‘Peeling back the plasters on CX’ webinar Takeaways

Marketing 20th July 2021

Wednesday 14th July saw our long awaited ‘Peeling back the plasters on CX’ webinar take shape. Joined by a powerhouse panel – including Keith Wilkinson and Claire Hellier from AWS, Tim Clayton, CTO of Water Plus, Martin Hill-Wilson from Brainfood Consulting and our very own Nick Duggan – this webinar promised to deliver insights from a variety of perspectives. And it didn’t disappoint.

Peeling back the plasters on CX

One important lesson that came out of the pandemic was that customer experience (CX) doesn’t happen in isolation. It doesn’t belong to the contact centre, and it shouldn’t begin when a customer reaches out with a problem. There is also a common misconception that the contact centre serves only as a dustpan for the rest of the business – it’s only use is to remedy customer complaints.

What has been proven time and time again by platforms such as Amazon Connect and customers putting omni-channel platforms into practice is that contact centres are hubs for business intel – rich with data and business opportunities.

The problem is, not enough businesses are leveraging the data their contact centres gather. In fact, over the pandemic, too many businesses adopted a ‘plaster’ approach to their solutions – patching up problems with temporary fixes or stretching existing solutions out of shape to achieve some form of remote infrastructure and digitalisation of services.

We witnessed plasters being placed on a whole host of business operations, including:

  • Remote working
  • Technology
  • Agent experience
  • Customer experience
  • Digital channels
  • Regulatory

Whilst plasters can serve a purpose, what happens when these plasters are used to set the foundations of business continuity and good CX during a global pandemic?

This webinar explored CX strategy one year on and gave us an exclusive look at the cracks beneath these plasters – discussing what went right, what went wrong and what’s next…

Here are some of the top insights to come from the webinar – you’ll need to watch the whole webinar to catch them all!

CX Insights

Customer-supplier trust

We started off the session by reflecting on what was ‘worth noting’ about the way businesses handled the pandemic pressures and Claire Hellier, UKI Partner Lead – Customer Experience at AWS, had a really great example of how customer-supplier trust increased…

“Ordinary, it might take a little time to build a statement of work with a customer, onboard a supplier etc, and before you know it, that can take weeks / months… but what I saw during this period was customers phoning up and saying help.

So many partners and people in the industry just said yes and got on with it. We had so many instances where partners were building solutions on a weekend. They weren’t onboarded as suppliers, but they trusted that the customer was going to see them right and the customer trusted that they were going to do the right thing – for me, that was a really lovely experience”.

 

Learning from mistakes

After reflecting on great things that came from the pandemic, it was time to look at what didn’t go so well. Tim Clayton, CTO at Water Plus, had an open and honest response to this question – highlighting the lessons learnt from a personal and business perspective …

“Like many organisations we become a little exposed when working from home. The ability to refer quickly to colleagues for more complex query resolution became more difficult – meaning people didn’t do it as much. This exposed businesses to a lack of procedure control that we thought we had in place. This has given us the view to review procedures, restructure and upskill”.

 

Re-evaluating business strategies

Like many organisations, Water Plus re-evaluated what’s important to them. They discovered that things that were working before the pandemic were now redundant, and emphasised the importance of taking a step back before getting back to the drawing board…

“We need to look back at what we thought we were going to do before the pandemic hit and evaluate whether those goals are still relevant anymore. I pretty much stopped everything, paused, reflected and gave everyone a moment to breathe. Re-set the strategy based on what we’d learnt over the pandemic, focussing on work from home situations, distributed contact centres, a lot more automating that we thought we could ever do, chatbots, data analytics… it was a whole re-think of what we were previously trying to do.

We refocussed our goal from trying to do things at a lower unit cost, to be doing things that a high value to the customer” – Tim Clayton.

 

More empathy is needed

Amidst the pandemic chaos, taking a more considerate and empathetic approach to colleagues may have taken a back seat.

With businesses rushing around to ensure ‘business as usual’, colleagues’ personal lives perhaps weren’t considered in a work from home situation. Claire Hellier spoke about the lessons learnt and rightly said…

“We cannot expect all home broadband to be equal… we cannot expect all home environments to be equal”.

Hellier went on to speak about a contact centre client that wanted to monitor negative calls being received. Call centre waiting times were sky high during the pandemic, and if you worked in the travel industry for example, no doubt 99% of those calls were negative – people wanting refunds, annoyed their holidays had been cancelled and mad at the chaos.

With AWS’ help, the client was able to monitor how many negative calls agents were receiving, prompting managers to check in with colleagues and give them extra attention when the negative calls reached a certain number.

In the words of Martin Hill-Wilson, Customer Service & AI Engagement Strategist at Brainfood Consulting:

“Nobody can withstand the barrage of negative, negative, negative – let’s face it, the other thing on the table is wellbeing. A lot of people are exhausted. So, the idea of having an alert to reach out to people in need is a really great thing”.

 

Looking into at our crystal balls, what opportunities / challenges are to come?

Keith Wilkinson – Head of Sales – Productivity Apps EMEA at AWS, discussed how he predicts data as the biggest opportunity to help…

“There is such a wealth of data out there. We’re using it to personalise experiences, decide what channels to offer customers, what touch points they actually want.

It allows us to not just offer every single touchpoint going. We’re looking at what our customers actually enjoy and shaping it around them.

We’ve also seen organisations pausing a little bit now to make sure they invest in the right platforms. They’re figuring out the operational models… how much to insource, how much to outsource – which is more cost effective? Is there an opportunity to automate?”

It’s no surprise that the pandemic led to heavy investment and innovation into new technologies… something that makes us ‘techies’ quite excited! Hill-Wilson went on to discuss the opportunities which lay ahead…

“We’ve been a marketplace inundated with data, but bereaved of insight – to that extent, being able to gather insight increasingly close to real-time actually does allow consolidation, optimisation and general improvement of performance – and that’s a whole new world for us, whether it’s real time routing, actual conversational analytics which quite frankly is transformational”.

Clayton discussed how the pandemic and the increasingly adopted digital mindset has left a space for businesses to truly get to know their customers and build strategies around them…

“Traditionally, we may have been worried in a contact centre about unit cost of operation, abandon rates, our KPIs etc. But it was a very much one size fits all. This has given me an opportunity in Water Plus to reorientate things to say ‘let’s think about our customers and our products and look at the personas of our customers that drive a certain type of behaviours and customer journeys’ and then you worry about the figures at the end.

It’s almost like the holy grail of differentiated service levels that we’re pushing towards – it’s not impossible, it’s just hard and with technology it’s the best time to do it. I think people are understanding a lot more about their customers as we go, using this data and analytics to help – there is an exciting new way to think about CX”.

 

Upcoming trends

We’ve said it in our Friday Tech Round Ups and we’ll say it again… AI is cropping up all over the shop recently. And this is something that Hellier sees as being a big part of our future.

An example Hellier used to show the potential of AI was in the healthcare industry, which highlighted the benefits and accuracy of combining people with AI. It’s all about augmenting, not replacing, to get the best results.

 

People seem to favour speaking to a person rather than self-service – in a world of automation, what can we do about this?

 Clayton gave us a customer centric outlook into how we can all encourage consumers self-serve themselves…

“You’ve got to deliver an experience that your customers love, whilst also having a return on investment for the business. Start with a beta, then evolve it, then be prepared to walk away if it doesn’t work and start again”.

It’s a lot of detail, a lot of work… a computer can’t form a relationship in the same way a computer can, and you can’t recover from a bad session in an automated platform the same way you can if you have a conversation with someone in a contact centre.

“It’s hard yards, you’ve got to work at it and be driven by the customer. It’s all about them.

 

Promoting bottom-up innovation

A topic that cropped up a few times during our webinar was the need to drive bottom-up innovation and the benefits of doing so. But the question is, where do we start? How can we encourage bottom-up innovation?

“You’ve got to get comfortable with the risk and uncertainty that bottom-up innovation brings. You’ve got to put in some governance and control for this. You need to have the confidence in your colleagues and adopt a more agile way of working”

“There needs to be a behaviour shift to more agile ways of working” – Tim Clayton

Nick Duggan, Contact and Collaboration Sales Director at ECS, echoed this, talking about the increase in agile that we’ve seen over the course of the pandemic…

“Over this period, we’re seeing organisations embrace agile ways of working as a way of iterating rapidly but also, through the show and tell that you tend to do in an agile process. You know what you’re getting sooner than waiting for waterfall approach of making a decision and then waiting to turn it on in the end.

This gives organisations confidence to de-risk that sense of ‘how do I innovate without getting to the point of desperation’. Organisations are able to actually innovate all the time, see how progress is tracked and measure comfort and risk before necessarily turning on – we’ve seen a lot of experimentation and agile is key to that”.

 

What’s next?

The pandemic has brought about innovation, investment and a wealth of new ideas… but also highlighted many lessons to be learnt.

Whilst we’ve done our best to capture the main conversation topics of the webinar, if you’re interested in enhancing your CX to deliver better customer interactions, our recommendation is to watch the webinar in full and hear first-hand from our panellists.

Watch the recording here.

Alternatively, you might benefit from a recent blog by Zaheer Gillani, focused on mastering the three fundamentals of Omni-CX. Read here.

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