May 22nd, 2013 by Leonard Klie
The American Customer Satisfaction Index came out yesterday, and although it shows that customers are happier with many goods and services today than they were a year ago, the news isn’t all that great. Making significant gains this year was the information sector, which includes service providers for wireless and landline phone, Internet, and subscription TV as well as cell phone manufacturers and computer software. Energy utilities and healthcare also saw gains.
However, the grim truth in the ratings is that in the 43 industries included in the index customers are less than satisfied, fueled by limited competition and higher expectations.
According to the ACSI, this was especially common in the pay TV and Internet service provide sectors, where consumers often have few alternatives. Furthermore, barriers to switching, including contracts with cancellation fees, not only prevent customers from switching providers, but also create little incentives for companies to improve.
In general, consumers have become accustomed to high monthly bills, yearly price increases, and sporadic service reliability. Those who can switch providers or move to another medium (like abandoning landline phones for wireless service), do, and those who can’t, are more satisfied with the level of service they are receiving from their current providers. That’s hardly something to call home about.
May 20th, 2013 by Kelly Liyakasa
From big box establishments on down to department stores and niche boutiques, retailers often grapple with one condition – traffic. Although serious gains have been made in the ecommerce environment to combat shopping cart abandonment, to drive additional sales through relevant product recommendations, and to analyze customer journeys across multichannel platforms, the same cannot be said for the in-store experience. A number of startups are making making headway here, however, and I recently chatted with one of them – San Francisco-based Prism Skylabs’ Founder and CEO Steve Russell – about the lay of the retail video analytics land.
What does Prism Skylabs really focus on?
Russell: We do something pretty unique. We’re not just a big data generator that’s spewing a lot of statistics out that are really hard to understand. We really focus on creating things that are beautiful, and useful, [with] real-time inventory that can let a retailer anywhere kind of tap in and look at what’s going on with their store rather than having to spend lots of money placing regional merchandising executives or staff on-site, whose job it is to make sure product is placed perfectly, and staff is optimized so every customer is served. All of this can be done remotely via a simple Web application.
Video plays a huge role here.
Russell: Very close to 100 percent of retailers have video infrastructure that has been deployed over the last five to 10 years and our software, while being a cloud service, is behind this technology. [Retailers] can connect in, and benefit from the entire video infrastructure retailers purchased. This is very similar to business models you see now coming out of the Valley- things like Dropbox, or Box.net, which through a simple software download enables a business to essentially access robust cloud infrastructure and we’re really the first company to do that-for fixed video in any meaningful way… we’re not necessarily moving around video per se. Instead of taking all the video camera data and sending it up to the cloud, we do something pretty unique. We transform the video, we condense it, and really synthesize it down to just the data streams, and just the kinds of imagery that retailers and other businesses need to essentially run their organizations better, and this runs the gamut of building a perfectly beautiful, high-resolution, privacy-protected image of what the retail store looks like right now to giving a consistent counting signal of how many people are standing in the sales area of the store this week vs. last week and we take all of that data and we combine it into unique visualizations that are designed for everyday use of retailers.
Why is video such an untapped value source to a retail store?
Russell: The core thing we do is help the businesses that deploy our product generate a better customer experience. So we break that down in a variety of ways. There’s a merchandising component, and making sure the right products are out and they’re displayed the right way. There’s a space component to that and making sure your place is clean and shiny and on brand. There’s a business intelligence element to it – that we’re knowing the optimal path and placement so when customers come in the store, they can interact more quickly and effectively with the product, and Apple has shown us that staffing is a big part of this – making sure you’ve got the right number of people working.
How does individual shopper behavior impact broader store strategies?
Russell: When we generate a sort of merchandising view of a space, what we’re really doing, essentially, is we can process thousands of images of noisy, grainy, ugly, awful surveillance video and using a number of techniques that are roughly similar to the way your iPhone can build a better photo through a series of exposure.
We can create an image that’s higher resolution, with less noise, and remove shoppers completely from view so that merchandisers from throughout the store can look in and see how product is placed without there being any concern that customers are being looked at. We can create a number of aggregate, anonymous metrics about activity and crowd estimations or counts. Lastly, when you look at where people are walking or standing, you can see these are fundamentally anonymized visualizations that are designed to kind of give you some inkling of aggregate shopping behaviors as opposed to following any individual shopper.
Where is Prism at work?
Russell: We are now in deployment with dozens of customers, in large, distributed retail [stores] that include everything from companies we talk about publicly, which include T-Mobile, Famous Footwear, etc., but also one of the largest electronics retailers in the U.S. We [also work with] some of the most respected, high-end luxury retail brands, as well as a smattering of other retailers that runs the gamut of grocery stores to big box retailers.
May 17th, 2013 by Leonard Klie
In Greek mythology, Nike was the goddess of victory. In social media, Nike is the brand to beat, at least in the United States. The sneaker and sportswear maker was found to be the most “socially devoted” U.S. brand on Twitter, according to research from Socialbakers, provider of a social media analytics platform that allows brands to measure, compare, and contrast the success of their social media campaigns.
Nike dominated the top 10 U.S. list, and was number four on the worldwide list behind Tesco, Vodafone, and O2.
Nike’s main customer support handle has a 79.5 percent response rate. Response time was 140 minutes on average. The company has four support handles and dozens of handles related to different sporting goods lines and geographic locations.
Not surprisingly, both the U.S. and worldwide lists were dominated by telecom companies and airlines, two industries where online customer service has become critically important to their success.
JetBlue, which has more than 1.7 million Twitter followers, and American Airlines, with more than 528,000 followers, were the top U.S. airlines on the list. American, which finished ninth on the worldwide list, was singled out for having among the lowest response times. The company answers questions in just 12 minutes on average; only Halo BCA, an Indonesian banking firm, was found to have quicker response times, at three minutes, but it, quite obviously, has far less traffic on its Twitter page.
Overall, Socialbakers found an incredible increase in response rates on Twitter worldwide. The finance industry earned the highest average response rate, at 62.8 percent, up 35.4 percent since last year. The airlines increased their response rate by 20.8 percent, to 53.2 percent. The fashion and retail industries also recorded sizable gains.
“Twitter enables a certain open conversation, and allows brands to address their customers’ needs immediately and directly,”explained Jan Rezab, CEO of Socialbakers, in a statement. ”More and more brands are appreciating the value of utilizing social media, and Twitter in particular, to relate to their customers and address their concerns.”
If nothing else, we can take these findings to mean that companies are now taking Twitter seriously as a communication channel. If you’re not doing so, it’s not too late to start. And if you can reach Socialbakers’ 65 percent response rate criterion for inclusion on its “Socially Devoted” lists, all the better for you, and of course, for your customers.
May 15th, 2013 by Sherri Lerner
The following post was written by Anjali Yakkundi, an analyst at Forrester Research serving application development and delivery professionals.
Forrester recently surveyed 233 digital customer experience professionals with decision-making roles in digital experience (DX) technologies, asking them about priorities, sourcing decisions, and strategic direction. In this survey, we debunked a few widely held exaggerations: that IT is declining, marketing is the new king, and mobile applications have replaced the Web. Instead, we found a much more muddled picture, where many different stakeholders are balancing many different priorities. Here’s what we uncovered.
Organizations prioritize the Web. Mobile applications are still important (44 percent of respondents said they were prioritizing tablet apps and 42 percent said they were prioritizing mobile apps for phones and other mobile devices), but this doesn’t mean that Web concerns are disappearing. It’s quite the opposite. Web initiatives remain a top priority. Eighty percent of respondents said that traditional (e.g., desktop) Web initiatives were a top priority, while 59 percent said mobile Web for tablet and 56 percent said mobile Web (excluding tablets) were a priority.
It won’t all be about the marketer. We hear from various outlets that marketing is now calling the shots and IT is becoming a dinosaur. But it’s not going to be an either/or situation when it comes to IT and marketing. As far as technology delivery, similar numbers of respondents said IT (20 percent) and marketing (18 percent) were the final decision makers. And it’s not just IT or marketing that are making those decisions. Also on that list, according to our survey respondents, are, among others, dedicated customer experience teams (4 percent), shared service marketing technology groups (9 percent), lines of business (12 percent), and e-business groups (14 percent).
Analytics interest grows as big data meets digital customer experience. Most organizations have just touched the tip of the iceberg with their customer data initiatives, which continue to be siloed by channel and isn’t easily digestible by business users. Our survey found analytics technology was the number one technology priority among our survey respondents: Fifty-six percent of respondents reported it was a priority in the coming 12 to 24 months.
Our latest report on this survey data goes even deeper into some of these issues, but, clearly, supporting delivery of digital customer experiences is a complicated balancing act.
Does this data reflect your own reality? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.
May 10th, 2013 by Leonard Klie
My computer’s dictionary widget (which taps into the collective knowledge of The New Oxford American Dictionary) defines loyalty as “a strong feeling of support or allegiance,” and provides the following scenario to help provide context: “Fights with in-laws are distressing because they cause divided loyalties.”
I’m not married, so I don’t know what it means to fight with the in-laws, but I have had my share of quarrels with some of the companies with which I’ve had previous dealings—I still do business with some of them, not out of loyalty but convenience.
Switching to a new bank or phone carrier is just too much of a hassle, so I’ll just put up with the company’s foibles, to a point.
Given my situation—and it’s one that is no doubt shared by a lot of other people—I was surprised when a new Forrester Research report on customer loyalty drivers didn’t mention convenience, or the lack thereof, as a loyalty driver. The press pitch for the study talked about the customer experience as a more powerful customer loyalty driver than price-value perception, specifically for banks and retailers.
According to the research, for banks, customer experience accounts for 55 percent of loyalty. For retailers, the customer experience drives 46.5 percent of loyalty. When customer experience and price-value are taken together, the percent of loyalty goes up only slightly, to 56 percent and 47 percent respectively.
“This means companies can’t expect to outperform competition on price while ignoring their customers’ experience,” Forrester analyst Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian wrote in the report. “Instead, they should formulate a CX strategy that describes their target customers’ CX and pricing needs.”
I’d venture to add that they should also look to make sure that competitors aren’t making it easy for customers to abandon them.