Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 5, 2019
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4min1753

Companies must provide digital-first omnichannel experiences to meet consumer expectations and effectively compete in the experience economy.

That is the key takeaway from the third annual 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark report, which details how understanding younger generations’ use of – and expectations around – next-generation solutions like artificial intelligence (AI) and digital channels including private social messaging are fundamental to building exceptional, best-in-class Customer Experience.

As millennials and Generation Z become dominant consumer groups, with Gen Z purchasing already reaching an estimated $100 billion, according to research conducted by Barkley, their comfort level and familiarity with multiple digital channels including social messaging and chatbots means organisations, no matter their size, must provide digital-first omnichannel experiences to meet consumer expectations and effectively compete in the experience economy.

The global study reveals that almost 60 percent of Gen Z and millennials have used private social messaging for customer service. In contrast, just 38 percent of Gen X, 19 percent of baby boomers and 16% of those born before 1945 have done so. 

The majority of Gen Z and millennials also want companies to allow them to interact with customer service using private social messaging apps (72 percent and 69 percent, respectively).

Meanwhile, consumers are using AI more and feeling more positive about chatbots over time. Half of all consumers have used AI for any purpose (50 percent), compared to 2018 (45 percent).

This can be attributed to a significant increase in the use of an automated assistant/chatbot online (34 percent, up from 25 percent in 2018). Gen Z and millennials are more likely to agree that chatbots make it easier and quicker for their issues to get resolved, and are also the most likely of all generations to have used all forms of AI for any purpose, as well as for customer service.

Seamless digital-first omnichannel experiences, meanwhile, are vital to a positive Customer Experience. Most consumers (93 percent) want seamless omnichannel experiences, and yet they are increasingly giving companies a poor rating on seamlessly switching between channels – 73 percent give companies a poor rating, up from 67 percent in 2018.

This is especially important for meeting and exceeding the expectations of millennials and Gen Z, who are the most likely to have experienced omnichannel customer service (16 percent and 21 percent, respectively).

Paul Jarman, NICE inContact CEO, said: “Understanding the nuances of what consumers expect, and how they actually engage with brands via a myriad of digital channels, and integrating these in-demand channels seamlessly to deliver digital-first omnichannel experiences, is key to sustainable growth.

“The NICE inContact CX Benchmark looks beyond education around demographic customer service trends and gets to the root of what makes new channel options attractive. Millennials and Gen Z are bellwethers of what consumers expect and are increasingly likely to recommend a company on social media based on personal experiences – the influence they wield is tremendous.”


Grant CaleyGrant CaleyDecember 4, 2019
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9min1854

What’s really driving the change in how we shop?

As we dive head-first into the holiday season, we can expect to see a familiar set of stories about the changing face of the retail industry. Headlines will no doubt focus on consumers’ increasing reliance on online shopping and how it is compounding the tight margins and challenging trade environment that retailers with physical locations must battle. This is, in fact, a disruption which has been taking place since the dot-com bubble – and nearly as long as the term ‘disruption’ has been in popular business parlance.

A more recent consequence of this disruption has been the emergence of omnichannel retail, in which the Customer Experience online and in-store is brought together and purchasing journeys can move seamlessly between online store-fronts, social media, targeted advertising, mobile apps, and physical retail locations.

As a way of converting a greater portion of product interest into product sales, omnichannel has emerged as a key defensive measure against tightening margins and falling footfall. One Harvard Business Review study found that omnichannel shoppers spend four percent more during each store visit and 10 percent more online than shoppers who only use one or the other channel.

Even more bullish analysis from the ICSC found that operating across multiple channels leads to an average follow-on spend of $167 online for every $100 spent in-store.

The business upsides of an omnichannel strategy, like the business pressures driving its adoption, are well known and broadly accepted. Much less, however, has been said about the technological change which lies beneath this evolution. Traditional retailers are increasingly moving essential IT infrastructure to the cloud, tempted first of all by the lure of being able to scale costs with demand and in line with often fluctuating revenues.

Combining these reduced overheads with increased revenue, however, means not just replacing traditional IT infrastructure with public cloud solutions on a like-for-like basis, but taking the opportunity to optimise the huge data sets that retail generates. Unifying duplicated data, rationalising database structures, and opening lines of communication between silos of information means that the product on a shop floor, the product’s page on an ecommerce site, and the product photo displayed in an online advert can all, from the perspective of the business’s IT systems, be understood as the same item.

While this transformation in how data is managed – together with a boost in available processing power – is bringing different retail channels into alignment, it also establishes the foundations upon which emerging technologies can be implemented.

If Step One for a retail business is converging its data, and Step Two is using that data to converge its physical and digital channels, retailers are increasingly discovering the benefits of a Step Three in which it is made more valuable with AI. As cloud computing becomes prevalent, we will see the addition of AI bring unexpected benefits to how personalised shopping can be, how environmentally friendly it can be, what kinds of experience it can give – and a retail sector which can disrupt even as it is being disrupted.

To take personalisation as an example: this is already a familiar experience for all of us from shopping online. In its simplest form, retailers promoting items on the basis of ‘customers also shopped for’ find significant potential for upselling, as an online shopping basket gives so much more detail about what a customer needs than where they are in a store does.

Data sourced from the context of physical retail stores can also be collected, analysed, and applied in ways which are analogous to this. From how many customers visit a location, to the route they take through the shop, to how they interact with different product lines, there is a rich source of information in traditional retail which is only now – thanks to AI-based analysis – becoming available.

This unstructured, organic information is fundamentally more difficult to make use of than the natively digital information of online shopping baskets and website interaction. As retailers on-board these capabilities, information on how factors from outside the business affect shopping behaviours also becomes available.

Weather or sporting events, for example, or broad cultural trends which pertain to specific segments of the buying audience, or cultural factors which are specific to a store’s location all change what people buy and when. Businesses which have invested in the technology needed for omnichannel retail find themselves in a position to collect this data and go beyond the personalisation which is prevalent in online shopping. Rather than focusing on correlation – ‘people who buy x also buy y’ – AI-powered analytics is opening up the potential for causation-based shopping predictions – ‘people buy y because of x’.

Looking beyond the immediate task of upselling, it’s easy to see other ways in which this level of insight might be applied. Anticipating when someone will need a product and shipping it to them just in time, connecting people with locally-stocked or manufactured products to minimise transport carbon emissions, and offering specific product configurations on an individual basis are just a few examples.

People with an interest in retail marketing or disruptive technology, or both, will be aware that the retail industry has for some time been engaging in consumer-facing demonstrations of this kind of technology – such as Westfield’s AI-powered Trending Store.

Beneath such one-offs, however, there is something more fundamental happening: as retail businesses upgrade their ability to gather, analyse, and apply data, traditional shopping as a whole will begin to behave more like its online counterpart in how it responds to the customer. We might therefore look at retail’s emerging data-driven potential also as its post-disruption reality – and other industries might want to look to retail to see what’s in their own future. How will access to rich contextual insights into a person’s needs and requirements affect sectors like finance, healthcare, or transport?

Well, retail has been in the thick of disruption for longer than anything else; that should be where we look to find the next steps.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 29, 2019
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17min2451

2019 has proven to be a successful year indeed for the conversational AI experts at ContactEngine, which is leading the vanguard in changing the fundamentals of how 21st-century customers interact with brands.

It’s been a year in which their trophy shelf found itself a little squeezed and in need of an extension, with added honours including a Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 title, and a UK Customer Experience Award, collected at Wembley Stadium in October and presented for the firm’s successful partnership with BT Enterprise.

The Gold category win for Best Use of Technology is testament to ContactEngine’s position at the cutting edge of what is the most exciting – and often most misunderstood – tech affecting the modern Customer Experience: artificial intelligence.

Their sophisticated algorithms offer intelligent omnichannel customer conversations, and the firm’s founder, Dr Mark K. Smith, is a man whose passion for excellence is evident as he explains what his company stands for, and where the advanced computing involved behind the scenes can lead for both businesses and customers.

AI evangelist: ContactEngine’s Dr Mark Smith

Speaking with CXM, Dr Smith described his firm’s work with BT as an example of what ContactEngine does for an organisation with a duty to communicate with countless customers through various channels.

“We start conversations and invite a response from our client’s customer,” Dr Smith explains.

“With BT, it was specifically to improve a process by better communication; by trying to reduce the amount of cancellations that would have occurred had there been no communication. It was to reduce the amount of calls someone would make to a call centre due to a lack of communication. Our goal is to increase the engagement rate and then ultimately to see if we can make customers happy as consequence of that.

“To put it simply, we start conversations – all automated – and invite responses. From there, we carry on the conversations using our own NLU (Natural Language Understanding) and a machine learning algorithm we call ALAN (Advanced Language ANalysis), and we deliver efficiency gains for our clients, making their customers happier.”

From this description, ContactEngine couldn’t be more suited to Digital Customer Experience if it tried, but surprisingly, the PhD that provides Dr Smith with his title stems from a science of an altogether less-computerised kind.

“Up until my late-20s I was a career academic, and my PhD is in Biochemistry,” he says, before explaining how he adapted his skills in that particular field to AI tech development.

“The biological sciences are all about generating mass data sets and trying to seek out trends in that data. Of all the sciences, biology and biochemistry present quite a lot of mystery, so you generate a lot of data and look for trends. That’s very similar to what AI is actually, so you can post-rationalise it. I love technology and always have done.”

Describing the business’ origin in the telephony-based live-streaming of events, Dr Smith said using the tech that would eventually lead to ContactEngine’s current offering through streaming the 2011 World Transplant Games in Australia led to the realisation that proactive communications could solve many of the problems faced in business.

“Firms such as Virgin Media used the tech for corporate social responsibility work – in their case broadcasting from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro through their social media channels.

“They asked us a simple question: can you improve the way we communicate to our customers in this omni channel-way that you have provided to us in a social media context?” continues Dr Smith.

“The answer for people like me is always ‘yes’ to any questions to do with IT. The real question is ‘how long and how much’ but the answer is always yes! You see, unlike my biochemistry days, computers can always be made to work.

“We stepped into the world of customer communication, and almost accidentally built an omnichannel outbound comms tool, so we can start conversations by phone, email, text, instant messaging, or collecting video.”

 

This powerful tool was soon utilised by clients such as American telco giant Verizon, which learned the value of implementing the technology and what it means for a company’s bottom line.

“When an appointment was missed, it cost Verizon well over 100 dollars. If you can improve communication with the customer to stop that from happening, then you can save that 100 dollars,” he explains.

“If a company has 100 million customers, then that’s a lot of money to be saved, and we can charge them a fraction of the money they save.”

As AI becomes ever-more central to even the most basic of customer communication, Dr Smith tells us that despite fears among some about where the tech will eventually lead, it will remain a benign benefit to society.

“I’m no great believer in singularity,” he tells us, referring to the theorised future in which AI outgrows the need for human masters and snowballs into an uncontrollable overlord.

“It’s not that I think it will happen in the future either – it just won’t happen!

“I start from the position of a rationalist – I’m not a believer in ‘Skynet’ or other fantastical problems that AI could bring. It’s important to realise that AI is often the only solution in areas where a human simply cannot compete.

“If you have a company with 100 million customers, as many do, it is impossible to have enough people to communicate well with all those human beings. You cannot do it!

“Computers are the only way you can do that, and what’s most interesting about the world of AI for us is a subset known as machine learning.

“This takes vast data sets – bear in mind we are dealing with hundreds of thousands of people a day – so we have vast amounts of data and responses to the questions we ask. If you have vast amounts of data, then you have some really tremendous possibilities for teaching your algorithm to be human-like.

“Machine learning is simply taking an algorithm and giving it sufficient data for the next piece of information it receives in order for it to have a pretty good stab at it in a manner which exceeds the way a human can respond.

“Think of the ‘100 million customer challenge’ and you’ll see why you want to have a proactive outbound conversation – only made possible through computers, not people.

“We automate a way to simpler conversations. A machine is better than a human for 95 percent of customer conversations. But there will always be the five percent where a machine just won’t cut it.

“Take an example; I was with an insurance company recently, and they said that with their life insurance product, they would only usually get one phone call, and that was from a bereaved partner.

“Now, it’s not wise to put that call to a machine, as a machine will never display empathy. They may display ‘faux empathy’, but a customer will catch that out pretty rapidly. A human needs to be involved in that conversation, and these calls were often taking up to two hours.

“However, once that conversation is completed, it’s perfectly reasonable for the machine to take over in order to inform the person of progress on their claim, or any other information.”

Other fascinating aspects of the tech behind ContactEngine includes a profanity filter, which detects when a customer needs to be transferred to a human as a matter of urgency, in order for that person to be talked to and returned to a level of calm where their issue can be resolved.

“Interestingly, there’s not an enormous amount of research about when humans are best and when machines are best, but I believe that by working together they can vastly improve the Customer Experience, and the Employee Experience of call centre staff also,” Dr Smith continues.

“We have a case with a European bank which commissioned us because they were losing their call centre people because they were doing too many cold calls after a certain customer process had failed.

“The customers were saying ‘why are you calling me a week after this happened? I’m really not interested in talking to you’.

“Machines fill that knowledge gap and can filter customers who actually do want a conversation with a human, then we broker an appointment for them.

“So what happens in this case? The person in the call centre has a better Employee Experience, potentially staying in their job for longer, while the Customer Experience was vastly improved also.

“It’s about knowing when humans are best, when machines are better, and knowing the exact best moment to flip between them.”

So with a successful foundation in telcos, where next for ContactEngine’s revolutionary CX tech? Clients already include household names including BT, Virgin Media, and Whirlpool, and the future looks seriously promising.

“We have enjoyed success in other areas including retail and banking; we have a foundational communication product that can be used in any industry, so we need to spread our wings and grow in other sectors,” Dr Smith says, adding that work is already underway with a “large UK retailer”.

Winning team: The ContactEngine/BT delegation collect their UK Customer Experience Award at Wembley Stadium

“On a technical front – what fascinates me about what we’ve done is, if you talk to companies in the UK and beyond, roughly speaking, three-quarters of them will be handling their AI over to the usual suspects.

“They will be using Dialogflow from Google or Watson from IBM. We made a conscious decision many years ago to build our own machine learning algorithm, and we did that because we wanted to be white box, not black box, and we wanted to be explainable.

“We have the benefit of: when you start a conversation, there are a limited number of intents that come back to you, so it’s quite easy for us to visualise and explain the decisions we made.

“We wanted to use labelled data sets for one client and not share that label data set with another client. We felt that was a GDPR problem. So, we built our own machine learning, and rather interestingly, when you take the training data we use to feed our algorithms, and you present that to others that I mentioned, we actually out-perform them!”

On the horizon for ContactEngine and its clients is the next generation of ALAN, with multi-intent capabilities, and developing further the concept of ‘human-computer rapport’, where the next customer conversation is informed by the earlier exchange in a more human-like way.

“We are incredibly excited for the future, and to see what 2020 has in store for us after the amazing year we have just had.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 28, 2019
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4min2997

The UK is trailing behind Europe in customer service as brands race to adopt AI technologies to transform how they engage with customers, according to new research.

Customer engagement software firm Freshworks found that just over half (54 percent) of UK senior decision makers state their business currently  uses AI – in areas such as chatbots, virtual assistants, Natural Language Processing (NLP), and facial recognition – for customer service departments, compared to 97 percent in the Netherlands, 86 percent in France, and 81 percent in Germany.

The company’s report, The Good, The Bot and The Customer Experience, shows that AI investment reached a record $1bn (£803.9m) in the first six months of 2019 according to Tech Nation, making the UK the third biggest AI market in the world behind the US and China.

However, this investment does not yet seem to be far-reaching for UK customer service. The Freshworks study, which surveyed over 800 senior decision makers in customer service departments, found that only 20 percent of UK businesses have invested more than £250,000 in AI for customer services in the last 12 months, compared to nearly half (46 percent) of German companies, 41 percent of French firms, and 35 percent of Dutch organisations.

Across all territories, chatbots (37 percent), NLP (34 percent) and Robotic Process Automation (31 percent) were the most popular AI technologies for businesses to be adopting to improve their customer service.

The report suggests people do not want to take on responsibility for bringing AI in to overhaul current systems. Over a quarter (26 percent) of senior decision makers in the UK claim no one is driving AI deployment within their customer service department. Yet, C-Suite executives are leading the integration of AI in the vast majority of Dutch, French, and German companies (97 percent, 95 percent, and 91 percent respectively).

Addressing the brand perception gap

The findings also suggest a large gap between business and consumer perceptions of how good their customer service actually is. Eighty percent of senior decision makers surveyed in the UK believe their customer service departments to be excellent, while only nine percent of UK consumers have no frustrations when dealing with customer service agents.

According to the research, a quarter (25 percent) of businesses are using AI to improve their customers’ experience of the brand, for example using AI-powered chatbots to resolve issues quickly by filtering through simple questions and channelling the trickier customer scenarios through to human service agents. Yet, one-in-four (25 percent) of the 1,871 British consumers surveyed who have previously used customer service channels said that being left on hold for too long is their biggest frustration.

UK General Manager at Freshworks, Simon Johnson, said: “Our research shows that British brands’ deep distrust in AI risks leaving them lagging behind Europe in their approach to customer service. It’s incredibly difficult for brands to keep up with consumers’ expectations, but it’s non-negotiable that they constantly evolve their technology to include AI and Machine Learning and approach to keep their customers engaged and happy.

“For those who get it right, it can be a game changer that distances them from the competition.”


Kirsty NewmanKirsty NewmanNovember 27, 2019
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4min1707

It might seem counterintuitive to suggest that major retail periods like Black Friday and Cyber Monday would boil down to anything other than price for consumers.

But as competition between brands gets tougher and tougher year-on-year, and sales periods start to span days and weeks rather than short 24-hour bursts, consumer expectations are starting to shift. And more importantly, brands are having to raise their games in order to meet these changing demands. 

As a specialist MarTech company, we have a wealth of data on how and where consumers spend their money – and our insights show that while Black Friday is showing no signs of stopping when it comes to drawing in crowds of eager bargain hunters, it is also apparent that price is no longer the deciding factor when it comes to their purchasing decisions. 

Whereas once consumers were solely concerned with finding the best and cheapest deals they could on Black Friday – stampeding through shopping centres and fighting in the aisles to do so – the options are now so vast that filtering through the mass of marketing and promotions is simply too big a task for those seeking a quick and easy sales haul. 

Today, consumers often approach Black Friday with a clear idea of what they want to buy and the price they’re prepared to pay. The growing popularity of price comparison sites and voucher code offers mean shoppers are much savvier when it comes to applying discounts on top of discounts – they know how to get the best deals themselves, meaning it’s no longer enough for brands to simply slash their prices and hope for the best. 

What we’re starting to see is consumers placing a much greater importance on a smooth and seamless customer journey – from hyper-personalised offers landing in their inbox, through to a fast and efficient checkout process online. 

This ultimately means that ecommerce retailers need to prepare a strong and robust omnichannel strategy well in advance of Black Friday if they truly want to capitalise on the opportunity. Setting up specific Black Friday landing pages, refining and reducing the number of steps between product selection and product purchase, and ensuring that the online experiences is as flawless on a mobile device as it is on a main website, are all crucial elements that can make the difference between a customer checking out with you – or ditching their basket and moving onto a competitor. 

Without a doubt, the Black Friday revenue opportunities are there and brands have to be in it to win it. But to truly win it, it’s the brands that approach their omnichannel marketing smartly that we predict will come out on top. 

 


Amit SharonAmit SharonNovember 18, 2019
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7min1562

Companies know all about the importance of visual content.

According to a 2018 study from Venngage, 56 percent of marketers surveyed said that between 91-100 percent of their content contained visuals. Delivering the right compelling visuals quickly is critical to achieving the desired visual hook. However, many images and videos can be optimised to provide better user experiences and higher engagement levels.

Too often it’s the technical details that derail your visual storytelling efforts. Nothing is more frustrating than having invested a lot of time and resources creating beautiful visuals for a campaign only to discover that audiences aren’t seeing them how you intended. When high-quality images are cropped in the wrong places or displayed incorrectly in social sharing, for example, response rates and brand image suffer.

The browser and its long tail

Another recent report revealed that 75 percent of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage with brands – website, social media, mobile, or in-person. This is easier said than done. One big reason for consistency failures is the browser long tail, which refers to the different versions of browsers people use.

Cloudinary recently published its State of Visual Media Report to help people understand how visual content is being consumed. Analysing billions of media transactions across a sampling of more than 700 of our customers, we were fascinated to discover just how many different types of browsers are in use worldwide.

Browser choice: Consumers use a wide variety of browsers to consume visual content

While Chrome and Safari, as expected, dominate the browser market (45.9 percent and 4.1 percent respectively in the UK), there are significant regional differences across lesser known variants. For example, the research shows that Nokia Symbian smartphones are still popular in some regions and that Nintendo devices DS devices share more than 15,000 images per day. There is even image traffic coming from the very old legacy office software, Lotus Notes.

This is important as not all browsers support every image or video format you might use for your campaign. JPEG, GIF, and PNG are the most popular image formats used on websites today. However, developed in the 80s and 90s, when they’re not properly optimised they may not always be the best choice as they are quite heavy in file size and don’t offer the image quality and color spectrum expected for delivering today’s immersive online experience. Newer image file formats such as WebP and HEIF offer advantages worth exploring.

The same applies to video formats. The old H.264 video standard is pretty common but newer more lightweight formats such as VP9 and H.265 are anywhere from 30 to 50 percent more efficient.

Now for the long tail of browsers out there, JPEG and GIF for images and H.264 for video are the lowest common denominator that work with almost every browser. Does this mean you have to compromise your visual storytelling efforts just because some of your users still stick to their legacy BlackBerry web browser?

The browser’s long tail doesn’t need to compromise visual storytelling

Fortunately, the answer is no.

Your web developers don’t need to abandon the unlimited visual possibilities that come with newer image formats. Newer AI-based image and video management solutions can automatically detect your web visitors’ visual requirements and their browsers. Based on this information they automatically deliver each image and video in the most efficient format, quality, and resolution – even to a BlackBerry web browser. But these tools can do even more.

Intelligent image detection and cropping

As mentioned earlier, the last thing your brand needs is for beautiful images that you’ve invested dearly in to get badly-cropped and poorly displayed. AI-based image and video management solutions can solve this problem. These tools apply AI smarts to optimally resize and crop images. For example, AI applies algorithms to automatically detect the subject in an image that is most likely to capture a viewer’s attention.

It also analyses the type of browser and device the images are displayed on. Based on all this combined information, brands are able to deliver images and videos that will drive greater customer engagement.

Visual are great for boosting engagement and fostering long-lasting connections.

With a little help from AI you can be assured that the browser long tail doesn’t degrade the user experience so that your visual storytelling efforts really pay off.


Neil Russell-SmithNeil Russell-SmithNovember 7, 2019
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7min1871

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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5min1571

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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5min2288

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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5min1718

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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10min2008

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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5min1808

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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10min2774

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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11min2041

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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12min3348

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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9min1797

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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3min2077

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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5min1552

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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3min1578

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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2min1971

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.”




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