Tom DownesTom DownesNovember 13, 2018


As alarming headlines continue to emerge about some of the most established UK department stores, it’s natural that the industry is questioning the future of retail and the place of bricks-and-mortar stores.

But is retail as we know it beyond repair or is it set for a revival?

The ability to have an emotional resonance with a customer and add genuine value to their shopping experience are key differentiators that high street stores still hold over e-commerce, but these can quickly become lost.

The Core Issues

It’s obvious really but attractive stores, interesting products, and motivated staff are the lifeblood of  bricks-and-mortar retail, and always have been. Department stores that sold-up, closed down, or failed altogether were almost certainly making basic mistakes well before the internet became their newest competitor and accelerated their demise.

Sears being just the most recent example of a retailer that had it all; longstanding supplier relationships, a great distribution network and an enormous and loyal customer base, only to let it all slip through their hands like sand.

Turning the browsing shopper into a buying customer is about giving them the reasons and means to ‘treat’ themselves, and while that’s achieved partly through presentation and partly through the available products, it’s also about the enthusiasm of the store associate.

A well-trained associate creates the moment and through engaging with other team members ensures that the correct expertise, samples, products, sizes, and alternatives are produced effortlessly for the customer, creating a quick, easy, and positive shopping experience, inspiring them to spend.

A traditional human element is still a big part of what the customer wants and expects when shopping in-store, particularly so in a department store where customers would be expecting a higher standard of service than one might experience in the high street.

To provide the quickest, smoothest experience retailers need to simply connect their teams to one another. Traditional communication needs such as tannoys and radios are intrusive on the customer, don’t instil them with much confidence, and are easy for staff members to ignore.

Some retailers have adopted mobiles and tablets into their retail teams as a potential solution, but many consumers believe that headsets are more likely to improve the overall customer experience and speed of service. Using single digital channel headsets ensures that all staff are continually on message and as a result, managers can efficiently reallocate store associates to specific tasks as required. In addition, staff can also communicate with each other – asking questions of product specialists to immediately answer a customer query, for example, or quickly getting someone on the shop floor to fulfil a two for one offer for a customer already at the check-out. This immediate and shared communication enables store associates to work together as a team in order to improve overall efficiency and productivity.


In order to encourage shoppers to not only come in but return time and time again, department stores need to be built around the behaviours and needs of the customer, not the other way round. A good Customer Experience is the foundation of retail success and the right department stores have this in bundles.

But in order to thrive when others are dwindling, stores must realise that their secret weapon really is found in the store associates. They have an essential role to play in executing a good customer experience across every touch point and if they are armed with the tools they need in order to excel and exceed customer expectations, then the rest will follow.

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 13, 2018


Every business has its challenges, and most organisations want quick fixes for them – something that’s easy to implement, cost-effective, and requires few resources.

Executives from lesser performing companies often return from visits to superior operations charged up to achieve similar results. In their enthusiasm, however, many overlook the fact that the effectiveness they admire comes from steady progress from the entire organisation that takes time.

In the pressure to get things done, many leaders fear being patient. They focus on fighting fires rather than on instituting processes to solve and eventually prevent problems and to identify unsuspected opportunities. They work in micro-teams behind closed doors, assuming the problem and the solution, and often skip the necessary effort in communicating change to the organisation.

Most companies that take this approach achieve unsatisfactory results, both because the organisation does not truly understand its problems or the processes and resources needed to resolve them. Instead of better performance, the net effect is overworked employees who neither solve problems well nor do a good job of maintaining the day-to-day business.

In short, organisations are:

Solving the wrong problems

Trying to solve them in a bubble

Failing to effectively communicate change

But everyone at your organisation needs to become a problem solver. Together, managers and employees should take the initiative not just for identifying problems but also for developing better processes for fixing problems and improving products or services.

This approach does not depend on key senior executives taking charge and telling people what to do.Instead, the entire organisation needs to learn how to learn. The key to this culture shift is understanding that there’s really no magic bullet or overnight fix – that this learning is a process.

Organisational leaders need to provide employees and managers a simple framework to help them learn how to solve problems as a team. The first step is restructuring your organisation so each and every employee is focused on the customer and their needs, including:

1) Implementing a new organisational structure, breaking the organisation out into teams to make it easier for everyone to focus on problems that matter to customers, instead of on individual functional goals.

2) Have each team talk with key customers to learn their needs and develop plans for responding. Let the team managers set their own agendas.

3) Executive leadership needs to ensure that teams always have direct access to them and reiterate that the organisation is committed to finding resources to implement discovered solutions.

4) Authorise everyone to ignore crises and stop fighting fires. Predictably, your first month might be a disaster, with problems piling up and seemingly nothing to show in return. But before long, the learning process will begin to pay off.

Your goal is to utilise your new teams to fix fewer but higher leverage problems, fix problems faster, and learn from each experience to make subsequent efforts more effective. With your organisational framework in place, your teams can begin the process of collaborative problem solving through a four stage process:

1) Find the Bleed: When something goes wrong, the product or service is fixed before it is sent to the customer.

2) Determine the Cause: Identify root causes to problems, where front-line employees, not managers, take the lead because they understand better than anyone why problems are occurring.

3) Compare to Actions: Develop new or refined processes to keep problems from occurring, comparing what’s working today versus what needs to occur.

4) Confirm with Data: Anticipate new customer needs, by putting your problem-solving teams in front of customers to help them understand how their customer’s businesses work.

While this approach has worked for others, moving onto unfamiliar ground yourself can be a very different thing. The idea of turning to your people and asking them to solve business problems sounds less bold and risky now than it did 20 years ago, but it still can feel uncomfortable.

Yet one mark of a world-class organisation is that its managers seem to have easy jobs. Operations flow smoothly, and people put more time and energy into making improvements than reacting to problems. Such an organisation will typically spend 80 percent of its time on problem analysis and anticipating customer needs. In contrast, a lesser performer is likely to spend 90 percent of its effort in fighting fires.

Where does your company fall?

CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamNovember 12, 2018


Travel experiences are among the most memorable we have, but too often we remember airports for the wrong reasons.

Now a leading interior design expert is urging airport operators to change that by learning from the hospitality industry.

Chris Radcliffe, head of interiors at Top 100 architecture practice maber, has advised hundreds of clients in the retail, travel, hotel, and leisure sectors.

He thinks airports of the future will have to be much smarter to compete for passengers, whose demands will not only include better customer service but also a commitment to the environment and other contemporary issues. He says the key to doing this could be in emulating the strategies employed by top hotels and restaurants.

“The hospitality industry, with its insistence on superb customer service at every customer contact point, shows the direction where airports should be going,” he says.

“The hospitality sector’s attention to detail, and above all its focus on cleanliness, illustrate how airports should be positioning themselves, not just with their customer service but in the terminal architecture and interior design of their buildings.”

Chris points out that the travelling public are increasingly concerned about issues such as the environment, sustainability, health and wellbeing, and says airports ignore these hot subjects at their peril.

“Hospitality businesses globally are already tailoring their offers to address these issues. This is more than a marketing angle to be exploited, it is a fundamental shift in our society that responsible businesses are addressing, and it has the potential to be a huge driver for change across the world,” he explains.

At first glance, an airport’s role is all about managing the movement of passengers and luggage through the terminal to or from aeroplanes. While Chris acknowledges that this will always be paramount for airport operators, there is much more to take into consideration when designing and running terminal buildings.

He urges management to think about the customer journey: “It begins with your arrival at the terminal building, complete with luggage and perhaps friends, family or colleagues to see you off. They, of course, are another kind of customer that airports should be considering.

“Entrance into the terminal building is a kind of ceremony. Then there is the journey through the terminal to the check-in counters, then to the concourse beyond the screening checkpoint and finally to the departure gate. The route through the airport for departing passengers can be stressful and complicated, and this alone is potentially the difference between a poor experience that is memorable for the wrong reasons and a great experience for the right reasons.”

Chris advises airport operators to seek to bring, order, clarity and even beauty to that journey, creating what should be “a positive sensory experience”. This will be affected by the colour, texture and illumination of the space and even by smells, which could be pleasant such as fresh coffee and baked bread or unpleasant such as cleaning fluids and toilet odours.

“These are all things that will contribute to a person’s recollection of the environment. Every vertical and horizontal surface communicates something about the experience,” Chris says.

Chris praises airport building and interior design that provides clear lines of sight, views and vistas that enable people to navigate to all the services they need. The list of these services is long: travel information, check-in points, meet and greet hubs, centres of retail, food and beverage, toilets, baby change and feed areas, accessible facilities, security personnel points, currency exchange, smoking areas, and prayer rooms.

There are also design aspects that can make the experience more enjoyable, including internal landscaping and greenery, views of the sky and viewing lounges

When it comes to terminals, size matters, as Chris explains: “Because of the scale of airport buildings, they must be well designed and considered holistically, not only in two-dimensional space but also in volumetric terms.”

Another key aspect that he forecasts will become increasingly important is integrating technology into buildings: “Equipping social and functional spaces with enabled technology will play a major role in the customer experience. Designing versatility into spaces that allow for connectivity while on the move will be an important differentiator.”

As the most globalised part of the transport sector, he believes the air travel industry has a duty to develop its offer to make fit the varying demands of the world’s diverse cultures. Gender and ethnicity, with sometimes competing sensitivities, must be catered for to avoid discrimination. Meanwhile, other factors such as age, physical and cognitive conditions that affect a person’s ability to comprehend information must be considered too. That means thinking about user and visitor demographics when deciding how to present eye-level data.

Chris concludes: “Ultimately, all of this is about thinking about the needs of customers first, designing places that improve their travel experience and making a commitment to manage customer service to the highest standards. Technology, diversity and other issues make this more complicated, but they also present opportunities to take airport experiences to a new level.”

Craig SummersCraig SummersNovember 9, 2018


With high street stalwarts dropping like flies, traditional retailers are on the wrong end of a raft of increasingly harsh criticism from both customers and analysts.

Yet in far too many cases it is fear of failure – of making the wrong technology investment or delivering the wrong in-store experience that is at the heart of the problem. Traditional shopping isn’t broken; retailers are simply failing to recognise or deliver the new expectations of today’s consumer.

Retailers cannot hope to compete with the disruptors unless they stop playing inept catch up and instead celebrate the value of the in-store interaction with truly empowered store associates able to deliver something far more engaging and valuable than any online experience.

Lost cause

As long-established family favourites vanish from the high street it appears the pure play disruptors have won the hearts and minds of customers and the writing is on the wall for old style retail. But is that really the case?

Pure play retailers are essentially tech companies; they live and breathe technology innovation. In contrast, far too many traditional retailers remain inherently scared of technology. They talk agility and responsiveness, but then spend upwards of two years assessing and deploying a solution.

It is this fear of failure, such as creating the wrong in-store atmosphere, that is destroying the high street. The result is a catch up approach to technology investment that is always years behind the competition. What is the point of attempting to emulate pure play competition – but to do it badly?

From price match offers that take 24 hours to confirm to compelling customers to complete time consuming and irrelevant customer surveys during check-out, the high street is littered with examples of ill-considered attempts to copy slick online models in-store. It doesn’t work, especially when the technology deployed is years behind that of the disruptors. It is all wrong and it fundamentally misses the point.

Golden egg

Online retail has not removed customers’ desire to buy in store or interact with sales assistants; what it has done has been to raise customers’ expectations of that experience. It is incredibly simple: people still want to come in store and be served; they want to interact with an enthusiastic and engaged individual, someone who not only knows the products – and can share experiences – but is also able to locate any item anywhere in the supply chain in real time and get that item to the customer quickly, in any location.

They want frictionless returns, a slick journey through click and collect and they want the checkout process to be smooth and quick. But they also want the whole experience to be enjoyable. No one wants to travel into the high street only to receive a bad version of what they can get online at home. They want something different and they want something better.

And that is where high street retailers have a massive advantage over the pure plays – if only they could harness it. Rather than complaining about the pure plays’ low cost infrastructure and lack of real estate overhead, traditional retailers need to stop viewing the high street as the Achilles heel and think of the retail store as the golden egg.

And that means investing in technology that delivers the complete supply chain visibility and mobile point of sale that ensures store associates can be continuously engaged with customers anywhere on the shop floor. It means investing in high quality sales staff.  And it means doing it fast. Not over years.

Attempting to ‘become Amazon’ in two years; or replicate the model of the pure play competitor over the next 18 months is never going to work: the competition is too fast, too slick and too tech savvy. Playing catch up will result in the end of the high street. What is required is a willingness to disrupt the disruptors, to leverage the advantage of a tangible personal experience and quickly exploit relevant technology to deliver an outstanding in-store experience.

Jamie BrightonJamie BrightonNovember 9, 2018


The premise of effective selling is simple – find out what people need and deliver a product or service that meets that need at the opportune moment.

Peter Drucker, seen by many marketers as the forefather of business consulting, famously said: “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the offered product or service will sell itself.”

While the basic premise of selling may be simple, the realities of today’s market have made things more complicated. Customers are no longer a single touchpoint. They interact with brands online, via mobile, through email, in person, on social media, and over the phone. Some prefer to communicate through apps, others through loyalty programs, and others base their decisions on word-of-mouth.

There is so much noise to cut through in this endless web of channels and platforms that brands are struggling to land their message with the right people at the right time. To complicate matters even further, they need to find a way of doing this at scale and deliver experiences that feel personalised to large groups of people with different needs and preferences.

Digital marketing has come a long way, but its relevance is up for debate. For instance, an average person is served over 1,700 banner ads per month but only half of them are ever viewed. The conclusion to draw here is that while companies are spending more than ever on digital advertising much of this money is going to waste.

The missing piece, going back to Drucker, is customer intelligence. Brands need to elevate their level of customer understanding to better serve their audience across every touchpoint and channel they use. This is the key to delivering true personalisation at scale.

The question then arises of how to build loyalty with customers you never see, or engage a time-strapped audience that views digital platforms as a path to convenience above all else? There are so many degrees of separation between brands and online customers that it can feel impossible to get your message in front of the right people, much less motivate them to engage with it.

In many companies, marketers and IT teams have joined forces to run advanced customer analytics programs, collecting data and creating audience profiles to help them target people more accurately. But these profiles are still limited in most cases, created in isolation from data outside the marketing department and independently of the content that all this data will ultimately inform.

To add to this, when a new channel comes along brands tend to panic and invest in technology that is specifically designed to serve that channel, even if it does not with the rest of their systems. This only creates more siloed data streams, each painting its own partial picture of customers and leading to unidimensional decision-making. 

An incomplete customer profile will inevitably provide an incomplete understanding of your audience. That is why brands are now bridging the divide between their customer analytics and unifying all their data onto a single platform. A centralised view ensures that every department works off a common definition of each customer, their activity, and their changing preferences, giving them the insight and context they need to be more targeted and deliver experiences that hit the mark.

Corporate audiences are just as eager for personalised experiences. The major difference is in a B2B environment is that brands need to look at a broader customer base made up of both end-users and procurement managers. This makes marketing even more nuanced because companies need to target and communicate with different audiences who have different needs and speak different languages.

Dell is a good case in point for this, as it wanted to deliver an experience for its B2B customers that went beyond just products. Instead of looking at experiences at each stage of the journey, it wanted to see the customer journey end-to-end and to have a single view of its customers. It was able to integrate all its channels (including email and social) via a single experience platform, where data could be aggregated, analysed, and segmented to create experiences across all channels in a coordinated way.

RS Components, the world’s largest electronics distributor, sells half-a-million electrical and electronic components, tools, and testing equipment to customers in 32 countries. The company realised it was time for change if it wanted to maintain its relationship with a large and varied audience, so it took on a more advanced approach to data and customer analytics.

Today, RS Components works with a specialised workspace where users can drag and drop data from throughout the customer journey and easily analyse points of interest. Stakeholders get an in-depth view of each customer across channels, putting them in a position to quickly test and adapt campaigns to the preferences of any audience group.

From the retail industry to financial services, customer intelligence is evolving and giving way to deeper levels of understanding. The aim for brands is still to know their audience so well their products and services sell themselves, but as brands like Dell and RS Components are proving, this requires a more analytical approach in today’s digital world. 

Mark GreenMark GreenNovember 9, 2018


In business, the adage “It starts at the top” can prompt an uncomfortable question: “Can the boss finish what he or she started?”

Many CEOs and entrepreneurs wrestle with this challenge, with both short and long-term implications. Meanwhile, a disconnect develops between the CEO’s initial big-picture vision for the company and its seemingly sporadic execution toward those goals.

The Global Leadership Forecast 2018 highlights issues of greatest concern to CEOs;  among them is a lack of alignment among senior leaders. The last problem any CEO  wants is an inability to get everyone on the same page, aligned and executing their strategy.

I’ve witnessed CEOs struggle with this question: ‘”Why is it so difficult to execute what I already know I should be doing”. They and their teams generally know what to do and how to get it done. But they avoid the decisions and actions they know could advance their success.

All roads lead back to obstacles within your mind. New behaviours leading to execution require new ways of thinking.

Here are five ways for CEOs to change behaviours that obstruct them from leading their company efficiently and effectively:

If/when, then

A study on influencing behaviour by German researchers found that formulating an “if/when, then” plan – stating a specific time to accomplish a task – provided a cue to provoke the desired response. I’ve worked with many CEOs who were not classically trained in accounting and finance and are overwhelmed by numbers. Such fears drove them to avoid financial information and reports. Making an if/when, then statement compels them to change the behaviour.

Relate and repeat

To change, one needs to believe that change is possible. Cultivate relationships with those who can help you see that the change you desire is attainable. Then repeat by testing out the new behaviour or thought pattern and seeking feedback.

Know when to say no

As the company leader, being a giver is important – but not to the point where sacrifice damages your own performance. Credible research shows that high-performing givers knew when to say no. Track your yes-to-no ratio. It’s the only way to protect your time, energy, and focus as a leader.

Forget perfectionism

Perfectionism is a waste of time and energy for a CEO. The 80/20 Rule – also known as the Pareto principle, first articulated by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto – holds that roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes. The 80/20 Rule also applies to perfectionism – the majority of the value in any endeavour comes from a small amount of the overall effort. Perfectionism frequently limits our progress and fuels our fears. If you can keep the 80/20 Rule in mind, you can reduce your fears and accomplish more.

Hold yourself accountable

One way CEOs and entrepreneurs can judge their performance is by asking themselves self-assessment questions daily. You need accountability strategies that require you to evaluate your progress and focus on the importance of your goals. Often, the best way to modify a behaviour is just to jump in. Seek out examples of the behaviours you want to employ, embrace some discomfort, and emulate them until they begin to feel natural.

Iain ShorthoseIain ShorthoseNovember 9, 2018


Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we work, from supporting faster data analysis to the use of virtual receptionists to greet guests.

However, when it comes to delivering a great experience in the workplace, the power of the human touch still wins out over tech.

The technology and AI revolution is rapidly transforming our world. From the emergence of staff-less grocery shops, to Alexa voice assistants in Marriott hotel rooms that provide concierge services, we’re already seeing major changes in our consumer lives – in how we eat, sleep and unwind, pay our bills and manage our daily routines.

Now, we need to be set for a transformation in our workplaces too. The world of business is recognising the need to offer the same level of experiences in the working environment as customers and employees have in their private lives. These changes hold huge opportunities for customer experience professionals and their partners – allowing us to use technology to reduce friction in the workplace experience and gather data to help us continually improve employee performance. 

At the same time, we mustn’t lose sight of the human touch amidst all the gadgetry and gimmicks. When it comes to delivering great service, people need to remain central to how we work, using new tech as an enabler for service delivery.

From the consumer world to the workplace

Across working environments, businesses are borrowing insights and technology from more consumer-facing industries to improve the workplace experience. Take the use of chatbots as an example. Chatbots have been the rage for retail and customer support for a while, but companies are making use of chatbots in their work spaces as well, whether to greet employees or visitors as they arrive or through the addition of bots in meeting rooms to attend to standard requests such as ordering drinks and altering room temperature.

While still in its early stages, we’re seeing a similar trend in voice devices. Amazon, for example, launched Alexa for Business in November last year. WeWork, the shared office space company, was an early adopter, conducting a pilot using a voice-powered reservation system for its conference rooms.

However, WeWork’s chief technology officer has since put the trial on hold, hinting that AI in the workplace is not the all-encompassing solution some might expect. Reflecting on the meeting room example, the idea of having a voice-enabled support or chatbot system works when the questions being posed are relatively straightforward.

However, when more complicated requests need to be processed, such as asking front of house teams for guidance on catering for international visitors, the ambiguities in language and heavy dependence on context in human conversation means there’s no substitute for personal interaction. In fact, an AI device that can’t understand what you’re asking often only becomes a drain on productivity rather than a booster, causing more frustration and delays.

Empowering people

This is not to say that businesses should ignore AI at work altogether, but it’s important to focus on instances where it can add value.

Whether working in front of house, facilities management, HR or IT, AI should empower business support teams responsible for smoothing the workplace experience and enable them to concentrate on complex, higher value tasks by removing more mundane activities from workloads.

It’s the difference between using AI in meeting rooms to work out how many people are on the invite and therefore how many cups will be needed for the tea and coffee order, and needing help with the IT to get a new business presentation on screen. The first is useful to smooth the Customer Experience, but the latter calls for the help and reassurance provided by a friendly face.

AI is not a replacement for good customer service. It allows us to use new tools to help people work better together while, importantly, not losing the power of the human touch.

Antony EdwardsAntony EdwardsNovember 8, 2018


Today, customer data, knowledge, and insights are more valuable and of more strategic importance than ever before.

Customers have more options, greater access to pricing information, and greater means to share their experiences with others, both good and bad, yielding more power, choice, and influence than ever before.

Companies that succeed in this environment are those that become obsessed with understanding their customers – Amazon is a wonderful example. It goes to great lengths to exceed customer expectations by leveraging information and insights and can identify cohorts of users such as iPhone users vs Android through to different locations and usage patterns. It uses this information to test, compare, contrast and respond accordingly and is the literal opposite of a ‘one-size fits all’ model.

The trouble with customers

While a trailblazer, Amazon is not alone. There are other companies that are masters at turning data into insights, and making decisions and changes in faster feedback cycles – brands like Netflix, Coca-Cola and adidas. In other words, they find out what’s working and what isn’t and adjust appropriately at lighting speed.

The trouble is, retaining customers is harder than ever in the age of dying brand loyalty. With so much competition in the modern market, consumers can always find a brand that delivers the same products and services – just cheaper and faster. It is also becoming harder and harder to create genuinely positive experiences for customers when the cost to serve them is high.

Strides in mobile technology mean marketers are facing more and more challenges as dissatisfaction with a product or service can be voiced instantly. But, as we know, social media is anything but one-sided. While consumers have high expectations from businesses attempting to engage with them on social channels, the flip-side is that brands have the opportunity to reach millions of potential customers, many of whom may have once been out of their grasp.

Trial and error

A vast as it is, social isn’t the communication channel of choice for the world. Some customers prefer to communicate by email and phone, though both have flaws with long wait times, spam low open rates and customers often being transferred from department to department. This is especially true at the point of purchase. Today, people don’t believe they have bought something until they get the confirmation email from the store. Good ones come through instantly, bad ones send in two hours.

In fact, this element of the transaction is constantly under review as it is perceived as critical to the post-sales experience. However, the moment a retailer sends an email or text, they’re trying to link one session to another. This has greater likelihood of failure as customers expect good experiences and efficient communication by means they already use.

The juxtaposition here being that businesses need to test each part of the sales process, even after the point of sale, and experiment with the testing teams to ensure that the website and processes survive this jump from one channel to another. This in itself is part of a constant experiment, like changing homepage or the number of products shown within a search term, to continually test and improve the customer experience.

Keep up!

Building customer trust and loyalty is vital for businesses that want to succeed. With so many options out there, consumers won’t shop with or stay with a business that doesn’t make them feel valued or where they have lingering concerns about privacy and security.

Any business facing issues with customer retention should look at different personas and test for them and have a view across the end-to-end user experience. It should be asking itself “How can I be more Amazon?”. If traditional companies can innovate digitally and offer some element of self-service, instant responses and flexibility to existing customers that want it, they’ve got a better chance of keeping up with a new digital world and retaining customers who might otherwise shift to the dark side.


Sylvia JensenSylvia JensenNovember 7, 2018


Most marketers today understand the importance of Customer Experience and often find themselves leading the charge on cross-functional alignment on CX within their organisations.

Countless studies have shown that CX drives results – Forrester found that CX leaders tend to deliver compound annual revenue growth rates of 17 percent (compared to that of three percent by CX laggards) and Deloitte found that consumers’ decisions to buy products or services are affected by their overall enjoyment of their experience.

But despite the clear and highly attractive benefits, very few organisations seem to be getting CX right, which is especially worrying because by 2020, CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator according to business consultancy Walker.

So what seems to be going wrong? Recently, Acquia decided to host a Twitter chat with some leading CX experts to uncover what challenges marketers are facing, the role of technology, and what organisations need to do to get it right.

These are the insights that came from the chat:

Understanding customers is still the biggest challenge to a connected CX – and technology is not a silver bullet

The first challenge for all marketers in any industry (in both B2B and B2C) is to understand the customer. Understanding customers doesn’t just mean knowing their age, location, gender or job title – it means understanding their attitudes, what drives them, and trying to anticipate reactions to certain triggers or offers. If you don’t understand your customers, you’ll never be able to create a connected Customer Experience.

Often, when an organisation knows little about its customers, they opt for an ‘omnichannel’ approach, and try to target consumers through every channel under the sun with the same offer – rather than targeting the right offer to the right person through the right channel. Very few organisations have the resources to offer an optimised experience on every single channel, and so for most companies, they find themselves spreading their resources too thinly, and leaving a bad impression or experience with customers.

Successful companies that do understand their customers well know that they need to break down data silos within their organisation to help create that ‘one view’ of the customer they need to create a more seamless experience across channels.Technology on its own does not ‘solve’ the problem of CX.

We would all love to invest in a technology that made our work problems go away, but no CX technology exists that will make the challenges of CX disappear overnight.

Although technology does help you to stay better connect with customers, storytelling is still an important ingredient. As one contributor to the Twitter chat put it, “Some of the best CX I have seen have been start-ups with little money and basic technology who know how to brand themselves and tell a story that customers deeply relate to”.

And as another person put succinctly: “It’s an enabler to assist, not the creator (of CX).”

GDPR is not a barrier for personalisation

In fact, GDPR is a positive move for personalisation. Now that you’ve had a chance to purge your CRM system of useless never-would-be customers, you can focus truly on the customers who have already indicated to you that they’re interested in keeping in touch by opting in to marketing communications.

And for new customers, look to get their permission early on in the sales process. After all, you’ve spent money driving them to your website or landing page so it makes sense to reduce your acquisition costs wherever possible so you don’t keep paying for them to come back, then nurturing them again at the top of the sales funnel.

And the key for any personalisation efforts? Honesty and openness. Customers want to know what you’re using their data for and how safe their data is in your hands. If you can demonstrate your trustworthiness and security, GDPR shouldn’t be a barrier to personalisation.

People still can’t agree on who should ‘own’ CX

This was perhaps the most surprising aspect of the conversation on Twitter. As part of the chat, we asked the question: “What teams are primarily responsible for CX, and does this need to change?”

I was fully expecting a consensus, but we had a plethora of different contradictory answers. Some argued for a dedicated team within an organisation to manage CX. Others argued that CX should be a board-level responsibility. Others still argued that CX should automatically be the responsibility of the entire organisation.

I’m more inclined to agree with the last group, as one user put it: “CX is a major contributor to conversions and revenue, and so it should be a key KPI and focus for all. Giving it to one team allows other teams to believe they are absolved from responsibility.”

After all, everyone in an organisation is a representative of the brand and will therefore have an impact on CX in some way or another.

Measuring the success of connected customer journeys need not be difficult

One Twitter user said: “We tend to think of it (CX) as something airy-fairy and hard to measure – but it’s not.”

And she’s absolutely right. The best way to measure the success of CX is to use the same KPIs you already use to measure other business objectives. Metrics like customer churn, NPS scores, spend against those who engaged, sentiment, and more are all ways you can measure CX. They key is to find out what metrics are most relevant to you, and then use them and track them over time.

Which brings me to our conclusion. What was clear from the Twitter chat was that everything should start from a sound base. First create a platform through which you truly understand what drives your customers’ behaviour and attitude. Secondly, accept that solving the problem of CX isn’t just a case of switching on some technology, and finally, get your whole organisation on board that they should be thinking about the customer in everything they do.

Then we might see some actual movement.

Neil AshworthNeil AshworthNovember 6, 2018


Black Friday and Cyber Monday have evolved into two of the most significant ‘event’ days in the retail calendar and, due to their success in driving customer participation, have morphed into anything from ‘Black Five-day’ or, as I recently read, ‘Black-vember’.

As Andy Street, the former John Lewis CEO, said a couple of years ago, “the genie is out of the bottle” and these events are now with us for the foreseeable future (and with Singles Day yet to really materialise in the UK, are only likely to grow). Therefore we need to consider how we maximise the beneficial impact as we head in to the season that is increasingly make-or-break for many retailers.

Establishing a good reputation

As a good friend pointed out to me a short while ago, “you only get one reputation, and it is hard to build, but easy to destroy” and therefore consideration of how peak trading periods are executed with retailers, and their partner businesses is crucial to their longevity.

During such a busy period, standing out from competitors is important, but it is also worth recognising that standing out for the right reasons is crucial. Whilst we may offer enticing deals, it has become clear in recent years that not every retailer wants to play purely on price. Differentiation can be achieved by being a ‘sea of calm and tranquillity’ whilst others are caught in the frenzy.

This works both online and offline, and I think that it is notable that some retailers are now using the ‘Black’ week to launch new ranges, new store services, and curated events. From a fulfilment perspective, driving or further enhancing a reputation for providing superior, reliable and consistent customer experience can have a material impact on longer term reputation.

At Yodel, we focus heavily on the four things that consumers value the most when it comes to the delivery of their online order – it arrives on time, in good condition, delivered with a great attitude, and that they are kept informed from the point of order. These are the four key elements of our service proposition that contributes to the overall brand experience provided by our partner retailers.

Ensuring a multichannel approach

To ensure they are providing a truly convenient service for customers, many successful high street retailers have developed a coherent multichannel approach which enables customers to shop in a way and at a time that suits them. As consumers flip from catalogue to online, to store, to contact centre, the brand experience must be consistent and resilient.

‘Desertion at the press of a button’ is an all-too-familiar reality in modern retail and therefore the ability to be consistent and transparent within an organisation is an absolute necessity. Increasingly, customers are buying goods from far-flung parts of the world as confidence in payment systems, fraud protection and return/refund processes increases – and therefore transparency across value chain partners becomes crucial in managing customer expectation, and delivery of promises.

Investment in (appropriate) technology

The modern retail Customer Experience undoubtedly relies heavily on technology. A joined-up supply chain, offering smooth and repeatable end to end execution is key. Whilst technology has always been key to ensuring that goods and information flow in a consistent and timely manner, there are now many technologies that ease the flow in ways that I could only have dreamed of in the early days of my career.

Whilst innovation used to be a high-risk adventure, it is increasingly safe and comparatively predictable in outcomes. As a result, we see the adoption of AI, Blockchain, and other technologies moving at a pace that would have amazed retailers and partners only 20 years ago.

As we close our development programmes and enter ‘tech freeze’ for the peak trading period, the investments that are being made are increasingly robust and designed to enhance the customer experience. We are now in an era of the super-user being the norm, and IT partnering is more regularly organisational standard, with the focus being on service metric improvements.

Communication is key

Whilst technology plays a key role in the development of the service proposition, there is one thing that is clear in my mind. Whilst we can deploy myriad system enhancements, the one thing that cannot be replaced in full is the ‘human touch’. Automation can take some of the burden off the retail process, but that ability to engage with a human being to gain a specific insight or resolve a particular problem is, from my perspective, a core element of the model.

Clear channels of communication are necessary to ensuring retailers and their suppliers are kept fully informed. Most importantly, customers need to be furnished with a level of information about the delivery of their purchases that provides the peace of mind that the promise made at the checkout will be kept.

Our research at Yodel, through our 2018 UK Customer Experience Award-winning ‘Have Your Say’ feedback programme, indicates that customer satisfaction drops dramatically if customers don’t feel informed (from an average net promoter score of +88 to -41). It is therefore important to ensure that permissions are gained in the right way, with the customer given the opportunity to give the right level of instruction, such that proactive updates can be sent, tracking links provided, and notifications ‘pushed’ so they can be updated and feel comfortable with the progress of their order.

There is a justifiable expectation of complete transparency at all stages of the fulfilment and delivery process and communication also offers the opportunity to build closer, longer lasting relationships.

Customers increasingly understand the pressures that retailers are under around Black Friday and our research also shows that around a third of shoppers acknowledge that deliveries may take a little longer in the run up to Christmas. While they are happy to wait, it’s important to communicate delivery times effectively, and importantly at the point of checkout (39 percent expect to be given a firm delivery date at the time they place their order) and to make sure that those promises made at the checkout are realistic. 

If things are delayed, due to unforeseen circumstances such as the weather or the vagaries of the road network, successful retailers, with the right technologies within their value chain, can make sure their customers are kept informed and updated. Clear, unambiguous, and proactive communication can not only support the customer experience but will also drive down customer service costs.

Get these aspects right across the retail and partner network, and your peak season can lead to a long term, sustainable and profitable customer relationship – it is not just about the deal on the day.

Have a great Peak Season!

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