Peter LaversPeter LaversFebruary 12, 2020
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14min968

The SAS/Futurum Experience 2030 report has posed an interesting question: what will drive customer loyalty by 2030?

The landscape of customer loyalty is changing. Gone are the days where consumers placed blind faith in brands, shopping habitually for their convenience.

Empowered by technology, consumers are using easy browsing to compare the competition, finding the best deals for them at the click of a button. Does this mean that all hope of customer loyalty is lost?

Definitely not. Brands simply need to react to this new age and work harder to firstly understand the driving forces of loyalty, and then to actually earn it.

Customer loyalty theory boils down into two different aspects:

  • Behavioural loyalty customers repeat purchasing your brand/product. This is sometimes referred to as “continuity”, as it could be simple convenience that drives this behaviour, or customer “inertia” (can’t be bothered to switch) – neither can hardly be described as loyalty!
  • Attitudinal loyalty usually described as some sort of ladder with ‘trial buyers’ at the bottom and ‘advocates’ or ‘fans’ at the top. Some CX practitioners are of the opinion that if you ‘wow’ customers enough you’ll make them advocates (high NPS) or fans (with your brand metaphorically tattooed on their arms). There’s merit in this argument, but we can’t automatically assume that high attitudinal loyalty equals your “best” (i.e. most profitable) customers – that depends on their spending power. We also can’t assume advocacy higher up the ladder – studies have shown that new customers are just as likely to recommend a brand if their purchase experience was good

I hope that you see from this (perhaps over-simplified) description that a brand needs both attitudinal and behavioural loyalty to be sustainably successful.

For business value to be delivered, I hope it’s also clear that behavioural loyalty keeps the bread on the table.

It is sobering to realise that some of your most profitable customers (high continuity with low cost-to-serve) may have little or no attitudinal loyalty. These customers may well consider moving their business to a new entrant or more convenient provider if the competitive offer is sufficient to overcome inertia.

The question in the SAS/Futurum Experience 2030 report is clearly more focused on behavioural loyalty, asking for “up to THREE features you believe will be most important to you in deciding to be loyal to a brand or organization”.

The results give eight attributes that consumers say will drive loyalty in the future:

ATTRIBUTES CONSUMERS SAY WILL DRIVE LOYALTY 2025 – 2030

(Top three most important to be loyal)

1

High Quality Products or Services

2

Low Cost or Special Discounts

3

Special Recommendations, Upgrades or Incentives

4

Immediate Availability (delivery within a few days)

5

Immediate Availability (same-day delivery)

6

A live person on the phone to answer questions or provide support

7

Sale notifications on my mobile or app

8

Social Responsibility (supporting causes I agree with)

High quality is top of the list. It’s worth reminding ourselves that ‘quality’ is not necessarily about ‘premium’ or ‘luxury’. In its most rudimentary definition, it’s about delivering what was ordered on-time, on-cost and to the required specification – very much about getting the basics right.

‘High’ quality is doing it well! If you can consistently deliver what you promised when you promised it at a reasonable price then you stand a chance of building both attitudinal and behavioural loyalty. It’s not sexy like CX delight theory, but it earns you the right to go on and build and deepen the relationship.

The features that come 2nd, 3rd and 7th are very transactional, and consumers are confirming that their behaviour can be influenced by offers if they’re well-made and appropriate.

This very much speaks to the need for providers to excel in real-time personalisation. Companies will build loyalty if they can truly understand customer needs and propensity, and then meet individual customers on their journeys to make relevant value-adding offers.

Expectations for quick or immediate delivery have soared in recent years, and the fact that they come 4th and 5th on the list shows how empowered consumers now are. Providers used to specify what “on-time” meant. Customers can now easily decide if that’s not good enough and switch provider.

The 6th most important feature – live person interaction – is a timely reminder to companies dashing for digital transformation that they mustn’t lose the human touch. There was a chatbot option in the question but it didn’t make the top eight. Should we scrap our digitisation plans?

NO!

What we should do is have equal weighting in those plans for CX and cost efficiency. Transformations that ignore CX in favour of cost savings will lead to customers feeling like they’re just a number and that they’re being ‘processed’ rather than engaged. Good “design thinking” is always CX-driven and should always address attitudinal and behavioural loyalty.

The final feature on the list (social responsibility) is the only one that’s purely attitudinal. Brand image didn’t even make the cut!

This is definitely one to watch, particularly with respect to climate and environmental issues. Even highly loyal customers will reconsider that loyalty if you’re caught out by  something that society deems as irresponsible e.g. single use plastics.

It’s interesting to note that one of the options in the question – VIP (loyalty) programmes – also didn’t make the top eight. This is a fascinating finding in its own right. It suggests that consumers are beginning to twig that they can get a better/cheaper/quicker-delivered deal by shopping around than by sticking with an existing provider and getting a retrospective “reward”.

Is this the death-knell for loyalty programmes? I suspect not as they are often an economic vehicle by which many of the features that did make the top eight are offered. Simple spend-related programmes are now ubiquitous. My advice is that if you are considering launching or re-engineering a loyalty programme then it needs to be something very special and truly innovative.

We need to change our mindframe: “be a loyalty company, not loyalty programme”. This is how the SAS/Futurum Experience 2030 report regarding ‘Loyalty in the Digital Age’ concludes.

We must instil this attitude into our brands if we are to achieve customer loyalty. It does away with the passive approach of the past, instead urging brands to combine both attitudinal and behavioural loyalty methods. To do this, we must provide innovative design-thinking approaches to our transformation programmes, becoming increasingly customer centric and insight-led in the process.

As a result, we can disembark from the merry-go-round of ever-diminishing customers who have yet to consider our brand and begin to establish a clientele who have truly bought into the brand.

This is how we achieve sustainable business and profit.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 11, 2020
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2min798

A seminal piece of research into the breakdown of marriages has inspired a new whitepaper that might just help you salvage a strained relationship with your customers.

Performance improvement specialist Blue Sky has made its new document, The Four Horsemen of the Customer Service Apocalypse, available to download free of charge from their homepage.

A must-read for any business wishing to get insight into the signs that a relationship with your customer could be about to hit the rocks, the whitepaper was inspired by the work of US clinician and relationships expert Dr John Gottman, whose famous ‘Love Lab’ has welcomed thousands of couples seeking help with their marriage.

Dr Gottman’s studies saw him spot what he coined the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ – four signs that a marriage was certain to break down.

The team at Blue Sky have been inspired by this to spot four serious warning signs that herald customer ‘divorce’, or harmful dissatisfaction that could lead to your customer looking elsewhere to do business.

Over the past three years, Blue Sky has conducted in-company research involving over 9,000 customer service agents from 63 blue chip organisations, either within the Fortune 500/ FTSE 100 or large government departments, to help create the research

The document offers insight into how to repair frayed relationships and avoid the heartbreak of watching your customer fall into the arms of another.

Also included in this must-read whitepaper are case studies on Blue Sky’s successful work with brands, including the UK Customer Experience Awards and the UK Employee Experience Awards.

Click here to download The Four Horsemen of the Customer Service Apocalypse from Blue Sky.

 


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamFebruary 10, 2020
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8min1228

Customers are truly the heartbeat of any business – treat them well, and the rest of your business ticks.

Treat them otherwise, by failing to satisfy their pain points, and they have no problem bad-mouthing your brand. And guess what – bad-mouthing is just the least of your problems when you deliver a poor Customer Experience to your audiences.

In this highly competitive world, customers have no problem jumping on the next moving train – your competitors – when you don’t give them the best of experiences, or at the very least, an equivalent of what your competitors are offering.

I’m pretty sure no business owner wants that. So to avoid that, it is imperative that you understand the concept of customer experience perfectly well. To this end, here are a few tips to get you started on that front.

Know your customers

Take it or leave it; a business isn’t only about delivering products or offering your services – instead, it is as much about your offerings as it is about the manner in which you’re going about it.

Even if you have the best of solutions to the pain points of your target audience, you still won’t be able to convince anyone to keep patronising you if you don’t offer them an awesome Customer Experience. And the first step you need to take to achieve that is by understanding your customers.

I know you’ve probably read that somewhere before, but trust me, there is no giving anyone an awesome experience if you don’t understand what exactly appeals to them. Do you have a customer base that appreciates visual and not audio communication, or a base that hates long queues, or perhaps your customers are the type that fancy engagement?

Whatever the case may be, trying to decipher the nature of your customers is absolutely a great step in the right direction.

Enhance the experience you’re offering by going multichannel

It is true that we now live in a digital age serviced by social media.

As such, your customers are most likely scattered on the different platforms of social media. To enhance the experience they’re getting from you, try to interact with them on the platforms they enjoy most. Even though you cannot afford to be present on all social platforms, at least being active and engaging on the most popular ones should do your customer base a whole lot of good.

Creating a profile on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, etc., will go a long way in addressing issues, complaints, worries, and solving problems as soon as customers demand it.

This tip is not only essential for businesses looking to build a loyal customer base, but also for existing businesses with an already established base – especially if you’re in dire of a larger revenue generation to combat your business debt.

Use Customer Experience innovation to raise the bar

Look at the Customer Experience of Apple, Disney, and Tesla – what are they doing differently?

They use innovation in their approach to Customer Experience to connect with their customers and stand out from the rest. Innovative solutions are not only authentic and effective, but they are also cost-efficient as well.

Little wonder why we constantly see these brands enjoying great profit margins, and not having to worry too much about common business issues like how to resolve debt, or what an IVA’s ability is in combating debt or how to stop bailiffs from disrupting visiting their companies.

Develop a CX management program

Customer experience management (CEM) is the art of controlling, tracking, and designing customer interactions at all touchpoints to meet or exceed customer demands. There are many benefits of CEM, such as increased loyalty, engagement, and positive word-of-mouth marketing, all of which ultimately leads to greater revenue generation.

Work on developing an active CEM program in your business to proactively improve the Customer Experience at every step along the customer journey. Additionally, in the event that your business becomes burdened with debt and you need debt help like Moorcroft , this strategy can help you generate as much revenue as you may need to settle your debt.

Let your customers help themselves with self service

Modern customers don’t want you to help them – ideally, they would want to help themselves.

According to a recent study, 45 percent of companies offering web or mobile self-service reported an increase in site traffic and reduced phone inquiries. Post resources, books, and FAQs on your website to help customers service themselves and look for solutions to their problems.

Think about it, what would you rather do – wait in line for an agent to answer your query, or browse a forum to look for the answer?


Christa HolmborgChrista HolmborgFebruary 7, 2020
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6min964

In 2016-17, leading Irish food retailer Musgrave Group were in the midst of a price war within the parental shopping segment, with competition heavily focused on price and many products sold at or below cost.

To build a competitive edge, Musgrave turned to customer-led service design to create a compelling value proposition and differentiating customer experience. Ultimately, the aim was to increase footfall and time spent in-store, driving significant revenue growth in the segment across both baby products and in-store spend overall. Hellon, the world’s most awarded service design agency, was selected as the partner for the project.

The identified business challenge was tackled with a human-centric design approach including insights, ideation, and prototyping phases.

Insights were gathered through diary studies, in-depth interviews, and mystery shopping to understand parent shoppers’ underlying needs, motivations, and challenges, their main drivers for selecting where to shop, as well as exploring best practices in the industry and beyond. Analysis of the insights revealed stress to be a key factor in the shopping experience, also influencing time spent in store and basket size. As readers with young children might be familiar with, when a kid throws a tantrum in-store, parents just want to get out as quickly as possible.

Ideation and co-creation, together with Musgrave stakeholders, therefore focused on generating solutions which reduce the feeling of stress and make parents’ shopping experience easier. The concept borne out of the ideation phase was the Parent VIP-hour, a time of the day during which parents received additional support in-store, including ideas such as free fruit for kids, sweet-free aisles, help in packing groceries, and preferential parent parking.

Following ideation, the VIP-hour was tested during a prototyping phase (LiveLab) and trial period in two stores. Hellon designed and ran a LiveLab, in which Hellon designers and Musgrave employees brought the VIP-hour concept to life in-store by using physical mock-ups (such as temporary signage for parent parking), service gestures (e.g. free fruit/ tea/ coffee, advice on baby products) and visual prompts (e.g. guidance) to test the concept with real customers to gain their feedback on the live experience.

Following the LiveLab, a six-month pilot was launched to further test the commerciality of the VIP-hour and its effect on shopping behaviour and revenue.

Analysis of sales following the pilot revealed a 3.3 percent increase in baby category revenue and 5.2 percent increase in overall store sales when compared to pre-pilot figures.

Seventy percent of shoppers also indicated lower levels of stress during their experience and 90 percent said they would spend more time in-store or make more frequent shopping trips.

The impact on brand impression was also high, with an increase of 643 percent in social media reach and 512 percent in engagement during the project. For the stores involved in the service design project and commercial pilot, the total annual revenue impact reached €678,000, however, based on the improved customer experience and new solutions, Musgrave estimates an incremental revenue of €4.84 million annually as a direct result of the Service Design project.

Several initiatives have also been deployed across Musgrave stores nationally, such as free fruit for kids, doubled parking spaces, and hotel grade baby changing rooms in all new build stores.

The project has also gone on to win awards for customer experience design, proving the approach as an impactful way of solving complex business challenges.

Hellon is a service design agency based in London and Helsinki, with a track record of over 1,000 successful projects across 20 countries. Eager to understand how service design could impact your business? Get in touch with us!


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamFebruary 5, 2020
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7min1003

2019 was a milestone year for IBM, marking its 30th year as official supplier of information technology and consultant to the All England Club and The Championships, Wimbledon.

Wimbledon is the long-standing jewel in the crown of IBM’s live projects. Every year, behind the scenes, IBM analyses millions of live data points that continuously drive Wimbledon’s iconic pursuit of greatness – from match and player statistics to weather forecasts, cyber security events, and website visits.

All this is key to ensuring flawless delivery of the world class Championships and its connected fan experience.

Challenge

IBM’s global agency of record and partner for over 25 years, George P. Johnson (GPJ) was last year tasked with creating an experience that raised awareness of IBM’s ground-breaking work on the tournament through innovation.

The experience marketing agency needed to create a tech installation that brought IBM’s involvement in Wimbledon to life – increasing brand awareness by surprising and provoking intrigue amongst the general public, complimenting wider Wimbledon IBM client hospitality activities, and ultimately increasing the brand’s sales pipeline.

Solution

Building on the Wimbledon theme of ‘Tennis in an English Garden’, GPJ created the IBM Technology Garden, a unique real-time data activation.

Complex data sets captured by IBM were translated into mesmerising data visualisations in the form of digital flowers. These interactive visual representations of IBM’s impact on the game, the fan-experience and global media allowed visitors to read, experience, and understand how IBM brings The Championships to life through innovation.

Enticing, inspiring, and designed to encourage interaction, each visualisation constantly evolved and transformed to surprise the audience – enhanced by every serve, shot and point of the Wimbledon Championships. 

The spectacle centred on watching the flowers grow as they were ‘fed’ IBM’s tournament data, made possible by GPJ’s longstanding partnership with IBM, which allowed the agency to utilise the real-time data collected for the installation.

Power flower: The IBM Technology Garden at last year’s Wimbledon Championships

Every flower was uniquely created based on live data and structured using biological building blocks, beautifully brought to life and nurtured in the Technology Garden.

The forms were driven by the concept of morphogenesis; a biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape. GPJ perceived this as a metaphor for the flexibility of IBM’s software offering, that can constantly change and adapt to the rising challenges imposed by Wimbledon and our ever-growing data-driven world.

Designed to reveal IBM’s hidden story, the Garden acted as a catalyst to conversations with customers at the official Championships. Whilst live data drove the activation, the focus was on demystifying and simplifying complex data sets for the audience. These were captured across five areas throughout the day with different IBM solutions:

  • Fan Engagement – IBM Cloud and AI
  • Match data – IBM Cloud and AI
  • Weather data – IBM Watson Analytics
  • Cyber Security – IBM Security
  • Website visits – IBM Cloud and AI

GPJ used colours from both the IBM brand guidelines and the shades of UV light photography, a technique used by scientists to expose patterns visible only to insects; like bees that can see a wider spectrum of light than humans, to echo that there’s more to IBM’s role in the Championships than meets the eye.

To support the installation, GPJ designed an interactive iPad app that allowed audiences to navigate the live datasets, showing both the raw numbers and how they influenced a given flower.

The digital activation was built with reuse in mind, allowing highlights of the 2019 Championships to be replayed and relived. Firstly, travelling around the UK to multiple IBM events and then finally taking centre stage at IBM’s UK client centre – increasing the value of its creation for IBM by using it across multiple events throughout the year.

Verdict

Across two weeks, GPJ created 2,000 unique versions of the installation, with approximately 20,000 people experiencing the IBM Technology Garden.


Rebecca BrownRebecca BrownFebruary 4, 2020
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11min1704

‘Complaint’ has traditionally been seen as a dirty word; whispered within organisations and one that most senior staff would have done anything to avoid admitting applied to them.

The negative connotations that came with complaints meant that for years, anyone wishing to create or grow a complaint handling team was likely to come up against misconceptions such as:

“If we need more staff to handle complaints then we clearly have big issues!”

or

“We can’t call the customer support team complaint handlers – it makes it look like we have unhappy customers!”

I can almost feel the collective eye roll of hundreds of Customer Experience and customer service professionals who have had to battle against just that type of mindset.

The great news is that the business world is steadily waking up to the power of harnessing complaints to drive continuous improvement. No longer is it frowned upon to admit you get complaints, or that you require a dedicated team to deal with them.

In fact, companies such as Octopus Energy are leading the way by being totally transparent about their complaint statistics. They have nothing to hide, and they want to let their customer base know just how important improving the customer experience is to their whole team.

Interestingly, Octopus Energy have also reported a huge surge in their customer base – in just nine months they managed to go from 600,000 customers to 1.35 million. During this period of intense growth, their complaint statistics remained steady with only a minor increase in issues reported per 100,000 customers.

Despite the increase in forward-thinking companies like Octopus rising to the top, Salesforce recently reported that 91 percent of customers who are unhappy with a brand will simply leave without complaining. They also listed that only one in 26 unhappy customers are likely to raise a complaint.

At the same time, the UK Customer Satisfaction Index dropped for the fourth consecutive year. What this amounts to is that often the first you learn of a customer being unhappy is when they switch to the competition – if you even notice at all!

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So, accepting that complaints are a necessary evil is not enough. We need to take it one step further. The businesses who consistently wow their customers understand that complaints are fantastic, and if we can learn to fall in love with them too, we as a nationwide Customer Experience industry can reverse this trend.

There are several steps you can take today to help your team love complaints:

1. Discourage your team referring to a customer as ‘complaining’

If you search the term ‘complaining meaning’ in a popular search engine, you get the following result:

noun

the expression of dissatisfaction or annoyance about something.

“his complaining has been a little bit annoying”

Meanwhile, a quick look at an online thesaurus returns grumbling, bellyaching, moaning, and whining as synonyms of the word complaining.

This perfectly sums up why the use of ‘complaining’ within a complaint handling team is so corrosive. As a word, it has negative connotations and anyone using it to describe a customer is subliminally giving themselves permission to see that customer as a nuisance.

Instead, let’s just refer to them as what they are – an unhappy customer.

They may have raised a complaint – a factual statement – but when you stop referring to them as complaining you have taken the first step towards respecting your customer and their right to raise a genuine grievance. This simple change in approach eventually helps a team to feel more empathy towards unhappy customers, and this leads to greater satisfaction during – and after – the complaint handling process for both customer and employee.

2. Ditch the idea that there is such a thing as an ‘unfounded complaint’

How many times have you heard a complaint handler or a colleague express their frustration over an unjustified or unfounded complaint?

It doesn’t seem fair does it? You have to spend your time investigating that complaint, even when you know the customer has just misunderstood the proposition, or had too high an expectation of what would happen, right?

Wrong.

In order to truly embrace complaints as a driver for change, we need to accept that we have full accountability for our Customer Experience. We are in a position where we understand our business model explicitly.

We know what our purchasing process is, what can cause delays, and what the product offering is. Most customers will never spend as much time on our websites as we do. We are the experts and it is our obligation to ensure we arm our customers with enough easily digestible, intuitive information that they never have the opportunity to misunderstand, or expect anything other than what we will deliver.

If we set out to explain ourselves clearly and we understand that our customer is not the expert in our business, then we can ensure that any negative review or expression of dissatisfaction is looked at with absolute objectivity. How can we ensure that the customer understands something better in the future, or what can we change in our process to make sure there is no room for concern or uncertainty for our customers?

3. Set yourself the highest standards

When you count your complaints, don’t be tempted to lie to yourself. Just because it didn’t contain the word complaint, or because it didn’t come through an officially recognised complaint channel, does not mean it is not a complaint.

If a customer has expressed dissatisfaction in any way then they should be counted, contacted, and learned from. Take it one step further – if your business model aims to delight customers, then consider anything less than a full five-star review an expression of dissatisfaction.

Sure, you might speak to the odd customer who confirms they actually did love their experience, they just hate to give out top marks for anything. You also might just learn the secret ingredient you have been missing all along.

4. Learn from every single complaint that comes your way

Don’t just collect stats.

So many companies are data-rich, information-poor. There are tools out there that provide the exact analytics you need to spot complaint trends, and enable proactive interactions that can inform your business and ensure that the volume of complaints you receive genuinely gets smaller over time – while your loyal customer base (and revenue) grows.

Make it policy that each person responding to a complaint should suggest two things that could have prevented the complaint arising in the first place. Some of your best insight comes from the experts in your team and you know that they will feel more empowered and engaged if they have been involved in the change process.

So, stop seeing complaints as the enemy and give this approach a try. Embrace the subtle changes with enthusiasm and see how you feel about complaints in a few months’ time.

Who knows, this could be the start of a beautiful relationship!


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamJanuary 30, 2020
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11min1742

Contact centres have become as synonymous with scripts and targets as meerkats are with price comparison websites.

So what happens when you rewrite the rule book and take a completely different approach to customer service?

CXM spoke with Caroline King, Director of Sales and Service at insurance firm Ageas, about how challenging the status quo and switching to a systemic approach has reaped benefits for customers, staff and the company’s bottom line.

The firm won Gold in the Contact Centre Large category at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards last October, which topped off a three-year “transformational journey”.

Caroline said: “I’ve spent my entire professional life running contact centres and there’s always been an industry-wide perception that people are just there to answer the phones and complete the transactions. That’s it.

Listening to customers: Ageas’ Caroline King

“I suppose there’s an element of truth in there, but we wanted to change that at Ageas. We exist to make insurance easy and actually a pre-requisite to that is really listening to the customer, to understand their needs, rather than complying with a pre-prescribed script.

“How can you truly help someone if you’re not listening, how can you truly listen if you’re confined by a set of standard questions and how can we meet each customer’s nominal value with set processes too rigid to cope with the inevitable variation humans bring to conversations?”

In a world where consumers are bombarded with more information and data than ever before, Ageas’ focus is to make insurance easy. It’s one of the largest insurers in the UK and offers a range of general insurance products to around five million customers through its direct brands Ageas and Rias, and through brokers and high-profile brand partners.

Ageas’ sales and service operation is based across three sites: Bournemouth, Gloucester, and Stoke, and its team of more than 780 deals with four million calls every year.

“We knew a transformation project of this scale would be a big undertaking,” said Caroline.

“We had to help hundreds of people understand their job isn’t to answer the phone, it’s to make insurance easy for our customers. For anyone to go from transaction to a purpose-driven function is a big change. As leaders it is our job to create the culture that allows delivery in this way to thrive. That means letting go of some of the ingrained beliefs and biases that exist in all of us, which is easier said than done.”

Ageas’ transformation programme was driven by its ambition to grow in the increasingly competitive general insurance market.

The company’s senior management team knew it needed to tackle the competitive market challenges in order to grow. But rather than taking the traditional answer to contact centre performance – setting higher targets – it set about creating a cultural change that would ultimately engage its people, improve customer service, increase income and lower costs.

“The first step was getting people on-board and ready to take that journey with us,” Caroline continued.

“We called it ‘Destination Brilliant’ and developed the ‘Ageas Way’, which states our customer purpose and focused on nine redesign principles which describe the future of service delivery – the destination if you like. We created the mechanisms for everyone to test every action against our purpose and those principles and decide if it was the right thing for the customer.

“We changed so many things that are synonymous with contact centres. When you think about it, it’s bizarre that contact centres take these vivacious, energetic people then train them to follow a script and turn them into robots. Consumers don’t like robots, they like other humans.

“So we threw away the rulebook and started to trust our people to have more open conversations with customers. We removed unnecessary complexity, measured the outcomes in a different way and allowed them to really listen to what the customer wanted and deliver on whatever that need was. Of course being in the heavily regulated financial industry, there are some instances where we still have to use scripts but on the whole we’re so much more flexible.

“We were then able to educate our teams to understand and call out failure demand and waste and involved them in designing those things out.”

The Ageas team collect their trophy at the UK Customer Experience Awards in Wembley Stadium

Another huge change for Ageas was removing target-driven bonuses.

“I can see how, from the outside, it could be considered a big gamble,” said Caroline.

“It’s definitely a switch from the status quo. But it’s really worked and we’ve found staff are happier. What we’ve said to our consultants is: ‘We’ll trust you and take away the ambiguity of what you might earn each month’. Now they get a flat bonus up-front.

“We’ve redefined a good day’s work. Now it’s not how many products they’ve sold, it’s the feedback from customers that matters.”

Ageas has stopped measuring contact centre success solely through sales volumes and replaced it with what’s important to customers. It now provides consultants with real-time feedback from customers on experience and ease of service.

The results of Ageas’ transformation programme have been, perhaps unsurprisingly, transformational. The company’s net promoter score has increased by an impressive 14 points to 40.

Customer retention has increased, processing time for all customer account functions has reduced from days to minutes and Ageas’ Trust Pilot score is now 4.5/5 (excellent).

Operating costs have reduced and first contact resolution has improved by seven points – meaning 100,000 less calls to the Bournemouth site alone every year.

Caroline said: “What’s been really rewarding is to see the impact on our teams. 94% of employees believe the programme has made a positive difference to their role and we’re seeing unprecedented low levels of employee absence and attrition.”

Looking ahead, Caroline says she refuses to rest on her laurels.

“You can never take your foot off the pedal. This is not a sprint, this is a long distance marathon and we’ve got to keep doing more of what we’ve done.

“Across the whole customer service industry, no matter what sector you’re in, it’s the same – customer expectations are changing. What we all need to do to give good customer service and excel.

“In insurance, particularly with the rise in price comparison websites, there’s not much differential in price so standing out in terms of service is even more important. Customers tell us their number one priority is ease of business and luckily for them we’re not just good at making insurance easy; it’s everything we stand for.”


Sarah De MartinSarah De MartinJanuary 30, 2020
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7min1343

“It’ll never catch on!”

Famous last words; Alexa, which many people dismissed as Amazon’s little pet project, was actually a mark of genius.

Just over five years after its initial launch, we’re now 200 million Alexa-enabled devices sold and 90 thousand voice skills down the road. Alexa has expanded beyond our homes – she can now be found cruising in our cars, on our smartphones, earbuds, spectacles, and discreetly in connected rings.

So…what’s next?

The first thing to acknowledge is that voice isn’t a fad. It’s not going anywhere, because it’s actually useful. Moreover, many of us are starting to trust it. Last year, six-out-of-ten smart speaker owners claimed to have made a purchase brokered by their voice assistant in the previous twelve months.

It’s bridging the gap between people’s domestic and working lives, and that’s only going to accelerate going forward. How? By capturing even more facets of users’ behaviour.

There’s a good reason why Alexa made it onto Fitbit last year (although it remains to be seen whether it will remain there post-Google acquisition), and why Amazon has launched smart glasses. Alexa will become more capable with the release of each new device that taps into additional data sources through sensory inputs.

Imagine the potential for ecommerce – could Amazon’s search rankings and ad strategies ever be dictated by how fast your heart’s beating, or by what your eye is drawn to on the page?

When it comes down to it, Amazon exists to sell, and its success has been built on its search and recommendations engine. You sometimes hear people say Amazon knows what they want before they do. And the thing is: this doesn’t even sound far-fetched anymore. Future iterations of Alexa will become Amazon’s secret weapon by understanding what makes each of us tick.

The more Alexa-embedded devices there are, the easier this will become. We’re already seeing this strategy unfold. Alexa was everywhere at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month. She was in motorcycle helmets, electric toothbrushes, and even beds, the latter allowing users to dim the lights from the comfort of a $4,950 berth.

Of course, this is a tech show. It’s overblown and crazy – not all of these items will make an impact. Some will be dismissed as novelties, others will be deemed too fiddly, and some might simply over-step what consumers deem acceptable.

This echoes Amazon’s efforts at HQ – many devices won’t get beyond the limited beta phase, but each experiment lays down the groundwork for the next.

One thing’s for certain, though. In the next five years, Alexa will transform from a reactive assistant to a proactive companion. According to Amazon’s Rohit Prasad, Alexa will become increasingly embedded in our daily lives, taking a more active role, and even leading two-way conversations. The logical outcome is home robotics, and if anyone can make that a mass-market proposition, it’s going to be Amazon.

It seems the future has finally caught up with Amazon’s vision; by this, I’m referring as much to the human aspect as I am the mechanical. It’s easy to be sucked into the brave new world of  voice and the convenience it brings – all valid. However, the implications are equally ‘Big Brother’.

There have been instances reported where customers don’t interact directly with Alexa, yet are targeted with products based on their private conversations.

And yet it’s…fine.

There’s no massive moral outrage, people aren’t throwing their Echoes into the streets, and to be honest, there’s little more than the occasional disgruntled tweet. It comes down to the perceived value exchange, and it seems most Echo users are happy to surrender their personal data for convenience.

And while there are still areas we’re not totally comfortable with yet – the use of ‘idle’ Alexa recordings in murder cases, for example – we’ve come a long way, and Amazon’s intelligence is only set to unfold further across the customer experience.

Here’s to the next five years.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 30, 2020
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9min1022

This year the inaugural South East Europe Customer Experience Awards take place in Belgrade, Serbia, offering the region a new platform to showcase the very best CX initiatives.

Finalists will compete across 12 categories at the event on May 29, presenting before a panel of expert judges details of their CX strategies.

Among those aiming for awards success is the PRO-MENS Centre, a unique education project based in the city of Niš which offers a teaching programme with a twist – a powerful combination of methodology and psychology helps youngsters undertaking the course to significantly boost brain power, and their confidence along with it.

The centre’s SuanPan Mental Arithmetic course and franchise extracts the highest potential of young students through visual and auditory training and a set of psychological tests and games, which combined makes for an educational stimulation that is changing the lives of those on the receiving end.

Though based on the iconic Chinese abacus counting instrument, the SuanPan course is not merely for boosting the mathematics skills of those who undergo it. The students see improvements in reading comprehension, memory, attention, self-confidence, and overall focus.

Which is lucky for PRO-MENS co-founder Dušica Milosavljevic, who told Customer Experience Magazine that mathematics was far from her favourite subject.

Dušica is a qualified English teacher, with a degree in language and literature – not what you might expect for someone overseeing a course with ‘arithmetic’ in its title.

However, it is her methodology skills that are the basis of SuanPan, combined with the experience of her psychologist sister and SuanPan co-founder, Milica Vukotic Yıldırım.

Together, their expertise has given birth to a radical new course that is improving the very lives of their students, who range from ages 5 to 14. Now more youngsters than ever before are able to benefit thanks to a franchise programme that aims to spread the SuanPan message right across Serbia and the Balkans.

“We use a mixture of methodology, which is my strong point, and psychology which is the strong point of my sister,” Dušica told Customer Experience Magazine.

SuanPan sisters: Dušica Milosavljevic (left) and Milica Vukotic Yıldırım

“Personally I love languages and working with people. It has always been my dream, and helping children is something which I believe is my calling in life.

“The idea of PRO-MENS was born in 2013, when my sister shared with me a plan to use innovate programmes that she knew would make a huge difference to the lives of children who face issues with attention and mental development.

“At that time I was working in a school, and Milica knew that my methodology skills could help bring this vision to life. I personally had never been a huge fan of maths, but my sister explained the concept to me. She was working on a team developing different programmes in Turkey, and they were ready to support us in getting this initiative in Serbia off the ground.”

Through hard work and sheer passion, the PRO-MENS Education and Development Centre opened and the sisters and teammates began piloting the SuanPan course.

“We started and the results were great. We have measured each and every step with each and every child with all the psychological mechanisms available to us. Together, we have created a package that gives full and transparent results in the development of children aged 5 to 14.”

Such was the success of the PRO-MENS centre and the SuanPan course that Dušica was able to commit to the project full-time. This meant giving up her job as a school teacher.

“Here it is considered a little strange to quit a job that is so stable, such as teaching,” explained Dušica

“Many people have the same job until they retire, so it was a risk. However, I knew this was a challenge worth taking. SuanPan is a programme that doesn’t just ‘teach’ children – it empowers them. We are essentially offering education for life!

“That development and empowerment component is very important to us.”

Count us in: SuanPan Mental Arithmatic boosts attention, memory, focus and self-confidence for children

SuanPan participants are strictly measured, while the results can be demonstrated in a clear and concise way for both pupils and parents.

“We are trying to make people’s lives better and show that it’s never too late to improve,” Dušica continued.

“Working on cognitive abilities helps improve overall quality of life. After all, our brain is the mightiest machine we have at our disposal, and we need to teach children how best to use it.

“It’s an incredible feeling when you hear people thank us. Parents tell us we have helped improve the lives of their children, and we tell them that working with their children is a privilege – children are an endless source of positive energy for us, that inspires us to achieve more.

“Making a difference in a young soul’s life as an educator is incredible, and when we see this happen, it makes us feel unstoppable. Their triumph is our triumph.”

This year’s South East Europe Customer Experience Awards offer Dušica, Milica, and their small but dedicated team the chance to share their success and show how their customer’s lives are changing for the better.

PRO-MENS will be contesting three categories: Customers at the Heart of Everything, Digital Customer Experience, and Team of the Year.

“Of course, it would be amazing to win, but we aren’t entering the awards simply to attend a glamorous event – this is an opportunity to share our story – to let even more people know what we do, and how we do it,” Dušica adds.

“We have a long way to go on our journey, but I have managed to find a new purpose in life with this, and want to see us go to the next level.

“We will do this thanks to our incredible team at PRO-MENS. Of course, I work with my sister, but the entire team is like a family. Teamwork is key to our continued success, and we hope to show all this and more when we present before the judging panel.”

The deadline for entries to the South East Europe Customer Experience Awards is Friday February 7. Click here for more details.


Derek O'CarrollDerek O'CarrollJanuary 29, 2020
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7min913

With Brightpearl’s latest study on the US retail market indicating that just over half of retailers (53 percent) have invested in loyalty program software in the last twelve months, and 59 percent have invested in customer service technology, it’s clear that customer retention is a high priority in a fickle purchasing environment.

But how can retailers ensure the retention of their customers when there is often an array of price competitive alternatives on offer? And what can they do to safeguard their existing client base against the allure of a better offer?

Well, it begins with your own staff, and it ends with your competition – read on for some stellar strategies on how to keep your customers happy!

Invest in training, not just software

This was one of the more surprising findings from Brightpearl’s Retail Tech Stack report on software investment in the retail industry: 35 percent of respondents indicated that someone with no direct expertise in software deployments or technology roll-outs, are cited as responsible for the implementation of new technology.

As far as statistics go, this is a little ludicrous. How can you provide your customer with the best buying experience possible if you are unsure on how to best integrate and utilise your own software?

Time is valuable, particularly in a work environment that demands longer hours and constant personal development, however, in this instance it is really a case of short term investment to make long term gains. Prioritise staff education and training now, and it will pay dividends in the future. Your customers will enjoy a seamless experience and your workforce will be well equipped to handle any technical issues.

Reward loyalty

In excess of half of all US retailers have allocated spend for loyalty software in the past 12 months, but what do these loyalty programs look like? They can be anything from a branded, points based app to an e-voucher campaign that provides discounts for a predetermined amount of spend. We like to be rewarded for our loyalty.

That being said, the retail sector is in the midst of a change, consumers are now acutely aware of the environmental and social impact of their purchasing decisions, and for the most part, want to act more responsibly. Therefore, it is imperative that retailers give them this option, if you provide an environmentally responsible product and an ethical brand that gives back to the community, your customer will feel infinitely better about shopping with you.

Be transparent

Customers appreciate transparency, they want to know the specifics of the brand that they are buying from. In particular, whether or not the materials are ethically sourced, do they use biodegradable packaging, do they have any charitable or sustainability initiatives?

Therefore you need to make your brand and your staff accountable, no matter your product, there are always things you can do to reduce the negative impact that your business is having. Start with simple fixes like in house initiatives to reduce your carbon footprint and outreach programmes to give back to the community.

Go beyond the buy button

Brightpearl found that on average, 77 percent of negative reviews arise from issues that occur after the buy button. Don’t let poor organisation of your back office let you down, because this post-buy process can be beneficial for your company and your client. The fulfilment and delivery process can be an excellent time to send targeted, personalised adverts and updates to your customer when they are at their most engaged with your product.

However, if you don’t have a proper handle on where their order is, then it certainly isn’t the best time to engage with them, investing in the right back office solution will help to eradicate the mistakes that lead to this type of negative feedback.

And finally, keep tabs on the competition, a little obvious perhaps, but there is a world of data at your disposal. Check what your competitors are doing and where the industry as a whole is spending. Identify the areas in which you are lagging behind or could be leading the way, and make use of your budget to keep your core customer happy!


Administrator CXMJanuary 24, 2020
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15min1425

2020 is set to see further advancements in Customer Experience.

Here, seven industry experts have their say on the trends they believe will make an impact in the coming months…

Lucia Juliano, Sector Head CPG at Harris Interactive

“Over the decade, consumer expectations from brands have not only risen, but have begun to change at a faster pace.

“Customer loyalty is decreasing, with consumers being quick to drop a brand that doesn’t meet expectations – particularly those in the key 23-38 age range. As a result, the experiences brands offer have become critical to retaining a client base and ensuring relevance in today’s fickle market.

“From our research at Harris Interactive, we’ve seen that the material experience can be as impactful as the digital one, particularly with regards to packaging and products themselves. Concerns over environmental impact are growing and this will continue to influence consumer choices in the coming year.

“More and more customers will choose brands that reflect their desire for sustainability, meaning brands need to respond to this trend to meet consumer expectations.

“This will require development teams to not only keep in touch with current trends, but employ innovative means to predict and react to them. Adopting technologies that facilitate smarter, agile decision making will enable brands to make impactful updates to their offerings. Quick access to consumer insights are essential in this process, to make sure that product or service developments reflect customer expectations in the moment.”

Michael Patterson, Managing Director EMEA at DynamicAction

“Over the last decade and the rise of the digital native, customers have come to demand more of retail, expecting the personalisation, speed, and convenience they’re used to in other areas of their digitally-enabled, always-on lives.

“As the high street struggles to meet this demand, it’s become increasingly vital for retailers to fundamentally re-frame their mindset and shift towards a more intelligent, customer-centred operating model. Only then can retailers keep ahead of new trends and weather the current industry storm.

“This isn’t the first time retail has faced change, and it’s likely consumers will maintain their deep cultural connection with the UK retail sector – something they see as being at the heart of British lifestyle.

“However, going into 2020, this relationship will need to be actively nurtured with a seamless combination of both the physical and digital worlds. Captivating consumers with an immersive and interactive experience is already being used to great effect by retailers like Nike, and now it’s time for others to embrace the theatrics of digital in-store if they are to successfully evolve into this new decade.”

Darren Guaranccia Chief Product Officer at Crownpeak

“Over 80 percent of organisations expect to compete on customer experience and with 86 percent of consumers saying they’d pay more for a great Customer Experience, we can expect ever increasing competitive pressure in this area in 2020 and beyond.

“As with everything, AI and ML will have a big role to play here. By examining interaction data, algorithms can predict likely churn accounts.

“By scanning transaction data, they can automatically identify and predict the most profitable customers allowing the organisations to double-down on the quality of experiences for their most valuable customers, perhaps even before they become profitable. Scanning interaction transcripts, first line support can be pushed to AI that can solve problems and route customers more efficiently.

“Voice technology will also continue to become more widely used as we move into 2020, becoming more contextualised – using more environmental cues to help answer customer questions and perform actions. With this, however, comes increased levels of scrutiny. Many people believe voice systems like Siri and Facebook are listening in to their conversations, and as they perform everyday tasks. Brands will have to work hard to make their voice activated systems as helpful as possible, while not appearing creepy. Customer trust will be essential for brands in 2020.

“But ultimately, great customer experience will still come from the human understanding of your audience and their needs. Organisations that invest in CX leaders to drive the human, technology and process changes required will be the real winners in the coming CX economy.”

Gareth Stephens, CEO of UK and Middle East at 4C

“As the digital transformation continues to gather momentum, businesses clamour to hit the headlines with the latest revolutionary tech that will change people’s lives and set them apart from the competition. 

“But in many cases, the drive to be the first to have the most impressive technology has blinded them to keeping consumer needs at front of stage. Take drone deliveries as a case in point. Heralded by Amazon back in 2013, the idea has been dogged by scepticism, regulation and a host of logistical concerns since – hardly the consumer reaction the business had clearly anticipated.

“In 2020, businesses must keep their feet firmly on the ground when approaching the lure of latest technologies. After all, tech innovations are only as good as the consumer need they fulfil. Tech that can reduce call waiting times may be far more welcome than the latest function on a website, for instance.

“Data will be key in understanding audiences, building consumer insight, and analysing changing behaviours. That data will help you find the right technology to delight the end-user – and adapt as their needs evolve. The digital transformation is changing the way we do business – but it must have the customer at its heart.” 

Lindsay McEwan, VP and Managing Director, EMEA at Tealium

“It’s vital that businesses keep up with the expectations of consumers to succeed in 2020. With competition fierce and consumer expectations increasingly high, customer centricity should be at the forefront of all businesses’ growth strategies. The organisations that thrive will be those that provide a seamless experience – no matter the device – through a holistic understanding of their customers’ wants and needs.

“Building lasting relationships that drive returns means delivering relevant and engaging experiences that consistently provide real value for customers. And to do so, marketers must first create a solid foundation of insight where all the pieces of an individual’s journey – including every interaction across every channel – are connected to create a single source of truth.

“While long-standing silos between marketing, sales, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems have been holding this back, the careful selection of the right tools can make it easier to close the gaps. Now, the implementation of solutions such as Customer Data Platforms (CDP) is crucial to empower the quick and flexible linking of data from all sources to better understand consumers and, crucially, retain them.”

Jeff Pfefferkorn, Head of Sales UK at MainAd

“Following the decline of the third-party cookie, brands in 2020 will adopt people-based marketing to reliably map customer journeys.

“With cookies unable to adapt to the growth in omnichannel, marketing will need an alternative solution to understand consumer behaviours across multiple devices and channels. To engage users in a fragmented digital landscape, brands must focus their efforts on mobile in particular as users are accessing more content on the small screen than anywhere else.

“Mobile and in app advertising will drive innovation in the way  brands interact with their target consumers, offering a wealth of behavioural insights through first-party data. Coupled with the rise of sophisticated, AI-powered tools, marketers will be able to use these insights to serve personalised messages to highly targeted demographics.

“Basing ad delivery on a consumer’s previous behavioural history will also allow brands to effectively re-engage users through their preferred digital channels – this will allow marketers to understand the full customer journey, closing the gaps between touchpoints.”

Ben Samuel, VP Sales EMEA at Nielsen Marketing Effectiveness

“Customer disloyalty is the new name of the marketing game. In fact, recent Nielsen findings show long-term devotion is no longer an asset brands can bank on, with just eight percent of global consumers considering themselves as loyal.

“With 46 percent of consumers more likely to try new brands than they were five years ago, adapting campaign strategies and tactics to these shifting dynamics will be essential for success in the months and years ahead.

“Loyal groups are generally niche and not substantial enough to support the majority of sales. Therefore, marketing initiatives will need to focus on those consumers keen to try new brands and outclass competitors on the factor that counts most: Customer Experience.

“Today’s consumers are looking for personalised experiences that cut through the noise and emphasise the unique purpose and value brands can offer them. Effective measurement will, more than ever, be key to this. If you can understand which creative messages, offers and content resonate with key audiences, then you can entice ‘disloyal’ consumers to make the switch.”


Neil McIlroyNeil McIlroyJanuary 23, 2020
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9min1463

From sustainability and demand for fast, free delivery, to data analytics and artificial intelligence, Customer Experience is shaped by many internal and external forces.

We are in an age of vast online choice, rapid price comparisons and supply chain optimisation technology. It means customer experience is now a vital differentiator, whether in the consumer or B2B sectors. It’s how organisations keep customers coming back for more. 

A PwC global survey of 15,000 people found almost one-in-three customers (32 percent) will walk away from a brand they are in love with after just a single bad experience. In the US, 65 percent of consumers find a positive experience more influential than any advertising campaign.

What then, are we likely to see emerge as trends in Customer Experience over the next 12 months?

1. On-board with virtual customer assistants and chatbots

Virtual customer assistants (VCAs), will be a prime area of investment throughout 2020. The artificial intelligence behind these technologies becomes more sophisticated and capable by the hour. By VCA we mean a bot that is capable of more than scripted conversations and can handle tasks such as booking, ordering or password resets. As we move on, VCAs will clearly expand their range of duties.

There could well be a rush to implement VCAs as companies seek to lower the barriers to conducting business. But the interactions handled by virtual assistants will require a great deal of care. A key decision will be whether VCAs are for self-service onboarding or for the support of current customers.

In the B2B sector, chatbots will continue their expansion, always available for customers who want more information on how to use products or require urgent attention. The obvious advantages of chatbots are that they work 24-hours a day, reduce costs and cut the impact of calls and queries on the rest of an enterprise.

2. Handovers from chatbot to human will improve and be more transparent

As we see, AI has surpassed its initial through the hype stage and we are now at the point where VCAs and chatbots supplement the more nuanced work of humans, especially for routine transactions. The human touch – being able to talk to a real member of staff – remains critical to ensuring the quality of customer experience.

Where this can fall down is in the crucial point of handover between application and human. It can fail completely or involve pointless repetition and delay. We will see customer experience technology honed to ensure handovers happen at the most relevant time and in a way that is totally transparent. The customer will know when and why they are engaging with a bot or a human.

3. AI will start to unseat the rating scale in surveys

AI is also set to transform survey data, capable of analysing huge strings of text very quickly and accurately, according to the parameters it has been set. This will reduce reliance on standard scale-based benchmarking as the focus in customer experience feedback shifts to getting the customer talking.

The precision of AI will give brands the ability to explore what matters most to their customers. From a line-bar with value-based metrics and a scoring system, customer experience professionals will move to the analysis of what customers are actually saying. They will be able to extract insights that are genuinely actionable and which will deliver positive results.

The number of channels and third-party platforms used by brands and their customers expands relentlessly, but with AI, all these touchpoints become listening posts. AI will allow companies to analyse the sentiments as well as the data, understanding customers at scale, without any fear of overload.

4. Key turning-points instead of whole journeys

In the next year, brands will focus on the most decisive moments in the customer journey, rather than trying to address each step in minute detail. That has only led to the dissipation of resources. Brands will use insights from customer feedback to hit the moments of biggest impact – when exactly customers are ready to make decisions about purchases or renewals or when they run into difficulties with a process or product or even its packaging. 

With these insights, businesses can intervene with an offer, chatbot assistance or advice from a member of staff at exactly the right moment. Interventions will be at the contact point between processes to ensure customers do not drop off. Hard data insights will replace best guesses.

5. The value of data and insights will rocket

As the year progresses, AI will increasingly help customer experience departments demonstrate the value of the data and insights they collect from their customers. At the end of a call, live chat, online booking, or service centre interaction, there are opportunities to ask consumers for their feedback AI applications will extract the key themes from this content and quantify the ROI each theme will generate, either in terms of revenue or Net Promoter Scores or another satisfaction metric.

As the value of insights becomes more obvious, companies will use AI to extract insights from social media, analysing what customers and influencers are saying about their products and brands.  This will be part of a big push for the implementation of digital and customer experience management platforms by enterprises. 

6. Opening the gates to changing content

2020 will see the role of content evolve. From the conventional transactional exchange of content in return for details and data, we will see the removal of barriers on many company websites. In practice, this will mean less gating of content by brands.

More brands will have sufficient confidence in their content, knowing that over time its quality will attract attention from the right potential customers. But content too will become shorter and more “instant”, chopped up into short, easily digestible but slick videos or podcasts. Organisations will seek to inject more authenticity into their content, giving it greater character and personality.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 22, 2020
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11min1198

Originally from the UK but based in Montenegro, Robert Pender is helping to shape a new dawn for Employee and Customer Experience in South East Europe, as a customer and employee-centric culture takes off in the region.

A CCXP with over two decades of developing successful people-first strategies, Robert (pictured) is judging at the 2020 UK Employee Experience Awards, where his wealth of knowledge will help identify those businesses achieving success by putting humans at the very heart of their strategies.

The holistic EX Practitioner recently teamed with theWorld Employee Experience Institute (WEEI)and its founder Ben Whitter, AKA Mr Employee Experience, for an e-book that aims to inspire firms to reshape strategies through establishing employee satisfaction.

The book, A Practical Guide to Implementing and Succeeding with Employee Experience, is available to download now free of charge from WEEI, and is highly recommended reading.

Robert took time out to chat with Customer Experience Magazine about his inspirations, his thoughts on EX development, and awards events including the new South East Europe Customer Experience Awards, which will be held in Belgrade, Serbia on May 29.

Hi Robert, tell us about your professional background, and how you became involved in Customer and Employee Experience.

Well, I’ve worked across Europe and the Middle East for the past 20 years, and I’ve always been passionate about putting people first in business, and in any walk of life.

Like so many highly competitive sectors, the cornerstones of success lie in human centricity, and it’s always been a pivotal focus of my work.

I’m certified in CX and EX by The CXPA and The World Employee Experience Institute respectively.

You’re currently based in the Balkans. Can you tell us how the concept of both CX and EX is changing the way business is conducted in South East Europe?

I’ve been working in the Balkans since 2016, and these days I divide my time between Montenegro and the UK.

Neither CX or EX are terms you can expect to hear commonly bandied around in meeting and boardrooms across the balkan region…yet!

From the people I’ve spoken to, it’s clear there is an appreciation of the importance of their interpretation of Customer and Employee Experience, but generally speaking efforts are very much at first base.

There’s a great opportunity here to cement experience-driven techniques into the heart of businesses.

With continued foreign investment into areas of South East Europe, and some exceptionally talented pools of people to draw upon, businesses will have to embrace experiences as a necessary factor in which to compete upon.

Where are firms in that region going wrong when it comes to being both customer and employee-centric?

To generalise, I can only surmise that businesses haven’t been sufficiently challenged enough thus far to take the views they need to compete in terms of CX and EX.
Awareness of the fundamental business benefits of human centricity is also a key contributing factor that needs to be taken on board.

Of course, CX and EX initiatives are more advanced in other regions, but it’s still commonplace that experience professionals globally are vying for their voice to be heard and understood, and to take their rightful place at the top table.

At the other end of the scale, can you tell us about EX/CX success stories from the region, and what made them work?

I’ve witnessed the emergence of a small number of businesses who are outwardly talking about their purpose and values, and their commitment to people.

This is allowing them to stand out, and I feel will only add to the experience momentum that is starting to gather pace.

I also suspect that a number of companies are proactive with their people commitments, but perhaps elect not to vocalise them. I see this changing, however, as they look to promote themselves better in the marketplace, and outline what they stand for.

You will be returning to London this coming May to judge at the UK Customer Experience Awards. What value would you say awards events have for CX/EX professionals, and the companies they work for, or work with?

First and foremost it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet like-minded people, share stories, and learn.

The awards are a goldmine of information to tap into as a professional, which really helps to improve your knowledge and grow your network.

Participating in Awards International events, as well as being thoroughly enjoyable, really helps people to validate the importance of the valuable work they’re doing.

That alone represents immense personal value.

It’s also fantastic to see the South East Europe Customer Experience Awards launching this year

In terms of the SEECXAs specifically, it’s great timing, and this event is going to add significant fuel to the embers of the CX fire in the region.

Businesses languishing in outdated ways of working, who don’t prioritise their people, are in for what I can only describe as a long overdue rude awakening.

The way people work appears to be changing rapidly, with the growth of AI and connectivity meaning an increase in practices including remote working. What other major changes to you predict will influence the way we work in the coming years?

The biggest single, and most critical, change that will shape the businesses of the future – and determine their success – is how they treat their people.

 I believe we’re on the cusp of significant change, that will redefine the current mainstream interpretation of what work truly represents.

I expect to see aspects of employment legislation change in favour of employees. Businesses languishing in outdated ways of working, who don’t prioritise their people, are in for what I can only describe as a long overdue rude awakening.

What advice would you give to aspiring CX and EX professionals?

Customer and Employee Experience will become more and more intertwined with one another by virtue of being so intrinsically linked. My advice is to immerse yourself in both disciplines. 

I was incredibly fortunate to have been mentored by Ian Golding and Ben Whitter – two of the most prominent names in CX and EX.

Reach out to people who have an intimate, global knowledge of both areas, and give yourself the best possible platform for success.

What are your plans for 2020?

Continued personal development is at the top of my agenda. My next stop is the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. I’m looking for new and interesting opportunities, and participating more in the experience communities.

For details on entering the 2020 UK Employee Experience Awards, click here.

For further information on entering the South East Europe Customer Experience Awards, click here.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamJanuary 21, 2020
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9min1272

The first annual sales drop since 1995 is a blow to British retail, but it’s only the latest in a series of setbacks.

In the past 10 years, high street institutions such as BHS, and Barratts and Maplin have toppled like dominos, with Mothercare UK the latest to enter administration in 2019. Now, the news that retail is suffering its leanest time in decades comes as more confirmation of the obvious than a reason to hit the alarm bell.

Blame for this decline is typically laid at one door: ecommerce. Offering limitless choice, low prices and greater convenience, online shopping has rapidly won consumer hearts and purchases. But while it accounts for a sizeable slice of spend, ecommerce doesn’t have a monopoly – accounting for 19 percent of UK sales.

So, why is retail struggling?

According to the experts, the industry’s current plight isn’t just about online versus offline; it’s also about the evolution of consumer habits. To survive, retailers must adapt their strategies and experiences to the new world of multi-media shopping.

CXM spoke to industry experts to gauge their thoughts on what’s next for retail…

Sandra Loeffler, Regional Vice President, EMEA, Nielsen Marketing Effectiveness

“Amongst political and economic uncertainty, rising competition from ecommerce, and a new generation of hyper-connected consumers who are making fewer trips to bricks and mortar locations, the current challenges facing the retail sector are understandable.

“At Nielsen we have been surprised to see that some marketing strategy is still being driven by perceptions and old school metrics rather than hard data, leading to budget waste and missed opportunities. But in today’s highly competitive world, this approach won’t provide brands with the insight they need to uncover the consumer decision process, which is influenced by many factors long before the shopper sets foot in the store. 

“Tapping into data generated from consumer-brand interactions, online and offline, enriched by meaningful and actionable analytics is critical to not only understand shopping habits and improve marketing effectiveness, but to also make more informed decisions in areas such as forecasting products with higher return, optimising retail assortment, improving customer loyalty, and securing the right store location. 

“Retailers who smartly analyse and adapt to the purchase behaviour of consumers – anticipating their wants and needs, offering the right product, in the right place, at the right time, and for the right price – will have a better chance to withstand the challenges.”

Andrew Morsy, Managing Director International at Peer39

“Last year’s poor retail performance, particularly during the festive months, is further reason for e-commerce and all retail brands to focus on placing their seasonal ad campaigns in the right environments. Customers are increasingly cautious with their purchasing habits, which means retailers need to be certain their offerings are highly relevant to consumers – reaching them at the right place and time to drive a sale.

“The best way to optimise ad placements is by ensuring they appear in the right environment. As an example, when individuals consume online content about holiday destinations, in that moment they are more likely to be responsive to brands offering airline tickets, travel insurance, or accommodation. Understanding and analysing context and sentiment is key to targeting consumers, and for marketers to determine the most relevant environments for digital campaigns. With effective placements, retailers can be sure to not miss out on revenue during the prime months when consumers are looking to spend.”

John Squire, CEO at DynamicAction

“While 2019 saw bright spots for customers, with free shipping more available than ever and delivery times cut dramatically, this didn’t translate into success for retailers. In addition, initial indicators are showing that vital Christmas profits have also taken a hit, with returns in 2019 starting as early as November (up an average of 11 percent 17th of Nov through the end of 2019), kicking off the ‘Retail Vortex’ of increased returns, higher marketing costs, and inventory concerns.

“Retailers continued to up their marketing spend per order during the ever-earlier ramp up to Christmas, offering incentives of free shipping and discounts that monumentally impacted their already thin margins. 

“These factors highlight retailers’ increasing efforts to compete with retail giants like Amazon and innovative DTCs like Birchbox. But attempting to emulate its offerings without understanding the value to your unique shopper can be costly. Retailers must ensure they balance the rising costs of luring in customers with the significant impact of high promotions and numerous returns. 

“The retailers who are going to survive are the ones that understand the key elements eroding their profit, allowing them to steer away from the “Retail Vortex” and create strategies to understand the tactics that will truly drive profit. To achieve this, retailers in 2020 must move away from the antiquated goals of the high street’s heyday to embrace the necessities of the digital age.”

Jeff Pfefferkorn, Head of UK Sales at MainAd

“The biggest decrease in retail sales in 25 years is disappointing and highlights a disconnect between consumer spending and brands’ marketing budgets, as the latter has remained stable in the past year. For retailers, this strongly suggests their marketing strategies could be improved to be more effective at generating conversions.

To recapture consumer attention and counteract this dip in sales retailers should adopt highly tailored, dynamic targeting methods to deliver impactful digital ads, and strengthen their brand message across their wider marketing channels. They should also turn to alternative platforms, such as in-app advertising, which have the potential to reach a more receptive consumer and produce a greater response.” 


Harpreet BushellHarpreet BushellJanuary 21, 2020
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8min1173

Anybody who has spent any significant time on the internet will be familiar with the following scenario…

You’ve searched for a product, let’s say running shoes. Maybe you decided to make a purchase, or perhaps you were just looking for information. But now, adverts for various running shoes are following you to every corner of the web, from news sites to social media platforms.

This can be an unsettling experience, with many people flocking to digital detoxes or attempting to reclaim their data after being ‘creeped out’ by ads chasing them around the internet. As we enter this new decade, how can brands better balance connected experiences, data collection and personalisation against the perception they’re crossing the line into invasive behaviour?

Consumer catch 22

I’ve worked in tech for over 13 years but, perhaps surprisingly, I don’t have an Alexa or Google Home as I worry about privacy issues. I’m uneasy at the idea of an Oyster card being able to track my whereabouts and I left Facebook about three years ago.

So as much as I understand how data collection works and have a healthy distrust when handing over my information, the irony is that I am prepared to embrace it if it makes my life significantly easier.

And I’m not alone in embracing this contradiction. A recent consumer survey from Boxever found that 60 percent preferred offers that are targeted to where they are and what they are doing, but 62 percent said that they do not want retailers tracking their location.

A large-scale global study from Microsoft called The Consumer Data Value Exchange, highlighted a similar paradox and Gartner research has shown that the more data points marketers use to personalise communication, the more consumers see that communication as invasive.

So, what can brands do to break out of this catch-22 scenario?

Transparency and timing are key

According to Accenture, 66 percent of consumers want companies to earn customer trust by being more transparent about how their information is being used. Other recent research shows
it’s possible to achieve a balance between personalisation and privacy – outlining that 64 percent of consumers are happy with retailers taking their purchase history as long as it led to more bespoke offers.

A Forrester report predicts that the industry will “say goodbye to third-party data and hello to zero-party data – data customers own and willingly provide to brands”.

But brands must be careful to be useful at exactly the right time. For example, the easyJet app offers tailored promotions to customers at the time of travel through mobile vouchering. They’re adding value to the customer journey, both literally and figuratively.

Customers aren’t faced with a deluge of marketing material at all times. Instead, it’s ideally timed, relevant and therefore more likely to be viewed as non-invasive.

Don’t be over-familiar and treat people as individuals

When retail giant Target identified 25 products that, when analysed together, allowed them to assign shoppers with a ‘pregnancy prediction’ score, they unsurprisingly received lots of negative publicity.

“With the pregnancy products, though, we learned that some women react badly,” a Target executive said. But they learned their lesson – not to be too familiar – and started using a different approach.

“We started mixing in all these ads for things we knew pregnant women would never buy, so the baby ads looked random,” the exec added.

“We’d put an ad for a lawn mower next to diapers. We’d put a coupon for wine glasses next to infant clothes. That way, it looked like all the products were chosen by chance. And we found out that as long as a pregnant woman thinks she hasn’t been spied on, she’ll use the coupons.”

This proves it’s more about the positioning than the actual offers themselves. People like to be treated as individuals, not lumped into a broad category such as ‘pregnant women’. A perfect example of this preference for individualisation was the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign run by Coca-Cola.

Not only was it a clever way to capture customer data – people really wanted their names on bottles of Coke – it actually increased sales for the first time in years.

The golden age of personalisation

As brands become more experienced in the relative cost and reward of personalisation, they will get smarter about how to engage their customer base in a mutually beneficial manner.

Rather than just adding to the noise, brands will see returns from creating relevant offers that cultivate non-invasive relationships. When executed well, personalisation can drive impulse purchases, lead to increased revenue, and fewer returns. But if poorly implemented, brands risk irreparable damage to their already cautious customer base and being thought of as ‘creepy’.

For brands, the golden age of personalisation will come when the experience is so frictionless and positive, that customers don’t notice its persuasive influence anymore.

Perhaps that’s the creepiest idea of all?


Claire Boscq-ScottClaire Boscq-ScottJanuary 20, 2020
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4min1344

Ever-faster change, greater customer choice, and channel proliferation are realities every business faces today.

In this still-challenging time, developing an exceptional brand that will differ from the competition is more crucial than ever; businesses need to focus their attention across multiple touchpoints, Employee Experience, Customer Experience, and Sensorial Experience to enable them to build loyalty so they can grow their profit.

To achieve this, you need to understand your internal and external customers’ behaviour, experience, and emotions. A retail study by Motista shows that consumers with an emotional connection to brands have 306 percent better lifetime value than satisfied customers.

Connecting at an emotional level means putting the five senses into practice. Smell, touch and taste are linked to our limbic system, the right side of the brain which is responsible for creativity, memories, feelings, and emotions. It’s these senses in particular that can make a brand more impressionable to a consumer and influence their purchasing habits.

However, it is estimated that 83 percent of all branding only appeals to the eyes. Visual cues, such as gifs, pictures, and videos are processed in the cortex, the left side of the brain, which is responsible for thoughts and actions – the analytical, logical brain that is also linked with hearing.

Of course, it’s not physically possible to wear a car, nor to eat clothes, so brands must use sensorial experiences to create associations instead.

By tapping into the emotional triggers that prompt consumers to make unconscious decisions and to buy on impulse and desire, brands can create long-lasting memories.

When McDonald’s wanted to get rid of the negative perception that its outlets smelt of stale French fry cooking oil, they asked for the help of sensory branding experts, Simon Harrop & Partners.

They created a signature fragrance designed to capture and express all the good things the brand stands for. The fragrance could then be used everywhere – incorporated in cleaning products, and diffused in the restaurant, creating a subtle aroma effect, which after research based on scanning some of their consumers’ brains, they concluded that activating the olfactory receptors more than doubled the emotional impact of the dine-in experience.

So here is my challenge to brands – how can you get your customers to taste something that can’t be eaten?

How can they smell something that has a non-descriptive scent? How can they hear something that can’t be heard?

This is where innovative thinking is required.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 17, 2020
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9min1289

Customer Experience Magazine is profiling the top 10 Professionals and Influencers from our Top 50 CX Stars list.

Here we conclude our list with a look at the well-deserved Number 1 in each category. Amanda Riches of  is today’s featured Professional, and our Influencer is James Dodkins.

We welcome feedback on our CX Stars list, and all correspondence should be sent to paul@cxm.world.

Amanda Riches

Director of Professional Services at Medallia

CXM’s first Number One Professional CX Star is Amanda Riches, who leads CX Consulting for experience management software firm Medallia’s Professional Services division in the EMEA region.

There she helps organisations operationalise customer feedback programmes in order to deliver maximum impact, and London-based Amanda is putting her valuable years of CX experience into the role, to magnificent effect.

Fellow CX pros will know Amanda for her inspiring work in years gone by establishing the service formula for Premier Inn through her role as Head of Brand Excellence and Customer Service. Her success in the role saw her go on to become Head of Quality and Guest Insight for the hotel chain’s owner Whitbread, where her skills continued to grow through a range of successful Customer and Employee Experience projects, including innovations such as creating an ‘e-panel’ of hotel guests to harvest and better utilise feedback.

Confidence in her skills pushed Amanda towards creating her own CX consultancy, and in 2008 she founded Enrich. Later, joined by Employee Experience expert Fiona Tweedie, together they promised – and delivered – “No fluff, just simple, clear, engaging programmes,” for clients.

Today, at Medallia Amanda continues to help firms make significant and lasting changes to their CX offering, including Fidelity International, which took not one, but two Gold category titles at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards (UKCXAs).

Fidelity’s wins for Use of Insight & Feedback – Customer Satisfaction and Financial Services in partnership with Medallia have been cited as among Amanda’s proudest career moments, as she has worked closely with the firm in previous years.

Speaking of awards, Amanda is in high demand for judging roles due to her expert eye, and along with appearances on panels at the UKCXAs over the years, she has also judged at the Patient Experience Network National Awards. Patient Experience is an area very close to her heart, and Amanda leads workshops to improve experiences for those using NHS services, among other worthy initiatives.

Amanda says: “Successful customer-centric organisations must relentlessly search for actionable insight and improvement opportunities. Listen, learn, prototype, test, iterate, validate, repeat!”

She tells CXM that her biggest inspiration is the frontline CX workers across all sectors who contribute in many ways, big and small, to making memorable and lasting experiences every single day.

Amanda is herself one of the UK’s most inspiring CX professionals, and a role model for everyone working towards greater customer centricity. We look forward to seeing Amanda’s influence reach exciting new heights in 2020.

James Dodkins

The face of a new generation of CX influencers, James Dodkins is the founder of Rockstar CX,  a consultancy which promises “fast, heavy, powerful customer experience transformation” for progressive firms unafraid to think outside the box.

The energy, enthusiasm and stage presence of James has its roots in his time as an actual, honest-to-goodness rock star, and now instead of wielding a guitar in front of heaving crowds of heavy metal fans across the globe, he is bringing a vibrant new take on Customer Experience to an audience of thousands in the form of bestselling books including Foundations for Customer Centricity, videos, and speaking engagements.

A savvy social media star, engaging fans through now-traditional platforms such as Facebook, and even emerging ones such as TikTok, 2019 also saw James make the move towards a new realm for Customer Experience influencing – television.

His This Week in CX show was launched on Amazon Prime, and offered a snappy weekly round-up of CX news, pulling no punches with his assessments of big name brands and where they were going right, and wrong, with customers.

James brings his signature style to every aspect of his influencer role – a poster for his upcoming ‘Disrupt CX’ UK Tour looks for all the world like a flyer for a series of gigs, but instead of head-banging in the mosh pit, delegates will be jumping head-first into the Rockstar method of CX delivery, while learning from James’ own experiences working alongside some of the planet’s biggest and best-known brands.

These include Disney, Mercedes, Adobe, Nike, Microsoft, and Lego, to name but an impressive few.

Meanwhile, alongside his Rockstar CX duties, James acts as a Principal Consultant for Customer Experience and Process Management firm BP Group.

James says: “Knowing your customers at a deep level allows you to understand their Successful Customer Outcomes and associated needs, and then allows you to design ideal experiences that achieve those outcomes.”

Globetrotter James is the one rock star hotels are happy to welcome – instead of throwing TVs out the window into the swimming pool, he’s more likely to be found engaging with staff on ways to make guests’ stays more memorable.

With an incredible few years already under his studded belt, 2020 looks set to see more businesses than ever before benefit from a blast of the CX Rockstar’s passion.

We say rock on James!

Click here for profiles of our Number 2 Professionals and Influencers, and here for the full Top 50 CX Stars list.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamJanuary 16, 2020
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7min715

Customer Experience Magazine is profiling the top 10 Professionals and Influencers from our Top 50 CX Stars list.

Here we look at Number 2 in each category. Nick Macfarlane of Sky is today’s featured Professional, and our Influencer is Ian Golding.

We welcome feedback on our CX Stars list, and all correspondence should be sent to paul@cxm.world.

 

Number 2

Nick McFarlane

Head of Customer Experience at Sky Spain

Nick McFarlane has been living and breathing Customer Experience since 2005 when he joined Renault UK as a Senior Customer Relations Manager, and has since cultivated his skills in CX roles at household brands Vodafone and Sky.

Reading-based Nick joined Sky in 2011 as a Senior Customer Experience Manager for their Broadband & Talk division before going on to develop the end-to-end CX roadmap in the vital role of Customer Journey Programme Manager.

He is now Head of Customer Experience for Sky Spain, and helped design the journey for Spanish customers in what was Sky’s first ever organic launch in a new country.

It’s a changing world for the pillars of traditional media, and the behemoths such as Sky have a need for laser-focussed customer insight as it adapts to new landscapes. Looking at the last two decades alone, significant changes have included a boom in digital subscribers, and the launch of services including Sky Broadband.

Dramatic evolving of services requires the skilful handling of customers, and Sky continues to be in good hands with Nick as he brings his leadership and drive to Sky’s newest market in Spain. There he has helped build an enterprise-wide CX function that gathers insight from across all touchpoints and turns it into tangible benefits.

His success with leading CX in Spain is also inspiring Sky as it look towards other overseas markets.

Nick says: “For me, great Customer Experience is all about creating a human connection and keeping it simple.”

Nick is a devotee of the contact centre, and believes it to be the nucleus of any firm’s Customer Experience delivery. In recent years he has begun preaching his vision with a busy schedule of keynote speaking engagements, from Europe to Australia, where he presents his Five Rules for Great CX to eager audiences.

 

Number 2

Ian Golding

Ian Golding’s influence has grown exponentially in recent years as he coaches the CX stars of the future not just in the UK, but across the world.

His CX Masterclass, in both the UK and the UAE, is responsible for revamping the CX strategies for countless firms, from bigger brands to budding start-ups, and through his Customer Experience Consultancy is setting the standard for other firms in the ever-growing consultancy realm to match.

Ian was the first person in the world to be authorised by the Customer Experience Professionals Association to teach the CCXP accreditation, and it is estimated that he has mentored up to a quarter of all of the world’s qualified CCXPs to date.

His 2018 debut work, Customer What?: The honest and practical guide to customer experience is a key text for not just budding CX professionals, but any business owner with a desire for success in an era when the customer is calling the shots.

Ian’s inspirations include Jeff Bezos and Satya Nadella, recognised for their pioneering work in transforming the relationship between customer and brand, but Ian admits his biggest inspiration in CX is simply the enthusiastic members of the CX community that he meets and inspires himself, on his global mission to supercharge Customer Experience.

Ian says: “Creating an emotional link with customers demonstrates the ability to identify the ‘WOW moments’ in the customer journey – the compelling brand proposition that leaves customers in no doubt as to why they keep coming back – and telling all their friends to do the same.”

In 2020, Customer Experience will continue to shape the modern business landscape, while Ian himself will continue to shape our understanding of Customer Experience.

Click here for profiles of our Number 3 Professionals and Influencers.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJanuary 15, 2020
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7min753

Customer Experience Magazine is profiling the top 10 Professionals and Influencers from our Top 50 CX Stars list.

Here we look at Number 3 in each category. Jo Mayes of Business Stream is today’s featured Professional, and our Influencer is Adrian Swinscoe.

We welcome feedback on our CX Stars list, and all correspondence should be sent to paul@cxm.world.

 

Number 3

Jo Mayes

Director of Customer Operations at Business Stream

The award-winning Jo Mayes is coming up to a decade of working in Customer Experience, and having breathed new life into the CX strategy of Standard Life, in 2016 she joined utilities firm Business Stream, where she has spearheaded a hugely successful shift towards customer centricity.

Following her appointment as Director of Customer Operations, Business Stream has enjoyed a raft of industry honours, including gongs at the UK Customer Experience Awards (UKCXAs), the European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards, and the International Customer Experience Awards, to name but a few.

Jo herself was named CX Professional of the Year at the 2019 UKCXAs, taking the title in what was one of the most competitive years to date for the coveted category.

Her success is down to an instinctive understanding of what customers want from a brand, and she has been an advocate of robust measurement programmes and redesigns through co-creation with end-users from the beginning of her CX career journey. These techniques helped her previous employer appear in the KPMG Nunwood CEE Top 100 list for two consecutive years.

Jo says: “A key element for strong leadership is to set out for your people why delivering CX is important – good context setting and goal alignment create the focus and drive to deliver.”

Her inspiration in recent years include leading consultant and author Ian Golding, and KPMG Nunwood’s Director of Customer Experience David Conway; it’s safe to say that as far as professionals go, Jo Mayes will soon be cited as the inspiration for others as they follow in her footsteps and aim to transform businesses and place the customer at the heart of what they do.

 

Number 3

Adrian Swinscoe

An experimental CX thought leader and visionary, Adrian Swinscoe has been helping businesses reconnect with customers for 20 years, and is not afraid to take chances when it comes to innovation.

The well-known consultant has a solid business background, and his previous experience as both an economist and a teacher has provided him with the necessary skills to lead others to success, and he has found an eager audience through his in-demand coaching and consultation services, and his writing in blog, article, and book form.

Many CXM readers will no doubt own a copy of his 2016 book How to Wow, which offers 68 precise methods for CX transformation, while his new work, Punk CX, is an unconventional, yet exciting take on transforming CX in the vein of the radical 1970s punk rockers who pushed back against the overblown, over-technical prog rock that had previously dominated the music world.

In true punk fashion, Adrian designed the book to rebel against the mainstream of conventional business tomes, and the end result has an incredible aesthetic similar to the self-published fanzines that fearlessly promoted the punk scene in its heyday.

His methods encourage out-of-the-box thinking that reward businesses for daring to be different, and alongside the colourful new book, Adrian produces a Punk CX newsletter to further stimulate ideas and new wave Customer Experience practices.

Adrian says: “I help people and organisations achieve greater potential and results through building better relationships with those people around them whether they are leaders, team members, or customers.”

Adrian’s global experience has also earned him a regular contributor slot with Forbes, where he brings practical CX insight to a wider business audience.

Click here for profiles of our Number 4 Professionals and Influencers.


Gethin NadinGethin NadinJanuary 15, 2020
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9min1307

This article was co-authored with John Petter, CEO of HR software provider Zellis.

 

It isn’t a new discovery that money worries have a direct impact on your employees; financial concerns are a serious cause of mental health issues, which themselves result in increases in both absenteeism and presenteeism, reduced engagement and productivity, and all manner of personal problems that make day-to-day working life a struggle.

Unfortunately, the prevailing social and economic conditions have made money worries increasingly common. Only rarely are employees, especially amongst the younger generations, faced with one specific financial challenge. It’s much more likely they are dealing with some dangerous combination of home ownership struggles, slow wage growth, too much borrowing, being a victim of a scam, and worries over their retirement savings.

This is all underpinned by low financial literacy, which Andy Haldane, Chief Economist at the Bank of England, has said is actually getting worse in the UK. Financial education is supposed to start in school, but many students say they don’t receive it. And once they leave the school system, most people aren’t exposed to any kind of financial literacy education unless it’s self-taught.

What role should employers play in addressing this issue?

The answer is that employers should take a greater role in increasing literacy and awareness. Currently less than half (44 percent) of UK employees are offered financial education, according to research from Zellis. The traditional view that personal money matters shouldn’t be discussed in the workplace is still pervasive. In fact, according to The Close Brothers, the majority (58 percent) of UK employers don’t have any sort of financial wellbeing strategy in place.

But let’s look at it from a different perspective: what’s the central transaction in the relationship between an organisation and its employees?

That’s right, it’s pay and reward.

So it only seems natural that the employer should play a part in helping employees make their money go further, by explaining how key concepts like benefits, tax, and pensions actually work. Zellis’ research indicates that this is currently an underserved need. They found:

  • Most (58 percent) employees don’t fully understand their payslips
  • Less than a quarter (24 percent) check their statement every month
  • Around a third (32 percent) say they don’t have enough information about benefit choices
  • A quarter (25 percent) say the same about their pension options

And while trust in traditional financial institutions like banks is at a low point, employers can step in to provide much needed support and education. But we must make it clear that they shouldn’t try to provide financial ‘advice’, which is something regulated, professional, and typically relates to money choices (i.e. investments) that involve a degree of risk.

What practical steps can organisations take, then, to support employees – and what are the potential business benefits? Here are a few quick ideas:

Run financial literacy programmes

These could be created internally, or you could bring in an external expert to help. They should be inclusive of different ages, background and levels of knowledge, and could cover topics such as how to understand a payslip, how to access benefits, how the tax system works, and how to manage your pension.

Closing the awareness gap can make a huge difference. Consider, for example, the hundreds of thousands of low-wage employees who don’t claim Universal Credit simply because they don’t know they are entitled to it. An organisation that helps to bring this information to light can really change the lives of its employees.

Communicate benefit choices 

Your benefits package can make all the difference when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. However, organisations struggle with low levels of employee uptake either because the benefits on offer are not deemed relevant and useful, or because not enough is done to promote them and explain their value.

A solution is to involve employees closely in the process of designing a benefits package, improving both relevancy and awareness. Benefits awareness can also be boosted using a ‘total rewards statement’, offered as part of or alongside the payslip, which shows the total value of all pay and benefits received from the employer.

When employees are more engaged with their benefits it not only contributes to better financial wellbeing, but to better employee-employer relations as well.

Re-think your HR systems

Of course, helping your employees feel in control of their pay and benefits means having modern and user-friendly HR systems. When these systems are outdated, clunky and not mobile-friendly, important life-admin tasks such as updating bank details, checking your payslip and making pension contributions become harder and more frustrating.

The reality is that today’s employees expect near consumer-grade levels of technology in the workplace, so organisations that still rely on archaic systems need to re-think their approach. Convenience is key – if employees can get easy access to important pay and rewards information, they’re more likely to take positive steps towards improving their financial wellbeing.

Offer mental health support

The last tip is the simplest, but arguably the most important. Stress and worry can be made considerably worse in the absence of having someone to talk to. As an employer, you can help fill this gap by offering counselling. While it won’t be a direct fix for most financial problems, it will offer reassurance and let your staff know that it’s OK not to be OK.

Now we are into 2020, it would be amiss not to find a place for financial education and counselling in your HR strategy.

We’ve known for a while now that money worries aren’t good for the health of your staff or your business – so why not do something about it?




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