Global CX Day 2021: The State of CX with Chattermill Co-Founder Dmitry Isupov


By Arron Westbrook

CX Day

Over the past five or so years, customer experience has grown rapidly. A function that was once a nice-to-have has now become a strategic business priority – in startups, unicorns, and businesses that might have once dominated their industry.

Dmitry Isupov, co-founder of Chattermill, and CX expert is one of the people that has helped these businesses make great customer experiences happen in recent years.

To celebrate Global CX Day 2021, we interviewed him to find out about his CX journey to date, which brands he thinks are excelling at CX, and which customer experience trends are set to dominate in the years to come.

Let’s begin.

Dmitry, tell us about your CX journey to date

My CX journey began when I left University in 2009 to join Harris Interactive as an analyst. At Harris, I worked on data from consumer, brand awareness, and customer experience surveys.

One of the accounts I first worked on was Nokia. The research they commissioned at that time ultimately failed to accurately assess the true lay of the land. CX was a tick-box exercise at that point, and as a consequence, Nokia only heard what they wanted to hear from customers. Soon after, Apple released the iPhone. Nokia was completely blindsided. We all know what happened after the fact.

For me, this was a big wake-up call. It made me realise market research as it was back then was far from perfect – especially from a CX perspective.

After Harris, I joined a company called MM-Eye. Instead of doing conventional market research, MM-Eye analysed freeform verbatim from customer surveys to present insights to their clients.

This approach was enlightening. Asking freeform questions allowed customers to say things in their own words, providing answers to questions that clients might never have asked. From an insight perspective, it was incredibly powerful. We were able to uncover the known unknowns.

But the major problem at this point was there was no automation involved in the process. Analysis of freeform verbatim was manual. And this made it extremely expensive – with research often costing millions of pounds. As good as this approach was, for most businesses, it wasn’t feasible. Especially for startups and challenger brands.

This planted a seed of an idea. I strongly believed we needed to make this rich customer feedback analysis accessible to more companies. And with the mass adoption of machine learning in 2013/14, I thought I could make it happen. From this seed, Chattermill bloomed.

Which brands have impressed you in their approach to CX this year?

An industry that’s accelerated this year is near-instant, on-demand grocery delivery. I’ve used many of these services, but the one that impressed me most from a CX perspective is Gorillas.

Anecdotally, when I made my first delivery order, Gorillas included a handwritten note and a free banana. As trivial as this may sound, the former highlights one of the most important aspects of CX – personalisation. And the latter was a nice healthy bonus!

But the note was special. By including a handwritten note, they made me feel like the service was for me.

For Gorillas, I am one customer among thousands. But it didn’t feel that way. I felt valued. And this shows just how important personalisation is for brands. Today, it’s no longer enough to deliver a good price and convenient service. Creating an emotional connection is what makes your brand stand out.

Another example of brands doing CX well this year comes from an adjacent industry – online takeout delivery. The three big players, Deliveroo, Uber Eats, and Just Eat, have all recently implemented a no-questions-asked, instant refund policy.

At some point, I’m sure we’ve all been in a situation where an item was missed from our order, or the wrong dish was included in our delivery.

What’s impressive about Deliveroo, Uber Eats, and Just Eat is that, now, with a few taps in the app, you can make a complaint and get a refund almost instantaneously.

This for me is great customer experience. Five years ago this wasn’t possible. It was painful to get a refund to the point where people stopped trying.

But by adopting this new approach, these brands implicitly show they trust their customers. And as all we know, trust is a critical component of CX.

How has Chattermill helped customers improve their CX in 2021?

There is, of course, a rich bank of examples to choose from. But let’s focus on a few that immediately spring to mind.

An interesting example is how we helped Trainline recover as people started moving around the country again. Trainline used Chattermill to monitor how customers perceive their service, changing national regulations, and the introduction of new (often temporary) timetables.

By aggregating and analysing customer feedback using Chattermill, Trainline uncovered trends on how users were changing their behaviour and discovered common positive and negative responses.

In our platform, they could easily see the changing needs of their customers, and this enabled them to improve their app, services, and messaging in line with customers’ new expectations. Ultimately, this made their customers’ lives better.

Another example neatly relates to recent headlines in the UK – service disruption due to a lack of delivery drivers.

The situation impacted Chattermill’s clients, too. Our eCommerce clients have used our product to monitor this trend and understand how their customers are impacted. They’re also monitoring how sentiment to delivery problems is changing over time. Doing so has meant they can get a clear quantitative understanding of the magnitude of the problem and make adjustments to the way they operate.

A final example relates to a trend we’ve seen in the past two to three years – consumers’ environmental concerns.

Our data shows that environmental concerns about the products and services we use have become a significant driver of negative customer experience. It’s impacted NPS, and it's cost companies a lot more money than they might think it has. Especially if they’re not tracking it.

The issue here is, historically, customers’ environmental concerns have been next-to-impossible to measure and track, because inherently, they’re subjective. Not all concerns are made equal.

Chattermill has, however, been instrumental in helping companies measure how their services are seen by consumers from an environmental perspective. Hellofresh is a great example.

Today, Hellofresh uses Chattermill to understand how changes to their packaging and their environmental commitment communications translate into real-world customer perception. As you might expect, improving both have had an overwhelmingly positive impact.

That our clients can track customers' environmental concerns and feedback, see how it’s evolving, make continual improvements to improve customer experience, and, ultimately, their environmental impact, makes me incredibly proud.

What CX trends do you expect to dominate the space in years to come?

As just discussed, consumers’ environmental concerns are one. Flexibility is another.

However, the most significant, and perhaps most unsurprising trend is that customers will continue to expect more from businesses. They will want to exert less effort and receive better products and services. Friction will no longer be accepted.

Services like Amazon, Uber, and new market disruptors like Gorillas (as discussed earlier) have set the CX benchmark incredibly high. Customers expect to get what they want in a few clicks. They expect the delivery of services to be fast and efficient. And they expect refunds to be resolved frictionlessly.

Five to ten years ago, not meeting these expectations was close to the norm. Now, it’s unacceptable. The bar’s set too high. Businesses that fail to deliver for their customers will stand out like a sore thumb and will inevitably be penalised.

What’s next for Chattermill?

The past 12 months have been phenomenal for Chattermill. Despite Covid-19, our product and business have grown at an incredible rate. What’s stirring me right now is that the year ahead looks brighter still. Especially when it comes to our product.

As our customers know, our multi-channel support is stronger than ever. But I’m particularly excited about chat data. Inside Chattermill, we recently ran some studies on chat, and the results indicate we can gain some incredible insights. From what I’ve seen, the quality is on par, if not superior to that of something like NPS.

In the year ahead, we’ll be building on this research to make sure that we help our clients unlock all of the insights they can by analysing more data from more sources. We’ll connect and analyse more customer-facing channels, and this will help our customers get more detailed, reliable, and high-quality customer insight. And that’s good for everyone.

As mentioned, we are also a business that’s growing rapidly, so we’re currently looking to expand our offering to a global audience. We believe that doing so will enable more companies around the world to become better at CX, delight their customers, and improve the lives of consumers across the globe.

That Chattermill can be a force for good in this way is exceptional. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a company that can achieve such incredible results?

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