A look back at the highlights from Sitel Group’s annual European Customer Day, an event dedicated to examining the latest developments, technologies and innovations in customer experience (CX) and detailing how they will empower humans and enhance brands.
Held in the heart of Paris at the Gaîté Lyrique on 7th June, experts, influencers and leaders from some of the world’s biggest brands – including Facebook, Google, Dentsu Aegis Network and Compagnie des Alpes – came together for the third consecutive year to watch keynotes and roundtables and take part in debates dedicated to business transformation and meeting the needs of a new generation of customer.
How Sitel is accelerating the transition to new forms of CX
In front of over 300 business executives focused on optimising their CX, Laurent Uberti, President and CEO of Sitel Group, officially opened the event by examining the future of customer engagement and the forces accelerating its evolution
“Since 2007, the year the iPhone launched, Airbnb was born, and that Facebook and Twitter went global, the changes have not stopped,” he said.
These ongoing changes are accelerating transformation around the world, creating major challenges in the field of customer relations, but also creating a host of new and exciting innovations such as voice assistants, social messaging and AI, that can serve as tools to overcome the obstacles.
Uberti gave the subject of AI special consideration, accepting that it can be considered a threat as well as an opportunity, but noted that: “When we speak about AI, even in serious media, we have a false conception of what it is. We project fantasies and dreams. We need to get back to basics and refocus on customer needs.”
This is why Sitel Group is dedicated to the human being and to the emotional element of CX. As Uberti made abundantly clear, emotion is key to an enhanced CX – and CX will become the final differentiator and wall preventing disintermediation.
A personalised customer relationship is the only customer relationship
Thierry Jadot, Chairman of Dentsu Aegis Network, detailed how and why brands and media are being forced to invent a new relationship with consumers and with society.
It means a move away from a model he describes as VUCA (an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) and one defined by uncertainty and the risk of seeing a two-speed society emerge. This is why Jadot proposes a new approach dubbed DELI – an acronym for Dynamic, Excitement, Limitless and Instant – driven by real-time empathy and leadership.
Within the new model, the challenge for brands will be in drawing customers into their ecosystem – something that will only work if companies can properly analyse data and use it to create truly personalised customer relationships.
However, he advocates everyone jumping off the deep end and taking the plunge: “In the face of this uncertainty, it is better to embrace change with enthusiasm and speed,” he said.
During his address he also emphasised the need for attracting and building a diverse talent pool at organisations as he believes it’s the key to future innovation.
“Innovation is created on the border, where the friction lies,” Jadot said.
Customer experience as a defining business strategy
“Ask yourself what makes a champion service brand before you think about becoming one,” said Mike Havard as he began his presentation. The founder and CEO of Ember Group detailed the rationale for engaging customers and talent internally and explained why the CX must be a central tenant of a company’s strategy and reflected in that organisation’s values.
“Brands need high customer satisfaction because it leads to greater loyalty, to recommendations, trust and reputation,” he said, highlighting the steps that companies including Lego, Ryanair and Waitrose have taken to achieve this.
An “in” experience with Google
Marion Bernard, B2B Marketing Director, and Loïc de Saint Andrieu, Mobile Evangelist, at Google France, devoted their keynote to conversational interfaces.
“Users have changed their habits,” said Marion Bernard. “Their first reflex when waking up is to pick up the phone.”
In other words, the modern consumer is curious, impatient and demanding – and brands need to rethink their customer approach.
CX has also officially gone mobile thus creating what de Saint Andrieu calls an “in” experience: instantaneous; intuitive; individual, and immersive. Experiences that can be leveraged and enhanced further by the use of visual innovations such as Google Lens – an AI camera system that can identify and track down an item – and voice. Voice assistants are “faster, more natural and support multitasking,” said Bernard. “They offer a unique user experience.”
To learn more about voice assistants, download the Sitel Group white paper Voice: Speaking for your brand
AI to enhance the human
Artificial Intelligence: A new frontier in customer selfcare? was the subject of a roundtable discussion featuring Alexandre Lebrun, Engineering Manager Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research, and led by Sitel Group founding partner and CMO, Arnaud de Lacoste. Though technology is moving forward at a rapid pace, AI still needs improvements in terms of natural language understanding.
“It is still very complicated today to conduct a complete and natural conversation,” said Lebrun.
“An AI’s performance depends on a chatbot’s calibration and how it is trained,” added Stéphane Akkaoui, Head of R&D for Innso, Sitel Group’s software venture.
Everyone involved in the roundtable was unanimous in their belief that rather than replace humans, AI will instead augment people’s capabilities. Matthieu Tanguy, Digital and Marketing Director at Direct Energie, gave a customer-service-focused example.
“AI can be used to start a conversation with a customer and deliver a good customer experience outside of a company’s opening hours for simple requests,” he explained. “This means agents are free to focus on those engagements with the greatest added value.”
A complete experience with Atonservix — the new TSC chatbot
Chatbots are quickly becoming the clearest demonstration of the capabilities AI can already offer customer-facing companies. And it was on this topic that Geoffrey Boulakia, General Manager EMEA of TSC, and Guy Vassel, Deputy Director of La Compagnie des Alpes, dedicated their address. They introduced attendees to Atonservix a companion chatbot that will enhance the leisure experience for anyone planning a visit to Parc d’Asterix in Paris.
Designed to complement the theme park’s website and contact center, it was developed around bringing FAQs to life.
“To launch this chatbot, we worked on the existing data in terms of the customer experience, before, during and after his or her stay,” said Guy Vassel. “We wanted a complete experience.”
Of the long-running project, which has seen TSC working upstream on the conversational experience, Geoffrey Boulakia said: “Atonservix reflects the brand’s values while providing a fluid and simple customer experience that is boosted by artificial intelligence.”
From data to emotion
Subhendu Mandal, Senior Vice President of Sitel Insights within the Sitel Group, tackled what many organisations see as a data deluge.
“We produce 2.5 quintillion bytes of data per day,” said Mandal. “But untapped data costs trillions of dollars a year.”
However, by combining unstructured and structured data sources, businesses can take their CX to a new level – as long as companies are ready to change the way they view the data, that is.
“To take advantage of all this data and therefore understand customers, your data scientists need to speak customer,” he said.
In other words they need to look at datasets through a customer rather than organisational lens and they need to look at all the data and bring it together. If an organisation or the data within it is siloed, it is not possible to generate true customer insights.
Morris Pentel, founding president of the Customer Experience Foundation, underlined the importance of human empathy and emotion in enriching customer experience, but only when a contact center agent correctly recognises the emotions being expressed. This is why, he believes: “We need to find a simple way to ask clients questions to get more relevant answers.”
Why flexibility will unlock business success
According to Hannele Kuittinen, Director of Consumer Care at HMD Global at Home of Nokia Phones, the key to her company’s rapid evolution, which has seen the Nokia brand re-established within the smartphone and fashion phone market, all starts with adopting a start-up-like strategy that prioritises innovation and agility.
Working in partnership with Sitel’s operational teams, HMD Global has developed the right support service for its millennial target group, which includes a chatbot and an app.
“Leveraging ingenuity, experience and expertise is key to creating an enhanced and even more personalised customer experience,” she said.
From customers to Sitel Group associates
Closing out the event and turning the focus from customers and toward those that engage with them, Olivier Camino, Sitel Group’s Global Chief Operating Officer, highlighted how the group has set in motion a transformational process aiming to bring its clients closer by optimising the associate experience – and ensuring the organisation’s associates understand the value they bring to the company through the CX work they do.
The process, which is on-going, involves the creation of a dedicated transformational committee drawn from all areas of the business to ensure a holistic approach and all-encompassing view.
“We are applying internally what we offer our clients,” explained Camino. “We want to have a continuous conversation with our associates, from recruitment to tenured agents, at all stages of the individual’s journey in the company.”