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.”
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
If there is one lesson Phil Durand (pictured), Director of Customer Experience Management at Confirmit re-learned as a judge at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, it’s that there is real value in making things as simple as possible…
The aim of Voice of the Customer programmes is not to just to listen but to act.
In order to make this a reality, not a theoretical exercise, it’s vital that we all remember that creating a great Customer Experience is all about people. It requires a commitment to empowering people to use their initiative and to make a difference at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Technology is obviously an enabler, helping us to gather customer feedback, but the people that use technology to understand and harness the insight provided are the ones that make the real difference.
In the Best Use of Insight and Feedback category at the recent UK Customer Experience Awards, we were reminded of some of basic CX truths: ask the right people, the right questions, at the right time and in the right manner.
Continuous temperature checks on experience won’t necessarily drive response rates. In some cases they can do the opposite. Hands-on support was stressed, even if this means helping execs to access and make use of the VoC dashboard. Sharing voice recordings so that managers can literally hear the ‘voice’ of the customer can provide a shortcut to understanding what customers think and literally drive action to the next level.
In my view, best practice CX requires careful identification of the key challenges to be addressed. It needs razor-sharp focus on that end goal, whether it be culture change, boosting morale, increased revenue, or cost savings.
Just as important is the determination to share feedback to both the c-suite and the factory floor so that it can be used to take even the smallest of steps to improve the customer experience. Clear and effective communication is needed to make sure that the message is not lost in translation. And this means keeping it simple. If you bombard people with too much detail, you won’t take them with you.
Text analytics as a companion to VoC surveys has proven to be the ideal partnership in this respect. They complement each other because they provide insight into what the customer really thinks, in their own words, as well as what they may divulge in answer to a direct question in a survey.
Upon combining both forms of insight in a single dashboard, comments are longerregarded as ‘random’ but become representative, actively bringing ‘the numbers’ to life.
The idea, of course, is not to blind people with science or to hide behind the data. There’s no point empowering employees to go the extra mile if they can’t make sense of the insight you’ve gathered. It’s more effective to present insight in bite-size chunks that are appropriate for each stage of the customer journey and then share it in a digestible form with those responsible for delivering Customer Experience at that stage.
This is why I stress the importance of simplicity.
Yes, behind the scenes there may be some serious maths, crunching large quantities of data, but in order for people to engage with the insight there is no point in making it look more complex than it needs to be. Or making it too hard to find the nugget of insight that they need to do things differently.
That won’t empower anybody.
It’s still very true to say that people are more likely to be inspired by another person than a pie chart. They respond at a basic human level so while it is absolutely essential that we embrace data analysis in the background, make sure your employees can hear what customers are saying direct. So they can do something about it.
You book an entire day off work to receive a delivery. You spend the whole time waiting for the doorbell to ring because you don’t know what time the delivery will arrive. You nip out to the back garden to hang out the washing and find out you missed the delivery when you get back inside.
That might sound like an unlikely occurrence of Murphy’s law but the truth is that the growth of online shopping has more and more customers asking “Where is my order?” – so much so, that the industry has given it its own acronym, WISMO.
And, when they can’t find the answer, the first place they turn is customer service. So even in cases where brands use third party suppliers to ship goods to consumers, it’s still the responsibility of the brand to make sure their customers are informed and happy.
Research carried out by Zendesk found that good customer service outranks convenience and reputation when people are considering which companies to do business with. That means it’s not just the when and where of a delivery, but how you communicate and help the customer be informed that matters. But over the past five years, customer satisfaction is down 2.2 percent, from 94.6 percent in 2013 to 92.5 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, expectations are rising.
The rise of WISMO has the potential to increase the load on your customer service centres and turn waiting customers into angry ones. That doesn’t have to be the case though – here are three top tips businesses should consider to get ahead of WISMO and take control to improve on the delivery experience.
1. Help customers to help themselves
The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2019 findings show that 40 percent of customers prefer to use search or help centres before contacting support, yet only 20 percent of support teams provide self-service.
Companies can implement self-service tools that allow the customer to get quick and up-to-date information on how the delivery process works, with tools in place to push real-time alerts on delivery status and tracking to the customer. That way, they no longer need to set aside an entire day for a delivery that will take a few seconds to take place. It provides a boost in both convenience and customer satisfaction.
Setting up self-service isn’t a solution that you will implement overnight but the Zendesk customers I speak to tell me it’s worth it. Preparing self-service content enables a business to deeply understand its customers and the way they interact with the business about their questions and concerns.
Done correctly, self-service can speed up the time customers spend looking for answers and, at the same time, free up agent time to add value in areas where they are most needed.
2. Implement intelligence
It’s a big mistake to categorise artificial intelligence (AI) as a technology only seen in sci-fi movies. You also shouldn’t put AI on your ‘future’ list for a solution to implement when you’re flush with cash. The figures speak for themselves.
High performing businesses are twice as likely to use AI. It’s helping companies resolve tickets 21 percent faster, while handling six times the volume of requests. Yet 85 percent of enterprise companies still aren’t using AI.
AI can serve various purposes but if you want to give a better experience for customers waiting for deliveries, one function of AI is to recognise tickets that need urgent attention. Time sensitive questions or messages about an imminent or even late delivery can receive a macro response to both the customer and an agent. This ensures that customers’ needs are being prioritised while the agent is aware of the urgency of the case.
Whatever the channel that the customer uses to get in touch with the company, AI can be incorporated into an omnichannel solution that makes sure customers are dealt with quickly. When they receive the right response in a timeframe that reflects their level of query, it’s more likely to avoid escalated complaints – even if a delivery has been missed or is late.
3. Know that robots can’t do everything
No, this isn’t a direct contradiction to my previous point. No matter how sophisticated AI systems become, there will always be a need for human agents. To ensure that customers are updated on their deliveries, with the necessary customer support, it’s key to make sure human agents are in the best position to pick up more complex cases and be the most helpful.
Nearly half of customers we surveyed (46 percent) said their expectations are higher than they were a year ago. Customers quickly become frustrated when a chatbot can’t answer their detailed questions and if agents aren’t quickly and transparently brought in when needed, it becomes difficult to join the dots that lead to timely deliveries.
The key to the successful hand-off between bots and beings is the right information that prevents customers going right back to the beginning of the process when they pick up the phone or deal with a human agent on chat. No one wants to have to repeat themselves when talking to different parts of the same company.
By the time a human agent is presented with the case, they should have all necessary context – conversational history, product ordered, delivery information, and more. Connecting all this information in one platform – including integration with your order management system – helps ensure that agents have a full understanding of the customer and can manage more complex requests in a timely manner.
It’s important not just to deal with late or missed deliveries, it’s also imperative to counteract the frustration that comes with it. And when customer services start to become more proactive than reactive, with the use of AI, we can reduce the amount of anxiety from WISMO altogether.
At the heart of reaching this goal is an open flexible platform that enables collaboration throughout the business and integration with other stakeholders through APIs and app integrations to enable a complete view across the supply chain.
Jo Boswell is Founder & Director of Sentio-B, and one of the UK’s innovative CX consultants. This October she returned to Wembley Stadium to judge at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, where she was impressed with the calibre of finalists…
This was my second time at the UKCXAs, and my third time as an awards judge, having chaired a panel at the UK Digital Experience Awards earlier this year.
As a consultant, I spend my time helping organisations work out how to improve their Customer Experience, and so being invited to judge these awards is a privilege as it gives me the opportunity to hear about what other businesses are doing to innovate and improve their CX.
The recent awards day was made even more enjoyable as I got to work alongside fellow judges including Helen Gillett, Kathryn King, Victoria Orr, and Niranjalee Rajaratne. Once the scoring was done (without discussion of course, as that is strictly verboten’) it was a joy to share perspectives on a range of topics with these inspiring CX professionals.
This year I was allocated to the Customers at the Heart of Everything – SME category.When I read the written submissions, I found the standard to be generally high and an improvement on the previous year. On the day, I was even more pleased with the quality of the presentations, and impressed by the effort these finalists had put into the process, particularly as this represents a significant commitment in time and resources for a small business.
We heard some great examples throughout the day, showing how these organisations were getting a customer mindset firmly embedded in their business processes. What was also noteworthy was that most of them were able to attribute tangible business benefits to the bottom line as a result of taking this approach.
The Gold winners in the category were Trusted Housesitters, whose approach to improving the experience included a relentless focus on removing pain points for their customers. This resulted in a significant reduction in inbound calls to their contact centre, even though their customer base had substantially increased at the same time.
The Silver runners-up, AllClear Insurance Services, described how they had seen notable improvements in their employee engagement and retention numbers as a result of addressing customer issues that their front-line colleagues were raising – a great illustration of the close link between Employee Experience and Customer Experience.
Both examples are a reminder that simple and relatively low-cost approaches can reap some great results.
Overall, what struck me with all the presentations was the energy and enthusiasm the teams showed around improving the experience for their customers, and their ability to drive the internal change with relative ease – this is often an area that larger businesses struggle with.
There were some impressive examples of cross-functional processes being established to tune into the customer voice and to monitor the top customer issues needing to be addressed, and a recurring theme throughout the day was one of actively seeking out customer complaints, so that feedback could be acted upon.
Whilst it was encouraging to see the businesses in this SME category managing to deliver some great customer outcomes relatively quickly with reasonably simple approaches, it was also clear that as their businesses expand, they will face new challenges in sustaining these efforts. If they put the same heart and soul into meeting that challenge as they did to their UK Customer Experience Awards entry and presentation, however, I’m sure they will succeed.
In my recent discussions with UK banking execs, I’ve detected a fresh urgency when they talk of the need for change.
Banks have been speaking about greater customer centricity in their annual reports for years, but it’s really only in the past six months I’ve started to hear banking leaders highlight it as something that needs to happen “if we’re going to survive”.
I’ve been wondering why this is. After all, if we’re honest, UK banks have rarely done more than pay lip service to Customer Experience. Certainly, all their talk has amounted to negligible difference in our experience as customers.
So, what’s changed?
I think it’s the realisation that the rubber band that stretches between customer expectations (ever increasing) and service quality (flatlining) has finally reached breaking point – a hot topic which I discussed with The Experience Professionals in Medallia’s recent webinar Reimagining CX for Banking in the Digital Age.
This article will go further in outlining the specific risks for those banks that are still perhaps resistant to change, and what they should do about it.
Join me if you will on a journey back in time, in more ways than one.
‘Look at those cavemen go’
In January this year, I was in my local branch for an appointment.
I’d been on time, but the IT system had other ideas. I remember checking the clock; my Personal Banker had last appeared some 10 minutes before. At that point, he’d assured me we’d be up and running in five.
With no offer of tea or coffee to distract me, my attention fell to a poster on the wall, which ranked the UK banks by various perception metrics. Clearly it wouldn’t be on display if it didn’t have to be – my bank, one of the UK’s Big Four, didn’t have much to shout about. Under ‘Branch Experience’, for instance, it loitered somewhere in the bottom half of the list, below a number of challenger brands and building societies.
Bored of flicking through yesterday’s newspapers, I reflected on how I’d come to be there. I’d recently tried to open an account online. This included the usual process of KYC (Know Your Customer), where the bank attempts to verify a person’s identity. Now, despite my holding seven products with this bank, it turned out it didn’t know me very well at all. With the system unable to verify my identity digitally, and the contact centre unable to help, I was invited – a customer of 18 years’ standing, who hadn’t changed his address in nine – to pop in and prove that I was me.
First world problems of course. To be clear, I’m not suggesting my experience is uniquely terrible.
In fact, I’m sure most of us could rattle off stories about our banks – and many of those would be far, far worse. In 2018, a study by Medallia and Ipsos found that just seven percent of UK banking customers felt their experience had exceeded expectations over the past year. Contrast this with 19 percent in the USA.
And really, that’s the point. Reflecting on my experience, doesn’t it feel like something from a bygone era? After my appointment (which finally started a full half-hour after it had been due to finish), I remember thinking as I raced back to the office: “Why are banks such laggards in the UK?”
Focused on the wrong outcomes?
At first glance, it seems inexplicable.
After all, the links between CX and business results are well-documented. Take the ‘Likelihood to recommend’ survey question. The potential for financial impact is self-evident: if you treat customers well, they’ll be more likely to stick with you and tell their friends.
But it’s more than just common sense; there is hard data to back it up too. Farmers Insurance, for instance, attribute its CX investments with driving a three-point improvement in retention over three years, equivalent to $500 million annually in incremental revenue.
The Medallia-Ipsos research found that 40 percent of a bank’s customers would tell their friends and family after a positive experience. That’s 40 percent of a bank’s customer base happy to work as an extension of its marketing division – for free – helping to bring down cost of acquisition.
Meanwhile, as many as 18 percent said a positive experience would cause them to start using their bank more – a sizeable audience ripe for cross-sell. Why would the banks, of all organisations, be so lackadaisical about trying to capitalise on this financial linkage?
Perhaps the answer lies in part with another metric – one the banks have tended not to view as a cause for concern – attrition.
In contrast to other industries, in UK consumer banking, conventional wisdom has it that when a customer opens their first account, by and large they’ll remain a customer for life. For decades, acquisition strategies employed by the banks – visiting local schools, etc. – have borne fruit.
I still have the branded money box I received in what must have been my first interaction with any bank (and yes, that brand went on to become my primary provider). Great at attracting new customers, banks have been terrible at servicing existing ones – and it hasn’t mattered because those customers don’t churn. Even seven-day switching has failed to disrupt that paradigm.
With the banks laser-focused on efficiency ever since the global financial crisis, the levels of retention they’ve enjoyed have enabled them to concentrate on cost cutting, while deprioritising investments that would improve CX – even if those investments would lead to greater share of wallet from happier customers.
But there are signs that customer inertia may be a thing of the past. The Medallia-Ipsos research found that, today, 13 percent of UK customers will switch banks if their expectations are not met. While that’s a smaller proportion than the cross-industry average of 64 percent, still it remains far from negligible. And it should be a wakeup call for the big UK banks.
The end of customer stickiness
Branch closures have accelerated a trend that was already underway. A recent study found that a bank’s physical location is far less important than it was a decade ago, with only 10 percent of today’s customers citing it among their top three reasons for choosing a bank. Contrast that to the 42 percent of Generation Z customers and 37 percent of millennials who list “ability to manage services via a mobile app” among their top three reasons.
Take Monzo for example. Some recent hiccups notwithstanding, the asset-light UK challenger bank onboarded its two-millionth customer this year. Millennials and others, who will be the drivers of future growth, have realised that factors like proximity to branches are less important to them.
As consumers increasingly look to their banks to meet them wherever they are, the old rules of attraction and retention are breaking down.
Banking leaders have long talked of the threat of disintermediation – of some nightmare future (for the banks) where the fintechs have successfully interposed themselves between customer and bank. In that dystopia, the fintechs own the distribution layer, ultimately winning the end relationship with the consumer, leaving the traditional banks to do the fulfilment behind the scenes.
But, as with climate change, arguably the future is already here. Monzo is currently growing at a rate of 35,000 customers per week. Have banks truly grasped the urgency of their predicament?
In January this year, around the same time I was struggling to open that account, I asked some industry contacts for their opinions on Monzo. I found their opinions surprising:
“Smells like emperor’s new clothes.”
“They are a comms company not a bank.”
So, in the UK at least, a degree of complacency remains. CX is generally treated as a matter of compliance (see the poster in my local branch, on display at the stipulation of the Competition and Markets Authority), rather than being seen as an opportunity to drive meaningful change. While most of the big banks have a CX programme in place, too often it’s merely a case of sending out surveys. And surveys aren’t the answer.
Why surveys alone can’t work
Take the example of my account opening fiasco. Sure, a survey would have allowed me to tell the bank about it – but only after the fact.
Best case, someone calls me to apologise. Think how more impactful it would have been – and how more satisfying for me as the customer – if the bank had resolved things in the moment. Multiple signals were generated over the course of my experience, from the unsuccessful digital application, to my unresolved query with the contact centre, to the operational signals at the branch (i.e. the IT failure occurring at the same time as a known customer appointment).
Any or all of these together should have alerted someone that a customer was having a bad time.
So far, UK banks’ over-reliance on the survey companies has bought them nothing but stagnation. When it comes to service quality, the UK Big Four are all competing in the same narrow range, while challengers put clear blue water between themselves and the traditional providers.
Learning from other regions
UK banks would do well to take note of what’s happening across the Atlantic and elsewhere in Europe. I like what I’ve been seeing from Bank of America (BofA) for instance – a bank that has recognised how today’s customer expectations are shaped by the likes of Apple and Airbnb.
I also like what I’ve seen from ABN AMRO. Based on customer signals, ABN completely overhauled its mortgage process, which now includes a personalised video to guide customers through their journey (e.g. the time of their appointment, where they need to go, what paperwork they should bring).
ABN’s mortgage perception scores have moved from -30 to +30 as a result. Indeed, ABN has seen a +16 point improvement in overall customer perception and a +20 point improvement in Customer Care, all without ever displaying an aggregated score on anyone’s dashboard internally. ABN recognises that impactful CX is not about score-watching; instead the focus should be on keeping employees engaged. Consequently, ABN trials initiatives like handing out customer stories in fortune cookies – fun things like that – and much of ABN’s success is due to leveraging employee ideas.
To make all of the above happen, ABN and BofA equip their colleagues with empathetic tools that enable them to understand the true picture of CX. As ever, technology can provide a solution – but first a bank needs the vision to move beyond using surveys as a blunt instrument. And, frankly, also the courage to stand up and say “this is worth investing in”.
It’s clear that good stuff is happening elsewhere. It just hasn’t taken hold here yet.
Sure, that’s often the way with tech-enabled innovation: it starts in Silicon Valley, migrates to the East Coast, then makes landfall in Europe a couple of years later. Even by that standard, however, the UK banks are starting to look decidedly behind the times.
With the fintechs no longer merely yapping at their heels but actively winning market, it’s finally do-or-die time for banks. The days of “too-big-to-fail” are demonstrably over, as the execs I mentioned at the top of this article are starting to verbalise. It’s time for the UK big banks to stop issuing mealy mouthed platitudes about “Customer Experience”.
Time at last to demonstrate to consumers why on earth they should continue banking with them.
Medallia recently published The 4 Pillars of CX Excellence for Banking. In addition to the steps outlined in that whitepaper, below are my urgent recommendations for those banks that are still dragging their feet:
1. Revisit the business case for CX
Sure, balancing efficiency targets with CX projects will always take careful calibration. But deprioritising customer-focused investments in favour of cost reduction inevitably leads to a race to the bottom.
Evangelists for CX within banks need to be able to equip their P&L-owning execs with the arguments – how good CX leads to reduced cost to serve, lower acquisition costs, improved retention and greater share of wallet. CX has earned its seat at the top table; if banks are going to stop treating it as a compliance function, it has to be top-of-mind for execs with decision-making and budgetary authority, not just analysts.
2. Look beyond the survey
Start meeting customers where they are, by bringing together signals from across channels – SMS, social, “emerging platforms” (Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, etc.) to understand the true picture of Customer Experience. Customers are less willing than ever to respond to surveys; banks need to be smart about gathering and interpreting signals wherever they may be harvested.
3. Think in-the-moment
Don’t let customer signals disappear into some analytical black box.
That won’t wash any more.
Even just apologising to customers 24-48 hours after an incident feels woefully insufficient in today’s Uber-ised marketplace. Think about customer signals not simply as data, but as a way to deepen relationships and uncover underlying issues and unmet needs. View each signal as a potential opener to a dialogue, and start engaging in those conversations now.
4. Activate the entire organisation
It’s easy enough to engage frontline colleagues with customer feedback – and most banks do at least an element of this – but what about product and proposition teams? They may not interact directly with customers, but still they play a pivotal role in shaping their experiences.
To keep pace with ever-changing customer demands, it’s crucial that middle – and back – office teams are supported to develop greater empathy for customers’ experiences, to design more empathetic experiences.
5. Above all, recognise and listen to your people
Engaged employees are more likely to manifest customer-focused behaviours that lead to bottom-line impact. This is hardly new insight – it’s the central philosophy of the service-profit chain that a trio of Harvard academics evidenced as early as 1994.
But have the big UK banks truly embraced this? When CX becomes a score-watching exercise, when employee ideas are either not solicited at all or disappear into the ether, what does that say about the value the bank places on its employees’ ability to change customer’s lives? Recognition, positive coaching and effectively harnessing employee ideas at scale are key.
It’s not too late for the banks to decide to compete to win and survive. It will, of course, require a new approach. But will any of them have the courage to change?
In this exclusive book excerpt for Customer Experience Magazine, the authors explores why CEOs must embrace the new customer economy, or face extinction…
Being customer-led is not a new concept.
The difference today, however, is that being customer-centric is no longer an option – it is a necessity for survival and growth. And, as the principle of customer-centricity has existed for a long time, it has taken many forms, having been reinvented on many occasions to suit the zeitgeist. Same person, different attire.
For example, when Levitt argued in the 1960s that the essence of marketing was all about satisfying the customer, the marketing purists would, in turn, claim the higher ground that sales was short-term, and that marketing was all about building a sustainable business. Hence, today, marketing professionals and leaders still claim to be the ultimate customer champions within any organisation – even if they are viewed upon as a mere executor of product and solution-led communication campaigns. And even, in the worst-case scenario, when marketers have very little customer interaction at all!
Later followed the CX movement, championed by the likes of Don Peppers, where the idea of satisfying customer needs rather than gaining market share for products and solutions became the ‘new’ mantra. Ultimately, this movement spawned today’s huge global community of CX evangelists and experts, including the likes of Jeanne Bliss, Shep Hyken, Annette Franz, the Temkin Group, the CXPA, etc. Also, it gave rise to many voices in the customer communities and the net promoter system (NPS), pioneered by Fred Reichheld, Bain and Satmetrix. It also led to the seminal book by Kerry Bodine et al., titled Outside-In.
In addition to the CX community, there is also a sizeable contingent of Customer Advocacy professionals who champion the cause that a referenceable client base is key to company growth. Bill Lee, author and founder of the Centre for Customer Engagement, rightfully claims the moniker of ‘Customer Advocacy & Engagement King’, a concept which even now is being reinvented and repackaged by technology vendors such as Influitive who are looking to create a new market category under the theme of the ‘Customer-Powered Enterprise’.
Finally, and most recently, is the Customer Success movement, created and championed by the Customer Success platform vendors – first and foremost Gainsight (whose COO wrote the book on Customer Success), but also its competitors such as Totango and consultancy organisations such as TSIA (the Technology Services Industry Association). The Customer Success movement is impressive, amassing thousands of Customer Success professionals at annual conferences in the United States, Europe and Asia. The majority of Customer Success professionals come from a technical support background but have been rebadged and repositioned as customer champions of many organisations, especially in the B2B technology/SaaS world.
In reality, there is a significant overlap between all of these concepts, ideas and customer communities. By way of example, Annette Franz, CX thought leader, wrote an article in October 2018 to describe the difference between CX and Customer Success. She curated quotes from Customer Success thought leaders such as Gainsight and the Customer Success Association in an effort to compare and contrast the two disciplines. After dissecting the two concepts, she concluded as follows:
“It makes me question if the Customer Success role and discipline are really necessary. What do you think? Customer Experience is the umbrella. Get the experience right – listen to customers, understand the problems they are trying to solve, innovate, and design and deliver a better experience – and Customer Success management becomes obsolete, no? After all, it’s all about the customer.”
We have seen this before with the crossover between VoC (Voice of the Customer) and Customer Advocacy professionals. VoC teams state that the golden NPS question – likelihood to recommend – is their raison d’être. At the same time, the ultimate goal of Customer Advocacy professionals is to deliver a referenceable client base to advocate at every step of the customer journey. So, what is the difference?
The simple answer is that all of these communities present valid arguments and have important contributions to make when it comes to helping their company drive customer-led growth. Yet, no single community on its own has the silver bullet when it comes to achieving this. In truth, it is the combined set of activities that will help a company achieve its vision for customer-led growth. To coin a phrase, it is a war on all fronts. And, as we mentioned in the introduction, it is no longer a recommendation, it is a necessity.
As CX leader Claire Sporton puts it, “Investors now look for sustainable growth, not short-term wins each quarter. The M&A community are recognising that a commitment to customer centricity is a leading indicator of sustainable business growth.”
The Angora Rabbit: Why do customer-led transformations often run out of steam?
According to Sporton, “The challenge is that no one would say that the customer is not important – just like the rabbit, every-one will give it a stroke. But when it comes to looking after it, people quickly get bored. And then the fox (the maniacal pursuit of short-term revenue gain) eats the rabbit.”
Sporton makes the key point that the pursuit of customer-centric growth needs to be deeply embedded in the organisation: “There’s no business growth unless people change their behaviours. Two-day change programmes don’t work. Executive leadership must rigorously champion customer-centric values all the time, ensuring that actions are made, and impact is measured. CEOs must create sustainable, viral change.”
CX leader, Shep Hyken builds on this point: “One of the most important factors in driving growth is to establish a simple, clear and easy-to-remember customer vision statement. And then repeat it over and over again, so that everyone across the company knows it and applies it in their day-to-day activities. Leadership must set an example and constantly defend the culture. Whether it’s training, workshops or simply leading by example, the customer vision must be continually re-enforced.”
Take, for example, Horst Schulze, the founder of Ritz-Carlton. His customer vision statement was simple: “We’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.’ This statement is still used today, and Ritz-Carlton remains one of the most successful hotel chains ever.”
In summary, it is imperative that customer-centricity be hard-wired into the company’s DNA, culture, operations, processes, products, systems, etc. – ideally, from day 1; but, if that is not possible, then starting tomorrow.
Earlier this month, Ian Golding, Founder of the Customer Experience Consultancy and leader of the CX Professional Masterclass, joined Peter Dorrington, Director of Analytics at TTEC, at a CXPA & TTEC Breakfast Workshop.
In a joint article for CXM, Ian and Peter explore how the advances in CX measurement can curb this trend…
The Past, Present and Future of CX Measurement – Ian Golding
Although companies are using a number of CX measurements and capturing details, the majority are not taking action or worse, applying them incorrectly and so they come to the wrong conclusion.
NPS and CSAT scores are cost-effective and easy ways of getting feedback from customers and an easy way for customers to provide feedback.Many would argue over time they have been shown to be valuable, credible systems for customer-focussed companies.However, many companies are failing to apply them correctly and increasingly they are being used as a tick-box to please stakeholder and shareholders.
Consumer experience is fast becoming a dominant theme for financial services and the FCA is increasingly focussed on quantifiable customer outcomes. To ensure the reliability of measures of satisfaction, they have issued a mandate that results are collected independently and widely published. Improving CX can influence people to switch supplier with the promise of getting better customer service, but consumers need a reliable way of assessing the experience that organisations provide.
More CX measurements will be regulated if companies cannot do it accurately and continue to publish inaccurate results as part of their advertising and brand promotion.
The Voice of Customer (VOC) and Voice of the Employee (VOE) are often listened to and treated entirely separately. Organisations that run VOC and VOE programmes usually conduct them at different times, using different teams – for example VOE is often confused with Employee Engagement. What’s more, they’ll invariably have entirely different objectives and different KPIs against which outcomes are measured. It is vital to check that your employees feel the same way about your service as customers.VOE can provide a vital check and balance to VOC, with a wide disparity between the two being a cause for concern.
VOC and VOE results should be broadly similar.Something is wrong if they are not.Also ensure your Voice of the Employee surveys are anonymous and that something with the results – both programmes should provide the impetus and insight for action.
The most robust CX measurement systems are structured by correlating business processes with the customer journey. If we think of all organisations as a combination of ‘layers’, whilst the top layer is the customer journey, the middle layer is made up of business processes. It is a business’s processes that enable the customer journey to happen. The bottom layer comprises the technology that enables business processes to deliver the customer outcome. However, all too often, it is the technology that is forcing the customer process, so the customer gets whatever that manifests itself as.
For a business to be focussed on knowing what to address to improve the customer journey it must be able to measure “cause and effect”. If you measure how capable business processes are at doing what they need to do, you should see an improvement in the way customers feel about what you do.
Unfortunately, too many companies are mapping customer journeys without measuring their experience of each touch point as it relates to customer needs.
Using Emotion Analytics to Understand What Customers Value, and Why – Peter Dorrington
“Customer experience management is the art and science of coaxing lifetime loyalty from daily transactions.”
“Customers who are emotionally connected with a brand are 52% more valuable than customers who are just highly satisfied”
Harvard Business Review
The above quotes show the power of emotion.
Imagine being able to use that to not only measure how well your CX strategy is doing but to increase loyalty and revenues.
Work in the field of behavioural economics has demonstrated just how dependent on emotions we are for decision-making – even very big decisions, where we think we are acting ‘rationally’. Research into the placebo effect demonstrates just how powerful the brain is in influencing the body and decisions. Emotions are an important part of how we experience and how we make decisions and It is now possible to anticipate the emotional state of every customer, whether you are in an active conversation with them or not.
A lot of organisations have recognised that if CX is the new competitive battleground, not only does it have to be good, but it has to be relevant and valued by the person experiencing it – and therefore you have to address their emotions; what they care about.
TTEC’s research shows that business can make quantifiable improvements in their customer-facing decision-making if they have a way of knowing what the customer feels. At the highest level of abstraction, emotion analytics could support the design of more efficient and effective customer experiences at the strategic level – by putting the ‘relationship’ back into customer relationship management. When it knows that a customer has emotional, as well as practical needs, a business is better able to meet all their needs.
If a business could understand within customer journeys how customers feel at different stages – what might be motivating them, what might influence their decisions – then it is better able design a better experience; resulting in a better experience, higher satisfaction, and all the benefits that brings; increased revenues, lower churn and more powerful advocacy.
Turning CX insights into hyper personalised experiences
One example of how this insight could be used would be in the arena of receptiveness. An organisation could convert the emotions into understanding whether a customer would be receptive to hearing from it. This would therefore influence whether they are marketed to, what is marketed to them and how it is done.
Think of upselling someone from a gold card to the platinum card. But just before we send the messaging, we do a check to see if the person is receptive and it becomes clear they are not – perhaps there has been a transactional issue, or there may be more of an emotional zeitgeist thing where banks are getting hammered in the press.
Not only should we consider emotions in the operational aspects of our business, we need to think about the role they play in the product or service itself.
Elsewhere, there are also implications for the way that inbound interactions are handled. For instance, an organisation may be able to anticipate that the customer will call and that if she calls she will be upset, so the company can put her through to a senior handler who is better at dealing those kinds of conversations (i.e. have high EQ).
The use of emotional insights could also extend into the world of bots and AI, enabling organisations to choose which script to use and which tone of voice to adopt. And the evidence shows that people will pay a premium to those organisations that they believe will make them feel the way that they want to expect to feel as well as which actions could be taken to cost-effectively strengthen the relationship.
Not only should we consider emotions in the operational aspects of our business, we need to think about the role they play in the product or service itself: as well as considering the functional needs of the customer, think about their (changing) emotional needs as well; it affects everything they do and research shows that customers will pay a premium to organisations they think will meet their emotional needs better. And our own research shows that customers are more loyal towards companies that meet their emotional needs.
Finally, TTEC’s research also shows that customer don’t always need a ‘better’ Customer Experience, preferring that the experiences they have predictable meet their expectations on a consistent basis. The implications for organisation is this; it is often better to maintain the level of the experience, but focus on aligning it to customer expectations and reduce the cost and complexity of delivery.
Companies must upgrade their CX measurements to capture customers’ emotions. How customers feel about their experiences with a firm can damage – or improve – their perception of the overall experience and the brand!
Last year, the 90s masterpiece Friends, which has been running and rerunning on TV for the last two and a half decades, caused joy and uproar when it made a return to the small screen via Netflix.
It was back! Hardly daring to believe this stroke of luck, many people of a certain age (these fearsome millennials we’ve been hearing about) took to their sofas to binge watch.
As one of these millennials, I was a happy cog in this machine of nostalgic fervour. However, alongside my uncritical enjoyment of this frankly problematic TV show, as I watched there was one aspect that stuck out, which I hadn’t paid much attention to before…
Phones and phone calls, and the sheer amount that these are used. Friends was filmed in the 90s, so there weren’t really mobile phones yet. They appear in later seasons, but they’re not a big feature. What struck me, though, wasn’t just the absence of mobiles and internet and so on, but rather the easy, natural, unstressed way they all use the phone. They ring each other constantly! They call strangers and service people! They’re always just picking up the phone and…ringing! Unannounced!
Fast forward to the present and things are quite different.
Firstly, our phone usage has decreased – we’re all calling each other far less. Three years ago, 96 percent of smartphone owners were making at least one voice call per week. Now, only three quarters of us do, while a quarter of us don’t make weekly phone calls at all.
Research commissioned back in 2012 by O2 found that the ‘telephone’ app is only the fifth most used app on the general public’s phones. Based on the rate of development of smartphones and communicative practices, chances are high that this has decreased again in the seven years since.
Secondly, phone calls make us nervous. A new, but increasingly prevalent problem for the modern age is so-called “telephone apprehension”. And it’s not only millennials who suffer from this (although they famously do). Around 10-15 percent of the population suffer from anxiety or fear when using the telephone; of these, around 2.5 percent are so anxious that they can be described as truly “telephonophobic”.
But where is this anxiety coming from? One argument is that for some, it’s about politeness. People born since the late 80s and 90s have grown up with numerous methods of communication, and as such, are never out of reach. Accordingly, they might be more likely to choose written rather than verbal communication, because it’s less intrusive – it doesn’t create an immediate demand on someone’s time.
For many, it’s not the case that phone calls are The Worst and to be avoided at all costs – but their intrusiveness needs to be managed. It’s become common courtesy to send a quick message before you pick up the phone, to check whether the person is free. This might seem odd, but it’s commonplace in the workplace – in many professions, people are far more likely to schedule non-urgent calls than to pick up the phone and demand immediate attention.
This is something to consider for companies like ContactEngine, which conduct multichannel customer conversations. It’s all very well sending SMS or email or other written comms, but voice calls are a different beast.
Because looking at the above in reverse, if people are making fewer calls, they’re not answering calls either. Another new (or not new anymore) aspect of phones is caller ID. We used not to know who was calling us when we answered the landline. Without caller ID, you just had to risk it. And we did!
But now? How many of us actually answer calls from an unknown number?
When designing our communications, we talk about the problem of customers not answering phone calls – but when I asked my colleagues if they answer calls from an unknown number, none of them said they do. I know I don’t. And we’re not alone, as some recent ContactEngine research indicates…
As shown, when receiving a call from an unknown number, some people decline the call (27 percent), some wait for a voicemail (21 percent), some Google the number (18 percent), and some do nothing (20 percent) – but none of these pick up the phone. Only around 14 percent of those we asked said they would actually answer the call.
As a business based around conversations, if people simply don’t answer their phone – whether because they’re anxious or they just don’t want to – what can we really do? Receiving cold calls isn’t nice, and especially not from an unknown number.
Well, there’s a couple of things we can do. First, we can consider the customer journey as a whole and take a holistic view of the communications. For example, ContactEngine may try to call a customer about their delivery details.
They may not pick up. Fair enough. But we can configure the conversation so that if there’s no answer, it leaves a pre-recorded voicemail explaining why we called and setting an expectation about what will happen next – for example, that we will send an email, and asking them to look out for it.
Or we could send an SMS – ‘We tried to call you earlier’ – and let them know what our next move will be: ‘We’ll try again tomorrow’. Adding context, or attempting contact via a different channel, makes the communications more trustworthy and increases the chances of contact.
Secondly, we can ask people when they’d like to be contacted. If a phone call is really necessary, we can ask via a written form of communication when would suit them. Our AI can interpret responses and book a slot, and they can be called back at that time by a human. If you’re expecting a call, you’re more likely to answer the phone.
As argued here, gaining permission is key to a successful phone call, and this could be a key to solving telephonobia too.
Consensual telephoning, basically.
These approaches might be unrecognisable to Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, et al – but times are a-changing. Friends celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. If this much has happened, technology-wise, in just those years, I wonder where we’ll be in another 25? Hopefully Friends will still be available on Netflix, anyway.
It’s a comfort thing. Don’t @ me.
This article was written in partnership with Zoey Planjer, Head of Customer Journey at ContactEngine.