Customer Engagement Transformation Conference – Chair Report Hall 1: Martin Hill Wilson

Another conference in the bag. The topic was the transformation of customer engagement. This one seemed to not only satisfy but also delight. Clearly organisations are starting to do a great job.  As usual, it was my pleasure to co-chair the event. I focussed on the plenary sessions and Hall One. This is what went down.

Andy Bryan from Henley Business School offered us a handy definition of the conference topic to get things started.

“Customer Engagement is an interaction between an individual and an organisation or brand. Experience can be passive but engagement is active and bi-lateral”

He went on to focus on our inherent aversion to making decisions as consumers (‘cognitive misers’) with retail studies showing fewer choices can drive greater revenues. This often quoted insight does make me wonder though why Amazon then manages to do so well with the largest online inventory of all!

Next up was the wonderful Jyllene Miller, SVP of Marketing and Client Engagement Strategy at Concentrix. She had a simple tale to tell. If you don’t listen to what your customers are saying, you have a short future in today’s world.

Her featured client was in high street fashion. The engagement channel was social. The complaints were legion across many categories. Concentrix helped them listen, act and improve. And guess what? Negative sentiment was halved, customer service responsiveness improved massively.

Lesson? Even the laggards are learning!

The Wall Street Journal began in 1935. Since then they have grown at around 30%, plus or minus the occasional plateau. However, growth since 2017 has a different trajectory.  Positively turbo charged in fact. The secret lies in their growing competency in personalised campaigns and content and the killer combination of offers that generates effective engagement.  It’s all down to getting their data in shape and learning the power of predictive analytics. This is a lesson the rest of us need to learn fast or risk being left behind.

Gerry Brown was next and he is fierce. That is, he is more than willing to call out brands that refuse to do the right thing for their customers. Lots of brands were rightly roasted in the 20 minutes Gerry had. I’m guessing he could easily fill a day. He also shared the path to recovery based on sound principles. Anyone looking for a lifeguard to save the day now knows who to ring.

Next up was Metro Bank which on reflection is clear testament to being brave. The brand describes itself as ‘capitalised as a full service retail and commercial bank’. In other words, against the rising tide of digital only financial services, Metro is literally betting the bank on the enduring appeal of face to face engagement. They trounce the competition with an NPS of 82 so they seem to be hitting home.  But to be clear they are building that success on choice and availability. Face to face, contact centre, mobile app, mobile banking.

They have high ambitions. Fans not customer is their motto. They act differently from the rest. They see themselves as retailers not bankers. They go against the grain – it’s free pens rather than those famously chained pens of old. They nurture genuinely empowered staff who can easily call out and get changed any of the ‘dumb stuff’.

Steve Kato-Spyrou is a UX Manager from John Lewis. He has an excellent, subversive manner while delivering leading edge service design gems. The topic was gifting and whether JL customers would appreciate ready-made solutions for their busy lives. Some of the conclusions were rightly shielded for commercial sensitivity. But the process was clearly explained.

I loved it and can’t imagine how an organisation can afford to not have such skills at hand. If you desire innovation and ‘better than average’ CX, then this is the route to take. Keep a look out for Steve’s next assignment. I’m already hooked.

Sally Earnshaw is a force of nature and runs Blue Sky. She breathes her brand. We were treated to a precise pep talk about how to max human talent. It’s tough selling the people message when the big cheeses only want to hear that technology makes the difference. Of course they have all boarded the digital disruption train and think success just needs some smart APIs and nerds who know neural nets. But when things go wrong, it’s always a story about people and the decisions they made.

I do hope when female CEOs arrive in force, the mindset shifts. We shall see. Until then, Sally remains a very accomplished advocate of people power.

I’ll round things up by saying that I took a turn on stage and wondered what type of person we will need in customer engagement once all the AI driven self service has kicked in. My deck as with most of the others can be found here. If you have a read, let me know what you think.

The day was then brought to a close with the perceptive insights of Sarah Metcalfe who has brought to life an excellent culture over at Sure Petcare. She really gets the employee-customer engagement connection and proved it is perfectly achievable when the leadership team is tuned into the right things.

That’s it. Thanks for reading. See you in November at the flagship Customer Engagement Summit