In the latest instalment of our contact centre industry executive interview series we spoke to Stuart Dorman, Chief Innovation Officer at Sabio Group, the customer experience (CX) digital transformation specialist, about the company, the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, industry opportunities, new technology and why voice will remain king…
Tell us about your company, products and services.
Sabio is a UK-headquartered but global reaching customer experience (CX) digital transformation specialist with more than 600 customers worldwide.
We are a rapidly growing organisation which has been helping businesses operating within the customer contact centre industry for almost 30 years.
Today, we specialise in bringing together expertise in cloud migration, cutting-edge CX technologies and powerful customer insight and expertise to deliver exceptional end-to-end customer experiences for our customers – specialising particularly in banking, housing, insurance, travel & leisure, utilities, telecommunications and retail.
As well as offering our own technologies, we work with world-leading CX specialist partners – such as Genesys, Avaya, Twilio, Verint, Google Cloud and Salesforce – to provide innovative and market-leading CX solutions.
What have been the biggest challenges the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry has faced over the past 12 months?
Although very much in recovery mode, it’s hard to ignore the remnants of the pandemic and the effect that it is still having on some areas of the industry – the move to a hybrid workforce being one example – as businesses switch up their operating models.
However, there is one area of focus that I’d like to concentrate on and that’s agent wellbeing and, in particular, attrition levels and associated employee engagement.
At Sabio, this is a focus for us at the moment and we recently launched a new e-book entitled ‘Putting Your People First With Human Service’ which focusses on why it’s time businesses looked inwards to unlock the potential of their number one asset.
In terms of agent wellbeing and associated attrition levels, this is a major, major area of concern for the industry and quite rightly it is now gaining some much-needed focus. The modern contact centre agent is under unprecedented levels of pressure, arguably it is the most intensely-measured human role on earth, and this is having a huge issue on mental wellbeing and engagement.
Our industry should be doing much more to acknowledge the key role that advisor mental health and wellbeing plays in delivering excellent customer service – which is in contrast with the volume of metrics tracked and management information collected to analyse each advisor’s performance. Contact centre managers know exactly when advisors need to be working, how many calls they are handling, whether service levels are being met, whether their employees are saying the right things to customers, and even ways that they could be more productive. So why can’t we have similar tools and technologies that can be turned inward to ensure our agents are healthy and happy at work? And if not, why not?
If we continue to overlook mental health then organisations are failing to provide the rounded support that they need to continue delivering high quality customer experiences.
Because we don’t tend to monitor advisor wellbeing, we shouldn’t be surprised that so many end up frustrated, with a significant proportion choosing to quit their roles. Indeed, average advisor attrition levels suggest this is a significant industry-wide problem, with an average rate of 15% across UK contact centres, with that figure rising to 40% in Europe. It’s a problem for contact centre operators, with this rate of annual attrition effectively costing a 500-seat contact centre approaching £1m to replace and train advisors – in addition to its impact on the customer experience and brand loyalty.
And what have been the biggest opportunities?
Arguably, and probably controversially, the pandemic.
Covid-19 has encouraged organisations to accelerate their digital transformation strategies, in my opinion, by at least five years. The pandemic has brought into focus for businesses and their contact centre operations that, if they are to survive in an increasingly digital world, then they will need to evolve.
From a wider perspective, people – and specifically contact centre agents to stay in line with this topic of conversation – are now putting their personal lives front and centre with their jobs now having to take a slightly secondary position. Work-life flexibility is a key issue nowadays, with people now preferring choice in their daily routine – a choice to work from home if they want, when they want, or opting for a hybrid model instead. This live-and-work attitude is in stark contrast to the previous work-to-live environment pre-pandemic and businesses within the contact centre industry are realising they need to move with the times in order to not only keep their staff, but ensure they’re motivated, enhance engagement levels and improve brand loyalty and customer satisfaction at the same time. At Sabio, and alongside our partners, we are central to that movement in helping these organisations on their digital transformation journeys with innovative solutions, such as Workforce Management Optimisation, to help them. We’re excited to play a key part in the evolution of the industry.
What is the biggest priority for the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry in 2021?
For me, and related to my last point, I think getting to grips with hybrid working as things get back to normal should be at the forefront for the industry. There’s lots of questions on how this will impact shift patterns, recruitment, training etc and organisations really need to get this right.
Also, equally to that, I think adopting a more agile, DevOps approach to running the operation to fully exploit cloud technology is another crucial priority. There are a lot of organisations at the moment still operating legacy, on-prem systems that are beginning to or will begin to creak as technologies and businesses evolve and so exploiting cloud technology is also going to be crucial.
What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2022?
An increased focus on employee experience and agent wellbeing.
A much bigger push for async messaging as an email replacement.
What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?
The flexibility of cloud technology has made it much easier over the pandemic to support home and now hybrid working. Whilst that sounds a bit boring it provides an important foundation for future innovation.
As mentioned above, Agent Wellbeing/Human Service is now a big focus with attrition levels at worrying/alarming levels and arguably going to worsen before getting better.
Also, for me, I still remain hugely excited about the prospect of AI and, in particular, how it can help employees as well as customers…
In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?
Voice will still be king – but will be treated much more like a digital channel with the ability to augment conversations with digital content – much like we do when we present to our colleagues using Teams or Zoom.
We expect every interaction to be touched by AI by this time and an increasing gap opening between those organisations that have embraced AI and those that have not…
Which person in, or associated with, the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry would you most like to meet?
For most of us, the interface between ourselves and the organisations we deal with is the smart phone. For me, there is so much more that we could do to enhance this experience.
I’d like to have a chat with Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, particularly around how iPhone customers could share information and manage security more effectively when they contact a business to reduce customer effort.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about the Contact Centre/Customer Services sector?
Just how large it is! Particularly when compared to other markets in Europe.
You go to the bar at the Contact Centre Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?
A beer! A nice IPA (but not too strong)
What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
Getting to learn about the latest technologies and work with organisations who are at the forefront of designing and implementing them.
Also, reimagining how CX can and will look if (and when) we get it right!
And what’s the most challenging?
Seeing so much potential to improve the experiences that I encounter on a day-to-day basis though technology.
Succession or Stranger Things?
I haven’t watch either yet – but they are on the list! I am currently re-watching Breaking Bad with my oldest son who has suddenly taken an interest. (To confirm, it’s just as good the second time round!).