Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJuly 26, 2019
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6min1205

Today’s cloud-based contact centre solutions make it easier to deliver good customer service whatever the channel. 

The real challenge is how to provide a Digital Experience that stands out from the crowd when there is so much noise and too much choice. Multi-channel or omnichannel? AI or no AI? The rapid proliferation of new technologies and buzzwords is enough to reduce even the most focused organisations to blind panic. Some rush in and digitalise simply because everyone else is doing it while others grind to a state of sluggish inertia because change is scary and ‘it’s always been done this way’ is a safer option.

How do contact centres find the happy medium? How do they build a digital CX programme that guarantees successful customer outcomes? The secret is to keep calm, stay focused and follow a few golden rules:

1. Introduce relevance into the digital equation

Don’t just introduce technology for technology’s sake. Always keep the customer at the centre of the digital design process. Think about the dialogues you have with customers, listen to your agents, become a mystery shopper and try out the contact centre to discover the channels and technology that really work. Then, back this up with the performance metrics that matter.  Customers just want fast, positive results, so align KPIs accordingly. Focus on Net promoter, Customer Satisfaction (CSat) and Customer Effort scores along with customer churn and first resolution rates rather than Average Handling Times (AHTs).

2. Blend omnichannel with AI for complete customer interactions

Exploit the latest innovations in Artificial Intelligence such as virtual assistants, digital assistants, and bots. The beauty of AI is that it offers practically unlimited capabilities to allow organisations to capture customer conversations that vastly improve service levels and even anticipate customers’ needs by up/cross-selling other products based on their previous purchase or web-browsing history – a real competitive differentiator.

The human touch counts when it comes to handling complex matters and emotionally sensitive or personal issues. Blend instantaneous, multi-channel, round-the-clock digital self-sufficiency with personal service. Just be sure to make the hand-over between virtual and live agents seamless.

3. Remove on-screen clutter

A tidy desktop equals a tidy mind and ultimately a tidy profit. However, on-screen clutter such as multiple pop-ups and different applications frequently get in the way of delivering first-class CX. It’s time to take a closer look at the latest agent applications.

These are designed to remove on-screen clutter by linking to enterprise systems, selected third parties, and knowledge bases through widgets. Customisable and flexible, widgets allow every agent to be presented with the information and functionality most relevant to them in any given situation without switching screens or resorting to pop-ups. This provides a single view of customer conversations and accelerates an agent’s ability to improve CX all in one place.

4. Invest in the right people skills

There’s no point spending time and money on the perfect digital infrastructure if your human skills fail to live up to the same exacting standards. When recruiting new agents, or training long-standing experienced team members, look for candidates with high levels of emotional intelligence.

These are the ones who instinctively understand how the customer is feeling and use that information to influence a positive result even when conversations are passed to them from a digital assistant or chatbot. They grasp the importance of bridging the digital and human worlds and their holistic approach is vital to the success of a digital and connected CX strategy.

5. Choose cloud

Maximising cloud-based integration capabilities improves efficiency and builds customer loyalty as a result of fast and highly personalised interactions. A single view of customer interactions aids decision-making and allows proactive management of response times.

What’s more, when it comes to protecting sensitive customer data, the cloud comes into its own. Using a simple web browser, a single sign-on is all that is required and the ability to switch freely between applications and payment solutions to boost security levels.

Breathe deeply, stay calm, and carry on towards the perfect digital CX strategy. Focus on the digital channels that matter to your customers, experiment with the latest AI, and join the dots with agents who effortlessly link both human and digital worlds. You’ll stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons.

 


Sharon WilliamsSharon WilliamsJuly 10, 2019
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7min1167

Recruitment has never been an easy task, regardless of which industry is facing the challenge.

Difficulties in finding the right people, at the right time, with the right skills, is something all organisations encounter. One such industry is contact centres. Outsourced contact centres are extremely people-focused, meaning that it’s imperative to get the recruitment process right from the offset and meet the challenges faced head-on.

In a contact centre environment, there is a need for recruiters to not only meet seasonal demand, but to be able to find the right person for each position, focusing on retaining employees that are skilled, motivated and committed to the role. A successful contact centre will find, train and retain staff that can meet customer expectations and work to make sure teams have the right attributes to properly represent the organisation they work for.

However, there are numerous outsourced contact centres getting recruitment right, and by following a few simple steps, recruiters can build a successful recruitment strategy that gets it right every time.

Staff on demand

Numerous industries are known to face issues with peaks and troughs of demand, but one that certainly suffers the most is retail. With huge seasonal spikes throughout the year – Black FridayChristmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter – this industry understands what it’s like to see a huge rush of customers that can vanish as quickly as they appear.

Seasonal spikes: Retail knows all-too well the pressures of fluctuating demand

To cope with these hectic periods, it’s essential for organisations to be confident that the recruitment channels being used will reach the right people, quickly and effectively. Advertising locally on buses and billboards, for example, can be more targeted and help to enhance brand recognition for an organisation looking to seek local Customer Service Advisors, as an addition to online.

Additionally, contact centre organisations need to prepare for these peaks by working closely with their customers to understand when the demand might rise and fall, and what levels of staff will be needed accordingly. By reflecting on busy periods of the past, recruitment teams can work in harmony with marketing teams to figure out what works, what could change and then put a plan in place for the next peak time.

Talking the talk

Contact centres have undoubtedly evolved. Just look at the name; what was once referred to as a call centre has grown to become much more. The omnichannel world that consumers now live in means they expect to receive the same customer experience, regardless of which channel they use – whether it’s social media, a phone call, email, online chat, or through instant messaging. They expect answers instantly, and they want their queries answered or issues resolved in as few steps as possible.

Digital demand: Customers need queries answered – quickly – across all channels

Because of this, the skill sets required of Customer Service Advisors has also changed. Advisors now need to be proficient in communicating across a variety of channels, utilising strong written and verbal communication skills to make the experience as seamless as possible for the customer. This eclectic way of working means that Advisors need to be flexible, adaptable, and able to multi-task, providing the same, exceptional experience with each customer interaction. A coherent selection process will ensure that recruitment teams are finding the right people for the job.

Capturing brand personality

When it comes to the selection process, this not only needs to be tailored for each job role, but also for each brand – this is the very nature of an outsourced contact centre. Each organisation that is represented by the contact centre will require something different, and this shouldn’t just come through when the Customer Service Advisors are answering queries; it should start at the beginning of the recruitment journey.

CV savvy: Recruitment strategies should must help brands find the best people

Recruitment teams should actively work with the client to build the job description, which should then underpin the selection process. Recruitment strategies should also be tailored for each brand to find the most suitable people; who are the organisation’s target market? How do they communicate? Can brand advocates be chosen to ensure the Customer Service Advisor has a genuine interest in the brand? This ensures the brand’s personality can be captured in each customer interaction, through style, tone of voice and language used.

The recruitment journey

Developing a CX strategy starts with recruitment. With the end customer in mind, a recruitment strategy can be developed that ensures the right team is sourced and trained in line with the organisation’s requirements. Recruitment doesn’t have to be a challenge; a clear understanding of the organisation’s values from the outset is a simple way to get the journey heading in the right direction and, coupled with the right approach to customer service, means that contact centres can commit to delivering an exceptional CX, every time.


Sandra LoefflerSandra LoefflerJuly 10, 2019
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7min1464

Today’s consumers want it all – freedom to research purchases using any device (66 percent), the ability to visit stores if the internet doesn’t meet their needs (49 percent), and personalised advertising offers (26 percent) – all as part of a seamless, integrated experience.

Businesses recognise these rising demands; globally, almost two-fifths (34 percent) plan to adopt an omnichannel model in the next year. Yet meeting this goal can be challenging. Ensuring consistency, convenience, and relevance requires a comprehensive view of individual journeys: insight that isn’t easy to obtain when shopping activity is highly fragmented.

With CX rivalling price and product as a factor that matters most to customers, it’s crucial for retailers to understand the always-connected consumer by adjusting their measurement approach.

The troubled status quo

Most retailers are already striving to keep up with convoluted consumer journeys: using siloed, channel-specific tools and metrics to assess the impact of online and offline marketing efforts. And these silos are only getting deeper, especially when cookies are becoming less effective, privacy regulations are imposing stricter requirements on data, and walled gardens are preventing meaningful insights into the consumer journey altogether.

As a result, retail marketers are left with fragments of insight they must attempt to piece together, making it increasingly difficult to gain a complete view of how individuals connect with their brand across touchpoints. Little wonder only seven percent of firms have successfully implemented an omnichannel approach. Clearly, measurement must evolve to match modern consumer habits. If marketers want a precise picture of where purchase paths flow, how their initiatives perform and what form strategy should take, they need the right measurement solutions at their disposal.

Making the right measurement choice

Modern marketing measurement approaches can pave the way to better customer engagement; giving retailers the means to analyse interactions across every channel and device, evaluate the impact of each touchpoint on sales, and power smarter future decisions. But different measurement models serve different needs, which means retail marketers must select the approach that matches their data, channels and goals.

For example, marketing mix modelling harnesses summary level data to provide a holistic understanding of what’s driving sales, including online, offline and external factors that can affect product demand. It looks at the historical relationships between marketing spend and business results, and is most valuable for retailers who want to inform their strategic and periodic planning on an annual, half-yearly, or quarterly basis.

In contrast, methods such as multi-touch attribution offer more frequent, granular analysis. Leveraging household and person-level data from addressable channels, it measures the influence that each touchpoint – from ad creatives and offers to placement, keyword, recency and so forth – has on consumer actions in near real-time. For retailers looking to make tactical optimisations to live campaigns, multi-touch attribution is likely to be the best option.

Comprehensive media coverage matters

It goes without saying that marketing measurement relies on a steady and comprehensive supply of data. The more complete the coverage, the more accurate the analysis will be. But amid the growing emphasis on data security, media coverage gaps are increasingly common.

Measurement providers must therefore be chosen as carefully as the models, and maximum coverage should be a top priority. Finding a partner that has strong relationships with large media platforms, ways to track data despite cookie limitations, and methods to cross-check the accuracy of data sources is key for getting as much visibility into the omni-channel consumer journey as possible. Only then can retailers dissect the complex web of factors that affect consumer decisions and make smarter, more impactful decisions.

The value of preparation

One final and often overlooked aspect of successful measurement is preparing for the future. In the wake of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and an increasing focus on digital security, the utility of cookies has significantly diminished – and with the e-Privacy Regulation (ePR) due to be enforced in 2020, its value is only set to fade further.

This makes it critical to choose a provider with the resources and ability to adjust to the ever-changing marketing landscape. Declaring intent to plan for a cookie-less world isn’t enough; providers should also be proactively demonstrating their commitment to future proofing marketers’ measurement success.

As consumer preferences for multichannel shopping grow, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for retailers to make sense of the fragmented data they leave behind and understand true marketing effectiveness. Instead of siloed tools that are at odds with the needs of always-connected consumers, retail marketers need a modern measurement approach so they can drive performance to the maximum and put their marketing investment where it matters most to their businesses.


Andrea WilliamsAndrea WilliamsJuly 3, 2019
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8min1529

When it comes to Customer Experience, “omnichannel” has grown to be one of those inescapable buzzwords.

So, what does the term mean, exactly?

HubSpot’s definition states: “Omnichannel experience is a multi-channel approach to marketing, selling, and serving customers in a way that creates an integrated and cohesive customer experience no matter how or where a customer reaches out.”

The “integrated and cohesive” aspect is probably the most crucial element of the definition. Another major point is the fact that the experience must be the same “no matter how or where a customer reaches out”.

You might say: “Great! My customers can buy my product or service on different channels and my marketing team sends out communications in more than one way. I’ve already mastered the omni-channel approach.” 

Not so fast.

OmniChannel vs Multi-channel

Omni and multi-channel are two entirely separate approaches.

Multi-channel involves reaching customers in a variety of ways, be it in-person, online via websites and social media, or on the phone. This approach is designed to unify sales and marketing processes. In other words, you’re providing customers with many opportunities to engage. It’s not necessarily about aligning all the different channels; it’s simply making them available.

Omnichannel, on the other hand, takes the “multi-channel” approach one step further. Both digital and physical channels are merged to create a single, cohesive, and seamless brand experience. The distinctions and separations between different channels disappear. Think of it as the more “customer-centric” option out of the two formats.

 A customer might begin communicating with a brand representative via live chat like Facebook Messenger or an on-site chat platform. Once the conversation evolves to a more advanced stage, it can then move to direct email or even phone conversations, retaining all the context of former conversations.

Beyond that, experiences a customer has with a brand in-store or on-site are preserved and then carried on to other digital channels. Social media reps communicating through DM, for instance, might be able to see that the customer they’re talking to has visited a local store. In an omnichannel system, complete customer histories are easily accessible. During the brand “conversation”, the customer should never have to repeat themselves.

This kind of cross-platform strategy can also be referred to as an experiential marketing campaign. You’re building an entire conversation around the experience itself, which spans not just multiple platforms but multiple talking points, as well as digital and physical interactions.

Why are omnichannel experiences so important?

Back in 2014, Gartner predicted that over the next two years (by 2016), 89 percent of companies had expectations to compete mostly on the basis of Customer Experience. That prediction was for three years ago. CX is now a differentiating factor.

When it comes to CX, without a solid understanding of omni and multi-channel concepts, business leaders are setting themselves up for disappointment.

Since an omnichannel approach is customer-focused, it means that the mindset has to be developed foundationally, starting with company culture and radiating outwards. Executives and management should set the example, with support trickling down to the service reps on the front line.

Omnichannel should be the main goal of a business’ entire digital strategy. In fact, it is one of the most crucial elements of modern digitisation, or the company’s digital transformation.

Creating a brand hub

Of course, an omnichannel approach isn’t possible unless the company brand has consistency. The message, voice, and overall user experience must feel part of the same “conversation”.

Many organisations are taking notice, consolidating their digital presence by building “communities”. Eight-one percent of companies already have an online support community in which customers can ask other customers for technical help and troubleshooting. Online communities that offer mobile and desktop experiences, shopping, social networking, learning, and even entertainment such as games are becoming the go-to brand destination. Consider that 77 percent of companies believe that an online community significantly improves brand exposure, awareness, and credibility.

What now?

Now that you understand the difference between omni and multi-channel experiences, and why they matter, it’s important to spread the message within your organisation. You simply cannot afford to put off adopting these customer-centric approaches. Find a way to incorporate them in your current processes and strategies, or else you’ll find your organisation is unable to compete.

 


Stuart BishopStuart BishopJune 24, 2019
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6min1180

In today’s increasingly tech-driven society, customer expectations on the speed and convenience of interactions with businesses have never been higher.

In every sector, companies are undergoing a process of digital transformation to ensure they deliver seamless experiences to the consumer. Often, the key to success lies in powerful use of data to simplify, personalise and transform customer journeys.

The value of simplification

By reducing the time and effort of interactions, organisations enjoy higher engagement, while meeting customer expectations and driving their own efficiency. According to the Aberdeen Group, 51 percent of firms use at least eight channels to interact with customers, highlighting the importance of delivering the same message seamlessly across all touchpoints to create a truly omnichannel experience.

Omnichannel: In a recent survey, most firms said they use at least eight channels to interact with customers

Data-driven technologies facilitate this process by sending the right content via the right channels in a quick and automatic way. In insurance, simplification efforts have included replacing lengthy quotation forms with ‘No Questions Asked’ propositions, challenging perceptions of an industry laden with complexities.

Personalisation is key

Once a “nice to have”, tailored offerings have become imperative to business success. Nowhere is this more relevant than the insurance sector, where a survey by Accenture found 80 percent of customers are looking for personalised offerings from their car, home, or life insurance providers.

As vast amounts of data become readily available, organisations are using personalisation on a granular scale never seen before. Customer profiling is a powerful tool to gain competitive advantage in this area; by integrating data from a range of sources, whether demographic information or past purchasing behaviour, firms are able to serve up relevant content at the right time. By making the customer feel valued, businesses are driving loyalty and, it is hoped, repeat custom.

The power of digital transformation

The advent of new technologies such as voice, chatbots, and artificial intelligence, has empowered organisations to expand their service offerings and enhance the customer journey. The voice revolution in particular is gathering momentum and has opened up the possibility of bots replacing people to provide customer service 24/7, particularly to deal with routine queries and transactions.

Hear me out: Voicebots could fully replace humans when dealing with routine queries and transactions

According to Vxchnge, 20.4 billion devices will be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by next year, with consumer demand showing no signs of slowing down. As a result, firms are able to gather an increasing amount of data on Customer Experience, enabling them to make constant improvements to their products and services. For insurance, this has led to the development of proactive propositions, such as mobile phone apps that use image recognition, and Wi-Fi network scanning to generate a quote with minimal consumer input.

The commercial benefits

A recent study by PwC found 65 percent of people believe Customer Experience is important when choosing between buying options, highlighting the significance of investing in this area. As this figure rises, data will become increasingly relied upon to deliver effective modern strategies – Gartner predict over 40 percent of all data analytics projects will focus on Customer Experience by 2020. If done successfully, firms themselves will experience a plethora of benefits, including greater insights, improved conversion and increased revenues.

Whichever sector you’re operating in, it’s clear that those who recognise the value in providing customers with an excellent experience will do well. Make sure you’re one of them.

Stuart Bishop is judging at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards in October.


Vijayanta GuptaVijayanta GuptaJune 18, 2019
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10min1099

Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays an important role in Customer Experience, marketing, and personalisation; It has the power to generate predictions about what goods and services customers are likely to want, when the demand will arise or propensity to switch will occur, and which platforms they are most likely to purchase on.

As a result, AI has become critical for brands wanting to improve their capabilities to offer personalised experiences, offers and recommendations. What’s more, marketers should not overlook the importance and the business case for investing in AI technology to deliver high-quality personalisation at scale.

Personalisation is key to customer loyalty, customer experience and increasing sales, with Accenture recently finding that 91 percent of European and American consumers are more likely to shop with brands which provide relevant offers and recommendations. Clearly, enhancing a brands ability to engage with customers on an individual basis is critical for brand success.

However, investment alone is not enough – in order for AI to provide effective personalisation, it must be implemented and used in the right way.

Organisations need to develop more sophisticated AI capabilities which can collect and analyse data in real time to offer tailored services and products. This capability must be advanced enough to work for customers as they move through an omnichannel journey which often spans across websites, apps, email and high-street stores, for example.

Omnichannel journey: Real-time data analysis is key

While it is true that AI has the potential to bring about this ‘new era’ of personalisation, the technology alone cannot guarantee quality personalisation. For that, business leaders must appreciate the value of AI, develop a clear strategy for implementation and ensure that it is monitored and improved by experts who truly understand it. 

Make the business case for investment

One common barrier to the adoption of sophisticated AI and machine learning technology is business leaders being deterred by the cost of the initial adoption process. While it’s true that AI can remove the manual, time consuming, and often overwhelming challenge of managing and understanding vast amounts of data, just like any new technology, the initial set-up process can be expensive and labour intensive.

Also, the skills required to implement this level of technology mean that organisations may face the added time and expense of employing dedicated data scientists, and adjusting towards a culture where marketers and technologists must work closely together  As a result, organisations may feel that there is not a viable business case to invest.

To counter this point of view, take a step back and consider the long-term benefits of the initial investment. If AI is implemented strategically, the future pay-off will be enhanced capabilities for personalisation, improved Customer Experience, and increased sales.

Even as far back as 2014, McKinsey found that maximising customer satisfaction, which today largely comes from offering personalised experiences, would result in a 15 percent increase in a brands revenue. More recently, research from Econsultancy found that 93 percent of companies see an uplift in conversion rates from personalisation. Together with a well implemented AI strategy, brands can personalise even more effectively and potentially see even greater conversion rates.

Develop a clear strategy first

It is important to understand that simply having AI and machine learning capabilities does not guarantee that a brand can offer a higher quality of Customer Experience. In order to see significant improvements, organisations must first decide what CX problem they are aiming to solve, which data sets they need to collect and monitor, and how they are going to use the data to remove the particular pain-points that customers face.

Strategy: Organisations must decide what CX problem they are aiming to solve

Whether a brand wants to convert more website views to purchases, increase the number of customers returning to the site, offer a smoother transition across different touchpoints, or improve online self-service, these priorities must be decided from the outset. Then, the right data can be collected and harnessed to address the issue.

With an overwhelming amount of data being generated and collected by companies today, this is an effective way to streamline efforts and ensure the most important issues are dealt with first.

Shoe retailer Footasylum provides a great example of the benefits of strategic AI implementation. It focused first on the specific pain-point of friction in the customer journey between stores and the web by using AI to link in-store purchases with online systems such as loyalty schemes, to create a single customer view. The brand can now predict which customers are most likely to purchase particular products and when. As a result, it has seen an 8,400 percent return on ad spend. Footasylum’s next mission is to breathe life back into the high-street by using AI to enable the web to automatically share valuable customer information with brick and mortar stores.

Lay the foundations for advanced AI

In order to get a good understanding of which CX problems to address first, brands should undertake background research with marketers identifying which personalisation processes are currently creating the most conversions online, and which are less successful.

Another important foundation is to ensure that all data sets are integrated and consolidated. In order to offer recommendations in real time, brands must be able to predict consumer needs and use data to meet them at the right moment, on the right platform. AI can be used to accurately forecast where the customer will be in their decision making. Without access to all of the data about any given customer, there will always be a limit to how successful these predictions can be.

Clueless: Without accurate data, it will be impossible to fully predict a customer’s decision

In conclusion, it is key to remember that although AI has great potential to offer tailored experiences for customers in real time, the initial investment does not automatically guarantee quality personalisation and a return on investment. For that, a solid foundation must be put in place by understanding where customer experience can be improved, deciding on a clear strategy for implementation and removing data from silos.

Then, AI has the power to offer personalised experiences which offer true value to customers and meet, or even exceed, their expectations.


Ryan FalkenbergRyan FalkenbergJune 12, 2019
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11min1586

Have you been the victim of chatbot incompetence recently?

It typically starts with a specific query that you need help with. You don’t have the time to listen to the contact centre’s hold music, so you turn to the company’s much vaunted chatbot.

It seems fairly straightforward. You type in your question and press enter. The chatbot comes back with a list of completely unrelated content links, and asks if any of these solve your problem. ‘No’ you say.

You retype your question, hoping this time it’s a little clearer. Again the chatbot cheerfully responds with a new list of possible ‘helpful’ articles and FAQ links, and mentions that it is busy learning and is grateful for your help. It will get more accurate the more people engage with it.

Oh, so your diabolical customer experience is all for a good cause – to train their chatbot! The cheek of it.

After a third attempt, you notice a link that may be relevant. You click on the link and are taken to a three-page document providing generic product information. The assumption is that you will take the time to read this document and then work out the answer yourself. With raised blood pressure, you click on the ‘Connect me to an agent’ link and hope that possibly they may have the knowledge needed to solve your query. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. That’s how it goes with so many omnichannel customer journeys these days.

I must confess I expected more. I envisaged that by now we could engage with chatbots that are capable of diagnosing my specific issue, and then offering me a relevant response that results in a relevant action. In other words, a chatbot that is not simply an over-hyped digital assistant that can execute basic instructions or offer me links to possible content matches. I had in mind an digital advisor that could operate at the level of an expert – one whose intelligence is defined as much by the relevance of the questions it asks as the answers it finally offers.

If you talk to most AI companies, their chatbots already perform like digital experts. They will refer to their amazing natural language understanding and incredibly intelligent algorithms that are powered by ‘machine learning’, ‘deep learning’, and ‘neural nets’. They will give you the sense that all you need to do is point their technology in the direction of your knowledge base and the digital advisor will magically onboard all your product, policy and procedural expertise. Then, with just a little bit of guidance, you can soon have trained your chatbot into a digital Einstein that can change your customer service offering forever.

When you ask them to show you a working example, they will probably show you one of their canned demo’s – built off a scenario where the source data is in rich supply, the use case is clearly defined, and the user script can be carefully followed. As a result, their chatbot’s conversation will feel so intelligent, so human-like, that you will feel you simply have to have one.

Just don’t ask them mid-way to type in something unscripted and to upset their crafted storyline! I am certain that you will be quickly informed that they have not managed to train this chatbot to cover all contexts, and that this is simply used for illustration purposes.

No ifs or bots: Many chatbots are lacking when it comes to customer support

The real reason is that it is all really a digital mirage. It looks so achievable until you shift your eyes down to your current position, and suddenly the mirage vanishes. There are a number of reasons for this:

Companies seldom have the quality of data needed to accurately train a customer facing chatbot

Most companies operate in a world of legacy systems, limited integrations, poor quality data, and poorly documented internal policies and procedures – the very things that cognitive systems depend on to build their engagement accuracy.

A customer support chatbot is powered more by prescriptive than predictive logic

To understand the difference, ask Siri or Alexa for an answer based on available information, and they can usually give it to you. For example, if you ask: “What is the weather looking like tomorrow in London?”, you will be amazed how accurate the answer is. That is because the information exists, and thousands of people have already asked the same or a similar question. The patterns are thus established and the correct answer can be predicted.

However, try ask a question that requires more context before answering. Say: “What is the best home loan for me?”. You will probably notice that the response will be to offer you possible links to companies offering loans. It won’t begin by understanding your needs. This is because a financial need analysis is driven off a diagnostic set of prescribed logic. There is no answer yet – the problem still needs to be understood.

In regulated environments, you need to be able to prove your chatbot asked the right questions and offered the right advice

Where a chatbot is powered by predictive logic – the logic you need to train and that keeps ‘learning’ based on multiple engagements – you will find it will struggle in a regulated environment. This is because the logic is designed to change and adapt, based on user engagement. It is also hard to prove how a decision was reached, as each recommendation is made in what is often referred to as a ‘black box’. This is hugely problematic when you are offering customers advisory support in a regulated environment, such as banking and finance.

Context matters, and the way most companies capture prescriptive logic lacks context

Prescriptive logic is typically captured using documents (knowledge bases) or decision trees (process flows). It’s how we have trained employees brains for decades and it’s how we are trying to train our chatbots. So just like giving staff exercises to learn how to apply the formula to different situations, we get teams to train the chatbot, telling them when they are right and when they are wrong. The problem is that documents and decision trees are not able to capture all the possible scenarios. They can only describe a few. And as a result, the more variables you need to consider in order to offer a customer accurate, relevant advice, the harder it becomes to achieve.

The good news is that there are now digital platforms available that allow you to achieve the holy grail – a chatbot capable of asking me context relevant questions that then lead to relevant answers and actions. These platforms have been built off data-powered, prescriptive logic that can ensure your customers are offered a consistent, compliant and context-relevant digital engagement, one that leads to a successful customer service outcome every time.

These platforms have acknowledged that not all logic should be predicted, and that for customer support chatbots the foundation of the logic has to prescribed. The trick is ensuring it is also contextual, and these platforms have now managed to do this in a way that can be maintained effectively.

The dawn of chatbots capable of offering customers consistent, compliant and yet highly context-relevant customer engagements is upon us. And it’s about time, too.


Dean HarropDean HarropJune 6, 2019
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4min1175

In theory, it has never been easier for consumers to communicate with your business…but are the choices suitable and easy to access?

Today’s consumers demand instant, fast, on-the-go interaction with companies, which is why web chats, texts, and social media have fast become many people’s preferred way of ‘talking’ with a brand. We live in a multi-channel landscape where real time responses are the norm and public conversations on social media can make or break a brand and its reputation.

Multi-channel contact centre solutions enable companies to manage different forms of communication by routing them via a single engine and delivering them to a correctly skilled customer service agent in the shortest possible time. Such advances in communication technology are to be welcomed as they enable contact centres to manage the flow of information and prioritise those interactions that require an urgent response.

The very nature of multimedia contact centres means employees are required to deal with a number of forms of communication, enabling a smooth and consistent customer experience to be delivered.

As the ‘face’ of the business, agents can make or break a customer relationship. Adaptability has become a key quality so they can demonstrate the values of their business regardless of the channel being used. The ability to write appropriately and clearly for different channels is vital.

Modern agents are multitaskers who can handle more than one customer interaction at a time – without causing delays to responses. Historically they have been hindered by multiple applications running on separate systems. Today it is possible to use one user interface to manage multiple mediums of communication.

New era: Customer communication is evolving…and so must contact centres

A modern, reliable solution coupled with thorough training means consumers are now able to interact with an agent who is not flustered and can stay in control of multiple interactions. Regular monitoring of the interaction volumes and quality of consumer experience for each channel should ensure that the training requirements are identified and provided.

This measurement – including recording and reporting across all interactions – enables businesses to develop and improve their Customer Experience. In addition, multichannel contact centres can deliver cost benefits such as dealing with social media alongside voice, emails, web chats and text.

Standing still is not an option. The emergence of robots and automated messaging is reducing the burden on contact centres by responding to routine enquiries. Research shows there is growing interest among organisations in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools which can help businesses improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their operations.

Deloitte says that multiple robots can be seen as a “virtual workforce – a back office processing centre but without the human resources”.

Other researchers argue that RPA actually frees up employees to deliver skilled and creative work, suggesting that robots and humans are most effective when working together.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthJune 5, 2019
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3min1264

Slow service is enough for more than half of British customers to ditch a brand, according to a new survey.

A poll of 2,000 UK consumers revealed that 56 percent would stop shopping with a brand that forced them to endure slow customer service. The survey by contact centre cloud solutions provider 8×8 also found that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of people have been frustrated at the length of time it has taken a customer service team at a company to solve a problem.

The time it took to get through to someone is the most common reason people lose patience with a customer service team (36 percent), followed by having to wait to get their query resolved (30 percent). Quick and easy access to contact information is also a key factor, as a quarter (25 percent) have lost patience by having to wade through too many screening questions in order to access contact information.

When asked about the types of businesses they are most likely to lose patience with, customers named utilities and telecom firms in the top spot (33 percent), followed by retail (24 percent), and local government (21 percent). This suggests that organisations in these sectors are at the greatest risk of losing customers to slow service.

To help them get an answer in the quickest and easiest way possible, 78 percent of Brits expect companies to provide multiple channels to contact their customer service team on, such as phone, email, web chat, and social media. Despite this, over half (58 percent) of businesses still only offer one communication channel to contact customer service teams – an experience 52 percent of Brits find frustrating.

Mary Ellen Genovese, MD of European Operations, 8×8, said: “We all expect companies to deliver a fast and joined-up response to our queries regardless of their nature. Our research reveals speed is everything – consumers have little patience for slow service and, when frustrated, won’t hesitate to take their business elsewhere.

“Businesses that don’t meet customer expectations risk losing out to faster competitors, not just over established channels such as phone and email, but across web chat and social media too.”

The research also reveals that customers expect traditional channels to deliver a faster response rate. When asked which customer service platforms they lose patience with the most, 37 percent said phone, compared to just 12 percent for email and 10 percent for live chat.


Colin HayColin HayJune 4, 2019
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6min1443

We often hear about customer service being increasingly used as a business differentiator, but what does this really mean?

After all, customer service comes in many guises and means different things to different people. Some people simply want fast service at the right price while eBay devotees revel in the thrill of the auction without speaking to another human being. In general, speed and efficiency are all that matters, together with regular text or email updates of delivery dates and guarantees that credit card details are secure at all times.

On the other hand, consumers looking for support with complex, confidential, or emotionally sensitive matters would soon lose faith or be truly offended if they were treated as just another transaction on an endless conveyor belt of products. Adding agility to improve service levels is nothing new, but how often do we hear about businesses creating a kinder Customer Experience to stand out from the crowd?

Ombudsman: Bringing kindness to customer interactions in the real world

A kinder Customer Experience is a concept that Puzzel customer Ombudsman Services, the leading private dispute and resolution service, understands intuitively and shared at our Get Connected conference last year. Since the beginning of 2018, Ombudsman has practically re-invented its QA framework by deploying speech analytics in the contact centre to record 252,000 calls across all sectors. The organisation has successfully used voice recognition technology to capture 80 different phrases sorted into 12 categories. This established that nearly 30 percent of calls relate to dealing with someone in a vulnerable position, for example coping with mental health issues, losing their health or jobs, or just trying to stay warm.

The technology provides valuable insight into each call and caller, and strategically spots trends that identify the top issues facing all UK customers today. These powerful insights are essential to helping agents truly understand real-life consumer situations and as a result, respond with empathy and kindness as well as offer practical advice.

3 ways to create a kind Customer Experience

With a few simple strategies, every organisation is capable of winning customers over through efficient, yet kind, conversations. Here are three ways to get you started:

1. Have the right team on your side

Kindness starts from within and it starts from the top. Hire leaders who show dedication to building positive contact centres where agents care for each other as well as for their customers. Look for agents who combine passion with compassion. These are the ones who intuitively understand a customer’s emotional state then use this knowledge to solve customer problems in a highly personalised and meaningful way.

2. Overcome the fear of new technology

Introducing new technology can be an exercise of winning over hearts and minds, especially when people have faith in their traditional ways of working. What’s more, by its very nature speech analytics has a strong element of ‘big brother’ and can strike fear into the most confident employees. Overcome resistance to change by highlighting the undoubted benefits of automation. For example, accurate recording of calls that liberates language and empowers agents to engage more effectively with customers while providing high levels of transparency to build trust with each other and with customers.

3. Use knowledge to build a circle of continuous kindness

Understanding your customers’ requirements now and in the past is the first step towards treating them with kindness. Combine traditional resources of FAQs on websites with the use of chatbots to grow knowledge bases by feeding back useful information based on customer enquiry patterns. Add predictive analytics to tap into past resolutions, to  support similar scenarios in the future and pre-empt issues before they become real problems. Then combine with speech analytics to highlight proactive opportunities for kindness.

The latest cloud-based omnichannel contact centres integrate seamlessly with speech analytics technology to analyse and search 100 percent of recorded customer calls in real-time, helping them to glean valuable intelligence from thousands – even millions – of customer calls quickly and efficiently.

Highly sophisticated, today’s technology can even identify dialects, regional accents, and slang in addition to detecting the usual keywords and phrases over multiple time periods. Innovative ‘TellMeWhy’ features also help organisations quickly identify potential underlying root causes for specific calls. This all-important data should be added to the knowledge base as part of a vital circle of continuous improvement and shared learning.


Dean FrewDean FrewJune 3, 2019
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6min772

In today’s retail world we are emerging into a new era where technology and commerce are joining together and revolutionising Customer Experience.

Retailers are increasingly continuing to implement new technologies which help to improve processes. Alongside this they are also finding innovative and new applications of existing technologies which help to optimise daily operations. This can be due to the rise of online and mobile shopping, which has further led to increasing competition within the retail sector. With over 2,400 stores disappearing on the high street in 2018 alone, meaning a 40 percent rise in store closures from 2017, it is clear that this could be causing major panic amongst various retailers.

With item-level RFID technology rapidly gaining adoption in the retail industry, retailers have seen their inventory management improve significantly. Nowadays, retailers are looking at additional ways to leverage investments they put into RFID, especially once the initial investment and returns have been established. As a result of this, retailers are mostly focusing on the changing process of customer engagement at Point of Sale (POS) moving to an automated and human-free checkout.

Reduced shrink and reduced out of stocks

Item-level RFID technology can enable retailers to carry out stock counts within their stores once a week in an average duration of one hour, using only a few handhelds. Through this, retailers can gain 98 percent inventory accuracy. Having an enhanced view of inventory accuracy will naturally lead to a reduction in shrink, which is often a result of theft or lost items throughout the supply chain. An average amount of shrink percentage in retail is around two percent of sales. This can create significant cost implications for retailers. According to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) annual Retail Crime Survey, the total direct financial cost of retail crime, resulting in shrinkage has risen to around £700m.

Retailers can utilise item-level RFID to prevent shrink throughout all aspects of the supply chain, it can also identify whether an item went missing either from transit or from the distribution centre. Item-level RFID can greatly reduce out stocks for retailers, which in turn can also help to improve customer satisfaction and services. This is a result of the retailer having products available for customers, as and when they want them.

Enhancing the check-out process for customers

Many retailers are adopting item-level RFID for a variety of reasons, including technology giving retailers the ability to speed up the check-out process for customers. This can be seen as part of a ‘technology rebrand’ effort for retailers whilst also acting as a loss prevention tool by helping to reduce human factor-based errors at the checkout.

Overall, this can help to improve the accuracy of a purchase, reduce lengthy checkout queues and streamline the technology experience during the POS process.

Benefits of accurate inventory management for Customer Experience

RFID is helping retailers reach a new level of operational excellence in inventory management. There have been many rollouts of the technology on a global basis, which have demonstrated rapid ROI based on sales lift, inventory reduction and omnichannel fulfilment advantages. It is without a doubt that item-level RFID has become the fundamental tool in opening the door to this new era of retailing.

Evidently, if a customer is looking to purchase an item they want and it is out of stock, they are going to be disappointed. For retailers, this can result in the customer feeling unsatisfied with the service, and therefore choosing not to return to the store in the future. To prevent this and to ensure good levels of customer service, retailers need to have a correct and accurate view of their inventory, meaning they know exactly which products need ordering for new stock and those that don’t.

Overall, it is clear that with item-level RFID allows retailers to gain levels of 98 percent accuracy, with quicker stock counts, customers are evidently going to be more satisfied with their overall experience of shorter queuing times, getting the stock they want, and when they want it. As a result, this creates a greater shopping experience for customers overall.


Kevin MurrayKevin MurrayMay 29, 2019
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7min747

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

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

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

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

The era of omnichannel

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

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

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

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

Using data to enhance Customer Experience

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

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

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

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

Customers at the core of omnichannel

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

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


Craig SummersCraig SummersMay 9, 2019
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4min557

Consumers are hoping for high levels of choice, convenience, and recognition in modern, omnichannel shopping.

To truly offer an omnichannel experience – selling anywhere, fulfilling anywhere, and engaging anywhere is essential, as is elevating customer service and interactions to create exceptional Customer Experience, regardless of where the customer started their buying journey.

This is the holistic world that every retailer is trying to create, but the reality for large long-established retailers is that they are not going to strip out legacy systems and create this omnichannel eco-system overnight. C-suites are having to consider the profitability of change, and the reality of implementation. What new capabilities will new technology deliver? Will true visibility be achieved? Is the investment guaranteed to deliver results?

The retail reality

Retailers have, however, taken great strides to enable their ever-more demanding customers to shop according to their personal preferences, at any time, on any channel. Physical and digital have merged to the point where the customer should no longer be impeded by the limitations of any particular touchpoint; after all, consumers do not think about or talk about channels, they simply go shopping.

Yet, growing pressure to seamlessly offer customers choice, convenience and recognition across an increasing number of touchpoints has led to new challenges. The reality is that most retailers’ systems, processes and people were never designed or trained up to handle such a diversity of selling and fulfilment demand. This has resulted in gaps between what customers want, and what retailers are able to provide.

Paving the way for future prosperity

From inventory planning to order orchestration, new fulfilment strategies and the next generation of POS, integration of capabilities will pave the way to keep up with the speed of modern day shopping. They must embrace technologies that guarantee profitable omnichannel operations.

Upgrades need to go well beyond papering over the cracks of outdated technology. Making modifications to legacy solutions will no longer be enough to protect profit margins or keep up with increasing customer experience mandates.

Cost control is front of mind, of course. But thanks to the emergence of cloud-native systems, unnecessary costs and technical limitations can be eliminated and that plague legacy commerce solutions. Cloud-native architectures, built with micro-services, are designed to enable a long list of dynamic benefits such as elastic scaling, run-anywhere functionality, easy integration, single view of the truth and seamless administration.

Engineered for what’s next

These new systems must also be future-proof. New systems may be adopted by an ambitious retailer, but three years down the line shopper behaviour may have changed again, and the software and processes may no longer be relevant. It has become essential to have architectural flexibility across evolving operations with engineered support for extensibility and customisation, with innovation at the core.

The tools to capitalise on the omnichannel opportunity by better serving digital and in-store customers alike are there for the taking. From warehouse and inventory to retail stores and contact centres, technology enables retailers to remove points of operational friction, cut costs, maximise resources and delight customers from one end of the supply chain to the other. If retailers are willing to invest in solutions engineered for omnichannel, they can reap the performance benefits of connected commerce solutions, and enjoy the flexibility to adapt to whatever the future of retail and consumer demand holds.


Brendan DykesBrendan DykesApril 24, 2019
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7min955

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

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

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

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

1. You must acknowledge the need for change.

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

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

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

3. Ensure you have executive buy-in

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

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

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

5. Get on your benchmarks

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

6. Collaborate to differentiate

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

7. Build your business case

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

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

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


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 17, 2019
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3min656

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anne de KerckhoveAnne de KerckhoveApril 15, 2019

6min866

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

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

The ethics of luxury

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

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

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

Winning customers everyday

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

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

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

Reacting right

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

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

Boosting in-store sales with digital tools

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

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


Jeff EpsteinJeff EpsteinMarch 18, 2019
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7min965

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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