Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiApril 7, 2020
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3min361

According to a report by Revuze, an automated market insights solution, based on over 300 thousand reviews in the Razors and Blades industry, incentivised reviews increased the average star rating of a product 3.5 per cent, while the average sentiment grew from 84 per cent to 91 per cent.

What makes the sentiment more positive in the incentivised reviews?

Top 10 topics that affect the high star rating:

  1. Overall Satisfaction
  2. Soft & Smooth
  3. Free Samples & Coupons
  4. Ease of Use
  5. Close Shave
  6. Is It Recommended?
  7. Results
  8. Skin Sensitivity
  9. Nicks & Cuts
  10. Returning Customer

The high reviews take up 88 per cent of overall incentivised reviews.

Top 10 topics that affect the low star rating:

  1. Overall Satisfaction
  2. Free Samples and Coupons
  3. Soft & Smooth
  4. Price/Value for Money
  5. Close Shave
  6. Ease of Use
  7. Results
  8. Functionality
  9. Trimmer
  10. Moisturizing Strip

The low reviews take up 11 per cent of overall incentivised reviews.

The ratings of non-incentivised reviews are as follows:

Top 10 aspects of high ratings:

  1. Overall Satisfaction
  2. Price/Value for Money
  3. Soft & Smooth
  4. Results
  5. Close Shave
  6. Is it Recommended?
  7. Quality
  8. Ease of Use
  9. Blade Sharpness
  10. Handle

Top 10 aspects of low ratings:

  1. Overall Satisfaction
  2. Price/Value for Money
  3. Quality
  4. Blade Sharpness
  5. Handle
  6. Results
  7. Life Span
  8. Close Shave
  9. Ease of Use
  10. Nicks & Cuts

The high ratings take up 84 per cent, while the low ratings take up 15 per cent of total non-incentivised reviews.

Incentivised reviewers mentioned that the product is part of the promotion, consequently, the price of the product seems to be overlooked by these reviewers. The aspect of price is the second most evaluated aspect in non-incentivised reviews, while it is not in the top ten aspects for incentivised reviews.

Incentivised reviews are delivered after a shorter amount of time of initial use, focusing on the overall experience rather than long-term usage.

For the full report, check this page where you can also download another two reports, completely for free. Limited time only!


Christa HolmborgChrista HolmborgApril 7, 2020
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11min617

On Monday the 16th of March began the week that turned all of our lives upside down. Coronavirus hit the UK with a force and the circumstances forced entire companies to work, collaborate, and socialise remotely for weeks on end, and we are yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While there is an unprecedented amount of uncertainty and most industries are suffering (with travel and hospitality in particular), it has also been encouraging to see both kindness and innovation flourish, with humans turning to virtual ways of connecting with others, and companies pivoting their operations in a very agile way, reaching out to their customers in new ways through delivery, technology and virtual connection.

Innovation has always run through the core of Hellon’s operations and that is what we help our clients do – innovate on services, propositions as well as customer and employee experience. However, much of our work has previously required face to face interaction, when conducting research and facilitating workshops and co-creation. For us too, the question on how to conduct these tasks in this new normal arose. Luckily, as a relatively small (45+ employees) and agile company, we took action very quickly, and true to service design logic, started thinking out loud.

On the first day of our remote work setup, we already had a company-wide workshop on the best remote collaboration and meeting tools. By the time of writing, we have already conducted 10+ remote workshops and customer research using digital tools, as well as internal collaboration. Here’s what we learned:

1.    By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail  

Whereas a rough agenda might be fine for face-to-face sessions, “winging it” isn’t an option for online workshops. Detailed planning is crucial, as is the creation of clear and specific instructions for each activity, a timeline of what is done in each phase (and by whom), as well as what tools will be used. Ideally, participants will already have registered for the tools in advance (e.g. day before) to ensure no one has access problems on the day of the session.

A test run with the core project team is also critical, especially if you are new to a platform, to go through the technicalities and potential scenarios that might happen during a workshop (e.g. someone can’t access, how to chat/ raise hand etc.). Our “tests” have ensured that we are well-prepared for a variety of hiccups which might happen in an online environment. Finally, keep in mind that discussions and exercises take longer online, so plan for less activities than you normally would for a face-to-face workshop, and ensure people get enough short breaks from their screen.

 

 

2.    Choose the best tools – for your company

There’s a plethora of digital collaboration tools out there to choose from, which can make the selection of a tool or platform feel daunting. When making your selection, consider things such as; What is the desired outcomes of the exercise I am planning and how do I share them? How many participants are there? Which tools are in line with policies?

At Hellon, we usually use a mix of tools depending on the objective of the exercise. Often, we use a video conferencing platform such as Skype or Teams for communication, and, another platform on which to collaborate or ask for feedback. Miro and Mural are great platforms for post-it-type workshopping, in which all participants can work on one canvas or template simultaneously, which works very well for journey mapping, ideation and analysis.

Howspace is another platform we use, on which you can build your own “page” using various widgets. Thereafter, a variety of functions can be added, such as images, videos, reports, chat, polling, voting etc. This is a good tool for e.g. showcasing concepts and asking clients/ customers to provide feedback in real-time. Finally, at times we also use a specific polling/ voting tool such as Slido or Mentimeter, to gain feedback and spark discussion. This is what works for us, now consider the needs of your company.

 

3.    The importance of facilitation

In online sessions, the facilitator’s role and ability to engage participants is emphasised. It’s important to create an inspiring and engaging online session, minimising participants’ desire to multi-task while on a remote call. Practice facilitation, plan engaging exercises with enough breaks and shorten the monologues to keep people active.

This is also where planning and preparation come into the picture. Ensure that the workshop has a clear structure, and that you are on top of the agenda at all times. Assign clear roles for the team if you have multiple people facilitating. For larger groups, a clear lead facilitator is required as well as supporting facilitators to communicate and assist with smaller – predetermined – groups (e.g. breakout rooms). Also make sure that the exercises are simple and easy to understand, and that there are clear instructions for the participants to follow. Finally, nurture the energy in the “virtual room” and build a connection with the participants, even though they are not face to face with you. Icebreakers can also be added into a virtual workshop, which will create a more relaxed atmosphere, and interactive activities ensure participants are engaged and focused.

4.   Remote research doesn’t have to be boring

If you thought qualitative research was phone interviews and focus groups only, think again. Today, the likes of Google Hangouts and Webex allow us to conduct interviews over video, through which we can observe reactions and feelings towards a topic similar to an in-person interview. There are also multiple other innovative research approaches which do not require face-to-face interaction.

At Hellon, we’ve had many discussions on whether this situation will lead to the rise of design probes, which allow people to self-document their experiences and then share them with the researcher e.g. through a diary, or by taking pictures and completing tasks.

There is also an opportunity to do online listening and online ethnography to understand customers’ online behaviours related to a topic, as well as customer reviews and sentiment online. After all, this is where most of your customers are in these times.

5.    Take care of each other!

While we are definitely trying to find the positive side to the current circumstances and keep our spirits high, many of us are of course struggling with adjusting, which is completely normal. Many of us are working and home-schooling kids simultaneously, we miss having in-person connections, and some of us are going slightly stir-crazy at home. But we check in on each other and we build a social closeness online.

It is important to set daily routines that bring everyone together while being physically apart, and it is crucial to see your colleagues most days and talk about non-work-related things with them to sustain the “normal” office chat.

Our company Slack has been “on fire” in the recent weeks; we share our crazy home outfits and “my kid interrupted the meeting” (or emptied an entire bag of flour – true story) stories, we organise virtual lunches and an after work drink here and there, and we embrace the “humanness” in each other – human-to-human business is our mantra after all. And that, I believe, makes all the difference in these difficult times and brings the light “into the tunnel.” Be kind to one another!

Hopefully these tips are useful for both conducting remote research and collaboration for everyone out there who is experiencing the new normal with us.

 

 

 


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8min654

Woah! What is happening?

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly caused massive disruption to our everyday lives. There are countless stories of frontline NHS and other key workers being unable to buy essential food as panic-buying has stripped shelves bare, and the most vulnerable customers are unable to shop for fear of contracting the virus. Not to mention those of the population who genuinely cannot cook and for whom takeaway and food deliveries are a lifeline!

Among the chaos, however, food delivery businesses are adapting and continuing to provide vital services for customers.

Achieving this has required a huge shift in thinking and fast action!

There has been a unique collaboration across Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa Johns to work together with the Aggregators (Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats). Collectively they lobbied the government to ensure that delivery staff were able to access key worker status.

Why is this important?

It enables staff to get the childcare and support required in order for employees to be able to keep producing food and providing home deliveries.

Whilst I really don’t like the term Social-Distancing, at a time when Physical-Distancing is imperative to prevent the spread of the virus, we should be embracing Social-Closeness which is of paramount importance for our wellbeing right now.

But how are food delivery companies adapting to the needs of their staff whilst maintaining a service?

One measure is to reduce the menu items available.

Why? I hear you ask! The more complex the menu is, the more inventory required. The make table chiller where pizzas are made has ingredients close together which means the team having to work close in proximity. Most home delivery food stores also have limited workspace. At a time when the kitchen staff need to maintain a physical distance from each other, a simplified menu allows fewer staff to produce the same volume of food.

How are these measures adapted for customers?

The first and most obvious is the introduction of “Contactless Deliveries”.

Customers can let the delivery driver know when ordering where they would like their order to be placed – usually on a portable table or raised shelf. In some cases, the delivery driver carries an empty box to prevent those containing food from being in contact with the floor.

The driver then contacts the customer to pick up their order. The driver then leaves knowing that the customer has been in receipt of their food, and both the driver and customer have not needed to handle the boxes at the same time, maintaining the recommended 2 metre distance.

The second adaptation for customers is the removal of collection from the transaction process. No longer can you pop into the store, place an order and grab a cheeky pint next door while it cooks. Again, to protect all involved, closing the shop to shoppers popping in off the street and preventing collection orders minimizes the opportunity for physical contact.

Thirdly, the use of cash is removed from the equation – we’ve all heard the phrase “Dirty Cash” but in this case it literally could be! So, once again, removing cash payments and reverting to online card transactions only, both customers and staff are further protected. Will we ever go back to cash transactions?

How is service recovery adapting?

As with most large retail businesses there is, sometimes, a need to recover a service issue. Whilst most retail stores will have a phone number, some companies provide an additional layer of Customer Service to customers.

There is a catch though, most customer service teams sit in large contact-centres with multiple data systems needed to resolve queries and complaints. There is also the added challenge of maintaining data privacy and compliance with GDPR which for people working at home is still hugely important.

The beauty of the modern age is that contact centres are now typically managing customer contact through multiple channels. The use of multiple digital channels makes it feasible to move to remote working and still maintain secure customer service.

Making these changes to allow staff to provide the service to the public is key both in providing a community the food services it requires, but also for business survival. Such adaptive responses to COVID-19 have been driven by the need to provide food to customers, but will also provide growth in times of adversity for such brands too.

The ability to continue trading in such hard times places a degree of responsibility to be benevolent and support those who depend on you most.

There has been plenty written about what we will remember when this lockdown passes and the memories fade. Businesses that have adapted and whose motives have been truly customer-focused are likely to be looked upon more favourably.

As a result, the food delivery companies are offering universal discounts for key workers from the NHS, Community Care, Teaching and other Emergency Services. From 50% off, to additional value deals.

For some this is not enough and there are businesses co-ordinating with the London Hospitals to deliver regular weekly food. There are also relationships with homeless charities such as Mungo and Shelter to provide food for homeless people who have been given temporary hotel accommodation during the pandemic.

I admire the reaction and rapid response from the food delivery businesses who have come together to maintain a vital service to their customers, who have adapted to ensure the safety of their employees and who have gone further to gift food to those who need it most. There is only one thing left to say – Thank you & keep up the good work!


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiApril 3, 2020
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3min486

According to a report compiled from results gathered by Revuze, 80 per cent of consumers have a positive sentiment towards SMART TV, while 20 per cent give neutral or negative reviews.

When customers are looking to buy a new SMART TV, there is a list of variables to consider before choosing the one that suits their needs. The topics that are most often associated with purchasing in this market are overall satisfaction, value for money, ease of use, picture quality and a few more.

Apart from the general topics that are usually associated with the previous generations of tv devices, customers are now considering three different main qualities before picking a SMART tv, and these are:

1. Applications

The primary feature which distinguishes Smart TVs in the market is its ability to connect to the Internet, enabling consumers to download apps and streaming services.

Consumers are mostly dissatisfied with the performance of applications on Smart TVs, saying that they often experience apps freezing, crashing, or not being updated regularly.

2. Voice recognition

This practical feature of Smart TVs allows users to access and navigate the menu of the tv device. While it was previously available on mobile phones and speakers, users are gladly using the feature to control and search for content even without the remote.

3. Smell

The one unexpected characteristic users include in their reviews is the smell, mostly in a negative tone. A number of reviewers mentioned the chemical smell of the plastic as a con after purchasing a Smart TV of one brand.

Although the topic of smell does not seem to have major importance in overall experience with Smart TV, it should not be completely disregarded.

 

Consumers are still buying Smart TVs because of their ever-improving picture quality, the smart feature – connection to the Internet, and ease of use, which accounts for stable growth in the recent years, amassing over 30 billion in the market revenue in the US alone in 2019.

 

Interested in reading the full report? Click here to download this and two other papers free of charge, but only for a limited time!


Caroline CooperCaroline CooperApril 3, 2020
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6min515

Have you ever had a good customer experience when served by someone who is completely disengaged with their work or their organisation? Probably not.

Now think of the opposite end of the spectrum. When someone is really proud of what they do.

Being recognised at work so you can be proud of your contribution can have a massive impact on employee engagement, and all the knock-on benefits of staff retention and productivity. And of course, your customers’ experience.

So how can we create an environment where people can feel proud of their work, proud of your business and proud to be of service to your customers?

This stems from the top, so if you are recognising your managers and supervisors so they feel pride in what they do, they are far more likely to do the same with their team members.

As well as leading by example, educate your managers and supervisors on the importance of recognition, and give them ideas, support and resources to do this.

Here are three areas you get you started:

1. Respect

Treat your team with the same courtesy you’d like them to show customers. Failing to give a simple please when asking for something or a thank you when it’s delivered soon gets noted, leaving people feeling unappreciated. A sunny smile and a cheerful “good morning” sets everyone up for the day.

Act with integrity, and demonstrate you are true to your values. What you say about customers or colleagues can be a good indicator.

Show you value their opinion. Involve your team in discussions and ask their advice particularly in areas where they have more involvement than you, e.g. most probably spend more time with customers than you and often spot things you might miss.

Show you care about them, and always have their best interests at heart not just business interests.

 

2. Demonstrate Trust

Play to people’s strengths, rather than making everyone mediocre at everything. We often underestimate people’s capabilities. Give responsibility in areas in which they excel. When individuals have one or two areas to focus on specifically it encourages them to go deeper and develop their expertise. This is not only good for people’s development; it also helps the team respect other’s roles and share the burden.

Give flexibility to adapt and adopt their own style. You’ll be surprised just how resourceful your team can be given the right direction.

Empower your team by delegating some control and ownership. This gives a sense of pride and a desire to get things right.

 

3. Recognition

Give meaningful feedback. The more specific and the sooner you do this after the event the greater the impact. Whenever you get positive feedback from a customer publicise this.

Recognise and celebrate successes – for the individual, for the team or the business as a whole.

Acknowledge contributions: Let everyone know when you’ve had a good month, Recognise those who go beyond the call of duty e.g. changed domestic arrangements to help out, dropped their own work to support a colleague or gone out of their way to help a customer. Acknowledge those who have put effort into a project even if it has just fallen short of the mark. It’s the effort you’re applauding not the result.

Saying thank you and well done in front of the whole team may make some people feel uncomfortable, so be selective. But when done for the whole team it can give a real boost. Put some thought into how you say thank you, make it relate to the individual and something that resonates with them.

Celebrate those important proud moments outside work: arrival of their first grandchild, child’s graduation, a significant contribution to a charity, a personal achievement such as passing their driving test.

Simply remembering personal milestones such as a significant wedding anniversary can make people feel valued, but even better if you do something to mark the occasion even if it’s just something simple.

 

Whatever you do to show you value your team and get them ‘Puffed up with Pride’, make a point today (and every day from now on) of doing at least one thing to show your appreciation to each and every one of your team.


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiApril 2, 2020
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3min598

A recent report published by Revuze, a no-touch analytics platform examines the possible issues in understanding your customers while offering a self-service solution that solves it all.

Customer insights require time, effort and maintenance since all customer data today is gathered through some type of AI programme. Big organisations demand effective solutions.

Here are the three main signs that show you may be in need of a self-service customer solution:

1. Guessing all the sources and ways consumers talk about a service or a product

Data is not always easy to spot since consumers have a long list of topics linked to a product or a service. While consumers are still talking about your product, it can be expressed in so many different ways that it requires familiarising with the updated trends and even new phrases.

2. Long processing time

Dealing with consumer insights may take longer than we want it to be, having in mind that the pace at which businesses operate is not going any slower. This requires manual configuration and tuning which in turn takes a long time to process all the necessary data.

3. Consumers are looking for more

Consumers today are more demanding than before when it comes to choosing a product or a service. The number of aspects they consider before choosing is great than one might think, needless to say that not every customer values the same things in a product or a service. In reality, customer insights should be based on more than five to ten variables.

If any of these signs are present in your business, a self-service solution would take care of automation, access to different types of insights and the data is available to a larger number of roles in the organisation.

To see the complete report, along with two other papers from Revuze, free download is available for a limited time here.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamMarch 24, 2020
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5min740

If you have your own business and you want to keep making it successful then, there are a lot of things that you will need to take into consideration. There are many businesses out there and each trying to be as successful as the next. When running a business, it can be hard to keep track of everything that you need to do which is why we are here to help.

Today, we will discuss the top things that you should take into consideration when running a business in 2020. If this is something that you are interested in then, make sure you keep on reading for more information.

Keep Up with Business Trends

One of the first things that you should take into consideration when you are running a business in 2020 is to make sure that you keep up with the latest business trends. This is because you want your business to stand out and to make sure that you do everything you can to make it successful. If you are running a business and you are able to keep up with the latest trends in your industry then, it means you can stand out from competitors as well as keep your business up to date with technology.

Make Sure You Set Budgets

The next thing that you should consider when it comes to running a business in 2020 is to make sure that you set budgets. This is because with technology becoming more and more advanced and prices going up for the things that you need, it can be hard to keep up with the demand. However, when you set a budget it can help you to reduce your spending and save you more money which is not only beneficial for you but, also for your business. When you set a budget, make sure you cover the costs of the things that you need to pay for such as bills, wages and equipment and keep it separate from your personal funds so that you can understand how much money you have left to work with.

Keep Employees Happy

The next thing that you will need to take into consideration when it comes to running a business in 2020 is to make sure that you keep your employees happy. This is because if you didn’t have your employees then, your business would not be able to function properly. You can’t always keep everyone happy, but it is important to be accommodating and help your employees out if they need it. For example, make sure you can accommodate holidays if you have been given reasonable amounts of notice, allow flexi time if available and give permission to leave the office in case of emergency.

Consider an Investor

If you are running a business in 2020 another thing that you might want to think about how investors can affect your business. When you have an investor as a contact for your business they can give you the funds that you need to take care of your business as well as give you advice to make your business more successful as they will have experience from working with others. If you are looking for an investor that might be interested in your business then, be sure to find out some more information about Tej Kohli and other investors that typically operate in your industry.

Make Sure You Take This Information into Consideration

Overall, there are a lot of things that you will need to take into consideration when running a business in 2020 and, in this article, we discussed some of those things that you should consider to make your business a success. If you found this interesting, make sure you keep it in mind and use it to help you.


Claire BonniolClaire BonniolMarch 13, 2020
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7min1186

‘Poor Customer Experience’ is costing financial institutions $10 billion in revenue per year, a figure that was revealed in 2019 by a Fenergo research.

In the context of a troubled economic environment, cost wars, and a need for transparency, it is more than necessary that financial services seriously look at a drastic customer centricity shift to stay in the competition.

Why are financial services late with CX transformation?

Investments banks don’t go the same way as their retail counterparts. 

Retail banks made their CX transformation a decade ago, trying to transform their services from pure transaction to advisory. Digital services have reduced the need to go to a branch for simple operations or meet bank employees in-person.

Until recently, investment banks could differentiate through the quality, accuracy, and innovation of their financial products. Their clients used to be loyal to one or two providers only, and trust came from the expertise of brokers and staff. But this is no longer the case and clients have become much more volatile.

There are two main reasons why high-end B2B environments are often late in CX transformation. Firstly, they like to create bespoke services per client, and fear that they would lose a good long-term customer relationship if they design journeys per customer segment.

Secondly, it is not natural for key account managers to put a value on systems rather than on their own industry or product expertise, which brings internal resistance.

What is the impact of providing a low Customer Experience?

Small and bigger customers benefit from a large range of product offers and potential providers, and can get self-care through many fintech services. Providing a low Customer Experience therefore can have a huge negative impact.

To give some examples, the onboarding time remains too much of a burden for many customers. The consequence is that they prefer to look for other partners who would provide quicker processes: 36 percent of customers leave due to a slow or inefficient onboarding, according to Fenergo.

The same impact would be faced on revenues (customers spend less when CX is poor), customer retention (they leave more often, which results in a higher new customer acquisition cost), or even employee engagement (many major investment banks such as Goldman Sachs invest in employee engagement programmes).

What can digital bring to an improved Customer Experience?

The booming development of fintech has set the scene for new digital services. Many customer pain points can be solved thanks to digital innovation. Checks and KYC make the onboarding a lot quicker and smoother.

Research and financial information become broader, more efficient, and cheaper. Information is key to be the first in proposing good investment, and everything that can accelerate the research becomes a differentiator. Gathering and analysing the data from your existing customers is also a huge help to improve the services and predict customer behaviours. Technology with platforms such as Qualtrics or Medallia have become as important as CRMs or accountancy software. To give a last example, customers want to have access to self-care apps because it quickens the simple operations processes…

These are just a few examples of how technology can improve CX. Solutions have developed very rapidly and have become a must in financial services packages. 

What needs to be done on the human side?

Fintechs have changed the way investment banks can deliver valuable services and continue to create money and jobs.

It’s now time to prepare the organisation for this new world. The job has changed and will continue to change. So, how to cope with this transformation?

Putting CX transformation in place is not just about bringing digital tools into the customer journey. Customers need personalisation, the sentiment of being treated like a VIP, efficiency, self-care, and a high level of ‘human touch’ when they want it.

With my 20 years of experience in the field, I can argue that customer centricity is first and primarily an ability to behave with care. There is a specific skillset for customer culture that has to be transmitted to the frontline, back-office staff, managers, and internal coaches, and that is not common at all in investment bank environments.

In addition to this skillset, CX transformation programmes have to be put in place, to set the strategy, establish the data management, design bespoke journeys to wow customers and staff, and train and monitor.

Is your organisation already on the way? You can check where you are in the transformation CX path with this free assessment tool: DiagnostiX.co.uk.


Ben WhitterBen WhitterMarch 12, 2020
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26min1000

The COVID-19 – or coronavirus – outbreak has been named a ‘pandemic’ by the World Health Organization (WHO).

On making the announcement, WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also said that he was “deeply concerned” by “alarming levels of inaction” around the world. However, companies that have embraced Employee Experience (EX) are setting themselves apart from the rest and are at the forefront of the global business recovery.

Naturally, we are assuming the “inaction” that the Director-General refers to does not include parts of the world – including the UK and Australia – where people have been proactively and expertly building stockpiles of toilet roll, pasta, and hand sanitiser!

A compelling survival toolkit, but perhaps an indicator that news can frequently travel too far and too fast in the modern world, creating unnecessary panic.

An inconsistent truth

The focus of global attention has moved on now from China as things begin to escalate in Europe and the US, and there is a perception that significant inconsistencies have emerged in the response to the outbreak. It is always great advice to wash hands and maintain good hygiene levels, but the problem has been here for a while and it is only now that serious dialogue begins about stricter measures such as ‘social distancing’ and the banning of large events.

Right or wrong, the experts have some big calls to make!

As an Englishman, I support the NHS and it appears that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, does too with his proclamation that the NHS “will get everything it needs” during the crisis. This is reassuring and I am semi-comfortable with the calm response from Sir Chris Whitty, the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, although things are placed firmly into perspective with the news that he is readying colleagues in the NHS to deal with unfamiliar and very different ways of working to deal with the expected and intense pressures on the health system.

Generally, there is much debate about what measures should be introduced and when in society. Being led by experts is acceptable for politicians, but as they well know, society often runs on emotions, not logic. A lack of action can spark fear and unhelpful behaviours.

I fully expect the remote working practices that many employers have already adopted will scale, and schools and universities will soon follow suit.

On the BBC a few weeks ago, I advocated for a global response and appealed for calm heads to emerge. I like facts and evidence as much as the next person, but humans are emotional powerhouses too.

It’s good to read reassuring quotes, but much better to see decisive actions. That’s why, during that discussion, I also stated clearly that the best place to be at that time was China, despite Wuhan being the epicentre of the crisis.

I felt this way simply because I have experienced living in China for three years. I have countless examples in my memory bank of what happens when China, at a central level, decides to do something. In short, stuff gets done and all necessary actions move forward, usually at lightning pace.

From rapidly building new hospitals to restricting movement, the WHO has praised China’s containment of the outbreak and the evidence appears to support this praise with a dramatic decline in new cases. There were only 15 new cases yesterday (March 11) in mainland China. I’m inclined to believe that decisive and massive action makes a big difference.

In business, there has been a mixed response to the outbreak and companies are getting found out. Indeed, there has been an awful lot of talk about “purpose over profit” in business in recent years, and how organisations now need to stand for something more than just money.

Well, now is the perfect test of that rhetoric. Through this pandemic we are watching something else unfold – we are seeing the true colours of employers of all sizes…

Do they really care about people?

Are the values genuine and authentic?

Can they uphold and live their values in a truly human-centred way through a crisis?

Employers are being tested and assessed by their workforces in real-time every day.

The employer response

Actions, based on evidence and data, are ideal to lead the workforce through a crisis, but time-and-time again as I speak to employers and CEO’s, the justification for action has often not been wholly based on data – it’s been based on doing the right thing.

In some areas there are zero cases, but employers have already embraced remote working, for example. People mean everything. The economics of decisions has been cast aside by the very best employers.

They have been proactive in playing their role in society and the community. Because of this, they will prosper in the long-term.

Starbucks China springs to mind. The response on the customer and employee side was exemplary. I’m glad I chose this company as a case study for my book Employee Experience.

Yet again, they have made business decisions through the lens of taking care of their people and upholding their values. This meant store closures and enhanced support (financial and otherwise) for staff alongside extensive and proactive support for people in society. The company made itself part of the solution.

Belinda Wong, Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer of Starbucks China, summed up her approach to leading people through crisis, saying: “One of the biggest things I learned was how to handle 58,000 people’s emotions, to really empathise and care for them, and also uplift their spirits in a difficult time.

“It changed how I communicate. I bring them along on every step. If they have a question, I answer it personally, no matter who they are.”

In a more purposeful and experience-driven economy, the race is on. Not to protect the numbers, but to show an extraordinary level of care and concern for people. This is what differentiates and defines high performance in 2020 – the financial and human outcomes, as Wong suggests.

“This whole experience is not a lesson of business disruption, but of leadership and humanity,” she said.

“I’m comforted when I look back and see what we did and know what we mean when we say we are a different kind of company.”

Embracing the ‘experience’ of work

Not every company thinks this way. Unfortunately, this is still not normal.

This outbreak is showing the huge experience gaps that have opened-up between companies that have and have not focused on their people as a priority. The economic impact cannot be understated. This crisis will create long-term consequences for companies worldwide, and it will also hit the pockets of people working in less secure roles as contractors, hourly workers, and across the gig economy.

Technology companies have been leading the way in differentiating themselves as employers that stand apart from the rest by proactively offering enhanced benefits to their workforces, including full pay protection for hourly workers whose jobs may not be required as remote working practices come into effect.

Notably, Microsoft and Amazon have been at the forefront with this, while many from other sectors have already done the same in supporting their workforces. Others have done the groundwork in balancing technology and people to drive business growth, and are in very strong positions to quickly adapt their business models.

Wiktor Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Netguru, detailed how his company has moved fully to online/virtual working to handle the COVID-19 situation, whilst closing offices and suspending business travel. Working remotely was already a key part of its existing EX.

Within this, a long-planned ‘Ask Me Anything’ session with the whole company changed to an online format. In the past, he said, the company “would run each AMA partially onsite, gathering all available core managers in one place (with employees)”.

“This time, we had to do it 100 percent online, with each of us sitting at home. And it was the best AMA session we’d ever had. Working remote has always been at the very core of our culture. Because of that, we’re fully prepared to work online,” he said, emphasising that this was the case whether there was a virus out there or not.

Holistic & human-centred actions

For employers, it’s ‘all-hands-on deck’ to deal with this crisis, and the very best people professionals will be getting out and working directly with staff.

Colleagues like Lisa Dillon Zwerdling, Chief Employee Experience Officer/VP of Internal Care Coordination at Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, based in New Jersey. Lisa is currently working on the COVID-19 taskforce for her organisation, which includes educating all clinical staff who will have contact with patients in their homes through mandatory training, taking part in office cleaning, provision of protective and hygiene products to staff, and the operation of a reverse 911 notification system to keep everyone well informed and connected.

The taskforce is also rolling out new ways of working, including home-working and acts as the liaison between local, regional, national, and global bodies.

The need for holistic thinking and human-centred leadership is never greater than at times of crisis. Lisa, as an HEX Practitioner, demonstrates this by focusing on supporting people in a variety of strategic and operational ways. Indeed, at times of crisis, HEX Practitioners will be constantly thinking and acting with people in mind:

  • How can we support people more?

  • How can we co-create solutions and proactive actions with our teams?

  • How can we leverage the resources we have (including technology) to maintain a healthy connection with staff?

  • How do we exemplify our values within and outside of our organisations?

Those companies that have already embraced a greater emphasis on the EX will be reaping the rewards. Their HR professionals may right now resemble something more akin to an ‘Experience Architect’.

Those ahead of the curve will benefit from years of wise investment in technology, co-creation, and creating the conditions for people to experience their unique Truth (purpose, mission, and values) every day. This crisis offers an opportunity to enhance and deepen this connection. For others, it will not be as straightforward. Years of under-investment and a lack of focus on the things that really matter in work will be hitting them hard.

There will be some real learning coming down the line from the crisis.

Experience is everything

Employee Experience remains the number one business and HR trend because everything is part of our experience in work, whether it is a positive or negative one.

Employers may well be making decisions based on the numbers rather than the people, and harming the employment relationship in a profound way, as Robert Pender, HEX Practitioner, suggests.

“As an HEX Practitioner, while it is encouraging to see some companies take steps to support their people, it appears many organisations still don’t have a plan in place and seem to be waiting on governments to dictate what the appropriate responses should be,” he said.

“Whilst there are potentially huge financial ramifications for organisations, and aspects of legislation may help align how the business world responds, waiting passively for directives does not represent the behaviour of a human-focused organisation.”

Taking part on a virtual panel this week, the discussion focused on how HR will be fundamental in business recovery following the outbreak. I reinforced what many of us are thinking.

As usual, this crisis is all about people and experiences. It’s about creating and maintaining connections. It’s about caring for and demonstrating a deep commitment to people.

Interestingly, at times of crisis, we see the best and worst of humanity, and the destructive power of fear and selfishness. With many employees sharing their real-time experiences online, the commentary offers ample evidence that things need to change. In this context, it’s a time where the influence and impact of our companies (and ourselves) as a force for good in the world becomes crystal clear.

There remain critical issues in the way that companies develop themselves and their relationship with people. Related to this, there are significant challenges in the way that companies set themselves up; research I summarised from The Economist pointed this out last year – a lack of alignment, accountability, and human-centricity is getting in the way of healthy experiences in work.

The yet-to-unfold effects on business and human outcomes during the outbreak will be hard for some to bare. Employees may not be having the experience that they want or need, and it is a huge failing on the part of employers if that is the case.

Living purpose, mission, and values during a crisis

In the long-run, businesses that uphold their Truth during a crisis will come out stronger, richer, and healthier as a result.

A caring, decisive, and proactive approach from employers is required. Leading employers may be asking staff to self-isolate as part of the “biggest remote working experiment of all time”, but what they’re really saying is that they care about the health and wellbeing of their workforce. They will be doing whatever is necessary to support their people. This, and actions like it, will be remembered forever.

This is about creating a positive connection for life, not just through a crisis.

This article was originally published on the World Employee Experience Institute website.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 12, 2020
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16min1488

As innovation in CX technology continues to reshape how brands interact with customers, the tech leaders behind this growth are also envisioning and creating the workplaces of the future.

At Genesys, global leaders in omnichannel CX and call centre tech such as Genesys Cloud, that drive for constant improvement in the brand and customer relationships is matched by their commitment to ensuring your employees remain engaged and that call centres operate as efficiently as possible for those on either end of the telephone line.

That passion for employee experience at Genesys is embodied by the firm’s Vice President of Product Management responsible for Workforce Engagement Management, Cameron Smith (pictured).

His love for AI advancement is all about efficiency and simplifying the working environment, to the benefit of employee, employer, and customer.

Cameron’s remit is all of Genesys’ workforce engagement products, including its Workforce Management package and Agent Assist, and if any person alive knows about where technology can take employees in the coming years, it’s Cameron.

Speaking with Customer Experience Magazine, the US-based tech guru discussed how employee experience systems are on their way to catching up with CX software advancements, and what it will mean for how we work in the coming years.

Cameron: “I look after all of our workforce engagement products. So, basically nearly everything that is touched upon or acted by employees falls into my domain,” Cameron said.

C: “Just as the technology has been trying to improve the consumer side, that tech is a few years ahead of the employee side. It’s about efficiency – how can we simplify the work environment?”

Cameron explains that an increase in self-service and automation can often mean an increase in complexity.

C: “Contact centres are seeing more things like blow-outs in handle time, and labour costs increasing, because of this complexity, so the focus for us on the AI side is – how do we help the employee with that experience that’s now prevalent in interactions they take every single day?”

C: “A couple of different use cases – one of our virtual assistants is about helping the agent and guiding and coaching them through interactions – even doing basic things like understanding the transcription of the call in real-time, or doing things like knowledge-search or searching for documents.”

C: “Or, you may have an insurance company that has lots of different policies and procedures around particular products – having the ability to actually search for that saves the employee a couple of minutes, but more importantly the employee may not even know what they’re trying to search for, so we can apply that tech here.

“Another use case would be the employee’s performance and management, and getting coached and trained.”

Before the rise of AI, Cameron outlines, most organisations utilised a “one-size-fits-all” system for training – an approach that simply won’t cut it in today’s world of personalisation.

C: “Now we realise how important that personalisation is – not everyone’s the same, and there are multiple profiles inside your contact centres that need to be trained, coached and educated in a different way,” he continues.

C: “So, understanding who that employee is, understanding how they feel and applying that recommendation back to either the trainer or the coach, we then ask – how do we make Rachel a better performer? Or help Michael, who is struggling with x, y or z?

C: “Of course, this makes the lives of the team leaders a little easier too, and that contributes greatly to the overall operational efficiency.”

Getting personal: A ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach no longer fits the modern contact centre

Meanwhile, one bugbear that Genesys workforce tech aims to eradicate is high churn rates of staff.

C: “It’s very region-specific, country-specific, and even organisation-specific in terms of what brands really want,” Cameron continues.

C: “For us it’s about making sure we’re covering all our bases, pushing the envelope in pushing ever-more capabilities to employees – as much as we can!

C: “For years, contact centre agents have been tightly controlled and managed, and with that comes inflexibility. As a result, contact centres traditionally have high attrition rates. A multitude of studies have shown that if you give more flexibility to employees, the more enablement they have to self-control, then high attrition rates will fall.

“However, not every organisation is ready for that level of self-management – each has their own process of change to go through. In terms of end-goal, we want to create an environment that’s really flexible and that works with the employee and helps balance their life.

“Contact centre work can be very hard after all, and providing tools to help and coach employees to be high performers, potentially without human assistance – that’s where we want to get to.

“Early adopters of our Agent Assist AI system – those agents have told us that not having to remember every single thing, due to the help from the tech, makes their lives easier, and for new-starts it prevents beginning call centre work from being overwhelming, and makes the environment a little less daunting.”

From his vantage point, Cameron sees a future workforce that puts the hours in remotely, and an employment model resembling something closer to Uber than traditional shift-work.

C: “We’re on the cusp of seeing some of our high-tech clients reaching a ‘gig economy’ relationship with their team. This gives their employees the ability, like an Uber driver, to say ‘I’m available between 4 and 10 – give me work for those hours’.

C: “That’s a change in the dynamic of how contact centres will run. It’s not huge yet, but it’s starting to grow. That will be the next big thing, but it will very likely mean some interesting changes in government policy and legislation, as well as in HR departments.

C: “This could mean the end of wasted labour in contact centres. There’s an opportunity to tune requirements. Employers can think about how they pay – should they pay per minute, or per outcome? As a company, you might put out a higher rate on a better outcome at a better peak period. Employees could bid, and go for that work.

C: “So as a contact centre worker, you may end up in a scenario where you don’t have to do 40 hours to get the same money – you just have to pick the right 16 hours.

C: “All these changes are definitely coming. Our high-tech newer customers – companies that have only been around a few years – are thinking along these lines. However, it will be a challenge for those firms that have been around for decades to make that change, as many are very much still stuck in the ’40 hours a week’ mindset.”

Reshaping employee and customer experience: Genesys technology is changing how we interact with, and work for, brands

Overseeing workforce engagement advances means Cameron faces the same challenge as his colleagues revolutionising CX – where does the “human touch” fit into the plan?

Brands fear customers will miss an element of human interaction as they engage with chatbots and virtual assistants, and the same can be said for the employee/employer relationship.

Cameron explains that a full-blown AI HR experience is not on the horizon, with brands likely to take a “light-touch” attitude.

“As it stands today, you’re not going to have a full performance management conversation, for example with an AI. But over time we can build a system that delivers, for instance, selected training that’s been highlighted for you because of things about your performance the AI noticed. We could augment a lot of that.

“However, I think the human touch will always be there, especially from a HR standpoint.”

A vital component of human HR is of course empathy – which some will tell you is beyond the capabilities of today’s AI tech. Yet Cameron suggests that holy grail may not be as mythological as it currently appears.

“I think we are probably closer to AI empathy than many think,” he adds.

“If an organisation applied the software in an empathetic way, we could probably get there today. It comes down to design and process in how we do that. Look at the likes of Amazon Alexa, and how it appears empathetic by randomly telling us to have a good day after we ask it to tell the time.

“That’s pre-programmed empathy, rather than selective empathy, but we will get there one day, for sure.”

So what’s next for employee engagement advances according to Cameron? Where can AI take us and our call centres in the years to come?

“Not here yet but certainly on people’s minds is ‘contact centre operational automation’,” he adds.

“It’s the ability to automate components of the operation. An example is a workforce planner today would stare at a screen at 11am, after everyone has called in sick and think, ‘ok, now what?’.

“In the future, the AI will be able to say, ‘ok, based on everything that’s happening, we should do…’

“You’re going to see those ‘next best action’ type processes go into a whole range of different call centre operations. Depending on how that’s adopted, you could see that automated end-to-end, and in some organisations, that’s what they really want to see.

“So operational resources will see the biggest change automatically, and that’s going to translate into more employee flexibility and a richer environment to operate in.”


Greg HeistGreg HeistMarch 11, 2020
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6min884

Retailers today face an interesting challenge – and competitive opportunity – brought on by the growing customer demand for personalised products, recommendations, and experiences.

To successfully achieve this personalisation, the delivery process for brands involves a necessary exchange, one that can be notably problematic if not handled properly.

Many consumers are prepared to take part in this exchange – relinquishing their personal information in order to receive desired commodities (tangible or intangible). But brands must also take responsibility for negotiating this as a ‘fair value exchange’ by gaining trust and maintaining customer security, in order to be successful.

How generation plays in

As Customer Experience professionals studying this increase in demand for hyper-personalisation closely, it is clear to us that there is a generational factor at play.

A recent Gongos survey of participants across the millennial, Gen X, and baby boomer generations found that over half of millennial consumers were willing to share their fingerprints and facial details with retailers if it meant:

  • a more convenient experience (55 percent)
  • customised products and services (55 percent)
  • real-time promotions (52 percent)

Comparatively, Gen X and baby boomers reported lower numbers in all three of these delivery methods, with boomer willingness never exceeding 20 percent.

The opportunity for brands

The openness of consumers to give away highly sensitive personal data indicates a strong desire for personalisation and a very powerful opportunity for brands.

As consumer expectations for tailored treatment continue to escalate, the increased value of personal data also becomes evident. Possible delivery methods to personalisation include products and services, but also experiences and promotions.

While the above data offers a fairly balanced representation of the different delivery methods desired by Millennial consumers, the growing desire for experience alone (especially compared to their older counterparts) has been well documented.

The risk

This vast opportunity for companies today is not something to be taken for granted, given the high risk of compromising consumers’ information, and subsequently their trust.

Looking back at massive data breaches like Facebook and Target, it makes sense that consumer confidence has become more guarded in recent years. Brands simultaneously hold the ability to build and destroy their customers’ trust, and it is essential for them to understand this in order to have successful customer relationships.

These bonds can require years of positive actions to be cultivated, and sometimes only a single incorrect action occurring in a short time period can harm or neutralise trust.

 The need for authenticity

Customer sentiment today (particularly among millennials) highlights the strategic imperative for retailers to authentically deliver personalisation to their customers, and in a time-sensitive manner.

Maintaining that flow of information will require brands to respond, not only through the creation of tailored deliverables, but through accountability for how they choose to earn and cultivate consumer trust.

The takeaway

It often helps for marketers to understand that personalisation is not always linear. Correctly pinpointing the forms that provide the most value to consumers is an ongoing process.

Brands should also remember that implementing and continually fostering a type of ‘fair value exchange’ with consumers is generally necessary to ensure their survival.

If personalisation is done effectively and in a trustworthy manner, brands can look forward to long-term positive results such as stronger loyalty, deeper engagement, and meaningful growth.


Christa HolmborgChrista HolmborgMarch 9, 2020
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10min1219

Most of us have fond memories playing (or arguing) our way through a game of Monopoly with the family or bringing together a group of friends for a game night.

That said, few people would associate the term “board game” with business, although gamification has the ability to bring people together to discuss challenges in an objective way, and to enable participation of a variety of stakeholders.

Additionally, the ‘out of the ordinary’ setting of a game creates a more relaxed and informal environment, which fosters learning, creativity, and idea generation. It is therefore unsurprising that design games are increasingly being adopted by organisations as a method for meeting business objectives, especially related to co-creation and collaboration.

Design games are tools which are created for a specific context and purpose, e.g. building consensus, training, or project planning. The purpose, as well as the research during the game planning phase, influence the look and feel of the design game and the types of prompts/artefacts which are used.

However, they include a physical ‘board’, game pieces, cards (e.g. question or ‘what if’ cards), profiles (e.g. different types of customers), and future scenarios. These prompts help trigger ideas and reactions and help players approach a topic from multiple perspectives, while game rules help maintain a focus and downplay potential power-relations and contradictions between interests, improving collaboration.

Hellon has created a large number of tailored design games for a variety of organisational contexts and aims such as: training and development, project planning, future scenario building, embedding strategy, and facilitating ideation. Irrespective of their context, design games can have a massive impact in a business setting, whether through developing new innovations or improving internal processes.

The benefits of gamification in a business setting

Making the unknown tangible: Design games can present a variety of potential future scenarios which help ground future alternatives into reality. This enables discussion around future opportunities and challenges, to guide e.g. policy making.

A recent example of a ‘futures’ game includes the Nordic Urban Mobility 2050 game Hellon created for Nordic Innovation. The game presents a number of scenarios for what the future might look like in 2050 when it comes to mobility (transport modes, infrastructure, energy) and acts as a conversation starter for municipalities, businesses, and policy makers. It facilitates co-creation and consensus-building on how to meet future mobility needs in urban cities.

Gamification promotes creativity: Design games are visual and playful tools, which facilitate exploration and idea generation. Most people like to work in the safe field of knowledge, which unfortunately limits innovation.

Through the prompts and artefacts of a game, people are enabled to improvise, question habits, and consider different perspectives, giving rise to ideas which might not even have been thought of before.

Facilitating ideation and co-creation: Through gamification, organisations are able to participate a wide range of customers in the planning of new services or gain their support in coming up with new ideas.

The City of Helsinki, for example, used a design game created by Hellon to enable citizens to generate ideas on how an annual citizen-allocated budget should be spent. The Participatory Budgeting Game concretises budgeting for players, which enables a more varied group of people to participate and helps people come up with ideas using cards as prompts.

The game resulted in an unprecedented number of ideas on how the City of Helsinki could be improved, out of which a selection was shortlisted and then voted on by citizens.

Learning through playing: Design games can be used as engaging and inspirational tools for learning. The hands-on approach of a game, as well as a relaxed environment, opens up the field for discussion and thinking outside of the box, enabling people to show their personality and participate to a much higher extent than traditional lecture-based learning.

Hellon created a design game to support personalised and engaging training at Stockmann, a large department store chain in the Nordics and Baltics. The Diamond Game presents salespeople with various scenarios through a board game and cards, which allows them to use their own personal approach as a starting point, followed by suggestions on how to improve their skills without losing their personal traits. The game is also taught through a train the trainer methodology, which allowed the game to be used to train over 3,000 salespeople (see main image).

Building a common language: Design games create a common language in multi-disciplinary teams who may use similar terms but mean different things by them.

Games concretise the meaning behind the words and generate a common understanding of the language which is used. This is particularly useful in, for example, training customer service teams or embedding a new strategy, which was the focus for a development discussion game Hellon created for Airpro, a company providing aviation services across a range of Finnish airports.

The game set a structure for development discussions, but also supported the grounding of a new strategy by engaging employees to think about how to manifest the strategy in their specific roles.

The game as a safe space: Design games allow participants to step out of their ordinary working day and, because people associate games with play, encourage a more relaxed and informal setting. This enables people to speak out, even on difficult and sensitive topics.

The focus is on the game and its outcomes, rather than on any specific person. As a result, it is easier to explore various feelings and ideas and to think of the “art of the possible”.

Design games are fun: We recently heard a conversation between two designers, who discussed the outcomes of a design game which had been introduced in a large UK public sector organisation. In addition to a variety of business outcomes, one of the unexpected results of the project was that the process of playing the game was seen as very enjoyable.

In the world of spreadsheets and reporting, why shouldn’t we embrace an element of fun into our working lives – especially when the benefits attached are plenty?


Edwin BestEdwin BestMarch 6, 2020
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16min1034

This article is co-authored by Edwin Best (below left), founder of The Best CRM, and Joost Kerkhofs (right), an entrepreneur and author specialising in Organisational Behavior Management (OBM), and the co-founder of OBM Dynamics, which offers globally recognised certification in OBM in association with APMG International.

                        

 

Once upon a time, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) was a business strategy for building long-term relationships.

It was a strategy based on customer life-cycle management – the process of acquiring, onboarding, engagement and retaining customers.

Nowadays, CRM is – mostly – perceived as technology for the automation of customer processes. CRM technology, though important, is just a means to an end: building mutual beneficial long-term relationships.

This CRM perception is one of the reasons that the technology part is often leading the way in CRM projects. As a consequence, neither the management that wants CRM, nor the people involved in the implementation, are paying attention to the most important part: the CRM strategy and the related change management.

What kinds of behaviours are needed from employees that are working with the technology being implemented?

Customer Experience and CRM

Due the rapidly changing demands of customer (and employee) needs, in the last decade CX has emerged and become the competitive advantage in business.

Putting the customer and employee needs at the centre of a business is necessary to survive in this fast-changing, highly demanding world. CX requires a fundamental shift in thinking – instead of ‘inside out’ (CRM), it requires an ‘outside-in’ approach.

This is the perception you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand across every stage of the customer journey.

For traditional – silo – organised B2B companies, the change towards an outside-in approach requires a fundamental, long-term change in leadership and culture. But here also, the question remains – what kind of behaviours are needed from the workforce in order for this approach to become successful?

Best of both worlds

In B2B environments, we face two different worlds – the CRM (technology) world and the CX world.

In fact, they are separated worlds.

I look at CRM as the ‘cold’ world (technology, processes, data), while CX is the ‘warm’ world (collaboration, passion, and values).

Both worlds need each other. CRM for the digitalisation of customer processes and for the interaction with all touchpoints.

For Voice of the Customer and customer insights, CX needs CRM data.

Modern CRM systems collect the required CX data (e.g. data from the different touchpoints and CX metrics). This interaction reflects also both the customer and employee happiness: the CRM concepts are designed to make things as easy and convenient as possible during the different customer and employee journeys.

So, how do you integrate both worlds?

In my management book on customer-centric business, I use the below framework for an integrated CRM and CX approach.

The different rows:

CRM

  • CRM foundation: CRM technology for the automation of sales, marketing, and service processes
  • CRM strategies (e.g. a customer contact strategy)

Customer Experience

  • Customer Experience strategies (e.g. internal branding)
  • The red diamond, collaborating with the customer as the connecting perspective
  • Outside-in approach based upon customer journeys and touchpoints

Vision and strategy

Your tailor-made  (related to your industry, needs, developments) customer-centric vision and strategy.

A mix with CRM and CX elements and other value-based elements. E.g. for a flexible organisation working with the Scaled Agile Framework (SAF), an integrated approach with Agile and Lean principals.

The strategy includes clear employee and customer metrics to measure the results and progress. The strategy is related to the overall mission, vision and strategy, the umbrella for all activities.

CRM/CX marriage with Organisational Behaviour Management (OBM)

Although the above approach is attractive, creating an organisation with involved employees and customers, the question remains: how do you make sure the people that you want using the new CRM way of working actually show the behaviours needed to make it a successful strategy?

Depending of the strategy, this often means an intensive change. With just CRM, a new way of working with a new system is needed.

With CX, a change in culture and leadership needs to be accomplished.

However, in both cases the new behaviours needed to make the strategy work are not necessarily already part of the habits and routines of your workforce.

In fact, announcing and implementing new ways of working may be the shortest route to generating resistance from your employees. Before you know it, multi-million investments in CRM and/or CX are written off because people don’t use or do it as prescribed, and the frustrated organisation is left with a culture of fear and a ‘do it or else’ style of leadership.

Why is that, and what exactly can we do about it?

Well, this is something a lot of both businesspeople and scientists have been wondering about, probably since the very beginning of business and commerce. So it’s not something that limited to CRM/CX implementation.

According to McKinsey & Co, a mere 30 percent of change programs in businesses around the world seem to succeed. And interestingly enough, “behaviour” is always found in the top three reasons for failure of the program, leaving management wondering: “Why don’t they do what we asked them to do? Can’t they see the beauty and logic of the strategy?”

Actually, a lot of people can see the beauty and logic, but it doesn’t necessarily change their behaviours and turn them into new habits. You only have to take a look at the success rates of New Year’s resolutions to know what point we’re trying to make here.

Habits are formed in a specific way, and it turns out only a few people in business have learned how that actually works (neurologically) and what to do to get people to form new habits in favour of the strategy.

The short version on turning your strategy into a success is: the right application of the dopamine effect in business operations.

We know from decades of scientific research that people do what they do because of what happens to them when they do it. We’re talking about the right consequences to the performer here when the desired behaviours are actually shown. If you make it worthwhile to the performer, you will increase the likelihood of the behaviour returning and increasing, eventually even turning into a habit.

It is called positive reinforcement and its powers are poorly understood and often applied incorrectly.

Because of several pitfalls in influencing behaviour, a mere 0.8 percent of time, effort, and resources are spent on the dopamine effect in business operations.

Yet we all are very aware that dopamine does the trick, but perhaps without necessarily knowing about its existence.

Just take a look at the huge successes of the gaming industry, social media, and the technologies coming out of Silicon Valley.

These products and services all create the right dopamine effect in consumer brains all over the globe, changing the habits of billions of people in only a short period of time, turning them into players, authors, and artists, prompting them to do different things than they did before.

There’s even a ‘Habit Summit’ held in San Francisco every year, where scientists and others from Silicon Valley meet to present and discuss the latest and most effective ways of influencing our habits as consumers.

Our point is this – we can use the same power of habit forming to our advantage in creating new successful working habits, hugely increasing the probabilities of success of our CRM/CX strategy, or any business strategy for that matter.

The trick is to accept that it’s not a zero-sum game. You have to see things from the performer’s perspective and synergize – a point the late Stephen Covey was trying to make all along in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Luckily a part of management science that is putting the dopamine-effect to good use within organisations is getting more and more attention these days. That’s because scientists seem to have found a way to truly change behaviours and create sustainable productive habits by using this effect as part of an intervention protocol.

It is called Organisational Behaviour Management (or OBM for short) and we suggest its integration to change programs aiming for CRM and/or CX success.

Perhaps being the best-kept secret in change management, OBM is now rapidly becoming more popular, mostly because it is both very practical for leaders and consultants, and has been scientifically validated in thousands of studies.

We hope to have sparked your interest in it, and would strongly suggest you check out this science before you venture into a new CRM/CX change program.


Jason HemingwayJason HemingwayMarch 6, 2020
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10min675

Customer-centricity has been the CX and marketing industry promise of the past decade.

It has been hailed as the crucial ingredient to generating lasting loyalty because it is a fundamental shift in the way businesses view their customers, and indeed how they behave towards them. Essentially, it puts the customer at the very heart of the organisation and allows marketers and CX professionals to respond to their feedback, behaviour, and expectations accordingly.

So, where are we as an industry when it comes to delivering on this? Ultimately, customer lifetime value will be the real measure of success here – and according to new research from Isobar, the industry is lagging behind, as it is revealed almost half of marketers (46 percent) are struggling to meet growing consumer expectations.

Research we carried out at Thunderhead suggests marketers are in denial about the scale of the problem – we found 94 percent of consumers are frustrated by disjointed experiences. Clearly ‘customer-centricity’ is on the agenda, but few businesses are able to back up their efforts with genuine action.

Before we go any further, we need to reset on what it truly means to be customer-centric.

Organisations should consider moving away from viewing their customers as clicks and conversions, and start thinking about them as unique, with their own needs and preferences. Only by understanding customers on an individual level can marketers really build engagement and provide the most tailored, relevant and contextually aware content, utilising already-demonstrated intent to meet customer expectations.

So, what can organisations do to truly embrace customer centricity?

Here are three tips to help get started…

1. It’s not about more data, it’s about the data you already have

Data is an enabler and you probably already have too much. 

Behavioural insights, based on millions of touchpoints, can tell organisations who their customers are, what they want, and what their likely next move is. And the beauty of it is that the majority of organisations already have all of this at their fingertips.

The issue and reality, however, is that most marketers and CX professionals are drowning in the data. The consequences of marketers struggling and trying to make sense of it all can be paralysing.

Marketing teams and CX professionals can improve efficiency and drive greater customer engagement by using technology such as AI and machine learning to use data intelligently at scale. Technology provides a vital role in generating a clear real time view of each customer interacting with a brand. 

Moreover, marrying this together with a layer of context is a crucial piece of the puzzle. This will enable businesses to really harness true customer intent and inform future experiences with greater precision.  

Ultimately, demonstrating a clear understanding of who a customer is will be the foundation of a lasting relationship. Failing that could have drastic consequences, as almost nine-in-10 customers (87 percent) admitted to negatively perceiving a company that sends them information which lacks understanding of them as individuals and their unique context.

2. Connecting the omnichannel dots

When we talk about connecting the millions of consumer touchpoints, this needs to be all-encompassing.

Gone are the days that consumers might use one or two devices to interact with a brand. Nowadays, a customer’s journey might start on mobile while on the morning commute, switch to desktop once they get to the office, and then be picked up via a tablet device when relaxing at home in the evening.

They may even pop into a store at the weekend or make a call to the call centre.  

 Above all, consumers expect to be able to pick up where they left off, for the experience to be easy and to feel ‘known’. So, marketers and CX professionals need to be savvy when it comes to joining together these activities and behaviours. 

The industry needs to move away from ‘multichannel’, to instead be thinking about how best to implement ‘omnichannel’ approach. If an organisation’s strategy doesn’t consider the entire customer journey and the touchpoints traversed, their profile of each customer will likely be incomplete.

So much so, marketers and CX professionals could be missing key signals that are the difference between keeping a customer or not. 

If that’s the case, it’s time for a rethink. 

A true omnichannel strategy connects every bit of customer behaviour and context, however big or small, digital or physical. This is a huge factor in orchestrating customer journeys and understanding where the intent lies. And while omnichannel understanding isn’t immediate, connecting two channels is the starting point and the route to improved Customer Experience. Adding new channels is the correct long-term strategy, and becoming fully omnichannel need not be daunting.

3. Building a long-term approach

The biggest mistake a business can make is to focus these efforts only on campaigns. Or worse still, throwing out the rulebook at specific seasonal moments.

Think of Black Friday.

A brand has spent months getting to know a customer and building a delicate relationship, but in a moment of mass marketing, hounds them with irrelevant offers to shift products. It’s not customer-centric, it’s brand-centric. True customer-centricity is always-on, not a sporadic, part-time bolt-on.

Harnessing existing data and making sense of real-time behaviours over time will equip marketers and CX professionals with the insights they need to provide individual, richer experiences that have far more value than one day of discounts.

However, we mustn’t be blind to the fact that data has a short shelf life, as described by Forrester’s Mike Gualteri as “perishable insights”.

Collecting data is not a tick-box exercise, and professionals cannot sit back thinking the job is done, or that they have ‘enough’ data. Existing customer insights expire as soon as that same customer clicks, browses, or visits again, and again. Adaptive, real-time insights are key.

While this may all seem like a complex process, in actual fact, it’s easier than most organisations think. Journey orchestration is the answer. Orchestrating the appropriate response for an individual based on real-time insight and understanding intent, then delivering what the customer needs in the moment, is what helps brands stand apart from the competition and what sets them up for longer form success. 


Rebecca BrownRebecca BrownMarch 5, 2020
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23min834

Anyone who has worked in the complaint handling industry will tell you that like any job, there are good and bad days.

What isn’t like most other jobs is the emotional weight placed on a complaint handler when they have a 40-minute call with someone who alternates between swearing and shouting, and apologising and crying because they feel bad for shouting, and then back to shouting because they feel embarrassed they cried…

Have you ever thought about how you would describe what you do, to someone who had no idea what a complaint handler was or had never even heard of it as a concept?
Picture this: You meet an alien, they have just arrived on earth but speak perfect English. In their world they don’t have business, or transactions – they simply have all they need already. They ask you what you do. On a very basic level, you might say something like “I speak to unhappy people all day, and try to make them happy again.”
They’d very likely think you were some kind of superhero, right?

If we look at the other industries that this description could also be applied to, I think we notice something quite interesting. In industries where there are a lot of intense emotional interactions, and where the relationship could be described as helper/recipient, we already know that there is a high risk of burnout.

Burnout: a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

This is an area that has been explored extensively in relation to talking therapies, nursing and teaching – but not for complaint resolution.

I remember my very first role in complaint handling. I fell into it by accident, and tried to quit after two months – determined I’d never listen to an irate customer again.

Luckily for me, my boss at the time talked me round, listened to my concerns, and got me the support that I needed to be able to run an effective complaint handling department without becoming overwhelmed again. I owe him a huge amount, as choosing not to walk away from complaint handling led me to learn to love helping customers and the passion I feel for excellent Customer Experience today.

I once asked someone in an interview for a complaint handling role how she let off steam after a particularly complex complaint handling day with her previous team. She smiled and said “we had a box room, we just used to go and kick boxes”.

We all laughed, but she wasn’t actually joking. Stress is no joke.

Nearly half a million people in the UK have work-related stress at a level that makes them feel ill. – Bupa

Let’s examine the facts.

1. We are increasingly urged to empathise, to look at the human aspect of a complaint

Having been at the receiving end of many escalated complaints, I can confirm that it’s not uncommon for customers to bring unrelated emotional issues to the table.

Often the complaint is the straw that broke the camel’s back, and they are quite relieved to be able to get everything out to a complete stranger over the phone. A customer opening up about their particularly tough week, or their partner having recently been made redundant is often a sign we have done our jobs properly, shown empathy, and broken down the defensive barriers to enable us to get to the heart of what the complaint is really about.

At the time this helps lend context to a complaint, I can’t help wondering if we are paying the toll to help our customers deal with their own emotions?

2. The average complaint handler will be expected to speak to anywhere between 15 and 50 customers a week.

That means that even at the lower end of this scale, they will have spoken to almost a thousand individuals a year.

Most counsellors restrict the number of clients they see at any one time, and how many sessions they have in a week. Whilst it is certainly the case that complex emotions often bubble over into anger, most professional counsellors don’t have to deal with verbal abuse on a weekly basis as is often the case for a complaint handler. Yet they still have practices in place to ensure that any vicarious trauma they experience is resolved in a healthy way.

3. We are encouraged to speak professionally about customers at all times

If we are to ensure that customers get our respect, and that we continue to empathise, then we need to stop referring to them in any way that allows us to subconsciously see them as not deserving of an impartial complaint investigation and help to resolve their issue, (my recent article on learning to love complaints deals with this area in more detail) but that leave us with a new problem, which is – who do complaint handlers complain to?

We don’t want to go home and vent our frustrations at our spouses or children (something I can admit to on more than one occasion). We don’t take our frustrations out on our customers – obviously that would be highly inappropriate and negate the whole point of the customer service industry.

We don’t take our frustrations out on our colleagues, they have a tough time too and we are in the trenches together – the camaraderie won’t allow anything to bubble over, or in theory that’s the culture we encourage.

So is it time to look at how we cleanse the potentially toxic resentments inherent to complaint handling, as opposed to letting them out in an explosive, unpredictable way and potentially damaging those we care about?

So what can we do? And most importantly, what should all good employers do?

We can start by acknowledging that burnout is a real thing, and that anyone who understands complaint handling can see that if it applies to counselling, psychotherapy, and teaching, it definitely applies to complaint handling.

We have a duty to safeguard our employees, that is not debatable.

One potential approach is what we refer to at Think Wow as ‘The Tripod’.

A tripod is the ultimate stable structure. It can never wobble, even when on an uneven surface. We think it’s the perfect random item to influence a support culture.

We like to think that if we start to address the emotional needs of our staff, with a three legged approach, your team will reach a similar level of stability.

Immediate needs

Nothing feels worse than reaching out to genuinely try to help someone only to have them become aggressive, confrontational, or verbally abusive.

No matter how much we may try to increase our resilience against such attacks, our natural instinct towards fight or flight takes over. When we feel attacked, we feel unsafe. This triggers a neurological response that actually makes it harder for us to think, and even to see.

We are no longer in a good place to try and structure sentences, which can make us trip over our words and make an already stressful situation far worse. The result is that we put the phone down and feel emotional, shaken – even scared. If we are unlucky and we work in a particularly busy environment we may even have to get straight back on the phone.

Implement the ‘cup of tea rule’

The ‘cup of tea rule’ encourages two things.

Firstly, it encourages team members to take note when a colleague is clearly on one of those calls. Once they have spotted a colleague is struggling, they should go and get them a hot drink of their choice as a show of solidarity, a kind gesture and to help with the inevitable dry mouth that comes from high stress situations.

Then make it mandatory for that call handler to take at least a ten-minute tea break to calm their nerves and get back on an even keel before picking the phone up again. By making it mandatory you reduce the risk that people will consider taking a break to recover their emotional wellbeing as something that is not an accepted part of the culture.

Short-term needs

If we recognise that dealing with complaints on a daily basis may well have a cumulative effect – and result in stressors that increase rather than ebb and flow in direct correlation to work load – it becomes apparent that we need to offer our teams a way to vent.

Implement a buddy system akin to counsellor supervision sessions, but with the sole purpose to let a staff member discuss any particularly challenging customers, and speak their mind about how they felt at the time.

There are some guidelines for how these should work.

1. The buddy must never be a line manager or supervisor, but a peer who understands the challenges the staff member faces

2. Any discussion about a particular customer should be anonymised – refer to the customer as ‘the customer’ only.

3. This should be a weekly occurrence behind closed doors – it must be confidential in nature so the staff member can feel free to get anything troubling them off their chest.

Long-term needs

If your company is large enough and has the budget, consider investing in talking therapies for complaint handlers on a semi-regular basis.

Proactive management of emotions can prevent damage to mental health, and can often benefit the business in a reduction of sick days, better performance, and lower staff turnover. Ultimately, it shows you care.

Invest in hiring enough people to comfortably handle complaints. If we can stop seeing complaints as a negative, and instead look at the massive opportunity they represent for our long-term CX strategy, then it’s just common sense to ensure this part of our businesses is adequately resourced.

Taking the time pressures out of the equation for our team reduces stress and ensures a higher quality experience for any customer who has already been feeling let down (certain organisations now implement a minimum call time target as opposed to a maximum, to encourage call handlers to get to the heart of the issue and give the customer a high-quality service).

Regardless of whether you have a large budget or not, you should make it a top priority to increase learning that can help protect your team.

Have a manager look at every single call where a customer became aggressive or abusive. Were there any training tools that the call handler could have benefitted from that would have enabled a calmer discussion?

Could manager intervention sooner have turned things down a notch?

If there is anything that can be done in the wider organisation to ensure customers don’t feel so let down in the first instance, then this should be shared too and the whole business should make it a priority to protect the complaint handling team.

After all, often it’s the other way around.


Kayla MatthewsKayla MatthewsMarch 3, 2020
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10min1559

Technology is consistently progressing through new developments that affect everyday life and business.

Customer service has seen the benefits of tech through the implementation of chatbots. But there are also challenges that come with chatbots, even as they change our methods of communication.

A chatbot is a computer program that simulates conversations with people digitally. In a chatbot, you won’t be talking to another person, but rather a piece of intelligence. Most commonly in customer service, chatbots work to understand your inquiries and respond accordingly to them.

In general, there are two types of chatbots:

  • Non-learning chatbots: These are fixed and provide limited assistance. These perform the operations that programmers equip them with. They can solve basic or repetitive questions but cannot learn from human behaviours, reactions or emotions.
  • Learning chatbots: These use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to improve upon their functions over time based on interactions and communication with consumers. As they learn, they develop better responses and improved customer experiences.

You may see learning chatbots on the eBay or Lyft platforms. They are gaining popularity quickly, too. In fact, 60 percent of consumers used a chatbot within the past year.

While AI chatbots are the better option, they do come with some growing pains and adjustment periods.

Challenges of chatbots

A chatbot can optimise any business, but it does come with potential challenges that require attention and fine-tuning. These include:

1. Security

One of the biggest issues for any piece of tech is security. In customer service, it is especially important to ensure that customer information is safe and secure.

Many people fear their information getting lost or stolen because of unsecured networks or breaches. Companies must design clear privacy policies as well as invest in the safest security networks and programs for encrypting data.

This requires financial resources, but meeting these needs is a must. Businesses must meet any security costs if they are to incorporate chatbots.

2. Understanding customers

Although AI learns from experience, it still can run into issues regarding understanding customers. This can take a number of different forms. Since voice bots are becoming a prominent force alongside chatbots, text as well as voice understanding are both necessary.

If the chatbot cannot detect human emotions or tones, it might not pick up on the urgency of the request. On the other hand, if the AI does not understand the request itself, it can provide incorrect information or data.

These errors could lead to decreased customer satisfaction and an unproductive encounter. Although AI is an advanced form of tech, developers must still plan for fixes.

3. Real person request

While some people may enjoy talking with a chatbot, there will be others who request to speak with a real person. Additionally, if there are issues with the chatbot communication tool, the customer may need to speak with an agent.

It is important for companies to have customer service agents in addition to any chatbot services they offer. The challenge lies with having the proper balance and allowing customers to adjust to both options.

4. The right balance

One company that has implemented an efficient solution to these challenges is Wells Fargo. The bank uses AI and Facebook Messenger to provide an extension of their services.

With their chatbot, people all over the world have access to their transactions and more while requesting service or assistance. It can also offer insight and personalised guidance with financials.

Security is strict, and a customer service agent is readily available for additional assistance. AI is constantly evolving, so the issue of understanding customers will be an ongoing development. But Wells Fargo provides an efficient example of chatbots implemented well.

Benefits of chatbots

Although there are challenges that come with implementing chatbots, there are benefits too. On top of providing the newest forms of AI tech for communication, chatbots also help with budgeting, availability and user experience:

  • Availability: Chatbots are available 24/7 and are individualised for each user. This means they have no set limit and can help as many customers as needed. This can improve the customer experience at all hours of the day and night after work hours end.
  • Budgeting: If a company has budgeting restrictions, chatbots can help in the customer service department. If it is not in the budget to hire other employees, chatbots can take on some of the responsibility, resolving inquiries. Chatbots are typically cheaper to implement, too, as opposed to hiring more staff.
  • User experience: Chatbots provide readily available and fast assistance for customers. With a smooth and efficient conversation, customers leave with a solution. The overall user experience makes for more satisfied customers who are more likely to become repeat customers.

These benefits outweigh the challenges in the eyes of many businesses. They increase the success of customer service interactions and satisfaction while helping to stay on budget. As AI continues to adapt and learn, chatbots will only improve upon their ability to assist users.

UNICEF’s U-Report offers an example of optimising AI chatbots. Their chatbots allow people from all over the globe to share their needs.

With this service, UNICEF is able to assist is raising voices that otherwise do not get to speak out. While it isn’t necessarily a chatbot for talking, it does communicate by sending out polls, collecting data and publishing it within the company. UNICEF can then aid areas and people in need.

Here, chatbots not only provide benefits for UNICEF’s engagement but also for children and others in need of help. Chatbots can change the game for many lives and experiences.

Are chatbots for all businesses?

Chatbots can help any business with their user engagement and communication. More specifically, they’re a big help in service-related industries like retail, finance and travel.

The challenges will arise in any company, but taking the steps to prepare beforehand can make for an efficient adjustment period. Chatbots can then change the company for the better.


Duncan KeeneDuncan KeeneMarch 2, 2020
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8min1003

Not too long ago the customer journey was fairly simple to track and evaluate.

There were a limited number of channels for customers to browse or make purchases via. Nowadays, the utilisation of smart tools that make the customer’s journey easier, coupled with the fact that purchasing is no longer a one-size-fits-all experience, means more and more retailers are waking up to the need to up their customer journey mapping game.

Limitations of traditional analytics tools

Developing a core understanding of the people who matter most to your business is at the root of delivering remarkable Customer Experience, so user experience (UX) analytics is perhaps the most important technology for all retail brands to adopt, if they have not done so already, as it identifies why visitors behave in the way that they do.

To the point: Common errors can often render customer journey maps ineffective

Being able to not only identify where visitors are struggling on your site but why is essential, so using traditional web analytics tools like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics to answer this question is like using a fork to eat soup.

While retailers may already have traditional analytics like Google and Adobe and a testing or personalisation tool in place, these systems are limited and simply not built for purpose in today’s environment. They may still be collecting information about clicks, bounces, and site exits, but they do not capture the UX insights needed to determine where your visitors are having issues, what pages they respond to most and why they are leaving/staying.

Rather than trying to run before they can walk, retailers should use UX analytics to gather all of the valuable actionable insights they can about their consumers’ experiences in order to make profitable changes to website layout, content, and images, etc.

Exploring personalisation, or at least customisation, without having a robust and in-depth overview of visitor behaviour is ineffective, which is why UX analytics is such a fast-growing marketplace in the retail technology sector. Thanks to real-time analytics that do not require a specialist to decipher, plus ease of use and simplicity of the data available, UX analytics is a good tool for customer journey mapping but there are still other common errors that can often render customer journey maps ineffective.

Here are six common errors that can make customer journey mapping fail:

1. Collaboration

Get your team and anyone who needs to know the results involved, so they are invested enough to ensure they implement customer-focused actions based on their insights too.

The customer journey includes interactions with many different areas and teams, so a joined-up approach means your customer journey map will include data and insights from all areas of the business.

2. Customers

Don’t forget to involve your customers.

It is them who will provide a depth of understanding. Different customers will have different journeys, so trying to reflect all of your customer segments in a single, generalised map could mean you miss important insights, and fail to make valuable customer experience improvements.

Try not to map every customer and every journey at once. Instead, focus on one at a time, done right, to put your insights into action successfully.

3. Data

While there are website behaviour tools that offer a vast sum of information, that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the customer journey data available.

In addition to knowing how your customers journeyed across your website and the number of clicks they made on a hero product, it’s useful to go beyond that initial website data to also understand what they were trying to do that your site didn’t let them do and how frustrated that made them.

4. Guesswork

Don’t use assumptions to build your map rather than research and don’t structure your map according to your own brand’s internal process priorities, such as sales, only.

You’re after an insightful depiction of your customer’s journey, not your brand’s sales capabilities. No-one knows more about your customers than those customers themselves, so open up to what they’re trying to tell you, even if it differs from what you were expecting/planning for.

5. Touchpoints

Customer journey maps investigate every point of contact between a customer and your brand, so don’t forget to include touchpoints such as post-purchase engagement, which could cause damage if overlooked.

6. Completion

Customer journey maps are only as good as the actions they inform and the results their development and deployment drive, so don’t think of the map as being done.

It is now time to start making the changes needed, which is where the real work begins. Even when you think your customer journey map is complete, you’re still not done. Remember to allocate the time needed to make the changes.


Martha McKinleyMartha McKinleyFebruary 26, 2020
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6min1097

The coronavirus (COVID-19), an illness that attacks the lungs and airways, has affected around 78,000 people in China, swept over Italy, and continues to spread. 

As the virus continues to spread, employers in the UK should agree legal and health and safety procedures for employees in case they need to deal with cases.

Risk to the UK workforce

The NHS has stated that UK chief medical officers have raised the risk to the public from ‘low’ to ‘moderate’, but the risk to individuals remains low. It is advised if you do have symptoms, which include a cough, a high temperature, and shortness of breath and have visited Wuhan or the Hubei province in China, Iran, northern Italy, South Korea, and other areas of the Far East in the last two weeks to call 111.

The virus is spread in cough droplets and employees are advised to avoid germs by covering their mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, putting tissues in the bin after use, washing their hands and avoiding contact with people who are affected.

Business response plans

It is sensible for UK businesses to consider the impact an outbreak of  coronavirus might have on its staff and operations more generally and have a response plan in place.

If managers are faced with staff who are unwell or concerned about possible infection, a well-prepared company policy will mean they feel confident in offering the correct response and are seen to remain calm.

Working from home

Asking staff to work from home is a practical option if you are an office-based employee. This obviously depends on the nature of a business and the possibility for infection spreading. In some industries, such as the care sector, this won’t be possible given the nature of the work being carried.

If home working is an option then this should be considered if a member of staff is being quarantined but is still able to work, or is a vulnerable employee, for example if they are pregnant or at a higher risk of infection. It is important to note that remote working is at the employer’s discretion as legally they do not have to be offered.

Legal responsibilities

Employers have an overarching obligation to take reasonable steps to safeguard their employees while at work, this is an implied responsibility. In addition to this duty are the relevant pieces of health and safety legislation which also afford protection to employees.

Reasonable precautionary steps are expected by an employer when considering the health of their employees. Relevant ACAS guidelines state that there is no statutory right to paid sick leave while staff are quarantined but not actually unwell.

An employer may want to consider its obligation to other members of staff and agree to pay quarantined employees to reduce the risk of a virus spreading.

When a business is forced to close

In some industries there will be a ‘lay off’ clause within an employment contract, which is a provision designed to deal with a situation in which an employer cannot provide an employee with work, for example, a factory may be forced to close.

These clauses are designed to deal with temporary situations and can support employees while they are ‘laid off’ without pay, however if a contract does not contain this arrangement, and there is no corresponding union agreement, then an employer will still have to pay staff even if a business cannot provide work.

It’s important for employers to draft and modify their policies and have a response plan in place around pandemics in the wake of the coronavirus, so staff understand their health and safety rights, and the spread of highly contagious viruses can be controlled.


Mike FantisMike FantisFebruary 25, 2020
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11min864

The start of 2020 brought yet more stories of doom and gloom on the high street.

While it’s relatively easy to identify the problems, the solutions are far less clear. Search for “high street decline” on Google News and you’ll discover a series of stories about uncoordinated campaigns to rejuvenate the in-store retail – from rumours the government will reduce business rates to calls for a digital sales tax.

Other stories feature local retailers clubbing together to offer discount days to entice customers back in to the area, while others call for ATMs to be made free to use.

In the rush to assign blame and broadcast top-down solutions, a quieter voice is often ignored. That is the actual voice of the customer. What kind of experiences are going to actually attract someone in store? Rather than a one-size-fits-all solution, how can retailers understand the local trends that are going to trigger a visit?

The positive news is that all the information needed to transform the high street’s fortunes is available thanks to the unprecedented digital signals being given by customers.

It’s time to listen to them.

Understand local environments

In today’s world, you are where you live. Your postcode is increasingly a more important determinant of behaviour than traditional demographics.

Each postcode location and audience segment has its own competitive landscape and decision-making triggers. Indeed, Google trends based on search engine history can reveal a rich tapestry of local behaviour and interests waiting to be uncovered, whether it’s a trend for meatless burgers in Margate or knitwear in Newark. Brands are fighting for the attention of potential customers but are ignoring these vital signals.

While retailers tear their hair out about internet businesses stealing market share, a crucial truth is missed. The internet is becoming increasingly mobile-driven with online searches driving our real-world behaviour.

In fact, 50 percent of all searches now carry local intent. This is someone saying they want to visit a physical manifestation of a brand. Yet despite this, most retailers will not be visible on key paid or organic search terms at the local level.

Tackle the basics

The fundamentals are actually very simple. When a potential customer searches for your business, you need to be both visible and accurate – nobody is loyal to a brand that offers up inaccurate opening hours or phone numbers that are never answered. 

Another key element of getting the basics right is to manage store reviews. Brands should show they care about the in-store experience. Crucial to this is answering reviews and solving issues.

Even more crucial is doing this rapidly. If someone walked into your shop to complain, you wouldn’t sit back with your arms folded, refusing to reply for a day. Although you can’t expect all reviews to be positive, at least by answering negative reviews in a timely fashion you demonstrate that you care about customer service.

A recent study by Google showed that 55 percent of millennials will ignore brands that don’t have visibility in search results or those with poor reviews. Even if millennials are not your current target audience, they will be at some point.

This reinforces the need for brands to change and meet expectations in an evolving space. Retailers are continuing to make the same mistakes or at least continuing to behave in the same way but are still questioning why performance is declining.

The content of Google reviews are clear signals on where brands are underperforming and underdelivering. You’ll notice that most store reviews relate to customer service, which in turn leads back to the store experience.

Tailor your approach

When brands want to generate interest, raise awareness, and encourage a visit to their store, are they speaking directly to their audience? In over 90 percent of instances, brands use blanket national messaging without considering the decision-making factors for each audience.

To grab the users’ attention, brands have to be relevant to them and add value – and that value can come in different shapes in sizes. Competitors can differ by location, parking can differ by location, economic factors are different by location, and the list goes on.

Add in different age groups for each location and, in some cases, the difference between male and female audiences. All of a sudden there are tens of campaigns needed for each location. Central marketing teams are not built in a way that can execute with such granularity. A truly local approach is needed.

Deliver on your brand promise

If a retailer has managed to get the user into store, are they delivering on the experience? The in-store experience for most national brands is the same no matter where you are. Local factors and different needs will have rarely been taken into consideration.

The products, the prices, and the store layout will all be comfortably familiar – yet the customer service is often substandard. Brands need to ask themselves:

  • Why should our customers want to visit our stores?
  • What are they getting from the in-store experience?
  • Are customers getting a great personal experience overall?

In most cases the answer is no.

This inconsistency has evolved from internal teams working in silos, not communicating and not working together. It is imperative the brand and retail team work closely to ensure consistency in brand delivery.

Collaboration is also vital between the CRM team and the media team to craft effective local messaging for specific locations.

Rediscover the lost art of customer service

Brands that sell white goods, TVs, and laptops tend to excel with their customer service. The staff are knowledgeable and provide advice on which product is right for each customer’s needs.

However, in other areas – notably fashion retail, footwear, and mobile phone shops – the service is often poor. There are even instances where the service can cause customers to leave negative online reviews that can hurt the chances of attracting new customers into the store.

Imagine a world where these brands instead offer a personalised, tailored experience for customers based on an understanding of the local trends and interests. In many ways, it is a return to the values that retailers had in previous decades.

This was before big department stores disrupted this way of working, which in turn was disrupted by internet retailing. By going back to the future, retailers can start to fight back and provide a reason to return to the physical store.

At the heart of all of this is remembering to listen to customers. The digital local-first world has given us all the tools to fight back.

Let’s use them.


Simon AndrewSimon AndrewFebruary 24, 2020
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11min946

Veganism has hit the news lately thanks to a court ruling that vegans are entitled to protections in the workplace.

It seems like a step forward for the movement, but is this actually just another division across the workforce?

Veganism, as defined by the Vegan Society, is “a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practicable – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose”.

It centres around a diet free from meat, eggs and dairy, but also includes the avoidance of leather, wool, and any other animal-based products. In recent news, studies and documentaries, veganism has been connected to a positive impact on climate change and better physical health.

Yet for many people, it still conjures up frustration and annoyance.

Two recent reports have highlighted how this personal choice is now affecting work life:

  1. A law firm came out to say they would no longer pay expenses for any meals containing meat
  2. The Vegan Society released guidelines to help support vegans in the workplace

Both of these stories broke less than one month after a landmark hearing that saw veganism given legal protection under the Equality Act 2010.

The workplace guidelines recently set out by the Vegan Society include:

  • Providing separate food preparation areas
  • Giving access to vegan-friendly clothing
  • Exempting vegans from corporate events that involve animals in a negative way (hog roasts, horse racing etc.)

Veganism is about wellbeing and compassion. But the danger here is that by enforcing these rules, and setting out these guidelines, we’re widening a divide which we see in other areas of work and life too.

It becomes us and them

There’s an age-old psychological concept, coined in the 1970s, called Social Identity Theory.

The basis is quite simple – we define ourselves by the groups we belong to. You may be a Christian, a bird watcher, a nurse, or many other things. When you feel part of a group, you feel an almost automatic connection to other members. As any motorcyclist or lorry driver will undoubtedly tell you, you generally acknowledge and support people that share this commonality.

There are many positives to belonging to a group. But there is a flip side.

Consider football supporters. The majority are friendly, good, everyday folk. Yet the minority fight and clash because they support different teams. They wear different colour shirts and are founded in different regions, but beyond that, surely they have no reason to hate each other?

Consider the gang problem in London, religious discrimination, our historical problems with race, and pretty much any war or conflict you can name.

Like it or not, it’s in our nature.

According to Social Identity Theory, we form in and out groups. In groups are the ones we belong to and we seek comparisons with other members. Out groups are the ones different from our own. And from these, we see contrast.

Evolution makes it clearer

Survival has long been associated with being an accepted member of the group. It’s still true today, but if we look back before civilisation (around 50,000 years ago – just a blink in our evolutionary history) the idea of sharing skills, tools, looking out for danger and so on would have been more prevalent.

If resources were scarce then groups may clash. Laying claim over a land rich in fertile crops and animals would undoubtedly have meant defending it from other groups. It’s true that today we don’t face the same daily strains. But belonging to a group still has many advantages.

Not to mention isolation being the biggest cause of depression.

The impact on Employee Experience

Veganism is just one example of the challenges social grouping can bring to the workplace. You can find many more – the most obvious of which is departmental separation.

The connection between departments is often said to be the weakest link in a business, and for good reason. Human nature connects us to the rest of our team. We support them, work together and share many similarities. Other departments, well they fail to deliver, make our life harder, and so on.

Whatever the grouping, we have to find the right balance. If we create divides between people, we have to expect social biases.

Our job as employers is to find ways to connect those groups, to bridge those divides and to be empathetic to all. We have to ask ourselves:

  • What can we do to cross-pollinate our teams?
  • How can we build a better understanding and respect of these differences?
  • How do we balance the support of one group at the penalisation of another?

The best answers often come from employees themselves. And forming that volunteer group could be a way of breaking down others.

Finding common ground

Most people want the world to be a better place. To feed the poor, house the homeless, protect the planet.

These things are the underlying drivers for many vegans. Finding these common grounds will help breakdown barriers and find a way of connecting people, making them part of the same objective. Through a wider education on sustainability, nutrition, and health, people can make up their own minds but also gain a better understanding of those with differing views.

As an organisation, you can influence the lives of all your employees. That may be hundreds or thousands of people.

Do you have a responsibility to use that positively? Yes, you probably do.

If you firmly believe that meat and dairy have negative impacts on health and the environment – what do you do?

The vegan stories in the news are of people trying to do good, not attack your beliefs. The changes and guidelines that have come out, have been with positive intent.

The trouble is, we are not rational folk. You could find many reasons on paper why these things would be good ideas. But the reality? People dig their heals in, become less open minded and put up a wall. And we all move a step back.

So next time you’re looking to make changes in your organisation, think about the emotional response of employees and base your change in education. Through a shared understanding we can find common ground, and with common ground comes empathy and support.

Something we all need as part of our experience at work.




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