Organisations are increasingly relying on chatbots for customer service as a way to deflect inbound calls and reduce costs, but Forrester Analytics data shows that consumers aren’t thrilled with this approach.
They found consumers are reluctant to trust a chatbot to resolve their service issues, and remain skeptical that chatbots can provide a similar level of service as a human agent.
However, it seems companies are enforcing technology solutions at every opportunity in the hope of improving their CX strategy.Amid all the talk of technical advancement, we seem to forget about the human factor, that personal touch that only people can deliver to consumers no matter the channel of engagement.
Clients today have huge goals for their CX strategies, such as 50 percent of all calls to be self-serviced, 80 percent of contact to be automated, 50 v of calls to be eliminated and all of this along with, in most cases, being tasked to make significant cost savings.
Ian Jacobs, Principal Analyst at Forresters, said: “Customer service organisations have been looking for ways to cut costs for decades.Now that chatbot mania has taken over, many are jumping on the bandwagon and attempting to replace their human agents with chatbots.In theory, that makes sense – a chatbot costs less than a human over time, and most customer service organisations tend to focus more heavily on cost than on customer experience.”
It is fair to say many companies are struggling with automation, whether to automate, why automate, what to automate and when to automate.According to Forrester, when it comes to automation and customer service, brands are getting the last three questions wrong.
We regularly see in the industry news headlines such as Chatbots set to take over most cost service work or Robots are set to replace humans and costly contact centres.However, according to Forrester’s Analytics Consumer Energy Index on-line survey 2018, consumers expect chatbots to disappoint with 54 percent of US online consumers expecting interaction with customer service chatbots to negatively affect their quality of life.
The message from Forrester’s research is clear: ‘Augment, don’t replace and blend AI and humans’.
The question is which blended operations model works better for your business?
Forrester has identified four approaches to agent augmentation:
1. A chatbot for agents where the conversation is with a live agent and a chatbot
If your customer service agents search a knowledge base during their interactions with customers, why not create a natural language interface for that task?It’s a great starting point if you’re just beginning your chatbot journey.
2. A human-intermediated chatbot for increased efficiency and seamless suggestions
Here, an AI tool observes a conversation between a human agent and a customer, providing suggestions that the agent can either push out to the customer, or modify, or personalise the suggestion, or even reject it and type their own answer.
3. A front-end chatbot where the chatbot authenticates the customer and determines intent and gathers all relevant information
Chatbot hands interaction off to the agent and the agent resolves the customer’s issues.The benefit of this one is that agents are handling the meat of the interaction and have more time for upselling/cross selling and it also significantly reduces handling time.Conceptually agents are more engaged as they are adding value and not doing mundane tasks.
4. Intermingled workflows with both agents and chatbots do what each does best
The human agent can invoke a chatbot to handle a specific task, then have the chatbot hand the interaction back to the agent.Similar to the front-end chatbot, human agents are relieved of routine tasks, but in this workflow, the agent and chatbot can flex back and forth to tackle the portions of the interaction they excel at.
Using one or more of those approaches to augment customer service agents can result in significant benefits to an organisation, such as reduced handle time, increased employee engagement, and improved experience -0 while also ensuring your customers don’t lose faith with your brand after a frustrating chatbot interaction.
One thing is for sure, AI is here to stay. Brands that want to keep ahead in a competitive world will need to re-think their business models and make sure there is a place for human employees and AI.
It’s not your average job interview, but a description from Luke Murfitt, founder of Integrity Cleaning, of how one woman kick-started her career after a chance encounter shines a light on the ethos of his business.
Picture the scene: a dark, damp evening at a London train station, and after disembarking, a mother struggles with her children and bags as she attempts to scale steps up to the pavement and begin the long walk home.
“No-one else was offering, so I asked if I could help get her up the steps,” says Luke as he explains exactly why ‘supporting mothers back to work’ is more than just a media-friendly slogan for his firm
“We got to the top and I asked if I could help her further. She said she lived about a 20-minute walk away, so I offered her a lift in my car. During the drive I was able to ask her where she worked. She said she didn’t work, and that people didn’t want to employ her.
“I asked her what she would want to do, and she said she would like to be either a carer or a cleaner. I said ‘happy days, I have a cleaning company – would you like to start this week?”
It sounds like the happy ending to a feel-good film, but this was reality for the mum in this story. She was able to work as a cleaner, fitting her duties comfortably around school hours, and as a result was able to move into a larger home than the one-bedroom flat she had before. Thanks to her income from Integrity, was able to start planning for her future.
“She’s now a full-time carer, in the career she wanted,” Luke says.
“She calls me her angel, but she was pretty good to me too, working hard and driving Integrity forward.”
Integrity Cleaning has been shortlisted in the Best New Business category of this week’s 2019 UK Business Awards, and this achievement is part of the ongoing success story for a firm that was born out of personal adversity.
Luke is a former high-flying salesman at a blue-chip company, who in 2015 was handed a life-changing diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
But rather than allow this to limit his scope for life, Luke decided to challenge himself and use the diagnosis to spur a career change that has led to a current total of 85 cleaners signed on for employment through his company, ranging in age from 19 to the mid-60s.
“After the diagnosis, which was obviously a bit of a challenge, I realised I didn’t want to wallow in self-pity, and so I used it as a catalyst to springboard me on to do greater things, and here we are,” he says.
That route first took him to his local job centre where he was told to seek benefits following his diagnosis, but his hunger for something more led him instead to seek advice on starting his own business.
“I felt I had a lot more to give. I told the staff at the centre ‘there are people over there who are looking for jobs, and I’d like to employ them’. I wanted to set an example of what can be achieved, and they said ‘fine, go for it’. So they sent me upstairs to the next level and a department that assists in setting up businesses.”
From the window of that same building, Luke gazed out at London’s ever-sprouting skyline, with gleaming new buildings taking shape.
What was simultaneously taking shape was his own business future, thanks to Luke “turning adversary into opportunity”.
He continues: “I looked into the cleaning industry, and spent six months planning. I was careful though, as I had seen people who set up cleaning companies and ended up cleaning themselves out!”
However determination, and the hard work and support of wife Diana, pushed Luke towards realising the recession-proof nature of his chosen sector, and what it could do for them as a family, along with the wider community.
“Cleaning has grown and grown and is a massive employer. I saw it as a chance to impact many more lives and provide better opportunities, rather than with, say, an office of five people.
“With around 33,000 cleaning companies in the UK, with 700,000 cleaners, there’s plenty of scope. I knew I needed only a small portion of that to be successful, and not to fear the competition, but actually be better than them.
“And also be something that they are not, because what I realised was – not many people actually choose to be a cleaner. Instead they often ‘resort’ to being a cleaner.
“I thought to myself, these are the people I want to help. They’ve found themselves in a situation they didn’t choose to be in, but I could at least assist them and make the area of work they’re in as pleasant as possible – give them opportunities and ensure they feel respected and are able to grow, move on, and not just remain cleaners forevermore.”
Integrity continued to take shape, and the ethos of assisting mums at a crucial time of their lives grew from Luke meeting fellow parents at the school gates while waiting to collect his daughter.
“There comes a point when a lot of mothers want new working opportunities, but there are often few firms offering that. This was part of my plan – to offer such opportunities, and make a success of it.”
The company got off the ground when Luke secured a significant contract with a hotel in London’s Bromley borough, having first garnered a workforce ready and willing to put the hours in.
Low start-up costs and lots of hard graft helped Integrity gain momentum, and as the journey continued, so too did the cleaning contracts with churches, community groups, and other eager clients.
However, it was a return to the skyscrapers of central London that saw Luke land the firm’s most significant contract.
“I was at a training event and I looked out the window at these apartment buildings which were going up, 41 storeys high, and I thought ‘they need cleaning’. I had no experience of construction cleaning at all, but I walked over to the site, which had around 600 people all milling about.
“I was wearing a suit while they were in their construction safety gear, so I got some looks. I found a door saying ‘staff only’, walked in, and eventually located the project manager. I said to him, ‘Hi, I’m Luke from Integrity Cleaning, you’ve got some great buildings here, and we’d like to be the company that cleans them’.
“He told me my timing was interesting as they were just three days away from tendering for a cleaning company, so he took me to the senior management in order to apply.”
Several months later, having seen off competition from some of the biggest companies in the market, Integrity was offered the contract.
“They could see I wanted to do a good job, and we ended up replacing a company they had used for the last 25 years.”
Luke’s bold approach to securing employment for his team provided many months of solid work, cleaning 1,000 or so million-pound apartments, over four thorough stages each, to make them ready for residents.
And so Integrity rose to its current position as one of the UK’s most caring and community oriented commercial and construction cleaning firms.
“My primary goal isn’t about making money, it’s about helping other people,” Luke states.
“This year alone I’ve helped 25 mums back into work. Of course, helping mothers doesn’t just help them, it helps their children, families, husbands, and whoever else. It impacts lives.
“We help with their training, and we look towards assisting with transport costs, and being flexible with working hours. We’re also there to provide references for when they’re ready to move on. We work as a team, and they love it. To me, each of them isn’t merely a cleaner – they are a person; something they never normally hear in this industry.”
From year one to year two, Integrity has grown by 650 percent, and his nomination for a UK Business Award tops a hugely successful year that has also seen him share his story with thousands of listeners on radio station LBC.
“I have appeared twice on LBC’s The Business Hour, and plan to return to answer questions from listeners in the near future and share my advice.”
On the subject of advice, Luke leaves us with one final inspiring message.
“Never let a challenge – in my case my diagnosis – stop you from doing what you want to do. Never limit yourself.”
As the move to cloud platforms speeds up, the pressure is on to take advantage of bots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) – especially for IVRs.
Many businesses are at a standstill in adopting AI because they’ve done nothing to their IVRs for a decade or more. Their old IVRs are complex and slow to update, with mediocre customer experience, at best. But most are terrible. The State of IVR in 2018 noted that 83 percent of customers would avoid a company after a poor experience with an IVR.
I recently phoned my utility provider, and the IVR pushed me through eight different menu options. Each option took five to 20 seconds of listening time. By the time I got halfway through the eighth option, I had forgotten what the first one included – and I had to go back to the beginning. Consumers are frustrated by long IVR menu choices.
They’re even turning to online cheat sheets for ways to bypass a particular company’s IVR and get to a live agent.
Fear of change, even when it makes sense
Despite the evidence that customers are frustrated with IVRs, and the rapid decline of the old-school telephony, businesses are still reluctant to change. Some pushback occurs because of successful containment rates of IVRs. For others, it’s fear of changing menu options for customers who know exactly which number to press to self-serve.
One bank told me that they were reluctant to change because they have many customers who program their IVR options into their phones, including their PINs. Banks are exposing themselves – and their customers – to major security breaches, instead of doing anything about it.
While some try improvements like adding automatic speech recognition (ASR) with predefined expressions, they fail to recognise that it’s a short-sighted solution to a long-term problem. They need to fix their outdated design.
IVRs and the challenge of multiple intents
In traditional IVRs, customers select only one option at a time, and the IVR can process only that one intent.
However, most people multitask. Let’s say you dial into an IVR to change your address and open a new savings account. Then you remember that you need to add someone to your existing account. Typically, you’d complete one task and then return to the IVR or have an agent transfer you to another department to do so.
That’s because when those secondary intents come up within the conversation with an agent, the agent isn’t equipped to help. The secondary intent is often not dealt with, recorded or tracked. The customer still needs support, but the case is closed. And all that valuable customer information is lost – along with customer satisfaction.
Voicebots identify multiple intents upfront. They can handle many of them within the IVR and, if needed, pass all those intents on to an agent. Your IVR can become a conversational IVR, capturing context and vastly improving the Customer Experience through personalisation.
This is key to exceptional CX – and using Natural Language Understanding (NLU) within your current IVR makes it possible.
Voicebots and conversational IVR
Google led the modern revolution of conversational AI with NLU.
This technology makes it possible for a voicebot to hold a conversation and conduct back-and-forth questions, prompts and answers – without the customer having to use predefined expressions. In this way, every customer has a hyper-personalised experience.
Conversational IVRs go beyond understanding words as experienced with ASR, to determine what the customer wants and to help the agent understand and respond effectively. Machine learning capabilities enable these increasingly rich conversations – and continually optimise the IVR and improve the Customer Experience.
After the voicebot identifies the intents and self-serves where possible, customers can still go through a standard path within the IVR – or they can be routed to the relevant skilled resource to help them. Voicebots offer a massive opportunity to streamline the entire interaction process.
Let’s say I call my mobile carrier because I’m going on holiday and I want to know what the charges will be when I go overseas. With that one utterance of “I’m going overseas”, a voicebot would understand that this statement likely will require additional information.
The voicebot could ask: “Would you like to enable international roaming?”
If I answer yes, the voicebot could automatically process that request and then inform me of the expected tariffs. And, it can still pass this on to an agent if my questions are too complex. It’s a fluid, hyper-personalised conversation, and it doesn’t have to be complex.
You don’t have to change the entire IVR to use voicebots.
Voicebots move Customer Experience to the forefront
Voicebots not only solve long-standing IVR problems, they also take advantage of the data you already collect. Compare the advantages of conversational IVRs led by voicebots to traditional IVRs that put customer experience second to containment. The time savings, Customer Experience and overall improvement in operational efficiency blow traditional IVRs out of the water.
The ability of workers to improvise and innovate while on the job is being underused, a new report has revealed.
A study of 1,000 workplaces published in Thinking on your feet, a report by the commercial subsidiary of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, RADA Business, found that 91 percent of people say they regularly experience situations where employees have failed to apply a flexible way of communicating and common sense as a result of not being able to think ‘in the moment’, respond appropriately, and improvise a creative solution.
The report identifies the effects of not being able to think creatively and reveals that 46 percent of people have experienced impatient customer service. Other poor staff behaviours found include unhelpfulness (45 percent), poor communication (38 percent), or rudeness (37 percent).
Customers are quick to make judgements about organisations as a result, with 88 percent admitting that they make negative assumptions about the entire organisation due to inappropriate staff behaviour.
Those working as professionals in the healthcare sector were revealed to have the strongest ability to improvise and work well under pressure (40 percent), followed by counter staff in banks (23 percent) and admin staff in the NHS (23 percent).
At the other end of the spectrum, the research found that those working as estate agents (nine percent), staff at utility companies (10 percent), or staff on public transport (15 percent) struggled to think quickly and be able to improvise effectively.
Although all three sectors require the ability to communicate well with customers and to make a positive impression, it’s clear that often this isn’t always delivered effectively. This can be due to a range of reasons including difficult customers or stressful situations.
Kate Walker Miles, tutor and Client Manager at RADA Business, said: “Customers appreciate being heard and react positively towards workers who go the extra mile, but robotic service and a diminishing ability to improvise can leave customers feeling frustrated.
“By viewing the organisation from the perspective of your customer, you can understand clearly how the business is being perceived and encourage a positive culture of improvisation.
“There are simple training techniques available to support workers who struggle to think quickly and react to situations in a flexible way, tapping into the power of improvisation, which can empower everyone in your workforce to make imaginative yet informed decisions.”
The global aviation industry is facing many complex challenges – none more pressing than the increasing expectations of customers looking for a personalised travel experience.
The internet and social media have given customers direct access to airport and airline staff, and this immediate access has led to customers expecting immediate action on their complaints and queries.
What does the passenger of the future expect?
According to the SITA Passenger Insights 2019 Report, by 2025, 68 percent of passengers will be from the ‘post-digital generation’ – i.e. those who have grown up interacting with technology to manage their lives. They understand artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and chatbots, and they expect these technologies to be there for them when they travel.
As the aviation industry struggles to retain and engage passengers, a consistently excellent Customer Experience must remain at the core of their offering. This begs the question, therefore, of what new technologies airlines and airports can confidently rely on to deliver the experience that this post-digital customer demands.
What technology can the industry use to improve CX?
Airlines and airports are increasingly turning to robotics and assisted intelligence solutions to streamline their operations and give their customers options to minimise pain-points on their journeys. Automating first-level support queries, for instance, means that staff can focus on more complex problems without compromising Customer Experience, all while reducing costs.
Chatbots are the perfect ally for customer support agents, since they allow companies to interact with passengers around the clock – and during delays or disruptions can be used effectively to keep customers informed and guide them through the next steps, resulting in higher levels of customer satisfaction.
Roughly 55 percent of passengers are already using technology to improve their journey by downloading their airline’s mobile app. Crucially, these apps also allow customers to voice any dissatisfaction they might feel towards airlines or airports.
Companies need to have a strong engagement strategy to make use of this ‘dissatisfaction data’ to address passenger pain-points and improve Customer Experience. Proactive customer engagement helps to meet customer expectations and allows airlines to better allocate resources and improve organisational efficiency.
Effective digital competitiveness brings humans and technology together
The ‘human touch’ must remain central to the aviation industry despite this new digital environment. It is here that the unique combination of a High Touch, High Tech approach becomes a critical business component.
Matching technological development with a warm and skilled human workforce is the key to building brand loyalty while reducing inefficient time-lags and getting an edge on rivals in the fiercely competitive travel sector.
If there is one lesson Phil Durand (pictured), Director of Customer Experience Management at Confirmit re-learned as a judge at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, it’s that there is real value in making things as simple as possible…
The aim of Voice of the Customer programmes is not to just to listen but to act.
In order to make this a reality, not a theoretical exercise, it’s vital that we all remember that creating a great Customer Experience is all about people. It requires a commitment to empowering people to use their initiative and to make a difference at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Technology is obviously an enabler, helping us to gather customer feedback, but the people that use technology to understand and harness the insight provided are the ones that make the real difference.
In the Best Use of Insight and Feedback category at the recent UK Customer Experience Awards, we were reminded of some of basic CX truths: ask the right people, the right questions, at the right time and in the right manner.
Continuous temperature checks on experience won’t necessarily drive response rates. In some cases they can do the opposite. Hands-on support was stressed, even if this means helping execs to access and make use of the VoC dashboard. Sharing voice recordings so that managers can literally hear the ‘voice’ of the customer can provide a shortcut to understanding what customers think and literally drive action to the next level.
In my view, best practice CX requires careful identification of the key challenges to be addressed. It needs razor-sharp focus on that end goal, whether it be culture change, boosting morale, increased revenue, or cost savings.
Just as important is the determination to share feedback to both the c-suite and the factory floor so that it can be used to take even the smallest of steps to improve the customer experience. Clear and effective communication is needed to make sure that the message is not lost in translation. And this means keeping it simple. If you bombard people with too much detail, you won’t take them with you.
Text analytics as a companion to VoC surveys has proven to be the ideal partnership in this respect. They complement each other because they provide insight into what the customer really thinks, in their own words, as well as what they may divulge in answer to a direct question in a survey.
Upon combining both forms of insight in a single dashboard, comments are longerregarded as ‘random’ but become representative, actively bringing ‘the numbers’ to life.
The idea, of course, is not to blind people with science or to hide behind the data. There’s no point empowering employees to go the extra mile if they can’t make sense of the insight you’ve gathered. It’s more effective to present insight in bite-size chunks that are appropriate for each stage of the customer journey and then share it in a digestible form with those responsible for delivering Customer Experience at that stage.
This is why I stress the importance of simplicity.
Yes, behind the scenes there may be some serious maths, crunching large quantities of data, but in order for people to engage with the insight there is no point in making it look more complex than it needs to be. Or making it too hard to find the nugget of insight that they need to do things differently.
That won’t empower anybody.
It’s still very true to say that people are more likely to be inspired by another person than a pie chart. They respond at a basic human level so while it is absolutely essential that we embrace data analysis in the background, make sure your employees can hear what customers are saying direct. So they can do something about it.
You book an entire day off work to receive a delivery. You spend the whole time waiting for the doorbell to ring because you don’t know what time the delivery will arrive. You nip out to the back garden to hang out the washing and find out you missed the delivery when you get back inside.
That might sound like an unlikely occurrence of Murphy’s law but the truth is that the growth of online shopping has more and more customers asking “Where is my order?” – so much so, that the industry has given it its own acronym, WISMO.
And, when they can’t find the answer, the first place they turn is customer service. So even in cases where brands use third party suppliers to ship goods to consumers, it’s still the responsibility of the brand to make sure their customers are informed and happy.
Research carried out by Zendesk found that good customer service outranks convenience and reputation when people are considering which companies to do business with. That means it’s not just the when and where of a delivery, but how you communicate and help the customer be informed that matters. But over the past five years, customer satisfaction is down 2.2 percent, from 94.6 percent in 2013 to 92.5 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, expectations are rising.
The rise of WISMO has the potential to increase the load on your customer service centres and turn waiting customers into angry ones. That doesn’t have to be the case though – here are three top tips businesses should consider to get ahead of WISMO and take control to improve on the delivery experience.
1. Help customers to help themselves
The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2019 findings show that 40 percent of customers prefer to use search or help centres before contacting support, yet only 20 percent of support teams provide self-service.
Companies can implement self-service tools that allow the customer to get quick and up-to-date information on how the delivery process works, with tools in place to push real-time alerts on delivery status and tracking to the customer. That way, they no longer need to set aside an entire day for a delivery that will take a few seconds to take place. It provides a boost in both convenience and customer satisfaction.
Setting up self-service isn’t a solution that you will implement overnight but the Zendesk customers I speak to tell me it’s worth it. Preparing self-service content enables a business to deeply understand its customers and the way they interact with the business about their questions and concerns.
Done correctly, self-service can speed up the time customers spend looking for answers and, at the same time, free up agent time to add value in areas where they are most needed.
2. Implement intelligence
It’s a big mistake to categorise artificial intelligence (AI) as a technology only seen in sci-fi movies. You also shouldn’t put AI on your ‘future’ list for a solution to implement when you’re flush with cash. The figures speak for themselves.
High performing businesses are twice as likely to use AI. It’s helping companies resolve tickets 21 percent faster, while handling six times the volume of requests. Yet 85 percent of enterprise companies still aren’t using AI.
AI can serve various purposes but if you want to give a better experience for customers waiting for deliveries, one function of AI is to recognise tickets that need urgent attention. Time sensitive questions or messages about an imminent or even late delivery can receive a macro response to both the customer and an agent. This ensures that customers’ needs are being prioritised while the agent is aware of the urgency of the case.
Whatever the channel that the customer uses to get in touch with the company, AI can be incorporated into an omnichannel solution that makes sure customers are dealt with quickly. When they receive the right response in a timeframe that reflects their level of query, it’s more likely to avoid escalated complaints – even if a delivery has been missed or is late.
3. Know that robots can’t do everything
No, this isn’t a direct contradiction to my previous point. No matter how sophisticated AI systems become, there will always be a need for human agents. To ensure that customers are updated on their deliveries, with the necessary customer support, it’s key to make sure human agents are in the best position to pick up more complex cases and be the most helpful.
Nearly half of customers we surveyed (46 percent) said their expectations are higher than they were a year ago. Customers quickly become frustrated when a chatbot can’t answer their detailed questions and if agents aren’t quickly and transparently brought in when needed, it becomes difficult to join the dots that lead to timely deliveries.
The key to the successful hand-off between bots and beings is the right information that prevents customers going right back to the beginning of the process when they pick up the phone or deal with a human agent on chat. No one wants to have to repeat themselves when talking to different parts of the same company.
By the time a human agent is presented with the case, they should have all necessary context – conversational history, product ordered, delivery information, and more. Connecting all this information in one platform – including integration with your order management system – helps ensure that agents have a full understanding of the customer and can manage more complex requests in a timely manner.
It’s important not just to deal with late or missed deliveries, it’s also imperative to counteract the frustration that comes with it. And when customer services start to become more proactive than reactive, with the use of AI, we can reduce the amount of anxiety from WISMO altogether.
At the heart of reaching this goal is an open flexible platform that enables collaboration throughout the business and integration with other stakeholders through APIs and app integrations to enable a complete view across the supply chain.
This shift in purchasing behaviour is set to accelerate further over the coming decade. Customer behaviour could see the internet account for as much as 53 percent of retail sales in 10 years’ time, according to a report by analysts Retail Economics.
As a consequence of an expanding digital retail environment, the breadth of available choice has also grown rapidly. In fact, consumers are now being faced with something of a ‘paradox of choice’ from the available options. This terminology is used to describe the way an ever increasing amount of choice can cause a corresponding increase in anxiety – and it’s becoming a consumer pain point.
As retail has evolved to become more saturated, so too has the expanding range of platforms it operates over. Across social, search, maps, apps, and more recently voice assistants, we have more purchase avenues available to us than ever to add to the chaos. This also means that brands have more touchpoints than ever to manage to ensure that they are discoverable.
How can brands come out on top?
Businesses must now take an active role in guiding potential customers through the seemingly endless choice across digital platforms to ensure that they come out on top. By managing all of the public facts about your brand, as well as online reputation, you can improve consumer confidence that your product or service is the best of the options presented.
In a world where options are countless, reputation management is intrinsically linked to revenue. Time-poor online searchers are looking for answers fast, and typically, they will scan for average ratings and read a few reviews to reassure themselves that they are making the right purchasing decision.
Reviews are important and consumers often shape their perceptions around them, so they’ve become a key brand consideration. They also impact discoverability through SEO as consumers search for ‘best’ and ‘top 10’, for example. So, monitoring this feedback and providing responses is a crucial element of modern day reputation management.
Managing the facts about your brand
Reviews aren’t the only aspect to reputation management. Increasingly, today’s customer journey starts with a question, and customers expect quick and easy access to accurate answers. For your business, that means providing the facts about your offering – from hours, services, locations, professionals, menus to events – everywhere consumers search.
The future of search lies in answers. So, alongside authenticity and transparency, reputation and responsiveness to customers’ opinions should be key commercial considerations right now. Those that offer accurate and useful information across multiple touchpoints will be well positioned in an era of seemingly limitless choice and noise – and their customers will thank them for it.
Some say there has never been a better time to be searching for employment.
It is true that the whole process has significantly improved, especially with the growth of technology and the internet. Plus, long gone are the days when everyone needed to be in London to find a job, with other cities in the UK growing at a tremendous rate. In fact, Manchester has been the fastest growing city in England and Wales between 2002-2015. So finding jobs in Manchester with online recruiters is just as easy as getting a similar position in London.
With that being said, it can be argued that being successful at the interview stage may be one of the trickiest parts of the course. Especially with recruiters getting more creative these days when it comes to looking for their perfect candidate; which has seen digital interviews become increasingly popular.
Digital interviews, in many respects, are the ideal way to put a potential recruit to the test, so if you’re facing one any time soon, we have some fantastic tips for you.
One of the first things you can do to prepare to nail a digital interview is to put effort into research. There’s a lot of things to study ahead of the conversation, but by making time you will give yourself a better chance of being successful.
Begin by researching the company, learn of the vital information. From there, study the role you’re applying for, as well as doing your homework on the interviewer.
After getting the research done, preparing how you’re going to present yourself is the next step. Research again can help here, especially if you’re able to ascertain the dress code of the company itself or the role you’re applying.
Looking smart is always a requirement, and remember, first impressions count. However, don’t be overdressed. The interviewer is more interested in what you have to say, so don’t let your appearance take their attention away from this.
So, now not only do you know the company, your potential role, and the interviewer you’ll face, you also know how you’ll present yourself too. Now it’s time to call on a friend or two, as you’re going to need to practice ahead of the real thing. Practice digital interviews are essential, especially when using multiple people, as they allow you to refine your approach and work on areas that perhaps need a bit of improvement ahead of the upcoming interview with the employer.
The great thing about practice digital interviews is that they can be recorded and then watched back. It will allow you to get to grips with how you’re presenting yourself, the way you answer questions and everything else which will prove to be prominent on the day. Having the opportunity to have practice runs will give you the chance to perhaps pick up on overusing words or phrases or talking too fast, or too slow.
Now it’s on to the eve of your digital interview. A good night’s sleep will be needed ahead of the event, as not only will you look more presentable, your cognitive function will also be better too. Therefore, you’ll be able to think quicker, provide better answers, and remain calm too. A shower after walking up is essential also, as this will help refresh and relax you, and again have a positive effect on both your appearance and state of mind.
If you use all the tips we’ve provided above, you should be well on your way to nailing your digital interview. Remember, stay calm and focused, and most importantly of all, be yourself and enjoy.
It’s never been easier or quicker to switch suppliers and service providers, with digital innovation and digital disruptors providing customers with the opportunity to make a change in super-quick time.
Such is the freedom of choice and the ease of changing that more and more customers are bypassing the complaints stage, choosing instead to vote with their feet (or more likely in 2019, their mouse). For the providers and suppliers this is obviously proving to be a testing time, with businesses searching for ways to better manage this current generation of increasingly transient and intolerant customers.
Before business leaders can hope to address this, it’s vital to try and understand what’s led to this shift in customer behaviour on such a large scale. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of factors at play. Generally, people are more frayed than ever before, with socio-economic and political pressures taking their toll, adversely affecting patience levels if and when things do go wrong.
Also, expectations have changed, with an instant response or next-day service now deemed standard, no matter how complex the issue. And, perhaps most worrying for businesses, the entire concept of brand loyalty seems to have fallen by the wayside. While customers still seem to have a certain affinity to particular products and services, brand loyalty, where people have an emotional attachment to a particular brand, certainly seems to be a very rare phenomenon in this, our digital era.
This is actually where the crux of the issue lies. We’re now living and working in a truly digital age. Analogue is no more and the majority of interactions customers have with their service providers are digital, creating a disconnect between brands and their customers. Brands don’t have a human face any more, with the continued dehumanisation of brands only serving to remove any remaining traces of customer loyalty.
There is one exception to this move away from human interactions and that is when something goes wrong. As a rule, the only time you speak to a human is if something has gone wrong, and the human that you speak to has the power to make the situation much better or even much worse, something that businesses are trying their best to ensure is always the former and never the latter.
Ultimately, even in our digital world, what customers are looking for when they have a problem remain the same. They want a sympathetic ear; they want to know they’re being taken care of; they want to know you won’t stop until their issue is resolved; they want to know it’s not likely to happen again in the future, and they want this all done in a reasonable timeframe.
While there is no budget for a white glove service for every customer, the very fact that we’re operating in a digital world undoubtedly helps to provide certain aspects of what customers want and need. Digital systems can furnish call handlers and other front-line operatives with customer data, transactional information and customer history, helping to take care of the speed to resolution aspect.
However, this digital ‘efficiency’ can leave people a little cold and a computer’s inability to not only factor in but decipher new contextual variables that are part and parcel of the human psyche, mean that even the most advanced of digital solutions can still leave customers wanting when it comes to optimum levels of service.
While computers are very good if told exactly what to do, their inability to capture the nuances of human behaviour and emotions mean we’re still a long way off from going totally digital for customer interactions. Humans are too complex and fickle to shoehorn into a one-size-fits-all solution, making it necessary to maintain that sprinkling of human interaction alongside even the most intelligent of digital solutions. Which brings us back to the fallibility of humans and their ability to exacerbate an already negative situation.
A winning combination
What’s needed is increased automation to remove the laborious, time-consuming activities, with the addition of the human touch to thaw the seemingly cold-nature of digital intervention, underpinned by timely, contextual information to signpost the best route to resolution for the customer. While many businesses are working towards achieving this, no-one is there yet, with work ongoing as to how best to amalgamate the digital with the human to achieve optimum outcomes for both the customer and the provider.
Businesses need to focus on capturing the information needed to help automate the human touch. So, what are the signs given off by customers that in hindsight have signalled their ultimate intention to leave in the future?
Perhaps a reduction in deposits, a decrease in transactions, switching products or increased interactions with a help desk? As with all things in our digital world, it’s all about how best to use the abundance of data we all now have at our disposal to inform strategy, using the benefits of digital solutions to underpin efficient, effective and empathic human interactions at every possible opportunity.
It’s no longer enough to establish just whether a customer prefers email or telephone contact, or what time of day is best to make contact. Such is the lack of human interaction that the majority of customers experience, it’s vital for businesses to monitor and understand individual sentiments and behaviours, in an effort to uncover a deep understanding of the specific requirements of individual customers at every point of contact.
This, in combination with machine learning capabilities and the nuanced potential of the human touch, is the only hope businesses have of seeing a return to the customer loyalty of the past, resulting in a finely-honed Customer Experience for that all-important competitive advantage in an increasingly volatile marketplace.
Jo Boswell is Founder & Director of Sentio-B, and one of the UK’s innovative CX consultants. This October she returned to Wembley Stadium to judge at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, where she was impressed with the calibre of finalists…
This was my second time at the UKCXAs, and my third time as an awards judge, having chaired a panel at the UK Digital Experience Awards earlier this year.
As a consultant, I spend my time helping organisations work out how to improve their Customer Experience, and so being invited to judge these awards is a privilege as it gives me the opportunity to hear about what other businesses are doing to innovate and improve their CX.
The recent awards day was made even more enjoyable as I got to work alongside fellow judges including Helen Gillett, Kathryn King, Victoria Orr, and Niranjalee Rajaratne. Once the scoring was done (without discussion of course, as that is strictly verboten’) it was a joy to share perspectives on a range of topics with these inspiring CX professionals.
This year I was allocated to the Customers at the Heart of Everything – SME category.When I read the written submissions, I found the standard to be generally high and an improvement on the previous year. On the day, I was even more pleased with the quality of the presentations, and impressed by the effort these finalists had put into the process, particularly as this represents a significant commitment in time and resources for a small business.
We heard some great examples throughout the day, showing how these organisations were getting a customer mindset firmly embedded in their business processes. What was also noteworthy was that most of them were able to attribute tangible business benefits to the bottom line as a result of taking this approach.
The Gold winners in the category were Trusted Housesitters, whose approach to improving the experience included a relentless focus on removing pain points for their customers. This resulted in a significant reduction in inbound calls to their contact centre, even though their customer base had substantially increased at the same time.
The Silver runners-up, AllClear Insurance Services, described how they had seen notable improvements in their employee engagement and retention numbers as a result of addressing customer issues that their front-line colleagues were raising – a great illustration of the close link between Employee Experience and Customer Experience.
Both examples are a reminder that simple and relatively low-cost approaches can reap some great results.
Overall, what struck me with all the presentations was the energy and enthusiasm the teams showed around improving the experience for their customers, and their ability to drive the internal change with relative ease – this is often an area that larger businesses struggle with.
There were some impressive examples of cross-functional processes being established to tune into the customer voice and to monitor the top customer issues needing to be addressed, and a recurring theme throughout the day was one of actively seeking out customer complaints, so that feedback could be acted upon.
Whilst it was encouraging to see the businesses in this SME category managing to deliver some great customer outcomes relatively quickly with reasonably simple approaches, it was also clear that as their businesses expand, they will face new challenges in sustaining these efforts. If they put the same heart and soul into meeting that challenge as they did to their UK Customer Experience Awards entry and presentation, however, I’m sure they will succeed.
In my recent discussions with UK banking execs, I’ve detected a fresh urgency when they talk of the need for change.
Banks have been speaking about greater customer centricity in their annual reports for years, but it’s really only in the past six months I’ve started to hear banking leaders highlight it as something that needs to happen “if we’re going to survive”.
I’ve been wondering why this is. After all, if we’re honest, UK banks have rarely done more than pay lip service to Customer Experience. Certainly, all their talk has amounted to negligible difference in our experience as customers.
So, what’s changed?
I think it’s the realisation that the rubber band that stretches between customer expectations (ever increasing) and service quality (flatlining) has finally reached breaking point – a hot topic which I discussed with The Experience Professionals in Medallia’s recent webinar Reimagining CX for Banking in the Digital Age.
This article will go further in outlining the specific risks for those banks that are still perhaps resistant to change, and what they should do about it.
Join me if you will on a journey back in time, in more ways than one.
‘Look at those cavemen go’
In January this year, I was in my local branch for an appointment.
I’d been on time, but the IT system had other ideas. I remember checking the clock; my Personal Banker had last appeared some 10 minutes before. At that point, he’d assured me we’d be up and running in five.
With no offer of tea or coffee to distract me, my attention fell to a poster on the wall, which ranked the UK banks by various perception metrics. Clearly it wouldn’t be on display if it didn’t have to be – my bank, one of the UK’s Big Four, didn’t have much to shout about. Under ‘Branch Experience’, for instance, it loitered somewhere in the bottom half of the list, below a number of challenger brands and building societies.
Bored of flicking through yesterday’s newspapers, I reflected on how I’d come to be there. I’d recently tried to open an account online. This included the usual process of KYC (Know Your Customer), where the bank attempts to verify a person’s identity. Now, despite my holding seven products with this bank, it turned out it didn’t know me very well at all. With the system unable to verify my identity digitally, and the contact centre unable to help, I was invited – a customer of 18 years’ standing, who hadn’t changed his address in nine – to pop in and prove that I was me.
First world problems of course. To be clear, I’m not suggesting my experience is uniquely terrible.
In fact, I’m sure most of us could rattle off stories about our banks – and many of those would be far, far worse. In 2018, a study by Medallia and Ipsos found that just seven percent of UK banking customers felt their experience had exceeded expectations over the past year. Contrast this with 19 percent in the USA.
And really, that’s the point. Reflecting on my experience, doesn’t it feel like something from a bygone era? After my appointment (which finally started a full half-hour after it had been due to finish), I remember thinking as I raced back to the office: “Why are banks such laggards in the UK?”
Focused on the wrong outcomes?
At first glance, it seems inexplicable.
After all, the links between CX and business results are well-documented. Take the ‘Likelihood to recommend’ survey question. The potential for financial impact is self-evident: if you treat customers well, they’ll be more likely to stick with you and tell their friends.
But it’s more than just common sense; there is hard data to back it up too. Farmers Insurance, for instance, attribute its CX investments with driving a three-point improvement in retention over three years, equivalent to $500 million annually in incremental revenue.
The Medallia-Ipsos research found that 40 percent of a bank’s customers would tell their friends and family after a positive experience. That’s 40 percent of a bank’s customer base happy to work as an extension of its marketing division – for free – helping to bring down cost of acquisition.
Meanwhile, as many as 18 percent said a positive experience would cause them to start using their bank more – a sizeable audience ripe for cross-sell. Why would the banks, of all organisations, be so lackadaisical about trying to capitalise on this financial linkage?
Perhaps the answer lies in part with another metric – one the banks have tended not to view as a cause for concern – attrition.
In contrast to other industries, in UK consumer banking, conventional wisdom has it that when a customer opens their first account, by and large they’ll remain a customer for life. For decades, acquisition strategies employed by the banks – visiting local schools, etc. – have borne fruit.
I still have the branded money box I received in what must have been my first interaction with any bank (and yes, that brand went on to become my primary provider). Great at attracting new customers, banks have been terrible at servicing existing ones – and it hasn’t mattered because those customers don’t churn. Even seven-day switching has failed to disrupt that paradigm.
With the banks laser-focused on efficiency ever since the global financial crisis, the levels of retention they’ve enjoyed have enabled them to concentrate on cost cutting, while deprioritising investments that would improve CX – even if those investments would lead to greater share of wallet from happier customers.
But there are signs that customer inertia may be a thing of the past. The Medallia-Ipsos research found that, today, 13 percent of UK customers will switch banks if their expectations are not met. While that’s a smaller proportion than the cross-industry average of 64 percent, still it remains far from negligible. And it should be a wakeup call for the big UK banks.
The end of customer stickiness
Branch closures have accelerated a trend that was already underway. A recent study found that a bank’s physical location is far less important than it was a decade ago, with only 10 percent of today’s customers citing it among their top three reasons for choosing a bank. Contrast that to the 42 percent of Generation Z customers and 37 percent of millennials who list “ability to manage services via a mobile app” among their top three reasons.
Take Monzo for example. Some recent hiccups notwithstanding, the asset-light UK challenger bank onboarded its two-millionth customer this year. Millennials and others, who will be the drivers of future growth, have realised that factors like proximity to branches are less important to them.
As consumers increasingly look to their banks to meet them wherever they are, the old rules of attraction and retention are breaking down.
Banking leaders have long talked of the threat of disintermediation – of some nightmare future (for the banks) where the fintechs have successfully interposed themselves between customer and bank. In that dystopia, the fintechs own the distribution layer, ultimately winning the end relationship with the consumer, leaving the traditional banks to do the fulfilment behind the scenes.
But, as with climate change, arguably the future is already here. Monzo is currently growing at a rate of 35,000 customers per week. Have banks truly grasped the urgency of their predicament?
In January this year, around the same time I was struggling to open that account, I asked some industry contacts for their opinions on Monzo. I found their opinions surprising:
“Smells like emperor’s new clothes.”
“They are a comms company not a bank.”
So, in the UK at least, a degree of complacency remains. CX is generally treated as a matter of compliance (see the poster in my local branch, on display at the stipulation of the Competition and Markets Authority), rather than being seen as an opportunity to drive meaningful change. While most of the big banks have a CX programme in place, too often it’s merely a case of sending out surveys. And surveys aren’t the answer.
Why surveys alone can’t work
Take the example of my account opening fiasco. Sure, a survey would have allowed me to tell the bank about it – but only after the fact.
Best case, someone calls me to apologise. Think how more impactful it would have been – and how more satisfying for me as the customer – if the bank had resolved things in the moment. Multiple signals were generated over the course of my experience, from the unsuccessful digital application, to my unresolved query with the contact centre, to the operational signals at the branch (i.e. the IT failure occurring at the same time as a known customer appointment).
Any or all of these together should have alerted someone that a customer was having a bad time.
So far, UK banks’ over-reliance on the survey companies has bought them nothing but stagnation. When it comes to service quality, the UK Big Four are all competing in the same narrow range, while challengers put clear blue water between themselves and the traditional providers.
Learning from other regions
UK banks would do well to take note of what’s happening across the Atlantic and elsewhere in Europe. I like what I’ve been seeing from Bank of America (BofA) for instance – a bank that has recognised how today’s customer expectations are shaped by the likes of Apple and Airbnb.
I also like what I’ve seen from ABN AMRO. Based on customer signals, ABN completely overhauled its mortgage process, which now includes a personalised video to guide customers through their journey (e.g. the time of their appointment, where they need to go, what paperwork they should bring).
ABN’s mortgage perception scores have moved from -30 to +30 as a result. Indeed, ABN has seen a +16 point improvement in overall customer perception and a +20 point improvement in Customer Care, all without ever displaying an aggregated score on anyone’s dashboard internally. ABN recognises that impactful CX is not about score-watching; instead the focus should be on keeping employees engaged. Consequently, ABN trials initiatives like handing out customer stories in fortune cookies – fun things like that – and much of ABN’s success is due to leveraging employee ideas.
To make all of the above happen, ABN and BofA equip their colleagues with empathetic tools that enable them to understand the true picture of CX. As ever, technology can provide a solution – but first a bank needs the vision to move beyond using surveys as a blunt instrument. And, frankly, also the courage to stand up and say “this is worth investing in”.
It’s clear that good stuff is happening elsewhere. It just hasn’t taken hold here yet.
Sure, that’s often the way with tech-enabled innovation: it starts in Silicon Valley, migrates to the East Coast, then makes landfall in Europe a couple of years later. Even by that standard, however, the UK banks are starting to look decidedly behind the times.
With the fintechs no longer merely yapping at their heels but actively winning market, it’s finally do-or-die time for banks. The days of “too-big-to-fail” are demonstrably over, as the execs I mentioned at the top of this article are starting to verbalise. It’s time for the UK big banks to stop issuing mealy mouthed platitudes about “Customer Experience”.
Time at last to demonstrate to consumers why on earth they should continue banking with them.
Medallia recently published The 4 Pillars of CX Excellence for Banking. In addition to the steps outlined in that whitepaper, below are my urgent recommendations for those banks that are still dragging their feet:
1. Revisit the business case for CX
Sure, balancing efficiency targets with CX projects will always take careful calibration. But deprioritising customer-focused investments in favour of cost reduction inevitably leads to a race to the bottom.
Evangelists for CX within banks need to be able to equip their P&L-owning execs with the arguments – how good CX leads to reduced cost to serve, lower acquisition costs, improved retention and greater share of wallet. CX has earned its seat at the top table; if banks are going to stop treating it as a compliance function, it has to be top-of-mind for execs with decision-making and budgetary authority, not just analysts.
2. Look beyond the survey
Start meeting customers where they are, by bringing together signals from across channels – SMS, social, “emerging platforms” (Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, etc.) to understand the true picture of Customer Experience. Customers are less willing than ever to respond to surveys; banks need to be smart about gathering and interpreting signals wherever they may be harvested.
3. Think in-the-moment
Don’t let customer signals disappear into some analytical black box.
That won’t wash any more.
Even just apologising to customers 24-48 hours after an incident feels woefully insufficient in today’s Uber-ised marketplace. Think about customer signals not simply as data, but as a way to deepen relationships and uncover underlying issues and unmet needs. View each signal as a potential opener to a dialogue, and start engaging in those conversations now.
4. Activate the entire organisation
It’s easy enough to engage frontline colleagues with customer feedback – and most banks do at least an element of this – but what about product and proposition teams? They may not interact directly with customers, but still they play a pivotal role in shaping their experiences.
To keep pace with ever-changing customer demands, it’s crucial that middle – and back – office teams are supported to develop greater empathy for customers’ experiences, to design more empathetic experiences.
5. Above all, recognise and listen to your people
Engaged employees are more likely to manifest customer-focused behaviours that lead to bottom-line impact. This is hardly new insight – it’s the central philosophy of the service-profit chain that a trio of Harvard academics evidenced as early as 1994.
But have the big UK banks truly embraced this? When CX becomes a score-watching exercise, when employee ideas are either not solicited at all or disappear into the ether, what does that say about the value the bank places on its employees’ ability to change customer’s lives? Recognition, positive coaching and effectively harnessing employee ideas at scale are key.
It’s not too late for the banks to decide to compete to win and survive. It will, of course, require a new approach. But will any of them have the courage to change?
A truce has been called in the 20-year battle between marketing and IT for the territory of Digital Experience. Enterprise architects are turning IT departments into business consultancies and marketing now frequently takes on the development capacities for digital. As a result, growth-hacking and T-shaped marketers made it into mainstream marketing teams in 2019.
In 2020, marketing will go one step further and include front end engineers into their teams. But because of this, another war stirs – the war for front-end developer talent is going to become incredibly fierce, incredibly quickly.And this may actually define the success of many businesses.
The lessons of history
Like all wars, there are lessons in history.For this particular battle, those lessons can be found in Photoshop.
Twenty years ago, marketing made leaflets. Marketers looked at what topics would be interesting for the audience and what brand feel they wanted to portray. For the layout however, businesses used agencies. And when those agency relationships didn’t work as fast as they were needed, businesses hired photoshop guys internally. The resulting war for talent, ideas, and execution defined marketing in many industries and the impact is still felt today.
Now, leaflets and brochures are gone. Largely, at least.
The main channel of communication today is digital media, and the photoshop guys of digital media are front-end developers.
A different digital battlefield
It is also worth noting that the ‘digital’ battlefield itself is changing.Businesses used to have templates and drag-and-drop teasers on a homepage in a content management system. That worked in the world of desktop web. Now, businesses and consumers live in the world of mobile experiences, smart spaces, and connected products. As a result, desktop websites will continue to lose importance year over year.
2020 is the year marketing disciplines will need to be ready for this fight.Modern content management systems don’t do templates anymore. They focus on content delivery, speed, and versatility to deliver into these new channels and experiences. They cater to the philosophy of growth hacking and constantly testing assumptions.
This new way of working starts with these new channels, increasingly employs personalisation in real-time, and tests and refines customer interactions.In this context, front-end developers will become the highly prized special forces that can define marketing success.
There is no way around this. Marketing needs front-end developers if the business wants to deliver the latest and greatest Digital Experience to customers. With Digital Experience being the main differentiator, a business cannot afford to fall behind.
There will undoubtedly be casualties, but to the victor will go the spoils of keenly engaged customers ready and willing to engage with a business in a variety of ways.
In this exclusive book excerpt for Customer Experience Magazine, the authors explores why CEOs must embrace the new customer economy, or face extinction…
Being customer-led is not a new concept.
The difference today, however, is that being customer-centric is no longer an option – it is a necessity for survival and growth. And, as the principle of customer-centricity has existed for a long time, it has taken many forms, having been reinvented on many occasions to suit the zeitgeist. Same person, different attire.
For example, when Levitt argued in the 1960s that the essence of marketing was all about satisfying the customer, the marketing purists would, in turn, claim the higher ground that sales was short-term, and that marketing was all about building a sustainable business. Hence, today, marketing professionals and leaders still claim to be the ultimate customer champions within any organisation – even if they are viewed upon as a mere executor of product and solution-led communication campaigns. And even, in the worst-case scenario, when marketers have very little customer interaction at all!
Later followed the CX movement, championed by the likes of Don Peppers, where the idea of satisfying customer needs rather than gaining market share for products and solutions became the ‘new’ mantra. Ultimately, this movement spawned today’s huge global community of CX evangelists and experts, including the likes of Jeanne Bliss, Shep Hyken, Annette Franz, the Temkin Group, the CXPA, etc. Also, it gave rise to many voices in the customer communities and the net promoter system (NPS), pioneered by Fred Reichheld, Bain and Satmetrix. It also led to the seminal book by Kerry Bodine et al., titled Outside-In.
In addition to the CX community, there is also a sizeable contingent of Customer Advocacy professionals who champion the cause that a referenceable client base is key to company growth. Bill Lee, author and founder of the Centre for Customer Engagement, rightfully claims the moniker of ‘Customer Advocacy & Engagement King’, a concept which even now is being reinvented and repackaged by technology vendors such as Influitive who are looking to create a new market category under the theme of the ‘Customer-Powered Enterprise’.
Finally, and most recently, is the Customer Success movement, created and championed by the Customer Success platform vendors – first and foremost Gainsight (whose COO wrote the book on Customer Success), but also its competitors such as Totango and consultancy organisations such as TSIA (the Technology Services Industry Association). The Customer Success movement is impressive, amassing thousands of Customer Success professionals at annual conferences in the United States, Europe and Asia. The majority of Customer Success professionals come from a technical support background but have been rebadged and repositioned as customer champions of many organisations, especially in the B2B technology/SaaS world.
In reality, there is a significant overlap between all of these concepts, ideas and customer communities. By way of example, Annette Franz, CX thought leader, wrote an article in October 2018 to describe the difference between CX and Customer Success. She curated quotes from Customer Success thought leaders such as Gainsight and the Customer Success Association in an effort to compare and contrast the two disciplines. After dissecting the two concepts, she concluded as follows:
“It makes me question if the Customer Success role and discipline are really necessary. What do you think? Customer Experience is the umbrella. Get the experience right – listen to customers, understand the problems they are trying to solve, innovate, and design and deliver a better experience – and Customer Success management becomes obsolete, no? After all, it’s all about the customer.”
We have seen this before with the crossover between VoC (Voice of the Customer) and Customer Advocacy professionals. VoC teams state that the golden NPS question – likelihood to recommend – is their raison d’être. At the same time, the ultimate goal of Customer Advocacy professionals is to deliver a referenceable client base to advocate at every step of the customer journey. So, what is the difference?
The simple answer is that all of these communities present valid arguments and have important contributions to make when it comes to helping their company drive customer-led growth. Yet, no single community on its own has the silver bullet when it comes to achieving this. In truth, it is the combined set of activities that will help a company achieve its vision for customer-led growth. To coin a phrase, it is a war on all fronts. And, as we mentioned in the introduction, it is no longer a recommendation, it is a necessity.
As CX leader Claire Sporton puts it, “Investors now look for sustainable growth, not short-term wins each quarter. The M&A community are recognising that a commitment to customer centricity is a leading indicator of sustainable business growth.”
The Angora Rabbit: Why do customer-led transformations often run out of steam?
According to Sporton, “The challenge is that no one would say that the customer is not important – just like the rabbit, every-one will give it a stroke. But when it comes to looking after it, people quickly get bored. And then the fox (the maniacal pursuit of short-term revenue gain) eats the rabbit.”
Sporton makes the key point that the pursuit of customer-centric growth needs to be deeply embedded in the organisation: “There’s no business growth unless people change their behaviours. Two-day change programmes don’t work. Executive leadership must rigorously champion customer-centric values all the time, ensuring that actions are made, and impact is measured. CEOs must create sustainable, viral change.”
CX leader, Shep Hyken builds on this point: “One of the most important factors in driving growth is to establish a simple, clear and easy-to-remember customer vision statement. And then repeat it over and over again, so that everyone across the company knows it and applies it in their day-to-day activities. Leadership must set an example and constantly defend the culture. Whether it’s training, workshops or simply leading by example, the customer vision must be continually re-enforced.”
Take, for example, Horst Schulze, the founder of Ritz-Carlton. His customer vision statement was simple: “We’re ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.’ This statement is still used today, and Ritz-Carlton remains one of the most successful hotel chains ever.”
In summary, it is imperative that customer-centricity be hard-wired into the company’s DNA, culture, operations, processes, products, systems, etc. – ideally, from day 1; but, if that is not possible, then starting tomorrow.
Earlier this month, Ian Golding, Founder of the Customer Experience Consultancy and leader of the CX Professional Masterclass, joined Peter Dorrington, Director of Analytics at TTEC, at a CXPA & TTEC Breakfast Workshop.
In a joint article for CXM, Ian and Peter explore how the advances in CX measurement can curb this trend…
The Past, Present and Future of CX Measurement – Ian Golding
Although companies are using a number of CX measurements and capturing details, the majority are not taking action or worse, applying them incorrectly and so they come to the wrong conclusion.
NPS and CSAT scores are cost-effective and easy ways of getting feedback from customers and an easy way for customers to provide feedback.Many would argue over time they have been shown to be valuable, credible systems for customer-focussed companies.However, many companies are failing to apply them correctly and increasingly they are being used as a tick-box to please stakeholder and shareholders.
Consumer experience is fast becoming a dominant theme for financial services and the FCA is increasingly focussed on quantifiable customer outcomes. To ensure the reliability of measures of satisfaction, they have issued a mandate that results are collected independently and widely published. Improving CX can influence people to switch supplier with the promise of getting better customer service, but consumers need a reliable way of assessing the experience that organisations provide.
More CX measurements will be regulated if companies cannot do it accurately and continue to publish inaccurate results as part of their advertising and brand promotion.
The Voice of Customer (VOC) and Voice of the Employee (VOE) are often listened to and treated entirely separately. Organisations that run VOC and VOE programmes usually conduct them at different times, using different teams – for example VOE is often confused with Employee Engagement. What’s more, they’ll invariably have entirely different objectives and different KPIs against which outcomes are measured. It is vital to check that your employees feel the same way about your service as customers.VOE can provide a vital check and balance to VOC, with a wide disparity between the two being a cause for concern.
VOC and VOE results should be broadly similar.Something is wrong if they are not.Also ensure your Voice of the Employee surveys are anonymous and that something with the results – both programmes should provide the impetus and insight for action.
The most robust CX measurement systems are structured by correlating business processes with the customer journey. If we think of all organisations as a combination of ‘layers’, whilst the top layer is the customer journey, the middle layer is made up of business processes. It is a business’s processes that enable the customer journey to happen. The bottom layer comprises the technology that enables business processes to deliver the customer outcome. However, all too often, it is the technology that is forcing the customer process, so the customer gets whatever that manifests itself as.
For a business to be focussed on knowing what to address to improve the customer journey it must be able to measure “cause and effect”. If you measure how capable business processes are at doing what they need to do, you should see an improvement in the way customers feel about what you do.
Unfortunately, too many companies are mapping customer journeys without measuring their experience of each touch point as it relates to customer needs.
Using Emotion Analytics to Understand What Customers Value, and Why – Peter Dorrington
“Customer experience management is the art and science of coaxing lifetime loyalty from daily transactions.”
“Customers who are emotionally connected with a brand are 52% more valuable than customers who are just highly satisfied”
Harvard Business Review
The above quotes show the power of emotion.
Imagine being able to use that to not only measure how well your CX strategy is doing but to increase loyalty and revenues.
Work in the field of behavioural economics has demonstrated just how dependent on emotions we are for decision-making – even very big decisions, where we think we are acting ‘rationally’. Research into the placebo effect demonstrates just how powerful the brain is in influencing the body and decisions. Emotions are an important part of how we experience and how we make decisions and It is now possible to anticipate the emotional state of every customer, whether you are in an active conversation with them or not.
A lot of organisations have recognised that if CX is the new competitive battleground, not only does it have to be good, but it has to be relevant and valued by the person experiencing it – and therefore you have to address their emotions; what they care about.
TTEC’s research shows that business can make quantifiable improvements in their customer-facing decision-making if they have a way of knowing what the customer feels. At the highest level of abstraction, emotion analytics could support the design of more efficient and effective customer experiences at the strategic level – by putting the ‘relationship’ back into customer relationship management. When it knows that a customer has emotional, as well as practical needs, a business is better able to meet all their needs.
If a business could understand within customer journeys how customers feel at different stages – what might be motivating them, what might influence their decisions – then it is better able design a better experience; resulting in a better experience, higher satisfaction, and all the benefits that brings; increased revenues, lower churn and more powerful advocacy.
Turning CX insights into hyper personalised experiences
One example of how this insight could be used would be in the arena of receptiveness. An organisation could convert the emotions into understanding whether a customer would be receptive to hearing from it. This would therefore influence whether they are marketed to, what is marketed to them and how it is done.
Think of upselling someone from a gold card to the platinum card. But just before we send the messaging, we do a check to see if the person is receptive and it becomes clear they are not – perhaps there has been a transactional issue, or there may be more of an emotional zeitgeist thing where banks are getting hammered in the press.
Not only should we consider emotions in the operational aspects of our business, we need to think about the role they play in the product or service itself.
Elsewhere, there are also implications for the way that inbound interactions are handled. For instance, an organisation may be able to anticipate that the customer will call and that if she calls she will be upset, so the company can put her through to a senior handler who is better at dealing those kinds of conversations (i.e. have high EQ).
The use of emotional insights could also extend into the world of bots and AI, enabling organisations to choose which script to use and which tone of voice to adopt. And the evidence shows that people will pay a premium to those organisations that they believe will make them feel the way that they want to expect to feel as well as which actions could be taken to cost-effectively strengthen the relationship.
Not only should we consider emotions in the operational aspects of our business, we need to think about the role they play in the product or service itself: as well as considering the functional needs of the customer, think about their (changing) emotional needs as well; it affects everything they do and research shows that customers will pay a premium to organisations they think will meet their emotional needs better. And our own research shows that customers are more loyal towards companies that meet their emotional needs.
Finally, TTEC’s research also shows that customer don’t always need a ‘better’ Customer Experience, preferring that the experiences they have predictable meet their expectations on a consistent basis. The implications for organisation is this; it is often better to maintain the level of the experience, but focus on aligning it to customer expectations and reduce the cost and complexity of delivery.
Companies must upgrade their CX measurements to capture customers’ emotions. How customers feel about their experiences with a firm can damage – or improve – their perception of the overall experience and the brand!
A positive company culture is more important for businesses now that at any stage in their history, with a recent poll suggesting 92 percent of senior executives cite cultural change as a critical driver to increase their firm’s values, but only 16 percent agreeing their culture was where it needed to be.
As anyone in a management position can tell you, poor company culture can lead to workplace bullying, harassment, and a lack of productivity among other things, and a new book by Colin D Ellis, Culture Fix: How to Create a Great Place to Work is a game-changing guide to building an enviable company culture.
Ellis argues that culture is key to success for every organisation, and is increasingly critical for millennials, who are prioritising organisations which offer a great culture over other traditional factors such as salary.
Culture Fix contains exclusive case studies from brands such as HSBC, Zappos, Google, and Manchester United among others, and the author employs his experience from working with global brands including Red Bull, and the governments of Australia and New Zealand.
In a competitive jobs market, culture is essential to attracting – and retaining – top talent in a new era of employment. As flexible and remote working becomes the norm, Ellis reveals how to ensure this doesn’t negatively impact the drive, cohesion, shared purpose, and innovation of teams.
His highly practical book will teach CEOs, managers, and team leaders to build self-motivating teams that not only bring value but create a fantastic Employee Experience.
Culture Fix is based on the six pillars of company culture: Personality & Communication, Vision, Values, Behaviour, Collaboration, and Innovation. Readers will learn to build an aspirational vision for teams and organisations, and about the importance of emotional intelligence in a successful team.
The book will tell you if your current team is stagnant, and offer skills to manage diverse teams which often cross cultural barriers.
Speaking to CXM, Ellis said: “Culture pervades through absolutely everything that’s done on a day-to-day basis in every organisation around the world, from the behaviour of senior leaders in large global organisations to the way that a sports team trains for a game at the weekend.
It dictates where people sit, how meetings are run, how decisions are made, how people are hired, how teams work together and how new ideas are implemented.
“When time is made for the staff to define the culture they need in order to be able to achieve the goals, then engagement will increase.
This leads to greater productivity, more sales, improved revenue, fewer safety incidents, reduced turnover of staff and, most importantly, happier staff and customers.
“This is why culture is important.”
Culture Fix: How to Create a Great Place to Work is out now, published by Wiley, priced £15.50.
If you’ve ever visited a website and been greeted by a human-like pop-up asking “How may I help you?”, you’re not alone.
According to Comm100, nearly 50 percent of consumers already engage in automated conversations with chatbots. And, according to Gartner, these numbers are growing.
Gartner predicts that 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate chatbot technology across customer service channels by 2020. The same source reports that in 2017 fewer than two percent did so, marking a huge jump in adoption of this technology in a relatively short amount of time.
With any business trend, organisations can feel pressure to adopt quickly, fearful that they will miss out on revenue and engagement opportunities if they do not use the same technologies as their competitors. However, simply deploying the latest technology does not guarantee companies will immediately begin delivering a great customer experience.
Organisations should be thoughtful in the way they strategically plan before implementing chatbots – AI-powered or not – to ensure that they are contributing to a positive customer experience, rather than just masking existing CX flaws.
How digital body language can guide when – and when not – to deploy a chatbot
A recent report by Juniper Research estimates that chatbots could help lower annual business costs by more than $8 billion by 2022. Chatbots also increase efficiency. By using AI-powered chatbots to process simple requests – account balances, due dates, etc. – agents have more time to have more personal, in-depth interactions with the customer via live chat.
These in-depth interactions also include successful sales conversions: the American Marketing Association reported that live chat increased sales by up to 20 percent.
With chatbots increasing efficiency and live chat boosting sales, bringing technology into customer interactions seems even more enticing than ever before. However, companies must consider how they will design their bot strategy so that it helps – rather than harms – Customer Experience.
I spoke with Tim de Paris, CTO at Decibel, a Digital Experience intelligence company based in Boston and London. He shared his thoughts on how chatbots can actually damage a customer’s experience if deployed ineffectively.
“To make a chatbot successful, organisations must have insight into how users are feeling about their experience,” he said.
“If a chatbot pops up asking the user if he/she needs help during an experience where they clearly don’t need help –like right when the page opens, or when he/she is already engaged in a positive experience – the chatbot interruption will only irritate the user, pushing them away rather than serving as a helpful assistant.”
According to de Paris, bots should be equipped to understand users’ digital body language: is the user engaged and ready to purchase? Or showing signs of confusion through scattered mouse behaviour? By being able to identify user pain points, brands can determine the best time to interject with a chatbot.
For example, if a customer is bouncing from page to page on a website and showing frantic mouse movements, clearly showing signs of frustration, the chatbot should step in to help, and even potentially pass the interaction off to a human agent who might be better positioned to help.
Conversely, if a customer has viewed one page for a significant amount of time and is flipping between shirt colours, he/she could be toward the end of the funnel, about to make a purchase and just contemplating last minute details. In this case, the chatbot should stay quiet, avoiding interrupting the customer’s decision.
“Only when organisations have insight into users’ digital body language with the right digital experience technology can chatbots be deployed at the most effective time,” said de Paris.
Best practices for implementing chatbots
Chatbots are immensely useful in boosting the efficiency of a company’s contact centre, but they are not a ‘one size fits all’ tool. Some bots can analyse text with natural language processing (NLP), whereas others only offer predetermined response options for users to interact with.
To successfully bring chatbots into the contact centre, companies should begin by being honest about the chatbot’s capabilities. By being up front about what a bot can and can’t do, customers will know right away what they can achieve in their interaction with a bot, and companies will understand when it’s time to transfer an interaction to a human agent.
Some chatbots are most helpful with basic questions – generating account balances, sharing business hours, etc. – but an agent should be brought in whenever the customer’s needs go beyond the bot’s capabilities. It is important that contact centres identify when a customer’s needs would be better serviced by a live agent based on a range of other criteria such as status, shopping cart value, geography, or the relative value of their query – every company will have a threshold above which they would prefer the question gets handled by a human.
Once a company deploys a chatbot, it should take advantage of all the metrics that the service provides to fine-tune the applications as needed to offer the best interaction. This includes feedback from post-chat surveys, recorded wait times, conversation lengths and customer satisfaction scores. This data can be used to identify trends as well as areas of strength and areas that need improvement.
While continuously using the metrics that the chatbot provides, businesses should be prepared to maintain the chatbots for best performance outcomes. Implementing a chatbot is not a ‘set-and-forget’ solution, but requires constant monitoring and improvement to best serve the agent and the customer, leading to a better interaction across the board.
After all, positive Customer Experience leads to more customer conversions.
Chatbots are here to stay, and if companies are going to use them, they need to know how to do so successfully and efficiently. By bringing a personal, customised experience to prospective buyers on digital channels, companies can improve the customer experience and increase revenue.
Last year, the 90s masterpiece Friends, which has been running and rerunning on TV for the last two and a half decades, caused joy and uproar when it made a return to the small screen via Netflix.
It was back! Hardly daring to believe this stroke of luck, many people of a certain age (these fearsome millennials we’ve been hearing about) took to their sofas to binge watch.
As one of these millennials, I was a happy cog in this machine of nostalgic fervour. However, alongside my uncritical enjoyment of this frankly problematic TV show, as I watched there was one aspect that stuck out, which I hadn’t paid much attention to before…
Phones and phone calls, and the sheer amount that these are used. Friends was filmed in the 90s, so there weren’t really mobile phones yet. They appear in later seasons, but they’re not a big feature. What struck me, though, wasn’t just the absence of mobiles and internet and so on, but rather the easy, natural, unstressed way they all use the phone. They ring each other constantly! They call strangers and service people! They’re always just picking up the phone and…ringing! Unannounced!
Fast forward to the present and things are quite different.
Firstly, our phone usage has decreased – we’re all calling each other far less. Three years ago, 96 percent of smartphone owners were making at least one voice call per week. Now, only three quarters of us do, while a quarter of us don’t make weekly phone calls at all.
Research commissioned back in 2012 by O2 found that the ‘telephone’ app is only the fifth most used app on the general public’s phones. Based on the rate of development of smartphones and communicative practices, chances are high that this has decreased again in the seven years since.
Secondly, phone calls make us nervous. A new, but increasingly prevalent problem for the modern age is so-called “telephone apprehension”. And it’s not only millennials who suffer from this (although they famously do). Around 10-15 percent of the population suffer from anxiety or fear when using the telephone; of these, around 2.5 percent are so anxious that they can be described as truly “telephonophobic”.
But where is this anxiety coming from? One argument is that for some, it’s about politeness. People born since the late 80s and 90s have grown up with numerous methods of communication, and as such, are never out of reach. Accordingly, they might be more likely to choose written rather than verbal communication, because it’s less intrusive – it doesn’t create an immediate demand on someone’s time.
For many, it’s not the case that phone calls are The Worst and to be avoided at all costs – but their intrusiveness needs to be managed. It’s become common courtesy to send a quick message before you pick up the phone, to check whether the person is free. This might seem odd, but it’s commonplace in the workplace – in many professions, people are far more likely to schedule non-urgent calls than to pick up the phone and demand immediate attention.
This is something to consider for companies like ContactEngine, which conduct multichannel customer conversations. It’s all very well sending SMS or email or other written comms, but voice calls are a different beast.
Because looking at the above in reverse, if people are making fewer calls, they’re not answering calls either. Another new (or not new anymore) aspect of phones is caller ID. We used not to know who was calling us when we answered the landline. Without caller ID, you just had to risk it. And we did!
But now? How many of us actually answer calls from an unknown number?
When designing our communications, we talk about the problem of customers not answering phone calls – but when I asked my colleagues if they answer calls from an unknown number, none of them said they do. I know I don’t. And we’re not alone, as some recent ContactEngine research indicates…
As shown, when receiving a call from an unknown number, some people decline the call (27 percent), some wait for a voicemail (21 percent), some Google the number (18 percent), and some do nothing (20 percent) – but none of these pick up the phone. Only around 14 percent of those we asked said they would actually answer the call.
As a business based around conversations, if people simply don’t answer their phone – whether because they’re anxious or they just don’t want to – what can we really do? Receiving cold calls isn’t nice, and especially not from an unknown number.
Well, there’s a couple of things we can do. First, we can consider the customer journey as a whole and take a holistic view of the communications. For example, ContactEngine may try to call a customer about their delivery details.
They may not pick up. Fair enough. But we can configure the conversation so that if there’s no answer, it leaves a pre-recorded voicemail explaining why we called and setting an expectation about what will happen next – for example, that we will send an email, and asking them to look out for it.
Or we could send an SMS – ‘We tried to call you earlier’ – and let them know what our next move will be: ‘We’ll try again tomorrow’. Adding context, or attempting contact via a different channel, makes the communications more trustworthy and increases the chances of contact.
Secondly, we can ask people when they’d like to be contacted. If a phone call is really necessary, we can ask via a written form of communication when would suit them. Our AI can interpret responses and book a slot, and they can be called back at that time by a human. If you’re expecting a call, you’re more likely to answer the phone.
As argued here, gaining permission is key to a successful phone call, and this could be a key to solving telephonobia too.
Consensual telephoning, basically.
These approaches might be unrecognisable to Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, et al – but times are a-changing. Friends celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. If this much has happened, technology-wise, in just those years, I wonder where we’ll be in another 25? Hopefully Friends will still be available on Netflix, anyway.
It’s a comfort thing. Don’t @ me.
This article was written in partnership with Zoey Planjer, Head of Customer Journey at ContactEngine.
B2B companies know the kind of Customer Experience they should be offering.
Buying experiences should be seamless and rich, with tailored product information, relevant pricing, and payment options, and the right combination of flexible and adaptable buying and selling touchpoints. These features are more important than ever for B2B buyers and sellers as retail giants like Amazon encroach into B2B territory.
Unfortunately, based on Elastic Path’s study of 300 B2B eCommerce decision makers, it seems the reality of the B2B experience lags well behind the expectation. Nearly half (45 percent) of B2B businesses have lost customers as a result of their commerce experience. Eighty-two percent believe that they will likely lose customers if they don’t make improvements to the commerce experience within the next year.
Despite company leaders seeming to understand the urgency for CX innovation, few are making the right investments. In an attempt to meet the needs of digitally savvy customers, most B2B companies have to turn to B2C-focused commerce platforms. But these leave buyers unable to complete the fundamentally different and more complex steps required in a B2B sale.
Instead, B2B businesses must focus on digitising the B2B buying experience rather than attempting to mimic B2C commerce. The Customer Experience must be the driving force behind B2B commerce innovation.
Enabling the true B2B experience
Many brands have implemented technology to improve Digital Experience for customers, but few are offering the tools required to truly enable B2B buying online. With platforms designed for consumer sales, buyers are left without the ability to complete orders online in the same manner they have completed orders historically.
Nuances like contract-based pricing or project-based ordering – activities traditionally handled over the phone with a rep – have not been accounted for on digital channels, leaving buyers frustrated and confused. Most B2B commerce sites today are basic, B2C-like, digitised catalogues with the ability to personalise recommendations.
But B2B buyers are buying for their businesses, not their lifestyles – basic digitised catalogues and shopping carts aren’t enough. For these buyers, it’s all about enabling efficient buying and selling, and solving both long-and short-term problems.
For example, a buyer might need to create a new order for a quickly moving project. But in a traditional shopping cart set-up, that buyer would need to discard any orders started for long-term projects. It’s a frustrating and inefficient process.
The missing piece of the puzzle
What B2B brands really need are purpose-built systems with features designed specifically to ease the complexities of B2B buying and selling. These systems position B2B businesses to evolve right alongside buyer expectations. A purpose-built B2B commerce system should:
1. Elevate your sales team beyond administrative order-taking roles.
2. Support organisation-specific digital catalogues on a single platform to deliver buyer and organisation-specific product assortments.
3. Provide account-based experiences and provide division and role-specific pricing depending on contract agreements.
4. Offer streamlined reordering and guided selling experiences that ensure products and services ordered together are compatible with one another.
5. Support flexible pricing models through account-specific pricing, subscription billing, usage pricing, tiered billing, or negotiated and contract billing.
6. Deliver unified experiences across channels using API-first platforms to power both online and offline CX as buyers traverse channels.
With a purpose-built B2B commerce system, the pieces just fall into place. They support the enormous complexity of the industry whilst allowing you to offer the quality experience buyers expect.
Happy customers make for better results
More than half (53 percent) of respondents in our research that have achieved profit margin growth in the last few years strongly agree that this has resulted from investments in digital buying and selling tools to provide better service to customers.
When customers are given the buying experiences they expect, they buy more and remain customers for life. Our findings make it clear that the missing piece of the B2B commerce puzzle is a purpose-built system designed specifically to address the complexities of B2B buying and selling.
B2B sellers should abandon the B2C-like methods hamstringing sales and implement solutions that empower the business to deliver customer experiences that meet increasingly elevated expectations. The message is simple – B2C commerce tools do not work for B2B businesses, and they never will.