Innovation Takes Centre Stage At The Arch Summit on 3-4 May

The Arch Summit is next week and the Webhelp team will be there in Luxembourg. It’s a two-day event that is bursting with innovation and ideas, and major brands such as Amazon and Vodafone will be there, alongside some of the newest and most innovative start-ups. We’ll have our own stand, and our Innovation Director, Dave Pattman, will share his views on artificial intelligence at one of the experts’ roundtables.

There is no comparable event across Europe with such a strong focus on both innovation and bringing the corporate world together with start-ups. The event is strongly supported by the government of Luxembourg - the Prime Minister will speak about local investment and innovation - and there will be €250,000 of business finance available for new start-ups to pitch for. The audience will be able to literally watch new start-ups compete for investment, so I’m sure that start-up founders across Europe will be sharpening their elevator pitch at this very moment!

A common reason for companies to invest in emerging technologies today is because they want to improve the customer experience (CX). Customer expectations are not just driving a wave of innovation globally, they are often the inspiration for innovative companies to develop exciting new CX technologies.

We’re already seeing that, in many industries, collaboration between traditional, established companies and start-ups is increasing. Large brands that understand that they need to ‘connect’ more effectively with customers, are often finding it more effective to find a start-up partner than trying to attempt purely in-house innovation. I believe that this collaboration will rapidly become mainstream, especially for companies that truly value the ability to differentiate through CX.

To conclude, the Arch Summit is a great place to understand innovation approaches in:

  • The corporate world; what are big companies doing to differentiate their service and products? They have the budget, but do they have the flexibility and ideas?
  • Start-ups; which new ideas are seeking funding? Are there any trends with several small companies all seeking investment in a similar area?
  • Mobile; with companies such as Vodafone, Nokia, Blackberry, Huawei, and NTT all presenting their latest ideas, we’re sure to gain valuable insights here.

For all these reasons, it makes complete sense for the Webhelp team to be there – to help us continue to anticipate what our clients will need in a constantly evolving landscape. If you are planning to be at the Arch Summit on May 3 and 4, please visit our stand or get in touch directly via my LinkedIn profile.


Is consistency the key to trust and loyalty in customers?

A satisfied customer is always a top priority and a goal for every company and brand. Continuously providing the highest customer satisfaction requires many steps, consistency being one of the most important. Contrary to popular belief, where individual interactions are said to be more valuable in overall satisfaction, this may have shifted through the sheer number of touchpoints customers are now exposed to, for example through an increase of AI-supported technologies in a customer contact setting.

With many channels now potentially being involved in an interaction with a single customer, this leaves a lot of potential for inconsistency in feedback, support or service.

This is not only important in a traditional retail setting, but also in professional services or hospitality amongst others, and is equally relevant for B2C as well as B2B interactions. While retailers might be affected in a more direct way through immediate feedback or a personal (human) interaction, providing a seamless consistency in their experience is equally important for all markets and service providers.

The challenge with consistency is often the time frame. While a customer can be impressed and surprised with a positive experience, creating consistency requires multiple interactions, through multiple touchpoints.

The variety in the kind and length of interaction is another challenge in offering a consistent experience. A customer might have a very short and brief initial experience, for example when purchasing a flight ticket, possibly online, which is seamless. This might lead to a much longer interaction when the need arises for a rebooking, possibly by phone. The same scenario could happen in reverse. Where the initial contact is the more detailed one, for example through a consultation for a new phone and contract and the follow-up contact might be a short one, in order to set up the phone. Offering the same consistent experience in all these settings and interactions can be difficult, but when successful measures are implemented, this can have a huge impact on customer’s overall satisfaction.

There are many ways to implement or improve consistency, taking various factors into account, like company size, market, products, etc., for example:

  • AI can support a consistent experience through a standardized response in customers first touchpoints, e.g. through an automated chatbot integration in a customer service setting.
  • Personnel that is trained according to company guidelines and policies can implement uniform and standardized procedures to deal with repetitive or common issues.
  • Giving employees authority to make decisions, for example based on the value of the customers purchase independently and on the spot, can improve the experience for customers – consistently hassle free and quick through every (future or additional) interaction.

Remember the road to loyal customers must be a road well-travelled: Consistency plays a role in how you act (communicate and deliver your message) and how you react (fulfill your message) in a customer setting over an extended period and multiple touchpoints. Different departments might have different priorities or agendas (e.g. marketing, sales, customer service, etc.), but offering your customers a consistent experience means a clear set of policies, procedures and communication has to be in place and lived by all employees equally.

Offering your customers a consistent experience, not only increases loyalty and subsequently builds an emotional bond and trust in your message. It allows something much more important to emerge: it shows customers that you care – about their experiences but also about your message, your profile, your brand and your unique style. Taking pride in what you offer (and being consistent with your message) will pay off.

Offering an equally amazing experience, one interaction after another, also means customers will feel close to your brand or can identify themselves with your message better – and who doesn’t want another fan not simply a buyer?


Sales and service need to merge to really offer a great CX

For a long time, I have been arguing that companies need to rethink their service, sales, and marketing process. These processes need to be completely integrated with the customer service team - as a customer contact hub - because customers don’t think of a company as distinct silos or functions - to them your company is just a brand. Yet, too many companies still have all these different customer-facing teams that are just not really working closely together.

The Daily Telegraph ran a feature on this subject recently and argued that social media is the main driver that has blurred the line between service and marketing, but I would argue that the distinction goes further. It is not just social media, rather it is a combination of the mobile internet and social media that has changed the way that customers communicate. This change in behaviour, and change in customer expectations, is what has created this situation.

But this isn’t a new idea. I have been talking about this since the early days of multi-channel customer contact and the industry analyst Gartner even wrote a research report on it three years ago.

Some companies are finding it very difficult to blend departments. Sales and marketing and service have always had distinct functions and different styles of management. Historically the sales team was always considered to be a profit centre and team members were handsomely rewarded with bonuses. The service team was just an essential cost centre and generally tolerated the minimum possible level of reward. This has changed forever.

The service team has the deepest insight into what the customer really wants. They need to be intimately involved in planning any marketing strategy or sales plan. Companies that find it hard to merge the teams often create a Chief Customer Officer with oversight over all the functions. It’s possibly not as effective as just getting the teams to all work in a coordinated way, but it does at least acknowledge that they need to communicate and try to work together.

Nobody can deny the way that customers communicate with each other, and with brands, has changed in the past few years. We need a new approach to customer interaction and it is becoming impossible to determine if a customer that gets in touch requires help from a sales or service representative - is it really only a sales call if the customer literally calls up and says I want to buy something now? I don’t think so.

Customers are more engaged with brands and each contact is a great opportunity to reinforce the brand to customer relationship. Sales will come from these interactions, but sometimes the customer just wants information or advice. This more diverse nature of customer interactions means that there really is no differentiation between all these internal departments any longer - although most companies are clinging on to the existing structures.

The Gartner prediction for a complete merger of all these customer-facing functions was 2020. We still have about a year and a half to go. Change is coming and it’s going to be great for your customers if you can improve how your brand engages with them. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.


[INFOGRAPHIC] ATTITUDE OF UK CONSUMERS TO INSURANCE IN 2018

Who are the UK’s favorite insurers? How does age, income and gender affect insurance purchasing decisions?

Is customer experience an important factor for renewing an insurance contract?

Webhelp’s brand new research, based on a survey of 500 UK consumers, answers all these questions and more. Discover the UK’s favorite insurers here, and check out the research highlights in the infographic below.

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

 


Can an airport create a fantastic customer experience?

Airports are not often the first place you might think of for a great customer experience (CX). What with the check-in lines, security, endless duty free stores, and a long walk to a gate with no bathroom or snacks available, most of the time airports are places best avoided. But some airports have taken the criticism on board and really focused on improving the customer experience.

A new survey released by the Airports Council International (ACI) has revealed the best airports for customer experience, as part of their Airport Service Quality (ASQ) Awards. The best airports serving over 40m passengers a year were led by Mumbai, Delhi, Rome, and Toronto.

The survey, which quizzed 600,000 passengers at 343 airports in 84 countries, looks at criteria including service parameters, airport access, check-in, security screening, restrooms, stores and restaurants. The UK doesn’t see any action in the results for large airports, but in the smaller 2-5m passenger category, Newcastle Airport scooped the best airport prize.

Why Newcastle and not one of the busier London-based airports?

Newcastle has focused on being family-friendly. There is an emphasis on helping holiday-makers start their vacation the moment they enter the airport. There are several areas that are designed to keep children occupied with arcades, slot machines, and games such as air hockey. For the adults there are facilities beyond just the shops alone, such as the aero spa offering massage, facials, and manicures.

This isn’t the only award that Newcastle airport has won recently - Newcastle was named Airport of the Year 2017 at the North of England 2017 Transport Awards. Clearly the management team is doing something right that makes this airport experience different to most.

In recent years, there has been an investment programme that has focused on the customer experience. New floors, premium wi-fi for passengers, gate modernisation, and self-service bag drop have all been measures introduced to improve the way that customers experience the airport.

Some airports have a constant level of customer use - regardless of how good or bad they are. London Heathrow would need to get much worse before passengers stopped using it because it is the closest major airport to central London. However, for the smaller regional airports there is often more choice, especially when the primary use is for holiday travel. Creating a great experience at the airport is a sensible business decision.

If holiday-makers found that the first day of their time off is ruined by the airport experience then they would never book another holiday starting at that airport. By focusing on the customer experience, Newcastle airport is cleverly attracting more passengers from all across the north of England. More passengers choosing to use the airport means that more airlines will route flights there, and more flights mean more passengers - offering a great customer experience can lead to solid business success for an airport and some happy passengers.

The ever increasing use of digital communications by travel companies and travellers is also having a major impact on the travel sector. But how often are travellers using these digital methods? Download our survey report to see our key findings on the technology in the travel sector.

Let me know what you think about the changing focus on customer experience by leaving a comment here or get in touch directly via my LinkedIn.


Artificial Intelligence: a new era of transformation for customer relations

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: A LEVER TO INCREASE HUMAN CAPITAL [PROSPECTIVE OUTLOOK]
(Catherine Fauchoux – Global Innovation Research Manager)

 

As European market leader in customer experience, we are conscious that Artificial Intelligence is going to transform our sector in a lasting way. Moreover, our current use of Artificial Intelligence strengthens our conviction that this technology will help us to improve customer service, both to the benefit of advisors and to better meet the expectations of brands and their customers. We are already seeing a new concept emerge: that of the augmented agent. We are also convinced that this technology will heavily underscore what is at stake in the data services market. Through consumer expectations and regulatory oversight this market will provide companies and individuals the opportunity to better define their respective rights and obligations, but also to integrate the concepts of transparency, responsibility and security, conditions that are fundamental to the development of our operations.

According to Transparency Market Research, the global AI market today is worth 126 billion USD, and is projected to grow to 3 trillion USD by 2024.  Currently adoption has been driven by companies that are already mature in terms of digital transformation and data usage. Where as to date much of the attention about AI technology has focused upon the US and China we strongly believe that Europe is emerging as leaders in the field in terms of expertise, investment and public policy.

AI is attracting great deal of Buzz, with some recent applications feeling like gimmicks. Behind the buzz however AI is a real economic phenomenon with significant implications for all aspects of society and business. Whether it’s the increased accuracy of medical diagnoses, autonomous vehicles on our roads, protecting us against fraud or fake news or using our faces for authentication AI is already making its presence felt.

Nevertheless, AI cannot currently function without humans; for the moment, it is best suited to assisting people and improving their experiences.


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AT THE SERVICE OF HUMANS

Transformation map published online by the World Economic Forum, illustrating AI's contribution in terms of human assistance.

Source: World Economic Forum (2017)

 

AI today, and what it promises in terms of automation, underlines the need for a repositioning of human interaction with technology. As the scientist Joël de Rosnay describes, artificial intelligence represents the beginnings of a new world, built on "augmented collective intelligence". Seen as a catalyst for individual competencies, AI will still place the advisor at the heart of Customer Relations, and allow the automation of repetitive processes and tasks.

In a few years, the Customer Relations role has changed from being 100% face to face or phone based to a diverse, omni-channel means of managing interaction between organisations and their customers. This requires constant adapting to changing customers' needs and preferences.

As a Group Webhelp handles around 2 million conversations every day, across all channels, on behalf of our clients and partners. We expect this traffic is to grow and to evolve in terms of its nature and  purpose, creating opportunities for AI on several levels. This technology constitutes a productivity lever for all employees, benefiting brands and their customers.

Conscious of the opportunities that it can create and impacts that it can have on our activities, we have made Artificial Intelligence an investment priority in terms of innovation.

 


 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE - THE ADVISOR AT THE CENTRE OF OUR APPROACH [VALUE PROPOSITION]
(Sebastien Vassort - Head of Global Products & Services Innovation)

 

At Webhelp, we examine new technologies to assess their potential in terms of customer experience and productivity. The customer service of tomorrow must operate as a platform: an agile and open structure that blends human and technology capabilities to adapt to the evolving needs of brands and customers, allowing companies to remain competitive in rapidly changing markets.

This thinking drives our innovation projects connected to Artificial Intelligence and Automation, we place the relationship between agents and technology at the heart of what we do.

  • Automation of the conversation

Working in front of the Agent we deploy automated conversational solutions, chatbots, voicebots, and digital assistants (using technologies such as  Alexa and Google Home) that interact directly with the customer (pre-qualification of needs, automation of questions/responses and self-care).

  • Automation of advisor coaching

Working alongside the Agent as they engage with customers, automated virtual assistants interact with our advisors, supporting them with contextual knowledge, personalised coaching and suggested responses. For example, we are working with a Mailbot that determines what the customer is asking within an email and suggests the best response which is validated by the agent or even sent directly to the customer.

  • Automation of processes

Working behind the agent process automation robots  can execute high-volume repetitive tasks using tools such as Desktop Automation activities (identification, creation of tickets, reply/follow-up emails, etc.) and Robotics Process Automation (automation of back-office and administrative tasks,) and Real Time Operations Alerting (automated real-time monitoring of contact volumes and identifying the root-cause of unplanned demand and recommending corrective actions).


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND AUTOMATION INITIATIVES

Map of projects connected to Artificial Intelligence and Automation at Webhelp.

Source: Webhelp - Global Innovation (2017)

 

Many of the technologies underlying AI are already being used within Customer Relations, such as Speech Analytics (speech recognition and processing), Natural Language Processing and Machine Translation, Machine Learning (for modeling and prediction), Robotic Process Automation (for back-office processes)

 

 

CURRENT BENEFITS FOR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE [CONCRETE EXAMPLES]
(David Pattman – Global Innovation Director)

 

At Webhelp, our approach to innovation is very empirical; we test ideas internally before recommending solutions to our clients.

To this end, our Global R&D efforts are currently focused on:

  • The partial automation of conversations, advisor coaching and processes
  • Automated omni-channel assistance, available 24/7
  • An improvement in predictive analyses to better anticipate customers' needs and define optimal engagement strategies
  • More sophisticated data analysis processes to better understand customers and increase their satisfaction
  • Improvements in the identification and security of transactions
  • The protection and security of processed data

Through our subsidiaries, we are currently developing projects relating to speech and image recognition and processing.


SPEECH RECOGNITION AND PROCESSING AT TELECATS

Webhelp’s R&D efforts in the field of speech recognition and processing are being led by Telecats, a specialist speech technologies business acquired by Webhelp in 2017 and reflect our view that these capabilities are of increasing importance as a major player in BPO and Customer Relations.  Speech-based communications (phone calls) remain the single largest channel, and Speech analytics allows us to analyse calls historically and in real time on the basis of conversation content, quality and sentiment.

Legend's translation:
Example of usage: the system analyses the customer’s speech (tone, emotion, words, etc.) and suggests to the advisor what tone and words to use. This automated coaching allows the advisor to adapt to the customer and personalise the response.

Source: Webhelp - Global Innovation (2017)

IMAGE RECOGNITION AND PROCESSING AT MYSTUDIOFACTORY

Image recognition and processing offers the possibility of creating new, richer, more immersive and personalised digital experiences. For example, MyStudioFactory, Webhelp’s specialist digital agency  have developed an application that will allow the user to visualise in real-time what they would look like if they changed their hair or make-up colour using AI and image rendering technology .

Using AI capabilities such as Machine Learning, Deep Learning and advanced image processing allows us to support our clients to benefit from the  opportunities presented by new technologies on one hand, and a richer and more personalised conversation with an  expert advisor on the other.

From the perspective of the customer, AI allows for a richer experience by strengthening the engagement between customers and brands. The brand can now offer 24/7 support conversations via a chatbot and offer personalised responses thanks to the ability of AI to analyse and understand the customers intention and how best to respond to it. The ability for technology to learn and be taught has the potential to support and benefit the customer throughout their journey.

In the market, numerous case studies illustrate the use cases for these technological solutions. For example, the use of machine learning connected to AI has allowed the American media group Comcast to launch a program that detects subscribers' need for a visit from a technician to resolve connection problems. Initial indications are that the application can detect up to 90% of incidents. This would allow the saving of roughly 10 million dollars in unnecessary visits and technicians' time. Local energy supplier, Drift, based in Seattle, uses AI to predict its users' electricity needs, by collecting different kinds of data, such as working hours and internet usage. The service offered is reviewed every day, allowing the purchase of local energy in line with daily usage. There is even image recognition modules connected to deep learning that have allowed the creation of a chatbot that detects users' emotions.

And we are just getting started. At the Netexplo Forum 2017, the inventor of Siri stated that AI's current capabilities are limited to weak* AI, and that, we were not yet at the stage of strong AI without human interaction. It is therefore vital that we reflect on strong AI in the long term and act on weak AI in the short term. Doing so allows us to serve brands and their customers' needs in an agile way. For example, by using machine learning techniques, a contact centre can project call volumes in order to optimise call response times. By bringing together all these technologies on one platform, we can also create a virtual command centre, a dashboard that will offer an overview of a centre's activities, capable of analysing the situation in an automated way and providing assistance to advisors in real time.

 


 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL REDEFINE THE "DATA MARKET" [THE NEW DATA ECOSYSTEM]
(Boris Paulin – Data Protection Officer)

The real challenge of AI lies in the creation of an ethical model relating to data quality, which determines their value and processing. Whether the data is being processed by a human or by AI, what is important remains the same: the customer's voice. Companies able to structure, 'intelligently' use and secure data will give themselves a decisive competitive advantage. The truly impactful factor is the explosion in volumes brought about by automation; Customer Relations actors must now do their utmost to control huge quantities of data in order to continue to be trusted third parties. This new method of data processing will require companies to be more transparent and responsible. We are seeing this already in security breaches resulting in data leaks; it is not a question of reputation, but a duty of transparency that is the concern. Every responsible company must show accountability towards its partners, that is to say their duty to implement internal mechanisms and procedures demonstrating adherence to data protection rules.

THE OVEREXPOSURE OF DATA: A REALISATION

Certainly, AI increases our understanding of customers, however, it also puts them more at risk with all the data collected on them in a systematic and automated way. We can understand the doubt and indeed the concern held by some regarding the free will that can be exercised by machines without human interference. Take for example the racist Twitter posts by 'Tay', the untrained Microsoft chatbot, who ill-intentioned users were able to corrupt. It is humans who will control developments and systems, all the more so in the case of ‘weak’ AI technology.

The risks will accumulate, since it will be necessary to ensure that the information systems storing the data produced by new AI technologies and connected objects are reliable, and that their use conforms to the data collection purpose. We have seen it recently with Strava Labs, the fitness application with geolocation, used by professional athletes and the military to map their training. A researcher showed that public data being recorded in the app made it possible to identify the routes taken by military personnel in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, a useful source of information for terrorists. Certainly, AI will help to make cyber security more reliable, however, human vigilance and the ethical practices of different actors (companies, users) will play an essential role.

AI, SPEARHEAD OF A TRANSPARENT, RESPONSIBLE AND SECURE DATA ECONOMY

At the risk of going against the tide of fears and risks raised by some experts in the field, we have the personal conviction that AI will not only strengthen human capital, but will also contribute to establishing a structured and responsible data economy. Every individual will gradually become aware of the value of their data and their right to informational self-determination, outlined in the EU regulation which gives the individual the right to determine how and for what purposes their data are used. We may soon see the arrival of more targeted customer expectations, in the spirit of, "I am giving you my data, but in exchange, I want a personalised service from the brand to whom I am bestowing the right to use my data". We must anticipate and prepare for this. This data will hold a monetary value which will no longer be attributed by the brand alone, but also by the customer themselves. We are seeing, for example, think tanks such as Génération Libre, led by Gaspard Koening, which allows internet users to take back control of their personal data by deciding to either sell or keep them. And, as Customer Relations specialists, we will be responsible for managing this data.

In fact, beyond the 'intelligent' and automated management of tasks by the programs used, AI processes, structures and creates new data. In a way, we are moving out of the era of Big Data, where we focused on how to structure and analyse this mountain of data, to the era of 'Valued Data', where we look at how to use the data and guarantee Data Privacy.

There is now a need for transparency with regard to the customer. If we want to offer them a quality service, we need to better understand them by analysing their data. The more data there is on an individual, the more personalised and varied the service they receive will be. Nevertheless, the customer will have the right to decide whether or not to share their data, according to their view of the transparency and security of the trusted third party. This is what we need to work on together with the brands, this guarantee regarding the purpose of the data processing and the security of the data.

EUROPE WILL BE THE LEADER OF THE DATA MARKET

This investment in data extends to their protection, and Europe will have a powerful tool at its disposal when the GDPR (EU regulation on the Protection of Personal Data) comes into force on 25 May 2018. This regulation aims to secure guarantees regarding the processing and protection of this data at the European level and will allow actors in the region to generate profits from the data economy in a controlled way. Certainly, some proclaim the supremacy of the US and China in advances in AI, however, until their data markets offer a regulation identical to that of the EU, the data economy's centre of gravity will very quickly position itself in Europe and in all the countries and companies that have taken these commitments into account, in particular by putting in place Binding Corporate Rules. Some of the GAFA companies have recognised this and started to position themselves, like Facebook for example, who last January announced the opening of a global privacy centre to respond to the demands of the GDPR in particular. Of course, every actor must take a pragmatic approach in line with the realities of our operations.

THE DATA ECONOMY IN 2025 – IDC ESTIMATES
- In 2025, the quantity of data produced will reach 163 zettabytes (a billion gigabytes), 10 times the quantity produced in 2016 (16.1 zettabytes)

- Only 15% of this data will be indexed and only one fifth will be analysed

- 20% of the data will be essential in our daily lives

- Around 90% of the data produced will require protection (confidentiality, secret, private, conformity)

- Only one quarter of the data will be protected

Source: translated from “Data Age 2025: The Evolution of Data to Life-Critical, Don’t Focus on Big Data; Focus on the Data That’s Big” - Sponsored by Seagate – IDC White Paper © 2017 

BCRs (BINDING CORPORATE RULES), WHAT ARE THEY?

A service company's BCRs constitute a code of good conduct for their client and a guarantee for the end user. They allow the transfer of data out of the European area, including to countries without adequate data processing and protection rules while maintaining the benefit of BCRs. With the GDPR, data protection will be standardised across the European Union, however, BCRs will offer an additional guarantee for multinational groups, who put the processing and security of data at the heart of their strategy. BCRs for subcontracting companies who manage data transfers on behalf of their client and on the instructions of someone in charge of data processing have existed since 2013.

The process of having BCRs validated by the competent authority (CNIL in France, or the official data protection authority of any other country) is very demanding and includes 8 stages, however, it offers an additional guarantee for the client.

Today, only around 80 groups have BCRs, which is not very many, particularly when you consider that there are around 500 European companies in the Forbes Global 2000 ranking.

 

*Strong AI is defined as: AI that aims to replicate human behaviour as closely as possibly, by beginning a program with simple intentions and then developing it towards more complex actions. This AI will have autonomy, even a conscience.