Improve customer experience by surveying your customers quicker – Interview with Mark Smith of ContactEngine

Virgin Media van

Today’s interview is with Dr Mark Smith who is CEO and co-founder of ContactEngine, a multi-channel, interactive contact engine, whose cloud based software helps their clients improve efficiency, lower costs and drive growth through happier customers. I met Mark at the recent 20:20 Customer Experience Summit in London and he told me about what they were doing, who they were working with and the sort of results that they were helping deliver. So, I invited Mark onto the podcast to tell me a bit more about ContactEngine and some of the fascinating things they are doing to help field service management become a strength for their clients rather than a weakness.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Should ‘Net Easy’ be your new customer service metric – Interview with Nicola Millard of BT – and is number 114 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

Highlights of my interview with Mark:

  • ContactEngine uses various channels to help large firms, including Virgin Media and Wickes, contact their customers with a view to improving customer experience.
  • ContactEngine developed out of ipadio, technology that is able to take any phone call and stream it live on the web.
  • Contact Engine’s first application involved helping firms communicate better with field service teams or mobile workforces.
  • This has been extended so that they can now communicate directly with customers interacting with those field service teams or mobile workforces to solve the problem of appointment confirmation.
  • 10% of all service appointments, whether it is broadband installation to the delivery of a bag of sand to a doctor’s appointment etc fail.
  • The reason that most appointments fail is because people forget.
  • This has huge cost implications for firms with large mobile workforces and can have a significant impact on the customer experience.
  • Therefore, they have worked with clients to help them communicate with their customers via various channels (text, email, web, video, apps, TVs etc) in the run up to appointments to make sure that they don’t forget about the appointment.
  • That has resulted in two things: 1. A dramatic reduction in the 10%, huge efficiency gains and cost savings; and 2. It makes the client’s customers happy.
  • Building on this, given they now know when an appointment has taken place, they now provide a voice of the customer service across various channels following the appointment to gauge a customer’s satisfaction etc.
  • Most companies when following up with their customers post transaction do so after a significant time delay.
  • The longer the delay the more likely the customer will forget the good experience they had and it increases the likelihood that negative experiences are remembered and reported.
  • When they first started surveying customers, in the moment post-appointment/transaction, they expected a 10% response. Not a bad response rate given the normal single digit response rate that most surveys achieve. Survey Monkey type surveys are around 2-5%.
  • However, they have been able to achieve between 50% and 75% response rates. And, they are not just receiving ratings, like NPS scores, but they also receive a huge amount of verbatim feedback too. That, they believe, is also linked to asking ‘in the moment’.
  • Therefore, given that, on average, something goes wrong with between of 3-5% of all transitions that gives them great insight into what goes wrong, when it goes wrong and gives them an opportunity to quickly solve the problem.
  • Mark believes that technology, particularly social technology, is changing peoples willingness to give feedback as people now believe that their voice is listened to.
  • The verbatim feedback is also being used in two other areas: 1. Helping to manage the performance of field service engineers as well as the identification of possible training requirements; and 2. the identification of individual innovations or opportunities that can be rolled out across a business. Mark uses an example of the gas boiler engineer that shows up with a piece of red carpet to put under the boiler to catch any dirt or bits whilst they are working – this has now been rolled out and is called the ‘red carpet treatment’.
  • There are all sorts of applications for this type of technology and Mark is excited about some of the applications and use cases that are emerging in healthcare.
  • Despite all of the different apps and channels that we use. The two channels that we react to and are the most immediate are the phone and text messages.
  • Technology should be simple and focus on what is probably going to happen rather than what could possibly happen.

About Mark (adapted from his LinkedIn bio)

Dr Mark Smith - ContactEngineDr Mark Smith is CEO and co-founder of ContactEngine, a multi-channel, interactive contact engine, whose cloud based software helps their clients improve efficiency, lower costs and drive growth through happier customers. ContactEngine developed out of ipadio, technology that is able to take any phone call and stream it live on the web.

Mark has always worked in communication – by helping businesses with new and simpler ways of getting messages to and from their stakeholders in a digital world. Way back in the 1990’s he pioneered social interaction across the internet in various business to consumer contexts. The Guardian recently included one of these projects, Environment97, in its timeline of significant developments online in the last 40 years. His last business was floated on the London Stock Exchange – a company that specialised in encouraging the sharing of data from the information rich to the information poor. By pioneering work in this space he has started several new businesses one of which, ipadio.com was awarded the accolade of being the Most Innovative New Technology of 2009 by eConsultancy, narrowly beating IBM. In July 2011 the BBAA awarded ipadio a gong ‘as the best tech startup investment of 2011 and a highly innovative concept and technology offering and could become the new ‘Skype’……’ And in 2012 eConsultancy once again saw merit in their new video technology and gave them an ‘Innovation in Rich Media & Video’ gong.

He is intrigued by how mobile communication is offering the kind of game changing communication that the PC once did. The ‘power in the pocket’ of a smart phone or tablet means that communication is always on and ready to go. What form the communication takes is then the key to success. How often? In what form: text, video, audio or a phone-call? Should it be inbound or outbound? How best to cope with the vagaries of bandwidth and battery?

To find out more about ContactEngine check out www.contactengine.co.uk, connect directly with Mark on LinkedIn here and say Hi to them on Twitter @ipadio (where ContactEngine grew out of).

Photo Credit: CARLOS62 via Compfight cc

Comments

  1. Adrian,

    No surprise, I am a huge fan of listening to customers. I love the concept of “in the moment” feedback – that freshness of the experience certainly gives way to a much more accurate picture of what transpired during the interaction. Those response rates are remarkable! Of course, the key is taking action on what is heard.

    Annette :-)

    • adrianswinscoe says:

      Hi Annette,
      I think what they are doing is very smart and, yes, ‘in the moment’ seems to tick many boxes, especially the response rate one.

      However, you are right that taking action on what is heard is key and I’m sure that is part of what ContactEngine advises their clients to do. However, I have asked Mark to add his own piece on how that works for the clients they work with.

      Adrian

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