Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 18, 2018
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5min159

The world’s foremost organisation dedicated to advancing Customer Experience skills and knowledge, the CXPA, is joining forces with the annual Customer Experience Awards events in the UK and the United Arab Emirates.

The new partnership will see the Customer Experience Professionals Association work alongside Awards International UK and UAE in hosting their flagship awards events, as well as an upcoming London conference focussing on the exciting future of the CX industry.

Future awards events, including the Digital Experience and Employee Experience Awards in both regions will also benefit from the involvement of the CXPA.

The UK Customer Experience Awards is now in its ninth year, while the Gulf Customer Experience Awards is enjoying four years of success, and the CXPA is helping to take both events to the next level of significance as the importance of Customer Experience is cemented globally.

Of course, the awards have already benefited greatly over the years from the involvement of the CXPA’s Certified Customer Experience Professionals (CCXP) as judges, including celebrated CX consultant and author Ian Golding.

The new partnership also includes involvement in the Future is CX conference, taking place on October 3 and featuring speakers from some of Britain’s most successful customer-centric businesses.

CXPA members can now avail of a special 10 percent discount for entry to the awards events, and a reduced price for tickets to the Future is CX.

Welcoming the new relationship, CXPA CEO Diane Magers said: “The Customer Experience Professionals Association is excited to announce the collaboration with Awards International for the upcoming Gulf CX Awards, The Future is CX Conference, and UK Customer Experience Awards events.

“The CXPA is looking forward to working with and supporting Awards International as they help to inspire and create a better understanding as well as demonstrating the importance of the Customer Experience profession worldwide.”

Awards International CEO Neil Skehel added: “We have been working with the CXPA for a considerable time, as promoters of their certified CCXP scheme. I have been a supporter of CXPA for a considerable time through my website, Customer Experience Magazine.

“I am delighted we have signed a partnership with CXPA to promote the Awards International customer experience events: the Customer Experience, Employee Experience and Digital Experience Awards and the related conferences.

“We are offering benefits to CXPA members in many countries around the world now, including the UK, Netherlands, the GCC and the Levant. Together we can spread the word about CX further and further around the world.”


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 4, 2018
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4min582

Virgin Trains has partnered with Vodafone and OpenMarket to become the first company in the world to roll out the latest RCS-based ‘Chat’ service as a customer communications channel on a commercial basis.

Hailed as ‘Text Messaging 2.0’, ‘Chat’ transforms the way in which companies communicate with customers. RCS-based Chat messages carry much more information than an SMS message, enabling Virgin Trains to send photos, videos, audio, and messages containing easy-to-select buttons to customers.

Initially the technology will be used to provide onward journey information to its London Euston-bound passengers. Chat messages are sent to customers’ smartphones around 10 minutes before they arrive into the station and provide the latest updates for London Underground services.

Customers can simply tap a button within the message to find out more detailed information from Transport for London (TfL) – providing simple information to help with their onward journey.

John Sullivan, Chief Information Officer at Virgin Trains, said:

We’re proud to be the very first company in the world to use RCS-based Chat actively with our customers to enrich their communications experience with Virgin Trains. We always strive to lead the way and with a proud record of digital innovation, we’re very excited to be investing in new technology that will transform the way we communicate with our customer. It has been great working with Vodafone and OpenMarket to introduce this new type of messaging, which is incredibly user-friendly.

Chat messaging provides lots of opportunities. This is just the start and we look forward to developing our Chat service to further enhance the overall journey experience for customers.”

Jonathan Morgan, CEO at OpenMarket, added:

Text Messaging 2.0 has finally arrived. Chat is text messaging for the smartphone age, and it gives customers a richer, smarter, more app-like experience – all from their SMS inbox. There are three specific reasons why consumers will find the Chat service a significant improvement on regular text messages.

First, it makes completing even complex tasks such as providing feedback as easy as tapping a button. Second, there is no need for third party apps as Chat adds functionality in the native messaging inbox that consumers already use frequently. Third, message branding and verified sender information provide consumers with increased peace of mind when they receive Chat messages.”

The introduction of Chat messages is the latest digital initiative to be rolled out by Virgin Trains, who earlier this year became the first transport company in the world to sell tickets through Amazon Alexa. Other innovations that set Virgin Trains out as industry leaders for technology include the launch of BEAM (on-board entertainment portal), m-Tickets across all routes as well as Automatic Delay Repay.

Currently, these Chat messages can be received by any Virgin Trains customer using a device on the Vodafone network that is RCS-compatible; other customers will receive an SMS text message that contains a link to the TfL website.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 24, 2018
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2min710

A “calculated risk” paid off for an award-winning design and marketing firm that has helped change how customers choose hair and beauty salons.

StrategiQ Marketing won Silver in the Customer Feedback and Review category at the recent 2018 UK Digital Experience Awards, which were held recently in London, after judges listened intently to the firms’ presentation on their partnership with salonspy, an interactive review platform for customers of salons and spas throughout the UK.

The goal of the project was to help salonspy bring in more positive reviews that assist its salon customers in building their reputation, and its execution convinced awards judges to names them as Silver winners.

James Bavington, Director of StrategiQ, said:

I’m delighted that the strategy, creativity, expertise and calculated risks that we worked together on for re-launching salonspy not only worked for their business but have been recognised by the judges at the UK Digital Experience Awards.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 18, 2018
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2min793

Football might not have come home after all, but the World Cup added a kick to recent online retail sales, according to a new report.

The latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index reveals a 16.9 percent year-on-year (YoY) growth of retail sales in June. Both multichannel and online only retailers performed well (+14.8 percent and +18.7 percent respectively), and the report’s compilers believe both the World Cup and the recent heatwave played a part.

Unsurprisingly, the largest sector increase was seen in Garden, with a +49.9 percent YoY growth as the nation prepared for World Cup barbecues and basked in the hot weather. This was followed by Clothing, with the sunny weather inspiring a YoY growth of +19.3 percent, including a +23.9 percent growth for accessories and +22.7 percent growth for footwear.

Health & Beauty and Gifts sales were slightly more subdued, with +9.9 percent and +10.5 percent YoY growth respectively.

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement, Capgemini, said:

June has seen continued buoyant sales online, strongly influenced by fashion and seasonal items. This has boosted non-essential spend while customers make the most of the buzz created by the good weather and the World Cup. We might question what the longer term effect is as Barclaycard report that one-in-three Brits have spent more than normal so far this summer.

This could result in a slowdown as customers align the potential overspend so far this summer in the later months of the year, supported by four-in-ten saying they will hold off purchasing big ticket items. Electrical and Home sectors have the lowest June YoY growth in the last 5 years, a reminder of caution during political uncertainty and upcoming interest rate increases”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 13, 2018
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4min539

The winners of the 2018 UK Digital Experience Awards have been revealed at a glittering Finals event in London.

Virgin Trains were named Overall Winners at the ceremony, which was held by the banks of the Thames in the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel

Hundreds gathered for the event, which saw finalists present details of their Digital Experience initiatives to judging panels consisting of the UK’s foremost DX specialists, before the winners were named at a gala luncheon.

The Overall Winner success of Virgin Trains followed the firm’s Gold Award win in the Digital Team – Digital marketing category.

Other significant winners included EE, which took Gold in the Personal Entertainment and Telecoms category; Octopus Energy, which topped Best Mobile Strategy; and Sky UK, which won Gold in the Data Analytics and Insight category.

Certain categories at the event, which is hosted annually by Awards International and partnered by children’s charity Barnardo’s, featured Silver and Bronze winners that were agreed by judges using scoring criteria approved by Cranfield School of Management.

Other partners which helped make the awards the huge success were Malcolm McDonald Consulting and Usability 24/7.

Following the event, Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said:

This was the fourth year of the UK Digital Experience Awards, and has been the most significant to date. We are in the middle of an era of significant developments with digital technology, and it is inspiring to see how organisations such as the finalists here today are using these advances to improve services to customers.

These DX pioneers are more than deserving of the credit they have received, and on behalf of Awards International I would like to offer a wholehearted congratulations to all finalists and winners, who have proved themselves true digital leaders.”

For a full list of winners click here.

Meanwhile, the countdown is now on for the 2018 UK Customer Experience Awards in London on October 11. Click here for table booking details.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 9, 2018
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4min685

New research from UK Customer Experience and Digital Experience Award winners Capgemini shows that artificial intelligence is no longer alien to customers, who desire AI to become more ‘human-like’.

Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute have released a report showing that close to three-quarters (73 percent) of surveyed customers interacted via AI, with 69 percent of those being satisfied with those interactions.

The report, The Secret to Winning Customers’ Hearts  with Artificial Intelligence: Add Human Intelligence reveals that 55 percent of consumers prefer interactions enabled by a mix of AI and humans, and 64 percent want AI to be more human-like.

These human-like qualities can generate significant goodwill and drive a greater propensity to spend for nearly half (48 percent) of consumers. However, many organisations are failing to take consumer pain points and preferences into account when applying AI technology to their Customer Experience, focusing more on traditional metrics such as the cost of implementation and expected return on investment.

The report, which surveyed 10,000 consumers and over 500 companies across 10 countries, found that 63 percent of AI-aware consumers like AI because of its 24/7 availability and how it provides greater control over their interactions. Consumers are also opening up to the possibility of digital alter egos – 48 percent say the opportunity to be able to delegate tasks to an electronic personal assistant is exciting, with another 46 percent believing it will enhance their quality of life.

Consumers want human-like, not human-looking AI

Consumers’ growing comfort in using AI is also increasing their reassurance in AI having human-like attributes. More than three-in-five consumers are comfortable with human-like intellect. Forty-nine percent say they would have a higher affiliation to a company if their interactions enabled by AI were more human-like. Surprisingly, this preference transcends the generations – across all age groups between 18 and 55-plus years, consumers prefer interactions to be enabled by a mixture of human and AI.

However, customers want their AI to be heard, and experienced, but not seen. While they are keen for AI to have a human-like voice (62 percent) and the ability to understand human emotions (57 percent), physical features are deemed ‘creepy’. Over half (52 percent) of customers are not comfortable when AI is set up to look like a person.

The report also finds that two-thirds of consumers (66 percent) would like to be made aware when companies are enabling interactions via AI.

Mark Taylor, Chief Experience Officer, Digital Customer Experience Practice, at Capgemini said:

It is somewhat ironic that natural language processing and machine learning provides organisations with the opportunity to build deeper, more human relationships with their customers. By focusing their AI implementations to reimagine, streamline and simplify customer interactions, organisations can boost customer spend and loyalty. To see the biggest bottom-line boost, firms need to make both artificial intelligence and customer experience a strategic priority.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 27, 2018
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8min1157

The recurring question of whether the high street is dying and clicks have indeed replaced bricks is back in the news with House of Fraser and New Look’s high profile problems – but the largest ever fashion retail survey amongst digital-savvy millennials reveals they still prefer the human touch.

Real world experience and support preferred

One-in-two (49 percent) 18-34 year-olds say they prefer to shop for clothes in store, compared to 11 percent via apps and 39 percent through websites, according to the first Fashion Retail Barometer from the CX Millennial Index compiled by emotion analytics firm Adoreboard in partnership with survey platform OnePulse.

Adoreboard’s Queen’s University-based data scientists analysed the emotional responses expressed by 10,000 millennial consumers in a landmark survey about their clothing shopping habits, preferences and brand rankings, to help retail brands provide a better Customer Experience.

One-in-three (31 percent) feel less certain of their choices when they shop online, and brand trust seems to be generated more by human rather than AI support: an overwhelming 76 percent of millennials say they prefer human assistance online over a chatbot.

New Look performs well, H&M sizing issues dominate

The online fashion industry is predicted to reach £36.2 billion by 2030: 63 percent of the market compared to today’s 21 percent, but purely online retailers don’t fare as well in the Adoreboard Fashion Retail Barometer rankings. Asos is rated below beleaguered high street chain New Look and BooHoo comes in eighth out of the 10 fashion retail brands analysed.

In fact, despite its recent reported £1 billion financial debt and impending store closures, high street chain New Look far and away outstrips the other brands, coming out top of the 10 fashion retail brands analysed in the Barometer with an overall emotional response – or ‘Adorescore’ – of 42 despite sharp competition from second position ASOS with a score of 40. The Queen’s University analysts used Emotics, an AI platform which uses mathematical algorithms to calculate the overall Adorescore by assessing emotions such as joy, trust, rage and anger in respondents’ comments on individual brands.

There is stiff competition to win the hearts of the Millennial consumers who desire on trend fashion balanced with quality and value for money,” said Chris Johnston, Chief Executive of Adoreboard.

New Look’s efforts to appeal to younger shoppers is reflected in strong Trust in providing affordable fashion, whilst Joy has been driven by how Millennials rate the in-store customer experience. However, many would argue the allure of appealing to millennials has come at a cost of alienating core customers and reflected in plummeting sales for New Look.”

 Meanwhile, it seems H&M’s recent announcement about reviewing its sizing can’t come soon enough for millennial shoppers: complaints about the brand’s sizing being too small was the most recurring theme driving anger and sadness amongst respondents.

Sizing complaints seem to be at the heart of fashion favourite Topshop’s surprisingly low score, too: the brand ranked sixth in the 10 brands analysed, scoring particular highly on ‘Sadness’ due to small sizing.

Personalisation, ethics and sustainability rule rankings

Overall, personalised customer service, value, affordability and ethics are the most important clothes shopping motivators for millennial consumers – and these guide the ultimate rankings and higher scores of New Look, ASOS, H&M, and Primark. Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) say ethics and sustainability are important when shopping for clothes, compared to 26 percent who were undecided or had no preference, and 12 percent who said ethics isn’t important to them.

At the other end of the scale, poor quality products, long queues in store and sizing issues lead to lower rankings and less overall brand trust for River Island, BooHoo, and Zara.

Trust in influencers, not brand marketing

The majority of millennial fashion retail consumers (61 percent) don’t trust direct brand marketing – and online advertising bombardment may be to blame. Nearly two-thirds say (65 percent) they would be less likely to trust brands who sent them too many ads.

Seeking information and peer-to-peer communication is more preferable to unsolicited brand messaging. A huge 85 percent of 18-34 year olds say social media influences their fashion buying decisions, with Instagram being the most popular influencer channel (28 percent). A further 53 percent report they would rather get their information directly from the brand’s app.

Chris Johnston said:

Brand marketers need to work smarter to start a dialogue with younger fashion retail consumers who are turned off by overt brand messaging. We know that they like to be in control of their consumer choices more than any other age group, and to feel part of a one on one, authentic conversation. The analysis notes that 85 per cent of Millennials say that emotion influences their purchase decisions, so marketers need to work smarter to build new experiences and retail theatre to heighten the appeal to these new type of shoppers. 

There’s been a lot of comment recently about the high street business model failing customers. But our Report proves that Millennials – those consumers whose spending power will drive retail and brand performance over the next generation – want, need and value that in-person, human, individualised experience.

So what does this tell brand marketers? Direct, one on one communication is key, as is providing a seamless customer experience from online to in store. There’s too often a disconnect between the value and convenience provided online with the levels of service and overall experience provided in store – and that experience is the high street’s key differentiator.

Putting the customer at the heart of your brand decisions is vital for brand survival and future growth. Exploring customer feedback through an emotional lens allows brands to generate more trust and build a seamless CX across every consumer touchpoint.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 5, 2018
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5min571

The UK Customer, Digital, and Employee Experience Awards have received the Gold Standard Awards Trust Mark from the Independent Awards Standards Council.

The honour was bestowed on hosts Awards International for their trio of ‘Experience’ awards, along with the UK Complaint Handling Awards and the UK Business Awards.

Awards International is one of the first awards event organisers in the UK to receive the coveted accreditation, which rewards ethics and transparency throughout the entire awards process – from when entries are first submitted, to when winners take to the stage to accept trophies.

Awards International events – including the flagship UK Customer Experience Awards, which this year takes place at London’s Wembley Stadium on October 11 – feature independent judging panels, allowing for a rigorous but fair judging process, ensuring the winners represent the best in each category.

The Independent Awards Standards Council (IASC) is a not-for profit organisation made up of stakeholders in the awards industry. It was established with the aim of raising standards and perceptions of trust in awards as a whole, for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Congratulating Awards International on its achievement, Chris Robinson, Co-Founder of the Independent Awards Standards Council, and MD of the world’s first award entry consultancy, Boost Marketing, said:

Awards International events are exemplars in how awards should be operated. Their attention to every detail, from the transparency of the scoring system, to the briefings provided to judges, to the quality of websites, the clarity of the entering process, and the quality of customer service throughout, is exemplary. I hope more schemes will aspire to this level of service and also earn the Gold Standard Awards Trust Mark.”

He continued:

The need for the Trust Mark, and the elements within an agreed code of conduct, are based on research by Boost Marketing that gained input from both awards entrants and organisers. According to Boost’s research, the average score given by businesses when asked ‘how well does the awards industry meet your needs’ was just 5.7 out of 10. But around 80 percent of businesses entering awards would be influenced by an independent accreditation scheme when picking awards to enter.

It found that transparency was essential, and that most awards organisers were willing to consider such a scheme. The research also showed that perceived trust in the judging process used in an awards scheme is one of the most influential factors for businesses in picking schemes to enter.

The big picture for the IASC is that the UK aspires to lead the world in business awards, setting the standard to which the rest of the world aspires. This will improve the credibility and thus popularity and impact of awards schemes, for the benefit of all stakeholders within the awards industry.”

Meanwhile, Neil Skehel, CEO of Awards International, said:

Thank you to the Independent Awards Standards Council for this incredible honour. This is fantastic recognition for the work we do to ensure every awards programme is carried out to the highest standard with the most credible judging process possible. Thank you to everyone who has helped us develop our events over the past decade, and we will continue to reward and celebrate business excellence and innovation in the UK.”


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2min656

A new survey of senior HR professionals  has revealed a number of concerns they are facing, relating to business productivity and employee engagement.

The survey by MintCentral, an employee engagement app provider, showed that an ageing UK workforce and increasing numbers of millennials entering the workplace are seen as the biggest threat to workplace productivity in the next five years, while employee apathy and remote working were cited as the main factors influencing the effectiveness of internal communication.

When analysing the factors affecting workplace productivity, 63 percent of participants ranked an ageing UK workforce and increasing numbers of millennials as more significant than the impact that Brexit will have (21 percent), or stagnating wages (14 percent). This suggests that organisations have a very real and pressing set of age-related concerns to tackle the evolving workplace age demographic.

When the survey asked about the factors that influence the effectiveness of internal communication, employee apathy and distance were jointly ranked in first place. This is indicative of a geographically disparate UK workforce which is not fully engaged.

A MintCentral spokesperson said:

Seventy-one percent of respondents said that online surveys are the most effective technology used to measure staff engagement. Interestingly, company intranets were ranked as the least effective technology for measuring staff engagement. This questions their continued use when the average UK workforce is increasingly non-desk bound. The inability to engage with employees through their intranet was cited by one respondent as why they ranked it as least effective.
When asked about the alternatives to their current employee engagement technologies 35 percent of respondents said that an internal communications app would help boost productivity and improve staff morale. The ability to measure staff engagement was ranked as the next most desirable feature of alternative staff engagement solutions.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMay 29, 2018
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3min755

Motivating staff to ‘think like owners’ was one of the key factors in helping Startle achieve success at the 2018 UK Employee Experience Awards.

The firm, which helps brands provide outstanding digital venue experiences, won the Employee Engagement – Growth by Design award at the gala event earlier this month at London’s Park Plaza Hotel. The event was hosted by Awards International and sponsored by Benefex, with the help of other partners.

Startle was recognised for its unique approach to business growth; namely, how it operates completely remotely and achieved 400 percent financial growth in its second year. With an EMI share scheme that means all employees are owners of the business, Startle aims for motivated team members who ‘think like owners’, meaning there is great care and consideration for costs across all departments, helping to set the company up for further future growth.

Head of Operations and Co-Founder of Startle, Adam Castleton, said:

To have Startle recognised not only for our dedication to a unique Employee Experience, but how this aids the business in achieving excellent levels of growth, is a testament to the great work all of our team put in. Proving that it’s possible to run a multi-million pound business that operates globally from our homes signifies the future of employee experience, and demonstrates our commitment to providing an excellent work/life balance for all of our employees.”

Congratulating the winners, Neil Skehel, CEO of Awards International, said:

We are truly inspired by the incredible talent showcased once again at the UK Employee Experience Awards. This year we have seen many outstanding examples of businesses which are breaking the mould and creating working environments that are truly supportive and engaging. This amazing event gave us the opportunity to acknowledge those companies and celebrate with both the finalists and the winners.”




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