Enabling B2B global customer support

In the CX community this is not news. When it comes to Customer Experience, our expectations are set by the interactions we have with companies like Amazon and Apple (companies on the B2C – Business to Consumer market).

When at work, dealing with other companies (in B2B – Business to Business scenarios), we also expect the same level of service, the same smooth and simple Customer Experiences, the same innovation and type of engagement.

I’m lucky to work with companies in both spaces. One of the B2B companies I work with is Sandvik – a global high-tech and engineering company founded in Sweden in 1862, with 40,000 employees and presence in 160 countries.

My team at Capventis had the pleasure to work with their Global Technical Support Team (for Mobile Mining & Rock Technology), enabling Zendesk – and it’s Support, Chat, Talk, Guide products – to allow them to provide seamless, effortless, convenient omni-channel support to their customers.

The video above shows Sandvik introducing the new Digital Helpdesk in a mission “To provide world leading customer service through a remote 24-hour technical support desk

Note: Sandvik are specialist in “Tools and systems for industrial metal-cutting; Equipment and tools, service and technical solutions for the mining and construction industries; Advanced stainless steels and special alloys as well as products for industrial heating“.

“Fast-Forward” on Retail Experience

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The COVID-19 pandemic will have a “fast-forward” effect on certain things, namely in the way we shop with retailers. The transformation was already in progress, but will now happen faster than expected.

Many consumers, particularly in the biggest cities, already shop mostly online and have orders delivered by retailers at home – groceries, clothing, electronics, furniture, etc. The pandemic forced most consumers to do the same.

Some consumers suddenly realised that you can actually do shopping online, having the same offering. Others realised how secure and comfortable it is. Others even noticed how effortless and seamless it can be.

On the retailers side, those who thought it would be hard, and procrastinated their journey to be on-line, finally adopted technology, subscribed to e-commerce platforms (like Shopify) and are now in a much better position to compete.

Opening an online operation, allowing consumers to buy from “distance” also required a customer service setup. Again, many retailers accelerated the adoption of multi-channel customer interaction technology (like Zendesk).

The way we shop, will surely change for good. Going forward, consumers will shop much more online (accelerating the trend of the last decade) and only go to brick & mortar shops when the need exceeds “shopping”.

What I mean is… many people go out shopping (in malls, etc.) not only because they need to buy something, but because they are looking for social interaction and distraction, with family or friends.

This is not news, and that is exactly why malls and retail parks started opening restaurants, cinemas, bowling alleys, entertainment venues for kids, etc. People go there not only (sometimes not even) to buy stuff, but rather to socialise.

The same will now apply to the wider industry – big, medium and small retailers. Meaning everyone will have to do something to attract people to their shops. Of course not all can or have size to build cinemas, so they will have to build Experiences.

Big successful retailers are already pioneering this. Apple designed all their shops with a focus on customer’s experiences. Offering a modern and innovative environment, that unlocks creativity, inspires learning, and encourages connections.

But how do you know what “experiences” will attract customers? Once more, technology can help. Experience management platforms (like Qualtrics) allow companies to reach out and understand customers’ needs, wants, drivers.

That insight can then be turned into action to baseline experiences and improve continuously.

Customer Experience in Water Companies

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In England and Wales, OFWAT (part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) is the authority that regulates the water and sewerage industry, after services started being provided by private companies, to residential consumers.

A year ago OFWAT issued PR19 (Price Review 19) a comprehensive and stringent report about the way the water industry operates in these countries. And on the back of that, replaced SIM (Service Improvement Mechanism, launched in 2010) for C-MEX.

C-MEX stands for Customer Experience Measurement and is the mechanism OFWAT found to incentivise water companies to become customer-centric and deliver good experiences. Until 2020 incentives would be reputational, and thereafter financial.

But water is a commodity and customers don’t have a choice of supplier. We must use the incumbent in our area. Majority of us don’t even interact with our water company, and a significant subset of us pay bills via direct debit, without even looking.

So how can water companies engage with customers, from a CX perspective? From my point of view there are a couple of things that matter and impact customer’s satisfaction with a water supplier: Brand perception and customer service.

Of course we would like water suppliers to ensure service doesn’t have issues (e.g. leaks, disruptions), that bills are clear, and prices fair. But a new generation also wants companies to care about the planet, and how water is used (or wasted) – see good example in email I received from my supplier (Affinity Water).

When we contact our water supplier (statistic says mostly to complain/report issues) we want empathetic, seamless and efficient interactions. Actually, one of the drivers in C-MEX is complaints handling (and definition of “complaint” includes those made via social media – in line with Consumer Council for Water’s definition).

Another interesting guideline from PR19 is that water companies will need to offer at least 5 communication channels for receiving contacts and complaints. Phone, email, and post seem the obvious ones being used.

Water companies will need to start looking at the enablement of channels like Live Chat, Social Media, and Text Messaging (e.g. WhatsApp), to comply with the 5 channels rule. OFWAT says penalties will apply, if they don’t.

Technology can definitely help water companies comply with PR19, and ensure they follow C-MEX guidelines.

  • An omni-channel ticket/case management platform (like Zendesk) can enable the required multi-channel capability for interaction and complaint management.
  • An experience management platform (like Qualtrics) can enable the required C-MEX capability to measure consumer experience with NPS and CSAT.

Technical mastery is not enough to be competent

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On “Consultancy lesson from Winston Wolfe” I talked about how consultants are not, and should not try to be “must-know-it-all encyclopedias with a solution for everything” that “are available within the hour” and “make problems go away in no time“.

Another crucial principle that consultants should always follow is that technical mastery of their specialist discipline is not enough to come across competent, and deliver good service and/or advice to a client. You need to earn their trust and confidence.

To do that, consultants must value the relationship with the client, more than the transaction in hand. However big it may be, it could be the only one you get, in case you are not able to create a long-standing and trusted relationship with your client.

Consultants invest in improving specialist technical skills, focus on acquiring experience, and work hard on building a network of contacts. But rarely spare enough time creating and nurturing trust relationships with clients. Majority don’t even know how to do it.

Here are a number of things you should follow if you want to build trust and confidence:

  1. Focus more on the client (and the problem), less on yourself (and your skills)
  2. See your client as a person (John Smith), and not just a role (Head of Operations)
  3. Listen more (understand challenge and concerns), talk less (don’t assume)
  4. Do the right thing (for your customer), not what’s best for you
  5. Personalise your delivery, don’t give “blanket” answers or on-size-fits-all solutions
  6. Be honest and transparent (even if truth is hard), don’t hide issues or say it’s all easy
  7. Make yourself always available, accessible and reachable

Customer-centricity, humanity, integrity, reliability, dependability, responsiveness (among other characteristics) are, more often than not, more important than technical mastery, when it comes to deliver outstanding service and successful outcomes to clients, creating long-standing win-win trust relationships.

Gestures that turn customers into advocates

This week I received an email from the company where I have my car insurance – Admiral – and the subject was “Important information about your Admiral policy”.

Past experience tells customers that an email with this subject rarely brings good news. It usually is to inform that premiums went up, or something of that nature.

But the content of the email was rather surprising. Admiral was telling me that due to COVID-19, and the lock-down measures, there was less cars on the road.

This obviously resulted in fewer claims. So Admiral decided to pro-actively issue premium refunds to their customers. How cool is that?!

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There are a lot of great things about this gesture of goodwill, as well as the way it was communicated, delivering an outstanding Customer Experience.

  1. The gesture is not common in the industry; Surprises the customer with good news in a time of crisis; And puts some money in the pockets of some customers in need.
  2. It shows that even in during a crisis, and whilst the company is dealing with enormous challenges, they are still thinking of the customer.
  3. The communication is personalised, direct, simple and to the point; It not only says how much will be refunded, but is transparent re. the calculation done.
  4. To avoid confusion, anxiety or frustration, it also clarifies how it will be done; And when the customer can expect the refund.
  5. For customers who may need further information, a landing page was created admiral.com/stayathome where it is also easy to get in touch.

I have researched a lot when looking for a car insurance, and one of my criteria was Customer Experience – it seems like Admiral is living up to the positive reviews and brand promises.

I am a loyal customer that, on the back of this experience, turned into an advocate.

Your technology selection approach is broken!

When it comes to choose and buy technology to enable business outcomes, far too many companies still use the same approach of consulting analyst reports, building and issuing RFx, going through long selection and purchasing cycles.

This approach is broken. It is a waste of people’s time and effort, as well as businesses’ money. And, more often than not, it doesn’t provide the desired outcome: the smooth implementation and adoption of a technology that is fit for purpose.

It worked well when technology pricing and licensing models were expensive, required a huge investment in infra-structure, and demanded implementation cycles of many months (sometimes even years). That is history!

Today’s technology platforms pricing and subscription model derisks decisions. Businesses can select a technology; subscribe to it for a very small amount of money and period of time; implement it in a matter of weeks; and prove or disprove its value and adoption.

G2 was created to help change the paradigm, and move the technology selection process to the 21st century – by allowing “real” people to review the technology platforms, rather than just leaving that to a select group of “biased” analysts.

I have said it more than once. What works for consumers must work for companies as well. Purchasing business technology should be as easy and effortless for company’s decision makers, as buying consumer products or services is for all of us.

That is also why G2 came to play a crucial role. It provides “unfiltered reviews” from people who actually use the technology solutions or platforms. More than that, G2 made it simple, clear and easy to navigate and understand, leaving behind jargon.

Furthermore, it innovated! And this post is also to praise them for the creation of the category that looks into Experience Management Software products – where we see Qualtrics (miles away from competition) and Medallia in the Leaders quadrant.

20200515 G2 Crowd - Grid - XM Q2 2020