Alistair Niederer, Head of EMEA at TTEC, is now seven months into his new role. Outsourcing Journal caught up with Alistair from his base in London to explore what is changing in modern customer experience (CX), the challenges he is facing and emerging trends they are seeing.
1) Alistair, one topic has been dominating over the past 2 years and that is the changes in the ICT and BPO sectors imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Everyone is talking about WFH models, but what we have predicted from the very beginning is an incredible chance to increase flexibility and to improve the access to talent in an unprecedented way. Could you share your view on the matter and how these points have affected TTEC’s business?
Hey Stephan, well obviously like a lot of organisations with a large employee base, it impacted us hugely as we had to quickly deploy thousands across Europe and globally to work at home. With many employees preferring to WFH it has given us a huge opportunity to relook at things and we now have access to talent pools that we did not have previously and of course we have become much more agile as a business. I believe it has really change BPO and outsourcing forever. It has allowed the evolution of outsourcing into “orchestration” that has been extended into a set of delivery principles to allow CX as a Service (CXaaS). This draws on the experience that many executives will have had when adopting cloud-based technology systems or storage. My vision of CXaaS embraces a vision of work-from-home, Gig CX, emerging technologies, and cloud computing blending into a form of CX that is dramatically different from the traditional BPO, challenging many European traditions, such as multilingual hubs. With virtual contact centre and agents based from home a multilingual team of agents can be spread across Europe and yet all be working together for the same client.
2) The complexity in the customer service sector has increased dramatically over the past few years, starting from the introduction of the omni-channel concept over the implementations of machine driven/supported services. Can you give us 3 main areas how today’s complexity has affected TTEC’s operational model and how customers are involved in this evolution?
Well firstly it is about reflecting the reality of the modern customer journey. It is longer and much more complex. We can no longer talk about CX strategy and allow it to remain synonymous with the outsourcing of customer service processes to a contact centre. Think about the traditional customer journey, the discovery of a new product, finding some more information, making a purchase, then possibly calling the customer service team, if needed. That is all gone now. All those individual processes would map onto departments such as advertising, marketing, sales, or customer service, but all these steps are blended now into a more circular customer journey – managing CX requires control of all these processes.
We are also seeing a focus on customer lifetime value (CLV) and it being a much higher priority when designing CX processes. Look at how modern customers search for information on social media, blogs, review sites and publish to all those sites as well. We stay in touch with the brands we love. Contacting BMW or Nike on a social channel does not mean the customer has a problem, it is more likely to be a fan of that brand maintaining a connection. We cannot measure customer interactions in the same way we did when customers always had a problem that needed to be fixed – sometimes engagement is just about building a stronger relationship.
CX technology is evolving. Customer expectations are being raised across many industries, not least in e-commerce where many retailers have been forced to raise their game by the Covid-19 pandemic. Inside the contact centre tools such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are removing repetitive tasks and Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered next-best-action systems can push relevant information to agents in real-time during a conversation with a customer. Data analytics and the ability to predict what customers will want, based on past interactions and other external variables (such as the current weather) are creating the ability to dramatically personalize customer interactions.
3) Which are from your perspective – working with many different clients – the most important trends and aspects to look out for clients in the next few years?
Gig CX is going to be a game changer. The use of gig workers has been controversial in many industries. Often it is seen as a race to greater instability – low-wage jobs that have none of the support an employee might usually receive, but Gig CX operates in quite a different way, agents that join a Gig CX network are highly unlikely to want to work full-time in a contact centre, they embrace the ability to offer their expertise to help a brand when they choose and for however long they choose. This allows brands to increase diversity by offering opportunities to those often excluded from the formal Monday-Friday economy. Gig CX allows brands to work with fans and build advocacy networks. A fashion brand can approach fans on Instagram and ask if they want to represent the brand, helping customers for a few hours a week and being paid to do so. Auto brands can pay a fixed fee to existing customers prepared to talk to potential customers – these interactions are not traditional customer service helpline calls, and the agents do not fit a traditional customer service profile.
4) What is your advice to companies and decision makers that want to improve customer interaction and customer experiences and what aspects do you evaluate as especially crucial for the success of such projects?
Listen to your customer. They know first-hand the frustrations of their customer journey or lack of social media contact channels. In this new CX world we are seeing complaint handling and service delivery finally being addressed as never before. Digital transformation is being undertaken at a rapid pace. Those that embrace this will be the winners.
We interviewed: Alistair is a strategic leader for the TTEC EMEA region bringing innovation and change to clients and prospects. He is a seasoned senior business leader and passionate about customer experience transformation (CXT) and CX technology providing the right service experience required to drastically improve efficiency and customer satisfaction.