Customers, customer service, customer experience and crystal balls – Interview with Dr Nicola Millard of BT


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Today’s interview is with Dr Nicola Millard, a customer experience futurologist with BT, who does have a crystal ball but says it doesn’t work! However, she spared me some time to shares with us insights around the work that she does, the research that BT is doing and helps us look just over the horizon, or round the corner, in terms of what’s coming up in the ever changing world of the customer, customer service and customer experience.

This interview follows on the back of last week’s interview: Customer engagement, social CRM and cool tools for professional services firms – Interview with Mark Bower and is number fifty-nine in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things and helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Here’s the highlights from the interview I did with Nicola:

  • Nicola is interested is looking at how technology is changing us and how we behave as customers and businesses.
  • As customers we’ve always regarded customer service as important.
  • Recently, completed some research looking at emerging customer behaviour called The Autonomous Customer.
  • 50% of customers in the UK say that they are not loyal anymore but the counterfact to that is that 76% customers are also saying that they will come back if you make it ‘easy’ for them to buy from you and to get service from you.
  • There is a danger that businesses get lead by technology and forget the basics where The Autonomous Customer research found that the phone is still the preferred method to reach out to a company.
  • ‘If my money was on any channel growing in the next few years it would be on WebChat’
  • WebChat is a lovely bridging mechanism from the very public element of social media into a much more private conversation.
  • However, it is posing challenges for businesses as it is having a real impact on traditional sales processes.
  • BT’s research is showing that social media is typically secondary customer service channel rather than a primary channel and one that customers turn to if they have failed to achieve their goals using other primary methods like face to face, phone and email.
  • Despite being in straitened times, the wrong thing to cut is customer service costs. Better things to cut are the waste, the proliferation of tools, the things that confuse customers, the things that are making it difficult for customers to do business with you etc.
  • 94% of all customers will return to you if you make it easy for them – Harvard Business Review study on Customer Effort.
  • BT commissioned Henley Management School to look into this and found that: Satisfy your customers where they value it. Otherwise, just make it easy for them. The headline being: Get the basics right before you do anything else.
  • Don’t spend money on things that your customers don’t value.
  • Showrooming‘ is a classic example of omni-channel customer behaviour.
  • However, while some retailers may bemoan this type of customer behaviour Nicola believes it is an advantage to have a physical retail space and an opportunity to engage with customers rather than the converse.
  • Given the changing behaviour of customers, research shows that almost one in two of us when we get to the stage where we want to speak to someone in a contact centre then we have complex questions and need expert help.
  • That sort of enquiry is not what most contact centres were built to deal with and, so, is raising questions about the future nature and viability of many contact centres. Particularly those that use people that are often reading from a script, are the least-qualified and some of the lowest paid people in the company.
  • Some call centres should be considering implementing something like the Networked Expert model, like the one discussed in a previous interview with Vala Afshar of Enterasys.
  • Businesses are built to last not to change.
  • Big data has the power to drive proactive customer service.
  • From a customers perspective, customers are saying that they are happy to give companies their data as long as they do something of value to me.
  • Smartphones are changing the behaviour of the under 34s. However, they use their phones and technology in very different ways to those that are 55+.
  • There is a possibility that there is a generational split emerging in terms of how customers from different age groups want to contact companies that is posing problems for companies.
  • More great stuff like this from Nicola and her colleagues, including lot’s of research and White Papers, on BT’s Let’s Talk blog.

About Nicola (taken from her LinkedIn bio)

Nicola Millard BT

Dr Nicola Millard is a customer experience futurologist with BT. Despite working for a technology company, Nicola isn’t actually a technologist and combines psychology with futurology to try and anticipate what might be lying around the corner for both customers and organisations (sadly, her crystal ball is currently broken).

Nicola has now worked for BT for 22 years. She has done a number of jobs around the BT business, including research, user interface design, customer service and business consulting.

Nicola likes nothing better than to challenge conventional business thinking; from how call centres are managed to the ways in which people work.

She got her PhD from Lancaster University in 2005 on the psychology of motivation and technology acceptance in call centres, published her first book in 2009 and now spends most of her time doing research, writing blogs, articles and white papers. She has also appeared on the BBC (Radio and TV) and Channel 4 TV in the UK, has recently done a TED talk and is a judge on a number of award panels, including the Institute of Customer Service awards.

When she’s not doing all that, Nicola travels around the world presenting at conferences and running workshops with an assortment of organisations including banks, travel companies and retailers, to name but a few.

In the little spare time she has she is writing a novel, enjoys going to the cinema and theatre and does a number of martial arts.

You connect with Nicola on Twitter @DocNicola and visit her blog here.

Photo Credit: EssG via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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