Craig SummersCraig SummersMay 9, 2019
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4min236

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Upgrades need to go well beyond papering over the cracks of outdated technology.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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7min425

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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3min369

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

6min438

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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7min653

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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