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CCO

Chatbots are Getting Smarter, and That’s Good News for Contact Centers | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog, Customer Experience

Enterprises and their contact center operations are increasingly adopting self-service technologies to improve the customer experience. Over the past several years, chatbots have become one of the most embraced. And it’s easy to see why.

chatbots in contact centers

Chatbots are evolving…

First generation chatbots were software programs that could hold a natural conversation on a text-based channel such as chat, email, or social media. Modern day chatbots’ capabilities – interchangeably called virtual agents – have leapfrogged ahead through use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and Natural Language Processing (NLP), which allow them to understand free flowing language and generate real-time responses. They are no longer bound to a single channel, but instead cover the entire ambit of services, including voice support. This helps them fit well with enterprises’ broader omnichannel strategy, as they can deliver a seamless experience across channels.

chatbots in contact centers 2

…and they know your preferences

Unlike earlier versions, today’s chatbots can even contextualize information in a conversation. Here’s an example:

Jim: I would like to know the status of my flight. It’s booking # PNR AZ12356.
Chatbot: Hi Jim, checking into it. It appears that your flight’s departure will be delayed by 4 hours, due to scheduling changes.
Jim: Can you cancel it and check for an earlier flight in the morning?
Chatbot: Confirming…
As per your request, I have cancelled your flight American Airlines 235 from Boston to New York. Based on your past bookings, I have three suggestions for alternative flights on the same day:

  • Delta 2897: Departs from BOS at 0430 hours and arrives at JFK at 0550 hours
  • Delta 2471: Departs from BOS at 0600 hours and arrives at JFK at 0720 hours
  • Delta 3167: Departs from BOS at 0640 hours and arrives at JFK at 0800 hours

Jim: Book one ticket in the second option.
Chatbot: Confirming availability. Based on your preferences, would you like me to book an aisle seat, and select a bruschetta omelet with coffee for breakfast?
Jim: Yes, that will be great.
Chatbot: Excellent. Your flight Delta 2471 from BOS to JFK will depart at 0600 hours on October 30, 2017. Your seat number is 4C. I have sent a copy of the ticket to your personal email id. Have a safe flight.

Notice how the chatbot contextualized the information based on unstructured and more natural language flow, and offered recommendations based on the user’s past preferences. These degrees of evolution have made chatbots much more self-service capable, and are significantly enhancing the experience that contact centers deliver to their client’s customers.

As with all technologies, chatbots come with risks

The end goal for today’s enterprises is to deliver the best possible omnichannel customer experience. Chatbots can help customers solve problems on their preferred channel of communication (voice and non-voice). However, the technology does have shortcomings. The well-known example of Microsoft’s Tay – a Twitter-based intelligent bot that had to be pulled down within 16 hours of deployment due to offensive tweets – highlights one technology gap that needs to be addressed.

Everest Group’s just released viewpoint entitled, “Chatbots Delivering Enhanced Customer Experience: It’s Easy to Get It Wrong” details how chatbots can fit in enterprises’ omnichannel strategy, the risks they need to be aware of, and how they can mitigate them.

CX and the Philippines: An Evolving Value Proposition | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog, Customer Experience

For the last several years, the Philippines’ value proposition as the leading contact center delivery location has been availability of a large workforce with good language skills and high empathy, at very competitive costs. But to remain the top contact center destination, it will need to evolve its value proposition from customer service delivery to CX delivery.

This is because CX has emerged as a top priority for firms to build a loyal customer base in today’s digital age in which end-consumers are seeking a seamless, quality, personalized experience across channels. To support clients in this quest to deliver a superior customer experience, the contact center industry is transforming from an arbitrage-first to experience-first model. Everest Group research shows that the key to delivering the CX of the future is optimizing a blend of talent and technology.

The primary technology enablers

  • Fortify analytics solutions – Contact centers are blessed with access to a wealth of high-quality data. Customer analytics can help them provide personalized services and real-time support for query resolutions. Operational analytics will allow them to monitor processes, predict future demand, and optimize service elements to achieve the best outcomes.
  • Embrace automation solutions – The first step is using self-service offerings to manage simple queries, followed by leveraging rule-based chatbots and smart IVRs to manage high-volume transactional tasks for maximum automation impact on contact center operations.
  • Focus on delivering omni-channel experience – Delivering a consistent, seamless customer experience requires an integrated view of the customer across all channels. With a more case-driven approach, each interaction that the customer has with the organization feels like part of an ongoing conversation and relationship.

The key talent enablers

While technology advancement will help prepare the groundwork for CX delivery, talent enablers are equally important to ensure a smooth transition:

  • Build the right talent strategy – As contact centers adopt technology on a wider scale, the role their agents play will evolve to focus more on domain and technology expertise. Thus, recruitment and training programs must align to identifying new talent with the right skills, and strengthening existing agent capabilities and knowledge.
  • Rationalize KPIs/metrics – To measure agent performance, contact centers will have to establish metrics and KPIs that focus on digital enablement, business outcomes, and impact on the customer experience.

If you’re currently associated with a contact center in the Philippines, or are considering outsourcing contact center operations to the Philippines, we invite you to join us at the Contact Center Association of the Philippines’ annual conference at Shangri-la’s Boracay Resort & Spa, Boracay Island, Philippines on October 11 and 12. The Contact Islands conference, at which my colleagues Karthik H and Katrina Menzigian will be featured speakers, will focus on the evolving nature of CX, and how the Philippines is matching the pace of the global industry-wide disruption.

Designing an Engagement Model for the Contact Center of the Future | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog, Customer Experience

As the customer experience (CX) is becoming increasingly critical in the contact center space, buyers and service providers must take a significant relook at their engagement model.

Indeed, changing market realities are calling out for greater:

  • agility – to more effectively respond to changing buyer and process requirements
  • innovation – to meet seamless and consistent CX expectations
  • collaboration – to jointly work towards differentiated business and operational outcomes.

Over the past 12 months, Everest Group has had multiple conversations with contact center outsourcing (CCO) buyers and providers about what a more consultative, customer experience-oriented CCO engagement model might look like.  Here’s our view:

CX Contact Center Outsourcing

What are some of the specific differences between the current and the envisioned engagement model? Let’s take a look.

Sales process

Traditional model –Service providers have limited involvement in scoping requirements and shaping the desired outcomes. Thus, they are typically restricted in their RFP responses to mainly familiar core operational requirements and cost management issues.

New model – The new sales process aims to involve service providers earlier in the cycle through a collaborative solutioning phase, which can then shape an RFP that targets both operational gains and business objectives. This approach can lead to more targeted and impactful proposals that drive more value for the client beyond cost savings and core service level agreements (SLAs).

Innovation scope

Traditional model – Delivering a seamless customer experience across multiple channels requires co-innovation between buyers and service providers. The present engagement model falls short of delivering this, as innovation conversations are limited to defined checkpoints rather than happening throughout the process.

New model – The new model will involve a formal innovation cycle that enables buyers to make forward-looking investments, and helps leverage the collective expertise of both parties for continuous innovation. This is an iterative operational process loop that takes into consideration current operations, development of various customer journey maps, identification of process gaps, and implementation of needed changes across people, process, and technology.

Partnerships

Traditional model – Although an increasing number of buyers expect their providers to proactively suggest out-of-the-box solutions that can directly impact their business, providers are often neither given the opportunity to, nor incentivized to, prescribe innovative solutions, due to the existing guideline-based RFP process.

New Model – The new model positions providers to develop a more holistic understanding of buyers’ overall CX challenges and opportunities, enabling them to better identify improvement opportunities.  This, in turn, can lead to improved relationships and a rise in mutual trust, which ultimately leads to more productive, stable, and long-term partnerships.

Of course, the service providers with in-house consulting practices are better positioned than others to weather the disruption in the CCO industry. For example, Sutherland, Teleperformance, and Teletech have already displayed their intent to focus more on CX and move towards a more collaborative engagement with enterprise buyers.

To learn more about the evolving engagement model in the CCO industry, please read our recently released CCO Annual Report 2017: “Disruption is Here: The End of Contact Centers as We Know Them.” And, if you’ve initiated this journey towards the new engagement, or feel we are missing an important element in our view of this model, please email us directly at [email protected] and/or [email protected]

 

BPO firms remain unfazed by rise of smart machines | In the News

By | In The News

The Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) expressed that the country’s information technology-business-process management (IT-BPM) industry can handle the challenges of robotics, artificial intelligence and other related technologies.

“You can view the emergence of digital technologies as either a threat, particularly on job creation, or an opportunity,” CCAP Chairman Benedict Hernandez said in a news briefing in Makati City last week. “Our industry certainly sees the upside opportunities in investing in digital technologies to drive enhanced experiences of our clients and customers. In fact, digital capabilities in analytics, robotics, artificial intelligence have opened new opportunities for us to impact CX [customer experience].”

Jojo Uligan, president of the CCAP, emphasized there is a big need for Filipino workers to acquire new skill sets, such as technology proficiency, deep industry or domain expertise, problem-solving and analytical skills.

Hernandez and Uligan spoke to promote a forum on CX sponsored by CCAP and Dallas, Texas-based Everest Group. The latter, a consulting and research firm, will present a white paper, titled “Philippines at the Helm of Delivering Customer Experience of the Future”, during the forum.

Read more in Business Mirror

Sustainable Service Provider Strategies for Digitalized Contact Centers | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog, Customer Experience

Is M&A required for growth in the hyper-competitive, increasingly digitalized contact center outsourcing (CCO) market, or are there still organic growth opportunities available to service providers?

This is a key question we pondered when developing our recently released annual CCO Service Provider Landscape with PEAK Matrix Assessment 2017 report. Before we address that question, let’s first take a look at the numerous changes that are impacting the (CCO) space:

  • Customers are demanding a seamless and consistent customer experience
  • Disruptive technologies are continuously redefining customer and buyer expectations
  • Buyers are shifting their focus towards better insights and increased agent performance
  • There’s a movement towards fewer but more meaningful CCO relationships, including vendor consolidation.

To address these phenomena, service providers continue to rely on acquisitions to bolster their capabilities in order to remain relevant and grow. Some of the large-scale acquisitions in 2015-2016 included those of EGS by Alorica, Minacs by Concentrix, and GoExcellent by Webhelp. Each of these acquisitions were focused on multiple pillars of capability enhancement – expanding geographic reach and delivery footprint, deepening industry focus, and boosting next-gen technology capabilities.

The following exhibit highlights the nature of these multi-capability, and other single capability, acquisitions that took place in the last 12-18 months, and how they are positively impacting the provider’s short- and long-term growth.

 

Contact Center Outsourcing, CCO

 

In addition to M&A activity – which delivers varying degrees of short- and long-term growth – many service providers are increasing their investments in multiple next-gen technology solutions. While these moves result in stronger client relationships that do grow over time, they don’t drive immediate revenue growth; this is often because these very solutions are around lower price point non-voice and self-service offerings which, inherently, challenge the providers’ growth rates.

Given the degree of competitiveness in the CCO market, we believe that M&A will continue to remain intrinsic to the growth of service providers and their capability enhancement strategy. But, as the market evolves and the competitive consolidation wave troughs in the next 12-18, service providers need to prepare themselves for sustained organic growth in the digitally-enabled business environment.

And, circling back to the question with which we opened this blog…organic growth is indeed still possible. Some service providers, such as HCL, HGS, Sutherland Global Services, and WNS, are registering strong organic growth driven by focused internal investments over the last few years. But the way forward for all service providers is to bring together a blend of people, process, and technology changes in order to transform themselves as strategic partners able to support their clients’ quest to achieve best-in-class customer experience.

 

Here are Everest Group’s recommendations for CCO providers’ organic growth strategy:

  • Move towards a consultative-led approach to engage with buyers as strategic partners, and understand key customer pain points and how to improve the customer experience through each one of them
  • Evolve the client engagement model to a more agile and business outcome-oriented sales and solutioning model
  • Invest beyond traditional enabler technologies such as analytics and multi-channel solutions, and focus on next-gen solutions such as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence. If these capabilities cannot be built in-house, look at partnerships
  • Redesign the agent talent model to achieve the right skill set by relooking at recruitment strategies and learning & development practices to ensure the agent of the future has domain and technology expertise.

The contact center services market is at an inflection point which is creating both challenges and opportunities for service providers. M&A has played a key role helping leading players counter market disruption, but is not a long-term growth path. They need to bring out changes in their outlook, and enhance their capabilities to position themselves as strategic partners for enterprises. How well and swiftly they manage these changes will determine, which providers win in the market, and which ones risk falling off the radar.

To learn more about the growth strategies the leading and contending CCO service providers are employing, please read our report, “CCO Service Provider Landscape with PEAK Matrix Assessment 2017.”