Guest Blogger

The Best Yet

Customer Engagement Summit 2018 was the best yet. Great insight and networking, now extended over one and a half days. The central theme was the importance of the human touch in our increasingly automated world and how the human and digital workforces compliment each other.

Day one began with motivational speaker Gavin Ingham who got everyone in the right mindset focusing us on being the very best version of who we can be.

M&S shared their progress using chatbots to cover high volume, low complexity interactions and in the process helped generate £2m in sales. If you google for more info, pretty much every headline screams M&S replaces call centre staff with bots. Yet the message on stage was much more nuanced. They are part of an integrated workforce not a replacement.

Claire Sporton from Confirmit then took to the stage with some new insights into effective CX leadership habits which covered CX goals (make them business focused), innovation (be agile) and listening (add more stakeholder voices to widen your insight).

Tim Arthur, Creative Director, Virgin Money then explained why the Virgin DNA is so formidable in terms of being a brand that people find easy to love. It’s the well-timed gifts and acts of random kindness that remain anchored as emotive memories in customers’ minds. For instance, many of their customer lounges have bowling lanes to make it easy and affordable for kids birthdays. Give some to get some as they say.

Benjamin Rand and Anna Hagen from Olympus shared their story of an increasingly common theme. Product excellence in a digital economy is not enough. It’s the experience that matters and differentiates.

Marije Gould from Verint emphasized the importance of people in delivering the right experience. In a world of declining loyalty, what makes customers stay with a brand for longer? Very much in alignment with my own thoughts, customers want to engage with people when their situation is complex and/or emotional. Equally they don’t want to sit in a queue when a bot can instantly deliver the answer. Getting this balance right defines a brand’s ongoing success.

Christine Smith and Alex Walker shared the NHBC change story. One that has already yielded a 30 points improvement in NPS in just 3 years. It was a tale that started with multiple points of failure that were systematically fixed by careful stakeholder listening and actioning of priorities. This was a programme based on measuring performance and managing against it coupled with focussed recognition. It’s a lesson that top notch operational leadership creates high performing teams.

Paul Somerville Senior Manager Risk & Compliance Vodafone Group Enterprise had some relevant messages about customer data in a hyper connected world. Privacy matters otherwise customer trust shatters and regulators prosecute. While so many opportunities for attack from within and outside the organisation, it is simply insufficient to rely entirely on technology to keep things safe. It’s a matter of culture summarised as Educate-Empower-Recognise.

Anna Wilcox Head of Customer Experience at Bupa is a familiar face at Customer Engage conferences. This time she made a stand out contribution by admitting being behind the curve on progress and in need of an altered focus. For her, that added up to better measurement. In a world of ‘perfect’ use cases, it takes some to admit things seldom go to plan’ Her takeaway message was those who adapt and recommit are more likely to deliver.

Stephen Yapp is one of those smart folk from IPSOS MORI. Hand on the pulse, able to make sense of the noise. In summary, this is his take on what trending in CX. Expectations transfer across sectors. Products can be re-invented as margin richer services. The connected world is exhausting, everyone craves simplicity. Decision making thrives on emotional nudges. We remember the moments that matter. Purpose attracts loyal customers.

John Mihill from Heals had a few pearls worth passing on. Have fewer staff but pay them more. Its ends up cheaper. Great staff deliver great experiences which makes your job so much more enjoyable. Enlighted self-interest.

Gregg Widdowson from Avaya came armed with more research. The stats that caught my included 42% of issues are not resolved first time. I knew 70% was too optimistic! A third of brands find it difficult to blend digital and human interactions. Another indicator of immature omni-channel strategy.

Rosie Bailey of City Sprint knows that complaints in the time critical courier business is make or break for loyalty. She has been pioneering a new centralised CRM based complaints team in the face of locally devolved centres which know their patch but work idiosyncratically. Hers was the story of how she has been nudging them to hand over complaints to her team in order to improve speed and quality of resolution. 50% faster as a result and £170k saved to re-invest in proactive service. Nice and let’s not forget coming in silver for most improved complaint handling, 2018 UKCHA.

Rounding off day one Nicholas Cockerill Sky Betting and Gaming continues to innovate and remains one to watch. Then Sascha Evans proved just how powerful theatre can be in a business context. Improvisational theatre for school prospecting rocks!

Day two was just as rich. Here are the highlights for me.

Barclays wanted us to know that humans remain important in banking in the face of fintech and smart apps. Sally Earnshaw obviously beat the drum that people are the rocket fuel that unleashes growth and success, so make sure you understand how they tick.

Nick Pegram of Bold360 made the point that well designed virtual assistants supported advisors to do what they do best and were therefore a support not a threat.

Stephen Robertson, CEO of The Big Issue Foundation spoke passionately about the philosophy and activity that drives the Big Issue. Total respect for his leadership and team for their social activism.

Being marketing director of Aston Martin is something of a dream job for many and for Gerhard Fourie it’s a reality. They build around 7,500 cards each year and receive around 3,000 serious sales enquiries every month. Engaging that aspiring fan base are therefore crucial for luxury brands. Servicing that dream is as customised as the product. CRM has become crucial in this high touch effort.

It was then my turn to talk about emotion management as the new competency in customer engagement, specifically customer service. Steering customer experience towards positive emotional memories banks the goodwill required to for boosted lifetime value. The first open course to design the leadership strategy is due Q1 2019.

Finally, Zane Rudovska, Head of Customer Care & Sales, Sun Finance showed what a new brand with mojo can be achieving with a great value proposition and a committed aligned team.

So, as I said it was the best yet. Slides are available if you want more. Even better make it to the full conference next year.

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