Neil Russell-SmithNeil Russell-SmithNovember 7, 2019
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7min669

Organisations are increasingly relying on chatbots for customer service as a way to deflect inbound calls and reduce costs, but Forrester Analytics data shows that consumers aren’t thrilled with this approach. 

They found consumers are reluctant to trust a chatbot to resolve their service issues, and remain skeptical that chatbots can provide a similar level of service as a human agent.

However, it seems companies are enforcing technology solutions at every opportunity in the hope of improving their CX strategy. Amid all the talk of technical advancement, we seem to forget about the human factor, that personal touch that only people can deliver to consumers no matter the channel of engagement.

Clients today have huge goals for their CX strategies, such as 50 percent of all calls to be self-serviced, 80 percent of contact to be automated, 50 v of calls to be eliminated and all of this along with, in most cases, being tasked to make significant cost savings.

Ian Jacobs, Principal Analyst at Forresters, said: “Customer service organisations have been looking for ways to cut costs for decades. Now that chatbot mania has taken over, many are jumping on the bandwagon and attempting to replace their human agents with chatbots. In theory, that makes sense – a chatbot costs less than a human over time, and most customer service organisations tend to focus more heavily on cost than on customer experience.”

It is fair to say many companies are struggling with automation, whether to automate, why automate, what to automate and when to automate. According to Forrester, when it comes to automation and customer service, brands are getting the last three questions wrong.

We regularly see in the industry news headlines such as Chatbots set to take over most cost service work or Robots are set to replace humans and costly contact centres. However, according to Forrester’s Analytics Consumer Energy Index on-line survey 2018, consumers expect chatbots to disappoint with 54 percent of US online consumers expecting interaction with customer service chatbots to negatively affect their quality of life.

The message from Forrester’s research is clear: ‘Augment, don’t replace and blend AI and humans’.

The question is which blended operations model works better for your business?

Forrester has identified four approaches to agent augmentation:

1. A chatbot for agents where the conversation is with a live agent and a chatbot 

If your customer service agents search a knowledge base during their interactions with customers, why not create a natural language interface for that task? It’s a great starting point if you’re just beginning your chatbot journey.

2. A human-intermediated chatbot for increased efficiency and seamless suggestions

Here, an AI tool observes a conversation between a human agent and a customer, providing suggestions that the agent can either push out to the customer, or modify, or personalise the suggestion, or even reject it and type their own answer.

3. A front-end chatbot where the chatbot authenticates the customer and determines intent and gathers all relevant information 

Chatbot hands interaction off to the agent and the agent resolves the customer’s issues. The benefit of this one is that agents are handling the meat of the interaction and have more time for upselling/cross selling and it also significantly reduces handling time. Conceptually agents are more engaged as they are adding value and not doing mundane tasks.

4. Intermingled workflows with both agents and chatbots do what each does best

The human agent can invoke a chatbot to handle a specific task, then have the chatbot hand the interaction back to the agent.  Similar to the front-end chatbot, human agents are relieved of routine tasks, but in this workflow, the agent and chatbot can flex back and forth to tackle the portions of the interaction they excel at.

Using one or more of those approaches to augment customer service agents can result in significant benefits to an organisation, such as reduced handle time, increased employee engagement, and improved experience -0 while also ensuring your customers don’t lose faith with your brand after a frustrating chatbot interaction.

One thing is for sure, AI is here to stay. Brands that want to keep ahead in a competitive world will need to re-think their business models and make sure there is a place for human employees and AI.

They will be the winners.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 31, 2019
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5min640

Opportunities to turn app users into paying customers are being missed, a new report has indicated.

The findings by mobile attrition and analytics firm AppsFlyer show that marketers are missing their chance when it comes to converting, with the average share of paying users lower than 10 percent based on app install-to-purchase ratio (only 3-5 percent in gaming apps and double that rate in non-gaming apps).

In a space dominated by free-to-install apps, where actual value is tied to post-install in-app activity and share of paying users, the study examined over 12,000 apps with a user base of over 2.3 billion users. Findings determine the importance of granular in-app event measurement, and provide insights to improve campaign effectiveness and increase the percentage of app installs that lead to a purchase.

The rate of paying users is lower when marketers don’t measure, and therefore optimise for, enough in-app events. On average, the report found that marketers are measuring only 4-7 events per app, depending on the vertical, but performance based on the share of paying users is much higher, hitting its peak at 16-20 events, or 26-30 in the gaming space.

In-app events contain specific information about actions taken using an app. For example, purchasing a product, booking a flight, or – in a gaming context – completing a game tutorial, or passing level 10.

In fact, almost 60 percent of apps measure revenue events, but the second and third most popular events – Login and Registration trail far behind, as they are measured by only 30 percent of apps. Among Gaming apps, the average number of apps measuring for Level Achieved is 42 percent, while only 19 percent of apps measure Tutorial Completion, significantly lower than the 70-80 percent that measure revenue.

Since app performance is significantly higher in apps that measure events throughout the customer cycle, closing this gap can certainly lead to better results.

Across nearly all verticals, performance is significantly higher in apps that measure granular in-app events, rich with information about the action taken, rather than standard events that only contain information about whether the action was taken.

For example, granular in-app events measured for purchases that include data on the content purchased, specific content ID, currency used, value of the purchase, customer user ID, final purchase, and more, give more insights into conversions within an app.

Overall, the report found, granular event measurement helps marketers make smarter decisions and ultimately drive higher  user retention rates.  Since retention is highly correlated with revenue, it is critical that marketers optimise to encourage ongoing usage of their apps and increase the likelihood of purchases and the lifetime value of their users.

Shani Rosenfelder, Head of Mobile Insights at AppsFlyer, said: “Although performance app marketers have shifted their efforts from focusing on driving installs to post-install measurement, most are still measuring only a fraction of the in-app activity they could be.

“Converting more users to paying users and maximising their revenue potential requires measuring events that span the full conversion cycle and all significant milestones in the consumer journey, allowing marketers to identify gaps and optimise accordingly. The insights that can be drawn from this data are vast and can help maximise user lifetime value by informing smarter acquisition and re-engagement decisions.

“With all of the information marketers have at their fingertips, it is critical they invest in an infrastructure that allows for more granular measurement, as well as in advanced tools, tech and people that are equipped to draw the most actionable insights from the data without compromising productivity.”

 


Rajnish SharmaRajnish SharmaOctober 29, 2019
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5min1169

The global aviation industry is facing many complex challenges – none more pressing than the increasing expectations of customers looking for a personalised travel experience.

The internet and social media have given customers direct access to airport and airline staff, and this immediate access has led to customers expecting immediate action on their complaints and queries.

What does the passenger of the future expect?

According to the SITA Passenger Insights 2019 Report, by 2025, 68 percent of passengers will be from the ‘post-digital generation’ – i.e. those who have grown up interacting with technology to manage their lives. They understand artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and chatbots, and they expect these technologies to be there for them when they travel.

As the aviation industry struggles to retain and engage passengers, a consistently excellent Customer Experience must remain at the core of their offering. This begs the question, therefore, of what new technologies airlines and airports can confidently rely on to deliver the experience that this post-digital customer demands.

What technology can the industry use to improve CX?

Airlines and airports are increasingly turning to robotics and assisted intelligence solutions to streamline their operations and give their customers options to minimise pain-points on their journeys. Automating first-level support queries, for instance, means that staff can focus on more complex problems without compromising Customer Experience, all while reducing costs.

Plane sailing: A majority of passengers use airline smartphone apps

Chatbots are the perfect ally for customer support agents, since they allow companies to interact with passengers around the clock – and during delays or disruptions can be used effectively to keep customers informed and guide them through the next steps, resulting in higher levels of customer satisfaction.

Roughly 55 percent of passengers are already using technology to improve their journey by downloading their airline’s mobile app. Crucially, these apps also allow customers to voice any dissatisfaction they might feel towards airlines or airports.

Companies need to have a strong engagement strategy to make use of this ‘dissatisfaction data’ to address passenger pain-points and improve Customer Experience. Proactive customer engagement helps to meet customer expectations and allows airlines to better allocate resources and improve organisational efficiency.

Effective digital competitiveness brings humans and technology together

The ‘human touch’ must remain central to the aviation industry despite this new digital environment. It is here that the unique combination of a High Touch, High Tech approach becomes a critical business component.

Matching technological development with a warm and skilled human workforce is the key to building brand loyalty while reducing inefficient time-lags and getting an edge on rivals in the fiercely competitive travel sector. 


Jon BussJon BussOctober 28, 2019
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5min750

The rise of online retail continues to gather pace and consumers are rapidly migrating their spending habits away from brick and mortar to shopping through digital devices.

ONS data shows that ecommerce market size reached £137.38bn last year, with 82 percent of Britons now shopping online.

This shift in purchasing behaviour is set to accelerate further over the coming decade. Customer behaviour could see the internet account for as much as 53 percent of retail sales in 10 years’ time, according to a report by analysts Retail Economics.

As a consequence of an expanding digital retail environment, the breadth of available choice has also grown rapidly. In fact, consumers are now being faced with something of a ‘paradox of choice’ from the available options. This terminology is used to describe the way an ever increasing amount of choice can cause a corresponding increase in anxiety – and it’s becoming a consumer pain point.

As retail has evolved to become more saturated, so too has the expanding range of platforms it operates over. Across social, search, maps, apps, and more recently voice assistants, we have more purchase avenues available to us than ever to add to the chaos. This also means that brands have more touchpoints than ever to manage to ensure that they are discoverable.

How can brands come out on top?

Businesses must now take an active role in guiding potential customers through the seemingly endless choice across digital platforms to ensure that they come out on top. By managing all of the public facts about your brand, as well as online reputation, you can improve consumer confidence that your product or service is the best of the options presented.

In a world where options are countless, reputation management is intrinsically linked to revenue. Time-poor online searchers are looking for answers fast, and typically, they will scan for average ratings and read a few reviews to reassure themselves that they are making the right purchasing decision.

Reviews are important and consumers often shape their perceptions around them, so they’ve become a key brand consideration. They also impact discoverability through SEO as consumers search for ‘best’ and ‘top 10’, for example. So, monitoring this feedback and providing responses is a crucial element of modern day reputation management.

Managing the facts about your brand

Reviews aren’t the only aspect to reputation management. Increasingly, today’s customer journey starts with a question, and customers expect quick and easy access to accurate answers. For your business, that means providing the facts about your offering – from hours, services, locations, professionals, menus to events – everywhere consumers search.

The future of search lies in answers. So, alongside authenticity and transparency, reputation and responsiveness to customers’ opinions should be key commercial considerations right now. Those that offer accurate and useful information across multiple touchpoints will be well positioned in an era of seemingly limitless choice and noise – and their customers will thank them for it.


Martin EllinghamMartin EllinghamOctober 25, 2019
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10min970

It’s never been easier or quicker to switch suppliers and service providers, with digital innovation and digital disruptors providing customers with the opportunity to make a change in super-quick time.

Such is the freedom of choice and the ease of changing that more and more customers are bypassing the complaints stage, choosing instead to vote with their feet (or more likely in 2019, their mouse). For the providers and suppliers this is obviously proving to be a testing time, with businesses searching for ways to better manage this current generation of increasingly transient and intolerant customers.

Mouse trap: A few clicks is all it takes for a customer to move on

Before business leaders can hope to address this, it’s vital to try and understand what’s led to this shift in customer behaviour on such a large scale. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of factors at play. Generally, people are more frayed than ever before, with socio-economic and political pressures taking their toll, adversely affecting patience levels if and when things do go wrong.

Also, expectations have changed, with an instant response or next-day service now deemed standard, no matter how complex the issue. And, perhaps most worrying for businesses, the entire concept of brand loyalty seems to have fallen by the wayside. While customers still seem to have a certain affinity to particular products and services, brand loyalty, where people have an emotional attachment to a particular brand, certainly seems to be a very rare phenomenon in this, our digital era.

Digital disconnect

This is actually where the crux of the issue lies. We’re now living and working in a truly digital age. Analogue is no more and the majority of interactions customers have with their service providers are digital, creating a disconnect between brands and their customers. Brands don’t have a human face any more, with the continued dehumanisation of brands only serving to remove any remaining traces of customer loyalty.

Over ear: Customers want to know you’re listening

There is one exception to this move away from human interactions and that is when something goes wrong. As a rule, the only time you speak to a human is if something has gone wrong, and the human that you speak to has the power to make the situation much better or even much worse, something that businesses are trying their best to ensure is always the former and never the latter.

Ultimately, even in our digital world, what customers are looking for when they have a problem remain the same. They want a sympathetic ear; they want to know they’re being taken care of; they want to know you won’t stop until their issue is resolved; they want to know it’s not likely to happen again in the future, and they want this all done in a reasonable timeframe.

Over-efficient

While there is no budget for a white glove service for every customer, the very fact that we’re operating in a digital world undoubtedly helps to provide certain aspects of what customers want and need. Digital systems can furnish call handlers and other front-line operatives with customer data, transactional information and customer history, helping to take care of the speed to resolution aspect.

Bot seriously: Digital can often leave customers cold

However, this digital ‘efficiency’ can leave people a little cold and a computer’s inability to not only factor in but decipher new contextual variables that are part and parcel of the human psyche, mean that even the most advanced of digital solutions can still leave customers wanting when it comes to optimum levels of service.

While computers are very good if told exactly what to do, their inability to capture the nuances of human behaviour and emotions mean we’re still a long way off from going totally digital for customer interactions. Humans are too complex and fickle to shoehorn into a one-size-fits-all solution, making it necessary to maintain that sprinkling of human interaction alongside even the most intelligent of digital solutions. Which brings us back to the fallibility of humans and their ability to exacerbate an already negative situation.

A winning combination

What’s needed is increased automation to remove the laborious, time-consuming activities, with the addition of the human touch to thaw the seemingly cold-nature of digital intervention, underpinned by timely, contextual information to signpost the best route to resolution for the customer. While many businesses are working towards achieving this, no-one is there yet, with work ongoing as to how best to amalgamate the digital with the human to achieve optimum outcomes for both the customer and the provider.

Businesses need to focus on capturing the information needed to help automate the human touch. So, what are the signs given off by customers that in hindsight have signalled their ultimate intention to leave in the future?

It’s a sign: Customers can signal their intentions to leave in advance

Perhaps a reduction in deposits, a decrease in transactions, switching products or increased interactions with a help desk? As with all things in our digital world, it’s all about how best to use the abundance of data we all now have at our disposal to inform strategy, using the benefits of digital solutions to underpin efficient, effective and empathic human interactions at every possible opportunity.

It’s no longer enough to establish just whether a customer prefers email or telephone contact, or what time of day is best to make contact. Such is the lack of human interaction that the majority of customers experience, it’s vital for businesses to monitor and understand individual sentiments and behaviours, in an effort to uncover a deep understanding of the specific requirements of individual customers at every point of contact.

This, in combination with machine learning capabilities and the nuanced potential of the human touch, is the only hope businesses have of seeing a return to the customer loyalty of the past, resulting in a finely-honed Customer Experience for that all-important competitive advantage in an increasingly volatile marketplace.


Sonja KotrotsosSonja KotrotsosOctober 21, 2019
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5min945

The old war is ending.

A truce has been called in the 20-year battle between marketing and IT for the territory of Digital Experience. Enterprise architects are turning IT departments into business consultancies and marketing now frequently takes on the development capacities for digital. As a result, growth-hacking and T-shaped marketers made it into mainstream marketing teams in 2019.

In 2020, marketing will go one step further and include front end engineers into their teams. But because of this, another war stirs – the war for front-end developer talent is going to become incredibly fierce, incredibly quickly. And this may actually define the success of many businesses.

The lessons of history

Like all wars, there are lessons in history. For this particular battle, those lessons can be found in Photoshop. 

Twenty years ago, marketing made leaflets. Marketers looked at what topics would be interesting for the audience and what brand feel they wanted to portray. For the layout however, businesses used agencies. And when those agency relationships didn’t work as fast as they were needed, businesses hired photoshop guys internally. The resulting war for talent, ideas, and execution defined marketing in many industries and the impact is still felt today.

Now, leaflets and brochures are gone. Largely, at least.

The main channel of communication today is digital media, and the photoshop guys of digital media are front-end developers. 

A different digital battlefield

It is also worth noting that the ‘digital’ battlefield itself is changing. Businesses used to have templates and drag-and-drop teasers on a homepage in a content management system. That worked in the world of desktop web. Now, businesses and consumers live in the world of mobile experiences, smart spaces, and connected products. As a result, desktop websites will continue to lose importance year over year. 

2020 is the year marketing disciplines will need to be ready for this fight. Modern content management systems don’t do templates anymore. They focus on content delivery, speed, and versatility to deliver into these new channels and experiences. They cater to the philosophy of growth hacking and constantly testing assumptions. 

This new way of working starts with these new channels, increasingly employs personalisation in real-time, and tests and refines customer interactions. In this context, front-end developers will become the highly prized special forces that can define marketing success.

There is no way around this. Marketing needs front-end developers if the business wants to deliver the latest and greatest Digital Experience to customers. With Digital Experience being the main differentiator, a business cannot afford to fall behind. 

There will undoubtedly be casualties, but to the victor will go the spoils of keenly engaged customers ready and willing to engage with a business in a variety of ways.


Jeff EpsteinJeff EpsteinOctober 16, 2019
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10min1717

If you’ve ever visited a website and been greeted by a human-like pop-up asking “How may I help you?”, you’re not alone.

According to Comm100, nearly 50 percent of consumers already engage in automated conversations with chatbots. And, according to Gartner, these numbers are growing. 

Gartner predicts that 25 percent of customer service and support operations will integrate chatbot technology across customer service channels by 2020. The same source reports that in 2017 fewer than two percent did so, marking a huge jump in adoption of this technology in a relatively short amount of time.

With any business trend, organisations can feel pressure to adopt quickly, fearful that they will miss out on revenue and engagement opportunities if they do not use the same technologies as their competitors. However, simply deploying the latest technology does not guarantee companies will immediately begin delivering a great customer experience.

Organisations should be thoughtful in the way they strategically plan before implementing chatbots – AI-powered or not – to ensure that they are contributing to a positive customer experience, rather than just masking existing CX flaws.

How digital body language can guide when – and when not – to deploy a chatbot

A recent report by Juniper Research estimates that chatbots could help lower annual business costs by more than $8 billion by 2022. Chatbots also increase efficiency. By using AI-powered chatbots to process simple requests – account balances, due dates, etc. – agents have more time to have more personal, in-depth interactions with the customer via live chat.

These in-depth interactions also include successful sales conversions: the American Marketing Association reported that live chat increased sales by up to 20 percent.

With chatbots increasing efficiency and live chat boosting sales, bringing technology into customer interactions seems even more enticing than ever before. However, companies must consider how they will design their bot strategy so that it helps – rather than harms – Customer Experience.

I spoke with Tim de Paris, CTO at Decibel, a Digital Experience intelligence company based in Boston and London. He shared his thoughts on how chatbots can actually damage a customer’s experience if deployed ineffectively.

“To make a chatbot successful, organisations must have insight into how users are feeling about their experience,” he said.

“If a chatbot pops up asking the user if he/she needs help during an experience where they clearly don’t need help – like right when the page opens, or when he/she is already engaged in a positive experience – the chatbot interruption will only irritate the user, pushing them away rather than serving as a helpful assistant.”

According to de Paris, bots should be equipped to understand users’ digital body language: is the user engaged and ready to purchase? Or showing signs of confusion through scattered mouse behaviour? By being able to identify user pain points, brands can determine the best time to interject with a chatbot.

For example, if a customer is bouncing from page to page on a website and showing frantic mouse movements, clearly showing signs of frustration, the chatbot should step in to help, and even potentially pass the interaction off to a human agent who might be better positioned to help.

Conversely, if a customer has viewed one page for a significant amount of time and is flipping between shirt colours, he/she could be toward the end of the funnel, about to make a purchase and just contemplating last minute details. In this case, the chatbot should stay quiet, avoiding interrupting the customer’s decision.

“Only when organisations have insight into users’ digital body language with the right digital experience technology can chatbots be deployed at the most effective time,” said de Paris.

Best practices for implementing chatbots

Chatbots are immensely useful in boosting the efficiency of a company’s contact centre, but they are not a ‘one size fits all’ tool. Some bots can analyse text with natural language processing (NLP), whereas others only offer predetermined response options for users to interact with.

To successfully bring chatbots into the contact centre, companies should begin by being honest about the chatbot’s capabilities. By being up front about what a bot can and can’t do, customers will know right away what they can achieve in their interaction with a bot, and companies will understand when it’s time to transfer an interaction to a human agent.

Some chatbots are most helpful with basic questions – generating account balances, sharing business hours, etc. – but an agent should be brought in whenever the customer’s needs go beyond the bot’s capabilities. It is important that contact centres identify when a customer’s needs would be better serviced by a live agent based on a range of other criteria such as status, shopping cart value, geography, or the relative value of their query – every company will have a threshold above which they would prefer the question gets handled by a human.

Once a company deploys a chatbot, it should take advantage of all the metrics that the service provides to fine-tune the applications as needed to offer the best interaction. This includes feedback from post-chat surveys, recorded wait times, conversation lengths and customer satisfaction scores. This data can be used to identify trends as well as areas of strength and areas that need improvement.

While continuously using the metrics that the chatbot provides, businesses should be prepared to maintain the chatbots for best performance outcomes. Implementing a chatbot is not a ‘set-and-forget’ solution, but requires constant monitoring and improvement to best serve the agent and the customer, leading to a better interaction across the board.

After all, positive Customer Experience leads to more customer conversions.

Chatbots are here to stay, and if companies are going to use them, they need to know how to do so successfully and efficiently. By bringing a personal, customised experience to prospective buyers on digital channels, companies can improve the customer experience and increase revenue.


David WharramDavid WharramOctober 7, 2019
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11min1455

Data-driven analysis has been the cornerstone of our understanding of digital performance, from campaigns and websites, to all the components that contribute to them.

Analysis and the production of objective data to demonstrate performance has been one of digital’s greatest strengths since its inception. Yet, with all this talk about how our digital assets have performed, isn’t it about time we take a step back and think about how people actually feel about our content?

After all, it’s estimated that  over a third of users will stop engaging with a website if the content or design is perceived as unattractive or clumsily laid out. What’s more, with increasingly distracted audiences, creating an intuitive and positive user experience is more important than ever before.

Biometrics’ 101

Do customers understand what we’re trying to communicate? Do our values resonate with audiences? Does our content excite? Are people even watching our videos and, if they are, what keeps them engaged?

For all these questions and more, biometric testing gives us an answer. As marketers, we need to step away from the constant ‘push’ techniques that we’ve become so reliant on and start thinking more about our customers. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But until now, we haven’t had a reliable way of understanding and measuring human emotion. For the first time ever, we can tell not just what people think about our content, but how it makes them feel.

Biometrics refers to the measurement of life, or more specifically, the scientific evaluation of human traits and emotions. The technology itself isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around for years but has mainly been utilised in the security and pharmaceutical industries.

The technology has been slowly establishing itself within the mainstream conscious as over 75 percent of consumers have used or experienced biometric technology. As this groundbreaking technology has matured, more digital marketers are investing in the opportunities it provides to examine the effectiveness of their marketing techniques. By utilising high-end hardware and software, biometrics can monitor and record a user’s biological reaction to certain stimuli.

With 87 percent of marketing budgets predicted to be spent on digital by 2022 and businesses investing so much money in their digital marketing, going one step further to analyse the user experience of that investment is just good sense – particularly as 40 percent of users would abandon a web page of any kind if it takes longer than three seconds to load.

One of the most significant advantages of digital marketing is the ability to measure performance across a variety of metrics. Layer on top of this user insights and thorough surveys or interviews, and what you get is a clear picture of what your digital marketing is doing and who it’s interacting with. The real challenge comes when you try to bridge this gap by understanding the connection between data and user behaviour.

The capabilities of biometric technology are unparalleled, allowing marketers to analyse eye movement and facial expressions in order to assess an individual’s emotional responses to a particular stimulus. Facial mapping technology comes into play by tracking any sudden facial movements, such as a furrowed brow or curved lip, and categorising them into the implied emotional response.

As well, galvanic skin response (GSR) technology provides the ability to measure a user’s emotional arousal to what they are seeing on screen. This works by monitoring changes in sweat gland activity, therefore showing whether users are annoyed or pleased with their stimuli. The fact is that emotions play an enormous part in our purchasing decisions, so measuring this metric is important for brands to see how people react to their buying process.

Biometrics and the user experience

One way to measure a user’s response to a web page is to see it through their eyes – not via surveys, but by actually tracking their eye movements and identifying responses the user may not even be aware of. This kind of testing highlights what content immediately draws their attention and where they may look first on a website’s landing page, as well as demonstrating whether a user has read the entire copy of a webpage, or just skimmed their eyes across it.

Measuring time spent on a webpage is important, as most users spend an average of seven seconds on a page before deciding whether to exit the site or not. Eye-tracking helps to identify key areas of interest, as well as areas that might need a little extra attention.

In addition to eye-tracking, being able to analyse the facial expressions of audiences provides additional insight on digital content by looking at their immediate emotional responses – whether this be delight, confusion, or disgust. Measuring this provides valuable insight into the user’s journey and how each stage of that journey made them feel.

It was recently reported that 52 percent of users say the main reason they wouldn’t return to a website is due to the aesthetics of a particular page. By using biometrics to measure what part of a company’s website is troublesome or off-putting for users, marketers have an edge over the competition as they are able to determine which type of user experience (UX) they are delivering and how this can be tailored to give users what they want and what they expect.

This is especially important as only one percent of users say ecommerce websites meet their expectations every time, meaning most websites are failing to address the needs of their users. The customer journey not only includes the way a customer interacts with a web page, but also how they feel emotionally whilst doing so. If a brand’s website has been difficult to navigate and the customer becomes annoyed, they will have a negative association with that brand, which could result in audiences turning to competitors.

Biometrics & ROI

As brands continue to invest heavily in their digital marketing efforts, having the ability to track how effective those efforts have been is paramount. Measuring performance is a vital component of digital marketing, using various different methods to build a picture of how content is performing and with whom it’s interacting. Data and user behaviour are difficult to measure at the same time, and therefore it can be difficult to interpret results from user interviews and insights.

As the industry continues to look for new ways to measure the effectiveness of their digital content and places more emphasis on how to improve user experiences, it seems that the answer lies within the advanced insights that biometrics provides. Results from biometric studies can be used to create more conversions and purchases for a brand, as the user experience can be reviewed and refined in line with the emotional response of users found within the measurements.

This data is effectively the key that can open the door to optimal user engagement.


Sean RusinkoSean RusinkoOctober 4, 2019
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12min2616

Today’s Customer Experience doesn’t begin or end with a visit to a store or a website.

Customers shift between channels and devices depending on where they are and what’s convenient for them. In order to offer consumers exactly what they want, on the platform of their choice, brands are increasingly offering services such as personalised product offerings, discounts for loyal customers, and subscription models.

In part, this has been fueled by the ‘Amazon effect’, whereby popular online brands have set a precedent of using customer data they collect to offer personalised, quick, and consistent customer experiences. On top of this, many consumers also expect their shopping experiences to be made as convenient and fun as possible, with brands there to support, advise, and entertain them throughout the purchase journey.

Therefore, in order to acquire and retain customers, brands need to deliver against these expectations. Here, we not only discuss the five customer demands made of today’s retailers, but how brands can meet them and ensure they offer the experience that is desired. 

1. Make it easy for me

Frictionless journey navigation, easy access to products and information, and lighting fast speed make for happy consumers who are more likely to purchase.

According to the The new retail ecosystem report from PwC, fair prices are the most important factor for customers when shopping offline, with 64 percent basing their purchase decision on a good price. However, when shopping online in particular, customers rank convenience as the most important factor. Therefore, brands looking to improve Customer Experience should make the online experience as convenient as possible, giving the shopper all the necessary information needed to make a purchase decision.

More specifically, the KPMG International Global Online Consumer Report found that the flexibility to shop when they want, the convenience of not having to go to a store, and free shipping offers are all in the top ten reasons that consumers shop online. In fact, stores such as Walmart are using their brick and mortar presence to meet this demand. For example, in 2018 Walmart installed click-and-collect kiosks in 500 of their stores to offer quick, simple and convenient collection for customers.

Another convenience trend is ‘Try now, Pay Later’ services, which encourage consumers to try a larger assortment without having to pay upfront. For example, Sitecore customer ASOS use a ‘Pay Later’ capability, and Amazon’s ‘Prime Wardrobe’ gives customers seven days to try clothes at home and only paying for items they decide to keep. 

2. Assist me

As well as having the flexibility to collect their purchases from a store of their convenience (or have it delivered), consumers also expect to be assisted throughout the entire purchase journey. Many brands are meeting this expectation with personalised experiences, which includes individual product offerings, using data collected about each customer to tailor the messaging, offers, and experiences each receives.

And they are right to do so – research from Econsultancy found that 93 percent of companies see an uplift in conversion rates from personalisation. 

Nemlig.com, an online supermarket in Denmark, has used Sitecore’s platform to personalise customer journeys, and has reaped the benefits. It uses customer data around product preferences and buying histories to personalise the front page, category pages, and search results for each shopper, and engages customers with individual messages throughout the site, via email and text messages.

Since doing so, the number of site visitors has grown by 55 percent, the average basket size has increased, and turnover has risen by 28 percent.

However, it is also worth being mindful on how data is being used to target customers. The Consumer Perceptions of AI Survey from Rocket Fuel found that while consumers are open to being targeted based on product interest, search, and purchase history, they don’t want to be targeted with ads using their name, sent urgent notifications that a certain item is low in stock, or reminders to make repeat purchases of the same product. 

3. Reward me

The battle for winning brand-loyal consumers is extremely difficult, but the benefits are equally rewarding to the business. PwC’s The new retail ecosystem report found that more than 70 percent of people are staunch brand-loyal shoppers, and less than a third are willing to try new offerings. What’s more, many also respond well to loyalty programs and appreciate brands showing that they value customers. 

However, it is no longer enough to offer a one-size-fits-all offering, such as the generic discounts or specific free products offered by brands in the past. Today, a personalised loyalty program, where different promotions are offered based on individual customer data and preferences, is needed to meet customer expectations. One company which has created a successful personalised loyalty program is Ulta Beauty Inc., which uses customer data to offer a wide variety of products to test, personalised birthday gifts and a tiered system of rewards based on levels of loyalty. As a result, 90 percent of its sales are now driven by loyalty program members.

4. Inspire me

Virtual and augmented reality (VR & AR) experiences are increasingly welcomed by customers. However, while in-store experiences such as VR mirrors previously just showed how customers would look in an item of clothing and were merely an entertaining addition to the in-store experience, they now offer added value and convenience to the customer.

For example, AR can allow those browsing online to visualise how a product will look on them before they make a purchase, allowing them to be better informed and removing the inconvenience of returning undesired products. L’Oréal has used AR and face mapping technology in its mobile app, allowing customers to try out different styles, such as hair colours, and lipstick shades, before making a purchase.

VR can also enhance the experience of using retail mobile applications. Fashion brand H&M is using its Image Search tool within the H&M app to allow consumers to upload an image of a similar product into the app. The app then presents several similarly looking, instantly purchasable items from the H&M catalog – moving the consumer closer from the moment of inspiration to a purchase.

5. Convince me

Finally, consumers do not take what message a brand puts out there as fact – they base their purchase consideration on what everyone else has to say about the brand and its products. When Amazon pioneered and implemented ratings and reviews, their business transformed overnight.

One way to convince customers to choose your brand over others is through user-generated content. In fact, research from Stackla found that 79 percent of consumers say user-generated content such as product reviews and ratings both on the brand’s own website and on other listing pages, is highly influential in increasing their propensity to buy.

Also, although social commerce has grown in popularity in recent years, with many consumers starting their search and even completing purchases on social channels, user generated content still remains more impactful than influencer content published on social media. In fact, according to Stackla, consumers find user generated content almost ten times more impactful than influencer content when making a purchasing decision.

Today, customers are more demanding than ever, expecting an experience that goes above and beyond just the available products. In order to offer quality experiences, build brand loyalty, and remain competitive, brands must consider these five main demands and put tools in place to meet them, from the use of effective personalisation to quick, reliable delivery services, through to providing loyalty programs and investing in VR and AR technologies.


Audelia BokerAudelia BokerSeptember 30, 2019
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9min1418

You’d think it would be easy for airlines to provide a good Customer Experience for those seeking to purchase tickets online or via a mobile device. 

After all, every customer follows the same path: insert dates and destination, choose the shortest or least expensive flight, and complete the purchase. Nevertheless, bad CX is a common complaint from airline customers and often leads to defections.

In the 21st century, the air traveler’s journey begins on the airline’s website or mobile app. It is absolutely crucial that the company’s digital channels be highly responsive, user-friendly and fully optimised for any device the traveler might be using. Nevertheless, airlines struggle time and time again to keep potential customers from growing aggravated and heading to a competitor’s site.

The digital Customer Experience issues most often faced by aviation consumers include:

Failure to complete or revise a booking

As unbelievable as it may seem, some airlines still haven’t worked out the bugs in their online ordering system, leaving hopeful travellers frustrated and angry when, after spending 20 minutes filling in personal details, they are unable to complete their booking. Airlines lose tens of millions of dollars in revenue to this problem, as well as driving countless potential customers to their competitors’ sites.

No way to get questions answered

Booking travel can be complicated, and many people – especially those using an airline’s site for the first time – have questions as they work their way through the booking process. Unfortunately, airline customer service departments are notoriously difficult to reach in the digital age, and the web sites don’t always make it easy to find the answers.

Inability to compare different flights 

When planning leisure travel, customers are generally not tied down to a specific arrival and departure date, so they like to compare prices for different options. Some also have two or more local airport choices to choose from. However, for some reason, airline sites often make it incredibly complicated or even impossible to make these comparisons.

The solution: CX analytics

Identifying the key challenges is one thing, but how can airlines solve them? How are they to know when a customer is experiencing difficulties on their site or app? Luckily, there are now many CX monitoring and analytics tools to provide guidance.

For example, session-replay technologies enable airlines to view the customer’s entire journey through the company’s website or mobile app (with private data hidden, of course). They can therefore see for themselves exactly why a customer has failed to complete a ticket order. 

Was it due to a site error? Did they click through to seat selection and discover that the only seats left were next to the bathroom? Or did they feel blindsided by all the extra fees and taxes piled on top of the ticket price?

By discovering the exact point on the site at which the booking was abandoned, airlines can determine whether changes can be made to prevent future customers from giving up at the same point. In addition, if a site error is to blame, this first-hand data eliminates the need to try and ‘recreate’ the error; airlines see exactly what is at fault so that they can fix the issue immediately.

The problem of customers being unable to get their questions answered can also be addressed through analytics, thanks to the chat boxes now present on most airline sites. Chat box data analytics provide a wealth of information on CX issues that airlines don’t even know they have. For example, if customers are using the chat box to ask simple questions that are already addressed elsewhere on the site, clearly the information is too hard to find. Airlines can also use chat box data to discover frequently asked questions whose answers need to be added to the site – preferably on a clearly-marked ‘FAQ’ page.

Finally, customer journey analysis enables airlines to see for themselves the frustrations of customers who must keep clicking back and forth between different flights and airports because there is no easy way to compare them. Armed with this knowledge, the airline can address the difficulties and create a more user-friendly experience.   

Counting the cost

The reason that many of these sites are still so confusing and difficult may be that airlines don’t realise how much money they are losing due to CX issues. Thankfully, today’s most advanced analytics tools enable them to calculate the revenue lost due to a site error or other CX problem. 

This means that the problem is no longer abstract; airlines can visualise exactly how much money they’ve already lost and how much more they are likely to lose if they do not identify and fix the issue immediately.

This type of data is crucial for IT resource allocations. For example, if an airline sees how much revenue it is losing due to booking errors, it can make a better decision about whether to take the site off-line and correct the issue, or provide a quick work-around and develop a permanent fix in the background.

The bottom line is that airlines are throwing money away and many don’t even realise it. By using big data analytics, they can collect invaluable information on the actual workings of their digital channels, and take a giant step towards maximising customer satisfaction and revenue.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 27, 2019
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3min1626

Insurers are the least trusted companies in the UK and are unable to answer over half of routine customer questions successfully, according to new research.

Digital Experience firm Eptica has released its 2019 Eptica Insurance Digital CX Study, which found that the insurance sector could answer just 46 percent of all queries asked via the web, email, and social media, trailing other industries (food retailers, fashion retailers, banking and travel) evaluated in an overall Eptica study.

Insurers still seem to be struggling to match customer expectations, although overall performance had risen by 10 percent from 2017. Only 20 percent successfully answered a basic question sent via email, despite 49 percent of consumers identifying it as their primary or secondary channel for finding information.

By contrast, with a 65 percent success rate, Facebook came top, but a mere eight percent of consumers said they wanted to use it to find information from insurers.

All of this points to a growing disconnect between what customers want and what is being provided by insurers, which undermines CX and trust. Trust begins with delivering on basic promises – 59 percent of consumers ranked giving satisfactory, consistent answers as a top factor in creating trustworthiness, while 63 percent rated making processes easy and seamless as key.

As well as email, chat also fared badly. Despite 49 percent of consumers voting it as their first or second preferred channel to find information, and 30 percent of insurers advertising it on their websites, just 10 percent (one company) had it working when tested.

Given these results, it is unsurprising that just three percent of consumers ranked insurance as the sector they trusted most, putting it joint last of 15, alongside airlines, the automotive industry, technology and telecoms.

Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder, Eptica, said: “Insurers are facing a perfect storm of increased customer expectations, rising costs, and market disruption. The Eptica Insurance Digital CX Study shows that the majority are simply failing to cope, being unable to deliver adequate customer service on consumer’s channels of choice.”

“As we explain in the report, Insurers need to act quickly and do two things if they are to safeguard current and future revenues. First, they need to embrace processes, technology and knowledge to help them deliver the service that customers expect. Second, they need to listen to consumers and use this Voice of the Customer insight to drive continual CX improvement to ensure that they successfully compete moving forward.”


Andy CoryAndy CorySeptember 27, 2019
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5min1237

Customers have long had the option to ‘checkout as a guest’, offering a frictionless payment that avoids annoying emails or having to remember your password.

It also provides browsers, with no intention of sharing their contact information by setting up an account, a convenient path to purchase.

However, by doing so both customers and retailers are losing out. Retailers can’t collect valuable user data, preferences, or information that could help them deliver a more personalised, competitive user experience. By not logging in, shoppers also miss out on personalised suggestions and better deals. They also can’t pick up or resume ‘abandoned baskets’, and they can’t find things they previously viewed on a different device.

Retailers need to make the password and checkout process as simple as the ‘check out as a guest’ option, by offering a smooth, satisfying, and secure Customer Experience. To do this, they need unrivalled visibility into the customer journey and a strong process for data-driven decision making.

The customer is always right

A crucial part of the Customer Experience is freedom of choice. A customer should be able to choose the channel and payment method that best suits them. If they can’t use their preferred method of payment with one retailer, then can simply take their business to a competitor.

Retailers, then, shouldn’t work to remove the guest checkout option, but strive to make signing up and checking in so seamless and easy that it becomes customers’ first choice. Achieving this, however, will need brands to take a cold, hard look at their customer intelligence and engagement strategies.

The customer view has become fundamentally fragmented over the last few years. Consumers have changed, becoming more mobile, and can no longer be relied on to use only one channel. It’s now common for a customer to interact with a brand across multiple touchpoints – in-store, desktop, mobile, and app – over the course of a single purchase.

Retailers have courted this new breed of customer by investing heavily in online platforms. Where they’ve fallen short is ensuring the entire omnichannel experience is joined-up. The reality of signing in to complete a purchase on your phone only to need to do it again hours later on your desktop is eye-rolling, but all-too-common.

Get connected, get competitive

The solution to a fragmented online experience is a connected customer engagement strategy. Seeding unified communication and collaboration tools within your touchpoints will help deliver meaningful customer experiences, giving you access to more customer insight, and agility to move at their speed.

You should have in place the infrastructure to track where your customers go in-store and online, what they interact with most, and what channel they move to next. Collecting this data and ensuring it is easily accessible at every stage of the customer journey will avoid any breaks or unnecessary disruptions.

Having this data to hand will also rapidly speed up the sign-in process. Instead of asking the customer to enter one or more passwords or security questions, your authentication system will be able to sign them in based on device, location, and behavioural data. Sign-in becomes passive and automatic, providing a truly frictionless but secure online experience.

The proof is in the profit. Those with a strong omnichannel customer engagement strategy retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, compared to 33 percent for companies with an unstructured approach.

Ultimately, to stay competitive, retailers need to double down on data, becoming more responsive and integrated. Arm yourself with the technology, tools and expertise to create measured, streamlined experiences built on a solid strategy of understanding the customer journey and its individual pitstops.

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 26, 2019
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3min1228

Customers using smartphones to shop has skyrocketed by 141 percent in 12 months, according to new research.

Insights tech firm Feefo has published results of a study that shows the use of laptops and desktop computers has plummeted at the same time as smartphone shopping has increased. The findings have prompted a warning for firms to catch up, or risk “disappearing”.

Exploring the habits of 2,000 UK adults, the research reveals 53 percent of shoppers are now most likely to use their mobile for online shopping, compared with only 22 percent in Feefo’s research last year. And whereas 59 percent of respondents mostly used laptops and desktops for online shopping 12 months ago, this year the figure has crashed to 31 percent.

In another indicator of the future, the research revealed a big increase in the percentage of consumers buying through social media. More than four-in-ten (42 percent) have bought through an advert on a social platform, compared with only 30 percent in 2018.

CEO at Feefo, Matt West, said: “Huge tectonic shifts are rapidly changing how UK consumers shop. Retailers need to react swiftly or risk being undermined faster than a home built over a sinkhole. Unless you understand exactly how your customers’ habits are changing, you’ll lose out to a competitor who does. You may simply disappear.”

The research reveals significant differences between sexes and age-groups in shopping. Shopping online with a smartphone is more popular among women (the favourite method of 64 percent) than men (41 percent).

The research also found that more than four-in-ten consumers (42 percent) prefer to shop by researching and buying products or services online when they are at home, up from 38 percent last year. And with this, retailer websites and marketplaces such as eBay or Facebook Marketplace are identified as the most frequent shopping sites.

Matt added: “Any business of any size needs a mechanism to understand customers as quickly and intimately as possible. It’s all about Customer Experience. Consumers’ habits are changing so rapidly that unless your business has a feedback mechanism, you stand little chance of spotting trends and staying ahead of the pack.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 18, 2019
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2min1381

Customer engagement software firm Freshworks Inc. has been named in the Forbes Cloud 100 list for the third year running.

Compilers describe it as “the definitive list of the top 100 private cloud companies in the world”, and Freshworks has moved up the list to number 40, having first entered in 2017 at number 95, before climbing to 60 in 2017.

The Cloud 100 Judging Panel, made up of public cloud company CEOs, reviewed the data to select, score, and rank the top 100 private cloud companies from all over the world. The evaluation process involved ranking companies across four factors: market leadership (35 percent), estimated valuation (30 percent), operating metrics (20 percent) and people & culture (15 percent).

Freshworks CEO and founder, Girish Mathrubootham, said: “Providing simple yet powerful customer engagement software has always been our main focus, and the market continues to embrace our approach. As our 2019 momentum continues, our latest jump in the Forbes Cloud 100 List completes a trifecta of analyst, customer and investor recognition we’ve received this year. Forbes’ just-released ranking comes on the heels of our technology landing in three Gartner Magic Quadrant reports and recognition from peer review platform G2 Crowd.”


James MarlowJames MarlowSeptember 10, 2019
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7min1584

The connection between a good Customer Experience when people come directly into contact with a brand and business performance is now a given.

In the age of the smartphone, people have become used to fast, fluid access to information and services. Our tech-driven culture has pushed expectations of brands way beyond what heritage, siloed customer service systems were designed to deliver.

When it comes to brand perception, customer service has become an intrinsic and critical part of the overall brand experience and reputation picture. Huge investment in clever brand building or social media engagement will be instantly undermined by a frustrating service experience on the phone, or through digital channels that seem disconnected from people’s needs and expectations.

More than ever, brand reputation, differentiation, loyalty, and choice, are connected with brand performance and its ability to serve and communicate effectively. This is especially so as new generations of direct-to-consumer brands emerge, putting Customer Experience at the heart of the operational business and brand models.

Inevitably, brands in every sector are racing to answer the challenge through investment in technology tasked with speeding up CX processes, making both the management and delivery more efficient.

New digital platforms and avenues for customer engagement have completely changed the way brands interact with their audiences. Moreover, there are an increasing number of tools now that allow for broad spectrum analytics and automation that enable customer experience departments to increase efficiency at a scale that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.

But getting this investment right in a discipline that has for years been geared towards doing more with less, and partitioned from the brand marketing teams charged with out-reach and brand offering, has been a big challenge. Indeed there is a real risk that many brands will make strategic mistakes.

Most of the tools available to customer service teams sell themselves on increasing the speed of clearing actions first, and on guaranteeing a positive Customer Experience a distant second…if at all!

The ticketing system at the heart of most customer service platforms reduces people and their problems down to numbers, to the detriment of customer service teams’ abilities to empathise with customers – worsening the interaction for all involved. It’s an obvious fact that well-motivated CX teams that enjoy their roles provide better customer service than those that don’t.

So perhaps we should not be surprised that even though the choice and efficiency of digital service platforms and channels has expanded hugely and the concept of customer service has morphed into a much more holistic “customer experience”, a staggering 59 percent of consumers think that brands have lost touch with the human element of Customer Experience.

It seems that while many businesses have quite rightly aimed to enhance efficiency through automation, the other vital part of the equation – empathy and the all-important human touch – has been neglected.

The challenge and the opportunity for customer-centric brands is to balance their strategic path to first-class CX with humanity and a far closer connection between brand marketing and service.

The key to the humanity part is understanding how your people can be enabled to enhance your customer interactions. To shamelessly quote Richard Branson: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

If you ask any customer service agent what the best part of their role is, it will usually be when they get to solve a problem and actually help somebody – doubly so if the customer is grateful and walks away with a smile on their face. To put it simply, people like to help people, and tools that put anything in the way of this are stifling a natural instinct which should instead be encouraged.

It also means connecting digital efficiency with human interaction so the two become seamless and fluid. We all know in the right circumstances, CX will be enhanced with pure automation – a fast, efficient, digital interface. For example, when was the last time you called to order a pizza when you could do it via a couple of clicks through an app?

Nonetheless, 75 percent of consumers have said that they would like more human interaction and this is especially true of more complex interactions or those relating to sensitive or higher value products and services.

So, the next part of our journey as an industry will be framed by growing recognition that business performance can and will be achieved by a balanced or holistic approach that blends human, personal, friendly interactions with the huge advantages in terms of efficiency that automation is giving to brands.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 4, 2019
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3min2227

Over three-quarters of IT teams don’t understand the buzzwords that marketers use, causing concerns over how firms handle their Digital Experience (DX).

A new report from content management system (CMS) provider Magnolia, Straight talking content management, incorporates a survey of over 200 IT professionals and 200 marketers across both the UK and US and garners unique insights into the DX landscape and the attitudes both groups hold in relation to their peers.

It reveals that the emerging field of DX has become swamped with buzzwords and jargon, which has led to a huge disconnect between marketers and IT teams.

The research found that almost a quarter (23 percent) of IT teams believe that marketers use too many buzzwords, with 21 percent saying they don’t know what marketers mean when they ask for ‘omnichannel’ content, and 24 percent saying they don’t know what a ‘call to action’ is online.

Furthermore, with 80 percent of marketers collaborating with their IT team on a weekly basis – and 46 percent interacting on a daily basis – it’s crucial that both teams can communicate with one another effectively.

Commenting on the research, Rasmus Skjoldan, CMO at Magnolia, said: “In order for brands to create great content, both IT teams and marketers must work together to understand each other’s unique pressures and objectives. Talking in technical jargon and marketing buzzwords isn’t helping, if anything it’s just causing more frustration for both groups.

“Too many CMS brands add to this problem, expanding rather than bridging the divide. As an industry we need to focus on developing straight-talking solutions that work for everyone across the business – from marketers, to developers, to customers and IT teams.”


John BuniJohn BuniAugust 19, 2019
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6min2082

The technology that now infuses our lives can do many things.

It can connect us by video with someone on the other side of the world, post our thoughts or pictures to thousands (or millions) of strangers, or teach us foreign languages. It can hail us a cab, book us a holiday, or order us a piece of clothing right to our front door. It has its shortcomings – and I’ve written extensively about these before – but on the whole it’s made our lives easier, and that’s a fact.

It’s no surprise that we delegate so much of our everyday existence to the unassuming devices in our pockets and bags. They are amazing, after all.

Articles like that which adorned the cover of Forbes magazine in 2007 now seem ridiculous. (“Nokia. One billion customers,” read the headline. “Can anyone catch the cell phone king?”) But there was a time, not long ago, that tech didn’t dominate our lives so comprehensively. And though not all of us predicted it would, there is a feeling now that there isn’t a problem tech can’t solve.

But tech can’t do everything – at least at the moment. And that’s a point that has (let’s be honest) somehow escaped the notice of some in the business world. Like a wave, tech has rolled over industries where a genuine relationship once existed in the Customer Experience and carried that human connection out to sea. In the short-term, the convenience or novelty might have made up for it for the consumer, and the increase in sales might have made up for it for the business. But now, people are realising they miss that human element in their experience.

They might need it for practical reasons – in customer service, for example – or simply want it because it makes the buying journey more personal and more enjoyable. It’s no coincidence that florists, beauticians, and hairdressers have come through the ‘retail apocalypse’ without a hair out of place – at least not their own, in the latter case. The human touch is actually built into the product.

PwC’s consumer intelligence survey, ‘Experience Is Everything, found that for 80 percent of American consumers, the most important aspects of a positive Customer Experience are speed, convenience, and friendly and knowledgeable service. Tech may take care of convenience and speed, but only people can supply great service.

Nearly 60 percent of consumers in the US feel companies have lost touch with the human side of CX, and 85 percent of consumers want more of it in the future. Outside of the US, the number (74 percent) is lower, but still points to a widespread desire for more humanity in business.

In the US, $75 billion in revenue is lost each year due to a poor Customer Experience, and between mid-2016 and early 2018, as tech played a greater and greater role in business, call centre volume went up by 39 percent – a trend that’s set to continue. The human touch in Customer Experience, even at the level of customer service, is becoming a key differentiator in the Digital Age.

Tech isn’t the problem. The problem is the belief that tech can or should replace people.

Technology like the cloud makes businesses faster, more dynamic and more flexible, which frees staff from more menial tasks so they can pay more attention to their customers, or think about how they can improve customer experience.

Technology can help businesses familiarise themselves with customers through recording names and purchase histories and recommending products. Tech doesn’t need to take the human touch out of customer experience. The opposite: it can make it better.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 15, 2019
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3min1445

In a further death-knell for traditional print media, British firms are focussing their ad spend away from newspapers and magazines more so than ever before, new research has revealed.

A survey of 1,325 UK marketing professionals carried out by digital marketing agency, Marketingsignals.com, revealed that 56 percent of UK based businesses have turned their main focus away from spending on print advertising during the past 12 months.

The top reason given for this shift was the increased control companies have over their ad spend, with results being much more measurable as they are fully trackable and attributable.

In fact, 64 percent of those surveyed said that this transparency over ROI was their main reason for moving the majority of their ad spend over to digital.

In addition to being able to accurately measure ROI, almost the same number of respondents (62 percent) said that the increase in conversions – compared to traditional advertising methods – was a major reason why they shifted their budgets.

For more than half of the companies surveyed (55 percent), the ability to reach a more targeted audience (with an investment level that’s much lower compared to other traditional advertising methods) was cited as their primary reason for preferring digital advertising.

Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said they were actively using social media advertising as a tool to acquire new customers. A strategic social media campaign can ensure that businesses are speaking to the most relevant potential customers for their products or services by building out tailored personas based on location, gender, interests and income level (amongst many others).

Completing the top five reasons why UK businesses are focussing their advertising spend on digital, was flexibility, with one-in-four (24 percent) of those surveyed saying that having the agility to change tact and strategy mid-campaign was a key reason for their increased focus on digital.

Gareth Hoyle, Managing Director at Marketingsignals.com, said: “It’s fantastic to see that in 2019, more companies than ever have become fully on board with the digital age.

“Pretty much every company has some form of online presence, as it’s almost a necessity to survive in this day and age, though it’s really interesting to see some of the reasons behind the upscaled shift in budgets being researched and published.

“In short, British businesses are fast seeing the benefits to their bottom line when their marketing departments focus their advertising spend on digital.”


Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpAugust 12, 2019
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10min1651

Technology is constantly delivering new methods of communication to the workplace in abundance.

There are so many different communication channels available, we often question which one is best to use and what for.  Sometimes, issues occur when we don’t question, and then use the inappropriate tools to communicate something. This can lead to misinterpretation, people may get offended or misconstrue what’s been said, or left feeling they haven’t received sufficient information.

We can all feel like we are drowning in digital communications and are consumed by the 24/7 digital noise. The norm is to respond to everything the instant we receive it and to check all social media updates and sink with FOMO if we weren’t invited to a party or even a meeting!

The objective of technology is make us more effective and productive and not hinder us. It is time to stop manic multi-tasking and thinking that everything has to be now and instant – take a step back, breath, focus, and learn to how to manage your digital communications so you become empowered by technology and not enslaved by it.

Phone: the Power of Voice

By speaking on the phone we can develop a personal connection with a person, understand their tone of voice, and talk in more depth therefore strengthening the connection. There is less margin for error or misinterpretation, and of course the advantage is also there are more opportunities for conversations on a personal level and for humour. Another benefit is trust and authenticity can be built more quickly in comparison to an email or text.

When to use it:

  • To resolve something urgently that is complex. It is often easier to get results face to over the phone as you can talk around the issues
  • When you are chasing someone – if a client or employee has been ignoring your emails and messages then pick up the phone and talk to them about it. It will be much quicker
  • There are times when you must deliver bad news or discuss something personal and empathy is required. This can only be achieved in a face to face meeting or on a phone call
  • A catch up – you have a business issue to chat through and also it’s been a while since you spoke to the person so you want to catch up with them

Email or ‘snail mail’

Email is still very much the most used communications tool in business. The issue is that you end up with a full inbox and people still copy you in on irrelevant emails. We send roughly 281.1 billion emails a day, a figure that is estimated to increase to 333.2 billion by 2022, according to Statista.

Therefore, we would expect that emails often get ignored, deleted, or end up in the junk box. Emails are not the most effective way to communicate and it is much easier to use other tools such as picking up the phone.

When to use it:

  • Sitting at your desk or on move from smartphones or tablets
  • To document conversations and activities
  • To send files

Video and audio conference calls

These tools are great when you want to speak with a group of people in another location without having to travel. With video you can read people’s body language and easily gage reactions to what you are saying.

When to use it:

  • For a team meeting to discuss a project or proposal
  • If there is an issue you can have a collective discussion
  • To screen share a document and go through it together

Instant Messaging

Conferencing and collaboration solutions contain instant messaging tools and you can see your colleagues’ presence, when they are available and when they aren’t. However, people expect an instant response and tend to ignore the ‘busy’ and ‘do not disturb’ signs.

When to use it:

  • When you need an instant answer to a question
  • You may need to talk to someone and ask them to call you when you are free. Instant messages are more intrusive than emails and are harder to ignore

Social media

Companies may use Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter etc to communicate to customers or other stakeholders.

When to use it:

  • To share photos or information
  • To ask questions and generate a multitude of answers
  • To answer customer complaints
  • For customer reviews

Bringing it All Together

The key is to know how and when to use the different communication tools available. Therefore using them at different times and when appropriate to improve efficiencies and productivity.

Downtime

Knowing when to switch off is vital, so if you need to focus on a piece of work or need some downtime, and don’t want to be disturbed then you could set your ‘Do Not Disturb’ or turn it all off.

Be guided by the experts

A Solutions Provider in communication solutions will advise and guide you on what communications technology you need for your business and its objectives. They will assist you with setting guidelines on how and when to use the tools, setting ‘etiquette’ rules and ‘duty of care’ policies on how to minimise interruptions utilising them to their potential.

Empower and set yourself free

Set yourself free from drowning in digital noise and instant gratification, and manage your portfolio of communication tools to empower you and not enslave you.


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Explaining to a child how to cross the street in front of their school without being hit by a car only takes a few repetitions and their knowledge can then be generalised to most roads and vehicles.

It would instead require huge quantities of images for an AI to learn the same and it would make mistakes as soon as confronted with situations which are slightly different from what it had seen in his training data set.

The current breed of artificial intelligence – in its most advanced version – is built upon a metaphor of the human brain as a computer made of interwoven neurons. Through a ‘training’ process, the system can ‘learn’ to ‘recognise’ identical patterns without being programmed by a human and then apply this ‘knowledge’ to real world situations, more and more with a better accuracy than humans themselves.

The limit of this metaphor is that it takes a huge quantity of data to obtain this type of result and those hard-learned skills are confined to the very domain where the AI was trained.

The abstraction and generalisation capabilities of humans are still a mystery to AI researchers, but an element that may guide them in their quest is the emotional nature of human beings. We memorise much better when feeling strong emotions than in ‘boring’ situations. Children’s ability to quickly learn how to properly cross the street is certainly related to their feeling of danger and somehow fear of what could happen if they made the wrong decision.

A machine obviously doesn’t feel – we’ll leave to the sci-fi fans the debate of whether consciousness could emerge as a property of complex systems such as neural networks. AI is high on IQ and low on EQ some might say. But progress in mimicking the functioning of the human brain could require an acknowledgement and a modelling of the emotional nature of homo sapiens.

Current AI algorithms are not yet able to learn from less data and improve their abstraction and generalisation capabilities using emotions. But they are improving at recognising them within humans, exploring correlations between symbolic representations of emotions and human expressions, whatever their format.

Progress being made

Some research has already be done on the range of human emotions, thanks to the EU-Emotion Stimulus Set, and people like Houwei Cao, assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at New York Institute of Technology, who is busy working on algorithms that can read emotions.

Initial efforts were called ‘sentiment analysis’, trying to guess an individual’s state of mind based on what they write or say. This has now taken a larger perspective by adding language patterns, voice tone, facial movements, sentence structures, and eye motions into the mix.

For instance, a mouth shaped in a particular way, plus voice with a specific pitch compared to its baseline, plus use of words tagged as being positive, equals happiness. Of course, to the average philosopher, that is a rather partial and limitative definition of happiness. But it only needs to be operational in the specific context where it is used.

Emotional AI applied to customer engagement

Indeed, those efforts are improving AI’s relevance to the business world and the fields of application are numerous.

Whether it’s customer engagement or support, a hiring process, or addressing disputes, emotional AI can play an important and useful role for humans. Employees can base their interactions on its insights, adapt their response to emotional changes in the customer and have a more effective communication with the person on the other side of the line or table.

For instance, the stakes are high for the call centre industry: born out of financial necessity so businesses can afford to serve and support large customer bases, it often turns out to be a source of frustration for users despite well-scripted conversation scenarios followed by the responding agent. When there’s pressure, good manners and empathy can be forgotten. Emotional AI can act as a reminder to employees, so it doesn’t happen.

It is also true of the sales forces whose likelihood to convert a prospect into a customer is directly linked to their ability to empathise with the individual(s) they want to strike a deal with. Indeed, approaching another human with an offering that is rational (adapted to its needs and budget for instance) but presented without taking into account their current state of mind is at best a waste of time and at worst a loss opportunity.

Emotional AI can help a business stand-out from its competitors for the quality of its customer engagement. But what will be the acceptance of emotion-driven algorithms by humans?

There will be challenges

In the age of GDPR and stringent privacy rules, considerations about voice, face, and writing being processed by emotional AI algorithms is something that businesses will need to explain to customers, since there is a very thin line between individual mood monitoring and intrusive Orwellian surveillance.

Will a customer value consideration for his or her feelings or mood by a computer as much as genuine empathy expressed by another human-being? If after asking how I am doing – something most people won’t need an AI to remind them to ask – the next question about my latest holiday is in fact an AI-scripted line, the whole introduction might sound a bit phony.

Eventually, could overly relying on AI to read other individuals state of mind turn us all into sociopaths unable to properly relate to other humans, like GPS has slowly but surely decreased our ability to use a map to navigate in the real world?

However, those questions might be irrelevant in the not-so-distant future. With the growing sophistication of virtual personal assistants – think Alexa, Siri or Google Home – we may soon delegate our buying decisions to those machines. This would imply that vendors’ own AI systems now have to pitch our AI agents instead of ourselves. And the billions spent annually by marketing departments on branding and ads designed to appeal to our emotions would fall flat.




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