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Communication

Personalisation should be harnessed for better customer communication in 2022

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Paul Adams, Senior Director at cloud communications platform Twilio, has shared his 2022 predictions, drawing on observations in consumer behaviour and customer engagement over the pandemic…

  1. The increased use of first-party data to understand customers from small businesses

“Historically, Netflix and Amazon have dominated the practice of personalisation by making use of first party data, but this will be increasingly used by a wider array of businesses too. The emergence of customer data platforms has made it easier for businesses to harness this data, enabling them to replicate these same levels of personalisation for themselves. Customers now expect this personalised experience, and as more companies begin to rethink their approach to customer experience and update their communication methods, we’ll see a levelling out across businesses of all sizes.

All businesses are going to need to understand all their customer touch points, journeys and profile to the same extent in the long run. Otherwise, consumers’ relationships with your business will be generic, not personalised, and ultimately the consumer will gravitate towards the competition.  So regardless of whether you’re a broadband provider, a grocery retailer, or a holiday booking company, you’ve got to prove that the way you’re engaging with customers and the experience you’re delivering is the best.”

2. The mass digital transformation of small businesses in the B2C market 

“Digital transformation was at the forefront of business conversations before the pandemic, but the sudden need to convert businesses to a digital model overnight significantly sped up the process — by as much as 6 years for many. Businesses are now coming to the end of their natural tech refresh cycles and are accepting that digital transformation is imperative for survival in the market. While large businesses are more likely to have made this jump already, smaller organisations, which have tighter resources and more restrictive budgets by nature, have been slower to make the transition. Many small businesses simply didn’t have the resources to completely remodel during the pandemic, so instead focused on making smaller adjustments for survival. Now, these SMBs, which account  for around 99.2% of businesses in the UK, will be the ones leading this technology innovation and investing in digital transformation for the longer-term. As a result, the level of digital innovation we see from SMBs will be on a level akin to that seen from entrepreneurs in the 1980s.

“Beyond that you’re going to see a lot of industries adopting technology to support better customer engagement. We’re already seeing this in the UK’s mature market, with industries like healthcare, utilities, even buying and selling cars, increasingly moving to a more digital model. Ultimately, their product hasn’t changed but the way they interact with consumers has evolved with apps, chat bots, SMS and WhatsApp for reminders, conversations and alerts. Big brands like Uber and AirBnB have mastered this technique, and innovative start-ups are integrating these lessons into their business models. However, the SMBs that got through the pandemic with limited and underdeveloped digital migrations will now be adjusting their models and their communication methods to meet this expectation.  We’re going to see some very fast-growing companies in this space, as a pressure to differentiate mounts and the ones who engage well, with a great digital service, will be the one to own the transaction.

3. Hybrid lifestyles will be consolidated in the next year, and we expect to see an increased reliance on digital communications for older demographics remote over 30s. 

“The move from pandemic to endemic is an important shift and will have a notable impact on customer engagement. This change will be felt as we experience more new variants and subsequent periods of re-socialisation – and consumer behaviour will be driven by these patterns  as we learn to live with the disease. From this we’ll see three main camps emerge: those who want to return to how things were, those who embrace a hybrid lifestyle and others who adopt a purely remote way of living.”

“Age is a large determining factor driving this changing consumer behaviour. In many cases, it’s younger people who want to return to cities for that socialisation they’ve missed out on this past year, whilst slightly older groups are feeling the benefits of hybrid or remote working more as they have more flexibility to manoeuvre their working lives around families and other commitments. These two groups will be further consolidated in this next phase of the pandemic. Hybrid lifestyles will be solidified with new, flexible commuting patterns while remote lifestyles will become more normalised as families move out of cities and become full-time work-from-home employees.

Younger demographics have historically driven digital adoption. If you look at social media, for example, it’s the 18-35 year olds that make up 80% of users in the UK.  Yet while this age group will continue to lead the charge in embracing newer inventions, we’ll see older demographics start to adapt more to the everyday use of technology to support increasingly hybrid lifestyles. From here, we’ll see greater integration of technologies like digital communications tools to facilitate these lifestyles, so people can work more flexibly and efficiently in the way they choose. Overall, this will increase the prevalence of technology in all of our communities.

4. Business tech innovation decisions will be made based on making businesses ‘future-proof’ rather than just price. 

“The pandemic has highlighted two things for businesses when it comes to technology. First is the importance of having multiple communication channels to alleviate the risk of disruption for customers, and second is the need to invest in technology that will safe-guard businesses for the future. No one could have predicted the pandemic and its effects, but for businesses, it quickly became apparent that those who were forward leaning with their technology footprint were able to make the necessary adjustments to survive. Those who weren’t struggled, and many sadly didn’t make it.  I think this idea of making businesses ‘future proof’ has really taken root and will influence our investment decisions and priorities moving forward. Thinking about long-term solutions that can weather storms will become the way we decide on investment, more so than just considering price. This is also relevant when thinking about sustainability and climate change.

“Something else to consider here is the impact of the “Great Resignation” when it comes to future-proofing businesses. The relationship between organisations and their staff has changed for the long term, and employers are now having to ask themselves how they attract and maintain essential workforce when one in four employees are re-evaluating their careers. Investing in technologies that enable flexibility and open communication with employees and customers is no longer just an IT project — it’s about making fundamental changes to the business model to ensure survival and growth. Those who deploy the tools of digital transformation will be in a far greater position for the next uncertain wave arrives. This is what we mean when we say ‘future-proofing’.”

How hyper-personalised content is changing customer communication

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

By Michael Wright, CEO, Striata 

A raft of new technologies, many of which are easily integrated into existing channels, are changing the way organisations communicate with their customers. 

Chatbots, voice integration, and dynamic (, amongst others are at the forefront of this evolution. But organisations cannot simply implement these technologies and expect dramatic improvements in their customer communication efforts. 

Instead, they have to ensure that any new technologies are utilised in line with the broader goals of customer communication; that is, making communication as valuable to the customer as possible.   

To read the full article, click here.

Letter Writing

Letter writing – Time to reignite a lost art?

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

With some 41 States in the US saying that cursive writing need no longer be taught in schools, is this the death knell of a method of communication that has changed the world? Write a letter to someone today, says Forum Events Director Paul Rowney…

Imagine what history would be like if the likes of Churchill, Roosevelt, Hemingway, Orwell… had not written letters to their friends, relatives and work colleagues? Not only would we know a lot less about many major historical events, but we would also know precious little about these famous personalities, their characters, their feelings, the way they thought that them such political, literary or philosophical powerhouses.

But who writes letters nowadays? Not many people it seems. According to an item in the Huffington Post from 2011, “Last year the typical home received a personal letter about every seven weeks, according to the annual survey done by the post office. As recently as 1987 it was once every two weeks.”

So when did you last write a letter? As in putting Pen to Paper, not an email or an update on Facebook, but a personal one to one correspondence that went in the mail?

Here’s why you should consider resurrecting what could soon be a lost art.

First, because you are writing specifically to one person, you can say more intimate, relevant and interesting things, solely for the benefit of the recipient. It makes you feel good, and them feel special.

Second, because it takes time and thought to write a letter, those two things are what makes them so unique. You have taken some time out of you ‘busy schedule’ to do something for someone else’s pleasure. That time has been spent putting ideas, thoughts, feelings on paper in a structured, considered way. Not a bad self-discipline and one immediately recognised by the reader.

Third, it’s not cheap, the paper, envelopes (your time), postage, all costs. But then anything worth doing well normally involves some extra time and money. It’s an investment in your relationship with the recipient that will repay itself in many ways.

Fourth, people keep letters, they represent reminders of you, and the ones you receive keep your senders’ memories, and personality as a permanent reminder and record for you and posterity.

Fifth, they show you care and that you’re thinking of them and sharing with them your (at times) innermost thoughts, concerns, problems and happiness. It’s the next best thing to being with them. And because they are tangible the effect is long term and irreplaceable.

Sixth, when you do write, use a pen, not a computer. It’s more work but it sparks the creativity in you-and makes sure your handwriting skills are kept up to standard. With many schools now no longer teaching ‘cursive writing’, we may be the last generation that knows how to write and read handwriting, so keep this skill alive.

Seventh, start today and be astounded at the response from your recipient when they receive your unexpected letter. Especially if they are of the ‘older’ generation. They will be thrilled. Equally you’ll be delighted when amongst all the junk mail and bills you see an envelope with writing on it from them! When was the last time you saw that?

Then for all the above reasons, you’ll sit down and relish not just the contents of the letter, but the fact someone has taken the time, effort and thought to craft a communication solely for your benefit and enjoyment.

Just like everyone appreciates a birthday present that the giver has clearly gone to much trouble to personalise and buy because they know ‘it’s just right for you’. So receiving a handwritten letter conveys that same sense of individual concern and personal concern we all want, but seldom get.

BLUECREST HEALTH SCREENING TO BOOST CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE USING 8X8

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Bluecrest Health Screening is introducing cloud-based communications technology to improve the service for its customers. Adopting 8×8’s Virtual Contact Centre and Quality Management solutions will give the company’s customer service agents the tools to provide an excellent experience at every stage of an interaction.

A leader in private health screening sessions for signs of illness, Bluecrest Health Screening needs its staff to be fully equipped to deal with customer enquiries effectively and sensitively.

Bluecrest needed one unified platform that lets its staff communicate with customers using their preferred method. 8×8’s Virtual Contact Centre offers staff the ability to respond via phone or email and with space for 30 staff on the system, Bluecrest can easily increase or decrease the numbers of agents based on service demand. As all cases are fully updated in the cloud after every interaction, agents can pick up from one another without needing to ask customers repeated questions.

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Analytics is key to measuring and improving agent performance; however, the incumbent reporting system needed manual input, which drained managerial time. Now all communications and cases can be tracked from just one place, saving time and ensuring that staff performance is always outstanding.

8×8’s analytics tools are also integral to Bluecrest to be able to track the success of marketing campaigns. Bluecrest uses more than 100 non-geographic numbers as part of direct mail campaigns and the ability to record call volumes and responses has been crucial in evaluating their effectiveness.

Angela Rodbourne, Contact Centre Director at Bluecrest, said: “We’re always looking at how we can improve our customer service using the latest technology. It’s important as a leading provider of healthcare that the level of service we provide in screenings is not only first class but also consistent, which is just as important when our customers reach out to speak to us. Next year, we’re hoping to achieve ISO 9001 to demonstrate our ability to provide excellent services to customers; we’re confident 8×8’s Virtual Contact Centre will help us with this.”

Kevin Scott-Cowell, UK MD of 8×8, said: “It’s important that companies like Bluecrest can rely on their chosen technology to work effectively and improve customer service in a sensitive space. We’re looking forward to working with them to improve service standards and support their bid to achieve  ISO 9001 accreditation.”

 

For more information visit Bluecrest via http://www.bluecrestscreening.com/ and 8×8 at https://www.8×8.co.uk/

Industry Spotlight: “It’s up to you how to handle social channels, but choose wisely”…

800 450 Jack Wynn

The term ‘call centre’ usually conjures up images of vast open office spaces, occupied by dozens of telesales representatives parked in front of computer screens with their omnipresent headsets.

Gone are the days where the primary source of communication is by telephone. In the digital age, many consumers decide to take to their desktop when they want to make a purchase or, more importantly, air a grievance.

In an ideal world, a customer that has a concern will reach out to your call centre via telephone. Customer care specialists can pull up details quickly, and can use the pauses to engage with the person on the other end of the phone. With this said, the concept of Live Chat allows the opportunity to address a complaint while the customer is online and available to participate in the process as well.

The internet is rife with opportunities to either sing the praises or throw some acid on a business. Social media pages, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Feefo, Google and Trustpilot are just some of the channels that allow the consumer to rate and leave feedback on virtually any business on the planet. Therefore, today’s customer support professionals need to be adept at handling complaints through various outlets.

There is a growing number of people who take to social media to vent about their experience with a brand. And everyone loves to read a good rant, right? What can end up happening is people start piggy-backing on the original comment, and before you know it there is a viral complaint about your company flying all over the internet. Left unattended, these can fester and do ongoing damage to your business.

So what’s a brand to do? Here are a few simple tips:

1)    Monitor your social media pages: Make sure you check for direct messages. The sooner you acknowledge someone’s issue, the easier it will be to make them a fan of your business again.

2)    Search for your brand: People may not bother searching for your official Facebook page or Twitter handle, and the only way you’ll find those harsh comments is searching for your brand name. Include searches for common misspellings. Then try to engage with those individuals, but get them off public pages and on to email or telephone.

3)    Check your ratings: Usually, a one-star rating on sites like Trustpilot can be remedied by apologising for the experience the customer had, and asking them to get in touch to try to find a satisfactory resolution to the issue. That is the result what people want.

4)    Keep your cool: The internet explodes with a story gone viral every few months. A customer who complained on social media received a defensive (and usually offensive) reply from the business. As much it might pain you, the customer is always right; bite your tongue and try to address the issue in a timely fashion.

How you manage your social media customer support can be a dream come true, or your worst nightmare. It’s up to you how to handle it, so choose wisely.

 

Words by Bernadette Kelly, of director business development at ActiveWin Media 

 

Bernadette is a native New Yorker, starting her career as a telesales representative. She has managed large call centre teams in California before relocating to Manchester in 2010. Recently, Bernadette was selected as a judge for VOOM2016 to help Richard Branson decide which start-up would win £1 million in prizes.