Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Disruption and Techno-Consumerism: Highlights from the 10th Annual Customer Contact 2016, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

Stephen Loynd 
Global Program Director
Digital Transformation Practice 

Frost & Sullivan

The 10th Annual Customer Contact, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange event took place in Athens, Greece this past June and featured formal sessions, individual meetings, and informal networking sessions. The following highlights are just a sampling of the many ideas and emerging practices discussed there.

Keynote:  Disruptive Customer Care – The Competitive Differentiator in a World of New and Evolving Business Models (ie, Change or Die!)

The event kicked-off with moderator Stefan Osthaus introducing Customer Engagement business strategist, author, and speaker Martin Hill-Wilson, founder of Brainfood Consulting.  

Hill-Wilson started off by asking the audience,  ”Why should we care what the future looks like?  Why does this matter? The answer is important.  Simply put, we don’t want to end up in a “fragmented future.” 

On the contrary, as organizations, we need to be able to describe our possible futures and connect to them.  We need to be good story-tellers so that employees connect to a compelling narrative.  Hill-Wilson emphasized that offering a great Customer Experience means pleasing both customers and employees.  People need interesting jobs that are challenging, so that it feels like it matters.  It’s incredibly important to have context as human beings, it’s about “more context, less content.”  All the while, “we need velocity and adaptability”!

But this is all easier said than done when few organizations actually keep pace with evolving customer behaviors and patterns in employee engagement.  

Hill-Wilson offered the following key take-aways:
  • In a world of “perpetual beta,” the strategy of investing in occasional technology and competency refreshes falls short of delivering differentiated customer experiences 
  • Nobody’s really got their head around mobile customer service and mobile CX
  • When it comes to “Omnichannel in an app”, the impacts of Messenger on our space may be significant (in Asia, WeChat already has a payment system, and is a whole universe built into an app)
  • When it comes to new tools such as the Amazon Echo, we’re working toward a world where “it is just there”, but the question remains: "In reality, are our organizations moving fast enough to keep up?  Do our teams work in real time or in historic time?  According to Hill-Wilson, “None of us have analytics working real-time in the contact center space.”
  • Even IVR is changing – the old version meant audio, but the new version is more visual on a smartphone that scrolls options.  It’s being rolled out in the UK now.  After all, “72% of 18-25 year-olds in the UK find it easier to express emotions visually.”

Hill-Wilson also offered some key action items for organizations:
  • Conjure up a mission no one wants to miss! Make it engaging
  • Use non-threatening change language – “doing things differently” is a moderated way to express the idea that change is essential
  • “Free the spirit – ask and listen”
  • Pay customers to spend time in the contact center – “outside-in questioning”
  • Invite bids for innovation budgets
  • Make “test, learn, embed” your practice

Presentation:  Game Changing Technologies on the Horizon

Frost & Sullivan Analyst Stephen Loynd then explored how we’re living in a time of incredible change.  Nothing less than a new world is emerging.   

He noted that At Davos this year, they talked about “the Fourth Industrial Revolution” – meaning that technology and data is imbedded in everything, influencing our lives. Technology is so pervasive and moving so fast that it is disrupting both business and society.  Or as AOL founder Steve Case explains in a new book – we are entering a new paradigm called “The Third Wave” of the Internet: a period in which entrepreneurs will transform major “real world” sectors like health, education, transportation, energy, and food—and in the process change the way we live our daily lives.

Frost & Sullivan conceptualizes the radical change happening in our world as a swarm of new technologies.  Everything from new business models to disruptive technologies are making an impact across industries and across geographies.  Technology is entering every aspect of our lives, it truly is immersive (many are referring to it as the Internet of Things, or the IoT).  It truly is disruptive.

Consider that the IoT is creating a data-centric, self-optimizing world.  And the fastest growing market is the Consumer Market (Home, Car, Wearables).  Just think about the ramifications of the “Echo”, a screen-less, voice-controlled household computer built by Amazon.  The Echo offers profound possibilities, and the longer people use it, the more they seem to need it.  

And it keeps getting better – which brings us to the concept of Exponential Technological change:
  • The idea of Exponential Technological change was formally described as the “Singularity” in 1993 by Vernor Vinge, a computer scientist and science fiction writer, who posited that accelerating technological change would inevitably lead to machine intelligence that would match and then surpass human intelligence. In his original essay, Dr. Vinge suggested that the point in time at which machines attained superhuman intelligence would happen sometime between 2005 and 2030.
  • The notion of the “Singularity” is predicated on Moore’s Law, the 1965 observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, that the number of transistors that can be etched onto a sliver of silicon doubles at roughly two year intervals.  This has fostered the notion of “Exponential Change,” in which technology advances slowly at first and then with increasing rapidity with each succeeding technological generation.
  • Add to this what engineer, entrepreneur, and chairman of the X Prize Foundation (and author of the book, Abundance: the Future is Better Than You Think) Peter Diamandis likes to point out as the most important development this decade that no one is talking about: global population and the growing number of Internet users.  By 2020, up to five billion people will be coming online – five billion new consumers – and that is a low estimate.  Diamandis points out that we’re adding five billion new minds to the global conversation; as a result, the next five years will mean we are entering “the most epic era of innovation in history.”
  • Diamandis may be onto something as far as accelerating innovation goes.  After all, Google’s artificially intelligent Go-playing computer system – AlphaGo – recently claimed victory in its historic match with Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol after winning a third straight game in this best-of-five series.  Just think – over the last twenty-five years, machines have beaten the top humans at checkers and chess and Othello and Scrabble and Jeopardy;  but this is the first time an artificially intelligent system has topped one of the very best at Go, which is exponentially more complex than chess and requires an added level of intuition.

So why does this all matter?  Because clearly, we’re living in a world of rapid change – of immersive techno-consumerism – which means a world of higher customer expectations.  Understanding today’s consumer in a time of techno-consumerism means understanding the fact that he or she shifts personas over time. Those personas can change based on the situation.  And so it’s about understanding where the consumer is now, in real-time, and then being able to act on that information --what we recently called “Digital Halos” & the “Internet of Me”.

In essence, the relationship between people and technology is being reinvented.  Artificial Intelligence and ever improving consumer technologies – from Amazon’s Echo to Facebook’s chatbots – are fundamentally changing consumer expectations.  Today’s shoppers expect immersive experiences that fire their imaginations.  Shoppers are spending money on doing things as much as on buying things.  And if experiences, not things, make today’s smartphone-armed generations happy, then it’s a whole new paradigm.

Ultimately, times are changing, and consumers are changing.  So it’s important to ask whether or not companies are changing fast enough to keep up.  Are companies going to be able to keep pace with Exponential Change and deliver a truly holistic, unified Customer Experience going forward?  


Events like the 10th Annual Customer Contact 2016, Europe:  A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, are important because they can help us employ more strategic ways of thinking, and ask important questions about the macro and micro trends that will change businesses and customers going forward, and apply these insights and take-aways at our own organizations.

Indeed, participants of the event in Athens were urged to not only take their networking seriously, but to take away at least one “must-do” follow-up item from the event.  The group was encouraged to continue exchanging ideas throughout the year and beyond. 

Stephen Loynd, currently Global Program Director, Digital Transformation Practice, at Frost & Sullivan, is a Thought Leader and Global Sourcing Professional with a wide range of experience in the customer contact industry. Stephen came to Frost & Sullivan from global BPO provider Stream Global Services, where he focused on go-to-market strategies for specific vertical markets, and also led efforts in competitive intelligence. Prior to that, Stephen spent close to seven years at market intelligence firm IDC as the Global Program Manager of their Contact Center practice. As a leader on the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) team, he offered expertise on contact center and CRM industry trends and opportunities worldwide and published research including competitive landscapes and forecast and analyses.

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