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Stuart O'Brien

What’s on your CX agenda for 2020?

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From hyper-personalisation to voice search, Nali Giliana, Vice President of Digital Experience at OpenText, shares his customer experience predictions for 2020…

Hyper-personalisation driven by data democratisation

2020 will be the year of hyper-personalisation across the consumer journey. The implementation of data democratisation strategies will be one of the main focal points for marketers in 2020. This will see brands leveraging predictive analytics, utilising data from throughout the business – across departments, partners, suppliers and customers – to build marketing strategies which will allow for contextual and hyper-personalised experiences relevant to the target audience. Leading brands will also push beyond the customer experience, and look into delivering individualised products, services and pricing.

Rise of multi-sensory brand experiences

The ways in which customers will engage with brands will transcend the usual digital and physical touchpoints. In 2020, we can expect to see the user experience undergo a significant shift in how customers perceive the digital world and engage with brands. Key technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) will shift the horizon of experience design by combining perception and interaction models to help create a multisensory approach to brand experiences. As a result, customers will look beyond products and will be loyal to brands that can deliver consistent experiences across all the sensory touchpoints.

Voice search will become a key component of the customer experience

In 2020, the majority of customer interactions will be made by AI. Data generated from these interactions will help marketers a great deal in creating more authentic digital communication experiences beyond traditional digital channels. Voice search, in particular, will see significant uptake next year due to its simplicity, and with the adoption of AI-supported intelligent assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa slated to expand, brands will face added pressure to change the design of their customer experience to include voice search.

Transparency and privacy concerns gain steam

While demand for hyper-personalised customer experiences is increasing brands’ dependency on data, consumer concern about the control of their personal information is also increasing. This dynamic is making organisations more aware of the importance of securing and managing personal data, and governments are implementing strict legislation to ensure organisations do so.

In 2020 enterprises will be called to place greater emphasis on transparency and traceability to support digital ethics and privacy needs through the implementation of practices designed to address regulatory requirements, preserve an ethical approach to the use of advanced technologies, and repair the growing lack of trust in companies.

Brexit ‘to widen tech gap between agile businesses and those that will struggle’

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British business leaders do not believe their companies are fully up to speed with developing technologies – with only around half (53%) saying they are fully utilising their technology advantage to win business, run efficient systems and attract the best talent, according to research from ThoughtWorks.

With businesses concerned about how Brexit could have an impact on data protection, changing regulation and supply chain disruption, ThoughtWorks asked a nationally representative sample of 1,026 business owners how fully they used technology to achieve growth and competitive advantage. The findings suggested that many businesses were increasingly concerned that they were falling behind in terms of technological development.

Tech agility linked to post-Brexit growth outlook

For the 47% of businesses that admitted their use of technology was not that sophisticated, 41% said they were trying to improve their business’s technological capabilities but were still in some way behind the competition. Furthermore, 6% of respondents said that their lack of technological development was holding their business back from growing.

Significantly, the level of tech agility of UK businesses correlated directly with how they thought Brexit would impact their business in 2020. Those agile, tech-driven businesses were far more likely to see Brexit as an opportunity to grow – 47% predicting growth opportunities to move into new markets and 19% believing they would be able to grow market share in existing markets. In contrast, those businesses that said their tech maturity was holding them back were far more likely to say Brexit would force them to put growth plans on hold (16%) or to downsize – and to pull out of some key markets (10%). The research suggests Brexit could be a catalyst that widens the tech gap in Britain, between those agile enterprises that will grow in 2020 and those struggling with technology that will fall further behind.

12-month business outlook following Brexit – by state of business tech agility

Fully use tech advantage Tech capabilities hold us back
There will be growth opportunities to move into new markets 47% 13%
There will be growth opportunities in existing markets 19% 11%
Little change – we’ll stick to our plans, we won’t be affected by Brexit 19% 42%
Little change – putting growth plans on hold until the dust settles 7% 16%
There will be downsizing – we are preparing for a loss of business 6% 8%
There will be downsizing – we will pull out of some key markets 1% 10%

Bleak mid-Winter ahead for retail

With the demise of Mothercare, and Marks & Spencer reporting a fresh slump in clothing sales[2], ThoughtWorks’ research shows retail emerging as the sector where fewest business leaders believe they are fully using technology to win business, run efficient systems and attract the best people (35%). Linking tech agility to Brexit outlook again, retail was also the sector where most business leaders said that, in the 12-months following Brexit, they were preparing to downsize and for the prospect of losing business.

Percentage of businesses that said they are fully using their technology advantage by sector

Media & Tech 77%
Financial Services 59%
Health 54%
Manufacturing 47%
Construction 43%
Education 40%
Retail 35%

 While it is perhaps unsurprising that businesses in the media and tech sector were the most likely to say they fully utilised their technological advantage, even here more than a fifth (23%) of businesses admitted that they were behind the leaders in their market and could take steps to improve their agility.

Tech on the Tyne

The ThoughtWorks study also explored business opinion across the UK’s major cities. Whilst London and the South East have traditionally dominated the regions for tech investment – with London companies securing $4.8bn (£3.8bn) in 2018[3] – the new research shows that Newcastle is the city where the highest proportion of business leaders say their business makes full use of their technology assets in terms of winning business, improving systems and attracting the best people (77%). Indeed, London only just beats Birmingham into second place (66% Vs. 65%).

Tech gap in Scotland

While most cities in England and Wales (apart from Liverpool) saw at least half their businesses taking full advantage of their technology assets, businesses north of the border seemed to be lagging behind. Only 47% of businesses in Glasgow – and 42% in Edinburgh – said they were fully utilising their technology advantage. Whilst political considerations around Brexit have been a cause of acute concern in Scotland, the new research suggests tech agility is also playing a big role in shaping business outlook for the period after Brexit – with businesses in Glasgow and Edinburgh least likely of the 11 cities surveyed to predict opportunities to grow into new markets in 2020 (Glasgow 18%, Edinburgh 17%).

Percentage of businesses taking full advantage of their technology and percentage predicting growth opportunities in new markets for 2020 – by city

City % Fully using their technology advantage % Predicting growth opportunities in new markets during 2020
Newcastle 77% 34%
London 66% 40%
Birmingham 65% 40%
Manchester 59% 35%
Nottingham 59% 41%
Cardiff 58% 40%
Bristol 56% 36%
Leeds 51% 26%
Glasgow 47% 18%
Edinburgh 42% 17%
Liverpool 37% 30%

Luke Vinogradov, Digital Transformation Principal, ThoughtWorks, said: Surrounded by change and uncertainty, organisations are realising they may not be taking full advantage of technology. Some have yet to start, others have focussed narrowly on digital customer experience, because it’s very visible and actually it’s a great first step. However, modern digital businesses already at the top of their game know that the kind of capabilities that have driven their success don’t stop there.

Across the organisation, making tech work for you means making choices. New ways of working can align your whole business around customer value; data can help you to build engagement and advantage; platform thinking and a test-and-learn approach will maximise the impact of your investments; and a delivery mindset will help you cut through the complexity and get things done. All of these digital capabilities can help you keep up – the right balance will ensure you get ahead.

As a trusted partner for many leading organisations on their digital transformation journey, ThoughtWorks can help you make the right choices, not only addressing today’s challenges but giving you the capabilities you need for a confident future.”

If you’re selling to Generation Z, pick up the phone

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A survey of British shoppers has found that a majority of people prefer to talk on the phone rather than go online to get more information about complex purchases.

Perhaps most surprising of all, more 16-24 year olds (32%) prefer to pick up the phone to discuss a purchase than 35-44 year olds (24%). This suggests a trend away from online communication and towards phone interaction, surprisingly led by Generation Z.

The survey, carried out by Mediahawk, asked 2,000 people of all ages across the UK about purchasing habits and preferred means of seeking information about intended purchases. One of the key findings was that 60% of respondents want the option to speak to someone on the phone if they need to discuss complex, personal or expensive purchases, with less than 10% disagreeing. Furthermore, 45% of respondents find it quicker to call a company to discuss something in more detail, with only 15% taking the opposite view.

The results are evenly split between genders, however, they do reveal regional differences. For instance, Northern Ireland came out as the top region to prefer using the phone to gather more information; in Newcastle, just over half of users (52%) prefer the Internet to answer their questions before purchase; whilst the Welsh proved themselves to be the most independent, as the majority (39%) would not use any contact methods at all to get more information before their purchasing.

Mediahawk, a leading provider of call tracking software and solutions, has recently launched an improved and refreshed interface that makes phone call tracking, reporting and analysing as easy and intuitive as tracking customers’ online movements. It’s an essential tool for marketers that struggle to join the dots between the adverts they place and resulting phone calls.

Michael Morrell, CEO of Mediahawk, said: “This survey has found that while many people want to do as much self-service as they can online, there are just some things in life that are easier and quicker to find out in a discussion with a human being. Businesses that offer complex, expensive, or personal products and services often experiencea high volume of phone calls from prospects prior to purchase. These businesses have extremely detailed reports to measure their online enquiries and sales, but often neglect applying the same technology to the phone and so any analysis is based on guesswork.

At Mediahawk, we ensure our partners can make data driven decisions to improve conversions, reduce costs, optimise investment and uncover new opportunities for business growth.”

Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit – What you need to know

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Are you free on April 27th & 28th? Would like to join us at the Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit?

This is a bespoke and highly-targeted two-day event created specifically for senior contact centre professionals like you. It is entirely FREE for you to attend. Simply register your place here.

When: 27 & 28 April

Where: Radisson Blu, London Stansted

Format: Corporate ‘speed-dating’. As our VIP guest, you will be provided with a bespoke and personalised itinerary of pre-arranged, 1-2-1 meetings with suppliers relevant to your requirements and upcoming projects. A series of seminars will also be hosted throughout the event, and you can network with professionals who share your challenges.

Overnight accommodation, all meals and refreshments, plus an invitation to our networking dinner, are included with your ticket.

Who Attends: Senior professionals with the following job titles:

Customer Service Manager/Director/Head of
Contact Centre Manager/Director/Head of
Head of Customer Experience
Customer Service & Insight Manager
Head of Operations

Would you like to join them? Register today!

Do you specialise in Analytics for Contact Centres? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on Call Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in February we’re focussing on Analytics solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Analytics solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Feb – Analytics
Mar – Call Centre Technology
Apr – Automated Customer Satisfaction
May – Social Media
Jun – Artificial Intelligence
Jul – Virtual Call/Contact Centres
Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Tech set to ease CX frustrations in 2020

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Three key issues – taking advantage of Conversational User Interfaces, ensuring effective customer Journey Analytics, and addressing the impact of Peak Voice with augmented solutions – will become even more critical in 2020 if brands are to become more consistent in delivering brilliant customer experiences, says Sabio Group’s Chief Innovation Officer, Stuart Dorman…

More and more CX teams now recognise that pursuing a broad omnichannel customer engagement strategy hasn’t actually enabled the kind of best-in-class customer experiences they were looking to offer. That’s why in 2020 we’ll see an increased emphasis on the shaping and refinement of smarter customer journeys – ones that will help direct people towards the channels and resources that are more appropriate for what they’re trying to achieve.

However, being able to deliver this level of engagement at scale is always going to be challenging. And with Conversational User Interfaces fast becoming the dominant way for customers to begin their engagement with organisations, it’s essential that projects are not only designed and driven by CX operations specialists but also regularly optimised with the latest Journey Analytics tools to identify process and customer experience improvements. At the same time, organisations also need to recognise the increased complexity of voice interactions and provide agents with new levels of augmented support.

Here are our 3 key areas of focus for 2020:

  1. Conversational User Interfaces (CUI) – while it’s comparatively easy for an IT team to use open framework tools to build simple chatbots, it’s a much harder challenge to craft comprehensive virtual assistant solutions that can support a range of customer needs while still delivering high quality service at scale. Achieving success here requires organisations to look beyond key technology components such as speech recognition, natural language understanding and text-to-speech, and instead focus more on ‘the Art of CX’ such as the UI design aspect, the language used and the ongoing refinements that can only come from deep operational engagement.
  2. Journey Analytics – Despite the relative maturity as a technology, it’s surprising how few organisations take advantage of analytics tools to really understand the end-to-end customer journey. Getting this right is complex, however the benefits – whether in terms of identifying where demand is coming from, gathering and analysing customer intent, or refining processes to improve the digital experience – can be significant. Effective journey analytics also help to close the loop with other key CX processes. For example, it’s great to have a contact centre with demand fully optimised, but less good if you don’t know where those calls are coming from in the first place.
  3. Peak Voice – with customers experiencing continually improving self-service options thanks to innovations such as the Conversational User Interface (CUI), organisations are reporting a consequent reduction in voice traffic volumes. However, as the industry moves beyond Peak Voice, the actual complexity of calls coming into contact centres is increasing, along with handling times, as agents are left to deal with the interactions that can’t be resolved through self-service alone. This is placing greater focus on continued improvements to the CUI, as well as the introduction of augmented voice services that effectively add a digital channel in parallel with voice to allow agents and customers to share content during interactions.

Tackling these three challenges and working to streamline the customer journey will unlock huge benefits for both organisations and their customers in 2020 and beyond. However, brands simply can’t rely on virtual assistant or chatbot systems that only deliver one-size-fits-all FAQ-style responses.

As consumer expectations evolve, today’s conversations need to be tailored to customer understanding, they increasingly have to recognise a customer’s intent and mood, and they also have to be agile enough to recover from errors in dialogue or journey disconnects.

Bringing all these elements together and making it simple and intuitive for customers to get what they need from their interaction is where ‘the art of CX’ can make a real difference.

Top 3 predictions for contact centres in 2020

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Rapid change in the contact industry may seem overwhelming but a great place to start 2020 is with people, partners and technology. That’s the message from Puzzel‘s Thomas Rødseth as we welcome in a new decade…

With so much happening in the contact centre world, the thought of planning ahead can be daunting and 2019 has been no ordinary year.  It’s been one of immense transformation, for example take Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the industry cuts through the jargon and dispels the myths, we are seeing more organisations embrace AI to serve customers and agents. 

Innovative Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools such as chat bots are carving out a great opportunity for contact centres to reduce live assistant responses, leading to huge savings in time and support costs.  With the power to boost agent and customer satisfaction in one go, automation is an agent’s best friend by dealing with routine customer enquiries round-the-clock to improve customer experience (CX) and strengthen brand loyalty. Leaving agents to handle more complex interactions.

This year also saw the launch of Puzzel’s new agent application to remove desktop clutter and to present agents with the right information, without switching screens or resorting to pop-ups.  This single view of customer conversations accelerates an agent’s ability to improve CX all in one place and improves employee engagement into the bargain.

Top 3 predictions for 2020

These are exciting times full of seismic shifts at every turn and for a clearer vision, here are our favourite predictions for 2020:

  1. Agent wellbeing will take centre stage – when Puzzel conducted its recent survey of 100 contact centreprofessionals, an overriding sentiment was that agents are key to delivering a high standard of customer experience.  Happy staff who feel valued are quite simply, better performers.  As a result, we believe that organisations will take greater and more proactive steps to improve agent wellbeing.  These will include clearer communication of expectations, goals and vision coupled with a concerted effort to involve agents in departmental decision-making.  Contact centre leaders will have an even more significant role to play.  They will need to be approachable but lead by example, encouraging collaborative knowledge sharing while making the time to understand the challenges that their agents face and helping out if necessary. 
  2. Smart companies will create collaborative partner eco-systems – cultural wellbeing will extend to the way organisations work with partners.  There will be a definite shift from volume to collaborative working.  Rather than recruit 100s of new channel partners, forward-thinking companies will truly engage with partners that complement their services.  It’s a practical approach that will give companies the freedom to generate new revenue streams in their own way while effectively protecting margins and ensuring their offering stands apart from the competition.  This new collaborative partner eco-system model will provide everything organisations need to build a contactcentre where employees, their customers and the business flourish.
  3. Technology for the hybrid workforce – contact centres are already seeking to blend the best that man and machine have to offer to drive operational efficiencies and customer engagement.  As the trend for combining agent intelligence with automation continues, the focus will be on building a hybrid workforce.  For example, the latest application of Chatbots maximises AI learning from the contact centre and other parts of the business, to provide agents with the real-time knowledge they need to resolve customer interactions.  This new breed of Virtual Personal Assistants or ‘bot buddies’ will give employees an opportunity to boost their performance and grow their careers. 

It’s time to plan for the year ahead. Why not use these 3 predictions as a sounding board to prepare for your best contact centre ever?

Woven: AI will change way businesses interact with their customers forever

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In an era where technology is becoming a more significant enabler, new opportunities are being created for all of us to enrich our lives.

In the world of business, this allows companies an opportunity to deliver a level of customer service that until now has not been possible. But it also brings into sharper focus the dangers for business of failing to provide great quality service.

The latest revolution in customer experience is the combination of artificial intelligence and process automation, or in short ‘bots and virtual agents’.

And Woven’s chief technology officer Andy Griffin believes ‘the rise of bots’ will transform the way companies interact with their customers.

Griffin says: “The bots are coming and the landscape of customer experience for businesses will never be the same again.

“How we are impacted by bots will be shaped by how and where we interact with them.”

But what are the implications for companies that serve customers, what do we mean by a ‘bot’ and are these bots genuinely smart?

“Firstly, creating a basic bot is actually fairly simple, and secondly, to smarten a bot means providing it with real-time access to customer data and interactions – the ‘brains behind the bot’, if you like,” ays Griffin.

“This second point has focused the minds of businesses to an age-old conundrum that really should have been grasped a long time ago – that is how business can obtain a true real-time view of their customers.

“It’s a problem that we all thought we were going to solve with the emergence of CRM applications in the early noughties – but didn’t!”

By definition, bots are a series of automated steps with smart capabilities that convert voice to text or the other way around, and which can also convert strings of text to sentiment or intent.

Griffin adds: “If you have this functionality you can create a basic bot and then over time the bot can learn to become better at that simple task.

“But for a bot to become really smart, it needs to reach beyond one task to understand data in multiple systems.

“In the context of customer service, this means that the bot is comprehending in real-time how as a customer we are actually interacting with a company – are we on their website? In a web chat? Waiting in a voice queue? Or perhaps complaining via social?

“Trying to interact effectively using automation without having genuine access to all of this data proves either limiting or just plain self-defeating.

“The bot will simply follow the rules it’s given and will not be cognisant of data it doesn’t have.

“So, whereas a human agent in a contact centre can interact with multiple systems and make a guided judgement, a bot simply cannot compare without having integrated up-to-date data.”

Griffin concludes that business must harness real-time customer data to maximise the benefits bots can bring to the customer service sector – or risk being left in the dark: “Bots are a big part of the customer experience and will change all of our lives.

“But if there’s one core task companies wishing to maximise their opportunities must complete, it has to start with the use of real-time customer data and customer interactions.

“The most effective innovators are those who understand the human element of change, and appreciate that it’s how we interact with technology that creates the biggest impact on our lives.

“Without this understanding, businesses rush into the world of bots at their peril.”

Can you afford to miss the Smarter Payments Summit?

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The Smarter Payments Summit is a unique one-day event which allows senior retail and payment transaction professionals from the UK’s biggest brands to meet with innovative and competitive suppliers to the industry.

These meetings are pre-arranged and based on mutual interest, meaning there’s no time wasted – and there’s no hard sell.

It is free for payment transaction professionals to attend, and each guest pass also includes access to a series of seminar sessions hosted by industry thought-leaders.

Lunch and refreshments are complimentary, while there is plenty of opportunity for more informal networking.

And it all takes place on 8 September at the Hilton London Canary Wharf.

Simply register your place here.

Call Centre Agent

Do you provide Agent Coaching & Monitoring solutions? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on Call Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in January we’re focussing on Agent Coaching & Monitoring solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Agent Coaching & Monitoring solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Jan – Agent Coaching & Monitoring
Feb – Analytics
Mar – Call Centre Technology
Apr – Automated Customer Satisfaction
May – Social Media
Jun – Artificial Intelligence
Jul – Virtual Call/Contact Centres
Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.