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At the 18th Call Center Week Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, LSA was not only a sponsor and exhibitor, but was also an active participant in the many lectures, panels, round-tables, Q&A sessions, and networking events. Over 2,000 attendees gathered to discuss and learn about the latest trends and technology in delivering excellent customer service.  We heard keynote speakers from global leaders, including NBA Champion Golden State Warriors owner Peter Guber, Jeff James from Disney, Tom Weiland from Amazon, Davy Roach from Frontier Communications, and Tim Spencer from Safelite Group.

A major announcement that reflects the changing dynamic in how call centers interact with customers is that this was the last time the event will be referred to as Call Center Week! Beginning next year, the conference will be rebranded as Contact Center Week to reflect the multi-channel expectations of customers. Customers expect to interact with companies instantly, on a variety of platforms, be it voice, e-mail, chat, text, or social media. Agents need to be able to respond with an omni-channel approach, across all of these platforms. Talkdesk, a cloud-based call center software provider, let us know that e-mail lags way behind in resolution and satisfaction of customer concerns at 43%.  Real time interactions by phone carry 59% satisfaction, and chat weighs in at 84% satisfaction!  Businesses also need to have a philosophy of a mobile-first user experience.  Consumers expect to interact on their smart phones almost exclusively, in fact, 75% of customer calls are coming from mobile phones.

Customer satisfaction has been such a driving factor over the years that it has been shortened simply to “C-Sat,” which is still the dominant consideration at Call Center Week. And it is just as important as ever. According to a study by Purdue University, 68% of customers leave a company based on a poor Customer Experience. Gartner also predicts that in just a few years, by 2020, that “customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.” Microsoft informs us that 97% of consumers list customer service as important to their brand choice and loyalty.

One of the biggest questions being considered was how artificial intelligence will affect customer experience. It is not a question of if A.I. will be integrated, but rather to what extent. A.I. will not completely replace the contact center agent, as A.I. can’t replicate human empathy.  A.I. will help your agents make quicker and more informed decisions while interacting with customers. Per Servion Global Solutions, an omni-channel customer experience provider, 84% of customers are frustrated when agents do not have instant access to their data. How many times have you answered IVR prompts in order to be directed to the appropriate department, only to have a live agent ask you all or many of the same questions again?  How often have you had to explain the same issue over and over again as you are transferred to multiple departments?  A.I. integration will give agents instant access to your customer profile, and will assist them in resolving your issue quickly and completely.  Again, from Talkdesk, “A.I. will help call center managers better route calls as well as provide agents with data and tools to create more positive interactions with customers. The result is a more productive and efficient call center, and a greater level of customer satisfaction, which is a win-win for all parties involved.” While A.I. can’t replace human interaction, Gartner cautions us with a prediction that by 2020, customers will be able to manage 85% of their interactions with an enterprise without human involvement.

Another recurring topic was innovation and disruption to traditional training methods. Frontier Communications has found that peer-to-peer training has emerged as preferable training method than in the classroom. It is logistically easier to plan and manage, makes actual customer interactions the basis for effective training, and doesn’t pull too many agents from the floor at one time. It allows agents to progress at their own pace, letting those who excel to advance more quickly. Medical Transportation Management (MTM) has made a huge investment in training, with over 50 trainers in their organization, making sure that culture and consistency is driven down to all 1,400 employees.

A focus on employee care was also emphasized. Disney let us know that in a poll of CEO’s, human capital ranked ahead of customer service as their top concern.  If your employees are happy, then good customer experiences will result.  And as leaders, the extent to which you genuinely care for your employees is the extent to which they will care for your customers, and each other. Echoing this, Safelite has found that customers will never love your company until your employees love it first. Let us not forget that employee satisfactions will drive customer satisfaction.