75% of retail executives plan to monitor customers with beacons

Customer Experience

My colleague Helen recently blogged about beacons, citing some recent research from Google exploring how a more open approach to managing beacons could lead to an explosion in their use this year – especially for delivering omni-channel retail solutions.

I saw a very recent research report that talked to 1,700 retail executives and explored their approach to the Internet of Things (IoT) and the use of IoT technologies, such as beacons. 70% of retail executives in this study said that beacons will be a part of their strategy for location-based marketing by 2021 so beacons are definitely a technology to watch – almost three-quarters of retailers are exploring how to use them.

72% of the executives interviewed said that this push for location-awareness is not just for customers - it is focused on the stock. By introducing better location-awareness throughout the supply chain, they can improve the flow of stock from producer to distribution centre to store – and to the customer’s home. More complex omni-channel delivery options mean that effective supply chain management is critical.

However, 75% of the executives questioned said that they feel beacons will be important for letting them know exactly which customers are in-store and where. This will allow them to offer deals and recommendations in real-time, knowing for example, that the customer has been spending more than a minute in front of a product.

Tracking the complete footpath of customers through the store will also give insights into how stores can be improved. The automation of this process in particular can reveal insights into what customers are really looking for, rather than just what they answer in surveys.

I think that this level of support for beacons is extremely interesting and gives us some guidance on where to focus future retail omni-channel activities – both in the store and in the supply chain. Please leave a comment with your own thoughts or get in touch on LinkedIn.


Webhelp Brings Biodiversity to Dunoon School

Local Dunoon school, Sandbank Primary, has had a lesson in biodiversity from leading global customer experience and business process outsourcing company, Webhelp, and Trees4Scotland as part of their Tree Amigos programme.

The Tree Amigos programme was developed by Trees4Scotland to provide a fun and easy way for school children to learn about biodiversity and the environment.

In the first of several events planned across Scotland, Webhelp and Trees4Scotland visited the children at Sandbank Primary School in Dunoon to give a talk on the importance of biodiversity and participate in a tree planting ceremony.

Anton Manley, chief operating officer at Webhelp UK, said: “Webhelp has sites in some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland and it is very important to us that we take our responsibilities to the communities around us very seriously.

“Under the Tree Amigos programme we will be supporting local schools with tree planting initiatives and helping to show the children the importance of protecting our environment.”

 

The initiative forms part of Webhelp’s strategic commitment to environmental issues and sustainability.

 

 


How beacons will assist the retail omni-channel

Customer Experience

Beacons are physical landmarks that communicate with mobile devices. They can be extremely useful in determining the exact location of a phone user and can be used to alert phone users to a particular offer or action they might want to take – like downloading an app.

This new research from Google outlines just how fast beacons are changing the retail environment. Right now, Android phones alone are requesting over 40bn queries for beacon-related content every year and more than a million new beacons will be installed in American retail stores this year.

Proximity technologies, such as beacons, can have a profound effect on the way that retailers interact with their customers. In an ideal world, the customer might be using the retailer’s app in-store, but failing this a beacon can allow a push message to be sent to a phone that is close to a particular location.

This could be as simple as the customer’s phone asking if they want to visit a website for more information. The website would be related to the particular product the customer is close to at that moment.

Beacons have faced a mixed reception over the past couple of years as retailers have struggled to combine beacons with app downloads – they work best if an app associated with the retailer can locate the shopper – but given this data from Google, it certainly looks like they are making a resurgence. The big difference is that if beacons can now integrate into a wide variety of apps and all Google products, then it’s much easier for retailers to allow the beacons to reach out to shoppers.

Retailers today need to explore how to improve the in-store experience. Shoppers have become so used to the highly personalized environment online, where the store offers expert advice and offers based on knowledge of what the shopper likes – it has been hard to recreate this experience in-store. It’s likely that beacons can help to improve this by offering the retailer a detailed picture of where the shopper is located and what they are spending time over.

I think this more open approach to beacons is going to turn a technology that some had started to question into a major part of delivering an omni-channel experience for retailers. What do you think? Please leave a comment or get in touch on LinkedIn.


Applying Pokémon GO to Retail

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Last year the game Pokémon GO suddenly exploded across the world and became the latest trend both adults and children needed to explore. The game combined a mix of real and virtual worlds by featuring real landmarks inside the game and using augmented reality (AR) to display characters on a live phone camera feed.

Gamers were enthused for a month or so, before moving on to the next big thing, but it struck me as remarkable. AR has been around for years, but nobody has ever made it work in a mainstream way - the most common alternative uses I can think of are tools like Google Sky, where pointing your phone at the sky allows the user to easily identify the stars and planets in front of the phone.

I do believe that AR is an area that retailers should start exploring more seriously. The global acceptance of Pokémon GO has shown that people don’t care about technological terms like AR - if a tool is useful (or fun), then they will use it. Think about some of the most critical customer experience challenges facing retailers today:

  • An in-store customer might browse for an hour and none of that experience is ever captured or used by the retailer - it is lost forever
  • Customers are starting to prefer the online experience over in-store because they are entirely anonymous in-store
  • Capturing details of loyalty and rewarding it needs to move beyond the blunt instrument of a loyalty card

Now imagine this idea. You visit your favourite department store and on entering the store you open an app on your phone. You are probably already logged in and the app knows that you are in-store based on your location.

So now the app can start recording where you go, how long you stay there, are you lingering in particular areas of the store. You can use the app to scan barcodes for more information on products. The app knows your shopping history and can see what you are browsing so it can make recommendations. The app can create time-limited offers and discounts and these can appear in store using AR in just the same way as the characters in Pokémon GO.

The in-store experience could be dramatically improved with this approach and the retailer would have rich data on the customer that can be analysed to help refine future offers and recommendations.

Plus, it’s fun. Pokémon GO proved that the real and virtual world can seamlessly be blended. Imagine how much more fun it would be to see that jacket you have looked at three times suddenly come to life on your screen and say ‘pick me up right now and you can get 30% off the price you see in-store’...

This is just one idea, but I think it would be an interesting approach and draws together several of these retail challenges. What do you think? Leave a comment below or get in touch on LinkedIn and let me know.


President of Madagascar Inaugurates Webhelp’s New Site

President of the Republic of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarumampianina, has inaugurated the new offices of leading global customer experience expert, Webhelp.

Webhelp launched itself in Madagascar in April 2013. Since that time the business has grown rapidly from 60 colleagues to more than 300 today and serves 12 clients in the telecommunications, e-commerce and travel industries.

Olivier Duha, co-founder of Webhelp, said: “Outsourcing in Madagascar is flourishing and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the President for his vision in supporting the development of this industry.

“Webhelp has been very pleased with the quality of the people we have found in Madagascar and the favourable business climate here means we are happy to commit to our future here, with this move to a new site.”

Webhelp was founded in Paris in 2000 by two young entrepreneurs, Olivier Duha and Frederic Jousset, who had the vision to harness new technology to drive excellence in customer experience.

Since that time the business has grown to encompass more than 35,000 people, working in more than 90 sites across 25 countries.

Ten acquisitions in the past two years, means the growth of the business shows no sign of slowing down.

 

 


Improving customer service by improving customer experience

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Customer service and customer experience are often used interchangeably in many business journals. Serving customers creates the experience of the brand and therefore customer experience is customer service, but this is wrong and in the present complex environment it is short-sighted.

Recent KPMG research published in Econsultancy indicated that the travel industry is one of the leading areas in using the customer experience as a key differentiator. Improving the experience is a strategic priority for travel companies such as airlines, hotels, and cruise operators because travel is experiential – we know the difference between a full-service and budget airline, or an economy seat at the back of the plane and a first class flatbed at the front. The same plane gets the traveller to the same destination, but with a very different experience of the brand.

Research demonstrates that travel brands interacting personally with customers see around a 40% increase in spend from those customers.  Personal interactions create a connection and this creates increased loyalty.

Virgin Holidays has found that by discarding the old image of a travel agent, they have dramatically increased their high street business. Conventional wisdom suggests that the high street travel agent should already have died out, thanks to the Internet. But, Virgin Holidays has found that by recreating the feeling of being inside an airport departure lounge they can make the process of booking a holiday become a part of the holiday itself.

Almost every airline is now offering very specific travel information on services & delays with apps and by supplying Google with flight information. Travellers can locate their flight and get news on delays in a way that was unthinkable just a few years ago, transforming the entire travel experience.

All this demonstrates that the process of how the customer experiences the brand, from learning about a service to using it, is far more important than just planning the customer service channel itself.

How a customer interacts with a brand is now far more important than just how they call for information or help. Planning for a smooth experience all the way through the customer journey naturally improves customer service, regardless of the interaction channel chosen by the customer. What are your thoughts on customer experience versus customer service? Are they interchangeable? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn.


How tech could cut your insurance bill in half

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Imagine if you could cut your insurance bill in half - why would you refuse such an offer? That’s the question a student in Herefordshire recently found herself asking when her insurance company offered to reduce her bill by £640 a year if she agreed to use a telematic device.

Telematic systems monitor everything about the driving habits of the customer. When, where, how far, how fast, and acceleration is all recorded. It’s very much like the ‘black box’ recorder we know about from aircrafts, but applied to a regular car.

Insurance companies love the idea. They are in the business of pricing risk and need to apply a large number of variables such as the value of the car, age of the driver, location the car will be housed etc when pricing a policy. However, it remains a fact that many of the variables are uncertain. Insurance companies know that teenagers have more accidents than older drivers, but clearly an 18 year old driving for a few hours each month has a different risk profile to a driver of the same age driving for 2-3 hours a day. Using present systems their policy would be priced the same.

Having a detailed picture of where a vehicle is used, when and how it is being driven allows the insurance company to more effectively price the risk. For a careful young driver this can mean a significant discount on regular policy prices. At first glance, this looks great for both the insurance company and customer, however there can be some drawbacks.

Some customers may need to drive at unsocial hours - perhaps when working a night shift - and it is likely that telematic systems will discriminate against them and make their policies more expensive than before. In addition, there is the question of all this customer data. The insurance company now knows where you are, when, and for how long. Some customers may find that this level of scrutiny is unacceptable. Naturally, security around all this data will be an issue. Any insurance company suffering a data breach when they know all the travel habits of their customers could possibly face a traumatic loss of customer trust.

At present, though, customers still have the option for traditional or telematic insurance. I believe a tipping point will come when customers not prepared to give up their personal information will be penalised, or possibly even refused a policy. Imagine how serious this could be if you want health insurance or if an employer insists on telematic monitoring of employees as a condition of employment.

Our latest white paper Insure Against Loss examines in detail the opportunities in the insurance sector. In this paper we will explore how delivering an exceptional customer experience can increase customer engagement levels and reduce customer churn.

We are not there yet, but there is going to be an unusual journey to the future with insurance. More information leads to better policy pricing, but how much information will customers agree to hand over? Let me know what you think hereor connect with me on LinkedIn.


Webhelp Announces Collaboration with Trees4Scotland

Leading global customer experience and business process outsourcing company, Webhelp, has announced a partnership with Trees4Scotland, an organisation which aims to restore Scotland’s native woodlands and protect and enhance biodiversity.

Webhelp will be working with the Tree Amigos programme developed by Trees4Scotland to provide a fun and easy way for school children to learn about biodiversity and the environment.

Anton Manley, chief operating officer at Webhelp UK, said: “Webhelp has sites in some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland and it is very important to us that we take our responsibilities to the communities around us very seriously. Trees4Scotland is a fantastic initiative that seeks to promote and protect Scotland’s native woodlands, so they were a natural partner for us to work with.

“Under the Tree Amigos programme we will be supporting local schools with tree planting initiatives and helping to show the children the importance of protecting our environment.”

Angus Crabbie from Trees4Scotland, said : “By relaunching the Tree Amigos Programme online we have made it easily accessible and free to all schools who wish to participate.  With the support of all its partners we are sure the Tree Amigos Programme will soon play a key part in the education of all children in Scotland.”

The initiative forms part of Webhelp’s strategic commitment to environmental issues and sustainability.

 

 


CX trends in travel for 2017 – The year of action

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CIO Magazine in New Zealand recently published a detailed report written by a group of Forrester analysts focused on what they call a ‘year of action’ - the effect of the customer experience on business strategy this year.

The report is quite extensive and can be read in full here, but I want to pick out three observations that I think are particularly important, especially in fast-changing industries, such as travel.

  • Gamification: apps like Tripadvisor are becoming more embedded into the daily experience of customers because they are using gamification as a way to enhance the customer experience. Those customers contributing reviews and photographs to the service earn points, can improve their status, and can actively see how many other travellers find their contributions useful. Gamification is radically changing the way the travel industry captures reviews and information on hospitality and leisure destinations.
  • Customers not competitors: it’s not necessarily your competitors that will cause trouble in future. But, the expectations of your customers may pivot entirely because of the way they learn about and communicate with your service. You need at least one eye on the future to consider how your customers might behave in future, especially how new technologies might change their expectation.
  • Fewer apps, more focus, need to be there: as we have seen with social networks, eventually people start focusing on what they find most useful. It is predicted that customers will start using fewer apps more extensively, which could create problems if you only make your information available in bespoke apps. It’s likely you need to find a way to integrate with very popular messaging apps such as Facebook messenger or, Whatsapp, rather than expecting customers to download your own app.

The Forrester research is not specifically about the travel industry, but this is where I can foresee these points being really important in 2017. As customers focus on fewer apps, it will be harder and harder for airlines and hotel chains to get customers to use their own app - it will be essential to find ways to integrate with standard tools.

Gamification has already been proven by Tripadvisor to drive participation. It’s hard to get customers to review anything usually, unless they love or hate the service. By gamifying the experience, it is possible to gather more information, even where the service was acceptable, but nothing special.

I think technologies like VR will be extremely important in the travel industry within two years, but to succeed in adopting new ideas requires forward planning. Hotels, cruises, resorts, and car rental companies could all gain a significant advantage by thinking about this soon. Once customers expect new channels for service (like VR) and a smart competitor are starts serving them, it might be too late for you.

Our report outlines our findings in a bit more detail. To view the full survey report, click here.

What do you think about how some of these CX trends from Forrester Research might impact on the travel market? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.


Vodafone Creates 300 New Jobs at Webhelp UK

Vodafone will be creating 300 new customer service roles over the next two years at the Kilmarnock and Cardiff sites of Webhelp, the leading global customer experience and business process outsourcing company.

Anton Manley, COO of Webhelp UK, said: “It is fantastic news that Vodafone are keen to extend their relationship with us and create so many new roles at two of our sites in the UK. Vodafone’s ambition is to give their customers the best possible experience and we are committed to doing our part to make that a reality. Vodafone is a key client for us and we are delighted that we can strengthen and extend our relationship in the UK with them.”

 

Neil Blagden, Customer Services Director at Vodafone UK, said: “Our ambition is to give our customers the best experience possible, providing an outstanding level of service and support as we continue to invest in building the biggest and best network in Britain. These new Webhelp roles will make a real difference in achieving that ambition."