The 19th Annual Customer Contact East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, held April 23-26, 2023 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, revealed contact center leaders are managing historic and volatile change. With delivering the best customer experience (CX) possible a strategic imperative for contact centers, leaders must embrace key strategies that help achieve that mission, including improving the employee experience, embracing and applying change management, and leveraging technology innovation, most notably artificial intelligence (AI).
Delivering the best CX possible was the overall theme of the event. Great CX is a critical factor for business growth, as organizations who accomplish it can create competitive differentiation and grow sales as a result. Customer contact centers are the nerve center of the organizations they serve and are a primary contributor to the overall CX.
Some best practices to help drive better CX highlighted at the event include:
- Train agents to focus on more active listening, especially at the beginning of a call
- An organization’s brand promise needs to be widely understood and every touchpoint should deliver on it
- Omnichannel service design and strategy is important and not just about providing customers with options but steering them towards the option that gets their problem resolved in the most efficient and simple way
- Involve actual contact center agents in process and orchestration development to increase chances of success
- Don’t confuse knowledge management with document management
- Customer behavior is the number one CX metric to evaluate. What matters most is are customers returning and buying more products and services?
“Employee wellness needs to be a strategic priority.” – David Weisman, Chief Patient Experience Officer for NYC Health + Hospitals/Queens
Frost & Sullivan research reveals that improving the employee experience (EX) is now the number one priority of contact center leaders and that theme was quite evident during this year’s event. You can’t take good care of customers if you don’t take good care of the people responsible for taking care of customers was a familiar notion heard throughout. And the workforce responsible for customer care is changing, requiring our attention.
Executive Insight speaker Wilson Nieves, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience at Citizen Watch America, outlined some key takeaways regarding the changing workforce and the impact that it is having on CX delivery. They include:
- More expectation for workplace flexibility
- Productivity should be measured by the value of outcomes, not quantity of output
- The more you can make employees feel included, the more engaged they will be
- When recruiting for talent, explore more populations including retirees, work-from-home parents, contractors, and gig workers for example
- Organizations need to make learning and development a higher priority and explore strategies of reskilling and upskilling existing employees
The pace of change in the CX industry isn’t slowing down, rather it’s accelerating and creating stress in the contact center. Change is everywhere and leaders are looking for resources to help manage it. A clear takeaway from this year’s event is formal change management is in short supply, and that needs to change. Organizations should consider instituting formal change management programs to lessen the disruptive impact of so much change in the contact center.
“Organizations need to move from a change management project mindset to a change management practice mindset.” -Yamila Harris, Global Head of IT Support for Munich Re
While AI is a relatively new technology for contact centers, it is evolving quickly. There was much discussion regarding AI at this year’s event, including an introduction to generative AI, which stands to add significant capabilities to the technology. Generative AI will impact the contact center in several ways including improving the capabilities of conversational AI bots, agent assist bots, and reporting and analytics, among other applications. Consensus in a generative AI workshop at the event pegs automated call wrap up notes and summaries as the most promising early use case for generative AI.
Wrapping it Up
While a number of challenges were discussed, this year’s event was full of positive energy and determination to successfully address them. Participants were actively collaborating and sharing ideas and best practices to take back to their respective organizations. What emerged is, whatever the challenges are, bright days are ahead for the contact center industry.
A member of the Customer Experience team at Frost and Sullivan, Bernie Arnason brings over 25 years of ICT industry experience to his role. As an Industry Principal at Frost & Sullivan, Bernie focuses his research on important CX trends in the contact center, including CCaaS, UC, and AI. Prior to Frost, Bernie spent close to 18 years as a principal and partner at a boutique management consulting firm in the telecom industry and is a past Editor-in-Chief of Telecompetitor.com, an online industry publication.