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From the sessions to the show floor, Enterprise Connect 2022 was overflowing with talk about the latest customer experience (CX) strategies, technologies and trends. Across the dozen or so keynotes and breakouts I attended, and the nearly 20 interviews I conducted, three themes stood out.
The benefits of using artificial intelligence (AI) to support and improve both the customer and employee experiences are numerous and impactful. AI enables everything from automating personalization at scale, to increasing the performance of existing CX tools, to helping companies use new technologies like bots, noted David Myron, Principal Analyst at Omdia pointed in his session, “Where AI pays off in the contact center.”
A new survey by Omdia found that CX professionals are finding “significant value” in using AI for social listening and ticketing (80%), digital customer contact analytics for quality management and customer satisfaction (71%), and intelligent call routing (65%). Respondents also use AI to understand caller intent, for chatbots, and for analytics in quality monitoring.
These companies are overcoming challenges in several areas: efficiently and effectively responding to customers on social channels; managing more complex, personalized and pervasive digital customer interactions; and routing highly complex interactions to the most appropriate agent. In the process, companies are reducing average handle time, increasing first-contact resolution and improving customer satisfaction. A 2021 Economist Impact survey of CX leaders also found the greatest benefits of AI are improved customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and lifetime value.
AI benefits the employee experience, too. “As AI gets more entrenched in the contact center, we’ll see the rise of the super-agent, who is skilled in multiple technologies for customer interactions,” said Myron. The Economic Impact survey supports this; nearly two-thirds of companies identified as AI leaders use the technology to identify employee career growth capabilities.
Contact center as a service (CCaaS) and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) are finally coming together, seamlessly. And it’s a union to celebrate.
The duo will help companies deliver a more connected and relevant customer experience. From contact history and AI-assisted screen pops to instant messaging and screen sharing, blending these interaction technologies better supports agents and enhances customer interactions. And that brings the entirety of an organization closer to the customer.
“CX should be the responsibility of everyone in the organization,” said Blair Pleasant, President and Principal Analyst of COMMfusion, when kicking off her panel session, “UCaaS plus CCaaS: What’s real, what’s hype, and what’s next?” Customer experience should extend across the enterprise, she added, not just be the responsibility of contact center agents.
CCaaS combined with UCaaS helps to create what Pleasant called the “collaborative contact center,” by linking data and systems, as well as enabling agents to more easily connect with colleagues to resolve customer issues. This ability to collaborate helps the enterprise “become the contact center,” she said.
There are several factors driving the integration of CCaaS and UCaaS. One is the shift to CX delivered via cloud technologies. The hybrid workforce model is another. The biggest is the need to provide better customer and employee experiences — to engage and retain both constituencies.
“When you put the customer at the center of your business, you need also need to provide agents with access to the information that enables them to resolve an issue in the first contact,” said Jack Nichols, VP, Product Management at Genesys, during the session. “Customers don’t want to have to call back.” More than half of the consumers who participated in Genesys “The state of customer experience” research said they value first-contact resolution most in a service interaction.
Nichols emphasized that agents can’t possibly know everything, and often don’t have access to information on everything. Sometimes they need real-time knowledge and expertise from elsewhere in the organization. “We’re seeing agents’ frustration levels go down [when companies integrate CCaaS and UCaaS] because they’re not expected to know everything. They can reach out to experts. This improves collaboration across the organization and agents are better able to handle tickets,” Nichols said. “Amazing things happen at the intersection of business, technology and creativity.”
“Cloud is outpacing sales of premised-based systems,” said consultant Steve Leaden, Founder and President of Leaden Associates, during his panel discussion, “Not moving to cloud? What are the risks?” And it’s no surprise. The benefits are innumerable and the ROI is clear.
Some of the benefits discussed during the conference include significant cost reductions, ease of adapting to changing technology trends and better access to data across channels. The cloud also creates opportunities for enhancing both the customer and employee experiences by implementing intelligent and predictive technologies.
“Companies are moving with more urgency and speed to cloud,” said Tod Famous, Senior VP, Product Management for Multicloud at Genesys, during his mainstage fireside chat. The arguments for going to cloud aren’t different, he added, but there are more proof points available on speed, continuity and security.
According to “The State of Customer Experience,” nearly half of CX leaders consider improved security and business continuity to be two of the greatest benefits of moving CX to the cloud. That’s why the most common piece of advice about cloud shared during the conference was, “Don’t wait. Figure it out or risk getting left behind your competitors.”
CX technologies are in demand. Nearly 60% of surveyed CX professionals plan to increase their budget in 2022, up from 18% in 2021, noted Omdia’s Myron. “A lot of that is going to omnichannel customer engagement,” he said.
In the contact center, there were a lot of fast fixes over the past two years — now companies are taking a moment to pause and determine how they pull all this technology together, Sheila McGee-Smith, Founder of McGee-Smith Analytics, said during the “Locknote” closing panel. Companies will have to consider a “whole spectrum of tools” when building their CX technology stack, including AI, cloud, digital, CCaaS and UCaaS, she added.
The onus is on the vendors to make technology easy to adopt and use, noted McGee-Smith. At the same time, companies need to use technology to help reimagine the customer and employee experiences — to better support the way those two constituencies prefer to engage and interact today.
The payoff for doing so is clear: 80% of consumers say they’ll refer more and spend more, more often, when a company consistently personalizes their experiences. And more than half of companies using AI to improve the agent experience have seen increases in productivity and engagement.
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