CXM Editorial TeamCXM Editorial TeamJanuary 30, 2020
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11min2005

Contact centres have become as synonymous with scripts and targets as meerkats are with price comparison websites.

So what happens when you rewrite the rule book and take a completely different approach to customer service?

CXM spoke with Caroline King, Director of Sales and Service at insurance firm Ageas, about how challenging the status quo and switching to a systemic approach has reaped benefits for customers, staff and the company’s bottom line.

The firm won Gold in the Contact Centre Large category at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards last October, which topped off a three-year “transformational journey”.

Caroline said: “I’ve spent my entire professional life running contact centres and there’s always been an industry-wide perception that people are just there to answer the phones and complete the transactions. That’s it.

Listening to customers: Ageas’ Caroline King

“I suppose there’s an element of truth in there, but we wanted to change that at Ageas. We exist to make insurance easy and actually a pre-requisite to that is really listening to the customer, to understand their needs, rather than complying with a pre-prescribed script.

“How can you truly help someone if you’re not listening, how can you truly listen if you’re confined by a set of standard questions and how can we meet each customer’s nominal value with set processes too rigid to cope with the inevitable variation humans bring to conversations?”

In a world where consumers are bombarded with more information and data than ever before, Ageas’ focus is to make insurance easy. It’s one of the largest insurers in the UK and offers a range of general insurance products to around five million customers through its direct brands Ageas and Rias, and through brokers and high-profile brand partners.

Ageas’ sales and service operation is based across three sites: Bournemouth, Gloucester, and Stoke, and its team of more than 780 deals with four million calls every year.

“We knew a transformation project of this scale would be a big undertaking,” said Caroline.

“We had to help hundreds of people understand their job isn’t to answer the phone, it’s to make insurance easy for our customers. For anyone to go from transaction to a purpose-driven function is a big change. As leaders it is our job to create the culture that allows delivery in this way to thrive. That means letting go of some of the ingrained beliefs and biases that exist in all of us, which is easier said than done.”

Ageas’ transformation programme was driven by its ambition to grow in the increasingly competitive general insurance market.

The company’s senior management team knew it needed to tackle the competitive market challenges in order to grow. But rather than taking the traditional answer to contact centre performance – setting higher targets – it set about creating a cultural change that would ultimately engage its people, improve customer service, increase income and lower costs.

“The first step was getting people on-board and ready to take that journey with us,” Caroline continued.

“We called it ‘Destination Brilliant’ and developed the ‘Ageas Way’, which states our customer purpose and focused on nine redesign principles which describe the future of service delivery – the destination if you like. We created the mechanisms for everyone to test every action against our purpose and those principles and decide if it was the right thing for the customer.

“We changed so many things that are synonymous with contact centres. When you think about it, it’s bizarre that contact centres take these vivacious, energetic people then train them to follow a script and turn them into robots. Consumers don’t like robots, they like other humans.

“So we threw away the rulebook and started to trust our people to have more open conversations with customers. We removed unnecessary complexity, measured the outcomes in a different way and allowed them to really listen to what the customer wanted and deliver on whatever that need was. Of course being in the heavily regulated financial industry, there are some instances where we still have to use scripts but on the whole we’re so much more flexible.

“We were then able to educate our teams to understand and call out failure demand and waste and involved them in designing those things out.”

The Ageas team collect their trophy at the UK Customer Experience Awards in Wembley Stadium

Another huge change for Ageas was removing target-driven bonuses.

“I can see how, from the outside, it could be considered a big gamble,” said Caroline.

“It’s definitely a switch from the status quo. But it’s really worked and we’ve found staff are happier. What we’ve said to our consultants is: ‘We’ll trust you and take away the ambiguity of what you might earn each month’. Now they get a flat bonus up-front.

“We’ve redefined a good day’s work. Now it’s not how many products they’ve sold, it’s the feedback from customers that matters.”

Ageas has stopped measuring contact centre success solely through sales volumes and replaced it with what’s important to customers. It now provides consultants with real-time feedback from customers on experience and ease of service.

The results of Ageas’ transformation programme have been, perhaps unsurprisingly, transformational. The company’s net promoter score has increased by an impressive 14 points to 40.

Customer retention has increased, processing time for all customer account functions has reduced from days to minutes and Ageas’ Trust Pilot score is now 4.5/5 (excellent).

Operating costs have reduced and first contact resolution has improved by seven points – meaning 100,000 less calls to the Bournemouth site alone every year.

Caroline said: “What’s been really rewarding is to see the impact on our teams. 94% of employees believe the programme has made a positive difference to their role and we’re seeing unprecedented low levels of employee absence and attrition.”

Looking ahead, Caroline says she refuses to rest on her laurels.

“You can never take your foot off the pedal. This is not a sprint, this is a long distance marathon and we’ve got to keep doing more of what we’ve done.

“Across the whole customer service industry, no matter what sector you’re in, it’s the same – customer expectations are changing. What we all need to do to give good customer service and excel.

“In insurance, particularly with the rise in price comparison websites, there’s not much differential in price so standing out in terms of service is even more important. Customers tell us their number one priority is ease of business and luckily for them we’re not just good at making insurance easy; it’s everything we stand for.”


Idit AloniIdit AloniDecember 5, 2019
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6min1799

Idit Aloni is Head of Product Marketing at Amdocs, and has over a decade’s experience consulting and leading Marketing and Customer Experience within large organisations globally.

 

Recently, I’ve been feeling like a child in a candy shop, as I had the pleasure and privilege to judge at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, where I was able to learn about how some of Britain’s biggest brands are delivering exceptional CX.

The event saw a range of winners rewarded for their initiatives, and as a judge I was able to identify many of the common factors shared by the top performers

1. Doing CX for the sake of CX

True CX practice is for the customer’s benefit first and foremost. Business benefits, operational efficiency, and cost savings naturally follow, but organisations that do it right set aside their ROI calculators.

2. Keeping it real

In an era of smartbots, authenticity goes a long way in establishing customer trust, and there are very simple and clever ways of achieving that.

One of our telco finalists told us how they run regional routing, so that agents cater to customers from their area. This way, they are “in” on local slang, and can even be up to date on the performance of the local football team!

True authenticity creates much more personal customer interactions – ones that are truly genuine and not just guided by system logic.

3. Rocking the boat

Firms should not be afraid to challenge the status quo and traditional norms that no longer apply.

One of the UK’s top insurers did an exceptional job in measuring success solely against NPS performance, while removing metrics like AHT and schedule adherence from KPI dashboards. These may still be tracked for operational purposes, but are not used to measure agent performance. The same goes for simple changes in terminology to inspire thinking, engagement, and personal ownership.

Provide intent, not instructions; ‘conversation guides’, not scripts; and ‘activity frameworks’ rather than job descriptions.

4. Getting the basics done

Many effective CX initiatives are grounded in plain and simple process improvement. There’s no way around it and there are endless options to go for, ranging from Six Sigma to Design Thinking.

So, like the top performers at the UKCXAs, pick your poison and go for gold.

5. Making people meaningful

Whether they are employees or customers, people want to feel that they matter, and that what they do makes a difference.

Winning firms encourage an organisational ‘brag data’ mentality to motivate agents to create story-worthy experiences as part of their BAU.

6. Talking about Human Experience (HX)

To me, this key differentiator sets the winners apart from the rest.

It’s the notion of impacting Human Experience rather than just Customer or Employee Experience only.

One of the UK’s telcos showcased a game-changing strategy around this concept by setting up their entire service centre to support people with mental issues, offering a unique employment environment in their community.

They created a comprehensive, well thought-through call centre operation that includes agent coaching, mindfulness sessions, a ‘buddy system’ for performing daily tasks, and so on – all to support those service staff members grappling with depression, anxiety, and other mental issues.

To me, delivering a game changing HX/CX/EX is about creating a meaningful impact on people’s lives. It could be about making small moments easier and stress-free, and offering some sunshine on a rainy day, or it can be about making a true social impact.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 29, 2019
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17min2265

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

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

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

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

AI evangelist: ContactEngine’s Dr Mark Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Denise StewartDenise StewartNovember 27, 2019
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7min1355

In October, Legal & General Homes landed the Customers at the Heart of Everything gong at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards. Here, the firm’s Sales & Marketing Director Denise Stewart writes for CXM on why quality Customer Experience is an essential foundation for today’s housebuilding sector…

 

Buying a home is an emotional experience.

The process can take months, and for most people it’s the most expensive purchase they’ll make in their lives. Expectations, quite rightly, run high – and even more so when buying a new-build home. After all, people expect brand new clothing to be more durable than second-hand, and a new car to work better than one with 100,000 miles on the clock.

This is no different.     

When Legal & General Homes entered the housebuilding sector in 2017, we wanted to make the buying experience as enjoyable, exciting, and stress-free as possible and to make new-builds the preferred option. It was a no-brainer that excellent customer service would be a huge part of our vision.

Building for the future: L&G Homes has had a major impact on housebuilding since 2017

Customer service became one of the four key pillars which underpin the way we work, along with quality, social value, and sustainability. We took a proactive approach to CX so that we could get things right from the off, evaluating each step of a person’s home-buying process from the moment they first consider moving to the days and weeks after they’ve got their keys.

Most importantly, by doing so we could identify the most challenging times for customers when buying a new home and work hard to make them into something positive.

We are making our vision a reality. Every home we build is a home we would happily live in ourselves and every customer who walks through our doors is treated like a member of our own family. This spirit is championed at every level of the organisation.

There are no hidden costs; each home has the latest technology like Hive smart thermostats and energy-efficient Bosch appliances included as standard, as are the carpets, tiles, and lawns. There’s no hard sell, and our doors are open for anyone to have a look around regardless of the stage they’re at in the buying journey.

Our ‘meet the builder’ breakfasts give customers a chance to mingle with their new neighbours and ask our teams about their new home as it is being built. Then, on moving in, each customer has access to a handyman for a day – someone to help hang their curtains, put up shelves, and turn a house into a home.

That’s handy: L&G homeowners have access to a handyman for a day upon moving in

They also all receive a free iPad on arrival, with pre-installed ‘how to’ videos and manuals, and we can arrange for fibre optic broadband to be wired into every property from day one – so that they can get settled in straight away. 

For us, it’s about the little things that collectively make a huge difference, and by taking a holistic approach we can keep customer service front of mind for all our employees. Though there is always more work to be done we believe our efforts are getting results: to date, 100 percent of Legal & General Homes customers completing the NHBC New Homes Survey have said they would recommend us to a friend.

We want to look outwards and be known as a CX leader irrespective of sector. That’s why entering the UK Customer Experience Awards was so important and taking home the Gold Award in the Customers at the Heart of Everything category means the world to us.

As the first housebuilder to win one of these prestigious awards we’re making a positive statement that challenges the perception of the new homes industry and underlines our commitment to providing an exceptional experience for our customers.

Home run: The Legal & General Homes team collect their gong at the UK Customer Experience Awards

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 7, 2019
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3min1562
UK Customer Experience Awards winner ContactEngine has picked up yet another honour, being named Best Use of IP at the annual Sunday Times Hiscox Tech Track 100 national awards event.
The awards event was held in London this week, and the conversational AI tech firm was congratulated on their win in a video message by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The nomination for the event follows the firm being securing Gold in the Use of Technology category at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards last month. The gong was presented following a joint presentation by ContactEngine and BT on their successful partnership.
Prized partnership: The ContactEngine & BT team accept their trophy at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards
ContactEngine’s proprietary machine learning algorithms are devised by a team of linguists, behavioural scientists, and mathematicians to perform automated human-like conversations. The company has also attracted leading scientists like former government chief scientific officer Professor Nick Jennings to their advisory board.
Dr Mark K. Smith, ContactEngine CEO, said: “We were honoured to be ranked in the Tech Track 100 and are very proud to receive this additional accolade amongst so many technology leaders in the field. We look forward to continuing our AI journey and discovering more ways in which technology can enhance business and Customer Experience.”

Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 31, 2019
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3min1546

UK Customer Experience Awards finalist Confirmit has announced a new Principal Director of CX Consulting.

Howard Lax (pictured below) is a former Vice President, Customer Experience Practice Lead for Directions Research and held consulting roles with Kantar TNS, Harris Interactive, ORC and GfK Custom Research. He holds a PhD in Political Science from The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

With more than 20 years of consulting experience, Lax has a deep background in Customer Experience,  Market Research, and employee engagement strategy. He has supplier and client-side experience in B2B and B2C space in industries like technology, financial services, retail, automotive, and hospitality.

In his role, Mr Lax will support clients in their efforts to design, develop, and implement their Customer Experience vision.

He said: “I am eager to bring a new perspective to the table, leveraging my experience and Confirmit’s wide array of services to help drive real change and better business outcomes for customers. In my experience, emotions are the driver behind the attachment a customer feels for a business. Driving a premium customer experience solidifies these relationships, and great technology is a critical enabler in this process.”

Chris Brown, Vice President of Global Consulting at Confirmit, added: “Adding a highly knowledgeable industry veteran to our team solidifies our commitment to providing our clients with access to talented consultants that can help their CX programmes drive real business success. Our consulting services ensure our technology can drive real insight and change. Howard’s expertise in customer and employee experience will help our customers further leverage our solutions to differentiate themselves from competitors.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 31, 2019
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3min1417

Among the successful partnerships at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards was ContactEngine and BT Enterprise, which together won Gold in the Use of Technology category.

The winning team secured the title following a presentation on the success of BT’s ‘Brilliant Installations’ initiative. BT Enterprise implemented ContactEngine conversations across broadband and landline customer services in order to deliver an unrivalled Customer Experience.

Technology triumph: The ContactEngine and BT team collect their trophy 

ContactEngine engages customers in intelligently automated conversations using Natural Language Understanding, from initial order through to appointment scheduling, billing, and surveying. The accolade represents the outstanding results achieved with ContactEngine, which exceeded the targets set out at inception. 

These included a 40 percent reduction in customer-driven cancellations; a 50 percent reduction in customer calls related to enquiries; an 85 percent customer engagement rate; and a 38 percent improvement in NPS.

Dr Nicola Millard, Principal Innovation Partner at BT, said: “This is a fantastic example of how innovative technology can be deployed as a win-win for both the customer and the company. Using cutting-edge AI to create proactive, intelligent conversations with customers about things they want to know, whilst freeing human agents up to have the really important, value-add interactions.”

Dr Mark K. Smith, Chief Executive Officer at ContactEngine added: “We’re very happy to be recognised for our achievements in partnership with BT Enterprise. BT has long made it a priority to deliver a differentiated experience for both their customers and employees, and we’re pleased to be able to deliver that for them while achieving significant business benefits along the way. We look forward to continuing our partnership and to achieving more fantastic results together.”


Phil DurandPhil DurandOctober 29, 2019
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7min2478

 

If there is one lesson Phil Durand (pictured), Director of Customer Experience Management at Confirmit re-learned as a judge at this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards, it’s that there is real value in making things as simple as possible…

The aim of Voice of the Customer programmes is not to just to listen but to act.

In order to make this a reality, not a theoretical exercise, it’s vital that we all remember that creating a great Customer Experience is all about people. It requires a commitment to empowering people to use their initiative and to make a difference at every stage of the customer lifecycle. Technology is obviously an enabler, helping us to gather customer feedback, but the people that use technology to understand and harness the insight provided are the ones that make the real difference.

In the Best Use of Insight and Feedback category at the recent UK Customer Experience Awards, we were reminded of some of basic CX truths: ask the right people, the right questions, at the right time and in the right manner.

Continuous temperature checks on experience won’t necessarily drive response rates. In some cases they can do the opposite. Hands-on support was stressed, even if this means helping execs to access and make use of the VoC dashboard. Sharing voice recordings so that managers can literally hear the ‘voice’ of the customer can provide a shortcut to understanding what customers think and literally drive action to the next level.

In my view, best practice CX requires careful identification of the key challenges to be addressed. It needs razor-sharp focus on that end goal, whether it be culture change, boosting morale, increased revenue, or cost savings.

Just as important is the determination to share feedback to both the c-suite and the factory floor so that it can be used to take even the smallest of steps to improve the customer experience. Clear and effective communication is needed to make sure that the message is not lost in translation. And this means keeping it simple. If you bombard people with too much detail, you won’t take them with you.

Finals: Phil Durand judged at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards

Text analytics as a companion to VoC surveys has proven to be the ideal partnership in this respect. They complement each other because they provide insight into what the customer really thinks, in their own words, as well as what they may divulge in answer to a direct question in a survey.

Upon combining both forms of insight in a single dashboard, comments are longer  regarded as ‘random’ but become representative, actively bringing  ‘the numbers’ to life.

The idea, of course, is not to blind people with science or to hide behind the data. There’s no point empowering employees to go the extra mile if they can’t make sense of the insight you’ve gathered. It’s more effective to present insight in bite-size chunks that are appropriate for each stage of the customer journey and then share it in a digestible form with those responsible for delivering Customer Experience at that stage.

This is why I stress the importance of simplicity.

Yes, behind the scenes there may be some serious maths, crunching large quantities of data, but in order for people to engage with the insight there is no point in making it look more complex than it needs to be. Or making it too hard to find the nugget of insight that they need to do things differently.

That won’t empower anybody.

It’s still very true to say that people are more likely to be inspired by another person than a pie chart. They respond at a basic human level so while it is absolutely essential that we embrace data analysis in the background, make sure your employees can hear what customers are saying direct. So they can do something about it.

Not so complex after all.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 16, 2019
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4min1308

It was a night of glitz and glamour as the evening gala ceremony at the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards brought Britain’s brightest CX stars onto the red carpet…

 

Teleperformance UK: Left to right – Dave Green, Client Service Director; Helen Pidduck, Account Director; Rachel Robinson, EVP Public Sector; Jamie Smith, Assistant Contact Centre Manager; and Daniel Henshaw, Contact Centre Manager

 

Medallia & Fidelity Investments: Zoe lambrou, Medallia’s Engagement Manager, and Annette Ramsey, Fidelity’s Client Services Manager
Kantar: Sam Kitchen, Director; John White, Consulting Director CX; and Tim Pritchard, Managing Director CX
Baringa Partners: Caitlin Jones, Senior Manager, and Manager Katie Broadbent

 

BUPA: Tehya O’Hare, Head of Digital Product; Katie Panayi, Group Customer Engagement Manager; James Elliott, Head of Operational Excellence; Dean Arcan, CX Manager; and Uditha Jayaratne, Head of Partner Distribution
Allied Universal: Troy Hewitt, MD; Steve Douglas, Head of Operations; Barry Chapman, Operational Manager; and Gary Langham, Senior Security Manager

 

Swiss RE: Patricia Stone, Head of CX and Analytics 

 

Legal & General Homes: Andrew Dicker, Tech Director, and Denise Stewart, Sales and Marketing Director

 

NewDay: Deepak Nandwani, CX Manager; Francesca Rea, Director of Customer Services; Matt Baxter, Interaction & Speech Analytics Specialist; Danielle Fisher, Head of Risk Control and Regulation; and Matt Miller, Voice of the Customer

 

Microsoft: Helen Wilson, Customer Success Director

 

Aspen Healthcare: Keisha Robinson, Head of Radiotherapy & Quality at Parkside Hospital; Alison Bullivant, Head of Outpatients & Quality at Parkside Hospital; David Henderson, Hospital Director; Noleen Turner, Director of Marketing; Helen Cairney, Physiotherapy Manager; and Barnette Lessem, Director of Consulting

 

 

 

 

 

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 11, 2019
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5min2834

London’s home of champions Wembley Stadium lit up with the stars of CX as the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards took place at the iconic venue.

Hundreds of guests arrived at the event as finalists presented details of the country’s most innovative CX strategies in front of an expert judging panel before results were announced at a glittering evening gala ceremony.

The most important CX title in Britain today, the UK Customer Experience Overall Winner award was claimed by Aviva’s Solus Accident Repair Centres, which earlier in the evening won the Customer Centric Culture Gold award.

No accident: Solus Accident Repair won the 2019 Overall Award

The Solus team were also presented with Silver awards in the Customers at the Heart of Everything and CX Professional of the Year categories, with the firm’s National Customer Experience Manager, DeAnna Avis, earning the latter title.

Meanwhile, 2019’s CX Professional of the Year title was awarded to Jo Mayes of Business Stream. Her outstanding work this year secured her the highly coveted Gold award, and she said afterwards: “It was an amazing night and I am delighted to have won. A huge thank you to the Business Stream team for their hard work and belief in me.”

Business Stream’s dream team also secured Gold in the B2B Customer Experience category and Bronze in Utilities.

Team of the Year was awarded to CPM International, while Team of the Year – Programme went to Game Digital PLC. The Team of the Year – Customer Centricity title was presented to Capital One UK.

Other big winners on the night included estate agents Knight Frank, which took home an incredible four Gold category titles, and Direct Line Group, which landed three Golds to add to the firm’s trophy cabinet.

Setting the standard: 2019 UK CX Professional of the Year, Jo Mayes of Business Stream

Guests partied late into the night after the ceremony, deftly presented by CX consultant, awards chairman, and author Ian Golding, while attendees were also treated to a live performance from the legendary Heather Small, a star possessed with one of the most powerful and recognisable voices in the British music industry.

CEO of hosts Awards International, Neil Skehel, said: “This has been an incredible year for Customer Experience in the UK, and this event celebrates those who continue to make it the key brand differentiator for modern consumers.

“The teamwork on display during the presentations and the infectious enthusiasm of the finalists is inspiring, and it’s safe to say CX in the UK is in safe hands with the organisations represented at this, our flagship event.

“Congratulations to all who made it to the finals, and of course a special congratulations to our winners, who will be setting the trend for others to follow as we head into 2020.”

Awards International also thanked the partners and sponsors who helped make the tenth anniversary of the UK Customer Experience Awards a memorable occasion: The Customer Experience Professionals Association, Genesys, Kantar, Elite Business, Barnardo’s, and Customer Experience Magazine.

For a full list of 2019 winners, click here.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthOctober 1, 2019
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3min1939

It’s CX Day, and CXM would like to wish all its readers the very best as we celebrate the hard work and professionalism of those who make memorable Customer Experiences happen.

Celebrated globally on October 1, the day is championed by the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), with events taking place across the globe, from Lagos to London, and from Dubai to Dublin.

Alongside in-person events, at 5pm, a live panel is being held, where winners of the CXPA’s Impact Awards will discuss the individuals igniting the spirit of CX in their various organisations.

Along with official CXPA events and networking, organisations are encouraged to embrace the spirit of CX Day by engaging with employees and discussing new methods to bring customer centricity into the heart of their brand.

Among those encouraging brands to embrace CX Day is Ian Golding, CX consultant and author of Customer What? The honest and practical guide to customer experience.

He said: “Whilst a focus on Customer Experience is a never ending cycle of activity, it is hugely important to recognise the amazing work being done by CX professionals all around the world on CX Day. The global CX community puts the human at the heart of business a little more every day – you are all an inspiration.”

Meanwhile, October begins with CX Day, before bringing the focus of the CX community to London shortly afterwards with the hosting of the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards in London’s home of champions, Wembley Stadium.

Stay tuned to CXM as we bring you exclusive coverage and insight from winning brands in the weeks to come.


Phil DurandPhil DurandSeptember 27, 2019
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10min1718

It’s not long before the winners of the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards will be unveiled.

As one of the judges, Phil Durand (pictured), Director of Customer Experience Management at Confirmit knows that success comes in many forms and that the key to continued success is a combination of evolution, and the occasional spot of revolution…

 

 

Such is the growing acceptance of CX that there are few businesses today which have not embraced customer insight or deployed Voice of the Customer programmes in one form or another.

A greenfield site really is a rare find! This is great, but it’s fair to say that whether you are ‘doing it yourself’ or doing it on behalf of a client, there may be elements that you have inherited from a previous initiative that are no longer providing the insights that you need today.

There may some great foundations in place, but your business objectives may have changed and the CX programme may therefore need a refresh.

The challenge is how do you decide which aspects of the CX programme would benefit from renovation, and which elements should be discarded? From time-to-time, you need to take stock of what is working, what would benefit from remodelling, and where you need to pour new foundations and build from the ground up.

Take a listening inventory

A useful way to initiate a CX remodelling exercise is to take a listening inventory to help you identify and increase your focus on current business objectives; improve the integration of operational data with customer feedback; better understand how, when, and what types of questions are asked; and how you can use the results (beyond improving NPS and customer satisfaction scores) to drive business change.

Note: do not assume that your CX team controls every customer survey, because you’ll almost certainly be wrong. In any large business, it is incredible to learn how many well-intentioned but often ill-advised surveys are being sent out to customers seemingly at random. Find them!

Consider the following questions:

Is anyone using the data?

If people are no longer taking action on the feedback gathered, why ask?

You may be asking survey questions that are no longer aligned to current business objectives. If surveys and reports aren’t motivating people to do things differently within your organisation, don’t be afraid to consign them to the bin.

Ask yourself what business problems need to be solved, or what business objectives need to be achieved. What should be the focus of your CX surveys? Achieving culture change? Increasing revenue? Reducing costs? Uncovering cross-selling opportunities?

Is it too vanilla? 

If the CX programme only uses surveys to gather data, it’s probably time to try something different. Try integrating background data with simple surveys to make the process easier on customers and to add depth to reporting. This will enable CX teams to more efficiency prioritise key customers and critical actions with the additional context. 

If you are not integrating operational data with customer feedback, it will be much harder to create a truly accurate and complete picture of the customer. Mapping and integrating data from across the business could help to make CX data more useful and actionable, providing additional detail and different perspectives.

Too many questions? 

This is the most common cause of low response rates and dismal completion rates. The last thing any organisation should do is turn customers away from the brand by deploying surveys that are too long.

The solution is to minimise disruptions to customers by cutting irrelevant or unnecessary questions. Try to look at survey questions from the customer’s point of view – what would they like to answer and when? Is the relationship survey being sent around a customer renewal date? Are you using triggers like when people have filed a complaint or purchased an additional product?

Are you addressing shrinking attention spans by keeping questions short and using phrases customers will easily understand? Can you replace half a dozen closed questions with more open questions that invite customers to share their stories in their own words?

If so, do it and use text analytics to mine the insight from these words.

Spread too thin? 

If the CX team is trying to do too much, there could be an increased risk of programme sprawl. This will not only result in haphazard data and customer-facing chaos but potential damage to the brand. Your CX programme must have a clear structure, a well-defined plan and a commitment to consistency. Otherwise it will be hard or nearly impossible to connect all the data. 

What is your definition of success? Is there an executive sponsor sharing the results? Is there a dedicated team responding to systematic issues customers are raising? Is there a network of frontline CX champions with a clear role?

Sharing ownership of CX across the entire business will help you to drive business change. Remember, collecting data is great but the aim is not just to analyse it but to use it to bring about business change. Can you link your CX activities back to financial metrics like an increase in revenue or cost reduction? Look beyond improvements in NPS and customer satisfaction scores.

Continuous improvement

Whether your CX programme requires a complete rebuild, an extensive remodel, or a lick of paint, completing a listening inventory will help you take a step in the right direction. Taking the time to audit the programme will help you to protect the brand; ensure the efficient use of technology and help you engage with your customers.

The single source of VoC truth is an achievable goal and if you put in place a process of continuous improvement, you will achieve your goal of delivering richer insights and enhance Customer Experience at the same time.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 19, 2019
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5min2102

Global leader in omnichannel CX and contact centre solutions Genesys has announced the creation of two business units, Genesys Cloud and Genesys Core.

The firm, which is sponsoring the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, is enhancing support for its diverse, global customer base, which includes organisations of all sizes, spanning private and public cloud, hybrid, and on-premises deployments.

Customers will benefit from faster delivery of targeted portfolio enhancements and artificial intelligence-driven applications at scale. The Genesys Cloud division will unify the company’s next-generation public cloud solutions and services by combining the PureCloud and workforce engagement management (WEM) groups. The second unit, Genesys Core, is comprised of PureEngage and PureConnect on-premises and cloud.

The company has appointed two general managers to lead the business units: Olivier Jouve takes the helm of Genesys Cloud, and Barry O’Sullivan heads up Genesys Core. Both executives report directly into Genesys CEO Tony Bates. The company also announced that Peter Graf was appointed Chief Strategy Officer.

Tony Bates said: “This new structure enables us to provide even greater value to our customers and partners by rapidly delivering innovation across our market-leading product portfolio. I want to acknowledge the tremendous work Peter and his team have done to deliver AI-powered, cloud-based common services that make this new structure possible.

“I look forward to his contributions as our new Chief Strategy Officer as well as those from Olivier and Barry to drive our future growth and disruptive vision of hyper-personalisation.”

As general manager of Genesys Cloud, Olivier Jouve adds to his existing responsibilities as Executive Vice President of PureCloud, the company’s leading Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.

In addition to continuing to head its operations, product strategy and commercial activities, he will take on ownership of the company’s WEM business. Since joining Genesys two years ago, Olivier has been instrumental in continuing to drive the triple-digit revenue increases PureCloud has experienced since its launch, furthering its hypergrowth. His career spans more than 30 years and includes senior executive roles for IBM, such as vice president of offering management for IBM Watson IoT, among others.

Meanwhile, Barry O’Sullivan moves from the Genesys operating committee and joins the company as Executive Vice President and General Manager of Genesys Core. In this role, Barry will leverage his extensive industry, AI, and unified communications knowledge, along with his intimate understanding of the business, to take the Genesys Core division to the next level.

Previously, Barry founded and served as the CEO of Altocloud, the cloud-based customer journey analytics provider acquired by Genesys in 2018. Earlier in his career, Barry was senior vice president and general manager for Cisco Systems, leading several multi-billion-dollar divisions including Collaboration, Unified Communications and Voice over IP.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have executives of Olivier’s and Barry’s calibre leading our business units. With their extensive experience, strong leadership and incredible business vision, they are each ideally suited to help us continue to solve our customers’ toughest challenges and further propel our ongoing momentum,” added Tony Bates.

In addition, Peter Graf will transition from Genesys Chief Product Officer to a new role as Chief Strategy Officer. He will be responsible for developing, communicating, sustaining and executing the Genesys strategy, and will also assume responsibility for strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions, business operations and disruptive innovation for the company.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 17, 2019
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25min1073

The 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards is just around the corner, and CXM is shining a spotlight on how fantastic training can help your strategies burst out of the boardroom and become worthy of awards recognition.

Among this year’s finalists is finance and admin solutions provider Equiniti Group, which is partnered by First Impression Training (FIT), a firm that enhances CX by assisting companies in developing their employees to build better relationships with customers.

However, good training goes deep, especially when it comes to earning awards recognition for your efforts, and FIT have been assisted in crafting an entry worthy of judges’ admiration by the one-and-only Donna O’Toole, the force behind August – The Awards Consultancy.

Donna lives and breathes awards, and knows exactly what it takes to bring your in-house achievements to a wider audience, with the aim of garnering industry recognition that can open doors to future success.

In a special look behind the scenes of an awards journey, CXM spoke with Donna and FIT’s Training Director and co-founder Marie Cross, about how dedicated training can lift a business to new heights and, ultimately, awards glory…

Donna O’Toole

Hi Donna. Tell us about August and yourself. What inspired you to found a masterclass aimed at preparing organisations for an awards journey?

I started August – The Awards Consultancy in 2015 as a way of helping people to achieve their dreams. I’m a true ‘people-person’ and my background is in English linguistics, so I combined my geeky language skills with my deep knowledge of the awards industry to create an agency that empowers businesses by using awards as a growth tool. August actually means respected, celebrated, and admired, and that’s exactly what we help our clients to become. 

Over the years, I have overseen literally thousands of award entries, including nominations for high-profile awards like the Queen’s honours, and award panel presentations. I see every single entry as unique. It needs to reflect the true values of the brand or individual, but it also needs to deliver a powerful, highly-evidenced argument that makes the reader (in this case a panel of judges) truly believe in them and want them to win too. 

I continuously analyse award entry results, stories, evidence, and feedback, and I’m never satisfied with good results; I strive for excellence in everything – both for my clients and for my own team. It’s this determination to succeed, and to see people truly shine, that has driven me to develop a unique blueprint for awards success.  

I created the unique awards training programme for my own team, then expanded this to train individuals and teams around the world who don’t want to outsource their awards, but do need support to win. I also train PR teams and communications professionals in exactly what they need to do to help their clients win too. I think sometimes people think writing an award entry is just ‘copywriting’. Well, I can tell you for free that it’s not!

We are not a copywriting agency – we eat, breathe, and sleep awards, so the copywriters I train get a surprise when they realise what they have written for a website or blog is completely and utterly wrong for an award entry!

For a firm like FIT, how does the Masterclass help bring out the confidence to put themselves forward for industry awards such as the UKCXAs?

When Marie came to our training day she had the same issue that a lot of people have – she was so busy making sure her customers were achieving everything they wanted and needed to, that she had very little time left to focus on getting recognition for her own business.

First, she needed to think about which awards to enter, and be objective about the value they could deliver back to her business. Then she had to think about what she needed to collect from her own business and that of her clients’ in order to win. When you are running a customer-focused business like FIT, you really don’t have time to think about promoting yourselves, so this was a fantastic opportunity for Marie to take a good look at her achievements so far, and make a clear plan for the future progress of the business, using awards to support and drive further growth. The little time Marie did have to focus on awards needed to be used effectively. She needed a formula that would allow her to put an award entry together that had the right structure, story, content, and evidence right from the off. 

With First Impression Training, you were essentially ‘training trainers’. Did Marie’s training background help when it came to her adopting the skills she learned?

Working with Marie was a dream, because she was not only ‘ready to learn’, she is a trainer herself, so she knows what it’s like to be on the other side of the table! Marie has also judged lots of awards too, so she knows what the judges are looking for in a winning entry. 

Marie and I also have in common the fact that we work with global brands and organisations, as well as smaller businesses and leaders who want to bring out the best in their business. So she understands the challenges that her clients face and was able to use these in our awards training to bring out their unique qualities and achievements, as well as her own. This is so valuable for award entries where businesses are working in partnership, or where you have a supplier relationship and want to gain recognition for both brands. 

 

There is always a ‘eureka’ moment during the training day, when you see a light come on for the trainees. Suddenly, they can see exactly what their strategy should be; what their ‘win theme’ should be; what to include in their entries, and what to leave out.

They can also see exactly why previous entries haven’t been winning, and what can make them win next time. Marie was able to draw out what was both challenging and unique about the projects she had been working on with her clients, and see what she needed to do to present these in a way that would truly ‘wow’ the judges. 

As an awards industry expert, what would you say to a company that is considering taking the plunge and entering, but might have reservations about the process and what benefits it will bring?

The canniest businesses know that you really don’t have to be changing the world to win an award. And you don’t necessarily have to be the best in your industry to win!

You only have to know how to beat the businesses you are competing against at that particular time, in that particular category, to win.

However, when you do win, that’s when the value of awards comes into its own. Your team will be massively motivated by the recognition, and happy employees make happy customers! Your customers have another ‘reason’ to trust you, which means they are more likely to choose to spend their money with you rather than your competitors. And you can use your awards to leverage interest in your business for PR, recruitment, referrals, investment, and Thought Leadership, as well as in your advertising. We are constantly asking our clients for feedback on what’s been happening in their business since winning awards, and the results are always hugely positive. Winning awards can create an immediate uplift in sales, help you to secure significant investment (investors love to see you winning awards), help you to recruit the best talent, and even lead to personal benefits like promotions and pay rises.

What’s not to love?

However, the value in entering awards is not purely in the win – it is in the entire process. Many people are put off entering by the amount of time it will take to prepare their entries, or by looking at previous winners and thinking they are bigger/better and so they couldn’t possibly win, or by a previous awards experience where they didn’t win.

These are all big mistakes, and probably why their competitors keep winning awards and they stay on the sidelines looking like the poor relation in the industry! 

Going through the process of entering awards gives you an opportunity to do a gap analysis on your business – anything you don’t have ready for that award entry (evidence, feedback, growth, and performance stats etc) needs to be either gathered, created, or implemented. And once you’ve got this, you can use and reuse the information, usually for at least a year, to enter and win lots of awards. So you’re already adding value to your business just by starting the process! 

How does August help an organisation that has lots of talent and drive, but has less knowledge about what it takes to enter – and ultimately win – an industry award such as the UKCXAs?

We help businesses in lots of ways – not just by training them to win, but by doing all their awards work for them if they wish. Firstly though, and most importantly, before we can help a business to win, we need to get to know them. What do they want to achieve over the next few years? What are their biggest challenges? What are their biggest achievements? What are their company values? How are they different from their competitors? Why do they want to win awards, and what is their experience with awards so far? Just going through this process reveals so much and allows us to make sure our clients only enter awards where they will have the best chances of success. 

 

An awards event like the UKCXAs is outstanding for recognising and celebrating the success of so many different types of business, but it takes work to win it! And it is one of my absolute favourite awards to judge because the competition is fierce, and you know that during the presentations you’ll hear stories that make you proud to be part of the process.

It is an award that aligns completely with our own ethos too; it’s not just about doing the right thing by your customers, it’s about making their hearts sing!

Marie Cross

Hi Marie. Tell us about First Impression Training and the work you do with firms seeking to boost their CX offering.

First Impression Training is a small organisation with a big pedigree, having worked with some of the giants of industry over the last 18 years since our launch, including AXA, Aviva, Kuoni, Equiniti, Legal & General, BUPA, and the NHS.

We’re an award-winning, people development consultancy specialising in the CX arena.

Wholly focused on developing the talent of frontline teams and leaders, we enable cultural and behavioural change that enhances our clients’ Customer Experience, increases employee engagement, and improves operational efficiency on the front line.

Our training solutions are tailor-made for each client we partner, applying our unique S.H.A.P.ETM methodology, which enables clients to fully own and internalise the FIT solution in a smooth and seamless way, so that the ‘FIT Way’ is kept living and breathing within the organisation, long after we’ve left the building!

 

You met Donna while judging at Awards events. Did your judging role inspire you to take FIT down the awards entry route, after seeing the success enjoyed by winners?

I’ve been involved with many award programmes over the years, since industry legend Don Hales and I first met (over 18 years ago) when he persuaded me to become a judge for the (then) National Customer Service Awards and the National Sales Awards. 

I was also heavily involved with the National Training Awards led by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills for five years, before the programme was taken over by the National Apprenticeship Service.

So yes, I’ve certainly been witness to some amazing winning entries during this time.

And this experience definitely does get you motivated to go for it yourself, partnering your clients – which is exactly what FIT has done this year with the culture change programme we’ve delivered for Equiniti’s 400-seat Customer Experience Centre, and now we’re finalists in four categories across three prestigious award programmes with them!

Donna’s Masterclass is the UK’s premier ‘how to win awards’ tutorial. What skills did you learn from August that FIT will use in its goal of achieving industry recognition?

Donna is a consummate pro! She’s an articulate awards expert, PR guru, and marketing whiz! I love what she’s about and I learned heaps from her at the Masterclass, from designing an award-winning strategy and creating your ‘win theme’, through to the very specific techniques she teaches for crafting your story, content, and evidence for your award entry.

She also shows you how to get the best out of your PR once you’ve actually taken your well-deserved place on the winners’ podium.

If you need a hand ‘bigging yourself up’ and getting your story out there, Donna’s yer gal!

While learning from Donna, what did you discover about your own organisation that you now realise needed improving, but might not have been aware of beforehand?

At the risk of sounding a little boastful here, what Donna really helped me recognise was that we’d spent the last 18 years helping our clients get the recognition they deserved, both inside their organisations and externally, putting them forward for the big award programmes, shouting from the rooftops about their commitment to employee engagement and staff development, without actually doing anything to ensure we stood out alongside them! 

As Donna said to me: “Why on earth would you not consider entering awards – both independently as a training provider and jointly with your clients – when you’re half the reason for your clients’ success stories?” 

So that’s exactly what we’ve done this year!

Donna helped us realise: it’s not that we needed improving – we needed to become our own publicity agent and stop hiding our light under a bushel if we really wanted to get noticed and stand out from the crowd in this increasingly busy marketplace in which we operate. And the result? As I said: finalists in four categories across those three prestigious award programmes: the UK Customer Experience Awards, the UK Business Awards, and the European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards.

Would you recommend other organisations to take the plunge and prepare for their own awards journey through August guidance? 

Yes, wholeheartedly!

I’ve already paid tribute to Donna and the August Consultancy publicly through my social media posting and our weekly blog to our ‘FIT fans’.

I know for sure that our written entries were as good as they were, resulting in us reaching those four finalist positions, thanks to the lessons I learned at Donna’s Masterclass. 

I’m a creative myself; I love to write and I’m told I’m good at it too! However, I also know that I couldn’t have crafted such a brilliant story – as I have done for the entries we submitted – if I hadn’t first learned the award-winning tips, techniques, and strategies that August has taught me.

The 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, hosted by Awards International, takes place in Wembley Stadium on October 10.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 11, 2019
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6min1632

The G-Summit Europe event, hosted by global Customer Experience and contact centre solutions firm Genesys, is underway in Amsterdam.

The three-day conference brings together CX professionals from across Europe to share the latest in technology solutions and good practice, and features guest speakers including Huib Van Bockel, the former head of Marketing at Red Bull Europe and author of The Social Brand, and Dave carroll, whose famous viral video, United Breaks Guitars, helped usher in a new era of accountability to customers.

Genesys customers, including, HeinekenKiwi.com, and Lowell Group will illustrate how they are using innovative technologies such as the cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), digital channels, and more. G-summit Europe will also celebrate agents from Swisscard, Harambee and Ving as Genesys CX Heroes for going above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service.

Merijn te Booij, Chief Marketing Officer at Genesys, said: “Through G-Summit Europe we aim to show attendees how immersive, experiential service is the new standard for every customer, every time. Attendees will glean insights from industry experts and businesses that have had success using innovative technologies to empower their employees and turn conversations with customers into the best-connected moments across marketing, sales and service.”

Meanwhile, Genesys is making it even easier for businesses to extend the power of its PureCloud software with the launch of single-click free trials for Premium Applications. Now available on the Genesys AppFoundry, this is the industry’s first fully self-service, automated free trial program available on a dedicated CX marketplace.

Jeff Wise, Vice President, Application and Developer Marketing at Genesys explains: “Our free trial program is a truly modern approach for companies to buy software. We’re offering a hassle-free way to try trusted apps, integrations and services that seamlessly tie into our leading SaaS solution, PureCloud.

“In a matter of minutes – not days or weeks – customers can test drive solutions to help them address real business challenges and deliver value. This is just the latest example of how we’re removing barriers to help businesses build deeper, more meaningful relationships with their customers and enrich their employees’ experiences.”

Quickly and without risk, Genesys PureCloud customers can sample a variety of select integrations, applications and services that work in lockstep with their cloud contact center software. Currently, there are 11 free trial applications from AppFoundry partners including: Avtex, CustomerView, nGuvu, PureInsights, Softphone, Survey Dynamix, CoBrowse, SmartVideo, Outleads, and more. These span a variety of capabilities including business intelligence, workforce management, CRM and more.

With fully automated installation and setup, Premium Applications are built to accelerate speed-to-use and deliver optimal time-to-value.

Softphone, a leading contact centre solutions developer & system integrator, currently offers free trials of four Premium Applications on AppFoundry.

Alan Lugiai, Softphone chief executive officer said: “We expect free trial offers to generate an incredible response from Genesys customers. This is a tremendous opportunity to help even more businesses amplify the value of their Genesys Cloud Customer Experience solutions by giving them friction-free access to and integration of our products.”

Businesses have 30 days to evaluate the offering and can choose to license or cancel at any time without friction. In addition, Premium Applications are fully integrated with PureCloud’s subscription and billing system, further streamlining and simplifying the entire process for customers.

Learn more about Premium Applications providers and the full roster of Genesys AppFoundry partners here.

Genesys is sponsoring the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards in October. Click here for booking details.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthSeptember 9, 2019
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6min1559

Global companies are expecting to apply artificial intelligence (AI) within their organisations in the next few years, but are lagging behind when it comes to discussing the ethics of the technology, it has been revealed.

New research from CX and contact centre solutions firm Genesys has revealed that more than half of all employers questioned in a multi-country opinion survey say their companies do not currently have a written policy on the ethical use of AI or bots, although 21 percent expressed a definite concern that their companies could use AI in an unethical manner.

Genesys, which is sponsoring the upcoming 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, questioned 1,103 employers and 4,207 employees regarding the current and future effects of AI on their workplaces. The 5,310 participants were drawn from six countries: the UK, Germany, the US, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the employers surveyed expect their companies to be using AI or advanced automation by 2022 to support efficiency in operations, staffing, budgeting, or performance, although only 25 percent are using it now.

However, in spite of the growing trend, 54 percent of employers questioned say they are not troubled that AI could be used unethically by their companies as a whole or by individual employees (52 percent). Employees appear more relaxed than their bosses, with only 17 percent expressing concern about their companies.

Twenty-eight percent of employers said they are apprehensive their companies could face future liability for an unforeseen use of AI, yet only 23 percent say there is currently a written corporate policy on the ethical use of AI/bots.

Meanwhile an additional 40 percent of employers without a written AI ethics policy believe their companies should have one – a stance supported by 54 percent of employees.

Meanwhile, just over half of employers (52 percent) believe companies should be required to maintain a minimum percentage of human employees versus AI-powered robots and machinery. Employees are more likely (57 percent) than employers (52 percent) to support a requirement by unions or other regulatory bodies.

The Genesys survey found that millennials (ages 18-38) are the age group most comfortable with technology, yet they also have the strongest opinions that guard rails are needed. Across the countries, the survey questions about AI ethics resonated more with millennials than with Gen X (ages 39-54), or Baby Boomers (ages 55-73).

Whether it’s anxiety over AI, desire for a corporate AI ethics policy, worry about liability related to AI misuse, or willingness to require a human employee-to-AI ratio – it’s the youngest group of employers who consistently voice the most apprehension. For example, 21 percent of millennial employers are concerned their companies could use AI unethically, compared to 12 percent of Gen X and only six percent of Baby Boomers.

Steve Leeson, VP UK & Ireland, Genesys, said: “As a company delivering numerous Customer Experience solutions enabled by AI, we understand this technology has great potential that also comes with tremendous responsibility. This research gives us important insight into how businesses and their employees are really thinking about the implications of AI – and where we as a technology community can help them steer an ethical path forward in its use.”

He continued: “Our research reveals both employers and employees welcome the increasingly important role AI-enabled technologies will play in the workplace and hold a surprisingly consistent view toward the ethical implications of this intelligent technology. We advise companies to develop and document their policies on AI sooner rather than later – making employees a part of the process to quell any apprehension and promote an environment of trust and transparency.”

Read CXM’s interview with Olivier Jouve, Executive Vice President of Genesys Purecloud, for more on ethics in AI.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 29, 2019
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3min1501

UK and International Customer Experience Awards finalist Northern Gas Networks has been recognised for its innovative work to improve the impact of traffic management on customers when improvements to its network are taking place.

The North of England’s gas distributor has already been shortlisted in six categories for the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, and three categories in the 2019 International Customer Experience Awards, and now the firm has been nominated for a national award by the UK Society for Trenchless Technology (UKSTT) – a charity which promotes new technologies and practices which don’t involve digging.

Considerate: NGN aims for as little disruption as possible when carrying out upgrades or repairs

Traffic management, such as temporary traffic lights or lane closures, can be necessary when work such as the replacement of gas pipes is taking place. In traffic sensitive areas, a Traffic Management Plan (TMP) is always required before work can start; agreed with the local authority and other stakeholders. However, these plans can be complicated and slow to produce.

Now, the Innovation Team at Northern Gas Networks (NGN) is developing new ways to plan traffic management so that it will have less of an impact on people’s lives.  New software developed by NGN and project partner 1 Spatial now makes it possible to generate automated traffic plans far more quickly, with clear benefits for road users, local businesses, and other customers.

It’s this responsive approach which has seen the project shortlisted in the UKSTT awards’ category for the Application of Digital Technology, and winners will be revealed next month.

NGN’s Head of Innovation, Richard Hynes-Cooper, said: “This shortlisting recognises the ability for our designers, planners and engineers to generate traffic management plans, at the click of a button. This is a potential game-changer for the industry.

“It will save money on every traffic management scheme that we create, as well as ensuring that our key local stakeholders, such as councils, have quick and easy access to our plans.

“However, what is most exciting about this innovation for me is the ability to make our schemes even more customer-focused. Bu building in key information such as local traffic flows, we can design schemes which are less disruptive, and more sensitive to local issues.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 20, 2019
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The North of England’s gas distributor, Northern Gas Networks (NGN), is having an outstanding year, and is aiming for an autumn of awards success as it competes for CX recognition nationally and globally.

NGN has been shortlisted for six categories in the 2019 UK Customer Experience Awards, and employees recently learned they will also compete in three categories at the 2019 International Customer Experience Awards.

The UK Customer Experience Awards take place at London’s Wembley Stadium this October, and NGN will present before judges overseeing the following categories: Team of the Year – Customer Centricity, Use of Insight & Feedback – Customer Satisfaction, Customers at the Heart of Everything – Initiative, B2B Customer Experience, Product or Service Development, and Employees at the Heart of Everything.

The following month, on November 21, the NGN team will be in Amsterdam for the second International Customer Experience Awards final, with the goal of winning gold in the Best Customer Experience Strategy – CX and Beyond, Business Change or Transformation and Customer-Centric Culture – Transformation categories.

NGN is hoping that 2019 rivals 2014 for awards success, as it was the year it secured an incredible six gold titles at the UK Customer Experience Awards.

Eileen Brown, Customer Experience Director at Northern Gas Networks, said: “We are immensely proud to be shortlisted for both the International and UK Customer Experience Awards. Our customers are always front and centre in everything that we do and to receive this recognition is testament to the quality of service delivered by our dedicated teams. We deliver gas to over 2.7 million homes and businesses across the North of England, and we are absolutely thrilled to be acknowledged for our service both nationally and globally.”

Global gathering: The International Customer Experience Awards is taking place in Amsterdam on November 21


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 20, 2019
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UK Customer Experience Awards finalist Three has activated its 5G service in parts of London, ahead of rolling out the service for mobiles in other areas before the end of the year.

The first wave of the service is for 5G broadband home hub users in three areas, Camberwell, Camden, and Southwark, meaning householders there can access wifi speeds without landlines or installations.

Three has, appropriately enough, been nominated for three titles at the UK Customer Experience Awards, which take place in London’s Wembley Stadium on October 10. The network provider will present before judging panels in a bid to win the Customers at the Heart of Everything – Leading Edge, Online Customer Experience, and Telecoms category awards.

Three aims to have mobile 5G active in up to 25 UK towns and cities before the end of 2019, including Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Manchester.

The switching on of the service means Three joins fellow UK Customer Experience Awards finalists EE in providing next-level coverage. EE launched 5G in six cities in May, while 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards finalist Vodafone’s network went live in July.

Meanwhile, O2, which has been nominated for an incredible seven awards at the UKCXAs, will launch its 5G network in October.

Speaking of the launch this week, Three CEO Dave Dyson said: “It’s clear consumers and businesses want more and more data. We have the UK’s best network for data and we have led the market on customer usage on both 3G and 4G technologies.

“We have worked hard over a long period of time to be able to offer the best end-to-end 5G experience.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 15, 2019
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UK Customer Experience Awards finalist Confirmit has announced a new Vice President of Global CX Consulting, to lead a team that will deliver CX consulting services to outstanding for clients worldwide.

Chris Brown has stepped into the role, and will ensure Confirmit’s consulting offering provides the clear, consistent guidance that its customers need to deliver successful Customer Experience programmes. Increasingly, this means aligning CX to Employee Experience to drive real business and cultural change.

Chris (pictured left) has worked with the CX Consulting team since joining the company in 2012. He has extensive experience across the CX and Market Research industries, and during his time at Confirmit has worked in close partnership with many clients to design and develop highly successful CX programmes.

His experience, combined with the team’s varied expertise, creates a world-class CX resource delivering best practices across different regions, industries, customer types, and partners.

Confirmit has been shortlisted as finalists in two categories at the UK Customer Experience Awards, which take place at London’s Wembley Stadium this October. Both entries are in partnership with healthcare provider Bupa.

Speaking of his new role, Chris said: “Technology is a huge enabler in the development of data-driven CX programmes. However, most businesses will also benefit from being able to draw upon real world experience and expertise to make their CX vision a reality.

“We work hard to form strong partnerships with our customers, enabling them to learn, apply and benefit from our experience. I’m looking forward to working with the growing consulting team to ensure that we deliver the added value that our customers require in their pursuit of CX excellence.”

Meanwhile, Ken Østreng, President and CEO of Confirmit said: “Chris’ promotion highlights the importance Confirmit places on building true partnerships with our clients. We are committed to providing world-class software but have long recognised the vital role that guidance and experience take in ensuring real business success. Helping our customers to unlock the full potential of our solutions not only delivers the results they are looking for, but also provides us with an opportunity to respond to market demand for continued innovation.”




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