The customer contact landscape continues to be disrupted in Latin America and the world. Enterprises need to be thinking strategically about how developments will continue to impact the space next year and beyond. The customer experience (CX) global team at Frost & Sullivan has seen three particularly interesting topics come across our desks over the course of 2018, each of which resulted in further analysis and client projects.
Clearly, these are by no means the only technology-related topics of importance as far as the CX goes, but it’s noteworthy how much interest we received in them over the course of this past year, and how many companies will be deploying these solutions going forward.
We recommend examining each of these subjects, as they will be impacting enterprise CX strategy in 2019 and ahead. Latin American markets will certainly not remain indifferent to these global trends and local and regional companies should consider observing carefully the topics below.
1. Practical, Cloud-Based Artificial Intelligence (AI) Solutions
Frost & Sullivan notes that AI-powered virtual agents present significant potential to improve the customer experience (CX) in the contact center:
- AI’s New Cognitive Abilities. AI, as a concept, has been around for decades. Why then does it seem that AI is only now being inserted into CX in such valuable ways? One key driver of this trend is advanced speech recognition capabilities that have finally allowed contact centers to access the vast cognitive abilities that AI has to offer. Natural language understanding (NLU), means AI-enabled machines can hear, process, and correctly capture intent and context, and AI solutions are now demonstrating their true power in a variety of ways. The advancement in speech recognition and cloud-enabled delivery has opened the door to rapid expansion of AI cognitive abilities that mimic live agent behavior across dozens of conversations, which simply wasn’t possible before.
- Impressions of Complexity. But while the advantages of automating more customer care-related processes are real, it’s important to focus on the practical applications of AI rather than the too often overly dramatic headlines associated with it. According to recent surveys by Frost & Sullivan’s team, 20% of all companies have plans to adopt some type of AI-powered solution in the near future. But those surveys also show that many companies are laboring under the impression that AI is complex and costly to implement.
Action-Item for 2019: Take a Practical Approach to AI. As a result, it makes sense to approach business-focused AI in a low-risk, high-value manner.
Start to scale your contact center by augmenting your current technology with cloud-enabled AI that seamlessly integrates with your existing systems to automate one conversation at a time, rather than undertaking a complete “rip and replace” overhaul.
After all, taking a practical approach to AI simplifies the decision to implement AI capabilities; but it also ensures that AI-enabled tools will deliver value upon implementation, rather than requiring a protracted period of training and customization.
Some players to watch: SmartAction, Creative Virtual, Verint, Genesys, Aspect, NICE, Nuance, Interactions, IBM, Microsoft, Google.
2. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Solutions
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) – the use of software that incorporates technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate routine, rules-based, high volume tasks that are time-consuming and sensitive to human error – is one innovation that Frost & Sullivan observes changing the nature of business over the short and long-term:
- A Virtual Workforce in Varied Automations. RPA software “robots/agents” mimic human beings in the handling of certain types of processes including inputting or manipulating data, triggering other processes, or communicating with other systems. This virtual workforce can work unattended, attended, or in hybrid automations. Tasks can be scheduled or triggered automatically or manually.
- Enabling Digital Transformation. Automation must help achieve operational optimization and increase productivity, otherwise it makes little sense. The objective is to introduce a set of solutions that will enable true digital transformation. In essence, RPA is contributing to digital transformation on a strategic rather than simply a tactical level. It’s also an initiative that will help to spur greater collaboration across business units (BUs).
Action Item in 2019: Start with a Strategic Assessment. Look for RPA applications that are scalable and reliable, that follow a development process that is repeatable and allows for robots that are maintainable and reusable, that provide for access control and auditing, and that can be managed similar to live agents with centralized control.
Develop a cross-organizational automation strategy to determine which projects require heavy IT involvement, and which can be done with simple RPA tools. Identify areas of high volume, repetitive tasks, and then take advantage of vendor proof of concept to initiate a “land and expand” approach to cross-enterprise automation. Use RPA to facilitate cross-organizational data dependencies and maintain consistency of data entry.
Some players to watch: Kryon, Automation Anywhere, Bosch Service Solutions, NICE, Verint.
3. Agile & DevOps: Helping Transform the CX
As the pace of technological change quickens and increasing customer expectations further catalyze a time of techno-consumerism, many organizations are adopting the information technology (IT) methodology known as “Agile and DevOps” for their CX applications.
The term Agile Development describes iterative and incremental software development methodologies; it’s an approach to software development embracing requirements and solutions that evolve through collaborative efforts of self-organizing cross-functional teams and their customers.
It advocates adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change.
DevOps is an extension of the Agile Development methodology, a blending of two disciplines in order to emphasize the collaboration, communication, and cohesion between typically separate developer teams and IT operations teams.
- Keeping Up with Rapid Change. In effect, the concept of “Agile” requires its twin concept of “DevOps” at a time when the pace of innovation and change is accelerating, and the typical operations team needs to deploy new releases more quickly and with less disruption. While Agile and DevOps have been around for a while, more and more companies are beginning to apply its practices to their CX environments as a means to address rapidly evolving business requirements. Agile and DevOps are designed to provide businesses maximum efficiency and minimal interruption while making needed improvements to customer engagement applications.
- A Data-Centric, Self-Optimizing Future. Agility and transformation are essential because the rapid adoption of digital technologies is producing waves of data that are impacting every industry, shaping a new shoreline that will characterize a data-centric, self-optimizing future. Digital leaders will be those organizations that are skilled at utilizing business analytics to offer deep insights into customer behaviors, wants, and needs, developing new products and services, and ultimately innovating and exploiting new business opportunities.
Action Item in 2019: Take a Forward-Looking Approach to Operational CX. Frost & Sullivan believes that a new approach to CX operations will help determine the difference between past and future, between business failure and future success.
Therefore, appreciate the fact that we’re living at a time of fast-moving digitization, that exponential technological change is upon us, and that the contact center needs to innovate to keep pace. It’s not enough to measure NPS or other high level, backward-looking metrics.
You need to understand operational metrics about your CX so you can proactively improve, and positively affect your NPS and other high-level metrics through a more actionable, forward-looking approach. Think more strategically about operational CX and consider an Agile and DevOps transformation process that features automated testing and monitoring at its core.
Some players to watch: Cyara, Genesys, Vodafone, Twilio, Amazon Connect.