Oliver MaussOliver MaussOctober 9, 2019
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7min392

In their earliest days, dynamic startups are so intently concentrated on the product or solution they have created, and the innovative, creative concept behind it, that they lose focus on the key process of taking it to market, engaging with prospective customers, and driving up sales volumes.   

If you are a budding entrepreneur, you will recognise the scenario: you wake up with the best idea ever – an idea that creates something you see as ‘incredibly unique’ or that solves a problem that your ‘customers-to-be’ didn’t even realise they had. You start working on it with dogged intent, overtaxing your energies, getting all the raw materials together and assembled, until one day you have a product in your hands. All you have to do now is let the customers roll in.

But as time goes by, you realise your plan has a flaw. Your products are still on the shelf. Prospective customers are not jamming up your email or heating up your phone lines. Sales aren’t rolling in. Why not?

Because people have no idea your product even exists.

 If you are developing a startup, it should be no surprise that marketing is key to the success of your business. It’s your route to customers and enhanced sales revenues. In fact, it is just as vital as the product itself.

One doesn’t work without the other. Understanding that is the easy part. But if you don’t have a marketing background or knowhow, you are likely to find it difficult to decide how much to spend on marketing and then how to allocate your budget.

A great place to start answering these questions is to see where other companies spend their money and how that’s working for them.

Marketing spend as a proportion of revenue

A good way to analyse different marketing budgets is to look at them as a percentage of revenues. This way a single metric can be tracked and measured against a key performance figure and more easily compared with the strategies of other businesses.

In its CMO Spend Survey 2018-2019 report, Gartner found that among companies (with $500 million to $10 billion or more in annual revenues) in North America and the UK, had levelled off in 2018 to an average of 11.2% of company revenue.  Of course, these figures represent relatively-established businesses and brands that have already made their mark in their desired target markets, whereas start-ups and smaller businesses need to invest significantly more to achieve the same level of market awareness.

Bright prospects for digital marketing

Moreover, despite the slight levelling off in chief marketing officer (CMO) spend over recent years, the future of marketing does look bright. According to the 2018 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey, 57 percent of CEOs expected to increase their investment in marketing in the coming year. In addition, it is also true that digital marketing is rapidly accounting for a bigger slice of the pie, often at the expense of traditional marketing.

For example, Marketing Charts estimated, based on the PwC 5-year outlook, digital advertising in the US that in 2018 was nearly $30 billion larger than TV advertising.

Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey broke down the numbers.

The report states: “Spending on digital commerce chimes with CEOs’ digitisation goals. In a Gartner survey of 460 CEOs and senior business leaders last year, 62 percent of respondents said they have a management initiative or transformation program underway to make their business more digital. In short, the majority of CEOs recognise that they need to transact with their customers online, be they in B2B or B2C brands.”

These figures indicate the ongoing journey that many businesses are on towards digital transformation today. If you are a budding entrepreneur or start-up business, this growing focus on digital should also act as a clarion call that you must not neglect marketing as you launch new products, solutions and innovations but also that you are likely to need a strong focus on building a digital approach.

There is no magic number of how much to invest; it depends on your industry, your product, your growth aspirations and you have to keep the stage of your business life cycle in mind. Digital marketing provides a cost-effective and measurable way of targeting and engaging with a defined group of prospective customers. And it also provides a great way of educating them about your business in that crucial early engagement phase. Given its benefits in attracting prospects and building customer interest, it should come as no surprise that, for any start-up business, digital marketing is here to stay.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 9, 2019
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4min400

UK employees are wasting two hours each week trying to track down the right information internally, which is in turn impacting the quality of customer service they deliver.

That is the findings from new research by 8×8, which quizzed 2,000 employees in mid-market and enterprise organisations. The study looks into how work is carried out and uncovers the communications challenges that fast-growing organisations face.

The main reason productivity suffers is because 29 percent of people can’t find the information they need to do their jobs effectively on the systems they use.

Fourteen percent said they are not able to locate the right expert internally, while 17 percent say they are held back by information not being shared in a central place.

Employees also say that a few experts within their organisation hold most of the information about the company (63 percent) but they can’t always contact them.

This is impacting customer service teams in particular, with at least two different people required internally to get the right information to answer a single query. This means it takes them longer to answer customer queries (50 percent) and the quality of service falls (52 percent).

Not being able to access the right information has impacted businesses in a variety of ways. Thirty-four percent of employees said they are working longer hours to complete their tasks, while 34 percent reported a ‘slow’ resolution of problems. Inaccurate information was also used, according to 24 percent.

The data was also analysed by age group and organisation size. When asked what channel they would respond most quickly to, millennial workers said email (39 percent), followed by phone (35 percent) and online chat such as Slack (nine percent), but baby boomers preferred phone (50 percent) followed by email (31 percent).

Those in large organisations say the problem has gotten worse as they’ve grown. Almost half of employees (43 percent) say it has become more difficult to reach the right experts internally as the business has scaled.

Collaboration technology makes it possible for expert knowledge to be open to all staff at any time – 71 percent say that this type of tech would help them do their job more efficiently.

Lisa Clark, VP Product Management, Contact Centre at 8×8, said: “Typically, a small portion of a company’s staff holds the majority of the expertise. This isn’t an issue when these employees are available, but when this isn’t the case, staff and customers face potentially difficult situations.

“We can see that employees across organisations are struggling to complete everyday tasks and answer queries because they aren’t able to get the information they need. This is impacting productivity on a massive scale, as time is being wasted scrambling around for answers on systems that aren’t connected across a business.

“By using one cloud communications platform, teams and individuals can collaborate much more efficiently and all employees can access information faster – no matter what channel they use.”


Sid BanerjeeSid BanerjeeOctober 9, 2019
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9min354

It can be easy to think of customer experience programs as one homogenous aspiration for organisations, but with a little probing, what often emerges are two discrete types of programs: analytical, and operational CX.

In both cases, CX professionals will use operational data (such as customer attributes, financial data, product data) along with customer interactions, feedback, and social conversations, plus agent and employee feedback, to understand and improve the Customer Experience. Programs are designed to help understand and improve experiences and drive financial or market advantages to the company. But there are significant differences between the two approaches.

Analytical CX

Analytical CX programs are often outgrowths of traditional customer insights, market research, or even agency-led initiatives designed to look for specific answers to specific questions about the customer. Analytical CX programs typically display these attributes:

1. Analytical CX is project based

A project has a discrete objective, desired outcome, and deliverable designed to answer a specific type of question about a product, a service, a marketing campaign, or a customer service initiative. Often the project is timed to a strategic initiative about to be taken or underway.

2. Analytical CX is driven by hypothesis-testing, scientific method approaches

A customer insights analyst might want to test assumptions about customer affinity to a new product. Or hypothesise on the reasons a website is or isn’t meeting customer needs. Using customer feedback, surveys, social content, or conversations, that analyst will test his hypothesis, adapt it if it fails, and iterate until proving or disproving the theory.

3. Analytical CX is performed by analysts or data scientists

This is typically done in a dedicated customer experience function, or by marketing, operations research, or even IT personnel whose day job is to live in the data and analyse it. These are people fluent in many types of research, comfortable with advanced tools, and with wrangling data from diverse sets, often on a whim, to answer the pressing question of the day.

There is a home for Analytical CX in most large organisations. As businesses become more complex, data becomes more diverse, dynamic and increasingly more unstructured, analytical CX professionals provide the technology, tools, and process skills to answer the strategic questions of the day.

Operational CX

Operational CX programs, by contrast, are designed to help organisations manage their own performance to achieve operational goals, business improvement goals or successful transformation goals. Operational CX programs typically display these characteristics:

1. Operational CX programs are ‘always on’ because businesses are always on

They are visible to employees for whom analysing data isn’t a full-time job, but for whom receiving insights to drive continuous improvement and performance to goals is valuable and useful both personally and organisationally.

2. Operational CX programs go through long-term evolution

Just as performance objectives evolve and as business practices and customer interaction channels evolve, Operational CX programs evolve but it is measured in quarters and years, not days and weeks.

3. Operational CX programs aren’t projects with a start and end

They’re initiatives that persist until goals are achieved, and then often persist further to ensure goals are maintained.

Typical CX goals that are aligned to operational CX programs would include:

    • Increasing customer satisfaction, or NPS scores
    • Reducing churn
    • Achieving and/or maintaining product quality, and competitive differentiation
    • Streamlining support procedures to improve first call resolution, increase contact centre deflection from high cost to low cost channels, or to maximise utility and capability of newer support channels such as self-service, mobile apps, or online chat, chatbot, and messaging clients
    • Driving increases in marketing outcomes like brand equity, loyalty, or market awareness
    • Driving increases in sales outcomes like rep sales achievement, or improving sales organisational performance
    • Reducing product safety, financial or regulatory risk

 In an Operational CX paradigm – regardless of the type of outcome an organisation is aiming to achieve – the program is structured using a programmatic approach:

  1. Outcome measures are established (NPS, call centre performance metrics, sales goals)
  2. Input drivers are collected from operational, feedback, and conversational sources. Typically input drivers would include cost information, performance characteristics of agents, sales reps, calls, and most importantly, conversational attributes and feedback attributes extracted from call transcripts, surveys, social conversations, chats, chatbots, and more.
  3. Where needed – input drivers, if contained within unstructured sources such as calls, transcripts, text, etc, are extracted and tagged using text analytics solutions designed for such purposes.
  4. Lastly – reports, and dashboards, based on performance management best practices and templates, are created and disseminated across the organisation to provide performance feedback to staff, management, and executives. These dashboards provide a feedback mechanism so that staff can identify ways to improve to achieve outcomes, and provide management tools to help management and executives manage their teams to achieve their goals.

 To drive CX maturity in an organisation, it’s often easier to start with an analytical approach, but sustainable cultural alignment to CX best practices, and more importantly financial return on CX initiatives (through saving money, improving loyalty, or reducing risk) is most likely to come from an Operational CX approach.


Jonathan McKenzieJonathan McKenzieOctober 7, 2019
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9min715

David WharramDavid WharramOctober 7, 2019
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11min679

Data-driven analysis has been the cornerstone of our understanding of digital performance, from campaigns and websites, to all the components that contribute to them.

Analysis and the production of objective data to demonstrate performance has been one of digital’s greatest strengths since its inception. Yet, with all this talk about how our digital assets have performed, isn’t it about time we take a step back and think about how people actually feel about our content?

After all, it’s estimated that  over a third of users will stop engaging with a website if the content or design is perceived as unattractive or clumsily laid out. What’s more, with increasingly distracted audiences, creating an intuitive and positive user experience is more important than ever before.

Biometrics’ 101

Do customers understand what we’re trying to communicate? Do our values resonate with audiences? Does our content excite? Are people even watching our videos and, if they are, what keeps them engaged?

For all these questions and more, biometric testing gives us an answer. As marketers, we need to step away from the constant ‘push’ techniques that we’ve become so reliant on and start thinking more about our customers. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But until now, we haven’t had a reliable way of understanding and measuring human emotion. For the first time ever, we can tell not just what people think about our content, but how it makes them feel.

Biometrics refers to the measurement of life, or more specifically, the scientific evaluation of human traits and emotions. The technology itself isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around for years but has mainly been utilised in the security and pharmaceutical industries.

The technology has been slowly establishing itself within the mainstream conscious as over 75 percent of consumers have used or experienced biometric technology. As this groundbreaking technology has matured, more digital marketers are investing in the opportunities it provides to examine the effectiveness of their marketing techniques. By utilising high-end hardware and software, biometrics can monitor and record a user’s biological reaction to certain stimuli.

With 87 percent of marketing budgets predicted to be spent on digital by 2022 and businesses investing so much money in their digital marketing, going one step further to analyse the user experience of that investment is just good sense – particularly as 40 percent of users would abandon a web page of any kind if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

One of the most significant advantages of digital marketing is the ability to measure performance across a variety of metrics. Layer on top of this user insights and thorough surveys or interviews, and what you get is a clear picture of what your digital marketing is doing and who it’s interacting with. The real challenge comes when you try to bridge this gap by understanding the connection between data and user behaviour.

The capabilities of biometric technology are unparalleled, allowing marketers to analyse eye movement and facial expressions in order to assess an individual’s emotional responses to a particular stimulus. Facial mapping technology comes into play by tracking any sudden facial movements, such as a furrowed brow or curved lip, and categorising them into the implied emotional response.

As well, galvanic skin response (GSR) technology provides the ability to measure a user’s emotional arousal to what they are seeing on screen. This works by monitoring changes in sweat gland activity, therefore showing whether users are annoyed or pleased with their stimuli. The fact is that emotions play an enormous part in our purchasing decisions, so measuring this metric is important for brands to see how people react to their buying process.

Biometrics and the user experience

One way to measure a user’s response to a web page is to see it through their eyes – not via surveys, but by actually tracking their eye movements and identifying responses the user may not even be aware of. This kind of testing highlights what content immediately draws their attention and where they may look first on a website’s landing page, as well as demonstrating whether a user has read the entire copy of a webpage, or just skimmed their eyes across it.

Measuring time spent on a webpage is important, as most users spend an average of seven seconds on a page before deciding whether to exit the site or not. Eye-tracking helps to identify key areas of interest, as well as areas that might need a little extra attention.

In addition to eye-tracking, being able to analyse the facial expressions of audiences provides additional insight on digital content by looking at their immediate emotional responses – whether this be delight, confusion, or disgust. Measuring this provides valuable insight into the user’s journey and how each stage of that journey made them feel.

It was recently reported that 52 percent of users say the main reason they wouldn’t return to a website is due to the aesthetics of a particular page. By using biometrics to measure what part of a company’s website is troublesome or off-putting for users, marketers have an edge over the competition as they are able to determine which type of user experience (UX) they are delivering and how this can be tailored to give users what they want and what they expect.

This is especially important as only one percent of users say ecommerce websites meet their expectations every time, meaning most websites are failing to address the needs of their users. The customer journey not only includes the way a customer interacts with a web page, but also how they feel emotionally whilst doing so. If a brand’s website has been difficult to navigate and the customer becomes annoyed, they will have a negative association with that brand, which could result in audiences turning to competitors.

Biometrics & ROI

As brands continue to invest heavily in their digital marketing efforts, having the ability to track how effective those efforts have been is paramount. Measuring performance is a vital component of digital marketing, using various different methods to build a picture of how content is performing and with whom it’s interacting. Data and user behaviour are difficult to measure at the same time, and therefore it can be difficult to interpret results from user interviews and insights.

As the industry continues to look for new ways to measure the effectiveness of their digital content and places more emphasis on how to improve user experiences, it seems that the answer lies within the advanced insights that biometrics provides. Results from biometric studies can be used to create more conversions and purchases for a brand, as the user experience can be reviewed and refined in line with the emotional response of users found within the measurements.

This data is effectively the key that can open the door to optimal user engagement.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 7, 2019
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13min505

Customer Experience is shaping the future of ecommerce.

AI is no longer science fiction – it’s real present-day technology and many ecommerce businesses are already using some form of AI to understand their customers better and provide an enhanced CX.

2019 is shaping up to be the year that AI becomes truly prominent in ecommerce. Investment in AI and machine learning is increasing across the board, just as the developments in technology are expanding the range of uses. According to IDC, the global retail industry is set to spend $5.9 billion (£4.45 billion) on AI systems this year.

AI is changing how people find products and shop online; there are systems that can analyse millions of daily interactions to create targeted incentives to individual customers.

In a highly competitive and dynamic marketplace such as ecommerce, the drive to integrate these emerging technologies is accelerating. AI has the power to be a game changer in ecommerce by pushing CX to the next level. Virtual assistants, product recommendations, voice search, and augmented reality are just some examples of these technologies. 

AI is a trend, but it is not a fad, so brands that wait to implement it into their business will rapidly find themselves eclipsed by their forward-thinking competitors.

What can AI do for your ecommerce store?

It’s predicted that ecommerce businesses that personalise successfully could see profits rise by 15 percent by 2020 (source: Gartner).

There are various ways of capitalising on AI and machine learning platforms for your business but the most significant advantage of AI is the level of hyper-personalisation that becomes available to your customers.

The demands of online shoppers are evolving at a spectacular rate, faster than human retailers can respond to them.  Consumers now expect personalisation as standard as they are used to experiencing it on a daily basis. For instance, the recommendations Amazon and Netflix make based on the user’s prior interactions. Eighty percent of watched content on Netflix comes from algorithmic recommendations, according to findings by Mobile Syrup.

Meanwhile, McKinsey found that 35 percent of Amazon’s revenue is generated by its recommendation engine. Your business may already be collecting data on the online behaviour of your visitors but vast amounts of data can be overwhelming and pretty useless if you don’t know how to analyse it for the purposes of putting effective strategies in place.

An effective AI system has the capacity to filter through petabytes of consumer data to predict online behaviour, and offer individually specific recommendations that are buyers find relevant. This level of intelligence is vital in delivering a personalised shopping experience to the consumer.

Quite simply, stores that have not deployed ecommerce personalisation will lose out on revenue. Brands that engage this tactic can transform their online stores in a way that serves the customer’s needs and best interests. And do it efficiently and even cost effectively!

Humans cannot compete with AI when it comes to deconstructing big data. AI facilitates multiple ways to segment your audience to gain intelligent insights that allow retailers to personalise in a range of different ways.

  • Product recommendations: Algorithmic recommendations that update in real time, depending on the visitor’s behaviour. Buyers expect the ‘you may also like this’ feature to show items that are relevant to their tastes. Personalised merchandising sorts the product display to show customers products that genuinely appeal to them.
  • Personalised website content: Presents visitors with various configurations of online content according to their personal preferences. This can even include personalised navigation of the site, with a personalised home page, which is proven to increase conversions.
  • EA (Evolutionary Algorithms, a subset of AI): This can carry out sophisticated content testing and optimisation at a rate that humans simply cannot, by assessing which layouts and content drive the highest conversion with different customer segments and then configure the online experiences to the individual in real time.
  • Customer-centric search: Using tools such as natural language programming, searching online is becoming more intuitive to what the customer is actually looking for during online searches.
  • Currency auto-detection: Detects and presents the correct currency for your visitors and converts the prices accordingly so there are no surprises or extra steps for the customer.
  • You can even use AI to tackle fake reviews by finding and removing bot generated reviews by competitors. Negative reviews and lack of customer trust impacts sales. Ninety percent of shoppers surveyed said that positive reviews influence their online buying decisions. 

Brand benefits

The benefits of creating such a personal and convenient Customer Experience are vast. By increasing the level of visitor engagement through recommendations and customised content you reduce bounce rates, improve conversions, and increase sales. And better still, generate repeat business.

These tools eliminate the need for time-consuming content testing, and reduce the amount of money spent on ads. They can create valuable efficiencies across operations that free up precious time to focus business at the strategic level. An AI engine that continuously monitors all devices and channels has the ability to create a unified universal customer view; for the first time its possible to deliver a seamless cross-device and cross-platform experience.

AI systems can be integrated with digital marketing solutions and can be utilised to build unique customer experiences that are consistent across all marketing channels.

For instance, since implementing AI, clothing brand Footasylum saw a 28 percent increase in email campaign revenue from hyper-personalised marketing communications.

Marketing copy that speaks directly to the customers based on their purchase history, search queries, and page visits, is an extremely effective tool for cart recovery and post-purchase promotions. Abandoned cart emails achieve a 4.64 percent conversion rate, according to Proteus Themes.

Personalised ads on social media as a tool may not lead to people buying directly from the SM platform but they do drive relevant traffic that increases conversion rate so should not be left out of the AI strategy.

Privacy and ecommerce personalisation

Of course, the price of hyper-personalisation to the customers is their private data, but even cautious shoppers will part with their intimate details for a high level of customisation and ultra convenience.

Building value-based, trusting relationships with your customers is essential for long-term loyalty, so remaining fully transparent on how and why you collect people’s data and the security levels in place are vital.

Invespcro found that 57 percent of online shoppers are comfortable with providing personal information to a brand, as long as it directly benefits their shopping experience.

Chatbots and virtual assistants

Chatbots are a machine learning technology that interacts with shoppers in a chat environment simulating human conversations. Chatbots and virtual assistants are being deployed across online retail to mimic the personal touch of a shop assistant.

They learn and evolve to become better at assisting the visitor with customer service needs and product queries. They can even be trained to say ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’, making them more forgivable if they do frustrate a customer.

Chatbots present an effective and low-cost way of providing customer service, 24/7, which reduces the need for expensive humans. Virtual assistants are impacting the way customers make purchases and provide retailers with a creative opportunity to deploy across the customer journey.

Where to start?

Investing in AI may still seem like an enormous undertaking, but there are several ‘off the shelf’ platforms available, many of which offer 30-day free trials. By testing out different applications on your site, you can see which works for your business. The real question is, can you afford not to invest in ecommerce personalisation for your business?

The smart approach is to do so with the intent of ensuring your customers feel personally valued and focus on providing them with an engaging and seamless shopping experience that will build long term brand loyalty.


John CheneyJohn CheneyOctober 7, 2019
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8min512

There are rare occasions when technology breaks out of the bonds of the geeks in the basement and impinges on the national consciousness.

The debate around AI is just one of those occasions.

Politicians, business leaders, trade unionists, and media commentators have all weighed in on the subject: AI is going to create jobs; AI is going to destroy jobs, AI is going to make us more efficient, AI is going to make us money…and so on.

Above all, it’s particularly prevalent in business. According to research from Accenture, the use of AI can improve enterprise efficiency by up to 40 percent. No organisation is going to turn away from gains like that!

Naturally, the CRM market hasn’t been immune from these pressures. Adherents of ‘AI-is-the-future’ point out many ways that AI will transform the way businesses interact with their customers, for example by pulling together information and insight on customers from a multitude of sources, websites, and different social media, without any need for human intervention. 

But AI offers more than pulling together and making sense of disparate information; it can use a range of different techniques to ascertain a customer’s views and desires to help customise approaches to them.

It sounds like a utopia for marketers: better customer engagement; more sales; more profits with less human intervention. 

What’s stopping them?

Sadly, like many utopian dreams, there are some practical matters to deal with. The biggest of them all is the way in which information on customers is scattered around many disparate sources. Enterprises have been used to storing data in corporate silos and pulling it all together is not the most trivial of tasks – companies have rarely been designed to work that way.

And it’s not just a question of simply collating all the information, but also understanding how it’s sorted and what common formats there are. Some of the data could come from financial records, some from email output, some from SQL-based databases, while some could be image or video unstructured data – there’s a wide variety of possibilities and somehow they all these have to be pulled together.

It’s not purely about technology. Companies need to think about how they gather information and how they work together – it may need a completely new mindset. Small businesses understand this instinctively – there’s much more co-operation (and fewer specialist roles), larger organisations are not geared up for this way of working, and each department will often zealously guard its domain.

In an ideal world, companies should set up a cross-functional team to manage the implementation of technology such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management). This CRM team should be working with different departments to work out ways in which they could share skills and data to ensure that everyone is working with a common purpose.

There’s another consideration too: people skilled in AI are really thin on the ground. The use of AI requires some specialist expertise in gathering and interpreting the data. What many organisations mean when they say that they’re using AI is that they’re making use of algorithms – just one part of the AI armoury, but not everything.

In fact, this is one of the issues when it comes to talking about AI. The concept is often confused with the other elements – for example, deep learning, machine learning, and neural networks. Technologists are aware of all the distinctions, but very often business commentators aren’t. There needs to be full comprehension of what all the terms mean when we’re talking about AI engagement.

Of course, AI will have a considerable future when it comes to customer engagement, no-one denies that. But there’s a lot of work to be done first. AI shouldn’t be treated as some sort of magic bullet that will immediately transform company fortunes; we have to be careful that we don’t succumb to the hype too easily.

What companies should be doing is making sure that their CRM systems are configured correctly and are pulling in all the relevant information; businesses may think that they need a magical touch of AI but the answers could be sitting there in their own, existing software.

There’s a long way to go before CRM investment in AI bears fruit. For that to happen, there’s a need to have an enterprise-wide CRM platform (as opposed to a functional/departmental CRM) installed and all data in one place. And, on top of that, for a corporate culture that understands that the days for data silos have passed.

Until that happens, AI is going to be something that generates the column inches in the paper but not a concept that will have an effect on the way that we handle customers. Its day will come – but just not yet.


Sean RusinkoSean RusinkoOctober 4, 2019
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12min1533

Today’s Customer Experience doesn’t begin or end with a visit to a store or a website.

Customers shift between channels and devices depending on where they are and what’s convenient for them. In order to offer consumers exactly what they want, on the platform of their choice, brands are increasingly offering services such as personalised product offerings, discounts for loyal customers, and subscription models.

In part, this has been fueled by the ‘Amazon effect’, whereby popular online brands have set a precedent of using customer data they collect to offer personalised, quick, and consistent customer experiences. On top of this, many consumers also expect their shopping experiences to be made as convenient and fun as possible, with brands there to support, advise, and entertain them throughout the purchase journey.

Therefore, in order to acquire and retain customers, brands need to deliver against these expectations. Here, we not only discuss the five customer demands made of today’s retailers, but how brands can meet them and ensure they offer the experience that is desired. 

1. Make it easy for me

Frictionless journey navigation, easy access to products and information, and lighting fast speed make for happy consumers who are more likely to purchase.

According to the The new retail ecosystem report from PwC, fair prices are the most important factor for customers when shopping offline, with 64 percent basing their purchase decision on a good price. However, when shopping online in particular, customers rank convenience as the most important factor. Therefore, brands looking to improve Customer Experience should make the online experience as convenient as possible, giving the shopper all the necessary information needed to make a purchase decision.

More specifically, the KPMG International Global Online Consumer Report found that the flexibility to shop when they want, the convenience of not having to go to a store, and free shipping offers are all in the top ten reasons that consumers shop online. In fact, stores such as Walmart are using their brick and mortar presence to meet this demand. For example, in 2018 Walmart installed click-and-collect kiosks in 500 of their stores to offer quick, simple and convenient collection for customers.

Another convenience trend is ‘Try now, Pay Later’ services, which encourage consumers to try a larger assortment without having to pay upfront. For example, Sitecore customer ASOS use a ‘Pay Later’ capability, and Amazon’s ‘Prime Wardrobe’ gives customers seven days to try clothes at home and only paying for items they decide to keep. 

2. Assist me

As well as having the flexibility to collect their purchases from a store of their convenience (or have it delivered), consumers also expect to be assisted throughout the entire purchase journey. Many brands are meeting this expectation with personalised experiences, which includes individual product offerings, using data collected about each customer to tailor the messaging, offers, and experiences each receives.

And they are right to do so – research from Econsultancy found that 93 percent of companies see an uplift in conversion rates from personalisation. 

Nemlig.com, an online supermarket in Denmark, has used Sitecore’s platform to personalise customer journeys, and has reaped the benefits. It uses customer data around product preferences and buying histories to personalise the front page, category pages, and search results for each shopper, and engages customers with individual messages throughout the site, via email and text messages.

Since doing so, the number of site visitors has grown by 55 percent, the average basket size has increased, and turnover has risen by 28 percent.

However, it is also worth being mindful on how data is being used to target customers. The Consumer Perceptions of AI Survey from Rocket Fuel found that while consumers are open to being targeted based on product interest, search, and purchase history, they don’t want to be targeted with ads using their name, sent urgent notifications that a certain item is low in stock, or reminders to make repeat purchases of the same product. 

3. Reward me

The battle for winning brand-loyal consumers is extremely difficult, but the benefits are equally rewarding to the business. PwC’s The new retail ecosystem report found that more than 70 percent of people are staunch brand-loyal shoppers, and less than a third are willing to try new offerings. What’s more, many also respond well to loyalty programs and appreciate brands showing that they value customers. 

However, it is no longer enough to offer a one-size-fits-all offering, such as the generic discounts or specific free products offered by brands in the past. Today, a personalised loyalty program, where different promotions are offered based on individual customer data and preferences, is needed to meet customer expectations. One company which has created a successful personalised loyalty program is Ulta Beauty Inc., which uses customer data to offer a wide variety of products to test, personalised birthday gifts and a tiered system of rewards based on levels of loyalty. As a result, 90 percent of its sales are now driven by loyalty program members.

4. Inspire me

Virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR) experiences are increasingly welcomed by customers. However, while in-store experiences such as VR mirrors previously just showed how customers would look in an item of clothing and were merely an entertaining addition to the in-store experience, they now offer added value and convenience to the customer.

For example, AR can allow those browsing online to visualise how a product will look on them before they make a purchase, allowing them to be better informed and removing the inconvenience of returning undesired products. L’Oréal has used AR and face mapping technology in its mobile app, allowing customers to try out different styles, such as hair colours, and lipstick shades, before making a purchase.

VR can also enhance the experience of using retail mobile applications. Fashion brand H&M is using its Image Search tool within the H&M app to allow consumers to upload an image of a similar product into the app. The app then presents several similarly looking, instantly purchasable items from the H&M catalog – moving the consumer closer from the moment of inspiration to a purchase.

5. Convince me

Finally, consumers do not take what message a brand puts out there as fact – they base their purchase consideration on what everyone else has to say about the brand and its products. When Amazon pioneered and implemented ratings and reviews, their business transformed overnight.

One way to convince customers to choose your brand over others is through user-generated content. In fact, research from Stackla found that 79 percent of consumers say user-generated content such as product reviews and ratings both on the brand’s own website and on other listing pages, is highly influential in increasing their propensity to buy.

Also, although social commerce has grown in popularity in recent years, with many consumers starting their search and even completing purchases on social channels, user generated content still remains more impactful than influencer content published on social media. In fact, according to Stackla, consumers find user generated content almost ten times more impactful than influencer content when making a purchasing decision.

Today, customers are more demanding than ever, expecting an experience that goes above and beyond just the available products. In order to offer quality experiences, build brand loyalty, and remain competitive, brands must consider these five main demands and put tools in place to meet them, from the use of effective personalisation to quick, reliable delivery services, through to providing loyalty programs and investing in VR and AR technologies.


Jayne HarrisonJayne HarrisonOctober 1, 2019
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8min842

The number of men taking paternity leave dropped to 31 percent in 2019, according to law firm EMW. 

 Despite the introduction of shared parental leave, figures marginally decreased from the 2018 figure of 32 percent. The question is: why are the numbers falling despite increasing legislation in support of working parents?

Debates have been sparked as to the type and receptiveness of employment rights held by working mothers and fathers in organisations. Therefore, this article aims to provide much-needed guidance on the differing employment rights for working parents.

Maternity rights

Simple as it may seem, women have the right to not be dismissed because of pregnancy, maternity leave, or childbirth.

In fact, they are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave legally, with a two-week mandatory period post-birth. This breaks down further to two 26 week periods, where returning after the first 26 weeks ensures you return to the exact job you left.

After this first 26th week, the rules are slightly more lenient. Your employer may not offer you the exact same role after your maternity leave, but it must be a job with the same terms as those you had before. For example, the conditions and salary which you are offered must be on par with those you had before maternity. Therefore, if your employer does not abide by these rules, you are entitled to seek protection from the law. 

Paternity rights

To receive paternity leave, you must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Be the biological father of the baby and have (or expect to have) responsibility for the upbringing of the child; or
  • Including same-sex relationships, be the spouse/partner of the mother (but not the father of the child) the main responsibility (apart from any responsibility of the mother) for the upbringing of the child.

There are a few major differences between maternity and paternity rights. Starting with the length, men can receive one or two consecutive weeks off work. They cannot book this period until at least the due date and men are unable to physically start their leave until the day their baby is born. This, then, requires flexibility from their employer in terms of arranging cover for their leave.

Men also need to have worked with their employer for 26 weeks to be eligible for paternity leave, with the 15th week falling before their baby is due. In a similar manner to maternity, men have the right to return to their own job after leaving and can bring a claim if they feel they are being discriminated against upon returning. 

Shared parental leave

Surprisingly, only six percent of working parents choose to take shared parental leave. This leave is designed to give parents greater flexibility in caring for their new-born children. With the ability to share 37 weeks’ pay and 50 weeks of leave, this right can be used at any point through the baby’s first year.

Shared parental leave involves fathers or partners sharing the mother’s maternity period, whereby women effectively lessen their time off so that their partner can have this leave. During this period a flat pay rate of £148.68 (or 90 percent of average earnings) is offered depending on which is lower. This pay lasts for 37 weeks. 

Flexible working

Having an adapted work pattern to suit changing needs can be highly important for some working parents. Flexible working can take any of the following forms:

  • Part-time: less hours than the norm
  • Homeworking: working from your home
  • Compressed hours: completing the agreed hours over fewer days
  • Flexi-working: ability to change/adapt your hours
  • Term-time (applicable to the education sector): working purely in term time

Flexible working can be requested by employees and must be considered by an employer before an answer is given. Existing legislation gives most employees the legal right to inquire into flexible working. If you feel your employer has unfairly dismissed your request for flexible working, this should be discussed this with your HR department. If unsuccessful, then  consider whether to take this matter further.

Discrimination 

If your employer insists upon you working inflexible or long hours, despite your childcare responsibilities, this can be seen as discrimination. Being put at a disadvantage to men through imposed shifts or full-time work can be labelled as indirect sex discrimination and is against your working mothers’ rights. This type of employer’s behaviour is unacceptable, so if you believe you have experienced this type of offence, you can reach out for legal advice on your flexible working case. 

Working fathers can also experience sex discrimination, most commonly through direct cases. If your request for flexible working was declined, where a woman in a similar job was allowed, you can go to a tribunal to claim discrimination against the disadvantage you were placed in. 

In the face of declining paternity leave figures, it is crucial now more than ever for working parents to understand their rights. 

With differing rules for paternity and maternity leave, there are options for mothers to share their maternity leave with their partner to ensure both parents are involved with the post-birth period. There are also several flexible working schemes offered by employers to aid parents in adjusting to childcare. 

However, the road is not always smooth for working parents. After reading these rights, you may feel you have experienced discrimination from your company. If so, you can choose to firstly raise this with your employer or HR team. If the matter cannot be resolved this way, you should swiftly seek legal advice in order to find a solution and receive justice.


Joe GlassfieldJoe GlassfieldSeptember 30, 2019
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8min1199

Corporate strategy is a funny beast.

It’s often built from a few extremely well worn phrases: statements like “We are one team”, or “Sustaining the future”, or “Empowerment”, perfectly executed in the brand colours and font, as tall and wide as the most prominent office wall allows.

Some of your more cynical colleagues suggest it can all sound a little 1984-esque. But most people ignore these statements: research shows our brains actually switch off when we hear clichés. Even when we make people wear these words around their necks every day, they ignore them. The words are the starting point of 200-page-long “agile transformation blueprints”, “pyramids”, “love keys”, and “brand onions”. Most of us ignore those too.

Why? Why does the clear and guiding light that the C-suite wants to become a fog generator for the company’s people and customers? And how do you find your way out of it?

Behavioural science has some answers.

From top-down to bottom-up

Imagine you’re on your C-suite away day. You’ve hired a top consultancy and they’ve got everyone in the room energised and focused. In three hours you’ve come up with a fresh vision (or purpose, or core idea, or whatever it’s called this week). It has a PR-able social dimension, and you can fully explain why you’ve picked these things to your stakeholders, colleagues, and customers.

Unfortunately at this point, you’re probably suffering from The Ikea effect: like the shelves we build for ourselves at home, we put more value on something if we’ve made it ourselves than other people do. But you can make that effect work for you: involve people beyond the top team and more people will feel that sense of ownership.

In the jargon, this is “co-creation”. Maybe it’s about working groups to flesh out how you’ll show and deliver “one team”. Maybe every employee gets an equal vote on what your strategy should be. You might even try to find out about the personal values of your people, and match your corporate values to those. The point is to include as many people as you can.

From words to behaviour

Think about the last time you tried to get a child to stop having a tantrum. You could say “In this family, our aim is to always be well behaved”. But that would probably be met with continued crying and rolling on the floor. In real life, we instinctively focus on their behaviour: “get up”; “follow me”; “put the sweets down”.

Behavioural science helps us understand the difference between giving people a goal, like “be healthy”, and giving them practical steps to hit that goal, like “eat five pieces of fruit and veg a day”. There’s lots of evidence that focussing on day-to-day behaviour is the only way abstract big picture thinking to work.

The same applies to strategy. You need to give people clear and defined steps that lead to the goal. If your culture is to ‘empower’, then don’t just talk about it, change how your business works to empower people: let the people doing the work set the timelines. Let call centre staff decide the outcome of a complaint. Give votes on HR issues to employees as well as the board. (Changing what people actually do also shifts their attitude than any amount of top-down communication.)

Test what’s actually working

A crucial insight from psychology is that as humans, we spend a lot of our time substituting questions. If a question seems too big, we’ll trick ourselves into answering an easier question. Instead of answering “Am I healthy?”, we ask ourselves: “Do I eat salads sometimes?”. Because we’ve answered a question, we feel good. Feeling good offsets the fact we didn’t answer the first, trickier question (and justifies our whole tub of ice cream in one sitting).

Say you wanted to “put customers first” as your strategy. Maybe you’ve hired a whole bunch of Customer Experience people and given them a fancy toolkit. They’re happy, and you’re happy: it feels like you now have progress towards being more customer-centric.

The hard question you need to answer in time is: “Are we actually putting customers first?” But often we substitute easier ones: Is my Customer Experience team changing things? Are they spending a lot of time changing things? Is everyone involved happy? Did I pay a lot to make this happen?

But answering those questions doesn’t mean you’re necessarily answering the harder one.

This is where well defined behaviour come back in. You can measure that people are really doing the practical things that lead to your strategic goals, and make sure that behaviour is having an impact on your business results. That way you can prove your strategy isn’t just languishing in a PowerPoint deck, but really making a difference.

The brutal truth is that just because a strategy’s clear, it doesn’t guarantee that anything ever changes. Thinking about how people actually think and behave means you might need to shift your focus. Yes, paint a big picture. But you also need to think about the 10,000 tiny behavioural brushstrokes that make it up.


Audelia BokerAudelia BokerSeptember 30, 2019
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9min777

You’d think it would be easy for airlines to provide a good Customer Experience for those seeking to purchase tickets online or via a mobile device. 

After all, every customer follows the same path: insert dates and destination, choose the shortest or least expensive flight, and complete the purchase. Nevertheless, bad CX is a common complaint from airline customers and often leads to defections.

In the 21st century, the air traveler’s journey begins on the airline’s website or mobile app. It is absolutely crucial that the company’s digital channels be highly responsive, user-friendly and fully optimised for any device the traveler might be using. Nevertheless, airlines struggle time and time again to keep potential customers from growing aggravated and heading to a competitor’s site.

The digital Customer Experience issues most often faced by aviation consumers include:

Failure to complete or revise a booking

As unbelievable as it may seem, some airlines still haven’t worked out the bugs in their online ordering system, leaving hopeful travellers frustrated and angry when, after spending 20 minutes filling in personal details, they are unable to complete their booking. Airlines lose tens of millions of dollars in revenue to this problem, as well as driving countless potential customers to their competitors’ sites.

No way to get questions answered

Booking travel can be complicated, and many people – especially those using an airline’s site for the first time – have questions as they work their way through the booking process. Unfortunately, airline customer service departments are notoriously difficult to reach in the digital age, and the web sites don’t always make it easy to find the answers.

Inability to compare different flights 

When planning leisure travel, customers are generally not tied down to a specific arrival and departure date, so they like to compare prices for different options. Some also have two or more local airport choices to choose from. However, for some reason, airline sites often make it incredibly complicated or even impossible to make these comparisons.

The solution: CX analytics

Identifying the key challenges is one thing, but how can airlines solve them? How are they to know when a customer is experiencing difficulties on their site or app? Luckily, there are now many CX monitoring and analytics tools to provide guidance.

For example, session-replay technologies enable airlines to view the customer’s entire journey through the company’s website or mobile app (with private data hidden, of course). They can therefore see for themselves exactly why a customer has failed to complete a ticket order. 

Was it due to a site error? Did they click through to seat selection and discover that the only seats left were next to the bathroom? Or did they feel blindsided by all the extra fees and taxes piled on top of the ticket price?

By discovering the exact point on the site at which the booking was abandoned, airlines can determine whether changes can be made to prevent future customers from giving up at the same point. In addition, if a site error is to blame, this first-hand data eliminates the need to try and ‘recreate’ the error; airlines see exactly what is at fault so that they can fix the issue immediately.

The problem of customers being unable to get their questions answered can also be addressed through analytics, thanks to the chat boxes now present on most airline sites. Chat box data analytics provide a wealth of information on CX issues that airlines don’t even know they have. For example, if customers are using the chat box to ask simple questions that are already addressed elsewhere on the site, clearly the information is too hard to find. Airlines can also use chat box data to discover frequently asked questions whose answers need to be added to the site – preferably on a clearly-marked ‘FAQ’ page.

Finally, customer journey analysis enables airlines to see for themselves the frustrations of customers who must keep clicking back and forth between different flights and airports because there is no easy way to compare them. Armed with this knowledge, the airline can address the difficulties and create a more user-friendly experience.   

Counting the cost

The reason that many of these sites are still so confusing and difficult may be that airlines don’t realise how much money they are losing due to CX issues. Thankfully, today’s most advanced analytics tools enable them to calculate the revenue lost due to a site error or other CX problem. 

This means that the problem is no longer abstract; airlines can visualise exactly how much money they’ve already lost and how much more they are likely to lose if they do not identify and fix the issue immediately.

This type of data is crucial for IT resource allocations. For example, if an airline sees how much revenue it is losing due to booking errors, it can make a better decision about whether to take the site off-line and correct the issue, or provide a quick work-around and develop a permanent fix in the background.

The bottom line is that airlines are throwing money away and many don’t even realise it. By using big data analytics, they can collect invaluable information on the actual workings of their digital channels, and take a giant step towards maximising customer satisfaction and revenue.


Ed ThornburyEd ThornburySeptember 30, 2019
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7min653

The workplace has evolved beyond recognition for many people in recent years, with one of the most significant changes being that more and more people are now offered the option of working remotely.

This incentive is a result of a combination of changing attitudes, enhanced technology, and software solutions, all of which have been transforming the way that businesses of all shapes and sizes are run and how customers interact with them, as well as allowing employees to work outside of the office.

The TUC estimated that the number of UK people working from home has increased by a fifth in the 10 years to 2016, and with everything becoming increasingly digitised and technology enhancing at such a rapid rate, we can safely assume that this trend will only continue to grow. In fact, it is expected that 50 percent of the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020.

For many businesses, the biggest apprehension around making the movement towards remote working is making sure staff remain streamlined and connected with colleagues and managers at all times, but one concern which is not being properly addressed is data security considerations.

While this incentive has been well received by employees, and it certainly makes a difference to that healthy work-life balance we are all searching for, it is vital to make your team members aware of the extra security risks that they face when working from home, on the train, or at a local coffee shop.

In this article, we are sharing actionable advice on certain risks that should be considered, and steps that employers should be taking, to ensure that they are educating employees on protecting company data from security threats.

Consider transfer risks

The way in which data can be moved around transferred is taken for granted by most people nowadays, as electronic communications are available on the go 24/7. When working remotely, it is likely that you will still be working with the same sensitive company information and customer data as you would be if you were on site – but without the digital privacy you are used to.

Transferring data can take many forms, whether it be over email via your domestic internet connection, through your mobile phone network, or on a physical medium such as a USB stick. Each of these methods have inherent risks that should be addressed:

  • Domestic internet, even with WPA2-PSK security, is vulnerable to various forms of hacking and malicious access
  • Mobile phone networks can be even more open to attack as information can be accessed without leaving a trail
  • Physical media can be lost or stolen (and could end up in the wrong hands)

Employers and remote workers should be working together to tackle this issue and potential cyber security threats; from enforcing security and implementing and remote working policy, to educating the importance of commitment to security best practises. Simple actions such as using a USB data blocker, encrypting sensitive data within emails and avoiding public Wi-Fi will make a huge difference.

Utilise the cloud to minimise risks

If your business take advantage of cloud hosting, then you are already one step ahead in avoiding potential security breaches. The ease of use that ‘anytime/anywhere’ password protected cloud access offers means that whatever device or platform your employees prefer, they can still connect with your work systems remotely.

The concept that digital information can be accessed instantly around the world actually becomes part of a security solution, rather than posing risks, meaning the cloud takes the flexibility of working from home to a totally new level.

In addition to being able to access files and documents and log into relevant systems safely, remote workers should also be encouraged to back up data frequently so that a lost device doesn’t mean lost data, and cloud storage solutions are a great solution for this. By migrating to the cloud, you can also ensure that applications are patched and updated regularly to maximise protection.

Whilst ensuring your remote workforce is protected and safe from security breaches is vital, your security policy shouldn’t add to employee’s workload; they should be simple and efficient. It is one of the most important investments you should make as the safety and security of your data and systems has to be a priority, and although it will take a bit of work, you will reap the benefits including reduced office costs, higher morale and increased staff retention as well as access to a wider talent pool.


Phil DurandPhil DurandSeptember 27, 2019
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10min1068

It’s not long before the winners of the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards will be unveiled.

As one of the judges, Phil Durand (pictured), Director of Customer Experience Management at Confirmit knows that success comes in many forms and that the key to continued success is a combination of evolution, and the occasional spot of revolution…

 

 

Such is the growing acceptance of CX that there are few businesses today which have not embraced customer insight or deployed Voice of the Customer programmes in one form or another.

A greenfield site really is a rare find! This is great, but it’s fair to say that whether you are ‘doing it yourself’ or doing it on behalf of a client, there may be elements that you have inherited from a previous initiative that are no longer providing the insights that you need today.

There may some great foundations in place, but your business objectives may have changed and the CX programme may therefore need a refresh.

The challenge is how do you decide which aspects of the CX programme would benefit from renovation, and which elements should be discarded? From time-to-time, you need to take stock of what is working, what would benefit from remodelling, and where you need to pour new foundations and build from the ground up.

Take a listening inventory

A useful way to initiate a CX remodelling exercise is to take a listening inventory to help you identify and increase your focus on current business objectives; improve the integration of operational data with customer feedback; better understand how, when, and what types of questions are asked; and how you can use the results (beyond improving NPS and customer satisfaction scores) to drive business change.

Note: do not assume that your CX team controls every customer survey, because you’ll almost certainly be wrong. In any large business, it is incredible to learn how many well-intentioned but often ill-advised surveys are being sent out to customers seemingly at random. Find them!

Consider the following questions:

Is anyone using the data?

If people are no longer taking action on the feedback gathered, why ask?

You may be asking survey questions that are no longer aligned to current business objectives. If surveys and reports aren’t motivating people to do things differently within your organisation, don’t be afraid to consign them to the bin.

Ask yourself what business problems need to be solved, or what business objectives need to be achieved. What should be the focus of your CX surveys? Achieving culture change? Increasing revenue? Reducing costs? Uncovering cross-selling opportunities?

Is it too vanilla? 

If the CX programme only uses surveys to gather data, it’s probably time to try something different. Try integrating background data with simple surveys to make the process easier on customers and to add depth to reporting. This will enable CX teams to more efficiency prioritise key customers and critical actions with the additional context. 

If you are not integrating operational data with customer feedback, it will be much harder to create a truly accurate and complete picture of the customer. Mapping and integrating data from across the business could help to make CX data more useful and actionable, providing additional detail and different perspectives.

Too many questions? 

This is the most common cause of low response rates and dismal completion rates. The last thing any organisation should do is turn customers away from the brand by deploying surveys that are too long.

The solution is to minimise disruptions to customers by cutting irrelevant or unnecessary questions. Try to look at survey questions from the customer’s point of view – what would they like to answer and when? Is the relationship survey being sent around a customer renewal date? Are you using triggers like when people have filed a complaint or purchased an additional product?

Are you addressing shrinking attention spans by keeping questions short and using phrases customers will easily understand? Can you replace half a dozen closed questions with more open questions that invite customers to share their stories in their own words?

If so, do it and use text analytics to mine the insight from these words.

Spread too thin? 

If the CX team is trying to do too much, there could be an increased risk of programme sprawl. This will not only result in haphazard data and customer-facing chaos but potential damage to the brand. Your CX programme must have a clear structure, a well-defined plan and a commitment to consistency. Otherwise it will be hard or nearly impossible to connect all the data. 

What is your definition of success? Is there an executive sponsor sharing the results? Is there a dedicated team responding to systematic issues customers are raising? Is there a network of frontline CX champions with a clear role?

Sharing ownership of CX across the entire business will help you to drive business change. Remember, collecting data is great but the aim is not just to analyse it but to use it to bring about business change. Can you link your CX activities back to financial metrics like an increase in revenue or cost reduction? Look beyond improvements in NPS and customer satisfaction scores.

Continuous improvement

Whether your CX programme requires a complete rebuild, an extensive remodel, or a lick of paint, completing a listening inventory will help you take a step in the right direction. Taking the time to audit the programme will help you to protect the brand; ensure the efficient use of technology and help you engage with your customers.

The single source of VoC truth is an achievable goal and if you put in place a process of continuous improvement, you will achieve your goal of delivering richer insights and enhance Customer Experience at the same time.


Andy CoryAndy CorySeptember 27, 2019
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5min652

Customers have long had the option to ‘checkout as a guest’, offering a frictionless payment that avoids annoying emails or having to remember your password.

It also provides browsers, with no intention of sharing their contact information by setting up an account, a convenient path to purchase.

However, by doing so both customers and retailers are losing out. Retailers can’t collect valuable user data, preferences, or information that could help them deliver a more personalised, competitive user experience. By not logging in, shoppers also miss out on personalised suggestions and better deals. They also can’t pick up or resume ‘abandoned baskets’, and they can’t find things they previously viewed on a different device.

Retailers need to make the password and checkout process as simple as the ‘check out as a guest’ option, by offering a smooth, satisfying, and secure Customer Experience. To do this, they need unrivalled visibility into the customer journey and a strong process for data-driven decision making.

The customer is always right

A crucial part of the Customer Experience is freedom of choice. A customer should be able to choose the channel and payment method that best suits them. If they can’t use their preferred method of payment with one retailer, then can simply take their business to a competitor.

Retailers, then, shouldn’t work to remove the guest checkout option, but strive to make signing up and checking in so seamless and easy that it becomes customers’ first choice. Achieving this, however, will need brands to take a cold, hard look at their customer intelligence and engagement strategies.

The customer view has become fundamentally fragmented over the last few years. Consumers have changed, becoming more mobile, and can no longer be relied on to use only one channel. It’s now common for a customer to interact with a brand across multiple touchpoints – in-store, desktop, mobile, and app – over the course of a single purchase.

Retailers have courted this new breed of customer by investing heavily in online platforms. Where they’ve fallen short is ensuring the entire omnichannel experience is joined-up. The reality of signing in to complete a purchase on your phone only to need to do it again hours later on your desktop is eye-rolling, but all-too-common.

Get connected, get competitive

The solution to a fragmented online experience is a connected customer engagement strategy. Seeding unified communication and collaboration tools within your touchpoints will help deliver meaningful customer experiences, giving you access to more customer insight, and agility to move at their speed.

You should have in place the infrastructure to track where your customers go in-store and online, what they interact with most, and what channel they move to next. Collecting this data and ensuring it is easily accessible at every stage of the customer journey will avoid any breaks or unnecessary disruptions.

Having this data to hand will also rapidly speed up the sign-in process. Instead of asking the customer to enter one or more passwords or security questions, your authentication system will be able to sign them in based on device, location, and behavioural data. Sign-in becomes passive and automatic, providing a truly frictionless but secure online experience.

The proof is in the profit. Those with a strong omnichannel customer engagement strategy retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, compared to 33 percent for companies with an unstructured approach.

Ultimately, to stay competitive, retailers need to double down on data, becoming more responsive and integrated. Arm yourself with the technology, tools and expertise to create measured, streamlined experiences built on a solid strategy of understanding the customer journey and its individual pitstops.

 


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 26, 2019
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9min1762

Businesses in regulated markets don’t have to choose between satisfying their customers and regulators, because compliance and CX isn’t a zero sum game.

Yet with the right tools and focus, they can do both.

Customer expectations are perhaps higher than ever. Conditioned by the interfaces dreamed up by Cupertino’s and Silicon Valley’s finest, we expect things to just work.

And those expectations don’t exist in a vacuum – we carry them with us into other areas of our lives, demanding equally great experiences from banks, retailers, and almost anyone else who provides us with a service.

For example, Salesforce research found 74 percent of consumers are likely to switch brands if the checkout process is difficulty, while 50 percent said they’d go elsewhere if a business doesn’t anticipate their needs or provide an easy-to-use mobile experience.

On-the-go: An easy-to-use mobile experience is a must for half of all customers

Regulation

It’s a particular challenge for businesses in regulated markets who have to carry out due diligence on their customers. These kinds of checks can add friction to an onboarding experience and give already flighty customers reason to abandon sign-up and go elsewhere.

Worse still – regulation is a moving target! To stay compliant, businesses have to continually adjust their processes to keep up with changes in regulation, leading to yet more risk of friction.

In financial services, for example, businesses are currently having to deal with new anti-money-laundering rules (The Fifth Anti Money Laundering Directive), the introduction of the Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) and ongoing compliance with GDPR.

The consequences of failing to meet these and other regulatory obligations are serious. Those found guilty of breaches potentially face massive fines (GDPR infringement can result in fines of up to four percent of a company’s annual global turnover or €20 million – whichever is greater) and prosecution, not to mention the bad publicity and damage to their reputation.

Hefty: GDPR fines can be crippling for a company

The cost of poor CX

It’s understandable that a business faced with these challenges might err on the side of caution and in so doing, introduce the kind of friction that makes for a lesser Customer Experience.

But while the risks associated with poor Customer Experience might be less tangible, they’re no less real.

Customer Experience consulting firm Walker predicts that CX will overtake pricing and product as the key brand differentiator by next year. Meanwhile, PricewaterhouseCooper’s Future of CX report found one-in-three (32 percent) consumers in the US will walk away from a brand after just one poor experience, while 54 percent say Customer Experience needs improvement at most companies.

Clearly, there’s a big opportunity cost to getting it wrong.

Again, traditional financial services have a particular problem here. Their fintech counterparts are more agile and, without the legacy systems and infrastructures of incumbents, are better placed to create great new experiences for customers – even if they’re subject to the same regulatory requirements.

‘Difficult balance’

Cathie Hall, Customer Experience Manager at identity verification specialist GBG, said: “Every single market is being disrupted by people who want the here and now yesterday; who don’t want to wait weeks to open an account; who don’t want to wait weeks to start a service or even get a product. They want what they want now and they want it personal to them.

“And in regulated environments and in a changing landscape, it’s very difficult to get that balance between compliance and the Customer Experience.”

Businesses need to find ways of complying with strict due diligence requirements without making it a chore for their customers, as the best Customer Experiences are frictionless, fast, and intuitive.

Reducing the number of key strokes, auto-populating as much customer information as possible, and performing background checks in real-time removes the burden of onboarding from the customer and speeds up the process, leaving less time or motivation for them to abandon the process.

Using technology to anticipate your customers’ needs and show that you respect their time also makes for a slicker experience that can instil confidence and trust in your brand.

It’s common in retail and other sectors, so if you’re operating in a market that struggles with abandonment, your customers are likely to already expect the same kind of experience from you…and if you don’t provide it, they may go elsewhere.

GBG and Customer Experience Magazine are hosting a free webinar, The Compliance and Customer Experience Conundrum, on October 3 at 11am, British Standard Time. GBG’s Head of User Experience, Henry Thomas, will share insights and CX hacks to inspire attendees. 

Click here to register.


Nicola CollisterNicola CollisterSeptember 25, 2019
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10min716

It’s time to rethink connected services and the way we interact with our customers.

A lot has changed during the last 20 years in the customer service sphere, and it’s vital that companies engaging in it change too – and challenge themselves to be better. That change is not about to decelerate, and Gartner predicts that by next year, a poor Customer Experience will destroy 30 percent of digital business projects.

Cost is killing innovation and that problem must be solved.

Tackling the swipe right mentality

First, let’s set the scene.

Twenty-seven percent of the world’s adult population was born between 1995 and 2010, and they have never known a world before the dot.com era.

1995 saw the launch of Amazon, eBay, Hotmail, VoIP, PHP, SSL, Javascript, and HTML 2.0, and even those technologies, though still hugely important today, will feel antiquated to the 65 percent of those currently at school today who will be doing jobs that don’t exist yet. And a similar number, we’ve discovered, would sooner stick their head down a toilet than get in touch with a contact centre.

Some reputation, eh?

But it’s symptomatic of the world we live in today, where a ‘swipe right’ mentality trumps persevering with something that isn’t immediately easy to engage with. Of course, we must seek to equip our customers with the tools to help themselves, but that isn’t enough.

Customer engagement opportunities should be cause for celebration and an opportunity to reaffirm a brand’s worth.

Large and small players

The latest figures tell us that 20 percent of customer contact is now outsourced in the UK and there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. It provides brands with an opportunity to deliver service through specialists, where scale and diversity can help smooth out some of overhead challenges, like needing to house people in buildings and equipping them with the right technology.

The problem, however, is the drive for low-cost servicing that often comes with it. Larger players seek to be the lowest bidder, putting technology between people and service to achieve the bottom line.

Smaller players are sometimes able to offer an approach that ‘cares’ more, but too often can’t compete with a technology and innovation offer. Furthermore, the squeeze on margins through the procurement process has jeopardised how people relate to service delivery.

And disparate delivery creates a fragmented approach that makes no sense to the poor individual who decided to make that call – instead of taking the ‘head down loo’ approach!

Innovation killers

Customers have become commodities and service a number on a balance sheet, and this cost game is killing innovation.

Three-in-ten (29 percent) UK customers are prepared to pay more to receive a great customer service, while 36 percent say they’ll stop doing business with a brand due to poor customer service.

And those numbers are growing all the time.

It’s not just about getting it right; getting it ‘extra right’ increases brand favourability. Those customers who had a positive experience that was better than expected were more than twice as likely to increase their brand favourability than those who had a positive experience that was in line with, or worse, than expectations.

These surveys were done a couple of years ago, but I believe expectations will have only increased. This is why getting it ‘extra right’ can increase brand favourability two-fold.

Meeting expectations

The marketplace is also waking up to the realisation that the more competitive and rapidly-changing the sector, the more at risk they are of not meeting expectations. For example, airlines are five times more likely than public services to have customers citing ‘better experiences with competitors’ cited as a reason why a ‘service encounter’ failed to meet their expectations2.

And studies have concluded that consumers’ expectations are influenced by a much wider body of prior experiences than before. They now go beyond directly comparable sectors, and this should mean there is more of a focus on more fluid expectations in the future.

For many, the experience of booking train travel is now comparable to the experience of online shopping; we’re simply doing more stuff online.

Tail wagging the dog

In other words, I believe that the tail is wagging the dog when it comes to service delivery, simply because service is the biggest driver of value.  So, it is all the more baffling that brands continue to force bad business solutions onto customers.

All customers want are simple, responsive services – regardless of who they are chatting to or what they are chatting about, and whether that be through voice or text.

Innovating, not cost-cutting

In a market that is increasingly becoming defined by a ‘lowest-cost’ approach, it’s time to shatter the myth that out-sourcing is simply a cost-cutting exercise. There is growing demand from customers for responsive, connected, and seamlessly delivered services – and out-sourcing is helping to meet those challenges.

But the so-called ‘race to the bottom’ that cost-cutting creates is damaging the market and causing businesses to overlook the true benefits of partnering with a specialist outsourced contact centre provider.

A good Business Process Outsourcer (BPO) provider should work with its clients to understand their reasons for outsourcing their customer contact centre, and incorporate them as fundamental elements of the services we provide.

The provider will work with clients to deliver each of these benefits and build a relationship that is defined by far more than just an advisor hourly rate.

On our own journey as an outsourcing solutions provider, we strive to be open and pragmatic in everything we do and aim to offer something unique and different in the industry, all while shattering myths like this one along the way!


Josie KlafkowskaJosie KlafkowskaSeptember 25, 2019
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7min652

The talent conversation is a hot one in digital.

With the ever-increasing number of tech start-ups, expanding global tech vendors, transformational businesses, and digital agencies, there is a finite number of people with the right skillset at any one time. So what can companies do to ensure they attract and retain the right people?

1. Build your brand from the inside out

Millennials and Gen Z are more focused than any generation before on the lifestyle that an employer can offer them. Flexible working, company culture, training and an organisation’s ethical and environmental stance are all subject to scrutiny. As Peter Drucker said: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

That’s definitely true when it comes to hiring and keeping great talent!

Reinforcing company culture at the on-boarding stage and consistently within teams clearly defines how people treat each other and sets the scene for interaction and good communication. It may seem superfluous to the immediate problem of solving the talent gap but aligning the recruitment process with the day-to-day culture will make for better-engaged employees. These, in turn, are more likely to build stronger bonds from the outset and so, less likely to leave you at a crucial period of delivery.

2. Invest in knowledge

Faced with a lack of highly skilled knowledge around particular technologies, you’ll have to think differently about how you build teams. You won’t necessarily have all the players that you need in your workforce at any one time. At Cognifide, we realised long ago that we wouldn’t find the skills we needed easily in the market, so we doubled down on training and developing graduates or experienced engineers who were up for learning something new.

In fact, we take on around 50 graduates a year in our innovative Career Start Up programme at our engineering centre in Poznan, Poland. It pays off! Last year, 83 percent of them stayed on as permanent or part-time employees. And in London, our Digital Academy welcomes a regular stream of hugely talented graduates onto our staff.

3. Build hybrid teams

The best-case scenario we’ve found for our clients’ digital project teams is to build a hybrid team of full-time employees, specialist contractors, and partner agencies, supplemented by interns and recent graduates who can develop within the team and become those high-demand workers of the future. Finding the right specialist partners is absolutely key when upskilling your own team on new technologies. 

4. Seek out great soft skills

Of course, a collection of highly skilled individuals does not guarantee a well-functioning team. Employing members of staff based solely on their technical skill set doesn’t guarantee that chemistry will create a cohesive team. At Cognifide, while we have some very technically competent people, it’s not our number one priority when hiring engineers.

A greater focus on soft skills and motivation is what helps us create teams with empathy, who care deeply about our company and customer success.

5. Attitude matters

Technical skills matter but a good recruiter knows that finding candidates with the right attitude and a desire to learn can be even more important. After all, some technical skills are transferable from system to system. It’s the hungry candidates, happy to put the hours in to teach themselves, who will stand out.

6. Share knowledge

A growing trend across digital is informal communities built for knowledge sharing and skills transfer. They are often small groups created for mentoring within the workplace or in the wider community. At Cognifide, we partner with local schools and universities, offering lectures and courses that support up and coming talent. And we host a bunch of different events including a Java User Group, a Testing and Quality Group, an AWS User Group and a HashiCorp User Group, amongst others.

7. Nurture happy

Keeping highly skilled employees means keeping them happy.

Happy colleagues are those that are challenged and respected. They’ll be supported, yet given enough independence to allow them to make a difference and their working environment will be diverse and welcoming to everyone. This is about far more than throwing in bean bags, a sleep pod and a Nespresso machine.

This is about wiring your DNA for a modern workforce that thrives on mutual respect, works to clearly defined goals, is flexible and open to change and embraces all that technology offers to improve their working lives.


Max EaglenMax EaglenSeptember 23, 2019
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9min1098

It wasn’t that long ago that getting a “job for life” was the aspiration of those leaving school and college.  

From gaining an apprenticeship to being part of the furniture, having a salary, a pension scheme, and the golden handshake – you were living the working dream. 

We all know that the working world has changed and with technology acting as the enabler, those in employment are moving jobs more now than ever, with a LV report revealing that the average UK worker changes roles once every five years, equating to around 9.4 jobs a lifetime. 

The ability to work “anywhere, anytime”, combined with many finding their roles made redundant by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and others wanting to opt out of the “9-to-5” means the likelihood is more temporary and less permanent roles emerging in the future workplace. A trend backed by the Office for National Statistics that estimates there is currently nearly 5 million self-employed in the UK (equating to around 15 percent of the workforce) up from 3.3 million (12 percent) in 2001

So, what does this mean in terms of workplace? Is this the demise of the office? At Platform, where we help clients such as Vodafone, British Gas, and Centrica Business Solutions visualise their working world of the future – we think not. We think it means changing our ideas and beliefs of what the office means and building a space that can be wholly cooperative, that allows fluidity of working while giving flexibility yet function. In fact, this is what we have created working with Vodafone on its Digital Innovation Hub, a technology incubator for start-ups and entrepreneurs based in Manchester’s Media City.  

The launch of the Digital Working Hub

Billed as the workplace of the future, the Vodafone Digital Innovation Hub will provide entrepreneurs with access to network experts, the latest technologies, including 5G, IoT, and high-speed fibre and a space to work together and exchange ideas. 

Yet the creation of the Digital Innovation Hub and Media City are far more than just places for those wanting to work independently. They highlight a new beginning in the world of work where cities become more agile to accommodate those working within it. We helped Vodafone imagine just what this city might look like with V-City, a 3D visualisation created by Platform for Vodafone that usesIoT and 5G to show a snapshot of the future. Complete with smart, connected infrastructure, drone deliveries, driverless cars and 4k streaming video, it helps organisations to plan for the future and assess some of the challenges and opportunities ahead.   

The launch of digital working hubs signifies the need for people to have face-to-face interaction with their colleagues, but not be confined to the traditional office environment. It creates a space for those moving through their working lives but not being constricted by it. The lifestyle, travel and hospitality platform Salina takes this one step further by blurring the lines between work and play by offering spaces you can travel to, yet live, work and co-exist for as long or as little as you want.    

Collaborative hubs are not in themselves new. However, what if they were the office norm allowing workers to move from one city to the other? To travel while working and to use the power of the community, just maybe not their organisation’s community?  It brings a new meaning to “working away from home” and a new way of thinking of the office space. 

What does the future workspace look like?

So, what might this new office space look like?  It goes without saying that tech will enable it allowing not only connectivity with colleagues working remotely, but those working in different continents across different time zones.

Taking learnings from those around you, language will no longer be a barrier as your virtual assistant translates in real-time allowing you to have conversations and meetings with those who have never spoken your native tongue.

Artificial Intelligence will take mundane, repetitive or highly complex, big data tasks and find meaningful patterns within them that help enhance decision making or deliver better insights into our business and our customers. Imagine VR and AR being seamlessly woven into the workplace to allow scenario planning, training via virtual visualisation and an enhanced sense of environment with VR/REAL bringing true immersive content that understands the user’s location.  This kind of full immersive technology gives rise to a much more mobile and distributed workforce and a more freelance economy of specialists contracted to deliver specific tranches of work.

Teams will be virtual, organic and machine based but not all, not yet.

The social agenda creeps higher up the priority list

As our technology races ahead and machine learning permeates throughout the workforce we will still have the need for places that better serve our creative, communal desire for human contact and face to face interaction. The ‘social’ agenda will inevitably creep higher up the list as priority for keeping a productive, successful happy workforce and if we are to avoid the possible dystopian scenarios such as the emergence of the Useless Class (people that cannot find employment means they are unable to maintain or improve their standard of living) predicted by the likes of Yuval Harari, we need to be mindful of the need to create spaces for not just as workplace solutions but social solutions helping to boost interaction, creation, innovation and dialogue and really consider the isolation risk threatened by remote working.

As last decade saw the end of the “job for life”, this decade the end to the “9-to-5”, maybe the next decade will see the end of the office as we know it but open up a world of offices that we move fluidly through, collaborating and engaging with different communities. Giving workers the chance to move and change working environments as they feel fit, it could boost creativity, help share best practice and see us becoming a global workforce like never before.  


Jeroen van GlabbeekJeroen van GlabbeekSeptember 23, 2019
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13min730

Recent studies have found that over a third of the UK’s population have attended a festival since 2016, proving there’s always a fanbase ready to trade home comforts for a weekend of music, food, and drink in a field.

Yet while the demand from music-lovers continues to grow and organisers remain eager to meet these demands, it’s surprising that the outreach and sales process is still rather old-fashioned.

Festivals are big business, but margins are getting squeezed all the time. Glastonbury is the UK’s largest festival with a turnover of £37 million, but this only translates into profits of £86,000 – under 50p a ticket.

When looking forward to 2020 planning, event organisers should be looking for new opportunities to ensure they remain relevant and profitable.

With today’s technological solutions, event managers are not only able to get to know their customers better but also deliver the best, most satisfying fan experience possible through ‘conversational commerce’. When fans are having a good time they’re more likely to spend at festivals and continue to return for years to come. By rethinking how to approach and interact with fans directly – through bypassing costly and rather generic display social media ads and simplifying how payments are  processed before, during and even after the festivities – organisers can achieve the ultimate fan experience.

The personal touch

Festivals are renowned for retaining loyal fanbases, with festival-goers opting to return to the same festival year after year for a guaranteed good time. However, with so much choice on offer, it’s proving increasingly difficult to ensure that your event remains top of mind when sales open for 2020 festival season. How you approach fans in the build-up is critical to whether they chose your event or a competitor’s.   

Fortunately, by utilising the previously unused data collected the first-time round, you can create highly personalised and relevant content for the future. The true value of data is how it helps you get to know your customers on a personal level; what artists did they favourite on your festival app last year, and what drinks did they order? By collecting all of this data in a Customer Data Platform (CDP), it can help to determine which fans are the most likely to become frequent attendees for your upcoming events. Useful data – such as contact details, which tickets they bought and when – can be put to good use in building a loyal, recurrent fanbase.

Every customer is unique and so it makes sense that the way they like to be approached differs drastically. By using each customer’s unique data from the CDP, the fan’s preferred messaging channel established, and be used as the default route for engagement. Nowadays generic emails will likely end up deleted or in a customer’s junk folder, but by proactively approaching the fan on the messaging channel of their choice, that is tailored to the customer, you greatly increase the chance for engagement and conversion. 

As the smartphone grows in importance as a basis for ticketing and customer engagement, channels like SMS – that still enjoy a 98 percent open rate – will remain important, but festival organisers also need to think of the future. There is a growing trend of a move towards Rich Communications Services (RCS), Apple Business Chat and Over-The-Top (OTT) messaging services like WhatsApp as customers seek greater convenience and the ability to transmit in-call media.

By catering to these rising services, organisers are futureproofing communication and engagement with customers by talking to them on their preferred platforms and ensuring that all personal data is collected, used and stored in GDPR-compliant manner. 

Far too many event organisers make the mistake of completing their ticket sales and then dropping any form of customer engagement in the weeks and, sometimes, months between the point-of-sale and the festival kick-off. This period of time is an invaluable opportunity to build excitement in the fan leading up to the event.

Between the ticket sale and festival date, more information becomes known as bands are confirmed and merchandising and supplier deals are signed. Proactively communicating these updates via the customer’s messaging channel of choice will build their excitement for the event and help them plan their time for maximum enjoyment. What’s more, informing them of special deals and merchandise ahead of time will only maximise revenue opportunities once they get there. 

Fan club: Keeping fans informed on events can be done via their chosen channel

Taking the stress out of payments

During the build-up to ticket release, most festivals will release teasers a few weeks prior and a couple of reminders a few days before. For the most popular festivals, hardcore fans will often queue up online hours before the ticket sales page comes online, constantly refreshing in the hope of getting ahead in the virtual queue.

This is an unfair and unnecessarily stressful process for the customer. The person with the fastest processor on their machine almost always gets their ticket first. As a result, the customers experiencing frequent disappointment, are left dissatisfied with the festival, increasing the likelihood of them giving up on ever trying to go again.

Fortunately, there are many ways to overcome these pitfalls. Once you have proactively reached out to festival fans, you can offer a preregistration by asking them how many tickets he or she wishes to receive and what kind. This way a fair drawing can be organised where everyone who preregistered gets the first opportunity to reserve tickets and a notification telling them whether they were successful. Additionally, new fan profiles can be created and added to the existing ones on the festival organisers customer data platform – all enriched and updated in real time based on customer preferences and purchase history, allowing for highly personalised engagement.

Fans will then receive a payment link on the same messaging channel they were first contacted on – or a different one based on their preference. You can set the system up so that if they don’t pay within a set amount of time the tickets are offered to another preregistered fan. Once payment is complete, the tickets can be sent directly to the customer or made accessible through a festival app or an OTT app of their choice. Organised and efficient solutions such as these are already being deployed by the likes of Formula 1.

The same app-based approach can be applied to customer payment solutions during and even after the event. By linking their account to the festival app, a customer can open a festival ‘tab’ to order refreshments and merchandise in-app, enjoy the festival experience and settle the bill automatically after the festivities are over.

This means no more standing in line to order, losing cash or having to shout over the music for a bartender’s attention. All fans need to do is show the QR-code automatically generated after making their order. As a result, fans have more time to enjoy their festival experience without the hassle of payments. This solution was pioneered by the organisers of Lowlands Festival in the Netherlands this year.

When payments is an effortless part of the fan’s festival experience, you’ve achieved true conversational commerce. When you cater to all communication channels and ensure payments processes are embedded in each, the customer can contact and do business with you the way they want. They have both the optimal Customer Experience and the incentive to come back to you again and again. 

The new communication age

Personalised contact and conversational commerce are only the first step. If you want to understand your audience to their core, imagine all the other platforms your audience use and link them to their festival account. With the consent and approval of the fans, all relevant social media accounts could be linked to a single customer data platform. This way, you could analyse their favourite artists and make relevant suggestions to the customer in real time, such as which stage to visit and when to get the best views.

In order to deliver this next level communication experience, event organisers need one platform that ticks all the boxes – from data collection to messaging and processing payments. With the right tools and data infrastructure, however, the truly customised fan experience of the future is there for the taking.




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