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Five Ways To Boost CX And Provide Superior Customer Service

In May 2017, a computational social scientist from The Psychometrics Centre at the University of Cambridge stood before an audience at the Linux Foundation’s Apache Big Data conference and revealed how close we’ve come to the ultimate goal of marketing: an easily scalable, highly accurate way to predict customer preferences using minimal data.

When she was still a PhD candidate, Sandra Matz created a Facebook ad campaign targeting people based on nothing more than how extroverted their Facebook Likes indicated they were. People with Likes associated with extroverts saw ads for a party game played in a group. People with more introverted Likes saw ads for a quiet game meant to be played solo.

The campaign required only simple algorithms and no advanced analytics. Yet over seven days of testing, the targeted ads generated up to 15 times higher click-through and conversion rates—and significantly more purchases and revenue for the game company.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image2 Five Ways To Boost CX And Provide Superior Customer Service“We developed this approach to show that you can achieve highly accurate behavioral and psychological targeting with a minimal amount of data and relatively simple machine learning tools,” says Matz, who is now an assistant professor of management at Columbia University’s business school.

As effective as this experiment was, Matz suggests that it’s still rudimentary compared to what could be done with more and richer data from more sources. And it’s downright primitive given the possibilities of applying more sophisticated Big Data analytics.

These possibilities have created a watershed moment for marketing and its role in the business.

Spiraling Down the Marketing Funnel

Tension has always simmered over marketing’s contribution to business success. The business knows it can’t sell products or services if it doesn’t make customers aware of them, but the impact of marketing strategy on sales and revenue is hard to quantify and reliably replicate—which, in the age of the data-driven enterprise, often leaves some business leaders not just undervaluing marketing but actively mistrusting it. No wonder human resources consultancy Russell Reynolds reports that the 2016 turnover rate among CMOs was the highest it has seen since it began tracking the statistic in 2012.

Most companies still determine customers’ readiness to buy by using a primitive model known as the marketing funnel, which sorts customers into increasingly smaller groups as they progress from first becoming aware of a company to buying, using, and finally advocating for the company’s products. Different versions have different definitions and numbers of stages, and some approaches see the model as a circle, but they all have one thing in common: their ability to sort customers into various stages is limited by the amount of knowledge the company has about each customer.

As a result, the marketing funnel ends up leaking. Some customers back away because they feel harassed by campaigns that don’t apply to their needs, while some of those who are interested fall through the cracks from a lack of attention. Many data-hungry business leaders think of the marketing funnel as no more than a variation of “throw something against the wall and see if it sticks,” and with the proliferation of digital channels and diffusion of customer attention, they have less patience than ever with that approach.

The silver lining is that a more precise, quantifiable way to build customer relationships is emerging. Done properly, it promises to defuse the tension between marketing and the rest of the business, too.

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The Defining Moment

The Cambridge University experiment is one more step toward the long-held marketing dream of the “segment of one.” This concept of marketing messages that are highly granular, even individually tailored, has been around since the late 1980s. Over the last 15 to 20 years, as customer behavior has become digitalized as never before, marketers have been optimistic that they could capture this data and use it to tailor their messaging with laser-like precision.

Yet what’s achievable in theory has been impossible in practice. We’re still struggling to find the right tools to move beyond the basics of demographic targeting. The rise of the internet, smartphones, and social media has generated more types of information about customer behavior in larger amounts than ever before. But using digitally expressed sentiment about everything from toys to turbines as the basis for accurately disseminating highly individualized marketing messages is still time consuming and cost prohibitive.

However, experiments like Matz’s are bringing us closer to creating highly personalized customer experiences—perhaps not always at the individual level but certainly at a level of granularity that will let us unequivocally determine how to best target and measure marketing programs.

Liking Lady Gaga

Between 2007 and 2012, Psychometrics Centre researchers gathered seven million responses to a simple questionnaire for Facebook users. The carefully designed questions measured respondents’ levels of extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism, a constellation of basic personality traits known as the Big Five.

With the respondents’ permission, the researchers used simple machine learning tools to correlate each person’s responses with the official Facebook Pages that the person had liked, such as Pages for books, movies, bands, hobbies, organizations, and foods. They soon saw that certain personality traits and certain Likes went hand in hand.

For example, most people who liked Lady Gaga’s Page tested as extroverts, which made liking the Lady Gaga Page a relevant data point indicating that someone was probably an extrovert. By 2016, Matz was able to create a lively Facebook ad to be shown only to people who had liked a significant number of official Pages that seemed to be linked to extroversion. A more serene ad was shown only to those whose Likes suggested that they were introverts.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image4 Five Ways To Boost CX And Provide Superior Customer ServiceDespite the large size of the Psychometric Centre’s data set, what’s most remarkable about its work is how few data points within that data set were necessary to build a reliable profile that could model useful predictions. Matz told EnterpriseTech that the algorithm the Centre developed needs, on average, just 65 liked Pages to understand someone’s Big Five personality traits better than their friends do, 120 to understand them better than their family members, and 250 to understand them better than a partner or spouse. This may be the first sign that the era of true behavioral marketing is upon us.

Of course, most marketers want to know far more about customers than how outgoing or reserved they are. Scraping Facebook Likes isn’t enough to give them the holistic customer understanding they crave—not when they have an entire universe of other data to consider. The race is on to identify from the vast spectrum of available customer data not only which specific online behaviors have a predictive element such as extroversion or introversion but also which ones will drive the most potent response to specific product or service messaging.

Complicated? Yes—but we are within reach of the algorithms we need to connect the dots for greater customer insight. By reaching out over new channels with more accurate behavior-based messaging, companies could transform the entire customer journey.

A Customized Journey for Each Customer

Attribution, the ability to know the source of a sales lead, is key to behavioral targeting. The more details a business knows about what its customers have already done, the more accurately it can predict what they will do next.

In the past, developing a customer profile relied on last-touch attribution analysis, that is, evaluating the impact of the last interaction a prospective customer had with a brand before becoming a lead. The problem was that companies could rarely be certain what that last touch was, given how much activity still takes place offline and isn’t captured or quantified.

Companies also couldn’t be certain how, or even if, a last touch—be it downloading a white paper, visiting a store, or getting a word-of-mouth recommendation—accelerated the customer through the marketing funnel. They could only predict revenue by looking at how many people were deemed to be at a specific stage and extrapolating from past data what percentage of them were likely to move ahead.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image5 Five Ways To Boost CX And Provide Superior Customer ServiceToday, we’re capturing so much more information about people’s activities that we have a far more accurate idea of both what the last touch was and how influential it was. Behavioral targeting makes any content a customer interacts with valuable in analyzing the customer’s journey. A company can use hard data about those interactions to see where each individual prospect is in the customer journey and predict how likely each one is to continue moving forward.

The company can then generate a tailored offer or other event to nudge individuals along based on what has been successful with other customers who buy the same things and behave in the same ways. For example, a large grocer may send out two million individualized offers each week based on loyalty card activity. This may not strictly create a segment of one, but it creates many small segments of customers with similar behaviors based on what the grocer knows to be effective.

As Cambridge University’s experiment in creating an algorithm to identify and target introverts and extroverts proves, more precise messaging is more effective. By using more complex machine learning algorithms to further filter and refine successful messages to target smaller groups, companies could boost their conversion rates to as high as 50%—an exponential increase beyond today’s average rates.

By using machine learning to speed up the testing of different campaigns and to continuously compare results, companies could rapidly create a dataset about every potential customer’s responses and then benchmark it against others’ responses. This would let them determine individual prospects’ likely responses based on concrete actions rather than assumptions.

For super-luxury brands with a limited number of customers and the ability to capture a vast amount of information about each one, this could lead to true segment-of-one marketing. For other brands, the challenge is not just to figure out who the customer is and what messages to send but also how to scale that personalization to segments of tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of customers at a time. To do that both effectively and quickly, companies will need to leverage machine learning, the Internet of Things, and other advanced technologies that enable accurate predictive models. Companies can then benchmark their projected hit rates against their actual results and refine their algorithms for even greater agility and responsiveness.

The Next Steps of Predictive Marketing

Effective behavioral targeting requires companies to identify all the relevant data points, including external data points that indicate which information is valuable. This calls for data scientists who can spot and remove the irrelevant data points that are at the far ends of the curve and distill what remains into meaningful algorithms. It also requires machine learning tools capable of high-volume, high-speed listening, assessing, learning, and making recommendations to improve the algorithm over time.

Once you’ve created a baseline of primary criteria, you can determine the important criteria by which to segment your customer base. To use an oversimplified example, imagine that you own a coffee shop and you want to increase sales of high-margin bakery items. You need to look not at the customers who always get a muffin with their coffee or at those who never do but at those who buy a muffin sometimes, so that you can start to identify the triggers that make them choose to indulge.

To scale this process, look at both user-based and item-based affinities. User-based affinities link customers who have similar interests and shopping patterns. Item-based affinities link customers based on what they buy, individually or in groups of items. Using machine learning to pair and cross-reference these two factors will enable you to create messages that are personalized enough to seem individualized, even though they’re actually targeting small, multi-person segments.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature3 Image6 Five Ways To Boost CX And Provide Superior Customer ServiceRetailers of all types collect data about individuals, down to location, date, time, and SKU of the sale. They may experiment with behavioral targeting by making in-the-moment offers based on what they already know about their customers. For example, they may use a mobile app with geofencing to be alerted when a customer using the app is in the store. The alert triggers back-end systems to look up the customer’s purchase history, generate a relevant offer, and deliver that offer to the customer’s smartphone while the customer is still in the store.

The Line Between Marketing and Manipulation

Just the idea of receiving marketing messages influenced by their behavior will disturb some customers. When marketing is designed, as behavioral targeting is, to maximize engagement, the value of the content depends less on whether it’s useful to the audience or even true and more on whether it gets the target audience to engage and reveal another piece of the behavioral puzzle. As a result, companies considering behavioral marketing must consider a question as old as marketing itself: where is the line between advertising and propaganda?

Creating personal profiles of customers based on their actions and personalities will become inexpensive and easy, for better or worse. Better will lead to more relevant and compelling offers based on predictive models of what customers would like to buy next. Worse will create (or at least look like) scalable, granular manipulation.

If companies hope to apply this level of targeted marketing without coming across as intrusive or invasive, they will need to be completely transparent about what they’re doing and how—and with whom they’re sharing the information. Most shoppers say they’re willing to give up data about themselves if it leads to a better shopping experience and more relevant recommendations.

Numerous studies show that customers are comfortable sharing their buying patterns and preferences as long as it doesn’t compromise their personally identifiable information. Nonetheless, they may decide otherwise if they believe that by welcoming you into their lives, they’re throwing open the doors to strangers as well.

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As data mining for behavioral targeting becomes more common, companies will have to offer customers the opportunity to opt in and out at varying levels of detail. They will also need to identify and flag the significant minority of customers who prefer not to be profiled in such depth (or at all). Machine learning will be invaluable in responding to complaints on social media, tracking the relevant details of offers that were ignored or got negative reactions, and otherwise ensuring that companies don’t misuse customer data or misunderstand consumer wants and needs.

“The entire paradigm of targeting and campaign implies a vendor doing something to customers,” says Mark Bonchek, founder and “chief epiphany officer” at Shift Thinking, a Boston-based consulting firm that helps companies pursue digital transformation. “It implies getting people to do what you want them to do rather than helping them do what they want to do,” he says. “Be clear on the mental model behind your behavioral targeting. Is it more like a friend figuring out the right gift for a friend or a salesperson trying to close a deal with a prospect? People don’t want to be targets.”

Instead, Bonchek suggests, think of behavioral targeting as a way to build a reciprocal relationship that lets you enhance the customer experience at multiple touch points, not all of them actual transactions. Utility companies send customers information about their own and their neighbors’ energy use so they can benchmark themselves. The utilities often follow up with suggestions about how to save both power and money. Meanwhile, a credit card issuer could help customers understand their purchasing patterns and discover new stores or service providers.

“Loyalty is an emotion first and behavior second,” Bonchek says. “It’s the difference between pushing customers through a funnel and helping them achieve a shared purpose.”

The Art of Scientific Marketing

In mid-20th century New York City, a small local chain of markets developed a national reputation for customer service. It let favored customers call in orders and pay for them at pickup. Managers kept lists—handwritten lists, no less—of their best customers’ preferred products and called those customers with special offers. People were happy to pay slightly higher prices overall in exchange for exclusive bargains and highly customized service.

Although it leverages new technologies like machine learning and Big Data, behavioral targeting will in many ways bring us full circle to that hands-on era in which companies created relevant offers that made customers feel valued and understood. Matz believes it would be a competitive advantage for companies to let customers interact with their profiles and even correct them to ensure that they only receive offers that meet their needs and preferences.

As more situational data pours in from smartphones and wearables to be analyzed by AI, she adds, behavioral targeting could become something more immersive than mere marketing. “If you know from that data that someone is not just an extrovert with specific preferences but that they’re currently in a good mood, you can start fine-tuning messages for that particular point in time,” she says. “We’ll move beyond static profiles to interactions based on characteristics that fluctuate.”

With enough data to work with, she suggests, behavioral targeting could become less about making offers and more about informing customers about their options at any given moment, in real time. D!

About the Authors

Denise Champion is Vice President of Strategy, Research, and Insights for Global Marketing at SAP.

Jeff Harvey is Global COO, SAP Analytics & Insight at SAP.

Lori Mitchell-Keller is Global General Manager, Consumer Industries at SAP.

Jeff Woods is Global COO, SAP Leonardo | Data and Analytics.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


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Digitalist Magazine

How Technology Enhances The Customer Experience

Mention the word fintech to veteran financial services executives and watch the hairs on the backs of their necks stand up.

Fintech is a broad term that applies to new digital financial technologies, from cryptocurrencies to mobile wallets, as well as the startups attempting to use those new technologies to blast centuries-old financial institutions out of the water.

Recognizing the existential threat, leaders of 233-year-old U.S. financial giant Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) became convinced that continuous IT-enabled innovation was essential. To do that right, the IT team reorganized around specific capabilities—190 so far. Each capability has an owner who serves as a kind of CEO of that service and who is free to make any changes deemed necessary for success.

Like any radical change, BNY Mellon’s effort has seen its share of growing pains. For example, some take to the ownership roles better than others. And employees have required significant coaching throughout.

Several years in, however, a fundamental shift has taken place at the bank established by U.S. founding father Alexander Hamilton. “Change is no longer some big project,” says Jeanne Ross, principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research, who has studied BNY Mellon’s efforts. “Change is what you do every morning when you get out of bed.”

Just about every industry is facing its own version of fintech these days, forcing organizations to disrupt their established ways of doing business or face disruption by an upstart unburdened by legacy processes and technology. It’s the age of digital transformation, which business consultancy Capgemini calls “the ultimate challenge in change management because it affects not only industry structures and strategic positioning, but also all levels of an organization (every task, activity, process) as well as the extended supply chain.” Dramatic increases in connectivity and improvements in technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and advanced analytics let companies optimize their processes continuously, but usually not without making enormous changes first.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image2 How Technology Enhances The Customer ExperienceTo make the most of frequent and successive waves of technology innovation, organizations must build adaptability into their structures, their functions, and their individual employees. That calls for new approaches designed to make transformation real and continuous. “The ability to develop a culture of change where people rely less on habits and more on imagining what’s possible every day is going to be part and parcel of being a great company,” says Ross.

Unfortunately, the traditional command-and-control architecture of most businesses was not built for continuous adaptation. “The speed with which we need to take a good idea and get it in place is so much faster than before, which is why we are having this moment of truth,” Ross says. “Traditional approaches that rely on a lot of hierarchy to make changes are too slow.”

For years, most change efforts have been top-down, episodic, all-encompassing “big bang” attempts to alter systems, processes, and cultures. Executives announced a restructuring or an acquisition or the implementation of new technology and brought in external change management consultants to try to get people to adapt to new ways of working. It rarely succeeded.

Despite significant investment in the change management discipline and a library of books on the subject, just a quarter of change management initiatives succeed long term, according to a 2013 survey by consultancy Willis Towers Watson.

Digital transformation isn’t going much better. Worldwide spending on digital transformation technologies will grow to US$ 1.2 trillion in 2017, up 17.8% over 2016, according to IDC. But fewer than 2 in 10 respondents to a recent survey by the SAP Center for Business Insight and Oxford Economics have seen substantial or transformational value from their technology investments so far. And just 12% say that digitalization has affected their organizational structure in a meaningful way.

Furthermore, even though 84% of the C-level executives surveyed ranked digital transformation as “critically important” to the survival of their businesses, just 3% have completed transformation efforts that span the entire organization.

For digital transformation to deliver value, an entire organization needs to buy into new ways not just of working, but also of thinking. “It’s not about bringing consultants in. It’s about really designing systems that enable an organization to adapt innately,” says Pravir Malik, founder of organizational change development firm Deep Order Technologies and author of Connecting Inner Power with Global Change: The Fractal Ladder and The Fractal Organization: Creating Enterprises of Tomorrow.

Companies are experimenting with new approaches that encourage and support the flexibility required to embrace continuous transformation. Some are rethinking how they operate. Others are investing in helping employees become more adaptable. Still others are clarifying their mission in a way that makes room for individuals to drive change themselves.

Ultimately, gaining the ability to change constantly will help both organizations and employees over the long term. Change becomes less episodic, less massive, and less jarring; there is no end state, no go-live. Instead, the organization is always moving, but at a step-by-step pace that makes it easier for employees to adapt.

However, evolving into this state of constant, fluid change isn’t easy. It only works if you have the right approach and methodologies.

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Changing Mindsets

Indeed, as companies tackle digital transformation, traditional highly structured change management programs can actually do more harm than good, says Tom Weeks, senior consultant with The Arbinger Institute, a consultancy that works with organizations to encourage change from within. “The change program becomes the change rather than the results you’re trying to achieve,” he says.

Such change efforts can create a short-term view. As a result, says Weeks, “they drive short-term change, but they don’t change people’s minds. You can force the issues and try to make change happen for change’s sake. But eventually the effort loses energy.”

“Everyone is surprised by that,” adds Weeks. “But it’s just nature at play. We’re hardwired to resist change. If you’re not shifting fundamental mindsets, it doesn’t matter how much money or how many resources you put behind it.”

In her behavioral research, Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has focused on two types of mindsets that she sees in most organizations: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that their basic qualities, like intelligence or talent, are static.

Those with a growth mindset think that talents and capabilities develop over time through effort—a way of thinking that Dweck says creates more individual resilience and adaptability. People in the latter group tend to be better at collaboration, problem solving, and, naturally, continuing change.

The good news, according to Dweck, is that the growth mindset can be a learned behavior. She points to Microsoft as a company attempting to do just that. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has publicly stated that the corporate mission “starts with a belief that everyone can grow and develop; that potential is nurtured, not predetermined; and that anyone can change their mindset.”

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image4 How Technology Enhances The Customer ExperienceMicrosoft’s leaders are emphasizing learning and creativity with programs like hackathons in which the best projects are funded and their originators rewarded. The company is more explicitly rewarding risk-taking and the pursuit of stretch goals. When Microsoft’s foray into artificial intelligence, the chatbot Tay, was hacked, the CEO sent the team an e-mail of encouragement rather than rebuke.

Rather than limiting leadership development programs to those easily identified as having innate management potential, Microsoft says it is moving a broader swath of employees up and across teams, augmenting their skills, and expanding their work experiences. The most valuable employees are not necessarily the smartest people in the room, as in the past, but those who are the most adaptable—and capable of bringing that out in others.

While Dweck’s mindset work focuses on peoples’ ability to learn and grow, at The Arbinger Institute, consultants focus on an individual’s ability to work productively and with others. Arbinger’s methodology differentiates between an inward mindset, which causes people to be self-centered—seeing other people as objects or tools to either help or hurt them—and an outward mindset, which engenders more connection with and understanding of others as human beings.

Those with an outward mindset can work more collaboratively and productively. That’s incredibly important in an environment of change, such as when Raytheon Missile Systems was trying to integrate a series of mergers that were rife with infighting.

The company overcame the battles by working with all 12,000 employees on shifting their mindsets. Employees worked to uncover their part in company problems and devised ways to work collaboratively with others to solve them and hold themselves accountable for results. When tasked by company leaders to cut $ 100 million in expenses in two months or face layoffs, employees worked together to uncover alternatives.

They began to look beyond their own individual roles and needs, and focused instead on the needs of their colleagues and of the organization as a whole, says Weeks. That resulted in some big, organization-wide changes that went far beyond cost savings and helped increase sales dramatically.

Typically, companies like Raytheon come to Arbinger for help changing mindsets after they’ve struggled with failed change for a while. But that’s beginning to change, says Weeks, and that’s the ideal.

One company is offering employees training on the outward mindset approach before the launch of its six-year transformation effort. “If employees don’t have the right mindset, you can push change as much as you want, but eventually there will be a snap back. What’s required is people who want to hold themselves accountable at a higher level.”

Flexibility by Design

Neuroscientists are not surprised by the shift toward employee-centric rather than top-down change. They have proven that a brain’s “plasticity”—its ability to restructure and learn new things—is enduring. An old dog can learn new tricks. But when change is forced upon people, they quickly become overwhelmed, which activates the fight-or-flight response in the primitive emotional center of the brain, the amygdala.

They bottle up that instinctive response and it reemerges as anxiety, depression, and poor health if not managed. And not only are those potentially toxic emotions harmful to the individual, they are contagious in the organization.

The secret is to create conditions in which people direct more of the change themselves. When individuals solve a problem on their own, for example, their brain releases a rush of neurotransmitters that can create good feelings associated with the change.

One way to create this kind of personal change ownership is by taking a design thinking approach. The iterative, human-centric design concept that was first developed in the early 1970s has become a popular approach to developing products and services for customers. But design thinking principles can also bring new systems and processes to an organization.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image5 How Technology Enhances The Customer ExperienceThat was the case when furniture maker Herman Miller began exploring the potential of an office chair connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) three years ago. Instead of designing a new chair, Herman Miller came away with the foundation for an organizational transformation from hard goods maker to service provider. This is the latest fundamental shift in a company that has evolved from traditional Queen Anne-style furniture maker in the 1930s to office designer in the 1970s to ergonomics innovator in the 1980s and 1990s, says Chris Hoyt, design exploration leader at Herman Miller.

Taking a design thinking approach meant interviewing a wide cross section of stakeholders. The interviews revealed that simply putting a sensor into a desk chair did not make business sense, but putting one into the company’s sit-to-stand desk—and creating a series of IoT-enabled services around it—did. The exercise turned out to be an entry point into an entirely new business model.

“Design thinking wasn’t new to Herman Miller, but there was a lot of skepticism about whether integrating technology into its furniture made business sense,” explains Kurt Dykema, co-founder and director of technology at product innovation and business strategy consultancy Twisthink, which worked with Herman Miller. “This process guided them through a transformation where they have to think about selling a digital experience and monetizing that instead of just selling a capital good and then being done with it.”

For example, none of Herman Miller’s back office operations was built to support the IoT subscription models it planned to offer with the desk. But the design thinking approach created consensus around IoT business value and helped to clarify the organizational changes required to capitalize on the new opportunity.

“It forced them through the process of retooling the business to sell and maintain digital experiences,” Dykema says. Herman Miller launched its Live OS furniture line in June, with the smart desk as the first product, and plans for more to follow.

Getting Agile

Like many companies that incorporate a design thinking approach to organizational change, the performance car division of Daimler AG, Mercedes-AMG, married its process with agile development methods.

Agile turns conventional change management on its head. Rather than making big changes all at once, agile uses an incremental approach to creating software that gives users a chance to use and react to new functionality as it is developed and to validate its value (as opposed to the more traditional waterfall approach where users don’t experience a solution until it is finished).

With agile, there is no predetermined end state. Instead, change is constant, but never so rapid that it becomes overwhelming.

At Mercedes-AMG, clickable prototypes were produced and tested with users weekly and their feedback was funneled back into development streams, continuously improving the resulting system. Based on early success at Mercedes-AMG, Daimler’s enterprise IT organization launched a similar program to develop new digital services for the enterprise.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature2 Image6 How Technology Enhances The Customer ExperienceAt BNY Mellon, the adoption of agile development methods has enabled the company to introduce an incredible amount of systems change—but two weeks at a time.

The product of years of mergers and acquisitions, BNY Mellon had operated in product silos, each with their own systems and processes. The company wanted to develop a digital platform from which it could orchestrate a more unified and innovative customer experience. The goal was to put one of America’s oldest financial institutions on equal footing with some of the newest and most nimble newcomers in fintech.

Agile was a new way of working for the IT organization, which was accustomed to introducing releases a couple of times a year rather than a couple of times a month. So IT leaders invested significant time and money helping employees adopt new skills and adapt to the changes.

Eventually, agile enabled the bank to introduce new systems to its 52,000 employees in phases for their ongoing input, fine-tuning the systems over time to best meet employees’ needs and better ensure their adoption. It’s led to the creation—and ongoing enhancement—of an open-source, cloud-based platform that serves as a portal for both internal employees and customers. This app store will provide access to all BNY Mellon’s products and services as well as capabilities from select fintech and established financial services partners.

Increasing Autonomy

Though making change constant relies heavily on individual employees, leaders still have an important role to play. They need to provide the alignment with organizational principles that, when combined with individual autonomy, can create the kind of fluid and adaptive organization required for digital transformation, according to Mark Bonchek, CEO of Shift Thinking, a consultancy that works with leaders and organizations to update their thinking for a digital age.

The U.S. military takes this kind of approach on the battlefield, putting in place a doctrine that authoritatively guides soldiers but gives them autonomy and requires judgment in action to respond to rapidly changing conditions.

In business, organizations are adapting this principle by giving employees guidance on how to take action without requiring them to first seek approval. For example, when Suresh Kumar took over as CIO of BNY Mellon, he reorganized IT around end-to-end IT and business services. IT leaders subdivided each service into smaller components, each with its own leader. These hundreds of services leaders maintain their own service strategy document that covers the current state as well as a one- to three-year improvement plan.

Each service leader is measured on user experience. And because the services are highly interdependent, leaders are also judged on the experience of other service leaders who depend on their service.

As a result, BNY Mellon’s top IT leadership no longer directs team members, but coaches them. Early on, only about a third of the service leaders were successful. The IT group ultimately developed a maturity model for the approach to foster leader development.

Leading a service is as much a mindset as it is a job, says Kumar. The goal of the new approaches—agile software development, physical reorganization, increased autonomy and responsibility—is to create a digital foundation of services linking the bank to its customers and external partners and fostering ongoing digital transformation. The shift began in the IT organization, but the plan is to expand it enterprise-wide and to bring partners and customers into the loop as well.

The Power of Language

In the digital transformation era, companies need a new strategic narrative to help drive a mindset of constant change. A strategic narrative describes the shared purpose that all stakeholders are working toward, says Bonchek. That creates a shared purpose that everyone can wrap their minds—and ultimately their behaviors—around.

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For example, BNY Mellon’s working narrative is that “we believe each of us has the power to improve lives through investing.” And that applies not only to the investment of capital, but investing in people, in ideas, and in the future. At a high level, the theme helps reorient employees’ thinking and behaviors as they consider new ways the bank might differentiate itself.

The Importance of Being Resilient

If an organization is going to adapt itself to constant change, employees need tools to manage the psychological stress that comes with it.

Luckily, personal adaptability is something that you can teach. That’s just what Wendy Quan, a former in-house change management professional, does. As the founder of The Calm Monkey, she’s working with organizations from Google to the government of Dubai, helping them implement self-sustaining mindfulness meditation programs.

Quan used mindfulness and meditation practices to increase her own resilience during cancer treatment. “It alters your experience of a change,” she explains, “even when things around you aren’t changing the way you want them to.”

In 2011, she began conducting mindfulness training for a handful of executives working on a seven-year business and technology transformation project at Pacific Blue Cross. The leaders found the training so valuable that they made it available to the entire workforce.

Quan used the sessions to help employees experience the change on their own terms rather than feeling victimized. She focused change-specific meditations on becoming aware of one’s own perceptions about change, recognizing emotions and their impact on behaviors, learning how to mindfully choose reactions, and cultivating calm and clarity.

Quan surveyed employees after the training. The percentage of employees who rated their personal resiliency as low at the beginning decreased from 40% to just 2% while those who characterized themselves as highly resilient increased by a factor of 600% to 72%. And 83% said that meditation has moderately to significantly helped them through a significant transition.

“Change management methodologies favor the corporate perspective,” says Quan. “But it’s really important to focus on helping people be more self-aware of how they’re journeying through the change.”

Deep Order Technologies’ Malik also focuses his approach to resiliency training on self-awareness. He built a mobile app that enables employees to register what they’re feeling throughout the day. Recording emotional states gives employees a better understanding of what drives their own behaviors and how to cope with their feelings.

Leaders can then look at the aggregated, anonymized readings to identify patterns across the organization. Those patterns give leaders a good idea of the overall orientation of employees going through a change at a given point in time and whether they are poised to go along with it or resist.

Change the Ways of Changing

There is no simple solution to making change easier. A combination of new approaches at the organizational and individual level will be required to adapt to the constant change demanded by the digital future.

These approaches are all in the early adoption phases in most companies. Ironically, they are, in and of themselves, significant changes that must be absorbed. But the speed of digital change is relentless. “It’s just getting faster and faster,” says Quan. “And what companies are seeing is that stress and the inability to adapt to change cause reduced performance and increased absenteeism and disability rates. Leaders who see these trends know they need to pay attention,” says Quan.

Those that don’t? “They’ll go away. They’ll be history,” says Ross. “I don’t think this is an issue they can ignore.” D!

About the Authors

Andreas Hauser is Senior Vice President, Strategic Design Services and AppHaus Network, at SAP.

Paul Kurchina is a community builder with the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) who focuses on digital transformation and change.

Stephanie Overby is a Boston-based business and technology journalist.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


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5 Innovative Ways to Inspire Customer Loyalty

Getting customers — and keeping them — is the name of the game in e-commerce.

“The e-commerce market is crowded and noisy, and brands need to do everything they can to differentiate themselves from the pack,” said Eric Hansen, CTO of

“Loyalty programs do just that, giving a brand the edge they need to stay a step ahead of their competitors,” he told CRM Buyer.

1. Think Beyond Rewards and Points

Inspiring loyalty to your brand and your products is a vital part of e-commerce, but the best loyalty programs go beyond offering rewards and points.

Building true, lasting customer loyalty involves incentivizing customers to spend time at your site and, most importantly, to return.

“A loyalty program can really be anything that inspires a customer to keep coming back,” explained Hansen. “With that in mind, brands would do well to broaden their thinking when they consider inspiring loyalty. The traditional loyalty programs that offer perks like loyalty points and free shipping are great, but they are by no means the only perks brands can offer customers.”

For instance, thinking beyond the usual loyalty offerings could mean offering a branded app to draw customers in — and keep them coming back.

“Offering a branded app that centralizes the customer experience can be a fantastic way of not only streamlining the customer experience, but also establishing a trusted customer touchpoint,” said Hansen. “Brands can use this trust to offer targeted upsells and promotions, allowing fast and easy purchasing of favorite products.”

2. Offer a Personalized Experience

One of the most important steps that e-commerce businesses can take toward building a loyal customer base is to cater to those customers’ desire for attention, care and understanding.

“A loyalty program is all about bringing value to customers through offerings that feel tailor-made,” said
Como SVP Yair Holtzer, head of Como USA.

“To do so, retailers need to leverage the data they gain from their customers’ online behavior to communicate with them in a personalized way,” he told CRM Buyer. “That personalization involves relevant product recommendations, contextual content, customized messages and more.”

Personalization can create a deep sense of loyalty. Customers want to be understood, and they appreciate the time and effort they can save if a retailer knows the kinds of products and services they’re looking for.

“A personalized customer experience is one of the most powerful perks out there,” said SiteSpect’s Hansen. “Presenting customers the products they want every time they visit the site — as well as providing helpful, targeted suggestions and promotions — will inspire loyalty.”

3. Be Data-Savvy

Collecting and interpreting data about customers’ past purchases and behaviors is a central component of tailoring their experience when they’re on your site.

“Reward frequent shoppers by collecting data on their past purchases, preferences and recently browsed items,” said Hansen. “If a customer rarely has to search for the product they want and they feel like the company knows them well, they will be less likely to go elsewhere for their needs.”

Gathering and interpreting data is a way of getting to know your customers, and that data can, in turn, enhance their shopping experience and potentially inspire them to buy more.

“Start by categorizing your customers into segments, giving each customer tags based on their shopping behavior — such as purchased items, total spend per visit, frequency, etc., or personal information,” suggested Holtzer.

“I recommend using these tags to group customers into around three or four different tiers,” he continued. “Each tier should have its own rewards program based on a specific ratio of points earned to amount spent, as well as personalized offers. This tier-based approach helps you convert low spenders into major customers, by presenting them with enticing deals that are based off of their personal preferences and behavior.”

4. Provide Good Content

The more helpful, complete and engaging the content is on an e-commerce site, the more likely customers are to shop there — and to return.

Including in-depth product listings, downloadable manuals, comparison guides, and well-produced videos might not look like a traditional loyalty program, but providing strong content can be an effective strategy in the process of building trust between a business and its customers.

“When companies have good content on their site, it inspires loyalty,” observed Kenji Gjovig, VP of partnerships and business development for Content Analytics.

“Good content will help a buyer make a good decision,” he told CRM Buyer. Customers can shop many different places, so it’s important to increase the stickiness of a customer within your own ecosystem.”

5. Incorporate Social Components

Enhancing the social experience of shopping is another way to build a sense of loyalty and belonging, along with attracting new customers.

“Today’s customers place a huge premium on a sense of belonging, and loyalty programs that nurture that desire have had a lot of success of late,” said Hansen.

Customers are social, after all, and they often appreciate seeing their social lives mirrored in their shopping experience.

“Loyalty programs that focus on incorporating social components, allowing a shopper and their friends to interact on a brand’s site, can help to create new value for a loyalty program by enabling consumers to not just see recommendations based on their past purchases, but also based on friend’s preferences or picks,” said Hansen. “This showcases that the brand understands how today’s shopper browses online instead of in a mall.”

In fact, some promotions work best when they have a social component, and they ultimately can inspire loyalty in a whole network of customers.

“Capitalizing on social data, these same companies can also take the time to understand promotions that may work better for a group rather than individuals,” explained Hansen.

“For example, sharing a deal that if a consumer and three of her friends buy winter boots they all get 25 percent off could help to drive sales of boots and incentivize a group to direct their boot needs to that particular brand,” he said.

In the end, it’s vital that businesses remember that loyalty is all about developing a connection with their customers.

“Going way beyond rewards and points, a loyalty program makes customers feel appreciated and connected to the brand,” said Como’s Holtzer. “This method transitions consumers from shoppers to loyal customers who consistently return.”
end enn 5 Innovative Ways to Inspire Customer Loyalty

Vivian%20Wagner 5 Innovative Ways to Inspire Customer LoyaltyVivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety
of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.
Email Vivian.

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Customer service done right: How a United Airlines crew rose above an imperfect storm

screen shot 2017 05 15 at 07 05 18 Customer service done right: How a United Airlines crew rose above an imperfect storm

(Image: United Airlines)

I just experienced the weirdest problem chain I ever encountered flying, and I thought it would be important to document it for all history because it was so bizarre and indicative of… something that I can’t even put my head around.

It all begins when we have already boarded the plane. My wife and I had a really nice surprise in that we ran into Bill Patterson, the SVP and GM for Salesforce’s Service Cloud and, more importantly, a dear friend. We sat near him.

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We were blabbing away when suddenly Bill laughed and said he had a gate change notice for the plane, even though everyone had completely boarded the plane. He was told we were being moved from Gate 65 to Gate 63 at SFO. Ah, a glitch in the app. Something to note. Nothing to actually do, though. Then, one of the other passengers mentioned the same thing.

Obviously, this was a mistake, right? I mean, we all had boarded already, and they were preparing the plane for takeoff. Doors shut. Engines idling.

Or was it?

It wasn’t.


There was a problem that had triggered the notification. We had an issue. An issue of…

Toilet Security

Yes, toilet security. The first-class toilet handle had broken, and this created a possible security breach and that was why we had to change planes. How, I thought, does a broken toilet handle create a security breach? Poison gas escaping through the open door? Evil creatures coming from the bowl and becoming uncontainable? No way of keeping the Mile-High Club private? I could also go into dozens of scatological jokes, but in the interests of what remains a vestige of good taste for this post, I won’t.

Turns out that the toilet handle being broken meant that the pilots couldn’t use that one and thus would have to walk to another restroom more than a few feet away and that would expose them to danger. Understandable. Thus, the only apparent solution was that we all might have to deplane and then move to another plane at an adjacent gate due to the toilet security issue.

A few tense minutes passed. Would we have to move? Would we be able to stay? What is the nature of the universe? All this needed to be answered in the next minute or two or we would start to be very late in taking off. Except the last one, of course.

Ahh, we could stay, we were told. Even though the handle remained broken and the toilet unusable, it was no longer a security issue and we could get ready to go home. I had to presume that the heroic pilots bravely agreed to hold it the entire 5.5-hour trip home.

We were on our way… or were we?

Read also:And the winners of the 2017 CRM Watchlist are… | Beyond the wow factor: Why customer experience management is not about exceeding expectations

Alt_Out of Control_Delete

We were not. After getting ready to go (no toilet security pun intended), we were told that, in fact, due to the now mythical gate change, the passenger manifest was deleted after it was transferred over to the other gate. So, we now had to deplane and re-board once they reloaded the now-deleted passenger list. They did, and we did. Off the plane and back on.

Passengers seated. Seatbelts on. Seats upright. Getting ready for the video…


Fuel vampires

Apparently, while we were waiting, 1,000 pounds of fuel was ingested by what I can only imagine were fuel vampires. I mean, how else, would 1,000 pounds of fuel, which, one must presume, was there when they had originally intended to take off, disappear? It couldn’t be that they were unaware that they were a half ton short of fuel. Not possible, right? I mean, who makes that mistake? So, clearly, there was an attack by fuel vampires on the fuel tanks and they drank 1,000 pounds of the fuel and then departed to turn human beings into gas pumps.

But, eventually, that got solved and we were set. Toilet door handle secured, passengers no longer deleted, fuel full up, seat belts on, safety video watched, seats upright, tray tables stowed, ready to push back to go to the runway and…

When Push Comes to… Oh, Wait, There’s No Push!

There was no one to push the plane away from the gate. They had to call “the company” — I presume Plane Pushers Intl. — to send some folks to get us pushed from the gate. I was amazed that this saga was still going and was as ridiculous as it was when it started. How could it be? But then I got to thinking: How strong are these plane pushers? Are they like the truck pullers that you see in state fairs pulling trucks with their teeth? Do they push the plane with their bare hands or wear glove? Are truck pullers in a different union than plane pushers? Let’s face it. I had a lot of time on my hands.

Finally, the plane pushers came and, I imagine, pushed the plane from the gate and we were on our way. I was worried that something would happen in flight — maybe an Amazon drone would buzz the plane around its wings and force it to land early and somewhere else. Why not?

Oddly, though, this story stands on its own, there is actually a customer service lesson to be had in this unique confluence of either incompetence or just plain bad luck with United.

Read also: A company like me: Beyond customer-centric to customer-engaged | This consumer revolution is being televised | How customer data platforms can benefit your business

Hooray, Huzzah, Hoo-ah, Hallelujah for the Flight Crew!

Throughout this insanely weird confluence of events, the flight crew — the captain, the purser, and the flight attendants all were helpful, funny, cheerful, friendly, sympathetic, and attentive and made what could have been a classic “United sucks” event into a “this is so ridiculous that its actually funny so let’s keep our good nature and wits about us” event.

They made sure that all passengers were taken care of throughout this imperfect storm and the captain never wavered for a second in making sure that we had all the information we needed and were always apprised of what was going on. Due to this approach, which was both professionally perfect and personally friendly, I can’t recall a single customer that got out of hand or grumbled. Most of the time, we all just cheerfully accepted our fate, appreciated the absurdity (along with the crew) and continued on as if there had been no problem whatever, even though we were ultimately delayed a couple of hours. The one scary feature of this entire “thing” was that a half ton of fuel was missing. That one — because of the way the flight crew handled it and that it was one of four weird things — was lost in the ether a bit. But, I have to wonder: How do you miss a thousand pounds of fuel?

That said, the lesson here is that no matter the weirdness and the inconvenience, a well-trained, intelligent, and friendly group of people in service trumps the problem every time (of course, I mean in the old sense of the word “trump”). They can’t eliminate the problem, but they can reduce the stress around it and that’s all you can ask once the problem arises.

When was the last time a company surprised you with an excellent customer service response? Tell us in the comments section below.

Previous and related coverage

Are you experienced? Customer lessons from Comcast, American Girl, and Irish whiskey

The differences between customer engagement, customer experience, consumable experience, and brand experience can have significant impacts on your company’s strategy. Paul Greenberg explains it all for you.

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Style matters — and it has as long human life has existed. Thanks mostly to Apple and its devices, style now matters in technology — and makes a difference in our purchasing patterns. Paul Greenberg reprises a post from 2006: References may have changed, but the lust for and value of style hasn’t.

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Are you experienced? Customer lessons from Comcast, American Girl, and Irish whiskey

Video: Building customer loyalty is all about data

Knowing customer behavior is key to either anticipating how they are going to interact or understanding how they interacted and why in particular that way. The customer’s history with the company and their feelings about the company have a significant impact on the results.

Hey everyone. I apologize for taking so long to start writing in a serious way again, but rest assured for the rest of the year and into the coming years, if ZDNet will continue to have me, I’ll be writing more frequently.

To celebrate that (Whoo! Boo-yah!) I’m going to write something today on something that has been vexing me for a while, and that I figured out in the last several months. What is the difference between customer engagement, customer experience, consumable experience, and now, a new one, brand experience — more related to the consumable experience than the overall customer experience? If that doesn’t bother or interest you, ta ta. If it does, hang on for the ride.

Thinking about it from on high…

There is poetry and expressive clarity in the natural use of language when used well. That means that the constructs of the phrasing, the articulation of the idea, the context that the paragraphs reside in, are all something apparent to the reader as they read, either explicitly or implicitly. But, often, especially in our era of highly visible social presence, we spend a lot of time dissecting how someone says something, and lose what they are saying and why they are saying it to accidental obfuscation.

If I think about it as a rational human being, I realize that it is my responsibility as the writer to make sure that I choose or create my definitions well, that I convey the context with clarity and that I make sure that what I am trying to express is expressed in the metaphors and thus the phrasing of the audience members who are “hearing” me. The atmosphere I create, the environment I engineer, the wordsmithing I do, combined, create a portrait that I can present that, if done truly well, make that portrait viewer, the art goer, shiver with the knowledge that they “get it.”

That’s the writer fashioning the “reader experience.” But it is also the way that a true practitioner creates the customer experience. It is crafted as art and engineered as science but that is, instead of an onus, a positive approach to the creation of the conditions that ultimately lead to a fully engaged customer, not an exercise in mind and emotional control.

But the problem that keeps showing its ugly mug is that the definitions around customer experience and to some extent customer engagement are fast and loose — and pretty much, not what the practitioner is looking for, but instead, are built around what the vendor wants to sell — muddying the waters to a degree that makes it confusing.

So, in the interests of the commonwealth (of self-interest, of course), I’m going to clarify the definition of customer experience and customer engagement and then talk to the idea of the three kinds of customer experience that can be addressed legitimately and how to craft your story around them in the best possible way — at least the way that I see it.

Since customer engagement is NOT really the center of this story (though it is the back story in the case of all customer experience — it always is), I’ll get that out of the way quickly.

The definition of customer engagement

I have a clear definition: The ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.

Here’s what I mean by that:

1. A company is born with constraints — labor, time, financial, regulatory, you name it. That means that no matter what they’d like to do, it’s likely that one way or the other there are either roadblocks to getting there or restrictions on their ability to do it.

2. A customer doesn’t care about the constraints the company has — they only want to satisfy their self-interest. Self-interest isn’t a bad thing. It’s what a person wants to do that keeps them happy as they trek on the path to happiness. The more control a person has over that journey to happiness, the happier they are. The control manifests itself for an individual as control over the choices they can make concerning the direction of that journey.

3. A customer also doesn’t care about the journeys of the other customers of that company. When it comes to their relationship to the company — the customer wants to see that the company values them as an individual. The constraints and the other customers are moot as far as they are concerned when it comes to their relationship to the company — except on occasion.

4. Thus, the company’s responsibility is that despite the constraints and despite the desires of the other customers, that they concern themselves with the ways to provide individual customers with a semblance of control by giving them a basket of products, services, tools and consumable experiences (more on this later) that they can choose from — and thus showing that customer they are valued.

5. Doing that keeps the customer happy enough (not ecstatic or continually delighted) to want to continue to interact with the company (and transact, a.k.a buy stuff).

There is much more to this but I’ve written about it before so for the purposes of this post, it will have to remain the back story. Suffice to say, it will suffice (to say).

Customer Experience then…

Customer experience is not the same as customer engagement. It is symbiotic. The overarching definition of customer experience — the one that you most likely mean or are looking for:

Customer experience is how a customer feels about a company over time.

That is a complex feeling too. That is driven by the sum total of the interactions and the results of those interactions and the expectations you had of those interactions and the impact of prior interactions and their results on the present interactions and their results. It is driven by the day that you had overall and the impact that the day had on your interactions with the company, whether the results of that day are endemic to the company or not.

But what it isn’t, is enabled by technology or engineered per se by the company. It is how a customer feels and technology cannot, I repeat, IT…CANNOT…ENABLE…FEELINGS. Sorry to yell, but I’m an emotional guy. And…I’m actually not yelling, I’m just capitalizing letters. The sound pollution wasn’t increased a decibel. See how the minds works?

So how is it different from engagement? What makes it symbiotic?

Customer experience: The difference from engagement

I have to presume that you can see by their definition that they aren’t conflicting, but nor are they interchangeable. They are however, symbiotic.

Expanding on that thought a little, let’s make a something of a blanket statement:

Successful engagement with a customer over time can lead to a potentially great or at least good enough customer experience. And if the customer experience is positive, the engagements are likely to be more positive than they otherwise would have been — and the customers more forgiving of negative interactions than they otherwise would have been.

The success of this singular engagement over time or its failure is what leads to what most consider “the” customer experience.

To take it a tiny bit further, while the feeling that is translated to a great, good or not so good customer experience can change, the fact that this occurs over time is of paramount importance. Understanding its ongoing nature is knowing what it is. Also top of the charts here, is to realize that “feels” is a scientific word, not a literary term per se. That means the customer’s behavior is driven by his or her perception of something that makes them emotional in a positive or negative way – they feel good or bad about the ongoing experience.

Tech Pro Research: How focusing on solid customer service can differentiate tech companies |

Engagement however is a different animal. While time is critical — it’s the ongoing interactions that make it engagement, engagement is the communications between or among the companies and their customers. The particular interaction or set of interactions is what determines successful or failed engagement. How engaged a customer is with a company is often determined by how they are feeling at a specific moment in time about a company — and its impact on the actual interaction(s) undertaken.

A customer engagement “event” occurs at the point of the interaction and immediately before and after it. How fully engaged the customer is at that time, is based on the success or failure of those immediate interactions. Emotion plays a huge role in that success or failure — meaning the customer’s current feeling about the company and about whatever is driving the interaction.

The interplay of engagement and experience drives the customer’s experience, based on their history and the different weights assigned to different results that had different expectations of the events as they occurred.

The benefit to a business is that this gives the organization the means to identify the customer’s behavior, the context for it, and a picture of the emotional content because it is recorded in some fashion. Sometimes it’s a conversation that indicates something. Sometimes it’s a pattern of activity. But, all in all, it is likely a recorded action or set of them.

Thus, knowing customer behavior is key to either anticipating how they are going to interact or understanding how they interacted and why in particular that way. The customer’s history with the company and their feelings about the company have a significant impact on the results.

How then to think about the customer experience when mapping a strategy for engagement? Well, each year, Bruce Temkin, the #1 guy when it comes to customer experience, gets roughly 10,000 actual customers to rate their experience with individual brands in multiple industries. His resulting rankings are based on three things, all of which can be considered planning guidelines for your company’s engagement strategy. They are:

  1. The success customers had with recent interactions with the company. Did the customers accomplish what they set out to accomplish?
  2. The ease of their recent interactions with the company.
  3. Based on those recent interactions with the company, how did the customers feel about the company?

Note something here. If you read the lines, you see that the engagement (the interactions) and the experience are totally intertwined — in a Platonic way of course. If you read between the lines, you see it isn’t the actual experience the customer has with the company, but their perception of the experience.

While I’d love to be altruistic and say that what companies provide is what customers really and truly get — it’s more what customers think they are getting and how they feel about it that matters — though it may be exactly what they are getting. But one way or the other they have to feel that what they get is important — to them.

Before you make me into a demon who is devaluing authenticity and transparency, I’m going to respond.

As important as needing to be authentic and transparent is to a relationship with a customer — and it is — one other thing that governs the relationship of the company and customer is the willingness of the customer to engage or disengage framed by their long-term experience — their feeling about the company.

comcasttruck Are you experienced? Customer lessons from Comcast, American Girl, and Irish whiskey

I was a customer for 16 years – making me apparently guilty of self-flagellation. Why did I stay?

For example, if you look at Bruce Temkin’s 2016 Experience Ratings, you see that Comcast is one of the bottom feeders — as they are every year, it seems. Out of 294 total companies that were rated (each with at least 100 respondents from the survey), Comcast as a TV Service was 289th and as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) ranked 284th. What makes these pathetic numbers even more sad, is that this is an improvement over 2015! Sigh.

The anecdotal evidence to support their ranking is overwhelming. For example, in early 2015, a story hit the news that a Comcast customer claimed that she got a heart attack due to an anxiety-producing, stress-inducing customer service interaction with Comcast. It went viral, even though there was nothing but the customer’s claims because Comcast customers experiences were so bad that the story seemed credible, and their reputation so poor that even non-customers believed it.

What makes this particularly “poignant” is that I was a Comcast customer for 16 years. I used their internet services only but used them for such a long time that I was even a beta customer in my area. I hated almost every interaction I had with them because, with few exceptions, they were either overwhelmingly negative or minimally head scratching.

But notice I said I was a customer for 16 years — making me apparently guilty of self-flagellation. Why did I stay?

To put it in very simple terms:

1. The technology was good enough to meet my needs for the internet and their competitors at the time weren’t compelling enough in their offers to make me think they were much better.

2. I didn’t have a high degree of interactions with them — a few a year at the max and because the tech worked I lived with it.

3. The cost of switching — which isn’t a dollar cost but a physical and behavioral cost was high – particularly in that I would have to change my email from comcast.net to something else and that was 16 years with that email

4. That all led to inertia — I didn’t switch because it was too much work and nothing was compelling enough to make me switch — neither a competing offer nor a triggering bad event –

– Until there was the bad event.

Keep in mind, as far as Comcast knew, given that our bills were paid on time and they never actually took my customer pulse, they assumed — wrongly — that I was a loyal customer. Timely payments for premium internet over 16 years can lead one to think that.

But then the bad event.

Tech Pro Research: Why excellent customer service should be a corporate growth strategy

I got an offer via email one day from Comcast that seemed too good to pass up to improve my internet speed/bandwidth at a reasonable price. I responded to it via email and then began to fill out digital “paperwork” to activate the offer. Weirdly, I could fill things out to a point but had inexplicable (and annoying) trouble getting to the final stages to seal the deal. Initially, I thought it was a glitch in the online forms.

Ultimately, I called a customer service representative re: the offer and they told me that it was for new customers only. There had been NO indication of that anywhere in the offer I received. None. When I queried, rather irritated, as to why I got the offer then, no good answer was forthcoming. I let it go…again… but was unhappy, wondering why a customer of 16 years was not only not afforded the courtesy of an offer like this, but why they knew so little about me that I even received it.

Three days later, I…got…the…exact…same…offer…again. Again.

I terminated Comcast that day.

Comcast Lessons

This story is a perfect example of the symbiosis of engagement and experience. Comcast didn’t ask me why I was leaving or even show that they cared enough to lure me back.

But here are the facts:

  • Sixteen years of bad service interactions (continuously bad engagement leads to overall bad experience)
  • Reputation of Comcast as a horrible customer service company which was reinforced by my personal experience with the company. (bad experience reinforced by stories of bad engagement)
  • Their absolute lack of knowledge of me as an individual customer — and their apparent lack of interest in getting to know me. (bad engagement practices) Which led to:
  • My perception that they didn’t care about their most loyal customers. (reinforce bad experience) All in all, this led to:
  • An event trigger that took all four of the above and exacerbated the total effect — leading to enough of a jolt to move me from my inertia to cancellation. (moment of bad engagement added to overall bad experience tied to high density of bad engagements = cancellation)

It was a moment of engagement (the second identical offer) that triggered the disengagement with Comcast, but it was my overall experience with Comcast that framed the departure. If I had a great history with them, I would have chalked it up as a problem to be solved though I was otherwise happy. Good experience = I stay with Comcast and let the problem go as a glitch; but horrible overall experience = bye, bye Comcast.

To think about a customer’s experience requires thinking about the context and the framework of the customer’s relationship to the company — not just the sum of the interactions — because each interaction at a given moment in time is impacted by how the customer feels at that moment in time about the company as a whole — which effects the outcome that the interaction produces.

Tech Pro Research: Seven ways to build brand awareness into your digital strategy

That means not only having the knowledge of individual customer’s transactions, but their interactions with the company, their conversations about the brand. It means that as you amalgamate and analyze all that information to gain some individual insight, you also find the elements common to many of them that you need to define the programs that make the customers involvement over their time with you minimally friction-less and possibly even enjoyable.

All this while satisfying the purpose they engaged with you in the first place — whatever the reasons from the more utilitarian — convenience, price, availability of products, services, and, as I will show you in shortly, experiences to the more emotional — love of the brand, status.

What you offer to them, in combination with the results derived from the interactions with you, will drive their feelings toward your company.

But this isn’t the same as consumable experiences. Not an iota.

Building consumable experiences

Back in 1999, Joe Pine II ( a huge Yankees fan BTW) and his co-author James Gilmore, wrote a seminal book called “The Experience Economy” which was updated in 2011. In this pioneering book, Joe took what had been archly defined as “mass customization” to a new level by speaking about the creation and “staging” of “experiences” — which are created, designed, implemented, and monetized for consumption.

In Joe’s bright eyes, goods, services, and staged experiences are what creates that overall great experience. In mine, for businesses to succeed in the 21st century, they need to provide products, services, consumable experiences and tools, to succeed or minimally, to differentiate themselves from the pack. But I’m not going to argue the point here — or at all for that matter. More for later and also its all in the upcoming book. But I will say my name for what Joe is calling “staged experiences” is “consumable experiences.”

For example…

She’s an American Girl

 Are you experienced? Customer lessons from Comcast, American Girl, and Irish whiskey

You are paying for the actual extension of the story, not the thing itself. You are paying for what is going on in the mind and heart of your child .

Mattel’s American Girl division has been more successful over its life than even Barbie when it comes to attracting contemporary audiences. For those of you not acquainted with them, the American Girl doll is a doll with a theme. It can be historical, like Felicity who lived in 1774 and is a horse lover and patriot spy or contemporary like Tenney, “who writes songs and plays guitar.” Associated with each of the dolls is a storyline and dozens of accessories ranging from furniture to clothes to a book about the doll. The base doll costs from around $ 60.00 U.S. to $ 115.00, but the accessories associated with the story go for even more (up to $ 275.00 for a doll-sized diner, for example).

But the consumable experience is much bigger than the storyline around the doll. There are a series of premium monetized “experiences” at the retail stores that sell American Girl, which are all over the country at malls more often than not. When you enter the story with your child and their doll:

1. You can accessorize the doll — e.g. buy the diner and the bed and the clothes that go with the particular doll — all while you learn even more about the doll’s story.

2. Your child and their doll can eat lunch together.

3. They can get their hair cut together.

4. They can go to the theater and watch a play about a doll, possibly even theirs.

You, the parent, come out about $ 400 lighter.

The funny thing is that you’ve spent $ 400 on an inanimate object eating, watching theater and getting a haircut, and with no gratitude from that doll. But… what you do get is a brilliant, ginormous smile from your child. Thus, even though you just spent that $ 400, you’d do it again wouldn’t you? C’mon. You KNOW you would.

This is what I mean by a consumable experience. On the one hand you are paying for the actual extension of the story, not the thing itself. You are paying for what is going on in the mind and heart of your child — and it is something that has been created and engineered and produced to evoke that feeling in your child. Plus the design itself is modular. It is reproducible easily and it is based on designs to evoke specific human behaviors in specific groups around specific ideas — and can be done over and over again with lower cost as it scales.

American Girl retail store “experiences” are interesting because the “target child” is physically dragging the personal data into the store by bringing their doll in with them. The data the store employee needs is right there. A smart store employee has the cues for conversation — and upsell and cross-sell showing literally right in the hands of the child.

Recapping for a moment: Are we clear on the differences between customer engagement, customer experience and consumable experiences now? Because if not, I can’t do a thing about it because its impossible for me to hear you say so and thus I’m going to continue anyway.

There is one more kind of specific customer experience that needs to be defined and addressed and that would be the brand experience. Then I’ll go away.

The nature of the brand (and branded) experience

The brand experience is similar to a consumable experience in that it is created and engineered and produced to evoke something. It is different in purpose. Rather than sell a monetized specific experience, it is designed for framing what the brand is to the customer, whether he is in the store or at home or at another institution. That’s a bit of a dilemma, because the monetary reward isn’t necessarily as immediate, but the long-term results both from perception AND financial are mission critical. How do you do this in a way that has the impact that you are shooting for at scale. What is the thinking that’s behind this?

Once again a story: Teeling Irish Whiskey Distillery

 Are you experienced? Customer lessons from Comcast, American Girl, and Irish whiskey

The Teeling distillery is designed not only to optimize the creation of the whiskey, but to provide a unique experience for various groups of people.

Irish Whiskey is the fastest growing spirits category in the world. While it was invisible about 10 years ago — and had been declining for decades — it’s now, according to the International Wine and Spirits Research data, growing at the rate of 11.2 percent per year, with 200 bottles being sold every minute and more than 104 million bottles exported in 2016. It’s also really yummy. And in the interests of full disclosure, it is my personal favorite spirit.

This growth has sparked a major interest in the distilleries and along with the charm of Ireland itself, has driven a booming tourist trade around distillery visits in Ireland itself — with nearly 2 million tourists hitting the varying distilleries (the biggest one being Midleton, home of Jameson’s Redbreast and other significant brands that traverse the price and taste spectrum from end to end.

As a result of this boom, dozens of new Irish whiskey brands have been appearing over the past several years, vying for a piece of this fast-growing market. Of all of them, the most distinctive and the most successful has been Teeling Whiskey, the crown jewel of the long time Irish whiskey iconic family, who else, the Teelings — Jack and Stephen. As Jack and Stephen took a long family history in Irish Whiskey forward, they had the good sense to hire Alex Chasko, an American from Portland Oregon, who has been the creative force behind the company as its master distiller. Truth — great move.

The results at Teeling speak for themselves, with the establishment of a global brand that’s worked its way into the hearts, minds and wallets and established itself as a category leader in a very short time.

I met Alex in 2014 in Dublin at a private whiskey tasting he conducted with me and four friends set up by my client, Thunderhead, arranged by the Fitzwilliam Hotel. Let’s just say that we shut the bar down around 3am. Alex and I stayed in touch via LinkedIn and Facebook and, since I had become a huge Teeling fan due to the tasting in 2014, I got some data on the Teeling Distillery.

What caught my eye and is why they are in the book, in fact, is that in their first year of operation, 2016, as the first new distillery in Dublin in 125 years, 150,000 people passed through their portals to see this new upstart competing with the likes of Jameson and Bushmills. So, vacationing in Ireland this past summer, I paid a visit to the distillery to find out about the experience — and, here’s what I found — in addition to the fact that there were two more Teeling expressions I loved.

The Teeling Distillery experience is a brand experience. It is designed to make sure that when you think of Teeling, you think of, not as Jameson presents in their version of the experience, a venerated brand, but instead a contemporary brand of Irish whiskey that is discovering new vistas and breaking new ground and is thus exciting to be around.

When you walk into the modest building on Newcastle, you see to your right a small café where you can enjoy a sandwich — or a salad and sit around and chat. The front desk there advertises three types of tour — which really means three levels of whiskey tasting, which range from 15 euros to 30 euros and the more you pay, the higher up the whiskey line you get. The basic tour gets you the trinity of their most widely distributed whiskeys — the Small Batch, the Single Malt and the Single Grain.

But it is the distillery that truly creates the experience and paints the brand with the brush it wants to be painted with. What starts to distinguish the tour here from other distilleries is the Exhibition Hall which you are led into to start the tour — and to start it deliberately without a tour guide — so you have time to look around and absorb the history of the whiskey trade in Ireland and Dublin which is presented in a fun way with bottles and stock certificates and photos that involve both current and long dead distilleries.

This is important — and no guide is important. Why? Because your experience with the history — which is about 10 minutes before a guide shows up to start the guided tour — is meant to be self-learned. That way, in effect, history is out of the way. Hold that thought. I’ll explain it in just a second. Then you are led into a room where there is a short video that Jack and Stephen Teeling do for perhaps three minutes welcoming you to the distillery. Then comes the real deal — the tour of the distillery. Before I get to it, though, I want to explain why the preliminaries are done this way.

Teeling’s brand image is meant to be progressive. As Alex Chasko, the aforementioned master distiller, put it, a “we are a new generation of whiskey making. We start with the next chapter in Irish whiskey.” So, the history of Irish whiskey making and the welcome video are not dwelled on. You find your own version of the history by wandering the exhibition hall in whatever way you want for 10 or so minutes, and then the welcome video you see on the way in is short, around three minutes, because they want to get you to the meat or maybe, mead of the matter, how they make whiskey.

When you actually see the distillery, there are several things that strike you besides three incredibly large (15,000, 10,000, and 10,000 gallon) copper pot stills. The distillery is spotless AND there are a helluva lot of viewing windows in the various pieces of equipment.

Remember, we are dealing with an experience created to produce a specific feeling around a brand image. For Teeling, that means a new generation distillery that is focused on producing contemporary and “generally personalized” expressions of whiskey that are targeted for specific groups and specific markets.

Thus, the primary focus of the experience is the distilling process. What makes this a truly interesting story is that Teeling actually thought of something that I never would have figured on. When they built the distillery, they built it with the idea that tourists would be going through it in large numbers.

So, for example, the distillery equipment has clear glass and windows into some of the equipment, the floors are spotless, the guides are multi-lingual and the tours are designed to have about 10-15 people come through at any given time in any given tour with a guide so that the flow remains steady and non-intrusive.

The actual pot stills for example, though they handle between 10,000 and 15,000 gallons, are also built for their aesthetics. The distillery, the backbone of their actual work, is designed not only to optimize the creation of the whiskey, but to provide a unique experience for various groups of people.

The distillery and the tour are crafted to also provide a sensory experience. In the course of the tour, you will see and hear the distillery and smell and taste the whiskey — a sensory experience related explicitly to Teeling’s offerings and their workplace and no other. It is very unlike the Jameson Experience for example, which is far more focused on the history of the distillery and its current brands and highly compartmentalized into segments like history, how to drink whiskey etc. in equal measure.

Teeling is a distillery built from the customer’s point of view. But what makes this even more compelling is that this is the way that the whiskey is made. “We’re making whiskey we like to drink,” says Chasko, and, “because we know our audiences and what they are likely to like, we are right more often than wrong.”

The Exhibition Hall itself has the display exhibits built on roller wheels. The reason? That way, companies can hold dinners and local food fairs can ply their wares in the exhibition hall, so it gets to serve a dual purpose — and though not sexy, is an important part of the overall experience.

What can we learn from an experience designed to define a brand?

  1. Knowing what you want your brand to be seen as before you design the experience certainly helps a great deal. Do you want it to be traditional, historic? Do you want it to be next generation? Do you want it to be seen as small and creative? Larger and expansive? Teeling obviously defined itself as the “next generation in Irish whiskey making” and the core reflection of that is the creativity in the expressions of the whiskey and the contemporary distilling equipment and process.
  2. At what touchpoints do you want the customers fully engaged? Partially engaged? Engaged only because they need to be so they can be fully engaged next? The case of Teeling was fully engage them via their deep dive into the “behind the scenes” of the distilling process, use the Welcome video as a short gateway to that, and de-emphasize the history so that they can keep the focus on “the next generation,” as the brand’s theme.
  3. What are the instruments of the experience? In the case of Teeling, it’s the actual “look inside” the distillery — both directly into the equipment but also the walking of the floors to see how its all put together.
  4. How does the experience get integrated into the ecosystem that the brand participates in or is the centerpiece? In the case of Teeling, it’s the Newmarket community they reside in — thus, the exhibition hall is designed via exhibits on rollers to be cleared — for business luncheons/dinners and food fairs from the surrounding local community.
  5. Rather than just focus on the touchpoints only, what about the ambiance — the look and especially feel? With a café available to you to take it easy while you wait or contemplate your visit, as soon as you get in, a comfortable long tasting table, the feel of the place is “relaxed” and while not “fun” per se, its “feel good” about being there.

These are all general points on the crafting of a brand experience. In this case, Teeling design of their brand experience puts a stake in the ground, that defines how they want to be seen and how they are different than Jameson/Midleton or Cooley etc. That way, when a customer or an industry publication thinks about Teeling, they see a company that is creative, progressive and masters of their craft — the art and science of contemporary distillation. That’s what Teeling is going for — and that’s what Teeling gets. They’ve won 116 awards through mid-2017 in four years. It’s hard to argue with that kind of success. Why bother arguing in fact? Just buy some and drink the stuff, peeps.

In conclusion

Why bother with this post? From a self-serving standpoint, this is a taste of the book. I want you to read it when it comes out August 21, 2018 (as of now). That said, that’s not really why I wrote this. I wrote this because all of these definitions are essential to understand what you need to do to influence customer perception of your company and to get that predisposed customer to the point of continuous engagement with the company which of course leads to more transactions with the company. That’s what you are in business for, n’est ce pas? So, customer engagement, customer experience, consumable experience, and brand experience. Enough to chew on thus enough is enough.

Peace out.

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ZDNet | crm RSS

Study: Music Improves Customer Experience, Even in Serious Settings

Music can enhance the customer experience even in nontraditional retail environments, suggests a study released Thursday by
Mood Media and the
Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (SACEM). The study was conducted in France.

Customers had a more favorable experience in five business locations — including gas station, optical, banking, sports apparel and pharmacy locations, the study found.

“It’s undeniable that music has an amazing ability to connect on an intimate and personal level,” said Danny Turner, global senior vice president of creative programming at Mood Media.

“Brands that understand the connectivity between brand and in-store experience, facilitated by the incredible power of music to forge an emotional bond, are well on their way to elevating their customer experience,” he told CRM Buyer.

84878 620x346 small Study: Music Improves Customer Experience, Even in Serious Settings

Click Image to Enlarge

Businesses should consider overhead music as important as store layout, lighting or other key design elements, said Valentina Candeloro, international marketing director at Mood Media.

Mood Media has begun designing music programs for an increasingly diverse body of retail locations, she told CRM Buyer, including auto dealerships, credit unions, apartment buildings and retirement home communities.

When researchers designed the study, data indicated that 90 percent of French people listened to music every day, but only 70 percent of businesses played music, Candeloro noted.

Some of the non-retail businesses, like pharmacies, opticians and banks, were concerned about the impact music would have, given the more serious nature of transactions or activities taking place in their locations, she said.

“The results of this study revealed and quantified the impact and potential that music offers across a wide array of business types,” said Jean-Felix Choukroun, director of customer relations at SACEM.

Music Markers

Seventy percent of study respondents reported a more positive perception of a business when music was playing overhead, while 65 percent said that music at the location helped differentiate the business from the competition.

Ninety-three percent of employees at those locations preferred music over no music at work.

When customers at more serious locations, like banks and pharmacies, were asked if they wanted music, only 33 percent said they thought music would be appropriate.

However, 76 percent of the customers who experienced music at those types of locales said they thought the music was complementary and compatible with the businesses.

In-Store Atmosphere

Music absolutely can have a positive impact in driving retail traffic and keeping customers engaged at a particular location, said Nikki Baird, managing partner at
RSR Research.

“The gist is, it absolutely helps,” she told CRM Buyer. “It leads to shoppers staying longer and being in a more pleasant mood.”

Research has shown that you need a minimum two-hour loop of in-store music to prevent employees from being driven crazy by repetition and turning the music off, Baird noted.

In-store or in-business music can have a definite positive impact on the net promoter score of a location, which reflects the willingness of customers to recommend that business to others, noted Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

For example, the lobby music of W Hotels — Starwood Hotels’ hip hospitality brand — has become popular enough to spawn its own Spotify playlist, she told CRM Buyer, as well as a microsite just for W music fans.
end enn Study: Music Improves Customer Experience, Even in Serious Settings

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

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CRM Buyer

Interconnect the Traveler’s Journey to Provide a Relevant Customer Experience  

taveling Interconnect the Traveler’s Journey to Provide a Relevant Customer Experience  

Millions of people take to the roads, the skies, and the tracks every day to get from point A to point B. Not only are customers taking advantage of various transportation methods, but they are taking advantage of services before and after, whether it’s booking their tickets or checking into a hotel.

Today’s customers are more technology savvy because of the availability of smartphones, open traffic and transport information/data, real-time planning and info, and new innovative apps created by start ups. Because of the increase in mobile technology, customers now have more choices when it comes to comparing prices, choosing alternative routes, and seeing the current status of transport.

Traditionally, transport operators aren’t as savvy as customers, but if they don’t adapt, they will be taken over by the key trends that are disrupting the current business model:

—User/customer focused. By connecting to passengers with fast applications and real-time data, you can create “in-the-moment” experiences and provide individualized marketing. Operators will then be able to deliver in-context, targeted offers that reflect each customer’s preferences.

—Integrated intelligence. Physical assets will sense demand via APIs and IoT devices and stream data in real time. This data can be modeled to predict and avoid disruptions.

—Commercials. More operators such as railways, buses, and ferries will follow airlines in adopting e-tickets. Pay-as-you-travel will increase, enabled by well-managed APIs.

—Automation and safety. The adoption of IoT will result in more assets being monitored for their health and performance. Transportation companies can consolidate, analyze, visualize, and predict information about incidents, delays, repairs, and maintenance.

The travel industry has the opportunity to use data to develop closer relationships with customers. To do this, you need to know where the customer is in their journey and provide offers based on that context. By personalizing service, you can increase revenue, and attract and retain new customers.

With our predictive analytics, streaming analytics, and API-led integration solutions, you can interconnect the traveler’s journey to provide a relevant customer experience. To find out how, check out our new travel solutions page.

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The TIBCO Blog

AI-Powered Mobile Chatbots Promise More Efficient Customer Service

Helpshift’s new Web Chat application uses artificial intelligence to help companies release scalable chatbots that can automate customer service through real-time interactions.

chatbot customer service AI Powered Mobile Chatbots Promise More Efficient Customer Service

The new AI-based tool, released last week, will help customers provide enterprise-grade support to their customers, according to the company, which specializes in mobile customer support for the gaming industry.

“We have taken our mobile expertise and built a mobile-first conversational chat experience with built-in AI chatbots to drive huge efficiency gains in large-scale chat operations,” CSO Abinash Tripathy and CTO Baishampayan Ghose told CRM Buyer via email.

Web chat applications for the desktop have existed for years, they noted, but they typically utilized a synchronous phone call-like service that placed customers in a queue, essentially putting them on hold until a customer service agent entered the conversation.

Bringing in robotics and AI will help free human agents from having to answer questions that previously may have been answered, suggested Tripathy and Ghose, who pointed to data indicating that simple things like frequently asked questions could deflect 50 percent to 70 percent of customer queries.

Value of Customization

The Web Chat application allows routing of questions based on priority, skill and availability. It also allows prioritization of customer questions based on whether the customer is a premium user, on the value of items in the shopping cart, or on the status of an airline or hotel reservation.

It gives agents a 360-degree view of customer interactions — for example, allowing them to view all prior chat history — and provides other customized data from a CRM system.

The Web Chat interface has a look and feel similar to Facebook Messenger or Apple iMessage, with functions including typing indicators, chat avatars, and send and received receipts, according to the company.

The Helpshift chatbot types include the following:

  • An Answer Bot, which matches questions to relevant FAQs, sometimes negating the need for an agent;
  • A GetInfo Bot, which prompts users to enter their name, email and other information, so the agent doesn’t need to request it; and
  • A Customer Satisfaction bot, which monitors customer satisfaction immediately following resolution of the issue.

Customers will be able to develop their own customized bots as well.

Need It Now

The AI-based Web Chat application comes at a time of increasing demand for faster customer service, particularly due to the increasing use of mobile phones and other portable devices for online shopping.

“Customer expectations have shifted towards immediacy, and preferences for service through Web and mobile chat have increased,” said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst for digital marketing and sales effectiveness at Constellation Research.

“Chat is preferred over phone calls,” which often entail voice response unites that route customers to multiple places “before a single question is answered,” she told CRM Buyer, “or emails that can take days for a response.”

Questions like hours of operation, location address, credit card balance and payment due are perfect for interaction with bots, Zhou noted. Adding AI can look at patterns of questions in order to speed up the entire customer experience.

Helpshift’s applications already are installed on more than 2 billion devices worldwide, and the company claims more than 600 million active consumers engage with them every month.

Helpshift has made a major difference in
Chatbooks’ ability to service customers, the startup said. Chatbooks converts photos from social media into photo books for customers.

“Live chat is a game-changer for us at Chatbooks,” said Angel Brockbank, director of customer support at Chatbooks.

“If a customer has a question while making a Chatbooks photo book and she doesn’t get immediate support, she may never return,” she told CRM Buyer, noting that using live chat has allowed the company to reduce average time to resolve issues from nine days to 18 hours.
end enn AI Powered Mobile Chatbots Promise More Efficient Customer Service

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

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CRM Buyer

A Brief Overview of Microsoft’s Voice of the Customer Solution

If you are looking for a tool within Dynamics 365 to send surveys, distribute them to specific CRM records and capture responses and excellent analytics, take a look at Voice of the Customer. The Voice of the Customer solution is available for all Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online subscriptions at no additional fee. Microsoft details how to install the Voice of the Customer solution into your Dynamics 365 environment here.

Why Voice of the Customer?

So why use Voice of the Customer? It’s out of the box functionality allows you to send surveys to specific Contacts, Leads or Accounts with the ability to personalize and customize surveys with Dynamics 365 data. Moreover, you can trigger survey sends with workflows! Imagine the possibilities:

  • When a Customer Service agent closes a case, have a Customer Satisfaction survey sent to them immediately and get close to real-time feedback on their experience.
  • Once a survey response is received, if the score is low in a specific question, escalate it to the appropriate managers.
  • When a lead from a trade show is entered into your Dynamics 365 system, have a short survey sent to them to learn more about the sales opportunity and segment the lead based on the responses.

Survey Types: Anonymous and Non-Anonymous

Voice of the Customer offers two survey types: Anonymous and Non-Anonymous.

Anonymous Non-Anonymous
Survey Responses Responses not associated with a Dynamics 365 customer record Responses tied to a specific Contact, Lead or Account
Survey Link One general link / iFrame on website Link to survey is specific & unique for each customer
Personalization No personalization Personalize using Piped Data to address the customer directly
Distribution Link for email, Twitter, webpages Individual email


One of the great things about Voice of the Customer is that your surveys are highly customizable. Design your company’s theme by uploading your logo and customizing colors based on your brand. Personalize your non-anonymous surveys with Dynamics 365 data. Create response routing rules based on question responses. Add action items to survey responses that are triggered automatically based on feedback or scores.

Follow Up Actions: Client Actions & Server Actions

When specifying follow-up actions on a survey question, Voice of the Customer gives you two category types: (1) Client Actions and (2) Server Actions. Client actions are triggered on the survey itself. An example of a client action is hiding or showing a question based on a response to a previous question. Server actions are triggered outside of the survey itself. Examples include creating a follow-up or complaint based on a response.

Viewing Survey Responses & Outcomes

Voice of the Customer allows you to view Survey responses to an individual’s answer. To view this, go to Voice of the Customer for Dynamics 365, then click on Survey Responses. From here, view the Survey response you want to view.

237123203 A Brief Overview of Microsoft’s Voice of the Customer Solution

To view any response outcomes for surveys, go to Voice of the Customer for Dynamics 365, then click on Response Outcomes. Click on the response outcome you want to view. These response outcomes are created by you (tied to a specific survey question) and completely customizable! In the below example, a response outcome rule looks for a satisfaction score of 1, 2 or 3 and escalates the case to management via an email workflow.

3289809377 A Brief Overview of Microsoft’s Voice of the Customer Solution

Analytics: Dashboards & Reports

Voice of the Customer also comes with Dashboards and Reports in Dynamics 365. To access, go to Voice of the Customer for Dynamics 365, then click Surveys. Select a Survey from the list.

1602930014 A Brief Overview of Microsoft’s Voice of the Customer Solution

Dashboards: Click the Survey box, then click Dashboard. Customize with the data you want to see about your survey.

Reports: Click …, then Run Report. Select the report you want to run.

Limitations of Voice of the Customer

It’s important to understand the limitations of any tool, and there are some with Voice of the Customer that are worth mentioning. You can only have a maximum of 200 surveys in your database. Voice of the Customer also limits questions per survey to a maximum of 250. However, I would strongly recommend not including anywhere near 250 questions as a best practice!

There is a max of 2,400 survey responses per day (any additional responses will be stored in Azure and pull into your Dynamics 365 instance the following day) and 1,000,000 survey responses stored.

Beringer Technology Group, a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and CRM for Distribution. We also provide expert Managed IT ServicesBackup and Disaster RecoveryCloud Based Computing and Unified Communication Systems.

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

Smart Government Agencies Turn to Next-Gen Customer Comms

Government agencies are often challenged in their effort to optimize communications with their citizens. Most government executives want to increase the frequency and quality of their interactions, but tightening budgets have resulted in fewer interactions, not more. They’ve stopped sending annual booklets, they send fewer reminder notices and wait for consumers to call them rather than proactively reaching out. Reduced communication results in lower compliance and an increase in downstream problems.

At the same time, more people than ever are using smart phones (SMS, email and web apps) and other electronic communication tools. Recent data from Deloitte tells us that 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone and its usage is so ingrained in our daily routine that 61 percent of Americans check their smartphone within five minutes of waking up.

How long after you wake up do you check your smart phone?

howlongafterwakingphone 1024x743 Smart Government Agencies Turn to Next Gen Customer Comms

With this as a backdrop, it’s no wonder private sector firms are turning to automated communications to increase the quality and quantity of their customer engagement. This is where automated communications can also help government agencies. Not only is automated communication less expensive, it requires less staff to manage, and enhances the citizen experience. Automation improves the sophistication of the contact strategy with each citizen, ensuring they receive messages in their preferred channel, at an optimal time with clear instructions on what to do next. This results in increased compliance and a decrease in inbound phone calls. Customer service ratings also go up as the contact strategy is less intrusive, more personalized and seen as more convenient in our busy modern lives. The opportunities to improve engagement are broad. Let’s look at just one application of automated communication for governments, the collections of taxes:

Example: Tax Collection
Customer Service

  • Reminders before due dates. Businesses and individuals register for automated reminders prior to due dates. Through SMS and email outreach, the taxpayer benefits from reminders, and the department benefits from lower non-filer rates.
  • Account clean-up and closing. Taxpayers who have not filed recently, and have no other record of activities can be contacted to automatically close their account. This cleans up tax rolls and reduces non-filer and compliance activities.
  • Customer Service Campaigns. After new laws or regulations have been enacted, targeted reminders are sent automatically.


  • Refund Status. Many tax agencies are inundated with phone calls from taxpayers asking about the status of their refund. Imagine having a spot on the tax form where the taxpayer can request text messages regarding their refund status. An automated SMS can be sent for ‘return received’, ‘return processed/refund approved’ and ‘refund sent’, for example. Each can include an estimated refund date. This would reduce phone calls and if the taxpayer is delinquent in a subsequent year, documents the phone number to call.
  • Filing Zero Returns. If a taxpayer has signed up for a filing date reminder but still does not file on-time, and if that taxpayer has a history of ‘zero’ returns, send an email or text message with a link to certify a zero return for that period.
  • Registration Renewal. Reminders can be sent for registration renewals and automated renewals could be provided using the same payment source used the prior period.

One of the best opportunities for advanced contact is for taxpayers in collections. While the department would require an “opt in” process to use this method, once approved by the taxpayer, the department can dramatically reduce their cost of collections and increase the breadth of contacts through these methods:

  • Text messages or emails replacing or supplementing US Mail. US Mail contacts are expensive and delay the collection process by a handful of days. Contacts that are not mandated by statute could be replaced or supplemented with emails or text messages, expanding reach and reducing costs.
  • Fully Automated, Unattended Phone Calls. Many agencies use predictive dialers to enhance their outbound call campaigns. Technology now offers fully interactive voice phone calls. These calls allow the taxpayer to make a payment, enter into a payment arrangement, or connect with a live agent. This approach can leave messages which connect call-backs with an automated attendant rather than a live agent. Experience shows most people prefer this to a phone call with a collector (as it is less embarrassing, intrusive and confronting)
  • Smart Phone App for Payments and Payment Agreements. Apps can provide taxpayers with their balance and facilitate payments or enter payment agreements. It can also hold a payment source for recurring payments which can be used as a levy source if needed.
  • Initial contact. While the state likely needs to use US Mail to make official contact with the taxpayer to establish due process, the initial contact could potentially be made much less expensively using email or text messages. This results in significant savings and for low risk taxpayers, can resolve delinquencies faster.

Desk Audit

  • Automated contacts. Audits are typically conducted using US Mail and the telephone. In the future, individuals and businesses can be contacted using SMS, email and smartphone app. This speeds up case resolution and improves customer service.

Enhanced with Predictive Analytics

  • Continually improved operations. Technology can be used to evaluate the results of the programs mentioned here. Predictive analytics and machine learning can determine the optimal number of days before or after a due date to make contact, the relative success rates of SMS, email, smartphone app and live calls to continually improve strategies.

To learn more about upgrading your own communication technologies and services, download FICO® Solutions for Government, email me at info@fico.com or call 1 888 342 6336.

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