What was Hot at Contact Center Week (CCW) 2018?

AI, Bots, Customer Service Transformation

What was Hot at Contact Center Week (CCW) 2018?

By 5 Minute Read

What was Hot at CCW 2018?

With temperatures in Las Vegas hitting 115F last week, that wasn’t the only hot thing happening in Vegas. The world’s largest customer contact event series, Contact Center Week, kicked off it’s 19th year (originally this was named Call Center Week). #CCWVegas2018

With an expo floor of 70 vendors, keynotes from business celebrity and author, Barbara Corcoran (yes the Shark Tank guru), as well as keynotes from  CX influencers and authors such as Jeanne Bliss and Shep Hyken, the event kept an audience of executives from some large and familiar brands fully engaged. The event also delivered tracks of information sessions hosted by customers/vendors (case studies) and small group sessions hosted by vendors or end user customers on specific topics. While ServisBOT was not an exhibitor this year at the event, we went along to listen and learn about how the industry is considering AI and bots and how mature the implementations are. 

If you ever thought that the contact center industry was mundane and behind the times, think again! AI, chatbots, bots, augmented reality, multi-channel engagement strategies, asynchronous communications, and many other aspects of digital transformation were clearly evident. The contact center is, without doubt, central to the success of how brands are engaging with their customers and meeting their needs in a more distracted, fast-paced and multi-channel world. 

Investment Priorities High on Self-Service Solutions 

The contact centers represented at the event are stepping up to the plate, adopting new technologies at an impressive rate, and implementing new approaches as they strive to create exceptional customer experiences. A pre-event survey revealed the top investment priorities as follows, highlighting interest in self-service solutions and, not surprising, all things AI/Bots/Machine Learning.

Top Areas of Investment (pre event survey)

42% Website Self Service

32% Mobile Self Service

16% Virtual Assistants/Bots

12% Machine Learning/AI

12% Deep Learning

Contact Center Challenge is to Transform Customer Engagement

It was evident from vendors represented at the event that the contact center has matured beyond a sweatshop environment. Rather, it is recognized as playing a strategic role in today’s digital economy where customer engagement is seen as key to competitive advantage and brand loyalty. The combination of technology, agent skills and training, more automated processes, and increasing emphasis on emotion were recurring themes.

The contact center faces a challenging environment and, like many industries, is being disrupted by the wave of digital transformation that has influenced, what Jason Bradshaw of Volkswagon Australia nicely termed the Age of Distraction. He cited some fun stats around people touching their smartphones an average of 2,600 times per day, while millenials exceed this at a 50% higher rate. The point being that we now live in a multi-channel world where consumers are constantly interacting with brands and have unlimited access to information. With this, consumer needs have changed and the definition of convenience has been taken to new levels. The contact center faces the challenges of rearchitecting for this multi-channel environment as well as transforming their customer engagement strategy to meet these new and changing needs. 

The Contact Center and CCW Landscape

Besides the disruptions of the digital economy, the contact center often works in multi-country, multi language environments adding to the complexity of supporting all channels (phone, chat, email, SMS, social, messaging) and gaining a single view of the customer. Agent hiring, training, and management practices are instrumental to what Shep Hyken refers to as creating Moments of Magic, or in poor cases, Moments of Misery. 

On the technology front,  a heterogenous mix of systems and solutions power the contact center. Some vendors focus specifically on the contact center market (Genesys, Nice, Monet, Five9, 8×8, Zailab etc.) and, in some cases, have built loyalty and relationships both with their client contact center companies as well as with other technology vendors, where partnerships can take advantage of complimentary solutions and markets. 

Other enterprise vendors present included the likes of IBM Watson, AWS, Microsoft, Avaya, and SAP Hybris. CRM/BPM solutions were represented by Pega and Appian while ServiceNow focused on workforce management solutions. It’s no surprise that some AI vendors have emerged that are focusing on intelligent customer experience solutions. IBM Watson is the obvious one but there are some startups that are getting into the space. In recognition of the important role that AI is playing in technology decisions, there is also strong evidence showing that vendors are beginning to integrate AI within their solutions in order to enhance customer engagement and benefit agent performance.

Digital Transformation is Here!

Although contact centers may  be prone to an image of being “traditional”, CCW revealed that they have progressed further than one may think. EVERYTHING at CCW was talking digital transformation and almost all of the session content was about how companies are approaching transformation. Some of our observations were:

  1. Most recognize the need to transform and are serious about it.
  2. When it comes to customer engagement, customers are not comparing you to your competitor. The standard is being set by the best customer service experience, wherever a customer may have had that.
  3. A multi-channel seamless experience is necessary to meet customer demands.
  4. Businesses need to serve customers with asynchronous communication in “stop & go” modes.
  5. Most are looking at bots and AI either for improved CX or for agent-related improvements (productivity, better engagement, consistent experiences etc.) or for both.
  6. However, bots are not taking away the need for human agents but they are allowing for more customers to interact and be served (while bots handle more routine tasks). The need to deliver seamless interactions and seamless transfer between bots and humans will be key.
  7. There is still some uncertainty about how to best leverage bot technology. Simpler chatbot use cases such as Virtual Assistance, FAQ, Email, and Ticketing seemed to be the most talked about at the event. Bot use cases that integrate into customer journeys or workflows seem to be emerging as conversational interfaces integrate more with underlying robotic process automation.
  8. Emotion and empathy were covered widely. It is largely thought that bots will never have empathy or emotion – hence the human agent will not be replaceable (in the near term anyway)
  9. AI is being built into several vendor solutions and/or AI companies are entering the market
  10. The implementation of AI is still in it’s infancy in the contact center and many seem to be adopting this in baby steps, starting with single use cases rather than widespread rollouts.

Customer Experience Hinges on Loyalty and Satisfaction

The last (but certainly not least) keynote at CCW was presented by Shep Hyken. This was not to be missed, although given the timeslot late afternoon many had unfortunately headed off for home. This was not about technology, or AI, or multi-channel communications. Rather, Shep’s presentation was centered around the role of emotion, creating moments of magic, and avoiding mediocrity. His presentation was delivered with such energy, enthusiasm, and passion, it’s no wonder he’s a guru in customer experience. 

Often we think of customer satisfaction as a measure of success, but this keynote pointed to the important distinction between satisfaction as a rating versus loyalty as an emotion. If we look purely at a rating score, we miss the emotive magic piece. If you think about how brands have to now vie for consumer attention having a 5 star rating may not be enough. You have to combine this with the emotive piece. In Shep’s world customer interactions impact moments of magic, or the complete opposite, moments of misery. The “moment” represents the emotion felt by the customer and that is what can make or break loyalty. And, by the way, as he points out, being “fine” is not good enough. Moments of misery or mediocrity need to be replaced by moments of magic. The culture in a contact center environment is pivotal to achieving these moments of magic – from leadership defining their passion around this to communicating it, training to it, being role models in it, defending it and celebrating it. It may sound simple but while the concept is easy, this takes time and commitment.

ServisBOT Takeaways from CCW

This is a great event that attracts the leaders in today’s customer service, operations, and customer experience. It was impressive to see how the industry is embracing change and leveraging technology and processes to remain competitive and strive for excellence. It’s clear that the adoption of AI and bot technology is in it’s infancy and implementations are ad hoc. We see plenty of potential for solutions that go beyond the pure conversational front-end and extend into the data and processes that power customer journeys and self-service. We are excited to see that our ServisBOTs can work alongside human agents in a contact center and take on specific tasks, alleviating the human agents for more complex workflows and driving better customer engagement at lower cost of delivery.

If you’re interested in learning more about how ServisBOT can help you create task-specific bots that can be deployed for your customer engagement you can download our recent eBook or contact us at askbotty@servisbot.com

 

 

 

 

 

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