2019 has been a momentous year for Australian technology companies and it’s been a year when organisations have woken up to the unmistakeable call to implement company wide solutions that will enable them to deliver better customer experiences and build better relationships in their markets.
It’s the year we realised there are no future workplaces but the ones happening right now! Workplaces being shaped by the decisions occurring – right now. Innovation is critical for economic growth and the tech sector is where a lot of investment in innovation is occurring. We all want to be part of ‘the next big thing’. But we also know that marketing plays a big role in what perceptions we have of what that ‘next big thing’ might be. Often there’s a stark contradiction between what sounds like an amazing opportunity or solution that will change your business, and where the real work is being done to create the impressive foundations that will drive the innovation and growth we so desire.
In 2019 we had lots of revealing conversations with contact centre CIOs, digital transformation managers, project managers and heads of CX to name a few. The overarching challenge for most contact centres has been improving customer experience and implementing the technology that will get them there. While we know it’s all a learning curve, our job is to help flatten that curve as much as possible to ensure the road to success is as easy to navigate as possible.
So, what were the biggest motivations for getting these conversations flowing? What challenges are at their most critical stage and what will be the trending investments for overcoming them and grasping opportunity in 2020?
We spoke with two people with very different expertise, each of which brings a lot of knowledge and insight to this discussion. Justin Tippett, founder and CEO of contact centre consulting company CX Central is a thought leader on contact centre operations with over 30 years’ experience inside the industry. Today, Justin talks to contact centres about their challenges and has created a central hub for the industry to share and learn from each other and discover new solutions. His goal is to help businesses improve operations and efficiency and help them deliver better customer experiences.
Nic Passmore is the CTO here at Knosys and has been building market leading technology systems with an emphasis on improving productivity and customer relationships within large companies that accrue lots of data. Nic and his team launched Knosys’ cloud-based offering, KIQ Cloud, in April of this year and continue to work hard creating that single source of truth that contact centres can rely on to drive their business forward as new expectations and demands are placed on contact centre staff.
I asked Justin to give me his perspective and predictions on what the contact centre industry will look like in 2020
Justin, we’ve heard a lot about the changing role of the contact centre during 2019 and I’m sure you’ve had your fair share of conversations around how they’ll continue to change. What are the emerging skills sets you see as critical for contact centre employees in 2020 and beyond?
There has always been a constant state of change in the contact centre industry, but it certainly feels like the level of change is accelerating with the advent of new technology and the expectations of C-Level roles and customers expecting a better level of service than ever before.
This is having a flow-on effect to the skills requirements of contact centre employees as many of the simple transaction type calls are being replaced by technology.
The result is agents today becoming more problem-solvers, requiring a higher level of analytical and reasoning skills than ever before as well as a deeper level of product knowledge.
And whilst technology has become smarter and faster, humans still have one key attribute that can't be replicated (yet!) by technology; empathy. Agents that can actively convey empathy, patience and understanding with a customer will become increasingly in strong demand.
Finally, I'd suggest that adaptability and technical aptitude is also rising in importance. Job roles, processes and technology are moving at such a rapid pace, so agents need to adapt to a fast pace of change to survive and thrive.
As a knowledge management vendor, we see how organisations use knowledge to provide better customer experience and empower their employees but where do you see the investment from contact centres being funnelled in 2020 – what is the biggest need as you see it?
There is no doubt that as the calls are becoming more complex, there is a need to ensure agents are empowered with the right information, at the right time, to be able to service their customers so I expect there will be a continued investment in Knowledge Management platforms.
On the back of the recent Royal Commissions, I also expect there to be a greater focus on compliance which again, Knowledge Management platforms will assist with.
Outside of KMS, I expect there will be a continued investment in cloud contact centre platforms as businesses look to more efficient and effective ways to manage customers across multiple channels.
What contact centre technology has created the biggest buzz and what are people going to be talking about non-stop in 2020?
There is always the 'next big thing' coming but the one technology that excites me is Speech Analytics. It's going to provide the contact centres with a plethora of powerful data that’s not only going to help contact centre managers better manage their own operations (e.g. imagine being able to analyse ALL calls instead of 5 calls per agent per month or coach agents in real-time when a customer is flagged as becoming upset) but it will also position that contact centre channel as a great source of information for the rest of the business.
Providing marketing will real-time information on what customers are saying about market conditions ("Oh I heard company X is selling the same thing for 10% cheaper"), product teams with instant feedback on product performance (“30 customers called today about the handle breaking on that new product we released today”) and so on it really does provide some exciting opportunities ahead.
It can be overwhelming not just getting the green light on a project but getting it off the ground and getting all staff on board. Do you have any tips for managers looking to take on a big project like technology implementation and mass content migration to help them make it a success?
Well as a consultant I would, of course, recommend you engage some professionals to give you a hand!
But if you are going to go it alone, in my experience the 'big-bang' theory is the one fraught with the most risk. Plan well, start testing with a small customer segment where possible and seek constant feedback from all stakeholders (including the frontline!).
And this one might be a little left field, but in a couple of large projects I've been involved in, I've got enormous value in putting the project team through human brain thinking training.
I've used HBDI but there are plenty of similar concepts that will help your team understand their own, and others, thinking preferences which can aid substantially in communication which forms the basis of any successful project rollout.
Next it’s time to hear from Knosys’ own Nic Passmore to find out what challenges contact centres have been facing this year that brought them to seek out a Knowledge Management technology solution and see what Nic makes of the buzzwords of 2019 and if all the media hype around some terminology is warranted.
Nic, in the last 12 months of client interactions and KIQ Cloud inquires – what are the challenges that brought contact centre professionals to our virtual door?
Two key points probably spring to mind - the first would be the ever-increasing volume of disparate systems used within the contact centre, and the desire to have a single source of truth for all the knowledge used by the contact centre and its various channels.
KIQ Cloud can really assist here thanks to its rich feature set for content management and governance as well as our open, REST-based API. This allows organisations to manage their information in a single location, while maintaining distinct views for internal agents and the variety of channels used to interact with customers.
The second item would be productivity and onboarding - contact centre teams continue to experience high staff turnover, and as a result, time to productivity and onboarding are a big factor. KIQ Cloud can really assist here thanks to its broad feature set. Process guidance technologies can help to make new staff more productive faster, as they don’t need to know how to do everything before they start taking calls. Quiz functionality allows contact centre team leaders and managers to verify the knowledge of their agents before letting them loose with live customers.
What buzz word technologies in your opinion, have been blown out of proportion in 2019, and what is the reality of what technology will be implemented in 2020?
One of the big ones that I’ve seen this year has been conversational AI; it’s something that everyone is talking about but that we’re only seeing being done well by the big players in the market (and I’m talking about technology here specifically). Microsoft, IBM and Amazon have doubled-down on their machine learning offerings, but these still require a lot of content to get up and running and a lot of training - particularly if you operate in a niche space. Knowledge systems are the glue that underpin these technologies because they provide the information that is being used by these systems - a lot of organisations seem to want to jump to the end of the story, without getting that initial mise-en-scene established first.
I think 2020 will be the year of the messaging platforms to be honest - rather than chatbots on websites we’re going to see organisations start to try and interact more with their customers through the messaging platforms offered by Apple and Facebook and others. This is more natural for a lot of the younger generation than using a chatbot through a website. It will be interesting to see what the uptake of these technologies is by the less-millennial generations.
What realistic outcomes can be achieved by investing in a knowledge management solution such as the Knosys cloud-based KIQ Cloud that will drive growth where it’s needed and help reduce cost-to-serve?
Knowledge systems are an absolute mission critical system for contact centre operators. They provide a detailed knowledge base for agents and a mechanism to distribute collated knowledge to the contact centre. With cloud-based systems, the barrier to entry is lowered, and while any knowledge system will still require that team leaders and subject matter experts continually update the content as process and procedures evolve, the benefits far outweigh the costs.
Implementing a knowledge system can help a contact centre to increase first call resolution time by providing agents with the information they need to service the caller then and there; in the same way, they can reduce the need for call transfers, as agents have access to a far greater suite of information than just their speciality.
In the same way, knowledge systems can reduce the need for, or at least the volume of, specialist operators within a contact centre - improving overall staff utilisation. And finally - the implementation of a single source of truth can help pave the way for the implementation of additional call deflection services such as user self-service or chat bots. Or, where these are already present, the utilisation of a single source of truth, the knowledge system, can reduce the effort required to maintain content across all digital channels.
What is the challenge when it comes to building a tech solution in the age of AI buzz? Do you believe there’s enough education within organisations about exactly what AI is and what it can achieve?
It seems that business’s see AI as a panacea for all the issues that they are currently facing; whether cultural, managerial or technical. Machine learning is a fantastic technology and it has applications that we can’t even imagine yet, but it will not fix every issue that is facing a business. The tech media tend to overhype these technologies, giving the impression that they can solve every problem, when they really can’t, at least not yet. Machine learning has some great applications in a call centre, from analysing caller sentiment too suggesting the next possible step in issue resolution to conversational chat via a bot. But all these solutions still require a human to train the algorithm or to analyse the results.
2020 is set to be even bigger for the Australasian tech industry with contact centres and other customer facing organisations ramping up their cx efforts. Let’s see if these predictions prove correct and as you look to understand and implement better ways to organise knowledge and service customers within your own organisations – we’ll be here listening and building the solutions.
Happy New Year from everyone here at Knosys. See you in the new year!
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