Alon GhelberAlon GhelberJune 12, 2020
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7min1173

2020 is going to be remembered as a time where customer loyalty took a major hit, closing borders and lockdowns affected the three foundations of brand loyalty: trust, confidence, and availability.

While some economies open up and the stock market erases its losses from the beginning of the year, brand loyalty might take time to recover.

Consumers’ tastes are changing at a faster pace than ever before. We all remember seeing empty supermarket shelves as it was just a couple months ago where shoppers just picked the item which was available (if they were lucky to find one) and not their favorite brand.

Luckily these days are over but consumers got to experience new brands and in most cases much to their surprise, the quality was just as good or even better than expected.

In order to regain brand loyalty brands must act differently and rebuild their shopper’s loyalty, here’s why:

  • Economy – Brands have to compete harder at current as unemployment is at its highest in the 21st century and customers are less likely to make new nonessential purchases.
  • Features V.S Branding – Brand loyalty is being steadily replaced by functional needs as supply chains don’t always have the brand you wanted, which forced consumers to look for equivalents.
  • Online Sales – More customers turn to eCommerce and D2C (direct to consumer) websites where they have more time and data to compare alternatives.
  • Sustainability – COVID19 had strengthened green initiatives and do good movements

According to Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, a staggering 81% of consumers want to be able to trust brands to do the right thing and that this is a deciding factor for them. In addition, the report states that 62% of consumers believe brands play a critical role in winning against the pandemic and that the country will not make it without the help of brands. This is why 33% have already “punished” brands that didn’t respond well – “I have convinced other people to stop using a brand that I felt was not acting appropriately in response to the pandemic”.

With all of these hard metrics, it’s pretty clear why trust is key these days with brands and why consumers are strict about it. However, most brands nither have the resources to run a 12k participants study across 12 countries nor the experts to analyze the results and come up with actionable recommendations.

Instead of running such surveys why won’t we just listen to the content these shoppers leave across social media, eCommerce websites, and other publicly available sources? Analyzing user-generated content (UGC) is where every brand can get an understanding of what their customers think.

So, Why UGC & why now?

User-Generated Content (UGC) is all around us and is actually expected to be over 90% of the world data soon. It includes the likes of online ratings and reviews, social media, blog posts, etc.

UGC is important across the board. It’s important to millennials, as 86% of millennials say that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of a brand and 68% of social media users between the ages of 18 and 24 take into account information shared on social media. Fast forward to eCommerce, and 87% of people say that social media posts help them decide what to buy, while research from the Spiegel Research Center showing that leveraging reviews can increase online conversion by 270% and that reviews by verified purchasers (vs anonymous) can bump up purchase likelihood by additional 15%.

This is why brands encourage customers to leave reviews and provide feedback. But why now?

With COVID-19 and the huge shift to eCommerce and even D2C (Direct to Consumer – where brands develop their own eCommerce channels), UGC becomes the storefront of brands. When a person is online and shopping for a product, brands must have the right UGC next to that product to ensure the purchase. If beforehand some brands could rely on retail shopping and neglect D2C or eCommerce, now we’re at a completely different world. eCommerce had accelerated with the consumer health concerns and social distancing and it will not go back. Brands that commit to eCommerce (and all really should) must embrace UGC as a way to get found better (Search Engine Optimization – SEO), convey trust with authentic, verified purchasers’ comments, and encourage a purchase. It’s the only storefront there is.

Conclusion

With consumers looking for confidence in brands they know, and brands moving to eCommerce and D2C there is really only one way to project trust – UGC. Brands embracing eCommerce and D2C should invest in UGC generation as a way to stay visible and trustworthy in the new world so their online sales are competitive. With UGC comes not just the opportunity of revenue growth but also the opportunity to mine these comments and feedback for insights on the commerce, shopping, product, and service experience. In short, go UGC!!!


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 11, 2020
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4min932

The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has shaken the world to the core.

Many organisations managed to carry through by shifting online while many others had to stop with their business entirely.

Regardless of the position companies found themselves in due to the current circumstances, a plan for the next phase is on everyone’s agenda. With restrictions easing and the economy slowly recovering, staying connected not only with the needs of your customers and employees but with the partners as well will be key in regaining trust and resolving issues effectively.

Staying connected fundamentally means listening – listening to what matters the most to your customers, employees and partners.

In pre-COVID era, the consistent rise in customer expectations, dynamic brand cycles and shorter product life cycles required organisations to continually learn about people’s thoughts and feelings, deal with an increased flow of insights and adapt accordingly, all under the name of Experience Management.

The crisis has made abrupt changes in customers behaviour, therefore keeping up with a shift in focus should be one of the top priorities for organisations as they should strive to sense rather than rely on trends in the market, to be able to understand that behind the statistics there is a human being.

Three core attributes of sensing in line with the capability of adjusting to sudden changes are:

  1. Less asking and more listening
  2. Smaller-scale insights
  3. Multi-channel feedback

To assist you in staying connected with your customers and adopt a mindful approach to return to business, Qualtrics has developed a set of flexible CX solutions:

  • Frontline Connect – when customer insights fall short from their end, frontline is your second most reliable source. Acquire all the important details about your customers and take action to have them coming back. Keep an eye on customers response as the situation develops.
  • Customer Confidence Pulse – building confidence and trust in conditions like these is twice as difficult. Make sure to act on customer feedback quickly and meet customers’ expectations.
  • Digital Open Door – putting more effort into digital channels of your organisation and keeping the communication doors open is a way to make customers feel like they can always rely on help or response from any channel

The impact of the pandemic is immense and it continues to shape the world. While many have faced difficulties and isolation, there is room for creating meaningful interactions even in times like these. Empathy, compassion and patience to listen to your customers (and employees) voice are the means of restoring the connection that was there before. Getting back to business in a new era will require new approaches and increased effort but it may pay off more than expected.


Sunil TanukuSunil TanukuJune 11, 2020
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5min1540

We are in the early stages of witnessing the convergence of voice-enabled technology into business.

The technology has already entered our households in the last decade of sorts and there is tremendous growth to capitalise on that by several companies with their Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The surge of demand to figure out how voice-enabled technology can be used in Business is the next big thing. The evolution of voice-enabled technology for Enterprise is currently in the first wave of transformation.

There are companies already out there investing into the realm of figuring out how can it be used, what are the early nuances that can be built in, how can it improve efficiency, what are the accelerators that can provide ROI etc. This is changing the paradigm of things and making voice-enabled technology the forefront of discussion in the technology sector.

From amplifying customer experience, improving labour productivity, driving efficiency, and augmenting human aptitude to name a few, there is a multitude of several benefits that can be offered to the needs of a successful enterprise.

Today’s workforce spends a lot of time on non-value-added activities that are very administrative in nature leaving them less time to focus on value-added activities. Voice-enabled technology can reduce or eliminate the non-value-added activities through automation built in the form of accelerators so the workforce can spend more time to come up with solutions meaningful for the company and their business thereby driving more revenue.

Data Heuristics built into deep learning can augment human aptitude to deliver solutions with speed to market, reduced operational costs and better profitability. Digital transformation provided new avenues to connect between producers and consumers enhancing the scale at which providers can personalise the experience for their customers. Deep learning combined with predictable algorithms can drive consumer behaviour to a successful outcome for the producer to amplify customer experience and increased revenue.

Business operations can be repetitive but important to be done. Simple tasks like setting up meetings, sending emails, office management, ordering supplies, centralising invoices and several other tasks can be efficiently done today driving efficiency and streamlining processes with improved controls.

As businesses integrate themselves with systems even more, voice-enabled technology can serve as common denominator through seamless integration and availability uncovering synergies around business models and coming up with relationship hierarchies.

Non-functional aspects like performance, reliability, portability and maintenance are some of the foundational elements for artificial intelligence with scope of improvement. However, other non-functional aspects like interoperability should be defined with varying levels of flexibility for each service provisioned through this technology. The amount of security that needs to be built in, the choices for multiple technology solutions on the same product, conversational AI and the usage of it will have to be bundled together to deliver the business a value-driven experience to invest for the future.

The evolution of this technology in Business can be classified into waves where wave 1 of companies are called “discoverers” who would like to explore to see the possibilities that can be offered and make plans as part of their strategic initiatives. Wave 2 of the companies are called “followers” who would like to jump into it if there is a definitive value case. We are currently in wave 1 of the equation. While the progress in the discoverers wave is not as swift as expected, the progression will be slow before wave 2 picks up.

Today, the role of voice-enabled technology in Business should be considered as something that will slowly be adopted but the gains and efficiencies that it can bring in will be worthwhile.

 

Sunil Tanuku is a Judge at the International Customer Experience Awards 2020.


Nitzan HasonNitzan HasonJune 10, 2020
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10min936

The coronavirus pandemic is arguably the most unprecedented event around the globe since the Spanish flu.

With the virus spreading fast regardless of geography, consumers have avoided public places as much as possible, leading to a shift in shopping trends.

Many shoppers have gone online because they now see it as a necessity. The convenience of shopping in the comfort of home has always been a benefit of online shopping, but now it has become a vital facet of eCommerce.

With the rising concern about the pandemic, sales of consumer packaged goods (CPG) spiked to as much as $8.5 billion in the US, and approximately one-quarter of shoppers said they expected to shop online more frequently or for the first time.

eCommerce is now at a critical stage because the changes in customer behaviour point to a trend that will last in the long term. Online retailers have the responsibility to ensure consistent positive customer experiences by keeping communications lines open and aligning expectations, especially in this time of shipping delays and inventory management challenges.

Importance of Customer Reviews for eCommerce

Any online business looking to control its online reputation knows how important customer reviews are. People always prefer to buy products that have a good number of reviews. With more customers turning to online shopping, customer reviews have become increasingly important. They are a way to understand customer sentiment and help in creating positive customer interaction. In the coronavirus era, it may be the only way to promote your product or brand. Below are a few ways customer reviews help eCommerce.

  • It boosts sales.

    Ultimately, this is the greatest benefit of customer reviews. Customer reviews arm customers with information that can help push them to make a purchase. People are more likely to purchase a product that has positive reviews from its users.

  • It increases engagement.

    Customers who leave online reviews are often looking for responses to their reviews or want to see what others have to say about the same product or brand. This online exchange fosters a community atmosphere and creates a bond between customer and brand.

  • It improves ranking.

    Customer reviews are commonly referred to in marketing as user-generated content (UGC), and it’s very useful in maintaining an online presence and building a reputation. The more people talk about you, the more your online search ranking improves.

  • It builds loyalty and trust.

    Customers who take the time to write reviews are those that are really invested in your product or brand. It gives them a voice and an avenue where they can provide valuable feedback to other customers like them. A 2020 survey shows that customer reviews affected the decision of most consumers on whether they will use a business or not.

Changes in Customer Reviews in the Coronavirus Era

In times of crisis, building consumer trust is vital for all businesses both offline and online. It’s important to understand how customers feel about your product and how they experience it. To do this, you need to go beyond the reviews themselves and determine the sentiment behind them. Focusing on the analysis of customer sentiment allows you to craft an appropriate response.

Although customer reviews have long been an avenue for marketers, it’s of more importance now due to the changes brought about by the global pandemic. Customers have time to post and read reviews so more people are relying on them before they decide to purchase. People trust customer reviews, and this is evident in the 104 percent surge in review engagement in just a month’s time.

How can you leverage customer reviews for your eCommerce business? Below are a few tips.

  • Revamp your UGC tactics.

    Always encourage customers to leave reviews—either on your website, social media channels, or third-party reviews sites. Provide incentives for those who actually leave reviews in the form of gift cards, coupons, or rewards points. Treat negative reviews as opportunities to improve your product; they may not always be objective or constructive but they are almost always honest. Respond to them accordingly and show customers that you care through a personalised message or solution that addresses their specific concern. Global marketplace Etsy sells review labels as a creative way to ask for customer reviews. The company also sends a follow-up email or text message requesting the same.

  • Create a Q&A page on your website.

    Customers will have questions about your product or company, especially if they’re new. They want to feel confident about the product they’re about to purchase, and you should be ready to answer these questions. You can’t always be available to respond to customers, however, so the next best thing is a Q&A page on your website. Think of what your customers want to know about your company and product and provide detailed answers. Customers will appreciate this and take it as a sign that you care about them. Google My Business offers a Q&A feature together with its reviews to help businesses connect with their customers.

  • Re-evaluate your review collection methods.

    The current situation is a sensitive time because of the global pandemic. Ask for reviews as much as possible but be sure that you ask with tact and compassion. Get creative with your copy and tactics and ensure that the message you’re sending is neither pushy nor insensitive.

    Aside from incentivising customer reviews, you can also run campaigns that promote positivity and goodwill. American Eagle currently runs a campaign that encourages shoppers to post photos of themselves wearing branded apparel. This encourages users to buy from the site because they see real people, people they can relate to, who’ve already bought from the site.

  • Showcase existing reviews.

    In these uncertain times, it’s vital to take stock and leverage what you already have, where your business is at, and what’s working for you right now. If you have existing customer reviews, find a way to showcase these to help promote your online reputation. These already existing ones will also help if you’re unable to get new ones during the crisis. Amazon is one of the best examples of this, showcasing product reviews on the product page itself. Online clothing shops would also do well with showcasing reviews just like Modcloth.

The change will be inevitable and unpredictable during the COVID-19 pandemic, as evidenced by the sudden changes in customer behaviour. If businesses are to thrive, they need to be nimble and be able to adapt quickly to the ever-changing business landscape.

Now more than ever, customer sentiment is vital and must be monitored so that businesses can respond accordingly and promptly. With no accurate way to predict what will happen in the near future, customer sentiment can mean the difference between making it through and succumbing to the pandemic that is COVID-19.


Ian GoldingIan GoldingJune 9, 2020
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10min1460

No one needs to be told that the world is in crisis right now – at times like this, it is not necessary for the obvious to be stated.

Our health, our economies, our planet – in fact, the whole human race – is right in the middle of its latest catastrophe. I say ‘latest’ as we have been here before. Yes, this may be the first time that Covid-19 has rocked the world, but historians will point to several natural and/or man-made disasters that have had a similar, if not worse effect on human lives.

Despite this, we are still here. Even though we have had catastrophes in the past and will no doubt have catastrophes in the future, human beings will continue to survive and thrive for many millennia – we hope!! Although we often seem to do unimaginable bad to ourselves at times, human beings are remarkably resilient. The bad is always undone by the good – in fact, I have always believed that good will inevitably prevail.

The point I am making is that however challenging things seem right now, things will get better. For some that will happen sooner than others – but for all of us, the world will keep on turning. It is therefore vital that we focus, not on the negative of the ‘here and now’, but the positives – both of the ‘here and now’ and of the future.

When things go wrong, unexpectedly, it is completely natural for your body and brain to panic. We all go through different emotional states – from panic, denial, frustration, and anger, to apathy and confusion.

There are several interpretations of the ‘change curve’, a model originally developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross to explain the grieving process. It is a model that has been widely utilised as a method of helping people understand their reactions to significant change or upheaval – it is an immensely powerful model to explain what is happening now.

Understanding how humans’ transition through these different emotional states is extremely important for businesses trying to deal with the current situation. Customers AND employees are all humans by the way!!

The better able businesses are at understanding the emotion of customers and employees, the better able they will be to NOT react to the current crisis, but to ADAPT and RESPOND to the current crisis. The way businesses adapt and respond, will define them now and in the future.

Those who have heard me speak will know that I describe the customer experience as containing three component parts – the FUNCTIONAL, ACCESSIBLE and EMOTIONAL. The functional component represents an organisations products and services. The accessible component represents how easy it is for customers to interact with those products and services. However, it is the third component that is the most important of the three. The third component is the emotional one – representing the way the experience makes a customer feel. The reason why it is the most important of the three, is because the way an experience makes a customer feel is what they are most likely to remember.

Customers will remember one of three outcomes from the experiences they have – the very good; the very bad; or nothing at all!! As businesses adapt and respond, it is the ones who can leave customers remembering their experiences for the right reasons that are the ones who are ultimately far more likely to prevail.

It is more important than ever before for businesses – shareholders and employees alike – to work together. Work together to listen, learn, understand, and respond to the needs of human beings in a way that leaves customers remembering the experiences they have for the right reasons.

I have always believed that the most important underlying principle of customer experience is the principle of Empathy. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person – empathy – is a core driver of sustainable business growth.

Empathy builds advocacy with a customer – it turns them into ‘fans’. Fans become loyal. The more loyal customers a business has, the more they will spend and the more likely they are to recommend you to others.

The more loyal, spending customers a business has, the more money it will make – it is not complicated!

So, with the principle of empathy in mind, I want to conclude this article with five things businesses should be focused on in managing the customer experience through the Covid-19 crisis:

  1. Have a simple, clear message. What are you doing as a business now and going forward and what do you want the experience for your customers and employees to be? Are you clearly communicating the message in a way that fits into the changing lives of your customers and employees?
  2. Focus on your employees first. If you want your people to be able to deliver an experience that leaves customers remembering you for the right reason, then you MUST make sure that you have thought about how your employees are being enabled to do that in the first place. You cannot expect your people to treat your customers in a way you are not treating them.
  3. Give your people time to think. To be able to empathise, your employees will need to be able to think and act in the interests of the customer. This may mean giving them a greater ability to do ‘what is right’ for the customer, rather than sticking to rules and regulations devised without the crisis in mind. If they just ‘do what they are told’, they will be less likely to empathise with customers. This will not only negatively affect the customer experience, but also the employee experience.
  4. Listen more and talk less. This is not a time to dictate to customers and employees. This is a time to listen. Customers and employees need reassurance – they need to feel as secure as possible. They need to trust the businesses they are dealing with. Listening to their needs, wants and concerns and acting accordingly will have a significant effect on the emotional outcomes of their experiences.
  5. Close the loop. If we are listening, then we should also be ‘acting’ on what we are listening to. Far too many organisations fail to act on the feedback they capture from customers. This is an opportunity to ensure that we demonstrate empathy, authenticity and sincerity and tell our customers what we have done with the feedback they have given.

We will never forget 2020. It is a year that has had such a dramatic effect on the world, that our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, will be studying in school a hundred years from now. Whist the world will be a vastly different place in 2120, it is also a very different place to the one it was in 1920. Change is inevitable. A very rocky road of change is also inevitable – that we can do nothing about. It is how we adapt and respond to change that will determine if we are still around to tell the tale.

 

This is the first instalment of exclusive ‘Customer 1st Aid’ series of articles by Ian Golding for CXM.


Stephen HewettStephen HewettJune 8, 2020
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10min1357

Research shows that today’s wants become tomorrow’s needs.

Great organisations respond by thinking strategically about emerging needs. What your customers need from your business may be dramatically different from a few weeks ago.

This applies to both B2B and B2C and across industries. In this post we’ll discuss emerging needs post COVID-19, highlight examples of how organisations are responding to these needs, and provide 8 tips for getting started to determine emerging customer needs for your company.

What is the difference between a need and a want?

Before we continue, it is important to have a common understanding of the terminology. We define a need as something that must be there or else the experience, service or product is failing. A want is something customers may notice, positively comment on, and may pay extra for, or invest time in.

Usually it takes time for needs to evolve, but once in a hundred-year events like COVID-19 cause needs to mutate rapidly. Emotions and needs are running high compared to regular periods. Customers will perceive different brands in different ways. This event will alter consumer motivations, expectations, and actions.

Our opportunity to delight, or disappoint our customers is greatest right now.

Take our quick on-line survey to find out how prepared you are to meet your customers’ emerging needs.

Emerging trends in consumers’ attitudes, behaviours and purchasing habits

There probably aren’t any genuine new needs, but there may be new needs for your business.

For instance, infection control was always a need in hospitals, but it is a new need in a supermarket setting. Face masks were always part of equipment in a healthcare setting. Now, they are potentially required in supermarkets and on public transport.

The overriding emerging need is safety. Putting measures in place to protect people’s health is an emerging need no matter what type of business you run.

Going beyond the focus on health and safety, there are three other trends:

  • The balance between global and local supply chains has changed. Global supply chains are too extended and aren’t resilient to this type of event. There will be increased pressure to bring supply chains closer to home.
  • A virtual presence will be a higher priority because it offers the ability to go beyond the home.
  • Retail will become highly specialised where physical interaction is a genuine need and not a ‘nice to have’.

A recent study done by Accenture discovered that, “Digital commerce has also seen a boost as new consumers migrate online for grocery shopping – a rise that is likely to be sustained post-outbreak.” The study also noted that 55 percent of people will continue to make time with their family a priority post-pandemic. This will impact the way people spend their leisure time. DIY and entertainment will benefit from this consumer shift.

Source: Accenture

 

Be genuine

“With the right customer-centric attitude and an awareness of what people need right now, companies can emerge from this crisis having strengthened their relationships with customers. Give consumers your HEART during this difficult time. It will cultivate long-lasting goodwill with past customers and help ensure they will stay with you in the future.” Harvard Business Review

People will remember whether organisations genuinely tried to meet their needs, or the needs of the business. This will be a major driver of business in the future.

Price is always a major motivator. If a business can redesign their operating model to use lower costs (e.g. non-human assets) and then share that saving with the customer, they will keep more customers.

For example, if an organisation meets a need by offering the lowest price and does so by implementing changes such as installing self-service screens to place an order vs placing an order with a person, it generates a warm feeling on the part of the customer because that business has met their needs.

On the other hand, there are businesses that profess to be worried about the needs of their customer but are just trying to generate business. The problem arises when businesses reduce costs but keep the extra margin.

If self-service screens are introduced, but the price of the food doesn’t come down then people will feel that the business was not genuinely concerned about meeting their needs.

Another example of a business that is demonstrating a genuine interest in meeting their customer’s needs is a music website in the UK promoting small bands and individual artists. They encourage their listeners to buy music on Fridays because all the money from the sales that day goes to the artists. That brand is genuinely being seen as supporting the artists. The artists love it because it’s helping them generate an income when they can’t play in the local pub. The customers love it because they are supporting the music they care about. This action is seen as a genuine sacrifice on the part of the brand. It sends the message, “We believe in the music we support.”

Eighty percent of people buy on price so it’s difficult to determine how long this effect will last. However, there will be a percentage of customers where this will continue to influence their buying preference.

The economy will have an enormous impact as well. We will be faced with more poverty and unemployment. It is important for businesses to genuinely meet the needs of this group of individuals without being insincere.

Actions you can take right now

Great organisations not only meet their customers’ needs but also deliver against the changed perspectives of their clients. Identify potential changes in customers’ journeys and the touchpoints that may be most important to customers in these unusual times. Understand, anticipate, and go above and beyond to fulfil customer needs.

Use this time now to:

  • Ensure that whatever pop-up model you’ve created is sustainable
  • Invest in your CX and UX – research customers to uncover the changes to customer needs and journeys
  • Leverage the right technology to stay ahead of your competitors – invest in building end-to-end, personalised digital strategies vs simply adapting your live events strategies to virtual ones.
  • Communicate messages focused on helping customers
  • Improve or expand on what you offer, driven by meeting needs and wants
  • Go through all the fixes teams wished they had time to do – stop putting band-aids on flawed products
  • Walk through a proper user-centred design process to make improvements
  • Service design your internal workers’ experiences

People are changing in ways they don’t realise

The impact of not meeting needs can be significant. Events like COVID-19 force people to change in ways they don’t realise. What we can be certain of is that our customers have changed their perspective on something, and possibly in very dramatic ways. Prepare for these changes. Get ahead of the curve.

Evaluate your customer data and forecast shifts in future wants and needs is a customer-centric way to anticipate the evolving needs of your customers. The best companies in the world will prepare NOW for how to meet the future needs of their customers.

 

This article is a part of a two-piece series. Stay tuned for the next part on how to prepare for the emerging customer needs in post COVID-19 world.


Peter BarkerPeter BarkerJune 5, 2020
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6min1067

It’s proven that intuitive personalisation deepens customer engagement and improves conversion rates.

Therefore, against the background of ever-growing content estates and increasing customer expectations, a robust content strategy is paramount to successfully achieving this level of personalisation.

Why the cornerstone?

We’ve seen a continual trend in businesses taking a journalistic, storytelling approach to conveying their value. In the professional services sector, customers are looking to buy knowledge, understanding and deep specialism.

Being able to demonstrate this to a prospective client in a very contextually relevant way is key to achieving conversion. And this is true across all industries, though the product may differ, the benefits of a well-executed content strategy remain the same. Indeed, 92 percent of marketers reported that their company views content as a business asset.

Your audience, their individual challenges, their place in the customer journey, when and how they are served the content all play a huge part in the success of your business. With so many moving parts, how can you build an effective content offering? Where do you start?

It’s time to get personal

We know that people now expect to be known by brands and it’s been proven to increase customer engagement – in fact, 74 percent of customers feel frustrated when website content isn’t personalised. But to plan and design a successful personalised content strategy you’ll need to understand your user’s journey and then bake it into your content creation.

Start with what you do know and build from there. You’ll have access to explicit data points like geographical location and so on. From this, you can start to uncover more implicit data based on user interactions and behaviours. This is the foundation for segmentation, which will ultimately decide the kinds of content you serve and should inform how you brief and create content.

This knowledge will help you create a clear taxonomy and tagging strategy, which is key for fulfilling the technological requirements of content personalisation.

Clear taxonomy at the heart

To create this a robust personalisation platform, you need to build profiles from all your customer behaviour: explicit user activity and data, CRM and other sources. That allows for unified profiling – combining data sets to pattern match your content taxonomy. This can all be done through a platform such as Sitecore or Episerver. You can then create a taxonomy based on your profiles and tag content to be served to the right users. Once established, you can test and optimise in real time to see what’s working, what’s not and feed new interactions and content quickly.

It’s an approach Rufus Leonard recently deployed for a leading global professional services client. Architected on a high-performing Azure PaaS solution design, we consolidated and re-platformed two global sites into a central Sitecore platform; geared towards accelerating new customer acquisition and building loyalty.

Content was king for the new site, with over 30,000 articles to navigate in multiple languages. So the new site features complex dynamic UI delivered to double accessibility requirements and content management across the huge multilingual content estate, extensive taxonomy and Azure search integration.

The next step is to automate

Fortunately, the last couple of years has seen artificial intelligence-led automation being introduced to reduce the workload in both understanding your customer segments and their likes and dislikes.

In addition, we can now also use intelligent auto classification of content, where the system understands where content fits in your taxonomy and what profiles or segments will respond to it best. So get a system that you can feed initially and which will learn some rules and be able to curate your digital estate with less work.

The future of content

People now expect personalisation so much, they may only notice it by its absence. Start small, build on what you know, test and optimise continually. A personalised content strategy and platform requires investment, effort, data aggregation and an organisational mindset shift to really be effective in driving engagement, but the benefits to your business and your customers will be exponential.

Rufus Leonard is a winner at the UK Digital Experience Awards 19. 

There is still time to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount at the UK Digital Experience Awards 20!


Rebecca BrownRebecca BrownJune 4, 2020
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9min906

Author: Rebecca Brown

Moving with the times, innovating or keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to customer experience is never easy.

Sometimes it can feel like it’s made even harder by the array of options open to businesses. Being spoilt for choice in an era where decision fatigue is high and the pressure is on to evolve or cease to exist, can leave you more than just confused. It can feel outright overwhelming, especially when it comes to your online presence.

AI has been leading the way when it comes to online innovation, with sophisticated chat-bots that can actually replicate conversation, and automated marketing campaigns that learn from your customer behaviour.

A top ten list of successfully deployed chat-bots was published this week, which talked about a bot that had been programmed to answer questions as Albert Einstein. Suddenly that question of who would you invite to a dinner party, past or present, takes on whole new possibilities…

That said, for every successfully deployed intuitive chat-bot, there are many that haven’t worked so well, leaving customers feeling angry and frustrated at the lack of human assistance. A great example of a bot that’s just missed the mark completely is InspiroBot – a bot that’s sole purpose is to generate inspirational quotes with an image behind it. Whilst I’m sure it’s still getting a fair hit rate based on the occasional blooper is spot on my LinkedIn feed, it’s safe to say that it’s neither appropriate or inspirational when a bot populates the statement ‘There’s no excuse for being Dumb’ as its best effort.

So you might think it’s safest to just do what everyone else is doing? Think again.

Dominos Pizza released an app that enabled the user to order their previously saved pizza by simply opening the app. No swiping, clicking or frantically searching for payment cards that your toddler may or may not have tucked down the back of her mini oven. Just instant, easy ordering. So impressive, that it almost makes you want to try and replicate it doesn’t it? Only here is the issue – it really can’t be applied to the vast majority of brands.

It can be so tempting to look at what other businesses are doing (or what your competitors are doing) when considering how to move your business into the next generation, but even that isn’t guaranteed to work.

Your competition may have different brand values, a different customer base or different systems that they plug into. There can be no one size fits all approach to maximising the potential of your website whether it’s one page detailing your services or a complex web estate.

So, what are your best options?

Call in the experts

As a CX practitioner, I would never try to pass as a surgeon. I wouldn’t be very good and I’m incredibly squeamish. So why try to perform the functions of a web designer or user experience expert? Leaving the innovation to UX professionals who’ve trained, who keep up to date with the latest technologies and can do the relevant customer research required to build an effective solution is by far the best way. If you can’t afford to hire someone permanently then there are some great contractors or agencies out there, doing really exciting things!

Don’t try to be like everyone else

Speak to your customers, find out their frustrations with your online presence and fix what irritates them the most. Your customer’s frustrations will be unique to their experience with you, so implementing a solution that worked for others will leave you just as likely to fail as succeed if you haven’t done the relevant research.

Don’t assume that innovation has to mean gadgets and AI

Sometimes the most innovative thing you can do is listen – actually, properly listen – to your customers. As long as you have sufficient technology in place for your customers to contact you when they want, this innovation comes from changing the way your business and its people think, feel and behave – not from buying the latest Content Management System or implanting speech analytics.

If you listen to what your customers have to say, make it as easy as possible for them to say it and then take positive action to not only respond, but to learn as an organisation so that your next customer doesn’t have the same problem, then that’s more innovation than a lot of businesses… Get the basics right, and you’ll see customer loyalty soar. Then if you want to dabble a little with AI – why not?

Bring your customers on the journey with you

Change can be scary. As a society we’ve just undergone a monumental change to the way we live our lives without prior warning, without getting a say and at a whiplash-inducing pace. To a lesser extent, customers feel the same effect when one of their suppliers changes.

To offset this, we need to ensure that any period of reflection and subsequent change is communicated loud and clear to our customers, well ahead of anything actually happening – ideally with a consultative approach. If you believe in making your business the best it can be, and having that reflect in your online offering, then you probably want to make it clear that in your eyes the work will never be ‘finished’.

Continuous improvement is what customer experience is all about, so position that carefully with your customers. State it on your website, in your surveys, on your calls – something as simple as ‘We care about the journey our customers have, so we are committed to consistent improvement across all our services. We might ask you some questions from time to time to help us make sure we get it right, and you may see some changes along the way.’ This is enough to cover most bases, whilst reassuring your customer that they are – and always be – at the heart of everything you do.

 

Check out the previous instalments of Bill and Doug:
Experience Isn’t Enough – You’ll Need a Map Where You’re Going!
Easy as ABC: Employee Recognition and How To Do It Right

Emily CollinsEmily CollinsJune 4, 2020
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6min1104

Brands have a personalisation problem.

While marketers and CX pros alike share visions of delivering individualised and anticipatory experiences that earn loyalty, the execution usually undermines customer relationships.

They can’t even get the basics right: only 7 percent of UK consumers agree that emails are usually timed well with their needs.  Right now, amidst a global pandemic and economic crisis, the stakes are high. You can’t afford to alienate customers with:

  • Personalisation that puts the business, not the customer, first. Personalisation efforts today are often narrowly focused on product recommendations or next-best offers that drive incremental purchases. A “buy this, do that” mentality prioritises the product and short-term revenue targets over what the customer wants.
  • Mounds of data that don’t yield the right insights. Much of the first-party data brands collect helps link purchases to a single customer, but it doesn’t provide much insight into who the person is, what motivates them, or what they’ll need in the future – all elements of a more meaningful personalised experience.
  • Tools, processes, and goals that reinforce the wrong priorities. Many of the personalisation tools out there are built to market products and drive sales – not meet customers’ unique needs. And since personalisation can manifest in marketing, service, sales, product, and other experiences, organisational silos and resource constraints only add to the challenges.

Success starts with a shift in perspective: reframe your personalisation program to put the customer needs front and centre. This means focusing on what value you can deliver for the customer, rather than the value you can extract from them.

Ground yourself in the customer’s journey and ask questions like, “What will they want?”; “How do they feel?”; and “How involved do they think our brand should be?” to define key moments where a personalised interaction might be welcome. And when you do start to test new kinds of personalised experiences, don’t forget to involve customers in your efforts by asking them for feedback in real-time.

Then, to enhance customer interactions and experiences based on context and preferences, you need data that’s going to tell you what those things are. A multi-national eCommerce retailer saw a 40 percent uptick in lifetime value when it used both purchase intent and customer motivation data in campaigns.

Lean on preference centres and progressive profiling to gain insight into lifestyle preferences that cannot be derived from what your customer bought last.

Whether you’re using customer segments to targeting offer content or machine learning algorithms to dynamically modify website experiences, check your personalisation efforts against three key questions. Does it:

  • Deliver relevance? This means determining what kind of value your customers want – and finding ways to provide that value, not just hawking the latest and greatest from your brand.
  • Build emotional resonance? This is all about creating memorable moments and feelings that have the strongest connection to customer loyalty. Demonstrate that you have a deeper understanding of your customers by talking to them about who they are and what they value, not just what they’ve bought lately.
  • Show restraint? Brands assume that if they have customer information, they should use it. But consumers already feel inundated by emails, and many crave privacy over personalisation. Respecting customer preferences might lead to some surprising results: a US footwear and accessories manufacturer found that shorter emails led to high customer interaction.

Done well, personalisation captures customer attention and creates value for your customers, which in turn drives customer loyalty and long-term profitability – all things you should be focusing on in this time of crisis. It’s never too late to leave your short-sighted product-obsessed personalisation ways behind. Your customers will thank you.

Emily Colins is a Research Director at Forrester Research.

Learn more about Forrester and their research content here.

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Richard WheatonRichard WheatonJune 3, 2020
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9min775

The rise of mobile as a primary tool for shopping is an inexorable trend – indeed, it is projected that mCommerce will double from 2019–2023 (Eamarketer), ultimately accounting for three-quarters of total e-commerce.

In this new ‘mobile-first’ world, speed is perhaps the most important criteria for good customer experience. Yet, too many brands have been slow to adapt to this new reality. Despite offering a great experience in other ways, they haven’t viewed speed as a KPI that will positively impact business performance and ROI.

We know instinctively as consumers that mobile digital experiences that are responsive and tailored to our needs have a direct impact on the brands we choose to interact with. Research from Salesforce reveals that 83 percent of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.

Additionally according to a study by Forrester 70 percent of consumers admit that page speed impacts their willingness to buy from an online retailer.

To investigate these broad assumptions, Google commissioned Fifty-five and Deloitte Digital to embark on the most comprehensive site speed study to date, ‘Milliseconds makes Millions’, that for the first time quantifies the impact of speed on four specific metrics conversion rate, bounce rate, page views per session and average order value.

Surprisingly a study across a range of brands with similar buying intent had not previously been published, presumably due to the challenges of accessing a sufficient quantity of comparable data across several sites to generate statistically robust findings.

Milliseconds make millions

Over a four week period, we analysed mobile site data from 37 retail, travel, luxury and lead generation brands across Europe and the US. It was based on 30 million unique user sessions. Even a small improvement to mobile speed can have a positive effect on business results for brands.

One of the challenges in discussing site speed is that the range of terminology, metrics and dimensions can be confusing for busy executives and digital managers to digest and use to make decisions.

Fifty-five’s goal was to unearth some golden nuggets of insight to make sure that progress can be achieved swiftly. Fifty-five monitored over 30 individual metrics, and reduced them down to a concentrated list that has the most measurable impact on commercial performance. The four specific site speed metrics referred to below are, to give them their technical names, Max Server Latency, First Meaningful Paint, Estimated Input Latency, and Observed Load. These metrics, according to the data, provide some indication of the most valuable areas to investigate.

Our analysis shows that a mere 0.1s change in load time in these four key metrics along the user journey dramatically increases conversion rates. In the retail sites, conversions grew by 8 percent, and in travel by 10 percent on average. With a 0.1s improvement in site speed, we observed that retail consumers spent almost 10 percent more, while lead generation and luxury consumers engaged more, with page views increasing by 7 percent and 8 percent respectively.

The conclusion is abundantly clear. There is a great opportunity to increase sales by making your mobile pages more responsive. And conversely, brands that aren’t focused on speeding up page downloads could be missing out in millions of lost revenue.

The study reveals clear evidence that site speed improvements have a measurable impact on customer engagement, conversions and ultimately a brand’s bottom line.

Adopting a mobile-first mindset

So how should brands react? There is a clear need to make site speed a priority across the organisation by introducing it as a KPI.

They need to introduce the right processes and allocate resources to constantly monitor and optimise their site speed. And we’ve identified seven key steps brands should take to meet the challenge of delivering a truly speed-centric customer experience. These are:

1. Understand the speed status

In order to choose where and how to invest in speed, brands need to know how their site is currently performing. This is both in a stand-alone context and also in comparison to your competitors. Tools such as Google Test My Site enables brands to understand, measure and benchmark your mobile site speed. The Lighthouse is another useful tool which allows you to understand your site speed in the context of different devices.

2. Be clear on the potential impact of mobile site speed on the bottom line

Being equipped with this data will help quantify the impact that site speed changes have on your customer flow, to help you prove the validity of considering speed as a primary performance metric and, ultimately, sell more.

3. Adopt a mobile-first strategy

Mobile-first is essentially a design strategy, more appropriate for satisfying today’s consumers than a purely responsive approach. The mobile-first approach considers mobile users’ needs first and foremost, and its best-practices natively consider site speed and responsiveness as crucial elements of the user experience.

4. Identify speed as one of the primary performance metrics

It’s essential to build consensus to make speed a priority KPI and performance metric. Site owners, designers, strategists, developers and suppliers need to keep speed top of mind when undertaking any mobile site improvements or overhauls.

5. Introduce page speed budget to project teams and clients

Page speed budget or web performance budget is a set of constraints that project teams can use to ensure the mobile site meets performance standards and loads quickly across devices and platforms. It’s easy for a website to grow in size with new functionalities, content and design items but it’s essential to understand the impact on customer time and bandwidth.

Performance, especially speed, should never be compromised for an aesthetic or functional site addition. By introducing a speed budget, the impact of each site amendment or update can be assessed to understand the positive or negative consequence. Anything that does have a negative consequence should be reconsidered.

6. Use the right tools in the right way

All of the above assumes you have the means to report on the status and the effect of site speed at the right level of granularity. It is crucial to use the right tools for both measurement and reporting. Your analytics package needs to be set up correctly, with a strong focus on conversion point, funnels and appropriate KPIs.

7. Create the right culture with the right people

Data & good visualisation need to be embedded within the organisation to establish a performance-centric culture for decision-making. Then, people throughout the business – leadership, strategists, developers, designers, content practitioners and project managers – will have better insights into what is at stake when making decisions around site decisions, and speed will then become a priority metric.

By following this plan brands can ensure that customer experience is being led by the key priority of the end user. Investing in speed is the best route to delivering a truly first-class customer experience.


Oliver EhrlichOliver EhrlichJune 2, 2020
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8min658

The COVID-19 global humanitarian and economic crisis has forced individuals and companies to rapidly change how they live and work.

Many elements of business and life are being challenged; in some cases, the next normal may look very different as new ways of working are carried over into the future.

Customer experience takes on a new meaning against this backdrop. Leading organisations are re-orienting their customer experience- and communication efforts to meet their customers’ primary needs, such as safety, security, and everyday convenience. By consciously providing empathy and care for their customers during this crisis, companies can build a foundation of goodwill and long-lasting emotional connections with the customers and communities they serve.

Seven actions to demonstrate empathy for customers in times of crisis

Over the past few months, companies had to quickly act to stabilise operations and safeguard their own employees. With this foundation established, companies have started finding genuine, creative ways to show empathy and emotionally connect with customers.

The following seven actions outline how companies can address essential customer needs around individual safety, security and stability, convenience, ease of use, emotional bonds and trust:

1. Minimise risk by reducing physical interactions

Society’s first responsibility during a pandemic of this scale is eliminating opportunities to spread the virus, especially among the most at-risk populations. Companies have been doing this in lots of ways, such as limiting the number of people in stores, and providing markings to guide shoppers on the right distance to remain apart.

Grocery retailers, for example, have also responded by taking extra precautions, such as extending opening hours for the elderly and healthcare workers as well as free home delivery for the vulnerable and elderly.

2. Actively contribute to safety by innovating the product portfolio

Companies should ask themselves two critical questions: Do we have a product the world needs right now? Or can we contribute to society and rapidly adapt our product portfolio to provide goods that are urgently needed?

For example, some distilleries are using their ethanol supplies to provide materials for hand sanitisers through partnerships with refineries. Others using their manufacturing facilities to support the production of personal protective equipment, or ventilators.

3. Provide pragmatic help to customers in financial distress

As companies are forced to decrease operations for an uncertain time period, individuals and millions of small business owners face massive income and liquidity issues. Providing flexible solutions when dealing with financial challenges is now both a responsibility and a huge trust driver for companies.

Financial institutions and utility providers for example are not penalising customers with charges or service termination for those unable to meet payment obligations.

4. Bring joy and support the emotional needs of customers ‘trapped at home’

Many people are still forced to stay at home, and experience all the concerns that come with that. Companies are acting to make homelife more enjoyable and to also ensure the well-being of their customers.

Families have to entertain children at home, making easy access to online content a truly fundamental need. Telcos are providing free unlimited data, and entertainment companies have released new content ahead of schedule.

As another example, meditation and mindfulness providers, such as the Headspace app, will be providing free subscriptions to healthcare professionals and unlocking free content for consumers.

5. Actively shift customers to online channels

With so many directives around the world to remain at home, companies that previously relied on physical operations have had to direct customers to online offerings.

As an example, since many gyms have been directed to close all physical facilities, they are now offering hundreds of free online home workout courses to members. Companies offering virtual capabilities, as with Cisco’s Webex, are assisting schools and universities as they transition to remote learning by offering free tools for teachers, parents, and students to support the development of online-learning plans.

Companies without online services can find ways to establish and scale online offerings to meet the customer’s digital experience needs. This shift to online and digital channels has the potential to dramatically increase online traffic post-recovery.

6. Stay reachable and treat customers with care in personal interactions

With physical channels such as bank branches and stores less accessible, many customers are turning to other channels for queries and requests that need personal attention and care.

Service companies in telcos and banking are currently experiencing increased inbound call volumes in their contact centres, while at the same time having to shift their customer-service centres to remote-working arrangements. For example, a leading European telco equipped 10,000 call-centre agents with laptops and tool infrastructure within a week, enabling them to take calls from their homes. Companies that provide customers with additional guidance and support can maintain communication and engagement.

While most companies must address reachability, some companies, such as those in the medical industry, face callers who have significantly different types of questions than they did prior to the pandemic. Another key priority is proactively training call-centre agents to manage these new questions.

7. Demonstrate care for the community through company values

Companies can stay true to their vision while showing that they genuinely care about their customers. Actions taken during crises can help build trust and reinforce brand values.

One of the most talked-about company initiatives in Germany came from McDonald’s and ALDI. The two companies initiated a staff sharing plan so that interested McDonald’s workers from temporarily closed branches can redeploy at ALDI stores to ensure that the retailer can meet the currently increased customer demand. Supporting local communities while linking these efforts back to company values is exemplified by companies delivering free, fresh meals to medical workers in the cities they serve.

Forging lasting connections with customers

During times of crisis, leading companies are pivoting from marketing to helping, and from fulfilling customer desires to meeting customer needs. Socially conscious organisations across sectors and geographies are finding ways to get involved and support their customers and communities.

In this respect, the current COVID-19 outbreak is an opportunity to re-think the connections companies have with their customers. Leading in a caring, empathetic manner during these difficult times has the potential to create real connections and new customer experiences, that will outlive the social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

The author would like to thank Fabricio Dore, David Malfara, and Kelly Ungerman for their contribution to this article.


Paul BidderPaul BidderJune 1, 2020
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9min844

More than ever retailers must be high alert during for unexpected trading shifts.

During these uncertain times, inventory is crucial not just to manage spikes in demand but also to provide a positive customer experience – here, stock visibility, analytics and forward planning play a crucial role.

Digital services have made managing the customer experience much more complex than it once was. Where we used to call a business to enquire around stock availability, use teletext for last-minute deals or look through the Yellow Pages, we are now spoilt for choice and have everything we need at our fingertips.

Spoilt for choice

Brands have rushed to supplement traditional customer service channels with digital equivalents – while the benefits of doing so have been plentiful, it’s also come at a cost in the way we react as personalities.

We now expect instant answers, quality customer service and contextual experiences. Additionally, the advent of faster mobile data services and improved capabilities has fuelled the desire to be able to “reach out” at any point to anywhere in the world and find what you are looking for, from brand information to product pricing to reviews.

A core area of the industry that is most visibly impacted by this is retail, and one of the areas that needs addressing and urgent attention for many brands is inventory.

For years we spoke about the age of mobile and realised we could use these devices for much more than calls and playing snake – but also to interact with brands and shop right there and then. Utopia, right? Wrong…

Keeping customers loyal

This kick-started a spiralling issue for brands: loyalty. How would brands keep their customers loyal? Price played a big part, but so too did customer service and customer experience, with inventory being a key part of being able to maintain that experience.

Early movers such as Schuh understood the importance of this. If they did not have your shoe size or type in store but had it somewhere else, then it would be shipped free of charge to any mainland UK address for your convenience.

And Schuh continued investing in this area of customer experience. Next-day delivery six days a week is now driven by a warehouse that can pick 12,000 items an hour while its analytics tracks KPIs for delivery, delivery accuracy, and a nimble replenishment model that helps stores to stay stocked. They also fulfil orders from store so customers can reserve shoes online and pick it up in store just 20 minutes later, raising the bar for competitors.

Consumer expectations on the rise

Those who could not adapt relied on spreadsheets, siloed systems and even paper-based in-store stock checking. Essentially, they were unable to give an honest and truly convenient customer experience to their client base, spelling disaster for consumer loyalty.

The age of Amazon Prime and Click-and-Collect means consumers are expecting stock visibility on any device, fast fulfilment, transparency throughout the entire fulfilment chain, and not to mention easy returns. Remember that the cost of retention is significantly lower than the cost of acquisition.

survey of Gen Z consumers found 60 percent always or sometimes check a store’s in-store inventory availability online before going to make a purchase. Stock visibility is crucial, and if you are not owning the customer experience by managing your inventory and offering full visibility, you can be sure one of your competitors will be.

Keep things consistent

A clear omnichannel customer experience should allow customers a frictionless experience on any channel or device. Customers use various digital and physical channels during the buying journey, and it’s vital that these mirror one-another. This can be extremely difficult for businesses whose data is stored disparately across multiple sources, making it hard to give a real-time view of inventory at any given time… which is the holy grail for many a business.

First come, first served: Sorry, the item you ordered is no longer available.

Traditionally, one of the reasons consumers visit brick-and-mortar stores is for a higher quality of customer service. However, inventory can be an issue for physical retailers, increasingly as many stores diversify their product lines and offer in-store experiences, with shelf space at a premium.

But a lack of in-store inventory shouldn’t mean a lost sale. Aligning in-store technology or mobile sites and apps with inventory management systems provides customers ample opportunity to purchase their goods.

It’s an opportunity to offer fulfilment options – pick up in store, free speedy delivery – and make buying frictionless and attractive, as opposed to the customer leaving the store and finding a competitor.

What do customers really need?

Online and mobile shoppers will be comparing like-for-like products on various sites. Differentiators here will be price, availability and fulfilment options. This is where retailers need to display their inventory, create urgency if possible, and highlight fulfilment, loyalty or discount options to stand out from the crowd.

On the front end, AI-driven analytics tools and inventory management systems, plus cloud-based platforms mean accurate, real-time inventory information can be personalised and displayed to customers anytime, anywhere.It’s vital these customers are given the information they need at key moments in the buying journey.

If the warehouse is low on stock, create buying urgency with a low stock warning. If the warehouse is out, signpost to a click and collect option if stocked in the nearest store, or even better ship directly to the customer from that store. A single view of inventory makes this possible.

Inventory visibility is mission-critical

Ultimately, brands cannot ignore inventory visibility. Clarity on stock levels is now fundamental to success, informing decision making on discounts, upselling, as well as communication.

The pandemic has served to make the relationship between supply, demand and stock availability mission-critical. Businesses which have proactively supported customers during this time and taken steps to provide seamless experiences will likely build meaningful relationships moving forward.

Meanwhile, the consequences for those who have failed to do so could be severe. As we return to normality, we’ll enter a world where eCommerce rules the roost and where full visibility around inventory will be crucial.


Darrell ColeDarrell ColeMay 28, 2020
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8min1031

As a customer, getting service in the digital age can be very trying. 

Hoping that your email messages don’t end up in spam filters or disregarded, getting lost in automated telephone trees, having conversations with chat-bots, among others, leaves most people screaming for interaction with a fellow human being.

Email Fails

One of the most common methods for businesses to interact with their (potential) customers is through email. Have a question, complaint or request? No problem. Just email us (typically through Info@).

Despite claims of easy access and quick responses, my experiences over the past year have been anything but. I was experiencing what seemed to be a decline in customer service when dealing with organisations via email. This feeling was so significant that I decided to track my interactions over a four-month period (pre-CoVid19), just to see if what I was experiencing was real.

Here are the results.

I was seeking a local brew pub to partner on an event and sent a detailed email message to several through their respective websites. Of those contacted, only one replied. As a follow-up, I decided to personally visit two of those establishments. One of them told me they would have to discuss it with the owner and get back to me. They never did. In the end, we held the event at a local restaurant who responded to my email message the same day. It was a roaring success and they gained profile and customers.

I am a season ticket holder of a local dance company. I wanted to buy a second ticket and sent them a message asking how to do that. After four such email messages over the span of a month without a response, I tried calling.  I never received a response to my call. I also visited their office twice, hoping to catch someone there. They were closed both times (no office hours posted). I was finally able to get a response after the fifth message. I won’t be renewing with them next season.

Our company belongs to a local business association, one that we pay for a membership in and correspond with frequently. Its primary mandate relates to providing services for its business members, yet my email interactions were something less:

  • I sent an email asking about a policy position. I received no response.
  • I sent an email informing the association that I could access a free resource for interested fellow members. How could we best approach getting the word out? No response.
  • I sent an email asking for clarification regarding event dates as a couple of them had contradicting dates between the brochure and the website. No response.

I finally informed an employee of the organisation of my struggles and he apologised, citing that “they had been very busy” and he would call me the next day. I never heard from him again. I doubt that our company will be renewing our membership next year.

I contacted a local company about a group gathering they were hosting that I was interested in paying to attend. I emailed them twice before getting a one-line response that did not answer my question. I tried emailing them once more but received no response. I never joined their event and they lost the sale.

I emailed a winery asking them if I could get their product in a city I would be travelling to, as I wanted to purchase a case. No response. I never purchased any of their products.  

Somebody Gets It

Now, let me now tell you about another example of customer service I experienced that started with an email message.

I contacted a local grocery store (national chain) to ask them why they put their high-end products in re-sealable bags with seals that don’t work. I was contacted through email the next day by the manager, who thanked me profusely, telling me that he would bring this matter to the attention of the national office and the bag producers. A short while later I received a second message saying that the concern had been brought to the attention of the bag producer and they were considering the situation. Shortly thereafter, I received a third message thanking me for helping to improve their products and would I please come down to the store to pick up a gift basket.

I was a little taken aback by their response (I just wanted them to fix their bags) but I went down to pick up the gift basket. When I got the basket, I found it filled with a variety of edible goods, each in its own bag WITH AN IMPROVED SEAL. And when I looked at their bagged sections, all of their goods were now in bags with improved seals! I will never stop shopping there.

Assessing the Quality of your Email-Based Customer Service

It still isn’t clear to me why I am experiencing so much trouble with emailed based customer service. Whatever the reason(s), it’s clear that some businesses are dropping the ball and that it is costing them dearly.

So, if you are running a business or are responsible for customer service or service design within your company, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you have an “info@” and is someone designated to check it?
  2. Are your employees over-burdened by work/information overload and are unable to deal with what they are expected to do?
  3. Do your employees understand the negative impact of not responding to folks who send in messages through your email? Have they received any received e-customer service training?
  4. Do you undertake regular (and meaningful) quality checks on what email has come in and how customers have been dealt with?

Attracting and retaining customers can be a challenge in a highly competitive business world. By remembering that you, too, are a customer, and taking the time to reflect on what makes you happy, can be one of the simplest and most effective ways to improve the customer service experience.


Chloe WoolgerChloe WoolgerMay 27, 2020
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8min1483

According to Kantar, the world’s leading data, insights and consulting firm, ensuring that the customer is put first by focussing on customer experience (CX) is one of many crucial factors that can determine what makes or breaks a brand.

Perhaps your customers’ expectations have now changed? If so, it’s important to understand what the experience might now look like and think about which parts of the customer journey might need to change.

It may come as no surprise that as the Coronavirus crisis intensified, consumer confidence throughout Europe dropped to record lows not seen since the financial crisis of 2009.

With the closure of all non-essential high street stores in March, convenience and necessity may explain why more people have switched to shopping online. However, recent research from Kantar’s COVID-19 Barometer research, reveals that three-quarters of British consumers agree that physical shopping in-store offers a more positive experience than purchasing goods online.

The challenge for many stores that offer online services will be how to retain these customers once social distancing measures are relaxed and people start gradually returning to the high street. And, as stores start to consider reopening over the coming weeks, how they can maintain a good experience without compromising safety.

In China, where lockdown measures have been gradually easing, we are seeing new emerging trends.

Whilst trust continues to be a high priority, there has been a move by brands looking to ‘Engage & Inspire’ consumers as they resume life adapting to the ‘new norm’.

They are looking for trusted brands to provide them with a sense of safety and security in these testing times and want to see brands deliver real value, act responsibly and do the right thing by the community, which also includes employee welfare.

As lockdown measures are tentatively eased, physical customer experiences will resume alongside digital ones. The challenge will be to continue gathering customer feedback that demonstrates brands are delivering a personalised approach. With many businesses adopting online as a primary customer feedback channel, it is important to get this right.

Here, timing, tone and target audience play a key role in formulating new, and if necessary, revisiting existing CX strategies, particularly when customers’ emotions are running higher than usual.

CX enters tribal territory

During the current pandemic, the usual ways of segmenting customers – by age, gender or relationship status, for example, have changed.  Kantar has conducted research to help identify behaviours and attitudes within different UK-based groups – meet the Covid-19 Tribes.

Each Tribe displays a different mindset and are positioned at various emotional ‘event stages’ depending on their outlook and attitude towards the current health crisis.

For example, some of these tribal groups include Ostriches that don’t really care and fail to understand what the fuss is about; Patiently Waiting believe everything will be fine and are most concerned about missing other people; and Precarious Worriers are finding things difficult with having to balance home, schooling and financial matters. The emotional stages are shock, denial, acceptance, depression, experimental, decision and engagement.

Having segmented each Tribe, it then becomes possible to blend Tribe data with other forms of customer data, ultimately to help improve digital feedback for different audiences. It also helps shape internal and external communications, evolve innovation and perhaps most importantly, advance and re-imagine CX strategy. Depending on which tribe is being targeted, a series of steps may be taken. For example, clear information may be required to minimise friction; connection and inspiration for customers might allow them to discover new experiences and offering rewards for those who are patiently waiting will help create those all-important CX ‘moments that matter’.

Having successfully identified a Covid Tribe it then becomes possible to meet the rising demands of consumers through careful communications as they seek reassurance, comfort and advice. This in turn provides opportunities for enhanced CX and serves to strengthen future brand relationships.

The following guidelines can help to ensure trust is built and maintained from digital feedback provided to customers:

  • Build a deeper sense of empathy with the customer around those issues that really matter according to your ‘Covid Tribe’
  • Ensure brand communications are not seen as profiting from the pandemic, and that customers are clearly at the forefront of concern
  • Let customers know they are supported; let them know you care and that they are your top priority – avoid just do nothing
  • CX is a shop window for delivering on brand promise so ensure consumers’ expectations are being clearly met
  • Try and be meaningful and different in your CX delivery. This will insulate your brand in both the short and long term and help drive future growth
  • Customer feedback may not be a top priority so be prepared to see a dip in response rates. Tap into other data sets to help you understand customer priorities right now
  • Often actions speak louder than words so where possible highlight any practical and helpful steps you are taking to help improve customers’ lives. Empathy and practicality are a potent combination

Step-change for CX

A CX strategy that has worked well in the past may be proving less effective now. We don’t know exactly how long social distancing measures will last, or whether they’ll be re-introduced once lifted.

What is certain however, is that during these uncertain times, we are entering a new era of CX; one that should aim to enrich customers’ lives rather than simply meeting their existing needs. We have an opportunity to redesign what needs to be done rather than doing the same thing differently to provide a seamless and frictionless CX journey.


Sonja KotrotsosSonja KotrotsosMay 26, 2020
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8min1437

Customers have increasingly high expectations regarding customer experience (CX) because the corporate giants whose products and services they use daily set the bar incredibly high.

Whether a business is consumer-facing or B2B, customers expect seamless convenience and personalised attention that immerses them in the brand experience — no matter where they are.

Thankfully, this level of CX is no longer just the domain of giants. Today, the technology that makes this kind of customer experience possible is becoming more mainstream and affordable, making immersive CX achievable.

What is Immersive CX?

At its most basic, immersive CX facilitates a seamless customer experience. The customer becomes fully immersed in the purchase journey, effortlessly navigating from one channel to the next without interrupting their day-to-day activities to do so.

On the more advanced side of the immersive CX spectrum, technologies such as augmented reality overlays and virtual reality headsets facilitate experiences that literally immerse the customer.

Immersive Customer Experiences Start with a Roadmap

A CX experience roadmap is simply a plan outlining the measures necessary to improve customer experience and the timeline on they are planned. Any CX roadmap should address both short-term and long-term goals for establishing immersive CX.

Defining clear goals and timelines makes it easier to gradually roll out immersive CX initiatives, helping businesses to capitalise on “low-hanging fruit” and meet long-term goals. Chopping up the plan into smaller parts makes it much more manageable.

Additionally, having a CX roadmap makes it easier to set goals and measure the CX program’s success or ROI. Setting up a customer satisfaction score (CSS) or net promoter score (NPS) benchmark helps to tie CX efforts to the bottom line.

On the mindset front, a CX roadmap will help an organisation remain committed to staying ahead of the curve by continually innovating and iterating the CX program. Customer expectations will continue to evolve, and so should a business if it wishes to remain competitive.

CMS for Immersive CX

At the outset it is worth remembering that a content management system (CMS) plays a massive role in delivering exceptional customer experiences. It’s instrumental in aligning the data, processes, and people needed to create and deploy consistently immersive experiences.

A headless CMS uses application programming interface (API) technology so content can be created and stored separately from its presentation. This separation enables content and marketing to create, optimise, and distribute content while designers and developers are building the best front-end display for that content on every channel and device.

With this in place, there are then five pillars to creating a successful CX roadmap:

1. Customer intelligence

Collecting customer feedback can be as simple as asking for ratings, making it easy to leave comments, and incentivizing survey completion. However, if possible, focus groups that can discuss the customer experience with actual customers are ideal.

Businesses need to facilitate the discussion but not steer responses.  The objective is real, organic customer thoughts on what works and what doesn’t. This needs to encompass the entire experience of a brand to gain a complete insight into the customer journey.

If a business already has analytics in place, this data can speak on the customers’ behalf to measure which aspects of existing CX initiatives are successful and which ones need to be adjusted.

2. Customer understanding

An analysis of the data collected should enable a business to better understand customers’ current pain points, where they’re happy with a business, and where there is room to improve.

Customers’ impressions of a brand are very different from the expectations of the business. This might not be a bad thing, but a business must decide to either take steps to alter this perception or lean into it.

The fundamental goal in this step is to identify ways to improve the customer experience. This may mean doubling down on some aspects of a CX approach and overhauling others completely.

3. Customer journeys

All of the above information should be compiled into a fully mapped out customer journey.  The objective is understand how each of the most valuable customer segments interacts with a brand.

Questions to consider include:

  • How did each customer discover the brand?
  • What was their experience at each touchpoint?
  • Which touchpoint convinced them to choose a given business above others?
  • How did they experience the purchase process?
  • Would they repeat the process?

At each leg of the customer journey, mark the pain points and CX features that customers commend, and identify opportunities to implement immersive CX upgrades.

4. Customer Experience Goals

Once the areas of CX improvement are identified, a business must commit to a timeline.

This is determined by impact and feasibility: and this can be assessed by a few quick questions

  • Which CX improvements can be implemented right away?
  • Which CX initiatives does the business view as the most urgent?
  • Which changes will have the most immediate impact on the customer experience delivery?
  • What resources, infrastructure, or expertise are required to roll out the more critical items?
  • Which actions are dependent on other activities or infrastructure being in place first?

This creates a plan of action with all the relevant stakeholders. As always, businesses should focus on easy wins or “low-hanging fruit” first and allow plenty of time to work towards more complex goals.

5. Customer Milestones

Setting milestones and benchmarks are perhaps the most crucial part of the whole immersive CX roadmap process. They are the very definition of if a given CX initiative is yielding any positive results.

Benchmarks such as a desired NPS or CSS score should be set and a business then needs to decide how regularly it will review these metrics to assess if a given CX strategy is working. These milestones should be included in the roadmap and used to take stock and adapt the strategy periodically if necessary.


Alon GhelberAlon GhelberMay 25, 2020
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6min935

Recent events forced many companies to convert to a work from home routine. Some companies were quick to adapt to this abrupt change, while others still suffer from the impact in their day to day.

It seemed that after the initial shock, it was business as usual for tech companies, while brick and mortar retailers, real estate and manufacturers suffered greatly.

Brands that didn’t or had little to no significant online operation had to react fast to catch up in this race for survival. They suddenly had to take better care of their employees’ experienced, in the battle to retain their supply chain and customer experience.

In this article, I’ll discuss the chain of events brands had to overcome to stay relevant and function, as well as life in the ‘new normal’, were we might face a second outbreak. So how does the ‘new norm’ going to look like, and what are the main items to monitor?

Working remotely

Within a matter of days, brands had to overcome a surprise turn of event to their working environment and business operation. Companies suddenly had to rethink shipment and delivery during a lockdown, Zoom meetings, and other creative solutions to provide excellent customer service.

Acting fast was the only way brands could ensure the relevancy to the new normal of the COVID world. Brands had to navigate their way between their employees and fast changes in consumers’ taste.

For example, companies that value their employees’ experience made sure to provide them with a decent home office. By taking a look at the Amazon best sellers for this category, the best-selling items are mainly home office supplies.

Help your employees results in a better level of service

Customers seek support and reassurance from their familiar brands. Delivering rapid solutions to their changing needs and concerns will help to keep them loyal.

Here are some ways brands should address their employees and customers in a crisis:

  • Make sure that customers and employees are aware of the resources, care, support and concern the company invests in them. Let them feel that they can rely on the brand under challenging times.
  • Help your employees by understanding the needs of the customers. Provide the essentials for your service: Make sure your company is digitated for online access, establish a delivery system and a touch-free environment for physical shopping (plexiglass guards).

Taking care of your employees and trying to improve their lives during social distancing might even be more critical.

Brands that took an active approach and arranged their employees’ with online workouts during a workday sent small but thoughtful girts to their homes and established experience questionnaire witnessed an increase in customer experience almost immediately.

One of the most important things brands should focus on right now, is leading customers and employees towards the post-COVID world in a safe manner.

First, understanding and predicting the evolving needs and tastes of their employees and customers will lead to a better relationship and sentiment.
Second, analysing business and marketing strategies will allow brands to stay relevant.

Taking proactive measures by ensuring the brand has a stable array to face the world’s changes and comprehending peoples’ needs faster than ever.

Keeping consumer sentiment at it’s best

On the one hand, there are brilliant brands who were able to stay relevant and vibrant even though their product became less desired during the pandemic. Cosmetic companies, for example, used their resources to formulate essential products like sanitisers, donated products to vital workers and charity. They made sure that when the lockdown is lifted, consumers will have them in mind.

On the other hand, manufacturers of essential products had to adjust to their customer’s fast-changing needs rapidly. Companies added moisturising to their self-hygiene products due to frequent hand wash and sanitising.

Brands who managed to adapt fast can stay vibrant and even thrive during a crisis— keeping their customers loyal during this pandemic.

Conclusion

Excellent communication and taking extra care of employees’ needs contributes to a brand’s sentiment in multiple ways. Empathy towards your staff will lead to higher morale ethic, trust and healthier working environment and positive atmosphere.

By embedding the above in their corporate toolbox, brands will discover their employees are more satisfied and productive. They will also likely witness other accretion in the company, such an increase in brand loyalty, customer experience and sentiment.


Rebecca BrownRebecca BrownMay 22, 2020
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9min1296

Author: Rebecca Brown

There are lots of different styles when it comes to leadership.

Lots of approaches, lots of management books and leadership guides. Volume upon volume of materials that you can digest online, on your kindle or even these days, in an audiobook. You can read up on just about anything. You can learn all there is about any subject. Any subject that is, except your customer.

No off-the-shelf book will be able to tell you which elements of your customer journey your clients love, and which bits they are finding most frustrating. It’s not because there aren’t plenty of (fantastic) books on customer experience out there – it’s more that your customers’ needs are a constantly evolving thing. They change with the economy, they change with trends, they change with advances in technology – Let’s face it, it can sometimes feel like they change with the wind!

Being the type of leader who relies solely on your years of experience, and the experience levels of your senior leadership team to shape your customer journey could mean you’re working with out of date material before you even begin. By assuming you know what your customers want because you knew what they wanted this time last year, you could end up like Bill, walking down a familiar road only to get a nasty surprise when you turn the corner.

Experience is no substitute for up to date feedback. The two need to go hand in hand. This has always been the case, but is true now more than ever.

We’ve all been impacted by Covid-19 in one way or another. Some of us are lucky enough to have the relentlessness of 24/7 childcare and the potential peril of stepping on duplo first thing in the morning be our biggest stressor, whilst others have been left in heart-breaking situations that no one should have to face. The world we knew is forever changed, and along with it are the consumers we want to attract and retain.

It’s predicted we’re about to enter the largest recession in recorded history. People are nervous and uncertain, with both their emotional and physical wellbeing under threat with no clear timescale for when that might end. Whilst most people are desperate for things to go back to normal, it’s a safe assumption that even when it does, the new ‘normal’ won’t resemble what we’re used to. How could it?

It’s a grim picture, but it’s not all doom and gloom – or at least it doesn’t have to be. We need to come to terms with the fact we don’t know our customers like we once did. We need to rekindle that relationship, and we need to do it fast if we’re to remain relevant in what’s about to become one of the most competitive markets any of us have seen.

But… here comes the exciting bit! If we accept that our customers are not the same, and that our old way of approaching them may no longer cater for their needs then we can start to open our minds to the possibility of nationwide innovation and maybe even cross-industry collaboration on an unprecedented scale.

By approaching your customer experience strategy as a priority, having an open mind, asking the right questions, and taking clearly defined steps to improve your customer journey through journey mapping, you could well be setting your business up for the best cultural shift it’s ever encountered, and in turn a strong recovery followed by a period of sustained growth.

Our top tips:

1. Look after your people

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 71% of people say that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever. We all know that looking after your people is the right thing to do, but now it’s also good business.

Our most recent instalment of Bill and Doug covers some ideas on how to check in with your employees if you get stuck for ideas!

2. Change the way you ask for feedback

Offer your customers the ability to provide feedback on their agenda, at a time, place and in a way that’s convenient for them. Don’t make feedback all about you and your company by asking old fashioned questions and long-winded surveys.

Utilising simple feedback tools that can be triggered by a customer when they feel particularly motivated to tell you about their experience will yield more results, and give you more relevant insights.

Then make sure you use that feedback in the right way. Share it with everyone in your business. They all play a part in the customer journey so they need to know how they impact it, and what they can do differently. Make customer feedback a part of your team meetings, and make sure that your team see your leadership embracing feedback as the positive and transformational tool it can be.

3. Map your customer journeys

Using current insight gained from feedback and customer focus sessions is the best way to map your current journey, your aspirational one and to complete a gap analysis of the two.

Plotting an emotional curve against your current journey will enable you to know exactly which areas of business change to focus on and which are just fine as they are.

4. Implement a Shadow Board

For those of you who have yet to come across this concept, a shadow board is where you select a diverse group of young individuals from within your company, not necessarily from existing high potential groups, and usually the same number as are on your actual board or senior team. Their purpose is to challenge and innovate, injecting fresh ideas and cultural change into senior leadership decision making and organisational processes.

In a lot of cases they will be far more likely to represent your customer base than those you have in senior positions. Shadow boards see things in a different way to you, and can offer new perspectives on age old challenges, not to mention it’s a great way to encourage employee engagement and personal development!

 

Check out the first instalment of Bill and Doug:
Easy as ABC: Employee Recognition and How To Do It Right

 


Sophie VuSophie VuMay 22, 2020
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7min1206

The global pandemic has forced businesses to quickly implement new working practices and customer communication approaches.

Although we’re all hoping to go back to normal as soon as possible, the old normal may not apply any more: Covid-19 is unlikely to be an isolated incident.

Businesses must prepare for further lockdowns and future pandemics – and for other situations that will demand operational resilience and agility. Organisations that have adopted remote working tools and found methods of managing employees, forced to work from home, will find that these stand them in good stead for the future.

Even more crucial will be the ability to ensure excellent customer service in these restricted working conditions.

Maintaining positive customer experiences

At the start of the lockdown in particular, many businesses received extremely high volumes of customer calls and emails. Keeping on top of customer contact, often in multiple languages, has been a challenge even without the need to move call centre agents into a WFH (working from home) model.

While customers have shown a degree of patience and understanding with regard to delayed orders or cancelled bookings due to this crisis, they still expect satisfying and timely online responses from brands, as a recent US retail sector survey reveals: “Virtually all shoppers are willing to give retailers more time to deliver items (94 percent)” but “70 percent say they are less likely to shop with a retailer again if they are not informed in advance of a delay”.

Maintaining relationships with customers by communicating with them on a personal level is key to retaining business as we come out of this crisis.

Tools for scalability

Automation and AI translation allow businesses to keep on top of increased volumes of contact, but for those that were unprepared for business continuity, dealing with third-party vendors and hardware/software issues has been problematic.

One of Unbabel’s clients in the gaming sector had to onboard an additional WFH vendor as their existing provider could not handle the increase in customer enquiries. As per the humorous memes, people at home and isolated are playing more video games and support demand is going way up for this company: at the beginning of February the business had 4000 tickets (customer – service operative interactions) per day. Now that figure is up to 9500 tickets per day and counting.

The gaming company also had to recruit and train a significant number of new customer support agents. With customer enquiries coming in many different languages, Unbabel’s AI-human translation enables these new operatives to real-time, authenticated responses to a customer in their own language.

Motivating homeworkers

Even for remote-friendly businesses with the systems and processes to support WFH, this has been the first time entire organisations are working from home at the same time. Customer service agents are typically office-based and the person who fulfills that role generally differs demographically from someone who chooses to work at home. Many workers are missing the workplace as somewhere they can make friends, have lunch together, and share harmless gossip.

Regular and open communication from the organisation’s leaders to employees is vital. It is important to recognise the current challenges employees are facing, such as entertaining children at home or balancing supporting their online schooling schedule against business meetings and focused working time.

Employers can help by providing tips on how to balance work and home life, by offering more flexible working times and by finding ways to keep teams connected even when they’re not sharing the same physical space, such as regular online social hangouts during the working week.

When everyone is working remotely the focus needs to move from time spent to output. This means managers need to assign clear deliverables and outputs and accept asynchronous communication and workflows.

At the same time, regular and frequent communication with remote teams is paramount to ensure independent but coordinated work.

Planning for the unknown

The ability to adapt to new ways of working is all about operational resilience and businesses need to build this into their customer experience – ensuring business continuity with agile operating models that can adapt fast to new contexts. A good place to start is to reduce the risk your operations are exposed to so you can adapt quickly to different social and economic environments. When companies are less dependent on and tied to providers, locations or technology, for example, they are freer to adapt.

This “forced” agility is here to stay. The new processes and tools that we have adopted, as a result of this crisis will serve us well as we finally move out of lockdown.

 

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Laura MolloyLaura MolloyMay 21, 2020
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4min683

In light of the current situation we knew many of our customers would be extremely worried and it was decided that a simple phone call might be able to alleviate some of their concerns.

Many colleagues within PA Housing volunteered to make these calls in addition to their normal daily job role tasks. Within the general needs stock we are aware that many of our customers would be considered to be in the ‘at risk’ category with regards to the COVID-19 outbreak. A majority of these customers would have been living a very independent life without the need of any support at all.

However, due to the government guidelines, asking all over 70’s to stay in for at least the next 12 weeks, many of our customers could be left feeling very isolated.

Initially, the welfare calls would be for all the over 70’s to check if they are feeling well, have they got support from family or are they self-isolating? In addition to the questions about their health, we also asked about financial their situation and if they have food, often advising them where they can order food locally and from any foodbanks located nearby.

Lastly, we asked if they would like a call-back on a weekly or fortnightly basis just in case any issues arise or if they simply would like a chat.

Many people we spoke to said that they would appreciate a call back just for peace of mind. Anyone that we spoke to that we deemed to be not coping or in need of further support we had an emergency email to send details and issues.

I personally called about 100 customers and the reaction I received was so heartwarming. People were so touched and appreciative. One lady I spoke to said that although she was fine I was the first person she had spoken to in days, and this call lasted for 35 minutes. Another lady who was 96 said she was waiting for a district nurse to visit to dress a cancer wound as they normally do twice weekly. No one had turned up that week and she was extremely worried and in a lot of discomfort. I managed to find out after a few calls and being on hold for about 20 minutes, as understandably they were extremely busy, that someone was attending her property later that day. When I called back the relief in her voice was palpable. There are many more examples across the organisation of good service like this.

As this has worked so well with the over 70’s we have now extended it to the over 60’s. Currently, a total of 3,623 call requests from customers over the age over 60 have been allocated to around 160 members of staff. So far we have made contact with 2,378 customers either by phone, email or letter. Regular call-back contacts are being made to 659 customers fortnightly or weekly. A great achievement, I think you’ll agree.

PA Housing is a registered provider of social housing, offering more than 23,000 homes across the Midlands, London and South East with a range of housing solutions.  PA Housing is so much more than a roof over someone’s head. It offers a wide range of services from support with benefits entitlement to help getting back into employment.  We see it as a priority to deliver a consistent and high standard of customer service as well as caring passionately about the wellbeing of the people we serve.


Adrienne GormleyMay 20, 2020
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8min919

We believed that digital technology would bring seamless collaboration and boost our productivity.

Yet the reality has been markedly different.

Over 80% of companies believe that they still need to improve their collaborative working methods to hit their productivity goals – and many are investing in this goal.

Now that many businesses have found themselves thrust into an extended period of distributed working, there’s a newfound focus on the tools and technology required to nurture effective collaboration and productivity amongst a distributed workforce.

Technological overload

However, merely introducing more technology won’t necessarily facilitate an efficient and focused workplace—in fact, this approach of relying on more tools has created a digital workplace that is overloaded with counter-productive ‘work about work’.

We all know the struggle of sorting through a swamped inbox or the trouble it takes to figure out which notification ‘ping’ came from what platform, and whether it’s a priority. The numbers bare out the strain that this monotonous ‘work about work’ subjects us to—in the UK, a third of all time at work is wasted with valueless admin.

As a result, it’s no longer enough for us to plug away with our assigned tasks, we also have to struggle even harder to stay on top of our extra ‘work about work’. This blurs our clarity, eats at our wellbeing, grinds us down and makes it impossible for us to be focused.

From sales to finance, every day our workplaces, which were designed to maximise businesses productivity, are unintentionally undermining our problem-solving processes.

A smoother approach

So how do we fix this?

With employees facing even more on and off-screen distractions today than ever before, layering technology over technology isn’t making anyone’s work-life easier.

We need to start thinking about a workplace that restores the ability to focus on what really matters: thinking strategically to solve the business challenges we face each day.

There are two distinct elements here. To begin with, interoperability is key: when businesses deploy a variety of tools and applications to get different jobs done, people often find themselves inundated with the busywork of operating across disparate systems.

This can be, for example, the nuisance of making different file formats work together or of struggling to recall where a key component of a project ‘lives’.

Businesses should look for tools that easily bring content and tasks together as much as possible, cutting through the clutter and allowing their people to focus on the work at hand.

But overcoming technological distraction isn’t just about making the pieces fit together more smoothly. It’s also about making the pieces that don’t matter at a given point in time fade into the background.

A functional digital workspace should use smart technology to quiet the constant ping of notifications where and when they are irrelevant, and surface what truly matters—whether that’s using AI to predict which document we need or serving relevant notes ahead of a meeting.

A cultural shift

The right tools are just the beginning when it comes to bridging the digital divide, however. The future of the workplace is an environment where terms such as ‘empowerment’, ‘collaboration’, ‘problem-solving’ and ‘creative thinking’ are valued and not simply the next set of empty buzzwords.

This means intentionally designing a culture where team members can communicate openly, collaborate easily, and feel free to find time for focus work.

For example, teams can’t be expected to use multiple communications channels effectively if they don’t feel safe enough to disagree or share ideas. Everyone needs to be heard and a successful digital workplace is one where every member of the team is included in the conversation, and valued.

This becomes even more critical when you can’t rely on the dynamics of an in-person meeting to bring forward people’s opinions.

Amy Edmondson, a Harvard Professor who studies leadership and psychological safety, says that “Distributed work is making us realise we have to be more deliberately—more proactively—open. We have to be explicit in sharing our ideas, questions, and concerns, because we can’t just overhear what’s happening in the next cubicle.”

The notion of being more open to disagreement might seem simple, but it is central to creating a work environment that brings your teams closer together and boosts performance.

The output-focused mindset

The first step to creating a successful collaborative working environment is a matter of asking the right questions of your team. Instead of constantly questioning how productive they are being and distracting your team with message updates, begin the day by asking what do we want to accomplish today? And how can we achieve it?

This is a shift towards an output-orientated approach, and it is particularly important at this time. When employees aren’t in front of you, it might be tempting to worry that they aren’t being productive, but constant check-ins and box-ticking exercises are simply sapping time for focus work.

This means ruthlessly prioritising for your team and honing in on how you are progressing towards your key goals, then trusting that team to work towards those goals, speak up when necessary, and collaborate effectively without prodding.

Technology will still underpin the future of work that we’re all jumping headlong into at the moment, but without the accompanying cultural change, it’s doomed to fail. Businesses shouldn’t implement increasing numbers of tools without considering how they impact how their teams collaborate and how individuals go about their days.

We need to unlock the potential creativity that keeping things focused, simple, and streamlined can bring. We’ll only be able to truly realise the future of the digital workplace when we move away from micromanagement, and begin to encourage a culture of open collaboration and empowered teams.

 

 




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