Keeping up with our customers

Two telephone operators wearing headsets

Changing to meet customer needs?

Thanks to a great lunchtime seminar programme at my Council, I get the chance to listen to some fascinating speakers. This week may have been the most interesting yet.

Dr Nicola Millard, Customer Experience Futurologist from BT isn’t someone you want to listen to you if you’re complacent about how you deal with your customers. These are my notes from her presentation “Clouds, Crowds and Autonomous Communities”:

Changing customers

– organisations are built to last rather than change – but our customers and employees are changing faster than those organisations.

– what’s holding us back is culture rather than technology – we need to embrace new technology because an increasing number of our customers have and will.

– customers are now using multiple channels to contact us – often at the same time. They are also talking to each other, not us. They don’t necessarily trust us

Your website

– we’ve reached a critical mass of internet users – they have access to more information than ever before but they have no more time or energy to process it

– people don’t go direct to council websites to look for information, they go to search engines which can pull up a lot of content, much of which is useless to them

– don’t direct customers to your website if the information they want isn’t on it – is your site truly built around your customers?

– customers want organisations – private and public sector – to make it easier for them to do business with us

– Councils are being compared with commercial businesses – not other councils. Our customers expect the same levels of service from us as they get from Amazon and John Lewis

– webchat can be much cheaper, instant and better tailored than email

phone shop advertising smartphonesThe impact of smartphones

– according to OFCOM, 52% of UK have smartphone access

– smartphones are turning the internet local – 52% of Google searches are now hyperlocal

– customers with the internet in the palm of their hand will self-serve to a certain extent, but are actually more likely to call a contact centre, and will have more complex queries

Looking wider than office-hours

– employ flexible and home-working practices. Office-hours-only isn’t what customers expect or want anymore

– workers in the cloud can help to address call spikes, cover antisocial hours and still get to work even when snow is drifting over their front door

Multichannel contact

– contact centre teams – and all council officers – have an increasingly complex job to do, with more channels to monitor and use than ever before. Customers have changed and the traditional contact model is no longer applicable

– staff need to embrace the need for different ‘voices’ across  channels and should identify which staff are better deployed on which channels

– need to have a networked team of experts across the organisation who can respond to queries – the ‘one council’ approach

YouTube Logo on a computer screenSocial media

– the majority of customers still use traditional methods to contact us, but social media is now a permanent part of the mix

– young people don’t use email to communicate – they use email accounts to sign up for FaceBook and other social media, that’s where you’ll find them

– you need to monitor online forums to hear what people are saying about you

– you cannot control the SM dancefloor, but you can go and dance

– who are your customers, where are they dancing and when is it appropriate to dance with them, rather than sway to the music on the sidelines?

– Youtube – what are your most frequent requests for information? Make it into a movie and it will come up in search listings, also reaches younger customers

– social media is very much a conversation, not a broadcast – forget this at your peril

– people are entitled to an opinion, but if they have a problem that you can help with, make that offer

– never forget that social media is totally transparent – never say anything that you wouldn’t be happy to see reproduced elsewhere

– social media channels need to be part of Business As Usual – no need to panic!

Dr Nicola J Millard blogs at and is on Twitter as @DocNicola

 Creative commons: Telephone exchange by Elgin County Archives; Android Smartphone Sale by ianfogg42 and YouTube logo by codenamecueball all on Flickr


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