In the Evolving World of CX, the Only Constant is Change
This article was originally published on Customer Magazine.
What accounts for the dramatic growth of the customer experience management market? Research from MarketsandMarkets forecasts this market will grow from $6 billion in 2017 to over $16 billion in 2022, nearly tripling revenues across a wide range of offerings and service providers.
It’s been over half a century since customer service delivered via the telephone was invented. A toll-free telephone number or “freephone” number is billed for all inbound calls; for the customer, or the calling party, a call to a toll-free number from a landline was free of charge.
The features of toll-free services have evolved as telephone networks have moved from electro-mechanical call switching to fully virtualized programmable networks.
An automated toll-free service was introduced by AT&T in 1966 as an alternative to operator-assisted collect calling, giving birth to the “1-800 – XXX – XXXX” number. There was no support for identification of the initiating number, no records of calls with any itemization, and none of the routing features we associate with mature toll-free service.
Despite its limitations, toll-free numbers were a huge success, as hotel chains, airlines, rental car firms and others creatively leveraged it to build a truly national presence.
Flash forward to the 1980s and 1990s: modern toll-free service became possible when telephone companies replaced their electro-mechanical switching systems with computerized switching systems, enabling routing of toll-free calls and more detailed reporting.
Now, flash forward to today, and the rapid advancement of customer experience applications (beyond customer service, customer service centers, contact centers and cloud-based contact centers) and multitude of highly sophisticated platforms that make “instant gratification” possible as today’s customers can check on a delivery, challenge a bill, resolve a technical issue and much more – by being able to reach an expert in seconds, on the device and channel of their choice.
All this has led up to the “CX” world we find ourselves in today, defined by many experts, in different ways.
We caught up recently with Milos Djokovic, co-founder and CEO of Eventus Group, based in Denver, Colorado, to learn where he sees CX going over the next few years.
Djokovic has been in the industry for nearly his entire career, and is an expert in CRM applications, telephony communications channels, cloud computing, and networking.
Before Eventus, he served as CEO of Zi Corporation, a public mobile software company, successfully leading the company to an acquisition by Nuance in April 2009. Earlier, Djokovic founded Toronto-based CRM services company Cygnus Corporation in 1992, which was acquired in 1998 by TeleTech, one of the largest call center outsourcing companies in the world. There, he served as Chief Technology Officer, leading the development and delivery of advanced technology solutions for CRM. He is a licensed professional engineer with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering and management science from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
We asked Djokovic to share his views on the future of CX and his passion for building his business around the goal of driving satisfaction and success for their clients.
How do you define CX today?
Customer Experience is a product of the totality of every interaction companies and their brands have with a consumer across their entire relationship. Customer Experience is the feeling and emotive sentiment that’s left behind after all these interactions and touchpoints. It happens from discovery of a product or service, which primarily happens online – whether search or social media – to the process of learning more, buying, receiving, using and hopefully enjoying every interaction.
What is driving change in how brands serve customers, and how should brands adapt their investments in programs that can deepen loyalty and broaden share of wallet?
The biggest change we’ve seen involves online, omnichannel, and social. Every customer can be an influencer, and it is so important for companies and organizations to understand and leverage this. One poorly handled negative post from a customer with credibility and a following has been known set back some of the most successful brands in the world. This generation is hyper-connected and hyper-communicating, with tools that didn’t exist ten years ago, which puts them in a more empowered position. Companies need to not only pay close attention to what they are selling and how they are selling it, but also to the online reaction to their products, services, and customer experience.
How wide does CX go when it comes to the entire journey – from customers discovering a company, product or service, to trying it, buying it, recommending it, and buying more?
Companies who look at CX holistically are the ones who are more successful in creating a great CX, but too often the Customer Service experience and post-sale experiences aren’t invested in,to the degree that they should be.
In a world where attracting somebody’s attention can be the most difficult challenge of all, how can companies or organizations deal with short attention spans and increasing expectations for immediate gratification?
Keeping things succinct and easy to consume will increase your chances at getting visibility and a reaction. Anticipating a customer’s needs and being proactive to an audience that have short attention spans is a key element of success.
B2C and B2B CX is different – what are you finding most disruptive and exciting about each?
In B2C, disruption is in fulfillment. You can order from Whole Foods in the evening and have it delivered to your home by 8 AM the next morning. This is changing expectations on how products and services are delivered. Old school retailers are being destroyed by competitors that provide more convenience.
In B2B, the move to the cloud as part of digital transformation is continuing to change the way companies deliver services, including customer service. Companies are investing less in hardware and infrastructure and choosing third parties for their SaaS offerings.
Every Client is different, and CX must be shaped to support their business models and the evolution of their customer interactions inevitably becoming more digital. Generally speaking, competing based on a great CX in the B2B world is as important as doing the same in the B2C world.
Your company offers everything from strategy and consulting to fully managed solutions. What got you into the managed solutions business and where are you taking that offering?
When you do a great job for customers, they want more from you, and over the last few years, as we’ve helped clients navigate change and lead with very innovative and effective CX programs, many asked: “Can you manage that for us, too?” After hearing that a few times, we decided the answer was: “Yes!” Saying yes has resulted in significant growth of our business from Strategy and Consulting to full Managed Solutions.
For example, for a large cosmetics company, we reduced their costs by 30% and increased CX service levels and customer satisfaction. We entered into a mutually beneficial agreement with guaranteed outcomes and achieved it in less than twelve months.
You sell your partners’ technologies – how do you maintain your independence?
We always endeavor to support the top vendors in every CX service component we work in. We believe strongly that clients need a solution that’s more tailored to their business, and if we limit ourselves to only one vendor, we cannot achieve that goal on behalf of our clients.
We work hard to stay on top of all developments and trends in the market as our partners themselves are changing and investing in new platforms, new partners are emerging, and new approaches and paradigms are being developed all the time.
We’re excited to work with so many great tech partners in our ecosystem, as we are always adding new technologies as they emerge, especially in the world of big data analytics, AI, robotic process automation and more.
You’ve developed your own technologies as well, including a platform that unifies information from other platforms. What drove you to build this, and what can we expect to see going forward?
We’re very proud of our IntelligenceHub. There is nothing like it, and we built it because we couldn’t find another product that could meet the need, was affordable and was simple and intuitive to use. All of the organizations we’ve encountered have a challenge getting good data and analytics, and after researching the market, we created our own platform. Our customers love it, and like so many innovations we’ve developed, we are investing in creating our own IP to solve new problems.
With the population growing, an increasingly healthier economy, how important is “human” delivered CX compared to robotically automated support?
The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Augmenting human support with robotic assistance will create the most efficient and satisfactory experience for customers. With that said, there are valid applications for pure, robot-only support. Chat bots, IVR and self-service can offer high quality experiences that are fully automated. When it comes to voice support, work is being done today to replace voice agents with AI agents, using natural language processing, but it’s still early stage. We’ve yet to see significant results in the marketplace that are high-quality experiences that customers prefer to human interaction.
In many cases, we are exploring new forms of automation in our Managed Solutions to deliver higher quality experiences at a lower cost. For example, by providing digital tools to agents, managers and trainers, we can deliver better, faster experiences to customers. We are excited about making more customer and agent lives better with these new tools. This will have an enormous and lasting impact on our customers and the industry.
Finally, we asked Djokovic what he’d like readers to understand moving into 2020, with no end in sight to the growth of more creative and effective CX approaches.
There are incredible opportunities to improve CX moving forward. Technology is making it easier to create effortless experiences for customers and streamline the process for all. 2020 will be a big year, with new capabilities emerging at a rapid pace, enabling us to create happy and loyal customers.
Last summer, while driving to the mountains in Colorado, my then ten-year old daughter announced, “I want to watch episode three, season two of Mako Mermaids.” This proclamation was not to me or my wife, but rather to her tablet – which delivered exactly what she requested in a matter of seconds. When I was a kid, I felt fortunate to play the license plate game (and I still haven’t seen one from North Dakota even today)!
While predictions abound this time of the year, I have only one – that change will be the only constant as we head into the third digital decade of the 21st century. And why not! If nothing changes, we stay the same. We don’t evolve or get better. We need new ideas. We need positive change. We need progress.