Guest Blogger

By Martin Hill Wilson, Founder of Brainfood Consulting

It was a good crowd – an industry in genuine transformation – a busy agenda to mirror the extent of change. So the signs pointed to a great event which indeed it turned out to be.

We began with an outside-in view from BT’s bi-annual consumer research presented of course by the inimitable Nicola Millard. As expected, customers value low effort engagement. They want self service when things are simple, live assistance when things get complicated and proactive service when things can be anticipated. Chatbots with well signposted escalation are also appreciated as is intelligent routing when it achieves the best match between need and solution.

As usual, Nicola provided a great scene setter.

So are brands rising to the occasion? We heard some great examples. First up to show us something new was the Daily Mail Group (DMG) and the Limitless offering which leverages the power of crowd sourcing.

Suzi Caesar from DMG framed the presentation in terms of the following targets she had set herself. Reduce annual cost to service by 30%. Double customer satisfaction and improve response times. Be available where many customers spend time (social). Be able to meet unpredictable demand with a ‘pay as you go’ model.

These were met with the Limitless solution which essentially farms out suitable inbound demand to a team of recruited and trained customer volunteers who are rewarded for their efforts. It’s proved a great success and a model others should certainly be looking at. 30% of contacts are now handled by the Help Advisers. Average response time is now just five minutes. Customer satisfaction is 95%+ and cost to service is reduced by 50%.

I’ve been a fan of community based service ever since the early days of social customer service. It’s nice to see the proposition reinvented and working well.

Another inspiring story was told by Nicholas J.S. Brice who was the Amex Stadium ‘Team Brighton’​ Lead. It’s a great story of turning a 1960’s style football experience into something that competes with the very best live experience anywhere. The number of awards that the stadium and staff have picked up since the transformation is testament to that.

If you check out Nick’s CV on Linkedin, it’s no co-incidence that he has an awesome background in training, facilitation and theatre directing. It’s a potent and evidently effective blend. Clearly the impact on Brighton and Hove as a team is working. They recently contributed to a very miserable week for Arsenal by beating them with a performance full of the same self belief Nick and the team cultivated during the transformation.

Innovation comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

I was particularly struck by Nick Cockerill from Sky Gaming who was up for a total reinvention of the role and function of a contact centre which as he quite rightly noted is now a 40 year model that needs a refresh!

His thinking embraces the power of AI. He knows that his advisors generate a few million data points each year from customer conversations that never surface as insight from traditional data warehouse analytics.

In Nick’s future world, advisors become “conversation architects”, increasing the sum total of IQ the team holds about customers. This in turn feeds product teams with insight which in Sky Gaming world means the coders. So why not mash those teams together so they can work in a highly agile way? An AI driven, continuous loop that reinvents contact centre value.

I totally agree. In my world that’s called a customer hub. Delighted someone else has spotted a new reason for teams to work beyond silos.

Another presentation that rated highly in original thinking was James Sandberg’s insights into how Marketing and Service ought to collaborate.  Again this is home turf for me and another example of why customer hubs are relevant. However James brings a wealth of fresh thinking to the opportunity for how things should be working – way beyond the trite headline that ‘Service Is The New Marketing’.

Quite rightly, he talks about the need for creating a common language, something needed given the different cultures in each tribe. Of course data sharing gets a mention and James illustrated how this can be cost effectively enabled using common dashboards such as Qlik or Klipfolio.  James concluded with a vision for how both teams could collaborate on a ‘total customer experience’. Great stuff. Customer Devoted is well worth a visit.

What else to round out this report?

A short shoutout to Sparkcentral for reminding everyone that the next big thing to hit omni-channel is going to be messaging.

Another one from Tao Leadership who make things happen (change mgt) by tapping into the insights of relevant internal influencers and then mining their insights to drive sprint style behavioural changes. They seem in tune with the watercourse way if you know your Allan Watts.

So there were plenty of examples of how our industry is changing. Some pursued with a deep creative energy. It bodes well for our changing industry.

And as a final note, more of a cautionary tale in fact, Portland TV had this to report. Do not push your customer too fast into unfamiliar ways of engaging. Despite the apparently cheaper ways that digital and self service offer to organisations, they might damage your performance in debt collection, lifetime value, cross and up sell opportunities. That’s what they discovered from listening and sticking with what their customers wanted. For them, the ROI more than justified the higher costs.

Over and out.

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