Gary E. BarnettGary E. BarnettMay 1, 2019
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8min689

Happy customers are returning customers; they are the ones that will leave positive reviews on social media websites and lift a company’s reputation.

There is no doubt about it, King Customer is ruling the roost and needs to be courted. But the game has changed – it’s 2019 and customers are aware of their privacy rights, newly reinforced by GDPR, and also of the ever-growing danger posed by hackers. Let’s look at the most important factors that have changed the face of customer service forever.

Word on the virtual-street

Brands need to understand that today’s consumers can exert an unprecedented amount of power by voicing their opinions and (dis)satisfaction via numerous communication channels. From email and phone to social media and live chat, customer engagement is at an all-time high.

However, the challenges have also increased. Complaints and less favourable reviews on sites like Trustpilot and Facebook can spell big trouble for businesses. An unhappy customer who might once have complained to the customer service desk can now tell the whole of the internet about it, and as H&M, Pret a Manger, and SnapChat can testify, negative publicity can have a terrible effect on reputation, which frequently translates to a downward direction for revenue and share prices.

It’s personal

Another sure-fire way to tarnish brand reputation is by mismanaging customers’ personal information. In 2017, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were created each day, and the pace is only accelerating – by 2025 worldwide data is expected to grow 61% to 175 zettabytes. The potential of ‘big data’ to improve our lives by identifying health trends, predicting our lifespans, and selling us things we want to buy, is undeniable.

Considering this, it is no surprise that businesses are holding more data on their customers before. In fact, customer information is the backbone of a range of business processes. However, we need to consider why we are keeping all this data – for marketing? Or just in case? While these might have been acceptable reasons previously, under the rules of the GDPR, they no longer are.

Regulating the service

Regulations offer a great deal of protection to brands as they eliminate any ‘grey areas’. 2018 was a big year for privacy with the EU GDPR coming into force and over in the United States, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA ) was signed to come into effect in 2020. There is a lot to think about for companies taking card payments already, especially in terms of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance. For those in the financial services sector, additional regulations by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) come into play.

Protecting customers

The 2018 Cyber Security Breaches Survey found that 43% of UK businesses were a victim of a cybersecurity breach in the last 12 months, while Action Fraud reported that victims of cyber fraud lost £34.6 million between April and September 2018, an increase of 24 percent compared with the previous six months. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for a business to ramp up their cyber security to be a match for the modern fraudster. Otherwise, their customers might fall victim to so-called ‘carding’ – the theft and resale of credit and debit cards.

One report revealed that Russian hackers were offering a six-week programme for $945, teaching aspiring cybercriminals how to find legitimate credit card data for sale and hacking into PayPal accounts. The damage caused to consumers by having their credit card details stolen was £4.6bn from British internet users and  £130bn worldwide, and we don’t need to guess what that does for the customer satisfaction rating.

But it doesn’t have to get this far – businesses can take a variety of steps to avoid a data breach, including self-contained native apps to increase purchase safety, endpoint protection, anti-spyware, and antivirus software. Artificial intelligence is also bad news for cybercriminals and is getting more sophisticated all the time. AI solutions can monitor and respond to cyber-attacks in real time, enabling IT security professionals to detect threats they couldn’t before and improving their overall effectiveness.

Smiling was yesterday

While smiling is still part of the job, it is no longer enough to keep demanding customers happy. Instead, 21st Century customer service is about taking responsibility for the safety of valuable customer data. Businesses have to acknowledge that today’s customers are aware of their privacy rights, therefore data collection and storage transparency are vital to build and maintain brand loyalty. Thanks to regulations, clear responsibilities are assigned to companies, enabling them to meet customer’s demand for privacy and protection. 

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Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 30, 2019
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4min368

The UK’s first till-free grocery store has opened its doors in London, but owner Sainsbury’s has been warned to not to underestimate the “power of human interaction”.

In a month that saw the proposed merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda shelved thanks to a bruising report by the Competition & Markets Authority warning it would lead to customers facing price hikes, the new store is part of a drive towards increased convenience for shoppers.

Customers at the Holborn Circus outlet must download the supermarket’s Smartshop app, meaning they can quickly purchase items via Google Pay and Apple Pay, without the need to queue at a till – which have been removed. Only a helpdesk manned by a single member of staff is available for those who still wish to pay using cash or credit/debit cards.

The new system is being tested at the store for three months, with the downsides for certain customers being that the sale of alcohol and tobacco has been halted due to the current inability to manage age verification.

Clodagh Moriarty, Sainsbury’s Group Chief Digital Officer said: “This is an experiment rather than a new format for us – it hasn’t been done in the UK before and we’re really excited to understand how our customers respond to the app experience. We’ll be with our customers and colleagues all the way over the coming months, iterating continuously based on their feedback before we decide if, how and where we make this experience more widely available.”

However, retail expert Manu Tyagi, from Infosys Consulting, highlighted a potentially difficult balancing act now faced by retailers such as Sainsbury’s as technology continues to dramatically change the way we shop.

“The launch of Sainsbury’s till-less store in London reflects a wider trend in the retail industry, which sees many retailers replacing existing employees with AI,” he said.

“The last year alone has seen some fascinating developments such as the Amazon Go concept of ‘checkout-less’ supermarkets where, thanks to a host of sensor and deep-learning technologies, shoppers can browse, fill their baskets, and leave without queueing up to pay.

“These advances are unarguably impressive, and spell a bright future for the retail industry. However, we’re finding that some consumers still prefer the reassurance of human interaction – and this need should not be ignored or underestimated.

“For instance, in 2015 Morrisons reintroduced human-staffed checkouts for small shopping baskets – a move away from the wave of automated, self-service tills that have swept the nation. It turns out that people quite enjoy their everyday interactions with the smiling, familiar checkout operator; advice from a knowledgeable shop assistant; or just bumping into a friend in the local supermarket queue.”


Ryan LesterRyan LesterApril 4, 2019
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5min330

One of the biggest challenges for retailers is not getting customers, but keeping them.

Loyal brand ambassadors are the backbone of growth and building long-term interest in a brand is no easy feat. Customers want personalised experiences and services that makes them feel as they are the most important client. A 2018 Bond Brand Loyalty Report found that 87 percent of people say they are open to having various details of their activity monitored in exchange for more personalised rewards and brand experiences. Consumers value convenience, time saved and flexibility and they will shop around for companies that can give them just that.

In addition, customers want white glove treatment should a problem arise. Even one negative experience can have a customer switch their allegiance to another firm. Efficient customer support has become a true competitive differentiator and businesses have an opportunity to stay ahead of the pack if they act quickly.

recent Vanson Bourne survey, found that less than 50 percent of customers considered their recent retail interaction to be excellent or very good, which gives retailers a new goal to meet.

With Customer Experience becoming a key success factor, businesses are turning to new technology solutions to help them quickly scale, improve responsiveness, and increase conversion rates. AI-powered chatbots, for example, are helping retailers be more responsive to requests and can even offer customers a concierge-like experience by providing personalised suggestions based on browse history, previous purchases, etc. While these chatbots are delivering highly intelligent self-service, they are also working behind the scenes for the customer service teams, gathering pertinent information about the customer and the question or issue to help the agents provide quick and personalised support from the get-go.

So how is AI helping retailers build brand loyalty today? Here’s just a few ways:

1. Offering 24/7 Service

Most online shoppers aren’t browsing during normal business hours. And when they have a question, waiting until the next business day to respond could mean losing the sale altogether. Chatbots are helping retailers be available to their shoppers 24/7 – answering the most frequently asked questions with ease and helping to ensure customers are getting what they need while they are ready to buy.

2. Creating a concierge experience

As AI continues to evolve, it’s starting to move away from handling simple questions and into acting as a customer’s personal assistant while shopping – providing personalised recommendations, reminding shoppers of sales to help them save, providing content to help with decision making, and much more. This level of proactivity means retailers don’t have to wait for the customer to engage, but can start building relationships by delivering information at the right time and in the right way.

3. Freeing up human agents

With all this talk about AI, what about the human agent? Individuals still play a pivotal role in the overall Customer Experience – but they are being leveraged in a different, more strategic way. Most customers hate waiting on hold – especially when they are having a problem. AI removes the need for customers with simple questions to clog up the human agent queue and allows customer service teams to spend more time with the customers that need them most. They are not only in a better position to resolve issues faster, but can spend the time to turn a sour experience into a positive one.

So are customers really onboard chatting with bots? The Vanson Bourne study also uncovered that more than half of customers agree that AI is changing Customer Experience for the better. I suspect this number will grow as the technology evolves and becomes more mainstream.

Today’s AI is all about delivering customers an intelligent and frictionless experience throughout their entire journey. When customers feel valued, they continue to come back again and again.


Jeff EpsteinJeff EpsteinMarch 18, 2019
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7min673

To create the best possible Customer Experience, organisations must think strategically about implementing the tools that will support their omnichannel strategy.

As adoption of live chat increases, simply implementing the technology won’t be enough to set a business apart in terms of the CX they offer.

According to Walker, today’s consumers expect consistent and user-friendly experiences from any brand they interact with, which is why CX is set to surpass price as a key differentiator for consumers by 2020. A business’s CX offerings are no longer just measured against their competitors, but against what consumers know is possible with CX. To meet these high expectations, organisations must be mindful of how to properly service their customers while making good use of their agents’ time. It will also be important to prioritise quality over quantity and ensure customers are serviced on the digital channels they prefer.

Customers are making the shift to mobile in waves and, as this occurs, businesses must ensure they provide seamless and consistent CX regardless of device or channel. The fourth annual live chat benchmark report highlighting the future of live chat and its impact on CX from Comm100, a global provider of omnichannel CX solutions, found that last year, chat queries sent from a mobile device increased to nearly 52 percent, representing an almost eight percent increase from 2017.

As customers continue to pivot their primary device usage away from desktop to mobile, mobile chat optimisation is becoming a critical strategy for all brands, but particularly for those in the consumer services and recreation industries.

Focusing on improving CX metrics alone may not be the best decision for brands. Brands that scored 90 percent or higher for customer satisfaction had an average wait time of 46 seconds, while customers that reported the lowest satisfaction ratings had an average wait time of 25 seconds. While many organisations strive for short wait times and quick conversations, these metrics do not necessarily indicate more efficient agents and increased customer satisfaction. It is easy to sacrifice the quality of the Customer Experience for efficiency, but organisations who emphasise quality of service over arbitrary targets will have an easier time meeting overall business goals.

The report indicates that companies and agents are close to achieving the right balance between speed and quality. On average, chat duration saw a decrease of four percent, with chats lasting an average of 11 minutes and 53 seconds. This continued the trend of shorter chat times, following the nearly 15 percent drop in 2017.

Just as with wait time, companies with a 90 percent or higher customer satisfaction rating had an average chat duration of 12 minutes and 26 seconds – 13 percent longer than organisations with lower satisfaction scores. Having meaningful, personalised experiences that address customer needs is more important than only attempting to lower metrics like wait time or chat duration.

For longer chat durations that take up your agents’ time, AI can step in to help balance out the workload. To ensure resources are used efficiently, organisations can route chats through AI-powered chatbots to offset chat volume and free up their agents for more complex queries. Chatbots with Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning capabilities are now involved in over half of all chat interactions. They’re proven to be able to handle nearly 27 percent of those interactions without an agent, almost a seven percent increase from 2017.

Another tool that agents can rely on for optimising their workload is co-browsing. When an agent can view and interact with a customer’s web browser in real-time, it allows them to troubleshoot issues more efficiently, making co-browsing one of the quickest and most well-received ways for agents to solve customer problems. 

The report found that co-browsing sessions have an average satisfaction rating of 89 percent – six percent higher than the overall 2018 customer satisfaction rating of 83 percent. Customers may complain that canned messages are robotic or impersonal, but when used correctly it can help decrease an agent’s workload without sacrificing quality, which is why the use of canned messages has increased nearly 70 percent in one year.

The benchmark report’s findings indicate that consumers are readily embracing live chat, so long as the focus remains on improving their experience. To stand out from the competition and exceed customer expectations, brands need to focus on strategically implementing their omnichannel customer experience solutions in a way that prioritises personalised, consistent service without putting a strain on their resources.


Merje ShawMerje ShawMarch 13, 2019
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11min1077

Over the last few years, we have seen a shift to more conscious consumerism that values experiences over things.

This can be attributed back to several trends, such as the rise of mindfulness, the minimalist trend in homeware, as well as the tidying trends like KonMari and Swedish Death cleaning. These, combined with the very real effects of climate change, are changing the way consumers think about their purchases. This was spotted as a trend back in 2017 by Euromonitor and does not seem to be reversing any time soon.

What this change means for businesses

Remarkably, few large companies are truly adapting to this change in mindset. Even then, a lot of it is paying lip service to the consumer experience rather than embedding Customer Experience at the core of the organisation.

Persil’s “Dirt is good” campaign is a great example of how messaging has moved away from the product to focus on the experience the product enables. In fact, Unilever seems to be one of the few large organisations truly keeping in touch with the zeitgeist as their recent Sustainable Living Plan has shown. And it’s working – their sustainable living brands grew 46 percent faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70 percent of its turnover growth.

Even with these great examples, and the rise of the B Corporations with ethics at the core, traditional industries are constantly being disrupted by more nimble startups that put Customer Experience at their core. This is a bit of a no-brainer, really. Traditional companies can float happily on repeat customers whilst startups literally live or die on the experiences they provide. I recently wrote about this at length, but I very much doubt that this illusion some companies have that technology will save them is anything more than that.

How AI can increase productivity

First, it’s important to realise that what we term ‘AI’ is a bit of a red herring. True AI, in the science fiction, self-aware state, is yet to emerge. What we are using quite effectively in business settings are things like machine learning, natural language processing, and speech recognition systems. I talk about this at length here.

The best thing organisations can do to improve productivity is to take a long hard look at internal systems that enable staff to work more efficiently. What is the use of enabling chat function on your website if your customer support person still needs to log into three different systems to get a simple answer?

With machine learning, we have the option to automate a lot of the menial tasks that create busy work and detract attention from what should really matter to a company – providing the best customer service you can, ideally a human one.

The importance of visibility for improving the customer journey

We recently worked with a FTSE100 company to try and marry up quantitative data from their online real estate with qualitative data from the hundreds of research sessions that have been carried out over the years. Sadly this iteration didn’t work, but it is important to keep striving to solve this, as only by combining the information on “what is happening” from quantitative data with the “why is it happening” from qualitative data do we get a true picture that enables informed decision-making.

With this in mind, I would caution against solely relying on analytics as quantitative data tends to say a lot more about the biases and existing knowledge of those who form the questions and therefore only works when you already know the parameters that you are looking to confirm or validate.

We find that the best tools for truly forming a picture of the end-to-end Customer Experience is by mapping it with contextual research. Further value can then be added by overlaying this with the Employee Experience as well as mapping the third parties involved. This is known as service blueprinting. These maps can be used very effectively to set up analytics journeys and provide further validation for the issues arising in the customer journey.

Why businesses should strive for the perfect mix of automation and human contact

Over the last 10 plus years, we have been dedicated to letting customers self-serve. In fact, I have helped create a multitude of self-service help sites. They can be very useful. What has now started emerging in research sessions is that people really hate them…and chat bots (more on this in a minute).

One of the interesting things we found back in 2012 when running usability tests on the newest iteration of BT Business Self Service (which has since been updated several times) was that participants were far more likely to try using the self-service flows when they could clearly see the contact number.

This has stood the test of time. When you allow people to try but also provide an intervention point that enables them to talk to a real person, they are more likely to have a go first. eBay, with their impenetrable help flows, could do with taking this lesson on board, but they are by far not the only offenders in this category.  Royal Mail’s business help doesn’t look too great either for allowing human contact.

People have also started bring up chat bots as these often mis-interpret the text and provide rubbish answers whilst masquerading as real people. There was a fascinating article on this fairly recently, but in essence, what we keep seeing is that when people know they are chatting to a bot, they tend to be far more forgiving than when they feel another human is treating them like a fool.

I firmly believe we have reached peak Customer Experience automation and to further automate customers out of direct contact with the company is foolish. I recently wrote about this in a housing association context but it is very applicable to all other industries – have you ever been to a Tesco Express to be faced with a row of self-checkouts and no till staff? This happens to me all the time and I believe it’s not a great experience. There is merit in mixing the automation whilst still always providing human contact.


Seb BurchellSeb BurchellFebruary 20, 2019
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6min631

Technological sophistication is all pointing towards one thing: reducing the requirement for human labour, and input.

But in the fintech industry, humans aren’t simply a necessity – they’re irreplaceable.

Human developers are obviously needed to write, and maintain code, as well as learning and understanding the products that make the code necessary. Say these processes eventually become automated, the need for humans would remain.

That’s partially due to the fact ‘build it and they will come’ isn’t applicable to the disruptive world of fintech. Even the most boisterous, compelling and revolutionary products need effective branding, marketing and PR teams that will help the product succeed. Particularly as we see the rise in the importance of search ranking, SEO professionals will also have an integral part to play in making their fintech visible in an increasingly competitive space.

Moreover, while technology drives many fintechs services, certain businesses need real-time human emotion to overcome unique challenges. For some enterprises, such as online mortgage brokers, they’re task is to convince consumers to change from traditional brokers to their banks or existing lenders. This is just one case in which human empathy can’t be replaced or simulated by technology.

Consumer attitudes

Understandably, customers can be hesitant to trust small, relatively unknown startups with their personal and financial data, especially if it involves one of the biggest financial decisions you can make.

Recent research conducted by TopLine Comms found a whopping 83 percent of respondents were ‘unsure’ of fintech companies and how they work. Insightfully, 27 percent ascribed a lack of understanding as the reason why they were unsure.

Consumers will only trust Fintech firms once they understand and address customers’ concerns, one pertinent method to educate and earn potential consumers trust is through marketing, communication and branding.

But that’s solely acquiring customers. Consumer experience is what turns a cynical user into a fully-fledged customer, and a hybrid approach that encumbers an equilibrium of tech and human interaction is likely to be the key to the best customers experiences in fintech.

For example, fintechs in the banking industry can use technological innovation to alleviate their human advisers from the arduous and time-consuming parts of the job. Now finance experts can spend more time sourcing the best advice for their customers and building a relationship that raises trust between both parties.

These relationships build advocacy, which can in turn convert others – offline and online word of mouth is undoubtedly one of the best methods of attracting new customers. Ninety-three percent of respondents in a recent survey by Podium said online reviews affected their decision to make a purchase or not.

Many people intend to use an online fintech, as opposed to a traditional service because they won’t have to deal with a human when liaising with the former. Often, customers aren’t too keen to talk about their own sensitive financial situations issues and said customers in these circumstances may prefer to not speak to an actual human. Entirely digital experiences, that use complex technological features such as Artificial intelligence in the form of Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning, could be the best solution for them.

The truth is that both kinds of consumers exist – and so a hybrid model that uses tech and human interaction flexibly, to improve the Customer Experience may be the most pragmatic approach.

The future

As fintech moves into the mainstream, consumer attitudes may also move in a certain direction. The more sophisticated and accessible technology becomes, the more likely it is that people may start to feel less anxious about trusting new businesses with their data. The arrival and widespread adoption of Open Banking could be the catalyst to start this paradigm shift.

But in the meantime, fintechs must combat the dichotomous challenges of converting sceptical customers and making themselves stand out in a crowded marketplace. In both cases, humans will remain an integral and irreplaceable element to any fruitful fintech.


Aleksandar IlićAleksandar IlićJune 19, 2018
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6min1261

Giovanni Toschi is the Founder of AI firms Jatana and BotSupply. The Copenhagen-based entrepreneur took time out to talk to CXM about how we are firmly in the middle of the Golden Age of Customer Experience, and where the industry can go from here…

Your role must give you a great perspective on what businesses need and what customers expect from them. How do you see the overall  role of Customer Experience today?

Giovanni Toschi

Customer Experience is probably going through its Golden Age right now. The awareness of businesses all around the world has grown a lot and they really do care about CX and overall customer satisfaction. No business is unique, everyone has competitors; it’s the relationship with your customers that makes the difference between successful companies and the rest of the businesses that fall behind.

What do companies often do wrong when it comes to CX?

There is more than one thing. First of all, many are faking it. They try to seem like they really care for the customer while they actually care for the cash. Yes, everyone is in the business for the money, but that does not mean you should treat your customers as a number or data. They’re not, and they know when you do that.
Second, they do not devote themselves too much. Low effort to satisfy a customer in most cases end up with bad results for the company.

Customer support plays a big role in Customer Experience. How do you see it?

Interaction between the company and the customer is half of it, honestly. The ways you connect with your customers, including providing customer support, is a key differentiator today.

Automation is a hot topic. Do you think it improves the efficiency of a company and Customer Experience in general?

Absolutely yes, if used correctly. Customers today want everything almost instantly. Twenty-four hours to reply is no longer enough – you have to act fast. But they also want you to show effort and focus on them as an individual. That’s where automation kicks in. It provides instant replies to frequently asked questions, and agents can focus on the more complex topics and connect to the customer on a personal level.

When it comes to automation, it is often associated with the fear of AI replacing humans and taking over their jobs. Do you think this is true and how do you see the future with ‘robots’ as our coworkers?

The same fear was present with the industrial revolution, yet we did not lose jobs, we just created new ones. Machines can replace humans in many positions, but that only means new positions will open. Humans will always have their advantages over robots.

What exactly is Jatana?

We are on a mission to bring Artificial Intelligence to customer support teams of any size. Using Jatana, any company can set up AI automation in their contact centre in a matter of hours. Our solution allows support agents to focus on the issues that matter while leaving repetitive tasks to the AI.

What inspired you and your team to create this tool?

Since 2016, at BotSupply, we have been helping companies like Carlsberg and Mercedes leverage conversational AI to provide better Customer Experience. In the process, we kept on getting requests to develop a solution that could do the same for email support. We put together an initial MVP and after closing the first customer we decided to spin-off the product into a stand-alone company and that’s how Jatana was born.

Could you give us an example of a company that successfully included your tool (or any other automated service) into their business?

We have been operational for a few months only but our customer base includes companies from Scandinavia, as well as other parts of Europe and Asia. A good example is Stocard, a fast-growing German company that developed an app to keep all your loyalty cards in one place.

What is your message to the readers of Customer Experience Magazine?

If you’re reading this magazine that already means that you do care about Customer Experience. That’s great – stay on the right track, follow what’s trending, and don’t let competitors leave you behind. Try to be one step ahead, as that’s how you win the race.




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