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Contact Centre Technology

Facing up to the challenge of disruption


The CCMA’s Chief Executive Ann-Marie Stagg reports on the Customer Innovation Panel she chaired at Sabio’s recent Disrupted Customer Contact 2017 conference.

Sabio Group – Customer Innovation

I was delighted to host a Customer Innovation Panel as part of Sabio’s Disrupting Customer Contact 2017 conference in London.

Over 300 attendees gathered to find out about the latest trends and technologies that are combining to drive change across our industry – and, perhaps more importantly, to hear how other organisations are dealing with the same issues.

During his presentation, Sabio’s Chief Innovation Officer Stuart Dorman shared the alarming projection that 40% of Fortune 5000 companies aren’t likely to be around in ten years’ time. Against that background, the role of our Customer Innovation Panel was to understand how some of the UK’s leading organisations are facing up to the challenge of disruption – and for our panellists to share insights into what’s working for their own businesses.

Having a range of senior level executives on the panel – from organisations as varied as Avaya, The BGL Group, Hastings Direct, HomeServe, TV Licensing and Sabio – meant we had a broad perspective, particularly when it came to discussing the impact of digital disruption. And while it’s easy for some organisations to feel a little daunted by the sheer rate of innovation that some organisations are sustaining, I felt it was also important to point out that many businesses were still only really at the start of this journey. However that’s no reason for delaying any further!

What today’s customers are actually asking for

We started off by discussing what exactly today’s customers are actually asking for. According to The BGL Group’s Jayne Lansdell, the key requirement here is making sure that there’s a range of channels available to support the needs of different customers. While some might want to digitally self-serve, many others still want to call up and confirm their insurance transaction.

Similarly, Paul Whymark from Hastings Direct felt that digitally enabled platforms opened up new access opportunities for customers. However, instead of just offering out-of-hours sales channels, he suggested that it also made sense to also open up customer service on the same basis.

Gary E. Barnett, Senior VP and General Manager for Avaya Engagement Solutions, pointed out that customers were always quick to highlight potential disconnects between channel service offerings. However he suggested that this was a good thing, providing organisations with a vital feedback loop.

It all starts with the customer

We then looked into how organisations can transition towards offering best practice customer engagement. Sabio’s Chief Customer Officer Emma Sutton suggested that when it comes to technology-driven customer journeys it’s important for both organisations and their suppliers to take a long-term perspective. Emma also encouraged vendors to ditch the technology speak and start talking in contact centre terms. HomeServe’s CIO Lesley Ashman agreed, encouraging organisations to drop the ‘Fortress IT’ mentality and start putting frontline people first. And that means listening to advisers, understanding their biggest frustrations and removing potential barriers for customers.

Does everyone really want self-service?

Our panel then considered the balancing act that organisations need to perform when building out their digital self-serve capabilities – particularly given recent Verint research that suggests that more digitally oriented customers are actually between 7-8% less loyal. Ian Price from TV Licensing agreed that digital doesn’t solve everything, indeed often-unnecessary demand into contact centres is actually the result of broken processes.

Both Jayne Lansdell and Paul Whymark observed that getting self-service right was critical – particularly in the UK’s hyper-competitive insurance market. For The BGL Group the key was targeting self-service use at the right point in the customer journey, supporting those customers that wanted to manage their insurance online, making webchat available, and using Virtual Assistants to guide interactions. All this while still having agents available to engage with those people who still wanted to corroborate what they have done with a real person.

Paul from Hastings Direct believed that in such a competitive space, anything that could help differentiate service was vital. His view was that digital engagement with a human element sitting behind it to smooth any interaction issues was the right way forward.

So is there still a role for the contact centre?

Given the shift towards digital engagement, I concluded the Customer Innovation Panel by asking whether our panelists felt there was still a valid role for the contact centre. Emma from Sabio felt that while the volume of voice contacts will reduce, there will be a counter-balance as the complexity of interactions that require agent support increases.

Lesley Ashman from HomeServe also felt that customers had a good sense of which channels were most appropriate. If it’s just a leaky tap then online is fine. If, however, your boiler is broken and you’ve no heat or hot water then you really want to talk to someone. Hastings Direct’s Paul Whymark agreed, suggesting that chips in your car’s windscreen were now typically being handled online, while a more serious incident such as a road traffic accident would almost involve conversations.

Gary from Avaya felt the discussion was best viewed from the customer’s perspective, saying it’s all about providing the path of least resistance towards helping solve customer issues. There’s never going to be a 100% right answer as to which channels to use, but customers will need a choice so they can opt for the approach that’s right for them.

From a CCMA perspective it was great to spend time discussing these issues with the Sabio Customer Innovation Panel, and to hear first hand how those at the sharp end of delivery are busy tackling today’s disruptive challenges. What was also encouraging was how senior executives from across a range of disciplines and market sectors were happy to come together to share best practice and learn from each other – particularly in today’s changing times!


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