From investing in technology to investing in your people this year’s EmpowerCX 2019 Europe covered all the issues that matter to companies serious about customer experience (CX).
The theme of this year’s event, held in the heart of London in front of 250 business leaders and decision makers, was Innovation Powered by Emotion. It welcomed industry experts, business analysts and thought leaders from across the industry to give a true 360°-view of the trends and challenges shaping CX and the transformational steps businesses can take to ensure they continue making an emotional connection with their customers.
“It’s clear technology is heavily impacting our day-to-day lives,” said Pedro Lozano CEO – EMEA for Sitel Group during his opening address. “More and more activities are becoming automated in our personal and business worlds. We have a duty to ensure these innovations don’t have a negative impact on how we connect with our customers.”
Technology is here to help businesses succeed in digital transformation, in improving the flow and understanding of data and therefore critical business intelligence – and for simplifying complex tasks. But it isn’t here to replace the emotional connection that only a person can make with a customer in the moment of truth.
“Technology is presenting opportunities and challenges. But we cannot forget that we are humans, not robots,” Lozano continued. “We can never have an IVR answering a critical issue for example.”
We also have to remember that technology has empowered consumers and allowed them to interact with businesses when they want and how they want and it’s leading to something Ben Page, Chief Executive Ipsos MORI, describes as “liquid expectations.”
“Before, we might have compared a gas company to a gas company and a hotel company to a hotel company. Increasingly we’re expecting everyone’s customer service to be as seamless as Apple’s or Amazon’s,” said Page, who has been polling western consumers’ opinions on everything from politics to brand loyalty for over 30 years. “This is a real challenge, particularly for smaller companies.”
Adding to this challenge, studies show people are losing patience with poor service and at the same time are only impressed if CX exceeds, rather than meets expectations.
“It’s complicated,” said Page. “Those that have had a positive experience that was better than expected are twice as likely to increase their brand loyalty than those that had a positive experience that was only in line with or worse than their expectations.”
Thankfully, the same technology that is leading to liquid expectations can be channelled into delivering contact centre associate empowerment – giving people the tools they need so they’re liberated to deliver for the customer.
For example, with speech analytics. During his workshop on the topic – Really Get To Know Your Customers: Turning Insights into Action – alongside CallMiner CTO and founder Jeff Gallino, Sitel Group’s VP of Client Insights and Analytics, Cristopher Kuehl explained how we’re leveraging the ability to monitor and understand 100 percent of calls.
We can optimise associate training, develop new ways of speaking with customers and understand areas of a business, be it the product line, services or customer journey where there is too much friction and likelihood for churn. “Think about it. As an agent, you have a bad call on Monday morning. If that call was chosen for review by QA it would take two weeks to spot the problem and start training,” remembers Kuehl who began his own career as a contact centre agent. “Now if there’s a problem at 9 a.m. we can train at 10 a.m.”
This game-changing potential is because speech analytics has the ability to draw real insights from real conversations and, as Professor Elizabeth Stokoe demonstrated in her keynote, The Science of Conversation, the only way it’s possible to understand talk is to examine a genuine conversation as it unfolds.
“In order to understand talk, communication, conversation, we need to research real talk. Not simulated, not experimental talk. Real talk as it happens in the wild,” said Stokoe. “And the same goes for CX. If we want to understand CX, we have to look at real CX. As it happens, in the wild.”
Using a host of real-world examples from cold-calling B2B salesmen and conversations between medical patients and administrators, to 911 emergency operators and police negotiators, Stokoe demonstrated how just changing a single word can mean the difference between a positive or negative resolution; and why using actors or mystery shoppers pretending to be customers will never highlight if the person on the other end of the line is good at their job. “Humans cannot simulate being other humans,” she explained.
This is why Senior Contact Centre Operations Executive, Neil Bartholomew, doesn’t script the personality out of his contact centre agents. “It’s one of the biggest mistakes we make,” he said during his keynote presentation: Empowering the Human Partnership. “We script the hell out of people in order to get consistency. So we take away people’s empowerment in order to get consistency. We forget consistency is in the expertise or the ability to resolve.”
Any company serious about delivering a differentiated CX should be focused on the employee experience as the employee experience is the customer experience.
However, what Bartholomew has seen over his career is that large companies with both in-house and outsourced customer services don’t focus on the outsourced agents’ employee experience. “We need to treat our outsourced teams as an extension of our own teams because they are delivering your brand in more volume than you are,” Bartholomew said. “It’s easier than you think to change this approach because you just need to think of them as your own employees. That’s how you make outsourcing work in this new complex digital world.”