restarting CX

Why AI and human-centred design should be the priorities for restarting CX programmes


The latest CX Strategy Forum concluded that customer experience has had a turbulent 2020, with many programmes stalling - but as attention turns back to customer experience, there are some key areas to focus on. 

13th Nov 2020

On the 4th November I took part in the most recent of Genesys’ CX Strategy Forums, hosted by Martin Hill-Wilson and GenesysRik McCrossan.

The CX Strategy Forums are an exclusive opportunity to plan and execute strategy for delivering exceptional CX – in the Cloud.  An invitation-only event, they are filled with lively discussions and networking between attendees, a group of specially chosen peers and experts. There is also an informal (virtual) gathering the evening beforehand.

Setting the scene for the forum, Rik and I discussed the current state of customer experience (CX), as well as some highlights from the recent research into empathy and customer service that had been commissioned by Genesys.

CX has had a turbulent 2020 so far, but is now showing signs of recovery

Even before COVID-19, CX was in crisis, with some forecasting that 25% of CX professionals would lose their jobs in 2020. As a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus and the challenges it presented, many organisations switched their attention to solving logistical and operational challenges and some CX programmes were ‘parked’ or redirected.

However, over the last month or so, there has been a noticeable upturn in the number of CX projects that have restarted and of CX professionals being hired. This may be accounted for by three things:

  1. We are all living in a new reality – customer (and employee) behaviour has changed and your organisation needs to understand how this impacts you and how to respond.
  2. As the ‘dash to digital’ enters a more mature phase, organisations are once again turning attention back to stalled CX programmes.
  3. There is a growing realisation that new technologies and processes presents new opportunities and challenges for customer experience design and delivery.

The research is clear – empathy is good for business

I have written about the research before, but the forum gave the experts and participants an opportunity to discuss some of the findings in more depth.

As well as discussing the continuing importance of the role of the live agent in customer service, perhaps the most surprising insight was how much empathy shapes a customer’s perception of an interaction. Specifically, the data seems to show that customers prefer a negative outcome but with empathy, than a positive one with no compassion.

Empathy's Influence on Satisfaction

If you meet a customer’s needs but without empathy, it can still be an unsatisfactory experience

How AI powers ‘Experience as a Service’

Next we heard from Joe Smyth of Genesys - about how AI can practically bring excellence, empathy and personalisation into customer service.

Joe believes that the need for a personalised experiences will drive continuous investment in data & AI, and that recent advances in ingesting, analysing and acting on ‘Big Data’ means it is now much easier to engage customers in real-time.

Furthermore, to deliver ‘Experience as a Service’ requires an understanding of the interaction’s context across all channels and sources; including how customers are interacting with the organisation, as well as insights gleaned from other sources of data.

Barriers to adoption of Experience as a Service

It is clear that providing simple, intuitive, friction-free experiences is very important to customers – at the very least, it is what they have come to expect. So why then do so many organisations struggle to deliver that. Joe shared with us some of the barriers to adoption that he has encountered and how to overcome them;

  • Achieving scale, better RoI, and use case relevance – AI can be scaled (especially using cloud-based platforms) and then used to optimise, orchestrate and automate processes (without a huge team of data scientists).
  • Building trust, both internally and externally –it is very difficult to put your trust into things you don’t fully understand – so make AI ‘explainable’ and show that it is “secure to the core”.
  • Driving adoption and finding a smarter way to use data – by building an event-driven, real time, action–oriented data platform. The best advice I can give you here is to not try and ‘boil the ocean’ – the most successful customer data platforms start relatively small and focus on a limited number of use cases.
  • Countering the skills shortage and building multi-disciplinary teams – by utilising the investment and experience of partners like Genesys, who have spent the time and money developing the technologies and processes for you, so that you can focus on using the system, rather than on how it works (this is particularly important small-to-medium enterprises).
  • Balancing the promise and reality of conversational AI in customer service – with a focus on ease of implementation and a ‘build, test, optimise’ approach. Just as the best data platforms start relatively small and grow, so should your use of AI – start with a few use cases, learn by doing, then improve and iterate.

How the customer benefits   

Joe then discussed the ways in which customers benefit from an integrated experience management and orchestration approach, and how organisations can deliver it:

Experience as  a Service Imperatives

How customers can benefit from Experience as a Service – Joe Smyth

Show the customer you know them, remember them and the road they travelled to get here, including the context and circumstances that led the customer to this interaction, and don’t ask them to repeat something they have already told you.

Don’t just react to the needs of the customer, anticipate them and provide them with ways to rapidly resolve them, including the answers and choices they need, as well as the things they may not have thought of yet.

Stay engaged until the problem is resolved and keep the customer informed of progress until the journey has been completed; which also means confirming with them that they are satisfied with the outcome.

As the research clearly shows it pays to display empathy: listen to your customers, understand what they are feeling and why and treat them with compassion

Finally, keep the customer’s data safe – empathy and trust are both vital components of a long-term relationship – the customer needs to be confident that you will keep their data safe and will not abuse it.

Learn to walk before you run

Following Joe’s discussion about the need for an orchestrated customer experience, Nico VanEyssen and Amanda Halpin, both from Genesys, then talked us through the practical steps to turning your vision and strategy into a practical reality and the advantages in speed and ease that a cloud platform brings.

They presented how Genesys uses a three stage process to migrate clients to a new platform:

  1. Validate and design – starting with your business vision, that defines required business outcomes and identifies gaps in capability. This is followed by a technical assessment and planning stage and, finally making the financial business case. This is a process that engages multiple stakeholders in you company (and addresses one of Joe’s ‘barriers to adoption).
  2. Implementation – which is where Genesys ‘walk, run, fly’ process comes into play. In the ‘walk’ phase, a limited number of core processes and capabilities are migrated to the new solution. During the ‘run’ phase, these processes are enhanced and optimised to provide the new ways or working. In the ‘fly’ phase, these new capabilities and artificial intelligence are used as a launch pad to further enhance your customer and employee experience and to provide a competitive advantage.
  3. Achieve the desired outcomes – using the insights gained in the ‘validate and design’ stage as a baseline, and the results of the iterative ‘walk, run, fly’ process, it is then possible for you to demonstrate the quantifiable benefits achieved – not be waiting until the very end, but by assessing every iteration.

As they showed, this approach supports rapid deployment of an initial solution in weeks, rather than month.

Action plan

So where do you for from here? In the research, there were six clear recommendations:

  • Check your company mindset - Is it one that fosters customer and employee empathy and do you have a mindset fit for the industrial era or for the service era?

  • Develop your organisation’s empathetic musculature - Empathy is like muscle – we are all born with it but it needs constant exercise, so recognise and reward those employees that consistently display empathy

  • Define what empathy is to your organisation - By taking the time to understand your customers – from their perspective. Balance the needs of stakeholders (employees, customers) with those of shareholders

  • Gauge your current performance - Ask yourself ‘am I measuring what is easy to measure, or what is important?’ because the ultimate arbiters of whether you are doing a good job or not are your customers

  • Explore how you can better support your service agents - It is time to measure your agents differently, with a focus on customer-centricity, and to give them the tools that allow them to focus on establishing rapport

  • Ensure you build empathy into your digital channels - Finally, put humans at the centre of your experience design, including processes and technologies and remember that a relationship is not defined by a single conversation – put each interaction into context

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