Do you know anyone who hasn’t had a frustrating experience because the contact center rep they interacted with didn’t speak their native language? We didn’t think so.
The truth is that while enterprises have multiple business reasons for establishing their contact centers in offshore locations in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia Pacific, the reps’ language and communication skills often have a negative impact on the overall customer and brand experience.
And although many companies have developed their own solutions to assess candidates’ language capabilities, they’re plagued with multiple challenges, including:
Commercial language and communication assessment solutions have been around for years. But innovative vendors – such as Pearson, an established player in this market, and Emmersion Learning, which incorporates the latest AI technology into its solution – are increasingly leveraging a combination of linguistic methodologies, technical automation, and advanced statistical processes to deliver a scalable assessment that can predict speaking, listening, and responding proficiency.
For instance, technology-driven solutions may test candidates’ “language chunking” ability, which means their ability to group chunks of semantic meaning. This concept is similar to techniques that are commonly used for memorizing numbers. By linking numbers to concepts, a person can be successful in retaining large sequences of digits in working memory. Without conceptual awareness, memorization is hard.
During an assessment, through automation and AI, the candidate may be asked to repeat sentences of increasing complexity. Success in this exercise relies on the candidate’s ability to memorize complex sentences, which can only be done when they can chunk for meaning. A candidate’s mastery of an exercise to repeat sentences of increasing complexity is a great predictor of the candidate’s language proficiency.
Organizations that embrace technology-based solutions for language assessments can anticipate multiple benefits: reduced costs, decreased hiring cycle times, improved quality of hires, better role placement, freed time to devote to value-add initiatives, and improved customer experience and satisfaction. Ultimately, it’s a triple win for the organization, its candidates, and its customers.
Everest Group’s digital services research indicates that 89 percent of enterprises consider customer experience (CX) to be their prime digital adoption driver. But we believe the digital experience needs to address all stakeholders an enterprise touches, not just its customers. We touched on this topic in our Digital Services – Annual Report 2018, which focuses on digital operating models.
Indeed, SAP’s recent acquisition of Qualtrics and LinkedIn’s acquisition of Glint indicates the growing importance of managing not only CX, but also the digital experience of employees, partners, and the society at large.
Given the deluge of data from all these stakeholders and the number of parameters that must be addressed to deliver a superior experience, AI will have to be the core engine powering this digital experience economy. It will allow enterprises to build engaging ecosystems that evolve, learn, implement continuous feedback, and make real time decisions.
Today, most enterprises narrowly view the role of AI in CX as implementing chatbots for customer query resolution or building ML algorithms on top of existing applications to enable a basic level of intelligence. However, AI can be leveraged to deliver very powerful experiences including: predictive analytics to pre-empt behaviors; virtual agents that can respond to emotions; advanced conversational systems to drive human-like interactions with machines; and even to deliver completely new experiences by using AI in conjunction with other technologies such as AR/VR, IoT, etc.
Digital natives are already demonstrating these capabilities. Netflix delivers hyper personalization by providing seemingly as many versions as its number of users. Amazon Go retail stores use AI, computer vision, and cameras to deliver a checkout free experience. And the start-up ecosystem is rampant with examples of cutting-edge innovations. For instance, HyperSurfaces is designing next-gen user experiences by using AI to transform any object to user interfaces.
But focusing just on the customer experience is missing the point, and the opportunity.
AI can, and should, play a central role in reimagining the employee journey to promote engagement, productivity, and safety. For example, software company Workday analyzes 60 data points to predict attrition risk. Humanyze enables enterprises to ascertain if a particular office layout supports teamwork. If meticulously designed and tested, AI algorithms can assist in employee hiring and performance management. With video analytics and advanced algorithms, AI systems can ensure worker safety; combined with automation, they can free up humans to work on more strategic tasks.
Enterprises also need to include suppliers and other partners in their experience management strategy. Using predictive analytics to automate inventory replenishment, gauge supplier performance, and build channels for two-way feedback are just a few examples. AI will play a key role in designing systems that not only pre-empt behaviors/performance but also ensure automated course correction.
Last but not least, enterprises cannot consider themselves islands in the environment in which they operate. They must realize that experience is as much about reality as about perception. Someone who has never engaged with an enterprise may have an “experience” perception about that organization. Some organizations’ use of AI is clearly for “social good.” Think smart cities, health monitoring, and disaster management systems. But even organizations that don’t have products or services that are “good” for society must view the general public as an important stakeholder. For example, employees at Google vetoed the company’s decision to engage with the Pentagon for use of ML algorithms for military applications. Similarly, employees at Microsoft raised concerns over the company’s involvement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the U.S. AI can be leveraged to predict any such moves by pre-empting the impact that a company’s initiatives might have on society at large.
As organizations make the transition to an AI-enabled stakeholder experience, they must bear in mind that a piecemeal approach will not work. This futuristic vision will have to be supported by an enterprise-wide commitment, rigorous and meticulous preparation of data, ongoing monitoring of algorithms, and significant investment. They will have to cover a lot of ground in reimagining the application and infrastructure architecture to make this vision a distinctive reality.
Just days before 16-year old Qualtrics was due to launch its IPO, SAP announced its acquisition of the customer experience management company in an attempt to bolster its CRM portfolio. Qualtrics, one of the most anticipated tech IPOs of the year, and oversubscribed 13 times due to investor demand, adds to SAP’s arsenal of cloud-based software vendor acquisitions.
Seeking transformational opportunities, the acquisition will allow SAP to sit atop the experience economy through the leverage of “X-data” (experience data) and “O-data” (operational data). Moreover, the acquisition will enable SAP to cash in on a rather untapped area that brings together customer, employee, product, and brand feedback to deliver a holistic and seamless customer experience.
SAP had multiple reasons to acquire Qualtrics:
SAP’s acquisition history makes it clear it seeks to achieve transformative growth by bolting in capabilities from the companies it acquires. It has garnered a fine reputation when it comes to onboarding acquired companies and realizing increasing gains out of the existing mutual synergies. Its unrelenting focuses on product portfolio/roadmap alignment, cultural integration, and GTM with acquired companies have been commendable.
Here is a look at its past cloud-based software company acquisitions:
SAP has taken a debt to finance the Qualtrics acquisition, making it imperative to show business gains from the move. With Qualtrics on board, it seems SAP’s ambitious cloud growth target (€8.2-8.7 billion by 2020) will receive a shot in the arm. However, the acquisition is expected to close by H1 2019, implying that the investors will have to wait to see returns. Moreover, SAP’s stock price in the past 12 months has dropped by 10.6 percent versus the S&P 500 Index rise of 3.4 percent. While SAP has seen revenue growth, its bottom-line results have been disappointing with a contraction in operating margins (cloud revenues have grown but tend to have a lower margin profile in the beginning.) This is likely to be further exacerbated given the enterprise multiple for this deal.
Having said that, SAP sits in a solid location to win the war against the age-old enterprise conundrum of integrating back-, middle-, and front-office operations and recognize the operational linkages between the functions. Qualtrics’ experience management platform, known for its predictive modeling capabilities, generating real-time insights, and decentralizing the decision-making process, will certainly augment SAP’s value proposition and messaging for its C/4 HANA sales and marketing cloud. In fact, the mutual synergies between the two companies might put SAP at an equal footing with Salesforce in the CRM space.
While it may seem that SAP has arrived a bit early to the party, given that customer experience management is still a niche area, the market’s expected growth rate and SAP’s timely acquisition decision may allow it to leap-frog IBM and CA Technologies (now acquired by Broadcom), the current leaders in the space. Indeed, over the last couple of years, Qualtrics has pivoted beyond survey and other banal customer sentiment analysis methods to create a SaaS suite capable of:
SAP’s Intelligent Enterprise strategic tenet, enabled by its intelligent cloud suite (S/4 HANA, Fiori), digital platform (SAP HANA, SAP Data Hub, SAP Cloud Platform), and intelligent systems (SAP Leonardo, SAP Analytics Cloud), has allowed customers to embed cutting edge technologies – conversational AI, ML foundation, and cloud platform for blockchain. SAP is already working towards the combination of machine learning and natural language query (NLQ) technology to augment human intelligence, with a vision to drive business agility. Embedding the experience management suite within next-generation Intelligent Enterprise tenet will play a key role in achieving the exponential growth targets by 2020.
Intelligent Sourcing magazine recently hosted a dinner in collaboration with Teleperformance in London where Mike Havard, CEO of Ember Group, and Julian Herbert from Everest Group discussed the future of the customer journey. The team from Teleperformance was also there to give feedback on the role of the customer experience (CX) supplier in managing modern customer journeys.
Demand for CX services is disrupting the Contact Center Outsourcing market, pitting traditional models based on labor arbitrage and scale with digital-first strategies.
Customer experience (CX) is king, dominating the strategic focus of a growing number of enterprises seeking to build a loyal customer base. These enterprises are taking a digital-first approach, aggressively shopping for service providers with next-generation, digital capabilities that can help them gain in-depth customer understanding, deliver personalized CX and establish highly qualified talent pools for managing CX. According to new research from Everest Group, digital CX, which currently represents 4-6 percent of the overall contact center outsourcing (CCO) market, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 20-25 percent for the next five years.
“Traditional CCO approaches are rapidly evolving to those focused on delivering customer experience services,” said Skand Bhargava, practice director of Business Process Services at Everest Group. “In fact, the digital outsourcing drivers for enterprises—such as CX consulting, omnichannel platforms and digital capabilities such as automation and analytics solutions—are increasingly becoming more important than in the past. Enterprise buyers expect their service providers to be customer-centric and to provide innovative solutions that can help them meet and exceed the expectations of digital-native customers.”
These findings and more are discussed in “Contact Center Outsourcing Annual Report 2018 – Transforming Customer Experience Through a Digital-First Approach.” This report provides an overview of the CCO market, evolving buyer expectations, market size, adoption trends, key solution characteristics, and the outlook for 2018-2019.
Other key findings:
GE’s search for a buyer of GE Digital, its apparent “non-core” business, and UBS’ sale of its Smart Wealth digital wealth management platform are causing the old guard to rejoice and claim that digital businesses are bogus and hogwash. Even Everest Group’s research suggests that 78 percent of enterprises fail to scale their digital initiatives, and don’t realize the benefits they envision.
It is easy to naysay the naysayers. But these developments do merit a discussion. Many enterprises are investing in digital transformation initiatives, and they have a lot to lose if they don’t do it well.
So, what is plaguing enterprises’ digital transformation agenda?
Most of the industrial enterprises we engage with as part of our research believe that, even in the coming two decades, 80-90 percent of their business will come from their so called “core” products. Though they acknowledge that their core products are not static and continue to be increasingly connected, software-driven, and service oriented, the incremental impact on revenue is not yet clear. Their business modeling and simulations provide numbers that are sufficient to fund digital initiatives, but are insufficient to move the revenue needle.
Enterprises are realizing they have overdone some of their digital initiatives. Because business impact continues to be hazy, leadership is asking difficult questions. Our research suggests that 45 percent of enterprises fail to get funding for digital projects as the decision makers and purse string holders consider them vanity pursuits. Moreover, even strategic initiatives are struggling as the return on investment horizon is becoming longer as time progresses. Leadership is losing patience.
Our research suggests that 89 percent of enterprises believe digital initiatives improve customer experience (CX). However, they struggle to attribute this improvement to business success. Therefore, business success becomes a secondary metric for such initiatives. Moreover, many enterprises confuse customer service – e.g., contact centers – with customer experience, which thwarts their ability to drive meaningful digital transformation.
We discuss another major reason for the gaps in digital promises versus reality in our research on digital operating models. Various enterprises assumed that digital transformation would create completely different businesses or business models for them. A prime example for comparison was about Google, a search and advertising company, getting into autonomous vehicles. Another was Amazon, an online retailer, getting into cloud services. These enterprises also assumed that they would disrupt their entrenched competition in their own and allied industries, just as Uber and Airbnb did.
However, I believe enterprises need such a dose of reality in order to separate the chaff from the wheat. As tech vendors, consultants, and system integrators brand everything digital, enterprises need a solid business case for digital transformation lest they spend precious money on worthless pursuits.
Enterprises’ needs of the hour are to develop a realistic digital transformation plan, rely on incubating multiple projects, be willing to fail fast, and leverage broader industry ecosystem. They must also remember that technology disruption always come with high risks.
Not acting is not an option, as the cost of doing nothing significantly outweighs the initial failures your enterprise may experience. Failing today is better than becoming irrelevant tomorrow.
What has been your digital journey experience? Please share it with me at [email protected].
Top technologies / focus areas and their impact on retail