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Guest Blogger

By Martin Hill-Wilson, Founder, Brainfood Consulting

As usual, the topic of engagement drew a broad audience. It also produced some fascinating presentations and ongoing debate amongst those of us who attended.

The day began with Colin Shaw who was in full flight regarding the way memory influences our relationships with brands. In this sense we do not choose between experiences but memories of those experiences. The most emotional are the most memorable. Since loyalty is an emotional attachment, memory plays a vital role. Can brands influence those memories? Certainly. But to drive value (£) memories must be recalled at the right time and place.

Andrew Hall from Odigo then took to the stage with an amusing and thought-provoking session on how to bridge the expectations of five generations of customers. It’s an important issue. Choice matters especially around how brand engagement happens. There are real differences in preferences and style. To illustrate, the audience was tested, and mainly failed on new Gen Z language. ‘Salty’ means ‘a bit moody’. The one that struck home was POS, ‘parents over shoulder’ – as we older humans have a habit of intruding into their private digital space.

Even so, stereotyping generations misses the point. Andrew’s core point is that we need to deliver individualised engagement. Something that ought to be possible with today’s generation of technologies.

Nick Brice is well known to Engage audiences. This time he told the story of the work he has been doing with Spurs football club. Of course, all this happens in the amazing new environment that has been created. It’s a multi-purpose events space on five floors with two retractable pitches to host NFL and other events. Of particular note is the Home end which is a 17,500 seat space on 82 floors and generates a fiercesome “wall of sound” for the benefit of the home team.

But as Walt Disney said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make that dream a reality.”

In other words, it’s the human touch that brings engagement alive. EX is all about knowing what really motivates people and then making those values central to the culture. Nick knows how. Simple really!

Emma Posthill from O2 then showed us that large organisations can become customer-led as readily as any other. They have been on an epic journey of nailing what matters to customer and then ensuring that these insights command attention at all levels across the organisation. They have been distilled into a set of key principles that drives everything – from engagement to new product design. The effort and dedication to align such a large team of people really shone though.

I guess the only issue is whether those principles will be regularly revised as customer behaviour and expectation evolve or will they atrophy into unquestioned beliefs. Time will tell.

Andrew Moultrie from the BBC presented himself as an MD with a bang up to date EX agenda. He is clearly passionate about the CX to EX link and the latest evidence and underlying psychology in how to optimise people potential.

He dropped a few bombs worth repeating. The best one was that organisations invest 1,000 more in CX than EX! Maybe that’s the problem? He also suggested a few behaviours that leaders need to show to support an EX culture. Show vulnerability, be genuine, demonstrate care, and be a family. Interestingly the last one proved a talking point for the audience who settled on the notion of sports team rather than family as a more accurate description of what’s needed.

All in all, a refreshingly on-point set of messages from a senior leader.

The afternoon kicked off with a session I was especially excited to learn from. Netflix are often watched but seldom seen on the conference circuit. At least at the ones I attend. So, I was intrigued to discover what their head of service Dekyi Boorsma was going to say. She did not disappoint.

Netflix is a data literate brand. It learns and innovates by understanding our behaviours as customers and viewers. Apparently at any given time, the brand is running around 150 different research sprints on you in order to improve your viewing experience! Their underlying insight is that you should never assume you know your customer’s wants and needs based on initial impressions or clues.

So, what they do is test, test, test.  The goal is to gain real users’ feedback by measuring their behavioral response. Even the customer doesn’t always know what they want or how to articulate this so measure behavior instead. Test, improve, repeat.

The next point Dekyi made was to make sure you measure what matters to your business. Check your KPIs against customer behavioral response as well. Focus on what truly matters to the customer and to the business: For Neflix that’s retention, back to streaming, first time resolution.

Another interesting point was that there is no need to have a ‘plethora of channels’. Focus on access instead – no IVR, no menus. Just direct access to humans. Since that is what really matters to customers. An interesting insight for the omni-channel debate.

Finally, give your advisors discretion and space to connect with customers. Specifically, empower, and inform by giving agents the tools to fix the experience within the experience.

So, the game plan is Test – Track – Empower – Connect. Now you know the secret of how to become a disruptive brand, there’s no excuse!

The final presentation I wanted to mention came from Sam Jordon who works for strategic consultancy Manifesto. He had some interesting things to say about membership schemes since we are apparently in a membership economy – at least 70% of businesses are keen to relate to their customers in this way even though just 7% are finding them profitable. Membership schemes might be easy to understand but have proved much harder to operationalise.

I suspect the core challenge lies in the way Sam describes the essence of a successful membership strategy – an ongoing relationship, based on an experience, driven by engagement, that delivers value over time. In particular, it is important to put greater focus on engagement as a driver of the experience and the business’s ability to monetise the relationship.

How many brands are capable of such sustained concentration? Not many I suspect.

So, in summary, the challenge of engagement remains. It is one of the keys to optimising the potential value that both employees and customers offer. Of course, in a time-poor world, we expect relevant engagement at the very least. This required data literacy coupled with real time insight and decision making to catch the tide of ever-changing behaviour. Most of us are still on that journey of competence.

Till the next time.