At the start of this year’s Sitel Summit, an event dedicated to empowering humans and enhancing brands, Sitel group President, CEO and founding partner Laurent Uberti asked the 200+ business executives gathered in front of him a simple question: “Sitel Group is dedicated to customer experience – but what does that mean?”
And by the end of an opening keynote that examined and considered everything from climate change and social media, to conversational business via messaging and voice assistants, not to mention a future where The Terminator could become a reality; the answer became clear. Remaining focused on every uniquely human element, from emotion to experience, that will continue to be the differentiator to customers and therefore brands – no matter how much technology and algorithms appear to be shaking everything up.
Never underestimate the importance of emotion
“We are emotional before being rational,” said Uberti. “That is really relevant and really important. It means for brands we need to come from a customer experience journey to a customer emotional journey.”
In other words, do not let the latest digital innovation get in the way of generating positive emotions for your customers while managing negative moments.
“Machines cannot interact emotionally,” Uberti explained. “Humans need to speak and share with others. It’s natural, it’s in our DNA. Machines can’t understand complex situations and requests.”
To emphasize the point, he turned to the most important aspect of customer experience – the moment of truth. Be it a car accident, a stolen credit card or a cancelled flight: “This is when you want to reach out to a brand and really need to have more than simply positive emotions, you need to feel protected and supported,” he explained. “That is not a process with an algorithm. You need to feel empathy. That’s why emotion is the main focus of our customer experience journey – how to manage and create those emotions. It’s not about generating only big emotions, they can be little changes of mood but they’re all equally important.”
The move to social messaging and voice assistants
But this doesn’t mean that technological innovations are not set to play a game-changing role in the future of customer experience, far from it. These innovations will only be of genuine use if they can augment the emotional element of building and maintaining customer experience.
That’s why not only Uberti, but Sitel Group as a whole is excited about consumers’ move away from traditional smartphone apps and toward social messaging platforms.
“Right now it is already much easier to communicate with friends as well as with brands via a social messaging platform than to go and download a dedicated app,” points out Uberti. “That could mean that as with our friends, we could be in a permanent conversation with brands. That’s a massive move.”
The same is true of the move to smart speakers and other forms of vocal assistants.
“It will be more revolutionary and more disruptive than the text conversation because of the personal assistant element,” warns Uberti. “It cuts out the screen and you speak directly to a personal assistant. That is a powerful and potentially dangerous game changer.”
This is because unless a brand already has a voice strategy and strong existing customer ties, people using the likes of Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home Assistant will not have a direct touch point with a company on the journey to finding an affordable plane ticket or potential vacation destination.
What’s more, the latest research suggests that by 2020 in the U.S. alone, 75 percent of households will be using a vocal assistant.
“At the rate technology is moving, 2020 is the day after tomorrow, it’s at stake – now,” said Uberti.
Artificial Intelligence will enhance humans
On the subject of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Uberti used his keynote to attempt to cut through the buzzwords and the hype.
“With AI it’s important to take a moment and to really consider what is at stake,” he said. “When we speak about AI, even in serious media, we have a false conception of what it is. We project fantasies and dreams.”
As such, people are too focused on the day The Terminator becomes a reality and when machines are smarter than humans. Indeed it’s a subject the Harvard Business Review has reexamined throughout 2018, trying to help readers separate the science from the sci-fi.
“I believe more in The Six Million Dollar Man than in The Terminator,” said Uberti. “[AI] is about enhancing the abilities and the capacities of people. This isn’t a new idea, it’s something humanity has been doing since the dawn of time.”
That’s why AI should be viewed no differently from the discovery of fire, the development of cars and trains or the invention of the personal computer.
Man and machine working together
AI is a means of adding incredible value, if it’s used to enhance and augment human capabilities. For example: “A chatbot can initiate a conversation,” Uberti said. “But after that the consumer is orientated toward a live agent who’s an expert on the subject. Thanks to big data and analytics we can filter through an explosion of information in seconds to find the right answer. An algorithm will help you run scenarios and simulations in moments. All of these things are support mechanisms for humans.”
In this respect, Sitel Group is already ahead of the curve with its Bot Trainer. It enables agents, not developers, to continually teach and improve any number of chatbots to ensure they can really speak a brand’s language and support the most common customer requests.
“The best way to mentor a machine is with a human expert,” said Uberti. “We believe in augmented humans. We aren’t saying that machines are useless. What is important is the best combination, the best partnership and the best collaboration between the human and the machine.”
Technology is not a customer experience differentiator
There is no debate that technology has become crucial to delivering customer experience. But adopting the latest innovations is not enough.
“It will be more and more difficult for brands to seem different to consumers based on their technology because increasingly all brands are using the same technology,” says Uberti. “So, what will make the difference?”
The answer is good, memorable experiences. It will be the only way to ensure a company stands out from its peers. As conversational business takes hold and AI becomes more mature.
“Customer experience will be the last differentiator…the last wall to preventing disintermediation,” said Uberti.
Watch Laurent Uberti’s keynote in the video below.
For more insights on how voice applications are set to shake up business, download the white paper Voice: Speaking for your business