The recent Genesys Xperience19 conference in Denver, Colorado, saw some of the most exciting developments in Customer Experience technology showcased to an eager global audience, and in case anyone was under any illusion about the future of CX – it involves AI.
The tech itself is dispassionate, and can appear benevolent to users as it cheerfully helps them along their customer journey. However, decades of pulp sci-fi dystopia has left AI with an image problem – no matter how helpful it may seem, some simply cannot shake the idea that bots might someday pull a Hal 9000 and see humans as inferior and deserving of subjugation…or worse!
Such fears ought to be dispersed when one discusses the details of AI technology with the real intelligence behind it – someone like Olivier Jouve, Executive Vice President of Genesys Purecloud, perhaps the planet’s most popular contact centre platform.
Olivier took on the role of PureCloud EVP in 2017, having spent over three decades honing his craft in pioneering customer sentiment technology development, including through senior positions at IBM.
His impressive resume also reveals a stint as an associate professor in computer science at Leonardo da Vinci University in Paris, and today, with a 150-strong AI team under him, Olivier is one, if not the world’s foremost authority on AI and its ability to make our journeys as customers easier.
He knows, in detail, how much his tech helps us in our lives – often without us realising it – but still the idea that AI will have a negative impact on humanity can cloud the vision and judgement of some sceptics who see it as an evil overlord-in-waiting.
Fresh from a timely Xperience19 breakout session on AI Ethics, Olivier took time out to chat with Customer Experience Magazine about his work, its reputation, and just how much AI is used for the betterment of our lives as consumers.
Speaking of the “creepiness factor” that some associate with AI, its access to personal data, and how it could be used in the wrong hands, he describes why being open and honest with customers, and letting them see the advantages with their own eyes, is the best way to go.
“We want the customer to know that we respect their data, and we need them to see what data we are using, so they are able to opt out if they so wish,” he explains.
“In the way we build our products, we do a lot of design thinking with customers to understand where the limit is. You know, what type of data they are comfortable with.
“And of course, you are being careful not to introduce any bias, which is something that’s very complex – not using any gender, or lifestyle, race…whatever, that could turn your model into something that is going to be targeting a specific minority.
“This wasn’t on the table 15 years ago when we were already scoring contact centres for next best action, cross-selling, up-selling, and so on, and using that data. Now there is much more sensitivity about how you use the data, and I think that’s actually a good thing, as it forces us to be clear from the get-go.”
Olivier highlights that those who are creeped out by an AI’s use of data, to the point where they will walk away from it, are a small minority compared to those who see the benefits and remain loyal to brands brandishing the tech.
“Companies which use AI the right way will enjoy great benefits, by being fair and respecting privacy,” he adds.
A common cause of ‘creepiness’ is the notion that a customer is unaware if they are interacting with a human or a bot on their journey with a brand, but as Olivier sagely states, that uncanny valley effect is being superseded by good old fashioned customer satisfaction when the AI does its job – and does it well.
“Me, personally, I don’t care if it’s a bot, as long as I get what I want, quickly, and with a great experience,” he continues.
“I don’t think customers care as much about the technology they use as much as the experience they have. I do think we should disclose that it’s not a human though – that should be part of the disclaimer. But at the same time, I don’t see that as something that should be discouraging people, who may think ‘oh no I’m not talking to a bot as I won’t get anything from it’.
“That’s also a danger of going to market too quickly with AI tech – some chatbots don’t provide the right experience. There are, however, things chatbots and voicebots can do very well, and I think we should double down on those.”
As Olivier points out, it’s not as if customers aren’t already used to interacting with bots on a less ‘intelligent’ level already.
“When someone asks for the balance of their bank account, they don’t care if it’s a human giving it to them, so people are already used to this sort of automation. We just have to be careful that if we go deeper with more complex things that users don’t get the feeling we are not responsive.
“People like empowerment, and chatbots can be great for that. But there are still some limitations, so we are not yet at the stage where AI is going to replace humans. We have chatbots that are very specialised and do things very well, but we need to find the right moment where you have to hand over to a human.”
Yet will there be a day when there is no human to hand over to? Will we fleshies be redundant in a future where all the work is being done by bots?
“I don’t think it will replace humans, as we are putting humans into something they are really good at, and so I see that more as a collaboration between AI and human – something we call blended AI. We can do sentiment analysis automatically, but it has limitations,” Olivier replies.
So what are these human skills that we can still feel superior to the bots on, and that customers still desire on their journeys? What’s the key difference that currently keeps humans in contact centre customer-facing roles?
“Empathy – we aren’t there yet,” says Olivier.
“Humans are great at it, and we need to think of the overall CX, the CX we want to provide. AI does things a human cannot do because you could not integrate all the different insights you have about a customer, but AI is really good at that.
“However, to take the conversation to the next step, at some point currently you have to hand over to a human. Of course, even humans need to be taught empathy in some cases!
“Perhaps in 10 to 15 years we will be able to train AI better in applying empathy, but for now that’s why we need this combination of human and technology.”
Ok, enough of what humans can do better than bots! It’s time to let Genesys genius shine, as Olivier outlines exactly why today – not years from now – AI is simply superior in most non-emotional ways to humans when it comes to steering customer journeys and earning the desired end result – superior Customer Experience.
“Our products work on finding the best agent for an incoming call or interaction, something we do very very well thanks to machine learning. The AI is understanding what the topic of the interaction is and uses historical data and a sophisticated decision tree to move the interaction forward.
“We want to optimise the customer journey, so we have a solution called predictive engagement. We can look at what a user is going to do on a website, view their navigation, and see at which moment he or she might need some help, and decide what the best outcome is for this customer.
“Once you have this interaction you can develop additional models which could be for retention or selling – more things we do very very well that a human couldn’t match.
“When you do next-best action and you have a customer calling who is ready to leave, our tech knows if you go for a specific action, there’s an 85 percent chance that this person is going to remain as a customer, for example.
“That’s from crunching a lot of data, gained through similar situations, and handling so much data – well that’s not something a human can do.”
Other than the aforementioned empathy, does Olivier feel his AI is lacking in any other areas that might be beneficial to overall CX?
“I think what AI does not do very well yet is go deeper into the conversation,” he tells me.
“We see breakthroughs when we look at things like Google Duplex, where, you can find yourself questioning if you are interacting with a real human or not, but an AI able to handle 100 percent of complex interactions? I don’t think we are there yet, though we are making a lot of progress.”
Despite my impatience as a customer to know when exactly this will be possible, Olivier sensibly refuses to give a date.
“I don’t like giving predictions, but I see how fast we are moving forward. I think Duplex was really a breakthrough – suddenly you see something and you think ‘wow’ – the voice, the type of interactions…it’s all very human.
“I don’t think it’s about developing the technology now – it’s about the right data and making it accessible. All of that is moving at an exponential speed. What’s really accelerating AI is that everything is in the cloud. Every single interaction from the employee or customer’s side – all that is feeding our AI platform. The more data we have, the more we are going to be able to power the customer journey.”
In the midst of such dazzling tech capabilities, it can easy to forget any regulation necessities to protect data and ensure AI is used for the good of humanity.
“It’s our responsibility to propose how we want to be regulated. It’s the right time to do the right thing,” adds Olivier
“Over 30 years I’ve been through a few AI ‘winters’, where AI had been at peak hype, but then died. I don’t want this one to die because some people are not responsible, so I will do whatever I can to make sure we are doing the right thing.
“There remains a fragility to this whole sphere, caused by the actions of Cambridge Analytica for example, which rocked people’s confidence in AI and data use, but I believe what we are developing at Genesys is promising, and beautiful, in a way that will not kill the hype this time around.”
A new survey has revealed the extent of ‘ghosting’ by both employers and employees in the UK.
The term refers to the practice of disappearing without contact, and was originally coined to describe dating experiences. However, according to findings from education and training specialists The Knowledge Academy, an growing number of factors mean it is becoming widespread in the professional sphere.
General causes for increased workplace ghosting include: improved economies and low unemployment rates, increasingly competitive job markets (more and better jobs means searchers can afford to be picky), and changing employee attitudes.
The survey quizzed 1,257 full-time employees from a range of sectors to discover how many had ghosted a company and how many had been ghosted by one.
The sector which saw the most applicants ghost their respective employers is Business, Finance, and Legal, where 24 percent of the people asked said they had ended communication in the interview process.
This is followed by Advertising/Marketing/PR/Media which saw 22 percent of applicants ghosting an employer at some stage of the interview process.
In descending number of ‘ghosters’, the remaining sectors placed as follows: Retail/Hospitality (19 percent ), Miscellaneous other (12 percent), Technical services (10 percent), Education (five percent), Healthcare (five percent), and finally Government (three percent).
Flipping the tables, the applicants that have been ghosted the most by employers come from Advertising, Marketing, PR and Media companies – a whopping 30 percent of applicants. Next in line is Business/Finance/Legal companies in which 21 percent have ghosted prospective employees.
The remaining sectors place as follows, in descending numbers: Retail/Hospitality (14percent), Miscellaneous other (nine percent), Government (eight percent), Technical services (seven percent), Education (six percent), and finally Healthcare (five percent).
Speaking exclusively to The Knowledge Academy, experts across a range of industries have shared stories on workplace ghosting.
Jeremy Rose of web hosts Certra Hosting described his experience as an employer. He said: “I’ve had the most ghosting incidents working with freelancers. I was working with a freelancer for small-time projects for a couple of months. When she had finished, I proposed another. After she’d agreed to do it, she disappeared. I can partially understand why this happens – their hours and communication are sporadic, so they tend to move on. And while it’s great they’ve retained their freedom, it’s really problematic dealing with the fallout.”
Meanwhile, Allisa Lindo, currently Growth Marketing Manager at brand asset management firm Brandox, described her experience being ghosted as a potential recruit to another firm.
“My first interview after moving to Sweden went extremely well,” she said.
“After a productive interview with the CEO, as I left, he shook my hand and smiled broadly, saying ‘You’re going to be a great fit here. I look forward to working with you.’ I waited two days and sent a follow-up ‘thank you’ email but got no response. After three weeks I discovered they’d hired someone else. Fast forward a year and I was working for a different company in the same area. A new woman started working there, and she mentioned she used to work for the company that ghosted me. Turns out she was the woman they’d hired, and from what she told me, it sounds like I dodged a bullet.”
A new B2B sales conversion service is bringing back the art of the handwritten letter in a scheme that is proving hugely popular with clients.
Conversion optimisation platform ResponseiQ has unveiled Inkdesk, a fully managed service, defining campaigns and crafting handwritten letters along with sourcing and validating CRM-ready data. They employ actual human writers, not robots, to pen clients’ critical messages on a range of premium paper and envelope options. In the US, the letters can even be mailed from a desired location to gain a postal stamp and provide a “local touch”.
“The development of Inkdesk was driven by mediocre, industry-wide response rates of four percent for direct mail campaigns,” explains Scott Lee, CEO of ResponseiQ.
“Our mission is to excel our clients’ conversion expectations, so we trialed a handwritten letter service and the response and results have been overwhelming – on average, our beta testers have seen ROI rates of 1657 percent.”
James Morritt, Head of Customer Success at EventsCase, said: “Handwritten letters open more doors than any other marketing campaign we do – we’ve had a 2122 percent ROI since adopting the service. As a result of our outreach via Inkdesk, we’ve just signed a deal with CNBC to use our event management software for the World Economic Forum.”
Scott Lee added: “We’ve spent the past few years caught up in a digital cacophony of programmatic ads and hyper personalisation so we decided to take a step back from the millions of emails and websites shared daily and offer clients an impactful, carefully composed personalised letter. We’re seeing response rates of 48 percent, that’s 12 times more than a traditional direct mailer, which clearly indicates a desire for more considered communications.”
The need to praise staff for good work has been highlighted in a new study showing employees would turn down a pay increase in favour of a culture of support.
Global employee engagement firm Reward Gateway carried out a survey of UK employees, managers, and HR staff, and found that more than three-in-five would rather work for a firm that offered praise, than for a company offering none but paying 10 percent more.
While the survey provides overwhelming evidence that HR leaders believe recognition and reward programs make a positive impact on business outcomes, 45 percent of HR workers don’t agree that their current recognition and reward program is as effective as it could be.
The top frustrations HR leaders have with their recognition and reward programs are that employees aren’t motivated by the rewards; moments of recognition aren’t seen or celebrated by other people; and it doesn’t allow for continuous or immediate recognition. To overcome these challenges and improve their programmes, almost three quarters of HR employees surveyed said they would be likely to invest in recognition and reward within the next year.
Another barrier to successful recognition programmes is that managers are ill-equipped to give effective recognition. Only 16 percent of managers strongly agreed that their company provides them with the tools and understanding on how to recognise their colleagues effectively.
Meanwhile, many managers are failing to recognise their employees effectively, as just 20 percent of managers strongly agreed that their company praises or thanks employees for the good work they do based on their company’s values, and over a quarter agreed that they struggle to find the time to give out thanks and praise.
Doug Butler, CEO at Reward Gateway, said: “While it’s great to see so many HR leaders understanding the positive impact of employee engagement on business, traditional methods and manual processes to achieve current workforce employee engagement goals are no longer an option. What employees want is continuous, instant and impactful recognition which reflects the ‘always-on’ workplace culture and the ‘always connected’ personal life many now have.”
The gala event will take place on October 10 at London’s Wembley Stadium, where finalists representing some of the best-known brands in the country will gather to make presentations before an expert panel of judges, hoping to secure one of 24 category titles that reflect every aspect of customer centricity.
New categories for 2019 include Employee Experience, Employees at the Heart of Everything, Hospitality & Leisure, Retail, and Professional Services, and the awards will be presented during an evening black tie dinner ceremony.
Applications are now being taken from potential judges to join the line-up, and you can click here to find out more about becoming a UKCXA judge.
The finals, which are chaired once again by international CX consultant and author Ian Golding, is also one of the UK’s best CX networking opportunities, with hundreds gathering at the iconic venue to support colleagues and celebrate what makes the UK a beacon of customer-centricity in a rapidly changing business landscape.
The UK Customer Experience Awards is accredited with the prestigious Gold Awards Trust Mark from the Independent Awards Standards Council, and as always is proud to be partnered with Cranfield School of Management, Barnardo’s, and the Customer Experience Professionals Association.
Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “The UK Customer Experience Awards has grown exponentially to become the biggest CX event of its kind in the world, and we are incredibly proud to be marking its tenth anniversary. Customer Experience is now a brand’s most defining characteristic, and it is impossible to overestimate its importance to the economy. These awards play such an important role in not only celebrating achievements, but also setting the standard for organisations to follow if they are to be successful in this new era where the customer really is at the heart of everything.”
The vast majority of CIOs find integrating new communications with legacy systems a challenge.
That is among the findings in research carried out by global cloud communications software provider, IMImobile, which discovered that 92 percent of CIOs faced this issue. This comes at a time when almost all (98 percent) CIOs feel under pressure to deliver the Customer Experience expected by both customers and the wider business world.
Businesses are increasingly expected to respond with the same level of speed and consistency whether using email, SMS, Facebook Messenger, or new channels such as WhatsApp Business. However, more than half (52 percent) of CIOs admit they are unable to provide a truly connected and integrated customer communications experience across all channels and business systems.
Asked to consider the major barriers they face when it comes to delivering frictionless CX, CIOs cited legacy IT systems (51 percent), data being spread across multiple systems (51 percent), and budget constraints (42 percent), as the top three blockers to progress.
Aseem Sadana, EVP at IMImobile, said: “It is widely known that the ability to innovate and improve customer communications can make or break a business. Worryingly, the research lays bare the gap between the experience customers now expect, and what businesses are currently able to provide.
“The challenge is that delivering great Customer Experience is easier said than done. This is especially the case for large consumer facing enterprises, where fragmented, legacy IT environments make integrating new communications channels and processes very complex. Many of them also have data that is spread across multiple systems, with programmes and processes varying from department to department. CIOs must consider a centralised platform approach to orchestrate and automate communications across existing business systems and communications channels.”
New research shows that the public appetite for points and plastic is as popular as ever, with the majority of UK customers subscribed to at least one loyalty scheme.
According to Hawk Incentives’ The Loyalty Evolution Report – which surveyed 2,500 people across the UK – a massive 82 percent of Brits are signed up to one or more programmes. Sixty-four percent are signed up to between one to five loyalty schemes, followed by six to ten (14 percent), and 11 to 20 (two percent).
The founding grocery godfathers’ of loyalty schemes still take the lion’s share of the market, with eight-out-of-ten (81 percent) consumers admitting to subscribing to a supermarket loyalty card scheme.
The UK’s burgeoning coffee shop culture is also driving consumer loyalty, enjoying 42 percent of the share of the market, with restaurants in third place with 33 percent. Least popular currently are fuel schemes (with only six percent of the population subscribing); technology schemes (eight percent); and sports retail loyalty and rewards schemes (19 percent).
The study also revealed that 62 percent consider themselves to be brand loyal. Contrary to previous studies which have painted younger shoppers as more fickle, the Hawk report reveals that Gen Z, Xennials, and Millennials say they stay faithful to the brands they like or love. Indeed 77 percent of 25-34 year olds claim to be brand loyal, along with 70 percent of 18-24 year-olds and 34-44 year-olds.
Meanwhile, 85 per cent of females are signed up to loyalty and reward schemes, compared to 76 percent of men.
Lack of interest was cited by a fifth (20 percent) of respondents as the main reason for not signing up. Seventeen percent cited a perceived lack of value. This is also a greater reason for men (21 percent versus 11 percent for females), as well as the older age group (24 percent). Older consumers aged 55-plus are failing to sign up over concerns about the use of their data, the report found.
Despite the rise of digital technologies, consumers would still prefer a physical loyalty card rather than a digital format. This is the case for both subscribers and non-subscribers.
Over half (58 percent) of subscribers and 30 percent of non-subscribers said something in their purse or wallet was preferable to a smart phone app or another digital platform. Perhaps not surprisingly, non-subscribers don’t really have a preference, but 46 percent said they would still prefer a physical card if they could choose.
Chris Ford of Hawk Incentives said: “The fact that only 15 percent of consumers don’t currently subscribe to rewards programmes shows loyalty schemes are still very much alive and kicking. However, it appears consumers’ perception of them may have shifted as people become more concerned about data in the Facebook era.
“What we do know is that brands that offer loyalty schemes which are relevant, offer choice, and are easy to access, create the best opportunity to engage an already receptive audience of active customers. Mining your data intelligently and sensitively to create targeted rewards and incentives will only make consumers more brand loyal and better brand advocates. Reassurance that their data is in safe hands is, of course, also key in the age of transparency.”
The most exciting gathering of award winners and experts in the field of complaint handling will take place London this autumn at a brand new conference, and now is your chance to join them for a special discount price.
Taking place on September 25 at the Park Plaza Riverbank in the heart of London, this unique one-day event will offer practical techniques on transforming complaints into improved products and services, and provide guidance on creating customer loyalty through outstanding complaint handling strategies.
Attendees will be able to interact in real time with each panel using the Slido app, to put questions to panelists and vote on issues as speakers discuss the need to adopt dynamic, technological solutions instead of traditional approaches.
As with all Awards International events, the conference will be an excellent networking opportunity, as guests will include representatives from a wide range of sectors. A full line-up for the conference will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, joining Awards International CEO Neil Skehel as Co-Chair of the conference will be Daniel Ord, Founder and Director of OmniTouch International, and one of the world’s leading authorities on contact centre excellence. Daniel also leads CXM’s Contact Centres Masterclass.
“I’m thrilled to be welcoming attendees to London later this year for what will be one of the best opportunities to learn the skills and strategies of award-winning firms,” Daniel said.
“Our panel discussions will feature valuable insight into what the very best brands are providing customers when it comes to complaint handling.”
Neil Skehel added: “This isn’t just another conference; you will be an integral part of this event and your priorities will shape what we discuss. It promises to be an educational and inspirational experience for everyone involved.”
Tickets for Winning With Complaint Handling are now available, while those who book before midnight on July 19 can enjoy a special Early Bird Discount, saving them £100 on the full price. Click here for further details.
The world’s first bricks-and-mortar store selling only items that are trending online in real time will open its doors in London next month.
The Trending Store will be open from July 3 – 7 at Westfield London, operated by trend foresighting platform Nextatlas, and partnered with charity Save the Children.
A ‘How We Shop’ concept store of the future, The Trending Store has been created in response to shoppers’ needs, bringing together the smart intel of online shopping and the human interaction of shopping ‘in real life’ for the first time. How We Shop is Westfield’s retail research and trends platform, now in its sixth year.
NextAtlas will track 400,000 of the hottest influencers or ‘trend innovators’ to analyse what they are speaking about or wearing and pick 100 items across an array of price ranges it deems to be that day’s trending items. Stylists will be on hand to hunt out looks as instructed by Nextatlas’ AI technology, to stock the store each day, and be inside the store helping customers pick out key items to suit their own individual styles.
Mario Coletti, Managing Director at Nextatlas, said: “Traditional retailers have always used stores to gather customer information. The Trending Store is revolutionising store management by using Nextatlas’ platform to make stores a destination of data science rather than a source of it. It’s a pioneering example of how AI will be relevant for customers as well as a way to make stores more effective in generating enhanced Customer Experience.”
A new study shows that Brits are quick to complain online following a bad ecommerce encounter.
The survey of 2,000 UK customers by retail operations platform Brightpearl found that almost a third of shoppers have left a negative review online, with nearly seven in 10 having done so in the last year. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed will also share a negative retail experience with someone else they know to warn them off a particular brand.
In the digital age, consumers are quicker to take to social media or online review sites to share their anger or dissatisfaction, but even those who don’t vent wish they had.
Fifty-five percent of Brits are yet to leave a negative review of a company online, but the same percentage regret missing out on the opportunity to air their grievances with the brand or retailer when they’ve had a poor shopping experience.
Derek O’Carroll, CEO of Brightpearl, said: “Brits are famously awkward and averse to confrontation and complaining, but, with the rise of so many avenues for customer feedback, from online forms to social media, those habits appear to be changing. Consumers have started exercising their right to have a moan when they receive sub-par service – and brands need to start paying closer attention.”
The research reveals that online consumers are becoming more reliant on the feedback of other shoppers to support their decision making.
Forty-six percent of respondents regularly check star ratings for online retailers before buying from them, and two-in-five consumers have been put off a brand or a retailer they might have shopped with – by a single unfavourable review.
Thirty percent of shoppers do look more favourably on retailers who actively respond to negative reviews posted about their services online.
Meanwhile, 55 percent admit they would also be likely to spend more money with an online outlet which had ‘excellent’ reviews or star ratings. Brits believe they would be willing to spend as much as 22 percent more with a brand or retailer which has received mostly ‘excellent’ reviews than one which has been reviewed less favourably.
However, on average, UK customers want a brand or retailer to have a whopping 30 positive online reviews before they’d trust it enough to part with their cash, and anything rated below four out of five stars is generally considered negative by discerning consumers – with shoppers becoming highly dubious about shopping with any brand that has more than five negative reviews.
“From our research, it is clear that a positive review – or 30 – can make a huge difference in the choices consumers make when it comes to selecting a brand or retailer,” Derek continued.
“It is also important for retailers to be aware of the wide-ranging impact a negative review can have on their business, as well as understanding where those problems are coming from – whether it’s items not arriving on time or at all, to lack of delivery updates or cancelled purchases. Customers pay attention to middling and lower reviews, resulting in lost sales opportunities and potentially damaged reputation. The best approach to negative reviews is to identify and fix the issues that can lead to unhappy shopping experiences.”