Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 26, 2020
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5min1053

The current situation made it inevitable for many organisations to shift their work to home in order to stay operating.

From universities transferring to online learning, to restaurants having to offer only online order and delivery, the digital environment has seen a swarm of new occupants joining in during the time of emergency, which put to test all brands that weren’t investing enough into their digital presence.

The new normal poses many challenges to brands, the biggest one being having the capacity to thrive in sudden reality turnover. As the whole world moves to the digital, understanding digital experience management will be of key importance in staying afloat in the current climate. Businesses that can satisfy consumer needs through digital channels will be the ones to survive the crisis.

The rule of three

By focusing on three key digital outcomes, you can foster a sustainable and differentiating experience:

  • How did the interaction make the customer feel? Pay attention to emotion.
  • Did the customer have any trouble achieving their goal? Keep track of the effort customers have to put.
  • Was the customer able to achieve the goal? Was the interaction successful?

Let’s discuss one by one:

1. Emotion

In today’s uncertain world, conveying meaningful emotion through digital channel presents a significant challenge for brands. By finding the right balance of listening and speaking, you can establish an empathic connection with your customers. Understanding what are the priorities of your customers, employees and partners alike can help you deliver a complete service founded on trust and confidence.

2. Effort

It is paramount to eliminate any potential obstacles on your customers’ journey. The customers should struggle as little as possible – if at all, in achieving their goal. Try to simplify the process and make it easier for your customers to make decisions. The task itself should not be challenging, as the seamless flow and connection of your brand’s digital channels are crucial for fulfilling customer expectations. Make your messages clear and effective, and above all timely. The current climate is unpredictable and changes could be happening when you least expect them. By tailoring communication to the place and time of the situation you can ensure customer loyalty and keep customer churn at the minimum.

3. Success

When it comes to the third and final element of digital experience, the customer can either successfully complete the task or not. It is how much trouble they went through until completing the task that counts. Ask yourself what you can incorporate to make a difference in approach to your digital experience. Analyse your strong and weak points and finetune them to make your customers successful in each of their experience with your brand.

How do others do it?

An Australia based media company leverage verbatim feedback to adapt to their customer’s needs quickly. The company learned that their pricing blocks were too loud when reporting on COVID-19, and in accordance with that, they managed to change and adapt easily and rapidly.

The Covid-19 has turned the world upside down. Isolation and hardships of many can give your brand a chance to excel your digital experience with a refreshed and empathic sense of purpose. What you do now is what will differentiate your brand in the post-COVID -19 world, as the one who went above and beyond when it was needed the most.


Antony JaggerAntony JaggerJune 26, 2020
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5min999

As businesses of all shapes, sizes and scopes find themselves trying to mitigate increasingly transient customer demographics, we’re all having to work harder on our customer retention strategies. More than ever, the emphasis for most businesses has shifted to building and nurturing sustainable, long-term customer relationships, using the available tools and information to revolutionise the Customer Experience (CX), and encourage new depths of customer loyalty.

But, in a digital world where actual physical interactions are becoming increasingly rare, it’s proving more difficult for businesses to build these vital relationships.

One of the few areas where 1-2-1 interactions do occur is in complaints management, with the entire process generating valuable, timely and comprehensive customer information and feedback, all of which have the potential to inform wider business strategy. As such, it’s crucial that executives recognise the value of complaints as a strategic business tool.

Valuable complaints

Where once ‘resolve and close’ was the overarching goal when it came to complaints, this is no longer the case. Businesses now recognise the long-term, far-reaching value that can be derived from the entire complaints function, not only in terms of resolving complaints quickly and effectively to enhance customer experience, but with regards to improving CX strategy across the organisation.

The journey no longer ends with complaint resolution, but with gathering the insight and learnings to inform future approaches and even product development.  However, the extent to which complaints can inform strategy is totally dependent on decision-makers having in-depth access to and visibility of the end-to-end complaints management process.

Thankfully, we’re all operating in a digital world, where tools are available to track and qualify all customer interactions and behaviours. This information can then be fed back into the business to drive improvements across the entire organisation. But making sure the right information gets to the right people at the right time is still a challenge, with businesses needing to create robust feedback loops if key decision-makers are to use business data to identify trends, address problems and drive organisational learning.

In this respect, contextualised and personalised follow-up customer surveys are a vital source of information, with tools such as complaint management systems enabling the resulting feedback to be analysed alongside the rest of the customer’s information, adding a new depth of actionable insight into a customer’s journey.

Data is key

The data to be gleaned from complaints can be used to realise cost and efficiency savings across the organisation, as well as helping to optimise CX. What’s needed are the right systems in place to collate this information, reporting it back to the wider business in an accessible, easy-to-understand format. Case handlers, for example, can use the information to help prioritise follow-up actions, taking on board constructive criticism or praise to inform future best practice, all of which contribute to tangible improvements in CX.

For more senior members of the business, the resulting information makes it possible to address any training issues, identifying any problems to be tackled or gaps in knowledge. Additionally, the ability to analyse and examine not only customer feedback but the hard facts surrounding customer complaints, furnishes the business as a whole with a more in-depth understanding of the root causes of complaints, be that product or service-related.

What this provides is a valuable source of information to underpin far-reaching business developments, all of which contribute to those all-important CX improvements.

With the right systems in place, businesses can turn complaints to their advantage. Making full use of the resulting information and data can drive real improvements across the business not just in terms of swift and effective complaint resolutions, but helping to improve products, services and processes, ensuring they’re tailored to meet ever-changing customer expectations.

By owning the entire end-to-end complaints process, leaving behind the ‘resolve and close’ mentality and extending its reach as a key business function, decision-makers can use it as an opportunity to take their customer experience to the next level, with complaint management becoming a crucial business differentiator in an increasingly competitive marketplace.


Hannah Louise CoxHannah Louise CoxJune 25, 2020
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7min1164

Hannah Louise Cox is Executive Search Consultant at Douglas Jackson and a Judge at the UK Digital Experience Awards 2020.

Read about Hannah’s experience at last year’s UK DXA.

 

Times have certainly changed in these last few months and we are living in an unrecognisable world now for sure. However, some industries and businesses are still functioning as normal, and some are even growing.

I have still been hiring during lockdown and have some tops tips and practises to share of how I have been working with business leaders to do this successfully during the lockdown period.

Video calls and conferences have now become a part of everyday life for us all and have certainly been invaluable in the virtual recruitment process. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, the list is almost endless of the technology available to us to facilitate the virtual world that we find ourselves now living in. Rather than meeting face to face, the majority of businesses are now fully au fait with the use of video calls for internal meetings and external meetings. The virtual interview process has become ‘the norm’ during lockdown.

Video introductions from candidates to accompany CV applications have also been utilised. Some businesses have been using one way video applications with huge success. The technology has always been at our fingertips and for many weeks now it has been the best way to stay in touch with others and continue to do business.

However, please do proceed with some caution as some people are still not comfortable using video, and you wouldn’t want to rule out a super star candidate just because they are not completely confident in using this. Remember that video to the extent that we are now using it is still in its infancy. A lot of people are still learning and practising.

In many instances, there can never be a replacement for face to face contact. However, video communication has been an excellent ‘second best’. I have had some processes conclude purely through video and have candidates waiting to start who have never met their new line managers in person and have not yet visited their new office premises.

In these instances, it is quite critical that close contact is maintained after offer between a client and candidate, so that the candidate feels welcome and engaged with the business, enabling the relationship to flourish before the new employment starts.

As great as video is – and clearly it has been and will be moving forward an absolute necessity – we do have to remember that, although outwardly we are communicating with the world, inwardly we are still isolated in our homes, or wherever else we may have been locked down, and so additional contact and care to build and maintain that client and candidate relationship is often very much appreciated.

The likes of Glassdoor and similar platforms give great insight into organisations’ cultures and have been really helpful. It would be a great idea to keep on top of online reviews because potential candidates will be doing their research before applying for a role within your business.

We have seen a much bigger uptake on our online behavioural profiling tool. This is an extremely useful tool for us to establish desired behaviours from the client and assess culture, and then also to match this against the potential candidate’s core behaviours. Cultural fit is exceptionally important and in the absence of onsite meetings, this has proven to be a great solution for us with many benefits.

Some processes have progressed to preferred candidate status virtually and then have had last stages inviting people into office premises social distancing, with hand gels and temperature monitors on doors. With some of the restrictions being lifted now, we can look at mixing and matching video and face to face to suit the needs of a Hiring Manager and wider business.

I absolutely believe that businesses that are willing to take the leap and be confident enough to join the likes of Amazon, who have been hiring virtually for many years, display innovation and forward thinking and this, in turn, will attract a higher quality of candidate, as well as reducing the time to hire significantly. In fact, there are numerous benefits to running virtual processes.

Effective and efficient recruitment and onboarding has been and will be critical moving forward as we move into a world where Customer Experience is quite likely to be even more important than before.

Candidate care and providing a great Candidate Experience is achieved by giving that extra personal touch, and if this has to be done virtually rather than face to face, then we move with the times and adapt accordingly.

Good luck with finding your business’ ‘new normal’, and I definitely recommend that you join other businesses in at least looking at the benefits of running virtual recruitment processes. The opportunities really are endless and this could be where you begin to attract an even better quality of candidate to your business.


Adhish KulkarniAdhish KulkarniJune 24, 2020
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8min1044

The multi-level infrastructure and communications shift, demanded in large part by digitization, has rapidly become a critical issue for Communications Service Providers (CSPs).

That’s because, in the telecommunications world, new subscriber growth has slowed and profits have slowly been eroded due to price wars that often lead to the self-destructive commoditisation of services. This reduces monthly ARPU at the same time that the cost to serve and consumer demand for connectivity speeds/volume of data consumption have increased.

In some ways, this is ironic. Simultaneous with the above mobile, fixed line, broadband and media/TV convergence or partnerships have meant an increase in the products and services available to consumers – while IoT, other new delivery paradigms, and new types of devices are driving the trend for individuals to use and pay for multiple lines simultaneously.

So what next? At a time when their offerings are in greater demand than ever before, many service providers are struggling to compete. The end user may have reached the promised land but the enterprise, it appears, has not.

This new landscape and its associated realities clarifies one thing. No longer can the telecommunications industry treat or charge customers as they have done before, at the SIM card level. Today, how CSPs engage customers at a household level is their key to future profitability.

Successful customer engagement in the Age of Customer-Centricity requires a deeper understanding of user preferences, profiles and requirements in order to capture their interest in relevant products and services and thus to maintain brand loyalty. Traditional approaches to customer engagement i.e. batch data-based, below-the-line campaigns and static, transactional points program-based solutions must therefore give way to a set of new, highly engaging, offer and loyalty programs that are built for a generation of demanding, social media-empowered digital natives.

The Four Pillars Of Engagement

The recognition of this accelerating technology-led change has led us to identify four key pillars of action, the response to which I believe will define how brands drive customer loyalty in the nascent, always-on, connected world and how successful they are at doing that. These are:

Intelligent Customer Engagement – A focus on customer engagement must now be a priority for any business operating on a digital platform; with particular regard to loyalty, it is critical in order to keep customers satisfied and maintain long-term, active relationships with the brand. The digital channel allows CSPs to engage customers in real-time, at the ‘moment of truth’, no matter where they are. Intelligent customer engagement, for example via gamified mechanics, keeps subscribers excited and satisfied.

Deeper insight through analytics – The amount of data available to brands continues to grow at an exponential pace as consumers use digital channels to interact and transact, thereby leaving digital footprints that provide insight into the entire customer journey from initial awareness through to post-purchase satisfaction. For CVM Campaign and Loyalty programs, this data will form the basis for personalisation, reward relevance and for designing superior customer experiences; it is therefore critical that CSPs are able to access solutions that fully leverage the insights that data holds.

More choice through an open partner ecosystem – The walled garden approach of traditional rewards programs is giving way to a more open ecosystem of partners where loyal customers can ‘spend’ their credits with a host of different partners. The digital channel has opened the opportunity to integrate with physical and digital partners on a global scale. This trend of openness is here to stay, and will remain a key element for brands to remain relevant and to secure ongoing customer engagement within their loyalty programmes. For CSPs, the technologies required to manage such open relationships with important brand partners is now critical.

Catering to always-on and omni-channel – Customer Value, Retention and Rewards Programs have to adapt to an always-on consumer who is channel agnostic, expecting the brand to engage on email, app, or twitter, or SMS in real-time. This is difficult, but it is also an opportunity to engage with customers in a highly relevant and timely manner. Telcos must find ways to provide meaningful cross-channel experiences at the right level of frequency.

Investment required. But in what?

The Four Pillars of Engagement suggest that CSPs urgently need to revitalise or even reinvent their customer engagement tactics and processes. This is because they have to manage their customers’ journeys more effectively and deliver a far more personalised experience.

Neither of these goals can adequately be met using legacy technologies. This means that CSPs will face making vital investment in customer engagement.

Applications addressing requirements in areas such as self-care and provisioning in particular have seen increasing attention in recent months. A piecemeal approach to solving the problems of operating effectively in the new digital landscape is unlikely to work. Joined-up thinking and joined-up operations (a new, lean customer-centricity where experience is prioritised by both operations and IT systems) has to be the goal.

Data also represents a challenge as it is axiomatic that improving customer-facing processes requires better access to data sources. This is why data management has been a focal point for early digital transformation efforts. Effective customer engagement means bringing together multiple data sources. Good-quality data and improved data storage are the backbone of both improved engagement and innovative use cases.

Engagement, driven by personalisation, demands the unification and standardisation of communications across multiple channels and categories of customer-related operations. Technology therefore needs to leverage a broad mix of capabilities.

New systems will need to integrate with both digital and non-digital customer channels as well as with back-office platforms such as billing and product catalog and front-line activities such as sales and marketing. A wide range of functions will need to be better aligned to support the customer experience, including cloud infrastructure, unified customer data management, security and compliance mechanisms, interaction intelligence, and process automation.

The requirement today is for a new type of Customer Engagement Platform (CEP). This will be a technology that moves away from traditional product-centric and siloed approaches and replaces legacy with a holistic approach to customer engagement.


Howard LaxHoward LaxJune 23, 2020
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8min1443

The pandemic has dramatically redefined how we live, work, play and interact with each other. Our daily routines, relationships of all stripes, simple indulgences, even our personal hygiene have been upended.

No one really knows if this will turn out to be a seismic interruption of some duration after which life slowly returns to BC (Before COVID) or if “normal” has been indelibly altered.

Regardless of what tomorrow looks like, one thing remains unchanged: the underlying rationale for focusing on Customer Experience.

CX is a business strategy rooted in the proven premise that the experiences a customer enjoys (or endures) today will affect their relationship with and behaviour towards a firm tomorrow. It is incumbent upon the firm to deliver those experiences that motivate the customer behaviours that create value for the company, while minimising the likelihood of customer behaviours that destroy value.

What’s changed?

While the objectives behind CX remain unshaken, the context, the operating environment has been shaken to its core by the pandemic shock waves.

1. All modern economies are consumer-driven and, mostly, decentralised. That is, customers have options and create business winners and losers by the choices they make. The concept of consumer “choice” has a new meaning, however, when the unemployment rate is the highest it has been in 90-some-odd years. No one working today was in the work force the last time we saw similar levels of unemployment (as well as underemployment).

2. For those fortunate enough to be employed, spending patterns have been disrupted: savings rates have climbed sharply, while discretionary spending is down. This household fiscal conservatism may be prudent financial management, but it isn’t a very good way to reignite the economy and boost business.

3. Distribution channels have been broken, disrupted and redefined. Both the supply chain into the firm from its suppliers and the outbound channels have been affected.

4. Employees are frenzied, almost apoplectic. To say that employees are worried and treading water in a sea of uncertainty would be an understatement. They are trying to navigate between and cope with the lesser of two evils, the dual threat to their family’s health, on the one hand, and their economic well-being, on the other.

5. Customer experience delivery systems have been upended, redefined or taxed to breaking. For most firms, their employees were their CX delivery system. The in-person dimension is just beginning to come back on-stream, albeit in new ways. Phone, chat and video conferencing have catapulted in importance, but we just don’t know how this will affect customer relationships over time.

Digital solutions certainly saved the day for many companies – the more digitally prepared a company was going into this mess, the more likely they were to not see a serious disruption in the experiences they delivered. Virtually every firm has seen its customer touchpoints and journeys disrupted, redefined and pushed to their limit.

6. Customers are frustrated: some want to return to life Before COVID as quickly as possible and are impatient for the world to reopen. Others are reluctant to jump back in too quickly. All are faced with an environment where the economic, health and familial issues are compounded by political dimensions that colour everything.

What needs to be on the To-Do List?

Companies need to focus on those challenges that most affect them and where they can have an impact.

Employees are front and centre. It will be a Buyer’s employment market for years to come, with plenty of ‘warm bodies’ to hire – but attracting and retaining the right talent will require a reciprocal bond of trust between employee and employer.

Companies need to understand and empathise, in both words and deeds, and smooth the transition back to a new working normal.

  • Make sure you involve employees in the process of re-acclimation to whatever the new normal becomes. Ask for and respond to their input . . . then ask again, and again, and yet again.
  • Companies must make their employees feel safe. This will, at some point, inevitably lead to a conflict with a customer who is, shall we say, is a bit more cavalier in their attitude and behaviour regarding the pandemic and health risks: the customer may be royalty, but the firm must support their employees in their efforts to protect their safety.

There has been a secular shift away from in-person experiences to experiences delivered remotely. For the most part, customers have been understanding of the challenges companies faced in shifting to all remote interactions, but the digital and electronic world make shopping around and switching easier.

When the smoke clears, companies will need to be more nimble than ever in delivering experiences where, when and how customers feel most comfortable – and that location, time and mode of interaction are likely to evolve over time, especially if there is a second wave.

Ultimately, of course, it’s about the customer and how to meet their needs and expectations. Let me offer three suggestions.

  • First, assume that all prior measurements and key driver models need to be revalidated and/or updated and regularly monitored until we come out of the other end of the tunnel. If nothing else, you will need to add new items to measure around health and safety and gauge their impact on customer experiences and loyalty.
  • Second, borrow a page from the scientists and the way public health experts and policy makers have responded to the pandemic: take a data-driven approach to decision making. All of us have heard people wax on about the pandemic numbers, the shape of the curve and the latest predictions. Yes, the data changes and the models evolve, but they are the only sound criteria for decision making.
  • Finally, this is a perfect scenario for what we at Confirmit refer to as VoC/E: augmenting your VoC work with direct input from employees regarding how to redress customer experience problems and shortfalls. When customers flag a performance failure or disappointment, mobilise employee input for possible solutions. This is a great way to generate ideas for how to respond to changing customer needs and concerns and actively involve employees to both improve the customer experience and boost employee engagement at the same time.

The business imperative for CX may be the same, but the environment presents a host of new challenges demanding attention. Companies need to respond smartly.


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 23, 2020
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5min748

Customer experience is known as the pillar of a company’s success. To ensure that the experience is at the top level each time, customer care centres are prepared for the usual surges in demand.

Customer Care Managers are the ones who have to maintain that the experience is always impeccable, since at least one-third of the customers would walk away from a brand they loved after just one bad experience. It goes without saying that the pressure is high – just one brand’s mishap is enough for customers to have their needs met by the competitors.

We are creatures of habit

Every year, the holiday season is known as the peak customer demand that lasts through January with surges in purchases, returns or exchanges and bargain hunting. To deal with the work overload, retail is typically recruiting extra staff from late summer, providing a two-month training and all systems are go until January when demand slowly decreases.

The tax submission routine is slightly different in terms of the period in the year but nonetheless – the same process is expected at the same time each year. With a predictable structure given in the previous examples, the team can easily plan and prepare for it.

Prepared for the unexpected?

Once in a while, something out of the ordinary happens. The surge in customer demand at the unexpected time calls for an urgent roadmap rewrite. No matter which sector your organization belongs to, you have to take care of each and every employee and each and every customer, otherwise, the results could be just as sudden as the cause.

The unprecedented situation that has hit the world prompted so many shifts in our day-to-day life. Employees had to work from home due to safety reasons simultaneously coping with rapid changes in consumer behaviour.

The frontline staff is under the most pressure – dealing with the unexpected in their customers’ lives as well as in their own. Technology plays a big part, especially for contact centre staff that has to process a huge amount of customer inquiries so equipping the customer care centre with the right tool can be critical for achieving customer satisfaction.

The human aspect is second to none

No matter how advanced technology is involved in the customer journey, the human aspect cannot be excluded. The experience humans provide is simply unmatched. In reality, technology is there to aid human interaction, not to replace it entirely.

Supporting customer care centre with the right tools can be of enormous benefit to the staff and can alleviate the pressure of customer demand. Adding Interactive Voice Response (IVR) recordings, chatbots, and auto-responses to your customer care centre adds vital resilience to your customer care centre. This way staff can resolve issues quickly and effectively, by prioritising interactions that require a full human approach.

Results are on the other side of the problem

Having to deal with the unprecedented surge in demand, the frontline staff suffers high levels of pressure. Besides supporting your staff with the right technology to help them solve problems faster, it is crucial to appreciate and recognize them, as their work is what keeps your organisation going.

The actions you take in situations like these are what makes or breaks your business. Your customers can remember you as a brand that went above and beyond or they can easily forget you if you didn’t put 101 percent effort when they needed it.

How do you plan for the unplanned?


Jo BoswellJo BoswellJune 23, 2020
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7min672

Jo Boswell is Founder and Director of Sentio-B and one of CXM Top 25 CX Influencers. Having previously judged three times at the Awards hosted by Awards International and shared her experience at two previous CX awards, Jo was a Chair of Judges at the first ever live online awards event where she assessed the best initiatives from the region…

We have all been spending a lot more time on video conferencing calls over the last couple of months; and like many others I have been using the technology extensively for both business and social purposes. At the end of May, however, I found myself using the technology in an entirely different and unexpected setting:  judging the inaugural Customer Experience Awards for South East Europe, hosted by Awards International.

The event was originally due to take place in Belgrade; but in view of the widespread lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisers had moved swiftly to adapt to the circumstances and reinvent it as a purely virtual one. As this was my 4th time judging, I was curious to see not only what the standard of entries would be like for the region, but also how the experience would translate from a physical one to online.

Given how little time the organisers had to rework the event, they did a fantastic job at staying one step ahead and ensuring that the judges had all the information and reassurance they needed to ensure the day would run smoothly. Following a final briefing for Chair judges the day before, I found myself sitting down at my desk early one Friday morning, with my husband firmly briefed to keep out of the study, meeting my fellow panel judges via video conference.

With 77 companies from 16 countries taking part, the day felt truly international. I was really impressed with the standard of the presentations, and particularly with how well the presenters established rapport with the judges, given how daunting it must be presenting in a foreign language over video conferencing technology.

The category I judged was ‘Employees at the Heart of Everything’. Much has been written about the link between employee experience and customer experience. In the current environment, when so many businesses are having to make dramatic shifts in the way they operate and serve their customers, it seems to me that engaged and empowered employees will be an even more vital ingredient for success in the coming weeks and months as organisations adapt their approach in the wake of the pandemic. More than ever brands need to demonstrate empathy and understanding to their customers; but that outcome will be hard to achieve unless employees feel valued, trusted, and respected by their employers, particularly in these uncertain and challenging times.

What stood out for me in the case studies presented was the efforts these companies were making to really tap into what is important for their employees, and find ways to improve the emotional connection with colleagues by deepening their understanding of all aspects of the employee experience.

The Gold Winner was E.ON Romania whose case study showcased the journey the company has been on to achieve greater employee engagement. Whilst the launch of an agile transformation programme two years ago has undoubtedly played a key role in engendering a sense of responsibility and accountability at all levels in the organisation, their approach included a number of other strands aimed at deepening understanding of what is important to employees, and putting action plans in place to improve the employee experience in the areas that mattered most. What particularly impressed me with their story was the ongoing stakeholder engagement that ensured full support from their senior management team, including a highly effective ‘reverse mentoring’ scheme that gave senior managers a much better understanding of the employee perspective. The benefits of their approach were clearly shown in some impressive employee engagement scores; but importantly they evidenced some tangible business benefits alongside this. It was a compelling story of simple concepts that had been intelligently applied, and consistently followed up.

For my part, the day did not run quite as smoothly as I would have liked – an uncooperative internet meant that I had a nail-biting 15 minutes trying to reconnect to the judging portal. Luckily, my fellow panel judges and the Awards International facilitator were able to cover for me, and we were soon back on track. Despite that slight glitch, I was nevertheless delighted to play my part in this double first event. Congratulations to the organisers and participants for embracing the changes necessitated by a global pandemic. I can now look forward to judging the UK Digital Experience Awards in a month’s time, confident that it will be similarly successful.

Jo will be judging for the 5th time at the upcoming UK Digital Experience Awards 2020.


Tamar SassonTamar SassonJune 22, 2020
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7min1424

Personalised face serums, skin formulas, and anti-ageing vitamins are now available to the masses thanks to the availability of data and technology. Consumer preferences for beauty and skincare often dictate what products brands create and sell.

According to Statista, by 2025, the global skincare market is estimated to be 189.3 billion U.S. dollars. Yet the beauty industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. First-quarter sales have been slow as the pandemic continues to alter the face of skincare and beauty.

As more consumers shift to digital shopping experiences it is no secret that collecting and analysing consumer reviews to find drivers of positive sentiment became the key for a successful go to market strategy. Any e-commerce business today should be focused on personalising their marketing messaging and developing product formulations with more functional ingredients and packaging.

Consumer reviews with positive sentiment attract more customers yet negative reviews can ruin a brand’s reputation. This is why we put Revuze’s AI to work and analyse over 500,000 consumer reviews of skincare products gathered from major eCommerce websites.

Here are three tips global beauty brands can apply online review analysis to effectively engage with consumers amid COVID-19:

1. DIY & Customised Scents: How Brands Can Embrace Nostalgia Amid COVID-19

As coronavirus continues to disrupt lives around the globe, consumers are tapping into distant memories to cope with the pandemic. Our analysts uncovered a spike of more than 300 percent for quotes related to “smell” in consumer reviews in the last six months. For example, “This cream smells just like a bright sunny day, and it also smells like a sunset on the beach, it brought up all my memories from my childhood and happy summers I had.”

Brands can personalise nostalgia in their marketing messaging to further connect and engage with consumers and increase their overall conversion rate.

Another trending topic is DIY cosmetics as consumers are turning to DIY solutions and customising their own hand sanitizers, body, and facial solutions with a focus on recreating smells from old memories: “I remember when I was a kid, witch hazel was always in the medicine cabinet but recently I downloaded a book on how to make homemade soaps and facial cleansers.”

2. Personalised Skin Care Regimens

Brands such as Glossier & The Ordinary are taking personalisation to a whole new level. In 2018, Glossier launched its first 10-minute skincare quiz to give customers insights into their skin types and offered personalised skincare routines based on the skincare quiz results ahead of their purchases.

Self-tanning drops are also gaining momentum in the skincare category as consumers enjoy using Isle of Paradise, Clarins Paris, and other self-tanners because they can customise their tans by using a specific amount of drops, “I love this stuff and it’s great on sensitive skin! I really enjoy how you can customise the tan that you want just by the number of drops you use. I put 2-3 drops in my moisturizer before bed and wake up to a sun-kissed looking face that matches the rest of my body!”

 3. Personalised Thank You Notes Post-Purchase

Personalisation doesn’t end after the sale. Companies such as COOLA, Glossier, Drunk Elephant, Teddie Organics are investing in customer service departments that are dedicated to personalising skincare regimens based on the customers’ skincare concerns post-purchase and ensure the customer is satisfied with the product’s results, “This company also has great customer service they email you to make sure you are satisfied with their product.”

Brands that engage in post-purchase marketing and customer service will differentiate themselves from the rest. Post-purchase messages can have a variety of subjects ranging from product recommendations, reorder reminders, personalised skincare routines, and other tips/tricks.

Digital Transformation Through Personalisation

Personalisation in beauty is still nascent and there are many issues brands will need to address before the beauty and skincare category can go mainstream.

For example, personalised skincare routines, customised packaging, and ‘concierge-like customer services’ make it increasingly difficult to scale personalisation. Price is another factor as these high-end services and customer engagement strategies are expensive.

Today’s customers expect brands to cater to their fickle needs and preferences so the integration of personalised technology and services is here to stay. Brands that offer this digital experience and personal connection are poised to win after COVID-19.

 

Interesting links:


Rebecca BrownRebecca BrownJune 19, 2020
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12min1016

This week many retail businesses are starting to reopen. Shops that were considered non-essential during the initial phases of lockdown are preparing to throw their doors open again in a new era for customer experience.

It’s been 89 days since lockdown was first announced on the 23rd of March, and people were told to work from home where they could. So, the big question is, how much can 89 days change how our customers think, feel and shop, and how can we meet their expectations in this new world?

No doubt you’ve heard about the perspex screens, the one-in / one-out policies and the closure of fitting rooms to try and ensure that both customers and staff are kept as safe as possible. There are plenty of health and safety guidelines available, and businesses offering to help you get your premises up to code popping up daily.

It is of course crucial that any retail business re-opening follows any health and safety measures as issued by the government, but there are plenty of articles out there that deal with that side of things. This is a different sort of Covid related article, and here’s why:

Our customers have just undergone a massive change. It has been thrust upon them with little warning, with no consultation and they have had limited control on what their day to day life has looked like since March. That has been scary, but it’s not the end of the story.

Dr. Larry Richard, a leading expert in the psychology of behaviour when it comes to change management, believes that when dealing with change, there are essentially two types, episodic and continuous. We are able to deal with episodic change easily, a loud noise might distract us, or startle us, but we move on quickly and soon forget about the noise. Continuous change, however, such as the state of change we have been experiencing since March, has the potential to be far more unsettling.

Continuous change is relentless and far more unpredictable. It puts us in a constant state of alert. We remain “off balance” much of the time. Since it has no end point, we’re never fully able to relinquish all of our refocused attention.” – Dr. Larry Richard

Our customers could be suffering from the effects of living in a state of continuous, unpredictable change with no clear end in sight. So, doesn’t it make sense to try to understand what kind of impact that might have had on them, how to help support them through this period and ultimately how to adapt our businesses to their needs?

Change of this nature – unrelenting, sudden, and continuous – can trigger our threat response, setting off anxiety and a heightened sense of constantly being on alert. Alongside the increased anxiety, our customers may:

  • Suffer from mood swings and emotional instability
  • Feel an increase in negative emotions such as irritability, distractibility, sadness, worry, agitation or passivity
  • Have a lower attention span
  • Experience lower levels of trust, and increased cynicism
  • May feel disconnected from others (this is especially true in the current climate)

So, what can you do to help your customers, aside from the more obvious safety measures being put in place?

Look after your staff

Looking after your staff should always be no.1 on your list of priorities.

Staff who feel cared for, and genuinely looked after, will always be happier, more dedicated and more likely to enjoy their work. This impacts your customers.

This isn’t new advice, but what might be new are the measures you may need to take to make your team feel safe and cared for. Ensure they have everything they need to keep them, and their families as safe as possible during their return to work. Ask them what would help them feel safer and ensure you really take this chance to listen and understand their concerns about returning. Don’t just assume that everyone will be happy to get back to work now that the government advice has changed.

It’s the right way to treat your team, but now we know it’s also something that’s important to your consumers.

Ninety-one percent of UK consumers who took part in the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020 felt “brands must do everything they can to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees and their suppliers, even if it means suffering big financial losses until the pandemic ends”

Crucially, the same study also reported that 71 percent of consumers felt that if they saw brands placing profit ahead of people those brands would lose their trust forever.

Be consistent where you possibly can

Ease the impact of all the change where you can by clinging to the things you can be consistent on. If it’s possible:

  • Keep your opening hours the same
  • Keep your usual people on the tills – a familiar face will go a long way to creating a sense of normality and trust
  • Where you can, keep your stock in the same place as normal and don’t make the route around the shop too convoluted
  • If you need to put some stock away to make more room for customers to move around in a socially distanced way, try to anticipate customer needs and have high sales items readily available, clean and ready to replace

Don’t become so distracted by the required changes dictated by government guidelines that you forget your core messages, your core values, and how you communicate with your customers.

Make things clear

Don’t assume that your customers have read the social distancing guidance that you have, or that they will instinctively understand any new ways of moving around your premises.

You will have thought out your opening, and planned a safe route for shoppers to follow. Make sure there are signs available on entry and at every potential point of confusion. Be careful not to remove the human element though, a friendly and reassuring face to help explain to any shoppers what to do on entry is a great way to ensure your returning customers feel more at ease. Don’t forget, it’s a nerve-wracking experience going shopping for the first time since lockdown, and many shoppers will be hesitant, unsure and look to you and your staff for clarification on the new rules.

Another element to consider is how you ask your frontline staff to handle anyone who has misunderstood the new ways of shopping. It might be scary for them if someone steps too close, or picks something up they shouldn’t, but the chances are your customer has simply forgotten, become distracted and slipped back into a lifetime of habit and if your team can politely and firmly but in a friendly way just remind them of the new rules it will help everyone feel safer. Empathy, as always, is key here.

Be kind – you could be the best part of someone’s day

With the heightened level of anxiety and new guidelines for how to go shopping, your customers may not know what to expect.

Showing kindness is a great way to help your customers feel more comfortable and to ensure that their first shopping experience with you cements their brand loyalty.

If you can, be flexible with explaining how things work, extending returns deadlines, allowing vouchers that expired during the lockdown period to still be used. If someone can’t make it to the shop, think outside of the box – could you send them photos of a product, or give them advice over the telephone instead?

Look for ways to add value and be prepared for a little light-hearted conversation from your customers – you might be the first person they’ve had a chance to speak to face-to-face for three months. You could change their whole day by showing some kindness.

Prep your team for the potential of complaints

If we accept that our customers may feel more irritable, experience increased cynicism and generally be experiencing a permanent state of anxiety, it stands to reason that this could materialise in more customer concerns being raised. If this does happen, make sure your team understand the emotional backdrop that your customers might be experiencing, and practise empathy before responding to try to offer a helpful resolution.

We are all in this together, and for the first time in memorable history, almost all staff and customers have something major in common. Build on that to help fuel more understanding customer interactions.


Natalie CrampNatalie CrampJune 18, 2020
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10min1182

The phrase ‘unprecedented times’ has been used so much in reference to the Coronavirus that it can seem like an empty cliché.

We have after all been presented with new extraordinary circumstances on a daily basis for months on end. Now, with lockdowns easing and the retail industry opening back up, we can be forgiven for thinking the unprecedented times are now at an end. However, this could not be further from the truth.

All of us, and particularly retailers, are entering uncharted waters. Many businesses are moving from the relative clarity of being fully shut or online only to the more complex position of trading under restrictive and unique circumstances. Navigating this new normal is going to be very difficult but it can be made easier by collecting and using data to make more informed decisions.

The biggest question facing retailers is how will consumers react to the easing of lockdown. We saw in the first week of non-essential shops opening up queues around the corner for some outlets.

Undoubtedly, as the weeks go on we will get plenty of news reports indicating whether there has been a complete bounce back, a steady increase, an initial glut followed by a sharp drop off or a worryingly flat response. The reality is that these industry wide stats will take months to give us even a general picture of what is happening. For individual retailers, this will be too late to react and adapt.

Retailers need to take control of the situation by having a proactive strategy underpinned by data. The exact approach will vary markedly between businesses, however, for SMEs right up to large chains, there are overarching principles that I believe will help frame their response:

Identify the data you have

Website analytics, sales data, marketing and social media engagement stats etc. are available to nearly every business and will provide the bedrock for understanding how conditions have changed and (most importantly) could change in the future. If you don’t currently collect this data, it is absolutely critical to set up processes that will store it in a manner in which it can be easily analysed.

Identify the data you don’t have

Often the biggest knowledge gap retailers have is in store. Beyond simple transaction data, retailers are blind to footfall, customer journeys around the store, connecting in store customers with online identities, how and why sales are abandoned and the general sentiment of customers. Add to this incomplete information on online customers and many businesses can be surprised by how little they actually know about their customer base.

This data dearth can manifest itself in low marketing engagement stats, inaccurate predictive modelling for sales and, most visibly, an inability to answer simple questions – for example, ‘which of my customers are vulnerable?’. Recognising what you don’t know is an essential step towards getting the data you need to know.

Define the questions you want to answer

There are dozens of metrics that can be collected and fed into data science algorithms, however, more data isn’t necessarily better. Not all data points are created equal, nor is it practical or wise to attempt to collect everything you can – it is a pointless and time-consuming exercise.

The best approach is to first think about the questions you want and need answers to now. For example, how does in store footfall compare to pre-lockdown? How many customers are not making purchases due to queues because of restrictions? Are the in store customers new or online customers that prefer to now shop in physical locations? From your list of questions, you’ll be able to work with your data specialists to determine the exact data points you need and therefore what new information you need to collect.

Create a plan to collect the data

This is where businesses can often get bogged down in complexity. Dreaming up cunning marketing or engagement strategies to get customers to part from their data may look good on paper, but when time is of the essence and money is tight they are far from practical.

Companies often approach data collection with a near-fatal misconception that customers need to be duped into providing their data. The reality is that many people are happy to provide information directly if they approached in a transparent manner and can see the clear benefit of doing so.

Asking customers questions via in store surveys or online polls is often the most effective strategy. With conditions as they are, most will understand why you would need to know their thoughts and feelings.

For information that can’t be easily obtained by direct questioning or observations from your in store staff (e.g. on footfall), technology can provide assistance. One example is using fintech software that captures and collates card data from purchases, helping you to link in store and online identities.

Analyse the data – quickly

The depth to which a business analyses data is of course dependent on their resources. There will also be large variations in the approach that will work best – updating existing models, creating new algorithms, looking at how data is integrated into the existing enterprise software and Business Intelligence platforms etc..

However, with the retail environment likely to be highly volatile, the key will be to ensure that the insights gained are updated as regularly as possible – ideally in real time. It is also worth noting that getting assistance from data scientists isn’t as expensive or daunting as it sounds.

Often they can work with a business to quickly set up the models that are needed and, with the right data architecture in place, they can, with a little training, be run by any member of staff to continually provide insights.

Ensure your teams understand it

This is worryingly so often missed. There is little point in having a plethora of data or indeed any insight if it cannot be acted upon. This should not be the purview of a data science team but something that every team member across the business is confident to do. They need to understand the insight relevant to their role, its limitations and be able to take quick action – be that switching off a customer marketing campaign, or influencing decisions on ordering from your supply chain.

Test, learn and adapt

Exactly how to ‘act’ will not necessarily be clear – we are after all in uncharted water – however a scientific approach can help to mitigate risk and light the way forward. This is a perfect time to test strategies and retailers need to be bold in doing so, and adapting quickly from the data they get. If, for example, you’re presented with data that in store sales conversions are very low, you can test different solutions to identify which is the most effective. A good data scientist will be able to assist you by stripping out other variables to tell you exactly which factors are moving the numbers.

I know for a lot of businesses data collection and analysis will be far from top of their list of problems to tackle in a post-lockdown world. Nevertheless, I can’t stress enough how important it is to make business decisions based on facts rather than emotion or ‘gut feeling’. Any data that helps to illuminate these unprecedented times may be enough to give your business the edge that helps it not only to survive, but also to thrive.


Sam HoldingSam HoldingJune 17, 2020
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5min1122

Just a 5 percent increase in customer retention can increase a company’s profitability by 75 percent; and for most marketers, this is not news.

Customer experience and loyalty have lately been brought into the epicentre of marketing operations, as the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic impact affect critical business KPIs at organisations across a variety of industries and geos.

Many businesses are redirecting their strategy to focus more on customer experience, from both a proactive standpoint and a reactive one. During a crisis, like the current pandemic, it all comes down to customer communications.

For most industry sectors, email marketing is pivotal to customer experience and loyalty, and not without a good reason. Email is a truly powerful tool:

  • It follows your customers everywhere: on laptops, smartphones, tablets, watches, etc.
  • It’s friendly and easy to use for consumers, and cost effective for businesses
  • It’s a rich medium that supports a wide range of content type, design assets, and engagement tools

Using email marketing effectively can have a direct, positive impact not only on sales, but also on customer engagement and loyalty. So, how can organisations develop a good email practice? Here are a few tips to help transform the ability to educate and inform, minimising frustrations for both marketers and customers during challenging times.

Make it relevant

Like most of us, your customers probably receive hundreds of emails every day. Each morning they go through their inbox and choose what’s for reading and what’s for the junk folder, or prioritise those emails that appeal to them most.

Content that’s relevant to your customer base, which is brief but well-written, is more likely to be read. If your audience is large and diverse, perform some segmentation and adjust your content to match each group’s interests and needs. Another good practice is to use geographical criteria in order to help your customers connect with other customers, service providers in their area, or the local community.

Make it clear

During a crisis, it’s more important than ever to understand and use customer data. Knowing where customers are in their journey can help organisations identify needs and create opportunities for proactive message development.

By offering helpful information to customers, brands can effectively evangelise their customer-first approach, while demonstrating their ability to understand customer needs by merging data with communications and thoughtful messaging.

Make it transactional – but be human

According to Experian, transactional emails are opened 8 times more often than typical marketing emails. But even when it’s generated automatically, the email is still a communication stream and, like any other type of communication, it can bring together all the characteristics of human interaction.

Emails come packed with expectations. People expect your emails to follow the usual norms and principles of social interactions. Particularly during the lockdown, It’s essential to keep in mind that your audience is made up of real people – so be friendly, be candid, and use normal language.

Invest in proactive outreach to lighten customer service backlogs

While ramping up a customer service workforce takes time, strategising email marketing to mitigate the burden on customer experience is something that can be done with speed and efficiency, and provide rapid return. Clear, informative messaging has the ability to proactively address future confusion and allow for self-troubleshooting.

Tightening your messaging strategy and content makes it easy to further support your customer-facing workforce by maintaining consistency and minimising confusion as the team engage with customers.

These “front-line” interactions hold a lot of weight for the overall brand and can be the difference between well-informed, satisfied customers and confused, dissatisfied ones.

Ask for feedback

No matter how good you are, or how closely you are following your well-designed strategy, there’s always room for improvement. By asking your customers for feedback you can maintain a healthy, open, two-way communication between your organisation and your target audience while showing that you are willing to adjust and cater to their needs.

Bonus: collecting feedback frequently will help you remain relevant to your customers’ needs and interests.


Paul ElworthyPaul ElworthyJune 16, 2020
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12min1187

Companies are now under intense pressure to review what they do and how they operate, which for many includes big technology shifts, including, better use of digital channels, automation and cloud technologies.

But, there’s a problem. It seems as though many digital change and transformations have been more than underwhelming when it comes to value realisation. Probably not a surprising point for many of us who work with organisations, helping them adapt to shifting customer expectations and market conditions. Look at the stats…

  • 73 percent of enterprises failed to provide any business value whatsoever from their digital change and transformation efforts, according to an Everest Group report;
  • Accenture have found that, out of 1,350 global players, 78 percent struggled to see results;
  • KPMG have reported that one in three CEOs (34 percent) say their organisations have failed to achieve the value they anticipated from previous transformation initiatives.

Why are so many transformations failing to deliver real return?

Change is a complex thing, particularly for organisations that are in themselves complex, with inflexible legacy systems, manual processes and ways of working, all getting in the way. There are lots of issues to contend with – but three big hairy problems, probably worth highlighting:

  1. A desire to ‘get on with it’ and make change happen can be great to encourage momentum, but it also can result in programmatic leaps, particularly between initial strategic intent and end solution development, resulting in key design and planning work, to define the exact problem and business needs, being missed out or squeezed. The result? Solutions being built, that don’t work and don’t answer the right problem.
  2. A monolithic ‘all or nothing’ approach is adopted, with delivery plans failing to release business value incrementally, resulting in inefficient resourcing, cumbersome work packages and poor ROI;
  3. The underlying culture and ‘ways of working’ are poorly aligned to the job in hand, such as lack of engagement from leadership; a delivery team that wants to be ‘agile’, but isn’t; limited capability to adapt to evolving business needs; misalignments in objectives and priorities across business line; all ultimately creating a drag on engagement and value release across the organisation.

Of course, these are pretty knotty problems, and there’s no single fix, but having seen many of these challenges myself and discussed key issues with clients and other consultants in the field, there is one common link that gets a common mention. That link is the gap in how business strategy is defined and applied through the deployment of the programme and new technology solutions.

This doesn’t actually sound that straightforward a problem to resolve, but it is a problem where a combination of good Business Design and Business Architecture can be a big help.

A key missing link – Business Design and Architecture

How do I come to that conclusion? Well, let’s first of all understand what Business Design and Business Architecture actually are.

The role of Business Designer (BD) was originally established by the design agency, IDEO, who describe the role as the job of applying “a human-centred approach to innovation and applying the principles and practices of design to help organizations create new value and new forms of competitive advantage”.

Business Architecture (BA) is an integral part of Enterprise Architecture and according to TOGAF (Open Group Architecture Framework) “defines the business strategy, governance, organization, and key business processes”.

Whilst BD tends to focus on innovation, business and product modelling within a service design agency setting, and BA tends to be integrated into a CIO strategy or Enterprise Architecture function, both disciplines, at their core, work to similar goals. They both aim to understand and describe strategy, capability, stakeholder motivations (which includes customers), plus aid the design of new approaches and innovations.

With a primary focus back into the business, but capable of being a key strategic link into technology, combined disciplines are perfectly placed to ensure that digital change and transformation activities don’t simply become technology led activities, but remain strategically focused on delivering against a business outcome-based set of requirements.

In doing so, they can help close the gap in value realisation which clearly exists in many programmes today.

10 ways in which Business Design and Architecture can help

1. By defining clear and compelling vision and strategy for change.

Although a vision and set of strategies exist within most programmes, they are not always clearly translated into value for customers and stakeholders. The process of vision definition is something that Business Designers can help deliver through stakeholder co-creation and strategic assessment of the business, its value proposition, operating model and market.

2. Double-checking that your change is feasible.

This means establishing a solid understanding of what needs to change, how it will be done, and associated value return ahead of any detailed design. If gaps between vision, objectives and solutions are only exposed later on, it can be much harder to change course. Because both BD and BA are focused on defining the key building blocks to change upfront, this risk can be mitigated.

3. Making sure everyone’s role is understood.

BAs, in particular, are able to develop a focused view on what changes are needed in organisational capabilities, services and functions, so that there is a clear view of how each part of the organisation will contribute to overall realisation of change.

4. Aligning financial forecasting and change planning.

I’ve seen many instances where businesses and change programmes become derailed either through underestimation of effort, overestimation of benefit or misalignment between traditional budgeting processes versus agile (incremental) delivery. Both BD and BA approaches help businesses establish value driven plans which are more likely to realise value in line with business expectations.

5. Following the thread from strategy to solution.

Continuous alignment of strategy with solution roadmap is key to ensuring longer programmes of work remain true to meeting business goals. It’s also crucial that the course of action can be re-set, in response to changing conditions. In their ‘bridging’ role, BDs and BAs can be key to maintaining alignment across various stakeholder groups (e.g. technology, PMO, operation and business).

6. Delivering business transformation not digital transformation.

Because the BD and BA view is customer and business centric rather than technology centric, the design processes and governance approach used, ensures solution design focuses on realising business value drivers not what the latest shiny tech promises.

7. Doing systems thinking not siloed thinking.

Simply taking an ‘analogue’ process or function and making it ‘digital’ may not be a sound approach. Organisations are systems and change in one place of an enterprise can impact adversely elsewhere. Equally it may be better to simply maintain ‘analogue’ processes if value return from converting to automation is poor. Applying a ‘systems thinking’ approach is something BDs and BAs do, helping ensure joined up business functions, experiences for customers and clear value return.

8. Bringing innovation into change.

Introducing a new automated process to reduce operating cost may be a great idea – but if that automation doesn’t deliver a better experience for customers it may not deliver the full value desired. Taking a user centred design approach, that comes with BD, will help test the quality of solution, drive innovation and ensure change delivers maximum value return to all key stakeholders.

9. Making roadmaps, value led.

It’s vital that all key value drivers are well defined and aligned to delivery increments. Understanding, maintaining and adapting a view across the programme of the key motivations, value streams, tactics and associated deliverables (whether defined through epics, features and stories) are key competencies within BA – and will go some way to ensure that business expectations and technology delivery remain on track.

10. Staying true to core goals – getting rid of ‘pet projects’ and distractions.

It is vital that everyone understands and remains engaged in the reasons for change and how it is to be implemented. If priorities are not well set and continually maintained, there can be a proliferation of demands, priorities become confused, and ‘pet projects’ get spun up that might meet an assumed need, but don’t contribute to the primary goals of change activity. Good BA and BD planning can help minimise this risk.

OK, lots of significant opportunities, but let’s be honest, just by dropping a dose of Business Design and Business Architecture capability into your change and transformation work, is no guarantee of a fix.

However, with so many change and transformations failing to deliver real value, often because of disconnects between business and tech domains, it seems sensible to me to have strong Business Design and Architecture support, as part of your change armoury. That’s if you want to avoid more big value gaps in your CX and digital transformation work.

 

Paul is a Judge at the UK Digital Experience Awards 2020.

 


Stephen HewettStephen HewettJune 15, 2020
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12min1381

Take time now to prepare for change and get ahead of the curve by anticipating the evolving needs of your customers. A common understanding of customers’ needs and a consistent method for measuring those needs is critical for businesses to be sustainable in a post-COVID-19 world.

This applies to both B2B and B2C and across industries. In this post we’ll provide key strategies that will help you be well-positioned to meet customers’ emerging needs.

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

Make CX a priority

“At this point, depending on your brand’s category, you might think that your primary issues are oriented to your supply chain and not to changes in customer preferences, attitudes, or behaviours. It’s sensible to plan ahead for interruptions to your production and operations, but customer-centric organisations will also prepare for how their customers’ questions and needs will change rapidly in the coming months.” Augie Ray (Gartner Blog Network)

Typically, customer experience focuses on supporting operational change to meet their customers’ needs. However, the transition period is much faster than organisations realise and it is both systemic and radical. This rapid speed of change is driven by the general market, rather than competitors.

Your future success depends on being able to anticipate the needs and wants of customers in the ‘new normal’. Customers will not likely return to the same place after the crisis passes and some of the current measures will become standard practice. A Customer Experience (CX) programme is key to making informed decisions as you position yourself for the post-pandemic world.

Have a common understanding of CX terminology across your organisation

The first step to being well-positioned in meeting emerging needs is to be able to differentiate between yesterday’s and tomorrow’s needs.

An understanding of needs is typically delivered through your CS programme. However, everyone must be on the same page when talking about customers’ needs and wants.

Having a consistent, concise method of summarising the key needs of your customers and a way of measuring them is the starting place for understanding emerging needs. It’s a huge red flag if you don’t have these things in place.

Stay informed of emerging consumer trends and adapt quickly

Buying behaviours have changed due to COVID-19 and some of them will be permanent. Accenture’s report, COVID-19 will permanently change consumer behaviour identifies three key trends:

  • A focus on health – supporting a safe environment that puts the health of consumers, shoppers, and employees first will be “a strategic differentiator”.
  • A desire to buy local – consumers want to support local business in the way they shop and what they buy
  • A rise in conscious consumption – limiting food waste and providing sustainable options for consumers

“Brands will need to explore ways to connect locally—be it through highlighting local provenance, customising for local needs or engaging in locally relevant ways.” (Accenture Report)

Being virtual has become a virtue

Experts predict that consumers will continue to buy online after the pandemic. As well, they predict the number of people working virtually will likely be higher than it was pre-pandemic. Companies like Twitter are permanently allowing employees to work remotely. What techniques are you using to engage clients virtually as they shift to working from home and do more of their shopping online?

But don’t get caught in the trap that everything has to be digital

Digital will definitely be a significant enabler, but don’t get caught in the trap that everything has to be digital. We are in agile times so if you rely only on digital transformation then you may not be able to transform quickly enough to a completely digital environment.

Deliver on needs by human and non-human assets and understand the remix of these assets to maintain a permanent model from a cost POV. In the short term, there are solutions that you can implement until you can optimise digital solutions.

For example,

  • Safety concerns can be addressed by posting a sign to indicate the number of people allowed in a shop at one time or tape on the floor to mark physical distancing.
  • Customers can simply phone to place food orders vs an on-line food ordering website

To be sustainable you have to do things at the lowest possible cost. Use tape on the floor to mark physical distancing and use human assets where they add the most value.

Imagine the Impossible

What was once a barrier or thought to be impossible is now possible. Cultural and historical barriers have been knocked down. The need to engage beyond your house is now being done virtually.

Zoos, museums and art galleries are doing to virtual tours to provide customers with a safe alternative during COVID-19. In the future perhaps they will consider moving to a more robust virtual offering. This model would be sustainable and collect revenue and reduce costs by using non-human assets—guides could give online lectures, the website could have advertising or click-throughs, there could be an extra cost for a special part of the tour such as feeding times. The need for car park attendants would be removed and car parks could be turned into more space for the animals.

COVID-19 has forced us to think in new ways. Film crews are being replaced by one person. A popular garden show in the UK has homeowners filming their own ‘virtual garden tour’. Are media companies going to decide on a scaled-down version? Late-night talk show hosts are broadcasting from their homes and interviewing a wide list of guests who are also sitting at home. Less people travelling is having a positive impact on the environment.

Decide if your pop-up model is a temporary fix or a long term solution

“Retailers and consumer real estate providers alike are benefiting from the fast-paced, short-term format of pop-up tenancies and shoppers are engaged with fresh, seasonal retail offerings. Compressed lease terms that recycle available spaces in shopping centres and in retail street fronts give retailers an opportunity to roll out new product offerings quickly and test-drive new entrepreneurial concepts. Pop-up retail is here to stay.” Michael Kehoe (Real Estate News Exchange)

Agility is essential to sustainability. Businesses go bankrupt because they can’t afford to move to the next stage. Does your pop-up model embrace all of the emerging needs or is it a cheap perversion of your existing operating model?

  • What and where are the lost opportunity costs?
  • What are the possible outcomes of freezing your product where it is now, making few or no changes, to save money?

Restaurants, for example, must consider whether to wait for the increased need to eat in a place that provides some ambience over concerns for safety. Can you make more money just by operating the kitchen or do you want people to come back?

In response to the pandemic, Tesco changed their operating model because they discovered a new need – health & safety. They were challenged about increased profits due to panic buying, but other areas of the business such as clothing and petrol were down 70 percent. The costs of installing safety measures were balanced out by the loss in profits in other departments.

Whether or not your pop-up model is temporary depends on your industry, centre, and context. But no matter the situation, you must deliver needs at the lowest possible cost in order for your business to be sustainable.

Tips on how to be prepared

  • Listen to your customers – Use platforms that capture the voice of the customer (e.g. BigEars)
  • Choose cheaper solutions you can implement in the short term – solutions don’t have to be digital
  • Work with your customer care team to find out what feedback they’re getting from customers
  • Provide consumers with local choices in the way they shop and what they buy
  • Be proactive with information for customers – convey what your brand is doing to ensure a safe shopping experience in physical locations to earn consumers’ trust
  • Re-envision marketing plans to include emerging needs and brand purpose

We are in unprecedented times

The world has changed and continues to do so rapidly. Both governments and organisations are entering unknown territory post-COVID-19. Different economic drivers caused the crash in 2008-09.

It might be dangerous to look at the current situation and try to understand the needs through this lens. For example, supermarkets didn’t need to understand social distancing, now they do. It is vital to understand the needs and wants of your customers and how they are changing now as well as in the future. Evaluating your customer data and forecasting shifts in future wants and needs is a customer-centric way to prepare your brand to better serve your customers. Are you ready?

 

This article is the second part of a two-piece series on changing customer needs post COVID-19.


Alon GhelberAlon GhelberJune 12, 2020
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7min1430

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Why UGC & why now?

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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


Sandra RadlovackiSandra RadlovackiJune 11, 2020
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4min1155

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunil TanukuSunil TanukuJune 11, 2020
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5min1734

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


Nitzan HasonNitzan HasonJune 10, 2020
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10min1207

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

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

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

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

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

Importance of Customer Reviews for eCommerce

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

  • It boosts sales.

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

  • It increases engagement.

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

  • It improves ranking.

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

  • It builds loyalty and trust.

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

Changes in Customer Reviews in the Coronavirus Era

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

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

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

  • Revamp your UGC tactics.

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

  • Create a Q&A page on your website.

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

  • Re-evaluate your review collection methods.

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

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

  • Showcase existing reviews.

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

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

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


Ian GoldingIan GoldingJune 9, 2020
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10min1759

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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


Stephen HewettStephen HewettJune 8, 2020
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10min1676

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

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

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

What is the difference between a need and a want?

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

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

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

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

Emerging trends in consumers’ attitudes, behaviours and purchasing habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Accenture

 

Be genuine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actions you can take right now

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

Use this time now to:

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

People are changing in ways they don’t realise

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

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

 

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


Peter BarkerPeter BarkerJune 5, 2020
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6min1363

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

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

Why the cornerstone?

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

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

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

It’s time to get personal

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

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

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

Clear taxonomy at the heart

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

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

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

The next step is to automate

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

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

The future of content

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

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

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




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