people multitask. Let’s say you dial into an IVR to change your address and open a new savings account. Then you remember that you need to add someone to your existing account. Typically, you’d complete one task and then return to the IVR or have an agent transfer you to another department to do so.

Let’s talk: A conversational IVR can maximise customer Experience

That’s because when those secondary intents come up within the conversation with an agent, the agent isn’t equipped to help. The secondary intent is often not dealt with, recorded or tracked. The customer still needs support, but the case is closed. And all that valuable customer information is lost – along with customer satisfaction.

Voicebots identify multiple intents upfront. They can handle many of them within the IVR and, if needed, pass all those intents on to an agent. Your IVR can become a conversational IVR, capturing context and vastly improving the Customer Experience through personalisation.

This is key to exceptional CX – and using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) within your current IVR makes it possible.

Voicebots and conversational IVR

Google led the modern revolution of conversational AI with NLU.

This technology makes it possible for a voicebot to hold a conversation and conduct back-and-forth questions, prompts and answers – without the customer having to use predefined expressions. In this way, every customer has a hyper-personalised experience.

Conversational IVRs go beyond understanding words as experienced with ASR, to determine what the customer wants and to help the agent understand and respond effectively. Machine learning capabilities enable these increasingly rich conversations – and continually optimise the IVR and improve the Customer Experience.

After the voicebot identifies the intents and self-serves where possible, customers can still go through a standard path within the IVR – or they can be routed to the relevant skilled resource to help them. Voicebots offer a massive opportunity to streamline the entire interaction process.

Let’s say I call my mobile carrier because I’m going on holiday and I want to know what the charges will be when I go overseas. With that one utterance of “I’m going overseas”, a voicebot would understand that this statement likely will require additional information.

The voicebot could ask: “Would you like to enable international roaming?”

If I answer yes, the voicebot could automatically process that request and then inform me of the expected tariffs. And, it can still pass this on to an agent if my questions are too complex. It’s a fluid, hyper-personalised conversation, and it doesn’t have to be complex.

You don’t have to change the entire IVR to use voicebots.

Voicebots move Customer Experience to the forefront

Voicebots not only solve long-standing IVR problems, they also take advantage of the data you already collect. Compare the advantages of conversational IVRs led by voicebots to traditional IVRs that put customer experience second to containment. The time savings, Customer Experience and overall improvement in operational efficiency blow traditional IVRs out of the water.

Register now for an onsite Build a Bot workshop.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 31, 2019
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3min1462

UK Customer Experience Awards finalist Confirmit has announced a new Principal Director of CX Consulting.

Howard Lax (pictured below) is a former Vice President, Customer Experience Practice Lead for Directions Research and held consulting roles with Kantar TNS, Harris Interactive, ORC and GfK Custom Research. He holds a PhD in Political Science from The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

With more than 20 years of consulting experience, Lax has a deep background in Customer Experience,  Market Research, and employee engagement strategy. He has supplier and client-side experience in B2B and B2C space in industries like technology, financial services, retail, automotive, and hospitality.

In his role, Mr Lax will support clients in their efforts to design, develop, and implement their Customer Experience vision.

He said: “I am eager to bring a new perspective to the table, leveraging my experience and Confirmit’s wide array of services to help drive real change and better business outcomes for customers. In my experience, emotions are the driver behind the attachment a customer feels for a business. Driving a premium customer experience solidifies these relationships, and great technology is a critical enabler in this process.”

Chris Brown, Vice President of Global Consulting at Confirmit, added: “Adding a highly knowledgeable industry veteran to our team solidifies our commitment to providing our clients with access to talented consultants that can help their CX programmes drive real business success. Our consulting services ensure our technology can drive real insight and change. Howard’s expertise in customer and employee experience will help our customers further leverage our solutions to differentiate themselves from competitors.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 31, 2019
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3min1353

Among the successful partnerships at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards was ContactEngine and BT Enterprise, which together won Gold in the Use of Technology category.

The winning team secured the title following a presentation on the success of BT’s ‘Brilliant Installations’ initiative. BT Enterprise implemented ContactEngine conversations across broadband and landline customer services in order to deliver an unrivalled Customer Experience.

Technology triumph: The ContactEngine and BT team collect their trophy 

ContactEngine engages customers in intelligently automated conversations using Natural Language Understanding, from initial order through to appointment scheduling, billing, and surveying. The accolade represents the outstanding results achieved with ContactEngine, which exceeded the targets set out at inception. 

These included a 40 percent reduction in customer-driven cancellations; a 50 percent reduction in customer calls related to enquiries; an 85 percent customer engagement rate; and a 38 percent improvement in NPS.

Dr Nicola Millard, Principal Innovation Partner at BT, said: “This is a fantastic example of how innovative technology can be deployed as a win-win for both the customer and the company. Using cutting-edge AI to create proactive, intelligent conversations with customers about things they want to know, whilst freeing human agents up to have the really important, value-add interactions.”

Dr Mark K. Smith, Chief Executive Officer at ContactEngine added: “We’re very happy to be recognised for our achievements in partnership with BT Enterprise. BT has long made it a priority to deliver a differentiated experience for both their customers and employees, and we’re pleased to be able to deliver that for them while achieving significant business benefits along the way. We look forward to continuing our partnership and to achieving more fantastic results together.”




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