CXM had the opportunity to talk with Eliot Heilpern, Director and Co-founder of The Payments Business, a member driven forum with the purpose of sharing the latest information about regulatory changes and innovations in the UK payments business. Eliot is also a Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Parthenon Communications, a banking-oriented consultancy. Possessing extensive experience and knowledge of the finance, commercial and banking sector, Eliot Heilpern was invited to be a Judge at the UK Business Awards 2019 and a Chair Judge at the UK Business Awards 2020.
Read below about Eliot’s background, his experience at the Awards and the pros and cons and future of the ever-prevalent technology in our everyday lives…
Hello Eliot! Tell us about your professional background, and how you came into the position you are at now.
My background is from the finance role, I spent 38 years in international banking. I worked for four major global international institutions, here in London, in Wall Street, California, Boston, the Far East and the Nordics. My area of work is very much client-relationship management, so Customer Experience was and certainly continues to be very important.
This further included liquidity, international payments, trade, lending, and all aspects of corporate banking. In my last institution, Bank New York Mellon, they are very big in US Dollar Clearing, so we were competing with JP Morgan-Chase, Bank of America, and Citi. It was very exciting, very collegiate, with great people. I come from a very client-focused area, and where generating revenue through client relationships, you need to put in long hours; and if you perform it is very satisfying. I’ve enjoyed it, it’s been a tremendous opportunity, lots of travelling, and I met lots of interesting people.
What attracted to you Judge at the UK Business Awards? How would you describe your experience?
It’s actually an interesting story. I was going to a presentation in London, and as I got in the lift, I met Don Hales, the founder of UK Business Awards. He’s a real gentleman and as he was going to the same place as myself, we started chatting. He actually introduced me to the whole concept of Awards International. We met again at the UK Professional Speakers Association. It was last year when he introduced me to the Awards team in the UK, and from there I signed up and got all the relevant requirements, and I was asked to be a judge. It was fantastic last year, when the awards took place in a hotel in Central London. In fact, it was one of the most exciting days I have ever had. The people I was judging with were great, and I kept in touch with a few of them. The presentations were very good. I have to say this year they were even better! That was a high bar to get over.
The whole day was fantastic. Big thank you to Don and all the people from Awards International.
How would you compare the Live Online Awards to the previous face-to-face format? Did you find it more convenient?
First of all, I have to say, I was quite honoured to be asked to be Head of the Judges Panel at this year’s Awards in my category of “Financial Services”.
The technology coordination was amazing, seamless, going from one session to another was brilliantly done, with break-out sessions. I had no idea how it would work in the virtual environment.
Obviously, when you are physically there at the Awards ceremony it’s much more exciting, but this was tremendous too. Awards International and their IT team should come over here and start working on my personal PC system!
To me, and it applies to anything, when you cannot actually speak to someone, and rely on a virtual environment, it does not feel the same as if you were physically there, with the person. Human characteristics are all about speaking and communicating. Social media tools such as Zoom and Skype are good intermediaries, and I understand this; but we need to interact with people in a physical way and within a physical environment; speaking, interacting where we see people’s reaction and their behaviour. However, given that we have to work in this more challenging environment, the Awards virtual event was excellently done, probably one of the best virtual environments I’ve been in in the last three to four months.
However, I cannot get away from the fact that when you are with the people, physically, seeing their reaction, circulating in a hall, having coffee with all these people from different areas, it’s a fantastic feeling. Sadly, you can’t do that in virtual environment, but you have to make do with what you can.
This year we saw a massive transition to digital in all aspects of life. What are your thoughts on businesses rapidly re-modelling their plans to meet the standards of the ‘new normal’?
I have lots to say on this, and I am slightly conflicted and in two minds. On the positive side, technology during my professional life has improved immensely. When I was growing up in the 60’s it wasn’t around. Technology has over the years ensconced itself within various industries, particularly in my industry, international banking and payments, in the retail environment also, and it affects all of us. As technology becomes more sophisticated there will be a raft of new facilities coming out, new ways of working, new “authentication” methods, which will involve biometrics like voice and face recognition, instead of simply typing in a number, or one’s chosen password.
This is all good, and I think the new digital environment together with how we are going to adapt to the “new” normal after COVID will involve biometrics and digital.
But there’s a caveat. Technology is great and it’s like with everything in life – it’s great when it works, but when it doesn’t, you have an issue. There are some “unintended consequences” of technology and one of the things I have noticed both in my personal and professional life is that people have lost the ability to communicate, to explain, and espouse, and interact with one another. Everything now is very quick, and hedonistic. It’s all short-term pleasure, with short-term gains. The ability to debate in a civilized forum and in a civilized manner, I fear, is in the process of being lost, due to our huge reliance on technology.
It hasn’t been lost totally lost – I am pleased to say – and I hope that when we are back in the “new” normal, people will say: “I’ve had enough of Zoom! I want to go out and meet people and physically communicate with them”. I think there will be an adverse reaction where people will want to go out and physically speak to their work colleagues and clients.
The bottom line is, there’s got to be a balance but I believe currently there is no acceptable balance in society when it comes to technology and communicating with one another. Sometimes it seems like social media has completely taken over.
Given that the entire world has been shaken by the crisis, plenty of people and even entire countries have found themselves getting into debt, trying to make ends meet. What are your predictions for the future of the financial sector and finally, the state of the economy in general?
How long is a piece of string? I have started a UK Payments Industry initiative entitled The Payments Business with three senior colleagues from the City of London, and the reason we started this business is because the industry has become so very fragmented. New players have come into the market, bigger players. The banks have not kept up with technology. Many new fintech organisations have emerged recently, with new applications and technology; all offering much quicker and more convenient front-end services, which have been priced competitively.
As new technology comes into the industry, the regulator has to try and keep abreast of developments, and that’s very difficult. And there are times that the regulator himself is a little short of answers. For example; the regulator might say with regards to a new industry requirement: “This needs to be in place by March 2021, and all must be completed from a due diligence perspective by this date.” The participants in the industry, big, small, fintechs, the challenger banks, and some of the big corporations often say: “That’s great; but what are we actually meant to do? We know we have to do this, but how do we do it?”
The Payments Business has tapped into this much needed area because the industry is so fragmented, and as a result, we provide the required information to fill the gaps where industry participants have difficulty. That’s what is going to happen even more as the industry grows, as payments technology grows. The industry will become more fractured, more fragmented. People and organisations will adopt their own methods, and of course, they will want to comply with the regulator. But they will be doing it at different speeds, causing further industry fragmentation. The Payments Business’s aim is to try to bridge that fragmentation.
One of the key elements of continuing concern is the aspect of security. As we move to a more digital age in the financial and payments arena, and this can apply to other industries such as the pharmaceutical industry and insurance industry as well – although this consumer concern appears to greater in the payments industry – is that people will become even more concerned about their data. GDPR (Global Data Protection Regulation) as we have this in the UK will continue to intensify and become more ensconced within the regulatory environment. People want to be sure that their personal information is safe and secure.
Security here means “a sense of real confidence” for you and I, the users. This is going to become a greater issue when a service provider holds customers’ data, but once the service provider holds this data and consequently controls it – they have everything!
Secondly, I think the financial sector’s future revolves around the more sophisticated “real-time” technology, and as mentioned earlier, the implementation of biometrics, voice recognition, face recognition, fingerprint recognition. There are also all going to grow rapidly. For instance; now supermarkets offer the option to pay bills, withdraw money from local accounts held with them, in addition to their core offering of supplying groceries; and this can all be undertaken in one location and/or on-line using the supermarket’s one “app” place. “Smart Cities” will also become a thing of the present, where all the merchants in the high street are connected to one another through one application; and customers can purchase and pay on-line for different products and services using just the one application, which connects all these merchants. Hence more choice for the consumer, more convenience, all actioned in one location on-line with one app, and involving heightened biometric security arrangements. A “cross-fertilisation” of products and services, which are all purchased and paid for in a virtual environment. No need to leave the house to shop anymore! Here whether one likes it or not, is the future of the financial and payments sector.
Meaning is what a brand signifies or implies to the consumer. It is central to brand promise, and it contributes to expectations against which customer experience is measured.
Dr. Martina Olbertova puts it succinctly: “Meaning bridges the gap between brands and people.”
Martina is an expert on meaning and cultural relevance in business, the founder of UK/European consultancy Meaning.Global. She phrases the business goal as “to help brands and businesses stay relevant, meaningful, and profitable amidst global culture change.” Her work explores the changing nature of “concepts such as well-being, purpose, spirituality, diversity, gender, identity, trust, loyalty, luxury, consumption or post-truth, to understand how today’s global cultural context reshapes the meaning of brands.”
While these concepts are readily understood and their importance is obvious, it takes a combination of art and science to systematically address them in practice. Emotion comes into play. According to Martina, “emotion is an absolutely crucial part because if the meaning a brand creates doesn’t resonate with you on some visceral level and doesn’t elicit the right emotion – linked to your beliefs, dreams, ideas, wishes, fears or things you love and identify with – it cannot be successful.”
That last quotation is a small bit of an interview I conducted with Martina, as we approach the July 22 online CX Emotion conference. Martina will present the closing keynote, Lead with Meaning, a perfect fit given the event’s focus on customer, digital, and user experience strategy and enabling technologies. In the following interview, Martina responds to questions about meaning, culture, and business impact and the role emotion plays, questions that explore…
Meaning, Relevance, and the Consumer-Brand Connection
Seth Grimes: Martina, you’re an expert on brand meaning and cultural relevance. Why are brand meaning and cultural relevance important, and for whom?
Martina Olbertova: Meaning is the core of value exchange, so it’s the core value for businesses and brands to create. Meaning is how we relate to value – through what things we interact with mean to us and whether or not we can identify with them on a personal, emotional and cultural level, based on our shared values, beliefs and ideas of who we are, our sense of self.
Brands are in the business of meaning exchange. When meaning isn’t present, you can immediately sense it – the brand doesn’t resonate with people, it cannot deliver on its promise, fails to generate real value for the customers, its sense of brand value implodes and the market sales tank.
Meaning is what people value – be it in brands, products, experiences or in human relationships. That’s how we relate to one another. If you don’t create meaning – the inner symbolic value of a brand or a product – that your customer can identify with and that in some sense enhances and elevates their feeling of self, their own identity, you have failed your job as a marketer.
Marketers are commercial meaning makers. Their jobs aren’t about counting, their jobs are about managing meaning and understanding the role of emotions and human psychology in value creation and value consumption. Brand management is meaning management.
That’s why I have identified these gaps in meaning to help brands and organisations navigate the maze of symbols in our culture and in the marketplace and help them see beyond the constraints of their everyday work done mostly in excel spreadsheets.
We have all the data we could possibly want or need right now, but we lack sense. We lack the broader cultural and social interpretations of the value that brands and businesses provide to people to understand what things mean in their real-life context. If we don’t know what we’re counting or if we fail to create value, the data doesn’t mean anything.
My job is to help brand and business leaders understand this symbolic nature of their work and the business that they’re in to restore this lost or forgotten meaning and create new value so that the brands and business they manage can resonate with people on a more profound level, and thus maximize their market share and market value.
And for whom is meaning important? For everybody, albeit for different reasons:
1. For the brands to capture and retain their core essence in the market and a core strategic vehicle how they create value in the market and in the minds of their customers.
2. For the businesses and organisations to have healthy, emotionally and symbolically rich and well-performing brands that can deliver on their promise in real life and create meaningful value in people’s lives to have a positive impact on individuals and society.
3. For the stakeholders to have a sustainable, steadily and meaningfully growing portfolio with predictable future returns on investment. As they say, there is no better way to make short-term profits than by creating a long-term value.
4. For the customers to have brands that make sense to them, value what they value, brands they can identify with on a personal level, brands that reflect who they are and allow them to communicate their stance in their communities and society at large in relation to other people and to their cultural differences.
5. And lastly, for the culture and society – so that we are not buried in meaninglessness and noise, and instead can create a more meaningful environment overall where we only create the things that we want to consume because the ubiquitous noise and nonsense negatively impact our mental health and well-being. The quality of messages we send out into the world positively or negatively impacts the environment we live in. That is truly our “meaning footprint”. We care about the carbon footprint, we should care about the messaging trail we leave behind as well. It is a basic corporate responsibility – to say what I can deliver and not promise things that are not in my place to promise or that I don’t fully stand for as a company.
Cultural irrelevance and value fragmentation are the biggest reasons why brands struggle to grow and retain value today. With meaning and cultural relevance at the core, brands can become meaningful to people, resonant in culture and profitable in business again.
Seth: Your talk at CX Emotion is Lead With Meaning, identifying 4 gaps of meaning. What’s behind the meaning concept?
Martina: This concept is a direct response to the lack of meaning in the industry, the point that I touched upon above. When brands don’t walk their talk, they get into trouble. They lose their integrity, their values weaken, their sense of trust goes bust. Such brands have a hard time making rapport with their customers because they are not to be trusted.
‘Lead With Meaning’ is an overall philosophy of my approach to brand management at Meaning.Global, which is a strategic intelligence consultancy I founded back in 2017 to help offset the meaning crisis in the industry, largely caused by the unprecedented level of change, global cultural complexity, value fragmentation and technological disruption over the last decade. We need to come back to essence – to the core value that brands are supposed to create to be of value to people. You cannot have a valuable brand if you fail to create value for people to consume and to identify with. And that core value happens to be meaning.
We are buried in meaninglessness in the marketing and advertising world precisely because we don’t properly understand the consequences of our actions as an industry. What you say comes back. There is nothing like “just saying something” if you are a brand – everything creates meaning. So, you need to be extra careful about whether your messaging and campaigns align with the values you stand for and want to portray as a brand and a company, and if you’re not actually doing it in a way that might potentially alienate your core audience and target market. Which is what P&G did last year with the seemingly progressive masculinity portrayed in their Gillette ad. I’ll get to explain why it was so unfortunate from the meaning standpoint in my presentation.
What’s behind this initiative is my sincere attempt to strengthen the industry and streamline meaning in brand management to help brand leaders manage brands with sense and not against it. There are four core meaning gaps I was able to identify in my work pertaining to four different areas of brand value: The Culture Gap, The Context Gap, The Trust Gap and The Social Impact Gap. If you want to learn more about these and how they impact brand management and value creation, you are welcome to watch my talk on Wednesday.
Seth: How does emotion come into play?
Martina: Oh, emotion is an absolutely crucial part when it comes to meaning-making because if the meaning a brand creates doesn’t resonate with you on some visceral level and doesn’t elicit the right emotion – linked to your beliefs, dreams, ideas, wishes, fears or things you love and identify with – it cannot be successful.
There is no successful brand management without creating a powerful emotional bond with people. And that emotion is elicited precisely based on what people deem meaningful to them, what holds personal relevance to their own identity and in their lives, what they identify with and how they see themselves. It’s about them, not you – as a brand. It’s all about emotions.
Seth: What technologies do you use in your work?
Martina: I use a lot of quite different tools in my work as it is equally about the creation of new things and ideas and a constant market and cultural analysis. For analytics, I use sentiment and emotion analytics tools, I also use Google Trends and N-grams. From the perspective of my own brand management as an entrepreneur and a creator, my whole life is on social media – I use it for sharing ideas, thoughts and insights, for having interesting discussions with people and creating global networks to cultivate new business opportunities. I use social media analytics. I also publish a lot on various different platforms. I create all my graphic materials and websites for an online presence of my businesses. And recently, I created and started hosting my own online show using Zoom.
Seth: You’ve just recently started a new online show. What does it cover?
Martina: Yes, that’s true. This new show is the continuation of my journey towards educating the industry on the importance of creating real value and essence for their brands and businesses. And where else is this dominance of the symbolic value of a brand (meaning, emotion and aesthetics) over the functional value of its products (convenience, utility) more visible than in Luxury! I already did something on Luxury last year when I published The Luxury Report on Redefining the future meaning of luxury, but I wanted to take it an extra mile this year and the show seemed like a very fitting format. It is the right time to explore these ideas more in-depth and having a show gives us the opportunity to have a voice, gather new insights and spread the message around the world in a more personal way.
Angela Tunner, who is my friend and a publisher of the international luxury lifestyle magazine EAT LOVE SAVOR, and I decided to create a new monthly online show together on the true meaning of luxury. We call it The Luxury Renaissance Show. It is about the Rebirth of Luxury For a New World in the Post-COVID Times as we are not going back to the way that things were. Instead, we need to fully embrace these strange times as a new beginning of a new world and define what that new normal should look like to generate more value for people.
I spoke to Forbes back in March when COVID hit in the US and what I said was that this might very well be a blessing in disguise for luxury as it forces the luxury industry to transition more rapidly and fully into the space it was already venturing into, which is all about wellness, well-being, healing and essence providing real value to people that is more experiential, transcendental and connected to what truly matters and what they deem meaningful in life – our long-term values, connection to ourselves, our inner essence and to other people.
We have big hopes for this show! Our goal is to elevate the industry conversation on the future of luxury and bring the missing piece of the puzzle – the knowledge and insight from the fringes back to the epicentre of the debate – to stimulate new ideas and new business opportunities. We want to use this show as a unique platform to create a global community and create a new context for understanding the meaning of luxury for a new world.
We are currently working on the first video – our first-ever episode only aired last week. We are aiming to cover a great variety of subjects that will be important not just for the Luxury industry moving forward but to all brands, as they are deeply connected to humanity and the changes happening in global culture when it pertains to creation and consumption of value. Some of the topics we are looking to cover are the evolution of human values, wellness and well-being, spirituality, reconnecting with our human essence and soul, elevating human life through the power of beauty and aesthetics, the art of home, the social, anthropological and historical ramifications of luxury, philosophy of luxury and many others…
And all of that, to create a rich context and help brands create new meaning. Certainly applicable not just to the luxury brands, but across the whole market spectrum, so stay tuned!
Seth: Thanks Martina. I’m looking forward to your CX Emotion keynote and your new show.
Renata Liuzzi is a Customer Experience strategist with over 15 years of experience in the field and has worked in major UAE companies as Director of CX. She has also judged a number of times at the various Awards hosted by Awards International, where she assessed the best regional and international CX initiatives.
Renata, who is Managing Director at Axis Partners, spoke with Customer Experience Magazine to discuss her philosophy behind CX, her experience with judging at the Awards and how consumer behaviour has changed in UAE due to COVID19…
Hi Renata, tell us about your professional background and how you became involved in Customer Experience.
I am a Mechanical Engineer by degree with Masters in Motorsports. I also have an MBA from IE Business School. I have 15 years Experience in Customer Experience, Strategy and Customer Service mainly and have mainly worked with Consulting companies EY and Accenture, where I worked on major transformation projects for fortune 500 companies. I have worked in 4 countries and done business with more than 15 countries. Regionally, I have held positions with Emaar Group as CX Director and with Meraas as CX Group Director. 1 year ago, I founded Axis Partners, a science-based Management Consulting Company – we are currently engaged with Mubadala in CX and strategic matters. I am also certified from MIT Certified in Design Thinking and Columbia University in Strategy innovation. I am Green Belt Six Sigma certified by Accenture Academy.
I started in the world of Customer Experience 15 years overseeing the global transformation of the Customer Service department of Airbus Military. That project set my career towards creating customer-centric strategies and driving the rest of the organisation using the customer. Through real practice, I learned that the customer has to be at the centre– otherwise you won’t make money.
The more I learn about CX, strategy innovation and design thinking, the more I discover how related that is to my Motorsports specialisation. We used to first analyse human behaviour to be able to design the vehicle behaviour. We used design thinking methodologies to come up with creative solutions that would reduce cost and increase vehicle performance. Every race was measured and every KPI was leading us to continuous improvement.
I have discovered that doing this is not only my passion, but it has been ingrained in my DNA and in my way of thinking and approach business challenges.
What is your philosophy when it comes to CX?
CX is not only about the present, it is very much about the future. It’s a very strategic practice. It is also a mindset, to the point that it becomes part of the business DNA. In successful companies, the CX departments are becoming the strategy department as part of the evolution towards customer-centricity.
Focus on your customer and not on your competitor as Jeff Bezos says. I would like to quote him on this: “Let’s say you’re the leader in a particular area, if you’re competitor-focused and you’re already the leader, then where does your energy come from? Whereas, if you’re customer-focused, and you’re already the leader, customers are never satisfied. If you’re customer-focused, you’re always waking up wondering, how can we make that customer say, “Wow”? We want to impress our customers — we want them to say, “Wow!”. That kind of divine discontent comes from observing customers and noticing that things can always be better.”
What’s more, customer experience is about continuous improvement – since your customer is never satisfied, there’s always room for improvement. Since customer needs evolve, there’s always new products and services to launch and space to grow in your organisation. I have launched an Axis Partners methodology that enables this continuous improvement cycle – it has elements of Lean Six Sigma and Voice of the Customer to support this cycle in a consistent and achievable manner.
CX is about evolution, strategy and growth, CX is about innovation and creation and complex transformations, this is why I am so passionate about CX.
If you want to know more, follow my company page, where I’m posting my viewpoints – happy to get discussions started! You can also connect with me here.
You were a Director of CX in huge companies in Dubai, Emaar and Meraas to be precise. What does it take to be in charge of CX at such big enterprises of the real estate industry?
Resilience and focus. The role was covering Hospitality, Malls, F&B and Real Estate. In these organisations, CX plays an important role in the strategy of the company and in the next steps. It requires a rounded strategic, operational, analytical and service background to drive this type of department.
In addition to that, you must be willing to consistently advise the C-Level on what to consider to improve in the current business and to strategically advise of the long term CX objective, including where to focus the innovation and the future growth effort.
You have also judged a few times at the Awards hosted by Awards International. What would you say are the benefits of judging at these types of awards?
The ability to see how fast companies evolve in the CX agenda. It is fascinating to see how within 2 years that CX was a weird or new topic of discussion, nowadays you can see very senior members of renowned companies taking pride in how they have transformed their companies based on customer needs.
One of my personal “drivers” I would say is to add value to society and businesses. By being a judge you are able to add value to many companies in a very short period of time. It requires a lot of effort, but it’s worth it! It’s rewarding and it also helps your personal growth.
Last but not least, I have met fantastic professionals as co-judges and also from the finalists. It’s an enjoyable environment.
What is the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in UAE consumer behaviours?
Axis Partners, together with Awards International and CX Dubai group launched a research campaign focused on COVID-19 impact in consumers behaviours. As part of the findings of this report, we have some interesting statistics, such as:
88 percent of respondents indicated that COVID-19 is a concern in their household.
The main element of concern (which is holding people back from visiting malls, hotels, restaurants, cafés, shops, …) is the risk of contracting the virus. The economic impact, however, is the second element of concern. But the interesting thing here is that one opposes the other, if people don’t leave their homes and spend money, the economy will collapse – as we are starting to see happening now.
73 percent of the respondents ensured that their hygiene standards have dramatically increased and will remain higher than before post-pandemic. Hygiene measures provided by public places is a key element to feel safe. I believe all business areas that require physical interaction will have to step-up their game in this aspect.
67 percent of respondents will be more careful with the interactions they have with other people – avoiding physical contact is a priority. They consider “Social distancing as the new normal”. Contactless experiences are now a need, not a nice to have.
Social nature will never go away. 60 percent of respondents reported friends/family and social interactions as an important element to re-activate post-pandemic.
The #1 ranked element that will make people come back to physical shopping is the experience, the services provided in the mall as well as F&B options, as malls are now a place to re-encounter will friends/family we haven’t seen in a long time.
43 percent of the respondents said they will continue to visit restaurants. We explored if offers would be the element to make them come back, but it’s not the main driver for visitation, it’s hygiene.
We have tons of interesting insights beautifully presented and here is the link to download the summary.
If you would like to have a discussion, contact me and we can arrange a video conference: email@example.com.
Given the shift in consumer behaviour, what does the future hold for CX?
In my opinion, companies should fundamentally review how they engage with their customers as the landscape changes daily. If we look at historical patterns, new industries and even companies have been born as a result of the crisis. Right back to the great depression to modern day, there are many examples of customer needs changing and industry changing to meet those needs. For example, Groupon was born in 2008 as a result of the Financial crisis, to provide people with access to lower cost deals with less disposable income.
Moreover, there are behavioural changes that will permanently remain. A change in habits takes 3 months and we are already 4 to 6 months in (depending on the country), and unless a vaccine is found, we will live this reality for at least 18 more months.
The pandemic is a CRISIS. Crisis means CHANGE. Adapting to change requires INNOVATION. True innovation starts by understanding your CUSTOMER. But your customer has changed.
That’s why it’s time to learn about the “NEW CUSTOMER”.
The pandemic has made companies nimble and faster when it comes to implementing disruptive solutions for a disrupted market. CX plays an important role to drive effective and sustainable innovation and change. CX is now more important than ever before, because in times of change, your best worth is your customer. We are changing during this crisis faster than we have ever seen or potentially will ever see again.
Another interesting point I believe, is that people have become aware that there are no borders when it comes to a pandemic – this indirectly has made people environmentally aware as we have realised that we all share the same world, no matter if the names of the countries are different. 51 percent of the respondents surveyed indicated that they have realised that the environment impacts survival at the same level that this pandemic does.
This pandemic has made consumers go to digital channels, we have a more critical and savvy customer that is nervous, shifty and very focused on the dollar. The future is to focus on innovation that solves problems of customers, that targets the big worries that are chasing everyone every day since this pandemic started.
The future of CX is people solutions for people. Really caring for what matters for people and putting the limited resources available to resolve it – that’s the way to survive in these times, especially when we have all realised how human we are, and how much we need to help each other. That’s our nature and that’s how business should be done.
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.