Such is the buzz within the industry, for the first time in its 20-year history, the Customer Contact Week conference in Las Vegas had a day devoted Technology and Innovation for attendees looking to leverage the latest digital tools for improving their customer experience
Over the last 20 years, the face of customer experience (CX) has changed beyond recognition. But, throughout that time, one thing that’s remained constant is Customer Contact Week (CCW) Las Vegas. Attracting upwards of 3,000 attendees a year, it remains one of the biggest and most important events for all companies be they tech startups or multinational BPO players who are working to deliver and manage CX and who are serious about understanding and harnessing the innovations and trends shaping the industry.
For this year’s 20th anniversary show, 260 speakers took to the stage to deliver keynotes, track sessions and workshops focused on everything from how to engage your employees to engage your customers to why you should be proud of using an outsourcer and should be treating the company as a genuine partner.
However, due to the rapid rate of technological change, that is creating so many opportunities to get closer still to the customer; but, it is also presenting a host of challenges for companies attempting implementation. For the first time ever CCW Las Vegas hosted a day dedicated to technology and innovation.
Chatbots and automation proved a huge draw for companies of all sizes and at all stages of digital transformation. But as panels from the likes of Verizon and IBM quickly highlighted, many enterprises might be considering self-service and conversational customer care for the wrong reasons.
“It’s true that a whole generation of customers want to be able to help themselves and resolve simple issues without speaking to an agent,” says James Lee Head of Digital Strategy, TSC Americas, Sitel Group’s digital experts. “But in those situations, your company’s goal should be delivering customer empowerment, not simply focusing contact deflection. The same is true of chatbots. When used properly they complement your CX, they don’t replace an existing channel.”
Likewise, there is much discussion at the moment about the empowered agent and how automation will give those people who interact with customers day-in, day-out the tools to resolve their issues more quickly and the latitude to really bring their unique human capabilities to bear, particularly in moments of truth.
But even here, according to Principal Analyst & CCW Digital Director, Brian Cantor, businesses need to make the distinction.
“We’ve all heard the clichés and adages about automation handling simple tasks so agents can focus on high-value work,” he said. “It’s time to truly define that dichotomy. Which contact center tasks truly represent high-value endeavors? Which work is most appropriate for automation?”
Even with a clear distinction made, this level of employee engagement won’t happen unless companies are proactive; hence so many breakout sessions focusing on empowering employees and underlining why the agent experience is the customer experience.
“Truly empowering your team extends well beyond giving them the newest tools, it’s about lifelong training and development,” says Aaron Schwarzberg, COO at Learning Tribes, Sitel’s learning and education technology expert group. “At this year’s event the ‘agent of the future’ was a hot topic, and rightly so, because as we move forward, the people closest to our customers will need new soft and hard skills and we have a responsibility to nurture those capacities and to do so via methods that are highly engaging and effective.”
But, with the exception of the event’s opening keynote from non-other than NBA legend Magic Johnson, the biggest buzz this year was around customer intelligence and actionable analytics.
“You can’t leave CX to chance,” says Cristopher Kuehl, VP of Client Insights and Analytics for Sitel Group. “With speech analytics, for instance, it’s possible to rate every call and use findings to train agents, improve scripting or training in real time.”
During this year’s event Kuehl worked in partnership with CallMiner to give hands on demonstrations and masterclasses for companies that want to start making their data work for them.
“As well as for quality control and refining agent training, speech analytics, as part of a wider data and analytics strategy, can help you identify and stop customer churn, effectively identify and target your best prospects and even start predicting customer behavior,” said Kuehl. “But it all starts with how you gather data and how you treat it.”