Daniel OrdDaniel OrdMarch 22, 2019
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9min126

Daniel Ord is the Founder of OmniTouch International, and one of the global Contact Centre industry’s most influential figures. 

With over 30 years of experience under his belt, Daniel is bringing his expertise to a wider audience with a new Masterclass on High Performance Management for Inbound Contact Centres. The two-day Masterclass will take place in London in May, Manchester in July, and again in London in October. 

 

Have you attended any conferences lately?

After the speeches are done and the workshops concluded, you have the chance to cluster around a table in a coffeeshop or bar and get to know other people who attended the event.

This is when one of my favourite questions comes up: “So how did you get into the Contact Centre industry?”

If you’re an introvert and get goosebumps around networking, then I guarantee you that this question works as a great ice-breaker. 

A happy accident?

Whether it’s Customer Service, Customer Experience, or the Contact Centre, I’ve rarely met anyone who doesn’t have an interesting story about how they accidentally ‘fell’ into the industry.

Some folks come up from being an Agent. That’s cool, because we all know you’ll never forget what it was like to talk to customers. Learning how to persuade, calm, and influence is one of the biggest gifts you get from doing this work.

Others – like myself – fell into the job through management level transfer or acquisition. 

I’m lucky enough to have transferred over from Finance to Operations, and I’ve always been grateful to have that background in numbers of logic to call on when running large centres.

The higher up the management ladder you go, the more you need to work ‘up and out’ in your organisation

When I first got into the industry, I faced the common challenge I think many of you have – most of my seniors thought my job was easy. I mean after all, on paper you just put a bunch of ‘operators’ in place and answer calls or emails or chats… where’s the complexity there?

As time and market forces increasingly put the customer in the centre of the organisational universe, things got a little better. However, I found that at least half my time as a VP Operations was spent talking to senior folks across the organisation – time well spent.

Teaching them about the industry, about customers and about our value proposition. Helping them ‘get it’.

Today, in all my management level Contact Centre courses, I advise folks to make a real organisational impact by getting up and away from your desk and office….and not just walking around your centre, though of course that has value!

I’m talking about booking time with the heads of other functions and getting yourself invited to senior level meetings. You’ve got to make yourself visible and talked about. You’ve got to help people in other job roles solve problems or create opportunities, because if you don’t, your centre – and everyone who works there – will suffer benign neglect.

It’s not an easy industry

I always say that in the Contact Centre industry we have to be masters of many domains. That includes:

  • Operations – after all everything starts here
  • People management & organisational design
  • Leadership & financial management
  • Customer Service & Experience
  • The role of technology in the lives of our customers & people

I can’t think of another industry that places this many demands on its leadership.

And a word of caution…

If you’ve worked a long time for one or two centres, you begin to think that the way ‘you’ work here is the way the ‘industry’ works. Nobel-Winner Daniel Kahneman talks about the danger of ‘WYSIATI’: What you see is all there is.

He teaches that we humans tend to make decisions on incomplete information, thinking that what we see or know now is all there is. Do your best to push back against WYSIATI – I think the best Contact Centre leadership does. 

But no matter how you got there…it’s what you do when you’re there

So you’re there. That’s so cool.

You’re the Contact Centre Manager or Director, and they’re counting on you to be efficient and effective.

When asked what I think is the most important thing to learn first about Contact Centres, I always give the same answer:

Operations!

I can hear some people say “no, it must be customers!”,  or “no way, it’s people!”

But Centres are unique and complex ecosystems. You’ll make better decisions about both your people and your Customers when you’ve mastered Operations. 


Laurence GoasduffLaurence GoasduffMarch 22, 2019
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4min152

As businesses strive to become customer-centric, Gartner has identified 10 common habits of organisations exercising customer centricity.

Gartner predicts that, by 2020, poor customer experiences will destroy 30 percent of digital business projects. Will yours be one of them? What does it mean to be customer-centric?

Customer-centric organisations understand the unique problems and expectations of their customers as well as the context of those needs. They then consistently deliver products and services that meet those expectations.

“You must win at every interaction the customer has with your organisation,” says Olive Huang, Research Director at Gartner.

The pace of technology innovation has accelerated and is empowering people. Customers, users and employees expect more, complain more, are more willing to switch suppliers or employers – and share far more about their experiences.

“Your business results depend on your brand’s ability to retain and add customers,” says Olive continues.

“You must win at every interaction the customer has with your organisation, whether that be a marketing campaign, a call to a contact centre, an invoice, or a delivery reliant on the supply chain. Every department must play its part in a coordinated fashion.”

Not only have people become empowered by technology, but the next generation to enter the workforce – those born between 1995 and 2010 that represent 27 percent of the world population – has spending power.

“They are less inclined to trust companies and brands, expect to be heard and involved, are quick to switch preferences, and seek out employers and brands that offer authentic and transparent experiences,” adds Huang.

Preference and purchase will be driven more by personalised experiences, trusted peer-to-peer information, and real-time delivery of information and services. These experiences are delivered through many channels – the web, mobile apps, contact centres and virtual personal/customer assistants, powered by AI.

“In order to deliver an adaptive customer experience you will need to increase real-time capabilities by absorbing and analysing large volumes of data ‘on the move’ and react quickly to unexpected business events,” says Huang.

Gartner will be covering content like this at the upcoming Gartner Customer Experience & Technologies Summit, 22-23 May, London UK.

Save €325 on your booking by using CXM2019


Chris DyerChris DyerMarch 20, 2019
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6min183

Happy employees who are engaged with their work try harder, so, how can we make work their happy place?

Think of it like gardening. Plants want water, fertiliser, and light, and it doesn’t hurt to play the equivalent of a little classical music. Positive, healthy surroundings and the sunshine of encouragement will help your company culture blossom.

1. Start with positive values

One way to avoid the drag of a negative mindset is to actively promote a positive one. Review your company values and operating policies looking for ways to make positive thoughts and acts the norm. If, for example, your mission is to provide great customer service, build on your strengths instead of making up for your shortcomings.

Suppose there’s an issue with a regular client getting the wrong merchandise one month. Instead of starting a team meeting by naming a culprit, begin by determining what is going well. Maybe that client has been with you for five years and recently upgraded their account. Ask the team how you can capitalise on that while solving the problem.

Someone might approach the client to thank them for their loyalty and let them know a revised order is on the way, promising a discount on the next one. The client can be reminded that the upgraded merchandise will better serve their purpose and drive their business, and they can be assured that the cause has been addressed so they won’t be inconvenienced again. 

2. Open communication avenues

When the cause and those responsible for screwing up the order are detected, you’ll have a valuable training moment for everyone on the team to observe. Make it a celebration, not an intervention.

A closed-door meeting with the culprits will affect only those people. A team meeting that debriefs all of the stakeholders opens up that audience, and a company-wide memo on what went on gives everyone the chance to learn from the episode. Maybe the order problem came from a simple misrouting of the request because someone didn’t know who was supposed to get it. Now, everyone will know.

Informing everyone, from executives to employees, about who does what in the company makes it easy to get information to and from the right people. This helps employees do their jobs well and serve the customer well. How else can you get important data to your staff when or before they need it? Tweak your file sharing and database access protocols to be as inclusive as possible.

Knowing who to ask for help or who to include in the information loop makes people proficient and brings them together. Knowing how to move on from mistakes does, too.

3. Cultivate team spirit

We’re all human, so why not acknowledge both the highs and lows of the job? Go ahead and welcome your order culprits into the Honest Mistake Club. A free latte will take some of the sting out of that error and make them want to try harder.

Or, maybe the supply chain glitch was a needed reminder to provide some group training. Learning together is a bonding experience. Train a direct report, and let them guide the rest of the group, managers included.

4. Satisfy emotional needs

Just as plants need water and sunlight to grow, employees need to be physically and mentally ready to do their jobs. Besides being fed and well rested, employees want a say in how they work, the chance to become really good at it, and a sense of belonging to something larger than the task at hand. According to researchers like author Daniel Pink, these things make them happy and more engaged.

This is the real fertiliser for a bountiful company culture. Offer a choice in scheduling or let teams design workflows. Increase responsibility when someone shows they have a knack for some job aspect or provide training for those who don’t. Reinforce that team spirit whenever you get the chance.

Happy is healthy! We can design a happy place enriched with the things that make our ‘flowers’ grow.


Nick HagueNick HagueMarch 20, 2019
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6min290

There are only three ways to make money: sell more products, increase your prices, or cut costs. 

The easiest action may seem to be to increase prices, but if you don’t deliver additional value for the higher prices then it won’t be long before customers start to look around for alternative suppliers.  

So what about cutting costs? A cost-cutting strategy is only temporary as it cannot be sustained in the long term.  

That therefore leaves only one possible growth strategy and that is to sell more products, which is easier said than done. If it was just a question of hiring a new sales rep or spending money on advertising and watching the new flow of business, everybody would do it. 

Access to new customers in new territories is indeed why office-supplies chain Office Depot Inc. and Alibaba’s international wholesale marketplace Alibaba.com have inked a ‘strategic collaboration’. However, research shows that the most important factor driving long-term growth is great Customer Experience.

Market research company Forrester, for instance, found that customer experience leaders grow revenue at a rate of 17 percent compound growth – considerably faster than the customer experience laggards. Meanwhile, consulting group Accenture estimates that the business costs of poor Customer Experience is as much as $1.6 trillion from US customers who switch their service to a different brand or service provider.

There can be no doubt about it then: exceptional Customer Experience is critical to growth.

But what is a great Customer Experience? It isn’t just having the product delivered on time in full. It isn’t receiving a product that works as promised. This is a good experience but the customer is simply receiving what they expect.

Great Customer Experience is something which pleases the customer so much it may never be forgotten. A customer that is short of product and needs an urgent delivery will remember for a long time a supplier who pulls out the stops to solve the problem. It’s why a customer that has been struggling with a technical issue that is quickly solved by the supplier will almost certainly repay with loyalty. A supplier whose deliveries never fail, whose products never disappoint, who is always available to deal with enquiries and does so promptly, will be thought to offer a great Customer Experience.

Great CX is built on emotions, and small companies tend to know this. They will often work nights and weekends to solve a customer’s problem. They will bend over backwards to be nice to customers. They will deal with them promptly and efficiently. They know that without customers they cannot pay the rent. Small companies understand the importance of engaging emotionally with customers and offering great Customer Experience.

There is then, something that can be termed, the ‘corporate curse’. When companies grow, especially business-to-business companies, they can lose this emotional attachment. Large B2B companies need processes to ensure that their products are made efficiently. Departments are set up to run production, finance, sales, marketing and HR. These departments may be superbly managed but they can also become silos, working independently of each other, viewing customer requests as inconvenient disruptions to their efficiency. When customer satisfaction levels are measured amongst the customers of these large B2B suppliers, the results are almost always mediocre. 

A number of key Customer Experience pillars are required to escape this trap. These include total commitment to Customer Experience by the leadership; an avoidance of silo mentality, with everyone within the B2B supplier that can solve the problem taking ownership of it, and being quick and easy to deal with. This is vital, as Amazon well knows.

But beware: the things that please and excite today soon become standard. Providing great Customer Experience requires suppliers to constantly be thinking of different and better ways of serving their customers. It’s why Amazon and many other retailers seek to offer ever faster and more convenient delivery options and locations.

The only long-term way to make more money is to deliver exceptional CX. Alibaba and Office Depot, along with their very many competitors, need to remember this.


Nicolle ParadiseNicolle ParadiseMarch 19, 2019
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9min180

This article by Nicolle Paradise was written in conjunction with Dr Kristin Walle, Division Vice President of Global Money Movement & Compliance/Shared Services Compliance Solutions at ADP.

 

Too sensitive? Just suck it up, buttercup. Too abrasive? Bull in a china shop.

And somewhere in-between these extremes, there’s us: you and me. We’re leaders, we’re employees, and we understand that at the most basic level, those who don’t know what is expected of them seldom perform to their potential. 

Astonishingly, Gallup research suggests that nearly 70 percent of all US employees aren’t working to their full potential in a given business day. 

To communicate what’s expected, is it as binary as: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all” versus “You Can’t Handle The Truth!” (thanks, Jack Nicholson)? No, we disagree with this positioning and what lies in-between is what we will explore.

We believe leaders have a fundamental responsibility to create value through direct communication. This communication style benefits the Employee Experience and is good for business. Direct communication, defined as the ability to consume, interpret, and mirror back, leaves very little room for interpretation of the employee’s value, their value to the business, and value to customers. This process also subtly communicates the message of “you care about me”, from leader to employee.

With so much to gain then, why do leaders resist direct communication? According to a 2016 study published in Harvard Business Review, “69 percent of managers reported being uncomfortable communicating in general with employees”. If two out of three of leaders are uncomfortable with general communication, we begin to understand just how uncomfortable most leaders would be with direct communication.

To help bridge this communication gap between what makes most of us uncomfortable with what employees need to achieve their full potential, let’s examine a case study between Jack (SVP, Customer Success) and Oliver (VP, Customer Success), a direct report of Jack’s. 

Jack was frustrated with the number of escalations he was receiving from Oliver. He believed he had clearly addressed Oliver’s concerns around how to manage escalations and when that volume did not decrease, but instead the escalations increased, it caused several related outputs:

  • From a leadership perspective, Jack believed that Oliver was choosing to not follow the appropriate direction.
  • Through that lens, Jack interpreted the escalations from employees who were bypassing Oliver as being directly caused by Oliver’s choice to not follow directions.
  • Customers expressed concern at the increased amount of time it was taking to address their issues.

Observing the impact to both employees and customers, Jack decided to confront Oliver as to why he chose to ignore the provided guidance.

Oliver, however, was confused and himself, frustrated. He was a proven, competent VP within the organisation and asked his manager, Jack: “What specifically are you asking me to do differently? I thought I was following your exact direction this entire time.”

Why did this stark miscommunication happen? To answer that, we leveraged an Ishikawa diagram to uncover the potential cause and effect.

We first identified what specific areas, either internal (e.g: ‘personality’) or external (‘HR policies’) may be perceived obstacles. Then within each category we identified several potential reasons ( e.g: ‘I prefer…’) why this prevented the desired outcomes.

This diagram helped Jack get to the root cause of the disconnect. Jack, unintentionally, had concluded the root cause of the escalations solely through his own perceptions, not via direct communication with Oliver. By broadening his perspective and asking direct questions of Oliver, Jack was then able to provide clear, consumable feedback related to Oliver’s performance, goals, and associated metrics. This renewed clarity of communication benefited Oliver, Oliver’s team, and ultimately, the 10,000 customers that the organisation supports.

This diagram also helped Oliver contemplate his own obstacles. He realised that his assumptions prevented him from asking specific, clarifying questions to Jack. Understanding that Jack may not be skilled or may have his own bias around the interaction, Oliver learned to probe and paraphrase back to Jack in a manner so that clarity was achieved. 

Several iterations of the diagram are commonly needed to yield the desired clarity, so patience from both leaders and employees is needed until the skills have been developed. 

Additionally, we recommend the organisation ask itself a few proactive questions with a focus toward driving direct communication:

  1. How are we ensuring that the root cause issue is actually the root cause?
  2. What is the result we are looking for as an organisation?  Why it this important and how is it measured? 
  3. How does this connect to the overall organisational benefits? 

This feedback loop – comprised of the above proactive questions and the Ishikawa diagram analysis – position organisations to communicate directly regarding behaviours that contribute to achieving specific goals as well as identify which behaviours contribute to creating obstacles. From a communication perspective, this feedback loop helps balance the extremes of “too sensitive: suck it up, buttercup” and “too abrasive: bull in a china shop”.

Today’s leaders are investing in the leaders of tomorrow, ultimately yielding a richer and more developed employee, an improved experience, and thus higher employee retention rates. The stability that this feedback loop provides an organisation has a direct, positive impact on development, collaboration and creativity, delivering value for both employees and customers.

When we know what is expected of us, we can perform to our full potential. How might leveraging this feedback loop help your team reach their full potential?


Jeff EpsteinJeff EpsteinMarch 18, 2019
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7min310

To create the best possible Customer Experience, organisations must think strategically about implementing the tools that will support their omnichannel strategy.

As adoption of live chat increases, simply implementing the technology won’t be enough to set a business apart in terms of the CX they offer.

According to Walker, today’s consumers expect consistent and user-friendly experiences from any brand they interact with, which is why CX is set to surpass price as a key differentiator for consumers by 2020. A business’s CX offerings are no longer just measured against their competitors, but against what consumers know is possible with CX. To meet these high expectations, organisations must be mindful of how to properly service their customers while making good use of their agents’ time. It will also be important to prioritise quality over quantity and ensure customers are serviced on the digital channels they prefer.

Customers are making the shift to mobile in waves and, as this occurs, businesses must ensure they provide seamless and consistent CX regardless of device or channel. The fourth annual live chat benchmark report highlighting the future of live chat and its impact on CX from Comm100, a global provider of omnichannel CX solutions, found that last year, chat queries sent from a mobile device increased to nearly 52 percent, representing an almost eight percent increase from 2017.

As customers continue to pivot their primary device usage away from desktop to mobile, mobile chat optimisation is becoming a critical strategy for all brands, but particularly for those in the consumer services and recreation industries.

Focusing on improving CX metrics alone may not be the best decision for brands. Brands that scored 90 percent or higher for customer satisfaction had an average wait time of 46 seconds, while customers that reported the lowest satisfaction ratings had an average wait time of 25 seconds. While many organisations strive for short wait times and quick conversations, these metrics do not necessarily indicate more efficient agents and increased customer satisfaction. It is easy to sacrifice the quality of the Customer Experience for efficiency, but organisations who emphasise quality of service over arbitrary targets will have an easier time meeting overall business goals.

The report indicates that companies and agents are close to achieving the right balance between speed and quality. On average, chat duration saw a decrease of four percent, with chats lasting an average of 11 minutes and 53 seconds. This continued the trend of shorter chat times, following the nearly 15 percent drop in 2017.

Just as with wait time, companies with a 90 percent or higher customer satisfaction rating had an average chat duration of 12 minutes and 26 seconds – 13 percent longer than organisations with lower satisfaction scores. Having meaningful, personalised experiences that address customer needs is more important than only attempting to lower metrics like wait time or chat duration.

For longer chat durations that take up your agents’ time, AI can step in to help balance out the workload. To ensure resources are used efficiently, organisations can route chats through AI-powered chatbots to offset chat volume and free up their agents for more complex queries. Chatbots with Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning capabilities are now involved in over half of all chat interactions. They’re proven to be able to handle nearly 27 percent of those interactions without an agent, almost a seven percent increase from 2017.

Another tool that agents can rely on for optimising their workload is co-browsing. When an agent can view and interact with a customer’s web browser in real-time, it allows them to troubleshoot issues more efficiently, making co-browsing one of the quickest and most well-received ways for agents to solve customer problems. 

The report found that co-browsing sessions have an average satisfaction rating of 89 percent – six percent higher than the overall 2018 customer satisfaction rating of 83 percent. Customers may complain that canned messages are robotic or impersonal, but when used correctly it can help decrease an agent’s workload without sacrificing quality, which is why the use of canned messages has increased nearly 70 percent in one year.

The benchmark report’s findings indicate that consumers are readily embracing live chat, so long as the focus remains on improving their experience. To stand out from the competition and exceed customer expectations, brands need to focus on strategically implementing their omnichannel customer experience solutions in a way that prioritises personalised, consistent service without putting a strain on their resources.


Oliver EhrlichOliver EhrlichMarch 18, 2019
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7min228

You think you own your business, but you don’t…customers do.

Their perception determines what you can do, the competitors you can outperform, the trust you can command, and the new business opportunities you can capture. So, to maximise the value of your business, you need to understand what customers really want, what they might want in the future, to what extent they are getting it from your company, and how you can keep them coming back for more.

Insights tell a company what their customers value, to what extent their organisation delivers it, how market trends and consumer needs evolve, and which levers they can pull to improve their performance relative to competitors. According to recent McKinsey & Company research, organisations that leverage customer insights (CI) outperform peers by 85 percent in sales growth and by more than 25 percent in gross margin.

Periscope By McKinsey recently conducted a survey of more than 200 businesses to help better understand the position of CI within their companies. It found that the overwhelming majority said that they aim to make CI a reality for their businesses, with 65 percent saying that CI should be a true “thought partner” (defined as the highest stage of CI maturity) to the entire organisation and a driver of transformational change.  In addition, 44 percent said that CI is a top marketing and sales priority in their organisations, well ahead of trending topics like digitisation (18 percent) and omnichannel (13 percent). 

While respondents clearly recognise the importance and impact of CI, results show they are struggling with attaining thought partner status.  For example:

  • 46 percent said that the CI function is a recognised counsellor, while 31 percent said that it is no more than a service provider with little or no systematic connection to commercial decision making.
  • Only 36 percent had the impression that their companies are already fully geared towards customer centricity.
  • 30 percent said that “processes” at their companies are insufficient to integrate CI systematically with decision making, and that they didn’t have the agility it would take to take continuous advantage of insights.

There is no single reason that the perceived role of insights is lagging at many companies. However, the survey revealed some common threads including a lack of C-level endorsement of insights as a driver of business success.

Businesses need to build a stronger, more agile insights function, leveraging not only the latest technologies but also ensuring such insights will be used for decision making. It’s also crucial for leaders to act as role models and sponsors to support this transformation. Collectively, this will enable businesses to actively steer towards customer centricity and growth.

Time to make CI a true ‘Thought Partner’

To drive growth with insights, CI needs to be recognised in all customer-related processes, from brand positioning and product development to distribution and CRM. When insights are integrated with decision making, they help companies differentiate their brands from those of competitors and sharpen their proposition to the most attractive target groups.

For example, as agile processes take hold across industries, companies bring new products to market ever earlier, often as minimum viable products (MVPs). In this situation, developers are hungry for continuous consumer feedback to iron out the kinks and introduce new varieties. CI also helps decision makers optimise their assortment, choose the right channels, cash in on consumers’ willingness to pay, and determine the most important drivers of loyalty.

An insights transformation is hard work – but it’s well worth the effort involved. Insights enable organisations to give customers what they want, sometimes before they even know they want it. The close link between insights generation and decision making will help companies to create a continuous stream of pleasant surprises for customers who will reward them with more purchases, increased loyalty and recommendations of their products to others. 

Click here to read more about the survey’s findings.

The author would like to thank Frank Kressmann, Senior Expert for Marketing and Customer Insights at McKinsey & Company, for his contribution to this article.


Claire BonniolClaire BonniolMarch 14, 2019
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8min457

I am always inspired by corporate brand image when assessing the Customer Experience maturity of a company, since these values and the brand positioning form the blueprint for future consistency.

Delivering a consistent, attractive service requires that a corporation explains the ‘why and how’ to its staff on a regular basis.

With this in mind, I recently discovered a Finnair brochure at a business event in London, and found it an interesting example of this form of communication. It also reminded me of some of the key questions we must ask ourselves when forming brand comms strategies.

What’s the journey?

The brochure tells us “Back to the Nordic Way” and talks about the “Nordic experience”, highlighting the strong values the company adheres to and evoking a specific time and place. This isn’t always easy for an airline. Air France did a similar thing when it used “le luxe, c’est l’espace” as it’s baseline, but this method of communication and promotion proved confusing for the audience, as it focused solely on business class passengers and overlooked those flying economy, who certainly did not have roomy flights to look forward to.

However, the Finnair brochure uses rich imagery, with wild, untamed Nordic landscapes and a mindset of freedom and respect, all of which sounds consistent and appealing brand-wide.

Which values will staff embody?

The Finnair brochure describes Nordic hospitality with three simple words: courage, commitment, and simplicity. These are modern customer values, which showcase a brand willing to move with the times.

Courage

We don’t live in a stable world, and emphasising courageousness allows Finnair to tell customers they will always adapt to meet new challenges. Anyone who has worked front-line knows courage is vital, as B2C customers become more and more unpredictable and even more aggressive in their approach. Courage conveys pride and pleasure at direct contact with customers.

Commitment

The brochure describes a “commitment to care”, which is certainly essential in today’s landscape. Surveys show that customer engagement is largely the result of care, not of luxurious features or even money spent. Customers like to feel that crew members and other staff are there to support their journey, and empathise with their feelings, fears and excitements. Kindness, proactivity, and good manners are evergreen in customer-facing industries.

Simplicity

This helps to differentiate the company from its competition, and is lofty goal which many of us are working towards. Considering the airlines which would cite simplicity as a customer value, I would have first considered a brand like easyJet. Yet hearing that Finnair believes in this concept seems logical, and aligns well with the Nordic values they have already espoused. Where once ‘simple’ might have conveyed negative connotations, today it is more about removing complications – something which is particularly important to travellers.

Providing evidence

Beautiful values and great use of language is never enough to attract or satisfy customers; they require tangible, measurable proof. Looking through the rest of the brochure, a few were clearly explained and outlined, which I felt helped to differentiate Finnair:

Time-saving

The company provides short connections such as the hassle-free transfers at Helsinki airports, which don’t seem as stressful as comparative trips from areas like Heathrow or Paris. In addition, flights are shorter thanks to the Eastern position of Finland, and Helsinki is one of the more punctual airports.

Sustainability

There is an emphasis on fewer emissions and greater fuel efficiency, green landings and an air filtration system on-board.

Differentiated comfort

The airport is fully connected, with spacious rooms and a calming atmosphere, utilising mood lighting to set the tone. Lounges additionally contain saunas.

What’s in it for me?

Every professional in the process of improving their Customer Experience must work closely with their branding and communication departments to see what messages are currently being delivered to customers – even long before they use the service.

This form of baseline – the values oriented towards customers – is often not communicated clearly enough for either customers or employees to grasp, so they are unable to move the agenda forwards.

It should be compulsory to check a couple of times a year that all materials embody brand values at each stage of the customer journey, whether that journey is physical or digital.

This is the first step of what we do at CXB HUB. We get to know the CX strategy of each brand and assess for consistency gaps and how we can solve them. This takes brains and experience courtesy of CX innovative practitioners. Working together with research and digital solutions, stronger CX experiences can be built from the ground up.


Basia Szumska-HareBasia Szumska-HareMarch 14, 2019
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5min243

Basia Szumska-Hare is Client Lead at Capita, and judged at the 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards in London earlier this month.

So, it’s Friday March 8th in London, the sky is blue, the children didn’t complain about getting ready for school, and I didn’t hear any complaints of phantom tummy aches, or reminders that “Mum, my school trousers are itchy!”

In fact, this morning as I pace my way to the tube to head to Victoria, there is simply nothing to complain about… or is there? For today, I am privileged to be a judge at the 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards. I am excited to learn about companies’ strategies for dealing with complaints, and taking people like me and you seriously!

I arrive in London to a swarm of people attending the event; I can see many people looking pensive, excited, and nervous about presenting today. Judges have to spend many hours, often in our own time, dedicated to reading and absorbing the content of the entries and scoring them respectfully online ahead of the event.

For the candidates, however, it’s nerve racking – they have to stand up in front of us scary looking folk and tell us why they believe their company deserves to win.

Before I know it, its 12.30pm and all the entries have been seen by my fellow judges. What I have learned today is that companies are learning to collect data from their customers, but maybe not yet fully understanding how to use that data effectively. I learned that C-Level executives were tasked with calling customers, to understand what it means to be a customer and also understand what it feels like for the person calling the customer.

Time and time again I’m hearing that companies want to make sure the process of dealing with them involves minimal effort, and have success on first call resolution. I also learned that loyal customers – you know the ones, like you and me who keep quiet, spend money unthankfully, and are too time poor to call and complain or fill out a survey – are also being looked at seriously.

I also saw enlightening sparks of thought leadership around empowering agents and teams to deliver stakeholder expectations, allowing the people who answer the calls more authority to resolve complaints and ensure that the voice of the customer is a positive one.

Also, Barnardo’s, the charity partner for the event, spoke at the luncheon once we were all gathered together to see who had won. Listening to the stories and the volunteers makes me think about what more I can do to give back to the community. Watch this space!

In summary – we had many winners, and many entries who I look forward to seeing back next year. It’s a comforting notion to understand that customers are at the heart of what all entrants were aspiring to. Well done to all, and I look forward to seeing you back again!


Merje ShawMerje ShawMarch 13, 2019
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11min461

Over the last few years, we have seen a shift to more conscious consumerism that values experiences over things.

This can be attributed back to several trends, such as the rise of mindfulness, the minimalist trend in homeware, as well as the tidying trends like KonMari and Swedish Death cleaning. These, combined with the very real effects of climate change, are changing the way consumers think about their purchases. This was spotted as a trend back in 2017 by Euromonitor and does not seem to be reversing any time soon.

What this change means for businesses

Remarkably, few large companies are truly adapting to this change in mindset. Even then, a lot of it is paying lip service to the consumer experience rather than embedding Customer Experience at the core of the organisation.

Persil’s “Dirt is good” campaign is a great example of how messaging has moved away from the product to focus on the experience the product enables. In fact, Unilever seems to be one of the few large organisations truly keeping in touch with the zeitgeist as their recent Sustainable Living Plan has shown. And it’s working – their sustainable living brands grew 46 percent faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70 percent of its turnover growth.

Even with these great examples, and the rise of the B Corporations with ethics at the core, traditional industries are constantly being disrupted by more nimble startups that put Customer Experience at their core. This is a bit of a no-brainer, really. Traditional companies can float happily on repeat customers whilst startups literally live or die on the experiences they provide. I recently wrote about this at length, but I very much doubt that this illusion some companies have that technology will save them is anything more than that.

How AI can increase productivity

First, it’s important to realise that what we term ‘AI’ is a bit of a red herring. True AI, in the science fiction, self-aware state, is yet to emerge. What we are using quite effectively in business settings are things like machine learning, natural language processing, and speech recognition systems. I talk about this at length here.

The best thing organisations can do to improve productivity is to take a long hard look at internal systems that enable staff to work more efficiently. What is the use of enabling chat function on your website if your customer support person still needs to log into three different systems to get a simple answer?

With machine learning, we have the option to automate a lot of the menial tasks that create busy work and detract attention from what should really matter to a company – providing the best customer service you can, ideally a human one.

The importance of visibility for improving the customer journey

We recently worked with a FTSE100 company to try and marry up quantitative data from their online real estate with qualitative data from the hundreds of research sessions that have been carried out over the years. Sadly this iteration didn’t work, but it is important to keep striving to solve this, as only by combining the information on “what is happening” from quantitative data with the “why is it happening” from qualitative data do we get a true picture that enables informed decision-making.

With this in mind, I would caution against solely relying on analytics as quantitative data tends to say a lot more about the biases and existing knowledge of those who form the questions and therefore only works when you already know the parameters that you are looking to confirm or validate.

We find that the best tools for truly forming a picture of the end-to-end Customer Experience is by mapping it with contextual research. Further value can then be added by overlaying this with the Employee Experience as well as mapping the third parties involved. This is known as service blueprinting. These maps can be used very effectively to set up analytics journeys and provide further validation for the issues arising in the customer journey.

Why businesses should strive for the perfect mix of automation and human contact

Over the last 10 plus years, we have been dedicated to letting customers self-serve. In fact, I have helped create a multitude of self-service help sites. They can be very useful. What has now started emerging in research sessions is that people really hate them…and chat bots (more on this in a minute).

One of the interesting things we found back in 2012 when running usability tests on the newest iteration of BT Business Self Service (which has since been updated several times) was that participants were far more likely to try using the self-service flows when they could clearly see the contact number.

This has stood the test of time. When you allow people to try but also provide an intervention point that enables them to talk to a real person, they are more likely to have a go first. eBay, with their impenetrable help flows, could do with taking this lesson on board, but they are by far not the only offenders in this category.  Royal Mail’s business help doesn’t look too great either for allowing human contact.

People have also started bring up chat bots as these often mis-interpret the text and provide rubbish answers whilst masquerading as real people. There was a fascinating article on this fairly recently, but in essence, what we keep seeing is that when people know they are chatting to a bot, they tend to be far more forgiving than when they feel another human is treating them like a fool.

I firmly believe we have reached peak Customer Experience automation and to further automate customers out of direct contact with the company is foolish. I recently wrote about this in a housing association context but it is very applicable to all other industries – have you ever been to a Tesco Express to be faced with a row of self-checkouts and no till staff? This happens to me all the time and I believe it’s not a great experience. There is merit in mixing the automation whilst still always providing human contact.




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