At a time when technology and data are embedded in almost every aspect of our lives, and evolving at a lightning pace, the future of CX technologies has become difficult to predict for both clients and service providers. Even so, it is possible to prepare for the inevitable changes to come, or at least make their impact much more manageable.

Exploring this topic at CxOutsourcers 2019—a unique outsourcing mindshare event in Windsor, UK—a handful of the world’s most respected industry experts unpacked some of the potential risks and pain points associated with emerging technologies.

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 Ex-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.

Vertical Emergence and the CX Necessity

Following the afternoon presentation, the event’s first panel of speakers gathered to discuss how emerging verticals are seeing a gap in CX delivery that service providers should be filling.

Steve Weston, Managing Partner at SKWeston & Company, sees that the healthcare industry has shifted to a more proactive approach by getting ahead of individuals’ health problems. This means that healthcare companies are looking for predictive analytics from BPOs to determine potential issues before they happen. “They want CX service providers to coach them on the value of customer loyalty,” he explained.

Stu Ravens, Principal Research Analyst at Navigant, highlighted how the utility industry is going through a huge amount of disruption, despite having a low prioritization of CX overall. This disruption is creating an opportunity for BPOs to help determine utility providers’ differentiation in the market. Similarly, Chris Warburton, Practice Lead at Arum, sees plenty of digitization and increased focus on automation in the collections and recoveries sector, so BPOs with the right digital expertise can more easily partner up.

For those of us placing bets, Alistair Niederer from Praxidia suggested that CX outsourcers bet big on the insurance industry. “Empathy and emotion cannot be replicated, and you cannot automate the human ability to deal with complaints or confusion,” he said. Everest Group Vice President Julian Herbert, however, says that banking is still a safe bet. “All of the emphasis is on making things easier for the customer and dealing with fast-moving regulatory changes. If you can do those things you’re in a good position,” he explained.

For retailers, the approach for CX is already very mature, so the need in the retail sector is for CX providers to refine what already exists. “Retailers are drowning in data,” said Miya Knights, Head of Industry Insight at Eagle Eye Solutions. “For CX companies there is equal risk and reward of taking on the risks of retailers in that situation, without the ability to improve the data or find new value.”

Shifting gears a little, Luke Bujarski, Founder and CEO of LUFT, suggested that CX providers look to co-working spaces to leverage new talent or locations. “Through these satellite offices and the work-at-home model, companies can easily scale and experiment with geographies without investing in costly brick-and-mortar operations.” 

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.”

Thomas continued to explain that, contrary to the media headlines and hype in the industry, AI is still in the very early stages. In his recent study, he found that over three-quarters of respondents said there would be significant or moderate adoption of AI, so spending is going to happen.

“People are working out how to get the most out of it, but the appetite is there,” he explained. “For businesses of all types, AI will be essential because competitors will become smarter and faster, so you have to keep up or risk stagnation in the market.”

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.”

Overall, the main takeaway from the afternoon sessions of CxOutsourcers is to start preparing for the future, today, because the competition is already doing the same thing.

“Find a method to be agile, to not stagnate, and to transform as soon as possible, or fall behind the competition. It’s that simple.”

Stephen Loynd