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Stuart O'Brien

Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit host unveils the business networking solution for the ‘new normal’

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Forum Events & Media Group, organiser of B2B events including the Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit and Digital Customer Experience Summit, has successfully held its first virtual networking events – with over 550 individual meetings taking place within the security industry over the course of two days via virtual events.

With live events unable to take place for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Forum has expanded its cutting-edge proprietary software to create a new interface with live video meetings. This has allowed the company to create a virtual Forum platform, taking the events experience virtual. These events allow procurement executives to source new solutions, and give suppliers the opportunity to discover new clients – and ultimately, keep industries talking.

Forum’s first virtual events were the Total Security Summit and the Security IT Summit, which both match procurement professionals with suppliers for a series of pre-arranged meetings. The Summits attracted security and cyber security professionals from the likes of Amazon, Asprey London, Associated British Foods, BNP Paribas, Department of Work & Pensions, Essex County Council, HSBC, JP Morgan, Legal and General, London Stansted Airport, Manchester Airport Group, Matalan, Marriott International, National Trust, NatWest Markets, Pret A Manger, Royal Mail, Sodexo, Tesco Mobile, United International Pictures, ViacomCBS and many more.

In addition to the virtual meetings, delegates had the opportunity to ‘attend’ streamed webinar sessions hosted by industry experts.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown restrictions associated with it have had a major impact on how we, as a nation, do business,” said Forum Events & Media Group Managing Director Sarah Beall. “Exhibitions are postponed, traditional conferences and networking events are on hold for the foreseeable future. But the wheels of commerce must keep turning and businesses need to connect, particularly during these unprecedented times as companies look for practical solutions to their challenges during the pandemic.

“Like many of our colleagues in the events sector, we have a goal to #GetBritainMeeting. The events industry is a £70 billion sector that employs 700,000 people and is currently on its knees, with no ‘go date’ yet from the Government about when we can host live events.

“The events industry is full of forward-thinking individuals who are more than capable of making controlled, organised events and exhibitions COVID-secure. But with no greenlight from the Government, we cannot sit back and wait. We are creative and innovative thinkers and, like many other events businesses, we have taken our events virtual.

“The success of our first virtual events has proved that business connections can still be made in an online environment. Over 550 meetings in two days shows the potential – and we’re looking forward to hearing back from our guests about the business deals that are made as a result of this event.”

Further virtual events are on the agenda at Forum, while going forward the company is also planning ‘hybrid’ events allowing delegates to choose whether they attend the events in person or via a digital option.

In addition, Forum Events & Media Group hosted two full-day conferences recently – the Hotel Designs LIVE event aimed at hoteliers, interior designers and architects; and the PA Life LIVE conference, which brought together Executive and Personal Assistants for a full day of learning. Both digital conferences also featured ‘supplier pitch’ sessions, allowing companies to present their products, services and solutions to the respective audiences. The Hotel Designs LIVE and PA Life LIVE digital conferences will return again in the autumn.

WEBINAR REWIND: How Leading Organisations are Embracing the GigCX Revolution

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Don’t worry if you missed last week’s fantastic Ember Group webinar ‘Leading Organisations are Embracing the GigCX Revolution – Learn Why and How’ – You can now watch it again in full.

Seasonal peak demands and disruptions such as COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the vulnerability of the traditional contact-centres with their business model being significantly limited in its ability to respond effectively to such challenges.

GigCX offers a strong business case: not only with respect to business risk mitigation but also with the potential it offers for delivering new, innovative service models that derive the maximum benefits from a distributed workforce.

During the webinar, Ember’s industry-experienced specialists were joined by guest panellists as they explored the rising adoption of GigCX and address some of the critical questions facing the market today:

  • What is GigCX
  • What are the benefits of introducing GigCX as a solution to your operating model?
  • How can GigCX support long-term economic sustainability?
  • What is the process of removing barriers within your organisation to introduce GigCX?

Watch the full recording below:

ECCCSAs: 20 years in the making

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It’s 20 years since the first edition of the European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards was launched. The industry was in its relative infancy and the awards evening was a comparatively small affair.

These days the awards are not only the longest running in the European customer contact industry but they are the largest with 24 countries entering and 1,300 people attending the awards evening last year.

So much has changed

Since the turn of the century, the customer contact industry has grown from strength to strength responding to changes in consumer behaviour, digitisation and globalisation. These are just some of the things that have changed:

  • Employee well-being

There is nothing like a pandemic to bring employee well-being into focus. However, long before now the industry has been focused on looking after its people and in recent years recognising that if you look after your people, your people look after your customers. We’ve seen this playout through working environments with fantastic facilities such as gyms, childcare, coffee shops and inspiring breakout areas. As we go through 2020 the industry is supporting its teams more than ever with access to mental health programmes and by enabling people to work from home. It will be interesting to see how employee policies adapt to a more flexible working approach going forward.

  • Advances in technology

Where do you start when it comes to technology? The industry has come a long way in the last 20 years; from the ACD to cloud comms, from stand-alone systems to integrated solutions, increased focus on security and compliance, automation, AI and robotics, sophisticated monitoring and reporting, bolt-on’s, add-on’s, modules and training to support it all. The technology stack for customer interactions is now more complex and impressive than ever before.

  • Multiple channels of choice

Driven by the availability of digital platforms and intelligent technology, consumers now have many channels to choose from to interact with organisations. Voice has remained a key channel of choice despite predictions of its demise to email. Social platforms, messaging and webchat have grown in popularity amongst consumers and now the use of video in those interactions is starting to be seen.

  • Consumer behaviour

The internet has given consumers access to more information, to share stories more readily and as a result consumer behaviour has changed significantly. Consumers are better informed and able to make decisions on who to buy from and why, before an organisation is aware they were even in the running. Recent months have demonstrated how much the consumer is in control of how they use technology, who they want to buy from and why they buy.

  • Listening to customers

Recent experiences have taught us the importance of listening to customers and responding to their wants and needs. But even before then, organisations have been surveying and listening to customers for a few years to gather insights in order to make more informed decisions about improving the customer experience in order to retain customers, because we all know it’s cheaper to retain than to acquire.

  • Access to information

The amount of information that is gathered and stored through customer interactions has been growing. There is almost too much data now available, if that’s possible, and the pressure is on to make sense of it, to turn it into useable information that can drive decision making. With artificial intelligence now able to do just that, leaders in contact centres and customer experience will be well placed to start driving the strategic agenda of any organisation that sincerely puts the customer front and centre.

  • Regulation and compliance

It is no surprise that as the industry has evolved more compliance and regulation has been imposed to protect customers, employees and organisations. Whether it’s TPS, PCI DSS, GDPR, employment law, health and safety or workers rights, these important regulations have helped to secure a professional and safe place for those that work in and interact with the customer contact industry.

Looking back, the industry has come a long way. And some of these enhancements and innovations took place very recently – not just since the pandemic took hold. Before then, last year. Some of the projects that were undertaken before February 2020 prepared organisations for this year and those projects should be celebrated.

If you have a project or a team that you want to recognise for moving your organisation forward, then why not enter the European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards. Enter here today.

Vonage expands Contact Centre solution with ServiceNow integration

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Vonage has announced the expansion of its Vonage Contact Center capabilities to include seamless integration with ServiceNow, the leading digital workflow company. Vonage Contact Center for ServiceNow enables businesses with contact centres that rely on customised agent, employee, and customer workflows to deliver great customer experiences and enhanced productivity.

Now more than ever, organisations are digitally transforming and more reliant on mission-critical customer service and productivity tools to keep their employees and customers connected and working efficiently. Vonage Contact Center integrates with ServiceNow’s enterprise-level Customer Service Management solution to deliver a powerful all-in-one unified platform.

Vonage Contact Center for ServiceNow provides agents with contextual and relevant data and workflows, allowing agents to better collaborate across their organisations and deliver an unparalleled customer experience, without needing to toggle to a separate application.

Prakash Shah, Senior Digital Operations Product Manager at Vodafone Business commented, “We wanted to improve customer visibility and the support experience delivered to our large corporate customers across Vodafone Business, and Vonage Contact Center for ServiceNow helps us to achieve this. The deep integration with ServiceNow enables our global service desk team to operate within the platform and respond to calls equipped with all the right information about the customer and call history. Additionally, all the interaction data is automatically captured within ServiceNow, providing enhanced customer visibility. Vonage Contact Center helps us to deliver a great experience for our customers and service desk teams.”

For more information about Vonage Contact Center for ServiceNow, click here.

Contact Centre & Customer Engagement Summit – We’d love you to join us, in person or virtually

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Would you like to attend our hybrid Contact Centre & Customer Engagement Summit this September, as our guest?

Live event and virtual attendance options are available – 14th & 15th September – Hilton Deansgate, Manchester.

Your guest pass includes; Free overnight accommodation, a personalised itinerary of relaxed meetings with innovative suppliers, LIVE seminar sessions led by industry experts, networking, all meals and refreshments throughout.

There is no hard sell at the event, but it is a great opportunity for you to gather business contacts for future use.

RSVP here to accept your free guest pass.

If you have any questions then please do not hesitate to contact us.

Five reasons contact centres are moving to the cloud right now (or should if they aren’t already)

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By Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO at Content Guru

We are on the precipice of another great cloud migration. It’s something we’ve seen with data storage, software and consumer services and over the next few years, we will witness the same journey in the contact centre industry – from the on-premises contact centre of old, to completely cloud-based, omnichannel contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) infrastructure. It’s a move that is long overdue, which has become all too clear in the chaos created by the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses worldwide scrabble to implement safe and efficient remote-working solutions for their agents.

The contact centre in particular has historically been seen as a place where organisations can save money. This has led to narrow performance metrics and a general desire to reduce headcount. However, with the colossal shift across industries to a focus on customer experience as the key business differentiator, it is time for businesses to realise that a cloud contact centre model is now the only one that makes sense.

Here are my five reasons why, if they haven’t done so already, it is high time for organisations in the contact centre industry – as one of the largest employers in the UK – to make the move to the cloud.

1. Employee health and wellbeing is more important than ever

Among the UK government’s latest guidance on lockdown regulations was the update that those who cannot work from home are now encouraged to return to work if possible. What does this mean for the contact centre industry?

Even throughout the strictest lockdown period, many non-essential contact centres still had employees working in their offices on a daily basis. Research since the outbreak began, undertaken by the University of Strathclyde and conducted among 2,750 UK contact centre workers, suggests only a third of contact centres now have social distancing measures in place. More worrying still, a further three-quarters said that social distancing when moving around the building was either ‘hazardous’ or ‘very hazardous’, and half are still working face-to-face.

The dangers of continuing to allow call agents to work onsite in potentially unsafe premises are evident. Now is the time for contact centres to implement a homeworking strategy that will help to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees. Cloud-based CCaaS technology can enable organisations to quickly deploy remote working capabilities. Organisations who have already made that move are demonstrating to the industry as a whole how they can continue to provide an excellent engagement experience for their customers under extremely strained circumstances, all while keeping employees safe.

2. The workplace is evolving for a modern-day workforce

Even before COVID-19, there was a widespread shifting focus to home working across all industries, which has only been accelerated by the current situation. According to research from the Office of National Statistics published prior to the pandemic, 50 per cent of UK employees were already set to work remotely in 2020. Remote working is a subject bound to divide opinion across small to large organisations in every sector, but nowhere more potently than in the contact centre industry. These concerns are perfectly understandable – the contact centre has always been a very physical workplace, with call agents hooked up to a legacy phone system, answering calls on multiple lines, in-sight of employers. Right now, permitting home working may simply be a case of survival as a business. However, in future, businesses will have a strong case to answer if they do not offer home working in some form.

Cloud-based CCaaS is browser-based so agents can access the system wherever they are, whenever they want. The ability to home work gives employees more flexibility and control over their working hours, making it easier to fit their career around busy schedules in a way that benefits both themselves and the organisation. Their working schedule can coincide more easily around family and home life, as they have the opportunity to log in while the children are at school, for example. This not only delivers something for the reward strategy of a contact centre, but increased satisfaction and happiness for the employee in a more flexible workplace landscape.

3. Omnichannel should now be seamless

In common with many other areas of today’s data-driven economy, solutions provided by cloud-based service providers are disrupting the way technology is applied in customer service environments. Businesses are making a strategic move away from traditional on-premise infrastructure and software platforms in favour of versatile ‘as-a-service’ options which broaden the functionality available while reducing the need for big ticket capex investment. Providers who can offer a holistic omnichannel solution are often better placed to meet the strategic and operational needs of customer service teams. Communications now need to be kept consistent across multiple channels, working together with no disparity, to provide a seamless customer experience. This is easily achieved using cloud-based CCaaS with a one-window view where communications are collated in one space, making it easier to navigate across multiple channels.

4. The need to scale-up and scale-out on demand is clear

Even for contact centres that are used to dealing with high volumes, handling spikes in demand can prove extremely difficult using traditional legacy infrastructure. As we have seen in the current pandemic, those working with cloud-based CCaaS across an omnichannel environment are ideally placed to deal with high levels of enquiries and can ensure strong service levels even when demand jumps. For example, screen-pops bring customer data and information on past interactions directly to agents, reducing customer frustration, as callers don’t have to repeat information they have already provided. Intelligent automation can be used to route enquiries to the most appropriate available agent or chatbot, who are also equipped with the right information to engage with the contact. This ensures that customer service is consistently best-in-class, even for contact centres with thousands of seats.

5. Long term cost savings are achievable

Traditionally, the contact centre has been viewed as an area of business in which to save on costs and resources. However, as a result of this oversight, staff turnover continues to be one of the greatest costs to the contact centre industry, which ‘enjoys’ a relatively low employee satisfaction rate and high churn. This is costly and time consuming for contact centre leads and their management teams, so finding ways of reversing this ratio is imperative. Employers should be researching and investing in technology that will make agents’ jobs more streamlined and more rewarding. Making a short-term investment in a CCaaS platform can massively reduce wider costs in the long term.

For example, the introduction and implementation of AI into the contact centre can have a massive impact on the day-to-day agent experience. Many simple enquiries won’t even reach a human agent thanks to AI-driven self-service, therefore automating tedious and mundane tasks, as well as reducing wait times and speed to resolution for customers. Augmenting agents’ ability with AI while reducing channel complexity with effective omni-channel capabilities will have a significant impact on churn if approached with the goal of empowering agents to better manage service enquiries.

A final word

In the midst of the confusion and upheaval caused by COVID-19, it is understandable that businesses may be hesitant about investing in new technology. However, it is clear to see that moving to the cloud is one step in a company’s digital transformation that makes perfect logical sense right now. For businesses operating in the contact centre space, it may turn out to be the make or break in maintaining relationships with their customers during these challenging times. Migrating to the cloud will help to meet the ever-changing demands of the modern business – and societal – landscape now, and into the future.

Find how to move your contact centre to the cloud, click here.

Forum Events goes virtual for B2B meetings

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Forum Events and Media Group, organiser of face-to-face meetings-based events like the Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit, is launching a series of new Virtual Forums.

For over 20 years Forum has been bringing together procurement decision-makers with suppliers for pre-arranged meetings and networking at its Forums and Summits. These events have generated £millions of new business agreements between buyers and suppliers over the years.

With live events unable to take place for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Forum has expanded its cutting-edge proprietary software to create a new interface with live video meetings. This has allowed the company to create a virtual Forum platform, taking the events experience virtual. It will allow procurement executives to source new solutions, and give suppliers the opportunity to discover new clients – and ultimately, keep industries talking.

“During this unprecedented time, we have chosen to redirect our focus from live events to virtual so that we can still deliver expectations to our supporting exhibitors and create a platform to meet with high calibre decision makers face-to-face,” explained Forum Events and Media Group MD Sarah Beall.

“We cannot wait to welcome attendees back to our live events from September and have implemented a COVID-safe risk assessment at all our venues, ensuring the two-meter rule throughout, introducing temperature check and reduced numbers, but still creating the same professional and informal atmosphere of buyers and suppliers.”

“We are prepared and ready to kickstart our Forums from this month across four industries via our virtual platform. And we will continue to serve industries’ supply and demand by holding hybrid live and virtual events that are COVID-safe throughout the coming months.”

The first four virtual meeting events from Forum Events and Media Group will be:-

  • Total Security Summit – June 29th
  • Security IT Summit – June 30th
  • eTailing Summit – July 6th
  • Digital Marketing Solutions Summit – July 16th

Forum Events and Media Group is working alongside other UK events industry to promote the #GetBritainMeeting initiative aimed at kickstarting the events sector in a safe and sustainable way. The events industry employs some 700,000 people across the UK and contributes over £70 billion to the UK economy every year.

For more information, visit www.forumevents.co.uk.

5 Minutes With… Jay Patel, IMImobile

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In the latest instalment of our Contact Centre executive interview series, we spoke to IMImobile CEO Jay Patel about his company, industry opportunities, the impact of COVID-19 and emerging technologies…

Tell us about your company, products and services.

At IMImobile, we help our clients communicate and interact with their customers over different digital channels. We have a customer interaction management suite that includes a core platform and applications that allow businesses to orchestrate and automate customer communications across all touchpoints and channels including RCS, WhatsApp Business and Apple Business Chat as well as Voice, Email and SMS.

We work across different departments within large enterprises such as Customer Service, IT/Operations & Marketing and our clients include major banks, mobile operators, utilities and logistics providers such as Hermes, Centrica, AA, O2, EE, BT, Vodafone, among many others.

What have been the biggest challenges the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry has faced over the past 12 months?

The COVID-19 pandemic has probably been the biggest challenge for contact centres in the last year. The transition to remote working for contact centre agents and subsequent increase in call volumes for most industries has been difficult for larger enterprises, particularly those in the retail and travel sectors, to handle.

We recently released a new white paper around how businesses can deploy call deflection tactics within their contact centres to reduce call volumes and we have also launched a ROI calculator to help businesses understand how having these tactics in place can reduce costs and inbound call whilst, most importantly, improve customer satisfaction.

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

For the last year, we have seen an increase in the use of richer, digital communication channels and a greater customer requirement to allow consumers to self-serve over these channels. These developments have manifested themselves in the adoption of channels such as WhatsApp Business, Apple Business Chat and RCS for business to consumer interactions which we have started to deploy at scale for some of our major clients.

What is the biggest priority for the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry in 2020?

The contact centre industry needs to start exploring how the newer communication channels can work alongside existing customer service channels such as voice and email to improve the overall customer experience and reduce costs through automation. Research has increasingly shown that customers want to self-serve as much as possible but like to maintain the option to speak directly to a contact centre agent for more complex enquires. It’s important for contact centres to get their channel balance right for their customers and allow them to decide which channel they want to use.

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2020?

We have started to see the early signs of mobile operators investing in 5G technologies which we anticipate will accelerate the use of these richer communication channels, as well as the use of video for customer service using WebRTC technology. Our application IMIassist, enables contact centre agents, technicians, and other personnel to provide real-time assistance to customers through two-way video interactions which could transform the overall customer service experience.

In 2025 we’ll all be talking about…?

Remember when the whole world went into lockdown for nearly 3 months!

You go to the bar at the Contact Centre Summit – what’s your tipple of choice?

It’s got to be a Negroni – every time!

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

The business opportunities driven by mobile and digital technologies. We see a world of richer seamless engagement between consumers and businesses driven by software and automation and I’m excited to help our clients achieve this.

And what’s the most challenging?

Cutting through the noise and keeping things simple.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Far too many clichés to quote but I am learning that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.

Do you specialise in Virtual 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 July we’re focusing on Virtual Contact Centres 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 Virtual Contact Centres 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 Carly Walker on c.walker@forumevents.co.uk.

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

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 Carly Walker on c.walker@forumevents.co.uk.

Contact Centre & Customer Services Summits: Everything you need to know

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We wanted to let you know that we are still running both Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit’s this year – both of which your attendance is entirely complimentary.

Your complimentary guest pass includes benefits such as;

  • Full hospitality – Enjoy free overnight accommodation including all meals and refreshments.
  • Stay up-to-date with the industry – Enjoy a series of topical seminar sessions led by industry thought leaders.
  • Personalised to you – We can build you a bespoke 1-2-1 itinerary of relaxed, no hard sell meetings with innovative and budget savings suppliers who match your requirements.
  • Socially distanced environment – We have limited attendee numbers, added clear partition screens on all meeting booths and introduced new procedures to ensure the safety of all attendees and staff.
  • Save time – We will handle everything for you, saving you time and money by arranging all the meetings for. These are based on who you would like to meet and those who match your requirements.

14th & 15th September – Hilton Deansgate, Manchester.

16th & 17th November – Radisson Blu Hotel, London Stansted.

Click here to register your free place.

Lastly, our partner event, the Digital Customer Engagement Summit take focuses on more of the digital aspects of the field, takes place on 13th October – Hilton London Canary Wharf.