The 19th Annual Customer Contact West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange brought thought leaders from around the globe to Huntington Beach, California, to tackle their challenges with other customer experience (CX) experts. Participants discussed their shared challenges, successful customer solution implementations, and strategies for improving employee engagement. The highly interactive event created an opportunity for participants to connect with solution providers, contact center leaders, and potential partners. Most importantly, fun was had by all!
Creating better employee and customer experiences with artificial intelligence (AI)-infused CX solutions was top of mind throughout the event. With high attrition rates and a shortage of talent, implementing effective employee engagement initiatives has become critical. AI solutions that support agents have proven beneficial for agent and customer satisfaction. This insight will share the key takeaways about these issues from expert keynotes, roundtable discussions, and topic tables.
OBSTACLES TO ACQUIRING THE TECHNOLOGIES NEEDED FOR GROWTH
Getting budgets approved has been one of the biggest challenges for contact center organizations. Contact center leaders must justify new technology investments by connecting them to revenue potential.
While executives understand the value of CX for their growth, sufficient investments are often not made in the contact center where a goldmine of customer data is available to not only support customer needs, but also improve the effectiveness of sales, marketing, R&D, and service departments.
What is preventing them from investing in customer-facing teams when improving CX is a top priority? Often, decision-makers are afraid of failing. The stakeholders must understand they do not need all the answers before embarking on a project. What they do need is to involve all the key stakeholders from the start to ensure the success of a project’s implementation, technology usage, and a faster return on investment. Several participants said they created an agile team of employees from different departments to ensure technology investments were successfully vetted, implemented and used effectively by the staff.
It is important for the executive staff to give task forces some room to seek out root causes and solve problems through trial and error to ensure the solutions that are being acquired will handle the right issues. Throughout the event, speakers emphasized how businesses must consider “what does success look like and what we are trying to solve?” Prioritizing projects from this point of view is a great starting point.
The next step is to start with small pilots to reduce implementation challenges and build consent since agents and supervisors involved early in the project will feel ownership for its success and will promote its value to teammates when in operation. Companies should employ a crawl, walk, and run strategy.
ALIGNING CORPORATE GOALS WITH CONTACT CENTER METRICS
Eliminating silos in organizations is crucial for delivering seamless customer experiences. However, employees often ask, “Whose responsibility is it?” To be fair, each employee may be doing what they are supposed to do, but when all roles are not aligned, there are gaps in customer care, resulting in dissatisfied customers.
Companies must make a direct connection between customer care and corporate strategic goals. From an Executive Insight delivered by Arretta Stivers, Director of Customer Success, Realtor.com, we learned that “Strategic alignment in the contact center ensures that operational objectives and customer service goals are synchronized with the overarching business strategy and enables the organization to deliver consistent and targeted customer experiences while optimizing resources and achieving long-term success.”
Stivers recommends evaluating the following:
- Are customer experience goals and initiatives aligned with the overall business strategy?
- Is there a clear and compelling vision for the kind of customer experience the company wants to deliver, and is it communicated throughout the organization?
- Are key performance indicators (KPI) aligned with customer goals, and are they driving the right behaviors and outcomes?
- How are technology and innovation being embraced to achieve the strategic CX goals?
Andrea Rivera, Construction Customer Care Director, Northern California Toll Brothers, presented “Involving Your Agents in Efficiency Solutions” and provided a testimonial from an agent: “As an employee, being part of an improvement process increased my ownership and commitment and motivated me to implement changes and sustain the results. Engaging me in the process improvement helped improve my communication, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. I felt like I was able to contribute to the company where I could add the most value (problem-solving, creativity, decision-making, innovation, and human interaction). I was able to gain a greater understanding of how my individual contribution is important to operation excellence in the organization. It made me feel good to understand my role and my impact on the company.” Angela Dominguez Customer Care Rep, Toll Brothers.
LEVERAGING AI TO ENHANCE AGENT CAPABILITIES
While Artificial Intelligence has been integrated into contact centers effectively for years now, generative AI has dominated technology press and conversations for the past year. The reality is that generative AI improves the capabilities that contact center solution providers already offer.
This event revealed that many agents continue to fear that robots will replace them. Christina Kerley, Futurist & Instructor, Rutgers Business School, gave a keynote presentation titled Shock, Awe, and AI. She addressed how companies can balance automation and human involvement. Kerley was insightful about how we’ve been doing the job of robots for a long time. Now that they will take care of these jobs, it will free up humans to perform more interesting and engaging tasks that involve empathetically taking care of and connecting with customers. In essence, it’s not about terminating employees, it’s about reskilling the agent to take on new and more engaging roles. AI can be used to elevate the human experience.
Why are humans needed for CX?
- They can help identify problems by asking the right questions.
- They can help shape AI tools to be more effective in improving agent performance.
- They ensure that the information reaching customers is relevant to their queries.
- They can provide the empathy needed to help customers feel connected to a brand.
CHANGING KPIS IS CRUCIAL FOR IMPROVING EX AND CX
With the tremendous improvements in the self-service channel with conversational AI, increasingly complex questions reach the agent. Inevitably, average handling times will be longer. If KPIs are not adjusted to reflect these changes, agents are held up to the wrong standards, wait times increase because sufficient resources are not staffed, and businesses suffer because everyone is unhappy.
These measures will be different for each company based on the industry, the customer demographics, and the types of queries. Some of the old measurements may need to be tossed altogether. Ultimately, corporate goals revolve around talent and customer acquisition and retention, profit margins, and revenue growth. Other indicators must drive whichever corporate goals the business is focusing on at any given time to be meaningful to the staff and to drive the desired results.
CALL TO ACTION
Companies must recognize the value of making contact centers a central hub for digital transformation decision-making across the enterprise. The contact center organization has a trove of customer data that can help marketing and sales, research and development, manufacturing customer services, and accounting and finance to create better personalized and positive experiences for customers.
Corporate goals that are aligned and clearly expressed across the company ensure investments in collaboration tools, omnichannel capabilities, and customer journey analytics are focused on meeting revenue growth objectives by delivering positive, personalized, and memorable customer experiences.
Remote and hybrid employees will be prevalent, with most organizations planning to allow some employees to work from home by 2025. This means investments in AI that enable agents to perform better regardless of where they are remain critical for a high level of productivity and stress management. They are also essential for contact centers since reducing operational costs is always a top priority.
Virtual reality, videoconferencing, gamification, and simulation offer engaging and effective ways to train staff. Unified communications and videoconferencing solutions allow agents to connect with one another, creating opportunities to share ideas and tips for improved performance. Features such as agent-assist use AI to automatically provide the most relevant data to agents so they can focus on developing a relationship with customers.
Lastly, businesses must communicate the value of AI implementation. While automation is significant for reducing costs and staying competitive, so are live agents as the voice channel continues to grow in use and the average handling time increases each year. The goal for businesses should be to reskill agents, not to replace them.
Alpa Shah has vast professional experience developing business strategies; analyzing product, regional, and vertical markets; planning and executing events; sales and marketing; writing growth opportunity insights; and, most importantly, creating and inspiring teams to be best in class. Her current area of focus is on CX; she has also worked on projects covering technologies such as UC and mobile and wireless.