The 12th Annual Customer Contact Europe: A Frost and Sullivan Executive MindXchange (at Clontarf Castle in Dublin) brought together a number of familiar and new faces to discuss the continued shift toward a more digital world. Over the course of the three day event, participants were reminded of the central theme raised at last summer’s gathering in Budapest – organizations must be prepared for an ever-more disruptive digital age, even as they need to continue to discover and nurture the talented human beings who will help them thrive in the future.


Ashley Cook of Three Ireland started things off with, “Strategic Vision – A Transformational Customer Strategy Plan,” a deep dive into Three Ireland’s CX strategy at a time when companies need to “adapt or die.”

With Three Ireland’s acquisition of O2 in the heavily regulated telecom industry as context, Cook noted that specific challenges had to be confronted – among them how to increase margin and NPS scores and employee engagement while at the same time lowering customer effort, customer churn, and OPEX. The goal was clear – aim for ultimate service, giving customers a better CX than expected, at a lower annualized cost.

Cook used the metaphor of a see-saw when discussing the changing nature of the customer experience (CX), and the strategy employed by a now combined O2 and Three Ireland to adjust to new realities. In effect, the newly combined entity soon recognized that O2 was relatively limited in providing customer self care options, while Three Ireland was relatively strong in that same area. The real “light-bulb moment” came after analyzing customer data, when leadership recognized that approximately 80% of Ireland is open to going to digital channels as a first option; for Cook, “digital is getting so good, customers are choosing it first.”

In short, Cook explained how the company has worked to strike a balance between offering a premium service for the voice channel while also addressing the ever-present pressures to reduce costs through self-service. Along the way, “revenue through data” has become a significant investment. The result is that, in 2018, digital interactions are way up as compared to 2015. Above all, according to Cook, “We need customers to be evangelists for the brand.”

More from Three Ireland

Justin Conry, Head of Transformation at Three Ireland, then followed by speaking about “Embedding Customer-Centricity Across Your Company.” Conry started off with a compelling video, “I, Human,” that showed how dramatic change over time has been, and the essential theme of exponential technological change was proposed for the first time at this year’s Executive MindXchange event. The video highlighted another theme wrapped within the idea of change – what will we all do with our futures at a time of such apparent possibility?

Conry was pointing the audience toward a vision going beyond tech to (re)discover the human at the core of organizations – and in our lives. In a world of massive interconnection, of huge waves of ever-increasing data, it’s imperative we not only consider how to approach the CX in our organizations, but also ponder technology’s impact on humanity. That latter set of big ideas can help provide valuable depth of understanding for how organizations might best deal with ever quickening rates of change during perhaps what may be the most transformational time in human history, when “science fiction is now science fact.”

Conry then proposed that at such disorienting times as these, the “tango between tech and customers needs to be seamless and smooth.” And the way to get there is to start by observing and respecting company culture as much as focusing on the actual mechanics of the CX. Having observed that the leadership DNA of Three Ireland seemed to be more about finance than anything else, where leadership spoke the language of numbers rather than the language of the CX, Conry decided to adjust his approach to transformation. Embracing the realities before him, Conry decided to transform the way he presented CX-related data to top brass, making it look more like a P&L statement, mirroring a finance-like approach, helping make leadership really care about how important the CX truly is.

In the end, the successful transformational strategy that Three Ireland has pursued holds lessons for other organizations as well. First, observe culture. Second, adapt to those cultural realities. Third, embed new approaches to transform. And finally, act (ie, “tango”). Ultimately, by bringing together customer data and organizational data, Conry discovered a value zone where employees and customers meet, and he succeeded at “embedding something new that was grounded in the familiar.”

Frost & Sullivan Visionary Insight: Caught in a World of Digital Flux

The idea of exponential technological change was echoed in my Frost & Sullivan “visionary insight” presentation. I took the opportunity to talk about how data analytics is helping upend customer engagement. With results from Frost & Sullivan’s 2018 Global Survey on Navigating Digital Transformation in Contact Centers as backdrop, I asked the audience to consider which systems and strategies will be needed to support and manage all the data coming at us in this era of immersive techno-consumerism and the high customer expectations that come with it. It seems the world is spinning ever faster, and it’s our job as organizations to keep up.

In short, the role of data analytics in a true customer experience omni-channel strategy, the challenge of managing disparate data and knowledge in the context of legacy technology systems, and data analytics in light of process innovation were all discussed in the context of rapid exponential technological change. In the end, I proposed that companies must transform rapidly, or some may eventually perish.

Bringing Smart Technologies to the CX: A Gaming Case Study

In light of its impressive growth, gaming is an industry of particular interest to Frost & Sullivan, and Jean-Marc Codsi, General Manager Europe at Wargaming, took to the stage to provide more background on what’s happening in the space, and at his company in particular. What we learned is that the story of Wargaming is a great case study – what started with two young guys in Minsk has just seven years later grown to 200 million customers downloading an ever expanding number of compelling games.

Codsi explained that because Wargaming relies so heavily on digital automation (“we don’t offer voice or chat”), only 60 or so people service all those 200 million customers. In addition, riffing off of my earlier presentation, Codsi explained how data analytics is an important part of the company’s service strategy. By collecting so much player data, paying heed to assorted “triggers,” the company can anticipate when specific players may be on the verge of giving up on a game. The company also relies on crowd servicing platforms that provide a forum where customers can advise other customers.

Meantime, Wargaming’s service differentiation is based on segmented customers, with a special focus on those core customers who choose to pay for extra services (known as “whales”). Customers are categorized or scored according to their “level of engagement”:

  1. Days since their last purchase (monetization score)
  2. Days since their last login (engagement score)
  3. Forum post count (social score)
  4. Tickets accrued over the past seven days (CS interaction score)

As far as the future goes, Codsi sees virtual reality as a technology that is posed to change the gaming industry.

Break-out Sessions: A Sampling

The three days of this year’s event also featured an array of intriguing break-out sessions.

“CX Innovation: Disruption and Opportunity” was led by Lauren Kindzierski of HGS. Breaking a large group of participants into assorted teams, Kindzierski directed those teams to consider a relatively complex business problem. In the business case, “ACME Company” was struggling with an outdated CX infrastructure and strategy.

After some time developing ideas and approaches, the separate teams came back together into one large group that debated what each of the smaller groups had come up with by way of analysis and solutions. While every team focused in on the top contact drivers for ACME and saw a digital transformation strategy as essential, the means to actually transform ACME’s CX systems varied considerably. Some of the more intriguing questions to emerge included concerns over how the enterprise would know precisely what was going on with each of its products, how to best measure employee engagement, and how to make sure a data analytics strategy would lead to action rather than confusion.

Another break-out session probing key themes was entitled, “The New Journey Map,” led by Richard McCrossan of Genesys. The discussion centered around the essential question of where artificial intelligence (AI) fits in the customer experience.

While sales support seemed the obvious answer, there were a number of other possibilities raised byparticipants. One response from the gathered group was that rather than simply engaging customers, AI can be leveraged to stop calls from coming into the contact center in the first place. Another participant suggested that AI can be used as internal support for agents instead of being strictly customer-facing. Yet another possibility was that AI might be used to look at behaviors in the contact center and then suggest improvements. And AI might also be used as a diagnostic tool in an industry such as gaming, finding technical issues and handing the information off to a support team.

The group also discussed differences between voice bots and chat bots, and the tricky reality that when a bot hands a contact off to an agent, the entire context and history needs to be handed off as well. Both Emirates Airlines and Lego were discussed as examples of companies looking to AI to help provide richer web engagement with customers.

A third example of an excellent break-out session was, “Inside Out and Outside In – Facilitating Channel Preferences and a Consistent CX,” led by Simon Dillsworth of Praxidia and Charlotte Moran of Aviva UK. The moderators started off by posing a number of questions to participants. Why is measuring channel preferences so important? What does the customer really want? When it comes to the customer, should we think more about resolution than preference?

Discussion immediately focused in on how customers look at channels through the lens of getting a response as quickly and effectively as possible. Some pointed out that there’s a lot of “venting” on the social channel, and how Customer Effort Score is growing in prominence, while “blending” between voice and chat is becoming more common as digital platforms from companies such as Nuance gain traction.

One particularly interesting point raised was how young people no longer seem interested in pursuing extended voice conversations. Perhaps young people prefer the chat channel because they can multi-task rather than having to focus on one conversation. Either way, someone observed that, “They don’t interact verbally anymore.” Will this change with the rise of home voice systems such as Amazon’s Echo? As Amazon’s Echo gathers more and more data about us, one participant wondered, “Are we becoming TOO agile?” After all, “Searches via voice tools could be over 30% of total searches by 2020.” Will virtual assistants be the method by which we look for most information in the near future?

Finally, the contrast between Amazon designing customer journeys from a user perspective and the Bank of Ireland relying on legacy systems illustrated the nature of the changingcustomer experience.

Ask the Experts: A Panel Discussion

This year’s Europe Executive MindXchange also featured some compelling panel discussions. Claudia Belardo, Director of International CX at SAP Concur, moderated one memorable discussion on “CX and Root Cause across the Enterprise.” Overall, a theme of accountability seemed to emerge.

Jan Smets of bpost dove into the challenges of managing the processes around the CX by wryly pointing out that, “Sometimes if it’s everyone’s responsibility, it’s nobody’s” and “If there’s no silo, we’ll invent it.” Hence, the need for accountability initiatives to help individuals take more responsibility for CX success. Phil Purdy of Travelzoo agreed, emphasizing that it’s important to remember that CX spans the entire organization rather than simply sitting in one department. “Do not focus on AHT,” said Purdy. “Focus on the customer.” And Kathy O’Mahony of AIB reminded the audience that, “The customer belongs to everyone,” and that everyone across the organization is accountable for each and every customer journey. Claudia Belardo agreed with much of what was said, but also offered that, “Still, it’s important to use tech to be smart in operations, to get the issue resolved, to get the call to the right person at the right time.”


Two days at Dublin’s Clontarf Castle reminded participants that the success of organizations will be dependent on their ability to keep pace with rapid technological change. In 2018, organizations must be adapting to new realities. As with last year’s event in Budapest, attendees discussed the gathering urgency for organizations to become ever more agile and digitally connected. A few key action items emerged:

  • Articulate digital strategies for the CX so as to better serve an ever-changing customer
  • Offer seamless customer decision journeys through the use of emerging digital channels
  • Be prepared to manage in a world characterized by chaos and complexity
  • Create strategies that turn data into a tool that best serves the customer
  • While tomorrow’s workforce could be radically different from what it looks like today due to automation, companies need to value and nurture employees like never before

Stephen Loynd is a thought leader and global sourcing professional with a wide range of experience in the customer contact industry. Stephen came to Frost & Sullivan from global business process outsourcing (BPO) provider Stream Global Services, where he focused on go-to-market strategies for specific vertical markets, and also led efforts in competitive intelligence.

Prior to that, Stephen spent close to seven years at market intelligence firm IDC as the Global Program Manager of their contact center practice. As a leader on the BPO team, he provided expertise on contact center and CRM industry trends and opportunities worldwide, publishing research and analyses on competitive landscapes.