Jonathan SharpJonathan SharpAugust 12, 2019
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10min984

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

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

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

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

Phone: the Power of Voice

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

When to use it:

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

Email or ‘snail mail’

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

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

When to use it:

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

Video and audio conference calls

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

When to use it:

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

Instant Messaging

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

When to use it:

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

Social media

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

When to use it:

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

Bringing it All Together

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

Downtime

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

Be guided by the experts

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

Empower and set yourself free

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


Neil HammertonNeil HammertonJune 17, 2019
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9min894

In 2019, we’ve seen a number of brands look to simplify their communication channels in a bid to reconnect with their customers.

From Gucci opening six customer contact centres that will provide phone, email and live chat communications, to Lush deleting all of its social media channels in the UK – it seems that some organisations are going back to basics when it comes to their customer service. As AI and social media platforms are increasingly placing algorithms and automation between organisations and their customers, is the desire to get closer to them coming full circle?

Companies less audacious than Lush might be weary of turning off their social channels and turning instead to ‘legacy’ platforms such as email or the phone to engage with their customers. However, it’s important to look at how brands can, and should, embrace traditional communication channels to offer a more personalised customer experience, helping them reconnect with their audience in a genuine, human-to-human way.

Shortcomings of social media

Although social media has been hailed as an unavoidable staple of any communication strategy for brands, its limitations are starting to appear. For instance, an increasing number of studies are showing the adverse effects of social media on the mental health of users. From self-esteem issues to anxiety and ‘Fear of Missing Out’, it’s becoming apparent that these websites are not just the communication heaven they were sold as in the mid to late 2000s.

As a result, a rising number of Millennial or Generation Z customers are turning their backs on social media, either by completely deleting their accounts, or taking regular breaks from the most popular websites. This could mean that, in the future, social media will no longer be the number one channel for companies to reach younger audiences.

Social outcast?: An increasing number of Millennial and Gen Z consumers are unplugging from social media platforms

To counter this, we’re seeing some social media platforms take steps to make the feeds more wholesome. Recently Instagram and its parent company Facebook modified their algorithms to prioritise content from people users are close to – rather than branded content. Instagram also changed its format from chronological order to a system where order posts appear on timelines, meaning customers are much less likely to see native content from brands, and especially small business owners, who might not have the budget to promote paid-for content.

While social media was first considered the best way to get closer to customers as it allowed for a proximity and a dialogue that simply did not exist before, new sets of challenges are starting to appear for brands. They must start reconsidering the channels they previously used to interact with their customers if they want to build strong, long lasting relationships.

Back to basics

As companies strive to embrace innovation, especially in their customer relationship strategies, it’s important to remember that technology isn’t just creating new ways of communication through the internet – it has also completely transformed existing tools.

Phone systems, for example, have come a long way in recent years. While we tend to think of it as the archaic cable phone that takes hours to get us through to a customer service agent, technology has actually revolutionised it. New phone technology now allows companies to safely record data about their customers, enabling them to automatically know exactly who the customer is, what they are calling about and the products and services they have purchased with the company. They can also let brands get closer to the customer by automatically connecting them to a representative who knows their name and why they’re calling. The list goes on.

Phone favourite: Phone tech has improved to provide a seamless Customer Experience

Being able to integrate a telephone system into overall customer support means brands can now make customer communications more seamless and easier. This removes barriers between brands and their customers by enabling them to build genuine relationships with their customers, providing a level of care that algorithms cannot enable on social media.

Reconnecting to customers

Thanks to the internet, consumers now have access to an apparent infinity of products, services and brands. Cutting through this noise is a challenge that can only be tackled with impeccable customer engagement, and this starts with getting closer to your customers. Recent studies have shown that customers now expect the same from brands as they do from their friends: reliability , authenticity, and the feeling like the brands ‘get’ them and what’s important to them at this point in their lives.

While social media allows for a quick dissemination of ideas and products, it cannot entirely replace the type of one-to-one communications that enable brands to truly serve their customers. Companies need to give the phone another chance and embrace it as a key part of the communications-mix of the future.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMay 28, 2019
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4min922

Retailers are neglecting social media when it comes to customer service, and are not listening to consumers to drive Customer Experience improvements, according to the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study.

The study found that while retailers successfully answered 59 percent of routine queries asked via web self service, chat, email, Facebook and Twitter, there were wide variations in performance between channels. Retailers provided answers to 83 percent of queries on their websites but only responded correctly to 38 percent of tweets and 50 percent of Facebook messages. Performance had worsened on many channels since 2017 – then retailers answered 73 percent of emails. By 2019 this had dropped to 68 percent, despite the continued popularity of the channel with consumers, who use it for over a quarter of their interactions with brands.

As part of the 2019 Eptica Digital Trust Study, 20 fashion and food & drink retailers were evaluated on their digital Customer Experience, alongside brands from other sectors, by testing their accuracy and speed at answering relevant, routine queries, repeating research conducted since 2012. Questions included asking about ethical sourcing policies (fashion) and allergy labelling (food and drink). Additionally, 1,000 consumers were asked for their views on Customer Experience.

Fashion (answering 60 percent of all queries) and food and drink (59 percent) were the top sectors surveyed but still failed to respond to four-in-10 of all routine queries.

The research also demonstrated a direct link between trust, listening and loyalty. Eighty-nine percent of consumers surveyed said they either will stop buying from brands that they don’t trust or will spend less. Building trust begins with delivering on basic promises – 59 percent ranked giving satisfactory, consistent answers as a top three factor in creating trustworthiness, while 63 percent rated making processes easy and seamless as key. Just eight percent of consumers felt that brands were listening to them all of the time, with 74 percent believing brands pay attention to their views half the time or less.

Olivier Njamfa, CEO and Co-Founder of Eptica, said: “The move to digital has transformed the retail landscape. Greater choice means consumers are becoming more demanding and are actively seeking out brands that they can trust and who listen to them. While retail brands have made some improvements since 2017, they have slipped back in others, damaging trust and ultimately customer loyalty and revenues. If they want to succeed they need to listen to customers and use their insight. Only those who do this will thrive and stay ahead of the competition.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 17, 2019
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3min655

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.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 16, 2019
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3min920

The number of customers who place high importance on the ability to discover and purchase directly through social media platforms has risen by 38 percent in a year, new figures reveal.

The annual Shopper Experience Index, published by Bazaarvoice, involved a survey of more than 2,000 consumers across the UK, US, France and Germany. One-third of UK customers now believe the ability to discover and buy products is of critical importance to their experience of social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

This comes in the wake of Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement of a shift in focus for Facebook, moving from the News Feed to encrypted, ephemeral messaging – or as he put it, “from the town square to the living room”. Meanwhile, the data has emerged as cosmetics retailer Lush announced it was to close its UK social media accounts to instead focus on channels including live chat

The new report also gathers insights from 500 of Bazaarvoice’s clients globally. Of the UK brands and retailers surveyed, 91 percent agreed that visual content makes for a more engaging shopping experience. Moreover, respondents also referenced additional benefits, such as enhanced discoverability (86 percent), deepened brand trust (77 percent), and increased conversion (73 percent).

Another recent evolution in Mark Zuckerberg’s conglomerate saw Instagram add in-app checkout as part of its big push into shopping, offering brands a huge opportunity to release a visually rich customer journey entirely based in the app.

Importantly, visual content created and shared through social platforms carries huge value to brands in the wider ecosystem. Twenty-seven percent of UK-based clients reported featuring visual content from social media on product pages, and more than half (53 percent) say they plan to in the near future.

Discussing the findings, Joe Rohrlich, CRO of Bazaarvoice, said: “The retail landscape has continued to shift over the last year, as modern consumers seek unique shopping experiences, new engagement and purchase channels, and an increased level of brand and product transparency and authenticity. Brands and retailers that recognise these evolving preferences and deliver informative, interactive experiences online and offline can both retain their existing customers and attract new ones.”


David WhiteDavid WhiteApril 16, 2019
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4min805

High street cosmetics mainstay Lush recently raised eyebrows by announcing it was quitting its social media channels in the UK.

According to the firm, 16 percent of its social media mentions were negative, a number sure to increase now that the company is no longer operating its Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

“Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed,” a Lush spokesperson said.

“So we’ve decided it’s time to bid farewell to some of our social channels and open up the conversation between you and us instead.”

The world of social media can be a harsh, competitive, dog-eat-dog environment for brands and publishers. New algorithms implemented by social media platforms now mean that posts from friends and families are prioritised on your newsfeed, leaving brands and publishers in the dark and left with no option but to pay to get their content seen.

So why have brands started to see less social organic reach? This all started in the January 2018 when Mark Zukerberg changed Facebook’s algorithm, stating: “With this update, we will also prioritise posts that spark conversations and meaningful interactions between people.”

The impact this had on brands’ organic social reach was astronomical, and it was undoubtedly a smart move by Facebook (which also owns Instagram), which used its power to force businesses to pay them more.

Meanwhile, recent research from Statista revealed that social media marketing spend has increased year-on-year – a number not likely to reduce anytime soon given these changes:

So, a smart move for Facebook, but is this a smart move for Lush? The answer, in my opinion, is no.

Lush had built up a loyal following of over one million followers, a following which they could use in any upcoming marketing campaigns or for messages they want to convey. It’s important to remember that social media is as much as a customer service channel as it is a sales channel.

Customers who want to air their frustrations will do it, and they will most likely do it on social media. The fact that a brand would choose to ignore this is concerning to say the least.

It might be that 16 percent of Lush’s social mentions were negative, but if ignored this number could dramatically increase and cause serious brand reputation problems.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthApril 10, 2019
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3min707

The axing of UK social media accounts by cosmetics giant Lush could lead to more retailers turning their backs on the channels and embracing live chat, it is predicted.

The high street favourite, which has over half-a-million followers on Instagram, over 400,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook, and over 200,000 followers on Twitter, has urged customers to contact them only by email, phone, or through its website via a live chat system.

The move is the result of the firm being “tired of fighting with algorithms”, and a spokesperson said: “We don’t want to limit ourselves to holding conversations in one place, we want social to be placed back in the hands of our communities – from our founders to our friends.”

However, Lush North America has confirmed its social media channels would remain in operation, while the UK company has said it will look at a new approach to social media communication through use of hashtags and influencers.

The decision has been described as a “bold move” by Sandra Schroeter, the Senior International Product Marketing Manager at LogMeIn, who said it was in line with current consumer trends.

“It also highlights the many benefits of choosing live chat to support customer engagement,” she said.

“In fact our recent survey found that 71 percent of businesses believe online chat with either a human agent or a chatbot will be among the most common channels used by customers in three years’ time. Live chat enables retailers and businesses alike to respond to customer queries with speed and in real-time. Perhaps more importantly, it enables businesses to own the conversations and speak to customers directly.”

She added: “Lush’s bold move in the UK should inspire more retailers to embrace live chat to connect with customers more directly.”


Tayyab AkhlaqTayyab AkhlaqMarch 27, 2019
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19min706

When it comes to barriers to success that women face in the workplace, low confidence can be a major factor.

All too often, women can find a lack of self-belief gets in the way of them thriving in the workplace.

The employee needs to be their own cheerleader, but it helps for management to encourage their workforce to come out of their shells and drive their careers forward. Plus, people working harder or better helps your bottom line.

So, how do you do that? We at retailer Public Desire looked at social media data to help answer the question, creating a map of Instagram Capitals of Confidence. This included finding out which UK cities saw women feeling most positive and confident in the workplace, and speaking to female entrepreneurs to find out how they’ve been able to thrive. 

Where businesswomen are finding confidence

Social media hashtags like #success and #career are a good indicator of how people feel about their work. We looked at which cities see the highest use of these hashtags compared to the number of people living there, pinpointing where people are feeling the most positive about their careers.

When it comes to #success, London saw the highest use of this hashtag, followed by Bournemouth, and then Brighton.

Ranking

City

Number of posts

Number of posts as % of population

1

London

253963

0.03360677

2

Bournemouth

3300

0.020171149

3

Brighton

2188

0.015740894

4

Manchester

5104

0.012904694

5

Birmingham

4452

0.00452286

6

Leeds

1788

0.003928608

7

Bristol

1409

0.00327132

8

City of London

18997

0.002513862

9

Liverpool

655

0.001396752

Posts with #career suggest that people are so happy at work they’re willing to shout about it on their personal channels. Peterborough racked up the highest uses of this hashtag, followed by Liverpool and then Leeds.

Ranking

City

Number of posts

Number of posts as % of population

1

Peterborough

45782

0.326685267

2

Liverpool

16035

0.034193775

3

Leeds

14756

0.032422005

4

Manchester

8996

0.022745029

5

Cardiff

6201

0.020523666

6

Southampton

4027

0.016356554

7

Birmingham

4676

0.004750425

8

Glasgow

2136

0.003500102

9

London

15001

0.001985073

10

City of London

1976

0.000261483

The question is, what is it that drives this positive thinking and how can this be applied to the workforce? We spoke to several female entrepreneurs to find out.

Collaboration is key

Collaboration among women is key to female success. Erin Thomas, founder of online community Making Mumpreneurs, explains how women working together can boost confidence.

She said: “The challenges we face are often down to mindset – low confidence, being too self-critical, and a fear of failure. I think these can be overcome the more you surround yourself with like-minded female entrepreneurs.”

Similarly, Louise Deverell-Smith, founder of online platform Daisy Chain, which connects parents with childcare-friendly employers, explained how women can be good at lifting each other up. She said: “I do find that women love to help other women… there is a real sisterhood vibe in business with women.”

Meanwhile, Stud & Tassel founder Emily Straw spoke about how working alone can be a downside.

“Working independently definitely brings its own challenges and I sometimes wish I had someone to bounce ideas off and share in the success,” she said.

For business owners and managers, this means that encouraging collaboration between your female employees and creating a culture of positive reinforcement could boost confidence among your workers and bring a positive attitude to the company.

Send your workers to female-focussed events

To encourage collaboration among your female employees, consider sending them to events and groups for women, where they can meet like-minded professionals, learn from their peers, and give each other encouragement.

Certainly, the amount of events like this could be part of the reason why London ranked highly for hashtags that showed confidence among businesspeople. Emily Straw said: “There are always female-focused events to attend and I have personally found value in learning from the success of other women while making new friends.”

Similarly, Erin Thomas praises the community in Bournemouth too. “There are lots of women in business networking opportunities, which makes me feel right at home,” noted Erin.

“I find the small business community here incredibly supportive, positive and collaborative.”

Yet there is more that can be done than simply encouraging women to help each other. Changes within the way your business works can help too.

Allow flexible working

With many businesswomen juggling family commitments with full-time work, flexible working can be a huge support. Again, this is another thing that could explain the social media trend towards success in London. Louise Deverell-Smith agrees, adding: “I think having Sadiq Khan as our mayor of London is fantastic as he is often talking about flexible working and helping working parents – which is our focus at Daisy Chain.”

What this shows is that giving working mums room to manoeuvre will encourage them to stay in your company, which also nurtures a drive to thrive and a positive outlook on your business.

Create a social media buzz

The businesswomen we spoke to cited social media for the positive impact it has had on their careers, both for offering a platform for them to talk about their successes and to strike up a conversation with your customers.

Managing Director at Brighton Gin, Kathy Caton said: “Instagram has let us show the outside world the genuinely small-batch, craft nature of what we do, and with personality too. One of the things I love about social media is we can have direct conversations with our end customers and them with us without going through gatekeepers.”

Similarly, Managing Director at BC Beauty, Maria Lloyd, added: “We have our own Facebook group where women can interact, ask each other questions and so on. From looking at that, I see nothing but women supporting each other and celebrating each other’s successes. It makes me very proud to see!”

Empowering female employees is vital for utilising all the expertise and abilities available in your workforce. Making moves to inspire the women in your workplace to collaborate, getting them to network with their peers and helping them juggle their home life with their working life will give them a much more positive outlook about themselves and your company.




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