Stanley LouwStanley LouwMay 25, 2018
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7min138

It’s no secret most businesses are playing catch up with their customers. Most organisations have a customer experience strategy in place, but our research reveals just 14% feel they are ahead of the market’s expectations. 

The banking sector in particular is struggling in this regard. Competition from disruptive brands like Atom Bank, Monzo, and N26 has drawn people away from traditional institutions and towards more user-friendly platforms that cater to the way they prefer to do their banking.

Customer retention has not traditionally been a major concern for established financial institutions, but this is quickly changing and they are now rushing to play catch up. These large companies won’t be able to reshape their entire operating model overnight, but they can adopt new technologies to help them regain their stronghold in a challenging market.

That is why many are exploring the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to improve the customer experience. The Economist Intelligence Unit recently found that one fifth of global banks believe AI will help them boost their customer experience, and this proportion will only rise as new use cases for the technology are discovered. There are three ways in particular that organisations can take advantage of AI today:

Improving customer service – by allowing customers to interact with a chatbot or digital agent, banks can not only streamline their own operations but serve more people, more quickly. It’s important to not just replace agents with AI-powered software in these cases; instead, banks should augment existing service agents by allowing them to access relevant information and expedite answers quickly. A human-centred approach is and will always be essential.

Some financial institutions have found the best approach is to put a face on their AI-offering. Canada’s ATB Financial Bank worked with Avanade to introduce a four-foot robot concierge named “Pepper” in its branches. Pepper greets ATB’s customers, recommends products and services, poses for selfies, and even dances. The response has been incredibly positive, with foot traffic up across the business, and ATB is now looking to enhance Pepper with even more AI functionality.

Automating business processes – often, to better serve customers businesses need to look inwards first and find ways to work smarter. This is not about replacing workers with automated processes, but rather to use cognitive software to more quickly categorise requests and escalate complicated scenarios to the right people for the best possible decision-making.

One UK firm replaced its onerous paper forms with a simple, compliance-friendly online tool for independent financial advisors, but realised it needed a further technology leap to keep up with customers’ needs. The company used Blue Prism RPA to automate key back-end processes, cutting the time required to manage these so it could respond to customers more quickly and reliably.

Getting more from data and analytics –data has become the currency of business and the key to better understanding customers. With a workforce trained to understand this information, companies can then use machine-learning tools to drive new customer acquisition, retain existing customers, and increase customer value over time.

We are only just beginning to explore AI’s potential in delivering better customer service. According to one Accenture report, more than three-quarters of bankers believe AI will allow financial institutions to create simpler user interfaces and deliver a more human-like customer experience. Four out of five also predict that AI will revolutionise the way banks gather information and interact with customers, and three-quarters believe banks will deploy AI as their primary method for interacting with customers within three years.

The challenge for financial institutions will be to implement AI in a way that works. There is a great deal of hype around the technology, but companies shouldn’t invest in AI without a sound strategy and understanding of how it can help their business.

Crucially, they cannot focus on AI alone – successful technology implementations work when human and machines are managed together, and in the case of AI software this becomes doubly important. In the words of Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at the MIT Centre for Information Systems Research, “Companies that view smart machines purely as a cost-cutting opportunity are likely to insert them in all the wrong places and all the wrong ways”.

A human-centred approach to AI is about augmentation, rather than replacement. Some simple tasks might be fully automated, but the end game for companies should be to help customer-facing teams serve people more quickly, more easily, and to a higher standard.

Change will not happen overnight, but as banks like ATB Financial have shown even simple tactics can have significant results in the short term. By building on some quick wins with a long-term AI strategy, established financial institutions can get back to building the strong connections with customers that set them apart in the first place.


Dan HardingDan HardingMay 22, 2018
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6min278

Let’s set the scene: you’ve just pulled up to the offices of the client you have your morning meeting with. You make your way to the building’s entrance, only to be greeted by an eerily deserted lobby with an unmanned reception and an old tattered guest sign in book.

No instructions, no direction, and more importantly, no idea what to do or where to go next. Unfortunately, this scenario is more common than not. With meetings taking up an average of 17, 470 hours over the course of an employee’s career, it’s no wonder that people are less than impressed with a welcome from an abandoned foyer and a dusty sign-in book. But visitor satisfaction isn’t the only aspect businesses should be worried about when it comes to this scenario.

With GDPR coming into effect as of May 25, if your business still utilises the traditional book and pen, your GDPR compliance stops before anyone can even make it past the lobby.

Having all your visitors’ data sitting at your unmanned front desk for the world to see is no longer an option for businesses. With strict regulations in place regarding what data businesses can obtain and store from customers and for how long, having years’ worth of names, contact details, and guest preferences at your fingertips, is just no longer viable. And what happens if that data sitting on your unmanned reception desk ends up in the wrong hands?

Businesses often take a siloed approach when it comes to visitor data gathering. Those in finance may want bank details, those in IT may want account log-ins, and receptionists may want car registrations. And it all has to be GDPR compliant. So, how can businesses effectively provide a seamless and detailed sign-in process for visitors whilst also being GDPR compliant?

The visitor experience

A guest sign-in book is what most UK employees are welcomed with when visiting a business’ premises. But what about first impressions? And second and third impressions for that matter? How do visitors know where to go once they’ve signed in if you don’t have a receptionist? Do they need a badge to proceed? What if they need to sign your data policy or an NDA prior to progression?

Many of us are guilty of making snap judgements when walking onto a company’s premises, but if your visitor is uneasy the second they step through the door, you’re already starting at a disadvantage, and the real question is – is it worth the risk? You’d never expect not to be directed upon entering a hotel, so why should a visitor to your company expect anything less?

The solution

What many businesses are unaware of, is that both the GDPR and visitor experience aspects can be tackled with innovative technology, and the deployment of electronic visitor management solutions is key. There are now numerous smart solutions to streamline the visitor sign in process with GDPR readiness already built in, so there’s really no excuse for non-compliance.

So, let’s set the scene again. You’ve just pulled up to the offices at which you’re having your morning meeting. You make your way to the building’s entrance, only to be greeted by an eerily deserted lobby with an unmanned reception. But instead of signing an old dusty guest book and fumbling around to find out where you’re meant to be heading next, you notice a screen displaying the name of the business you have your meeting with.

So, you walk over and follow the on-screen prompts to sign in. You then enter your car registration, contact details, and sign the necessary documents on screen, it then takes a photo of you and prints an identification badge simultaneously as you follow the directions on screen to get to the correct floor and meeting room you require. Meanwhile, your hosts have already been informed you have arrived, and are already on their way to greet you.

Not only is this visitor experience seamless, it’s personal. Guest information is preloaded into the solution prior to arrival and what’s more, the solution is GDPR ready.

It’s time to bring the visitor experience in line with the technology available.


Cliff EttridgeCliff EttridgeMay 18, 2018
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5min371

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey says it clearly: “Millennials feel that most businesses have no ambition beyond profit.” 

The report also says that millennials consider businesses to be underperforming by 10 percentage points at improving livelihoods and underperforming by 12 percentage points on social/environmental benefit.

In Deloitte’s report, which saw repeating trends from previous years, millennials listed five preference areas when it came to considering a new employer: fair salaries; being a great place to work; skills development; work that makes a difference; and sustainable job creation. The word ‘purpose’ is not explicitly called out here, although it is intimated. So, what is meant by purpose? More importantly, what do employees think it means?

Take a look at Universum’s report into the World’s Most Attractive Employers for 2017 and what they see as being important to employees: work/life balance; security; working globally; being challenged; and doing something for the greater good – with circa 30 percent of employees citing the latter as something they are looking for in an employer. But note that figure. It’s just one-in-three.

And who comes top as the company that employees tell Universum they’d like to work for? Google. A brand that has – alongside Facebook – faced intense media scrutiny for its ability to manage the data of its customers online and the content which it shares. Criticisms which are not just recent, they have been in public view for a good few years. The brand that said ‘do no evil’, has now shifted its position to being the world’s repository for knowledge. Perhaps because ‘do no evil’ read in too many minds as ‘do good’.

And this brings us to the LinkedIn Global Talent survey, which records just 24 percent of candidates seeing a brand’s purpose as an important factor when considering a new role. At the top of the list sits the culture and values of a business and the job role. And here we get to the nub of the issue. Fulfilment comes from doing a good job.

In conversation with a client recently, they cited their own research into purpose with customers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, just a third of their customers – people like you and I – saw social purpose as an important factor. Instead, they just wanted products and services that worked; that surprised and delighted them because they worked well.

Purpose or social purpose? I think we too often let the latter – the altruistic purpose – cloud our judgment. It results in what my colleague Dan Dufour would refer to as purpose washing. Yes, it is important for brands to ‘do no evil’, but ultimately for organisations, giving employees purpose is about giving them meaningful goals. This in turn improves what the psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi refers to as ‘flow’, that state of intense absorption where we focus fully upon what we are doing.

Purpose is important to your employer brand, but that purpose can be simple, self-contained. Think carefully about how you bring purpose to life in your brand.

For more information on employer brand and employee engagement thinking visit The Team’s Employee Engagement pages, or connect via LinkedIn directly.


Joey MooreJoey MooreMay 16, 2018
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7min617

In an increasingly fluid retail marketplace, where purchasing continues to shift from the physical to the digital, companies both big and small must look for new ways to differentiate their brands, build loyalty and keep their customers coming back for more.

Whether through personalisation, same-day delivery, or digital payment solutions such as Apple Pay, retailers are turning to new technologies as the source of this differentiation.

At the forefront of this trend is a focus on Customer Experience, with brands increasingly realising that it can be just as beneficial to change the way consumers experience a brand as it can be to change a product itself.

Unfortunately for retailers, however, many of the experiential factors that they must use to differentiate their brands are extremely subtle. As a result, it can be difficult to identify those areas of the customer’s experience that are points of frustration or cause for cart abandonment. To address this challenge, retailers are once again turning to technology – this time in the form of artificial intelligence (AI).

Research suggests that as many as 80 percent of businesses incorporate some form of AI into their organisations, with customer service being the most popular application. Yet in retail, we find that many are basic examples of AI and machine learning – either simple personalisation scripts or basic customer service chatbots. And looking ahead, retailers’ plans to incorporate AI do not yet extend much beyond robotic chat-boxes in their ecommerce stores.

Yet there are potentially hundreds of examples of retail tools and applications where AI could be used to improve the Customer Experience. Here are three such applications that we expect to come to the fore in 2018:

1. AI-Powered Personalisation

AI-Powered Personalisation involves providing visitors with specific content and offers based on the purchasing behaviours of previous customers. Sounds familiar? It’s true that these principles of personalisation have long been a staple of the ecommerce industry, but AI takes this toolset to a new level. By analysing a huge wealth of customer data, machine learning can tailor offers based on everything from weather patterns to current user moods.

Such advanced personalisation technologies already exist, but very few retailers are embracing them. In part, this is due to the silos and lack of connectivity that exists across a brand’s data sets, with the average marketing department using 12 different tools to personalise its content.

To effectively personalise content and genuinely improve customer experiences, AI requires as much information as possible about customers’ existing interactions with a brand, but retailers are faced with disjointed data sets, that are difficult for AI systems to analyse.

The key to successful personalisation is seamlessness, where websites and analytics work together to inform AI tools that will create actionable insights for developing more relevant ecommerce campaigns.

2. Behavioural analysis

While there have been plenty of retail surveys asking consumers for their views on the optimum design and flow of ecommerce sites, the reality is that such responses cannot offer the same level of insights that behavioural web data provides. Only by monitoring how consumers are actually browsing a site – whether through mouse tracking, click paths or behavioural analytics – can retailers build a true understanding of what their customers are looking for.

Such behavioural data provides invaluable insights, but it requires significant time and effort to review and analyse. This is where artificial intelligence comes in. By crunching the massive volumes of behavioural data collected across a site, AI can find the subtle points of frustration so they can be removed from or improved within the user experience.

3. Identifying hidden consumer trends/patterns

Tracking consumer behaviours through customer log-ins allows you to open up previously unseen insights. For example, if you own a pizzeria and you require customers to log in each time they make a purchase, with the right AI program, you can start to analyse predictive patterns, suggesting deals, combos and preferred toppings, ultimately resulting in a faster delivery time. By speeding up the process of ordering – and the potential delivery time – AI helps to provide a more seamless Customer Experience. While this may seem like a fairly minor improvement, in reality, these subtle AI-driven changes can be the deciding factor in whether a consumer chooses to return to your ecommerce site in future, or try a competitor instead.

As an example of such competitive advantage, consider the Arcadia Group – a collection of nine popular fashion brands. By incorporating an intelligent, AI-driven cross-selling and upselling system, Arcadia Group increased order value by 67 percent – a significant increase based on only a small change to the company’s existing processes.

While AI will never be a perfect predictor for human behaviour, it can help us to make seemingly minor – yet high impact – improvements in Customer Experience, which can ultimately mean the difference between making a sale or not. To start on this journey, retailers must first ensure that they are collecting customer data in a meaningful and joined-up way.

At the end of the day, an AI system can only be as effective as the data that it works from, it is down to retailers to build the relationships and data sets needed to feed this machine.


Bhupender SinghBhupender SinghMay 15, 2018
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4min382

Billing and accounting errors have become disappointingly normal for the telco industry; a recent study from software company Brite Bill found that a substantial proportion of complaints about telecoms operators were due to billing and contract issues, with billing issues accounting for 30 percent of complaints.

As a way to compete in the new digital age, telecom providers have diversified their services into wireless, broadband, TV & digital, and M&A activity to thrive in challenging market conditions. But unfortunately broadening their remit has opened them up to overlap, negligence, and redundancy in billing.

Telecoms companies are under pressure to put an end to the overbilling of customers for the services they use. This requires a conscious effort to implement internal controls and processes which provide a holistic overview of customer activity and span across different services offerings.

Telcos providers work from multiple systems, which makes it harder for them to create an agile system fit to compete against new innovators. Ageing legacy systems are one of the main causes of inaccurate telecom billing for customers. This traps service providers in a repetitive cycle of overcharging, slapped with fines and investigations by regulators.

Success in today’s business landscape hinges on a telecom provider’s ability to deliver high quality customer service. Delays in telecom providers dealing with customer requests can fuel further frustration.

At one point or another we’ve all felt the stress of waiting endlessly in a queue, and so can understand the urgency of getting in touch with someone when a problem arises – especially when it’s something as crucial as billing. Telecom providers can improve customer experience by carefully listening to feedback and maintaining quality customer service when problems occur. With the stakes in the battle for customers higher than ever, innovative technologies can boost efficiency for back-office processes and can manage customer requests in a more timely and accurate manner.

Automation can also enable telecoms businesses to take a proactive approach to customer care by modernising the back office. For instance, automation can reduce the average handling time for billing calls by 70 percent, allowing staff to direct their energy towards customer needs and provide the best experience possible.

Real-time data allows telecos to measure user experience, enabling better informed decisions. Monitoring customer behaviour at different touch points of a customer’s journey allows businesses to adopt a proactive approach and pivot accordingly. With brand loyalty being a thing of the past, customers will not be afraid to air their discontent on social media platforms after a bad experience or instantly look elsewhere.

In order to reduce this risk, telecoms companies need to focus on improving contactability and cutting down the call rate, ensuring that complaints are handled effectively. Partnering with digital experts who have deep domain knowledge of the industry will support telco companies in their quest to become more agile. It will enable them to take back market share from new entrants who are not hindered by old data management systems.


James LeeJames LeeMay 15, 2018
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6min434

The widespread adoption of mobile and cloud technologies are ‘consumerising’ Digital Experience within the enterprise and driving the reinvention of business.

Organisations in every sector are benefitting from, and seeking to take advantage of, new technologies and models that were developed in the consumer space, rather than in the enterprise sector.

It’s changing the way we work. This ‘digital dexterity’ is driven by information intensity and the desire to share and collaborate. We’re all used to an on demand experience in our personal lives – we order a movie on Netflix, it plays immediately; we order a taxi on Uber, it arrives within minutes; we order food on Deliveroo, or an item on Amazon, and both will arrive within the hour.

Many of these services learn from our interactions to deliver a more relevant and appropriate experience, and this is something we’re coming to expect from every interaction with technology. According to Accenture, by 2020, 51 percent of consumers and 75 percent of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions.

So why should the tools and services we use in the workplace be any different? Employees want to be connected with their colleagues and processes across multiple devices during their workdays. Workers expect enterprise tools for searching, sharing, and consuming information to be as ‘smart’ and compelling as those they use in their personal lives. They want information and analytics to be contextualised, based on their work, and delivered when they need it. In short, they want to be enriched.

Yet Human Resources is one sector that has fallen behind in terms of adoption of consumer grade technology. Despite being the part of the organisation that deals with people, it’s also the part that’s most affected by legacy systems and processes. HR professionals are often working with outdated tools and information that lacks context, as well as being targeted on ‘keeping the boat steady’, rather than driving change.

But the digital workplace offers significant potential for organisations strategically prepared to re-engineer processes around how employees currently work and engage each other. Organisations need to take advantage of interconnected trends that Gartner identifies as the ‘four factors in the Nexus of Forces’ – mobile, social, cloud, and information – which reinforce the digital workplace with a sense of responsibility for all stakeholders: consumers, the workforce, shareholders, communities, and the environment.

Work is no longer somewhere you go, it’s something you do at a time and on a device that is most appropriate to you in the moment. With the work-life balance becoming ever more important, it is incumbent on employers to proactively maintain the health and happiness of their employees. But to do that, HR professionals need the right tools and so do the employees. For example, an increasingly remote or mobile workforce struggles to feel a sense of community without social interaction and recognition.

Legacy HR tools are equivalent to an itemised phone bill – they deliver information but they don’t tell HR professionals the full story, because the tools often exist in silos. Many organisations will claim to have a well-being strategy, but it is one that has evolved piecemeal, with a benefits tool and an EAP in separate systems that don’t talk to each other.

Wellbeing needs to be delivered as a holistic approach, covering physical, emotional, personal, financial, and professional wellness, because all elements are interlinked. As the World Health Organisation defines it, health is “the state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of diseases or infirmity.”

So, with the consumerisation of employee benefits, instead of rigid organisation-oriented offerings, the focus shifts to the individual employee. This allows each employee to customise their own experience with personally relevant benefits and make the maintenance of their own well-being more convenient.

By consumerising employee well-being, employees have the freedom to evaluate and choose their own benefits – using employer-provided money. It makes sense for both parties that the money spent on the employees is spent to the benefit of the recipients. This is where LifeWorks sits – at the intersection of the people and the business solution. And what’s more, a healthy and happy workforce can help companies save money and turn a profit.

So be aware that consumerisation is coming and it’s not a ‘strategy’ or something to be ‘adopted’. As Gartner says, consumerisation can be embraced and it must be dealt with, but it cannot be stopped. It will also become so entrenched within business that employees will gravitate towards employers that offer the best well-being experience and away from those that are lacking.


Morten IllumMorten IllumMay 3, 2018
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5min612

Recent research by Google supports a point I have been discussing with customers for many months now: there is no real difference between the user experience and the Employee Experience any more.

What that means is, if you expect to schedule your Sunday with your mobile phone calendar, upload photos to cloud storage and connect with people using applications, you will expect to do pretty much the same thing on Monday, when you arrive at the office.

In 2018, many of us don’t feel efficient unless we’re able to access applications on demand, and this applies to our work as much as our personal lives. Given we spend as much time in our offices as we do at home, we have to consider how the workplace can become better equipped to meet our daily expectations.

Designing the workplace to better incorporate technology is not about being futuristic. It’s about meeting the minimum requirements that users now have. A business that does not consider how to improve its workplace design to suit our daily habits risks alienating its employees, and ultimately decreasing productivity, losing talent, or both.

Maximising efficiency of space

So how do we go about creating a better workspace? It starts with considering how to make everything more efficient. More efficient tech, more efficient space, more efficient people.

A win-win solution for the business and employee would be if building designers and technology companies collaborated on the designing of new, or redevelopment of, existing buildings.

Working together to create a digital plan of each space, as well as the kind of structural, technical plans traditionally drawn up by those in the industry, could increase the chances of these spaces meeting the needs of its occupants. This could be as simple as re-arranging the furniture to give teams more of a chance to interact, with screens, docking stations and charge points to keep people productive with whatever device they are carrying.

The point is, if these different viewpoints and experiences come together to create ‘smart’ workplaces, the people who work here will also be able to collaborate more – spending less time trying to find cables and connections, and more time getting the job done.

The tech platform to improve productivity

With this design in place, it’s then time to address the technology that can get the best from your workforce. Is it a VR booth or a robot assistant? No. The smart office is about getting the basics right.

Access to a secure, reliable and fast Wi-Fi connection is essential for most job roles and industries now, especially for those who are office-based or working remotely. But if the future workplace is not just connected, but smart, it can become much more personalised for the workers who use it.

Having user credentials that are recognised across any location or device, for example, removes the unnecessary task of repeated logins, which over the course of days, weeks and years is an enormous time saver.

Better connection, improved communication

From here, we can start to push the boundaries using IoT. Controlling the heating of a room to your liking using your smartphone, or turning on the coffee machine remotely, are just two examples of a quicker, more personal working environment using technology. This is not only possible, but pretty affordable. And if you want to control a broader range of equipment, we are also seeing plug in multi-sensors entering the market, which use machine learning to identify the signals being sent by any number of electronic devices.

Very quickly, you could be setting up an office with hundreds of devices interlinked, allowing you to better understand how those devices are being used, and create new offerings for your employees. It might sound futuristic, but steps like this are relatively simple and I think, near-term.

As a supplier of business connectivity, our energies are focused on managing, and securing, the explosion of traffic that will come from the digital workplace. For you, the business owner, and the employee, your task is to remove barriers to mobile-friendly working, and gradually create the kind of smart, digital environment that people really want to work in.


Andrew FisherAndrew FisherApril 27, 2018
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4min607

Are millennials – or as they are also known, Generation Y – really that bad with money?

They are often labelled as being frivolous with cash and marketers try to capitalise on this. However, Manchester-based Freedom Finance has carried out a study which compares the real generational differences between millennials and baby boomers, and found that millennials really do have it tougher, despite being more cautious with their cash.

When looking into the millennial ‘credit crunch’ generation’s finances, almost one-in-three have less than £500 in the bank. That’s not even enough to cover one month’s rent according to figures around the average rent in England, which is £679. It’s not necessarily for a lack of trying though, as the survey also revealed that millennials are more likely to start saving at a younger age than both Generation X and baby boomers.

They are also more likely to start saving for practical things such as breakdown cover or home emergencies at a younger age, suggesting there is a disconnect between wages and the practicalities of modern life in the UK.

Savings and debt
Average age start saving regularly:

Baby Boomers = 51% become regular savers aged 30 or younger (Av age 31)

Generation X = 48% become regular savers aged 30 or younger (Av age 29)

Millennials/Generation Y = 64% become regular savers aged 30 or younger (Av age 27)

 

4 years difference
Average age start saving for practical things:

Baby Boomers = 42% become practical savers aged 30 or younger

(Av age 32)

Generation X = 40% become practical savers aged 30 or younger

(Av age 31)

Millennials/Generation Y = 52% become practical savers aged 30 or younger

(Av age 29)

 

3 years difference

All three generations agreed that their main reason for saving money through their lifetime was to buy a house. However, those who are buying, or who have just bought their first home, admitted saving for a deposit was a struggle. This is what the property landscape looks like across the generations:

The average house price today is 98 times more than it was in 1956 (£223,807 today vs £2,280 in 1956 according to gov.uk), yet wages have not increased at the same rate. This could be why the average age for first time buyers increases through the generations.

Home and living arrangements
Average age Brits move out/expect to move out:

Baby Boomers = 23 years old

Generation X = 25 years old

Millennials/Generation Y = 26 years old

 

3 years difference
Average age buying first home:

Baby Boomers = 27 years old

Generation X = 29 years old

Millennials/Generation Y = 31 years old

 

4 years difference

Chris BonesChris BonesApril 26, 2018
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7min619

Convenience, simplicity, and recommendation has become the maxim for modern consumers.

A recent study suggested that global retail e-commerce sales amounted to 2.3 trillion US dollars in 2017, with that figure expected to double by 2021. Additionally, mobile will account for 45 percent of the 632 billion dollars in total e-commerce sales by 2020, figures which reflect a new wave of tech-confident consumers. The rise of e-commerce has transformed the shopping experience; with a wealth of online marketplaces and apps available many brands are considering whether this is the time to integrate the latest technology to enhance customer experience and drive sales.

In this context, the growth in use of intelligent voice assistants are the latest hot conversation topic in retail technology with voice search being identified by some commentators as the upcoming trend. Visual search is another conversation gaining air-time where users scan objects with their smartphone camera and this reads the image to find similar products.

According to one Gartner report, by 2021 early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice-search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30 percent. Yet before brands rush to invest in speech recognition platforms, it may be worth asking – is this really the right time to act?

One of the main problems with the quoted figures in the conversations on voice and visual search is quantifiability. Voice and visual search cannot yet be tracked in any major analytics software and this suggests that there may be an argument not to rush into action. So, whilst voice (and visual) search is undoubtedly on the increase, there is very little hard evidence on the rate of increase as it impacts e-commerce.

In 2017, a very detailed survey of mobile voice search was conducted in the US on the use of voice search. Of the top 20 questions asked by those surveyed who used their voice assistant at least once a day, not one was about online shopping. The only question relevant to retail in any way was asked by the six percent who wanted to find a named local business and the five percent who wanted some information on a named local business.

In the same survey, over 50 percent of those questioned said they used their voice search whilst driving: quite possibly one of the least propitious times for retailers – unless you are selling car-parking!

No-one is arguing that voice and visual search won’t increase in importance as technology gets more sophisticated and machine learning programmes become more effective. Marketers should look through the hype and think carefully as to whether they need to respond or keep their powder dry.

So, what should drive the decision to invest? The key criterion is probably relevance. As an example of an early adopter, in 2017 ASOS launched a visual search tool on its app which enables customers to upload photos of items they like and find similar products on the ASOS website. The combination of the scale of revenue attributed to their app and a target demographic that is more likely to be active on Snapchat and Instagram and the fact that ASOS offers both a marketplace as well as its own merchandise makes this an intelligent early move.

Unless you are similar in scale and demographic, the cost of the investment and the potentially low level of use may push this type of investment outside of any standard ‘hurdle’ rate calculation. Voice has greater ubiquity, but it too is perhaps better suited to repeat purchases. Companies such as Amazon may experience greater success with the search method as it will enable customers to quickly re-order the same products and link this to frictionless payment.

On the other hand, products which require detailed search terms will be harder to locate via voice – at least for now. Customers are probably less likely to order items which they cannot see, particularly for example in clothing and furniture products. Ultimately as of now, brands should not become too fixated on optimising their execution and interface for voice search, rather they should be completely fixated on delivering an outstanding customer experience from initial touch to post-purchase service and ongoing interaction. This is still a rare achievement in e-commerce.

Work by UK CX firm Good Growth for global media, retail, utilities, leisure and B2B brands has revealed data showing a a consistently average customer experience. Here are three key pieces of data: 45 percent of customers had difficulty finding products online; 11 percent cited a poorly designed product page as a major frustration; and 90 percent of users on product pages fail to buy

It doesn’t matter how good your response to voice search is if what is presented to the customer doesn’t work. By listening to their customers’ expectations and identifying the technical obstacles hindering a smooth customer journey, online retailers can improve their Customer Experience. Over the last year in nearly 75 reviews of major UK and US e-commerce retailers we discovered that no more than 25 percent of them were doing this. If you are not doing this, investing the modest sums to enable you to do this should be a far greater priority than addressing voice/visual search.

Clarity and simplicity remain the byword for customers when shopping online and delivering on this will have the greatest impact on performance. Whilst it remains to be seen whether the majority of consumers will make the transition from conventional shopping modes to voice/visual engagement, the greatest commercial value remains in brands optimising their overall e-commerce experience for the customer.


Paddy WhitewayPaddy WhitewayApril 24, 2018
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6min1100

The successful rise of tech-first companies such as Amazon and Uber have taken service delivery and Customer Experience to new levels.

This has bought into stark focus the quality of service provided by longer-established companies. Customers now expect the same high level of service from every company they deal with and many are struggling to achieve it.

Companies try to improve, but miss the fundamental point that providing great Customer Experience isn’t about an ‘add-on’ function – it requires the company to organise its entire structure around it.

In other words, behind every great service is a great organisation; the quality of the Customer Experience is indivisible from the ecosystem within the business that provides it.

Not understanding and acting on this inherent duality is why companies fall short.

Services are social systems, designed by people for others to deliver and use, so it’s important to not only have the right skills to design services and experiences, but also the capability to support people across the organisation to develop the Customer Experience function and shape a customer-centred company culture.

The practice of service design makes this possible and involves four fundamental steps.

1. Designing the experience

Without a clear vision, an understanding of your customers and a definition of the future experience, there is no defined target for the service and value it should provide. Contributing teams and front-line colleagues need to understand why, and in what, they are investing their time and energy for them to be motivated and committed.

To help succeed you need to:

• Conduct qualitative design research and draw inspiration from leaders in related worlds
• Develop the vision, principles, and strategy that will underpin the success of the target experience
• Imagine and detail new solutions and design omnichannel journeys to meet the needs of different customer personas
• Define the value case to reassure decision makers of the rationale for investment and change

2. Defining the enablers

In order to understand what’s needed to deliver the target experience and the associated changes, the new service ecosystem of enablers, requirements, roles, and partnerships needs to be defined. In turn, this informs the operational design and implementation roadmaps with which to mobilise and engage delivery teams.

In this stage you need to:

• Identify the enablers needed to achieve the stated outcomes for the customer and business
• Design the service ecosystem and determine how each component will relate to each other
• Co-create the operational design and the defined roles required to deliver the new services
• Plot experience roadmaps to focus energy and sequence the projects that drive the step change

3. Scaling the CX function

Establishing a new Customer Experience or service design function within a business requires a level of support, integration, engagement, and tools that organisations may not be familiar with. This requires C-Suite backing and a dedicated team with the right blend of skills and design-thinking.

These teams are no longer in place just to complete service development cycles, or to give implementation of the seal of approval. Their role is integral to inspiring and supporting the organisation to invest in services and deliver them well.

The activities that help you succeed here are:

• Running Customer Experience training to engage teams in the design process and tools used
• Supporting the integration and reach of CX teams and helping them engage others in their role in the Customer Experience
• Engaging stakeholders in co-developing the change plans, roles, and responsibilities to realise delivery
• Creating the right structure and governance to support and empower CX teams

4. Shaping the company culture

For the team to function, the experience to be backed and the enablers to be delivered, you need a compatible, supportive, and on-side environment. Aside from the direct Customer Experience function, everybody needs to see the value and understand their role in delivering the experience.

If organisations can create a customer-centred culture, the experience and new ways of working will get traction and become established faster. A great starting point is assessing to what extent you are customer-centric today and to what extent you need to be in the future.

In this stage you need to:

• Assess Customer Experience maturity across the business and identify areas of focus
• Run leadership team and frontline colleague training in new ways of working
• Involve colleagues in service design projects to demonstrate the value of a more collaborative approach




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