Nic RedfernJuly 29, 2019
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8min614

Over the last decade, there has been a noticeable change in the way society perceives the environment.

Having seen the impact pollution and carbon emissions is having on the ecological system, consumers and businesses alike are adopting new practices in a bid to sustainably manage the planet’s resources. 

As a result, consumers are increasingly making the conscious decision to engage with companies that are actively supporting environmental initiatives, or who have adopted greener practices. According to a global survey by Nielsen, 81 percent of consumers feel strongly that companies should actively help improve the environment.

For a business, adopting greener work ethics isn’t just good for the planet – there are also cost-reduction benefits that arise when pursuing more eco-friendly objectives. As someone who has worked closely with companies large and small, I have seen first-hand that with careful planning, reducing an organisation’s carbon footprint can have significant cost-efficient outcomes and reduce unnecessary expenditures.

This might appear easier said than done, so let’s consider some ways that companies can take steps to reduce their carbon footprint and reap the cost-benefits that could arise from this change. 

What is a carbon footprint?

While the term is becoming more commonly used in day-to-day life, what exactly do we mean by the phrase ‘carbon footprint’ when applied to businesses? In simple terms, a carbon footprint is the best estimate of the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced to directly and indirectly operate a business.

A business’ carbon footprint could therefore be the emissions produced in the manufacturing of a product, or the amount of electricity consumed by a company to facilitate its daily operations. Importantly, regardless of the product or service being offered, there are a number of simple ways that businesses can cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, this task has become much easier now thanks to technological innovations that can streamline and simplify operations.

Lowering a carbon footprint doesn’t have to be needlessly complicated. In fact, it can be as simple as switching to a renewable energy supplier.

Some widely used energy providers offer renewable energy solutions, with many of these backed by REGO (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin) certificates. To cut down on excessive energy usage and find a cleaner alternative, be sure to seek out solutions with REGO, which guarantees that the origin of the energy supplied is renewably resourced.

What’s more, besides helping businesses become more sustainable, embracing energy efficiency can also deliver energy cost savings. To find the best deal on business energy prices, be sure to compare tariffs on online comparison websites to find one best suited to your needs. 

Re-evaluating daily practices and educating staff

Awareness is at the heart of change, so it’s important to ensure that all staff members are well-versed in the simple steps they can take at work to reduce carbon emissions. Holding staff education initiatives is a great way of spreading awareness about environmentally damaging practices, and the solutions available to address these.

Utilise existing and readily available tech

Did you know that the pulp, paper and print industry accounts for 3.1 percent of Europe’s total energy consumption? The environmental impact of paper is significant, even with growing recycling efforts.

To combat this problem, businesses need to be aware of the impact printing and extensive hard copy record-keeping can have on the environment and be encouraged to reduce the amount of paper they consume. The advent of cloud computing has paved the way for this, allowing businesses to offer digital versions of documents in computerised management systems which can be accessed at any time, and in any place.

Reassess work commutes

It’s also important not to overlook the indirect contributions to an organisation’s carbon emissions, including those which arise from staff commuting to and from work every day using cars. Technological advances in connectivity mean than employees can now work efficiently from home, removing the need to venture into the office every morning.

Xerox recently followed this path and designed a Virtual Workforce Programme to use the benefits of working from home as a means to both run a productive company and benefit the environment. Through the programme, 11 percent of its workforce work from home full-time. But how does this translate to tangible results? Through ‘telecommuting’, Xerox managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40,894 metric tonnes.

Alternatively, if possible, staff should be encouraged to cycle or walk to work – not only will this reduce potential carbon emissions, it will also encourage a healthier lifestyle for employees. So, for businesses keen to make the necessary changes to reduce their carbon footprint, promoting remote working should be high on the priority list.

Reducing a company’s carbon footprint doesn’t just have a positive impact on the environment – it can also deliver huge energy savings by helping to identify ways to reduce costs and consumption, and ultimately improve their operational efficiency. The above suggestions are but a handful of solutions that can be readily adopted. As such, I would encourage businesses of all sizes to explore ways that they can reduce their carbon footprint, and at the same time evaluate how they stand to benefit from the cost saving potential.


Laura ArthurtonLaura ArthurtonJuly 29, 2019
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7min675

There’s no denying the fact we now live in a one-click society, where consumers are used to the comfort of buying almost any product they want with a click of button, and have it delivered to their home or place of work within 24 hours.

Inevitably, this has put significant pressure on traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, whose core aim is to attract people to their physical stores. While this remains one of the major challenges for the retail sector, the good news is that there are several steps that high street retailers can take in order to digitise and prioritise their instore Customer Experience.

The importance of customer service in real-time

Traditionally, physical stores have always been good at recognising customer needs in real-time, so providing a tailored and personalised shopping experience has been relatively straightforward. However, what happens in a scenario when all the sales advisors are busy serving other customers? Retailers must ask themselves whether they are utilising their staff in the best possible way; are advisors bogged down with mundane tasks or are they in a good position to provide a positive all-round Customer Experience?

While it might not always seem essential to have sales advisors around at all times, this situation is easily comparable to an online experience where a user uses a search engine to look for a product. They might type in ‘white trousers’ and receive a list of generic non-personalised results. It’s likely they then end up clicking through various websites and look up different retailers to compare costs and other factors, and won’t benefit from a personalised experience which can be so important in closing a sale.

The advantage that physical stores have in this sense is that they can prevent the need for endless browsing, by offering customers what they want, when they want it, in real-time. By taking advantage of this potential, retailers can enhance the power of instore shopping.

In the flesh: Brick and mortar retail has an advantage over digital when it comes to providing a personalised experience

Augmenting reality

The good news is there are already plenty of technology solutions available for retailers to use to digitise their instore customer experience. In effect, this tech needs to help retailers ensure that their customers are engaged instore at all times, by simplifying their buying journey and helping sales advisors to deliver the best possible customer service.

For example, Sephora, a leading beauty retailer, has experimented with 3D augmented reality mirrors that simulate cosmetics on consumer’s face in real-time. This is a great way of deepening customer relationships and taking the shopping experience a step further. Augmented reality is still a developing technology, but this is just one example of how smart tech has the potential to create an immersive customer experience instore in real-time.

Intelligent guided selling

Choice overload is an issue for the modern shopper, whether they’re shopping online or instore, and often leaves them unsure of what to buy because of the variety of options and complexity of different products. At the same time, the variety of products has made many consumers more demanding and less responsive to adverts and promotions. Intelligent guided selling (IGS) technology can play a leading role in cutting through this complexity.

IGS can cut through the noise and filter products based on things like consumer interest, past buying behaviour or specific product preferences. By doing this, the technology can make tailored product recommendations in real-time, empowering sales associates to assist customers in the most efficient way possible.

This tech can be employed using readily accessible tools. For example, providing sales advisors at kiosks with smart touch screens or tablets enables them to carry out their usual role of engaging with customers, combined with the extra boost that something like IGS can provide. Being open to a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy can also be helpful here, as enabling sales advisors to quickly assist customers using their own smartphones or tablets can reduce the chances of customers consulting their own devices to gain more information on a product.

Digitise, personalise, maximise

Implementing any form of technology will require physical retailers to invest time into upgrading their existing systems and services, but it is a job worth doing in the long term. Those who are willing to be adaptable are the ones that are most likely to remain competitive.

Essentially, retailers need to identify their unique selling points and use them to their offering in a way that is different to other similar competitors in the market. This will allow them to create an instore range focused on quality, experience and relationships, something that online often can’t provide. Do this, and the future of the instore experience will be bright.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 26, 2019
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6min926

Today’s cloud-based contact centre solutions make it easier to deliver good customer service whatever the channel. 

The real challenge is how to provide a Digital Experience that stands out from the crowd when there is so much noise and too much choice. Multi-channel or omnichannel? AI or no AI? The rapid proliferation of new technologies and buzzwords is enough to reduce even the most focused organisations to blind panic. Some rush in and digitalise simply because everyone else is doing it while others grind to a state of sluggish inertia because change is scary and ‘it’s always been done this way’ is a safer option.

How do contact centres find the happy medium? How do they build a digital CX programme that guarantees successful customer outcomes? The secret is to keep calm, stay focused and follow a few golden rules:

1. Introduce relevance into the digital equation

Don’t just introduce technology for technology’s sake. Always keep the customer at the centre of the digital design process. Think about the dialogues you have with customers, listen to your agents, become a mystery shopper and try out the contact centre to discover the channels and technology that really work. Then, back this up with the performance metrics that matter.  Customers just want fast, positive results, so align KPIs accordingly. Focus on Net promoter, Customer Satisfaction (CSat) and Customer Effort scores along with customer churn and first resolution rates rather than Average Handling Times (AHTs).

2. Blend omnichannel with AI for complete customer interactions

Exploit the latest innovations in Artificial Intelligence such as virtual assistants, digital assistants, and bots. The beauty of AI is that it offers practically unlimited capabilities to allow organisations to capture customer conversations that vastly improve service levels and even anticipate customers’ needs by up/cross-selling other products based on their previous purchase or web-browsing history – a real competitive differentiator.

The human touch counts when it comes to handling complex matters and emotionally sensitive or personal issues. Blend instantaneous, multi-channel, round-the-clock digital self-sufficiency with personal service. Just be sure to make the hand-over between virtual and live agents seamless.

3. Remove on-screen clutter

A tidy desktop equals a tidy mind and ultimately a tidy profit. However, on-screen clutter such as multiple pop-ups and different applications frequently get in the way of delivering first-class CX. It’s time to take a closer look at the latest agent applications.

These are designed to remove on-screen clutter by linking to enterprise systems, selected third parties, and knowledge bases through widgets. Customisable and flexible, widgets allow every agent to be presented with the information and functionality most relevant to them in any given situation without switching screens or resorting to pop-ups. This provides a single view of customer conversations and accelerates an agent’s ability to improve CX all in one place.

4. Invest in the right people skills

There’s no point spending time and money on the perfect digital infrastructure if your human skills fail to live up to the same exacting standards. When recruiting new agents, or training long-standing experienced team members, look for candidates with high levels of emotional intelligence.

These are the ones who instinctively understand how the customer is feeling and use that information to influence a positive result even when conversations are passed to them from a digital assistant or chatbot. They grasp the importance of bridging the digital and human worlds and their holistic approach is vital to the success of a digital and connected CX strategy.

5. Choose cloud

Maximising cloud-based integration capabilities improves efficiency and builds customer loyalty as a result of fast and highly personalised interactions. A single view of customer interactions aids decision-making and allows proactive management of response times.

What’s more, when it comes to protecting sensitive customer data, the cloud comes into its own. Using a simple web browser, a single sign-on is all that is required and the ability to switch freely between applications and payment solutions to boost security levels.

Breathe deeply, stay calm, and carry on towards the perfect digital CX strategy. Focus on the digital channels that matter to your customers, experiment with the latest AI, and join the dots with agents who effortlessly link both human and digital worlds. You’ll stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons.

 


David MortonDavid MortonJuly 26, 2019
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6min836

Brands are working harder than ever to enhance Customer Experience as people increasingly demand a streamlined and immediate service from the companies they interact with.

Research from Dimension Data shows that 58 percent of consumers would be willing to spend more money with those businesses that provide excellent customer service.

But while companies currently offer an average of 11 channels through which customers can make contact – from webchat and apps to email and phone communication – the challenge is that these systems, and the processes behind them, are rarely connected. Insights gathered from each interaction are often fed into individual silos for each channel. The Dimension Data research found that only eight per cent of companies believe that all of their points of contact with the customer are integrated, with a third unable to track customer journeys at all.

To put it simply, these businesses lack a ‘single view of the customer’ that can help overcome the barrier of disjointed CX by providing agents with all the information they need about a customer on one platform. By adopting this approach, brands can avoid the common problem of consumers quickly becoming frustrated if they must explain their problem multiple times to more than one representative, or discuss historical issues and interactions each time they make contact.

A 360° view customer platform

The wealth of data companies have available to them can help them transform how they engage with their customers. Retailers, for example, can harness information relating to buying history, delivery, and returns, and even personal details such as product preferences and customer tastes, to provide a joined-up and bespoke, tailored experience. 

The solution is to create one automated platform, underpinned by artificial intelligence (AI), that collates data for each customer at every possible touch point. By providing this information to customer service agents in a dashboard format, they have all of the up-to-date, relevant information they need to answer a query. For automated systems, such as chatbots, the data can be continually fed into the system’s software.

By using AI, the platform can also generate recommendations for agents to follow, based on data covering customers’ past purchases, browsing behaviour and previous interactions with the brand. Along with helping representatives to have positive and productive dialogue to improve loyalty, it can also be applied to outbound campaigns to boost sales by identifying the right time and right channel to contact a customer.

Scope: ‘Disjointed’ Customer Experience means agents don’t have all a customer’s info at hand

Integration in practice

Before implementing a 360-degree platform, companies must first audit all of the existing channels available to their customers. The process allows brands to identify any areas that are not currently integrated, and pinpoint areas for improvement and optimisation.

Once the audit is complete, data can then be automatically consolidated and integrated into one easily accessible platform. Automation plays a key role here, continually collating and feeding information from multiple databases into one customer relationship management (CRM) system that can be updated in real time.

Agent augmentation

But technology is only half the story. New digital tools can enhance the role of advisors by empowering them to interact with customers in the most efficient and knowledgeable way. They also provide an opportunity for businesses to upskill their employees, equipping them with top quality communications skills to enable them to field the most complex queries and handle high-value requests, such as those requiring negotiation or emotional sensitivity.

Investment in staff is an effective way of boosting service quality, helping them to build and maintain relationships that cannot be handled by technology alone, ultimately serving to boost the bottom line.

Data presents an opportunity for businesses to create a holistic view of each of their customers, which they must capitalise on in order to deliver the outstanding service expected of them. This approach will allow them to benefit from the highest levels of customer satisfaction, helping to boost customer loyalty for the long-term and – crucially – drive sales. 


Joey GreenwaldJoey GreenwaldJuly 26, 2019
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11min1120

I rarely use and never want to pick up my phone anymore.

That is, the phone part of the phone. I happily use my mobile phone all of the time – to communicate, read, and for entertainment. But using the call functionality and dialling a human? No, thank you.

It’s partly because I get dozens of unwanted robocalls every week, and partly because I’ve wasted a lot of time on hold. It’s also because one of the few things that I can control in life is my time – and when I’m on the phone, the person on the other line has effectively hijacked my time.

This is especially true when it comes to getting customer support via the phone. If I need help, I’m probably not feeling particularly sociable. The last thing I want to do is pick up the phone, talk to an agent and hope they can solve my problem – or worse, risk bouncing around a poorly implemented interactive voice-response system (IVR). I’d much rather search for and find an answer online. Better yet, I’d like to type a question and let a well-trained chatbot instantly find the answer for me.

I’m not alone

It’s human nature that we don’t want to rely on other people – and the phone – to accomplish certain tasks or gather information. That’s part of what’s driven the internet explosion.

Take Ticketmaster. The event ticketing company launched a self-service website in the early 90s, where event-goers could, for the first time, purchase tickets online rather than going to in-person kiosks – or making phone calls to human ticketing agents. This is illustrated perfectly by the following excerpt from Paul Allen’s memoir, The Idea Man, about Ticketmaster’s very first online sale:

When customer number one had completed the first transaction, our Web people called him and said, ‘Congratulations, you just bought the first concert ticket in the history of the Internet! Can you tell us why you decided to buy online?’ The man said, ‘Because I don’t like talking to people, and I don’t like talking to you.’ And he hung up.”

More than 25 years after Ticketmaster’s first online sale, there’s proof that people are relying less on phone calls than ever before – and it’s having repercussions across various industries.

A few stats to consider:

  • The number of landlines in use is down dramatically. A report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (via Statista) showed that, in 2004, 92 percent of U.S. households had a working landline. By 2018, that number dropped to 42 percent because of the growth of mobile phones.
  • British telecom service provider Ofcom released a study in 2018 revealing that the number of monthly mobile voice call minutes was on the decline among its customers, from an average of 159 minutes per month in 2016 to 157 minutes in 2017. But while phone calls were down, data consumption skyrocketed, from an average of 1.3 GB in 2016 to 1.9 GB in 2017. 
  • Pew Research reported that response rates for phone surveys plummeted to six percent in 2018. The steady and sharp decline has continued since 1997, when response rates were as high as 36 percent.
  • Nearly 60 percent of contact centre leaders believe inbound call volumes will decrease over the next five years, according to a 2018 McKinsey survey, while 40 percent said the number of calls will fall dramatically, perhaps to zero, in the next decade.
Dial it back: Inbound calls to contact centres are dropping dramatically

Automation takes over self-service

In this era of internet-enabled instant gratification, we as consumers expect to get fast answers to virtually any question – without making any calls.

This includes the realm of customer support. The phone call is no longer the primary medium for support – instead, phone calls are the last resort, and this isn’t just because consumers (like me) prefer it. Businesses do too, as companies are implementing AI-powered support automation technology to both improve the customer experience and better manage operational costs. Here’s some data behind that shift:

  • A recent report by call centre industry analyst firm ContactBabel found that only 25 percent of customer support agents believe that customers prefer human support.
  • 41 percent of consumers would choose live chat as their preferred support channel, according to a study from Kayako, while 32 percent prefer phone calls, followed by email and social media (note: the survey did not include chatbots or virtual assistants as an option).

This doesn’t mean that businesses can totally dismiss phone support. However, it does point to the fact that most consumers would prefer not to dial company support unless they absolutely have to. 

As Forrester analyst Kate Leggett wrote: “Today, customers have more choice: more products to buy, more information to influence purchasing decisions, and more devices and channels over which to seek customer service. What they don’t have is more time. It’s no wonder that self-service interactions have overtaken all other channels.”

It’s worth restating Leggett’s words: “What they don’t have is more time.”

That’s why we often turn to Google or a company’s online forums for answers. But a traditional search online or in managed forums can leave you with an endless list of links to sift through. This is where AI comes in. It might take us several minutes or hours to find an answer amidst a library of online information, but applied machine learning (ML) technology can surface the information we need in an instant.

AI also allows companies to provide a uniform quality of service, 24 hours a day, with little to no downtime. Effectively trained chatbots (a.k.a. virtual agents), with brains powered by AI, are becoming the new face of customer support.

The ContactBabel report found that 16 percent of all companies plan to implement artificial intelligence solutions for customer support within the next year, more than doubling the current installed base. Additionally, 27 percent of large contact centres (with 200-plus agents) expect to implement AI/ML within one-year, which means more than 50 percent will have AI/ML in place by 2020.

I know I speak on behalf of consumers everywhere when I say that the era of AI-led support can’t come soon enough. To paraphrase the great R.E.M., it’s the end of phone support as we know it…and I feel fine.


Rory OConnorRory OConnorJuly 24, 2019
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6min817

The scalability of online shopping is any retailer’s dream.

Any marketer will tell you that a happy and satisfied customer is your best weapon when it comes to success, but the waters are muddy in the online world and the downsides are even more slippery.

When somebody buys from your online store they get an instant dopamine hit with even more coming as the anticipation builds over the following hours or days until delivery. Every brick and mortar shopper gets the same hit initially, but by walking out with the item in hand that level of anticipation doesn’t hit in the same way. In other words, every customer that buys from your store is on a high from that moment all the way to when they are opening the package and then wearing/using the item.

This is great news for e-retailers, but the downside of this is much steeper if you get this process wrong, with customers being much more let down than by a poor in-store experience.

Positive customer experiences are an imperative for the sustained growth of a business; it builds customer brand loyalty, affinity, and encourages them to refer their friends and interact positively with your brand.

According to the American Express Customer Service Barometer, people tell an average of 15 others about a poor service experience. This means that if you’re having issues with your supply chain, deliveries, or any other part of your business you’re doing untold damage to your future sales and reputation with Forbes reporting that US companies lost $75 billion in 2018 due to poor customer service. 

On the other hand, according to Zendesk, as many as 42 percent of consumers will repeat purchase following a positive online experience.

So how might your business combat this?

For online players, the key focus has to be customer-centric. Customers increasingly want next day or even same day delivery options with the ability to tailor times and locations accurately to their needs. To ensure this occurs, having integrated systems that allow you to improve all facets of the digital Customer Experience is key. These include the user interface, mobile responsiveness, and design along with clear communication methods and a way to relay real-time data across all interactions with each customer.

Not only does this ensure a frictionless process for your customers, but it ensures consistency on your end and open communication lines around all aspects of each delivery to ensure proper deliveries or fix any issues in real-time. Companies in retail or in any other industry have been traditionally poor at fixing customer issues in real time and at the customer’s convenience. This comes as no surprise that even now Harvard Business Review found that 64 percent have no dedicated system in place. All companies will have customer issues and while you should always strive to minimise these instances, those who get them right are in a strong position to keep their customers satisfied and differentiate themselves all at the same time.

ROI

Winning new customers is very difficult and expensive with the Harvard Business Review finding that it is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one, yet only 49 percent of consumers say that companies provide good CX. 

PWC also found that customers spend up to 16 percent more with retailers who provide good CX and are also more willing to share data with these companies also. At this stage you would have hoped that online retailers would have gotten the memo about online CX, satisfaction, and relationships, but it appears for many there’s a lot of work left to do to keep their customers’ dopamine flowing.


Derek O'CarrollDerek O'CarrollJuly 23, 2019
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9min829

Are online ratings and reviews important to your business?

They should be, as the influence of online product reviews on consumers continues to grow.

Recently, Brightpearl conducted a survey of consumers, which reveals just how much we now rely on online ratings and reviews.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Most people relate strongly to the growing review culture. These days, not many of us would book a stay in a hotel or make a reservation at a restaurant we’ve never been to before without first consulting an online review forum, checking the ratings and scrolling through customer feedback.

In increasing numbers, we are now turning to total strangers to read their customer reviews and ratings before buying. Eighty-four percent of shoppers now read online reviews and 46 percent check star ratings before committing to an online purchase – with almost nine-in-10 consumers considering them to be essential to their decision making. As we can see, the review culture is playing an increasingly important and normalised role in our purchasing behaviour, and above all else, informs our decisions on where to stay, where to eat and what to buy.

In today’s modern retail landscape we are all influencers – and we’re all ready and willing to be influenced. But not only do we expect our voices to be heard, we demand that our feedback be acknowledged and acted upon quickly. Our survey reveals that 76 percent of shoppers expect merchants to respond to reviews and one-in-five consumers believe a reply should come within 24 hours.

As connected consumers, we are not as tolerant as we used to be. Our expectations and demands are far greater than ever before and we have a voice and many platforms – from social media to online review websites – where we can express anger or dissatisfaction when we’ve had a poor experience. From the same report, almost two-thirds of us are likely to leave a negative review following a bad experience – with 60 percent having done so within the last year.

Shoppers are increasingly volatile and unforgiving and it is within this environment that some retailers are losing their grip on their online feedback. Fifty percent of retailers think that poor reviews are getting worse and 38 percent admit that they do not know how to best deal with negative reviews, according to the study by Brightpearl. It also takes just five (on average) poor recent reviews to halt most shoppers from buying from a retailer or brand, which demonstrates the sway that consumer feedback can have on potential new customers.

The other danger to merchants failing to get to grips with their online feedback is the money they are leaving on the table from lost sales opportunities. The study shows that the average difference in revenue between a 3-star and 5-star rated merchant is 33 percent. This means some businesses with average ratings are likely missing out on many potential orders which are being lost, never to be recovered. Because our trust is fragile – and the options are many – it takes very little to be discouraged from buying from an online merchant.

In today’s consumer era it has become crucial to use reviews and ratings both as a trust symbol and as valuable insight into the areas of the customer journey that require improvement. Indeed, negative reviews should be viewed as an opportunity to improve, not a threat.

Star wars: Just five poor reviews can put off customers from a purchase

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Brightpearl.com study is the revelation that it’s notably the level of service we receive that attracts the most vocal negative attention from customers — whether it’s items not arriving on time or at all, to a lack of delivery updates or canceled purchases. In fact, 77 percent of all 1-3 star feedback left by customers are related to problems or issues that occur after the customer clicks ‘buy’.

It’s vital to determine the specific stages where customers are evaluating and talking about their experiences and whether there are gaps or issues that need to be addressed. Businesses then need to consider new processes, technologies, or renewed investment in their operations to fix the failures driving poor feedback. 

Without the right mechanics in place to support quick and seamless service at every touchpoint, including handling orders, shipping and logistics, or to manage hassle-free returns, businesses will continue to fumble the ball in the end zone – the operations of the business. The last impression is key, and if this isn’t optimised, businesses will continue to find themselves attracting poor feedback, driving away potential shoppers and leaving a long-lasting stain on their reputation.

It’s not all bad news though. The technology now exists to not only be able to capture all those reviews and ratings but to also enable the whole organisation to act upon them, closing those gaps and improving the entire Customer Experience.

As Brightpearl’s report shows, a positive review – or 30 – can make a huge difference in the choices consumers make when it comes to selecting a brand or retailer. More positive reviews enhance a brand’s reputation with buyers above the competition, leading to increased conversion, retention, and spend.

To help get the most out of online reviews, businesses need to consider solutions which allow them to fulfil the modern expectations of customers – from same-next day delivery options to real-time shipping and incredible response times. With a great reviews strategy and the right technology in place, firms can focus on earning the five-star feedback needed to capture the attention – and the business – of today’s online shopper.

Now back to my original question – how important are ratings and reviews to your business?


Mike DavisMike DavisJuly 22, 2019
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7min775

As a small business owner, attracting and recruiting top talent can be one of the biggest challenges that you face.

However, it can also be one of the most important. Ensuring you have the right people on board that believe in the business can be hugely beneficial for future success.

Recruitment can be particularly daunting when you’ve been the only employee of your business so far. When you’re going up against large corporations or well established businesses, how can you entice someone to take a leap and join you on the journey of your small business?

We’ve put together some top tips to help you in your small business recruitment.

1. Perfect the job description

The job description acts as your shop window for any potential new team members so it’s important to get it right. Be honest about the day to day responsibilities of the role so any potential applicants are able to see if the job is a good fit for their skills from the start. If there are any prerequisites for the role, such as qualifications or training, ensure that these are clear in the job advert.

Details: The right job description will attract the tight candidates

The job description also provides the perfect opportunity for you to sell your business as a great place to work to any potential candidates. With smaller, less well known companies, this part can be crucial when trying to attract the top people for the job.

2. Network

One of the best ways to meet like-minded people who may be interested in your business is by networking. There are numerous small business networking events held all over the country, and these can be a great way to meet potential employees in a relaxed setting. Networking events also allow you to educate people about your business and what you do, which could result in candidates approaching you about job opportunities.

Get out there: Networking can help you meet potential employees

You can also utilise the network that you already have to aid you in your small business recruitment. Ask around to see if anybody has any recommendations of people who are looking for a role like the one you are recruiting for. They may know the perfect candidate for you.

3. Get online

As a small business owner, time can often be scarce so attending numerous networking events may not always be possible. This is where online networking channels and social media comes in useful. Websites such as LinkedIn can be a great resource for spreading the word about your business and attracting potential employees. You can also easily use the search functions on LinkedIn to find the candidates that match the skills criteria that you are looking for.

Some online networking channels also show any connections that you may have in common with potential candidates. You can then ask these connections to introduce you, so you’re starting off the conversation with some common ground.

4. Interview

Now that you’ve found some candidates for the position, it’s time to meet with them to find out whether they’re a good fit for the role. Everyone likes to approach the interview process differently, so think about what you want to find out about the person beforehand. Some companies set their interviewees tasks ahead of the interview to find out if they have the skills and knowledge needed to fulfil the role.

Plan ahead: Think about what you want to find out about your applicants

It’s important to remember that the interview process is as much about the candidate getting to know you and your business as it is about you getting to know them. Therefore it’s important for you to sell your business to them, and what makes it a great place to work.

5. Incentivise

Once you’ve found your perfect candidate, how do you entice them to leave their current company and join yours? This can be one of the most difficult parts of the hiring process. Salary expectations were most likely discussed during the interview; however this may not be enough to lure the candidate over. According to a survey by Perkbox, 46 percent of employees consider the benefits package prior to accepting a new role making that the second most important factor after salary. Benefits packages vary from business to business, but common employee perks include:

  • season ticket loans
  • private medical insurance
  • discounted gym memberships
  • childcare vouchers
  • wellness programmes
  • pension schemes

The candidate may be coming from a business that offers a benefits package to their employees so they may be, understandably, reluctant to leave this behind. You could look to develop the benefits package that you have on offer to your team in order to entice potential high quality team members to join you. An enticing benefits package can also be a great way to retain your staff.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 22, 2019
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8min989

The British love affair with bikes is receiving a boost from a growing number of eco-minded commuters keen to swap their car steering wheels for saddles, and a firm at the forefront of this pedal-powered revolution is Brompton Bicycle, famous for its iconic folding bike design.

The business builds over 45,000 bikes each year in its factory in London, 80 percent of which are exported globally. The brand is associated with its innovative product design and high-quality engineering for its iconic folding bikes.

Yet even a traditional, hands-on crafting company such as this knows the value of Digital Experience, and recently teamed up with Sitecore to offer customers a new way to interact online.

CXM spoke with Brompton’s Head of Customer Experience, Harry Mann (pictured below), to get an insight into the company’s impressive digital transformation journey…

What were the biggest challenges Brompton was facing when it came to Customer Experience?

Brompton has 14 stores across the world, but our customers predominantly make their purchase through our partner retailers. As a result, we found it difficult to gain insight into the customer journey and their individual needs because their data was fragmented. We knew that if we couldn’t use customer data to personalise experiences, we would struggle to build long-standing relationships and brand loyalty and wouldn’t be able to maximise sales opportunities.

In the past, customers could only demo and pick up their Brompton bike from a partner store, so their experience with our brand was often out of our hands. We introduced our flagship Brompton Junction stores and the purchase friction improved, but we still needed to understand the customer more clearly to be able to move them through the sales funnel towards a final purchase.

Our wide network of partners and multiple local websites also meant that customers were receiving a different brand experience depending on where they were in the world, and we lacked consistency across our platforms.

What were Brompton’s goals for personalisation and brand consistency?

As a brand that differentiates its offering through high quality products, we knew that investing in digital channels and providing personalised, multichannel experiences to our customers, regardless of where or how they purchased, was crucial. Brand consistency was also critical, so we chose the Sitecore Experience Platform – a CX management platform – to meet this objective.

The platform was chosen thanks to its ability to scale quickly across the entirety of our retail offering and to deliver personalisation at a local and individual level, factoring in where each customer is on their purchasing journey, based on their tracked profiles.

We wanted to be able to deliver a consistent global brand experience, catering to different audiences with locally translated websites, local content relevant to local trends and in-market behaviour, and the ability to suggest customisation of products.

How has Sitecore helped Brompton to develop a more personalised experience for customers?

For customers ready to build their bike online, Sitecore now allows us to present content that explains each feature, and ultimately leads the customer through the bike-building experience. Using the bike-builder tool, customers can experiment and put together a personalised bike to their exact requirements, choosing from 16 million combinations.

Additionally, Sitecore enables Brompton to make incremental improvements to the content served to customers. For example, we can identify through the online data we collect and analyse, if there are particular pages that are causing customers to leave or if content is ‘sticky’ and should be given greater prominence on the page as customers find it more informative or engaging. The platform’s tools enable Brompton to reconfigure the content and layout at the click of a button and react quickly to customer insights.

Quantitative and qualitative customer data presented clearly through the Sitecore Experience Platform has also played a key role in helping shape the brand’s offline strategy. For example, based on the insight gathered from search data on the website, we have been able to choose the best locations for our Brompton Junction stores.

Furthermore, Brompton can now segment our audience into key customer personas:

  • The builder: who is thinking about buying a Brompton
  • Brompton ‘novice’: who is just getting to grips with their new purchase
  • The ‘known customer’: who is using the bike to commute to work and enjoying the freedom the bike gives them
  • The super-fan: who wants to know about competitive Brompton cycling events

We can adapt the Customer Experience and content to suit the individual based on their segment. For example, the builder could be targeted with a calculator showing how the cost of a Brompton can be offset by not having to buy an annual gym membership or travel card.

What improvements has Brompton seen since implementing these tools?

It has enabled us to deliver a consistent and meaningful experience throughout the whole customer journey. The ability it gives us to own the relationship, even if a customer has bought a bike through a partner, is key for us. With a customer being able to get a bike serviced in addition to simply purchasing the bike, retailers are able to provide an overall ownership experience beyond the point of sale. This is especially important when retailers are struggling to get customers through the door in today’s difficult climate.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 19, 2019
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4min657

A new book aims to give women the “space to practice being the best version of themselves” in the workplace.

Author Diana Theodores, PhD is a Senior Consultant with Mobius Executive Leadership and an international performance coach specialising in presence, communication, and impact/influence. Originally from New York but residing in London, Diana is also a Program Director at the Cranfield School of Management, which partners the UK Customer Experience Awards and other events hosted by Awards International.

In Performing As You: How to have an authentic impact in every role you play, Diane aims to provide female readers with the confidence to speak up and be themselves at work, to fight back against what famous coach Nancy Kline described as the “epidemic of obedience”.

Studies have shown that men are 40 percent more likely than women to be promoted, and while women scored higher in 84 percent of leadership competencies than men according to Harvard Business Review research, they make up only 4.9 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.

Meanwhile, almost half of top female execs “feel they must compromise their authenticity as they reach top positions”, the KPMG Women’s Leadership Summit Report revealed, highlighting the need for more women to be themselves as they strive for success.

Using techniques from the author’s background in theatre and professional dance, Performing As You is packed with dynamic tools to bring performance techniques to the business stage – including voice, energy, the power of play, and “reawakening the girl in you”.

Whether you are pitching to a board, giving feedback, or speaking to one person or one thousand, by reading Performing As You, women will be equipped with the ability to reclaim their passion and imagination, and have an inner coach that is “louder than their inner critic”.

The author argues that the greatest act of revolution women can perform is to bring themselves fully into every role they play. The world needs more women who can be themselves and Performing As You is packed with the tools and techniques needed to have an authentic impact.

Performing As You: How to have an authentic impact in every role you play by Diana Theodores is out now, published by Rethink Press.


Ruby KhaliqRuby KhaliqJuly 19, 2019
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11min1136

We’re flush with new ways to engage with customers, but businesses should be more data-driven, rather than simply throwing more manpower on the frontlines.

In the era of new contact centre touchpoints, the touchpoints themselves matter less and less because they should be managed in a unified way. That’s not to say we should disregard the touchpoints – in fact the opposite is true. We should be able to add them and monitor the data from customer interactions to create contact centres that offer better service and embrace innovation when it comes to engaging with customers.

In real terms, that means putting an end to seeing telephone, web chat, or mobile app communications as an island in their own right. Each channel will have its own considerations and technological challenges to take on board – that much is true. Yet as agent desktop interfaces better integrate the new channels that emerge, we should start to think of how we can solve new business challenges and get smarter, as well as becoming more efficient.

Hearing the voice of the customer

For many contact centres, voice has been their bread and butter for years. The difference now is that voice is used less – at least in its traditional sense. Meanwhile, phones are being used in different ways, particularly with the growing use of smartphones. Voice now has a closer relationship with other digital channels, and as a result, firms should prepare all channels to account for customers flowing between each.

Smart move: Digital channels are becoming ever closer for customers

Although customers are generally using phones less for voice calls than they used to, we’re now seeing an increase in phones being used as a digital backstop. If a customer doesn’t get the response they expect from digital channels, they will probably pick up the phone to speak to an agent. This brings to the surface the importance of managing the two types of contact centre interactions – those driven by bots and those driven by humans. Human agents will want to deal with the queries where they feel like they can add value. The simple issues such as the loss of a password can be dealt with automatically.

Agent time is both precious and costly and so should be used for issues where it is necessary. It’s important then, for businesses to find the right match between interactions handled by chat bot, and interactions that require a human touch. The best approach is to use a mix of both, where bots escalate to an agent when needed, without customers feeling like they are being passed between non-connected entities. 

We also have to prepare for a new era of voice interaction. There were 9.5 million active smart speaker users in the UK last year, which is an increase of 98.6 percent against 2017, according to eMarketer. Consumers are getting more comfortable in asking these devices to perform basic tasks and provide them with information. The next step is for them to be the conduit to getting in touch with the outside world. That doesn’t just mean communicating with close friends and family as is the case now but increasingly, with brands. In fact, voice assistants are just one part of a larger move towards a more integrated IoT service, which also includes connected cars.

We’re using bots to answer more customer questions with speed and accuracy. Doing the same thing with voice-activated devices will cut out the middle-man where needed, while still basing the approach on the voice model that has operated in contact centres for years. But as with any channel, it’s vital that voice plugs into a bigger picture view of customer interaction. Omnichannel rules the roost and provides a great deal of insights that are valuable for businesses.

Data insights enhancing Customer Experience

On the whole, companies have to get better at proactively engaging with customers and artificial intelligence (AI) will help to do this. For example, with the right data coming from previous customer interactions and insights it is able to obtain from initial contact, AI can be used to provide a more targeted response, and through a combination of virtual assistants, machine learning and customer data analytics, businesses are able to predict customer needs.

Insight: Data can provide a more targeted response for customers

Not only that, they can proactively address these needs to prevent repeat contacts for similar issues, deliver superior experiences to retain existing customers and improve offers or interactions in a way that attracts new customers. 

There’s also the intelligence that businesses can uncover to shape their products better – all from the way they monitor customer interaction. When firms automatically capture and analyse interactions, they can make sure they never miss the vital signs that should be spotted immediately. They are able to identify gaps in products, processes, and interactions – and make sure agents meet the needs of demanding customers.

One of our customers is a coffee company who was looking to carry out a strategic launch of a premium product. They automatically analysed all their calls and as a result, they were able to better train underperforming agents with targeted coaching. By analysing interactions at the contact centre, it enabled them to better understand how agents were pitching the product and it also helped them to see how well the new product was being perceived. Using these measures, the company increased sales penetration using best practice, and increased basket size by pushing promotions at the right time.

Finding focus

I’m excited by the prospect of new touchpoints and technologies coming together to offer a better service to customers, better performance for agents and better efficiency for businesses. And with voice assistants, IoT and other connected ways for businesses to interact with people, the whole area of customer services has been blown wide open. There’s so much potential for innovation.

World of possibility: A connected planet is changing how we look at customer service

But with all these touchpoints, it’s vital that businesses can connect the dots across the different channels they use. It’s an approach that includes not just the communications channels but the knowledge captured from CRM systems and contact centre insights. We know that the channels will probably change in the future as consumers find new ways to interact with brands but in the grand scheme of things, that shouldn’t matter. What is important is a technology agnostic approach through providers that incorporates the channels, and provides a single dashboard that enables businesses decisions to be made based on insights, rather than just intuition.

The thing with data is that the findings are hard to dispute, so long as you are confident in the original sources, sensors and algorithms. The future won’t necessarily be dictated by the latest flashy communications channel. Instead it will be led by smart approaches, and increasingly, that means taking steps to focus on automation, analytics and innovation of Customer Experience in a meaningful way. 


Richard DaveyRichard DaveyJuly 18, 2019
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9min1216

Customer service is a vital part of obtaining and retaining business.

In fact, 73 percent of buyers indicate that Customer Experience is an important factor in their purchasing decisions. To ensure they are servicing their customers in the best way possible, many brands are looking towards Customer Recovery Loops to prevent customer churn and improve CX.

As with any new initiative, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what success would look like before getting started. As a business, you want to have smart, realistic goals in place that give you something tangible to aim for and continually measure against, to ensure genuine progress is being made.

That said, in the world of CX, some indicators of success are easier to track than others. Measuring the effectiveness of your Customer Recovery Loop may seem tricky, so here are five ways to check if your Customer Recovery Loop is working for you.

1. Repeat customers

Far too often, brands have their data siloed, meaning that they’re not getting the full picture when analysing the success of their Recovery Loop. The technology now exists to enable companies to link their customer feedback with any existing data they hold, including key things like purchase history, to provide a single view of the customer.

If you can establish that your unhappy customers have continued to buy from your business after going through a recovery loop, that’s proof of its success – and a big win for your company! Companies need to ensure they’re using all the information at their disposal when checking if a strategy is working.

2. Reduced customer churn and complaints

It’s no secret that complaints can hit a business hard, particularly those that are escalated to regulatory bodies. It’s vitally important to take preventative measures as soon as possible to stop these problems from escalating further. By intervening and taking action promptly, brands can mitigate the cost of such penalties.

With that in mind, it’s best practice for companies to take note of their typical customer churn rates, complaint numbers and, if applicable, regulatory ratings. From there, it’s possible to set goals for improvements and give yourself targets to aim for. Half the battle with analysing the success of your Customer Recovery Loop is simply understanding the key metrics that represent success and tracking improvement against them. If you can track trends in the data that show customer churn or complaints are decreasing since your Recovery Loop was implemented, that’s a sure-fire sign it’s working.

3. Scoring higher

There are lots of different metrics that companies will use to judge success across different aspects of the business. Often, these will differ depending on the industry or business you’re working in, the people you’re reporting in to or even the stage of the customer journey you’re monitoring. Regardless of what your preferred metric is, what matters is to take note of the numbers when you first decide to deploy a Recovery Loop.

Ultimately, what’s important to everyone in the business is seeing those scores go up – whether they’re Customer Satisfaction or Net Promoter Score matters not; improved scores will positively impact the bottom line.

4. Reducing cost

One of the main considerations when justifying any business decision is cost – companies want to see a return on their investment. While it needn’t be expensive, a Recovery Loop is still an investment, and customer service teams will still want to see the financial benefits of their decision. Cost per contact and call handling times can be significantly reduced by capturing feedback in real-time, proactively keeping customers informed, and putting preventative measures in place for reoccurrence.

By empowering frontline staff with the right information and the tools they need to assist customers effectively, they can reduce the average handling time and cost of each call. Over time, this could lead to fewer calls and greater savings.

5. Better-engaged employees

The key to great customer service is that happy employees lead to happy customers and vice-versa. So much so, that McKinsey & Company has reported that companies that make a concerted effort to improve their CX also see employee engagement rates rise 20 percent on average. Frontline call centre staff will often be who a customer first engages with, so it’s important to get it right. First impressions are everything. If customers are coming to the brand with a problem, they need to be greeted with empathetic and knowledgeable staff to help them – but it’s up to the business to arm them with the tools they need!

At the beginning of your journey, capturing the voice of your employees as well as your customers in real-time can often add meaningful context to your customer feedback. For instance, if a customer complains that their payment was taken late, whilst your employee flags that the billing process is manual and time consuming, you have some context. This information can be used not just to improve the customer experience but to help out staff as well. Measuring employee satisfaction scores, staff retention, and productivity can help to see if the changes you’re making are having the desired impact. If not, you are then in a position to tweak accordingly.

In summary, checking whether or not your Customer Recovery Loop is working comes down to planning and metrics. You need to get a sense of the key metrics that measure the success of a Recovery Loop for your business. From there, you’ll have the base stats to compare and a benchmark to aim for, so that you can confidently say your Customer Recovery Loop is effective.


David BovisDavid BovisJuly 18, 2019
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12min613

The author of this article, David Bovis, is a judge at the 2019 UK Business Awards.

 

 

 

 

“We cannot reasonably expect that any one should readily and obsequiously quit his own opinion, and embrace ours with a blind resignation to an authority which the understanding of man acknowledges not. For, however it may often mistake, it can own no other guide but reason, not blindly submit to the will and dictates of another. If he you would bring over to your sentiments be one that examines before he assents, you must give him leave at his leisure to go over the account again, and, recalling what is out of his mind, examine the particulars, to see on which side the advantage lies; and if he will not think over arguments of weight enough to engage him anew in so much pains, it is but what we do often ourselves in the like case; and we should take it amiss if others should prescribe to us what points we should study: and if he be one who wishes to take opinions upon trust, how can we imagine that he should renounce those tenets that time and custom have settled in his mind that he thinks them self-evident, and of an unquestionable certainty…” 

John Locke (1632 – 1704)

“You cannot impose anything on anyone and expect them to be committed to it.”

Edgar Schein, Professor Emeritus, MIT Sloan School

“Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how'” 

Viktor Frankl (1902-1997)

Isn’t it time to take this wisdom, apparent across centuries, and introduce leaders to the biology and psychology that can now deliver the facts to support such observations?

The paradox is this: the neuroscience and psychology at play, which interprets the presence of anything ‘new’ (e.g. language) as a threat (to status, ego, ID), cannot be understood and addressed by those unaware of the principles they themselves are subject to, via their own brains.

In other words, if you don’t understand the transition a human brain goes through in a change environment, you can’t hope to adequately plan, manage, or lead change effectively (i.e. address the barriers to change), in yourself or others.

The bottom line is that this significantly impacts the bottom line.

Change initiatives go over budget, over time, deliver less than expected, and fail to develop internal teams. Knowledge transfer is superficial, based in logic and tools. This doesn’t provide the catalyst for a shift in a leaders beliefs. We look at only a part of a system (process/technology) and fail to re-define ‘good’ when considering a broader system (people/process/technology).

In practice, we see leaders express an interest in knowing more about effective and efficient organisational change, but the pre-conditioned expectation within the market, is that ‘change’ is something done by consultants and teaching tools.

When it’s suggested there might be more to it, which requires a higher level of engagement and understanding, the coping strategy in an already busy, intellectually challenging, politically charged, full-time role – that also challenges the work-life balance of the leader – is denial/avoidance.

The problem with this is that a leader’s brain (despite multiple claims to the contrary) is still an adult-mammalian brain and it doesn’t adapt (form new wiring patterns…i.e. learn) by letting other brains have an experience. It ‘learns/adapts’ in response to it’s own sensory stimulus.

I truly believe it’s time we raise the bar and introduce language into the mainstream which allows us to have informed conversations about ‘change’, where people are recognised as the primary and major part of the ‘complex system of complex systems’.

We can put this subject under any banner – OCM, HR, Leadership, Systems Thinking, or Lean – but the label is less important than the change of action urgently required – globally!

So, how do we break through the psychological barriers that stop leaders assimilating knowledge from current experience to use as justification against the need to know more?

It’s a bit like diagnosing a fault in a car. When the basic mechanics and relationships between the various parts is understood, the driver’s approach toward the driving and maintenance of the vehicle is more likely to change than it is in the case of a driver who cannot comprehend cause and effect throughout the system (including their own attitude and behaviour).

The driver might notice certain quirks of the car – i.e. it won’t start when cold – but if they knew about the viscosity of oil and the drop in capacitance in a battery in lower temperatures, they wouldn’t have to talk in loose terms about the issues, and they could be much more effective in addressing problems.

It’s like that with people – if we can talk about dopamine and the triggers related to its presence (tangible, evidence-based science), we don’t have to talk about ‘motivation’ and ‘engagement’ as if those words in and of themselves are enough to inform corrective action.

So, let’s unpack the car analogy a little.

If a person drives fast and erratically, it might be for any number of reasons. They might be a young man aiming to impress and attract a mate (peacocking), or, the driver might be insecure in themselves and therefore lacking confidence behind the wheel, leading to an inner narrative that reinforces their inadequacy, which manifests in them trying to get the journey – any journey – over as quickly as possible.

Driving whilst fearful/panicking, in response to a low self-concept, can lead to different parts of the brain engaging and reducing the energy available for the parts required to drive well, and diverting glucose energy away from the pre-frontal cortex and executive function, leading to a lower level of awareness and a failure to indicate at roundabouts or perform the mirror-signal manoeuvre.

This is because mirrors and other drivers don’t feature in the mind of someone acting from a position of insecurity/fear.

Now, if that person is one of your drivers (i.e. is in charge of company equipment that has to perform a task as part of a process, like a lathe operator in a factory or computer operator in an office) and your focus is on fuel efficiency, tyre-wear rates, and the amount of brake pads you get through each year (i.e. KPIs), do you address the design of the metaphorical wheels, tyres, engine or fuel?

Do you look at the route the vehicle has to follow? Do you provide the driver a new set of tools to analyse the route or change the tyres and brake pads faster?

Or do you understand the emotional predisposition of the human behind the wheel and what is causing them to respond/act the way they do, and if they will be able to adapt to the presence of the new tools or integrate the principles of those tools into their world view, such that they are able to apply them for a sufficient amount of time to allow their use to become natural?

The popular approach in the market for the last few decades has been focused on the application of Tools and Techniques, keeping Process and Procedure in focus, often in stark contrast to the realities and requirements surrounding the transition people are required to make in an environment in which they perceive change that is imposed upon them.

The populist logical approach just doesn’t address the need to shift an individual’s belief before you can expect a shift in action (behaviour), or the fact the imposition of anything ‘new’ is a primary fear trigger, often resulting in the dreaded ‘resistance to change’ at a cultural level (group think/herd behaviour).

Isn’t it time we stopped driving our companies and people as if they are cars and openly acknowledged the biggest change follows a change in the person behind the wheel?

With significant advances in neuroscience and psychology, it’s now possible to explain every aspect of Locke’s, Shein’s, and Frankel’s observations with science – to move the conversation away from generalisations that only a few come to understand, into hard and fast action for reasons that not only make sense, but translate into top line and bottom line benefit.

Let’s raise the bar and replace the assumption that we can understand things, but everyone else needs it dumbed down; we don’t need issues surrounding ‘transition’ dumbed down…we just need to include them in the conversation.

For too long we’ve been dealing with Process, Procedure, Policy, Strategy (Hoshin), Structure, and Systems as if they are detached from the people expected to adjust to their presence.

It’s always been about people and that means the starting point has to be Brain, Mind, Change, and Culture before we can do a better job of introducing strategic deployment models and tools and techniques.

Lets stop defending the past and move into the future with the language the present provides us.


Ben FettesBen FettesJuly 17, 2019
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10min1024

Personalisation is now firmly engrained in every marketer’s vernacular.

From the simple ‘salutation’, right through to more complex behavioural tracking for subsequent ‘predictive offers’, but despite great inroads in data and technology capabilities that can drive relevant and personalised experiences, many brands are still falling short of reaching their true potential to connect with their customers.  

Here we take a look at five common personalisation mistakes brands make, and how we can shift our mindset to see personalisation as a ‘product’ in order to connect with customers in more meaningful ways – at scale. 

 1. The merry-go-round of ‘use case’ and ‘purpose’ 

One of the key challenges many companies face today is struggling to understand what personalisation really means to their company. This creates a merry-go-round of diving into the ‘use case’ and the ‘purpose’ and inevitably, the brand always ends up at the same point.  

It’s time we strip it all back. Forget about customisation and individualisation. Forget about the use case of personalisation and the ‘single customer view’. Instead, in this era of unprecedented change, we can start thinking about personalisation as a product.  

So what does “personalisation as a product” actually mean? It’s about taking an iterative approach to the delivery of various experiences to the market, via activating all channels with contextual relevancy. Getting it right means it enables you to scale, pivot, and deliver more meaningful experiences to your customer, while testing and learning faster than before. 

2. Focusing on the definition opposed to the capability 

The concept of personalisation is a lot more fun and glam as opposed to its hardcore capability. Coming up with concepts around ‘moments that matter’ is great, but it’s also expensive, time consuming and has absolutely no relation to the capability that you have. 

Feel free to define what it is to you – moments that matter, connected customer, audience first – and even drop the money on shiny new branding and design. But these steps should not be done at the expense of ignoring your current personalisation capability and the future capability you require. “But what if I don’t know what capability is needed?” Great question, that means you are….  

3. Creating a use case opposed to a product 

The biggest difference with seeing personalisation work is the mentality between seeing personalisation as a tactic and personalisation as a product. Feel stuck understanding which tactics define what personalisation is to your brand? Then unfortunately you’re going to go around in circles and struggle to expand it beyond that one tactic. 

Looking at it from a different lens, a product manager’s role is to connect the customer with the product, regardless of delivery or channel. Their sole focus is to scale an experience. So, if you put your focus on treating personalisation as a product, then you: 

a. Build the foundations for scale – regardless of the use case. 

b. Stop caring about the tactics, because your baseline product is already enabled the organisation. 

c. Enable the organisation to take a collective stance on owning the tactic. 

 4. Focusing on details as opposed to scale 

But what about if a customer signs up, deletes the cart, then logs in six times and then the session ends? 

Well, personalisation is about delivering contextual relevancy, not edge-case fringes of the experience. An experience should always be contextual to the recipient’s current actions, then heightened by the relevancy that the messaging exchange is providing. 

Think, “I want to bring my product, which is personalisation, to market, regardless of the channel. I then want to be able to iterate on my product in a cycle of optimisations.”

Now that’s called scale.  

5. Putting the channel before the customer 

In a customer-centric digital ecosystem, if you find yourself incessantly talking about channels, then you’re in the wrong conversation. Personalisation when treated as a product, with capability and scale in mind, reduces the conversation about channel to a conversation around the iteration or delivery.  

This is because channel is just a given. When everyone knows that it is possible to achieve regardless of channel. This shifts the conversation from “what about email and social” to “we have just delivered a next best product model to all the channels, and are testing with the site and email capability to then extend it to display and social – as we believe this will impact the customer the most”. 

It all starts with a mindset shift and taking the tactical measures to bring the focus back to personalisation as a product. Because it’s only then when we can start to really focus on organisational enablement, to deliver context to a customer with the right brand communications. At the same time, we’re using data and technology capabilities to drive scale – regardless of the tactical iteration on the baseline product.  

Where to start?  

 In summary, here’s a checklist of tips to help marketers start shifting towards a ‘personalisation as a product’ mindset: 

  • Integrate channels: ensure that an experience can be triggered from any entry point, e.g. If a customer start’s their journey from an email, start the experience there. If they come direct, then start the experience there. 
  • Don’t focus on purely defining what it means for your organisation: shift your focus to activating various personalisation products, as there is never one experience to rule them all. 
  • Focus on how that personalisation product will be delivered to the customer.  
  • Make sure that the use case can hit the masses to achieve the best result: if five percent of your audience are known on the APP, it will be hard to scale. 
  • Deliver data points to all channels: this will enable all channels to act on core data points – and actually build the capability for personalisation within your organisation. 

 


Fabrice MartinFabrice MartinJuly 16, 2019
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7min993

It’s important for brands to provide a great experience every time a customer wants to engage.

As the channels to engage continue to expand, brands will want to be accessible and ready to serve. Research indicates that customers who start and end service requests using digital channels have a satisfaction rate that is significantly higher than those using traditional channels. Additionally, the costs per digital customer interaction can be between five to 12 times cheaper than when they engage using the phone.

It’s clear that improving digital efficiency can be an opportunity to minimise costs for the contact centre and improve the overall experience for customers.

So, to boost digital effectiveness, here are five steps:

1. Listen to every feedback source

As the old adage goes – you can’t fix what you can’t measure. Similarly, brands can’t enhance what they don’t fully understand. When embarking on the journey to enhance digital effectiveness, understanding feedback is the only way to prioritise opportunities to improve Customer Experience.

Listen up: Understanding feedback is vital for your CX

Calls are very important, but they’re not the only way that customers are reaching out or looking for support. Emails, social media posts, review sites, surveys and chats need to be considered and these sources should be integrated with CRM data to reveal the full picture.

2. Prioritise opportunities that will have the highest impact on CX

Customer Experience tools can help brands to analyse unstructured text feedback from these channels by overlaying sentiment and effort scores to understand high friction points in the Digital Experience. They will also look for language around “suggestions” when customers are explaining what they wish could be better.

When analysing phone calls, it is typical for organisations to aggregate all mentions of failures on online channels to understand pain points. They can also analyse short duration calls that typically have a singular call driver and prioritise these for digitisation.

3. Create a priority matrix

Using the techniques above, action-oriented organisations can create a priority matrix that ranks each digital opportunity along the two dimensions of customer impact and level of effort. An opportunity that is deemed to have a high customer impact but will only require a low to medium level of effort to implement quickly jumps up the prioritisation list.

4. Understand the full customer journey

Customers want to communicate via their channel of choice, and nowadays these are digital. When they start a transaction online or via a mobile app, they want to be able to complete their transaction within that channel. This is not always possible and they are forced to make contact on the phone or via chat for further assistance. We often hear comments like “I don’t know why we get so many calls related to buying a ticket when our customers can easily do so via our mobile app or our website”.

Digital desire: Channel preference for customers is increasingly digital

Looking further into it, these transactions are often more complicated and multi-faceted than the simple act of purchasing a ticket. There is often another related event that complicates the transaction and causes a channel switch. It may be that the customer is trying to buy a ticket but using loyalty miles or trying to apply a discount code that is not working. Understanding the co-occurrence of such related events to the main transaction is key to designing a digital solution that meets even the more complex interactions.

5. Leverage the power of chatbots

Chatbots provide a way for customers to self-serve on known issues, or to collect important information that facilitates a seamless transition to a contact centre agent. Chatbots are increasingly popular and a 2016 report by Creative Virtual finds that introducing a virtual assistant for customer service can improve chat and phone service levels by 10-15 percent.

Brands can train chatbots to improve customer experience in a variety of ways. By understanding customer ‘intent’ during a live chat interaction or phone call, they can start identifying opportunities for chatbot automation. Organisations can also listen for the words that customers use to express frustration and high effort while accomplishing a task. By understanding these linguistic patterns, brands can train chatbots to express empathy and route a frustrated customer to an agent with a skill set that specialises in the topic that is causing frustration.


Sandra ThompsonSandra ThompsonJuly 16, 2019
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8min789

Whether you’re looking for a qualification to validate your existing experience in the field, or you’re starting out in a CX role and want to attend a course to help establish your career, the Applied Customer Experience Course could be perfect for you.

“My expectations were met and surpassed on this course. It is collaborative and very applicable,” says Laura, Applied Customer Experience participant, 2018.

Hear more of what our participants had to say about the course.

The way we’ll learn

The Applied Customer Experience course provides participants with three core ways to learn.  

  • Robust theory: We’ll debate relevant theories in neuroscience, behavioural science, psychology, and business strategy through interactive seminars and workshops, to ensure you have the knowledge to make effective decisions.
  • Guest speakers: Senior CX practitioners and authors share their experiences each week, reinforcing the course curriculum with practical examples.
  • Learning resources: Each week participants are invited to complete topic pre-reading and follow up materials are available to everyone who wants to learn even more. Two core books are also provided. 

The topics we’ll cover

We cover the following eight topics on the Applied Customer Experience course:

  • Psychology in Customer Experience
  • Culture and leadership
  • Emotional intelligence and Customer Experience
  • Compelling business cases
  • Meaningful customer journey mapping
  • Plotting your own map
  • Effective Voice of the Customer programmes
  • Self-awareness in Customer Experience
  • Employee engagement (and organisational structures)
  • Actionable measurement of Customer Experience

The Guest Speakers

The following speakers will be among those sharing their experiences and giving participants some invaluable CX advice throughout the course:

  • Tony Berry, Visitor Experience Director, National Trust,
  • Nicola Langley, Customer Experience Development, Volvo
  • Sam Johnson, Head of Customer Experience, Engie
  • Adrian Swinscoe, author of Punk CX and How To Wow
  • Richard Chattaway, Vice President of BVA Nudge Unit (behavioural science)

Accreditation

Upon successful completion of the end-of-term assessment, you will be accredited with the Pearson Business School Professional Certificate. Pearson Business School is a part of Pearson, the global learning and FTSE 100 company, giving this certificate both academic and commercial credibility.    

 Your course facilitator 

The Applied Customer Experience course was founded and is facilitated by Sandra Thompson. In 2019, Sandra published her first academic paper on Emotional Intelligence and Customer Experience. She is also the owner of a CX agency founded in 2010 called Exceed all Expectations, having worked on CX projects with brands such as Vodafone, Arsenal Football Club, and Waitrose.

The details

Where: Pearson Business School, Holborn, London

When: September 25

Duration: 10 weeks (Wednesday evenings)

Places on the course are limited and an Early Bird rate is available. For further information just get in touch. 

Find out more: https://www.pearsoncollegelondon.ac.uk/cx

Email: shortcourses@pearsoncollegelondon.ac.uk. 

Let’s talk: 0203 441 1303

Try before you buy?

Join our next webinar on Psychological Safety in Customer Experience on August 13 to hear about the power of psychological contracts and how to test psychological safety within your business. We’ll be joined by a CX practitioner and a Chartered Psychologist.


Ian LoweIan LoweJuly 15, 2019
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13min465

In the scramble to achieve last-minute compliance before the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline last year, many companies engaged in some ‘privacy theatre’ – adopting basic consent models, and meeting the requirements just enough to comply with the new law and avoid fines.

With this kind of minimal compliance mentality, it should come as no surprise that consumers don’t feel much has changed for them when interacting with companies.

Only 31 percent of consumers think their overall experience has improved since the introduction of GDPR and 40 percent don’t feel companies take data breaches seriously, according to a recent Marketing Week study. In only aiming for the lowest GDPR bar, firms have missed the opportunity of turning consent and privacy in to a way to build relationships, earn trust and gain a competitive advantage.

To provide truly engaging digital experiences, businesses must set their sights on a higher level of customer-centric data management that goes far beyond the essentials. Indeed, the biggest mistake we’re seeing in GDPR compliance is leaving the decisions to the Legal department. Too many marketers think that it’s “someone else’s job” and just wait for the lawyers to give them consent language for yet another grey cookie banner. It is vital that marketing take a central role in turning privacy from a compliance issue to a competitive advantage of superior customer experience and loyalty.

The GDPR impasse: a matter of perception

Marketers know that content is what hooks the attention of consumers and keeps them coming back time and again. But that content needs to be tailored or personalised so we can deliver the right messages to the right audiences at the right time. Data is a critical component to creating the right segments, assigning individuals to those segments, and testing the effectiveness of our messages. For that reason, organisations must be focused on exceptional data practices that maximise consent and therefore effectiveness of the personalisation and content stack.

As we begin to see enforcement – in cases like the proposed £183 million fine for British Airways, the £99 million fine for Marriott, and even the rumoured US$5 billion fine for Facebook – regulator compliance is needed not just from a financial risk perspective, but from a customer trust view.

Personalisation can both make or break consumer trust: it can benefit them by adding relevance and value, but it may also fuel privacy issues because consumers are concerned about how their data is collected and used. Despite the appetite for meaningful, personalised content, when it comes to gaining consent businesses still encounter resistance from consumers.

But consent doesn’t have to be an obstacle for organisations or consumers. Rather than operating on a purely functional approach that gets consumers to click and continue – making the organisation legally compliant – if it is well-handled from the start of the marketing funnel, consent requests can be the launch pad for creating deeper understanding of your consumer and in turn providing them with the options they prefer when browsing.

Today, organisations face, on average, a 50 percent bounce rate and 25 percent of consumers running ad-blocking technology. These visitors are completely opting-out of your marketing technology, but are invisible to your consent statistics if you only view “yes vs no” consent resolutions. Those organisations that build earning trust and gaining consent as part of customer experience will earn a higher share of consumers in the technology system and therefore gain structural competitive advantage in the market.

Turning obligation into opportunity

The way businesses ask for consent matters. Intrusive pop-up forms and cookie walls not only interrupt activity, but also leave consumers with a sense of powerlessness; 59 percent say companies don’t allow them to browse their websites unless they share personal data. If businesses want data access, they must reduce friction, and view consent as the first touchpoint of the consumer journey – an opportunity to set new, mutually beneficial rules of engagement. In the case of cookie walls, companies are asking consumers to give access to their personal data and enable tracking before the consumer has even decided if there’s anything valuable on the site. That’s a difficult value proposition to scale.

Put simply, the consent request needs to be a positive experience. Companies need to make this initial interaction a preview of the compliant, customer-focused communications and services consumers can expect after sharing data. In practical terms, this means outlining exactly how and why data will be used, and giving consumers a choice. For example, firms might use an expandable form that restricts disruption by enabling consumers to opt in for multiple sharing purposes at once and, crucially, reject each one if they wish.

By prioritising transparency and consumer control from the offset, companies can boost the odds of gaining consent, as well as encourage individuals to continue along the funnel.

EU better believe it: Customers should know what’s in store at your site from even before they give data consent

Identifying the consent line 

Equally as vital as an enticing welcome is knowing where to draw the line. Given the starring role data plays in determining how online content should be tailored and delivered, it’s easy to see why marketers are especially tempted to collect as much data as possible. But from the consumer perspective, hungry data requests can feel intrusive, increasing the likelihood that they will both lose trust and refuse consent.

Before making consent appeals, businesses should carefully consider how much information they realistically need. More often than not, firms have much of the data necessary to drive impactful content, but not in a unified state. By embracing agile technology that can plug into isolated systems and blend existing pools of freely-given data, organisations may find they already hold a near-complete view of consumers. Combined with other, non-personally identifiable insight – such as recent web-browsing activity and keyword search – this data can help them achieve relevant and contextually appropriate digital marketing. And by issuing reasonable requests that have a higher chance of positive response, this data foundation can be further supplemented to offer optimally meaningful and effective content.

Organisations need to also consider asking for just the data and consent they need to improve the experience. Many sites today ask for geo-location data on first page load – a request that many consumers are likely to refuse as they don’t perceive the value to them. Waiting until a location search, and suggesting sharing geo-location data as a way to improve results – yields higher consent rates, happier consumers, and increased trust.

Forging lasting consumer bonds

Consent isn’t a one-and-done process, and neither is consumer engagement. To prove they are worthy of consent and loyalty, companies must persistently strive to provide high-quality experiences. On the marketing side, this means ensuring interactions are tailored, seamless and consistent throughout the consumer journey. Mismatched branding across mobile and desktop, broken links and low-grade content can be just as damaging to consumer trust as irrelevant ads or overly frequent emails. Businesses must focus on the finer details; sustaining revenue and credibility by maintaining genuinely valuable and accessible, cross-channel content.

Similar principles also apply to data privacy: organisations need to demonstrate a continual dedication to protecting consumers. In the short-term, companies should ensure they have a complete picture of individuals so that preferences can be accommodated no matter which screen or platform they are using. In the longer term, it is essential to allow room for change; ensuring consumers can easily access and adapt their preferences at any time.

There is a growing requirement for companies to shift their attention back towards the real driver of their success: consumers. Amid rising regulation and awareness of how businesses use personal data, consumers understand their rights and are determined to exercise them. To guarantee future prosperity, businesses must up their data and content management game: moving past the compliance minimum to implement consent processes and deliver positive digital experiences centred around the real needs of today’s privacy-conscious customers.

Organisations must treat privacy, consent and data security as customer experience issues. Those that do will get access to more customers and drive better personalisation in the years ahead.


Kay HutchinsonKay HutchinsonJuly 15, 2019
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7min665

Client and commercial focus have always been important with consistent high quality seen as a key brand value.

When I was Director of Client Services working in TV, our clients were other broadcasters. We provided all the elements that make each channel appear seamless to the viewer. Performance levels were exacting and measured in a few seconds of outages/errors against a full year’s output (8,760 hrs). Over the years, I have managed large teams under pressure as well as working one-to-one with ‘on-air’ talent and small creative teams.

In my early career I believed success required constant effort; in fact I believed the more effort I put in, the better would be the results. However, I discovered there’s a limit and, over the years, I have realised how important it is to take a step back and allow some space to put the many and complex business issues into some perspective. Doing this has benefits for you as a person, as well as for your clients and customers. 

Overly focusing on tasks and performance levels can sometimes spill over into the nervous system and lead to exhaustion. I found that some therapies you’d normally associate with your private life have enormous benefits in the work context too. I believe, in today’s frenetic world, it’s important to look after yourself; to help you stay the course, continue to make good decisions, and ultimately be successful. But you can only do this if you’re in a balanced state of mind and your physical system is healthy and functioning well.

Apart from nourishing your body by eating well (put down that doughnut) and exercising regularly, do something that keeps your mind healthy too.  Here are a few suggestions.

Silent meditation

I tried silent meditation – strictly no talking for ten days over Christmas one year – and it was a full-on calming experience, if a little extreme. The benefits of silence are significant, and you can do it yourself any time. No unnecessary expense or fancy kit, just a few minutes in a quiet space.

Silence is golden: Quiet meditation can work wonders for your mind

Switch everything off. Relax in a comfortable position and simply focus on yourself. Close your eyes, breathe slowly. Become aware of the sensation of air moving in and out, expanding your ribs and gently filling your lungs.  If your mind drifts off, gently bring it back to your breathing. Continue for 5-10 minutes until you feel fully relaxed.

Make it part of your daily routine. You should find it easier to be more objective in tricky situations and to consider other points of view, especially those of your customers.

Acupuncture or massage

If you prefer a more direct approach, try acupuncture or massage. They both help regularise the energy flow around the body. If you tell a good therapist exactly what you’re looking for (releasing tension, improving performance, relaxing the mind), they should be able to focus their efforts in exactly the right places to help. Ask your GP to help find a qualified practitioner or look up the AACP (aacp.org.uk) or CNHC (cnhc.org.uk).

Hypnosis

If you’re stuck in a cycle of constantly working late, sleeping badly, or having anxiety attacks, perhaps it’s time to try something more regular. A course of hypnotherapy can fundamentally change your habits as it works with the subconscious mind to help disrupt any repeating cycles of negative behaviour.

If you want to do this in private and keep costs down, then I’d suggest you listen to any of the gurus of positive thinking. It’s not hypnotherapy, but it can help you change your behaviour through positively affirming a new approach. Try Tony Robbins or Louise Hay – different styles and approaches, but equally effective.

Your colleagues should notice the difference…and I expect your customers will too.

My Life in 37 Therapies by Kay Hutchison is out 4 July 2019 and is priced at £9.99


Nan RussellNan RussellJuly 12, 2019
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9min1753

As CX professionals, it’s our job to understand and predict the needs of customers and to present experiences that fulfil those needs.

Unfortunately, the reality of our role is rarely so simple.

According to a study from Bain & Company, 80 percent of businesses believe they are delivering a “superior” Customer Experience, and yet, only eight percent of customers feel they’re receiving such an experience. Clearly the realities of CX don’t match the stories that we as CX professionals tell ourselves.

Given this disconnect, it’s hard not to wonder what other common misconceptions we as CX professionals hold. Even more importantly, what are the steps that we can take to overcome these myths in future?

With that in mind, here are four common myths to rethink in your own CX approach.

Myth 1: Loyalty is the number one priority for CX

CX professionals often emphasise the importance of customer loyalty and the role that a positive CX can play in encouraging such loyalty to the brand. These are great concepts – and when loyalty is earned it is of huge value to a business. But what do we really mean when we talk about loyalty?

Loyal and true?: Misconceptions surround attitudes to customer ‘loyalty’

Research by Forrester shows that most consumers “perceive loyalty programs as an opportunity to save money”. But ‘saving money’ isn’t loyalty. Discounting programmes aren’t loyalty programmes. In reality loyalty could refer to repeat purchase behaviours, or it could refer to intent to recommend. It all comes down to the goals of your business and what you choose to measure.

These are the types of considerations we need to account for before prioritising customer loyalty as the central goal of our CX approach. Concepts such as loyalty are only valuable if brands take the time to define these terms, hone their approach, and focus on the areas that are most important to their overarching business goals.

Myth 2: Customers need to be delighted at every interaction

‘Delighting’ customers is a notion that gets thrown around a lot in the CX world. While we obviously all want to provide our customers with positive, memorable experiences, it’s important not to get too caught up in short-term wins, rather than focusing on long-term success

Delighting dos and don’ts: Customers prefer consistency over one-off promotions

Pleasing one off experiences are beneficial, but they shouldn’t take priority over consistent positive interactions with a brand. Creating this consistency and ensuring that each of your brand touchpoints is optimised will lead to far greater long-term value and customer loyalty than a one-off promotion or event.

Myth 3: CX is all about minimising customer complaints

Complaints are painful, but minimising customer complaints should not be the core focus of a brand’s Customer Experience approach. For each complaint, there is an opportunity to demonstrate that the individual is valued by the brand. Which is why service recovery can have such a powerful, positive impact on your Customer Experience.

Comprehending complaining: A customer complaint is an opportunity to build on their engagement

As long as a customer is engaged enough to complain, there is hope. It’s the customers who quietly disappear, unhappy, unengaged and unsatisfied that should terrify us.  Do we want to minimise the causes of complaints? Absolutely.  But the complaint itself is not the problem. As hard as it is to remember: feedback is a gift, even when it’s painful. Feedback represents hope and provides brand with the opportunity to make things right for the individual and, ultimately, right for the business in future.

Myth 4: Customers want full personalisation

While many CX practitioners see full personalisation as the Holy Grail of experience, it’s important that brands don’t burden their customers with unnecessary data collection as they strive for the perfect personalised experience.

As just one example, airline brands know a tremendous amount about each passenger. If that knowledge is spread across multiple internal systems, however, then the availability of data can make the Customer Experience worse not better.

Personalisation perils: Unnecessary data collection can cause complications for customers

If an airline already knows what flight a customer is taking and whether they have checked in a bag, then there is no reason to ask customers those questions again at the airport. It’s crucial to solve such integration gaps before making the passenger do the heavily lifting. Save the customer’s valuable feedback time to focus on the unknown: what the experience was and how to improve it.

Much of what we talk about in Customer Experience is based on inaccurate, but shared, misconceptions. Thankfully, CX is not static – and we can always improve how we deliver it and how we talk about it. By understanding the nuance of some of our core CX language, we can challenge basic assumptions in ways that free us up to maximise our full potential and deliver memorable experiences that benefit both the brand and the customer in equal measure.


Alf RehnAlf RehnJuly 10, 2019
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6min982

The following article has been written for CXM by bestselling author and Professor of Innovation, Design and Management at the University of Southern Denmark, Alf Rehn

 

We might call this the tragedy of niceness…

So used are we to thinking of business as a cold, hard space, bereft of emotions and ruled by calculated rationality, that even when issues more aligned with caring and compassion are discussed, they are often presented as marginal concerns.

Consider, for instance, the issue of diversity. A plethora of studies has shown that diversity is a key business driver. Organisations which rate high in diversity, particularly when this includes top management, outperform less diverse companies when it comes to things such as performance and profitability, and in particular when it comes to innovation.

A recent study from the Boston Consulting Group showed that companies with more diverse leadership teams reported almost double the innovation revenues than companies with below-average diversity scores. In today’s highly competitive environment, such figures can literally be the difference between life or death for a company.

That said, diversity is still often discussed as a ‘nice to have’ for an organisation, rather than something of critical and strategic importance. I’ve sometimes referred to this as “the aestheticisation of diversity”, by which I mean that diversity is looked to more for its superficial benefits and less for the manner in which it responds to core business requirements. Coupled with the tendency to frame diversity as an ethical and moral issue, this ends up presenting diversity as a fundamentally nice thing – and this is a problem.

Damaging: Alf Rehn highlights ‘the aestheticisation of diversity’ as a problem for firms

As long as issues such as diversity – and we could easily replace this word with e.g. care, compassion, or civility – are presented as issues that make ethical or aesthetic sense, they will fail to become adopted as core logics in an organisation.

This is not only problematic from the perspective of diversity itself, it actively damages companies. We thus need to push far harder for the point that diversity is done for logical reasons, fully in line with the profit motive companies tend to operate under, if only to ensure that these principles are taken seriously.

In my research into innovation, this has played out in the starkest ways possible. Studies have consistently and for a very long time shown that team and company diversity are some of the most critical deciding factors for creativity and innovation success there are. Further, I have myself seen how organisations that embrace cultural values such as respect and compassion do considerably better when it comes to idea generation and development than organisations that are lacking in these dimensions.

Still, whenever talk turns to the way in which diversity and compassion might be developed in an organisations, CEOs and key executives often treat these as marginal issues. Rather than seeing them as strategic engagements, they are shunted off to HR, or given short shrift by at best being discussed as a possible theme for a workshop some times in the future.

This needs to change, as in an increasingly competitive environment, companies simply cannot afford to lose the cognitive surplus that lies in having diverse and compassionate organisations. Whilst it might sound troubling to some, diversity isn’t only nice, nor is compassion just pleasant. Both deliver where it counts, in creativity, in profit margins, in improved customer relationships.

Squandering such riches isn’t just about being a boor, but about being an incompetent executive. So let the aestheticisation of diversity and compassion take second place to what truly matters – the cold, hard reality that diversity and compassion drives results, generates innovations, and makes companies better. That they’re nice is a lovely added bonus.


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