The 17th Annual Customer Contact West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange in Huntington Beach was a meeting of innovative, enthusiastic, collaborative, and analytical minds.

The event consisted of inspiring keynotes, breakout sessions, a Family Feud segment, interactive panels, the ‘solutions wheel’ and casual hallway discussions – all taking place under one roof. Each one offered a number of perspectives, commentary and information to ponder. This insight gives you an analysis of the essential takeaways from the event. This year there were a number challenges discussed by contact center leaders including:

    • Creating strategies to improve employee engagement and retention
    • Striking the right balance between excellent CX and technology (voice, AI, NLU, bots, automation)
    • Finding ways to re-engineer contact center culture and enterprise engagement
    • Examining how to combine empathy and technology to drive higher levels of customer and employee satisfaction
    • Taking the lessons from the pandemic to plan better for future business disruptions and contingencies
    • Earning customer loyalty is harder than ever to gain and even harder to keep
    • How to better utilize workforce management solutions for agent recruiting, hiring, training and attrition reduction
    • Keeping up with the rapid change in consumer buying habits
    • Understanding the complexity in contact center security and compliance, while protecting brands from cyber-threats

    Focus on the Culture, Engagement and the People!

    In his keynote address, Jim LeMere, Vice President, Client Services at Northwestern Mutual, talked about the critical nature of building a caring CX culture and shared his company’s approach to driving a service culture. See Figure 1.0. below. He outlined a compelling and emotional customer support story and afterwards asked the audience, “Do you think your customer support structure would have yielded the same outcome?” Within the context of CX, he continued to cite the importance of caring for employees’ feelings about their work. He said,“ Your employee experience will reveal itself during key moments of truth.”


    Source: Northwestern Mutual

    Jim concluded by challenging the audience with a reflective question, “Where does culture show up in your customer service organization?”

    As shown in Figure 2.0 below, Alexia Downs, Director of Customer Service Operations at GoodRx, presented her view on how to build employee relationships in today’s very popular remote work environment.


    Source: GoodRx Executive Insight

    Finally, the topic of employee engagement and culture was wrapped up with a presentation entitled “Empowering Employees to Drive Innovation” by Ahmad Shabazz from Snapchat. Participants agreed that it takes vision, planning and a commitment to help each employee reach his/her full potential. As shown in Figure 3.0, Ahmad shared his company’s people focus and strategies to develop leaders.


    Source: Snapchat

    Which is More Important in CX? Art or Science

    Nate Brown, Chief Experience Officer at Officium Labs, led the Family Feud panel discussion on “The Art and Science of Influencing CX – Creating New Experiences.” This interactive forum provided participants with an opportunity to debate the merits of emotional “art” versus data-driven “science” in driving dynamic CX. In the end, the panel was divided and the final outcome was that successful centers need both – no one discipline weighs more heavily than the other. Spoiler Alert: The ART team (mine) won!

    Customers and Brand Loyalty: Mission-driven CX

    Nate Brown’s provocative presentation on “Capturing the Loyalty of the Modern Customer” explored the linkages between price/value, mission/values, and consistent service. As seen in Figure 4.0 . Nate introduced the idea of “mission-driven CX,” which means that people/companies purposely develop relationships with companies that reflect our personal values.


    Kevin Strom, Vice President of Customer Experience, Intellivision, delighted the audience with a presentation entitled, “What’s your Customer Service Brand?” He provided novel ideas on how to build brand loyalty by exceeding expectations. Figure 5.0 outlines Kevin’s practical, no-nonsense advice and tips:


    Vexing Operational Challenges: THE FIX

    Among the most popular, yet challenging sessions was “THE FIX.” It consisted of four themed brainstorming sessions to uncover solutions to some of the most common operational issues that face CX and contact centers today. Here are just a few of the ideas generated during two of these rapid-fire 15 minute sessions:

    THE FIX on Managing Call Volume Spikes
    Michael DeSalles, Principal Analyst, Frost & Sullivan


    WHY: Root Cause
    WHEN: Time of day, day of week
    WHAT: FIXES and Best Practices
    IT technical issues and platforms
    It just happens….a ‘one-off’ planned outage Financial analysis w/stakeholders Change the hiring model
    New product launches
    Pandemic Issues
    Unplanned disaster recovery
    Only during sales promotions
    Agents from part-time to full-time or vice versa
    Better self-service options
    Inaccurate forecasting
    Lack of agents/staff
    Change of hours
    Hire temp workers
    Update IVR menus


    THE FIX on Doing More with Less
    Aarde Cosseboom, Author, Enable Better Service


    Chatbots and voice bots for self service
    Simplify technology
    Create time to learn, fewer meetings
    Flex schedules
    Find route cause for call drivers
    Sacrifice a little on quality
    Multiple screens for WFH agents
    Better access to Knowledge Base
    Reduce occupancy
    Remove WFH distractions
    Remove useless reporting or tracking
    RPA – robotic process automation for multi touch point tasks
    Agent assist technology/automation
    Single sign on
    Create specialization roles
    Hire the right people
    Open agendas for meetings
    Collaborate on MS Teams, Slack


    Insights and Ideas Roundup: Quotes and Feedback from Participants

    Initial takeaways of the event?

    “The intimacy of the event gave way to really valuable dialogue and conversations.”

    Contact Center Vendor and Technology Leader, Johnson & Johnson

    “The ability to have individual conversations with people lets you get more into their lives, which allows for greater and long-lasting networking. Those small 1-on-1 convos generate the most thought.“

    Senior Director, Operations, Elevate

    “I love opportunities to hear about CX in completely different industries. It just reminds us that we are all trying to solve the same problems in the end!”

    Director, Customer & Employee Experience, Experian Health

    Analyst Corner: The Last Word

    In the current era of exponential technological change, digitization is fundamentally altering how businesses satisfy customers. A massive acceleration of consumers adopting digital channels in the last eighteen months put pressure on customer operations to support increased demand. Also, we have seen a global shift in employee preferences and additional changes more specific to the United States, such as significant economic stimulus and a change of government.

    These rapid changes presented significant personal and professional challenges for many of us, and businesses put many temporary processes, technologies, and even entire operations in place, sometimes sub-optimally. The era has driven collective shortsightedness regarding effective day-to-day management. However, as we face a post-COVID-19 era, now is the time to look ahead and re-think customer experience from the group up, carefully considering which lessons to apply and which to discard.

    Those who seize this opportunity to thoroughly and holistically reformulate the customer experience will achieve a significant competitive advantage. As a result, many organizations today view the customer experience differently. Countless companies look to transform only the operational side of the business, but Frost & Sullivan believes that it is now time to transform an entire industry mindset using an end-to-end view to thrive in a volatile, ever-changing business environment.