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Stuart O'Brien

The new collaborative contact centre

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By EveryCloud

Building a collaborative contact centre has never been so important, it’s crucial to stay connected for a contact centre to function at its best capacity. It’s our job to guide you on the best technology and tools you should utilise to improve customer service.

Unleash your people’s talent and delight your customers from anywhere – with voice, meetings, chat, analytics and even full omnichannel contact centre, all on one dynamic platform that’s tailored to your needs.

Click here for more information

5 Minutes With… Erik Delorey, Empirix

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In the latest instalment 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 over 25 years Empirix, and our HAMMER test automation solutions, have served as an industry de-facto standard for organizations worldwide seeking to protect their brand against communications service quality and customer experience disruptions.   We offer a wide range of software and services for contact center, networking and customer experience test automation and analysis to help companies improve operations efficiencies and improve the quality of service they are delivering to their customers.

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

The shifting of the workforce into a remote, virtual environment despite an organizations’ readiness or the ability for management teams to adjust and adapt to how to manage a remote workforce has been a large challenge on many different dimensions. In additions to the technology hurdles, there were very serious regulatory and security compliance challenges that had to be met in a very short timeline and without a forecasted budget.  When you add on the human nature of how to manage productivity or ensure proper adherence to workforce optimization schedules in many cases where entire families were adjusting to home education, it completely changed how peoples work life and home life had to become part of the calculation.

And what have been the biggest opportunities?

Empirix believes that transparency and trust is the new currency in today’s economy, in many ways we work to help teams work cross-functionally in organizations to build better pathways for transparency, this helps reduce re-work or wasted work and with that, transparency trust is built and exchanged between teams.  That transparency becomes very profitable by creating efficiencies in operations and creates the feedback loop that is required for continuous improvement.

For example, Information Technology teams were struggling with the remote workforce bandwidth needs while at the same time not having any visibility into what Internet service providers were being used, what the home network looked like

Empirix created a privacy compliant method to monitor bandwidth and voice quality, so IT teams and Call Center Managers can move agents into and out of chat and email queues when home network conditions change.   Empirix was able to do this without hijacking a person’s microphone or camera and we were able to offer IT what they needed, without compromising someone’s privacy.

What is the biggest priority for the Contact Centre/Customer Services industry in 2021?

The biggest priority for the contact center services industry will be the proper use of Artificial Intelligence and personalized services in both the self-service application marketspace as well as the assistance software for customer service representatives.

The reason for this is that NPS benchmarks have been on a downward trend [1] for over 50% of the industries studied and only two out of the 23 industries saw a slight increase, this is quite upsetting for companies pouring millions of dollars into customer experience management software with the promise of increasing those numbers.

The consumer marketplace is less impressed today with your streamlined buyer journey or your customer service experience that is now expected behaviour.  Brand loyalty is lower now that there are so many options in front of consumers now.

What are the main trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2021?

I think natural language processing and personalized applications will be mainstream, we’re going to see the consolidation of chatbots, IVR and agent assistive technologies all originating from a single ‘source of truth’, which introduces a new level of risk mitigation and challenges as well.

What technology is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?

I think call avoidance will be re-thought and re-evaluated when we see voice sentiment analysis proving to be more accurate than post-transaction surveys.  The efficiency of those technologies vs the response rate and cost of questionnaire-based surveys, I think can cause a transformation change of how voice interactions are handled inside of contact centres.   Even to the point where companies may 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…?

That it is the 25th Anniversary of ‘in three years’ 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 technology, and the contact center and I get really excited about the potential of a unique use case of 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 technology competency and adoption “on the floor” of contact center 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 data entry manually in spreadsheets.   The lack of cross-functional communication and transparency is what is really preventing organizations from getting from good to great.

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?

Because of the diversity of technology adoptions and people’s comfort level with change,  that’s the most exciting thing, exposing people to a new way of thinking or doing things and setting the expectations that there is benefit to changing the way things are done.

And what’s the most challenging?

The same thing that makes it exciting ,  people come with their own biases and opinions,  that you have to learn, understand and empathize with their particular situation and find the truth in their concerns, find false assumptions, build a pathway towards making them successful while guarding against risk and concerns, and really getting them excited about it, rather than fearing it.

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.

[1] 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.

www.empirix.com

Bot Revolution to Permanent WFH: What 2021 Has in Store for CX

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By Content Guru

In the contact centre industry, looking backwards can often give us a clear indicator of what lies ahead. 2020 brought with it both personal and professional challenges no one could have predicted. However, the coronavirus crisis marked a clear turning point for the contact centre – one that has laid the foundations for further changes on the horizon.

Indeed, many of the tools, technologies and techniques that enabled the sector to navigate the pandemic – through lockdowns, infection scares and financial concerns – have put the contact centre on a course of continuing innovation and disruption for the decade ahead.

Let’s take a look at some of the emergent factors set to fuel the contact centre of the future.

Flexible Working Becomes the New Norm

At the start of 2020, contact centres that had already adopted modern cloud technologies were able to pivot in a matter of days to successfully implement new distributed working models. Enabling agents to work securely and compliantly from home, even when handling payments, was just the start. Organisations have also used their contact centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) solutions to manage everything from workforce performance and wellbeing, to delivering support and training tailored exactly to the real-time needs of individual agents.

For many, the remote and hybrid models implemented in 2020 will determine how they resource contact centre operations in the future. This will usher in an era, in which agents will have more flexible working options, and organisations will be able to access greater operational agility, essential for coping with evolving market demands.

Working Smarter – with Greater Granular Control

Intelligent automation and smart scheduling tools have certainly proved their worth as contact centres strived to optimise resource utilisation in the context of agent availability. Indeed, today’s AI powered Workforce Optimisation (WFO) has proved highly effective at ensuring schedules are kept at peak efficiency, while giving agents maximum control over the hours they want to work.

Alongside automated services, intelligent routing, and real-time reporting, today’s CCaaS solutions make it possible to ensure that agents are always presented with a familiar desktop – complete with the call recording facilities and integrated information databases they needed to perform – regardless of their location.

Some organisations have even taken advantage of their integrated CCaaS and unified communications environment to garner feedback from agents at the drop of a hat via virtual quality improvement ‘huddles’. Using these insights, contact centre leaders are able to tweak workflows to improve how agents interact with calls, or the information systems they depend on to serve customers.

The Rise of the Bot – Delivering CX with a Human Touch

Having found themselves at times wholly dependent on digital and remote services to undertake everyday life tasks, consumers will increasingly expect to encounter streamlined experiences, no matter which channel they choose to interact with brands over.

While AI, chatbots, smart speakers and virtual assistants aren’t new, the rapid expansion of digital channels during the pandemic saw more contact centres adopting such technologies to cut response times and sustain the mass delivery of high-quality personalised customer experiences.

Capable of sustaining humanised two-way conversations and even detecting a caller’s current mood, AI assistants are fast becoming mainstream in digital channels. In time, expect the role of contact centre agents to evolve, as they increasingly work in collaboration with these technologies to deliver efficient customer experiences with a human touch.

The last 12 months have presented contact centres with an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate digital transformation. In the coming years, they will continue to evolve into value-driven customer engagement hubs capable of orchestrating end-to-end, intuitive customer experiences across every channel.

Keep up with customer expectations. Enhance your CX today: https://bit.ly/37DMdJ3

Learn from the best at the Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit

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Your virtual pass to next month’s virtual Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit includes access to four webinar sessions – Confirm your attendance today!

The webinars include:-

“Inspire culture change and improve performance using intrapreneurship”

Using the ‘What Would I Do If It Was My’ methodology, Alison delves into the minds of the top entrepreneurs to bring you implementable methods to enhance your performance.

Presented by: Alison Edgar MBE, Managing Director at Sales Coaching Solutions

“Conversations ‘stears’ for better customer service and sales”

In this presentation we’ll be looking at the art of conversation. Sharing techniques of how to influence and persuade people in to taking the action YOU want.

Presented by: Anthony Stears, Managing Director at The Telephone Assassin Ltd

“How to spark joy with your customers and your team”

This talk will go through how you can surprise and delight your customers, motivate your team with culture and how using the human touch keeps both external and internal relationships at a world class level.

Presented by: Harriet Treadwell, Head of Customer Love at Butternut Box

“Human Centric Brands in a Digital World”

In a world where more and more is automated how can we ensure that the experience a customer has still feels human?

Presented by: Clare Willetts, Former Head of Customer and Brand Experience at Virgin

Date: 26th & 27th April

Event Type: Virtual Event

Key Benefits: Building business connections with innovative suppliers as well as gaining insight into the future challenges within the industry.

Format: We will create a bespoke itinerary designed just for you. The itinerary will include relaxed, 1-2-1 meetings with suppliers, based on mutual agreement and matched requirements.

Multiple Seminars Sessions:
Throughout the event you can enjoy a range of insightful seminar sessions hosted by industry thought-leaders.

Register your place here.

BT commits long-term future to Plymouth contact centre

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The EE contact centre in Plymouth is set for a multi-million refurbishment as BT commits its long-term future to the city as part of plans to invest in a complete refit of its facility there.

The centre – located in Langage Business Park, Plympton, and one of the largest employers in the area – will undergo a full refurbishment to modernise it and create an improved workspace for the 900 or so colleagues based there.

While the majority of contact centre colleagues based in Plymouth – and at other locations across the country – are still working from home during the pandemic, the company is continuing to invest in new and modern workspaces as part of its ‘Better Workplace’ programme.

At the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, the company introduced new systems to equip contact centre colleagues, who wanted to work from home temporarily, with the technology, security and equipment to do so.

Plymouth is one of the company’s largest contact centres and employs hundreds of customer service advisors, providing support to customers across the UK.

BT’s consumer contact centres now handle 100% of customer calls in the UK, including at EE’s contact centre in Plymouth. Since customer service for BT, EE and Plusnet customers was brought back to the UK and Ireland last year, more than 34 million calls have been handled.

Work on the refurbishment is due to start in the summer and will be phased to make sure there is no impact on customers or colleagues. The project is expected to last around twelve months and will involve local contractors and suppliers, where possible.

EE, part of BT Group, opened the Plymouth contact centre in 2000 and the company says the investment highlights its future commitment to the location and the wider region.

Nick Lane, managing director for consumer customer services at BT, said: “We’re excited about the plans to refurbish our Plymouth contact centre. It’s an important location for the company and will be the first EE contact centre in the country to benefit from one of our new future-fit workplaces.

“While most colleagues are still working from home due to the pandemic, we’ll be working with them to help create a modern, innovative workspace we can all be proud of. The buildings in which we work play a huge part in how we feel.

“Colleagues in our contact centres have played a really important role during the Covid-19 pandemic. They’ve done a fantastic job making sure our customers have been able to stay connected with family, friends and work during this difficult time.”

BT Group is a major employer in the South West of England, directly employing more than 8,000 people, including this contact centre. According to a new independent report published this week, BT Group’s combined activities in the South West adds nearly £2 billion to the region’s economy and supports more than 17,000 jobs through direct and indirect effects.

TalkTalk creates 50 jobs for young people in North West

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Salford-based connectivity provider TalkTalk has begun advertising six-month work placements for more than 50 young people, as part of the Government’s Kickstart Scheme.

The Kickstart Scheme is run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and will last until the end of 2021. It provides funding to create new job placements for 16- to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit who are at risk of long-term unemployment, having been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis.

Department for Work and Pensions data shows that there were 83,000 people aged 16-24 who were unemployed and on Universal Credit in the North West as of June 2020. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, between March 2020 and October 2020, there was also a 75% increase in people on Universal Credit in the North West.

As one of the region’s leading employers, TalkTalk is offering roles to at least 50 young people across all areas of the business. Positions will be available in customer relations, communications, technology, and administration initially, with the potential to extend into other departments later in the year.

TalkTalk began advertising the roles over the weekend and is now accepting applications. The jobs are only available to young people currently receiving Universal Credit.

Advertisements and more information can be found in local job centres and on the TalkTalk careers page: careers.talktalk.co.uk.

TalkTalk will also be selecting applicants with the help of The Prince’s Trust, a charity which supports young people on their journey through education and workplace training. Potential new starters will be taking part in development bootcamps before being directed to TalkTalk for an interview. Aside from facilitating the interview process, the bootcamp also offers sessions and advice on employability, workplace skills and office 101 training.

All placements will be paid Real Living Wage for 25 hours a week over the six-month contract period. TalkTalk will review the placements once the six-month contract ends, with the potential to place those on the Kickstart Scheme into full-time positions.

Daniel Kasmir, Chief People Officer at TalkTalk, said: “We know that the North West has faced some difficult times over the last year, with many young people experiencing unemployment and job losses as a result of the pandemic.

“Thanks to the Kickstart Scheme, we’re able to provide some much-needed opportunities for young people in our area to gain real-life work experience, learn new and transferable skills, and workshop their CVs so they can secure a fantastic job in the future, be it with us, or elsewhere.

“Both TalkTalk and our Kickstart placements will benefit from this great scheme. We welcome fresh blood and new ideas – something a tech company like ours cannot do without.”

Minister for Employment, Mims Davies MP, said: “It’s great to see TalkTalk backing this Government’s Kickstart Scheme with recruitment for 50 young people to get on the employment ladder in roles across the region – giving local talent crucial work experience in areas from finance to social media in this exciting industry.

“Our Plan for Jobs is creating vital fresh opportunities, boosting job prospects and supporting employers to recruit in key growth sectors, as we push to build back better and level up the country.”

Do you specialise in Call Centre Technology? 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 March we’re focusing on Call Centre Technology 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 Call Centre Technology 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:

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

CALL FOR SPEAKERS! Would you like to talk at the Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit?

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We’re looking for contact centre industry thought-leaders to share their knowledge at the upcoming Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit, which is taking place virtually on April 26th & 27th and again as a live event on September 13th & 14th.

If you’re available on those dates, have an internet connection and would like to take part in this unmissable industry event, simply fill out this form, or contact Lisa Rose on 01992 374 077 / l.rose@forumevents.co.uk.

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Alternatively, if you’re a contact centre management professional our complimentary pass gives you free access to the Contact Centre & Customer Services Summit – attend from the comfort of your home or office.

Date: 26th & 27th April

Event Type: Virtual Event

Key Benefits: Building business connections with innovative suppliers as well as gaining insight into the future challenges within the industry.

Format: We will create a bespoke itinerary designed just for you. The itinerary will include relaxed, 1-2-1 meetings with suppliers, based on mutual agreement and matched requirements.

Multiple Seminars Sessions:
Throughout the event you can enjoy a range of insightful seminar sessions hosted by industry thought-leaders.

Register your place here.

Customer experience management market to hit $21.8bn

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The global customer experience management market is projected to reach revenue of $21.86 billion by 2027, equivalent to a CAGR of 13%.

That’s according to data from Fortune Business Insights, which cites the heightened importance of enhancing customer experience (CX) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report asserts that with millions of people worldwide confined to their homes, brands are aggressively looking for avenues to maintain visibility among their customers and cater to their changing needs.

The unusual circumstances created by the coronavirus have forced companies to engage customers in a more meaningful way. For example, the cable provider Comcast deepened its customer experience management by developing short, topical videos powered by an interactive experience for its Xfinity cable service during the pandemic.

In China, a restaurant chain started delivering ingredients for meals usually enjoyed in communal settings at people’s doorsteps, ensuring no physical contact and strengthening its relationship with loyal customers. The variety of novel ideas triggered amid the COVID-19 pandemic enabled the market to register an impressive CAGR of 11.7% in 2020.

According to the report, the value of the market was estimated to be $8.29 billion in 2019.

Furthermore, the report says the proliferation of smartphones, mobile applications, and other smart devices has triggered a massive digitization trend among businesses. Enhancing CEM through virtual platforms and online portals has become one of the core strategies adopted by companies to foster long-lasting relationships with their customers.

However, with private customer information being available online in most cases, the threat of data breaches has escalated in recent years. Hackers are targeting digital platforms to extract critical data and sell them on the black market. For example, in April 2020, over 500,000 accounts on the teleconferencing platform Zoom were breached and then sold on the dark web by cyber-criminals.

Similarly, in India in January 2020, Unacademy, the popular online education platform, experienced a massive data breach, exposing more than 20 million accounts containing customer information related to email addresses, payment history, passwords, and usernames. The constant exposure of delicate information to cyber-attacks may inhibit the customer experience management market growth.

In 2019, the North America market size stood at $2.81 billion, and the region is expected to lead the market during the forecast period due to the speedy digital transformation of businesses in the region. CXM companies across the US and Canada are actively adopting and deploying customer experience management solutions powered by advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). Thus, the market in North America is foreseen to progress at an incredible pace.

Asia Pacific is strengthening its hold on the customer experience management market share as a result of the broadening presence of AI and the Internet of Things (IoT) among enterprises in India and China. In Europe, on the other hand, the increasing number of call centers is expected to propel the regional market.

Ember rebrands to Davies Consulting

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Ember Group has rebranded to Davies Consulting as part of its final integration step following Davies’ acquisition of the company in 2018.

Operating as Davies Consulting, the team will continue to deliver specialist customer experience (CX), Operational Consulting and Digital Transformation expertise for clients operating across a range of highly regulated and international markets.

Since the acquisition of Ember, Davies has increased its annual investments in innovation and digital transformation more than four-fold. Including in digital CX, analytics and automation capabilities that combine contact-centre expertise with cutting-edge CX technology and innovation capabilities.

The rebrand brings Davies’ consulting division closer to Davies’ internal technology and automation specialists, supporting the firm’s continued ambitious plans to accelerate growth and expand its service offering.

Globally, Davies has more than 4,000 colleagues, with operating centres across the UK, Ireland, Bermuda, the US and Canada. The business delivers professional services and technology solutions across the risk and insurance value chain, including excellence in claims, underwriting, distribution, regulation, customer experience, human capital, digital transformation & change management.

Mark Grocott, CEO – Consulting & Technology, said: “Our specialists in Ember have a great track record and incredible reputation for delivering significant value for our clients through deep domain expertise in customer experience, analytics, consulting & digital transformation. By rebranding to Davies we can become even more valuable to our clients, providing deeper solutions and staying relevant to their evolving needs inservice design and delivery.”

David Leedham, Managing Director of Consulting, added: “Rebranding to Davies has been a key element of our growth strategy and allows us to accelerate our ambitious plans to expand the breadth and depth of our services. I look forward to the next stage in our evolution as Davies Consulting where, with fresh investment and backing we will continue to increase the value we can bring to our clients.”