Put customer experience at the heart of your business

Marketing company Aptaris published a very interesting list of holiday trends in retail, with a focus on customer experience (CX) being at the heart of everything that retailers should be planning for this time of year. It’s not that CX is not important at other times of year, but when sales volumes increase and customers are stressed there is an even greater need to focus on the experience.

According to the Aptaris research there are three specific areas where retailers should focus their effort if they want busy customers to notice an improved experience:

  • More personalised shopping; last year just under half of all American shoppers visited Amazon for half or more of their holiday shopping. Amazon excels at offering customers deals and recommendations based on previous purchases and what they are browsing at present. With such a large chunk of the holiday shopping market, being able to emulate what Amazon does well is a good start to improving personalisation.
  • Make the experience remarkable; where remarkable doesn’t have to mean something amazing happens in the store. Customers will usually have quite low expectations of their experience during the holiday season so it’s easier to help them notice that things are not as bad as they could be. Think about basic issues like stock availability, how gifts are presented in-store, and how crowds can be controlled so the in-store environment is busy, but not unpleasant. Ideally you want customers to leave telling their friends how it was a good experience and not at all as they had expected.
  • Frictionless shopping; Check your signs and navigation aids. Help non-regular shoppers find the products they want. Add extra payment options and consider if there are ways your app can be used to improve the experience in-store - such as paying on the app for an item in-store so the customer can skip the checkout line entirely.

These three general guidelines are extremely important for retailers to remember. It may feel like damage control rather than a grand strategy, but when the holiday rush is on, these basics such as getting the signs right, make an enormous difference to the overall customer experience. With so much competition in retail, it makes good business sense to create loyalty by carefully managing the customer experience during the holiday period. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.


5 Steps to help retailers keep on delivering great service during the holidays

New research indicates that over half of customers believe that their satisfaction with customer service decreases during the end of year holiday season. It’s no surprise that so many customers find this a difficult time of year - they are often stressed and under pressure to buy gifts and the shops are all busier than usual.

But retailers know that the rush will happen. From Black Friday onwards and into the New Year sales is the busiest time of the year for most retailers. They know the rush will happen and it will affect customer satisfaction so what can be done to mitigate against problems that affect customer service and loyalty?

A couple of years ago Multichannel Merchant published a list of five key tips for retailers at this time of year. It’s still just as valid today and includes advice such as:

  • Get your team ready; don’t assume your entire team understands the importance of this time of year. Talk to them about your revenue goals and explain just how important this busy period is for the entire company - get everyone involved in the end of year rush and what it means for your bottom line.
  • Be friendly; customers are generally stressed during this busy period so really focus on positive, upbeat interactions. It can make all the difference if a stressed customer finds that they are more relaxed after speaking to an advisor.
  • Spread the cheer; help your team to enjoy some festive cheer so you can build up goodwill for the year ahead when things get back to normal.
  • Think like the customer; it’s a big rush at this time of year and customers are more stressed than usual. Put yourself in their shoes when planning how to help them in this busy environment.
  • Prepare for the rush; one in four customers say that the most likely time they will get in touch with a customer service advisor is the last week of the year. Make sure your team can flex and handle the additional call volume (and other channels if you support them).

These tips look like common sense, but taken together they are a good guide for retailers that want to avoid customer stress in the holiday season leading to customer service disasters. Never assume that your team knows exactly how important great service is during this difficult time of the year. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.


How can you deflect support tickets during the holiday season?

Recent research by Zendesk found that support tickets can increase by around 42% during the holiday season. We are in the middle of the holiday season now so how can your customer support team deflect some of those tickets and cope during the rush? The Zendesk team published some of their ideas on a great blog here. These are the most compelling ideas from the Zendesk list:

  1. Build a great FAQ list; most customers try to fix problems themselves before ever contacting the customer service team on any channel. This means that if you have posted solutions to common problems on a FAQ list with good keywords then a customer asking a question on Google should easily find the answer, fix the problem, and feel happy - and never once call the customer service team. In some cases it can be appropriate to record video content and short tutorials so customers searching online find this helpful content on sites such as YouTube.
  2. Employ bots; try testing bots on channels such as online chat, so simple questions are answered automatically. Ensure that customers can always transfer to a real person easily to ensure satisfaction is high, but don’t rule out bots as unhelpful. Zendesk cites the example of Dollar Shave Club who found that bots could handle 20% of the customer questions automatically - that’s a lot of effort removed from the support process.
  3. Use chat and connect it to your CRM; make sure that advisors get credit when their chat helps to secure a sale and ensure your CRM is hooked up to chat so advisors can pick up on support tickets that require a follow up message. Thinking about how to integrate chat more tightly into the contact centre can really be helpful as it is a powerful channel for customers shopping or browsing on mobile devices.

Zendesk has a few more ideas listed on their blog, but I thought that these are the most compelling. In particular, the point about giving customers information so that they never even need to try contacting the customer service team. The Dell computer company is a great example of a brand that employs this process - search for a problem with any Dell computer and you will probably see a Dell video on YouTube explaining how to resolve the problem. Those videos are all produced in-house at their own TV studio and not only help to keep their customers satisfied, they drastically reduce the number of customers that need to get in touch with the brand. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.


3 Steps to great social customer service during the holidays

The holiday season is when customer service teams will be at their most stretched. Ideally you have expanded the team for this busy period, but with so many channels now being used by customers, what are the best ways to cope and continue delivering a great experience to every customer?

Salesforce has some excellent tips on their website, specifically for brands that are using social networks for support. The way that customers expect to be supported on social networks is quite different to voice calls and can often vary between different networks so this requires careful consideration. How do you step up and manage this busy period and have the right metrics in place to ensure that the social team is keeping up with the rest of the customer service effort?

Salesforce urges retailers to think carefully about these three key areas of social support:

  1. Engage with empathy; you can’t afford radio silence on social channels, customers expect service - interact with them as if they are really with you in person. Many customers treat social channels today as a primary communication channel - they see this as their first choice in how to communicate so you cannot treat a tweet as less important than a call.
  2. Respond often and early; Bain & Co research suggests that brands that interact well on social channels receive 20-40% more spending from the customers they interact with so go for it. Answer those online queries and engage with the customer. Don’t worry about how often you engage – social channels can lead to more ongoing communication than you might experience on voice.
  3. Measure, measure, measure; use analytics to find negative mentions of your brand. Engage with those customers. Don’t apply voice metrics to social channels, for example First Contact Resolution. A customer sending a tweet doesn’t expect a response that then shuts them down. Think about how you measure great performance on social channels without constraining the advisors to behave as if they are handling voice calls.

I really liked these three points. I think the most important is to think differently about social channels. A customer engaging on Facebook is starting a conversation between the brand and themselves that other customers can join. It can be a positive outcome to see a long conversation thread develop as much of the work will be one customer helping another. Don’t try measuring or controlling your social advisors as if they are on voice calls - this is a very different type of communication, but many customers value it and prefer social to calls. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.

 


Brits Are Looking Forward to a Traditional Family Christmas

 

Electronic devices and computer games don’t make it into top 10 of gifts

 

With Christmas just days away, the majority of Brits are looking forward to time with friends and family this festive period, according to the latest consumer research from customer experience expert, Webhelp.

An online survey of 500 UK adults revealed that 89% of people are planning to spend time with family this Christmas. 54% said spending time with family was their favourite part of Christmas and 45% said they would travel over the festive period in order to see friends or family.

In terms of spending this year, more than three quarters (77%) of people are planning to spend the same or less on Christmas this year compared with last year and the same percentage (77%) will fund their Christmas spending through savings or their salary.

Despite the hype around big name electronic products and recent new launches, such as the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy 8, very few people are planning on spending this sort of money on gifts. The majority of those surveyed (54%) said they were planning to spend £500 or less this Christmas.

And shopping online came out as the preferred option, with 46% of people saying shopping online had taken a lot of the stress out of Christmas.

The top ten gifts people were planning to buy, or have already bought this year are:

  1. Chocolates                        -        58%
  2. Alcohol                              -        46%
  3. Books                                -        41%
  4. Beauty products                -        40%
  5. Perfume/aftershave           -        40%
  6. Home accessories             -        34%
  7. Fashion accessories          -        28%
  8. Gadgets                             -        24%
  9. Non-electronic toys/games-        23%
  10. Jewellery                            -        23%

 

David Turner, CEO of Webhelp UK, SA and India, said: “People in the UK are clearly planning a very traditional style Christmas this year, with spending time with friends and family topping the list of things people love about the festive period.

“Online shopping is seen as being beneficial to the Christmas experience, so this is a huge opportunity for online brands to get into the spirit and deliver Christmas cheer to their customers through fantastic customer experiences.”

 


Three Quarters of Brits Say Brexit Vote Hasn’t Changed Their Attitude to Credit

 

Are we ignoring the economic indicators and heading for a debt disaster?

 

Arguably the most important decision in a generation in the UK, the Brexit vote has dominated political rhetoric and news headlines in recent times, but how much of an impact is it having on our future financial planning?

Global customer experience expert, Webhelp, commissioned a survey of 500 UK adults to discover whether the impending divorce between the UK and EU had changed people’s attitudes to credit.

Perhaps surprisingly, almost three quarters of those surveyed (73%) said the Brexit vote hadn’t made any difference to their attitude to credit.

David Turner, CEO of Webhelp UK, India and South Africa, said: “The current economic indicators are concerning. Inflation is rising, wages have stagnated, Sterling has failed to recover its pre-Brexit vote value and there is the distinct possibility of more price rises to come as retailers are forced to pass on their extra expenditure to consumers. If people are still keen to take on new credit when they are facing the reality of having less disposable income, lenders have an increased responsibility to ensure borrowers will be able to meet their repayments – otherwise the UK could be facing a debt disaster.”

Only a fifth of people surveyed (20%) are viewing the situation more cautiously, saying the Brexit vote had made them less likely to take out a new credit card or loan. Whereas 7% said they were even more likely to take out a new credit card or loan as a result of the Brexit vote.

The group least likely to have their views on credit impacted by the Brexit vote are the over 65s. 85% of them said the vote hadn’t changed their attitudes to credit.

Those most concerned about the impact of Brexit were the younger age groups. Roughly a quarter of the 18-24s (24%), 25-34s (24%) and 35-44s (25%) said the Brexit vote had made them less likely to take out a new credit card or loan.

Turner, continued: “This scenario places an increased duty of care on lenders to ensure they are only lending to people who can afford to repay. At Webhelp, we offer companies an end to end service that can look after the entire process from customer acquisition all the way through to the repayment of the debt.”

Hervé de Kermadec, CEO of Webhelp KYC Services, said: “At WKS, we specialise in the collation and checking of data to build up a picture of an applicant’s credit worthiness. Using data analytics and insight we can collect and verify documents and make a recommendation to lenders on a customer’s ability to repay a loan. We can perform these functions digitally and via video, which breaks down barriers between geographies, languages and time zones, thereby enabling us to operate on a truly global scale and at speed, which is crucial to both lenders and borrowers.

“The combination of the particular set of circumstances being faced by UK consumers and rising regulation in the financial sector, means that the requirement to lend responsibly is becoming increasingly vital to lenders, borrowers and the wider global economy.”

 


5 Steps to delivering consistently great cx during the holidays

Do you know that Andy Williams song, it’s the most wonderful time of the year? Of course, we all know that most kids love the holiday season, but many adults don’t find it so wonderful. In particular, the shops are crowded and arranging delivery for online purchases can be difficult when so many courier companies are at the limit of what they can possibly deliver.

This time of year is full of stress for many customers so what can you do to ensure that even in a busy shopping period, full of sales and offers, you can continue to offer a great customer experience? This feature in Forbes by Christine M Riordan, Dean of Daniels College of Business in Denver, has a few good ideas where you can focus.

  1. Employee engagement: you might have great products, but if your employees are really not bothered because they are just waiting to go home then no service interactions will ever come across well. Engage your team and ensure they find it exciting to help the customers of your products - this is vital. Engaged employees deliver great service because they care.
  2. Authenticity should be a priority: at all levels you need to demonstrate that you care. Demonstrate that authenticity with small actions that reinforce your authenticity about caring. A good example is how positive it feels when checking into a hotel and the manager handing over their personal mobile phone number - most customers will never call the manager directly, but it demonstrates that the manager will be available if needed.
  3. Build positive relationships: remember that every interaction, whether it relates to sales or support, is building the present and future relationship. You should be aiming to build a multi-year relationship with customers, not just make a sale then forget them.
  4. Be willing to help: be genuinely willing to help the customer. Don’t stick to the supposed rules. Encourage your employees to do what it takes to help the customer even if it is not their direct day job or responsibility.
  5. Train yourself to care: help your team with training, especially in empathy. Think of the difference in attitude between a member of airline cabin crew presented with a problem caused by unruly children on a flight and a member of the team that can see the children are frightened of flying. Think how you can approach problems and support in a way that recognises that the problem and solution may not be obvious, but can become easier with empathy.

What is being suggested here are some great tips that can be applied at any time of the year, but by making these ideas fundamental to the service that is delivered, you can ensure that even when employees and customers are stressed and busy, these values will preserve the relationship and customer experience. What do you think is the secret weapon to deliver great CX this holiday season? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.


How can you be more like Amazon this holiday season?

An interesting article published in Retail Customer Experience challenges retailers to think like Amazon this Holiday season. Of course, Amazon is one brand that has spent many years redefining how retail works so most executives would love to think like them and Amazon had their best ever sales day last month on Cyber Monday, so what are the recommendations?

  • Watch your data and find unusual trends: it’s always important, but customer behaviour can change during the end of year sales. Are you looking for new and unusual trends that might help you to address the customer relationship differently at this time of year?
  • Focus on the holidays: ensure your messaging is focused on the various holidays falling between Black Friday and the end of the year. Customers will be shopping for gifts in addition to bargains so make sure they have options. Many customers also start holiday shopping in October, so are you communicating early enough with them?
  • Chase new prospects immediately: your online traffic will probably soar during December. Find your prospects and get back to them immediately - don’t just wait for the launch of a marketing campaign in 2018.
  • Focus on loyalty: why is all the marketing focus on attracting new customers? Launch some personalised events or offers focused on your most loyal customers. Show them that they are valued more than ever during this holiday season.
  • Think more about your direct mail: think closely about where customers have been browsing on your site. Don’t just email every contact a link to your homepage, customise your contact and use the data you have on the behaviour of each customer. Take them back to where they were browsing in the past with a special offer.

These points strike at the heart of what Amazon does well. It’s not just about offering the widest range of products or selling at the lowest possible price. Amazon thinks carefully about their relationship with customers and offers intelligent recommendations and personalised offers.

You can follow this advice and go further. The focus on loyalty is a great idea and can be combined with data analysis to see if you can find trends related to losing customers to rivals. Can you even start predicting which customers will be great for your business and which will be lost? Think carefully about how industry giants manage these customers and replicate what you can. You can achieve a lot just by taking an Amazon approach to handling customers. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.


The five key trends defining financial services as we head into 2018

I have written extensively in recent weeks and months about the Fintech revolution in financial services and how it has brought the customer experience to the top of the strategic priority list for all financial companies, but there are other changes taking place too. In fact, there can be few industries that are changing as fast as financial services and that’s quite a bold statement given how much digital transformation is taking place in many different industries at present.
The wave of new customer-centric Fintech competition is one big area of change, but according to recent research by PwC, there are four other key trends shaping the entire financial services industry at present. It’s worth keeping an eye on all of these as we head into 2018 as they will shape how customers consume financial services in future:

  1. Decentralised technology: removal of all the legacy estate to create systems that are more agile, innovative, and capable of changing quickly to meet customer demand. Many bank systems are decades old and written using obscure programming languages that nobody learns at university today - this has to change.
  2. Data-driven products: banks and insurance companies have traditionally collected vast amounts of data on their customers, but beyond very specific areas, such as actuarial planning, products have not been built around data. Now this can take place more easily. For example, look at the explosion in the use of telematics by car insurance companies to ensure that you only pay for insurance as and when it is required.
  3. Platforms and APIs: this is especially important in Europe as the PSD2 opening banking regulations will launch in 2018. In short, this means that every financial institution must allow a way for others to access their data. It should be possible to build apps that can login and analyse all of your financial data, across many financial services companies.
  4. Reshoring and localisation: robot processing and automation is reducing the need for banks to keep large amounts of back-office staff in remote offshore locations. By bringing these teams close to the heart of the business again it is likely that efficiencies can be achieved and new innovations will be discovered.

Each of these five adjustments would be a major challenge to handle alone, but with all of them coinciding it is clear that executives in the financial services industry will be busy in 2018. A connecting thread is to ensure that the focus of all these initiatives is the customer. If service and a customer-centric view of the business is used to plan any of these developments then the initiatives cannot go far wrong.
Are there any other major changes ahead in financial services or does this list of five capture most of the changes we will see in the near future? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.


Is fintech lending about to come of age in 2018?

There are many new startup companies offering loans. Often they utilise an app, or mobile-friendly website, and allow the customer to apply for a loan instantly with very little information required. Decisions are made quickly and the cash can be transferred instantly once a decision is made.

It’s no surprise that these services are popular. Whatever the customer needs cash for, it can be available with a simple request and confirmation that the lender thinks the customer is creditworthy. Often the entire process, from logging in to having cash in the bank, can take literally minutes.

Contrast this process to the traditional banks, where a loan application can feel time-consuming, bureaucratic, and it require various stages of approval. First the bank needs to believe that you are eligible and the credit-scoring agency or insurance company that will underwrite your repayments needs to also check your details and agree that you are worth the risk.

The Fintech loans market has become quite sophisticated and this is a major challenge for the banks as loans are a solid source of recurring revenue, usually with interest rates that are extremely good news to bank shareholders. The British lender Wonga.com has received a large amount of bad press over the past couple of years, but their focus on small amounts and short term loans is hard to compare to other lenders. With the Wonga app, I can select how much to borrow, how many days I want to repay over, and it will immediately tell me what I need to repay - and ask if I want the money immediately.

Wonga may be criticised for their interest rates (because critics often compare these loans that are repaid in days or weeks with long term loans) but nobody can criticise how their system makes it extremely easy to plan a loan in minutes. Their service is typically for someone who might need £100 to get the family through to payday, with that amount being paid back inside a week or two. At the other end of the market is Avant, which also makes instant loan decisions and cash transfers, but focuses on a minimum of $1,000, running up to $35,000. With Avant the customer could easily purchase a car without ever needing to complete all those finance documents that car dealers love.

Many of the Fintech companies are even building their own credit-scoring platforms so they can rely less on the traditional credit-scoring agencies. Although it has so far proved to be problematic, because of data privacy issues, it is expected that before long your social network activity will be a better indicator of financial stability than the data credit agencies are collecting at present.

According to this article on LinkedIn citing data from McKinsey, over 70% of the top 500 banks globally have not achieved any efficiencies in their loans process in the past five years. The same research suggests that Fintech lenders have administrative expenses that are 90% lower than American Express. The Fintechs can run the same service, make it easier, and at a fraction of the budget the banks need to allocate.

To anyone planning loans in traditional banks, this is not just scary, it should be terrifying. Not only are the Fintech lenders designing their service to be quick, easy, and bureaucracy free, but there are also different companies serving all different lending requirements, and none of these companies have the administration expense of a traditional bank with legacy technology systems and a branch network.

If the customer experience is better, the service is cheaper, and the loan can be processed faster, then how can the traditional banks fight bank? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.