Omnichannel and smarter sales assistance

Our recent YouGov research revealed that around 10% of customers admit to buying products online using their phone whilst still in-store. This is a customer who is in a store looking at a product and buying the same item online before even leaving. Just ten per cent may not sound significant, but it demonstrates that some customers are happily blending the in-store and online experience and are not ashamed to use the facilities of a retailer and then order elsewhere.

What we are really seeing here is what those in the customer service industry call omnichannel retail. This is when the customer experience should be consistent and exceptional, regardless of the channel used, which naturally means that a retailer offering great omnichannel service doesn’t discriminate between online or offline customers.

The reality is that some retailers have built fantastic online experiences and not reflected this in-store and some provide a fantastic in-store experience with less of a focus on online. It’s actually quite rare to find a true omnichannel experience where, regardless of how you interact with the brand, it’s always a fantastic experience.

So how can executives building a CX strategy really address this question? How can they ensure that the online experience drives more customers into their stores and a great experience in-store guides the customer to the online site for that retailer and not just the lowest online price for the same product? There is extensive research demonstrating that customers who shop both online and in-store are much more valuable to brands than those who only shop online or in-store, so how can brands nurture these customers?

I believe that retailers need to take omnichannel more seriously than ever before. Retail today requires a relationship with the customer, not just a transaction. The online experience should feature intelligent advice in just the same way as visiting a store. Customers want to be able ask questions about a product. Likewise, the in-store experience should feature greater personalisation, just like the online experience. Retailers need to build a connection with the customer that lasts for years and not just focus on making an individual sale.

If I were to describe how I believe the experience should be for customers both on the High Street and online then I would use words such as personal, expert, helpful, and enjoyable. This should describe all interactions no matter which channel is used. Retailers managing to achieve this experience both online and in-store should see increased conversion rates, up-sales, basket value, loyalty and advocacy. It goes almost without saying that this harmony of channels also increases the customer experience for all customers no matter which channel they prefer to use.

To make this work, the focus should be on interactions with the customer – real conversations. Consider the effect of a positive conversation in-store, it increases the chance of the customer making a purchase and remaining loyal to the brand. The same is true online, but usually customers are left to find their own information from FAQs or calling a contact centre. Why not create a system of digital sales assistance so online customers are helped by real people too?

It is possible to apply logic to the online system so customers are helped at the most appropriate time – and not in a way that badgers them when they are just browsing. By studying who they are, what they are looking for, and how they are behaving it is possible to intervene using a chatbot or a human agent where it seems that there is an attractive opportunity to help. It is possible to use analytics and decision management systems to help decide on the right time to intervene.

The ideal scenario is to blend virtual and human sales assistance so chatbots can provide immediacy and scale, and human assistants can offer one-to-one help and advice where needed. This dramatic improvement in the online experience will not only improve how online shoppers experience the brand, it is likely to drive more online shoppers into the stores and vice versa.

The research found that at least a third of customers still use a voice call when reaching out to a brand, so an improvement in online experience is no magic bullet. This needs to be part of a holistic strategy to improve the contact centre, the online experience, and the in-store experience with each channel supporting the other.

Omnichannel is no longer just a corporate strategy for the customer experience experts; it is now a customer expectation.

If you’d like to find out about how to create great omnichannel customer experiences or find out about Webhelp’s smart online sales assistance solutions get it touch… E:

Why Employee Recognition Means So Much

At Webhelp we are passionate about our people and their contribution to the company. Recognising our teams and ensuring they know just how valued they are is a core value of Webhelp. There are many companies that talk about employee recognition because it sounds great on their website, but I believe that in this organisation we really do walk the walk when it comes to all of our values!

I recently travelled to the Annual Star Awards gala dinner in each country in our region, that’s the UK, South Africa, and India. Our Star Awards offer a chance for us to recognise the individuals and teams – our most valuable assets - that are really making a difference. Without these great people, we simply wouldn’t be able to deliver the customer experiences that our clients expect. Ensuring that we both reward and recognise our team members is fundamental to delivering exceptional customer experience – i.e. our core business.

It meant a lot to me to be at each of the regional Star Awards gala dinners. But it also meant a lot of travel! I travelled to Liverpool, Cape Town, and Gurgaon as I really wanted to meet the winners in person and celebrate their individual and team successes. On my way home from the last gala dinner I calculated that I had actually travelled 16,296 miles to be at the events and was at home for five days during the month of October!

Webhelp has also enjoyed recognition as a company in 2018. Just take a look at some of the awards we have won as a business, and this is just a partial list of recent wins:

The list goes on and it’s amazing. Not only are teams ensuring that our clients can offer their customers fantastic experiences, we’re being recognised as an industry leader by some of the most important business and trade organisations in the world. It’s wonderful to see Webhelp receiving these awards, but it’s even more important to remember the importance of recognition – which is not just about feeling great because the trophy cabinet is full.

It is clear that recognition is particularly important to a company such as Webhelp because our team is often on the frontline of customer service, and we can only deliver a great customer experience if our employees feel valued and appreciated. We want our team to be enthused about helping customers and that means that our company needs to be enthused about our people.

Even companies that have less of a focus on the customer experience need to consider recognition seriously. Forbes magazine recently put the cost of replacing team members in the spotlight. Forbes suggested that each new employee can cost thousands of dollars and requires at least a month and a half to become reasonably productive – who can afford to lose great team members just because they are not recognised for what they are contributing?

Most of the people working in our team are millennials and this is a demographic that demands instant and continuous feedback. Any company hiring millennial age employees will struggle if recognition is not a core value of the organisation. The benefit of building recognition into your corporate values is both positive, through the increased happiness and engagement of your employees, and defensive too, because you can reduce unnecessary churn – team members leaving because they are tired of seeing their efforts unrecognised. Some analysts even offer tools to measure the value of employee recognition. You can directly calculate the Return On Investment (ROI) using these tools and see the value of investing in recognition.

There is a business case for all organisations to recognise the work their people do, but to my mind it’s simple. A company that recognises effort is a better place to work. Recognising our team members makes good business sense for Webhelp, but it also makes this company a lot more fun and that’s certainly a good thing!

If you’d like to find out more about Webhelp or ask Craig a question, email:

Craig Gibson



Black Friday and Cyber Monday: The Webhelp Experience

The media coverage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM) has focused mainly on the customer experience and the corporate, but there has been far less coverage of the employee experience. We all know that it’s a really busy time for retailers, so how do the people working on the customer service frontline experience the BFCM weekend?

We asked our own team at Webhelp. Over 800 people responded to a detailed set of questions that took each person around 15 minutes to complete. We think that this feedback is essential because it means we can capture the experience of those providing service to retail customers, and the learnings can be applied to make improvements in 2019.

Out of the 831 people who responded to the survey, 741 of them worked on the BFCM weekend, so this was a great sample of real experiences from that weekend. In terms of differences during the BFCM weekend compared to a normal sales period, the most common observation was that the agent handled significantly more customers than usual (34.4%) or slightly more than usual (23.8%). Interestingly, 29.3% of the agents surveyed said that it was about the same as normal.

There were lots of drivers for customer contact during the BFCM weekend. The most selected responses included: price enquiries (20.6%), product enquiries (16.3%), and delivery enquiries (12.6%). So it’s clear that price and questions about products were the main contact drivers for customers – as might be expected when customers are searching for deals.

It was great to see that most customers were in a good mood when they called. We found that 42.5% agents reported a pleasant interaction, 32% said that they dealt with a happy customer, and 23.5% customers were excited. Only 9% of agents reported that a customer had been rude to them – not that this is ever desirable - so overall it seems that most customers were enjoying their bargain hunting.

The employee experience was also mostly positive. 35.5% agents reported a great buzz about working through BFCM, and 29.4% said that they just felt that it was similar to normal. The number saying that BFCM was stressful was far lower at 14.4%.

We also found that good rapport was created during the weekend. One customer realised that the agent was in South Africa and asked if they can offer tips on where to visit in Cape Town! One agent said that it’s great to start the festive season buzz with BFCM and they hope the same atmosphere can continue through to the end of the year. Several agents reported that they got a real buzz from the joy of the customer getting a great bargain from a retailer or their phone company.

Our agents even reported some interesting and sometimes amusing stories from the BFCM weekend. One customer has been saving to buy an engagement ring and he spent a long time speaking to an agent, but in the end he found that even with all the Black Friday deals, he was still going to have to save up for a bit longer before popping the question! One agent ended up talking about their favourite beers with a customer who was calling for help while enjoying a pint. Another customer called to complain about a missing item, which they found inside the packaging during their complaint call, which led to the customer and agent both laughing about the situation.

Although filled with funny stories and customer interactions, there is some serious insight presented by this feedback. What is abundantly clear from the findings and, in particular, the verbatims, is the extraordinary role our advisors play. Far from ‘just’ answering calls, they empathise, build rapport, solve problems, make people laugh, allay their concerns, reassure, represent the brand, share experiences… the list is endless.

From a practical point of view, we can see that the planning for BFCM often means that many agents don’t even notice a change in their workload. While this is not always the case, to see that nearly ¼ of the respondents didn’t notice a difference means that the planning teams planned ahead and met the challenge well. To conclude, there was a huge amount of interesting feedback - mostly positive – from which we can learn lessons, and we will! What’s for certain is that BFCM in 2019 should provide many more opportunities to laugh with even more customers as they hunt for bargains!

Thanks to the team at Webhelp for the participating in the survey and sharing your experiences. Interested in how we help our clients manage peak periods? Get in touch – we’d love to talk. E:

CX: What Can We Expect In 2019?

As we approach the end of 2018 it’s always good to look back and see whether any of the Customer Experience (CX) predictions made by analysts and commentators (such as myself) came to pass. Most of my own predictions were accurate, in particular I have been talking for the past couple of years about how CX specialists and contact centre companies will start earning greater respect as the complexity of modern CX becomes clearer to major brands. This really is happening and with customer expectations going through the roof, it’s no surprise that the specialists are being treated with more respect – they are no longer just suppliers of contact centre services.

My own major mistake was to keep talking about Virtual Reality (VR). VR has been one of those technologies that has been improving and becoming more useful since the 1990s. I predicted that the easy availability of VR on games consoles, such as the Playstation 4 and Xbox One X, would mean that millions of homes would have the systems needed and therefore brands would start creating VR content to take advantage of this. However, VR has yet to really break out of the gaming world and there doesn’t seem to be a groundswell of customers saying ‘let me see my hotel room in a VR environment before I make a booking’ yet.

VR may still happen. The infrastructure is now out there, so it just depends on whether enough people get used to it inside games and start asking brands why they cannot experience their products in a VR environment. We can only watch and wait on that.

What about the year ahead? Forrester Research just published their 2019 predictions and they cover a wide array of business and technology trends, including the Internet of Things, Venture Capital funding, and Blockchain, but several of the 15 or so trends they advise watching are related to CX.

Looking back at 2018, Forrester suggests that CX performance was flat and around half of all digital transformation projects failed or stalled. They believe that this reality check may lead to more pragmatism in 2019, such as improving the metrics used to measure CX so a genuine Return On Investment (ROI) can be calculated.

Here are some of the other predictions included in the Forrester research paper looking ahead to 2019:

  • CX remains under fire; 89% of CX professionals still don’t believe that their company is measuring the ROI on their CX investment effectively. Forrester predicts that around 20% of brands will focus on price-cutting instead of CX in 2019, although (as they state) this can only ever lead to short-term gains. This is concerning for anyone involved in the business of CX, but some management teams are getting tired of investing in CX and not seeing an immediate return. Smart executives will improve their metrics and others will just cut costs.
  • Digital goes surgical; reality has often destroyed digital transformation goals that were more about using cool technologies, rather than redesigning the business. In 2019 it will become clear that if you stop thinking about digital transformation then the competition will take market share.
  • CMOs rebrand; brand equity and purpose has taken a backseat in recent years, but this will become the top priority of marketing teams once again. This is partly driven by an urge to build relationships between brands and customers – customers don’t just want to buy your stuff, they want to identify with your brand values too.
  • AI builds a foundation; brands that have been confused by Big Data and have lost track on their AI initiatives because they have too much data to manage will finally start seeing their patience pay off. Often the mistakes have been because executives expected AI to be like a magic bullet. AI can create new insights, but you must feed it the right information to work with first.
  • The world goes to Zero (trust); Forrester predicts that at least one major company will lose over 25% of their value because of a single cyber attack. Security will become essential for all brands in 2019 and this is an extremely important factor in customer satisfaction now because customers must have faith in brands to protect their data.

What Forrester is saying about digital transformation is urgent and essential. In short, your competition in 2019 may not even exist today. Digital transformation is not a way of cutting costs or reaching more customers, it is the difference between Kodak and Instagram. If you stop exploring what is possible then your brand may only exist in the history books.

The focus on security is also vital and has been in the news a lot during 2018 because of GDPR, however I would go further than the Forrester analysts. I think that if a major brand loses all their customer data in a security breach then it could lead to an existential crisis, not just a dip in the share price. Companies will vanish because of security flaws.

Let me know what you think about the key CX trends for 2019 by leaving a comment on this article or get in touch with me on LinkedIn here or tweet me here. You can find my CX Files podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all the leading podcast apps or click here to listen online.





Author: Mark Hillary

Mark Hillary is a British writer and analyst based in São Paulo, Brazil. He has written 16 books on globalization and technology, often with a focus on customer experience. He writes industry analysis on CX and journalism for the Huffington Post and professional journals such as Engage Customer. Computer Weekly magazine twice featured him in their shortlist of the best business bloggers in the UK. He has worked for the UN advising several developing nations on technology policies, was the first ever professional blogger hired by the British government, and was one of the official London 2012 Olympic bloggers. Use @markhillary to find Mark on Twitter or Instagram. 

How did British customers engage with Black Friday 2018?

On the 20th and 21st of November YouGov conducted research on behalf of Webhelp to gather views on how British consumers view the Black Friday and Cyber Monday retail events. These sales were traditionally an American Thanksgiving tradition, but for the past five years or so they have been gradually gaining momentum in the UK and now most retailers here participate in the sales to some degree.

Despite all the hype and the incessant advertising, our research found that more people have still not bought anything in a Black Friday / Cyber Monday (BFCM) sale than have. 53% of the shoppers we surveyed have not bought anything on special offer on the BFCM weekend vs 38% that have. 10% were not sure, so maybe they bought something in a sale, but can’t remember exactly which sale…

So, although the number of British shoppers participating in BFCM is still less than those who have not, 4 out of 10 shoppers is significant for an event that didn’t really exist in the UK until five years ago.

Of those shoppers who have previously participated in BFCM there were some very interesting results about how they shopped for special offers. 87% of shoppers in our research said that their BFCM activity was online and 24% said they visited a store. Naturally the total is above 100% because some shoppers will be shopping both in-store and online, but the level for online sales demonstrates that many shoppers now feel that it is much easier to go bargain-hunting online.

Research published by Engage Customer (source: Springboard) tells a similar story; with in-store footfall estimated to have declined by 5.4% this year compared to Black Friday in 2017. Declines of similar magnitudes were also experienced throughout the weekend (-5.6% on Saturday and -4.3% on Sunday).  In contrast, Loqate/GBG recorded that by 4pm on Black Friday online transactions had risen by 46% compared to 2017.

As we all know, the big sales usually need some preparation so we asked the shoppers how they search for the best deals. 64% said that they go directly to retailer websites to research prices and 20% look out for information on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. 18% look out for tips in online forums, but just 9% respond to printed ads and 6% get their information from shop assistants in-store. This shows that for the BFCM sales, good online information really is essential for customers – not only are most of them shopping online during these sales, but they are seeking information online too.

We explored some other behaviour with the shoppers, such as:

  • Have you ever returned a product bought during BFCM? (7%)
  • Have you found a product in a store during BFCM and then bought it online on your phone, whilst still in the store? (10%)
  • Have you bought a BFCM bargain only to see it cheaper elsewhere? (12%)
  • None of the above activities (69%)

To my mind, one of the most interesting insights here is that one in ten shoppers is finding a bargain in-store and then ordering online on their phone while they are still standing in the store. Just imagine how many in-store sales are being lost because there is no guarantee that the customer is using the online store of the same retailer.

We also asked how customers like to follow up and contact a retailer if they have a problem after a BFCM purchase. Naturally with most of their research and shopping being online, it’s no surprise to see that online was the most popular channel for communications too. The most popular channels were:

  • Online via the retailer’s contact page (49%)
  • Online via the retailer’s returns page (40%)
  • In-store (39%)
  • Online with web-chat (38%)
  • Telephone call (30%)
  • Social media (18%)

These are some really fascinating insights into BFCM shopping behaviour by British customers. I think the dominance of online shopping both for research and the purchase itself is really important to note, both for the way that retailers plan to make information available, but also because it changes customer behaviour and the way that they interact with the brand.

To see that just 39% of post-sale issues will be followed up in-store is interesting and just reinforces the findings that BFCM shoppers are digitally-aware and not only seeking bargains online, but they want to engage with brands online too. BFCM has been growing in importance for British retailers over the past five years and though many are now choosing to spread the sale across a longer period of time, rather than just a single weekend, there is a need to plan ahead. It’s more important than ever for retailers to have robust strategies to supply product information effectively and manage customer interactions with these bargain-hunting shoppers.

By next year it will probably be the majority of shoppers participating in BFCM and this strong online focus means that their behaviour may well be different to your regular customers. Are you already thinking about your strategy for BFCM 2019? Talk to us to find out more.


Author: Ewan Mckay (