Gathering feedback from your target consumers was once a time-consuming or impossible chore, that often gave brands an inaccurate (or blank) picture of the people they want to attract to their products and services.
Thankfully, times have changed with the dawning of the digital age, and gathering that all-important data no longer has to be a struggle that leaves you as confused as ever about what people really think and feel when it comes to interacting with you.
Yet not all data provision platforms are the same; some just get it more than others, and it’s safe to say that Attest, based in London, has absolutely nailed it. The dynamic firm is the brainchild of Jeremy King, a CEO with the kind of resume that makes you want to pack it in and leave life to the experts.
A true scientist, Jeremy has put his passion for data into helping brands understand their target customers in a methodical manner that leads to real, effective results, with the help of his hugely enthusiastic Attest team. Jeremy took time out to talk to CXM about what Attest has achieved so far, and what the future holds for his business and those that use its services.
“Originally I was a geneticist. I worked in synthetic biology, and focussed in particular on the ecology of how baby reef fish grow up. I have a huge passion for science, empicism and for marine life in particular,” he explains.
“I was then with McKinsey, a strategy consulting firm, for nine years. I worked in 25 different countries in almost every sector, for one to three months at a time, doing all sorts of weird things, in weird places, which was really fun.
“During that time I did an MBA at Harvard Business School. Just over three years ago I started Attest. The journey to Attest was inspired by what I was doing before – it combines a love for science, data, and empiricism, with a real world problem I saw in so many countries and sectors. Businesses everywhere need to know more and guess less, and Attest exists to make that easy.”
All good businesses have a genesis – a Big Bang that begins a journey towards success, and for Jeremy, that occurred in a boardroom in the famous Windy City.
He explains: “There was a time when I was working in Chicago. I witnessed a room full of middle-aged homogenous men in the midwest of America, guessing how to do a launch for products targeted at middle-aged women in emerging markets. As a scientist I thought that was really, really stupid.
“It was not only stupid, it was offensively wrong to see this group of men guessing how Indian women, Brazilian women, and Indonesian women think. The group of men had never visited those countries, and started by assuming that women in all of those countries all behave in the same way.
“I thought there must be a better way to do that. There must be a way to interact with those target consumers. There must be a way to bring them into the business, into the room, into the decision, right away, and to do that whenever it’s useful, which as a scientist I believe is all the time – rather than just guessing or having the chance to only test one or two things a year.
“That was the incident which sticks in my mind, and ultimately led to to the creation of Attest.”
Ok, nitty-gritty time! What exactly is Attest, and what can it do?
“Attest is a platform where you can interact directly with 100 million people in 80 countries, to ask them things, show them things, understand things, ask them to make choices, ask them to tell you how they behave, what they think about their market, and so on.
“It’s about reaching the consumers you can’t naturally reach, the ones you aren’t winning, the ones you don’t understand, the ones you need to drive your next waves of growth. That’s the hard part… you know the customers you have, but what about the ones you don’t? That’s where Attest comes in,” Jeremy explains.
“The answers go directly to you and only to you, and everything is primary, with real people clicking, answering, telling, viewing – whatever you want them to do.
“The best bit is you can do this in 30 seconds and have results in the same day – sometimes even the same hour. The crucial thing is making this easy to start, and easy to iterate, and so efficient and easy that you can do this every day. That’s the bit that’s been missing until now.
“For example, this means you can test 20 different ideas in a morning, judge the results, in doing so identify five new ones, and test those new ideas at larger scale the same afternoon.
“Attest connects you to many people around the world, directly but crucially anonymously, and what that means for your business in terms of the value it creates is that where you previously had guessing or a void of data, starting 30 seconds from now Attest can fill your biggest gaps in knowledge and give you new superpowers to understand markets, consumers, products, pricing, ideas, and competition.
“Great companies put consumers and data at the heart of every decision. Attest makes that simple and open for anyone at every business, continuously, at global scale.”
Attest is an innovator’s dream, thanks to the ability to gain unlimited intelligence and entirely new input to see if an idea has wings, or is destined to crash and burn. It can also be used in many different scenarios. Jeremy speaks of a hedge fund manager he knows who uses the platform to understand retailers and get an “information edge” on how consumers perceive them.
But what next for Attest? Well as you would expect from such a futuristic firm, the future looks bright…and busy!
“We have just added video capabilities as well as audio capabilities, and we have seen a lot of demand around podcast and radio advertising – previously there was no scalable way to test those types of assets,” he says.
“We build Attest to fill in all of the gaps in knowledge, for the people that have the most valuable gaps to fill…those who need the data but don’t have a way to get it. In terms of the future, we are looking to really expand access. In most companies, it’s one percent of people have access to big data, market research, consumer insights, and the reports that they need.
“We build Attest for everyone else, the 99 percent of people who need to know more and continuously wish they could be testing, learning, uncovering, and improving. That’s why we build it the way that we do – to make it easy to start, easy to repeat, simple and efficient, so that you can use it every day.
“We want to reach many more people in many more markets. Different types of companies, different levels of seniority, and making data available to more people everywhere – that’s fundamentally our mission. We have a bunch of really cool stuff in development right now – things that make the impossible seem ridiculously easy – things that help more people gain more intelligence and edge, far more often, always from the consumers you value most. It’s a big promise, and we intend to fulfil it.”
Jo is also one of the speakers at the upcoming the Future is CX conference, hosted by Awards International at the UK headquarters of Microsoft, that will bring some of the UK’s most pioneering Customer Experience professionals together for an exclusive day of sharing best practice, which you can attend.
In an exclusive interview with CXM, Jo recounts how Business Stream utilised a huge influx of customers to redefine the experience they offer.
“In April 2017, the English water retail market opened, and we went into this new market and doubled our customer number overnight – we acquired Southern Water’s non-household customer base,” she said.
“It’s important in a competitive market to focus on Customer Experience. There’s not a lot of margins for retailers like ourselves and others in the English market, and there won’t be for while.”
Of course, pricing is only one consideration for an organisation when it comes to keeping customers on board, and Jo realised that to truly stand out, they would need to overhaul the journey their clients embark upon.
“While customers are very keen on price, Customer Experience needs to feature, because as a retailer you can’t give away a discount if there’s not a lot there in the first place,” she explained.
“It is imperative that a good experience is part of the overall consideration from brands. What we recognised was: we wanted to transform our Customer Experience. We invested heavily in digital, and we initiated our digital CX transformation programme. That was one of our entries at the last UK Customer Experience Awards, and we actually won the category.”
Describing the technology that gives them the edge in the utilities market, Jo continued:
“We completely redesigned and delivered a new Interactive Voice Response capability. It gives us a lot more flexibility in identifying customers and routing them to the right skill set in our business. We developed and launched a new virtual assistant so we could answer customer queries 24/7.
“We implemented an automated call and pay capability, and we launched our app. We worked with CapGemini and developed the app in seven weeks, from concept to delivery. A huge achievement!”
Technology is just one component of exceptional CX, and Jo was determined that Business Stream would turn on the taps when it comes to meeting expectations.
“Another thing we did was that we wanted to ask customerswhat kind of Customer Experience they wanted us to provide,” Jo said.
“We put in place new CX measures and really started to drive our actions based on customer sentiment and scores to try and help us target improvements in a way that would be more meaningful for our customers. Another key thing was that we looked at our customer onboarding experience and realised there were elements of dissatisfaction in that journey, so we transformed that.
“Through measurement and analysis we understood where we needed to make improvements. Some of those improvements were in communication, and we looked at it holistically to ask how can we make onboarding a more positive experience rather than something customers were showing dissatisfaction on.”
So where now for Business Stream and its journey towards ever-improving Customer Experience? Onwards and upwards.
“Recently we worked with CAP GEMINI to develop a robotic process automation solution (RPA) using AI, and that has gone live,” Jo explained.
“This is something we hope to be successful with at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, though I don’t want to give too much away!
“We have robots working to pull in data and help set up accounts. That has been groundbreaking for us, and it’s essentially taken the time from 10 weeks to onboard a multi-site customer to something closer to two weeks. These are real tangible benefits: we have changed out complaints journey, and we have seen an 89 percent reduction in complaints in Scotland. Ultimately it’s the customer who is benefitting.”
True innovation never ends, however, and the success so far for the team in terms of Digital Experience is just the beginning, according to Jo, who added: “In terms of future developments, we have taken the first steps in the digital world and we will look to continue to innovate in that space.
“Potentially, chat bots could be something that will appear at some point down the line. We will continue down the robotics route, and utilise technology that will satisfy customers, and help us to secure new business.”
For more details on speakers attending the Future is CX Conference, click here.
Awards International is also hosting a second upcoming conference, Winning with Complaint Handling, which will bring together previous winners of the UK Complaint Handling Awards to share best practice.
Giovanni Toschi is the Founder of AI firms Jatana and BotSupply. The Copenhagen-based entrepreneur took time out to talk to CXM about how we are firmly in the middle of the Golden Age of Customer Experience, and where the industry can go from here…
Your role must give you a great perspective on what businesses need and what customers expect from them. How do you see the overall role of Customer Experience today?
Customer Experience is probably going through its Golden Age right now. The awareness of businesses all around the world has grown a lot and they really do care about CX and overall customer satisfaction. No business is unique, everyone has competitors; it’s the relationship with your customers that makes the difference between successful companies and the rest of the businesses that fall behind.
What do companies often do wrong when it comes to CX?
There is more than one thing. First of all, many are faking it. They try to seem like they really care for the customer while they actually care for the cash. Yes, everyone is in the business for the money, but that does not mean you should treat your customers as a number or data. They’re not, and they know when you do that.
Second, they do not devote themselves too much. Low effort to satisfy a customer in most cases end up with bad results for the company.
Customer support plays a big role in Customer Experience. How do you see it?
Interaction between the company and the customer is half of it, honestly. The ways you connect with your customers, including providing customer support, is a key differentiator today.
Automation is a hot topic. Do you think it improves the efficiency of a company and Customer Experience in general?
Absolutely yes, if used correctly. Customers today want everything almost instantly. Twenty-four hours to reply is no longer enough – you have to act fast. But they also want you to show effort and focus on them as an individual. That’s where automation kicks in. It provides instant replies to frequently asked questions, and agents can focus on the more complex topics and connect to the customer on a personal level.
When it comes to automation, it is often associated with the fear of AI replacing humans and taking over their jobs. Do you think this is true and how do you see the future with ‘robots’ as our coworkers?
The same fear was present with the industrial revolution, yet we did not lose jobs, we just created new ones. Machines can replace humans in many positions, but that only means new positions will open. Humans will always have their advantages over robots.
What exactly is Jatana?
We are on a mission to bring Artificial Intelligence to customer support teams of any size. Using Jatana, any company can set up AI automation in their contact centre in a matter of hours. Our solution allows support agents to focus on the issues that matter while leaving repetitive tasks to the AI.
What inspired you and your team to create this tool?
Since 2016, at BotSupply, we have been helping companies like Carlsberg and Mercedes leverage conversational AI to provide better Customer Experience. In the process, we kept on getting requests to develop a solution that could do the same for email support. We put together an initial MVP and after closing the first customer we decided to spin-off the product into a stand-alone company and that’s how Jatana was born.
Could you give us an example of a company that successfully included your tool (or any other automated service) into their business?
We have been operational for a few months only but our customer base includes companies from Scandinavia, as well as other parts of Europe and Asia. A good example is Stocard, a fast-growing German company that developed an app to keep all your loyalty cards in one place.
What is your message to the readers of Customer Experience Magazine?
If you’re reading this magazine that already means that you do care about Customer Experience. That’s great – stay on the right track, follow what’s trending, and don’t let competitors leave you behind. Try to be one step ahead, as that’s how you win the race.
The robots are coming…but not as fast as some might think.
That is the prediction of Claire Sporton, the recently appointed Senior Vice President of CX Innovation at ‘Voice of the Customer’ experts Confirmit.
The London-based long-time CX professional has spent many years at the forefront of delivering great Customer Experience, but her new role allows her to lift her head, focus her gaze, and start observing what is “coming down the road” in the industry.
From this vantage point, Claire has observed Artificial Intelligence (AI) as it trundles ever closer to full and irreversible integration in our lives.
While many in business welcome this change, others remain understandably wary, especially in light of fears that AI will eventually replace people working in CX engine rooms, such as contact centres.
Fear not, Claire tells Customer Experience Magazine, as the human touch will always be required to come in and take over at points where AI just doesn’t quite cut the mustard.
“These last few years with Confirmit, I have been heading up a group working directly with clients, whereas this new role is expanding on what I have done before,” she said.
“I’m stepping back from some of the direct delivery work – I’m spreading my wings and looking to the future of CX. When you are at the coalface, you work mainly on the day-to-day immediate business issues. When you are focussing on where the value is, you don’t have time to look to the horizon, but that is where I am now – in a position to see what is coming down the road.”
On that road is an inevitability: AI. Yet just because there is no going back from this huge industry change, it doesn’t mean that we should want to.
“My inbox is packed with AI this and AI that…it’s everywhere,” Claire continued.
“What does it really mean for CX though? I would suggest…yes…the robots are indeed coming, but not quite as quickly as people think they are. They aren’t going to be taking over all of our CX jobs immediately…but they will get to a further stage of prominence.
However, from a CX point of view, we shouldn’t be looking at AI replacing humans. Rather, the technology should augment what a human can offer. We need to think about how we can use AI as human beings to help us make better decisions in terms of Customer Experience.
Look at team leaders in contact centres – how can we provide each of these individuals with the information and insight they need to make better decisions? This is where AI can help. AI can bring together the data sources – customer feedback, financial data etc – and provide guidance. We don’t want robots making the decisions, we want robots to be guiding the humans making the decisions. We still want our humans to be using those amazing brains, using their hearts and guts.
There will always be times when, as customers, we want to speak with a human being. If I want to check my bank account, that’s one thing I can rely on AI for. But if I’m planning my retirement, then I’m going to want to speak with a person.”
Claire added: “From collecting to analysing feedback – AI is undoubtedly a huge part of our CX futures, but the time to fear it is past. Embrace its potential to make us humans better at doing what we love to do – deliver a fantastic customer experience.”
With over 1,000,000 customers, Autoglass repair or replace any type of glass on any make, model, or age of vehicle. A part of the Belron Group serving nine million customers a year in 31 countries, they are committed to customer experience. We caught up with Head of Customer Experience at Autoglass, Sarah Ringrose, and discovered the inspirational role CX is playing in the organisation…
Where does your passion for Customer Experience start?
I started at Autoglass in accounts 14 years ago, having previously worked in sales at Interbrew. I worked with our corporate partners and customers to ensure our invoices were paid on time. I progressed to head the department and became responsible for the Customer Experience we provided at that stage.
I enjoyed the corporate/client interactions, so I moved to become a senior business manager. This gave me great insight into the corporate relationship. I then had my twins so needed to rethink being on the road so much.
So when I came back I became a Credit Manager, which I enjoyed. I could see where things went wrong for our customers and so started to push to improve our processes. At the same time, I noticed there was a Head of Customer Experience advertised internally. For me, that was a perfect opportunity because I wanted to improve the experience for our customers at all stages.
Do you feel having held a few roles in the company has helped you in your current role?
I think it has. I have the advantage of a rounded perspective when I look at Customer Experience – be that for consumers or client partner journeys. I know the whole journey so can draw upon those experiences. I love the fact that I know the journey from the beginning to the end including the client partner side of things as well.
How does your role impact your corporate partners’ Customer’s Experience, for say Direct Line?
I’m always aware of the challenges our partners face with their customers, so I keep close to our partners. But if we are getting it right for our customers, we are getting right for our corporate partners too.
Practitioners in CX usually have a service background, but you have a commercial view on things. Does that change the business perception of Customer Experience?
It helps, but we have such a passionate workforce here at Autoglass, with all of us focussing on doing the right thing for the customer. Putting customers first is what we do.
Of course I can put myself in others’ shoes internally, because I’ve been there, which helps them see what we are trying to achieve. But the passion across Autoglass is one of the things that has kept me here so long. Everyone puts our customers at the forefront of their thinking and tries to solve people’s problems with real care.
You’ve been in the role as Head of Customer Experience for two years. Would you say that Customer Experience has progressed much in that time?
We’ve learned a lot over that time. We’ve taken operational learning forward, so we can get it right for the customer first time, which is what our customers want. We’ve been able to make improvements based on that right first-time philosophy with changes to our working practices.
As a framework, we have a set of five customer personas we have developed, which we use as a focal point for training staff across the business in how to interact with customers in different ways to achieve complete satisfaction. For example, some customers are most interested in being able to easily book an appointment online without having to speak to anyone; others are interested in having their car off the road for as little time as possible; and others are happiest when we assist them with each step of the booking and service process.
The other thing we’ve undertaken is to create a more cross-functional team working dynamic. Within the last couple of years, we now join departments up to work together towards a common purpose for our customers. This gives people consistency, with the same voice of the customer understanding.
In meetings I can be the conscious voice of the customer. We are all customer focused, but playing this role allows us to talk through a problem statement from the customer’s perspective. It helps create that healthy challenge, “Is this the best for our customers, and is it right for our people?”
We work collaboratively and encourage feedback to be able to make those improvements.
In terms of taking CX improvements forward, how does it work at Autoglass?
Well I’m the business lead for taking improvements forward across all our journeys. I report to the Customer & Digital Director, but I also attend the supply chain and operational monthly meeting so have a dotted line to the Supply Chain & Operations Director. I participate in all team meetings, which is great.
Although I have my own team, I’m very much a part of others’ teams too. Within my own areas of responsibility are the Head of Service Recovery and the Billings Validations Manager. The reason for these areas is that both those departments highlight where things haven’t gone right for the customers. Service recovery is where the complaints come in, so it keeps me really close to those areas. I can then see the insights and can sit with the team to make improvements.
Just recently I’ve attended the sales and marketing meeting, so we keep it really close in terms of the way we work on customer improvements.
Now you’ve seen this approach work first hand, is it an organisational structure you’d apply again?
Yes, because you get to hear about things first hand. I get to hear what’s not working quite well enough. It also keeps you grounded, because whilst it’s important to look forward, you need to know what’s going on with your customers now as well.
What about the little things, do they get attention in this structure?
Sometimes we will make an improvement which is great for our customers but was difficult for our people to deliver. So, we have a ‘Speak to Sarah framework,which provides employees the opportunity to send any frustrations to a central point if something didn’t go quite right, and provide new recommendations for further improvement. The Service Recovery team manage this feedback.
It complements our more structured Voice of The Customer set up with Effort and NPS measurements tracked. It allows us to capture more. I feel it’s a key point of customer experience to listen to your employees, and this achieves it.
What about client partners, does the experience vary for them?
We listen to the motorists, which creates an extra layer of insight which we can then feedback to our client partners. I attend our client partners sessions. We work together to review the various data insights we all have, to arrive at mutual improvement plans which benefit Autoglass, the motorists,and our client partners.
That’s where we look at insights through the customer personas we’ve created, which makes the insight more accessible. We have a fleet persona too. Our corporate clients love the fact that we are showing an understanding of their customer segments through our personas.
How would you describe the strategic role of Customer Experience at Autoglass?
For me, it’s is our number one priority. I’m constantly pushing others in the business to have the same purpose; to focus on caring about customers. I’m always asking ‘how are we making a difference?’ It’s a core part of everything we do, and I represent that through our cross-functional groups and senior management teams. But it’s more about making sure the customers voice is heard at every stage and everyone considers the customer in their role.
Our Customer Experience strategy is focused on ‘always delivering the easiest and best Customer Experience’. For me it’s about everybody else having that constant focus. It’s most important that everyone else feels the same.
You mentioned customer effort. What KPI’s are on your CX dashboard and how will you measure the success of the journey you are on?
Our NPS is 74, which we are very happy with. Our effort score is 94 percent as well, which is ‘customers are satisfied we’ve resolved their issue for them’. The effort score is applied across all channels.
We are looking to capture specific touchpoint feedback rather than relying on the verbatim. Our technicians are brilliant, so if you remember something it’s likely to be them. We want to start capturing feedback related to other touchpoints as well, so we can get that feedback across the entire journey.
I want to understand in more detail at each stage of the journey what we need to tweak to meet our personas expectation. Needing your windscreen repaired or replaced is usually a stressful situation. So we want people to feel, when they call us or go online, that we are solving their problems with real care. I want to listen in and recognise the personalisation and usefulness of our interactions at these less pronounced touch points.
Keeping momentum on CX is often a challenge. Some are finding the ROI a challenge to prove. You are keeping it alive and thriving, what would your advice be to keep CX a priority focus?
Everyone has a part to play. Continually motivating our customer facing colleagues by recognising when they deliver consistent as well as exceptional service is key. It’s something Autoglass do well – recognising consistent service. We have an internal recognition scheme where individuals can nominate each other forgoing beyond or doing their job well.
That gets shared on our internal bulletin, but where appropriate it gets shared on social media too. This is about making our people feel valued for the contribution they’ve given serving our customers.
We also have the Belron (parent company) Exceptional Customer Service Award across all group companies across all the countries, so there is a bigger recognition to aim for.
Recognising and rewarding your people helps keep Customer Experience on the agenda.
How does technology contribute to your overall customer experience?
Technology is key. We have a comprehensive technology development roadmap in place. We have an R&D function in Belron looking at the tools our technicians use as well. We have just introduced an improvement related to the calibration of advanced driver assistance systems (cameras and sensors for example, emergency braking). So, any repair on a windscreen means those cameras need to be calibrated as well.
But to take your car to one site for the windscreen and another for the cameras is a pain. What we’ve done is to work with our partners, so we can calibrate at the same time we fix the windscreen. I didn’t know I had these cameras, and some of our customers don’t know until the windscreen is damaged either. We are in a great situation where we can identify it at the initial call and can help manage this better for our customers.
We’ve even been looking at how you can use Alexa to book our vehicle repair. Some personas are happy to talk to a chat bot if it gets the answers they need.
We are also beginning to do a 360 video pre-and post-inspection of any work we’ve completed to give customers confidence in the quality of the work we’ve undertaken. This is where technology can really improve the experience the customer is having.
Is there a specific Employee Experience focus at Autoglass or is it part of the culture?
It’s a bit of both to be honest. We want it to be part of our culture, but we do have a deliberate strategy to drive it forward as well. In the same way as I’m Head of Customer Experience, we have a Head of People Engagement too – Rachel Gedge. Her focus in that role is making Autoglass the best place our people have ever worked. She will challenge the leadership to ensure we are working towards that ambition and that our people are focussed on it.
As well as our customers, our people are very important to us. For instance, we are going through a transformation in our Customer Experience Centre and that’s about making it the best place our people have ever worked. At the forefront of our mind we are always asking ‘is it the best place our people have ever worked?’ and ‘will that deliver the easiest and best experiences for our customers?’ We love the culture here and our people and our customers are important to us.
From your own personal experience, which brands have inspired you?
I’m very hard to please as a Head of Customer Experience, But I do have a favourite – Fitbit. I spend all day talking to people so when I go home I want to deal with companies digitally and not have to talk to them. I had a problem with my Fitbit so contacted them on chat. It might even have been a chat bot but I didn’t mind because it felt personal. I had expected it to be a problem, especially because it was a gift and I had no receipt, but they were brilliant. It was so easy; they didn’t question what had gone wrong. They sent me a new one, and told me to dispose of the old one. I expected it to be a hassle because it was a present, but the service was brilliant.
If any readers are looking to embark on a Customer Experience strategy, what advice and wisdom would you impart to increase their chances of success?
Firstly, I would say listen. Listen to your customers and listen to your people. Our people have most of the answers in terms of knowing what needs to be resolved and our customers add the context. Also, make sure your vision is clear and keep it simple. That way you will ensure everyone is aligned.
With Customer Experience it’s a continuum. It’s neverending. So, its important to continue to keep on listening otherwise you will miss out on what now matters.