Highlights of the 14th Annual Customer Contact, East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

May 10, 2018

 By Alpa Shah, Global Vice President – Digital Transformation

It was a true pleasure wrapping up three days of learning and fun with three insightful and engaging panelists – Terry Blankenship, Associate Vice President, Contact Center Solutions of The General; Lisa Lavin, Director, Customer Experience of The Orvis Company; and Jane Zdrojewski, Global Director, Customer Service of Dow Chemical.  

There was a ton of information on digital transformation in contact centers that needed to be processed in order to return to the office with focus and energy.

Our key takeaways were:

  • Happy agents = happy customers 
  • Build solutions from customer experience
  • Augment with technologies
  • Start small!

The key objective for each panelist was to bring back something to the office they could implement. Since the companies were diverse (i.e., b-to-b and b-to-c), so were the technologies that would have the greatest impacts on their companies. They ranged from implementing chat bots to focusing on analytics. Chat boxes are going to be a key investment – no doubt. Throughout the event, analytics came up often as a key need in contact centers across industries. From analyzing customer interactions, to contact center processes, to employee training, analytics will clearly play an important role in the future of contact centers.

When asked “how do you feel about being proactive vs. reactive - what is the right balance?” the concern was around spending too much money on technologies that agents or customers are not ready for and will not use. The best response from the panel was “never be afraid of change; embrace change! Fear of change can make you stand still.” However, it’s still important to take stock of your company’s channel strengths; ensure that this channel will not be negatively impacted by new investments or process changes. If you proactively look at your strengths and invest in areas that need to improve, rather than react to the fear of missing out on the latest technologies, you are likely to find the right balance and optimize your contact center operations.

We have all been stuck in IVR jail – many companies mistakenly use it to deflect calls from agents. Some fear that chatbots can be used in the same way. The panelists, and other attendees, felt that chatbots should not be used in that manner. As soon as customers feel stress from dealing with automation, they should be connected with the next available agent. Chatbots can be a very effective solution, and are definitely seen as a worthwhile investment.

We often heard that as contact centers invest in new technologies, they should start small. But how do you achieve the ROI needed to convince the stakeholders that further investment in this technology is a must? The answer is to start with a small group, or one department. Select champions who have bought into the technology and will use it avidly. Ensure that company leaders understand that failure is okay. Through trial and error, each company will find the right mix of technologies that supports their growth. Deploy positive economics of action – take a small step to embrace technology. Our wise panelists said, “If it works, a door is opened that might positively impact company. If it does not work, it’s a learning experience.”  Reduce the risk of failure by immersing yourself in critical thinking with others to avoid blind spots. Most importantly, pilots should be part of the business plan.

We ended the session with something we all need to keep in mind as we embark on our digital transformation journey: “The best leaders make the most  bad decisions…because they make the most decisions.” Have an environment where failing is okay; or risk losing customers and employees to a company that offers a better experience. 

Thanks to my panel for an exhilarating conversation at the end of an energetic and invaluable event!

 


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Alpa Shah

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This May marks my 22th year with Frost & Sullivan. Being part of a fast-growing company and dynamic industry, an entrepreneurial culture, and a fun environment is invigorating and worth every moment. My professional and volunteer experience includes business and strategy planning, product and vertical market analysis, growth consulting, event planning and execution, sales and marketing, web design, and most importantly, creating and inspiring teams to be best in class. Consulting projects have ranged from strategy development to white papers to end user analyses. My focus now is to guide visionary CXOs and IT leaders through the next era of digital transformation with the help of a IT experts and analysts across all industries. Prior to joining Frost and Sullivan, I worked for Smith Barney for 5 years in its accounting division handling incentive compensation plans. In this position I was responsible, from an accounting and payroll perspective, for the capital accumulation and deferred compensation plans of top management and account executives. Thereafter, I worked as an account executive at Edward Jones, a brokerage company for approximately one year. In these positions, I learned much about the operations of a financial company, financial instruments, and sales techniques.


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