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Is there anyone delivering an excellent customer experience?

Everyone understands the importance of the customer experience to increasing loyalty and attracting new business, but how do UK brands fare in practice? Not that well, according to the first Forrester UK Customer Experience Index (CXi). Most of the 2,000 UK consumers it researched rated their experiences with 28 leading brands between ‘very poor’ and ‘OK’ – and no brand was ranked as ‘Excellent’.

Sad face

Based on the same methodology as existing US research that has been conducted since 2007, the Forrester CXi asked consumers three simple questions about the brands they interacted with most over the last 90 days:

  1. How enjoyable was it to do business with the company?
  2. How easy was it to do business with the company?
  3. How effective was the company at meeting your needs?

The highest score (81) went to Amazon, with five other retailers scoring 75 or above, putting them in the ‘good’ category for customer experience. At the bottom of the chart were TV service providers and mobile operators, who all rated as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. In fact, even the highest performing mobile brands ranked below the worst performing retailer.

Given that last week we released the latest Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study, we can make some interesting comparisons with the Forrester research. There are obviously some differences in methodology – the Eptica study is based on analysing the performance of 100 UK brands in ten sectors across key customer experience channels (web, email, chat and Twitter), rather than consumer research. Therefore, it looks at how companies handle individual interactions, rather than how consumers view the overall experience. This means that if a customer did not have to contact a brand or they avoided channels where the company was poor, they were likely to give it a higher score within the Forrester CXi.

Setting this aside, there are some strong parallels. In neither study did companies deliver truly high scores – and there was a big range between brands and sectors. Fashion retailers were the top sector for answering questions on the web in the Eptica Multichannel Customer Study, and overall, retailers scored highest in the Forrester CXi. Travel companies (split by Forrester into airlines and hotels) also ranked highly in both studies. Banks varied by brand, but gained average results in both.

Mobile telecoms companies, TV service providers and electronics manufacturers scored much worse in the Forrester CXi study than in the Eptica research. This is probably down to the nature of the consumer interactions that made up the experience. The first two are industries where changing supplier is both common and complex, leading to frustrations if consumers feel they are not getting a helpful and customised experience. Many interactions with electronics manufacturers are likely to be driven by product issues, set-up queries or requests for service, again meaning that consumers are going to be pre-disposed to be critical.

In contrast, the retail experience has a much lower ‘cost’ of switching supplier – it is just about clicking across to another website rather than cancelling a complex contract. As this is simpler, the experience needs to be extremely strong if brands want to retain customers, leading to the higher CXi scores that retailers delivered.

What is most striking about both research studies is that UK customer experience still has a long way to go. At Eptica we’ve seen scores improve over the last three years, but on average, just 63% of common customer questions can be answered online, with just 41% of emails and 39% of tweets receiving a successful answer. As mentioned before, no company scored ‘Excellent’ in the Forrester CXi research.

Brands therefore need to look at their entire operations and where they can deliver improvements that put the customer first – before consumers take their business elsewhere. You can find out more about the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study and download a management report on the findings here.

 

 

 

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4 ways customer service can make Mother’s Day special

Over the years the importance of celebrating Mother’s Day has grown, and it is now one of the busiest periods for sending flowers outside Valentine’s Day. Britons spend an average of £12 each on gifts for their mothers, although research shows that this rises to £53 in Liverpool.

Mother's Day Bouquet

However, there is one major difference with other celebrations such as Christmas. Mother’s Day is obviously on a Sunday. This means that, for one day a year, most florists and other retailers have to change their delivery strategies to operate outside their normal opening hours.

The pressure is definitely on to get it right. Particularly for those that can’t actually visit their mother in person, it is vital that flowers and gifts arrive on the specified day, are exactly what was ordered and aren’t damaged or substandard. Failure isn’t an option if companies want to retain business for next year and avoid complaints being broadcast through social media.

So, what can retailers and their delivery partners do to make sure it is Happy Mother’s Day for all their customers?

1          Plan ahead
Mother’s Day isn’t a new phenomenon, so look at your performance in previous years in order to fine tune processes and ensure that the right resources are in place across the business. Track sales in the run up to the day itself and make sure you have sufficient capacity to cope with peaks in demand.

2          Man all your channels
While many businesses operate seven day a week contact centres, others don’t. Once a year this needs to change, so that any queries can be dealt with swiftly by staff via phone, email or social media. This goes for all parts of the supply chain – logistic companies need to have representatives on hand to provide information in case deliveries are delayed or go astray.

3          Make information easily available
Ensure that it is simple for customers to track their order via the web and use web self-service to enable them to answer common questions. Look at sending confirmation emails or texts when the delivery has been successfully made. This reassures anxious senders that their present has arrived.

4          Every Mother is special
Obviously, major retailers are dealing with thousands of orders but each one is precious to the person planning something special. Therefore, train staff to empathise with callers and empower them to go the extra mile to sort out any problems that might occur.

Mother’s Day is not just a test for those looking to spoil their mums, but is a customer service challenge for retailers, florists and logistics companies. Get it right and you’ll be responsible for putting a smile on the faces of mothers up and down the country – fail and you’ll be trending on Twitter before you know it.

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What’s the state of the UK customer experience? 8 Key Findings

March 26, 2014 1 comment

In an increasingly competitive economy, delivering the best customer experience is crucial for organisations looking to win new business and retain existing customers. However it has never been more difficult. Customers are demanding more, across an increasing range of channels and are swift to punish those that don’t deliver – either via social media or by moving their business elsewhere.
The_Eptica_Multichannel_Customer_Service_Study_Infographic

Launched this week, the latest version of the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study
has found that UK companies are struggling to deal with this shift in power towards consumers, and the explosion in digital interactions through channels such as social media, the web and email. The Study uncovered huge discrepancies in performance across sectors and channels – and between the best and worst companies.

Carried out from the point of view of the consumer, the Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study evaluated 100 leading UK companies on their ability to provide answers to
10 routine questions via the web, as well as their speed and accuracy when responding to email, Twitter and web chat. It repeated research carried out over the past two years to show market trends across the insurance, travel, entertainment retail, food retail, electronics retail,
consumer electronics manufacturers, utilities, fashion retail, telecoms and banking sectors.

Due to its scale and scope the Study contains an enormous amount of information, and so we’ll
be running a series of blog posts over the coming months, focusing on its findings for specific vertical markets and channels.

Firstly, what are the top 8 key findings of the research?

1. Cautious improvement on the web
Companies are now successfully answering more questions on their websites than a year ago, with the average of 63% up 10% on previous figures. This is being driven by growth in the use of web self-service software, with over half (53%) of companies having now deployed these systems on their websites.

2. Gaps between best and worst growing
Nearly a third of companies (32%) failed to answer more than half of the 10 basic questions they were asked online, yet 22% scored eight or more. There are major differences in performance, even in the same sector. For example, one entertainment retailer scored 100%, yet two competitors just 20%.

3. The email channel is broken
Email performance continues to decline. Just 71% of companies provided email contact details on their websites and only 41% answered emails accurately, meaning nearly six in ten questions were going unanswered. Overall, eight out of ten sectors answered email slower on average than a year ago.

4. Twitter performance is patchy
Social media has been a major growth channel, but performance is patchy. While responses on Twitter are faster than email, customers are less likely to receive an accurate reply, with just 39% of companies answering successfully.

5. Web chat delivers speed and accuracy
Web chat was surveyed for the first time and provided the greatest accuracy (93.5%) and fastest response, with an average conversation time of just 4 minutes and 29 seconds. However, just 7% of companies offered reactive chat, despite industry studies showing that it increases efficiency, helps sales and is well-accepted by consumers.

6. Consistency is lacking
Just 12% of companies gave a consistent response across all the digital channels they offered, such as email, Twitter and chat. Some directly contradicted themselves in their answers from channel to channel!

7. Companies are picking channels to focus on
Many companies that were strong on one channel were weak on others – for example electronics manufacturers answered an average of 70% of questions asked on the web, but just 30% of emails or tweets. In contrast telecoms companies responded successfully to 60% of tweets, but just 10% of emails.

8. Channels are being switched off
There is also a shrinking choice of channels available to non-customers looking to contact organisations. Just over half of companies (55%) offered two channels (normally email and Twitter) alongside their websites, but 5% provided no way of contacting them through digital channels, forcing potential customers to pick up the phone to find out information.

To read more about the results of the new Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study take a look at our infographic or download the full management report, which includes sector by sector breakdowns and a best practice guide to improving the customer experience.

 

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Managing the rising email tide

March 13, 2014 2 comments

Despite the growth of new channels, email is still a vital part of the customer service mix. Consumers like the fact that email provides an audit trail, is convenient and allows them to send emails in their own time, rather than having to respond instantly as on the phone or social media.

email

With the growth in smartphones and tablets, you don’t even need to be in front of your computer to send or respond to email. Many interactions that begin on other channels (such as social media) escalate to email because of its flexibility and privacy. It is therefore no surprise that email usage is up – recent figures from Experian found that volume had grown by 11.2% when you compare Q4 2013 and the same period in 2012. Recognising this trend, 40% of marketers plan to increase their spend on email platforms this year.

However the growth in email causes potential issues for customer service teams. The sheer volume of incoming messages can cause delays in responding, particularly as emails contain unstructured data that takes time to read and understand. At the same time customer expectations are rising – they want an answer within minutes and hours, not days and weeks. Fail to provide one and they may well email again, adding to the backlog, or move to a more expensive channel, such as the telephone, to get an answer.

Fortunately linguistic technology can help companies to manage the email mountain, while increasing efficiency at the same time. Linguistics, the scientific study of language, is able to better understand the context of unstructured data, delivering benefits for companies in three key areas:

1              Improved efficiency and customer engagement
Using linguistics enables customer service systems to understand the meaning of questions asked in incoming emails. Rather than just looking at individual keywords (such as ‘delivery’ or ‘cancellation’), it understands the context of what is being said, and then acts on it. This could be routing the email to the best department or agent, or automatically suggesting a relevant answer for the agent to personalise and send. This increases productivity as agents can handle more emails per hour, while at the same time improving the quality and consistency of the response that customers receive.

2              Improving data accuracy
Customers want a joined-up response, whatever channel they contact you on. However many organisations have data gaps in their records, such as missing phone numbers or Twitter handles, meaning they find it hard to deliver an integrated response. How do you know it is the same John Smith contacting you by email that spoke to you last week by phone? Linguistics lets you extract information freely provided by customers within incoming emails (such as in the signature) and cross-reference/update the master customer record. This gives a more cohesive view of the customer, refining the multichannel service you can provide.

3          Improving understanding
By looking at the context and language of the email linguistics lets you analyse the tone of the interaction quickly and easily. This can then be used to both prioritise and route the message, and for longer term analytics. For example an email from a customer threatening to cancel their contract unless their problem is immediately solved could be prioritised so that it is answered more quickly than normal. Equally, a message praising the service received could be routed to marketing in order to provide VIP offers or to ask the customer to take a survey. Analysing responses, such as terms used around specific products, gives a deeper insight into how customers actually feel about them, and measures how it is changing over time.

As we’ve seen, email usage is growing and customer expectations are rising fast. Therefore organisations need to look at ways of improving efficiency and taming the email channel – linguistics delivers an answer that provides tangible benefits, while improving the customer experience.

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