Thought leadership

The latest Customer Engagement Network Directors Forum examined the rapidly changing face of engagement and how we need to be where our customers are. Forum chairman and editorial director of the Customer Engagement Network Steve Hurst reports

Our customers are operating across an ever proliferating range of channels be they online, offline, social or mobile, and organisations need to make their products and services available across these channels. They need to be where their customers are and provide them with a seamless customer experience whatever the channel of delivery.

This Multichannel Customer Engagement Directors Forum , hosted by Gallup and sponsored by ConfirmitInteractiveIntelligence and Merchants, examined the challenges and opportunities around multichannel customer engagement. It will identify winning strategies for organisations who are taking an holistic view of their customers in what is being increasingly viewed as an ‘omnichannel’ customer engagement environment.

Delegates at the Directors Forum heard how engagement of customers across channels is pivotal to future success and that the role of people in delivering that engagement is more important than ever before. They also got a look into the way customer behaviours is evolving and how the smartphone and other mobile devices is changing the customer engagement landscape forever.


Autonomous customers

This overarching theme was kicked off  with the  opening keynote from BT Futurologist Dr Nicola Millard with her presentation ‘Clouds, Crowds and Autonomous Customers: Doing Business as Unusual

Nicola spoke of a ‘perfect storm’ that is forcing organisations to do business as unusual. Customers are often moving faster than the organisations that both serve and employ them. Technology infrastructure is evolving to enable organisations to go into 'the cloud' and virtualise.

The contextually aware internet  enabled by the burgeoning penetration of  mobile smart devices is creating autonomous, omnichannel customers. Customers are sometimes shutting organisations out of the conversation as service becomes crowd sourced through social networks. Based on research from the UK, US, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Australia Nicola looked  at how traditional models of customer experience design and delivery from the contact centre and website through to the retail store and bank branch are being challenged by these emerging customer behaviours and the rise and rise of so called ‘networked expert’ customers

Nicola was followed by Sathya Srinivasan, Managing Consultant, Gallup  with her presentation Brand-Employee Alignment: Do employees “get” your brand?’ Sathya explained how an essential component of multichannel customer engagement is ensuring employees have a strong, consistent understanding of your brand identity and what makes it different from competitors. How do companies achieve and sustain this alignment across all sales and service channels, ultimately transforming employees into enthusiastic ambassadors for their brand?

Twitter close to customers

The importance of employees in delivering great service across channels was reiterated by Bruce Daisley UK director Twitter with his presentationHow can you get closer to your customers with Twitter?’

Bruce gave several case study examples of how enlightened organisations are using Twitter as part of their overall customer engagement strategy including Starbucks, Nike, Burberry and Sainsbury’s. He said that Twitter is the shortest distance between organisations and their customers and that applying the ‘human touch’ in Twitter interactions with customers was of paramount importance.

He also touched on the results of as yet unpublished research by Twitter into how organisations and customers interact over the social networking site. You will be able to read about the results of this research soon at

Next up came some more new research – again yet to be published – from Paul Scott, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Merchants with his presentationCreating Your Multichannel Future: Findings of a major UK research initiative’

Paul revealed the extent to which customers are adopting digital channels and expect you to do likewise. An organisation’s ability to keep pace with their demands and the speed of channel evolution will depend on the customer management infrastructures it creates – the locations you choose, the technologies you deploy and the facilities you build.

He presented some headline the findings of a major research initiative that reveals how companies in the UK are planning, prioritising and funding their multi-channel customer management futures. The results are designed to help organisations know whether they are leading the field or trailing the pack in the race to keep pace with customer’s multichannel expectations. Once again look out for detailed results of the study at and in the next issue of Customer Engagement magazine.

Virgin Media tops?

Following on from the research came the first of three case studies from  Sean Risebrow, Director of Customer Experience, Virgin Media  with his presentation ‘Putting our customers at the heart of everything we do’

Great companies find ways to tune in to customers' voices every day, and then systematically take action on what they have learnt. Sean looked at how the largest company in the Virgin group aspires to be the number one for customer experience from the viewpoint of the people who matter most – its customers.

In a refreshingly frank and highly engaging presentation Sean told delegates that Virgin Media was around d half way through its journey to excellence and has a target of being the number one in its sector for customer service by 2014.

After the lunch break came the Panel Debate: ‘The future of Multichannel Engagement’ chaired by Steve Hurst, Forum Chairman, Editorial Director, Customer Engagement Network. This wide ranging debate examined the trends in the marketplace, the evolving work of the contact centre, the use of social and mobile channels in engagement and the opportunities for customer service and engagement to further establish itself as a key business differentiator

Following on from the debate came Mark Hirst, Engagement Director, Watermelon Research with his presentation ‘Bridging the gap …. through bringing it together’. Mark explained how in our newly founded digital world we now have the technology and infrastructure to achieve new levels of engagement with customers. We can talk to a broader demographic of customers through a variety of self complete methodologies. Enabling us to not only interact with the customer instantly but to create platforms for clients to understand their customers and take action if and where required and most importantly all this can happen real-time.

We understand the full customer journey. The objective is for us to demonstrate how we deploy these platforms , the technology used and the benefits/ROI the clients get.


Skipton revolution

Next up came another case study presented by Conrad Simpson, Director, Interactive Intelligence withThe move to Multichannel in a traditional world – Skipton Building Society’

Conrad examined how Skipton rose to the challenges presented by an increasingly multichannel business environment. He looked at how Skipton overcame some of the issues around internal silos and at some of the business benefits that have arisen from the organisation’s forward thinking multichannel customer engagement strategy.

Last but by no means least came Richard Sedley, Strategy Director and Chris Thomason  Innovation Lead and specialist consultant at Seren a Foviance Group company with their presentation ‘O2 A case Study in Mutlichannel Service Design’  . Drawing on a recent project delivered for O2  Richard and Chris  explained how in order to develop and sustain a multichannel approach to customer innovation the six steps they use to help companies consistently deliver extraordinary customer service.

They stressed how important employee engagement was in the delivery of O2’s multichannel service delivery strategy and how aligning employee behaviours with brand values was fundamental to its success.

As Steve Hurst said in his summing up this was a fitting way to end an excellent day.  It is people who are behind the delivery of customer engagement whatever the channel and  for the people to deliver the culture has to be right and for the culture to be right the leadership has to be in place – great customer service is led from the top.


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