Tom DowningTom DowningJuly 14, 2020
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10min1621

There is a common misconception that to create a memorable customer experience, every aspect of the customer journey needs to be flawless. This has led to a strong focus on creating efficiencies to produce a frictionless experience with the customer’s expectations met every step of the way.

Rapid adoption from both advancements in technology and reductions in cost has made it more widely accessible, so how can you stand out from your competitors when it comes to your product or service?

When it comes to judging an experience, we recall it from how we felt at its peak, the most intense point, and at its end. Known as peak end theory, this allows brands to create ‘peaks’ of positivity, sometimes even from a negative experience, which will be the stand-out that they will be remembered for. If as a customer you receive good customer service all the way through an experience it will leave you feeling happy, but not necessarily something you’ll remember. If there is a moment or two during the experience where you feel your expectations were exceeded – and it was unexpected – this will promote a longer lasting memory and will encourage you to show loyalty to that brand.

Introducing moments of delight into your customer experience

So the first step is to start with a level playing field. Create an efficient and seamless customer journey which meets the customers expectations. Then introduce elements of surprise or additional value at certain touchpoints which are unexpected, instigating a positive reaction.

The Magic Castle Hotel in L.A. became a top rated hotel on TripAdvisor despite having dated furnishings and a small swimming pool. But by offering exceptional service, and introducing moments of delight through a ‘popsicle hotline’, unlimited free of charge snacks, a board game and DVD menu, and pop-up magicians to entertain the customers at breakfast, their customers came away with positive happy memories. Why? Because those unexpected moments of delight were what they took away and remembered, making the hotel experience stand out as much as if they had stayed in a luxury hotel.

It is this notion of standing out that many brands misinterpret. By effectively making ‘noise’ as a strategy to build awareness – doing something ridiculous or crazy – might make you more memorable to your audience in the short term, but does it actually add any value…no!

By applying peak-end theory, your memorable experience needs to benefit your customer and be true to your brand values. It’s an opportunity to deliver above and beyond your customer’s expectations but it doesn’t have to be all bells and whistles. It can simply be the way in which you resolve a customer issue and then adding an incentive as a thank you for their patience and loyalty.

How do emotions influence our decisions?

We buy with emotion and we justify later with logic. In fact, 95 percent of buying decisions take place in the subconscious mind, according to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman. By creating an emotive reaction from your customer, you can unconsciously influence them to buy into your product or service – it’s all about engaging with them and satisfying their desires.

According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, the brain uses two systems to make decisions: system 1 is fast, uncontrolled, effortless, emotional and unconscious; system 2 is slow, deliberate, analytical and conscious. With 95 percent of active decision making sitting in system 1, designing with emotion in mind means that emotions are an important driver of making a memorable customer experience.

By applying both of these theories, incorporating moments of delight, pleasure or surprise into your customer journey, will encourage a more spontaneous, subconscious decision-making process. Being emotion-led, rather than analytical, it will no doubt ensure higher engagement between your customer and your brand.

Using technology to deliver new values to your customer

So how can technology help deliver exceptional service and moments of delight? Well essentially it all comes down to the industry you’re in, as well as the product or service that you’re offering. There are no rules as to what will work, it’s simply a case of testing to see what works specifically for your business. And when and where in the customer journey to apply it.

Behavioural designer, Nir Eyal, believes product design can influence consumer behaviours. When applying this principle to technologies, it’s all about creating ‘the hook’ comprised of four elements: trigger, action, reward and investment. It is this which makes pattern-forming technologies successful. With nearly half of all of our decisions based on habit rather than conscious decisions, this is how and why we can become ‘hooked’ to our favourite platforms and apps. The same is true of other technologies such smart speaker devices which have the ability to trigger an emotion or become part of a habit. Think Alexa or Google Home – both systems can produce moments of surprise and unexpected pleasure through the answers they deliver and even the emotion in the tone of voice.

This year the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated those businesses that have truly gone above and beyond, and those that have prioritised wrongly when it comes to their customer experience model. Those brands that have got it right and played the long game have adapted their business model to meet the new customer needs, whilst not expecting an immediate return. Such as Admiral automatically sending a £25 refund to all their customers as vehicle usage has temporarily dropped, and the wellbeing app Headspace offering it’s premium plan for free given the rise of mental health implications whilst stuck indoors. Or those that have offered exceptional customer service during this challenging time by supporting customers such as those experiencing financial insecurities.

The brands that will be remembered are those who showed agility and re-evaluated their customers’ needs, adapting to an unprecedented global situation, but keeping their customers’ experience as their main focus.

Applying peak end theory to your customer journey

Remember that peak end theory does not need to be costly. Here are our top tips on how to incorporate it into your platform, app or customer service model:

  • Map the end-to-end customer experience to ensure it meets the base customers expectations.
  • Select certain touchpoints within the customer journey to introduce your ‘peaks’ that fit true to your brand values – these are your memorable moments which evoke positive emotion, exceeding the customers expectations.
  • Don’t forget that ‘peaks’ can also be spontaneous. Every customer should be treated as an individual with their service tailored to their own specific circumstances when it comes to adding value.
  • Always be aware of the bigger picture. In an ever-changing world, it may be necessary to re-evaluate the customer journey to ensure the customer’s expectations are still being exceeded at the relevant touchpoints.
  • Be patient! Peak end theory is all about creating an emotional connection with your customer encouraging brand loyalty and longevity.
  • Embrace technology as a way to explore new ways to deliver moments of unexpected customer moments. Remember your customers don’t see technology, they see and feel the experience you offer.
  • Don’t forget to end on a high! As well as ‘peaks’ during the journey, it’s important that the final stage of the customer experience is a positive one!

Sam CarterSam CarterJune 3, 2019
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7min1510

There is no such thing as a typical customer journey – shoppers are browsing, buying, and interacting with brands in more ways than ever before. 

Meanwhile, with 41 percent of consumers conducting research online but buying in store, it’s clear shoppers are taking advantage of the diversify range of methods to complete their purchase journeys.

Multiple online touchpoints, combined with brick and mortar store visits and offline marketing strategies, result in fragmented data sets across the customer journey, offering an overwhelming number and variety of insights for marketers to comprehend and action. Furthermore, this data may be outdated, contain duplications, or deliver conflicting insights, presenting an obstacle to achieving accurate measurement of campaign success. This is undoubtedly challenging for businesses looking to gain the coveted 360-degree view of consumer behaviour to improve marketing performance.

The huge amount of time and effort needed for businesses to understand the implications of each and every piece of data available to them means they risk losing sight of the experience they are delivering, which can damage the brand. So should gaining a 360-degree customer view be the priority for marketers?

Putting Customer Experience at the forefront

To contribute to business success, marketers must first establish an accurate view of their organisation’s overall objectives, before identifying the challenges preventing them from meeting these aims. While an understanding of how and where consumers interact with a brand is important, it would be a mistake to focus all efforts on untangling every possible data point to create the perfect 360-degree view. Such a task costs significant time and money, and is unlikely to solve a business’s biggest pain points.

The real question is how marketers can use their data to benefit, enhance, and personalise the Customer Experience, and ultimately boost ROI. By identifying the campaigns and creatives appealing to high-value consumers, and where their efforts are most effective, marketers can anticipate customer needs and direct spend to the activity most likely to impact the bottom line. And in an age where 52 percent of consumers are ready to abandon brands if they fail to deliver personalised communications, leveraging customer data to meet individual needs, desires, and preferences is essential to unlock that all important lifetime value and make a lasting impact on business success.

Start small and grow

Naturally, once marketers identify this area of priority, many will aim to gather as much data as possible to achieve the perfect Customer Experience, but spending more time looking at the data than taking action puts them at risk of ‘analysis paralysis’.

To see quick results, marketers need to adopt a strategy that gives a simple and unified understanding of consumer needs; using the readily available data existing within their business. Consolidating this data into a unified customer data platform (CDP) is the first step, allowing organisations to remove duplication and access clear insights across all measurable touchpoints.

Once this solid data foundation is built, techniques such as multi-touch attribution (MTA) allow marketers to gather useful insights from their data to understand which tactics work best. The result is stitched together insight into interactions across multiple channels, empowering marketers to see which are most effective and increase customer understanding.

Marketers can then use predictive analytics to fill any information gaps they have. Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) looks at interaction, incrementality, and the lasting impact of channels to help optimise marketing spend and increase campaign performance. For example, marketers can analyse how offline influences, such as TV ads, are impacting online channels, and take these insights into account when planning and optimising campaign activity across the entire marketing mix.

In an age where customers want and expect personalisation, despite their unpredictable shopping habits, marketers cannot afford to skip on consumer insights. But ensuring action is taken from the start is key to being able to put the customer first and drive results. Using the right tools, marketers can ensure they do not neglect the interests of their customers while they work to achieve the most comprehensive view possible of audience interactions – allowing the creation of the personalised experiences their customers crave, boosting customer loyalty, and ultimately delivering on business objectives and revenue goals.   


Kevin MurrayKevin MurrayMay 29, 2019
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7min1449

The impact of poor Customer Experience is not one easily forgotten.

The reality for retailers today is that for even the most loyal customers, one bad experience is enough to make them abandon their shopping baskets and never hesitate about returning.

Modern customer expectations are undoubtedly at an all-time high. Not only do consumers now have preferred channels, they also expect brands to deliver the best possible service across all channels, at all times. According to research by Walker, expectations have amplified so much that by 2020, Customer Experience is predicted to overtake both price and product as the leading differentiator for brands.

To meet this demand, retailers are ramping up their investments in omnichannel to deliver the exceptional experience customers now require. As technology continues to advance, the value of omnichannel continues to increase and retailers have begun to invest significantly to integrate both front and back end systems.

The era of omnichannel

Gone are the days where physical and digital channels work in silo. The world has evolved into an omnichannel environment, where the boundaries between online and offline have become blurred. At present, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity for switched-on brands.

A successful omnichannel experience is made up of individual customer touchpoints, over a variety of channels, that allows users to move from one channel to the next seamlessly, whilst maintaining a continuous thread of communication. Being able to provide this single congruous shopping experience is crucial to keep up with customer expectations and continue to grow the bottom line.

A diligent and well-thought-out approach is key to creating a strong omnichannel experience. Companies are now recognising the central role technology continues to play, and the importance of moving in-line with new disruptive technologies available to help them achieve an effective omnichannel strategy. Over the next few years, global analyst house, Gartner predicts that AI will become a mainstream Customer Experience investment, while 47 percent of businesses will use chatbots for customer care, and 40 percent will deploy virtual assistants.

However, rather than just rushing to implementing the latest and greatest functionalities to disrupt the market out of fear customers will demand it, omnichannel is as much about what to avoid, as it is what to include. Rather than attempting to do too much, too quickly, the key to success lies in always having the core needs of the customer as the driving force behind any change. Failure to do so can compromise Customer Experience, negativity impact brands, and shake up customers’ loyalty.

Using data to enhance Customer Experience

At the heart of strong omnichannel customer engagement is the data that drives it. In today’s competitive environment, the customer insight that brands are able to glean from different touchpoints can make a huge difference in how a company shapes its CX.

The digital environment produces mass amounts of data, and finding new ways to understand customer needs, buying habits, likes, and dislikes can help inform and enhance the personal experience brands deliver, allowing them to develop that much sought-after loyalty between brand and customer.

Data can help dramatically improve the customer journey, but only for brands eager to be led where the data instructs them to go. Those still focused on holding onto legacy structures, or past ideas, products, or services, will not find as much success in Customer Experience enhancements, simply because of their resistance to change with the evolving market.

For those switched-on brands that collect and interpret omnichannel data correctly, they have a more holistic and informative view of their customers and are better equipped to deliver more personalised and targeted offerings, streamlined buying processes and develop new customer services in the future.

Customers at the core of omnichannel

The power that consumers now hold shapes not only the success or failure of a brand, but also shapes how they need to adjust to customer requirements in order to remain relevant. Modern customer journeys aren’t simple and linear, but a series of crossovers between traditional and digital channels that can vary significantly depending on the type of shopper. Understanding this requires in-depth knowledge of what customers truly want by utilising the data readily available to them.

While new and exciting disruptive technologies may seem appealing, to leverage the maximum potential of an omnichannel strategy, brands must focus on getting the basics of CX absolutely right first by always remembering the core needs of the customer. Only then can companies ensure they keep pace with the competition and provide a seamless customer experience necessary to drive consumer loyalty today and over the years to come, as new technologies become more and more prevalent.


Ian GoldingIan GoldingMay 13, 2019
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5min1616

Customer Experience specialist Ian Golding, author of Customer What: The Honest and Practical Guide to Customer Experience, writes for Customer Experience Magazine offering expert insight to help businesses improve their CX offering. 

To ask Ian a question on how to boost the Customer Experience provided by YOUR business, please email your question to editor@cxm.world. The best questions will be featured in future instalments.

Ian also leads the CX Professional Masterclass. Click here for details of upcoming Masterclass dates.

I believe my business is running smoothly, and I have had no complaints so far, but how can I test my touchpoints to identify potential problems before a customer does? 

This is a great question!

The only way to determine if your perception of your business is a reflection of reality is to ‘put yourself in your customers shoes’!

Whilst it is perfectly feasible that you are delivering a consistently good experience that is meeting the needs and expectations of customers, it is important to understand that very often, when things are going wrong, customers will not tell you about it! The only time you will realise there is a problem, is when it is too late.

So to ‘test’ the touchpoints in the customer journey, you must experience them for yourself in exactly the same way the customer does. This is an activity/exercise that should be done on a regular basis – and not just by you!

Everyone in your organisation should be experiencing the customer journey on a regular basis and reporting back observations (both positive and negative). Even if you are in a ‘business-to-business’ relationship, it is still vital to see what your customer sees’.

Too many organisations are not genuinely putting themselves in their customers shoes on a continuous basis. Doing so will enable the proactive management of the customer journey.


Harald FanderlHarald FanderlMay 1, 2019
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6min1651

“What do my customers want?”

The savviest executives are asking this question more frequently than ever, and rightly so. Leading companies understand that they are in the Customer Experience business, and they understand that how an organisation delivers for customers is as important as what it delivers.

Armed with advanced analytics, Customer Experience leaders gain rapid insights to build customer loyalty, make employees happier, achieve revenue gains of five-to-10 percent, and reduce costs by 15-to-25 percent within two or three years. But it takes patience and guts to train an organisation to see the world through the customer’s eyes and to redesign functions to create value in a customer-centric way.

There are three key management tasks to undertake in order to achieve this shift: Observe, Shape, and Perform.

Observe: Understand the interaction through the customer’s eyes

Technology has handed customers unprecedented power to dictate the rules in purchasing goods and services. Three-quarters of them, research finds, expect ‘now’ service within five minutes of making contact online. A similar number want a simple experience, use comparison apps when they shop, and put as much trust in online reviews as in personal recommendations. Increasingly, customers expect from all players the same kind of immediacy, personalisation, and convenience that they receive from leading practitioners such as Google and Amazon.

Central to connecting better with customers is putting in place several building blocks of a comprehensive improvement in customer experience.

  • Identify and understand the customer’s journey
  • Quantify what matters to your customers
  • Define a clear customer-experience aspiration and common purpose

Customer journeys are the framework that allows a company to organise itself and mobilise employees to deliver value to customers consistently, in line with its purpose. The journey construct can help align employees around customer needs, despite functional boundaries.

Shape: Redesign the business from the customer back

Customer Experience leaders start with a differentiating purpose and focus on improving the most important customer journey first – whether it be opening a bank account, returning a pair of shoes, installing cable television, or even updating address and account information.

Then they improve the steps that make up that journey. To manage expectations, they design supporting processes with customer psychology in mind. They transform their digital profile to remove pain points in interactions, and to set in motion the culture of continuous innovation needed to make more fundamental organisational transformations.

Customer Experience leaders can become even better by digitising the processes behind the most important customer journeys. In these quick efforts, multidisciplinary teams jointly design, test, and iterate high-impact processes and journeys in the field, continually refining and rereleasing them after input from customers. Such methods help high-performing incumbents to release and scale major, customer-vetted process improvements in less than 20 weeks.

Perform: Align the organisation to deliver against tangible outcomes

As Customer Experience becomes a bigger focus of corporate strategy, more and more executives will face the decision to commit their organisations to a broad CX transformation. The immediate challenge will be how to structure the organisation and roll-out, as well as figuring out where and how to get started. Applying sophisticated measurement to what your customers are saying, empowering frontline employees to deliver against your customer vision, and a customer-centric governance structure form the foundation.

Securing early economic wins will deliver value and momentum for continuous innovation.

Delighting customers by mastering the concept and execution of an exceptionally good Customer Experience is a challenge. However, it is an essential requirement for leading in an environment where customers wield growing power, and crucially without it, you lose your ability to meet their needs. And as we all know, in today’s market dissatisfied customers quickly move elsewhere.

The author would like to thank Kevin Neher and Ewan Duncan for their contributions to this article.


Brendan DykesBrendan DykesApril 24, 2019
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7min1391

Everyone is someone’s customer, and every single one of us knows how we want to be treated.

Yet we’ve all had experiences that have influenced our opinion of a brand, but actually little or nothing to do with the product or service itself. It is why the quality of service and experience provided by contact centres is critical to the well-being of any organisation that prides itself on the quality of its CX.

As the late Maya Angelou said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Intensifying competition and the growing power of consumers have together made customer experience the only means by which you can achieve truly durable competitive advantage in retail today. 

It is not possible, however, to provide a joined-up customer journey if the tools you have to manage it are incomplete. Simply throwing cash at CX technology will not lead to success. Here then is a seven-step plan to guide your contact centre transformation.   

1. You must acknowledge the need for change.

The first step towards the recovery of your CX is admitting you have a problem and having a genuine and consistent commitment to solving it. Don’t focus your energies entirely on customer complaints as a guide to your transformation. These are negative emotions. Look at positive feedback as well, to identify what your organisation is getting right so you can start replicating it. 

2. Be clear about the Customer Experience you are trying to deliver

Unfortunately, many organisations still have an incomplete definition of CX. Either that or their division into functional silos means that CX has become the proverbial elephant being examined by three blind men. In other words, everyone comes up with their own idea based purely on knowledge of their own silo, mistaking or misconceiving the true nature of CX and what it should deliver for the organisation.

3. Ensure you have executive buy-in

It is vital your CEO or CFO is on board to sponsor any contact centre transformation initiative and lead from the top down. But also consider whether you need a dedicated position such as a Chief Customer Officer. Whoever fulfils this role owns the Customer Experience and has the authority to ensure the requisite focus.

4. Work hard to ensure your organisation is fully on-board and aligned

Remember that people are capable of being very parochial, which is often caused by anxiety  about what change will mean to their own work and targets. To counter that, consider establishing a ‘CX Council’ to bring together all departments that have any role in the Customer Experience and empower them to work as a team with a unified vision of putting the customer first, no matter what.   

5. Get on your benchmarks

After mapping the customer journey, your next step should be to assess the current state of your strategy, people, processes, and tech. Come to a decision about how you are going to measure the delta of change in terms of positive customer emotion, not just reduced holding times or other operational metrics.

6. Collaborate to differentiate

This is an important one, because by working with a true solution partner, rather than simply a software vendor, you can set yourself on the right path to true omnichannel engagement and avoid the all-too-common operational pitfalls. Use the expertise of your partner to identify opportunities for business alignment along with ways of applying technology to speed up your transformation journey.

7. Build your business case

Providing good Customer Experience will have a positive impact on your organisation’s bottom line, which is certainly a legitimate justification for any CX initiative, but you still need a solid business case based on logic and metrics rather than intuition. If you have the right partner, they should be able to direct and inform this process.

These are seven great steps to set any organisation on the path towards recovering its CX and providing great customer service again. We cannot pretend it is always easy. Such a journey does inevitably involve a substantial measure of cultural upheaval. Customer experience needs to become a collective obsession within the enterprise.

CX culture and practices have to evolve every day and encompass what is always a changing technology landscape. But once this mindset is firmly embedded right across the organisation and all those internal barriers and silos are banished, at least as far as CX is concerned, the tangible bottom line benefits will flow in. You will also have a much happier and more fulfilled workforce.


Ben QuigleyBen QuigleyApril 23, 2019
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7min1577

Forecasts of a downturn in the travel market following the referendum vote to leave the EU in June 2016 have largely been defied.

In 2017, UK residents took 72.8 million trips abroad, up three percent from 2016. The number of UK consumers travelling long-haul has similarly increased by 50 percent. Recent research in the travel market, Starting the Journey: How optimised comms can benefit the travel industry, unveiled an industry that has remained robust despite economic uncertainty.

While demand for travel is increasing, consumer trust is dwindling. With 80 percent of consumers surveyed saying their holiday was nothing like it was advertised, the travel sector needs to address the issue of trust and reassess messaging at large. Focusing on the consumer to better understand their needs and meet their expectations is pivotal.

However, travel brands have greater challenges to tackle: creating a frictionless experience throughout the customer journey, both pre and post-travel; making greater use of the innovative technological tools at their disposal; and balancing tactical and brand communications. These must be at the top of their agenda if they’re to weather the storm.

Optimise comms to meet consumer expectations

Insights from our research show that people are generally happy with travel comms. We surveyed consumers across different life stages: students, home movers, first-time parents, empty nesters, and retirees. The results unveiled inconsistencies in how travel brands communicate with different consumer groups. But with people across all five life stages saying that keeping to their budget is a priority, brands need to ensure cost is not their main differentiator. Offers, discounts, and any comms focusing on financial incentives need to be balanced with brand comms to ensure consumers build an affinity with the brand and ultimately develop an emotional connection to it.

A balance between tactical and brand comms can ensure travel brands can avoid becoming diluted and devolved to relentless price slashing.

As audiences are bound to comprise a range of different groups, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. The more insight you have, the better you can tailor messaging. Our own research unveiled inconsistencies in how brands communicate with different age groups.

For example, 67.2 percent of students surveyed feel unhappy with comms they receive, despite being the most targeted group. Home movers, on the other hand, feel the sector meets their needs, but want travel comes to be entertaining. New parents highlight the need for travel brands to use consumer insights to target their comms more effectively to their audience, while retirees said the holidays they were interested in were not on offer at all.

Tap into tech

Thankfully there are plenty of tools, as well as an abundance of data, available that enable brands to analyse consumer behaviours and identify common motivations and preferences, all of which can help create personas. Personas offer great insight and can assist in creating comms based on the audiences’ varied needs, behaviours and expectations.

Tools such as social listening offer great insights into brand awareness and how consumers feel about your brand, as well as the overall booking experience. Internal CRM systems, meanwhile, provide information on the typical booking cycle and past booking habits. Data from these sources can help brands become savvier in how they target consumers, ensuring the right message reaches them at the right time, something all age groups said they want.

Emphasise CX both pre and post-sale

It isn’t just about timing; the channel through which the message is delivered is just as important. Reaching consumers via a full channel mix is important, but brands need to have a clear idea of every channel’s purpose. In other words, every channel needs to play a part in the overall customer journey. From digital and social media ads, to TV and email advertising, brands need to reassess the entire customer journey, and as consumers now make use of desktops, phones, and tablets on their journey, comms need to be adapted for a multi-screen variant.

Audience splits, thanks to personas, allow for very targeted messaging. Personalisation further allows for hyper-relevant messaging to be deployed. In this vein, comms should be easy to share, to capitalise on consumers’ excitement of posting about researching, planning, and ultimately experiencing their holiday. Everything from video to gif content can serve further boost brand awareness.

As trust is an issue for the sector, each touchpoint across the journey needs to be dealt with transparency, with content personalised for multiple personas to ensure a much more sharable experience. Travel brands ultimately need to increase their understanding of customers’ needs. Reassessing the customer journey end-to-end to provide a frictionless experience should be a priority. Not only will this allow for a more streamlined offering across all channels, it will ensure easier routes to purchase and impact repeat business.


Merje ShawMerje ShawMarch 13, 2019
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11min3071

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.




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