What Happens If The ‘Big 6′ Do Not Change?

I recently blogged a question – will the Big 6 still be around in 2020? I always think that it is specific questions like this that lead to action, rather than strategic visions and other jargon. If – as predicted by analysts – the UK utility market changes over the next five years so the Big 6 control two-thirds of the market rather than 92% then that could lead to a serious market shake-up.

Perhaps one of more of those brands will not survive such a change? What better market environment is there to consider the kind of actions that might prevent these predictions becoming inevitable?

The first question to ask is why many customers are starting to explore the smaller players? Price is the most obvious driver. Everyone wants to get a better deal on his or her bills, but beyond price alone the reason that keeps on being mentioned is customer service. Undoubtedly the search for a better customer experience from the major utility companies is also a key driver.and they are voting with their feet.

It should be easier for the incumbent companies, with an existing customer base, to maintain that group of customers than for the challenger companies to win new business, but they need to be putting these two key issues at the forefront of their strategy. First, they can compete on price and second, are they can offer a customer experience they can be proud of and that makes their customers recommend their service to friends and family.

There is not much time left and the time to act is now. Implementing a turnaround strategy takes time and customers are impatient. I do expect the Big 6 members who are still thriving in five years will be the ones who started planning for a better customer experience today.

What do you think about the importance of customer service to the big utilities? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Electricity Pylons

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Is Fulfilment The Key To The Retail Omnichannel?

This post is by Liz Parry, Strategic Account Director at Teleperformance UK.

I read with interest a new report by research organisation Planet Retail just published in European Supermarket Magazine suggests that the answer to retail omnichannel success lies in getting fulfilment right. But that’s not all. The research identifies six key areas where retailers need to focus their omnichannel efforts:

“…provide seamless online experiences, empower smartphone users, create a compelling in-store environment, contextualised and personalised shopping, social media can influence purchasing decisions, and fulfilment capabilities are a competitive differentiator.”

Omnichannel has moved on quickly in the past year or so to be something that retailers could plan for to an expectation that customers have right now. Half of all shoppers now have an expectation that the delivery time for products will be same-day or next-day so getting the fulfilment chain right is vital to meeting these demands.

Getting this right can be more complex when you don’t have much control over some parts of the fulfilment chain – the postal service for example. However, retails who will succeed at this need to start enforcing standards even on areas where they felt they had little influencer before.

The issue is that when the online shopping environment is blended with a branch network it becomes very difficult to create a consolidated and real-time view of your inventory to any level of accuracy. Without accuracy in this data it is impossible to make promises to customers that services such as store pick-up or click-and-collect with actually work.

I believe the only real answer is to stop considering that the omnichannel is something you can spend a lot of time planning for. This is how customers expect to shop right now. To make the fulfilment function work correctly requires a strategy of unified standards for inventory identification, but these standards, procedures, and customer interactions need to be planned for now.

With half of all shoppers expecting almost immediate delivery right now, how much longer to retailers have to catch up? I predict that if companies are not serious about the omnichannel this year then it may be too late. Customers will not wait weeks for products to be delivered and they will not tolerate it when their online purchases cannot be collected at stores because the systems don’t talk to each other – I know I certainly don’t!

2015 is the year when every retailer needs to get serious about the retail omnichannel.

What do you think about the omnichannel? Please leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Royal Mail MT54TJV

 

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5 Small Changes in Corporate Behaviour That Could Inspire Greater Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty goes far beyond collecting points on a loyalty card. Today customers intuitively consider their entire experience with your brand and products, from before their purchase or service commitment, during the payment process and crucially, when requiring any follow-up care.

That entire lifecycle demands a consistently good experience and has becomefar more important in the minds of customers than BOGOF, points and prizes. There is hardly a brand today that wouldn’t agree. But still some fail to see that a very small change in their behaviour – perhaps just guiding the customer a little more – could create far greater loyalty.

I thought about a few customer experiences of my own where a small change could have dramatically improved my impression of the brand and I came up with these:

  1. When I renew my home or car insurance, a simple acknowledgment or message of thanks from the company by SMS would be both personal and welcome, despite them having my mobile phone number I have never received one.
  2. When I’m searching for a new insurance product and I come across a great offer from my existing provider on an aggregator website, why can’t they recognise me once I apply for the to give me an even better deal as an existing customer?
  3. Why can’t more companies simply recognise and acknowledge you when contacting customer service? Sky does this when you call their customer care team. It sends a powerful signal to the customer when the agent is anle to reflect exactly how long you have been regularly paying your subscription to the company for example.
  4. Who really goes back to the shop with their receipts to get loyalty points credited to their account! Even if I forgot my loyalty card, surely it’s possible to get my account details based on my name or payment card so the points can be credited? Even an online access point that allows me to do this myself with the receipt when I have a moment would be better than losing the points.
  5. Why can’t my mobile phone provider just automatically adjust my contract to match the way I use the phone, rather than me having to choose a defined number of minutes,texts and data – getting heavily penalised if I break the limit?

The list could go on – I haven’t even considered my love of travel, grocery shopping (not so much love) or utilities (love?) but in each case, a very small adjustment of the way a company deals with the customer could inspire far greater satisfaction, leading to loyalty and even advocacy – where the customer enjoys using the product so much they actively recommend it to friends and family.

If you can think of other examples where small changes in company behaviour could inspire a big change in the way customers respond, share it – especially any good news stories about great experiences you’ve had. Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

new currency
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Contactless payment – direct from your phone

The mobile payment market is developing fast with Vodafone now taking a great leap forward in Europe that could become a game-changer.

Previously, customers using the Vodafone Wallet have had to charge up an app in advance, so they can use stored cash that has already been transferred for use by the app. Vodafone has recently announced that thanks to work they have undertaken with Visa and the payments service Carta Worldwide, their customers will be able to link their bank card details to their SIM allowing near-field communication (NFC) payments to be made using the phone as if it was a bank card.

What is really important to note here is that customers have been pushing for developments like this in the market and now they are starting to get what they want. Finding a bank when you need cash is a problem we have all faced and using a card to make small payments is time-consuming and sometimes not even offered by shops. By integrating payment into a device that almost everyone carries – the phone – these NFC payments will be easier than ever.

However, I am sure that security concerns will still be the one area that might slow down the adoption of this technology. At present contactless payments are accepted for payments under £20. If I lost my contactless card then someone could go around making purchases so long as they are under £20 – until I managed to cancel the card.

The Vodafone service does seem to have several layers of security with the use of a PIN and ‘Verified by Visa’ password for higher value items. However the ability to make payments will be built into the phone and phones are often targeted for theft – which is no surprise when you look at the handset values of high-end devices such as the new iPhone.

I am convinced that this is the right direction for the telecoms and payment companies to be moving, but I’d be interested to understand how they think that consumers can be reassured. There is quite a psychological shift from cash to card to payment by phone and I think this might take some time to take every customer on that journey.

What is your view on payments made directly from your phone? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

Visa

 

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Teleperformance Shortlisted for NOA Professional Awards

I am pleased to say that the Teleperformance UK team has been shortlisted for three different awards in the National Outsourcing Association (NOA) 3rd Annual Professional Awards.

The shortlist was just announced yesterday and all those shortlisted will attend a ceremony on May 21st at the Emirates stadium in London – home of Arsenal FC – to learn who will win the awards.

The NOA Professional Awards exist to recognise the individuals, teams and companies who do their utmost to make outsourcing work, and celebrate their talents. The shortlist spans a wide variety of functions and industry sectors, but all those included have one thing in common – a drive to achieve outstanding success through sourcing.

Something I am really pleased about is that we have been shortlisted as a company for our work with two different clients, but also one of our managers, Laura Burns, has been shortlisted as a rising star in the industry. It is both an acknowledgment of the work we are doing with our clients and of the great team we have.

Please join me in wishing the best of luck to all those who are shortlisted for these awards. Now we just have to wait and see what happens on May 21st!

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For complete details of the 2015 NOA Professional Awards click here.

The NOA has shortlisted Teleperformance in these three categories:

  • Rising Star of the Year – “Laura Burns, Assistant Contact Centre Manager, Teleperformance”
  • Excellence in Outsourced Customer Service  – “Teleperformance and E.ON”
  • Excellence in Outsourced Customer Service – “Teleperformance and Vodafone Ireland”

NOA Awards

 

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Will the Big 6 Still be Around in 2020?

In my last blog I talked about the value of reviewing your customer service strategy with a focus on encouraging customer retention. My own industry focus is utilities and these issues are playing out in the UK utilities sector in a very interesting way at present.

At present, the big six utilities control 92% of the UK market, but analysts predict that this will reduce to under 70% within the next five years, meaning that the smaller challenger brands in the utilities market will share about a third of the market. A combination of reduced energy use by customers, the reduced market size, and lower profit margins could mean that the big 6 see profits drop at least 40% over the same period.

Citigroup analysts believe that not all of the big 6 will be able to operate profitably in this changed environment. Their prediction is that some of the big players will just sell their customers to a rival firm and exit the market. It is easy to believe that this is possible, although hard to contemplate which of the big brands might not be around by 2020.

The price comparison site GoCompare.com said in a report last September that when they help customers to switch utility seven out of ten customers are choosing the smaller suppliers – not the big six.

Price is usually the main factor when a customer is considering which utility to use, but customer service is in an important second place according to the GoCompare data. This means that the utility firms not only need to offer great prices, but great service too. And this is not just about achieving growth targets – there is a real suggestion that if these companies do not improve the way they manage customers then some well-known brands may not see the end of this decade.

Utility customers are quite familiar with the use of multichannel service, though one look at Twitter or Facebook shows that they are usually just hopping around channels making complaints. If a utility could really wow it’s customers with an omnichannel strategy that knits together all the various social networks with chat and voice and email to create a seamless way to interact with the brand then they can not only retain existing customers, but attract many more from their rivals.

What do you think of the analyst predictions? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Renewable energy - Nonrenewable energy

 

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Customers are defining how they contact you – work with them

This blog is by Stephen Pryce, director of business development at City Park Technologies.

One of the most important changes to the customer service market in recent years is that it is now the customer that is firmly in control. The customer defines the channel they want to use for their question or enquiry.

Only a few years ago brands would offer a phone number or email and expect that to be the gateway to their customer service team, but the mobile Internet and social networking has turned this upside down. However there are still many companies with a disconnect between the channels they offer to customers and how the customers want to communicate.

Let’s consider the car insurance market as an example. 100% of the companies I looked at offer an email address. 98% of them are present on social networks too. However, only 38% of them offer a click-to-chat option. Why only a third offering a chat option?

Chat is becoming an enormously popular channel for customers now, in particular there are many younger customers who have a strong preference to use chat over a call. If you force these customers to call then will they bother? You might miss out on valuable sales or cross-selling opportunities because you are not offering an important channel that many customers find useful.

What’s even more interesting is that chat is a lower cost service option. If it is cheaper to provide a chat option and many customers are starting to use it as a first choice channel then why are more companies not offering this option?

Live chat is a great way to help customers in real-time and once companies start using chat on a click-to-chat basis it is also possible to explore options such as proactive chat. This allows your agents to pop up and offer help when the customer is engaged in particular behaviour on your web site… searching the FAQ pages for example.

For more information on Click to chat just click here or leave a comment here if you have any further thoughts on the subject. Feel free to get in touch with me via my LinkedIn.

Girls' Talk

 

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