Digital Disruption in the Customer Experience

I have recently been blogging about a few of my expectations for the forthcoming Engage Customer summit this week (Nov 26) in London, including the future of customer service and some of the key trends that will define 2016. However, I saw an Ovum report titled “Digital Economy 2025: The Future of Broadband” that takes these ideas even further.

I often read these end-of-year reports about the future of customer service where the author just lists a lot of new technologies, such as apps or virtual reality. They rarely give any insight into how customer behaviour is actually changing and this is important because it is people who change the way that processes and technology will be used.

The difference with this Ovum report is that they are exploring what underpins customer behaviour – the digital society. Steven Hartley, Ovum’s Practice Leader for Service Provider & Markets (and author of the research), says that two key drivers will dictate the extent to which technology and commercial change will impact organisations today:

  • the rate at which disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, analytics and artificial intelligence are adopted, and
  • the degree to which that adoption will disrupt the status quo of today’s ecosystems.

Naturally if these disruptive technologies are adopted, as analysts predict, then there is also a need for better connectivity. With many areas still struggling to offer 3G connectivity all these technologies cannot be universally used without an improvement in the access to connectivity that underpins all these services.

Mobile access to the Internet is a good example of how rapidly change can take place. The mobile industry body, the GSA, has published data showing that 588 3G networks exist today around the world, supporting over 2bn users. In addition, 4G is rolling out fast with networks in 181 countries and 755 active users.

As Ovum suggests, it is essential to look beyond the immediate change we see in the customer experience – such as the adoption of new channels – and to consider what happens when digital disruption from better analytics, Big Data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) is commonplace. It’s not far away according to some industry leaders. At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the president of Samsung UK, Andy Griffiths, talked about the possibilities: 

“Of course, you should reasonably expect to be able to use all your products in your home to talk to each other, whatever brand they are, that’s the only way to truly keep it simple and allow the internet of things to be adopted both quickly and across the masses. We believe we can lead that and get a big slice of the action.”

Griffiths added: “90 per cent of all Samsung’s devices, all our TVs and mobile phones, will be part of our internet of things strategy by 2017, and everything will be by 2020.”

Everything. Every single product ready for the IoT by 2017.

I like to think of technologies such as the IoT in ways that describe real scenarios for customers, rather than just as technological solutions. My favourite IoT idea is how cars will be able to self-diagnose problems if every component is networked. The central controlling computer inside a vehicle will be able to communicate with the factory, send diagnostics, and potentially repair a system without the customer even knowing there was a problem.

This kind of scenario requires the brand to understand how to manage customer interactions, but in this case it is the product not the customer that is interacting. I think this will become increasingly common, but it depends on some of these digital disruptions going mainstream.

I am sure that many of these ideas will be discussed on Thursday at the Engage Customer Summit. I hope to see you there, but if I miss you then leave a comment here or get in touch direct via my LinkedIn.

Tesla Sightings// by Steve Jurvetson licensed under Creative Commons.

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Can RPA Really Support BPO?

I have recently written about the development of Robot Process Automation (RPA) as a way that robots are becoming seriously involved in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and what this means for the service industry more generally. My last blog suggested that I don’t think there is an immediate threat to most offshore BPO services at present from RPA.

It will happen eventually, but as KPMG has pointed out, there is quite a high investment in making RPA work well and we are still at the stage where robotic services can only replace quite mundane processes. They need to start learning and becoming empathetic to really start a big replacement of BPO processes undertaken by human agents.

I saw some further analysis in Sourcing Focus, the magazine of the National Outsourcing Association (NOA), which further supports this view, stating that it’s essential for BPO organisations to explore, but it is a strategy that will support what BPO companies can offer to their clients:

“In order to stay current and relevant, then, BPOs – if they’re not already – must consider how to work RPA into their operational processes. Not only will they find that it boosts efficiency and accuracy while cutting costs, but, according to Charles Sutherland, an analyst at Horses for Sources Research – the leading authority on the global services industry – RPA could even change ‘the way that we empower business advisors, knowledge workers, and judgment based role staff by removing the mundane and allowing them to truly spend their time on the remaining parts of the business process which can’t be broken down entirely into business rules.’”

Very routine tasks are ideal for RPA, especially where they are rules-based and high-volume. In addition, this applies particularly to regulated industries where it could be extremely costly to make a mistake with any data.

So I believe that the industry supporting customer service will take several distinct steps towards the adoption of RPA as it matures:

  • Simple RPA; removing mundane tasks and supporting agents so they can focus on higher value added tasks
  • Replacing additional tasks; moving up the complexity chain and handling most basic tasks unless human interaction is really required
  • Replacing most customer service interactions; this will happen when the robots achieve the ability to learn from experience and can empathise with customers. We are not there yet, but as systems like IBM Watson have shown, artificial intelligence is improving daily.

For now, RPA offers a strong tool that can support agents in the contact centre, deflecting the most basic engagements to the robots and allowing more complex and interesting tasks to be handled by human agents.

What do you think about RPA? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Robot 7 - Daily Self Portrait - May 28, 2006

Photo by Bre Pettis licensed under Creative Commons.


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Disrupting the market to deliver enhanced customer experience?

I was fascinated by a report recently that Amazon has opened its first physical bookstore in Seattle. The immediate reaction to this news is – why? The phenomenal success of the Amazon business model shows, without any doubt, that selling online with great service was the right thing to do vs. traditional bricks + mortar stores. So why buck the trend?

Is there an impending Armageddon against the internet that will see consumers shun the net in favour of a walk down the High St? I doubt it. This feels like extremely clever market research that will place further disruption to the High St bookselling model that could/should result in improved customer service.

I can’t speak for everyone but I enjoy walking into bookshops and browsing, but being time-poor (and impatient), I need to very quickly identify books of a particular genre and ideally be able to quickly review feedback before making a decision. Online this works beautifully: in store, typically I am frustrated by too much choice, too many genres, and I lose interest quickly.

In taking the Amazon model ‘to the street’ I could walk into an Amazon store, knowing that there is a reduced selection (about 6,000) of best-selling/most popular books based on feedback from their online platform. All the books in the store are likely to be rated 5-star on the online store so everything should be good and reviews from online will feature in-store. I like the idea and will be fascinated to see how the feedback from this store roll out translates in the coming months.

Other reports take comments from competing High St retailers who call out their USP in terms of volume of books on show – that’s great – but in a changing world where the net has made search/browse a far less time-consuming process, this argument is going to come under increasing scrutiny as organisations such as Amazon continue to innovate and disrupt the market through innovating on the High St too. It’s interesting to note that the Amazon store insists on displaying books face front, not stacked up so only the spine is visible. If you reduce the range to only the best then you can afford to focus on presenting them well with the cover art visible.

There are many precedents as I have mentioned in previous blogs. Did Internet shopping kill the supermarkets? No – it made them even bigger and consumers spend even more. Have e-Books signalled the end of the High St bookstore? No – it forced High St retailers to work harder at making the in-store experience that much better (it is rare these days for book stores not to have their own onsite café’s/internet terminals).

I am a traditionalist – and will always prefer a physical book to reading one online. That doesn’t mean I don’t welcome potential innovation on the High St…

What do you think about the new Amazon store in Seattle? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

The new Kindle vs the keyboard one.//

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Ovum: Customer Experience is #1 Executive Priority

In preparation for the Engage Customer summit on November 26th I was looking through some of the most recent comment and analysis posted on the Engage Customer site. I saw a great article by Peter Ryan of Ovum (who will be speaking in London at the summit) reporting on some of his research findings after speaking to over 200 enterprise contact centre managers.

Obviously there were many insights and findings from the complete analysis, but I found two statements that really leapt off the page when I saw Peter’s article:

  • Budgets for customer service are going up; contact centre and customer service managers are being given extra cash to implement new channels, train agents in new methods, and generally to improve what they are doing.
  • Customer satisfaction is becoming a key measure of success; top executives have almost always focused their attention on activities such as increasing revenue or decreasing costs. Both these important activities are now ranked as less important than customer satisfaction, so the customer experience is now far and away the number one executive priority.

I believe that any executive with a customer experience responsibility will be exploring several priorities at present including the implementation of new channels, creating omnichannel capabilities, and creating a new culture for agents that allows more decision-making on the frontline.

Although it is always good to hear that customer experience budgets are increasing, those budget increases are coming with challenges attached. The customer service team has to demonstrate efficiency more than ever and more is expected in return to the business in a multichannel environment. In fact, the customer team and budget will be blending into other customer-facing areas in many companies now.

As shown by Peter’s survey and comments, budgets are now heading up for the first time since the global economic slowdown, but more importantly, the customer experience is now seen as an important priority. I believe that not only is this going to make it easier for customer service leaders to get the budget they really need to serve customers well, but in addition it will raise the bar for customer service across industries.

What are you looking forward to at the Engage Customer summit on November 26th in London? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

thumbs up

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Netflix Aims For 100m Subs By 2018

New research by HIS has predicted that Netflix is on track to have 100m subscribers by 2018. This is strong growth of around 22% for Netflix, with over 10m new subscriptions expected in the USA alone.

The UK is predicted to be the number one overseas market for Netflix, with an estimated 7.1m subscribers by 2018.  However, the entire Western Europe region is expected to grow by at least another 10m subscribers by 2018 so foreign markets are becoming increasingly important for Netflix.

I have talked about the disruption of the traditional cable or satellite TV model for some time now. The traditional model of a TV channel is rapidly becoming archaic in an environment where consumers expect to be able to choose content at a time that suits them.

The channel will not die out quickly though. I expect a core audience will remain for some channels and others are finding that they can use their strong brand to deliver a blend of channel content with on-demand too. HBO Now, Discovery DPlay, and DisneyLife are all employing a strategy where they can grab some of that subscription revenue.

Netflix has led the way by focusing on content. In 2014 they spent twice as much on content as Amazon and ITV combined so they have proven that great content is a way to attract subscribers to a service such as theirs, which does not require the infrastructure of a traditional cable company.

Cable companies and traditional TV channels will already be considering how to react to the disruption caused by operators such as Netflix, but one thing is clear, the market is changing fast and a new course needs to be set soon.

What do you think of the market disruption caused by companies such as Netflix? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

NetflixPhoto by Brian Cantoni licensed under Creative Commons.


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Engage Customer 2015: What I’m Looking To Learn

We are just three weeks away from the Engage Customer 2015 summit in London. This event always proves to be an excellent day where people on the frontline of managing customer interactions can debate current problems and future strategies.

There is so much taking place today in customer experience that I believe it is one of the fastest-changing and most exciting areas of business to be focused on. Our own research at the Teleperformance Customer Experience Lab (CX Lab) suggests that socially engaged customers spend 30% more than other customers and customers with a poor experience are 31% less likely to remain loyal to a brand. All our research demonstrates that the customer experience has a tangible effect on the bottom line and with the customer relationship, at all stages of the customer journey, being owned more and more by the service team this strategy should now be the number one executive priority.

If you look back at my blogs over the years I have always been focused on where the industry is headed so the Engage Customer event is great for gathering new ideas. There is a good mix of industry analysts thinking about the future and case studies demonstrating how people are dealing with their own customer experience strategy today.

Personally I’m keen to explore three areas that I have been thinking about a lot recently, and I will blog further on some of these topics over the next three weeks, as we get closer to the conference:

  • The changing customer journey; customer advocacy and bonding to particular brands are dramatically changing how customers transact. If a customer loves your brand because of the great service then they will often purchase without comparing prices or checking the competition – they only want to do business with you. How can companies get to this position where customers become fans? According to our CX Lab, 63% of companies are now using at least 6 different channels to communicate with customers so the journey has changed dramatically.
  • The future for voice; customers still use voice and still say that they want to use voice, so even with many new channels coming down the track how does the dominance of voice fit within this multichannel environment? Our CX Lab found that 75% of Pay-TV customers want to use voice as their first-choice customer service channel and similar preferences can be seen in other industries.
  • The importance of supporting the omnichannel; customers may still love voice, but they are diffusing across many channels now and information needs to be shared across these channels or customers will receive a very poor experience. 53% of all customers are now comfortable using digital channels for customer service and 14% are using more than 3 channels so connecting these interactions together is becoming more important.

These are three of the key areas where I will be looking for information at the conference. It’s on November 26th in London and you can register here. Let me know if you are also going and also leave a comment with your own ideas on what you would like to hear from this conference?

lecture hallPhoto by Kal Schreiber licensed under Creative Commons.


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Is RPA really a significant threat to Offshore BPO?

I have blogged recently about the ‘rise of the robots’ and the positive benefits associated with this for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). A number of industry commentators have made reference to the impact on offshore BPO as companies look to replace the former with the latter.

Quite often there is a stark suggestion, that robots will quickly replace offshore BPO. This is an interesting concept: on paper the argument is strong – why recruit 10 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff to perform a function in an offshore location that a robot could complete in a fraction of the time?

But surely the transition cannot be as simple as that?

Whilst many processes can be automated, there are plenty more that can’t and that rely on human intervention. It might be that companies will utilise RPA increasingly for back-office functions but will, at the same time, have to recruit staff to handle more complex tasks.

I suspect further investment will be made to try to ‘channel-shift’ these complex tasks over to RPA in time, but this is likely to become part of the strategic decision-making process for companies looking to offshore back-office processes. What might seem a low-cost option in preference to offshoring may well be offset by the investment in time and technology required to make RPA a true-benefit in this outsourcing environment.

A new report from KPMG specifically highlights that the transition cost is quite high for companies aiming to use RPA, however the report does detail a future state for RPA systems. The RPA being discussed today is still fairly basic, it supports live agents by taking the most basic tasks from them, but KPMG predicts an evolution to where RPA will involve cognitive agents that will learn on the job and constantly improve – never making mistakes.

Time will tell, but I suspect that rather than replacing offshore BPO, RPA will become another supportive element, that will help companies to optimise their outsource estate. This will vary by industry and pull together a range of components to include multi-channel, nearshore, offshore, and RPA. The real key for management teams will be getting the right mix so that services are delivered successfully for each different type of customer.

What do you think about RPA? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn profile.

purple robot//

Photo by Peyri Herrera licensed under Creative Commons.

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