Courtney WylieCourtney WylieJune 5, 2019
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10min365

Customer relationships with brands continue to evolve, based upon changing expectations, and desires, and impacted massively by the speed at which ecommerce develops.

The ability to buy almost anything, quickly online, has altered the brand loyalty that used to be built up by visits in store.

Exacerbating this instability, the past year has seen the decline and fall of many household names, including Maplin and Toys R Us. House of Fraser announced 30 store closures, and Marks and Spencer, Debenhams, Mothercare, and Carphone Warehouse have been the subject of ominous profit loss reports and quick-step restructuring and branding initiatives. All of this has created an unease and negativity around the future of the high street. However, perhaps it is just further evidence that the high street is, and should be, evolving.

Before online shopping became so omnipotent, the regular high street department store relied and flourished on basic principles of choice, value, convenience, and efficient customer service. Ecommerce then arrived, and blew this idea out of the water. They competed aggressively on choice, value, convenience and efficiency.

So what can retailers do about this challenge?

What seems to be separating those brands that are managing to stay relevant is a willingness to enrich and evolve the physical experience of their brand, through ‘experiential retail’ approaches. The experiential retail movement might be thought of as a new wave of innovative experimentation by retailers that takes their bricks-and-mortar stores beyond being merely a point of transaction. Through experiential approaches, traditional shops are being reconceptualised as hubs for immersive experiences, meeting places for vibrant communities, and even unique event spaces.

As if to underpin the above evidence that despite the remarkable rise of ecommerce, consumers actually crave sensory-rich physical shopping experiences, experiential spaces are not only being embraced by pre-internet established brands. For example, ecommerce giants such as Amazon, realising the value of providing tactile ‘real world’ experiences, are heading in the opposite direction with the establishment of bricks-and-mortar shops.

Some impressive recent examples reflecting this trend include FarFetch’s new London store; John Lewis’ ‘experience desks’; and Ikea’s Facebook competition to stay the night in one of its vast warehouse outlets with a sleep expert.

The above examples show that in the digital age, those prospering on the high street are the ones brave enough to think outside the conventional box. To create deeper, more imaginative, and immersive Customer Experience that incentivises people to step away from their laptops and smart devices, and step into a store where the promise of human-centred interaction, value exchange, community building, or just plain fun, awaits them.

Some recent fantastic examples of experiential retail include:

Farfetch

Farfetch’s new London store. Customers can be recognised as soon as they step foot in the store via an app connected to their online shopping account – providing assistants with an instant overview of purchasing history and preferences.

Far out: Farfetch’s London HQ.

In addition, RFID-enabled clothes rails are able to detect products that interest customers, and have them added them to their online wish list. And touch-screen mirrors enable customers to request alternative sizes, as well as paying up without leaving the dressing room.

A truly innovative example of how the convergence of online and offline can take customer personalisation to the next level.

John Lewis

The high street brand that never puts a foot wrong, John Lewis, recently carried out a revamp of its store design, to include ‘experience desks’, where concierges are on-hand to book special services such as blow dries and manicures for shoppers in-between their retail therapy.

Welcome: The Experience Desk at John lewis in Cheltenham. Photo by Anna Lythgoe

In addition, at their new Cheltenham store, the brand have been trialling a private shopping service that will give customers the shop floor all to themselves (providing your bill tops a cool £10,000, that is) with staff available after normal shopping hours to serve individuals, groups of friends or families.

Ikea

A great example of a brand using experiential marketing to create one-of-a-kind events. Fulfilling the mundane fantasy of many a flat-pack furniture shopper, Ikea set up a Facebook competition where 100 winners were invited to stay the night in one of its vast warehouse outlets.

Sleepover: Ikea invited customers to get cosy in one of their outlets

Customers were able to luxuriate with massages and salon services, as well as pick out the mattress, sheets and pillows they wanted for a perfect night’s rest.  A sleep expert was even on hand with tips for getting a good night’s sleep.

Topshop

Back in 2014, Topshop ventured into the world of immersive tech to create something a little bit different for London Fashion Week. Shoppers in their flagship Oxford Street store were able to don special headsets and ‘take a seat’ for the retailer’s catwalk show taking place at the Tate Modern – in 360 degree virtual reality.

Fashion future: Topshop has embraced the potential of virtual reality for customers

And more lately, in the spring of 2017 Topshop decided to re-dip their toes in the water (pardon the pun) of experiential playfulness with a virtual reality waterslide ride taking customers on an adrenaline-fuelled journey through Oxford Street.

Ultimately, retailers understand that they still need relationships with customers, and loyal customers are still worth investing in. The development of experiential retail has given the high street armoury to re-engage customers, and give them a reason to come in store. Those brands providing brave, exciting, immersive experiences will shine head and shoulders amongst the rest.


Jamie ThorpeJamie ThorpeJune 5, 2019
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7min355

The Barbican’s newest exhibition, AI: More than Human, is an artistic exploration of the possibilities that modern technology presents, examining the diverse potential of artificial intelligence (AI). 

A particularly striking installation is MakrShakr, a robotic bartender which can mix cocktails for customers via an online pre-order system.  While undoubtedly a fun gimmick, the introduction of AI into a traditional service role raises important questions about the future of our restaurants, cafés, and bars.

What’ll it beep?: The Makr Shakr robotic bartender on display at the Barbican. Credit Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

The food and drink industry is no stranger to new technologies, and the latest developments are an evolution of sector staples like the sushi belt and fast food self-service machines. However, the gradual move towards AI presents unique new challenges. Principally, to what extent can automation really reflect Customer Experience value generated by humans in what is an intrinsically personal sector? While few would argue that real employees can ever fully be replaced, increased automation should come with a few health warnings.

Choosing the right persona

Finding the right persona for an AI system is the first step to ensuring customers actually enjoy using it. It’s important to have a welcoming interface, but this can be quickly undermined if the technology doesn’t work as it should. Successful AI personalities like Alexa and Siri are approachable and lighthearted when the situation dictates, but they’re primarily programmed to be as helpful as possible so people can find what they want quickly. 

In the service sector, making the interface fun and playful is especially important, but there also needs to be a level of emotional intelligence present for when things go wrong. Investment in self and situational awareness so that customers feel their needs (and frustrations) are understood goes a long way. For voice services this means ensuring bots recognise emotion and intonation when customers speak. And where the technology isn’t voice based, a simple on screen message – for example an apology in the case of slow service – makes technology feel as attentive as humans would be in that situation.

Armed revolution: A visitor interacts with Alter, one of the robots featuring in a new exhibition at the Barbican Centre. Credit Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

This isn’t to suggest AI can ever replicate the value of existing employees, who will always be the major drivers of high quality CX. Instead, AI should complement staff, freeing them up from administrative or procedural tasks and allowing them more time to engage qualitatively with customers and build brand loyalty and retention.

Supersized potential

Upselling is a major part of successful service businesses – everything from ‘do you want fries with that?’ to making sure diners have dessert and coffee at the end of a meal. For AI, this represents both a challenge and an opportunity. Making these transactions appear conversational and informed is key; just think of the persuasiveness of a genuine recommendation from a well-read employee at Waterstones compared with the ‘frequently bought with…’ pop-ups seen online.

Like finding the right persona, successful upselling relies on engaging customers, showing awareness, and demonstrating genuine knowledge. Recommendations should be presented as being bespoke to specific customers, not just based on the habits of other people.

Keep it fresh

Multiple conversations with the same person do not feel like the same experience over and over again – and interactions with automated services should be just as refreshing. Where an AI uses voice, this might mean mixing up the repertoire and programming varied responses to common questions. For others, different aspects can be kept fresh. In the case of our robot barman, making sure the menu is regularly updated to encourage people to come back for more will engender regular customers.

At the time of writing, the Barbican’s robot barman has already temporarily closed because of technical issues – proving that the museum exhibition is a long way from the reality of frontline customer service. It is inevitable that automation will become more widespread, we just need to make sure that the consumer, not the technology, remains king.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 5, 2019
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3min369

Slow service is enough for more than half of British customers to ditch a brand, according to a new survey.

A poll of 2,000 UK consumers revealed that 56 percent would stop shopping with a brand that forced them to endure slow customer service. The survey by contact centre cloud solutions provider 8×8 also found that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of people have been frustrated at the length of time it has taken a customer service team at a company to solve a problem.

The time it took to get through to someone is the most common reason people lose patience with a customer service team (36 percent), followed by having to wait to get their query resolved (30 percent). Quick and easy access to contact information is also a key factor, as a quarter (25 percent) have lost patience by having to wade through too many screening questions in order to access contact information.

When asked about the types of businesses they are most likely to lose patience with, customers named utilities and telecom firms in the top spot (33 percent), followed by retail (24 percent), and local government (21 percent). This suggests that organisations in these sectors are at the greatest risk of losing customers to slow service.

To help them get an answer in the quickest and easiest way possible, 78 percent of Brits expect companies to provide multiple channels to contact their customer service team on, such as phone, email, web chat, and social media. Despite this, over half (58 percent) of businesses still only offer one communication channel to contact customer service teams – an experience 52 percent of Brits find frustrating.

Mary Ellen Genovese, MD of European Operations, 8×8, said: “We all expect companies to deliver a fast and joined-up response to our queries regardless of their nature. Our research reveals speed is everything – consumers have little patience for slow service and, when frustrated, won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere.

“Businesses that don’t meet customer expectations risk losing out to faster competitors, not just over established channels such as phone and email, but across web chat and social media too.”

The research also reveals that customers expect traditional channels to deliver a faster response rate. When asked which customer service platforms they lose patience with the most, 37 percent said phone, compared to just 12 percent for email and 10 percent for live chat.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 4, 2019
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2min196
The International Customer Experience Awards is returning to Amsterdam this year, and potential entrants have just a few days left to take advantage of a special Early Bird Discount offer. A total of 19 categories are open for submissions, with one Overall Winner title reserved for the entrant scoring the highest result from judges overseeing presentations on the day. The event – hosted by Awards International UAE & Netherlands – takes place on November 21, with the deadline for entries on August 7. However, an Early Bird Discount offer is available until June 12, allowing entrants to save €100 on their entry fee. Click here for further details of this amazing offer. Awards International MD Mark Hamill said: “This unique daytime event, enables businesses from across the globe to compete for the ultimate accolade in the world of Customer Experience. Participating in the Awards is not just about competing and celebrating best practice – these Awards offer a unique opportunity to network with other key players from across the world and to hear what others are doing to solve problems within their country or particular sector.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 4, 2019
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3min231

As customer concern over carbon footprints reaches fever pitch, Waitrose is leading the way in reducing packaging with a new test store for shoppers to fill their own containers.

The chain’s Botley Road shop in Oxford is offering refill stations for everyday goods such as pasta and cereals, and a ‘pick and mix’ for frozen fruit.

Household items such as cleaning products are also refillable, while wine and beer will be available to customers that bring bottles.

The ‘Waitrose Unpacked’ scheme has also seen the removal of plastic packaging for flowers, and a ‘borrow a box’ initiative allows customers to take part by leaving a deposit for a container that can be returned to the store.

The pilot scheme will run for a period of 11 weeks, with customers able to provide feedback through a survey at Waitrose.com/Unpacked. Social media users are also urged to have their say using the hashtag #WaitroseUnpacked on Twitter and Instagram.

A ‘pick and mix’ station for fruit is among the initiatives at an Oxford Waitrose store.

Head of CSR for Waitrose & Partners, Tor Harris, said: “We are determined to build on the work we’ve already done to reduce packaging – and this test will take our efforts to a whole new level as we help the growing number of customers who want to shop in a more sustainable way.

“This test has huge potential to shape how people might shop with us in the future so it will be fascinating to see which concepts our customers have an appetite for. We know we’re not perfect and have more to do, but we believe this is an innovative way to achieve something different.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 3, 2019
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4min277

The Customer Experience Professional Masterclass is taking place next month, and the deadline to take advantage of a special Early Bird discount offer is fast approaching.

The two-day Masterclass is led by Ian Golding, founder of the Customer Experience Consultancy, and author of Customer What? The honest and practical guide to customer experience. Ian will take participants on a journey of learning CX skills and strategies, with the use of relevant case studies and practical exercises.

Topics covered in this in-depth class include all core Customer Experience competencies, such as 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.

Ian Golding (third from right) pictured with attendees of the CX Professional Masterclass in April.

The Masterclass is taking place at the Business & Technology Centre in Stevenage on July 8 – 9, while for those keen to take the CCXP exam, a preparation workshop will be held at the same venue on July 10.

Those who book their place before June 10 can save £150 in attendance costs. For further details on any of the CXM Masterclasses, please email Antonija@cxm.co.uk.

Recent Masterclass attendees have praised the course and the newfound skills that will now help them on their career path.

Irina Mostovaya, Service Owner at cyber security firm F-Secure, said: “The true meaning behind ‘Customer Experience’ is often misunderstood. Ian’s Masterclass introduces valuable tools to create a functioning CX strategy and company culture, whether you are just starting out, or are further into your CX development. Real-life examples, together with 24 years of Ian’s practical experience, are the best reasons to attend the Masterclass and discover that the CX is not just an abbreviation, but a science ‘with a heart behind it’.”

Director at Serbian firm Skills D.O.O. said of the Masterclass: “It was above my expectations, which doesn’t happen often. I was absolutely impressed with Ian’s vast knowledge and experience, and would like him to be my mentor.”

Hope Grant, Customer Services Manager at DMG Events, described Ian’s teaching as “engaging and inspiring”, while Libbi Martin, Senior Marketing Manager at Shepherds Friendly Society, added: “It was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed meeting so many like-minded people.”

Further CX Professional Masterclass dates are scheduled for September and November.

 


Dean FrewDean FrewJune 3, 2019
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6min416

In today’s retail world we are emerging into a new era where technology and commerce are joining together and revolutionising Customer Experience.

Retailers are increasingly continuing to implement new technologies which help to improve processes. Alongside this they are also finding innovative and new applications of existing technologies which help to optimise daily operations. This can be due to the rise of online and mobile shopping, which has further led to increasing competition within the retail sector. With over 2,400 stores disappearing on the high street in 2018 alone, meaning a 40 percent rise in store closures from 2017, it is clear that this could be causing major panic amongst various retailers.

With item-level RFID technology rapidly gaining adoption in the retail industry, retailers have seen their inventory management improve significantly. Nowadays, retailers are looking at additional ways to leverage investments they put into RFID, especially once the initial investment and returns have been established. As a result of this, retailers are mostly focusing on the changing process of customer engagement at Point of Sale (POS) moving to an automated and human-free checkout.

Reduced shrink and reduced out of stocks

Item-level RFID technology can enable retailers to carry out stock counts within their stores once a week in an average duration of one hour, using only a few handhelds. Through this, retailers can gain 98 percent inventory accuracy. Having an enhanced view of inventory accuracy will naturally lead to a reduction in shrink, which is often a result of theft or lost items throughout the supply chain. An average amount of shrink percentage in retail is around two percent of sales. This can create significant cost implications for retailers. According to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) annual Retail Crime Survey, the total direct financial cost of retail crime, resulting in shrinkage has risen to around £700m.

Retailers can utilise item-level RFID to prevent shrink throughout all aspects of the supply chain, it can also identify whether an item went missing either from transit or from the distribution centre. Item-level RFID can greatly reduce out stocks for retailers, which in turn can also help to improve customer satisfaction and services. This is a result of the retailer having products available for customers, as and when they want them.

Enhancing the check-out process for customers

Many retailers are adopting item-level RFID for a variety of reasons, including technology giving retailers the ability to speed up the check-out process for customers. This can be seen as part of a ‘technology rebrand’ effort for retailers whilst also acting as a loss prevention tool by helping to reduce human factor-based errors at the checkout.

Overall, this can help to improve the accuracy of a purchase, reduce lengthy checkout queues and streamline the technology experience during the POS process.

Benefits of accurate inventory management for Customer Experience

RFID is helping retailers reach a new level of operational excellence in inventory management. There have been many rollouts of the technology on a global basis, which have demonstrated rapid ROI based on sales lift, inventory reduction and omnichannel fulfilment advantages. It is without a doubt that item-level RFID has become the fundamental tool in opening the door to this new era of retailing.

Evidently, if a customer is looking to purchase an item they want and it is out of stock, they are going to be disappointed. For retailers, this can result in the customer feeling unsatisfied with the service, and therefore choosing not to return to the store in the future. To prevent this and to ensure good levels of customer service, retailers need to have a correct and accurate view of their inventory, meaning they know exactly which products need ordering for new stock and those that don’t.

Overall, it is clear that with item-level RFID allows retailers to gain levels of 98 percent accuracy, with quicker stock counts, customers are evidently going to be more satisfied with their overall experience of shorter queuing times, getting the stock they want, and when they want it. As a result, this creates a greater shopping experience for customers overall.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 3, 2019
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3min225

Simplifying the complex environment of customer service delivery is essential for businesses in the months ahead, a new report has warned.

Recently published research from CCA, the professional body for customer service, in partnership with Twilio, surveyed over 70 senior customer service executives and found that businesses were challenged in four main areas, namely: evolving and changing skills requirements as customer service becomes increasingly complex; keeping pace with new technologies including artificial intelligence and automation, and how and when to best apply; being agile and flexible in their approach to delivering improved service; and changing expectations about the role of front-line agents.

The rapid advancement of technology, widespread access to the internet, and smartphone culture is driving huge changes in the customer service landscape for organisations. These rapid transformations present real opportunities to engage and build relationships with consumers in innovative and diverse ways. Conversely, they also present significant challenges as users become more demanding, and expect that services are ‘always on’ as well as top performance.

CCA CEO Anne Marie Forsyth said: “Simplifying the complex is much easier said than done. We are experiencing extremely uncertain times and organisations are challenged with investing in customer service and CX when the landscape is continually shifting due to the political environment, technology changes and increasing expectations from customers.

“Established and effective connections across the whole enterprise need to be in place so that customers are dealt with appropriately and in ways that suit them versus the organisation. The challenge for today’s businesses is knowing how to prioritise these challenges, balanced with investment in the most appropriate solutions.

“This research highlights the top issues organisations need to consider when looking to improve the service and experience they offer to customers. Simplifying the complex is not for the faint-hearted and will require smart leadership, intelligent investment and strong engagement across the business.”


Sam CarterSam CarterJune 3, 2019
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7min586

There is no such thing as a typical customer journey – shoppers are browsing, buying, and interacting with brands in more ways than ever before. 

Meanwhile, with 41 percent of consumers conducting research online but buying in store, it’s clear shoppers are taking advantage of the diversify range of methods to complete their purchase journeys.

Multiple online touchpoints, combined with brick and mortar store visits and offline marketing strategies, result in fragmented data sets across the customer journey, offering an overwhelming number and variety of insights for marketers to comprehend and action. Furthermore, this data may be outdated, contain duplications, or deliver conflicting insights, presenting an obstacle to achieving accurate measurement of campaign success. This is undoubtedly challenging for businesses looking to gain the coveted 360-degree view of consumer behaviour to improve marketing performance.

The huge amount of time and effort needed for businesses to understand the implications of each and every piece of data available to them means they risk losing sight of the experience they are delivering, which can damage the brand. So should gaining a 360-degree customer view be the priority for marketers?

Putting Customer Experience at the forefront

To contribute to business success, marketers must first establish an accurate view of their organisation’s overall objectives, before identifying the challenges preventing them from meeting these aims. While an understanding of how and where consumers interact with a brand is important, it would be a mistake to focus all efforts on untangling every possible data point to create the perfect 360-degree view. Such a task costs significant time and money, and is unlikely to solve a business’s biggest pain points.

The real question is how marketers can use their data to benefit, enhance, and personalise the Customer Experience, and ultimately boost ROI. By identifying the campaigns and creatives appealing to high-value consumers, and where their efforts are most effective, marketers can anticipate customer needs and direct spend to the activity most likely to impact the bottom line. And in an age where 52 percent of consumers are ready to abandon brands if they fail to deliver personalised communications, leveraging customer data to meet individual needs, desires, and preferences is essential to unlock that all important lifetime value and make a lasting impact on business success.

Start small and grow

Naturally, once marketers identify this area of priority, many will aim to gather as much data as possible to achieve the perfect Customer Experience, but spending more time looking at the data than taking action puts them at risk of ‘analysis paralysis’.

To see quick results, marketers need to adopt a strategy that gives a simple and unified understanding of consumer needs; using the readily available data existing within their business. Consolidating this data into a unified customer data platform (CDP) is the first step, allowing organisations to remove duplication and access clear insights across all measurable touchpoints.

Once this solid data foundation is built, techniques such as multi-touch attribution (MTA) allow marketers to gather useful insights from their data to understand which tactics work best. The result is stitched together insight into interactions across multiple channels, empowering marketers to see which are most effective and increase customer understanding.

Marketers can then use predictive analytics to fill any information gaps they have. Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) looks at interaction, incrementality, and the lasting impact of channels to help optimise marketing spend and increase campaign performance. For example, marketers can analyse how offline influences, such as TV ads, are impacting online channels, and take these insights into account when planning and optimising campaign activity across the entire marketing mix.

In an age where customers want and expect personalisation, despite their unpredictable shopping habits, marketers cannot afford to skip on consumer insights. But ensuring action is taken from the start is key to being able to put the customer first and drive results. Using the right tools, marketers can ensure they do not neglect the interests of their customers while they work to achieve the most comprehensive view possible of audience interactions – allowing the creation of the personalised experiences their customers crave, boosting customer loyalty, and ultimately delivering on business objectives and revenue goals.   


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMay 30, 2019
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3min338

The firm named Best Company to Work For at the 2019 UK Employee Experience Awards, Octopus Energy, has announced a new partnership to bring ultra-fast charging technology to British consumers.

Octopus Energy is teaming up with EV charging firm IONITY to supply their 350kW, high power charging (HPC) stations with 100 percent renewable electricity.

The move follows the launch of OE’s Electric Juice service, designed to offer EV charging networks with guaranteed renewable power.

The first ‘Electric Juice station’ is to be installed in Maidstone on the M20, and more sites are planned to open in the coming weeks. More than 40 stations are planned to be installed across the UK by 2020.

Squids in: The Octopus Energy team pictured at the 2019 UK Employee Experience Awards.

Zoisa Walton, director at Octopus Energy for Business, said that the company was committed to bringing a “fundamental change” to the country’s electric vehicle landscape.

She said: “By improving the affordability, practicality, convenience, and green credentials of e-mobility options, IONITY and Octopus Energy are making EV ownership more accessible. Both companies are intent on providing for the future, with forward-thinking plans and technology – pushing boundaries to deliver the fastest, cleanest, most affordable charging power on the market.”

Michael Hajesch, chief executive at IONITY, said the company was driven by the belief that charging an EV should soon be as easy as filling up a conventional vehicle at a petrol station.

“Our partnership with Octopus Energy means that not only will consumers be able to benefit from High Power charging, but they will have the peace of mind that renewable energy provides,” he said.

“The launch of the first of 40 IONITY high power charging stations at Maidstone on the M20 underlines the fact that the UK is a key market for us and we are delighted that we are able to partner with Octopus Energy to deliver renewable energy to consumers at ultra-fast speeds.”




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