Wednesday Sep 02, 2015

Bringing Brand Ambassadorship to the Front Lines - A Tale of Past Interactions

This is a follow up to my first post on customer success.

One of my first jobs was as a bus boy at a New York Deli Restaurant. I was 14 years old and the gentleman who hired me made it very clear that my job was to make sure that customers had a great time—more than just good food, people were buying the whole experience of eating in a deli (like the Stage or Carnegie in New York). Greeting guests, bringing them sour pickles, answering questions about what I liked to eat and offering up some free cookies towards the end of the meal didn’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things but in the context of this restaurant, it drove their business with hour long wait times.

In hindsight, the general manager of this restaurant clearly understood what many businesses are still figuring out today—that people buy experiences, be it in restaurants, online, brick & mortar stores, etc. Even more so, he understood that the people on the front line needed to represent the brand and needed to be enabled to deliver on it. So even as a 14 year old (I actually looked older), I had eaten just about everything on the menu and could speak to it with confidence. Management actually encouraged me to run to the counter and grab some cookies for people to try.

Fast forward many years later and I come across blog posts such as this (Seth Godin, “Learning from the State Department”) 

We invented ambassadors because nothing can replace face-to-face interaction, particularly when messages travel sometimes quite slowly through complex organizations. Just like now.

This seems obvious, and it is, until you realize that organizations make two huge mistakes:

A. They don't hire brand ambassadors, they hire clerks and bureaucrats, and treat them and pay them accordingly.

and

B. They don't manage and lead brand ambassadors, don't measure and reward and create a cadre of people who can listen for the brand and speak for the brand.

Would you send the clerk on aisle 7 to speak to a head of state or vital partner on behalf of your company? Because that's what he's doing right now.

After reading this, I have adopted this phrase of ‘brand ambassador’ and judge most of my experiences in terms of whether or not businesses are enabling their staff to act as these brand ambassadors. On a regular basis I come across businesses where it appears to me that management has enabled their front line staff to be true ambassadors. In my opinion, companies like Zappos and Starbucks have really nailed it. Their staff has both the customer-centric mindset and the tools at their disposal to drive positive customer experiences. On the flip side, I have plenty of experiences online and in stores where the end result is that I either leave the store or cancel my order. Customers shouldn’t be confronted with confusing online order flows that seem particularly spammy. Simple questions about product availability and new shipments shouldn’t be answered with the shrug of the shoulders or an IDK.

Here are a few things to think about as you evaluate your own businesses in terms of bringing brand ambassadorship to the front lines, be it in call centers or physical stores. Each business is unique so there is not necessarily one prescriptive solution. If you are just getting started with a transactional online site, here are a few other good articles about storytelling through visual commerce and branded manufacturers extending their identity in the direct to consumer channel.

Brand and company philosophy: Does your staff know what your brand stands for and the company philosophy and expectations towards customer loyalty and customer service? How do managers and leadership reinforce and demonstrate these philosophies and expectations? Leading by example truly helps fuel the creation of a staff of brand advocates.

Product & Process Knowledge: Does your staff know the product line? Do they have insights into what products are coming, what is in inventory, what has been discontinued, when the sales are going to happen? What training programs have you developed to help new employees learn about the products and procedures as well as continually update all employees on a regular basis? Can your staff effectively manage the “buy online, pick up in store” process? Front line staff need to have superior knowledge to level the playing field against the highly educated customer of today.

Decision Making: Have you evaluated if your staff is enabled to make the day-to-day and on-the-fly decisions to impact both profitable sales and customer loyalty? Are the guidelines clear and are the internal channels there to educate? The inability to act efficiently and effectively in any of the channels (online chat, phone, in store) is a deal killer on so many levels.

Technology: Are you empowering your staff with the right tools and technology to drive customer loyalty and superior customer service? Do you have agent / assisted selling applications that can not only provide insights into inventory, order history, customer profiles but also transact? Much like the need for product knowledge, the right technology tools are needed to enable sales staff to be seen as a consultant and a brand ambassador, not just the order taker.

Measuring Results and Rewards:  How do you measure the success of your front line staff? Can you identify your peak sales performers? Can you measure how effective your staff is with customer service/brand advocacy? Can you measure your staff’s knowledge of products? Do you offer any incentives on an individual level for sales, successful customer interactions? Measuring results and providing rewards can be difficult to implement but this is counterbalanced by the fact that we are currently experiencing a transformational shift in expectations towards customer experience.

I would love to hear about your experiences in creating brand ambassadors within your organizations. What is and isn’t working, obstacles you have had to overcome, tools and technologies that are helping you?


Friday Feb 20, 2015

Look Beyond Marketing When Considering Customer Experience by Gib Bassett

Most people think Customer Experience is about marketing, or the activities associated with the last mile of the shopping journey. However this misses the bigger picture of many factors that support a successful customer experience.

A great example of a company doing it right is 7-Eleven. As shown in this video, 7-Eleven leverages a common foundation for what it calls the “digital guest experience,” as well as its merchandising and accounting systems. In this way, 7-Eleven serves its customers personalized and mobile in-store offers. Where it goes beyond is in applying purchasing and behavioral insights to its merchandising and assortment strategies.

Less forward-thinking retailers could take a lesson from 7-Eleven’s approach. Consider the case of specialty retailer Wet Seal. I have followed Wet Seal for a few years – the company has been very progressive in its use of in-store mobile and social shopper engagement.

So I was surprised by recent news that the company was closing two-thirds of its stores. Reportedly, Wet Seal struggled to keep pace with fashion trends (style and price) – and experienced reduced foot traffic in the malls where it invested. Given their progressive shopper engagement practices, and the data and insights these efforts generate, I would have thought Wet Seal was in a better position to foresee changes in its customersand make different decisions regarding merchandise and assortments.

Wet Seal is not alone. Without an analytics-first approach to consumer engagement that encapsulates all facets of customer experience, retailers run the risk of focusing too heavily on the marketing aspect of the shopping journey.

For example, with deep analytics, Wet Seal would have noticed changes in customer behavior, such as greater price sensitivity, and merchandise indicators such as social chatter about preferences for competitor assortments. With such predictors of change in hand, Wet Seal could have altered pricing, promotion and assortments to stay ahead of customer preferences.

We should first accept that all shoppers are demonstrating connected behaviors, which make it essential and easy to understand what’s happening with them digitally. That’s certainly the case with 7-Eleven’s customers. Mobile and social channels can help shoppers navigate deals, alternatives and new customer experiences. Retailers can use this information to stay a step ahead.

In summary, retail customer experience should be based on an integrated view of the various business operations that support the customer’s experience. Marketing, store operations, online sales, merchandising, inventory, and service should operate off the same view of the customer providing agility and deep business intelligence.

Gib Bassett

CPG and Retail Industry Principal

Twitter @gibbassett

Friday Feb 13, 2015

ICMI Webcast: Forbes Reveals How Financial and Retail Companies Modernize Customer Service by Cedric Turner

Customers have lots of options. 
If you don’t deliver the right answers fast,
they’ll go somewhere else.

That’s one of the reasons knowledge is the top customer service investment, according to a recent Forbes survey of 400+ executives. Financial services and retail companies use knowledge to provide fast, accurate answers across channels—and better train agents—while ensuring 100% regulatory compliance.

Join this ICMI webcast on March 5 at 1 pm EST / 10 am PST to hear ICMI and Oracle discuss how companies are getting ahead on the Roadmap to Modern Customer Service.

You will learn:

Register Now


Joshua Dodge

Senior Client Success Manager, Oracle

Joshua Dodge, Senior Client Success Manager at Oracle, helps companies modernize their customer service organizations to drive more efficiencies and deliver a better experience. He helps clients accelerate their progress by partnering with them to develop a clear roadmap for modern customer service. Prior to joining Oracle, Josh worked in a variety of customer service and project management leadership roles, including at Sony where he managed call center operations globally, both in-house and outsourced. Josh earned his Master’s certification in Project Management and B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Kris Friday

Principal Solutions Consultant, Oracle

Kris Friday, Principal Solutions Consultant at Oracle, works with global financial services organizations to help them grow client relationships through implementing customer experience and engagement tools. Currently, Kris is working with a number of Fortune 500 companies on developing knowledge management strategies for delivering highly personalized service at less cost. Prior to joining Oracle, Kris worked with contact centers in a variety of industries, advising them on technologies to enhance the customer experience and improve overall efficiency.


Erica Strother

Community Specialist, ICMI

Erica Strother is the Community Specialist at ICMI. With a background in marketing, public relations, and social media, she brings more than six years of community management experience to ICMI. Erica manages ICMI’s robust network of community contributors – 500 strong! She also hosts ICMI’s weekly tweet chats that feature dynamic, interactive discussions with thought leaders and innovators in our community. Erica produces our webinars and many other content initiatives like Contact Center Insider, our weekly newsletter. 

Thursday Jan 29, 2015

2015: A New Perspective on Millennials in Consumer Goods and Retail by Cassie Moren

Consumer goods (CG) companies and retailers are asking how they can better engage with millennials to buy their brands and get them in the store. Given the attractiveness and size of the millennial market (80 million), Interbrand and Oracle recently conducted a study to understand millennials from a behavioral perspective.

The research findings determined that five segment breaks exist within the millennial generation, based upon the clustering of their various attitudes and behaviors, each representing a cluster or “tribe” that behaves similarly: 1. The Up & Comers, 2. The Mavens, 3. The Eclectics, 4. The Skeptics and 5. The Trendsetters.

This is just a glimpse into the subsets within the millennial generation. What quickly becomes clear is that targeting millenials as a whole is ineffective as they range from financially-dependent teens to married homeowners with kids. By considering these unique segments and determining which have the most potential for your brand, there’s an opportunity to build a deeper connection and deliver an experience that will appeal to the next generation of customers. Here are five themes and technologies that brands need to consider in order to win millennials:

  1. Drive consumer acquisition, activation and advocacy anywhere, anytime through encouraging cross-channel consumer engagement
  2. Provide a personalized, rich and consistent commerce experience across channels through cross-channel commerce
  3. Create consumer-focused category, assortment, pricing and demand plans through consumer-centric planning and optimization
  4. Develop rich insights on consumers through retail and consumer insights
  5. Acquire and manage a single and accurate view of the consumer through consumer data management and activation

Read Report now

Monday Jul 21, 2014

Bringing Content, Commerce and Digital Experiences Together: Oracle Commerce V11.1 Release Announcement

ORACLE COMMERCE V11.1 NOW AVAILABLE

A short six months after the v11.0 release, Oracle Commerce 11.1 provides an impressive payload for enabling our customers to deliver differentiated digital commerce experiences. Oracle Commerce is a Digital Experience Platform that approaches content, commerce and experience in a fundamentally different way than any other solution on the market. Oracle Commerce 11.1 brings the Oracle Commerce 11 series to the next logical step to the unification of content, commerce and experience, solving the challenges around creating, automating and scaling inspired selling experiences to any shopper, in every context.

From the shopper’s perspective, v11.1 provides further enhancements to deliver relevant, persistent commerce experiences wherever they are. From an internal operations perspective, v11.1 makes creating and scaling these experiences across all enterprise sites simpler.

The Oracle Commerce 11.1 release continues four major themes, which are in direct response to challenges our customers have shared with us:

1. Omni-channel Experience Delivery

2. Digital Experience and Content Management Business User Control

3. B2B Commerce Feature-set Enhancements

4. Platform TCO Enhancements & Integrations

Summaries below describe what we have done in v11.1 in each of these areas and why. For more detailed information on key release features, read the v11.1 What’s New Document or join the Oracle Commerce Product Management team for a live webcast, demos and discussion of the latest release.

[Read More]

Wednesday Jun 04, 2014

The Internet of Things & Commerce: Part 3 -- Interview with Kristen J. Flanagan, Commerce Product Management

Internet of Things & Commerce Series: Part 3 (of 3)

And now for the final installment my three part series on the Internet of Things & Commerce. Post one, “The Next 7,000 Days”, introduced the idea of the Internet of Things, followed by a second post interviewing one of our chief commerce innovation strategists, Brian Celenza. 

This final post in the series is an interview with Kristen J. Flanagan, lead product manager for Oracle Commerce omnichannel strategy. She takes us through the past, present, and future of how our Commerce Solution is re-imagining the way physical and digital shopping come together.

-------

QUESTION: It’s your job to stay on top of what our customers’ need to not only run their online businesses effectively, but also to make sure they have product capabilities they can innovate and grow on. What key trend has been top-of-mind for you and our customers around this collision of physical and digital shopping?

Kristen: I’ll agree with Brian Celenza that hands down mobile has forced a major disruption in shopping and selling behavior. A few years ago, mobile exploded at a pace I don't think anyone was expecting. Early on, we saw our customers scrambling to establish a mobile presence---mostly through "screen scraping" technologies. As smartphones continued to advance (at lightening speed!), our customers started to investigate ways to truly tap in to their eCommerce capabilities to deliver the mobile experience. They started looking to us for a means of using the eCommerce services and capabilities to deliver a mobile experience that is tailored for mobile rather than the desktop experience on a smaller screen.

[Read More]

Wednesday May 07, 2014

The Next 7,000 Days – How we will shop will change. Again. And Again…

Internet of Things & Commerce Series: Part 1 (of 3)

Do you regularly watch TED talks? If not, you’re missing out on learning all sorts of amazing things about our shared reality. Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last few months watching TED talks that might wet your appetite. 

·    Low IQ gotcha down? Don’t worry, it’s not a 100% predictor of success; “grit” is actually a better indicator.
·    Feel bad about those 2nd (or 3rd) pair of shoes you ordered online last night?
     Don’t. Primates make the same mistakes with money.
·    Food for thought while you’re snorkeling next time. Up to 90% of sea creatures light up.
·    Bag of cords got you all tangled up? Imagine a time when electric sockets were the shape of light
     bulbs … because they were the only 
things we plugged in.

And just over 2,000 days ago Kevin Kelly (one of the founders of Wired Magazine) gave a fantastic talk about “The Next 5,000 Days of the Web”. That was 2007. In the roughly 2,000 days since then unfathomable things have appeared in our ever-changing, every-accelerating world: smartphones, social media, wearable tech… Angry Birds, Candy Crush… And though we are only 7,000 or so days in to the reality of the internet, it has already grown to a size the defies imagination. Some stats to ponder on the dimensions of the world wide web as of 2013:

·      14.3 trillion web pages
·      672 exabytes of accessible data
·      43,000 petabytes of total traffic
·      1 yotta byte of total data stored (that’s as big as 180 billion, BILLION libraries of Congress)
·      Yet, less than 1 % of things in the physical world are connected today…

And this is set to double. Every year. We have become embedded in a digital architecture – of things, of data, of content. And this is only just the beginning.

[Read More]

Wednesday Mar 05, 2014

Mobile Web for the Masses

There’s no arguing that mobile is a big deal. We’ve all heard the stats about crazy mobile adoption over the last 4-5 years, particularly in retail. But one thing still isn’t totally clear: whether mobile Websites or native mobile apps are the way to go for retailers.

comScore cites
that consumers spend 55% of their time with retailers on mobile devices, outpacing computers  – and this isn’t general online surfing (which is far higher), it’s shopping. Some, including myself, argue that mobile is the lynchpin of a retailer’s omnichannel strategy. Smartphones perfectly link the in-store experience with the digital world – or at least, they should.

[Read More]

Wednesday Oct 16, 2013

The Evolution of an Era: Customer Experience in Retail

Two New Studies Point to the Direction Retailers are Taking in their CX Initiatives. Is it the Right Direction?

The sheer velocity of change in retailing and customer behavior is forcing retailers to reinvigorate, expand and sharpen their vital Customer Experience (CX) strategies. Customers are becoming increasingly dynamic as they race to embrace the newest digital channels; shop in new ways on mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, on the Web and in the store; share experiences socially; and interact with their preferred brands in new ways. Retailers are stepping up to their customers as they and their competitors create new modes of customer interaction. Underpinning these changes are vast quantities of customer data as customers flood digital channels and the social sphere.

The informed retailer must now understand what their priorities are and what they should be for the future. To better understand this, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Oracle independently launched CX-focused surveys to uncover what retailing leadership found important today. By comparing the results of these two studies together, we can further discover new insights about the industry. Click here to download this informative white paper.

Wednesday Aug 28, 2013

Mobile Is Becoming A Catalyst For Commerce

Mobile phones have become almost ubiquitous in our daily lives. More and more people are relying on their smartphones to stay connected with their family, friends, co-workers, and the world around them. Armed with smartphones and tablets, consumers have access to much more product information and can compare, recommend, and share information from anywhere, at any time.

According to Internet Retailer, in the second quarter of 2013 U.S. mobile commerce grew faster than U.S. e-commerce sales via desktop/laptop computers. M-commerce represented 9% of all online commerce in the quarter, comScore says, with mobile shoppers buying more than $700 million worth of apparel and accessories in Q2.

A new report from Juniper Research expects mobile commerce transactions conducted through handsets and tablets will exceed US$3.2trn by 2017, rising from US$1.5trn this year. Research firm eMarketer reports that this year, 62.5 percent of all mobile commerce will come from tablets, despite the fact that they have a lower penetration rate than smartphones. However, lack of mobile site optimization remains a concern. Overseas in Europe, according to the latest statistics that have been released on the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, last month, the sales over mobile commerce in the United Kingdom managed to grow by a phenomenal 129 percent when compared to the figures from the same time in 2012.

Smartphones enable customers anywhere to quickly research and evaluate products prior to purchase. 4G connectivity enables consumers to have faster access to mobile Web sites and apps. Tablets provide more real estate for customers and business buyers to view product information in order to make their buying selection. In June 2013, 91% of tablet users and 90% of smartphones users accessed a mobile e-commerce Web properties, according to comScore.

So companies need technology tools to help them understand the mobile universe and its impact on their businesses. Mobile commerce started in the retail industry and is permeating into other industries as consumer get more comfortable purchasing via their smartphone and consumers migrate from pure research to buying products and services on their phones.

An Oracle study found that only 37% of respondents indicating that their company has mobile commerce in place. You need to continually think about how your customers are engaging with you and your brand via smartphones and tablets, and build mobile into your company’s overall commerce strategy. Click here to learn more about Oracle Commerce.

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