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.

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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.

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Partnerships Are Essential For Successful Outsourcing

This week the Teleperformance team was at the National Outsourcing Association annual symposium, possibly the biggest event on the outsourcing calendar in the UK. We had arranged for Kate Vitasek, the author of “Vested” to be there signing books.

Kate’s book is about the idea of vested outsourcing; that partnerships between companies work best when both can gain from the deal, when they both have a vested interest. This sounds obvious, but how many supplier selections have you seen where mutual interest is the primary concern?

There is a different dynamic in the relationship between clients and suppliers today as many industries have become so complex. It’s more symbiotic – the suppliers need business from the clients, but the clients have a real need for the expertise they do not have internally.

Just look at this recent feature in Computer Weekly talking about the requirement in many companies for data analysts. Of course, this is an enormous area of growth as every company that wants to understand their customers today needs to analyse the data they have. Forrester Research has suggested that there in a capability gap in this area – companies simply don’t have the in-house skills to analyse data well enough and therefore the only credible solution is to work with a partner.

I believe this applies equally to the wider business of creating a great customer experience and data analysis is just one part of this. When customer service meant operating a voice call centre and possibly answering some customer emails, it was possible to keep that team in-house. In fact, many companies said they specifically wanted this team in-house because they have direct contact with the customer.

Now the customer journey has evolved and customer experience is the number one boardroom focus in most organisations it’s not possible to just amble along, hoping the internal team is good enough. Companies need expertise and this is why models of partnership like that documented by Kate Vitasek are so important.

The idea of partnership between clients and suppliers has been discussed for years. It has often been considered the ideal way to structure and outsourced project, but too often genuine partnership was pushed aside as other priorities became more important. I believe that the market is different today. In business areas, such as customer experience, there is now a real need for clients and suppliers to work together if they both want to succeed.

What do you think of how the outsourcing market has changed and is the Vested model really becoming a reality in areas such as CX?

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Creating an immersive retail brand experience

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

I have been exploring some of the key themes that will be discussed at the Retail Week CX Summit and Awards in London this week. It’s one of the biggest annual events for those involved in retail in the UK and offers a great chance to hear what people are saying and thinking about the industry.

One of the main discussion topics is “how to create immersive retail brand experiences.” Of course every retailer would love to say that their shoppers are immersed in the brand, but what do they really mean? I believe there are three ways that retail is changing today where this becomes a clear part of the strategy for interacting with customers:

  1. Conversations; customers no longer contact a customer service line after a purchase, they are having conversations and different types of engagement with brands at all stages in their relationship with retailers. Customers might tweet a clothes store to ask about stock levels or use Facebook to ask a supermarket about recipes – these interactions with retail brands go far beyond what we used to call customer service enquiries.
  2. Apps; retailers are enhancing both the in-store and online experience by building apps that go beyond just offering a shopping facility alone. Apps that offer augmented reality deals inside department stores are unlocking new offers and utilising the data the retailer has on customers.
  3. New ways of shopping; there are ways of tying together systems such as payment and loyalty with the mobile experience, so customers can have a better shopping experience because they can utilise various other systems that improve their relationship with the retailer.

For examples of this changing customer behaviour just look to a huge brand like Starbucks. Customers using their app can pay for a coffee direct from their phone. They can even order before they get to the store, allowing them to pickup on arrival so they avoid the queue. All purchases are recorded for loyalty points. The app is therefore combining several technologies in a way that makes the experience better than just going to the store itself.

The L’Oreal makeup genius app completely rethinks how customers buy makeup by allowing them to apply virtual products to an image of their own face. Anything that looks good can be purchased from inside the app. The brand is immersing the customer in how their products look and facilitating the purchase of anything that looks good.

I think all these areas of immersion are important and in particular how the idea of customer loyalty has moved much more toward a relationship with the customer, rather than a loyalty card. If you really want to create an immersive retail experience you need to think about how to really engage customers with your products.

What do you think about immersion in retail brands and these ideas I suggested? We will be discussing this at Retail Week soon, but leave a comment and get in touch via my LinkedIn if you want to talk more here.

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