Main themes discussed:
- Knowledge Management
- Customer Services post-COVID
- Work from home as a long-term plan
- Omnichannel strategy
- Customer behaviors
- New challenges and new solutions
- Yatharth Jain: Business & Growth, Knowmax
- Ryan Maund: Chief Product and Innovation Officer, Sitel
- Liz Herman: Director of knowledge management, Senture LLC
- Nick Cerise: Chief Marketing Officer, TTEC
- Herve Danzelaud: Head of Partnerships, North America, Freshworks
- Peter Ryan: BPO Advisor, Ryan Strategic Advisory
Yatharth to Panelists:
Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening depending on where you are, it’s lovely to speak to all of you today about knowledge management today. It’s a passionate topic for me, especially this specifically. I’m sure all of the BPO partners today can also resonate with us and understand the challenges of a remote workforce and how knowledge management is changing the game. Happy to discuss this in-depth today, thank you.
Anuj to Panelists:
Let’s unpack knowledge management a little bit more. Why do we need to invest in knowledge management? What does that mean, to be POs, and how does that help us?
The need to invest in knowledge management is still there. It was there in February and going into COVID that need is still there. I think what has happened is that that need has become amplified because we all made this huge pivot, and many of our organizations made this huge pivot. Not only our employees- our agents who went to work from home but also federal government agencies and state agencies who pivoted to go to work from home and they weren’t in the office, it wasn’t easy to ask your colleague what was going on, where this form is, who do I contact. We had to get digitally enabled very quickly.
Of course, the thing that doesn’t go away is our KPIs- our key performance indicators and our service level agreements. So one of the benefits of having a program like knowledge management services is that you can maintain that. So you can literally think of an analogy of KM as all your stuff in your briefcase and when that trigger happens you just take your briefcase from your office to your home and it’s all there. That’s something that a knowledge management system can enable.
Of course, reducing agent error. What happened with a lot of our agents is that suddenly, they were in the shoes of our customers, and what I mean by that is, suddenly they had to access things online, they couldn’t reach out to the people whom they would normally reach out to. So there was a lot of empathy that they had for customers and clients and what they were going through. We need to reduce that agent error when they’re answering questions, we’re also ramping up training time and being more efficient.
The example that I can give you is that we at Senture are working a lot of state on employment work. So as you know, with COVID and people getting laid off from their positions, a lot of people were contacting state employment offices, and there became this great need. But of course, what happens is that when you get a contract, it’s great and we love to treat our customers, but how do you train 500-1500 agents on how to answer calls? Knowledge management! Knowledge management certainly helped us do it, and everyone has spoken about that single screen, letting the agents access answers to questions, and access the training right there from their screens was something that really helped us ramp up serving our customers and something that helped us get more business in that area but also millions of citizens in the United States who needed that help in a crisis situation, where am getting my next paycheck from? Where’s my employment coming from? How do I feed my family? Knowledge management helped us train our agents in order to be able to help our customers better so that they had answered in training at their fingertips.
And of course, if you have an empowered content team, information about COVID daily, and getting that information out to our agents and customers so that we could serve up a single source of truth, have trust in our federal agencies so that they could give us the answers quickly, completely, accurately- that’s another benefit of knowledge management as well, and I know, YJ, you’re just ready to come in and add to it because we’ve had so many great conversations about this. So I want to hear from your perspective on this, on the benefits and what I’ve been talking about but also, what else do you have to say about it?
Knowledge management is something that we’ve seen a rise in demand during the COVID pandemic for sure. Even before the pandemic, we’ve seen contact centers realizing the need for a single source of truth for agents across multiple sites and multiple processes but now, especially because of the remote work scenario, your agents do not have a single source of truth that they can refer to. They can’t just walk up to their supervisors and ask them how to solve certain problems. You have to have everything at your fingertips, at the right place at the right time. So the whole problem of having a single source of truth that is actionable, contextual, and at the right time is super critical now. We’ve seen a lot of traction coming in from contact centers and BPOs, especially where there is information that is changing rapidly, sometimes in a day, as Liz mentioned.
When you’ve got weeks and weeks of training times, time to proficiency rates are high, and call work is also high, so there’s a lot that goes into knowledge management. It’s not just limited to your articles and FAQs anymore. There’s a lot more happening with your actionability, your AI, and more cognitive information coming in with a lot of machine learning algorithms being used. Knowledge management is changing how contact centers are working, especially with an approach where knowledge and learning are combined, a continuous learning and improvement approach is something that BPOs can make a lot of use of with
Knowmax software helps out through the process. Again, it’s not just about knowledge on the call, it’s also about knowledge post the call and helping quality train your agent for activity efficiency and overall quality of service given to customers. So we’re seeing a lot of demand coming through.
I’m so happy that you talked about how it’s more than just articles. That’s so important. It is more than just articles when you think about what your clients need and what they need visibility into. That helps our customers see what’s going on. If you can say, “ This is what we’re seeing, these are the articles we’re accessing, this is what the after-call work looks like, these are the complaints, these are the customer pain points”, it just really opens the door for the customer to figure out what’s going on with their end-user.
I’m glad that you brought that up because it’s much more than the article and it really lays the foundation for a company like TTEC to come in and really elevate that content and be able to build the chatbots because you have that foundation so think of it as the start to something. It can be the start of answering some questions, but it can also flourish into this AI-enhanced digital data analytics mountain of stuff.
We’re also not limited to the contact center anymore. It’s an omnichannel world, knowledge also has to be omnichannel. So knowledge management is now powering your bots, your field teams, your retail, your tech support teams- anyone who needs knowledge at the right time can have it from different pieces and sources of information. So it’s truly omnichannel. With COVID coming up, the need for knowledge at your fingertips is supercritical and not just at your fingertips
Anuj to panelists:
How has COVID impacted our industry? How have we looked forward to business in the post-COVID era and how our clients and businesses are managing through this and thinking about managing their expectations and messaging?
I think about it from a psychological perspective. I mean it’s been an interesting six months for all of us. What I’ve seen from a psychological perspective is that people are really starting to consider the benefits of working from home. They’re seeing the benefits of access to better talents, better performance, better metrics, happy employees which are obviously tied to that, and business recovery. I think there’s been a ten-year conversation on working from home and this event forced us and fortunately, we are ready. We are not only honing on that kind of activity but also some of the other tools to really be successful. I think this is a permanent change.
I would expect 50+% of seats to still be at home three years from now, irrespective of a vaccine or anything and we are, coincidentally, starting to plan that way. From our perspective, we invested heavily in platforms and security, and employee engagement platforms-so we felt prepared in January and February. So when storms started to brew we started to move some folks at home and get proactive on this. I think it’s been a tough six months for everyone.
What we’re hearing from the clients is that we have really accelerated. A lot of people know the trends surrounding digital and non-voice channels and accelerating that so from my vantage point there’s been a lot of engagement from our clients. In May people started to get out of BCP activities and really start to think about the future and engage in much more strategic conversation. It’s felt like two to three years in one!
Anuj to Ryan
How has customer behavior and those trends transformed? What the customers have been asking for has also radically changed across many industries hasn’t it?
Yeah, it’s great. When I look at my customers, specifically my clients, I see that there are many stages to the crisis. Earlier on it was an all-hands on deck- a BCP activity. A lot of things we worked with clients on earlier on was just using data and insights to help them understand what a change it was- why we had so many volumes and how we had to evolve, but in coming out of May, we have pivoted to these more strategic conversations, especially with some of these long-standing cornerstone relationships to digitize and help them understand how to get more digital at a very specific granule level versus at a high level where we digitize everything. We have really been getting down to specifics. Some of the interesting ones were a couple of things that we already planned for coming into this year but became more relevant, as the shift also changed for a lot of clients.
When the world shut down, a lot of clients suffered from diminished sales capacities and then having to use call centers to require some of their sales and so pivoting their co-action becomes a much larger need for a lot of clients because unfortunately, economies have been significantly impacted and that has driven up collections and so creating some solutions for them that will allow them to deal with the increased volumes in a way that doesn’t cause long-term churn.
The last topic that really came up was that of security. A lot of people really talk about securities being around IT and Communications-be it payments, be it facial recognitions, be it agents and things like that but really getting in with the clients to think about processes to really layer security, so there was a much overdue conversation on that.
Anuj to panelists:
We talked about collections and volumes of calls coming in for certain intense increases during this time. How does that impact the KPI that we look at in terms of Average Handling Time and other things that we used traditionally to measure our performance or progress? How is that area being impacted by these changes?
That’s a really good question. We’ll start at high-level scorecards. On average, hiring is usually case by case. In terms of improvements, we saw that employee attrition got better which also helps. We did see increased productivity. So overall, we are really happy and got some good KTRs from clients. Some very nice things were said and we appreciate those.
From an HT point, that is a really good question. In a lot of cases what we saw is that HT actually increased substantially overnight. It was almost like the biggest science experiment where an overnight A-B experiment happened and normally data drifts more gradually but there was this sudden spike and the nature of the calls changed because the physical world shut down, there were other issues like payment issues that really allowed us to dig in and create a really stark A-B dataset for us to help them understand how things had shifted.
That became the answer to some of the HT differences and then creating some really good conversation around what we want to do. Some clients, hats off to them, took this as a moment to do some of the things they might not have done in ordinary times- pushing some transactions to fully digital and some clients took some very bold actions in this crisis and seized the opportunity given to them.
Anuj to panelists:
We’d like to pivot a little from the specific COVID impact but also to the more holistic omnichannel.
Why is an omnichannel strategy necessary? Why do we have to think about customer journeys across these different channels and why is that relevant today?
That’s a deep and a big question to answer. There are one very simple answer and a lot to unpack underneath it and the simple answer is because that’s what customers expect. One of the biggest satisfiers in the world, as we look at that, is for customers who have come in from one channel and then they don’t get a whole resolution and then they have to come in from another channel or from the same channel and basically, they have to restate their problem and what they are trying to solve for.
Unless you are passing context and truly understanding the job to be done to solve a customer problem and then following that through a journey and providing that context across the channels, that’s where a lot of customer dissatisfaction comes from. So the answer is really simple- it’s because customers expect- “don’t make me repeat myself, know me and know what I need to solve my problem.” That one is certainly an easy question to answer.
But the “how?” underneath that is really important and gets to the crux of what needs to be done. How we think about this at TTEC is in terms of both the impact to the customer, in other words, our client’s consumer- how you impact the customer experience, but also how we impact the employee experience to enable and where it all has to start is a true understanding of that customer- our client’s consumer and the customer’s intent. Then, being able to follow that intent and map that intent from a journey perspective and have analytics that allows you to understand what is the optimal approach to solving that customer’s need and pain point?
And if you can use journey analytics and you can use a history of the understanding of what are primary intents for customers who are coming in on a verticalized basis, how do you think about managing those intents into the optimal channel and the optimal skill and then driving to the optimal CSat and cost output? That is, at the end of the day, really what you’re doing when you’re taking the right approach to persona driven journey analytics in management. So if you start there as your base, what you’re able to do is as a customer comes in, provide them a channel of their choice but also provide a channel that may best solve their need based upon what we understand.
Leveraging AI at the center of a customer hub or a deciding hub that can take the context of every customer interaction and push them into the channel that is most suited to best solve their problem at the highest satisfaction and lowest cost scenario. So that is really at the crux of how you should begin on your Omnichannel or channel-less, as we like to call it, journey. Start with your customers, understand their intents, and bring in the right tools to map those intents across your entire CX tech stack that can provide the context to every interaction your customer is involved in.
Anuj to panelists:
We looked at this problem from a customer standpoint- being able to complete their transactions through these various channels. Let’s also look at it from an agent standpoint. How do you think an omnichannel approach or channel-less improves your agent experience and makes it more streamlined?
Customers have very high expectations these days. They basically believe the uber experience should cross over into their business life. When you talk to your brand, they basically expect full-digital, mobile-enabled multi-modal- where they start with a chat and then follow up with a voice call, and our partners have to be able to tie all these channels together to go through that journey. But also, make agents more productive and it’s been very challenging for agents as more and more users try to self-service.
They try to Google it first and try to find an answer and only when they can’t find an answer, they will pick up the phone or send a chat. So the level of expectation is higher than it used to be and the contact centers are becoming kind of exception centers which means the agents have to be really able to find some advanced solutions.
What we’re doing on our side at Freshworks is, we offer a suite of products, CRM and channels that are unified so there is no stack for CRM with all your cases for agents and channels which are disconnected.
It’s all interlinked and so from an agent perspective, you can provide the swivel chair effect where historically you had your voice channels and then you had your CRM on a second screen, knowledge management from Knowmax on a third screen, and then frankly, when you couldn’t find the answer, you had to run to your neighbour and find the answer out. So, all that is unifying the user experience from the agent side, getting all that data into one single data model to start using AI.
For example, being able to analyze emails, content and being able to give agents suggestions as to what knowledge article might be a good fit and then frankly expanding to reverse the vehicle system. A lot of us are using Slack, for example for collaboration. So what happens if the answer is not in the contact center? What happens if the answer is in shipping or finance? Can you collaborate through Slack?
For example, we integrate Slack into Freshdesk and our agents and knowledge workers are able to collaborate and find an answer. So, very simple integration can ultimately make the agent experience easier. Less swivel chair, automation of answers, and the AIPs which is not really about rebasing agents but making more data available to these agents so that they can answer faster whether, through chat, voice call, or email, it doesn’t really matter.
Ultimately, looking at all that data and analyzing the trends so that you can post an answer on your knowledge base or your website so that you can avoid another 5000 calls about the same thing.
I would love the opportunity to expand on that a little bit. When we think about what we partner with a lot of partners like Freshworks on, it’s about bringing forward the right cognitive counterparts for every human. We always think in terms of every human having a minimum of three cognitive counterparts and we think of that as the digital workforce complementing the human workforce. So from the time that an associate comes in or an employee comes into the workforce- how do you help them train, especially in a virtualized world? So you got to start with a platform that is purpose built for virtual engagement.
But secondarily, how are you enabling associates with technology to get up to speed more quickly in a world where you can’t get them in the same room? You can’t do your role-playing person to person. And so what we do is bring in a tool that we call realplay which allows you to move an associate, leveraging AI to roleplaying with AI in a sandbox environment. That’s cognitive counterpart#1.
Cognitive counterpart#2 is when you push them out onto the actual floor and they begin to take calls, you’re putting an angel on their shoulders with what we call associate assist which is that associate that is constantly listening in to the conversation, reaching into the knowledge management system, pulling out relevant information and providing it as the next best option to that associate.
And then there’s cognitive counterpart#3 which is leveraging RPA and RDA during that call. As Herve talked about, there’s this swivel chair issue because there’s a lot of inhouse and on print paths that oftentimes associates are going back and forth and dealing with and then they have to do post-call wrap-ups and copy and paste and so on. So how do you bring robotic desktop automation or robotic process automation to drive optimization into an end to end associate experience?
So to me, it’s about making sure that you’re enabling those associates with the right cognitive counterparts especially in a virtual environment where they can’t actually physically raise their hands but you provide them a collaboration tool so that they can virtually raise their hand, but they have to do it less because they have these cognitive counterparts. So that’s a concept that we’re seeing accelerate especially in the times that we’re in right now.
Anuj to panelists:
Doing all those great stuff that you mentioned without crowding the screen or bringing down productivity, giving you the tools to measure what’s helping and what’s not helping and how to quickly fix that, and bringing all of that onto that one single platform is so important. Throwing technology into the mix sometimes is not the right answer and can overwhelm folks as well.
A lot of the times the challenge, as you mentioned, is that, when you think about the CX tech stack, it’s fragmented a lot and so what we really love to do is partner with some of our senior providers like Freshworks who become a single pane of glass. But actually getting it to where it becomes a single pane of glass takes integration and orchestration of a very complex ecosystem that is sitting underneath it, whether it’s how you’re doing QAQM for speech analytics or how you’re thinking about workforce management and workforce optimization.
Bringing all of that in an integrated and orchestrated fashion so that the data is all coming through and you are getting that context which is where we started a conversation with. It really does take a partner who can help you map all these data elements and enable a truly integrated and orchestrated experience so that the associate can manage the engagement through a single pane of glass.
If you think of the devices we are using at home now, these Alexa boxes and Google boxes are going to stop generating events, and it’s likely that at some point they will say, “ Hey. I’m broken, come fix me”. There are 7 billion of them today. It’s likely in the future they will stop communication to customer support. So now is a good time to stop thinking about just data ingestion and multichannel in terms of just voice and chat and start thinking about digital and assets and how we can orchestrate and become a part of a life cycle. We can only do that with a platform. It’s going to be very complicated if you don’t have the means of getting that data so interesting times.
To conclude, it would be great if your device is failing but you don’t have to call your provider. Your provider can detect if your device has a problem, and say “ Hey, Anuj’s device isn’t working. Maybe instead of having him call, we’re going to send him a coupon to a free movie thanking him for his patience.” So I think that’s a really great way of customer service- this productive servicing which is a much better experience but it requires a lot more experience in the backend.
Yeah, there’s a couple interesting stats that came up in the news recently. So IDC recently predicted that AI will be the future of user interfaces and then Gartner came in and talked about speech within that context. They believe that 70% of self-service interactions in the future will be handled through voice interactions. You start to see this huge migration over into that space and how you think about omnichannel and channelless experience even for self service by leveraging these new interfaces and this new UI called voice and AIs . It’s such an important part of how you think about your customer journeys.
Anuj to panelists:
We talked about knowledge management and technology. You guys are at the forefront of running these technologies. Give us a quick update about what’s worked and what’s not worked so far.
So I’ll start with one very clear trend which is that, especially as you get into what we call the mega enterprise space. We started the conversation with omnichannel, and what happens so often at mega enterprises is, you think about that CX technology stack, and when I say CX technology stack, I mean the customer experience technology stack that is touching the customer and that ranges gamut. It also ranges organisational silos so it’s everything from your marketing automation platform, to your CRM to how you are engaging with your customers even through your ERPs or in-store point of sale.
What we find in enterprises often, is that a large enterprise will make a decision to buy a best of suite approach which is i’m going to buy everything from one provider, but what they quickly realise is that doesn’t cover all of their needs, and so they have to take a step back and go, I have to do this best of breed thing.
But how do I make all of the best of breed capabilities whether it’s your CRM, alongside your marketing automation platform, alongside your contact center infrastructure, alongside your omnichannel platform, alongside what you’re doing from a QAQM perspective, alongside what you’re doing from a workforce management perspective alongside how you’re thinking about AI, alongside what you’re thinking about knowledge management? All these components- how do I make them work together?
What happens so often is that companies will go out and buy that best of the breed but none of them work together. So they may say “ I have the best CRM in the world but they aren’t talking to the other components to help me provide a better customer experience and provide a better employee experience. It’s like having a Ferrari in your garage but you never drive it because it’s not working together. What we like to do is come in and help people orchestrate that. You can find partners- TTEC’s a great partner, as you think about a true integration and API platform that can help you drive that orchestration but also help you drive a full channel-less experience much more quickly. I call that theme#1 that we see in the market.
Theme#2 is AI and bots being an amazing tool to improve customer experience, help to augment the associate experience, help to create new career paths from the associate perspective, but so often, they get implemented incorrectly. I’ll give you an example. Often times, people will start with a customer assist bot and they’ll throw it out there. We all know the nature of AI- AI learns and AI improves. The way we often think about this is don’t train your AI on your customers. So when we come in and talk to our clients, we start with the clients and we say your best and your brightest employees, your associates that are answering questions and helping customers are the best knowledge base you could possibly have.
Train you AI there ut create an ecosystem that allows everything to learn in one and we call that our digital worker factory. We have something that’s proprietary and we call that our digital worker factory that connects everything that is being listened to, how engagement is being done and how associates are answering questions. Then, we’re training the AI engine to facilitate a future customer assist bot release. We’re also training the AI to enable the realplay scenario that I talked about. So as we’re bringing associates in- training, nesting, ramping them to take customer calls, you’re leveraging your best and your brightest associates to train your AI which is training your associates as they come in which is training your customer assist about how it can answer self service questionsin the future.
So it’s creating that virtuous cycle and it’s doing that through an actual integrated and orchestrated AI platform. Where that gets complicated for brands often times is that they have that extended, siloed organisational decisioning. So I’ve got AI platform 1 over here, AI platform 2 over here, AI platform 3 over here, none of which are talking to each other, so how are you dropping data into an insights platform, enabling it to create context but also learn so that it can create that virtuous cycle. That’s really important.
So often, people say that AI is going to kill the contact center. If we’ve learned anything from COVID, it is that empathy is required in how people engage but also that AI can really help in that space. What we’ve found is that actually, we’ve found this to be very different in new career path opportunities. I’ll put it in two buckets- 1)for anyone coming from a design thinking world, enabling innovation form that frontline, there’s no one is better situated to empathize with the end customer’s need and see that need than a customer service associate, than an agent or brand ambassador.
Leverage them, and let them build innovations, solve the jobs to be done and bring those to the fore. 2) The associate’s journey can now improve. We have associates that are quickly ramping into roles like conversational designers. How are you enabling conversation design for new channels like messaging where you’re actually automating? There’s no one better to design this conversation than the associates that were handling these calls and understand the needs.
When you think about low code development platforms, we’re actually sourcing bot builders from within our associate population because they’re doing a manual process already for a customer. Now, they can go and say, here’s how you operate the platform in a low code scenario or at least be the VA and enabling the developer in a higher code scenario.
Those are some of the trends we are seeing from a technology perspective and themes we’re centering around.
Anuj to panelists
What are some of the technology and infrastructure challenges that prevent us from integrating these solutions. What are you seeing out there?
There’s still a legacy one and that’s a unique opportunity that we help folks solve. As we go in to integrate, we tend to run into some legacy issues. The other thing is people need to think about combining some of these tools- RPAs, speech analytics, coaching platforms into larger solutions rather than just point solutions. The easy example here is that you get data insights during speech analytics and other data analysis serving up to the coach and another bot delivering micro-learning and frankly, content curation can be done with AI too. So there’s a bigger power of combining these technologies in unique ways. I could talk about collections, how you could combine various technologies to create a much more interesting solution that solves a real problem.
That’s another trend we see. Another trend that I encourage people to think about is digitizing the processes. A lot of people think about data as just the 1s and 0s and just the numbers and not spending enough time on that, and that’s also key to a lot of digital rollouts and having a central voice that is seen in knowledge management and a bunch of other things. Really thinking through that is a lot of work but has massive rewards on the other side.
This is less on the technological side, but one thing I would encourage people to do is, as they go down digitization and/or knowledge streams, think about it as operations projects and not IT projects. Where I’ve seen some clients struggle is they think of it as IT project, where it’s done and they’re on to the next thing. These things need care and feeding, and constantly tune in like that. So those are a couple of themes and in that tuning, it’s not just science- there’s an art too. Nick spoke a little about it, it’s conversations- designing conversations.
AI can take it so far but it needs that human touch which is really important. I was digging deep into an interesting use case around knowledge which is content curation and I think that is going to change dramatically. We’ve been working through how to use AI to curate content with humans obviously validating that but that allows us to micro training and much more relevant stuff to supplement humans at level 1. So that is an example of technology that is really exciting that we continue to pursue.
Take the digital agent for example. The temptation is to turn all signs on and gain your way through that. Again, that’s related to my Ops point which means you’re gradually turning on to make sure you’re delivering even better experiences and maintaining that standard.
Another important training concept is positive confirmation throughout the human and so if you think about the example I used, the associate assist, it’s always serving up the next best actions. Was that the right next best action for the associate? Yes, and so you go on. So you’re continuously training and feeding the backend through other AI engines so I think that’s important.