CX: Trends On The Road to 2020

This is the first blog I have written in my new role as the CEO of Teleperformance UK and South Africa. I’m pleased to be taking over this leadership position at such an interesting time for anyone working in the area of delivering great customer experiences.

I believe the entire industry is now at an inflection point. Over the past half-decade the customer journey has dramatically changed. Customers started taking control of when they wanted service and how they wanted it to be delivered.

This decade has seen customer service move from a largely voice and email-based function to a multichannel environment where agents need expertise in social networking and marketing disciplines too. Improving the customer experience (CX) has become the number one priority for executives globally and as I wrote in my last blog there is a good reason for it – a better CX leads to better company performance.

But now this multichannel environment has become normalised. Which airline is not answering tweets and which hotel chain is not checking their reviews on Tripadvisor? We have quickly moved on from social interactions being innovative to being normal and expected.

The challenge today for most brands over the remaining period of this decade will fall largely within three areas in my opinion:

  • Omnichannel; some customers are now finding that they prefer the online experience to shopping in-store. Online stores know the likes and dislikes of the customer. They can make great recommendations and offer deals that are relevant. Contrast that to walking into a busy store on a Saturday afternoon and expecting one-on-one service from an assistant who knows what you like and is authorised to offer you deals designed just for you. Making the experience as good in-store as online is a really important target for many brands today and comprises the customer journey, loyalty, and payment systems.
  • Augmented Reality; until recently this was seen as a technology that had little purpose, but now the global Pokémon Go phenomenon has shown that people will embrace this mix of real and virtual if they can see a purpose. McDonald’s is supporting the roll-out of Pokémon Go in Japan and no doubt they will see an enormous boost as gamers visit their restaurants looking to ‘catch ‘em all’, but there are huge opportunities for brands now that people are getting familiar with the technology.
  • Virtual Reality; another technology that has been seen as something we only need to worry about in future, but this year Sony will release their new VR-ready Playstation and early next year Microsoft will release their VR-ready Xbox. That puts VR systems in the homes of millions of people using familiar technology systems. Customers are going to expect a VR experience from some brands before they are ready to deliver it.

Of course the changing customer journey is having a big influence on the way that customers relate to brands. There is a focus on developing a long-term relationship that actually involves engagement now – and not always directly connected to a sale.  But I think that in general, these next few years are going to be as disruptive for brands trying to manage the customer experience as the past 5 or 6 years was, when they all had to learn quickly about multichannel service.

Customers will no longer accept engagement, or just contact, as enough – they are going to want to be able to experience the brand, taking the customer journey to a whole new level. It’s an exciting time to be involved in planning the customer experience at all the fantastic clients Teleperformance works with and I’m excited about embracing this challenge!

What do you think are the key CX trends to watch out for in the remaining part of this decade? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn Profile here.
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Pokémon Go: How VR And AR Can Transform The Customer Experience

I’m unsure how many of my LinkedIn network have played ‘Pokémon Go’ since the craze went ballistic last week (taking Nintendo’s share price up by 53%) but if my network is representative of the modern gamer then many of you will have played.

But I wonder how many people would admit to having played, for regardless of one’s candour on the matter it’s impossible to deny that Augmented Reality (AR) will now be seen as a credible theatre for other organisations to play games, communicate and experiment.

Why not experiment with AR to enhance your customer experience eco-system? It might sound unusual, but so does the idea that hundreds of people would run into a highway to stop speeding traffic to collect an imaginary Pokémon character.

Nintendo’s share price had hovered around 15,000 JPY since January, but today was trading at 28,000 JPY, which underlines the power of new realities and the rewards on offer for early adopters.

What is absolutely certain is that the seamless deployment of AR is possible because of an app on a smart device. Even if you don’t have AR in your business plan you’re losing touch with reality if you haven’t figured out how to provide customers with the kind of app that puts them in control of how they interact with you. Our recent White Paper on WhatsApp and how customers love to speak to you through an app that’s familiar to them is a must read for anyone who’s interested in ensuring you’re driving advocacy and loyalty simply because you’re easy to speak with.

Augmented reality is a blending of Virtual Reality and real life, as developers can create images within applications that blend in with content from the real world. Virtual Reality is the foundation needed to layer in Augmented Reality so it is an essential element that must first be mastered.

As companies like eBay begin to explore Virtual Reality for richer customer engagement, how will customer expectations of the brand evolve and what will be the impact on CX management? Originally developed for ‘Second Life’ gaming environments, by bridging the gap between the online and in-store retail experience that is currently available, Virtual Reality has the potential to increase ecommerce revenue and deliver a pseudo-real experience. Will customer contact environments of the future include ‘virtual’ customer service advisors who can provide support inside VR simulations?

This week Teleperformance will host an exclusive round-table group discussion to explore:

  • Who are the companies exploring the use of VR to gain ‘first mover advantage’?
  • What is the difference between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)?
  • Is there the real possibility of providing customer service in a VR customer experience environment?

To receive a copy of the discussion notes OR to be included in future Teleperformance thought-leadership events, why not get in touch with me by sending a message on LinkedIn?
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An Improved Customer Experience Drives Revenue Growth

For years I have talked to companies about the value of improving how they manage customer service. Back in the days when contact centres were just considered to be necessary cost, it became clear that agents could up-sell and cross-sell during service interactions. Suddenly the contact centre became more strategic and could generate revenue.

Now that customer interactions take place across many more channels and at many more places in the customer journey, there are far more opportunities to have a direct influence on revenue. I have often argued that customer service and marketing teams need to merge because the management of the customer relationship should be the number one priority of any executive.

But it’s not just me saying this – certainly not today at least. The analyst firm Ovum identified back in 2014 that managing the customer experience has become the single most important priority for executives today. That includes other more traditional priorities, such as reducing business costs.

But the really important drive has been to find hard evidence to support these views. We know that there is a positive customer reaction if their experience is better, but how much is that actually worth? How much can you afford to spend improving the customer experience?

New research from Forrester answers these questions and the headline is that if you improve the customer experience then your revenue will go up. The Forrester research analysed pairs of companies in the same industry – one of them scoring high on the Forrester Customer Experience Index and one with a much lower score. Then they gathered the financial data for these companies.

Across all industries the results are stark. The companies that focus on improving their customer experience enjoyed a Compounded Average Growth Rate (CAGR) of 17%. The ones with less of a CX focus grew 3%. In retail there was a 26% difference and cable companies saw a 24% difference.

Forrester admit that although there is a correlation between companies that are growing their revenue faster and investing in CX, they cannot really prove that it is the CX investment causing the high performance. However, explaining this Forrester analyst Harley Manning says: “Customers who have a better experience with a company say they’re less likely to stop doing business with the company and more likely to recommend it. Both of those factors should drive increased growth in customers and, in turn, increased growth of customer revenue.”

I think this Forrester research is an important contribution to the CX debate. Being able to use data to draw a line that shows how investment in CX creates improved revenue is powerful for any executive planning to launch an improvement in their CX – these are investments that can pay for themselves by growing the business.

What do you think about this Forrester analysis and the need for CX investment? Leave a comment here or get in touch here via my LinkedIn.
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Rail Refunds Need a Customer Experience Overhaul

This blog is by Sasha Jenkins, Business Development Director at Teleperformance UK.

A report published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) a couple of months ago suggested that over 80% of rail passenger refunds that could be claimed are never processed. The passengers just never claim the money they are owed.

Schemes like ‘Delay Repay’ have been put in place to encourage passengers to claim compensation for trains that are delayed for more than 30 minutes. The compensation is available to passengers, but they rarely claim because of a mix of lack of awareness around what they can claim for and the time and bureaucracy involved in filling forms in so a claim can be filed.

The real problem here is that the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) have thought through the processes needed to sell tickets and operate trains, but managing passenger awareness (against a backdrop of frequently changing Department for Transport policies) of when claims are possible is more difficult. Some TOCs have made great progress and actively promote a simple and clear refund policy, but there is passenger confusion because this clarity is not uniform across all the TOCs.

What is needed is a plan to introduce some uniformity across the whole UK TOC network to not only make customers understand what they are entitled to expect, what level of delay triggers refunds, and what they can do to easily make a refund claim.

The TOCs need to understand that passengers are busy. They don’t have time to wait for forms that need to be completed and filed, or for announcements to be made on the platform or on the train. If the refund process was as clear as the process of  purchasing tickets then I’m sure that passenger satisfaction would be very different:

  1. The customer could claim easily at anytime using their smart phone.
  2. The customer will be informed by the TOC that they might be eligible for a refund – assuming the customer used a card or their phone to pay for the ticket
  3. The rules on when a refund applies would be simplified so a public awareness campaign at stations can ensure that everyone knows when they are owed a credit.

Passengers are customers. Sometimes they have no choice of service so it’s difficult to vote with their feet, but on some lines there are choices. The DfT and the TOCs need to drive uniformity in process and awareness so that passengers can easily claim what is already legally theirs.

What do you think about the way that rail refunds are currently processed? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

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We Are The Robots: The Automation of Services

I heard a podcast the other day from the London School of Economics (LSE) public lecture series. It featured Professor Leslie Willcocks of the LSE and Professor Mary Lacity of the University of Missouri, St Louis talking about their new book ‘Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work 2016’.

Experts suggest that robots will perform over five million jobs in the next decade. At first glance these statistics sound horrifying, it’s the hollowing out of society leaving only the most skilled and educated with jobs. However, Professors Willcocks and Lacity believe that there is a very different future that most commentators are not seeing when they describe a dystopian future for us all.

Whether it’s positive or negative in the long term, this is a trend that’s already happening. Automation and the use of software agents, confusingly known as robots, is already helping many companies to answer customer enquiries faster. Using a process known as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) many organisations are finding that their customer service team can improve the customer experience because simple or repetitive questions are handled by the system before ever getting to a human agent. This means that the customer is served faster and the customer service team can handle more interactions.

First, most of the statistics are flawed. Many of the reports analysing the future with regard to robots are based on hunches rather than data. When there is the use of data, such as the type of jobs that could be performed by robot, there is often no timeline given for the replacement of human workers and almost always there is only the negative side of the change – the loss of jobs with no measure of how many jobs are created by robotic systems.

Second, in most actual case studies that Willcocks and Lacity explored, robotic systems are actually helping to improve human productivity, not to directly replace humans. A good example is an insurance broker they studied where payments that used to take two days to analyse and approve can now be done in thirty minutes. The human workers are using the robotic processes to help them become far more productive and in this case they have even adopted names for their robotic helpers, making them a part of the team.

Third, robotic systems in the form of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are already with us today and it’s clear that the processes being used by many companies are changing, but it usually seems to focus on human or process productivity, not the elimination of humans. A great example is the phone company o2 who mention in the Willcocks and Lacity book that it used to take a couple of days to get a new phone line online after a customer signed up for their service. This was because of the manual checks that needed to take place, but the same processes handled by RPA now take about 20 minutes. Customers are happier and a small number of managers can oversee robotic systems performing the work of hundreds of people.

The point in most of the Willcocks and Lacity analysis is that we are not seeing a direct replacement of human jobs in any of the real case studies where robots are starting to be used.  As the o2 example suggests, it is one thing to say that the robots can perform the work of 600 hundred people, but there were not 600 people previously performing those tasks – it just took a lot longer to get your new phone number.

Science fiction authors have long predicted a leisure society where robots allow us more free time to enjoy everything and anything, except work. However, as we know, the reality of technology use is that we manage to do more with our working week, rather than doing all our required work in a day then taking the rest of the week off. It looks like the growth of RPA is headed in the same direction if the Willcocks and Lacity analysis is to be believed.

Most commentary on RPA and the use of robots in services is negative, but I believe that this is the first detailed study that advances case studies and examples of robot use suggesting a more positive future.

What do you think about the ideas Willcocks and Lacity discuss in their book and in the LSE lecture? Please leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn. Also, please check out the Innovation section on the Teleperformance Leader Insights blog as it is full of new innovations that are redefining the customer experience.

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The Importance of Corporate Culture To Partnership

I saw a great blog about corporate values on the Engage Customer site recently. The author connects the way that companies talk about their ‘DNA’ to the way that football clubs have values that are shared by their supporters.

I liked this analogy and it’s true that in the past few months there are some great football examples. Look at the amazing success story of Leicester City being promoted to the Premier League last season and then going on to win the league with a team costing a fraction of the big teams. Along the way Leicester picked up support from all over the world because the team, and coaching staff, showed that with determination and planning David really can sometimes beat Goliath.

The Mayor of the City of Paris recently awarded the prestigious Medal of the City of Paris to the Irish supporters that travelled to France to support their team in the Euro 2016 tournament. While fans from other nations were getting into the news for all the wrong reasons, such as drunken violence, the Irish fans charmed their French hosts and no doubt there will be many people in France planning a holiday in Ireland next summer after this experience.

These football examples embody certain cultures, such as the small team playing in the big league – and winning. The Irish fans managed to drink and sing without committing random acts of violence – embodying the charm of the Irish ‘craic’ known across the world.

What’s important to remember is that it’s hard to artificially manufacture these cultures and behaviours. They can only develop over time. This is especially important in the corporate environment because companies considering a partnership with another company need to understand the values and culture of their potential partner, but showing a few PowerPoint slides that suggest great ethics or care for the environment are not enough. It has to be seen, rather than just talked about.

Teleperformance works with the UN Global Compact and runs two major international programmes with our employees called Citizen of the Planet and Citizen of the World. This could just sound like another standard CSR pitch, but every year we produce a report showing what the employees did in the previous year. Each report shows that millions of dollars of cash and donations-in-kind were generated by our team.

But fostering a great business culture isn’t just about CSR and doing something good for the environment. Our team needs to be sharp, interested, and at the top of their game when they are working in the contact centre. The best way to make sure that happens is to make sure they are engaged with the company and the bigger picture – how the company fits into their world.

This also fits into the recent focus I have had on partnership and the ‘Vested’ way as described by Kate Vitasek in her book about vested outsourcing and how genuine partnerships between companies create business value. It’s short-sighted to see efforts to improve corporate culture as just a nice-to-have. People buy from people, but people making buying decisions also buy into the culture of the organisation they intend to work with. At an individual level – the managers or one company interacting with managers of another – different people can have different perceptions, but it’s hard to have a different view of a great corporate culture if it is strong enough to be seen.

Building a strong corporate culture is good for business. Your team enjoy their own work more when they are engaged in doing more than just their day-to-day job and when potential customers see this they are more inclined to work with you.

Wouldn’t you feel more inclined to buy from a company that has a team engaged in changing the world to be a better place? Corporate culture really can make a difference – in so many ways.

Euro 2016 ...

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Retailers Improving In-Store CX With Apps

This blog is by Phil Crossley, Business Development Director at Teleperformance UK.

Supermarkets in the UK have long experimented with various self-service ideas to help customers get their shopping and checkout faster than was traditionally possible with a regular checkout. Self-service checkouts are in use in many stores, despite many customers disliking the experience, because a single staff member can easily oversee problems at many checkouts. Self-scanning has also been in use for several years at some of the big chains too.

However, Waitrose took it to a new level recently by creating a smart phone app that allows the phone of the customer to become the scanning device. This is a great idea because customers are much more familiar with their own phone, compared to a standalone portable scanner, and system improvements can be easily rolled out using standard app store platforms.

Boots has recently launched an app called Sales Assist that is designed for employees to use in-store. This offers information on every product sold in addition to holding inventory data. Customers asking about products can get the latest information thanks to the app and if items are not available they can know immediately if a neighbouring store has it, or when it will be back in stock at the store they are in.

I really like the development across many retail companies in general to give more power and information to both employees and customers. Customers are already getting used to this kind of information being normal when they visit e-commerce sites so it’s important to ensure that the in-store experience keeps up so a true omnichannel can be developed where it doesn’t matter which channel the customer uses because the experience is always great.

I think many of these retailer apps will also be performing a ‘check in’ function soon to alert the retailer that the customer is in-store. This could be automatic or triggered by the customer, but either way it would allow the retailer to know that the customer is in a store and personalised offers and recommendations can be made available to the customer.

What other opportunities do you see for retailers using apps like this? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Decisions Decisions

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