Customer Engagement Summit Hall Chair Report – Gerry Brown

This year’s Engage Customer Summit, where I chaired Hall 3, featured a healthy mix of companies well known for great customer experience complemented by sincere and engaging presentations from those companies that don’t make the CX headlines or the award shows, but have an equally strong commitment to improving the lives of their customers and colleagues.

The theme of the conference was the Human Face of Engagement. While technology also featured prominently, it was respectfully, intelligently and creatively blended with the role that humans play to show why people, customers and colleagues, still come first.

After some great plenary session presentations, we got off to a flying start and before we knew it were all going on a summer holiday with Caroline Wilson from Virgin Holidays. Caroline eloquently shared the importance of being up close and personal and making a difference at every point in the travel experience, from the first thoughts of a summer sojourn to the taxi ride home and everything in between. She made her point compellingly with a heart-warming story about a family’s special trip and how Virgin’s extra touches made it even more memorable.

The Voice of the Customer is heard loud and clear
Stella Creasey
from Fidelity and Olivier Njamfa from Eptica looked at, and listened to, the Voice of the Customer from slightly different vantage points. They met conveniently and compatibly in the middle to demonstrate the value of closing the loop and ensuring that customers and colleagues are kept constantly informed, engaged and empowered and never wondering, “what did happen to that survey I completed?”

If we build it they will come
Claire Carroll
from the Co-op reminded us all about the importance of the contact centre as a strategic asset and how her “Journey to Relevance” has been the catalyst behind making the Co-op “great again”, and revitalizing her colleagues and the customer experience into the bargain.

Then Jackie Ducker from Kier constructed the perfect presentation to show that builders are not just about strong tea and cheeky whistles. She demonstrated, both literally and figuratively, that Hi-tech, Hi-Viz and high heels can be a winning combination to gain colleague commitment and customer advocacy to inspire high performing teams and produce excellent customer results.

Intelligent journeys into the future
The afternoon session was full of insights and predictions about artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots named Gladys and Nick King from Autotrader was his usual ebullient and knowledgeable self in taking us down the road on an intelligent and connected digital journey. He drove off the forecourt in style and into a much wider and comprehensive world of personal experiences that are enabled, but not replaced, by technology. Nick is an entertainer first and foremost and blends his 80s rock band experiences with scientific, but never boring, insight into consumer behaviour and technology adoption.

Nick Pegram from Bold360 told us keep calm and embrace AI, as it will help us be faster and better than we ever thought, but that the droids weren’t really taking over the world. He provided some vivid and impactful evidence of those companies that have successfully implemented AI technology, aligned with human touches to enable better customer interactions that drive business growth and enhance customer satisfaction.

Nick Worth, from Selligent Marketing Cloud, introduced us to the “Entitled Consumer” and how this is rapidly changing the way that businesses must react to increasingly demanding customer needs and expectations. He shared stories from companies such as ING, IHG and Asda to clearly articulate how digital marketers are increasingly turning to automation, personalization, and AI to enhance customer experiences in an always connected world.

Turning on, tuning in and turning down

We finished Day 1 with some great insights from the previously unheralded “stars” of customer experience.

Kim Ratcliffe from Water Plus poured out her heart to show how a relatively unloved and unknown business (the non-household water market) still needs to keep the competitive juices flowing and attention to customer experience fully turned on. She explained how a winning combination of engaged colleagues and leading-edge technology came together to shower the customers with new levels of service that has made them the largest and most successful water retailer in the country.

Katrina Brister from The Telegraph penned a lead story about conversion and the value of tuning in to their customers and basing their marketing strategies on delivering the right content at the right time and in the right place. This resulted in increased revenue conversion and made significant improvements in customer engagement and retention. And that definitely wasn’t fake news!

Gemma Todd, from Imperial London Hotels, then put the session to bed for the night with a heart- warming and engaging story about how a long standing and successful family business is addressing the ever-changing demands of the hospitality industry. Not only in guest expectations, but in how their employee experience program, that features reward and recognition and career development, has attracted and retained top quality colleagues despite the uncertainty of the Brexit fiasco.

Although Day 2 was somewhat shorter it didn’t lack for energy or compelling stories that kept the audience engaged and responsive.

Vinay Parmar from National Express got us on the road with a great example of the power of community and how National Express passengers are helping each other through a “crowd service” model from Limitless. This provides significant cost benefits to National Express, handles spikes in demand and creates new fans that can share their knowledge and experiences with others for the good of all.

Some more utility stories, starting with Caroline Black from Business Stream who truly brought a new meaning to utilitarianism in the 21st Century. Her philosophy showed that doing the right thing for customers wasn’t just about taking them on a new journey that ended up in the same place, with the same issues. By evaluating the experiences that customers and colleagues have on the inside of the business, they have created a measurable and sustainable customer engagement model that can thrive in a new customer empowered world.

Louise Oliver from Anglian Water continued this theme and introduced Anglian’s Corporate and Social Charter that is aimed at achieving the right outcome for customers and the environment. She explained how this has been instrumental in helping Anglian meet regulatory requirements, treat customers fairly by reducing both consumption and costs, and create a truly novel experience in the utility world, a Win -Win scenario.

Sam Bleazard from Laing O’Rourke showed us the human, caring side of large construction and took us on a journey of enlightenment, illustrating the focus on diversity that Lang O’Rouke has introduced to adjust to the changing world of the construction industry. By attracting new, young talent from a variety of backgrounds and demographics and providing opportunities for a career, not just a job, they are truly reshaping the industry and building a sustainable legacy for the future.

The morning, and the conference, were brought to a positive and powerful conclusion by Heather Mustafa from Nationwide and her focus on operational communications. This has involved a complete revamp of how Nationwide ensures that colleagues are kept in the loop and up to date on any and all customer issues. Increasingly creative use of digital channels to serve a more agile and flexible workforce has resulted in more information reaching the right people at the right time and keeping Nationwide as a customer experience leader in the financial services industry.