Daniel MullinsDaniel MullinsAugust 20, 2018
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14min185

As consumers we are used to fast, easy, and convenient digital experiences from the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and Uber. Unfortunately, similar experiences in our B2B lives are few and far between.

While many B2B companies now have customer-centric strategies in place to deliver a decent Customer Experience, they still lack a digital maturity that would see them compete with their B2C counterparts and deliver a truly great or exceptional Customer Experience.

B2B companies need to embrace digital transformation and start to redefine the Customer Experience and how they create and deliver value.

The Six Pillars of Great Customer Experience

So what does a great or exceptional Customer Experience look like? B2B Customer Experience experts Nick and Paul Hague, authors of the recently published B2B Customer Experience: A Practical Guide to Delivering Exceptional CX, believe it’s built around six key pillars:

  • Commitment: being enthusiastic about satisfying customers and making them feel valued
  • Fulfilment: understanding and delivering on customer needs
  • Seamlessness: making life easier for the customer
  • Responsiveness: Timely response, delivery and resolution
  • Proactivity: Anticipating customer needs and desires and striving to resolve issues before the customer feels pain
  • Evolution: continually seeking to improve the Customer Experience

A digital-first approach to Customer Experience can go a long way to helping a b2b brand perform well against these pillars. A great digital experience is seamless from start to finish and across all touchpoints. It delivers relevant and personalised content at exactly the right time in the journey. And it provides instant, real-time access to all the information and support that might be needed.

Create a seamless digital customer journey

B2B buyers are completing around 60 percent of the purchase process before engaging with suppliers. The vast majority of this initial research is happening online and more importantly, on a smartphone. In fact, Google data shows that 50 percent of B2B search queries today are made on smartphones1.

The growing influence of mobile on the B2B buyer journey is creating a big opportunity for digitally mature brands to deliver a far superior Customer Experience than competitors.

The leading brands take a mobile-first approach when designing the Customer Experience; developing a fully-optimised mobile website, creating mobile-friendly content, and using mobile search queries to inform content creation.

To make life easier for customers ready to purchase, technology can be used to optimise the ordering process. Online product configuration tools can be designed, as well as simple self-service tools for reordering products.

Integrating other touchpoints such as social media, review websites, mobile apps, and location data into the customer journey will also add to a seamless Customer Experience.

Deliver relevant and personalised content

Advancements in technology mean it is now easier than ever before to gather masses of customer data from multiple sources. Collating this data gives marketers the ability to build a more complete, holistic view of individual customers and accounts than was previously possible and therefore deliver highly personalised and targeted content and campaigns.

For example, content can be personalised on an account or individual level, or by industry sector, geography, specific personas or stages in the buyer journey. These smaller, segmented lists can be used to send highly targeted email campaigns, to serve dynamic landing pages to website visitors, and to create personalised user journeys to guide prospects through the buying process.

Data-driven marketing tactics such as personalisation and account-based marketing (ABM) will benefit hugely from the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the coming years by automating the process of data collection, content creation, and audience targeting. This will help brands deliver what customers need at the moment they need it, creating value and enhancing the Customer Experience.

Provide access to instant, real-time information

Responsiveness is one of the most frequently mentioned reasons behind excellent customer service. B2B buyers want immediate responses to enquiries across a variety of mediums. They want quick deliveries with real-time tracking. They want regular status updates on orders. By investing in digital transformation, B2B brands can add these capabilities to the customer journey and deliver a superior Customer Experience.

Social media sites such as Twitter have emerged as vitally important channels for customers to get in touch with suppliers to request information and support. The time it takes to reply and the quality of the solutions provided can make or break the Customer Experience. Leading brands will employ well-trained staff to respond quickly and efficiently from early morning through to late evening, and invest in social listening tools to make sure they’re not missing a conversation.

For those buyers who want quick support but don’t want to pick up the phone or use social media, instant chat facilities on a supplier’s website may be the answer. Unfortunately, while common in the B2C world, there are far fewer examples of instant chat support in B2B.

So, B2B brands willing to invest in the technology will gain a big advantage over competitors and be able to deliver a far more helpful Customer Experience. For the best possible results, it’s important to make sure there are real people behind the chat who have the power to resolve problems and offer solutions quickly, rather an automated bots who just point people in the direction of FAQs or the contact page.    

Build an online community for support and feedback

B2B purchases can involve a lot of money being spent on products and services of high strategic importance to the organisation. B2B products also tend to be more complex than consumer products. So, the ability to access support and helpful resources not only in the buying process but also post-purchase is important to B2B customers.

Developing an online resource centre or customer portal gives B2B brands the opportunity to create added value for customers and enhance the Customer Experience. A portal can include support forums where customers can easily share best practice and ask for help from other customers.

They can also provide an open innovation platform for customers to give feedback and suggestions on how the supplier can improve their products, services or Customer Experience. By responding directly to feedback from customers and documenting the actions taken, B2B brands can show that they are striving to understand and deliver on customer needs and continually seeking to improve the Customer Experience.   

Deliver proactive product support and maintenance

Along with Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT) is another emerging digital technology which B2B brands can use to transform the Customer Experience and create a significant competitive advantage over rivals.

The IoT is simply a network of devices connected via the internet. This allows them to communicate with each other by sending and receiving data. Sensors can be placed in almost any device to connect them to a network and make them ‘smart’.

Manufacturers can take advantage of IoT by placing sensors in products to collect usage data. This data can be used to predict when maintenance may be needed and to monitor performance in order to provide the customer with support and advice on how to maximise efficiency. IoT can also be used to send software updates and improved configurations to products over the internet, giving the customer peace of mind that their product is always up-to-date and running as efficiently as possible.

Conclusion

Digital transformation is a powerful opportunity for B2B brands willing to invest the resources required to create added value for tech savvy B2B buyers and deliver a superior experience across the entire customer journey. Brands looking to perform well against the six pillars of Customer Experience need to embrace digital and design a seamless mobile-optimised journey, deliver highly relevant and personalised content, provide instant real-time access to support and develop a ‘smart’ product ecosystem that monitors usage data and keeps products working to their full potential.

It’s important to remember that digital transformation doesn’t remove the need for human interaction. Given that many B2B products are complex and highly-customised, customers will always require expert sales and product staff to help them make the best decision and offer support where necessary.

The best customer experiences will use digital to improve human interactions and combine it with digitally-enabled services and fully-automated self-service tools where necessary. B2B brands that tailor the journey to the unique needs of their customers will deliver the best Customer Experience.

To learn more about the six pillars of Customer Experience and how to deliver an exceptional B2B Customer Experience, B2B Customer Experience: A Practical Guide to Delivering Exceptional CX, written by Nick Hague and Paul Hague and published by Kogan Page, is out now. Find out more about the book here.

 

[1] https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/intl/en-154/insights-inspiration/industry-perspectives/b2b-marketing-reshaping-growth/


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10min330

Many organisations recognise the need to change the way they do business, embrace customer-centricity, and develop a more compelling Customer Experience.

So, what should the ideal organisation look like and what does this mean in terms of leadership priorities and the new behaviours decision makers need to adopt to ensure that digital transformation and cultural change deliver the right outcomes for the business?

Leading organisations show unique characteristics that enable them to break through commoditisation and stagnation, run rings around competition, or disrupt markets with new operating models that resonate with the market they seek to address.

Often it is the behaviour of their leaders that challenges and provokes the expectations they have of their employees. We see this at companies like Amazon, Apple, and Salesforce, where employees go the extra mile on a daily basis to deliver a superior brand experience.

While the technology, product performance, and personal service can account for game-changing operating models, we also see that speed, flexibility, agility, personalisation, and personality are increasingly important factors. Adoption of new technology and processes are often important enablers, yet employee behaviours and approaches to decision making are still key to building customer-centric leadership.

Becoming customer obsessed to improve emotional connections and responsiveness

It takes a certain mindset from employees to rachet up growth and profitability through relevance and responsiveness to customers. So what are the ingredients to successful culture change that can bear this fruit?

We have heard of customer obsession – putting the interests of customers first in order to build deep relationships with them – but what are the specific behaviours that will cultivate this? How can organisations develop a customer-obsessed culture that enables employees to win customers and keep them by delivering superior customer value?

Organisations often use assessment frameworks to look at culture holistically or as part of good conduct and regulatory compliance, such as the Denison Culture Model or the Banking Standards Board Framework in the UK.

However, few of these models focus on the behaviours that link leadership and employee decision-making directly to customer outcomes and what is needed to embrace customer-centricity and foster a customer-obsessed culture.

Customer obsession is increasingly emotionally charged and includes a sense of urgency to address customer expectations as well as the ability to resolve customer issues in real-time.

The Market Responsiveness Index (MRI)™ is part of a framework designed to accelerate organisational behavioural change that benchmarks performance relative to a database of over 420 customer-centric organisations, such as Amazon, Apple, Blackrock, Salesforce, and Starbucks, providing clarity on how customer-centric the culture is in being proactive on addressing external influences as well as encouraging internal enablers to success.

The program also includes a range of initiatives and interventions to accelerate improvement and embed behaviours that lead to success.

MarketCulture Strategies developed the MRI after conducting research on business performance that culminated in the book, The Customer Culture Imperative: A Leader’s Guide to Driving Superior Performance. Their research identified eight key dimensions, of which five are external disciplines (that is, outward facing) and three are internal enablers (inward facing), for leaders and decision makers to embrace as an integral part of the organisation and how it affects day-to-day business.

Extensive analysis of what differentiates high performing and low performing companies shows that these eight dimensions are directly linked to stronger levels of customer satisfaction, innovation, new product success, sales growth, profitability, and profit growth.

By benchmarking performance on these eight disciplines of customer obsession against a growing database of leading international companies, organisations can gain a much more objective view on how their behaviour is encouraging effective decision-making with focus on the areas that really count.

Each of the eight disciplines incorporated in the Market Responsiveness Index™ has a set of underlying behaviours and activities that determine how well employees are applying capabilities to gain impact and create value. By measuring their performance, organisations can benchmark against best practice and prioritise improvements that will accelerate adoption of customer-centric behaviour at all levels.

An assessment of performance on these measures can be subjective; often senior leaders think each of these disciplines are in hand, yet specific divisions or front-line teams often feel that parts of the organisation are out of touch with what is really happening.

Application of a framework to capture these different viewpoints sharpens the ability of the organisation to be honest with itself on how well it is performing, and what changes are needed to respond to the business environment and improve on specific strategic objectives like innovation or customer retention.

Delivering impact on customer outcomes and business performance

Vodafone is a global organization based in the UK that is rebooting its culture to become customer obsessed. After seeing NPS score flatline, Vodafone CEO, Vittorio Colao, had the MRI assessment conducted with 3,600 leaders across 28 markets, and the ‘We CARE’ initiative came out of this to shift the organisational mindset towards customers.

Their latest customer service initiative based on learnings from customer insight? A 30-day cool-off period for new pay monthly contracts so that customers can join Vodafone with peace of mind, knowing they can leave with no penalties if they are not happy. As Vodafone develops a new set of capabilities and services as part of the 5G roll-out, they plan to differentiate offerings with a customer-centric culture that puts customers’ best interests first.

Blackrock is the world’s largest fund manager, with an increasingly dominant presence across the globe. A large proportion of its clients are institutional investors. Some of these enterprise customers complained that reporting deliverables were consistently late and of poor quality. Internal operations leaders didn’t appreciate the extent and urgency of the problem and front-line Account Managers were frustrated and unable to influence the operational functions to make the necessary changes.

An MRI showed a significant gap in cross-functional collaboration on resolving customer issues, and improvements following a ‘Customer Immersion Program’ lead to an increase in customer retention of around ten percent, with increased investment from existing clients over the 12 months following the MRI.

Organisations are under pressure to change. The key question is: what do they need to become in order to succeed? By developing a customer-obsessed culture, leaders can focus effort in the right places and bring about a step-change transformation to become well differentiated and highly responsive to the changing needs of customers.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamAugust 9, 2018
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5min390

Experts in background music and technology experiences for the retail and hospitality industries, Startle International has seen outstanding growth since beginning trading in 2015.

A start-up moulded by its team members and an employee-first culture that translates across all operations, the company adopted a remote-working model from the start. Aside from the vast employee benefits of no commuting cost or stress, flexibility, and more control over time, this meant that Startle had significantly low operating costs, allowing more to be invested in the development of the business.

Startle recently took home the award for Employee Engagement – Growth By Design in the 2018 UK Employee Experience Awards, showcasing how the business has made ‘working from home’ work exceptionally well for them. With some of the team now based in North America, a common question asked is how Startle will maintain its highly-regarded Employee Experience reputation and build on their remote-working culture as they continue to grow.

Founder and Head of Operations, Adam Castleton, advised that, while there are certainly challenges in working as a remote team, he is confident that the business will continue to benefit from doing so. He explains:

Operating remotely has been our plan from the beginning, and we’re proud to do things differently! Our team members embrace this, and we continue work on the challenges of communication while benefiting from Deep Work, enabled by fewer distractions. Expanding internationally means we’ve already faced complexities of time-difference and have had to invest more in building relationships with our American colleagues, we’ve always found ways to innovate and make this work in our favour.”

In the next year, Startle plans to implement a host of initiatives to improve team communication, productiveness, and subsequently, happiness.

The first of these is to arrange local satellite hotdesking areas for each employee, allowing them somewhere to work from outside of their homes if they want a change of scenery or prefer to meet face-to-face with a colleague. These spaces will be offered for employees to use as much or as little as they wish, giving more flexibility and everyday support.

Secondly, while Startle has always treated its team to fun-filled Christmas getaways (including an all-expenses-paid trip to a German theme park last year, for which the US team were flown over), the company has now introduced what will be an annual Summer ‘retreat’.

A mixture of company workshops and social activities, these whole-team getaways help to strengthen relationships, brainstorm ideas for growth, and importantly, celebrate success. The theme for this year’s retreat was The Customer Journey, which was entirely broken down, analysed, and re-mapped to create what the team will now collaborate towards in the months to come.

Along with a personal development programme that steers team members towards progression as Startle grows, and a share scheme that means all employees are owners of the business, these initiatives signify a forward-thinking business that, as described by Employee Experience expert, Ben Whitter, has “thrown out the tatty old rule book” and “created their own rules through experience and innovation”.

In the coming months, Startle hopes to acknowledge and celebrate its achievements further at the 2018 International Customer Experience Awards, for which the whole team will be flown to Amsterdam. But, shhh!…they don’t know that yet!


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 9, 2018
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4min419

The future of the booming Customer Experience sector is the focus of an upcoming conference in which attendees can gain valuable insight from some of CX’s biggest names.

Hosted by Awards International at the Reading HQ of Microsoft on October 3, The Future is CX will feature 10 presentations from industry leaders, who will discuss award-winning CX strategies that have revamped the paths to success in both B2B and B2C environments.

Chairing the conference is Ian Golding, international CX specialist and author of the book that has this year ignited a new drive towards customer-centricity, Customer What: the Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience.

Ian will introduce a range of speakers, including representatives of firms that have enjoyed significant success in the UK Customer Experience Awards.

They will reveal the strategies that pushed them not only towards awards recognition, but also a new level of customer-centricity that has revitalised their relationship with consumers and clients alike.

The speakers include Jo Mayes of Business Stream, who led her team to victory at the 2017 UK Customer Experience Awards thanks to a hugely successful partnership with consultants Capgemini, who will also be represented at the conference by Principle Consultant Karen Thompson.

Together, they will reveal how utilities have learned from other industries when it comes to much-needed digital revamps of customer service provision.

Meanwhile, Bluesky’s Managing Director Sally Earnshaw will present on the need to keep ‘people power’ a focus in an era of ever-increasing digital dominance, while Andrew McGuigan, Microsoft’s Director of Worldwide Customer Service Strategy, will outline a range of successful strategies, including turning customers into advocates, and the importance of data science.

Other guests include Director of The Henley Centre for Customer Management and Professor of Strategic Marketing at Henley Business School, Moira Clarke; Digital Learning Specialist at clothing giant River Island, Mike Collins; VP of Consulting and Innovation at Forrester, Qaalfa Dibeehi; Maria Bourke of Let’s Get Healthy; and the founder of CXellence Consulting, Manuela Pifani.

For further details and to reserve tickets for this unique event, click here, where details can also be found on a special early bird offer that can save 35 percent on booking costs.


Pini YakuelPini YakuelAugust 8, 2018
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7min450

A seasonal temperature just 1°C higher or lower than average typically causes a one percent fluctuation in sales, according to recent research.

With the UK retail sector being valued at roughly £300 billion, this equates to a potential loss of £3 billion caused simply by the weather. Weather-affected sales account for around 4.5 percent of overall sales, a number that could determine a profit or a loss for many retailers.

Most obviously, weather has a marked influence on what consumers buy: items such as sunscreen and hay fever medication tend to fly off the shelves in summer, whilst rain jackets and umbrellas quickly sell out when the weather takes a turn for the worse. It has also been proven that after exposure to sunlight, consumers are more willing to self-indulge, meaning they are likely to pay more for goods and services.

Weather also impacts consumers’ decision to postpone or fast-track their purchases. During a mild autumn, for example, many will delay buying winter clothing, whilst during an unseasonably warm spring, consumers will commonly fast track their purchases of gardening equipment.

Weather also has an impact in terms of the channel shoppers use, substituting high street shops with online stores and shopping centres when the weather is bad. When temperatures drop, the general trend is that an increased number of consumers stay indoors and shop online. However, each city in the UK reacts slightly differently to temperature elevation in regards to their purchase behaviour.

This data again suggests that the impact of weather on online sales is geo-specific and dependent on the weather patterns usually experienced within these locations, as well as the attitudes and culture of consumers.

However, predictability of weather is not a trait the UK processes, and the British weather gods don’t hesitate to make the dramatic swing from ‘ice creams to umbrellas’ within a matter of hours. It is not just a matter of whether the weather is hot or cold, sunny or cloudy, wet or dry – the critical issue is how quickly and efficiently retailers can align themselves to dramatic changes or unseasonal weather.

In order to ensure that this doesn’t dampen sales, retailers need to adapt quickly, and the more insight they have into customers’ needs the better. Customers will respond well to recommendations that match their requirement and mood which, as discussed above, may be largely influenced by weather.

Truly effective personalisation results in improved customer engagement, loyalty, and spend; but only 30 percent of customers feel that they are getting their desired level of personalisation. While many businesses are putting a greater emphasis on data collection, they are not effectively employing the data to understand customer preferences and implement truly tailored messaging.

Machine learning, AI, and pattern recognition can help marketers in a variety of ways. One of the biggest challenges facing retailers is how to personalise messaging to individual prospects and customers so that it most strongly resonates with the recipient.

By tapping into AI and machine learning, retailers can remove the guesswork involved and introduce dynamic, instant personalisation according to the weather in each location. For example, an email widget can be used to display a range of different promotions, each responsive to the weather data available for each customer’s location at the time.

Machine learning and AI should be seen as essential tools that enable truly granular and predictive marketing, promising more engaged customers, better conversion rates, increased sales and the ability to be agile, even in the face of changing weather.

The technology can optimise weather-specific campaigns by providing the right target audience for each campaign, the specific times to reach out to them and measuring their true impact. If a specific campaign is underperforming, AI will automatically detect areas of concern and re-adjust existing actions, allowing for quick reactions to changing customer needs. Once enough data has been collected on a certain campaign, the technology can recommend turning on its self-optimising feature to automatically decide the correct customer mix for each campaign action.

Until the ideal match between every campaign and customer segment can be found, businesses are potentially missing out on improving brand awareness and increasing sales opportunities. This is where continuous testing bridges the gap, as it enables businesses to maximise the effectiveness of their messaging.

The correlation between weather and sales offers great potential for retailers. Using the right tools, retailers can not only tailor their marketing campaigns according to the changing weather, they can also react quickly to the change. AI creates the agility marketers need in order to tailor campaigns according to the constantly changing weather. If the sun makes a surprise entrance during the latter half of the day, companies can instantaneously roll out messages on sun-screen or even a really cool pair of sunglasses.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 7, 2018
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10min501

Cris Beswick is among the UK’s foremost innovation specialists, and one of the pioneers behind an exciting plan to change how digital media is consumed.

That vision is The Future Shapers, a roadmap to bringing quality content and thought leadership pieces directly to readers through a ‘pay-as-you-read’ model closer in style to Netflix than the more traditional methods of paying for this content, such as intrusive adverts or hefty annual subscription fees.

In an exclusive interview with Customer Experience Magazine, Cris – the author of The Road to Innovation – discusses how the plan has the potential to return value ‘back to knowledge’, and how you can get in on the ground floor to help make it happen…

Hello Cris, tell us how the idea for The Future Shapers came about

Well, I’ve written for various publications over the last 10 years, such as magazines and newspapers, and of course for online platforms also.

In the innovation space, myself and TFS co-founders felt there was still room for another platform, one that’s online, to try and do something a little bit different.

The idea was to try and focus on quality actionable content for readers.

When it comes to what’s already available, I was frustrated by things such as monetising through intrusive adverts that diminish or dilute the fact that a site should be about thought leadership and great content. As a result of feeling this way, a friend said to me to put my money where my mouth is, and so The Future Shapers was born.

We have been live for 18 months now, with the mantra of returning value back to knowledge, for the reader and the thought leaders (the contributors).

Tell us how this plan can become a viable business model for the likes of online journalism

The innovation space is an interesting one. There are a lot of genuine experts, and the innovation space is dominating a lot of conversations – such as when asking how do businesses innovate etc. The need for innovation is right at the top of the strategic agenda for a great many people.

Our intended readers are typically senior leaders, change makers, HR directors, heads of innovation and the like. We know they are struggling to find great content around the challenges they all face when it comes to innovating.

The Future Shapers’ core aim is to ultimately become the go-to place for these people, and many others. You might say ‘we are struggling with understanding how we build an innovation strategy’, so the answer would be to go to TFS and find the content around that strategy.

Also, doing this will pinpoint thought leaders who are contributing the most when it comes to content on strategy, so there’s a secondary potential for our contributors to be directly engaged by those clients.

The original business model was: how do we monetise access to that content without going down the advertising route and filling sites with banners, or asking for annual subscriptions?

How do we value the people who provide the content that people desire? There simply aren’t many sites in the innovation space that genuinely compensate the providers of the content for what they create, yet these same sites often make significant revenue because people visit to read that very same content.

We asked: how do we provide access to this content in a way in which people pay for what they consume, rather than through costly overall subscription methods? The flip side of that question is: how do we do this and compensate the contributors, not by paying them, for example, £200 for an article, but paying them every time the article is read? This way they get the lion’s share when it comes to revenue made through their expertise.

The Future Shapers has been compared to Netflix in terms of its business model. Could this venture be as successful as that?

The comparison is there because of the interface: a pay-as-you-view service. All you will need is an account and payment mechanism. You consume as much or as little as you want, so the ‘written content version of Netflix’ is a fair analogy.

What can people do to get involved with The Future Shapers?

The beauty of what we’re doing is that we decided not to go down the route of having a big institutional investor. We had the opportunity to be backed by a few significant investors, and we could already be up and running now in terms of having the funds to build the technology that’s going to sit behind the platform and do all of the things we talked about.

However, when it comes to the people we are building the platform for, we thought: wouldn’t it be better if they owned some of the platform as well? That is what prompted us to go down the crowdfunding route. 

Several of the current investors are also contributors. They recognise that when the tech is built it will power their ability to monetise their articles and thought pieces into content that drives a revenue back to them every time someone reads what they have written.

We kept the investing private for around four weeks, to give our community a chance to invest, but now we’re public. We want the public, as investors, to help us push on to the final goal.

We are between 20 and 25 percent funded, and over the next few weeks we want to get the other 75 percent and get us past the £200,000 mark. That will then be enough for us to build the technology we need.

People can have a look at what we’re building; we would suggest they do some research on the online media industry at the moment – how its being disrupted and how its on the verge of even greater disruption.

I’m not saying we are going to disrupt the entire industry alone, but we plan to play a part in shifting from that traditional annual subscription model into the consumption model I outlined.

I would ask your readers to feel free to log onto Crowdcube, see more of what we are about, and make an investment.

We are building the tech to power TFS, but the savvy investor will see, when they read the documents, that what we are building will be significant, and that technology is where the real disruption is. That tech will be applicable to other sectors where they require a managed, protected way to push content to consumers, so the licensing of that IP will be incredibly significant in terms of how big our revenues can be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ally StuartAlly StuartJuly 27, 2018
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8min763

Consumers are reclaiming control of their online experience, especially on mobile.

Not only are they swiftly scrolling past any ad that doesn’t engage them with a clear and succinct call to action, but also preventing the ads from appearing in the first place; with 60% percent of global ad blocking activity – equal to 308 million devices – now taking place on mobile.

Add to this enhanced data rights under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and it feels as though we could be entering a new age of the ‘un-interruptible’ consumer, where it will be increasingly difficult for brands to break through the noise and reach their target audiences.     

Unquestionably, the time has come to start providing a better user experience by utilising smarter advertising techniques – such as native dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) – that engage audiences without disrupting their planned journey or raising privacy concerns.

The question is: how exactly have audience attitudes towards advertising changed, and what can advanced tools do to help create a better experience for all?

The challenge: rising online expectations

Mobile marketing is in the spotlight, with the number of smartphone users forecast to rise to 2.5 billion by 2019. Additionally, where mobile was once reserved for research and browsing, it has now increasingly become the device on which customers convert, with m-commerce driving up sales for retailers.

However, this increased digital access on mobile has created greater competition between brands to win audience attention. Advertisers are still struggling to perfect the tough balancing act between delivering ads that instantly adapt to surrounding editorial content while creating minimal disruption. As a result, 11.4 million Internet users, including those on mobile, were using ad-blocking software by the end of 2017.

But the future is not bleak. A recent whitepaper from Tyntech has revealed 80 percent of consumers are more likely to engage with a brand if the company offers a personalised experience such as offers or messaging based on location preferences.

So achieving the ideal path to conversion might not be as far off as first anticipated, providing advertisers rethink their mobile marketing strategy and invest in ads that are tailored to the consumer’s interests.

The solution to reaching the un-interruptible consumer

Just because today’s consumers are more selective about the content they interact with, doesn’t mean they are opposed to ads. Brands simply need to realise that standing out from the crowd isn’t a case of serving the largest and brashest ads, or  -‘popping up’ when a consumer is busy doing something else. Instead, they must aim to offer messages that seamlessly integrate with content being viewed and the mobile landscape.

By drawing on the value of technology such as native DCO – which allows ad content to be optimised to best suit a specific viewer in real time – brands can engage today’s mobile consumers with clear and concise messages, while still retaining the sophistication of modern techniques such as personalisation.

This empowers advertisers to replace ‘generic’, impersonal ad campaigns with contextually relevant messages that cut through the noise and safeguard the future of storytelling on mobile.

When placing content within a relevant context, advertisers not only have a better chance of reaching an audience that is interested in their messaging, but are also much more likely to engage them. Native DCO pushes this to the next level of effectiveness by allowing the content to be edited in real time to ensure it is as impactful as possible.

For example, it may be that the reader is viewing an article about the top five European holidays on a rainy day and by the time they’re on a different webpage, the next ad creative they see is focused around tackling the ‘rainy day blues’.

Additionally, ads can be optimised to suit the device the consumer is using. If ads aren’t designed for mobile, consumer frustration can be greater – particularly when it comes to issues commonly caused by large desktop ads, such as slow load times and obscured content. For instance, in the UK tech industry alone, it takes an average of 10.6 seconds to load an ad on mobile. Yet while this might be the UK norm, according to Google the recommended loading time for 2018 is under three seconds.

Mobile continues to have a great influence across the digital landscape. But the age of convenience means customers expect all interactions to suit their own needs and will be switched from off ads that don’t do this.

As we settle into Q3 of 2018, marketers need to focus on ways of adapting to the savvy digitally-focused consumer and provide small-screen solutions, such as native DCO, that add to the content experience instead of distracting from it.


John BrettJohn BrettJuly 26, 2018
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9min1783

In the 21st century, technology has become a ubiquitous part of modern workforces.

Businesses are increasing their IT budgets and investing more in new IT designed to energise business performance and staff productivity. However, it seems not all employees feel quite so confident in their ability to use new technology at work.

Sixty-one percent of staff are anxious about new technologies at work, according to a study conducted by Microsoft, Goldsmiths, University of London, and YouGov. At the same time, only 23 percent of business were investing in cultural change programmes to help staff adjust to changing work practices and understand the value of technology investment.

Low confidence and apprehension over digital changes is evidently impacting workforces, and with the rapid pace at which technology evolves this is not surprising. Sixty-oner percent of UK leaders also agree that alterations in tasks create anxiety among employees.

With this in mind, it is imperative that businesses implementing new hardware and programmes also focus on creating a confident digital culture at work. While thorough support and training are key elements in this transition, fostering a more positive mindset around technology is at the heart of this culture change. It is only then that companies will truly see the full benefits of their IT spend as staff positively engage with their technology.

Today’s workers are under pressure to possess the right IT skills and adjust quickly to different IT programmes, particularly with mounting fears over Artificial Intelligence (AI) and job automation. Such a task is made even harder when staff are accustomed to legacy systems and not supported in the transition by their companies.

Equally, employees who are too connected with their technology can find themselves feeling more pressured. The rise of remote and agile working means individuals can create a work schedule which best suits their lifestyle, however the constant connection to the office through smart devices often makes it harder to switch-off, resulting in increased anxiety.

Digital anxiety can be detrimental for individual wellbeing and actually hinder employee productivity rather than increase it: 44 percent of workers mentioned technology issues as their top reason for lack of productivity.

How do businesses begin to build a supportive digital culture?

One of the recurring issues hindering positive digital adoption at work is training. Many companies might assume that their staff are happy with the technology they use, however the truth is frequently that workers have not had adequate training with even the fundamental systems they use on a daily basis.

The key to putting IT fears to rest permanently is proper support and training. It can take time for staff to transition from legacy systems to new devices and software. Upon executing any new IT organisations should provide staff with individual training in the office to enact a real digital culture change.

This initial training will not only enhance individual’s technology usage, but will be more cost-effective in the long-term as it reduces the need for calls to external technical support.

Staff will benefit from a personalised training experience where they can learn fundamental skills and ask questions freely. Organisations might consider training courses on their existing programs such as Office 365, helping to maximise engagement and enrich workers’ digital skills. Offering training to the company’s own IT Department with a ‘Train the Trainer’ course is also indispensable when adopting different systems and equipping staff with a continuous support system.

Tailored training for each staff member will help to minimise skills shortages and enhance individuals’ confidence but it is also useful to highlight the value new IT applications will bring to the business. Educating your workforce on the benefits of the new technology through workshops and seminars will reinforce positive a positive digital philosophy and in particular support those who are struggling to transition from older technology.

For many employees, the issue with new technology is not only in the application, but having the confidence to voice your worries or concerns. Therefore, opening a discussion around technology issues is certainly helpful in fostering a digital culture.

Often individuals will feel inadequate when they cannot understand a new programme, for instance a new video calling software, preventing them from asking for advice. Advocating communication around digital issues is vital for changing this mentality.

The Deloitte Digital Disruption Index found that less than half of executives are confident in their own digital skills and ability to lead their organisation in the digital economy. If senior figures within a company have little faith in their technology ability, it becomes doubly hard for employees to have confidence in themselves. Starting a discourse around IT concerns and building up confidence must be embraced at each strata of the business and become a core part of the company’s ethos.

Before purchasing new IT, companies should also consider the needs of the end user and how that device might benefit their working day. Forty-nine percent of workers waste an average of 10 minutes per hour in a median 35 hour week with technology that does not work.

Purchasing the right IT which will simplify workloads and support collaboration is crucial to avoid a surplus of software which creates more problems than it solves. Each employee’s engagement with technology is different and this can be amplified in a multigenerational workforce. Appreciating everyone’s individual skills and avoiding unhelpful stereotypes will inspire greater confidence and effective collaboration.

Spending considerable amounts of time in front of screen can also slow down productivity and increase pressure for individuals. Encouraging staff to take breaks from their devices at work, such as a simple walk outside, will also see a great effect in individual wellbeing.

While installing new IT in your workplace can take a matter of days, the process of positive digital adoption will take slightly more time. It is essential that staff are fully supported in the technology shift, both emotionally and with training programmes and a continuous support system.

Encouraging staff questions, transparent conversations, and showing empathy towards the concerns and abilities of each employee will have a tangible impact on employee engagement. Organisations who take this holistic approach to a digital culture change will see more confident staff with a brighter outlook towards the future of technology.


Tiffany CarpenterTiffany CarpenterJuly 25, 2018
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8min1749

Tiffany Carpenter is Head of Customer Intelligence Solutions at SAS UK, and is a Judge at the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards.

 

In the ‘Age of Now’, where consumers have more choices than ever and their expectations of brands are higher than before, Customer Experience and being ‘obsessed’ with customers is your only opportunity for competitive advantage.

Remaining relevant in the experience economy

Over the last few years we’ve moved from a product and price-based economy to an experience-based economy, and the experiences that organisations deliver to customers are what drives loyalty and ensures they continue to do business with you. With consumers easily able to compare products and prices in seconds, continuing to compete in this area alone is a race to the bottom.

To avoid this, organisations need to focus more efforts on Customer Experience and that starts with understanding as much as we can about customers – what they want, what they need, what their preferences are, and how they feel.

Avoiding the race to the bottom

Much of this data already exists and is available to organisations today. Every day, across millions of interactions, your customers are sharing valuable insights with you.

Digital channels provide a huge opportunity to capture the digital breadcrumbs or footprints that customers leave with every visit. In fact, technology has advanced far beyond capturing page and content level clicks, to being able to capture granular behavioural and experiential data at individual visitor level, including everything a customer does and everything a customer sees.

Advances in technology and analytics mean it’s easier than ever for organisations to harness this data and glean valuable insights. And what’s more, customers are becoming savvier in this area too. They expect you to know them and deliver relevant and consistent experiences, regardless of the channel they choose to interact with you.

Peering into the past

While many organisations are turning to analytics to better understand customer trends and preferences, the mismatch between perception and reality when it comes to how well they can do this is hampering their ability to deliver on customer expectations.

In our research, more than 90 percent of businesses are unable to use analytics to accurately predict what individual customers will want in future. Yet over half of businesses believe that they are ‘best-in-class’ or even ‘transformational’ when it comes to using customer intelligence to shape their marketing campaigns.

The truth is that most organisations are using customer data and analytics to report on the past. Many of the analytics solutions they rely on are designed to deliver insights as reports, using descriptive and diagnostic analytics. Descriptive analytics tell us what happened, e.g. how many visitors abandoned their basket on our web site last week. Diagnostic analytics try to understand why something happened – why did we see a higher abandoned basket rate?

Both descriptive and diagnostic analytics are very useful, but the information produced in such reports is not actionable. The past has already happened, the customer has already abandoned the website and it’s too late to impact that customer’s experience in a positive way.

Using customer analytics to report on the past is bit like driving a car while only looking in the rear-view mirror: you can see where you’ve been, but you can’t see the road ahead and therefore you’re unable to properly work out your next move.

Closing the gap with predictive analytics

Organisations must become more mature in their use of analytics if they are to compete on Customer Experience. Customer data needs to comes to life by using predictive analytics to anticipate our customers’ next move and behaviours and provide guided experiences that exceed customer expectations.

Predictive analytics identifies patterns in your existing customer data set and extrapolates them to predict what is most likely to happen next. It can be used to quickly and easily drill down to the individual customer level and gives the business the ability to design a tailor-made experience for that customer, with the best likelihood of producing the desired outcome – be that sales, loyalty, or resolution of a complaint.

Apply that ability across every individual in your customer base and you can see how predictive analytics can close the Customer Experience gap.

In an age where Customer Experience is your only competitive advantage, the winners will be those who are able to take action using data faster.

For more information on the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards finalists, click here.


Rollo GraysonRollo GraysonJuly 24, 2018
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4min1630

Most senior executives say Customer Experience is central to achieving their strategic priorities, but why do so many programmes fail to deliver on their promise?

The answer often lies in a lack of senior leadership championing the CX programme, particularly after it has launched. Once the novelty has worn off, the new programme and priorities change and leaders too often move on to the next urgent challenge. Their teams are left to continue managing and optimising the CX programme, often facing an uphill battle to continue the momentum the programme previously had.

Frankly, this is a mistake. When senior leaders move on to other areas of focus, with them goes control of investments, influence on what are seen as business priorities, and ultimately, the power to dictate how teams undertake their roles in delivering the Customer Experience. Without the buy-in and ongoing commitment from senior leaders, CX engagement programmes are doomed to fail.

Staff engagement is also part of the picture. Most customer-facing staff don’t start their day wanting to deliver poor Customer Experience. Typically it’s the processes or technology sitting behind their day-to-day working lives that prevent staff from delivering experiences that companies really want their customers to have.

This handicap drives staff disengagement and cynicism towards CX programmes. It is our view that senior leaders are the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to engaging the organisation. Without senior leader commitment, there is little chance that the rest of the organisation will be convinced of the importance of CX.

Here are three ways to get the best from senior leadership and help CX programmes deliver on their promise of increased profitability and differentiation.

Firstly, senior leaders need to be convinced of the value (financial and otherwise). Business leaders understand that happy customers lead to happy shareholders. Putting a financial value on CX gives senior leaders the tools they need to really understand the impact of CX, make educated decisions, and track outcomes for both the customer and the business. 

Secondly, make them accountable – the buck needs to stop at the top. The most successful projects we’ve worked on had senior leaders personally responsible for CX performance. It may be controversial, but tying compensation to CX performance is a growing trend and the leadership team is a logical place to start.

The third suggestion is to lock in ongoing commitment. Effective ways to achieve this include leaders frequently communicating their support across the organisation and calling customers to discuss their feedback.

It is our experience that CX programmes with ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ levels of engagement from senior leaders inevitably fizzle out and fail. Is your CX programme destined to have the same fate?

Rollo Grayson is Senior Manager – Customer Experience Activation with Kantar TNS.

 




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