In the latest installment of our contact centre industry executive interview series, we spoke to Erik Delorey, Product Marketing Manager and Solutions owner for the Hammer Test Automation product line at Empirix, about the company, industry challenges and opportunities, new technology and the wisdom of Douglas Adams…
Tell us about your company, products and services.
For more than 25 years, Empirix’s HAMMER test automation solutions have served as the de facto standard for contact centre and enterprise IT teams looking to protect their business and customers from the technology disruptions that lead to poor service service quality and dissatisfied customers. Our differentiated software and services help our customers improve service quality, operational efficiency and customer retention.
What are the biggest challenges the Contact Centre/ Customer Services industry has faced in the last year?
The migration of an entire global workforce to virtual, remote environments was not only unprecedented but extremely disruptive. Companies were forced to change how they conducted business, with or without adequate preparation. This created unexpected challenges for many dimensions of the business from productivity to technical readiness issues which ranged from voice quality issues due to home network constraints to providing agents with the right tools to work remotely. Companies were also challenged to respond quickly to regulatory and security compliance mandates, and to do so without a forecasted budget. Human factors such as kids schooling from home, illness and even workforce retention had a tremendous impact on staffing and overall productivity. All of a sudden, people’s personal lives factored into workforce planning.
And what were the biggest opportunities?
Technology has been the backbone of forward-thinking companies for decades and this past year was no exception. Some companies were forced to make transformative change while others were able to optimize existing investments to achieve the same outcome. The one thing consistent to all companies was that we were all in this together. We had to work cross-functionally to get where we needed to go fast. There wasn’t time for rework and we learned that together, we can do more as a team than we can by working independently. Technology is the tool we used to do the work, but trust in each other is what ultimately drove a strong, productive work culture. Empirix deliver the best of both worlds – our testing solutions help cross-functional teams build economies of scale and a foundation of collaboration and trust. This combination is highly profitable since it yields operational efficiency and creates a feedback loop that drives continuous improvement.
For Empirix, decades of experience with preventing technology disruption became an unforeseen business opportunity this past year. The rapid migration to remote work environments gave rise to more than a handful of technology-driven issues for companies around the world. New network traffic patterns emerged and companies were forced to reconsider their entire network configuration. Could SBCs handle the new load? Do residential ISPs provide the bandwidth needed to support customer support engagements? Our response was to create a privacy-compliant solution for monitoring home network bandwidth and voice quality; a solution that enables IT and Contact Centre teams to move agents in and out of chat and email queues as home network conditions change. Having end-to-end visibility into network conditions and performance (from contact centre to remote agent and back) is absolutely critical for delivering a positive customer experience and sustaining satisfaction levels.
What is the biggest priority for the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry in 2021?
The contact centre services industry is very keen to integrate Artificial Intelligence into their technology stack. It will help them personalize self-service offerings for their customers and build more intelligence into the assistance software used by customer service reps.
The interest in AI is caused by a downward trend in NPS benchmarks  for more than 50% of industries that participated in a study. Companies are pouring millions of dollars into customer experience management software with the promise of increasing their NPS scores so this decline is distressing. Customers expect to have a good experience and their loyalty is quickly challenged when better options are readily available.
What trends do you expect to emerge this year?
Natural language processing and personalized applications will become mainstream. The industry will start to see the consolidation of chatbots, IVR and agent-assistive technologies. This will introduce new opportunities but also new challenges and risks.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?
Call avoidance will be re-thought and re-evaluated as voice sentiment analysis proves itself to be more accurate than post-transaction surveys. The efficiency of those technologies vs the response rate and cost of questionnaire-based surveys could very well bring transformational change to how voice interactions are handled inside of contact centres. Companies may even pivot and rotate specific callers to agent positions directly to capture their voice and sentiment of their customers on a routine basis.
In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?
The same thing we have been talking about for 25 years…that contact centres will have two-way video sessions between all their customers and customer service representatives.
Which person in, or associated with, the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry would you most like to meet?
Edwin Margulies. Whenever I think about contact centre technologies, I get really excited about the potential of a unique use case. When applying a technology to a specific problem it’s really important to think both vertically and horizontally across the different technology and business use cases. Mr. Margulies has done a good job of merging both the technology and the business use case of a new technology and pushing that out to the public.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Contact Centre/Customer Services sector?
The wide diversity of technical competency and adoption “on the floor” of contact centre operations. You can have two different lines of business within the same organization and one team is using innovative emotion detection and AI while the other department is doing manual data entry. The lack of cross-functional communication and transparency is preventing organizations from being the best they can be.
You go to the bar at the Contact Centre Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?
That really depends on the day. It could range from Golden Ale, to a Russian Imperial Stout. It’s really just a matter of what’s right and what’s fresh.
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
Exposing teams to a new way of thinking or a new way of doing things; getting them to understanding that there is a benefit to changing how things are done.
And what’s the most challenging?
The same thing that makes it exciting to be honest. People come with their own biases and opinions. You have to learn, understand and empathize with their particular situation and find the truth in their concerns, find false assumptions, and build a pathway towards making them successful while guarding against risk and concerns The key is to really get them excited about what technology can help them do; fear prevents growth personally and professionally.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead – Douglas Adams
Succession or Stranger Things?
Succession, because I love non-fiction labelled as fiction in order to get it financed by the people it is about.
 Satmetrix-NICE NPS benchmark scores
About Erik Delorey
As an Expert Services Consultant at Empirix, Erik has designed, coded and executed test automation and network operations monitoring programs for the world’s largest service providers, financial institutions and government agencies for the past 20 years.
Passionate about technology adoption, Erik helps companies overcome the fear of change and mitigate the risk of failure through quality controls and oversight using world-class automation techniques that focus on user experience and Intent based success.
He holds a Master’s Degree of Business Administration, and In addition to his professional work, Erik is a Member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), a scientific society devoted to promote research in and responsible use of artificial intelligence. Additionally he balances out his time with his wife and two children in the northern suburbs of Boston.