Sarah JenkinsonSarah JenkinsonOctober 1, 2015
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10min13430

Winners of the UK Customer Experience Awards have been announced during a celebratory lunch at the Park Plaza Hotel in London on Friday 26th September 2015.

Park Plaza

The Awards recognise and reward outstanding achievement in customer experience across all sectors. The Awards showcase the organisations, the teams and individuals who are leading the way when it comes to delivering outstanding customer experiences.
The winners were selected by a panel of judges made up of industry practitioners. During the morning finalists in each of the categories presented their entries to the judges and the winners were announced during a celebratory lunch in the afternoon. Guests were treated to live performances by the Rockabellas – with their unrivalled vintage vocals, they served up a repertoire of toe taping tunes that got the audience out of their seats!

Customer Experience Awards 2015

The 3 highest scoring winners – Virgin Money, AXA PPP Healthcare & Eurotunnel Le Shuttle were called to the stage to present a 1 minute elevator pitch to the audience who voted on who they thought should walk away with the title of Overall Best Customer Experience 2015. The votes were counted and added to the scores for each finalist’s written entry and presentation.


Eurotunnel Le Shuttle were announced as this year’s Overall Winner for delivering a fun and relaxing first class travel experience for its canine customers – as well as their owners! The Eurotunnel Le Shuttle team were joined by one of their loyal customers and her Newfoundland dog who took to the stage to collect the Award.

Customer Experience Awards 2015Sector Specific:

  • Automotive, Travel & Commercial Service Providers: Winner: Eurotunnel Le Shuttle. Silver: Green Flag
  • Hospitality / Leisure / Charity: Winner: Dorchester Collection. Silver: Molson Coors in partnership with B2B International
  • Contact Centre: Large: Winner: AXA PPP Healthcare. Silver: Barclays Premier & Sage UK Ltd
  • Contact Centre: Small. Winner: AmicusHorizon. Silver: LV=
  • Financial Service, Banking & Investment: Winner: Virgin Money Plc. Silver: Nationwide Building Society
  • Government Services and Not for Profit: Winner: Richmond Housing Partnership. Silver: Surrey County Council
  • Industrial / Utilities: Winner: Utility Warehouse. Silver: A-Plant
  • Insurance Services: Winner: Direct Line. Silver: AXA PPP Healthcare
  • Retail: Winner: JLP Waitrose. Silver: Shell UK Oil Products Ltd
  • Technology & Telecomms –Amazing CX: Winner: Three UK Ltd. Silver: giffgaff and Firstsource Solutions UK Ltd
  • Technology & Telecomms – Customers First: Winner: Rackspace. Silver: Zen Internet

Discipline Specific:

  • Business Change or Transformation – Transformation at the Heart: Winner: Now TV & Firstsource. Silver: Yodel in partnership with E-Digital Research
  • Business Change or Transformation – Focussed on improvement: Winner: Rackspace. Silver: DFS
  • Employees and Engagement – Best Place to Work: Winner: Bristol Wessex Billing Services Ltd. Silver: Home Instead Senior Care.
  • Employee Engagement – Improving CX: Winner: LV=. Silver: Nationwide Building Society
  • Insight and feedback – A new way of measuring: Winner: The Royal Bank of Scotland (Natwest). Silver: Performance in People Ltd
  • Insight and Feedback – A different perspective: Winner: Shell UK Oil Products Ltd. Silver: Three UK Ltd.
  • Insight and Feedback – A focus on understanding: Winner: Direct Line Group. Silver: Four Seasons Health Care
  • New Product/ Product Improvement – Making the most of technology: Winner: Standard Life. Silver: Samsung and Capita Customer Management
  • New Product/ Product Improvement – Loving the Customer: Winner: Vita Student. Silver; Dorchester Collection.
  • Best use of Social Media / Technology: Winner: The Body Coach. Silver: DFS
  • International Business: Winner: Deutsche Telekom AG

People Specific:

  • Professional of the Year: Joint Winners: Manuela Pifani, Direct Line Group & Diana Rodriguez, Nicoll Curtin
  • Team of the Year – A Whole New Level: Winner: Nationwide Building Society – Camden Town Branch. Silver: Three UK Ltd
  • Team of the Year: Customers at the Heart: Winner: Nationwide Building Society – Kendal branch. Silver: LV=
  • Team of the Year: Listening and Responding: Winner: Rackspace. Silver: Standard Life

Visit: http://c-x-a.co.uk/winners-and-finalists/ for the full list of winners and finalists.

Congratulating the winners, Neil Copping, Managing Director of Awards International, said:

“We are truly inspired by all the best practice showcased at the UK Customer Experience Awards. We have seen many outstanding examples from companies who have embraced customer experience and as a result have reaped the benefits in terms of business growth and customer engagement. The Awards gave us the opportunity to acknowledge those companies and celebrate with both the finalists and the winners.”

Customer Experience Awards 2015The UK Customer Experience Awards are owned by Awards International, operators of the successful UK Digital Experience Awards, the UK Employee Experience Awards & the UK Financial Services Experience Awards.
The Awards are run in partnership with Customer Experience Magazine, Cranfield University School of Management and Awards International and sponsored by InMoment.

The Awards raised £6,000 for chosen charity Barnardo’s to help support the UK’s most vulnerable children.

Contact

For images and more information contact:
Sarah Jenkinson
PR and Communication Manager
Customer Experience Magazine
Email: sj@customerexperiencemagazine.co.uk
Telephone: 020 7558 8241
If you would like to enter the Awards next year, please contact Lisa Harmer on 0207 193 0551 or email Lisa at lisa.harmer@awardsinternational.eu
Follow us on Twitter:@UKCXAwards
Join our UK Customer Experience Awards Group on LinkedIn:

OUR CONTRIBUTOR
About Awards International

Awards International is dedicated to running successful awards programmes including: The UK Customer Experience Awards, The UK Digital Experience Awards, The UK Financial Services Experience Awards and The UK Employee Experience Awards. Awards International also run Winning with CX – a conference designed to help business leaders implement award winning customer experience.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamOctober 1, 2015
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6min10700

Honesty and efficiency are the most valued traits by consumers when dealing with companies

Public transport & train operators overtook utility companies in the league table of worst customer experience and service providers, according to the second annual Customer Experience Survey from the service design consultancy Engine.

Nearly one-third (32%) of consumers selected public transport & train operators – narrowly ahead of utilities, which dropped from 40% of votes in 2014 to 31% in 2015. Public services dropped out of the worst three to be replaced by insurance companies (27%), just ahead of broadband & media providers (26%).

chart

At the other end of the spectrum, the retail sector (38%) is judged to provide the best customer service and experience, followed by hotel & hospitality brands (37%) and food service & restaurants (35%).

“Customer experience has a very strong influence on which companies people choose to use,” says Oliver King, co-founder of Engine. “Over the last year, utilities, banking and public services have increasingly focused on this and, as a result, seen the biggest improvement in consumers’ eyes. In contrast, hotels/hospitality co’s and airlines – sectors where people are acutely sensitive to minor flaws in the service – have seen the biggest degradation in people’s regard of their customer experience. These sectors always have to work the hardest in meeting customer expectations.”

Customer experience has the biggest impact in restaurants and retail

Food services/restaurants (cited by 35%), retail (32%) and hotels/hospitality (30%) – the strongest performers – are also the sectors where consumers’ choice of provider is most strongly influenced by the quality of service and customer experience.

King comments: “In choosing where to eat, the customer experience is a much bigger factor for women than men, whilst its importance declines as people get older. In contrast, customer experience becomes a bigger factor with age in where people shop, where they bank and which hotels and airlines they use.

Consumers value honesty and efficiency most highly

Openness/honesty is the most valued trait in the way a company provides its customer service and experience (cited by 49%), followed by efficiency (43%) and reliability (41%). All three of the most valued traits become a bigger factor with age – particularly openness/honesty

“Companies can’t afford to think about what’s important to their ‘average customer’ – that person doesn’t exist,” notes King. “Instead, they need to think of the different customer profiles and tailor the experience accordingly for each one. For instance, older people put greater emphasis on the experience being honest, efficient and reliable, while the younger generation put more store on it being flexible and enjoyable.”

Quality much more of a factor in recommendations than price

The report also reveals that consumers are nearly twice as likely to recommend a brand or company based on the quality of service (62%) than they are on price (35%). This ‘skew’ towards service is even more pronounced for people over 55 (69% vs. 29%).

Why is customer experience important?

Better customer experience leads to increased revenues, greater likelihood of recommendations, process efficiencies and increased retail visits. King explains: “Businesses can more accurately measure the impact that an improved customer experience has on performance. Clients like Virgin Media, Zurich UK and Hyundai Motor Company have publicly cited improvements in those key metrics having used service design techniques which essentially put greater customer focus into designing the experience a company provides.”

Methodology:
The total sample size was 1,024 adults. The survey was conducted online during 22-25 June 2015. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Interesting links:

OUR CONTRIBUTOR

Engine Service DesignAbout Engine Service Design

Engine supports organisations in the innovation, design and delivery of better services. We work to enhance customers’ experiences and to improve business performance across a wide range of industries and sectors.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamOctober 1, 2015
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9min10300

CXM Interview with David Wright, CMO of Police Mutual on their cooperation with Avanade UK and the impact of the partnership on their business

CXM: What was the decisive point for choosing Avanade UK for partnership? What did the process look like?

David:
In terms of our background, Police Mutual has been around for about 140 years with the largest affinity based in UK, but if I go back 5 or 6 years ago, we were quite a single product company. We’ve always been owned by, and ultimately run by, the police service and we support the service in a number of ways, for instance with access to low entry low cost regular savings plan which has been the backbone of our business. We were faced with the challenge that, to stay in the business, we need to grow in order to cover the increasing costs.

We developed over recent years a number of digital income streams based around general insurance saving investment health care mortgages and how we created it is a number of product silos because of this. The backdrop to our engagement with Avanade UK was superb. Firstly, our investment in technology has been very limited; we had a number of very old systems. And secondly, having to fix the roof so to speak, we asked ourselves how can we move much further to give our customers a much more integrated and holistic experience. Such to understand who they are, what their products holdings are etc. Something that would allow us to deliver to our customers, who are all members of our society, a much better member experience and a much integrated offering with all our products and services. That was the backdrop to the engagement. In conversations with Avanade they were able to provide us with an end-to-end process. We were impressed by their experience in the industry and that certainly gave us a level of competence that making that initial decision to engage with Avanade would take us down the right road.

CXM: As you are the provider of financial services for particular target group, how much is your CX different from the others?

David: A number of things characterized that. The first is that for whatever reason our brand has a phenomenally high standing in the police market. And the sort of thing that is characterized by is that we have incredibly high retention level. To compare it with general insurance, for instance, if you could retain 50% of your home and motor customers from last year, you were doing very well. This year, on both home and motor insurance our annual retention number went to 90%. That manifests itself in very high level of loyalty and trust. As the result of that, our members have a very high expectation and from an experience perspective, that we will know and understand them and anticipate their needs. And I think whilst we were focusing on one product, we could tell how many regular savings plan our member had, when they were started and what the stage they were at. However, we could do that in the old world, while in the new world of having lots of different products and services, systems and infrastructures, the challenge of the brand was to retain that high level and meet the high level of expectations without proper technology and infrastructure.

CXM: What about this changed infrastructure, how did that affect the Employee experience? Did you have to motivate and educate staff additionally?

David: It was quite a heavy investment in terms of development and training. However, in terms of the use of the CRM engine, I believe it fundamentally affected the way in which colleagues can both access the information and deliver some of the tasks.

What we were able to do after the improvements was extract the list of members and we were then able to be much more proactive historically. Apparently, we were not showcasing all our products and services to members. We live in a bizarre world where our members would be disappointed if we were not sharing more services and products we offer.

Having the data warehouse analytics capability that we bought actually gave our colleagues a greater understanding of our members and it led to richer conversation with them. We had bizarre scenarios in Police Mutual when members would call asking for home insurance; we would then also tell them about what we might be able to do for their motor insurance, and because of that, they would send us flowers because we could provide them with much more bespoke solutions. Frankly, in the world of financial services, that is not quite something we’re used to.

The other thing that had a significant impact on colleague engagement interaction is quite an internal one. As the business got more complex, we’ve acquired more products or more businesses in different locations.

We faced the challenge of time, face-to-face meetings etc. But having Microsoft Lync allowed us to be much more flexible and productive, to have meetings within teams or outside teams and dial-in experts when we need them. Overall, our level of productivity is quite hard to quantify, but we’re certainly getting closer internally, which will ultimately lead to a better customer experience.

CXM: How do you see the future of customer experience? Can you predict some shifts in customer experience?

David:
We have witnessed a significant shift in last couple of years and we had to put some basics in place to follow it. And we’ve already seen the benefits of that. But I have to say I’m pretty excited that this is just the beginning. Not everyone knows what range of services we offer.
Therefore the technology, our CRM, our data warehouse, our analytical capability that we embed in our organization will lead to a much deeper customer relationship. We’ll witness the scenario where our cross-product holding will increase significantly. All in all, I think it will be quite an exciting journey.

CXM: Thank you, we wish you to keep receiving flowers from your clients.

Interesting links:

OUR CONTRIBUTOR

David WrightDavid Wright
CMO of Police Mutual

David gained a wealth of sales and marketing experience in the consumer goods industry before joining Lloyds TSB as a Divisional Director in 1997. Following time as a management consultant, where he led a number of marketing change programmes, David held a number of senior management roles at Aviva plc. He joined Police Mutual as Marketing Director in 2010 and was appointed to the Managing Board in August 2013.


Christopher BrooksChristopher BrooksOctober 1, 2015
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14min29260

npower’s Head of Customer Experience explains how customers are taking centre stage in the business

The utility sector has been through some tough times, with press scrutiny, regulatory pressure and customers who are starting to vote with their feet, but despite this backdrop npower, spearheaded by Kelly Iles (Head of Customer Experience), is determined to embed a customer first strategy in order to gain back the trust of customers in the energy sector.

Kelly Iles,Christopher Brooks, Managing Director from Lexden Customer Strategy Consultants caught up with Kelly to find out just what npower has in store for its customers.

Christopher: You’ve been with npower since 2012. It’s a sector which is striving to provide better customer experience and has a way to go in this space. As head of customer experience at npower, what are your key responsibilities in driving npower’s customer agenda forward?

Kelly:

We have come a long way, npower has put a lot of focus and effort into making it better for our customers but it’s fair to say there’s still much more work to do. Our mission to achieve this should never stop. My team’s remit is to be the voice of the customer, championing what they want, need and deserve. I have the accountability and authority to set our customer experience improvement agenda which for us right now is getting back to the basics and delivering the energy experience that customers expect. This means addressing core processes, people capability, systems, communications as well as changing the culture of the organisation. It’s a pretty full on role!

Christopher: Already I can tell you are clearly passionate about customer experience, what do you find most interesting about CX?

Kelly:

I love the fact that CX touches every facet of the business. There are no hiding places; all areas of the business are involved in the delivery of a seamless experience and to make it work, activities need to bring business and functional silo’s together, which has always been a management challenge.

Christopher: So what is your ‘customer first’ ambition for the company?

Kelly:

We’ve only been serious about building CX capability in the last 3 years. It requires a wholesale business transformation and we continue to move through the different stages of maturity. Whilst this started as a programme ultimately building an enduring capability and culture as well as a well-recognised discipline is our aim.
The core stages are; 1) building a customer insight capability – to understand the issues are customers experience and to measure our progress and performance, 2) map the customer journey to understand when, how and why these issues occur, 3) build and execute an effective improvement plan and finally, 4) embed the methodology, approach, ethos, and culture so that it becomes everyone’s responsibility. Christopher: What’s driving CX up the utility sector’s agenda?

Kelly:

CX has become a core priority across the entire sector. As choice widens, customers become less inert this results in, energy providers have margins being squeezed and commoditisation increased, however for sustainable growth pricing can’t be the only answer. As a result providers are recognising that offering a good service may mean customers are less likely to shop around and might move away from choosing their provider based solely upon price.
Ultimately retention of customers becomes key and delivering a great experience will help to build long standing sustainable customer relationships. Christopher: In the insurance sector the metric is ‘effort’. In a sector such as utility which is very much an essential service, what are the priority areas of CX improvement to impress customers?

Kelly:

Opportunities to delight and impress customers are far less than in other sectors such as retailers. Like insurance firms, the key is to make it as easy as possible for customers to do business with us, effortless in fact. Developments such as SMART and the introduction of digital technology for example our new energy app allows our customers to track usage, manage their energy usage and ultimately keep costs as low as possible. For us it gives an opportunity to build engagement with our customers as well as giving us data that can be used to build a better picture of our customers upon which to offer more targeted products and services.

Christopher: It sounds as if there is much going on, can you give me an example of a one of those improvements made for customers?

Kelly:

Listening to our customers we understood the anxiety that a house move creates. During any home move, Customers have lots of other things to sort. Managing their change of energy to their new property is the least of their priorities. as well as their energy. Our processes made customers contact us at a time suitable to us and we were only prepared to process Home moves by our telephone channel. Ultimately we quickly realised we could do a lot to make this process much less effort and one less thing to worry about at the time of the move. As a result we’ve digitised the whole journey and removed the restrictive contact window so that customers can inform us of their home move when it suits them. At the same time we built key checkpoints so we are able to reassure the customer that everything is going through as planned.

Christopher: You’ve mentioned a number of customer improvements being made. Where do the drivers for improvement come from?
npower

Kelly:

Our Voice of the Customer programme is complimented by our Voice of the People and Voice of the Process programmes. This gives us a complete view on what’s happening to both our customers, our people and why. By bringing together multiple data sources and developing insight, we are able to clearly see the priority customer issues that need to be addressed. Our focus is on what matters to the customer.

Christopher: What are the contributors to your CX programme you value the most?

Kelly:

There are many areas, but three I’ll highlight. Firstly, it needs the support and buyin from the snr leadership team which will ensure that CX remains on the agenda. The leadership team need to take ownership, set the agenda and ensure followership. Secondly, our people on the ground. These are the team that deliver the experience to the customer day in, day out. They also know what the issues are and often how to fix them. Listening, empowering and giving them the accountability to make a difference for customers is vital.
Finally, the ability to upskill and embed CX capability into the DNA of the organisation. For this I look to my team who have the right skills and expertise to work across the business and define what good looks like. This could be practically how you delivery change in a customer centric way right through to building the right operational lead metrics to monitor and evaluate CX change.

Christopher: Are you pleased with the progress you are making?

Kelly:

We’ve come a long way but CX isn’t a project, it doesn’t stop. There is always a better way to serve the customer. Real-time feedback as a measure shows the power of ‘in the moment’ feedback. It gives you the opportunity to address a poor experience and to build advocacy through heroic recovery activity. To take a customer whose expectations haven’t been met and then exceed offersa powerful opportunity to build loyalty.

Christopher: Who do you look to for customer first thinking inspiration?

Kelly:

For me, I think those companies who just make the whole interaction effortless impress me the most. The AA breakdown service – I was on my own when I found myself stuck on a side of a road, they asked me specifically whether I was accompanied and then applied a very targeted to experience based upon my situation; text updates to manage what’s going on and even a message to help me recognise the recovery vehicle (driver flicking his lights)importantly it was executed perfectly and against the expectations met.

Christopher: CX is evolving fast, what do you think the major trends in your sector will be?

Kelly:

The winners in the industry will be those who get the basics right, make interacting with the company seamless and then ongoing, build a proactive relationship with the customer that he or she values. Using data and insight will be key so we can put customers back in control. Ultimately, helping them to manage their energy more effectively.

kelly iles 1Christopher: it’s been so insightful, your passion is infectious and your expertise evident. So how could you help an organisation just waking up to the potential of customer experience?

Kelly:

Okay, so I’d have to say strong leadership is key. It can get ugly and you need to be prepared to go through the journey. Leaders need to believe and recognise the phases you will go through. They will also help ensure you get your message out there in the organisation. Also it takes time – there are no short cuts. Many organisations transformation programmes can take up to 10 years. Perhaps most important of all, be relentless in your quest. Never give up. It’shard work but the rewards are great.

Christopher: Kelly that’s great. I’ve seen you at the CX Awards, so you are obviously doing the right things. It’s been a pleasure hearing more about where you’ve come from and where you are going. All the best with your mission. Thank you.

Interesting links:


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 1, 2015
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7min10070

The Canon research based on findings from a survey conducted by ICM Unlimited that polled 5,000 qualified individuals across the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain in June 2015

With the summer holiday season about to end, Canon reveals that despite 93% of Brits researching holidays online, and a further 85% booking accommodation and 81% booking travel using the internet, an astonishing 76% still print out travel tickets.

The research, which polled 5,000 individuals across the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain in June 2015, found that 74% of Brits print out travel documents as a precautionary measure to overcome any technological issues or potential mix-ups ‘just-in-case’ – the most likely to do so in Europe. More than half (52%) do so out of habit.

Of those Brits who do print out travel documents, 88% refer to them over the course of their trip. However, almost two thirds of all UK respondents (61%) choose to turn to social media and the web to source information on their destination while travelling, and just 7% actually use the information provided by their booking source (i.e. online travel agencies, booking operators etc.).

When asked what information British holiday makers want readily available when travelling, the top five included: the address of the final destination (71%), a map of the destination (59%), directions to where they are staying (39%), public transportation directions to destination (33%), and key local addresses and numbers (23%).

Brits are most frustrated (36%) with the amount of pages travel documents to print out; at the same time they are the least frustrated (13%) about it being a waste of paper.

Marc Ranner, Marketing Director at Canon Europe, said: “It’s clear that whilst European travellers have embraced digital for researching, comparing prices and booking holidays, they are still very dependent on printed travel documents. Whether or not this is because of a lack of trust in the electronic systems used by travel operators, or their own personal technology, there is a strong appetite for tangible printed documents as a reliable reference.”

Ranner continues: “The message to travel companies is clear; printed travel documents are still incredibly important to holidaymakers but the information they contain could be far more useful. Rather than only providing details specific to the bookings or using whitespace to deliver targeted banner ads that are often disregarded, businesses can add value to printed travel documents to extend and improve their customers’ experience, not just by giving them the information they need, but also the details they actually want to hand in a user and print friendly way, reducing the need for them to rely on the internet while abroad.

There is also an opportunity to fuse together the benefits of the internet with the reliability of print. Using selectable or customisable online documents that allow consumers to print out what’s relevant to them is a level of personalisation that demonstrates an understanding of customer needs and shows that they are at the heart of your business.”

To see the infographic, click on the image below

UK Holidaymakers Still Depend on Printed Travel Documents


Interesting links:

OUR CONTRIBUTOR

CanonAbout Canon (UK) Limited

Canon (UK) Ltd is the UK & Ireland marketing and sales operation for the global company, Canon Inc., based in Tokyo, Japan and it employs around 2,150 people. Founded in 1937, with the specific goal of making the best quality cameras available to customers, Canon’s tireless passion for the Power of Image has since extended its technology into many other markets and has established it as a world leader in both consumer and business imaging solutions. Its solutions comprise products ranging from digital compact and SLR cameras, through broadcast lenses and portable X-ray machines, to multi-function and production printers, all supported by a range of value added services. Canon invests heavily in R&D to deliver the richest and most innovative products and services to satisfy customers’ creative needs. From amateur photographers to professional print companies, Canon enables each customer to realise their own passion for image. Canon believes that considering the interests of society and the environment is an integral part of good business practice and this is embodied in its corporate philosophy Kyosei – ‘living and working together for the common good’.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 1, 2015
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7min15350

EasyRoommate and Vivastreet – Case study

The world’s leading flat sharing website, EasyRoommate and free classified ads site, Vivastreet, attract over 15 million global web visits every month. Part of Web DMUK Limited and with a huge international presence, EasyRoommate and Vivastreet needed a system in place that would allow them to quickly and efficiently interact with their customer base.

The Problem: Connecting a Worldwide Customer Base

Before moving to 8×8 Solutions, the customer service agents at EasyRoommate and Vivastreet were experiencing major challenges with customer service, reporting and creating a localised service.

1 Customer Service

Customer service was always a priority, but the companies were finding poor call quality a challenge, together with calls not reaching the right agents. This was preventing them delivering the world class quality of service they wish to provide.

2 Reporting

The incumbent system in place was very rudimentary and the length of time that EasyRoommate and Vivastreet could retain data was limited. In addition, there was no way of tracking if a customer had called in before or to link caller information to the customer database.

3 Localised Service with a Global Reach

Global reach was also an issue. EasyRoommate and Vivastreet’s previous systems wouldn’t always work in all of the countries they operated in. Even when some of the calls did connect to call agents, the quality of phone calls was poor. In addition, the phone system didn’t operate across all the countries where they had a marketing presence and were advertising local numbers. This was a major issue as they had to pay to receive inbound calls from customers, which was an unnecessary expense.

The solution: Taking the contact centre to the cloud

The transition to 8×8 Solutions’ platform was quick and easy. The entire integration took only three weeks, and the move caused no disruption of service. This seamless switching of providers meant there was no adverse effect on the business and no customer calls were missed. For customers, it was business as usual.

The benefits: Strengthening global customer experience through cost effective localised numbers

Using 8×8 Solutions’ Virtual Contact Centre has helped to improve customer service in many ways. The software ensures that calls are routed to the right agent by skill set and language, wherever they are in the world. This drastically reduces the number of times a customer would need to be transferred or have to repeat information, improving the customer experience. It is also now possible to measure call resolution times, which wasn’t the case before. A win for both the customer and for EasyRoommate and Vivastreet.

8×8 gives them the ability to offer customers local numbers around the globe. This wasn’t possible previously, often resulting in poor quality calls. They now appear more local with the service they provide, together with achieving a higher call quality and a more cost-effective service to all involved.

As 8×8’s solutions are cloud-based, EasyRoommate and Vivastreet’s employees can work remotely around the world. Their customer service agents are therefore available in all the different time zones where they have a presence – which means a call is always answered.

Reporting had previously been an issue, as it was difficult to store and make sense of customer call data on their old system. Now, 8×8 Solutions’ Virtual Contact Centre will be integrated with EasyRoommate and Vivastreet’s customer databases allowing them to track repeat calls, link the volume of calls with the type of inquiry and also use feedback to improve customer experience. They’ve been able to analyse wider customer service trends and pinpoint the kind of customers that need to call back and better prepare their agents for these instances.

Talking about the move, Karine Teixera, Head of Customer Service at Web DMUK, says: “8×8 Solutions’ global coverage and flexible system was a no brainer for us. As a global company, it’s paramount that we are able to give our customers the best experience possible and Virtual Contact Centre is the ideal solution to helps us do this across the world. With the right technology in place, we can make sure every customer interaction with us is world-class.”

Interesting links:

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

Vivastreet

EasyRoomate

8x8 logo


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 1, 2015
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9min9660

By City Cruises MD, Kyle Houghton

Providing our customers with an excellent experience has always been at the heart of how we operate at City Cruises. Our river boat sightseeing and dining cruises showcase the best of London during the day and night in comfortable surroundings with great commentary and on board facilities. We wear our “No 1 Sightseeing Tour Operator” badge with pride.

All of us a City Cruises know we have a fantastic product portfolio. We remain a family run business and have been providing services for nearly 30 years. In the last five years we have grown our operation, investing in new boats, new products (the latest being a night time Indian-buffet cruise), new offers with our high-speed RIB ride ThamesJet, and have moved outside London for the first time with our City Cruises Poole operation, which is also expanding.

Sundowner

Customer Centric Training

However, as we all know, great service comes from more than just having a great product. It is about the feelings we evoke in our customers when they book a trip with us. It’s about the welcome they get from the moment they first click on our website, to the greeting they receive on board, the at-table service they enjoy, and the goodbye and follow-up at the end of their time with us. It’s about the people we employ and the relationships they build with the public.
Being customer centric is vital to the entire City Cruises culture and team. We therefore ensure our external and internal training programmes instil this value in all team members. We know that our people are the public face of our company and in many ways our people are the public face of London. What they experience with us may well colour their perception of the capital, so it is even more important we deliver, and deliver with excellence. This is not something we take lightly.
Alongside health and safety (not insignificant on a water-based operation), systems management and wider job training, we also focus very specifically on what excellent service looks and feels like, on meeting customer expectations (and the complexities of a hugely international customer base), on communication, delivering brilliant moments and creating lasting memories.
But, what is the point of brilliant customer experiences on board a world class product if a large majority of our visitors are only, as a result of being tourists in London, one time guests? Yes we do as much as we can to ensure they revisit and we ensure they are aware of the full range of options we have for them to try during their stay, but the fact remains that these are in many ways transient customers, in our hands for very short periods of time.

Our focus over the last 18-months – two years has been to turn fleeting visitors into brand advocates. In fact, not only turn them into advocates, but turning them in to tangible advocates – ones we can see and track the impact of.

Garnering Brilliant Reviews

And we have done this by tuning into, and switching on, some key review sites. We welcome being rated and we welcome our customers commenting on how we are performing, because we know we have the systems in place to deliver a world class experience.

We also understand that this is precisely the sort of granular information customers need when they make their booking choices. Studies in the last two years have shown that 80% of travellers read up to 12 reviews before making a booking (PhocusWright 2013) and 84% make purchases after reading about a produce or a service on a blog (Research Now 2014). It is therefore more important than ever to be positively represented in the large array of review sites available throughout the globe.

So in addition to the more traditional methods of providing clear mechanisms to feedback customer comments, such as a dedicated email address and profile pages on TripAdvisor for all of our products, we are proactive and also actively encourage our customers to rate us using Feefo, a truly independent feedback tool. Feefo issues an email to all of our customers with a simple tool that ranks both product and service and an optional free text field. This provides an overall ranking for the product and provides our customers with a transparent method to quickly rate their experiences and review others without having to upload a review on a site where they may or may not have a profile.

Good Reviews Lead to Success

And it is paying clear dividends. 2014 was a successful year for City Cruises in terms of customer satisfaction results, with nearly 97% saying they would recommend us to friends and family. As well as seeing record-breaking summer and winter seasons, the company recorded above average customer satisfaction scores, a survey completed in June 2015 delivered a record NPS score moving from 7.3 to 9.5, scores that brands such as Audi and Apple regularly achieve.
The company also recently received an overall member rating of 100% from trade partner Travelzoo, became a Feefo Trusted Merchant, and was awarded a TripAdvisor 2014 Certificate of Excellence.
In addition to regular field surveys and mystery shopper exercises we also welcome bloggers on board, and canvass (and share) their truthful opinions
By focusing on customer service, and training for excellence; encouraging all our customers, but especially visitors to London, to review their experience with us and by linking these back to our website and tracking bookings we have created an army of “one time visitor” advocates. We no longer put our blind faith in word-of-mouth, but know that by capturing people’s reactions, we can harness them and boost our business.

Interesting links:

OUR CONTRIBUTOR

Kyle HaughtonKyle Haughton
Managing Director of City Cruises

Kyle Haughton joined City Cruises in 2011 as Managing Director. Before that he was with First Choice Holidays, BAA, Sunway and Redwing Holidays. Kyle’s experience spans innovative strategic business, brand strategy and customer service engagement.
He is an experienced, approachable and well-connected travel industry business practitioner working in a variety of complex business environments with multiple stakeholder demands.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamSeptember 1, 2015
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10min8360

Customers Challenge the Ordinary in Search for Authentic Service by Dale Smith, The founder and Director of Creation at Bridge Training & Events

Boutique Hotel” is a term that was initially used in North America and the UK to describe small hotels in unique settings with upscale and stylish accommodation. These hotels began appearing in the 1980s in cities like London, New York and San Francisco and remained secret escapes for a very exclusive traveller. In recent years we have seen an explosion in this market as many customers move away from the big chains – the ones that offer a consistent service, the kind that is thesame no matter where you are in the world. The label “Boutique Hotel” is no longer a term used just for the small, as many large hotels have since entered this market, revolutionising what it means to offer 5-star service.

I had the privilege of being part of the Bridge Team that saw one such hotel transform from what was a leading, long-standing 5-star global chain into an amazing five-star, new-fashioned luxury hotel. This took 92% of the staff population that moved over to the new brand from thinking with a traditional service mindset to offering a bespoke and authentic experience-based approach. With Bridge joining as part of the existing transformation team, I was brought into a creative world that has changed the way I look at service forever.

The new hotel, Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa is a magical place that offers its very own unique way of connecting to the guest experience.

Without question, the stylish aesthetics and breath-taking landscape of the property sets it apart, but there is more to its boutique offering that warrants further exploration.

As I entered into this new world of service I had to ask myself, ‘why are boutique hotels so fashionable at the moment?’ and ‘how does their service differ from the traditional 5-star style that the market has become accustomed to?’ I also needed to better understand what it was that guests were seeking in this alternative and evolving market. Being at the cutting edge of the Eau transformation, I had the opportunity to work directly with all the employees in the hotel, sit at the table with the concept and brand creators, and also be a resident and live amongst the guests. When I say privilege I do not use the word lightly, as these three influences were merging in real-time all around me and giving me insight into why all customer service needs a little more “boutique” in today’s world.

When I first heard the term “new-fashioned luxury” at Eau, I thought that this, in itself, spoke volumes for the service that many of today’s customers are looking for.

As luxury was still a constant, it stood for maintaining high standards of great service, yet also alludes to a promise with a twist. Traditional 5-star service focuses its ‘attention to detail’ on ensuring that a clear set of processes is followed and gains guest confidence with the consistent manner in which it is delivered. It is never to question the process, as this would not reflect well on the agreed set of customary standards set forth.To maintain this standard, the contract and expectation of service is pre-set prior to engagement with the guest, and hence no real personal interaction is required.

Previously, I was under the impression that in the boutique hotel market the ‘attention to detail’ was firmly placed on the uniqueness of its design and furnishings. This is clearly a great opportunity for a hotel to showcase its own unique personality and style, but what I have learned about the magic that sits within true stars such as Eau and other boutique hotels is hidden deep within the twist. It extends beyond the traditional and gives the power to its employees to build relationships with guests – and herein lays the detail.

Never in question is the high standard, but the attention that is applied to learning the detail by seeing guests as individuals allows the service to be both appropriate and authentic.

In true hotelier fashion, this more relaxed and autonomous approach allows them to go beyond the expected and create experiences intuitively.

As customers across all markets are evolving, I think that we can learn more from what I see happening in the hospitality industry. Service is embedded in its fabric, albeit some can argue that service standards can vary based on the stars beside the name. Customers want more involvement in the experiences and engagement on offer by those they choose to engage with. Over the years I have seen more and more services move to online application or to offshore as a direct result of cost saving and convenience, and that is fine for many transactional services. In hotel terms, some nights you just want to lay your head on a pillow, and a roadside motel will suit you fine on that night.

At Eau they call those unexpected engagement moments of customer delight “Goosebumps”, and as it so happens, this is one of their five values.

It is creating a true connection with a guest based on building a relationship that allows the individual Hotelier to create, in real time, something that is meaningful to that person. It is the foundation of the boutique hotel, and interestingly in this market, is at odds with what is perceived as the traditional 5-star service. It is removing the standardisation and cookie-cutter approach to service, and using this interaction time to make an emotive memorable mark.

In general customer service I like to think that it is coming back to the traditional in some ways, and seeing customers as real people. Having providers demonstrate that they care about their customers by giving their front of house staff the time to really listen to what is important to guests and the autonomy to act on it. It is giving employees the freedom to make real-time decisions thatcan truly impact on the emotive connections that customers so desire with the interactions that theychoose to engage with.

To be a true Hotelier is to be a true master of the trade, and to be a true service professional should follow the same degree of credibility. Hence a higher degree of trust needs to be built into organisational cultures in order that they can begin to behave more like a boutique hotel and less like a roadside motel. Service should be a privilege and an art form but it also needs the twist to make it stand out and be a truly memorable experience. To me, this is why Culture, Employee Engagement and Customer Experience needs to be truly and authentically aligned to the boutique projected personality of each service offering and brand promise.

Interesting links:

OUR CONTRIBUTOR

Dale SmithDale Smith
The founder and Director of Creation at Bridge Training & Events

With a BA in Psychology/Sociology coupled with a BA in Business Marketing he complements his theoretical know-how as an NLP Master Practitioner. Dale is an accomplished speaker and facilitator, having presented at several industry conferences and workshops for both commercial and association events. He works closely with businesses on transforming their people into Living Brand Champions and building an employee culture that represents a company’s vision, values and customer promise.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamAugust 3, 2015
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6min10270

By Manoj Madhusudanan, Managing Director of InsightBee

The way in which businesses conduct market research has changed dramatically in recent years. In the post-recession marketplace, gathering intelligence to support your business development plans in a timely and cost effective manner has quickly become the key to helping businesses win new client’s and enter new markets. As a result, there has been a shift from merely sourcing information to producing useful insights from it.

In 2008, at the height of the global recession, it was projected that by 2015 the internet would be at least 50 times larger than it was in 2006. For businesses, this led to a gradual change in the way that market research was valued. As the volume of data available online began to expand at an exponential rate, being able to derive actionable business insights from it – rather than simply sourcing relevant information – became the new challenge.

Insight Crisis report

Despite this, some businesses are still finding it difficult to make this transition. According to a study conducted by InsightBee, companies in the UK now waste over £14 billion a year on research that does not yield effective business insights. The study, known as the Insight Crisis report, looked at the amount of time and money businesses in the UK spend on sourcing unproductive research each year.

Most firms already know that they need to look beyond their own internal data to gain the greatest business insights. However, according to the Insight Crisis report, more than one billion hours are lost each year to the sourcing of ineffective research.

The problem is that many businesses still believe that drawing on large sets of data is the only way to source business insights. As a result, many firms have begun investing time and money into big data analytics before making full use of the information already available to them. This has led to an incredible increase in the amount of capital invested into big data.

Recent research revealed that as of 2014 2.8 zettabytes of data is generated each year and replicated worldwide.

Research is an unparalleled enabler when it comes to problem solving, as it provides objective and accurate insights. However, it is not an end in itself. Understanding and attempting to address the root cause of a business problem or challenge is the key to addressing the issue of unproductive and ineffective research.

Technological advancements are already changing the way in which market research adds value to organisations. The development of digital networks and new techniques for gathering unstructured data, for example, will help firms streamline their market research processes in the future.

The business case for adopting this approach is supported by the fact that nearly two-thirds (62%) of employees feel as though the research they find is unreliable, and that the time they’ve spent researching has been wasted as a result. These findings highlight the need for businesses to alter their approach to research, not only to improve productivity, but also to support greater staff wellbeing.

InsightBee’s report clearly shows that the amount of hours and revenue being wasted by businesses is a real problem in the UK. Businesses are being held back as a result of sourcing research that does not provide any meaningful insight into their marketplace, clients or competitors. As the economy expands and more business opportunities emerge, having a productive and efficient business research model will therefore be an essential tool in gaining a competitive advantage.

Useful links:

OUR CONTRIBUTOR

Manoj MadhusudananManoj Madhusudanan
Managing Director of InsightBee

InsightBee is an online service that provides high quality insights at an affordable rate, quicker – all researched, analysed and compiled by our global network of highly qualified consultants. Whether you need competitor analysis, executive profiles, company reports or wider industry analysis, InsightBee provides a fast and accurate response. InsightBee sourced data from the ONS and used statistics based on 2,863,000 people in the professional, scientific and technical sector.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamAugust 3, 2015
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6min15210

eDigitalResearch, Yodel, and their winning customer feedback programme

Just days after the same programme won the Charted Institute of Transport and Logistics (CILT) North West Region Award for Education and Excellence, voice of the Customer specialist eDigitalResearch and independent parcel carrier Yodel are delighted to announce that their revolutionary ‘Have Your Say’ customer feedback programme has been shortlisted for the UK Customer Experience Awards 2015.

The pioneering programme is nominated in the Business Change and Transformation category, thanks to the significant cultural change the ‘Have Your Say’ feedback programme has brought about in Yodel’s business – customer experience measures and insight are now used daily as the entire business looks to improve, innovate and drive a customer centric culture across the business.

A success story

Yodel partnered with eDigitalResearch back in March 2013 to help better understand and manage the end user’s experience. Since its launch, Have Your Say has received over 1.5 million responses from customers based on their real-time delivery experiences. Feedback and insight is then used to identify and praise good service, implement customer centric solutions and quickly resolve issues when they occur.

Yodel, which handles over 155 million parcels a year on behalf on the UK’s top retailers, has recorded a significant rise in customer satisfaction* since the introduction of ‘Have Your Say’, thanks in part to the ability to react quickly to feedback.

Steve Brockway, Chief Operating Officer at eDigitalResearch, comments, “We’re delighted to be recognised alongside Yodel for the fantastic effect that their bespoke ‘Have Your Say’ programme is having on their business. Research is changing; gone are the days of backwards looking research, Instead, we’re entering an age where feedback is no longer just a survey, but a way of working. By delivering the right data to the right people across Yodel’s business, they’re able to take immediate and direct action to delight customers.”

Commenting on behalf of Yodel, Executive Chairman, Dick Stead, added; “What started as a method of listening to customers has developed and our work with eDigital on the ‘Have Your Say’ survey now actively drives change throughout our business and helps us to innovate for the future. The survey is currently unique in the carrier industry and we’re delighted that the tangible results that we’re seeing are being recognised in this way.”

*Customer satisfaction: Measured as the number of customers who have been satisfied / very satisfied with their experience. This compares with a retail average Customer Satisfaction score of 78%.

The winners of the 2015 Business Change or Transformation award will be announced later this year at the annual UK Customer Experience Awards in September.

Useful links:

OUR CONTRIBUTORS

yodelAbout Yodel

UK independent parcel carrier Yodel handles over 155 million parcels every year and has a relationship with 85 per cent of the UK’s top retailers. The company is headquartered in Hatfield and has over 60 locations across the UK, including three central sorts and over 50 service centres. Yodel offers a range of services to meet the needs of its clients and their customers.
Through its sister company, Arrow XL, Yodel can also offer a two man service for white goods and large items up to 120kg. To find out more visit www.yodel.co.uk

eDigitalResearchAbout eDigitalResearch

eDigitalResearch is the leading provider of SaaS Voice of the Customer programmes & empower businesses to make critical decisions through customer insight. By combining our proprietary technology with focused insight and thought leadership, we’re able to provide a truly unique solution – from real-time closed-loop customer feedback to Panels and Communities.


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamAugust 3, 2015
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8min5890

By Peter Gale, UK Managing Director, DBF

When the International on-line lottery business, Tipp24 decided to relocate its business to the UK from Germany it gave itself a tight timeframe of just three months to find an outsourced contact centre provider and establish its operation. Finding the right partner can be a bit of a lottery (excuse the pun), but Tipp24 struck lucky when they met with DBF.

“We contacted several companies and DBF was the first to respond,” says Tipp24’s Head of Customer Service, Jörg Rebenstorf. “Once we met them, we stopped looking elsewhere.” Jörg and his team immediately felt they’d found a partner that matched their customer focused culture and could meet their need for speed. They were right. Within just six weeks of taking the brief the DBF operation for Tipp24 was up and running. “The good news is that our customers didn’t even notice the change,” says Jörg, “and our service levels were matched from day one.” Part of the challenge for DBF was to recruit native German speakers into the team. “What can I say,” says Jörg, “we agreed we needed to recruit the team in just three weeks and when I arrived at the end of that time, there they were.”

Close to the customer
Before engaging with DBF, the team at Tipp24 had anticipated outsourcing for a short time, but bringing the operation back inhouse once firmly established in their new UK home. That hasn’t happened and, in fact, today DBF is Tipp24’s exclusive customer service partner for the UK and Germany. “Being close to the customer has always been vitally important for us,” says Jörg. “It was hard for us to believe we could outsource and maintain that closeness. DBF proved us wrong.”

DBF recognised in Tipp24 a client that was committed to its customers and, together, the partners found a way to make it work. Tipp24 has a constant presence at the DBF site – either Jörg or a member of his team – that supports DBF’s contact centre leader and works closely with DBF’s agents. “I’m not in charge,” says Jörg, “that’s DBF’s role, but I work alongside and help to make sure that the whole team feels close to Tipp24, excited by our lotteries and enthusiastic about our customers.”

DBF has devised another way to keep Tipp24 and its customers close. A Voice of the Customer programme has been established to capture customer responses to every interaction. It provides a valuable measure of customer satisfaction of course but, more importantly, allows DBF to question customers about how they view Tipp24 products, feel about the service or think about online lotteries. “We’re able to input questions and gather free-form responses directly from customers about a whole range of subjects,” says Jörg. “These insights are shared with the Tipp24 management team and used to drive change across departments that will not only impact customer service delivery but every aspect of how we work.”

Winning results
Post contact surveys measures whether the customer felt their issue was dealt with well by the agent, found the interaction easy and would provide a recommendation on the strength of it. The results indicate a market leading performance with an NPS score of +46.

These positive results have been reinforced by an independent survey in Tipp24’s biggest market, Germany. A survey conducted by the Germany Society for Consumer Studies evaluated 10 online lottery providers. Tipp24, came second only to the German State Lottery.

International expansion

Tipp24 chose the UK as a springboard for expansion across Europe. Today it provides white label lottery services to over thirty UK organisations – sports clubs for the most part, including Arsenal FC and Sussex Cricket Club. “These organisations are rightly protective of their brand and their supporter base,” says Jörg, “so it’s important that the customer service we provide is exceptional.” Effective contact routing means that every customer from every white label partner is recognised, welcomed and served appropriately.

“We envisage that our future growth in Europe will come from providing white label lottery formats to organisations like these, or by partnering with state lotteries to deliver the technology and know-how to introduce exciting online lottery formats,” says Jörg. All of this means that growth across the continent is very much on the agenda for Tipp24. “And we’re confident we’ve chosen a partner that can grow with us. Not only is DBF the right cultural fit for our business, they have operational capability across mainland Europe as well as the UK,” Jörg concludes.

The company that was, at first, reluctant to outsource customer management has found that it can gain operational and financial flexibility, without compromising its relationship with its customers. Sounds like a winner!

“DBF convinced us that outsourcing could be, not just a stop gap, but a permanent solution for our business as we grow and expand across Europe. Their enthusiasm for our business, their passion for their own and their willingness to work in true partnership has secured our trust and our respect,” concludes Jörg Rebenstorf of Tipp24

Interesting links:

OUR CONTRIBUTOR

Peter GalePeter Gale
UK Managing Director, DBF

Established in 1999, DBF is a fast growing outsourced contact centre provider with operations across the UK and Europe. It operates 1,800 contact centre seats in seven European countries. Peter has led DBF’s UK growth since 2005 taking the business from 35 to its current 300+ seats by creating a culture of quality and client focus. He has spent over 20 years in the outsourced contact centre industry and is a Special Advisor to the Direct Marketing Association. He sat for a maximum 10 year term on the DMA’s Contact Centre & Telemarketing Council and authored the ‘Quality’ section of the DMA’s ‘Client Guide to Outsourcing’.


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9min7920

Mark Magee, Vice President of Product Management, MaritzCX

As companies become more competitive, their customer experience practitioners are becoming more experienced and more specialized. To take a company to the next level, CX practitioners should stay up-to-date with the latest trends in technology. New technologies can enable companies to make better decisions in customer experience that will help drive growth, profitability and market share.

Sentiment Analysis

Customers who love a brand behave in economically beneficial ways. Happy, delighted customers purchase more, stay longer and tell their friends about it, leading to faster organic growth.

The technology of understanding human feelings will only get more sophisticated in the future. Today, human emotion is measured through self-reporting on traditional surveys. Using appropriate scales or a battery of questions, we get an understanding of the strength of human emotions when customers tell us how strong their feelings are regarding a brand or product.

The future of sentiment analysis senses customer feelings without asking questions.

Text Analytics

For decades, companies have asked open-ended questions on marketing and customer experience surveys. The increasing sophistication of text analysis algorithms are able to detect positive and negative customer sentiment, or customer feelings, via open-ended survey responses, chat logs, social media, call logs and service reviews. Customer sentiment in these archives will help companies understand the importance of particular customer experiences in creating anger or delight.

Voice Stress Analysis

Understanding customer sentiment through the unique changes in the tone, pitch and timbre of the human voice brings a whole new dimension to Voice of Customer (VoC). Today, technology has focused on understanding the level of stress present in the human voice for the purposes of law enforcement and lie detection. As the technology progresses, its usefulness is being expanded to forensic sentiment analysis from recorded calls, understanding how customers felt at the end of a call vs. the beginning. Sometimes it’s not just about the words that are said, but how someone is saying it. The future of this technology is real-time feedback that allows agents an additional source of information to help advance the cause of surprising and delighting customers.

Big Data

Corporate IT systems are evolving and becoming increasingly adept at capturing data and metadata from customer interactions during customer experiences. Big data is taking shape in four particular areas: operational data, smartphone tracking, data sharing relationships and automatic analysis.

Operational Data

Customer experience surveys of the past might have asked how long a customer waited on hold, received an order on time, or whether a flight was delayed. But now it’s easy for a call center system to tie the number of seconds of hold time to a customer record. In-air experiences like turbulence, unusual technical events and flight times are easily tied to customer records. Just-in-time manufacturing and shipping systems can link customer records with products. Adding operational data en masse to customer experience research allows for incredibly detailed experimentation and management of the physical customer experience.

Smartphone Tracking and Wearables

Companies like RetailNext, Nomi and ShopperTrak know which store displays consumers pause to look at, which paths they take through stores and how often they stop in stores without purchasing anything. They do this by tracking unique signals from the communication signature of consumers’ phones via the cell network, Bluetooth and other communication protocols. They don’t listen to consumers’ calls, but they don’t need to. This incredible source of behavioral information will help retailers tailor their displays, store layouts and even the propensity of customer service reps to be attentive to customer needs. Building location-oriented data into CX is a bright frontier for the industry.

Automatic Analysis

Data analysts the world over quiver in their boots when they hear that Google is backing a startup called Automatic Statistician. IBM backed the Watson project that promises a computer that can read natural language, as well as learn and generate a hypothesis. To believe the marketing, one might think experts, from statisticians to doctors and lawyers, should be worried about super computers taking over their jobs.

In reality, tools like Automatic Statistician and Watson still require a subject matter expert. These high-tech tools just take the mundane part out of the work. For CX data analysts, that means no longer having to link data together, export data to an external tool built for statistical processing and create custom visualizations that decision makers can understand. To meet this need, MaritzCX created the Spotlight® tool for simple, automatic analysis of customer experience data.

Data-Sharing Relationships

As the saying goes, “If the product is free, then you’re the product.” No place is this more obvious than in the multibillion dollar startups like Google and Facebook, whose free service to consumers presents paid advertisements based on individual interests. Companies increasingly discover unanticipated value in customer data. Strategic data-sharing partnerships are an important aspect of the coming landscape of CX. Partners that can help us understand customers’ tastes, preferences and expectations of customer experience will prove incredibly valuable in the hyper-competitive world of today’s marketplace.

Longitudinal Perspective

Customers meet our brands in wildly different ways. Linking together a reliable perspective of the customer journey, with all its possible paths and interactions, across a wide variety of channels, has still proven elusive. For customer service agents and frontline staff, the longitudinal view of previous transactions and interactions is broadly available at an individual customer level. Nevertheless, a corporate view of the customer experience and how individuals flow through it, as well as the importance of each interaction throughout the journey, has proven elusive.

With a holistic view of customer flow through brand interactions, companies will be better able to manage the important experiences to be more relevant to customer needs. Innovation of longitudinal perspective of the future will incorporate new journey models, exploratory statistical tools and perhaps interesting new visualizations for the ways important events build on each other.

Mark MageeMARK MAGEE
VP Product Management

Mark is responsible for overall product direction and strategy at MaritzCX. Prior to this role, Magee led the product management team at Allegiance and was instrumental in developing key practices and procedures to improve product direction and development.

Mark is an accomplished product management and marketing executive with two decades of experience in bringing solutions to market that solve key customer challenges. His background includes extensive product management, product marketing and business development for very diverse and global product lines. Mark has successfully led teams with a keen eye for detail and is known for his positive influence. Prior to Allegiance, Mark worked for Symantec where he held responsibility for Symantec’s market-leading Endpoint Protection and Management products. Mark has held leadership positions at a number of technology companies including Altiris, Ancestry.com and Folio Corporation.


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6min7960

Mark Hamill, Awards International UAE

Digital is changing the way organisations approach customer experience. Digital technology has become part of everyday life for the majority of consumers and has challenged customer expectations around service, delivery and communications. It’s great having nifty apps and creative web design to entice consumers to your business, but if these fail to deliver what the customer wants, in the time they have available, the customer will not hang around.

With this comes the opportunity for businesses to completely re-invent how they design and deliver customer experience. Organisations should still approach customer experience the same way they always have, but look at digital solutions as added value.

A sound digital strategy needs to be accompanied by a customer experience strategy to ensure that any digital activities result in a positive customer experience which will have a successful impact on your business and leave the customer coming back for more!

Most organisations understand the importance of using technology in their customer experience strategy, but many also feel pressure at the level of complexity that is involved.
So, what are some simple options that customer experience professionals explore to add the digital factor to their strategy?

Mobile Applications

Consumers carry their phone everywhere they go. Offering a unique mobile application will ensure your company reaches your audience at all times. Mobile applications allow the organisation to deliver a digital experience and improve customer engagement. From Apps for public use to more complex applications for commercial use, the organisation with the right creative content, experience, and offer will make this an exciting mobile experience for the customer.

Social Media

Companies are using social media to drive sales, brand and manage customer perceptions and customer experience e.g. Info sharing apps, social media campaigns, customer service through social media channels and more.

SEO

Companies are putting in place a well thought out SEO plan to optimise online presence/search to reach the right audience at the right time. This greatly improves how organisations are reaching consumers through website content.

Website

Analytics on your website visitors creates opportunities to track visitors to your website and re-target them. Many organisations incorporate Invoicing/payment services online making it easier to track customers’ trends and inventory, as well as integrate incentive programs. Not only is it convenient, but being able to quickly find the information using the web or make a payment online makes the customer feel tech-savvy.

Digital solutions offer an opportunity for organisations to be recognized in the digital arena and incorporate a unique value into their customer experience plan. With many options available, every customer experience professional can be confident they will find a solution that matches their digital initiatives, budget, and customer experience strategy.

So, if you’re transforming your business with Digital, and you’ve got the evidence to prove it, stand up and be rewarded for all your hard work!

Entering the Gulf Customer Experience Awards 2015 featuring the Gulf Digital Experience Awards 2015, supports organisations and businesses wishing to promote an exceptional customer and digital experiences.

About the Gulf Customer Experience Awards

The Gulf Customer Experience Awards celebrate and recognise the very best in Customer Experience across all sectors and multiple categories. The Awards are based on a very successful model we have exported from the UK, the UK Customer Experience Awards, which is now in its sixth year.

In addition to profile raising and PR opportunities, the Awards provide a vehicle for sharing best practice and for promoting continuous improvement, learning and personal development.

The deadline for submitting entries is Tuesday 15th September 2015 and the Awards take place on Wednesday 9th December 2015.

About the Gulf Digital Experience Awards

The Digital Experience Awards are unique: recognising and celebrating the delivery of an exceptional customer experience through digital media and channels. The Awards take part during the same Finals and Ceremony as the Gulf Customer Experience Awards.

If you’d like to discuss either of the Awards programmes further, please call the team on 00971 56 130 9800 or email dana@awardsinternational.ae

Mark HamillMark Hamill
Managing Director
Awards International UAE

Mark has been in the UAE since 2010 after previously working for the Scottish Police Services Authority. In Dubai Mark previously held positions as the Marketing Manager of Ethos Consultancy and Product Manager of The International Customer Service Institute (TICSI). With a background in developing International Standards and Marketing, Mark was instrumental in running the UAE Customer Service Week, Stars of Service Awards and the UAE Service Olympian Awards from 2011 to 2013. He now holds the position of Managing Director in Awards International UAE, running business awards programmes such as the International Business Excellence Awards 2015.


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7min8390

Mike Hughes, MD of PeopleTECH

One of the biggest changes to impact the customer experience industry over the past decade, has undoubtedly been the change in consumer expectations. Where many consumers were once inert and passive about dealing with and accepting a bad customer experience, they will now not only shout about their bad experience on social media but are also much more willing to take their custom elsewhere.

Consumers are empowered like they have never been before and it is the smart brands that are delivering a customer experience – smart, quick, efficient and in keeping with the customer’s preferences – that encourages loyalty and attracts new customers. But what is the secret to achieving this? It is partly down to having the right people and the right processes in place, but it’s also a question of deploying the best and most effective technologies.

If brands are serious about customer experience, these are the five must-have technologies they should be considering.

Mobile – even for those aged 65+, mobile phone take-up stands at 72%. People use mobile for almost every aspect of their day-to-day life, which means the customer experience delivered by a brand HAS to be all about mobile.

That’s why it is so shocking when you come across websites (all too frequently) that aren’t even properly mobile optimised, with customers unable to locate even simple information about a brand’s services, such as contact details or opening hours – that should be a basic starting point. The savvy brands though, will provide the tools to allow customers to self-serve on mobile, and will also be able to predict the next best action for agents assisting customers via any channel.

Omnichannel –
that ability to help customers via whichever channel is the most suitable for them is a powerful tool for any brand. This is omnichannel, which goes much further than multichannel, involving a greater continuity of user experience, the retention of a customer’s context across channels and ultimately the Single Digital Channel (SDC) to address customer requirements effectively.

Omnichannel CEM is reliant on data, and the right tools can give brands (and their customer service agents) unparalleled information relating to that customer and their likely intent. Deploying real-time analytics, this data will allow frontline customer service staff to offer a better service to that customer, resolving issues quicker and offering help at the right time and via the right channel. SDC will even allow access to all media types from an agent’s desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent to suit a particular customer.

Knowledge base –
in simple terms a knowledge base is exactly what it sounds like – a central repository for knowledge, i.e. content and information. But the right knowledge base software is much more than that, and enormously important in allowing agents to deliver a good customer experience. It provides agents with access (from a device of their choosing) to the information required for successful customer interaction, reducing resolution time and increasing customer satisfaction and worker efficiency.

Second generation predictive chat –
live chat is an increasingly popular way of communicating with a brand, allowing consumers to get issues addressed promptly and multi-task as they do it. But few things are as irritating as unwanted live chat, the kind that gets offered within seconds of you arriving on a website.

Second generation live chat is truly impressive however. The agents have your customer history at hand and will have the context from previous interactions on other channels, meaning interactions can be handled quickly and effectively, win-win for brand and customer. And crucially, consumers will be offered live chat only when they are likely to want it.

IVR – whilst it would be a stretch to describe IVR as innovative new technology, there remains a place for Interactive Voice |Response (IVR) systems in the modern contact centre. Part of the problem with traditional IVR systems is that many were designed and implemented decades ago, before the advent of web, email, mobile and social.

Visual IVR on the other hand, is a great option for simplifying information-heavy tasks or transactions. What can be a cumbersome and arduous experience using traditional IVR, is transformed into a simple and straight-forward scanning of a screen, on a smartphone, tablet or PC. Customers can click and touch their way through a system, without having to listen to each and every option.

Technology can play a significant role in delivering the customer experience demanding by modern consumers. Brands should not be put off by talk of long sales cycles, and with the right provider can overhaul their customer experience in the above areas of technology within 90 days.

Mike HughesMike Hughes
MD of PeopleTECH

Mike Hughes is MD of PeopleTECH, the customer management consultancy that advises organisations on how to deliver the right customer experience. Founded in 2002, PeopleTECH combines experience working with some of the world’s biggest companies, with a deep understanding of digital transformation, helping to drive efficiency and profitability by offering a bespoke and agile approach to improving the customer journey.


Sarah JenkinsonSarah JenkinsonJuly 1, 2015
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7min11330

Sarah Jenkinson chats to Laura Lao, Gousto

Gousto delivers everything food lovers need to cook the recipes they love, weekly. We deliver quality ingredients, in exact portions; with step-by-step recipe cards that make cooking simple and enjoyable. With flexible delivery and a new menu of delicious recipes to choose from each week, the customer chooses what to cook and when.

You entered the UK Customer Experience Awards last year – and won! Can you tell us a bit about your award winning initiative and what it meant to you to win?

We entered the category relating to Insight and Feedback and we showcased our approach to using customer feedback to continuously improve product and service. One of the key things we showed was how we collate customer feedback at every touch point, and how we turn that data into key indicators which we use to determine product innovation, operations refinement, and service upgrade.

Winning the award was very exciting and unexpected for us. We had low expectations about winning because it was our first time at the awards, and we were competing with big industry leaders such as Samsung UK. The award was a huge recognition of our work, and it motivated us further to improve our approach to harvest information from better customer feedback.

How’s life after winning an award?

Winning the award has presented us with many opportunities to connect with other businesses, share experiences, and learn new ideas and best practices. We turned our learning into projects to improve our current processes, and we saw great results. We definitely want to keep this innovative momentum going to drive further improvement to what Gousto has to offer.

What exciting things have been happening at Gousto in the last 12 months since winning your Award? Any exciting customer experience projects you can share with our readers?

We’ve been really busy in the past 12 months since winning the award. We listened to our customers, and worked on several big feature changes to our service. We are really happy to share with you the exciting changes we’ve brought about.

First of all, our chefs have introduced many “under 20 min” recipes because customers have been telling us that they want quicker recipes for busy workday evenings. These recipes often add a Gousto twist on some of the classics. Although quick to prepare, they are in no way compromised on great taste!

The second feature we’ve launched recently is more delivery days. We used to offer options to get a box delivered mid-week or at the end of the week. Now customers can choose to have deliveries on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and even Saturday. What’s more, customers can even switch between different delivery days every week!

Another exciting change we’ve brought about is more flexible box size. Customers may choose to receive 2—4 recipes for 2 or 4 people, so they can easily share Gousto if they have guests staying over, or if they simply want to indulge themselves in more Gousto treats.

Last but not least, the most recent feature we’ve introduced is shorter order lead time for all delivery days. Now customers can arrange a delivery as little as 3 days ahead. So there is no more waiting around for a week for your box to arrive – we’re always ready when you are!

And if that’s not enough, we’ll be bringing out our brand new iOS app in a few weeks’ time. Customers will be able to put Gousto in their pocket and order delicious meals on the go!

What advice would you give to other companies considering entering this years’ awards?

Laura_GoustoIf you are considering entering the award, think no more. It’s a great experience, and it’ll be very useful for you to benchmark your practices against other businesses in the industry. It’ll be amazing to win the award of course, but even if you don’t win, you won’t walk away with nothing. The most beneficial gains are the connection and the learning when you are part of this community.

Any offers on for readers of our blog?

Definitely! Give Gousto a try today with £25 off your first box, simply use the code CXM625.

 

S JenkinsonSarah Jenkinson
PR and Communication Manager
Customer Experience Magazine
Email: SJ@customerexperiencemagazine.co.uk
Telephone: 020 7558 8241 020 7558 8241.

I am passionate about Customer Experience and love hearing about all the wonderful things companies are doing to put the customer at the heart of their business. In my role at Awards International I manage the blogs on our Awards websites, I write articles for Customer Experience Magazine and support our clients with all the PR opportunities that being involved in our Awards brings.

Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/sarahjenkinson/

Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahJJenkinson


Sarah JenkinsonSarah JenkinsonJune 1, 2015
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6min8600

A customer journey map (CJM) is an incredibly useful tool when it comes to understanding and improving your customer experience.

If you’ve got a great CJM it can really help you understand how your customers see things at key touch points in their journey. This will not only will enable you to see how your customers interact with you today, but also identify opportunities for improvement going forward.

There’s no such thing as a standard CJM – you can design one incorporating high tech design principles, or even by simply using smiley faces. However, if it’s going to be of any use – you need to take the following criteria into consideration:

  1. Take the customers’ perspective: Describe the customer experience from the customer’s perspective, using customer-friendly terms. Jargon, including any term that is not familiar to or not used by customers, should be banned!
  2. Do your research. The CJM should be built with input and involvement from multiple departments that touch the customer’s interaction with the company. This will often require a series of interviews and workshops throughout the process. You could even bring in your customers and build it interactively with your staff.
  3. Represent Customer segments. Customer journey mapping can be used to segment user groups in order to personalise the experience they receive. What may be relevant to one consumer may not be relevant to another and it is important to address this when mapping out a prospective consumer’s journey in order for them to receive the best possible experience.
  4. Include Customer goals. A great customer journey map shows your customer’s goals at each stage of the process. Bear in mind that goals can change as the process unfolds…
  5. Focus on emotions. Emotions are critical to any experience and a great customer journey map incorporates and reflects the emotional, experiential, and functional elements of the customer experience. The emotional refers to how a customer is feeling, experiential refers to what a customer experiences, and functional refers to the logistics of how it happens.
  6. Represent touch points. The CJM is often built to communicate the order and type of touch points – including those not in your control.
  7. Highlight moments of truth. Some interactions have more impact than others. Great journey maps separate those critical moments of truth from the rest. For example, when visiting a hotel, a poor service at check-in can taint the rest of the experience.
  8. Measure your brand promise. A critical outcome of a great CJM is measuring how your experience supports your brand promise. If your brand promise is to be either effortless, highly customised, or unique, then your journey map is an excellent way to find out whether your customer feels you are meeting that goal.
  9. Keep it simple: Make it easy to follow and appropriate for a wide variety of levels and functions.

Have you created a CJM which has enabled you to make positive improvements to your customer experience? We’d love to hear your stories. Use the buttons below to share via social media.

To subscribe for information about our other Awards programmes please click here.

S JenkinsonSarah Jenkinson
PR and Communication Manager
Customer Experience Magazine
Email: SJ@customerexperiencemagazine.co.uk
Telephone: 020 7558 8241 020 7558 8241.

I am passionate about Customer Experience and love hearing about all the wonderful things companies are doing to put the customer at the heart of their business. In my role at Awards International I manage the blogs on our Awards websites, I write articles for Customer Experience Magazine and support our clients with all the PR opportunities that being involved in our Awards brings.

Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/sarahjenkinson/

Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahJJenkinson


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6min7620

by Emma Banks, LV=

LV= employs 6,000 people across 17 locations in the UK and serves over 5.7 million customers with a range of financial products. We’re the UK’s largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just the privileged. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

Today our vision is to be Britain’s best loved insurer. This means we don’t focus solely on profit and income, rather we put great effort into making LV= a great place to work and providing our customers with a fantastic service. Management regularly goes out and talks to our people on the front-line who deal with our customers on a daily basis. We do this to identify possible areas of improvement. One such area to benefit from this approach is our motor repair claims.

Historically, our motor repair claims department didn’t offer case ownership, i.e. one person for customers to deal with from start to finish. As a result, customers would have different consultants contacting them at different stages of making a claim and in some cases have to repeat information already provided. Consultants would need to read through the full claim details on each case before they could call the customer back, as they were unaware of the current status. These issues caused customer frustration, but also slowed down the claims journey and made it feel impersonal to our customers. Additionally, our employees felt discouraged as it was difficult to create rapport with the customer and understand fully their needs.

We knew we needed to change our process to provide a more streamlined and efficient claims journey for both our customers and employees, so in April 2014 we implemented case ownership within our motor repair claims area.

As part of the initiative, we provide consultants with around two hours each day to manage their own personal caseload. This means they are taken out of the incoming call line for this period to focus solely on their outbound activity. By having scheduled time to concentrate on their outbound customers and being able to help them from the beginning of their repair claim to its resolution, our consultants are now spending less time ‘catching up’ on the details of the claim and more time focusing on the customer’s requirements. This puts our people in a better position to create relationships with the customer and provide the great service we want to offer.

Since case ownership has been deployed in our motor repair department we are seeing excellent employee engagement scores. In a recent employee survey our claims department received a score of 92% for ‘considering the customer needs’, 11% higher than Towers Watson (TW) High Performing Organisation Norm (HPO) and 81% for ‘morale generally high’, 10% higher than TW HPO norm.

The positive engagement scores are a result of our consultants gaining an increased sense of empowerment, as they have been given an increased level of responsibility to manage their own case load effectively for their customers. Additionally, now they can prioritise cases rather than work through a randomly selected number of cases assigned to them. By having scheduled time out of the incoming call line to concentrate on their outbound activity work load our consultants have a clearer understanding and sight of when they are required to complete their work.

The handlers are more motivated and have more control over outbound calls. The nature of the repair team entails them to help customers after what can be a very stressful and traumatic experience. Seeing a customer’s claim from the beginning to the end of their repairs, whilst making their experience as personable as possible, and removing any unnecessary stress throughout, can add a sense of accomplishment.

Additionally, since we implemented case ownership our people are being recognised for excellent claims journeys, as one person is involved in one case, rather than many and we have received numerous letters from customers thanking us for the way we have handled their claim. We have also received external recognition, including a UK Employee Experience award, giving our employees a further boost and knowledge that they are doing a great job and making a difference.

Emma BanksEmma Banks
Emma Banks is head of corporate communications at leading financial mutual LV=. Her remit includes external and internal communications and member relations. The company is recognised for its fresh focus and routinely wins awards for its high standard of products and customer service Previously to joining LV=, Emma was head of PR for Direct Line and also worked as part of the team that launched Royal Sun Alliance’s More Than brand in 2000.


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7min6980

by Gary Topiol, InMoment

Customer Experience is maturing. I rarely hear the phrase “customer service” anymore, and most business leaders know what acronyms like CX and VoC mean – without even Googling them.

However maturing is a verb that indicates a process, and this doesn’t mean that the sector is completely grown up. In fact, we’re probably somewhere in our teenage years, which, just like that stage of human development, can be awkward and painful.

Over the last year I’ve seen an increasing number of news stories, blogs and social posts recounting customer experience initiatives gone awry. From awkwardly executed campaigns, to the imposition of “friendlier” language – customers are rolling their eyes, posting comments of incredulity, and poking fun in live broadcasts.

While I won’t name names, this is happening to customer experience newbies and more seasoned brands alike. Why are these good intentions being questioned, begrudged, even mocked?

Simple: Because in our rush to deliver great customer experience, companies are designing experiences that simply don’t fit their brands. Normally, disconnects between expectation and execution present themselves in the form of a “bad” experience. But inappropriate experiences can come across as contrived, insincere, or just plain silly, and hurt a brand as much as those unpleasant ones.

When it comes to customer experience, it’s important that you don’t just try to be “the best,” but that you create and execute experiences that align with your customers’ best expectations. Following are a few important steps every company and CX professional should take to get, and stay on the right path:

  1. Know Who You Are

    A brand isn’t just an image, a look-and-feel, or a catchy name. Your brand should capture the essence of who you are and the unique value you offer customers. Most importantly, your brand is a continual negotiation – a dance – between your company and your customers. Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, said: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” This doesn’t mean you can abdicate the responsibility of doing the hard work of distilling that unique value and communicating it out. But it does mean that you must know, without a doubt, whether your brand promise resonates with customers.
  2.  

  3. Know What Your Customers Expect

    Customers expect different things from different brands. For some, it’s “fast and accurate.” For others, “friendly and helpful” is more appropriate. And for some, “luxury and exclusivity” are baseline expectations. Deviating from these core promises gets brands into trouble. For example, “friendly and helpful” can actually get in the way of “fast and accurate.” Stay focused on delivering what your customers value most.
  4.  

  5. Be Authentic

    There is no single formula for CX success because each organisation and its relationship with customers are different. Simply imposing another successful customer experience blueprint on your own organisation won’t work. There’s nothing wrong with learning from the best however, if you neglect the important step of adapting rules to the specific needs of your brand and your customers, you’re likely to stumble.
  6.  

  7. Be Deliberate

    Great customer experience doesn’t just happen. Identify the “moments of truth” along your customers’ journey that are most critical to their experience so you can draw them closer at each interaction. And pay special attention to the language you use. Even subtle-sounding misfires, like using the word “guest” instead of “customer” can indicate you don’t understand what customers value from their relationship with your brand. This is not simply a matter of being politically correct. Words matter, so choose wisely.
  8.  

  9. Listen

    Listening to customers cannot be something that happens once a year, once a quarter, or even once a month. Set up listening posts at every important touchpoint, provide open forums for customers to share when and how they prefer, and be proactive by listening on social media and other online forums. It’s just as important that you also have the right technology in place to make sense of the mountains of customer data, and the organisational commitment to act quickly.

In a blog post late last year, Gartner declared customer experience “the new competitive battleground.” As you embark upon the fight for market share, be wise in the strategies and tactics you deploy. While you should learn from the past, the only sure way to win and keep the hearts, minds and dollars of your customers is to take time to create an authentic environment — one made up of individual experiences that are true to the relationship you want with your customers. And then, push yourself beyond that goal.

Gary TopiolGary Topiol
Managing Director International, InMoment

Gary Topiol has been developing global customer experience strategies for FTSE 100 & Fortune 500 retailers for more than 20 years. He currently serves as managing director, international for InMoment, a customer experience optimisation platform. In this capacity, Topiol’s team studies and develops multi-market, multi-cultural Voice of Customer programs to help brands understand their customer experience and drive organizational improvements the world over.


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8min9600

Following three wins at this year’s Employee Experience Awards, CEO of Northern Gas Networks (NGN), Mark Horsley, explains why a pioneering new approach to leadership and empowering employees is proving successful for the North of England’s gas distributor.

NGN is responsible for delivering gas to 6.8 million customers across the North of England. We own and maintain a vast underground pipe network spanning 37,000 km, which keeps 2.7 homes and businesses in the North East, northern Cumbria and Yorkshire warm and cooking on gas.

Our people play a vital role in our region – from emergency engineers who are on the streets 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to our customer care officers who work closely with our customers and stakeholders. Our team of 2,000 colleagues also includes our 800 strong partner workforce, consisting of more than 30 local engineering businesses.

When I joined the organisation in 2011 my ambition for NGN was to be the Best and achieve number one status for customer satisfaction within first gas distribution, then utilities, then UK business as a whole.

Recognising that positive employee engagement and excellent customer service are issues that are undoubtedly intertwined I believed that we needed to take a new approach to employee engagement to be able to improve the quality of service that we offer to our millions of customers.

One of the first things that I introduced was a weekly CEO led customer experience meeting with senior managers from across the business. This placed a renewed focus on customer performance and created a forum for complaints to be analysed each week and the root cause investigated. Once this rigour had been established the meetings evolved to encourage any colleague to freely put their ideas forward and ask questions of managers in an open forum. This gave everyone the opportunity to make their own decisions and share their ideas to improve customer experience. This meeting is now a weekly open discussion led and attended by colleagues at all levels across the business and it has resulted in motivated staff and increased customer satisfaction.

We’re committed to ensuring that everyone is given the opportunity to progress though the business and invest £2.4million each year in to the growth, development and career aspirations of our colleagues at NGN. We introduced our training and learning facility, inspire Academy, in 2013. Through the Academy and the ‘inspire’ approach we offer people a structured way to make their thoughts, feelings and observations about the business known and provide support to colleagues in their personal learning and development.

Our whole approach is centred on respecting that we’re all adults and the power to change the business lies with each individual, not just senior management. I operate an open door policy and welcome anyone who wants to discuss any issues or ideas. This has created an environment where employees feel empowered to make a difference. Colleagues support each other to deliver a better external service and this has helped to improve customers’ opinions of NGN.

Our company culture has completely changed without having implemented a rigid culture change programme and the results speak for themselves. People want to work with us – we are now receiving higher levels of applications for every role and our sickness absence percentage has reduced and NGN now has the most engaged employees of any utility business in the UK as well as the highest customer satisfaction rating. We are also outperforming some of the UK’s top retail companies in terms of both employee engagement and customer experience which wouldn’t have happened without our change in approach to colleague empowerment.

Our excellent customer service has recently been recognised at the National Business Awards, the UK Customer Experience Awards and the UK Customer Satisfaction Awards. This is in addition to our most recent wins at the UK Employee Experience Awards, which recognises companies that are delivering an outstanding employee experience which results in a great service for the customer and the business as a whole.

We were up against household names including Virgin Money, LV= and BT and took home gongs for Employee Insight and Feedback and Employee Engagement — People at the Heart. I was also honoured to personally receive the Inspirational Leader or Manager Award – something that just wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the fantastic team at NGN.

Our success is now being acknowledged by fellow utility companies British Gas, National Grid, Scottish Power, Northumbrian Water and Wales & West Utilities and non-utility companies including Superdrug, Nat West and RBS – all of whom have visited us to find out more about how we’ve achieved such a huge improvement so quickly.

To be recognised not just within our own industry, but in other sectors across the UK is a huge achievement. However this is just the first step. We will continue to invest in the skills of our people, improving processes and technology and set further challenges as we strive to be the best to ensure that we have a happy workforce as well as happy customers.

Mark Horsley
Mark Horsley

Mark Horsley has been Chief Executive Officer of Northern Gas Networks Limited (NGN) since 2011. He has almost 40 years of experience in the energy sector. In the four years since joining NGN the company has transformed its approach to customer service, securing nine accolades for customer experience in the last 12 months. Mark has held a number of senior appointments in the industry including being an Equity Partner and Head of Power Distribution at EC Harris, an international built asset consultancy; Strategy and Central Programmes Director at Scottish Power; and President and Chief Operating Officer at CE Electric UK. Mark held the post of Chairman of the UK Energy Networks Association from 2004 to 2006, and was appointed Chairman of the Energy Innovation Centre (EIC) in 2014.


Sarah JenkinsonSarah JenkinsonMay 4, 2015
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4min7280

If your organisation is in the market for business awards, then there are plenty to choose from. However, if you want to stand out from the crowd and be recognised for your focus on customer experience and how it’s helped you drive value, reduce costs and build competitive advantage, then the UK Customer Experience Awards will help you to do just that!

Yes, there will be networking, dinners, winners, workshops and prizes, as you would expect from an awards ceremony, but there will also be a number of unique opportunities that you may not experience at other awards events.

One of the most distinctive features of the UK Customer Experience Awards is the robust and transparent judging process. Unlike many other award ceremonies where the winners have been decided in advance, at the Customer Experience Awards the Finalists make their presentations on the day and the judging takes place in real time, which adds to the excitement and anticipation!

This years’ Awards come with a special twist – the audience will be able to participate in the judging too and your vote will count towards deciding the Overall Winner of the UK Customer Experience Awards 2015. In a ‘public’ vote, the top three scoring winners from the day will be pitched against one another – they will present a one minute ‘Elevator Pitch’ to the audience who will have the opportunity to vote, via an app, for the team that they think has delivered the best customer experience. The team who receive the most votes will secure the coveted crown of Overall Winner, as judged by the audience!

All the Awards Finalists will receive feedback to enable continuous improvement – our benchmarked feedback report provides valuable insights into how you could improve your customers’ experience as well as show you how you scored against your competitors!

Now in their 6th year, the UK Customer Experience Awards are the place to be if you want recognition for your CX approach and your business as a whole.

Please call 0207 193 0551, or send an email to Lisa.harmer@awardsinternational.eu for more information

S JenkinsonSarah Jenkinson
PR and Communication Manager
Customer Experience Magazine
Email: SJ@customerexperiencemagazine.co.uk
Telephone: 020 7558 8241.

In Sarah’s role as PR and Communications Manager, she is responsible for helping companies who enter the awards get the most out of all the PR opportunities that entering awards brings – from providing marketing tools such as press releases to raising the profile of the Awards and the businesses that enter via the Awards Blog. With over 10 years’ experience in PR and marketing, across a number of sectors, she has enjoyed working agency-side and in-house. Sarah gets a real buzz from helping organisations’ raise their profile within the media and creating exciting campaigns.

Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn: uk.linkedin.com/in/sarahjenkinson/

Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahJJenkinson




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