Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 17, 2019
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3min198

Final year university students are helping to identify changing customer behaviour in a new project with outsourced customer contact centre Echo-U.

The research was undertaken by Newcastle University Business School’s business management degree programme students, and Echo-U – whose Director of Customer Services, Mandy Holford, was a judge at the UK Complaint Handling Awards in 2018 – felt it provided the undergrads a taste of a real-world project.

The report was undertaken by students Despoina-Dimitra Chatzopoulou, Lawrence Chiang, William Hargreaves, William Mellor, Rachel Morgan, George Needham, and James Reehal. It focuses on three core trends: social media, chatbots, and omnichannel.

The research took the form of an online survey, interviews with industry expert Anthony Jones and associates, and online industry and competitor research. The findings from the report will prove valuable to the retail industry and will be collated in a whitepaper which will be made available to download from the Echo-U website.

David Blakey, joint owner and Managing Director at Echo-U, said: “I have been very impressed with the professionalism shown by the students undertaking this project and the quality of the report they have provided. This was the first year we have worked with Newcastle University, but I have already agreed to continue the relationship next year.”

Student Rachel Morgan added: “I really enjoyed the consultancy project as it enabled me to put into practice theories which I have learnt throughout my degree. As I am going into the retail industry next year, I found this project particularly interesting and insightful as I have learnt a huge deal about the future of the industry I am going to be working in. A particular highlight of this project for me was being able to work on a live brief and having the opportunity to work with a range of students, industry professionals and academics in order to provide Echo-U with recommendations.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 16, 2019
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3min317

The finalists for the 2019 UK Digital Experience Awards have been announced, with an exciting line-up of big household brands and smaller innovators competing for recognition.

The event is celebrating its fifth year of honouring the British organisations that offer customers a truly unique Digital Experience while using their technology, websites, and apps, and July 12 is the date those shortlisted for the finals will arrive in London to present before an expert judging panel featuring names including Mark Edgington, founder of Incendiary Blue; Di Mayze, founder of Scratch Consulting; Tiffany Carpenter, Head of Customer Intelligence Solutions at SAS UK; and many more.

This year, finalists will compete for 19 category titles, before an Overall Winner is crowned at a gala ceremony in the Park Plaza Riverbank venue. Categories this year include Best App, Best Digital Change & Transformation, Best Digital Team, and Best Mobile Strategy, among others.

Among the companies shortlisted as finalists for 2019 are EE, Three UK, Sky, Virgin Trains, and PayPoint. For a full list of categories and finalists click here.

Meanwhile, official awards partners this year include children’s charity Barnardo’s, Professor Malcolm McDonald, Martech Advisor, and Cranfield School of Management.

Hosting the event is Awards International, holders of a Gold Standard Awards Trust Mark from the Independent Awards Standards Council.

Speaking of the 2019 UKDXA finalists, Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “The standard of entries this year has been nothing short of fantastic, and the projects and initiatives that will be judged on the day are incredibly exciting. A huge congratulations to all finalists, and we look forward to welcoming them to London this summer for a sizzling showcase of Digital Experience innovation.”

For further details and to book seats for the awards, click here.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 16, 2019
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3min255

The number of customers who place high importance on the ability to discover and purchase directly through social media platforms has risen by 38 percent in a year, new figures reveal.

The annual Shopper Experience Index, published by Bazaarvoice, involved a survey of more than 2,000 consumers across the UK, US, France and Germany. One-third of UK customers now believe the ability to discover and buy products is of critical importance to their experience of social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

This comes in the wake of Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of a shift in focus for Facebook, moving from the News Feed to encrypted, ephemeral messaging – or as he put it, “from the town square to the living room”. Meanwhile, the data has emerged as cosmetics retailer Lush announced it was to close its UK social media accounts to instead focus on channels including live chat

The new report also gathers insights from 500 of Bazaarvoice’s clients globally. Of the UK brands and retailers surveyed, 91 percent agreed that visual content makes for a more engaging shopping experience. Moreover, respondents also referenced additional benefits, such as enhanced discoverability (86 percent), deepened brand trust (77 percent), and increased conversion (73 percent).

Another recent evolution in Mark Zuckerberg’s conglomerate saw Instagram add in-app checkout as part of its big push into shopping, offering brands a huge opportunity to release a visually rich customer journey entirely based in the app.

Importantly, visual content created and shared through social platforms carries huge value to brands in the wider ecosystem. Twenty-seven percent of UK-based clients reported featuring visual content from social media on product pages, and more than half (53 percent) say they plan to in the near future.

Discussing the findings, Joe Rohrlich, CRO of Bazaarvoice, said: “The retail landscape has continued to shift over the last year, as modern consumers seek unique shopping experiences, new engagement and purchase channels, and an increased level of brand and product transparency and authenticity. Brands and retailers that recognise these evolving preferences and deliver informative, interactive experiences online and offline can both retain their existing customers and attract new ones.”


Michael FitzGeraldMichael FitzGeraldApril 16, 2019
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9min324

Competition is intensifying in almost every industry worldwide and in the race for success, enterprises face a growing risk of losing site of the fundamental elements for business success – a strong product that can serve the needs of every user.

Despite the focus on building a more efficient, tech-centric future, creating an innovative product without fully understanding the customer’s requirements is simply a pointless task and could perhaps not even amount to success in the long run. As Steve Jobs famously said: “You’ve got to start with the Customer Experience and work backwards to the technology. You cannot start with the technology and try to figure out where you are going to sell it.”

Success in today’s business world is not about the speed at which you innovate; it is a result of businesses putting customers at the heart of everything they do, by taking the time to learn exactly what they need and providing your product in a way that makes sense for their organisation.

A 2017 report by McKinsey echoes this sentiment, observing that the traditional product or business manager-led ideas are “too slow and insular” and the lack of customer feedback present throughout the development phase means that businesses “often learn only after the fact that they invested in the wrong areas and made improvements that do not deliver a differentiating experience”.

The power of the customer

Modern decision makers must therefore take a different, more hands-on approach to customer interaction in order to both build and improve their own service, make their user’s lives easier, and meet the changing demands of the business landscape.

As the competition for customers increases daily, user research is the true secret weapon of a successful product. Being able to form a complete understanding of customer requirements in the context in which they might use a product is priceless. It is the gift that will keep on giving, because even when you know what your product offers and what you’re truly selling, your customers might have a completely different idea.

Other times, they don’t know exactly what they need from a product, which makes observing them first hand even more powerful. As a provider, business leaders must understand what their customers are trying to accomplish and then develop to get them there in the simplest fashion.

What’s more, the product then also needs to work for your target users – business today isn’t a one-size-fits all process and designing and developing in this way will inevitably cause a ‘square peg in a round hole’ situation when it comes to customer implementation. In order to grow, companies should pick the brains of their users, gauge exactly what their frustrations are, then build on this to overcome these pain points for the masses.

Getting out on the road

New ideas, mindsets, and attitudes to development are now essential for motivating and encouraging business leaders to think outside the box and embrace a vision of growth. The pool of experience amongst the business community is growing every day and leaders should also be taking the time to make themselves a resource for helping others, in order to connect with customers, learn, and ultimately drive their own success on a large scale.

Stepping on the ground to walk in a customer’s shoes is therefore vital for understanding how those using a service perceive it, and unearthing the changes which could shape the business for the better. Regardless of time constraints, getting out on the road and away from the day-to-day running of a company can help leaders to ‘tune out the noise’ and gather valuable insights that could take their business forward in the future. The key to growth today really is listening and learning from customers – if you listen, they’ll tell you.

Speaking from my own experience of touring the UK to collect insight from customers, this grassroots learning can reap huge benefits; it allows you to hear directly from the people most able to scrutinise their service and hold the business to account for areas where it could do better. However, it is not only valuable for driving product developments – it will also speak volumes for the reputation of the company. What’s more, setting out to be helpful with one-on-one interactions with customers in this way will show your dedication to deliver on a primary goal of making your user’s lives easier.

Change culture from the top

Today, over half (52 percent) of people worldwide believe that companies need to take action on feedback provided by their customers. Shifting the focus of your staff away from technology and towards a better Customer Experience in this way can ultimately help to carve out new opportunities within increasingly saturated markets. Instilling this culture practically across a business can be led by business leaders themselves.

Setting an example by taking visiting customers, delivering customer-focused training, and encouraging regular contact with those investing in your service can ensure that this customer-centric attitude filters down into the workforce.

Now is the time for a more ‘on the ground’ approach from decision makers and the rewards for unlocking customer insights on a more personable level are clear to see. Spending time getting to know the customer’s position can lead to some eye-opening truths about your business, both good and bad. These truths can range from flaws in your products, strengths in your service, or even customer feeling towards their relationship with staff.

Every insight gathered from customers can be learned upon and fed back into a business, enabling its leaders to build a better product and drive maximum value, both now and in the future. Leaders who commit themselves to sharing their own knowledge and building more direct customer relationships will ultimately come out on top in the race for both success and equally satisfied customers.


Anne de KerckhoveAnne de KerckhoveApril 15, 2019

6min286

In today’s challenging retail landscape, success will be determined by how well brands target – and serve – consumers.

The luxury sector is no different, and previously it’s suffered from a case of mistaken identity. Their shoppers were often thought to be in the older, and presumably wealthier, age bracket, but there’s been a dramatic shift in demographics. Now, younger buyers – those considered to be Generation Z and Millennials – drive 85 percent of luxury sales growth across the globe. Millennials and Gen Z account for nearly 50 percent of Gucci’s sales, whiule Burberry re-targeted their focus at millennials and delivered a staggering 44.5 percent growth.

The ethics of luxury

With the younger generation becoming a core part of the luxury audience, it’s important to meet this demographic’s expectations around making purchases. Otherwise, brands risk experiencing a ‘luxury drought’, with sales much harder to organically come by.

These Millennial buyers expect a more personalised buying experience, and one that seamlessly integrates both online and offline worlds. Luxury retailers must provide a bespoke, tailored experience for each individual customer. These retailers must also understand that younger shoppers place a huge focus on ethical and sustainable shopping. In 2017, a staggering 235 million items of unwanted clothing were sent to landfill.

Burberry made a decision to burn $40 million worth of stock, rather than selling it at a discount. Though this move was intended to protect the brand’s exclusive status, it instead drew considerable criticism. On the other hand, Gucci’s purpose-driven, environmentally progressive program, Gucci Equilibrium, could help the luxury giant win over consumers, and increase its already impressive 40 percent YOY growth.

Winning customers everyday

Retailers must provide buyers with a seamless experience from start to finish – and this means meeting luxury customers’ exacting standards. Only the retailers that keep pace with new initiatives in Customer Experience and tailored support will survive in a market dominated by digital natives.

They will also help encourage repeat purchases – which are not easy to come for high-ticket brands. Customers sending hundreds, or even thousands, of pounds on one item will expect a flawless buying experience. 24/7 in retail is an imperative – which includes offering a truly round-the-clock service and instant access to an agent that can immediately help a consumer with a query, no matter what that is.

Dynamic phone numbers are just one feature that can help boost web-to-call communications. By assigning these phone numbers to specific product pages and campaigns, calls can be routed to an agent responsible for that particular audience segment. These handlers will be trained to answer queries, which will help increase the conversion rate across the sales funnel, from browsing to the point of purchase – particularly for big-ticket items.

Reacting right

One common issue in luxury retail is when stars are spotted in high-end outfits and cause massive sales spikes of a certain dress, or coat. A prime example is Meghan Markle, who sparked a £300m fashion boost with her wardrobe; items that she has been spotted in have become out of stock online in mere minutes. This is where brands can and should capitalise on unexpected sales peaks.

This is where technology can prove to be invaluable. The right tools allow call centre managers to temporarily expand their inbound team, and adapt to call influxes by using resources in the right way. A cloud service provides the perfect solution here – as it can be easily upscaled, or altered, without massive infrastructure changes.

Boosting in-store sales with digital tools

Technology can even help drive physical sales in shops and branches. Increasing support at the back end – including automating call routing, to route queries to the right agents, and automating messaging, to reduce missed sales leads – will help boost profits and free up employees at the front end. This will increase in-store staff availability and enable human workers to focus on what’s important: fostering a human connection with shoppers and providing a luxury buying experience.

Whether it’s online-only or omnichannel, technology will help retail brands espouse luxury values throughout every part of their business and enable couture Customer Experience. This will ultimately help drive sales and keep customers coming back for life.


Claire PampeClaire PampeApril 15, 2019
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6min354

Nobody wants to receive a complaint about their product or service, but the reality is that we can’t please all of our customers all of the time.  

The time when customer complaints were hidden is now thankfully long gone. Appearing as a judge at the UK Complaint Handling Awards, which celebrates the innovative ways organisations manage complaints, I saw this first-hand.

Receiving complaints, responding to them effectively, and most importantly, learning from them can be challenging.  However, achieving this is critical to the success of any business that is focused on providing the best Customer Experience.

For every customer who complains, there are 26 other unhappy customers who remain silent (source: Lee Resource Inc.). Customers who care enough to tell you about their negative experiences are scarce, but they afford you the opportunity to turn that customer into an advocate and ultimately, retain their business.

Often, complaints are dealt with on a case-by-case basis, but it is critical to take a step back and undertake a root cause analysis, otherwise the opportunity to improve is lost. One of the most effective ways to undertake this process is to plot the journey of the complaint, thereby mapping all the touchpoints, both direct and indirect. 

While a customer journey map (CJM) is a tool often used by marketeers to plot the customer engagement story, from brand awareness through to (hopefully) a long-term relationship, it is also a great resource for complaint management. 

Rather than dealing with the fallout of the complaint on a case-by-case basis, the CJM process enables an organisation to review and map the complaint from beginning to end and identify the root causes. Instead of resolving the complaint from an internal point of reference and making assumptions, the CJM empowers the customer by putting them front and centre. 

One of the major strengths of adopting this method is the ability to view the complete journey when putting into place processes to prevent it happening again. The visual artefact highlights potential gaps, inconsistencies, and the volume of touchpoints – all of which have the potential to contribute to the complaint in the first place. 

More often than not, the solution does not sit at the complaint ‘fallout’ stage but much earlier in the journey. It may be that expectations were set incorrectly at the outset of the journey, or specific information was not provided in marketing collateral etc. By focusing on the complaint as a stand-alone issue, any process changes may have little or no impact. Only by viewing the complaint as a part of the whole journey can you be confident that changes made will have the greatest impact.

Another advantage of a CJM is the people involved in the mapping activity. Too often complaint management is focused on the team that receives that complaint – but any mapping workshop should include representatives from all parts of the business. This level of collaboration reaffirms the importance that every role plays in an organisation’s Customer Experience, whether directly or indirectly, and it also provides the perfect forum for some ‘outside the box’ brainstorming.  I’ve run journey mapping workshops where the ‘lightbulb’ moments have come from unexpected sources, such as software developers, finance teams, and HR.

We know that customer loyalty is one of the key determinants of an organisation’s success. By viewing complaints as learning opportunities and actioning solutions via a customer journey map, you increase the likelihood of turning that customer (and all those that kept quiet) into an advocate. As data from the Jim Moran Institute and Lee Resources showed, 95 percent of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely fashion, and that translates to an improved Customer Experience for your current and future customers.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 12, 2019
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4min769

Large majorities of British consumers prefer dealing with humans over automated services for everything from querying a bill (85 percent) and changing account details (62 percent), to making a complaint (84 percent), buying a product or service for the first time (77 percent), chasing an order (73 percent), or dealing with a fault (78 percent).

These are the findings of an online YouGov survey of more than 2,000 British adults commissioned by CX firm Webhelp.

Nearly half of respondents (45 percent) said they had never used any type of AI, but amongst those who had there was widespread dissatisfaction around its efficacy and perceived value. Nearly half (44 percent) also believe that AI will not positively impact their lives in any way over the next five years.

Just over a quarter of respondents said they had used a customer service chatbot (27 percent), interactive voice response or IVR (27 percent), or smart home speaker such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home (26 percent).

Whilst over a third of those who had used these types of AI were dissatisfied with the chatbots (35 percent) and IVR (38 percent), smart home speakers proved more popular – possibly because these are chosen rather than encountered by chance. Fewer than half (45 percent) of those who had experienced a customer service chatbot were satisfied with it and 38 percent were either fairly or very dissatisfied with IVR. In contrast, 77 percent claimed to be satisfied with smart home speakers.

Looking ahead five years, over a quarter of respondents (26percent) felt that increased use of AI-driven Customer Experience tools would make interacting with companies “much worse” compared to only 19 percent who felt the impact would be positive. Other negative perceptions include fear that AI will make dealing with brands/companies more impersonal (52 percent), increased threats to privacy and security (46 percent), and detrimental impact to human-to-human interactions (43 percent).

Webhelp CEO David Turner said: “We know from anecdotal evidence that human-to human contact is important, but this study goes even further, highlighting the degree to which people favour it over AI-powered customer service tools and are negative about AI’s potential future impact.

“As exposure to AI increases in day-to-day life, people are likely to become more receptive, but this research confirms the importance of striking the right balance between the advanced technology services we offer and the incredible human talent of our local teams of agents, advisors and planners. Our approach will always be customer experience driven, so this window into consumer perception is extremely valuable for helping our clients implement AI solutions which offer clear end-user value.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 11, 2019
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7min377

You might think that your product or service is great, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter if it isn’t what your customer wants.

But how can you go beyond your own gut instinct to be sure you’re really meeting customer needs? We spoke to industry experts to get their advice on how to understand what your customers need:

Don’t push your solutions

When speaking to customers, innovators make some key mistakes. First, they ask leading questions that are loaded with social desirability problems. For example, asking customers whether they like your product will elicit positive responses because very few people are willing to be critical of other people’s ideas to their face. Focus on trying to deeply understand customers’ needs and problems, rather than pushing your solution.

“The second mistake is asking customers questions about their future behaviour. Very few people can predict what they will do in the future under different circumstances. Instead, ask customers how they are solving the problem today, and how much that is costing them.

“The final mistake innovators make is asking customers what products to make or the features those products should have. Very few people can imagine future technologies, so will just mention something similar to their current solutions. Customers own needs and problems, innovators own solutions – the more we understand customers pains, the more likely we are to make products customers really want.”

Tendayi Viki, Craig Strong and Sonja Kresojevic are co-authors of The Lean Product Lifecycle: A playbook for making products people want, published by Pearson, priced £11.74

 

Use behavioural science

“Why don’t people do what they say they do? This is a question companies often ask after investing time on costly market research to understand what their customers want, only to find that their customers won’t pay for the product or service, or don’t want it after all. This indicates that there is a substantial intention-behaviour gap.

“Behavioural science is a way to reduce the intention-behaviour gap and to get a deeper understanding of what customers really want because it focuses on identifying the factors, benefits and attributes that really drive behaviour and decisions in the real world.

“Conventional research often asks people about their attitudes and beliefs, or asks about the product or service out of context. But conventional research often fails to get at the ‘truth’ because it does not address the complex interaction of social, psychological and emotional factors that influence our decisions.

“Behavioural science focuses only on behaviour, makes use of behavioural theories and models to work out which factors really matter, carefully considers the context in which the product or service will be used and then works out how and where to intervene to change behaviour. In this way you can find out what people actually do, not just what they say they do… and hence design products and services that customers really want and will pay for.”

Helena Rubinstein is a Behavioural Scientist at Innovia Technology and author of Applying Behavioural Science to the Private Sector (Palgrave Macmillan).

 

Look for new levels of speed, convenience, choice, and transparency

“If the speed with which ecommerce growth has outstripped that of stores over the last 15 years has taught us anything, it is that the consumer is looking for new levels of speed, convenience, choice, and transparency from their shopping experiences.

“Technology has been the key enabler of these new dynamics. It has become the main differentiator between today’s retail winners and losers. It has put those retailers who started out online, like eBay, Net-a-Porter and Flipkart, at a distinct advantage. But Alibaba, JD.com and Amazon have made the most gains.

“As a technology company first and a retailer second, Amazon, the US giant’s focus on giving customers more of what they really want has afforded it unprecedented competitive power to reshape the industry landscape, both online and offline. From its ‘1-Click’ checkout through to its ‘no click’ checkout-less Amazon Go experience, Amazon has pioneered ‘frictionless’ retail to give customers the level of convenience they now want.”

Miya Knights is co-author of Amazon: How the World’s Most Relentless Retailer will Continue to Revolutionize Commerce, written with Natalie Berg, published on 3 January 2018, priced £19.99


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 10, 2019
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3min239

Failing to build trust undermines customer loyalty and damages revenues, with over three quarters of consumers saying they’ll leave a supplier that they don’t trust. 

At the same time, focusing on getting customer service basics right and listening to consumers will help brands more than advertising, with 63 percent of consumers ranking easy processes as a top three factor in building trust.

These are the headline findings of the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study, which surveyed 1,000 consumers on their attitudes to trust, as part of wider research into the Customer Experience offered by top UK brands.

If trust breaks down, 79 percent of consumers said they would switch from a brand, with nearly half (49 percent) doing it immediately. A further ten percent said they remain but would spend less. Just four percent said they would continue to buy from a brand at the same level. Men are faster to switch, with 52 percent moving to a rival immediately, compared to 45 percent of women.

Demonstrating the importance of customer service to trust, 59 percent of consumers said ‘giving satisfactory, fast and consistent answers’ to their questions was vital to loyalty. Respondents trusted recommendations from friends and family (52 percent) above review sites and social media (28 percent). Over a third (35 percent) said good advertising was the least important factor in building trust.

Certain industries are more trusted than others, according to the research. Food retailers were trusted most (ranked first by 21 percent of respondents), followed by government (16 percent) and banks (12 percent). When asked who they least trusted, the top sectors chosen by consumers were automotive/garages (16 percent), tech/social media (15 percent), and insurance and government (both 10 percent).

CEO and Co-Founder of Eptica, Olivier Njamfa, said: “Brands need to build trust if they want to create strong, long-term relationships with consumers. If trust breaks down, customers have no qualms in switching to rivals, making it vital that brands start by getting the basics right and start to listen. They need to act and deliver on their promises if they want to be successful in meeting rising consumer expectations.”


CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamApril 10, 2019
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1min374

Ian Golding is a world-renowned Customer Experience consultant, and author of the most influential CX book available today, Customer What?: An honest and practical guide to customer experience

In this interview, Ian – who also leads the CX Professional Masterclass and CCXP Exam Workshop – outlines the work of CX professionals, how companies test their CX offering, how organisations can change and improve to become more customer-centric, and more…




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