Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 23, 2018


Manuela Pifani is proof, if proof were needed, that award winners go on to achieve amazing things – on top of the success that brought them to the awards podium in the first place.

Having been at the vanguard of helping a range of firms improve their Customer Experience offering over the years in fixed employment roles, 2015 CX Professional of the Year, Manuela Pifani, is now helming her own consultancy business, allowing her greater freedom in indulging her passion – helping customers.

The University of Bologna alumni, who has made London the centre of her business activity, is one of only eight people to have been named CX Professional of the Year since the UK Customer Experience Awards were founded almost a decade ago.

This honour was bestowed thanks to her pioneering work with Direct Line Group (no strangers to awards success in various categories themselves thanks to Manuela) where she spent just under four years as Head of Customer Strategy and Experience.

Now she is her own boss at CXellence, a consultancy firm helping companies fulfil their Customer Experience goals at a time when quality CX delivery is more essential to business success than ever before.

Speaking of her journey, she said:

“For the last 15 years I have been in customer-focused leadership roles and this cemented an understanding in me that it is crucial to put the customer at the heart of any business strategy. If a business isn’t doing this, then it will never be successful in a sustainable way – it’s as simple and as brutal as that.
Being a CX leader is both an art and a science that requires an understanding of, and a deep empathy with, customers, as well as a range of technical and strategic skills. Once you can grasp this, then you can hone your passion and go on to improve your customers’ journeys for the benefit of your own business.

When I worked for Barclays, over 15 years ago, the concept of Customer Experience had yet to be fully established, and my focus was on driving service excellence, by improving . I wanted to improve efficiency of process and service delivery.

However, as over the subsequent years attention progressively shifted towards CX, my focus moved also towards building an effective Voice of the Customer programme and defining a clear customer strategy to better meet the needs and expectations of customers. These became the foundation upon which we built our customer journey design and improvement programme, also feeding into the development of omnichannel journey capabilities.

But this is not enough; the most important part of a CX strategy is to drive organisational realignment and cultural change, to ensure it is fully embedded in the DNA of the company.”

As to where she goes now with her many years of experience, Manuela said:

“I’m at the stage in my working life where I realise that delivering CX is a passion as much as a profession for me, and I want to be able to do it with more organisations and more often, under my own brand. I have the right amount of experience to confidently achieve my goals. I’m still in the early days of this new venture, but I’m certain that we are going to do wonderful things with many fabulous people.

Winning awards, meanwhile, adds a level of credibility that simply cannot be bought – it must be earned. They are benchmarks that show you are doing the right thing and achieving the right results. The motivation from that feeling of reward is fantastic, not just for individuals, of course, but for your entire team and all the business stakeholders who supported you in your journey.”

Entries are now open for the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards. For more information, click here.

Claire BonniolClaire BonniolMarch 22, 2018


You might look at some other companies with envy, the kind of companies that customers love – which create buzz and are referenced by impressed CX professionals.

Yet your own company could be the kind that others look up to when it comes to offering the best in Customer Experience. At CXB Hub, we look to what we call the ‘ABCs of Customer Excellence’.

The four As in benchmarking

A for Apple: The famous tech firm, which gave the world the iPhone and other iconic gadgets, has raised the standard of collaborative, premium, community Customer Experience.

A for Amazon: The champion of e-commerce. Founder Jeff Bezos earned his customer reputation due to his incredible efficiency in logistics and large-scale algorithms which push marketing info to the consumer to advise them on other purchases they may like. Another ‘A’ would be Alibaba, the Chinese answer to Amazon, which gives its western rival a real run for its money.

A for Accorhotels: Hospitality is a great source of inspiration for any industry wishing to deliver better Customer Experience, and who knows hospitality better than this famous French hotel booking firm.

The four Bs of your business model

‘B’ in this case stands for ‘brain’, and these are the four brains you need to consider when improving your brand’s CX.

The Customer Brain: When deciding on your business model, you should be clear on the level of self-care you want for your customers and ensure that you listen to his/her needs.

The Customer-Facing Employee Brain: Everyone in the company should have those employees as a top priority, and ensure they get the best information, the best training, and the best tools to deliver the greatest service possible.

The Back Office Employee Brain: Teach them about what is important for customer-facing employees to deliver the right experience. Tell them about customer insights and share some real experience, so that they focus on the wellbeing and performance of the customer-facing employees.

The Hard and Software Brain: Ensure that you have the right amount of digital tools aligned with your exact business model, with the aim of making things simplified for the customer.

The four Cs of your customer service excellence programme

Customer and Employee Voice: This is a must. Do not act before analysing the situation properly because your resources are limited; this helps with successfully prioritising.

Co-Design and Collaboration: Design your services with customers and employees, and then innovate in the kind of collaboration activities you need.

Culture and Communication: This is about service delivery. If there are more than 25 people in a single office, you run the risk of discrepancy between the brand identity and service business model, and the real company culture. Work on your brand identity and your cultural traits. Train and communicate on how to deliver the experience consistent with your brand.

Calculation of the Impact: Carefully choose a few KPIs that will make you understand whether you have an impact externally (customer satisfaction and sales) and internally (employee engagement and performance).


David MillerDavid MillerMarch 22, 2018


If you have a major work project then you are bound to come across complexities. So what’s that one thing you need to make sure to avoid them at all cost?

You need to make sure that all of your team members are on the same page. However, even if you have completed all the necessary preparations and acquired the best team possible, some problems might occur in the process nevertheless.

Problems might become even more severe when dealing with a really complex project. This is where you’ll ask the “How” question. How to avoid these problems to achieve goals with quality and within the deadline? You need a guide that offers you tips to stay on the right track. Read on to know them better and achieve the ultimate success for your project.

Find the right tool

Utilising simple project management software is the most effective way to keep all of your members on the same page. You get to save significant amounts of time and money in the long run. Even better – you can invite your co-workers or clients to work on tasks together.

By implementing such a software solution, you can see various projects all in one place. Besides, it is easy to discuss tasks within the software and leave comments and schedule email updates from one central platform.

Don’t overburden yourself

You can’t expect to complete a complex project in just one sitting. You have to define your objectives clearly. Also understand when it’s safe to take a break, because if you have way too many goals, your project can turn out to be confusing and overly complex. If you have a number of objectives, it is better to break them into smaller sub-projects and complete them one at a time.

Get a clear overview

When dealing with a complex project, you need to make sure you have a bird’s eye view, rather than focusing only on the smaller details. When you look at the bigger picture, you will have a clear mental image of what your goals are. Only then can you start working on the details step-by-step.

Picturing your project as a whole will enable you to determine what the aim of the project is, who to involve in it, when it needs to be completed, whether there will be a lot of sub-tasks, and what is going to be achieved. After you’ve sorted out the fundamentals, you can tackle the details. A simple project management software can help you include all of these elements for the best possible results.

Create a template

Most of the time, you will realiee that all of your projects are similar to some extent. That is why, after creating a mental representation of what your project is going to look like, you should create a template whose structure you can use again later, for other projects.

When you break down your project into smaller components, you should ask yourself if it can be reused. By doing this, you will save yourself a lot of valuable time. Also, the next time you start dealing with a project – instead of starting from scratch – you can simply duplicate and rename your already existing template.

If there are some minor details to be adjusted, you will be able to do that hassle-free, by simply using the duplicated project. This will surely help you save a lot of time.

Work one step at a time

Looking at a project which involves a lot of active tasks and deadlines can be stressful. If you want to reduce your stress and achieve a smooth workflow, you should prioritise your tasks by the level of importance and hide all the unnecessary things.

Moreover, you should tag your tasks with different priorities or different statuses. This way you can easily filter them out, and look at what’s more important. So, you should set a deadline for each of the tasks. If you take these steps, you will only be looking at the tasks of a higher importance and focusing on them. Using a simple project management software you can make priorities and deal with them one at a time.

Switch on your reminders

If you make use of the reminders, you will receive emails about the most important things to do on a daily basis. Easy project management software will show such info on the dashboard after you have logged in. This will provide you with a clear overview of what is important for the day and not lose your focus on anything of less importance.

The emails which serve as reminders also have links included in them. These will take you straight to your task, saving you large amounts of time.

Be sure to keep projects tidy

After assigning your team members to their tasks, you need to ensure that they are focused on the right things. Make sure they aren’t distracted by irrelevant tasks, and you will accomplish that by keeping your project tidy.

Easy project management software will let you update the tasks’ status, mark them as completed and hide them afterwards, and assign your members to tasks instead of bombarding them with numerous emails. The right project management software should be simple to use and it should make your workflow more efficient and simplify it, instead of having numerous fancy features that only get in the way.

Bottom line…

To sum up, it’s said that every big journey begins with a single step. The same goes for the projects – even the most complex ones can be (and should be) broken down into smaller, daily objectives. Assembling the right team of people, using the right tool, and following our easy tips will ensure the success of your project, no matter how complex it is!


Mandy HolfordMandy HolfordMarch 21, 2018


Mandy Holford is Director of Customer Services at contact centre solutions firm Echo-U, and recently judged at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards. Here she describes, in her own words, how she went from an award winner herself, to a judge deciding the fate of others seeking recognition for their own business success…

Happily, I have felt the pure joy of hearing my business announced as winners on a number of occasions throughout my career in customer service and customer service outsourcing; heart pumping, adrenaline rushing, pure delight at achieving such success.

It’s such a wonderful feeling and, like a proud mum, I have seen similar excitement and pride in the faces of the teams around me when they realise they’ve won. That always touches me the most – seeing others relish in that moment of confirmation, of achievement, of brilliance. It’s such a powerful blast of emotion when you and your team connect with the winners’ announcement and release that tension of expectation, of want and urgent desire to win.

So it was with some early reluctance that I decided to leave entering awards to others in our business and challenge myself to sit on the ‘other side of the fence’ and judge whether or not people like me got to have that rush of positive emotions and achieve award success.

Has it delivered on emotion and excitement? Has being an awards judge offered a buzz and a sense of success and accomplishment? Bizarrely, yes!

I didn’t expect it to; I am not sure what I expected of the judging process but it’s been a great and different experience I have relished, and one I’d recommend.
My first choice for judging was the recent 2018 UK Complaints Awards, hosted by Awards International. Why complaints? Well, who in the consumer world doesn’t get complaints? Where there are customers, there are invariably complaints, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to engage in a world with a common purpose of learning, implementing new ideas, and managing complaints better. I have no problem with pinching great ideas and making them work for my business. Why re-invent the wheel, eh?

I really connected with the opportunity to learn from other great brands and emerging businesses. What did they do that was worthy of entering an award process? How did they manage complaints differently? Was it good processes, new technology, strong leadership, emotional intelligence, or emerging training techniques that offered them a different perspective and approach to managing unhappy customers? And so it began – I paid my fee to judge, followed the webinar to learn ‘How to Judge’, and set about enjoying my new responsibilities.

The first stage of this judging process was online – reviewing documented submissions with standard entry forms, presentations, and accompanying support materials. To be honest, this was an uninspiring start to the process; I wanted to see and hear people, feel their energy and emotions, but I had to wait a few weeks for that to happen.

On day one of the judging process, I and the other judges, had to be happy with a webportal, downloads, and endless paper spread across my desk. However, it didn’t take long though for the ideas and concepts to captivate me. In a category of just four entries, I spent two afternoons reviewing the content several times – I wanted to be sure I had understood, fairly evaluated, and not missed a single thought from those precious entries.

While the judging process itself was in full swing, there was another hive of activity going on with Awards International promoting the event. There was a real social media flow of new names, new connections, and great conversations happening with likeminded people. My LinkedIn pinged several times a day with ‘new connection’ requests and fabulous messages from these new contacts. Several online magazines @mentioned both the awards and specific judges and Twitter was alight with award promotion. There was quite a party going on!

The awards finals date – February 22 – arrived and at the gorgeous Park Plaza Hotel in London there was a buzz of activity and energy as the registration started. So much noise for 8am! After a coffee and chat to get to really know my fellow judges, we took our seats and the entry presentations began. I loved this part of the process – real people sharing their precious stories of challenge, determination, and success all in their own unique ways.

Entries that I had scored conservatively in the documented stage suddenly emerged as new favourites – video clips, storyboards, and animated presenters captivated us with their uniqueness and personalisation.

I have to admit to being energised and exhausted all at the same time when the final number went onto the final scoresheet. I thoroughly enjoyed the morning and with a rumbling hunger, ate our delicious lunch and waited to see if my favourites won their categories.

It’s important to note that we as judges do not see anyone else’s scores, either in the documented review or on the day. All scores are kept private, giving a real sense of fairness to the process, so I had no idea who would win.

With over 400 people in the room, the winners were announced and excitedly took to the stage with all of those trembling emotions I have enjoyed many times before. I felt so happy for the winners; to see their faces and excitement was such a reward. One of my category favourites won several awards which also made me incredibly happy (and validated that I had judged appropriately) but another one failed to make either winner or silver (runner-up). I was personally gutted for them and made a point of offering some personal thanks and thoughts to this team, who had given us a really worthy entry. Some you win, some you lose as they say!

There were many whoops of joy, fist-pumping moments, and a few tears of shock, and I wouldn’t have missed it for a moment. I thought I would miss being a winner but felt so connected to the event and its purpose that I was totally elated with just being a part of a special day for so many.

One of my mottos is, ‘when you give, you gain’ and this is so true of the judging activity. I paid my fees to judge, costs of travel to and from London, hotel costs, and gave a couple of days of my time, but in return I gained so much more. The buzz and emotion is priceless, the opportunity to connect and talk with likeminded people is highly rewarding, and there were great opportunities to learn and bring new ideas back with you. I even picked up two leads for our business on the day, so all in all, judging was a superb experience, highly emotional, and blooming exhausting!

However, I shall be back and look forward to many more special moments with other excited and anticipating audiences.

Andrew TavenerAndrew TavenerMarch 20, 2018


Online retailing has expanded rapidly; the growth of the internet and advancements in delivery capabilities have seen many small businesses take advantage of this, selling through online marketplaces to maximise their reach.

These global marketplaces are predicted to own 39 percent of the online retail market by 2020. On the surface, this approach is perfect for consumers who can easily shop from their favourite retailers all in one place. However, underneath, retailers are faced with the difficult and sizeable task of managing the deliveries and returns efficiently and at a low cost.

For while more marketplace exposure means more sales, it also equals more returns; made even more complex by the requirement to offer the return policies designed by the marketplaces. For example, Amazon now requires third-party sellers to accept “automatically authorised returns”.

This means retailers must accept returns without having any direct contact with the customer, exactly when many businesses try to resolve customer issues to preclude returns. There are, however, ways to improve the control of online returns in the face of changing customer expectations and marketplace practices, which are critical in this competitive environment.

Understanding how best to manage product returns to reduce costs and maximise efficiency is key. Here are four strategies online retailers can use to tighten the returns process:

Return policies must be a forethought

Marketplace policy changes give retailers the opportunity to rethink how they handle returns. According to recent research from Royal Mail, nearly half of shoppers (47 percent) said they would be unlikely to shop with a retailer again if it charged for returns, and 60 percent would be less likely to shop with them again following a difficult returns experience.

Clearly a well thought-out returns policy is critical to good customer relations. Sellers need to decide whether to offer one return policy – for example, Amazon’s – or different policies for each marketplace/channel or for various product offerings (for example: low-end versus high-end).

Some businesses set policies based on the most generous marketplace policy. If sellers choose an ‘Amazon-style’ return policy with instant returns and free shipping, this can be promoted up front as part of a company’s brand. Unmistakably, a simple online returns process helps drive sales and cement customer loyalty – and overlooking the impact of a poorly considered returns opportunity can be costly.

A free returns policy might not always work

Returns can have a big financial impact on profits. Depending on the industry, return rates can be very low or very high. Book and video returns can run two/three percent, while clothing and jewellery can run upwards of 30 percent. Companies should right-size return policies based on industry standards and actual return rates.

Businesses with healthy profit margins can build the cost of returns into a product’s price. Charging restocking fees or not accepting online returns is less common but, for certain products or industries, it makes financial sense. For example, companies selling new laptops might find a restocking fee may be the only way to support thin margins. Likewise, for clothing subscription services a restocking fee for returns makes sense, since the items are essentially specifically tailored for an individual.

Evaluating whether the return policy of a particular marketplace works is therefore a critical part of the business decision to sign up to the marketplace in the first instance.

Sellers should right-size returns automation based on business needs

Retailers with high return rates may need a great deal of automation. Small businesses with fewer returns can often manage them in-house using cloud-based shipping solutions that simplify printing, or electronically creating return postage labels that customers print themselves. Barcodes on labels quickly identify customer records and product numbers to speed the return process, cut down on errors, and save time.

Integrating with internal systems is important for large retail operations with high return volumes. Returned packages sitting on the warehouse floor cannot be effectively put back into stock without the right system in place. Connectivity must flow from the customer to the warehouse to the shipper into marketing, sales, and accounting.

For companies with few internal fulfilment resources, a third-party processing service can help. Merchants need to weigh the benefit versus the cost of using fulfilment and returns processing by marketplaces or third-parties. Another way to manage returns if there aren’t in-house resources is to monetise returns by sending returned merchandise directly to a reverse logistics partner that liquidates inventory.

Returns cut into profits so minimising them is important

Good customer service helps avoid unnecessary returns by solving a customer’s problem with support, rapidly replacing missing/damaged items, or making exchanges. However, heading off an unnecessary return is hard when marketplaces allow automated returns with no merchant contact.

To combat this, sellers should use ‘scan-based’ return labels when possible. With these labels, the retailer is only charged if the label is used. Some retailers report that 10 percent or more of the requested returns are never actually sent in, making scan based return labels an instant money saver.

Providing customers with current, accurate product information is also important. By connecting ecommerce marketplaces to internal order status, pricing, and inventory processes, customers know if a product is in stock and when it will ship. Detailed product descriptions and quality images help to avoid misunderstandings. Customer feedback/review functions provide even more information to support making the right choice.

Finally, it’s useful to track which products are returned and why. Develop a ‘reason for returns’ report by manufacturer and SKU. This allows vendors to troubleshoot and avoid future returns.

Changes in return policies by Amazon and other marketplaces are an opportunity for ecommerce businesses to take charge of returns. Online sellers can use this as a chance to create better customer communication and loyalty, whilst addressing how returns affect the bottom line and streamline logistics.


Ben WhitterBen WhitterMarch 19, 2018


There is one stand-out mistake we see more consistently than any other within employee engagement approaches.

It is a mistake so bad that it completely ruins organisations, plunges them into deep crisis, and ensures a significant lack of ‘buy-in’ into any employee engagement initiative. Yet it is something so easy to avoid we can be forgiven for wondering why companies continue to fall into its trap.

Most often found residing in those old-fashioned top-down approaches to management and engagement, it is the failure to co-create with staff. The idea that engagement and business outcomes can be developed in isolation at the corporate HQ is a losing philosophy.

Typically, colleagues get together, think up some new programmes and engagement initiatives, do some light consultation with stakeholders, present to the board, take feedback from senior directors, and then go to full top-down implementation across the organisation starting with a surprise announcement to the workforce. This practice in 2018 is just awful and is the stuff of nightmares.

Nightmare case in point – step-up United Airlines.

Falling into the trap in the past week, United has learned another valuable lesson in Employee Experience on its journey to fulfill the company’s stated mission: becoming the world’s best airline. This objective, for any company, is an ambitious target, but it is especially ambitious for United, a firm famous for creating a seemingly constant flow of negative news based on some of its practices across both Employee and Customer Experience.

“Our mission is very clear — to be the best employer, have the best customer service and become the best airline in the world,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in 2017.

Fast-forward to 2018 and United continues to attract negative headlines for the way in which it interacts with customers and employees. It has now widened its scope to include animals too. The airline was slammed recently for the way it treats pets travelling on their planes.

On the Employee Experience side of things, a storm erupted with the announcement that the airline would be replacing the quarterly performance bonus programme, which all employees are eligible for, with a random lottery benefiting the few rather than the many. This company-wide raffle includes prizes ranging from cars to holidays to a jackpot $100,000 prize for the lucky winners. This is separate to the profit-sharing programme already in place with staff.

In our work at the World Employee Experience Institute (WEEI), we encourage and support organisations to define, design, and deliver experiences that connect people to a compelling purpose and the internal and external community, but one of the most important factors within our approach is co-creation, and the example provided by United provides more tangible reasons why it is such a fundamental building block for great organisations.

All of United’s good work improving the workplace came undone because the airline didn’t co-create this specific iteration of their reward programme with employees. This was certainly very top-down – an approach increasingly being resisted in workplaces around the world. United employees took to social media to voice their opposition and the internal communication platforms were jammed with comments from shocked and unhappy employees.

One comment out of hundreds of complaints from employees revealed the progress United had been making to improve morale and stabilize the company, yet also indicated the clear lack of empathy for employees in designing the new lottery system.

“It felt like we had just gotten to a place where employee morale was up. It took so many years for people to feel good about what was happening. In one fell swoop, it is crushed again…please rethink this decision.”

Within a few days, the introduction of a lottery had been ‘paused’. United President, Scott Kirby, gave us more evidence to suggest that co-creation is key within Employee Experience approaches and could have potentially saved United from this challenging situation within and outside of the company.

“Since announcing our planned changes to the quarterly operations incentive program, we have listened carefully to the feedback and concerns you’ve expressed. Our intention was to introduce a better, more exciting program, but we misjudged how these changes would be received by many of you.”

Whilst many are condemning the airline, I sense a great opportunity here. Employee sentiment has showed what is best about any organisation. We are better when we stand together, united. Employees have clearly demonstrated that they would rather walk forward as one to achieve United’s stated mission than the alternative being presented by management.

So perhaps co-creation has taken place after all, albeit in a very public and brand damaging manner. Employees have spoken. Co-creation is the key to successful outcomes within Employee Experience, and if this is a strong part of the business strategy, companies won’t need to play the lottery to deliver sustainable business success.

Howard WilliamsHoward WilliamsMarch 16, 2018


Forget keeping up with the Joneses, today it’s all about keeping up with Artificial Intelligence (AI).

AI assistants now live in our back pockets, and smart speakers now run our homes. This makes home life simpler and smarter than ever before. But it also puts businesses in an ever-lengthening race to keep up. After all, when you have smooth, AI-driven experiences at home, you come to expect the same from businesses.

Advancements in AI, while cool, make it harder for businesses to impress us. From personalisation to immersion, to streamlined experiences from the word go, businesses are getting smarter. Our experiences may not be as slick as the ones we got with our devices, but they’re getting better. Brands should now be harnessing the evolving power of AI to revolutionise Customer Experience.


The quiet personalisation creep

For businesses, AI is being used to power personalisation. From adverts to recommendations, and personal greetings to location-relevant offers, ecommerce is getting personal.
It’s not magic that the tech you were looking at on Amazon yesterday is splashed across your Facebook feed today. Nor is it a coincidence that you see a constant drip-feed of news articles that centre on your interests and political leanings. Businesses are getting better at using your data, and AI algorithms are remembering the items you’re interested in. In fact, technology and data mean that almost every advert you see online panders to your personal interests and styles.

Our customer journeys are becoming more tailored to us, and it’s not just the big fish like Amazon leading the way. Nowadays, pretty much any website will suggest targeted recommendations based on your online activity and page views. You most likely don’t even notice the levels of personalisation websites have become capable of. Yet they greet you by name, know your location, and act depending on your customer status, new or returning.

Pay no attention to the AI behind the curtain

All this fancy personalisation isn’t even the smartest part of the AI behind the business curtain. For example, the personalisation mine is now running deeper as biometric technology continues to grow. Businesses can use this branch of AI as a shiny new tool to learn what we look like, understand our actions, and recognise our differences.

At home, your iPhone can be unlocked by scanning your face. Retail quickly followed suit, and you can now pay for things with just your fingerprint. And this is only the beginning – your face is now being used to display relevant digital ads to your demographic as you shop around a store.

Online and offline are beginning to merge together. Amazon Go has already demonstrated how to harness AI to optimise and automate the checkout experience in the physical world. It won’t be long before purchasing online and purchasing online are near-identical. You can view items almost tangibly through augmented reality, you can chat to a chatbot for immediate assistance, and a single click can complete your purchase. All around you, everything is getting faster, more convenient, and more AI-infused.


A view to the future

As businesses get more savvy when it comes to AI, you can expect your experience as a customer to transform. Rather than navigating a website, you’ll be conversing with it through machine learning chatbots. Rather than clunky two-factor authentication processes, you’ll be able to complete transactions using voice as your unique identifier.

And rather than dealing with slow customer service, you’ll have companies immediately knowing who you are, your service history, and what mood you’re currently in – using a touch of AI and sentiment analysis.


Put the past behind you

First, we had to keep up with the Joneses. Then, the world became obsessed with keeping up with the Kardashians. Now, the only thing brands need to worry about keeping up with is AI.

Today, we as consumers have information at our fingertips. It’s available to us immediately, on any passing whim. So, when it comes to businesses, we demand the same level of service and speed. We’ve grown to expect effortless interactions with tech. When a business falls short of this expectation, customers take notice.

In the past, we might have had to – shock horror – wait for things. Even recently, we’ve all been frustrated by poor technology integration, and painfully slow customer service. But when businesses harness the power of business AI, customers can fall down the rabbit hole into the wonderful world of real-time service. A world of service that’s quick, efficient and effortless.


Philippe AiméPhilippe AiméMarch 14, 2018


Applying even the most basic psychological principles will tell you increased personalisation is essential for improving Customer Experience.

It is a well known fact that people gravitate towards the people, places, and things that resemble themselves. As a result, customers are attracted to websites they feel they have something in common with or they can relate directly to. For this reason, personalisation in Customer Experience is vital for businesses. The following techniques are easily implementable ways for retailers to improve their ecommerce sites with more personalised customer experiences.

Consistent messaging

Having a consistent message throughout is essential for a campaign, particularly from PPC adverts to a company’s landing page. First and foremost, this consistency ensures that the website’s bounce rate is reduced. Using specialised personalisation techniques such as using dynamic text headings on your landing pages which can be modified according to what adverts visitors click through to arrive on your website, you can ensure a consistent and coherent message through the users journey.

If a pet owner is drawn into your site through one advert that mentions cats, that same wording will appear on your landing page. If a different visitor arrived via an advert that is targeted at dog owners, the wording on the landing page will change to reflect this advert.

Businesses can adjust their landing pages’ copy in accordance to which advert the user has clicked on, ensuring perfect consistency throughout. The best dynamic text plugins allow you to create a whole range of possible messages simply by adding them as a parameter in the URL.

Personalised location

Another way personalisation can enhance Customer Experience is by personalising locations. Companies can also utilise visitors geolocation and insert this into the website pages, allowing for the creation of personalised content to improve engagement with products and services. This ensures that not only are you providing a personable service, but also customers will be more engaged in products and services.

Sites can use the nearest city or country that the visitor is in and can create personalised adverts and landing pages that the visitor is more likely to engage with.

Creating a sense of urgency

Websites can also use neuromarketing-based personalisation techniques such as creating notifications that capture the audience’s attention and create a sense of urgency which encourages the visitor to take action. Techniques such as scarcity notifications make Customer Experience feel more personalised by using real-time visitor data.

For certain products, such as where there is only a few items left in stock, scarcity can make the product seem in high demand and encourage the user to make a purchase. This will encourage customers to finalise purchases quicker as it places more value on their minds, optimising the results for a business in real time and displaying the most persuasive message at the correct time, which is essential for businesses.

Information bias

The more personal information customers receive on a product, the more confident they feel when making a purchase. Providing more information to customers such as the ideal size for their height or what they could style with the product ensures that they are making a well-informed decision based on a more rational basis, even if the information to the product isn’t all that relevant.

Through using the technique of information bias, your business makes customers feel secure as plenty of detail has been provided. This technique can be applied when displaying all products and offer. It is also ideal to treat product images with a similar mindset, if you can provide several angles or a video of the same shot then make sure you do.

Through following these simple techniques, businesses can enhance their customer experience by personalising their journey and make visitors feel like they can relate to what they are being offered. Consistent messaging in a campaign, personalising what the user views based on their location, and the use of real-time data to personalise their experience can make visitors feel like the brand has focus on ensuring that they have a unique and tailored experience on the website.

Helen PettiferHelen PettiferMarch 14, 2018


The 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards took place in London in February, and as a Customer Service Trainer, I was honoured to be invited to join the panel of judges.

Our panel was given responsibility for judging the Proactive Complaint Handling in the Utility Industry category. Five companies had been shortlisted and each one provided us with a written report and presentation. The aim was to highlight their approaches to both reduce complaints, and effectively manage complaints when they were received.

Investing in positive change

In truth, all of the nominated companies had been driven into action by the costs associated with poor complaint handling in the past.

OfWat (The Water Services Regulation Authority) governs the utilities industry and their objective is to build customer confidence in water and waste water services. As such, OfWat issues fines every time a customer makes a formal complaint and if the complaint isn’t resolved within 10 days, the fine increases.

With the cost of fines impacting on profits, the five finalist companies had recognised the value of investing in positive change.

As a judge, I wanted to see evidence of the companies stretching beyond the standards set by OfWat. In order to be praised for proactive complaint handling, I was looking for changes to the company culture and initiatives that were clearly rooted in delivering customer service excellence.

Complaint handling champions

It was fascinating to see the different approaches to tackling the problem and presenting the information. The judging panel learnt all about ‘training igloos’, recruitment campaigns, and processes to enhance efficiency.

All measures had clearly made a tangible difference to internal complaint handling procedures, but one company’s approach really stood out. United Utilities was presented with the Proactive Complaints Handling Award, and the decision was unanimous.

United Utilities

Serving 7 million customers in the north-west of England, United Utilities had been on the receiving end of too many complaints and they were taking too long to resolve them. There were no systems in place to learn from customer feedback, so many problems kept reoccurred. The company had earned a poor reputation and staff morale was low. They realised it was time for radical change.

What impressed me was that, rather than simply bolting on additional resources, the company involved the whole team in developing ideas to transform performance. They addressed their response to complaints and how to use customer feedback to inform change. In addition, they had adopted innovative ideas to reduce the number of complaints that are reported.

Speaking with customers

One noticeable point was the benefits of speaking directly with customers. Emails and letters have their place, but a telephone conversation on the day that the complaint was received has proved far more effective. A conversation helps to quickly clarify, and in some cases resolve, the issue.

Another strategy was to use a company bus and covered stands to have an active presence in the towns they were serving. This approach made the company far more approachable. Its impact has been especially beneficial when a burst main or other issue has had an impact on multiple customers. They’ve been there in person to provide information, updates, and practical support.

Reputation restored

Being party to the presentations, I took great delight from the fact that these companies had worked hard to restore their reputation and regain customers’ trust. The starting point was admitting the problem and having the motivation to take action.

Any business should openly seek the opinion of customers and not just those who they know will deliver a glowing report. Complaints may be hard to take, but it is better to know when you aren’t meeting customer expectations, because it gives you the opportunity to improve.

The awards provided evidence that any company can become successful, if they focus on delivering a truly customer orientated service.

Andrew TavenerAndrew TavenerMarch 12, 2018


During Christmas, £17billion worth of goods are said to have been bought online alone, with an expectation for £2.5billion worth of returns to come back.

With retailers and suppliers feeling increasing pressure to fine-tune their logistics and supply chain strategies in order to cope with these levels of orders, and a drastic growth in returns, retailers are under intense financial pressure to get shipments right. Every, single, time!

As a result, to get the level of performance they need from their suppliers, these retailers are increasingly turning to chargebacks. Chargebacks are fees that a retailer charges a supplier for errors as a result of not following business guidelines.

As such, they are a way for retailers to offset the additional expenses incurred if suppliers are non-compliant. Indeed, major retailers globally have been imposing much tighter controls on suppliers in the recent years to help speed up their supply chain. This squeeze on suppliers is seen in fees for late shipments, wrong bills of lading, incorrect labelling or invalid Advance Ship Notices, and many other seemingly small mistakes that can make a big impact. For some retailers, chargeback fines make up as much as 13 percent of their account revenue.

While compliance is a must, suppliers still fail to provide retailers with accurate, timely, and complete information for a number of reasons. These may include differing compliance requirements per retailer; the sheer number of protocols and systems that need to work together successfully; the number of retail trading partners a supplier deals with on a daily basis; and the overall varying IT capabilities of businesses. With all of these factors combined, there are seemingly an infinite amount of issues that can trigger a chargeback, especially during peak seasons or events.

Getting vendor compliance right will have a positive impact on the bottom line. For many suppliers the only true way to overcome the looming risk of chargebacks is to think long term and put an effective programme in place to manage against them. This should identify what triggered a chargeback, how it was calculated, and a way of indicating that a problem has occurred before the penalty is even received.

Here are seven best practices suppliers can build into a chargeback programme to successfully meet retail vendor compliance expectations:

Know the cost: Suppliers should be aware of the cost of chargebacks and ensure that chargebacks are properly detailed in their accounts to assess the true scale of the problem. In this case, what you don’t know can truly hurt you.

Grasp the details: Having insight into individual chargeback information that includes where and when a chargeback occurred and under what circumstances is critical for reducing the chargeback risk. Errors can be missing, incorrect, or non-scannable shipping labels; unauthorised product substitutions; incorrect shipping location or using the wrong shipping provider. Keeping detailed information on file will make it easier to catch small issues that could turn into something larger in the future.

Get the bigger picture: Use tools that can analyse and review larger chargeback trends at a dashboard level. While there is much to learn in the finer details, technology can help automate the process, helping you to find repetitive tendencies that may have previously gone unnoticed.

Understand retailers’ requirements: The truth is every retailer’s requirements are different. It is important to make sure you are clear on each and every one’s specific rules and act upon this knowledge by implementing systems that can keep pace with a broad range of retailer trading partner business rules.

Revisit requirements: It’s good practice to revisit requirements at least annually to keep chargebacks at a minimum over time and break the chargeback cycle. With chargebacks becoming more prominent, retailers’ requirements can change over time with little to no communication.

Chase up or refute chargebacks: Should a penalty be improperly applied, suppliers should arm themselves with information to support a change. The more detail you have, the better off you are in the event of a disagreement.

Invest in automation: Automation can help your business to seamlessly connect to trading partners, rapidly on board new retail customers, identify problems by exception and minimise the use of IT bandwidth. All of these items help to minimise chargebacks in one way or other.

As online shopping and return volumes grow, so do consumer expectations for products to be on the shelf or in the warehouse ready to ship at a moment’s notice. Chargebacks make for a strong incentive for suppliers to keep all the key aspects of their relationship with the retailer in check. However, even though chargebacks are common, there is no reason a supplier should suffer extensively from them.

Getting communication right can drive chargeback costs down, but when ‘perfect’ processing doesn’t go perfectly, knowing how, why, and where an issue occurred helps to proactively address discrepancies and minimise the time it takes to resolve them.

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