Omnichannel CX and contact centre solutions provider Genesys is rebranding its flagship software as a service (SaaS) offering.
The company is changing the name of PureCloud – the world’s leading public cloud contact centre platform – to Genesys Cloud.
The move is to reflect the evolution of the company and mark the launch of Experience as a ServiceSM powered by Genesys Cloud, which enables organisations to achieve true personalisation at scale.
Genesys CEO Tony Bates, explained: “Through Genesys Cloud, we’re delivering Experience as a Service to make it easier for organisations to foster customer trust and loyalty. This starts by helping them know their customers as individuals, not profiles or segments, and leading with empathy throughout every connected moment.
“When businesses can provide distinctive experiences tailored for each customer, they’re achieving the level of personalisation today’s consumers are looking for – and that’s what we enable with Genesys Cloud.”
With the ongoing advances in digital media, I often see organisations claiming to be “customer-centric”, when in reality they are being channel-centric.
In the search for giving the best-in-class Customer Experience, do you understand the difference?
With a new decade upon us, it has never been more relevant to invest in a Customer First strategy. The objective is not only to attract more customers, but also to retain them for repeat purchases; we know that retaining existing customers is somewhere between five and 25 times more profitable than new customers (Amy Gallo, The value of keeping the right customers, HBR).
Many organisations are focussing on specific channels, or becoming omnichannel, which is driving their business activity and direction. It is important to remember that whilst these channels are built and designed to make their user interface easy, they may not match the objectives of your own organisation.
Online channels will heavily promote on-line transactions, whereas not every customer wants to interact that way and importantly, not every product can be sold that way. The important thing is to understand what your customer wants and not what the channel wants.
Three things I strongly recommend that you self reflect on are…
1. Get clear on what is the right mix of online and in-person experience for your situation
Having worked in retail now for more than two decades, I know that retail is not dead, despite the headlines.
Yes, it has evolved and now online plays an important part in the transaction. Look at how Argos and Next use their online presence in combination with their retail presence. Online is there to confirm availability or information about their purchase, but often a customer will complete the transaction in store.
Many of their customers are using a combination of channels and considering it a complete experience.
2. Seek out partners for mutual benefit
Consider everything outside of your organisation as a partnership opportunity – this includes the traditional and digital channels that will use.
It is true that many people, myself included, will buy things online from sites like Amazon, so instead of seeing them as a threat, consider what opportunities this can create for you. Next are taking in Costa Coffee shops, whilst Sainsbury’s and Argos are also working together.
They are seeking out partners, where each is sharing their offering and their audience for the mutual benefit of all. You can develop a referral scheme or a package scheme which will benefit your customers as well.
3. Value your customers’ time
If you think about it, every single innovation that has been successful has either been more ‘fun’ or has saved time. Netflix, for example, is not a technology disruptor – it just makes it easier for us to access movies from various devices.
Work out how you can save time for your customers; they did not come to your business to queue up to pay. They came to eat or they came to buy something.
How can you make this part of the transaction quicker and easier? If they buy online, they can select the products for their basket and pay and get on with their day.
So how can you replicate this in your business?This same thinking can be applied to the start of the process – can you propose to me what I usually buy, so I can even save time up front ordering?
This article has been about customer centricity and the message is for you to think about how can you configure your business to make your customers lives easier. As you get into this new year, and new decade, see what changes you can bring to your strategy and delivery in order to reduce the friction your customer feels.
Do this, and you will see a disproportionate increase in your numbers.
Almost a third of British firms hit by cyber-security attacks last year chose to ignore them, new research has revealed.
Thirty-two percent of UK companies said they took “no action” after an online security breach in 2019. despite this type of crime collectively costing British firms a huge sum.
Research gathered by LearnBonds sows that61 percent of large businesses identified cyber breaches over the last 12 months, although this figure falls to 32 percent when the country’s medium-sized and small firms are taken into consideration.
UK travel money firm Travelex has faced days of disruption after a software virus attack on New Year’s Eve. The move also affected Sainsbury’s Bank, Barclays, and HSBC, among others, which all use the Travelex platform.
The money firm said it was forced to close take its site offline site to contain “the virus and protect data”.
The most common attacks are ‘phishing’ breaches, where fraudsters send emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to tempt firms to reveal sensitive information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. Criminals sending malware and ransomware attacks were also common.
The average cost of these attacks for large firms was £22,700, though when medium-sized and small firms are taken into consideration the mean costs falls to £9,470, according to data from Ipsos Mori for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in November.
The department added that the “costs of cyber-security breaches can be substantial”, adding: “Things like lost productivity or reputational damage tend to be overlooked. This means that when organisations reflect on their approaches to cyber-security, they may be undervaluing the true cost and impact of cyber-security breaches.”
Over the past few years, personalisation has emerged as one of the most dominant and prolonged trends in marketing, favoured by both big brands and small brands alike.
In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a marketing team that doesn’t employ some kind of data-led personalisation. One of the reasons personalisation tactics have become so commonplace is because they provide impressive ROI and enable brands to tailor their service or offering to their customers, driving loyalty and increased spend.
But while personalisation is the bread and butter of every online marketer and retailer, the hospitality industry has been slower to adopt this valuable practice – and operators are losing out on the bottom-line benefits personalisation can bring about. To stand out from the crowd, hospitality venues need to learn from marketers and embrace personalisation across all areas of their business.
Perfecting guest experiences
The entire online experience is now personalised for each individual user.
Whenever someone logs onto a website they’ve visited before, marketing algorithms kick into action and begin leveraging an array of data points – such as purchase and browser history, psychographics, and social activity – to tailor every element of the page to their particular likes and dislikes.
Yet despite the fact that many of these same opportunities to personalise service and improve Customer Experience exist for hospitality operators, few have deployed the technology necessary to enable personalisation at scale.
One of the big barriers to entry for restaurants is the issue of data capture and storage. Currently, many operators rely on seasoned service staff using antiquated systems to capture notes and store guest data – which merely function as digital notebooks.
But these low-tech solutions are no longer viable for a business in 2020. What if staff turnover or simple human error lead to a valued, long-term customer not receiving the highly personalised experience they are accustomed to?
In this instance, hospitality operators need to begin leveraging the same personalisation tactics that are used online for offline, in-service experiences. For instance, online marketers typically use a platform that helps them capture, store, and leverage user data.
Likewise, data-driven operations, marketing and guest engagement hospitality platforms such as SevenRooms empower service staff to log, database, and then use guest data to personalise diners’ experiences on the fly.
Much like online marketers tailoring every element of a website to individual users, restaurants that use hospitality platforms with a strong focus on helping capture and activate guest data can ensure guests are always greeted by their first name, showed to their preferred table, and offered their favourite drinks – regardless of who waits on them.
By perfecting guest experiences in this way, restaurants can deliver the sort of memorable service that drives repeat business. And, given that regulars can account for up to 40 percent of a restaurants’ total revenue, leveraging personalisation tactics to boost guest loyalty should be a top concern for every hospitality venue.
Personalising menu recommendations
With this in mind, the need for restaurants to offer as personalised an experience as possible is clear. One area of the restaurant experience in particular that hospitality operators should look to personalise is their menus and menu recommendations.
For diners, especially those with special dietary requirements or preferences such as allergies and vegetarianism, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to wade through pages of irrelevant menu choices to find a dish to order. But just as online retailers already leverage customer data to only display products that consumers will be interested in, hospitality venues, too, can make use of guest data to tailor menu recommendations to particular diners.
For example, when a returning guest arrives at the restaurant to eat, service staff can refer to their guest profile on their hospitality platform and check for any dietary requirements. If the guest is marked down as being vegetarian, staff can provide them with their vegetarian menu or point out vegetarian options on the standard menu.
Improving service standards by tailoring menu recommendations like this can help hospitality operators improve their guests’ overall dining experience.
Opportunities for menu personalisation extend beyond the in-service experience and into post-service email marketing, too. By tracking a guest’s order history, operators can gain an understanding of the types of dishes guests enjoy eating – and those they’re likely interested in hearing more about.
For instance, every time a guest visits the restaurant, they always order a pasta dish. If this restaurant then introduces a new pasta dish to their menu, operators can leverage the order history data and deliver a marketing email that invites these guests to try the new dish. This personalisation tactic can not only directly drive sales, but also demonstrate the kind of personalised understanding of guests that will boost customer loyalty.
Tailoring offers for special events
How many times in the week leading up to a special occasion, like a birthday, have you received an email from a brand inviting you to enjoy 10 percent off your next purchase?
Probably every year. How many times have you actually used this offer? Probably very few.
Now, how many times have you celebrated a special occasion with a meal out? Again, probably every year. But despite special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries presenting hospitality venues with a unique opportunity to boost revenue and build brand loyalty, operators have been slower to adopt the personalisation-led tactics used by marketers that are needed to make the most out of these opportunities.
Rather than waiting for guests to come to them on special occasions, operators should make use of guest data to invite them to their venues in the weeks prior to big events. For example, say a guest has an anniversary coming up in a couple of weeks.
Restaurants can leverage this information by emailing them about an offer for a complimentary bottle of champagne upon arrival as an incentive for them to book. In this way, hospitality operators can learn from marketers and embrace personalisation-led tactics to drive repeat business.
Whilst online marketers have long used personalisation to improve consumer experiences, build customer loyalty, and ultimately boost profits, hospitality venues have been comparatively slower at tailoring their offerings to individual diners.
But despite industry reticence, there are many untapped opportunities for hospitality venues willing to invest in operations platforms and begin leveraging guest data to personalise and perfect guests’ experiences.
Customer engagement software specialists Freshworks has shed light on how customers interact with AI tech such as chatbots in an insightful new report.
In AI in Customer Service: A Survey Report from Europe, responses from 6,000 customers and 800 senior business leaders across the continent were analysed to provide answers on what consumers think of the growing technology.
The research reveals that 41 percent of European consumers “see no benefit of chatting with a bot”, while 29 percent said answers from bots “did not help solve their problem”.
For brands, Freshworks has found that 25 percent are currently using artificial intelligence solutions to improve customer service.
The research was commissioned to highlight the disconnect between what brands believe they are providing, and what exactly customers themselves say about the services.
Among the experts providing insight in the report is CX advisor and author Adrian Swinscoe. He said: “There’s been a significant gap in brand and customer perception of the type of service being delivered and received for some time.
“The addition of new technology and new channels, in many ways, is exacerbating the situation, as customer expectations increase, and businesses have to manage more ways of communicating than ever before.”
Companies must provide digital-first omnichannel experiences to meet consumer expectations and effectively compete in the experience economy.
That is the key takeaway from the third annual 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark report, which details how understanding younger generations’ use of – and expectations around – next-generation solutions like artificial intelligence (AI) and digital channels including private social messaging are fundamental to building exceptional, best-in-class Customer Experience.
As millennials and Generation Z become dominant consumer groups, with Gen Z purchasing already reaching an estimated $100 billion, according to research conducted by Barkley, their comfort level and familiarity with multiple digital channels including social messaging and chatbots means organisations, no matter their size, must provide digital-first omnichannel experiences to meet consumer expectations and effectively compete in the experience economy.
The global study reveals that almost 60 percent of Gen Z and millennials have used private social messaging for customer service. In contrast, just 38 percent of Gen X, 19 percent of baby boomers and 16% of those born before 1945 have done so.
The majority ofGen Z and millennials also want companies to allow them to interact with customer service using private social messaging apps (72 percent and 69 percent, respectively).
Meanwhile, consumers are using AI more and feeling more positive about chatbots over time. Half of all consumers have used AI for any purpose (50 percent), compared to 2018 (45 percent).
This can be attributed to a significant increase in the use of an automated assistant/chatbot online (34 percent, up from 25 percent in 2018). Gen Z and millennials are more likely to agree that chatbots make it easier and quicker for their issues to get resolved, and are also the most likely of all generations to have used all forms of AI for any purpose, as well as for customer service.
Seamless digital-first omnichannel experiences, meanwhile, are vital to a positive Customer Experience. Most consumers (93 percent) want seamless omnichannel experiences, and yet they are increasingly giving companies a poor rating on seamlessly switching between channels – 73 percent give companies a poor rating, up from 67 percent in 2018.
This is especially important for meeting and exceeding the expectations of millennials and Gen Z, who are the most likely to have experienced omnichannel customer service (16 percent and 21 percent, respectively).
Paul Jarman, NICE inContact CEO, said: “Understanding the nuances of what consumers expect, and how they actually engage with brands via a myriad of digital channels, and integrating these in-demand channels seamlessly to deliver digital-first omnichannel experiences, is key to sustainable growth.
“The NICE inContact CX Benchmark looks beyond education around demographic customer service trends and gets to the root of what makes new channel options attractive. Millennials and Gen Z are bellwethers of what consumers expect and are increasingly likely to recommend a company on social media based on personal experiences – the influence they wield is tremendous.”
As we dive head-first into the holiday season, we can expect to see a familiar set of stories about the changing face of the retail industry. Headlines will no doubt focus on consumers’ increasing reliance on online shopping and how it is compounding the tight margins and challenging trade environment that retailers with physical locations must battle. This is, in fact, a disruption which has been taking place since the dot-com bubble – and nearly as long as the term ‘disruption’ has been in popular business parlance.
A more recent consequence of this disruption has been the emergence of omnichannel retail, in which the Customer Experience online and in-store is brought together and purchasing journeys can move seamlessly between online store-fronts, social media, targeted advertising, mobile apps, and physical retail locations.
As a way of converting a greater portion of product interest into product sales, omnichannel has emerged as a key defensive measure against tightening margins and falling footfall. One Harvard Business Review study found that omnichannel shoppers spend four percent more during each store visit and 10 percent more online than shoppers who only use one or the other channel.
Even more bullish analysis from the ICSC found that operating across multiple channels leads to an average follow-on spend of $167 online for every $100 spent in-store.
The business upsides of an omnichannel strategy, like the business pressures driving its adoption, are well known and broadly accepted. Much less, however, has been said about the technological change which lies beneath this evolution. Traditional retailers are increasingly moving essential IT infrastructure to the cloud, tempted first of all by the lure of being able to scale costs with demand and in line with often fluctuating revenues.
Combining these reduced overheads with increased revenue, however, means not just replacing traditional IT infrastructure with public cloud solutions on a like-for-like basis, but taking the opportunity to optimise the huge data sets that retail generates. Unifying duplicated data, rationalising database structures, and opening lines of communication between silos of information means that the product on a shop floor, the product’s page on an ecommerce site, and the product photo displayed in an online advert can all, from the perspective of the business’s IT systems, be understood as the same item.
While this transformation in how data is managed – together with a boost in available processing power – is bringing different retail channels into alignment, it also establishes the foundations upon which emerging technologies can be implemented.
If Step One for a retail business is converging its data, and Step Two is using that data to converge its physical and digital channels, retailers are increasingly discovering the benefits of a Step Three in which it is made more valuable with AI. As cloud computing becomes prevalent, we will see the addition of AI bring unexpected benefits to how personalised shopping can be, how environmentally friendly it can be, what kinds of experience it can give – and a retail sector which can disrupt even as it is being disrupted.
To take personalisation as an example: this is already a familiar experience for all of us from shopping online. In its simplest form, retailers promoting items on the basis of ‘customers also shopped for’ find significant potential for upselling, as an online shopping basket gives so much more detail about what a customer needs than where they are in a store does.
Data sourced from the context of physical retail stores can also be collected, analysed, and applied in ways which are analogous to this. From how many customers visit a location, to the route they take through the shop, to how they interact with different product lines, there is a rich source of information in traditional retail which is only now – thanks to AI-based analysis – becoming available.
This unstructured, organic information is fundamentally more difficult to make use of than the natively digital information of online shopping baskets and website interaction. As retailers on-board these capabilities, information on how factors from outside the business affect shopping behaviours also becomes available.
Weather or sporting events, for example, or broad cultural trends which pertain to specific segments of the buying audience, or cultural factors which are specific to a store’s location all change what people buy and when. Businesses which have invested in the technology needed for omnichannel retail find themselves in a position to collect this data and go beyond the personalisation which is prevalent in online shopping. Rather than focusing on correlation – ‘people who buy x also buy y’ – AI-powered analytics is opening up the potential for causation-based shopping predictions – ‘people buy y because of x’.
Looking beyond the immediate task of upselling, it’s easy to see other ways in which this level of insight might be applied. Anticipating when someone will need a product and shipping it to them just in time, connecting people with locally-stocked or manufactured products to minimise transport carbon emissions, and offering specific product configurations on an individual basis are just a few examples.
People with an interest in retail marketing or disruptive technology, or both, will be aware that the retail industry has for some time been engaging in consumer-facing demonstrations of this kind of technology – such as Westfield’s AI-powered Trending Store.
Beneath such one-offs, however, there is something more fundamental happening: as retail businesses upgrade their ability to gather, analyse, and apply data, traditional shopping as a whole will begin to behave more like its online counterpart in how it responds to the customer. We might therefore look at retail’s emerging data-driven potential also as its post-disruption reality – and other industries might want to look to retail to see what’s in their own future. How will access to rich contextual insights into a person’s needs and requirements affect sectors like finance, healthcare, or transport?
Well, retail has been in the thick of disruption for longer than anything else; that should be where we look to find the next steps.
2019 has proven to be a successful year indeed for the conversational AI experts at ContactEngine, which is leading the vanguard in changing the fundamentals of how 21st-century customers interact with brands.
It’s been a year in which their trophy shelf found itself a little squeezed and in need of an extension, with added honours including a Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 title, and a UK Customer Experience Award, collected at Wembley Stadium in October and presented for the firm’s successful partnership with BT Enterprise.
The Gold category win for Best Use of Technology is testament to ContactEngine’s position at the cutting edge of what is the most exciting – and often most misunderstood – tech affecting the modern Customer Experience: artificial intelligence.
Their sophisticated algorithms offer intelligent omnichannel customer conversations, and the firm’s founder, Dr Mark K. Smith, is a man whose passion for excellence is evident as he explains what his company stands for, and where the advanced computing involved behind the scenes can lead for both businesses and customers.
Speaking with CXM, Dr Smith described his firm’s work with BT as an example of what ContactEngine does for an organisation with a duty to communicate with countless customers through various channels.
“We start conversations and invite a response from our client’s customer,” Dr Smith explains.
“With BT, it was specifically to improve a process by better communication; by trying to reduce the amount of cancellations that would have occurred had there been no communication. It was to reduce the amount of calls someone would make to a call centre due to a lack of communication. Our goal is to increase the engagement rate and then ultimately to see if we can make customers happy as consequence of that.
“To put it simply, we start conversations – all automated – and invite responses. From there, we carry on the conversations using our own NLU (Natural Language Understanding) and a machine learning algorithm we call ALAN (Advanced Language ANalysis), and we deliver efficiency gains for our clients, making their customers happier.”
From this description, ContactEngine couldn’t be more suited to Digital Customer Experience if it tried, but surprisingly, the PhD that provides Dr Smith with his title stems from a science of an altogether less-computerised kind.
“Up until my late-20s I was a career academic, and my PhD is in Biochemistry,” he says, before explaining how he adapted his skills in that particular field to AI tech development.
“The biological sciences are all about generating mass data sets and trying to seek out trends in that data. Of all the sciences, biology and biochemistry present quite a lot of mystery, so you generate a lot of data and look for trends. That’s very similar to what AI is actually, so you can post-rationalise it. I love technology and always have done.”
Describing the business’ origin in the telephony-based live-streaming of events, Dr Smith said using the tech that would eventually lead to ContactEngine’s current offering through streaming the 2011 World Transplant Games in Australia led to the realisation that proactive communications could solve many of the problems faced in business.
“Firms such as Virgin Media used the tech for corporate social responsibility work – in their case broadcasting from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro through their social media channels.
“They asked us a simple question: can you improve the way we communicate to our customers in this omni channel-way that you have provided to us in a social media context?” continues Dr Smith.
“The answer for people like me is always ‘yes’ to any questions to do with IT. The real question is ‘how long and how much’ but the answer is always yes! You see, unlike my biochemistry days, computers can always be made to work.
“We stepped into the world of customer communication, and almost accidentally built an omnichannel outbound comms tool, so we can start conversations by phone, email, text, instant messaging, or collecting video.”
This powerful tool was soon utilised by clients such as American telco giant Verizon, which learned the value of implementing the technology and what it means for a company’s bottom line.
“When an appointment was missed, it cost Verizon well over 100 dollars. If you can improve communication with the customer to stop that from happening, then you can save that 100 dollars,” he explains.
“If a company has 100 million customers, then that’s a lot of money to be saved, and we can charge them a fraction of the money they save.”
As AI becomes ever-more central to even the most basic of customer communication, Dr Smith tells us that despite fears among some about where the tech will eventually lead, it will remain a benign benefit to society.
“I’m no great believer in singularity,” he tells us, referring to the theorised future in which AI outgrows the need for human masters and snowballs into an uncontrollable overlord.
“It’s not that I think it will happen in the future either – it just won’t happen!
“I start from the position of a rationalist – I’m not a believer in ‘Skynet’ or other fantastical problems that AI could bring. It’s important to realise that AI is often the only solution in areas where a human simply cannot compete.
“If you have a company with 100 million customers, as many do, it is impossible to have enough people to communicate well with all those human beings. You cannot do it!
“Computers are the only way you can do that, and what’s most interesting about the world of AI for us is a subset known as machine learning.
“This takes vast data sets – bear in mind we are dealing with hundreds of thousands of people a day – so we have vast amounts of data and responses to the questions we ask. If you have vast amounts of data, then you have some really tremendous possibilities for teaching your algorithm to be human-like.
“Machine learning is simply taking an algorithm and giving it sufficient data for the next piece of information it receives in order for it to have a pretty good stab at it in a manner which exceeds the way a human can respond.
“Think of the ‘100 million customer challenge’ and you’ll see why you want to have a proactive outbound conversation – only made possible through computers, not people.
“We automate a way to simpler conversations. A machine is better than a human for 95 percent of customer conversations. But there will always be the five percent where a machine just won’t cut it.
“Take an example; I was with an insurance company recently, and they said that with their life insurance product, they would only usually get one phone call, and that was from a bereaved partner.
“Now, it’s not wise to put that call to a machine, as a machine will never display empathy. They may display ‘faux empathy’, but a customer will catch that out pretty rapidly. A human needs to be involved in that conversation, and these calls were often taking up to two hours.
“However, once that conversation is completed, it’s perfectly reasonable for the machine to take over in order to inform the person of progress on their claim, or any other information.”
Other fascinating aspects of the tech behind ContactEngine includes a profanity filter, which detects when a customer needs to be transferred to a human as a matter of urgency, in order for that person to be talked to and returned to a level of calm where their issue can be resolved.
“Interestingly, there’s not an enormous amount of research about when humans are best and when machines are best, but I believe that by working together they can vastly improve the Customer Experience, and the Employee Experience of call centre staff also,” Dr Smith continues.
“We have a case with a European bank which commissioned us because they were losing their call centre people because they were doing too many cold calls after a certain customer process had failed.
“The customers were saying ‘why are you calling me a week after this happened? I’m really not interested in talking to you’.
“Machines fill that knowledge gap and can filter customers who actually do want a conversation with a human, then we broker an appointment for them.
“So what happens in this case? The person in the call centre has a better Employee Experience, potentially staying in their job for longer, while the Customer Experience was vastly improved also.
“It’s about knowing when humans are best, when machines are better, and knowing the exact best moment to flip between them.”
So with a successful foundation in telcos, where next for ContactEngine’s revolutionary CX tech? Clients already include household names including BT, Virgin Media, and Whirlpool, and the future looks seriously promising.
“We have enjoyed success in other areas including retail and banking; we have a foundational communication product that can be used in any industry, so we need to spread our wings and grow in other sectors,” Dr Smith says, adding that work is already underway with a “large UK retailer”.
“On a technical front – what fascinates me about what we’ve done is, if you talk to companies in the UK and beyond, roughly speaking, three-quarters of them will be handling their AI over to the usual suspects.
“They will be using Dialogflow from Google or Watson from IBM. We made a conscious decision many years ago to build our own machine learning algorithm, and we did that because we wanted to be white box, not black box, and we wanted to be explainable.
“We have the benefit of: when you start a conversation, there are a limited number of intents that come back to you, so it’s quite easy for us to visualise and explain the decisions we made.
“We wanted to use labelled data sets for one client and not share that label data set with another client. We felt that was a GDPR problem. So, we built our own machine learning, and rather interestingly, when you take the training data we use to feed our algorithms, and you present that to others that I mentioned, we actually out-perform them!”
On the horizon for ContactEngine and its clients is the next generation of ALAN, with multi-intent capabilities, and developing further the concept of ‘human-computer rapport’, where the next customer conversation is informed by the earlier exchange in a more human-like way.
“We are incredibly excited for the future, and to see what 2020 has in store for us after the amazing year we have just had.”
The UK is trailing behind Europe in customer service as brands race to adopt AI technologies to transform how they engage with customers, according to new research.
Customer engagement software firm Freshworks found that just over half (54 percent) of UK senior decision makers state their business currently uses AI – in areas such as chatbots, virtual assistants, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and facial recognition – for customer service departments, compared to 97 percent in the Netherlands, 86 percent in France, and 81 percent in Germany.
However, this investment does not yet seem to be far-reaching for UK customer service. The Freshworks study, which surveyed over 800 senior decision makers in customer service departments, found that only 20 percent of UK businesses have invested more than £250,000 in AI for customer services in the last 12 months, compared to nearly half (46 percent) of German companies, 41 percent of French firms, and 35 percent of Dutch organisations.
Across all territories, chatbots (37 percent), NLP (34 percent) and Robotic Process Automation (31 percent) were the most popular AI technologies for businesses to be adopting to improve their customer service.
The report suggests people do not want to take on responsibility for bringing AI in to overhaul current systems. Over a quarter (26 percent) of senior decision makers in the UK claim no one is driving AI deployment within their customer service department. Yet, C-Suite executives are leading the integration of AI in the vast majority of Dutch, French, and German companies (97 percent, 95 percent, and 91 percent respectively).
Addressing the brand perception gap
The findings also suggest a large gap between business and consumer perceptions of how good their customer service actually is. Eighty percent of senior decision makers surveyed in the UK believe their customer service departments to be excellent, while only nine percent of UK consumers have no frustrations when dealing with customer service agents.
According to the research, a quarter (25 percent) of businesses are using AI to improve their customers’ experience of the brand, for example using AI-powered chatbots to resolve issues quickly by filtering through simple questions and channelling the trickier customer scenarios through to human service agents. Yet, one-in-four (25 percent) of the 1,871 British consumers surveyed who have previously used customer service channels said that being left on hold for too long is their biggest frustration.
UK General Manager at Freshworks, Simon Johnson, said: “Our research shows that British brands’ deep distrust in AI risks leaving them lagging behind Europe in their approach to customer service. It’s incredibly difficult for brands to keep up with consumers’ expectations, but it’s non-negotiable that they constantly evolve their technology to include AI and Machine Learning and approach to keep their customers engaged and happy.
“For those who get it right, it can be a game changer that distances them from the competition.”
It might seem counterintuitive to suggest that major retail periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday would boil down to anything other than price for consumers.
But as competition between brands gets tougher and tougher year-on-year, and sales periods start to span days and weeks rather than short 24-hour bursts, consumer expectations are starting to shift. And more importantly, brands are having to raise their games in order to meet these changing demands.
As a specialist MarTech company, we have a wealth of data on how and where consumers spend their money – and our insights show that while Black Friday is showing no signs of stopping when it comes to drawing in crowds of eager bargain hunters, it is also apparent that price is no longer the deciding factor when it comes to their purchasing decisions.
Whereas once consumers were solely concerned with finding the best and cheapest deals they could on Black Friday – stampeding through shopping centres and fighting in the aisles to do so – the options are now so vast that filtering through the mass of marketing and promotions is simply too big a task for those seeking a quick and easy sales haul.
Today, consumers often approach Black Friday with a clear idea of what they want to buy and the price they’re prepared to pay. The growing popularity of price comparison sites and voucher code offers mean shoppers are much savvier when it comes to applying discounts on top of discounts – they know how to get the best deals themselves, meaning it’s no longer enough for brands to simply slash their prices and hope for the best.
What we’re starting to see is consumers placing a much greater importance on a smooth and seamless customer journey – from hyper-personalised offers landing in their inbox, through to a fast and efficient checkout process online.
This ultimately means that ecommerce retailers need to prepare a strong and robust omnichannel strategy well in advance of Black Friday if they truly want to capitalise on the opportunity. Setting up specific Black Friday landing pages, refining and reducing the number of steps between product selection and product purchase, and ensuring that the online experiences is as flawless on a mobile device as it is on a main website, are all crucial elements that can make the difference between a customer checking out with you – or ditching their basket and moving onto a competitor.
Without a doubt, the Black Friday revenue opportunities are there and brands have to be in it to win it. But to truly win it, it’s the brands that approach their omnichannel marketing smartly that we predict will come out on top.
With days to go to the annual seasonal sales extravaganza, including Black Friday, the holiday season is well and truly upon us.
Like many other consumers, I often start readying my gift shopping lists in the autumn. From my many conversations with Monetate clients, I understand that the challenge for retailers to stand out amongst competitors is tougher than ever.
It’s a crowded market, and brands must build strong foundations to nurture that purchase relationship, looking beyond deep discounts and a one-size-fits-all approach, to create a personalised shopping experience.
For 63 percent of consumers, personalisation from brands and retailers is now an expectation, however two-thirds of marketers are failing to invest in the appropriate technology to deliver this.
Smart personalisation strategies can be the key change factor as brands push to stand out and drive conversions. As Brexit looms, so too does the financial uncertainty facing consumers. Brands and retailers must rise above this and focus their efforts on cementing sustainable and long-lasting relationships that will in turn withstand what is expected to be a nervy and unsteady holiday season.
Our latest Ecommerce Benchmarkreport noted that ecommerce conversion rates dropped by seven percent in Q1 – a trend likely to have been driven by Brexit.
So how can marketers overcome the barriers that can often stand in the way when creating an optimised Customer Experience? As retailers strive to be best-placed to meet demand ahead of the busy ecommerce period, the following factors should be key considerations.
When it comes to personalisation, there is no blanket approach; recognising that every customer behaves differently with unique expectations is crucial.
Distilling audiences into groups by location, device, or demographic is an effective way to begin. These insights can work in tandem with machine learning and will enable brands to use real-time models to identify what works best for each individual. The use of data should continue to improve a shoppers’ personal experience as insights inform the how, the where, and the when to inform the best tactic for interaction with each potential customer.
Get to the heart of the customer
It’s easy to become buried in customer data, which is where segmentation and analytics tools are incredibly handy; providing instant insights into your customer behaviour, using everything from simple attributes such as device type and geography to more complex attributes such as product categories viewed and brands purchased.
Actionable customer data is the key to success when implementing a one-to-one personalisation programme, which drives higher conversion rates, increases average order value (AOV), and increases the quality of CX.
The more data available, the more effective and tailored the personalisation will be, but you can start small to reap value from the offset. From there, brands and retailers will be able to easily scale any personalisation efforts as they grow in data maturity and continue to get to know their customers.
Follow the data signals
When marketers think of multi-screening, they often see it as a new challenge or obstacle, but the truth is that we live in a multi-device world. When it comes to Customer Experience, implementing an omnichannel edge into your marketing can set you apart from your competitors and build lasting relationships with your customers.
Survey data collected by our team at Monetate and WBR Insights for our 2nd Annual Personalisation Development Studyindicates that only 15 percent of marketers are observing and tracking customer sessions across two or more devices. When compared with industry data, they are failing to detect at least 25 percent of the sessions that are part of a multi-device journey to purchase.
Moreover, the move from specialised departments to cross-functional teams may postpone the personalisation process. For example, one team might be focused on website optimisation, while another team is solely looking at advertising display. Ensuring full alignment and buy-in across the organisation will enable a more seamless process where all teams can work towards a unified data and technology goal.
Master the visual
Whilst consumers expect a personalised experience, content does not have to be unique to each user to be considered effective. A collection of creative assets and copy relevant to a broad scope of interests is key to finding the right balance to appeal to individual users. It’s not just about the brand imagery, product recommendation, or message, but a combination of all of these elements, on the right platform, at the right time.
Achieving effective personalisation is challenging. As the Chief Marketing Officer of a technology company, I’m familiar with the challenge of finding the strategy that not only works, but also sticks. It’s easier said than done. The moment you implement personalisation marketing is the moment you change the way your customers view you – for good.
If brands can strive towards a future with machine learning and marketer creativity working hand-in-hand, they’ll see the benefits of increased loyalty and greater ROI more quickly.
When Bitcoin was created it was done to be a seamless payment method – backed up by the blockchain – for cheaper, faster, and safer worldwide peer-to-peer transactions.
Even Satoshi Nakamoto probably did not foresee blockchain technology spanning into different areas and industries than finance. Yet that has become the reality, and blockchain technology is now playing an integral part in every corner of the New Digital Economy.
Anyone who is considering starting a digital business should consider how the blockchain and Bitcoin can benefit them, which means having a Luno Bitcoin Wallet to hand and reading up on the latest blockchain developments.
Luckily, you can start right here.
What is the New Digital Economy?
The New Digital Economy (NDE) refers to digital technologies that contribute to processes and transactions within the economy. It is not to be confused with the internet economy which also influences economic dealings, but solely focuses on online technologies.
One technology trailblazing the success of the digital economy is blockchains.
Blockchain and the New Digital Economy
From the definition above, it is easy to see why the contemporary digital economy is vast and includes many different cogs. Ultimately, thousands of businesses and services could land between the brackets of the digital economy.
1. Widening global markets
Blockchain at its basics is a founding pillar of cryptocurrency transactions, which have become essential to digital markets. Through their secure and borderless nature, paying with crypto allows businesses to attract customers from other countries, enabling the digital economy to scale quicker and easier.
2. Fostering investments
Digital ideas and technology entrepreneurs often rely on heavy investment to get their businesses off the ground due to the costs of developing such inventions or services. Investments of this kind are often made safer with blockchain technology through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) that allow businesses to obtain enough capital from investors effortlessly and even allow them to bypass banks.
3. Data safeguarding
Data handling and protecting user data has become a fierce topic among businesses in all industries, and the digital economy is especially important.
Businesses need to make sure they are protecting data from hackers to comply with the EU’s GDPR laws and protect their reputation. The blockchain comes in useful for this and is one way of securing information and making it pretty much bulletproof to hackers.
4. Business partnerships
Blockchain technology is also the foundation of Ethereum’s smart contracts. These contracts allow businesses to take an almost-hands-off approach to processes between businesses. Smart contracts are used to execute payments once milestones have been reached and allow digital businesses to save costs on human input and administration.
What else to expect?
The integration of blockchains can also be expected to merge with developments in artificial intelligence and data analysis. However, these integrations have not been finalised as of yet.
The future is bright for the new digital economy with blockchain technology to hand.
Companies know all about the importance of visual content.
According to a 2018 study from Venngage, 56 percent of marketers surveyed said that between 91-100 percent of their content contained visuals. Delivering the right compelling visuals quickly is critical to achieving the desired visual hook. However, many images and videos can be optimised to provide better user experiences and higher engagement levels.
Too often it’s the technical details that derail your visual storytelling efforts. Nothing is more frustrating than having invested a lot of time and resources creating beautiful visuals for a campaign only to discover that audiences aren’t seeing them how you intended. When high-quality images are cropped in the wrong places or displayed incorrectly in social sharing, for example, response rates and brand image suffer.
The browser and its long tail
Another recent report revealed that 75 percent of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage with brands – website, social media, mobile, or in-person. This is easier said than done. One big reason for consistency failures is the browser long tail, which refers to the different versions of browsers people use.
Cloudinary recently published its State of Visual Media Report to help people understand how visual content is being consumed. Analysing billions of media transactions across a sampling of more than 700 of our customers, we were fascinated to discover just how many different types of browsers are in use worldwide.
While Chrome and Safari, as expected, dominate the browser market (45.9 percent and 4.1 percent respectively in the UK), there are significant regional differences across lesser known variants. For example, the research shows that Nokia Symbian smartphones are still popular in some regions and that Nintendo devices DS devices share more than 15,000 images per day. There is even image traffic coming from the very old legacy office software, Lotus Notes.
This is important as not all browsers support every image or video format you might use for your campaign. JPEG, GIF, and PNG are the most popular image formats used on websites today. However, developed in the 80s and 90s, when they’re not properly optimised they may not always be the best choice as they are quite heavy in file size and don’t offer the image quality and color spectrum expected for delivering today’s immersive online experience. Newer image file formats such as WebP and HEIF offer advantages worth exploring.
The same applies to video formats. The old H.264 video standard is pretty common but newer more lightweight formats such as VP9 and H.265 are anywhere from 30 to 50 percent more efficient.
Now for the long tail of browsers out there, JPEG and GIF for images and H.264 for video are the lowest common denominator that work with almost every browser. Does this mean you have to compromise your visual storytelling efforts just because some of your users still stick to their legacy BlackBerry web browser?
The browser’s long tail doesn’t need to compromise visual storytelling
Fortunately, the answer is no.
Your web developers don’t need to abandon the unlimited visual possibilities that come with newer image formats. Newer AI-based image and video management solutions can automatically detect your web visitors’ visual requirements and their browsers. Based on this information they automatically deliver each image and video in the most efficient format, quality, and resolution – even to a BlackBerry web browser. But these tools can do even more.
Intelligent image detection and cropping
As mentioned earlier, the last thing your brand needs is for beautiful images that you’ve invested dearly in to get badly-cropped and poorly displayed. AI-based image and video management solutions can solve this problem. These tools apply AI smarts to optimally resize and crop images. For example, AI applies algorithms to automatically detect the subject in an image that is most likely to capture a viewer’s attention.
It also analyses the type of browser and device the images are displayed on. Based on all this combined information, brands are able to deliver images and videos that will drive greater customer engagement.
Visual are great for boosting engagement and fostering long-lasting connections.
With a little help from AI you can be assured that the browser long tail doesn’t degrade the user experience so that your visual storytelling efforts really pay off.
This week, the Customer Experience Magazine team attended the launch of FourZeroTwo, a revolutionary new product from the Future Shaping Company.
Four Two Zero hopes to disrupt the publishing industry by introducing a new rights management and payment system. In short, it allows users to pay for content as they use it.
Instead of paying for a costly year-long subscription, or being bombarded with ads when the content is ‘free’, this product looks to meet users halfway and give them another way of accessing online material.
As Richard Copland, co-founder and Managing Director, explained: “For 25 years, people have thought the internet is free. Now the technology is at a point where publishers can really monetise their content. The infrastructure has now matured, and that makes this solution possible.”
The name FourZeroTwo is a nod to the 402 error code from the early days of the web, which referred to micropayments but was considered too difficult to implement. FourZeroTwo positions itself as the solution to this longstanding problem.
Other eye-catching product features include dynamic pricing for single articles, commission for writers based on the number of purchases, refunds if the customer is dissatisfied with the content, and smart contracts to ensure the refund system is not abused.
At the launch, we also heard from Richard Bloss from ProfoMedia, who described FourZeroTwo as “the future of publishing”
Ultimately, he said: “It all comes down to the simplicity of the payment.”
For Neil Skehel, CEO of Awards International and President of Customer Experience Magazine, its significance is its potential to restore the importance of “authoritative content”.
At its most radical, FourTwoZero represents a fundamental change for online business models. Richard Copland compared this shift to the introduction of online payments in 1994, something once considered “cosmically painful” but now utterly commonplace.
Perhaps Four Zero Two is the next stage in this evolution – taking control from the advertisers and giving it back to publishers and writers.
Watch this space, it could be very exciting indeed.
Organisations are increasingly relying on chatbots for customer service as a way to deflect inbound calls and reduce costs, but Forrester Analytics data shows that consumers aren’t thrilled with this approach.
They found consumers are reluctant to trust a chatbot to resolve their service issues, and remain skeptical that chatbots can provide a similar level of service as a human agent.
However, it seems companies are enforcing technology solutions at every opportunity in the hope of improving their CX strategy.Amid all the talk of technical advancement, we seem to forget about the human factor, that personal touch that only people can deliver to consumers no matter the channel of engagement.
Clients today have huge goals for their CX strategies, such as 50 percent of all calls to be self-serviced, 80 percent of contact to be automated, 50 v of calls to be eliminated and all of this along with, in most cases, being tasked to make significant cost savings.
Ian Jacobs, Principal Analyst at Forresters, said: “Customer service organisations have been looking for ways to cut costs for decades.Now that chatbot mania has taken over, many are jumping on the bandwagon and attempting to replace their human agents with chatbots.In theory, that makes sense – a chatbot costs less than a human over time, and most customer service organisations tend to focus more heavily on cost than on customer experience.”
It is fair to say many companies are struggling with automation, whether to automate, why automate, what to automate and when to automate.According to Forrester, when it comes to automation and customer service, brands are getting the last three questions wrong.
We regularly see in the industry news headlines such as Chatbots set to take over most cost service work or Robots are set to replace humans and costly contact centres.However, according to Forrester’s Analytics Consumer Energy Index on-line survey 2018, consumers expect chatbots to disappoint with 54 percent of US online consumers expecting interaction with customer service chatbots to negatively affect their quality of life.
The message from Forrester’s research is clear: ‘Augment, don’t replace and blend AI and humans’.
The question is which blended operations model works better for your business?
Forrester has identified four approaches to agent augmentation:
1. A chatbot for agents where the conversation is with a live agent and a chatbot
If your customer service agents search a knowledge base during their interactions with customers, why not create a natural language interface for that task?It’s a great starting point if you’re just beginning your chatbot journey.
2. A human-intermediated chatbot for increased efficiency and seamless suggestions
Here, an AI tool observes a conversation between a human agent and a customer, providing suggestions that the agent can either push out to the customer, or modify, or personalise the suggestion, or even reject it and type their own answer.
3. A front-end chatbot where the chatbot authenticates the customer and determines intent and gathers all relevant information
Chatbot hands interaction off to the agent and the agent resolves the customer’s issues.The benefit of this one is that agents are handling the meat of the interaction and have more time for upselling/cross selling and it also significantly reduces handling time.Conceptually agents are more engaged as they are adding value and not doing mundane tasks.
4. Intermingled workflows with both agents and chatbots do what each does best
The human agent can invoke a chatbot to handle a specific task, then have the chatbot hand the interaction back to the agent.Similar to the front-end chatbot, human agents are relieved of routine tasks, but in this workflow, the agent and chatbot can flex back and forth to tackle the portions of the interaction they excel at.
Using one or more of those approaches to augment customer service agents can result in significant benefits to an organisation, such as reduced handle time, increased employee engagement, and improved experience -0 while also ensuring your customers don’t lose faith with your brand after a frustrating chatbot interaction.
One thing is for sure, AI is here to stay. Brands that want to keep ahead in a competitive world will need to re-think their business models and make sure there is a place for human employees and AI.
Opportunities to turn app users into paying customers are being missed, a new report has indicated.
The findings by mobile attrition and analytics firm AppsFlyer show that marketers are missing their chance when it comes to converting, with the average share of paying users lower than 10 percent based on app install-to-purchase ratio (only 3-5 percent in gaming apps and double that rate in non-gaming apps).
In a space dominated by free-to-install apps, where actual value is tied to post-install in-app activity and share of paying users, the study examined over 12,000 apps with a user base of over 2.3 billion users. Findings determine the importance of granular in-app event measurement, and provide insights to improve campaign effectiveness and increase the percentage of app installs that lead to a purchase.
The rate of paying users is lower when marketers don’t measure, and therefore optimise for, enough in-app events. On average, the report found that marketers are measuring only 4-7 events per app, depending on the vertical, but performance based on the share of paying users is much higher, hitting its peak at 16-20 events, or 26-30 in the gaming space.
In-app events contain specific information about actions taken using an app. For example, purchasing a product, booking a flight, or – in a gaming context – completing a game tutorial, or passing level 10.
In fact, almost 60 percent of apps measure revenue events, but the second and third most popular events – Login and Registration – trail far behind, as they are measured by only 30 percent of apps. Among Gaming apps, the average number of apps measuring for Level Achieved is 42 percent, while only 19 percent of apps measure Tutorial Completion, significantly lower than the 70-80 percent that measure revenue.
Since app performance is significantly higher in apps that measure events throughout the customer cycle, closing this gap can certainly lead to better results.
Across nearly all verticals, performance is significantly higher in apps that measure granular in-app events, rich with information about the action taken, rather than standard events that only contain information about whether the action was taken.
For example, granular in-app events measured for purchases that include data on the content purchased, specific content ID, currency used, value of the purchase, customer user ID, final purchase, and more, give more insights into conversions within an app.
Overall, the report found, granular event measurement helps marketers make smarter decisions and ultimately drive higher user retention rates. Since retention is highly correlated with revenue, it is critical that marketers optimise to encourage ongoing usage of their apps and increase the likelihood of purchases and the lifetime value of their users.
Shani Rosenfelder, Head of Mobile Insights at AppsFlyer, said: “Although performance app marketers have shifted their efforts from focusing on driving installs to post-install measurement, most are still measuring only a fraction of the in-app activity they could be.
“Converting more users to paying users and maximising their revenue potential requires measuring events that span the full conversion cycle and all significant milestones in the consumer journey, allowing marketers to identify gaps and optimise accordingly. The insights that can be drawn from this data are vast and can help maximise user lifetime value by informing smarter acquisition and re-engagement decisions.
“With all of the information marketers have at their fingertips, it is critical they invest in an infrastructure that allows for more granular measurement, as well as in advanced tools, tech and people that are equipped to draw the most actionable insights from the data without compromising productivity.”
The global aviation industry is facing many complex challenges – none more pressing than the increasing expectations of customers looking for a personalised travel experience.
The internet and social media have given customers direct access to airport and airline staff, and this immediate access has led to customers expecting immediate action on their complaints and queries.
What does the passenger of the future expect?
According to the SITA Passenger Insights 2019 Report, by 2025, 68 percent of passengers will be from the ‘post-digital generation’ – i.e. those who have grown up interacting with technology to manage their lives. They understand artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and chatbots, and they expect these technologies to be there for them when they travel.
As the aviation industry struggles to retain and engage passengers, a consistently excellent Customer Experience must remain at the core of their offering. This begs the question, therefore, of what new technologies airlines and airports can confidently rely on to deliver the experience that this post-digital customer demands.
What technology can the industry use to improve CX?
Airlines and airports are increasingly turning to robotics and assisted intelligence solutions to streamline their operations and give their customers options to minimise pain-points on their journeys. Automating first-level support queries, for instance, means that staff can focus on more complex problems without compromising Customer Experience, all while reducing costs.
Chatbots are the perfect ally for customer support agents, since they allow companies to interact with passengers around the clock – and during delays or disruptions can be used effectively to keep customers informed and guide them through the next steps, resulting in higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Roughly 55 percent of passengers are already using technology to improve their journey by downloading their airline’s mobile app. Crucially, these apps also allow customers to voice any dissatisfaction they might feel towards airlines or airports.
Companies need to have a strong engagement strategy to make use of this ‘dissatisfaction data’ to address passenger pain-points and improve Customer Experience. Proactive customer engagement helps to meet customer expectations and allows airlines to better allocate resources and improve organisational efficiency.
Effective digital competitiveness brings humans and technology together
The ‘human touch’ must remain central to the aviation industry despite this new digital environment. It is here that the unique combination of a High Touch, High Tech approach becomes a critical business component.
Matching technological development with a warm and skilled human workforce is the key to building brand loyalty while reducing inefficient time-lags and getting an edge on rivals in the fiercely competitive travel sector.
This shift in purchasing behaviour is set to accelerate further over the coming decade. Customer behaviour could see the internet account for as much as 53 percent of retail sales in 10 years’ time, according to a report by analysts Retail Economics.
As a consequence of an expanding digital retail environment, the breadth of available choice has also grown rapidly. In fact, consumers are now being faced with something of a ‘paradox of choice’ from the available options. This terminology is used to describe the way an ever increasing amount of choice can cause a corresponding increase in anxiety – and it’s becoming a consumer pain point.
As retail has evolved to become more saturated, so too has the expanding range of platforms it operates over. Across social, search, maps, apps, and more recently voice assistants, we have more purchase avenues available to us than ever to add to the chaos. This also means that brands have more touchpoints than ever to manage to ensure that they are discoverable.
How can brands come out on top?
Businesses must now take an active role in guiding potential customers through the seemingly endless choice across digital platforms to ensure that they come out on top. By managing all of the public facts about your brand, as well as online reputation, you can improve consumer confidence that your product or service is the best of the options presented.
In a world where options are countless, reputation management is intrinsically linked to revenue. Time-poor online searchers are looking for answers fast, and typically, they will scan for average ratings and read a few reviews to reassure themselves that they are making the right purchasing decision.
Reviews are important and consumers often shape their perceptions around them, so they’ve become a key brand consideration. They also impact discoverability through SEO as consumers search for ‘best’ and ‘top 10’, for example. So, monitoring this feedback and providing responses is a crucial element of modern day reputation management.
Managing the facts about your brand
Reviews aren’t the only aspect to reputation management. Increasingly, today’s customer journey starts with a question, and customers expect quick and easy access to accurate answers. For your business, that means providing the facts about your offering – from hours, services, locations, professionals, menus to events – everywhere consumers search.
The future of search lies in answers. So, alongside authenticity and transparency, reputation and responsiveness to customers’ opinions should be key commercial considerations right now. Those that offer accurate and useful information across multiple touchpoints will be well positioned in an era of seemingly limitless choice and noise – and their customers will thank them for it.
It’s never been easier or quicker to switch suppliers and service providers, with digital innovation and digital disruptors providing customers with the opportunity to make a change in super-quick time.
Such is the freedom of choice and the ease of changing that more and more customers are bypassing the complaints stage, choosing instead to vote with their feet (or more likely in 2019, their mouse). For the providers and suppliers this is obviously proving to be a testing time, with businesses searching for ways to better manage this current generation of increasingly transient and intolerant customers.
Before business leaders can hope to address this, it’s vital to try and understand what’s led to this shift in customer behaviour on such a large scale. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of factors at play. Generally, people are more frayed than ever before, with socio-economic and political pressures taking their toll, adversely affecting patience levels if and when things do go wrong.
Also, expectations have changed, with an instant response or next-day service now deemed standard, no matter how complex the issue. And, perhaps most worrying for businesses, the entire concept of brand loyalty seems to have fallen by the wayside. While customers still seem to have a certain affinity to particular products and services, brand loyalty, where people have an emotional attachment to a particular brand, certainly seems to be a very rare phenomenon in this, our digital era.
This is actually where the crux of the issue lies. We’re now living and working in a truly digital age. Analogue is no more and the majority of interactions customers have with their service providers are digital, creating a disconnect between brands and their customers. Brands don’t have a human face any more, with the continued dehumanisation of brands only serving to remove any remaining traces of customer loyalty.
There is one exception to this move away from human interactions and that is when something goes wrong. As a rule, the only time you speak to a human is if something has gone wrong, and the human that you speak to has the power to make the situation much better or even much worse, something that businesses are trying their best to ensure is always the former and never the latter.
Ultimately, even in our digital world, what customers are looking for when they have a problem remain the same. They want a sympathetic ear; they want to know they’re being taken care of; they want to know you won’t stop until their issue is resolved; they want to know it’s not likely to happen again in the future, and they want this all done in a reasonable timeframe.
While there is no budget for a white glove service for every customer, the very fact that we’re operating in a digital world undoubtedly helps to provide certain aspects of what customers want and need. Digital systems can furnish call handlers and other front-line operatives with customer data, transactional information and customer history, helping to take care of the speed to resolution aspect.
However, this digital ‘efficiency’ can leave people a little cold and a computer’s inability to not only factor in but decipher new contextual variables that are part and parcel of the human psyche, mean that even the most advanced of digital solutions can still leave customers wanting when it comes to optimum levels of service.
While computers are very good if told exactly what to do, their inability to capture the nuances of human behaviour and emotions mean we’re still a long way off from going totally digital for customer interactions. Humans are too complex and fickle to shoehorn into a one-size-fits-all solution, making it necessary to maintain that sprinkling of human interaction alongside even the most intelligent of digital solutions. Which brings us back to the fallibility of humans and their ability to exacerbate an already negative situation.
A winning combination
What’s needed is increased automation to remove the laborious, time-consuming activities, with the addition of the human touch to thaw the seemingly cold-nature of digital intervention, underpinned by timely, contextual information to signpost the best route to resolution for the customer. While many businesses are working towards achieving this, no-one is there yet, with work ongoing as to how best to amalgamate the digital with the human to achieve optimum outcomes for both the customer and the provider.
Businesses need to focus on capturing the information needed to help automate the human touch. So, what are the signs given off by customers that in hindsight have signalled their ultimate intention to leave in the future?
Perhaps a reduction in deposits, a decrease in transactions, switching products or increased interactions with a help desk? As with all things in our digital world, it’s all about how best to use the abundance of data we all now have at our disposal to inform strategy, using the benefits of digital solutions to underpin efficient, effective and empathic human interactions at every possible opportunity.
It’s no longer enough to establish just whether a customer prefers email or telephone contact, or what time of day is best to make contact. Such is the lack of human interaction that the majority of customers experience, it’s vital for businesses to monitor and understand individual sentiments and behaviours, in an effort to uncover a deep understanding of the specific requirements of individual customers at every point of contact.
This, in combination with machine learning capabilities and the nuanced potential of the human touch, is the only hope businesses have of seeing a return to the customer loyalty of the past, resulting in a finely-honed Customer Experience for that all-important competitive advantage in an increasingly volatile marketplace.
A truce has been called in the 20-year battle between marketing and IT for the territory of Digital Experience. Enterprise architects are turning IT departments into business consultancies and marketing now frequently takes on the development capacities for digital. As a result, growth-hacking and T-shaped marketers made it into mainstream marketing teams in 2019.
In 2020, marketing will go one step further and include front end engineers into their teams. But because of this, another war stirs – the war for front-end developer talent is going to become incredibly fierce, incredibly quickly.And this may actually define the success of many businesses.
The lessons of history
Like all wars, there are lessons in history.For this particular battle, those lessons can be found in Photoshop.
Twenty years ago, marketing made leaflets. Marketers looked at what topics would be interesting for the audience and what brand feel they wanted to portray. For the layout however, businesses used agencies. And when those agency relationships didn’t work as fast as they were needed, businesses hired photoshop guys internally. The resulting war for talent, ideas, and execution defined marketing in many industries and the impact is still felt today.
Now, leaflets and brochures are gone. Largely, at least.
The main channel of communication today is digital media, and the photoshop guys of digital media are front-end developers.
A different digital battlefield
It is also worth noting that the ‘digital’ battlefield itself is changing.Businesses used to have templates and drag-and-drop teasers on a homepage in a content management system. That worked in the world of desktop web. Now, businesses and consumers live in the world of mobile experiences, smart spaces, and connected products. As a result, desktop websites will continue to lose importance year over year.
2020 is the year marketing disciplines will need to be ready for this fight.Modern content management systems don’t do templates anymore. They focus on content delivery, speed, and versatility to deliver into these new channels and experiences. They cater to the philosophy of growth hacking and constantly testing assumptions.
This new way of working starts with these new channels, increasingly employs personalisation in real-time, and tests and refines customer interactions.In this context, front-end developers will become the highly prized special forces that can define marketing success.
There is no way around this. Marketing needs front-end developers if the business wants to deliver the latest and greatest Digital Experience to customers. With Digital Experience being the main differentiator, a business cannot afford to fall behind.
There will undoubtedly be casualties, but to the victor will go the spoils of keenly engaged customers ready and willing to engage with a business in a variety of ways.