Over 55 global CX executives, including 17 international analysts and influencers from seven countries, converged on the Royal Borough of Windsor for the global CxOutsourcers Mindshare Event, March 25 – 26, 2019.
Held in the historic and pictresque Windsor town centre in the UK, the event provided deep-dive CX insights and best practice ideation creating a unique opportunity for leaders in the global outsourcing industry to learn from market intelligence, peers and experts.
Prioritizing Risk and CX Economics
Kicking off proceedings was Mike Havard, Director at Ember Group, who adeptly dissected the challenges that CX outsourcers face in the uncertain age of Brexit, the client-side implications of which are vast.
“Outsourcing is about mitigating risk, reducing cost, or improving quality, but with Brexit looming, everything is about risk right now,” explained Havard. “Against that backdrop, outsourcers need to amplify their position for accepting and embracing the opportunity to mitigate risk for the client community.”
Havard also stressed the need to understand and communicate the “economics of customer service” when dealing with board members, as the language of financial impact is the only way to educate these decision-makers on the vital importance of CX as a business priority.
Robust CX Budgets Meet Perception Challenges
Following Havard was industry veteran Peter Ryan and co-founder of CxOutsourcers, who presented exclusive findings from his 2019 Omnibus Survey. This annual report is a compilation of insights from around 500 strategic enterprise decision-makers around the world, providing a unique view of the buyer’s mind.
The survey found that in-house CRM budgets were more robust than ever, indicating new flexibility in terms of investment capacity for people and technology. However, almost 75% of respondents have a negative opinion of outsourcing services.
“Changing the perception is going to be a big challenge, so a major reset of the messaging around outsourcing needs to happen,” said Ryan. “Third-parties need to be more compelling and more disruptive to get a foot in the door, all while being fully aware that the clients have more money to spend.”
Ryan also formally announced the results for the top, preferred global offshore destinations which were as follows:
- First Place: Philippines
- Joint Second Place: India + South Africa
- Third Place: Malaysia
- Fourth Place: Egypt
- Fifth Place: Morocco
Speaking after the announcement, Ryan’s strategic partner and co-founder of CxOutsourcers, Mark Angus of Knowledge Executive, said it is really encouraging to see three African countries in the top five. “Africa is a burgeoning and emerging market player, not only in front line BPO and CX services, but also in specialist niche domains such as IT Outsourcing (ITO), Finance & Accounting Outsourcing (F&A), Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) and Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). The continent offers a compelling sourcing value proposition for global enterprise business process buyers and investors.”
Transformation Agility to Meet Future Demands
Sharing his findings in a report called “Bridging the Artificial Reality”, Rob Allman from Dimension Data pointed out that CX has become a key strategic driver for many companies, underlying the need for outsourcers to be agile enough to respond to increasing demand.
“There is huge awareness of the need to transform, but legacy approaches are not being replaced by the new,” he said. “There is real pressure to develop as thought leaders, provide differentiation to clients, and not be overly attached to what made the company great in the early days.”
The study—which included 2,500 participants from 80 countries—found that the top six factors expected to reshape CX within the next five years were customer analytics, artificial intelligence, digital integration, mass personalization, robotic process automation, and workforce optimization
In order for outsourcers to prepare for these factors, Allman suggests looking at “appropriate automation” and prioritizing quality over quantity, while also making Big Data small and actionable and never compromising on CX, or underestimating its value.
Agility and Preparedness for a Secure Future
According to Stephen Loynd, Global Program Director for Digital Transformation Practice at Frost & Sullivan, exponential change is prevalent: a reality that is making a lot of players uncomfortable on both sides of the partnership. The solution, he says, is to future-proof the business to better accommodate future technologies. And this doesn’t need to be a tough sell.
“It’s not about the bells and whistles, but about making things as simple as possible: that’s what results in the most loyal customers,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s important to find a method to be agile, to not stagnate, and to transform as soon as possible to keep up with the competition.”
His outlook was grim for those who don’t folow suit, with laggards ending up on the trash heap if they cannot be as agile as their main competitors.
Adding to Loynd’s outlook, noted E-CX blogger and writer, Mark Hilary suggested leveraging personalization and AI as soon as possible, but not without asking how that technology can differentiate the service offered.
“The other key questions to ask when preparing for the future are what makes us distinctive as a brand? How do we build relationships with customers that last a lifetime? Are we agile enough to react to new competitors that don’t even exist today? Who can we partner with to build resilient networks of expertise?” said Hilary.
Dealing with Cybersecurity Realities
On the second day of the event, Maxine Holt, Research Director at Ovum, took the stage to cover the first of these hot topics: trends in cybersecurity. The good news is that the situation is not as bad as the press makes out, but companies cannot sit back and be complacent.
According to an Ovum study of more than 5,000 enterprises, respondents believe that cybercriminals are currently the greatest threats to security, from individual bedroom hackers to sophisticated hacker groups and nation states. Authorized users and employees are considered the second biggest risk, followed by application vulnerability.
While end users, malware, and targeted attacks are considered the top three causes of major cybersecurity breaches, there is still a misunderstanding that technology alone is capable of preventing them.
“If outsourcers want to better handle cybersecurity and fallout from cyber attacks, they need a combination of the right people, processes, and technology to protect the organization, not just rely on technology alone,” said Holt. “No company can prevent 100% of attacks, so focus on how people and technology can detect security breaches and the processes for responding to them while they are happening. Support that with an incident response plan to handle any media fallout.”
Keeping up with Evolving Omnichannel
The lines between real and digital are blurring. Digital has become the single biggest opportunity in our lifetime, but the introduction of new digital service channels comes at a huge cost.
Christine Bardwell, Global Strategy Lead at Oracle for CX, presented her findings on the evolution of omnichannel and how CX outsourcers should be improving their omnichannel strategies.
“With omnichannel, we need to think about customer retention—that is the ultimate goal,” said Bardwell. “Brands need to become hyper customer focused and ensure they remain relevant in every single moment. Being good isn’t enough anymore, you have to be better than good and think about tomorrow today.”
Experts agree that customer relationships have become the only remaining source of competitive advantage, so Bardwell suggests a shift in thinking from omnichannel to ensuring customer loyalty in every single moment.
“After you’ve done everything possible to differentiate, remember that all of your competitors have done exactly the same, so the best approach is to focus on customer loyalty and customer retention,” she said. “BPOs are being told that customer loyalty is dead, but it’s not, we just need to rethink it.”
Thankfully for BPOs, Bardwell reinforced that people are more important than ever, so providers can easily pick up on that opportunity. In fact, 55% of the people surveyed said that in-person contact center support was the most important thing over all other channels.
“People want to talk to people, so human service will continue to be a premium experience,” she explained. “There could even be an opportunity to offer in-person services by sending people out to customers on behalf of brands to offer support.”
The Future of AI and Outsourcing
Ed Thomas, Principal Analyst at Global Data, took over for the last presentation of the day, tackling the AI revolution and what outsourcers can expect from the technology.
“Without good data, AI will not work properly,” he said. “That data needs to be good quality, well-managed, well-curated, and stored correctly, or it becomes very difficult to apply AI successfully.”
He gave loads of examples of how AI could work for BPOs and contact centers to augment the skills of agents and improve overall agility of customer service delivery. One unique suggestion was to assign contact center agents to the process of building chatbots, as they already have the conversations that the chatbots will be taking over.
“AI is becoming essential to the survival of business of all types, but it’s not enough by itself: it needs to be part of an overall wider transformation,” he commented. “In all uses of AI, companies should start with the customer experience problem and work backward, not just implement it and expect results.”
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