Rant & Rave, the real-time customer engagement specialist, showcased the importance of people-to-people interactions in customer experience at its “Putting The Soul Back Into CX” event in Central London last week ( 27 April 2017).
The event included headline presentations from Affinity Water, Talent Collective and Calor; a motivational speaker; an expert panel session, featuring Retail Times editor Fiona Briggs; plus product updates from Rant & Rave.
Power of people
Opening proceedings, Phil Evans, VP sales at Rant & Rave, emphasized the power of people in winning and retaining customers. However, he admitted that’s an increasingly difficult challenge in the current environment.
Accenture data showed 61% of customers switched a key supplier in 2016 and 67% put that down to the customer experience rather than product or price, said Evans.
Further, 81% of switches could have been prevented if companies had acted on improving the customer experience, equivalent to a $6 trillion churn.
Companies have invested £26m in technology to measure the customer experience, but while 81% of CEOs believe they are doing a good job, only 8% of customers agree, Evans told delegates.
“Too much CX (customer experience) lives in the ivory tower,” said Evans, arguing that businesses needed to move it to the people on the front line, empowering employees with data in order to manage a reduction in churn. Evans revealed how the home emergency insurance cover and domestic repairs business HomeServe has transformed its operations by empowering its frontline employees and the positive impact it has had on the bottom line.
Amanda Reynolds, customer service director at Affinity Water, agreed people can create a game-changing customer experience and showed how the company has put the customer at the heart of its business in a heavily regulated industry, which is undergoing monumental change.
Reynolds said Affinity Water has changed the company culture from one that is focused on the business infrastructure to one centred on people and customers and she presented the hurdles the company has had to overcome in an ambitious new five-year business plan. Historically, Affinity Water had been dogged by complaints and was in the bottom quartile of a Service Incentive Mechanism (SIM) survey. There was brand confusion because the company also bills on behalf of other water companies; a complex supplier set up and a geographically diverse organisation, said Reynolds. In addition, the business has lacked IT investment, outsourced expertise and has the lowest cost to serve.
Reynolds said Affinity Water was now one of five most improved companies on the SIM measure and had won an investment case for a new digital self serve website, co-designed by customers and, for the first time, by colleagues. The site enables Affinity Water customers to set up online accounts to manage their supply, apply for water meters and report faults etc and is designed to provide “an effortless journey” for users.
“It’s recognising that we don’t sell sexy things but we are making the service as easy to use as possible,” said Reynolds.
Winning buy-in from long-serving employees was a critical part of the transformation process, she added; since “some of the most engaged teams deliver the best customer service”. Sharing the company’s progress through roadshows was also key in the process.
Reynolds reported that 18 months on, Affinity Water has recorded a 23% reduction in complaints, quarter-on-quarter SIM improvements and a 33% increase in revenue as the business has exceeded its cash collection targets. Customer satisfaction has also increased from 4.31 to 4.6 (on a scale of 1-5) and response rates have improved from 19% to 30%.
Do something different
Motivational speaker Niger Risner roused delegates with his engaging presentation, urging the audience to “do something different” as a result of the CX event and recommending companies model the best customer experience and be passionate.
He underscored the importance of communication between people and customers; grouping delegates into four animal types – monkey, lion, dolphin and elephant – based on their character traits. Effective communication comes as a result of identifying people’s different needs and their communication styles and then adapting your own communication to suit, Risner concluded.
Value of people-to-people interactions
David Bonner and Jonathan Kershaw from Rant & Rave showcased the latest business developments and endorsed the value of people-to-people interactions. “That’s when the magic happens,” said Bonner.
Bonner revealed Rant & Rave has captured 3.58m items of feedback from 73 countries over the last 12 months and in real time. Rant & Rave clients typically win two to three insights per item of feedback, which extrapolates to between 7-10m opportunities to improve their businesses in the last year.
Further, the company captures 60,000 recovery loops per month, equivalent to £0.5bn of recovery actions over the last 12 months.
Bonner presented Rant & Rave’s key customer engagement metrics – it has a benchmark response rate of 30%. Response rates from SMS are 50% higher than email but, while customers respond to SMS requests three times faster than email feedback requests, emails are still very valid since they are also typically picked up on a mobile phone, said Bonner.
Bonner showcased Rant & Rave’s customer experience sentiment scoring, which rates different aspects of the customer experience on a scale of 1-5. The most ‘raved’ about category is people, followed by place, process and product, he said. The technology enables users to drill down and then score people on their behaviour and then the nature of that behaviour ie helpful, professional, ownership, politeness, friendly etc. Similarly, companies can drill down on detractors or ‘ranters’ to identify key issues in the customer experience process such as time and delivery.
Bonner also highlighted Rant & Rave’s recent integration with Amazon Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service to enable consumers to tell brands what they think of a product or service in real-time, through voice technology.
“It’s about ensuring you hear from every corner of your customer base,” he said.
Kershaw showed delegates how companies can use Rant & Rave’s dashboards not only to understand the customer sentiment towards their brands but also to score individual employees and use that data to influence training and motivate staff.
“Through insights you can drive a change in business culture and empower frontline staff to be CX heroes,” he said.
Importance of the candidate’s experience
Jeremy Tipper, managing director at recruitment business Talent Collective, showed how his business is deploying Rant & Rave’s customer engagement expertise to win feedback on the candidate’s experience in the hiring process.
“The candidate experience is just as important as the customer experience,” he told delegates.
Tipper revealed that candidates who enjoyed a positive recruitment process were more likely to be brand advocates and use a brand’s products and services. By the same token, those who encountered a poorer recruitment process were more likely to think less of a brand and be less likely to use its products and services, Tipper said.
He revealed how recruitment companies, like Talent Collective, can apply consumer grade technologies to the hiring process with one click applications and recommendations ie if you were interested in this role, you may be interested in this [other] role too? Geo-location technology could also be deployed to match candidates with a given geographical location, while ‘swipe’ technology, similar to that developed for dating websites, is now being adapted to best match candidates with employers, Tipper said.
According to Tipper, recruitment is increasingly becoming a marketing-driven function as opposed to HR with companies like Santander appealing to potential candidates with more personal messaging and campaigns. Video content is also being used for job advertisements to provide increased engagement, he said.
Crucially, Rant & Rave is enabling real time feedback from candidates, rather a retrospective response, Tipper said. That enables companies to action any negative sentiments and improve their processes.
Transparency is key
Paul Instrell, sales and marketing director at Calor, emphasized the benefits of real time reporting and transparency in today’s market.
“People tend to connect with things they find safe and trustworthy,” he said. Issues like fake news provide an opportunity for brands to open up and give access to their values, he added.
Calor has deployed Rant & Rave over the last 12 months, rolling out across 52 Calor centres to win real time measures of customer satisfaction.
Instrell reported 15,000 customers have provided feedback to date with 9,080 positive pieces rating the company’s people.
Instrell said the solution was driving business improvement in that managers can access and monitor both team and individual performance and a customer council has been created to implement corrective actions. Critically, improvement plans are limited to themes arising from the Rant & Rave feedback, while scores and feedback are posted on the Calor website.
“Don’t be afraid to show your customers how you are doing,” Instrell concluded.
In the final expert panel session, Instrell and Tipper were joined by Tim Pritchard, managing director, customer experience, Kantar TNS, and Fiona Briggs, editor, Retail Times, to discuss the empowerment of employees and the importance of face-to-face interactions, the role of digital in customer service and how brands should be working to ensure they’re representing themselves positively across the spectrum.