Over 45 speakers and industry experts delivered compelling thought leadership presentations and case studies at the Customer 360 Africa summit in Johannesburg, April 16 – 18, 2019.
Designed for customer experience (CX) professionals, executives and consultants, the event drew the attention of over 200 delegates to investigate ways in which organisations are currently succeeding across their entire CX initiatives through the presentation of case studies and success stories.
“Organisations recognise that CX is the new battleground for differentiation, but how do you create customer experiences that disrupt incumbents or your competitors?” says Jacqui E’Silva, content director for Customer 360 Africa 2019.
“Where do you start developing a truly omnichannel experience? And how do you convince senior board members to give you the resources you need to fulfill your CX strategy?”
Moving away from “silositus”
E’Silva’s questions were restated across the two days by the keynote speakers including Heidi Brauer, chief customer officer (CCO) of Holland Insurance who delivered a presentation entitled, “The Customer Centric Revolution: How Does One Prepare?”
“The whole notion of “them” and “us” in an organisation is very common across different business units, product houses and departments,” says Brauer.
“We must move away from this illness and scourge called “silositus”. Everything that you sell is the same as what everyone else sells. Realise that you are not doing it on your own – it takes a village to raise a brand.”
Brauer says everyone in that village (your company) should be involved in raising your brand and facilitating great CX, organization-wide.
“Every next single perfect action takes you to your ensuing goal or objective. The goal is normally a ‘big elephant’ but you can’t eat the elephant in one go. Focus on one part at a time – and do it really greatly well,” she says.
“Also stick to your knitting. Too often the next great thing can distract you, but you can’t win the race if you are looking around you all the time. Focus forward.”
“It’s time for organisations to move away from the siloed approach and start to truly, and resolutely, put the interests of customers first. Be inclusive and not exclusive. Be relentless, insistent, persistent and consistent.”
How AI can empower CX within the African Context
The importance of aligning robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the organisation to the needs of the customer was a focal point of several case studies and presentations at the event, including a profile on WesBank delivered by Corné Janse van Rensburg the bank’s head of business enablement.
Janse van Rensburg highlighted the evolution of AI from 10 years ago from being about having all your organisation’s data in one place so that you could query it (big data), to machine learning and AI that provide a set of tools inside data science that let’s an organisation count things cleverly and incorporate a feedback loop so that the model grows.
“There is a strong and disparate difference between what people perceive AI to be and its actual impact on customers,” says Janse van Rensburg. “Many people are also scared or excited by the prospect of AI believing it will either cause massive job losses or empower existing jobs (such as contact centre agents) and create new ones.”
“However, Gartner forecasts that while 1.8 million jobs will be lost from RPA, 2.3 million new jobs will also be gained through innovations in robotics and AI.”
Janse van Rensburg went on to quote Gartner further saying that by 2023, 80% of all digital business industry visions will be powered by AI. By 2030, AI is expected to generate a global economic impact of US$15 trillion and the number of devices that will carry AI this year alone will amount to 4 billion.
“Automation is unavoidable and necessary – one just has to track the pace of change in what happens in an Internet minute from one year to the next, to see how quickly, and rapidly, things are evolving,” says Janse van Rensburg.
“AI will change how we interact with technology while lowering the cost of processing and enabling more features for consumers. There will be greater, precise engagement and interaction with you as a customer based on accurate data about your preferences and needs.”
Janse van Rensburg says there will always be the need for human interaction as robots are counters and repeaters and cannot emote or feel. Robots will be able to diagnose diseases, translate languages, provide customer care 24/7 and do things better with faster analyses, speed, scalability and quantitative capability.
“Humans, on the other hand, are leaders and creators and are able to demonstrate and provide teamwork, creativity, empathy and social skills. The future will be about playing to our own strengths as a species,” says Janse van Rensburg.
“True customer centricity will require automation along with behavioural change. At WesBank we have welcomed this by adopting a process of continuous organisational change while embracing the fourth industrial revolution by setting up an RPA Centre of Excellence (COE) and Academy.”
“The WesBank Way is a behavioural change programme that reduces both operating process quality, and time deviation, to increase efficiency and effectiveness. It includes a framework of 10 elements that deliver a new way of working for leaders and their teams and an eco-system that enables problem solving, standards, process checks, coaching, capability development and collaborative huddles, among other things.”
Janse van Rensburg says that WesBank has already automated 670,000 completed transactions with RPA (including contact centre, back office, legal, insurance and debt review transactions) translating into 45,000 automated human hours.
“South Africa, and Africa in general, are embracing RPA but there are a few fundamentals we need to put in place in order to fully assimilate customer centricity in an automated world,” says Janse van Rensburg.
“We need to entirely understand, and perceive, what automation means and realise that while we lag behind the rest of the world in AI and RPA, we can leapfrog ahead. It will require that we put in place the requisite skills development programmes, while reskilling existing human resources, to take advantage of a CX-centric automated world.”
AI reshaping CX in the age of digitisation
Janse van Rensburg’s comments were echoed by Deon Scheepers, customer engagement executive at Pivotal Data who says that digital transformation is a powerful trend that is sweeping across every sphere of business.
“Companies that stand idly by and ignore it will rapidly become irrelevant in an increasingly digitised marketplace,” says Scheepers.
“A convergence of technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), social media, mobile platforms and big data are just a few of the drivers disrupting industries and revolutionising how businesses and customers interact and engage.”
Scheepers says that while this channel fragmentation creates complexity, it also offers numerous data points from which companies can draw customer information. These data sets can be combined with additional digital data from IoT, eCommerce platforms and database information to derive insights and intelligence that can revolutionise CX and enhance service delivery.
“Modern contact centres require advanced tools and systems that are capable of mining big data to construct a dynamic customer profile that accurately identifies their unique preferences. This information can then shape meaningful engagements via multiple channels to create CX that meets the expectations and demands of modern consumers in the digital age,” says Scheepers.
“These modern digitally-connected customers expect always-on availability, the ability to engage via their preferred channel and the option to switch seamlessly without a loss of context or relevance.”
A multi-dimensional approach to CX design is needed to meet these requirements, says Scheepers, and one where AI sits at the heart of a contact centre’s CX capabilities.
“As such, the rise of integrated AI-powered voice assistants and voice-enabled platforms will transcend engagement channels, effectively creating the frontline battle for customer acquisition and retention. Contact centre operators must, therefore, relook their engagement platforms to ensure they’re optimised for voice if they intended to level up their CX capabilities through the application of AI.”
This earlier post from Knowledge Executive looks at the future robotic and human capital workforce.
The value of an emotional connection
The importance of human interaction, empathy and connection was emphasized by several keynote speakers at the event including Wilma Burger, business project manager at Compsol, an organisation based in the Eastern Cape that provides processing and claiming for workmen’s compensation after an injury on duty (IOD).
Burger says Compsol went on a journey to determine and discover how they could improve their product and service offering for more than 1800 medical practices that service more than 3500 medical practitioners and medical service providers across South Africa.
“We engaged with various key stakeholders to improve the customer experiences and services we were delivering. We wanted to see solutions from their perspective,” says Burger.
“So we asked customers what they want from our systems, our processes, our technology and our people. We also sent representatives to meet with different medical practitioners across the country – including general practitioners (GPs) and physiotherapists – to understand what we could do.”
Compsol processes 500,000 claims every year amounting to R1 billion in value. Burger and the team at the IOD claims solutions business took the feedback they received from the surveys they conducted and built a CX-focused programme based on efficiency and tailored support while guaranteeing improvements in the cash flow of each practice by significantly reducing the amount of time to process claims.
“We decided to develop customer journey maps and put in place the requisite process and workflow mapping that would enable us to deliver a great experience through the systems, processes and touchpoints used by our customers to engage with us,” says Burger.
“More importantly – and what stood out for us from the feedback from our customers – was the need to engender empathy in our agents and frontline staff. So we decided to focus on the customer emotion and understand, connect and engage with them. We wanted to share our business with them, the result being that we made many of our customers into advocates and promoters.”
Driving CX Transformation from the top
A central theme that emanated from the conference was the need to drive CX throughout an organisation – and across all departments – spearheaded by the C-suite team.
Dr Sibongile Vilakazi, customer experience consultant of Kantar, says it is crucial to get senior executive buy-in and develop a CX strategy (which in many ways is similar to that of a strategy for inclusion and diversity) that is driven from the top to filter down into the organisation.
“Three-quarters of organisations believe themselves to be customer-centric and yet only 30% of consumers agree,” says Dr Vilakazi. “89% of CX professionals state that customer experience ROI is not well established in their organisations because of the mismatch between what CX needs to do and what CX is permitted to do. This requires a customer-centric culture embedded throughout your organisation. Only then can your employees deliver meaningful and memorable experiences that reinforce brand choice.”
Dr Vilakazi quoted research conducted by Convesocial and Corinium that indicates that there are four main barriers to improving CX across an organisation. These include achieving a single view of the customer (41%); achieving a consistent customer experience across all channels (35%); lack of C-suite buy-in (21%); and challenges with regards to employee engagement (20%).
“At Kantar, we believe that you need to completely and fully define your customer strategy – your North Star. This includes developing a vision for the type of experience you want to provide and understanding your competitive environment and your customer’s needs and expectations,” says Dr Vilakazi.
“While defining your CX strategy you need to understand the alignment to your brand’s promise and what makes your experience unique. It’s important to capture the needs from different stakeholders in your organisation and have a common objective of what you want to achieve.”
Once the strategy had been defined, the next step is to embed operational change. “This includes defining KPIs and capturing customer feedback to ensure progress towards the vision. Ensure that you define the right metrics – those that best reflect what you want to achieve – and capture feedback in this regard from your customers’ journeys,” she says.
The next step is to activate a customer centric behaviour across the organisation and engage and empower everybody in the organisation to create memorable moments for customers. “Develop a system that acknowledges, appreciates and explains how feedback will be used. Close the loop with customers to resolve important issues while understanding your employees experiences.”
“Any CX program is not complete without analytics and measurement. You need to monitor business impact and understand the impact of change processes on your business – both behavioural and financial,” says Dr Vilakazi.
“Include different data sources (financial, CRM, social) to make the most of your customer engagement programmes. Your analytics and measurement processes should close the loop and enable you to understand and examine whether your investments are paying off.”