All I Want For Christmas is Full-On-Sourcing!

Its July 25th and I’m wondering when a particular member of my family will drop me her annual SMS letting me know she’s started her Christmas shopping!

I have diligently refused for many years now to rush my life away and won’t begin to consider what gifts to buy and for whom until December. Assuming I get to the Post Office on time, I will be done and dusted by December 16th!


I can’t help wondering however what huge numbers we will see reflected in this years statistics illustrating the growth in online shopping. Last year House of Fraser, Debenhams and Amazon reported significant increases in online sales. House of Fraser had the ‘best ever Christmas  sales’ according to mostly generated by online purchases (up by 57.7%), Debenhams enjoyed a 27% increase and Amazon saw 426 items per second sold on Cyber Monday alone! And it didn’t stop with Christmas, the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark revealed that on Thursday 26 December 2013, online sales increased by 40.4% compared to Boxing Day 2012. In addition:

  • Sales completed via mobile devices were also strong, growing 63% year over year, and exceeding 45% of total online sales.
  • Smartphones drove 29.9% of all online traffic versus tablets at 28%. When it came to making purchases, tablet users drove 29.4% of online sales, while smartphones users drove 15.8%. 

Its clear the ubiquity of the high-speed, broadband enabled, multi-device consumer environment is undoubtedly going to drive more and more purchases through brand e-commerce sites.

Already this year retailers are planning their strategies to support and optimise this seasonal demand through the introduction and development of omni-channel solutions to meet the order volume increase that begins in late September and rises inexorably to a peak around mid-December. At any other point in the year, maintaining brand reputation through the provision of excellent customer experience management  is pressured enough, but in the run up to Christmas its a huge responsibility.

In our business what we do to help meet such a ‘Dante’s Inferno’ of customer service challenges has been described to me as ‘full-on-sourcing’. It captures perfectly that sense of every business function area operating at full throttle – in HR and training, technology, front and back-end services, operations and logistics, when eight days a week are simply not enough!

I’d like to think the concept of ‘full-on-sourcing’ may in time come to describe not just the power we have in our industry to help ensure seamless and friction-free customer experiences at critical seasons of the year. I believe it may also one day perfectly describe the totality of what we do to ensure brands are able to plug in to any aspect of sourcing they need by accessing with ease ever evolving people, process and platform strategies to maintain efficient and cost-effective business models, drive revenue and sustain growth – all year round.

In short, not every customer is like my sister, in fact if they were some of the most exciting developments in our capabilities and innovations may never have happened! For the rest of us, lets hope our favourite brands are considering their ‘full-on-sourcing’ requirements in plenty of time for the Golden Quarter in 2014.

In anticipation – Merry Christmas!

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Customers really are engaging with brands on Twitter

The Mobile Marketing Watch blog published an interesting statistic about the customer use of Twitter recently. Based on more than one billion tweets – that were addressed to companies – researchers found that 76% of them were neutral, 17.6% were positive, and 5.8% were negative.

If we discount the praise and complaints here or that the companies represent a range of product and service providers, and just focus on that neutral block of tweets then what can be observed? Well, neutral doesn’t mean that the messages had no meaning, just that there was neither explicit praise or negative criticism in the tweets.

According to the research, these neutral tweets comprised customers asking about products, asking about the company, asking how to find or how to use their products. In general, we can see that three quarters of all tweets directed at a company are the customers engaging directly with a company and asking about their products.

So the real observation here is that social media platforms like Twitter are evolving rapidly into heavy-duty customer service platforms. Three quarters of tweets directed at brands are just brands engaging with customers – questions, discussion, queries – not blazing rows or online complaints.

This is interesting to observe in such a large sample size because the impression most people have of social customer service is that it is focused on just praise or complaints, certainly something I’ve used it for in the past. A customer might tweet praise to an airline and then a complaint to their mobile phone operator, but the general impression has not been that they might carry out an online service discussion using Twitter.

Clearly I stand corrected and realise this popular impression is wrong and millions of informative interactions are taking place each day. Adding to this mixed use of Twitter is the fact that customers are making recommendations (or not) about all manner of products, services, travel and even ‘poor customer service workarounds’.

Any customer experience manager planning a complete customer service strategy today needs to consider how this social interaction can be managed as a part of the overall programme of keeping customers informed. It isn’t a giant leap from a well-informed customer to a true customer advocate, a channel that accelerates that journey has got to be taken seriously.

Twitter escultura de arena

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Sky moves to Apps for Customer Service

Sky has recently launched a new app to help their customers manage the most frequently used services linked to their TV subscription directly from their phone. Customers with the app can manage their bill, schedule engineer visits, and manage processes such as recording requests.

This emphasises the importance of understanding the move towards a multichannel customer service environment. Apps are certainly going to grow in significance for customer service in coming years. Customers find apps very easy to use – they are immediately available on the phone once installed and can be accessed in seconds.

Even if the functionality a company offers on an app is all available on their website, the experience is very different. How many times have you tried to login to your customer account on a website only to experience difficulties and then give up?

Though the Sky app is linked to a TV subscription, many other types of service are suitable for support via an app; online banking, credit cards, mobile phone contracts. All could be more easily managed online if an app offers an easy wrapper to the service, rather than relying on customers to login via a website.

And this automation will change the way customer service is provided in general. Customers are adopting new channels – such as apps – and expecting brands to offer these choices. All this self-service does mean that customers can often resolve their own service problems and this does deflect contact away from the traditional support channels of voice, email, and chat, but it requires planning to ensure that all the supported channels fit together as part of a coherent customer service strategy.

Some customers will still call. Some will prefer to only ever use an app. Smart customer service leaders will ensure that their brand offers customers all the channels and the best possible experience regardless of which channel the customer prefers.

Channel hopping 12/01/25


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You don’t need to delight, just be effective

Business magazines are full of tips on how companies can delight their customers. This language is used to describe how companies – particularly retailers – can make their customer service experience so good that customers will leave with a smile on their face and a desire to return again to spend more cash.

But the reality isn’t quite like that.

What most customers want when they need to call for help or information is an efficient and competent service. This excellent blog post by Kate Leggett of Forrester addresses this point exactly. Leggett suggests that 77% of consumers (USA) feel that the most important thing any brand can do is to respect their time.

So deal with the problem quickly. Don’t keep people on hold or waiting days for a response. Try to get the response right the first time. These are all the most important factors in trying to offer a great service.

The case studies that talk about customer ‘delight’ are often focused on social media channels. We have all read about the hungry tweeter greeted at airport arrivals with a steak from his favourite restaurant. All these great customer interactions can truly produce delight, but they are not the majority of interactions, in fact they are just a tiny percentage of your customer interactions.

By focusing on pleasing the customer with good information quickly 99% of the time, perhaps your team will have the ability to truly delight the customer 1% of the time. But if you don’t focus on making sure that 99% of service is great then nobody will be delighted at all.

Kathryn blowing bubbles


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Frustrate your customers with poor experiences and benefit your competitors

Getting your customer service strategy right is really important. It’s not just a question of making sure the contact centre is ready to pick up some calls – we are now operating in an omni-channel, multi-device consumer environment where customers are comfortable using any one of six or seven channels to get in touch.

More importantly, customers today are less loyal than ever. Let them down once when they get in touch with a query and they are likely to turn to the competition faster than ever – who are only a click or a touch away after all!

New research that questioned 2,000 adults in the UK found that 69% of consumers have become so angered by a customer service interaction that they either demanded to speak to the supervisor or they just gave up on the brand entirely. And how many of those told all their friends (on Twitter) that they were giving up on that brand?

Utilities, telecoms providers, and government are the top three offenders according to this research, but there is no reason why the utilities cannot be providing a far better customer experience – I have seen it. I know it’s possible.

Every executive will tell you that it costs far more to find new customers then to promote loyalty in those you already have. Ensuring your customer service team is not actively ‘encouraging’ customers to switch to an alternative provider is a good start. In fact, it’s really just the foundation that you need to build a service that is so good it improves your revenue, profits and long term growth.



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Have restaurant customers changed because of smart phones?

Any observer of changes in the way customer service operates globally will know that what has really changed is the way people communicate. My last blog talked about the social changes introduced by the smart phone with ubiquitous Internet access and the use of social networks. Both developments have been reshaping customer needs for the past five or six years.

But changes sometimes happens too slowly for us to easily observe so I was interested to see this article about how people are spending more time over dinner in restaurants. It is claimed that this was a serious piece of research by a restaurant owner in New York who has spent the past decade recording service times in his or her restaurant – however the author of the research posted the information online anonymously, perhaps fearing that it would sound critical of the customers a restaurant needs.

The research shows that the average diner in 2004 took 1hr and 5mins and in 2014 this average had almost doubled to 1hr 55mins. The reason? The author of the research blames smart phone use. Customers take photos of the décor, of the food, they communicate with people on the phone, they take up staff time calling for help with the wi-fi connection… the use of phones in restaurants has been an enormous change in social behaviour in the past decade and this has actually influenced the time people now need to eat dinner.

When planning customer service strategies we need to think of how changing behaviours can impact existing services. New channels can develop new freedoms and ease of communication, but can have a knock-on effect on other areas of the business.



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The worst possible #custserv practices

Most of the lists we all see in business magazines are all positive; the top ten strategies you should be exploring or 5 ways to improve your team, so it was striking when I saw that Forbes recently listed the 10 worst practices in customer service.

Ten really awful customer service practices is a lot, so if I was going to echo my own experience of what Forbes has identified as the worst way to treat customers then I’d pick out just three:

  • Customer service is not a ‘day one’ thing; it’s great when a company has a detailed initiation programme to help new team members come on board, but you cannot include a few golden words of customer service wisdom in the initiation and then forget about it altogether. Customer service is something that the team has to live and breathe on a daily basis.
  • Discriminating by channel; customers don’t expect different service on different channels. They don’t expect that you will answer the phone, but will not bother answering an email. They expect the same level of service however they get in touch so start considering how to manage all those new channels better.
  • Not respecting time; customers that call for help are often undress stress – something is going wrong, which is why they are calling. Putting them on hold for a couple of minutes can feel far longer for the customer who needs help. Likewise if the customer emailed a request for help, let them know you have the message and are working on it.

Getting this right is really all about communication and planning, making sure that your team operates within a company culture that aims to help the customer first.

First customers


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