British Black Friday Was Bigger Than Ever This Year

Our friends across the Atlantic enjoyed their annual Thanksgiving holiday last Thursday. Traditionally the day after Thanksgiving started the end of year shopping season, for whichever of the festivals you personally choose to celebrate at this time of year.

Americans eventually started referring to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday – a day for retailers to offer deep discounts to start the holiday season – and about five years ago this tradition started taking off in the UK. Now it is well established and very few retailers in the UK ignored Black Friday last week. Black Friday is now extended throughout the entire weekend by most retailers, with today being known as Cyber Monday – when there is more of a focus on online sales.

Amazon started their Black Friday promotions over a week ago. They used the run up to last Friday to offer different daily discounts in different departments with additional discounts promised for Friday itself. Many other retailers also started early, such as Morrisons, eBay, Argos, Boots, Tesco, and Carphone Warehouse. Many others promised to keep their deals for Black Friday itself, but it’s clear that the single day event is being stretched throughout November.

It’s clear to see why retailers enjoy this start to the festive season. Last year UK retail sales on Black Friday exceeded £1bn for the first time, with £3bn spent over the Black Friday weekend – these figures were a 35% increase on 2014. Full results are not yet in for 2016 as today is usually included in the results, but Barclaycard said that Black Friday credit card transactions were up by 6% this year and Nationwide said that their customers had spent 13% more than last year.

The research company Verdict Retail has predicted that Black Friday 2016 will be the biggest ever in the UK, however they strike a note of caution for retailers who think that this bonanza can increase forever. Industry analyst Zoe Mills said:

“This year, we expect to see the greatest participation in Black Friday yet, kick-starting the Christmas-buying season. However, the event’s future success is unknown, as consumers become more price sensitive and retailers struggle to drive incremental spend.”

Verdict research shows that around two-thirds of Black Friday purchases are by customers who have delayed making a purchase or brought-forward a planned purchase, so these are sales that would have taken place anyway. Only a third of Black Friday business is really related to impulse purchases because of great prices and customers are getting more price sensitive so it might be that the event runs out of steam within another couple of years.

For now though, it looks like this past weekend will be another bumper one for retailers in the UK. No British retailer will be able to match the $17.8 billion of sales in a single day achieved by the Alibaba Group in China recently on Singles Day, but it looks like we’ll be seeing another British record.

Did you find any Black Friday bargains? Please leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.
Black Friday

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Teleperformance Wins Contact Center World Industry Champion Awards

Contact Center World is one of the leading international journals and trade associations focused on the business of delivering a great customer experience. Each year they conduct their Industry Champions awards where individuals and companies in each country win the award based on a popular vote from the readers.

I’m pleased to say that my colleagues in India were awarded the Industry Champions title proving that the Teleperformance India team really is leading the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in India. In fact, over 5,000 people voted on which company to choose in India and over 67% of the vote went to Teleperformance so it was a resounding vote of confidence in our team there.

Our team in Turkey also won their national title demonstrating that our footprint of operating in 62 countries, and serving clients in over 100, is not only the biggest and widest coverage in the industry, but we offer the best service and the most far-reaching new ideas and innovation.

Congratulations to the Teleperformance teams in India and Turkey! Nominations are already open for the 2017 awards so make sure you register and good luck for next year!

Mumbai, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus)

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UK CX Is Improving, But Forrester Still Says No Brand Is Excellent

This week saw London hosting the annual Forrester Research CX Europe event soon after they released their new UK CX Index data earlier this month. Scores for six out of the eight industries surveyed in the UK have improved their CX in the past year and 24 individual brands showed a significant improvement in customer service.

Clearly companies in the UK are upping their game when it comes to offering a great customer experience. The Forrester data was based on a survey of over 14,000 UK online adult consumers, Forrester’s UK CX Index measures and ranks more than 55 UK companies across eight industries to identify how leading brands stack up based on the customer experiences they provide.

The research, shows that financial service firms continue to dominate CX rankings in the UK. Bank or credit card brands earn three of the top four places in the index and Nationwide Building Society took the top spot – as they did last year. Nationdwide also had the largest actual number of customers who indicated that interacting with the company made them feel good, highlighting that emotion can be a powerful factor when planning CX.

“CX Index data shows that UK brands have made clear progress in their customer experience efforts,” Joana van den Brink-Quintanilha, senior analyst at Forrester, said. “But don’t mistake progress as a cause for celebration; it is simply a jumping off point. For the second year running, none of the UK brands achieved an excellent score. This indicates a significant opportunity for brands to gain a competitive advantage through experience-based differentiation. Indeed, CX investments are more important than ever for UK brands.”

I think this is a really interesting observation. Although the data shows that a large number of individual companies are improving year on year, not a single UK brand achieved a Forrester rating of excellent. Even with most industries also improving there is still not a single brand rated as excellent. Although the general direction of the research is encouraging, I find it unusual that not a single brand in the UK was rated excellent as I can think of some fantastic UK CX case studies – and not only the ones I am responsible for!

This was a subject discussed at a Teleperformance webinar last week where Peter Ryan of Ryan Strategic Advisory spoke about the need for companies to keep up with the rate of change. The problem for many organisations today is that they want to define the way that customer interactions work, but it is actually the customers who are now defining this and their expectations change all the time.

As Peter highlighted during the webinar, it is very much about the approach to change and innovation that sets companies apart. You cannot accept that because your CX is great today, it will remain so next year. The road to excellence requires the ability to spot trends in the ways that customers are behaving and to prepare yourself ahead of what the customers actually do.

There is a CX “elite” highlighted by the Forrester research. These are companies that rank in the top 5% for CX quality across all industries. These companies that made the UK’s CX Index 2016 best-in-class list include the following (in alphabetical order): Amazon, Nationwide Building Society, and Santander.

There are some great CX stories from the UK and personally I would rank some companies as excellent and I also believe that there is CX excellence beyond just financial services alone.

Have you read the Forrester CX Index or were you at the CXEurope event this week? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn to let me know what you think about the 2016 CX Index.
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Webinar: Customer Service – Staying One Step Ahead

On Wednesday this week I’ll be participating in a Webinar focused on how customer service is changing and how companies with expertise in delivering a great customer experience (CX) are developing a new role as partners to their clients. The webinar also features Amit Shankardass, who leads marketing for the Teleperformance English Speaking World, and the well-known industry analyst Peter Ryan from Ryan Strategic Advisory. The webinar is being chaired by the very able Guy Clapperton, editor of Professional Outsourcing magazine.

One thing that we know about customer service is that it is changing really fast. Customer expectations are driving how companies need to adapt in a way that was not imaginable a decade ago. Think back to those days, before the Apple iPhone transformed our ability to be mobile and online at all times and before social networks transformed how people communicate.

Actually that was less than a decade ago as the iPhone was originally released in 2007 and I would suggest that the social media tipping point occurred in 2008, when TV shows really started using Facebook and Twitter to engage more with viewers.

Around that time I heard a great story about the telecoms giant BT. The British singer Mike Skinner, from The Streets, was telling his large Twitter following about his awful customer experience trying to get his BT Broadband back online. A voice agent in the BT contact centre noticed Skinner’s online messages and asked her supervisor if she could answer, because at the time there was no official customer service being offered on Twitter. She answered, cleared up the issue and on the same day the famous singer was telling his fans what a great company BT really is and he was entirely mistaken in his earlier messages.

I remember thinking at the time about how powerful this idea of customer service on social channels was going to be – and so it has happened. Customer service was previously delivered on a defined phone number or email address and at defined times. Now it is delivered at any time and on any channel that the customer decides to use. The customer is now defining how and when they expect to be served.

But, this innovation continues. New technologies are being released that will have a dramatic effect on the relationship between brands and customers. One of the most likely to be important in 2017 is Virtual Reality (VR) because the new games consoles from both Sony and Microsoft are VR-ready, meaning that by the end of 2017 there might be 50 million households that are equipped with a VR system. That really will move VR from being an exciting, but niche, technology into something that is just normal.

How is that going to change the customer experience though? We can estimate that it may start changing the travel and hospitality industries, but it could also redefine how customers buy cars and other big-ticket items such as a home extension.

The thing is that customers will lead and will define how they want to use new channels, but smart organisations are constantly tracking how the customer relationship might change, how new channels might present different ways to engage.

At Teleperformance, we have teams in 65 countries serving customers in over 160 markets across every possible type of industry. We have a dedicated CX Lab in Portugal that is constantly looking at what our customers are doing and engaging in primary research to determine where the market will go in future.

As I wrote in my last blog, customer expectations are redefining how this industry is working and it is extremely difficult for individual companies to manage a complete omnichannel customer service function. It is even more difficult for individual companies and customer service managers to stay on top of what customers will want in 12-18 months. That’s where our broad oversight of the global market and our CX Lab research team really create a competitive advantage.

In the webinar, we will be discussing this change in the way that CX experts can offer innovation and advice to their partners. Outsourcing CX today is about finding a partner that can help your business to build a better long-term relationship with your customers.

For more information on how to participate in the webinar on Wednesday November 9 at 15:00-15:30 (London GMT) or 10:00-10:30 (NYC Eastern Time) please click here.

Curating your Omnichannel Customer Ecosystem

Date: Wednesday, Nov 9 2016

Time: 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM GMT

Please register and you will then receive a confirmation email.

Innovation

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Webinar: Customer Service – No Longer Just A Commodity

On Wednesday this week I’ll be participating in a Webinar focused on how customer service is changing and how companies with expertise in delivering a great customer experience (CX) are developing a new role as partners to their clients. The webinar also features Amit Shankardass, who leads marketing for the Teleperformance English Speaking World, and the well-known industry analyst Peter Ryan from Ryan Strategic Advisory. The webinar is being chaired by the very able Guy Clapperton, editor of Professional Outsourcing magazine.

As a strategy, outsourcing has traditionally been used to deliver commoditised services. Think about the ‘core competence’ strategy that has been popular since the 1990s and suggested that company leaders should focus on what their company does differently and then just outsource all the other functions.

Naturally, this led to many companies outsourcing their contact centre to contact centre providers because answering calls was not seen as a core competence in many organisations.

However, this strategy depended on the relationship between customers and brands working in a certain, specified way. In the industry it’s called the ‘customer journey’ and it maps the way that a customer becomes aware about a product, finds out more, and then eventually makes a purchase. In a traditional customer journey the customer might see some advertising or a marketing campaign, they can go online to find out more information, then make a purchase, and eventually get in touch with the customer service team if they have a problem or question.

That is a linear step-by-step process that is easy to define and understand. Some companies still plan their marketing and customer service this way, but the reality is that customer expectations and behaviour are changing fast.

Customers today will expect brands to answer questions at any point in the customer journey and on any channel that they choose. They will publish blogs and opinion on social networks. They will read with that their friends have published. They will see online videos about your products. They will check price comparison sites. They will see how review sites, like Tripadvisor, aggregate the opinion of many into a score for your product or service. In short, the customer journey is entirely different and is now a non-linear processes where the customer can engage with brands at any time and can also get information from many different sources.

Staying on top of this is a complex business and many companies are struggling to move on from the idea of a customer service contact centre to an omnichannel customer relationship team that is not just offering a post-purchase customer service, but is actively building a better relationship with the customer – therefore this team is now also involved in sales and marketing efforts.

We will be discussing this change in the way that brands can work with CX experts on the webinar. Outsourcing in the CX environment has moved far beyond the delivery of commoditised services that are not within the core competence of the client. Outsourcing CX today is about finding a partner that can help your business to build a better long-term relationship with your customers.

For more information on how to participate in the webinar on Wednesday November 9 at 15:00-15:30 (London GMT) or 10:00-10:30 (NYC Eastern Time) please click here.

Curating your Omnichannel Customer Ecosystem

Date: Wednesday, Nov 9 2016

Time: 3:00 PM – 3:30 PM GMT

Please register and you will then receive a confirmation email.

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How Virtual Reality Could Improve the Customer Experience

I wrote recently about the opportunities for Virtual Reality (VR) in retail banking, in particular how branch closures could be mitigated by the use of VR systems that improve on online banking by introducing an element of human service. It sounded like science fiction, I admit that, but then perhaps we are closer than expected to some of these changes becoming a reality.

It was reported recently that Sony has already started sending their new Playstation VR console to the media for review. The console is out in the shops in about two weeks and is fully equipped for use as a VR environment. The new Microsoft Xbox is out early in 2017 and likewise is redesigned to ensure that it can support a VR environment.

Initially it might look as if these consoles are just going to support VR gaming, but I think that we will actually see a quantum leap in the opportunities for VR services, and customer interactions using this technology, just because VR systems will suddenly be available in millions of homes. This is no idle prediction – analysts predict that the new Playstation VR will sell around 1.6m units before Christmas this year. The Playstation alone sold 36m units last year so if you add in the Xbox numbers then 2017 will be seeing around a million homes a week becoming VR-enabled.

I can foresee three immediate areas where this might be important:

  1. Big ticket retail items; looking for a new car, or kitchen, or planning to build a new home? What if the dealer or vendor could show you exactly how it’s going to look by allowing you to virtually experience it before you make a purchase?
  2. Businesses that need to change fast; retail banks are fighting their online and app-based rivals, but as I mentioned in my earlier blog, can they preserve the services of a branch without the costs by using virtual branches?
  3. Entirely new services or personal services that were never online before; imagine a counselling service where you could spend time with a doctor without ever needing to leave your home?

There are some companies already exploring the options that VR offers to them. Travel agents are offering potential customers the ability to virtually experience a destination before booking a trip, demonstrating that if VR can improve the customer experience then companies will use it right now. I believe that the console launches are the real game changer though. A year from now there will be millions of homes across the world that are VR enabled and those customers will start expecting brands to offer a VR experience soon. What will you be able to offer?

What are your thoughts on the use of VR to improve the customer experience? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Beach life

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Retaining Customer Loyalty on today’s Customer Journey Rollercoaster

In his most recent blog, Teleperformance UK & RSA CEO Matt Sims wrote about the changing customer journey and how there has been a dramatic change in the way that customers and companies engage in the past decade. Even in the past 18 months there has been an acceleration in mobile and smart device use such as ‘in-app’ customer service like WeChat that far exceeds the expectations of the 2014 consumer. Thinking about the changes Matt mentioned, I saw a recent Forbes article exploring how brands can use the customer experience to create more attached and loyal customers.

The three key areas the Forbes article mentioned were:

  1. Embrace uniqueness; the more that your brand manages to be unique and to stand out, the more that your customers will remember you.
  2. Stay current; know what influences your customers and stay focused on these areas and be ready to change and adapt as areas of influence change.
  3. Show customers they are valued; modern customers expect much more personalisation that ever before – show them you care.

I would go further and argue that your entire strategy around creating customer loyalty needs to be revised so your company truly creates a culture of customer centricity. At the Verdict Retail Future Strategies conference in London recently, the representative from AO.com got up and told the delegates “I can tell you right now, you don’t know your customers”! And he was right – unless there is a formed and executed strategy in place that is measured (and therefore managed) – it simply won’t take place. For AO.com this includes each member of the senior management team spending two days in the year out with the delivery vans – “up at 4am back by 9am” but “invaluable” in helping the company understand the real customer.

McKinsey recently published some interesting new research titled “The CEO Guide to Customer Experience”. The headline result from the research is that leaders who focus on designing their company to focus on the needs of the customer can reduce costs by 15-25% and see revenue gains of 10% all within 2 to 3 years.

This is exciting in itself, but they also argue that you cannot achieve this without a fundamental change in corporate culture – as AO.com has done. You cannot just say that you are customer centric, you need to behave as if the customer is really the most important thing. Again, the white goods disruptor invites customers into their office and interviews them, what comes out is pure gold and helps them understand in a direct way how the company is perceived. They also spend time in the contact centre – saving £76K this year on the tiniest of amends to their website that reduced unnecessary contacts.

Matt’s blog on the changing customer journey emphasises this. The way that customers engage with companies has dramatically changed and I believe that most organisations must instigate a regular review that explores how central the customer is to their strategy. This would then feed into the loyalty strategy and create an environment where the employees feel more animated about interacting with customers because that relationship is treated so seriously and is valued so highly.

Please leave a comment if you have any thoughts on the changing customer journey and you can get in touch directly via my LinkedIn here.
IBM and Facebook Team Up to Deliver Personalized Brand Experiences Through People-Based Marketing

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