Season 2: Episode 1
Why you should be thinking about automation in your business’s customer experience strategies!
Welcome back listeners, to another episode of the Digital Village Podcast.
In this episode, our resident host Paul Scott is joined by Robert Allman, Global SVP Customer Experience at NTT.
Today, we explore the depths of customer experience and automation. With NTT’s latest CX Benchmarking report for 2021 at hand, they’ll uncover how customer experience is evolving – driven by digital technology. For every business, a focus on CX is becoming a primary driver for customer retention and growth. So without further delay, let’s dive in and see what insights Rob and Paul can share with us.
So sit back and enjoy our kick-off episode for 2022!
Global SVP Customer Experience at NTT
Post Grid #4
Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome back to the new year and a new season of the digital village show. We’ve got some exciting stories in store for 2022, as we focus on digital trends, impacting business and culture from the influence of blockchain right down to processes and artificial intelligence today’s episode is something special for me personally, as an area I focus heavily on in my own business customer experience, but with a bit of a DV show, topical twist, Paul Scott, our resident host is joined by Robert Alman NTTS global senior vice president for customer experience together. They’re tackling the topic around automation and where it fits into the customer experience using data from the later CX benchmark king reports from 2021, Paul and Robert will explore the levels of the customer from your own teams down to the buyer, from the benefits of CX and the value that, um, that automation will bring to it and how businesses can stay customer focus and the benefits of doing so. So sit back and enjoy as we kick off 2022 together.
Speaker 2 (01:14):
Well, hello, How are you?
Speaker 3 (01:17):
I’m very well, thank you. Good morning. Good evening, Paul.
Speaker 2 (01:20):
Great to see you again. And, and, um, goodness me, we go back a bit of a, a long way. You and I, I think it’s, um, it must be 16, 17 years. Um, and then merchants dimension data and now NTT.
Speaker 4 (01:35):
Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Couple of decades, I think in my
Speaker 2 (01:39):
Indeed. And, um, we, we, I think we’ve share a passion, Rob, um, besides sport obviously, cuz we both share a passion for that. Um, uh, for customer experience and benchmarking. I mean the, the topic of our discussion today is really where will automation benefit customer experience and um, like you, I mean working in a, in a te company, um, but having a very strong sense of the purpose of great customer experience and customer service, it’s always been a challenge to get technology, to align with what we actually want to deliver as an experience. Um, and it would be fair to say, I think that, um, the CX benchmark and report, which I believe is now in its 24th year, um, that’s right, has provided an extraordinary wealth of insight and knowledge, um, for the people who participate in report. And there must be, you know, several thousand companies who participated in over the last two, only four years. Um, and also of course for yourselves within, within dimension data and NTT now, um, the kind of insights that presumably are helping you to design and deliver great solutions for your clients as well.
Speaker 4 (03:03):
Absolutely. And the, the benchmarking report origins were very much our clients at the outset of the call center industry saying, what does good look like? Um, what, how do, what, what does good look like in terms of performance for top performers? Um, what are people prioritizing? What’s the trends we should be cognizant of? Um, and how should we use this to prioritize our planning. Um, and it’s never been more relevant as it was then as it is now.
Speaker 2 (03:40):
Absolutely. And, and, uh, the thing that really struck me about this year’s report was the, um, the focus on, on this sort of human automation interface. Um, you know, I think there’s, there’s a long history and we’re gonna go into it in some detail, perhaps a little later on, um, uh, of there’s been evidence of, of the, the customer services domain being in, in a little bit of conflict, really with the technology side of organizations, because it’s never quite worked out how to combine the two in a way, which is gonna deliver a great experience, but as you’re going to, hopefully to the second, the, the report is now talking about the fact there is evidence that this automation human interface thing is beginning to, to actually work.
Speaker 4 (04:32):
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, I think it’s really simple when, when we look at the, the, the customer experience global benchmarking report, it, it really is a stake in the ground for organizations to try and understand where they are, where their competitors are, where people that they might aspire to, or whether they just want a sound check in terms of how they’re doing. And when we think about customer, it’s something that’s quite easy for us to understand because we’re all consumers in one way or another. But what the report does is it creates a moments in time that witnesses the industry globally. And it’s look, this is, this is what’s happening. This is what’s looking like. And one of the things that I think we’ve always, um, tr tried to do, and I think I’ve been applauded before has been taking a view on where we are and what’s happening within the industry.
Speaker 4 (05:32):
And so, so to put it, I suppose, very simply the benchmarking report creates a view of what is happening in customer experience and making sure all that we don’t lose the wood for the trees. And I think with the, the benchmarking report and the growth of automation, it it’s simply that at its simplest form customer experience is purpose should not be lost. And that’s to make sure that people, um, consumers have a greater experience than they get what they want from, from their engagement, with an organization. And really all, all we’re saying at the simplest level is, is do not forget the customer. If you get things right with the customer, many, many good things happen easier said than done. Um, but, but actually organizations that absolutely have that in their, in their essence and their core. Um, this year’s benchmarking re report shows that their three sums more likely to demonstrate growth and they’re getting kind of higher performance.
Speaker 4 (06:42):
And that’s why this year’s report is saying crossing the divide that I think many organizations have operated in silos in terms of their channels, um, in terms of their, the way that they see sales, marketing, different lines of businesses. And this year’s report really says successful organizations, a new baseline for leadership, which is the other core theme of this year’s report is showing that there’s there’s for many years, we’ve chartered the progress of, um, disruptive innovators. Now we’re saying that that that group has widened leaders. Those leaders are, are showing the tenants of what good customer experience is. And they’ve scaled to a point that, that now represents what good customer experience is that other organizations need to aspire to. The
Speaker 2 (07:34):
Last point is very, very interesting. I wanted just dive into, that’s already interrupt you. The, the report mentions the fact that there’s CX representation now at board level at higher levels than they’ve ever been before. Do you think that’s a factor that has driven improvements in this domain?
Speaker 4 (07:52):
Absolutely. I, when I, when I look, I think three years ago were charted slight dip in, in the boardroom, um, representation, which was deeply concerning because it was a point that we really saw a massive growth and job titles and LinkedIn of customer experience, et cetera. And so it seemed like the, there was almost platitudes of a, of an area that was being re, but then we’re seeing the strategic, um, senior seniority actually decline. And last year we saw a, a good increase, which we felt as though was more representative about 35% this year it’s risen to over 70%. Wow. That feels right. That, that feels a reflection of the times, because is this year’s report isn’t meant to be, uh, another commentary on the pandemic or a survival guide to the pandemic. We wanted to try and give organizations a view of what they should start, stop, continue.
Speaker 4 (08:55):
And what are the traits that organizations are going to kind of stick with post the pandemic? And the pandemic is really, you know, through government policy and health concerns has created more change or point in change. That’s accelerated mega trends that have been in the post, like automation, the use of technology, um, the impact on operating models that we’ve never seen in terms of the, the increased acceleration as, as catalyst. And, and what that has done is that when things had to shut down or people were sent home, it held a huge mirror and up to executives all around the world in terms of how good, bad, awful brilliant, you know, their customer experience was. Um, and, and that, that examined every facet. Um, you, you know, the, have you used your own website? Have you used your mobile app? Have you used your IVR? Do you know what it feels like when you get stuck on a web chat and then you just give up and you want to find a number, but some like spark has hidden that number somewhere. All, all of those things yeah. Came immediately obvious because stuff either worked.
Speaker 2 (10:13):
Speaker 4 (10:14):
And, um, and all of us son that also what this year, what we started chatting a couple of years ago was organizations because we saw lots of the tenants and capabilities, whether it was technology, you know, the, the increased maturity of management techniques and experience in this, this area have all grown, but we haven’t seen the see change that would expect over the last few years. So, and, and we started asking, we’re saying, look, you need to change this. You need to change that. We highly recommend that you should prioritize this. Um, and, and it’s difficult to be a profit in your own land. It was one of the things that we found for, for are our clients and participants, but what’s what this has created is people have said, we have to take this seriously because it’s not good enough and we’re losing customers or where all we’ve got to, um, change our cost model.
Speaker 4 (11:13):
All of those things come into bearing and people have recognized the coal was too static. It, it was too incremental. And one of the biggest, um, emphasis particularly on leaders, um, within this year’s report, cuz we, we, we very much focus on how we segment what leaders are doing and what followers or lag guards are doing and, and contrast those things. And this year’s report really says you, you’ve got to be able to change quickly. You’ve got to have a more agile mindset, not just in terms of technology development, but in terms of your entire management. And I think that’s one of the really, really interesting things because people have had to change their operating model. They have had to put much greater focus on self-service the ambition of automation and self-service is almost doubled in terms of the volumes and numbers of organizations that want to move things to those areas are big message in is, do not sacrifice the purpose and do not sacrifice the quality double down on the purpose and the quality.
Speaker 4 (12:21):
And there’s a simple, you know, there there’s huge focus on customer journeys and the maturity of work. The way people are beginning to look at those as, as grown in terms of this science, the, the, the purpose is quite simple is make it easier and stay relevant. So people are desperately trying to keep up with these, um, the, these new evangelists of the, the new customer experience, but, but simply put the, the best way to do these things. Under half of organizations are actually trying to understand what their customers want and, or, or actively trying to consult with customers to think about design, et cetera. Um, so that one big recommendation, the, the big one is really the mindset though. Um, if we think about technology, um, being used for good, then that’s a really great place to start if we think about and empathize, which is a, a huge word that can really resonated out of, of the report of what it is like, because people, many people have lost connection with, with communities, with family, um, with, with the organizations.
Speaker 4 (13:36):
But, but they’ve been particularly, it, it, it really exaggerates how good or bad, um, you are when you’re isolated. Um, sure. Um, and, um, really what, what we’re saying here is that if you really think about that person and you think about the cons, the context of why they’re calling and you give them choice of how they want to do things and make sure that you’re trying to understand what it is like for them within, within their customer journey, within their engagement. Yeah. Um, what, what are the frustration points, um, how do you make it seamless? How can you do you more to practically understand how you can reach out rather than try and avoid, um, how you can be proactive if you see, um, challenges, should you be reaching out to engage? But I think the big thing that we encourage is that the mindset of leaders, um, and the clear recommendations we make, look at engagement as a positive thing to, um, retain, grow, um, create, um, positive repeat business and, and have a growth mindset as opposed to cost minimization one, because do those things well, um, you, you will be more efficient.
Speaker 4 (14:56):
You will empower employees. If we look at there was a, the other huge shift that we saw was that there was a ma the, the biggest prioritization in terms of the next five years. Um, sorry, in terms of the next 12 months, is the enablement and focus on employees to be more effective in their engagements around CX
Speaker 4 (15:20):
Employees. Who’ve got that line of sight to a strategy. You need to have a strategy to create line of site strategy, um, are far more engaged and far more effective and, and engaging and, and working and doing their job effectively with customers. So really emphasizing that connection between the customer experience and the employee experience and giving both the customer and, and your people, the tools of the trade, whether that’s automation at the correct point that’s appropriate, um, whether we’re managing things like automation, anxiety with, with our employees and making sure that they understand that automation can help take away the mundane and, and create, um, give them the right information at the right time to really add value and, and complete things, or create opportunity with things. That’s a far more positive mindset for the customer and employee to have where data use of intelligence to help enrich things, um, in that real time is used. And that can be seamless across whether it’s self-service assisted service or, or employees using information at the right points and at the right times in a designed way, rather than conky way. So I think that that’s probably the essence of have just touched
Speaker 2 (16:43):
One of the, one of the things that, uh, I find strange here though, Rob, is that, um, NPS schools generally are not improving significantly with all the, the insight that we’re getting from the data that’s being gathered now, and the ability to apply, uh, digital to the customer experience, you would expect that organizations would get better at actually understanding what their customers want and the way that they want it provided. But the, the evidence from Nebo schools does not back that up. It actually suggests that organizations are, are either not getting any better or in some cases actually getting worse at delivering really outstanding customer experiences. I mean, to what extent do you think, um, that’s because of this kind of, uh, disconnect between strategy and execution, cuz I know that, um, that there is something in the report as well, that talks about this, that you’ve got, um, people are getting better at doing the strategic thing, but then there isn’t the same improvement in how they then execute.
Speaker 4 (17:57):
Yeah. I, there’s a few points in there. So around the net promoter school, um, one of the things that we introduced in this year’s report, there is 1,300 hundred and 59 participants, roughly. Exactly,
Speaker 2 (18:14):
Speaker 4 (18:15):
Which is our biggest, um, participation ever, which we’re really, really pleased around the seniority of participation from CEOs to directors was really high, much higher than previous years. So that’s great. And I think that in itself as an indicator that people are taking customer experience more seriously. Yeah. The, the other, um, vector that we added into the data this year was 1400 consumer surveys in, um, 13 countries. And, and really what we wanted to do was, um, you know, drink our own champagne, um, and, and make sure we were getting that balance of what the organization was saying. Looks like good, versus what consumers or customers were saying, looks like good. And only 17% of consumers actually said that they saw, um, uh, customer experience from, at a, at a net promoter level at an advocacy level.
Speaker 2 (19:14):
Speaker 4 (19:15):
So, so your point’s absolutely spot on. Um, and it was interesting when you compare that to things like the, the experience of digital channels, et cetera, it’s a very similar story, slightly worse. So, um, one of things I think is we shouldn’t lose heart because there’s definitely organizations and leaders who created a new normal, sorry, I Bann myself from saying that word,
Speaker 2 (19:43):
Sorry, we’ll edit it out.
Speaker 4 (19:51):
The, the, the key thing is though that there, there is lighthouse for people to see what good looks like. That’s also risen. Um, you know, that’s given light to, um, an increased expectation. We, we expect things to be delivered the next day. We might actually select, um, a thing where we don’t consider any other products. So yeah, the, the expectation has risen, but sadly, there’s also some absolutely terrible experience that’s still out there. Um, and I think key things that we see one is we, we see that organizations who have a strategy in that’s commonly understood there’s line of sight through the organization. And they’re executing on that, um, show far higher customer experience, satisfaction results, and that they have far more engaged. And boys, as a result of that, the employees are the people who mobilize your strategy without, without execution strategies to solution.
Speaker 4 (20:55):
So, so I think there’s key things that we’re seeing that’s in place there. The, the other piece that we’re seeing in terms of the customers, it it’s when we look at some of the key decision points that the consumers were stating, they want quality of products and services. Um, they want trusted brands. They want to see things like customer reviews, customer reviews, and open and honest communication, um, with number three or four, in terms of the, the buying choices, the, that they make. Mm. So, so there’s clear, you know, there’s, there’s not just a wisdom of crowd, but there’s, there’s actually a, a dead set judgment on those things can add all the complexity we want, but if people aren’t really aligned and able to have open and honest communication, because they’ve got the right culture, um, they’ve got the right information and data in front of them, then, you know, those key things that actually shape consumer behavior will be portrayed.
Speaker 2 (21:59):
Yeah. Um, I wanted to, to just go back to a quote that’s in the report from, um, a very good friend of yours and mine, Shannon McGee Smith, who’s a, a senior analyst in the sector. Um, and she says, the lessons described from top customer experience. Performers are a roadmap for creating the seamless, automated, digital, and live assistance journeys. Customers now expect customer experience is being treated like the value creator. It is, and companies are ramping up automation efforts and enabling employees with digital tools. So there’s a lot in there, but the thing that really struck me with this was this focus around automation, um, and enabling people with tools. If you touched on it earlier by saying, you know, that, that one of the problems perhaps employees have, who are in the front line, delivering customer service is appreciating how these tools can actually help them deliver a better experience. Do you wanna talk to that?
Speaker 4 (23:03):
Yeah, definitely. So I think Sheila sums up really well. Um, as I think when you move into a period of change, it, it it’s that whole mirror thing. Again, it gives a dark reality of things that may have been issues, but because they’ve become the norm, you come to accept them and, and they, that becomes kind of Aero. What, what we’ve seen is this, this sea change where people have been sent home. So that sounds a bit, bit like they’ve been sent home from school. Um, they, the operations,
Speaker 2 (23:36):
They were encouraged. Yes.
Speaker 4 (23:38):
Yeah. The work from home. Yeah. Which has created lots of opportunities, but it’s called, it’s also created issues that have to be addressed. They have to be addressed in the here and now. And there’s there’s data security concerns. Um, there’s um, 50% of employees saying that they do not have the tools that they require to, to ex execute on their job com correctly to completion
Speaker 2 (24:09):
Speaker 4 (24:10):
Yeah. Yeah. Just under 50%. So that does not sound, sound or look like success. And, and what are the kind of things that they need. They, they need all of the information on the customer. They need access this to the correct systems. Um, they need the right coaching tools, et cetera. When we look at all of the different things that support both the customer and the employee in terms of real time, enriched data, knowledge, et cetera, um, that can have artificial tech applied to it that can radically, um, enrich the customer experience in terms of their digital experience. Um, it can help with personalization. It can help it being far more specific to them. Um, in terms of the, the employee supporting the consumer of the consumers, able to, um, get the kind of resolution that they need within those self-service channels that enrichment can radically accelerate a, a time to competent in terms of understanding, um, things, it can remove the requirement for, for the focus of the employee to be on systems, because we can automate a lot of the dependency on 5, 10, 20, we’ve seen some clients with 30 systems, they, that we expect people to traverse that’s that’s verging on inhumane.
Speaker 4 (25:40):
Um, so what, what we were saying is we can take through things like, you know, mature technologies like RPA, et cetera. We can take the focus away from the systems. We can enrich the experience by actually providing real time insights to that customer for the employee. Um, and, and we can combine the journey and the, the, the history of the journey that the consumer or the customer has been on, um, when, when, when they engage, that that’s a far better basis for success than, than waiting for someone to come through, who who’s effectively been pulled through a hedge backwards, through a self-service thing that that’s frustrated them an experience of trying to find the right contact points, et cetera. They may have to spoken to another colleague in the organization if we’re kind of actually reaching out, um, because we’re seeing that someone may be struggling.
Speaker 4 (26:38):
And this is where we talk about the concept of augmentation, that we’re actually designing an understanding of things and designing to support both the customer and the employee, um, and making sure that we’re focused on the, the, the outcome, um, and the intent, um, rather than the, the process, um, and the failure point, we’re thinking more about success than failure. So I think those are the key essences of how we, um, the, the data, the artificial intelligence, the insights, but we bring that to life in real time. And I think bringing those things together, thinking about how the customer and the employee positioned to, to, to be effective, making it easy for them, giving the customer choice, bringing those elements together, that, that that’s the, you know, they’re the ingredients and the recipe, um, is, is really the, the culture and the, the design and the competency that organizations share around that.
Speaker 2 (27:43):
So do you, do you think that, um, if organizations are able to bring those things together, the way you’ve just described, is it still the case that there are a large proportion of customers who actually don’t want any of that digital experience? They just wanna speak to somebody when they contact customer service. It’s because they’ve got a problem, something hasn’t arrived on time, there’s an error on their booking form, or, you know, they’ve made a mistake when they were doing an online check or whatever, and they want to speak to somebody and, and just looking at, you know, the websites for a lot of these eCommerce companies, trying to find the telephone number to speak to a human being is virtually impossible. I mean, the only thing you can, in fact, the most effective thing to do as I’ve discovered is to Google it. Because if you, if you actually ask Google, where can I find customer service for X, Y, Z company, they will direct you specifically to the page where that happens. But it does look to me as though there are two things happening. And number one, customers are getting frustrated because they can’t contact their organizations when they want to, to speak to somebody. And then the, you know, paradoxically companies are hiding telephone numbers still to prevent them having contact with their customers. Is that ever gonna change?
Speaker 4 (29:02):
Yeah, hun one, 100%. It’s a, I think the it’s a modern perversion, isn’t it? The, and it’s a modern perversion that’s been in the making for 15 years plus, um, the, the, the key thing here is that if we think we’re, we get thousands and thousands of different messages from organizations trying to market to us through throughout the day, it’s probably far greater than that. And people are trying to find relevance, whether it’s through SEO, different ways of engaging with, with customers, however, when a customer wants to engage with them, they they’re, there’s people finding methods of avoiding
Speaker 2 (29:47):
Speaker 4 (29:48):
Yeah. So, um, so first thing is embrace the opportunity to engage with a customer. Um, second, second piece in there is that it it’s two thirds of customers, the, the consumers that we survey conveyed so that they absolutely still relish the opportunity and want the ability, um, to talk, to, uh, talk to someone within the organization. And when they talk to someone they want to open and honest communication and the someone who’s equipped to resolve their, their issue. So these are, these are traits that consumers want. Um, they also want things to be effective and effortless digitally, and, and to have the right level of competence that keeps up, um, with, with the leaders. Um, but, but once again, this isn’t massively complex. It’s common sense and common sense. Isn’t always that common. Um, but, but, but really the things that people are asking for or want, uh, uh, are quite, um, pragmatic.
Speaker 2 (30:59):
Yeah. Yeah. Um, okay. Rob, look, we’re gonna have to wrap out quite soon, but I, I wanted to ask you if, if there were sort of three bits of advice that you would give to CX executives who are seeking to get ahead here, um, what would it be? What do they need to be focused on in order to generate a better customer experience?
Speaker 4 (31:20):
The, the first thing is really, and it’s about the applying the gravity that they need to, to, to customer experience people who view CX as, as a value creation element, that’s fundamental to the strategy of their organization and the success of their organization will be successful, um, with their customers, um, in terms of growth retention, um, repeat business. So that that’s clear. And that’s, that’s some of the things that people should look at on evidence on the report and organizations who are leading are doing that. So get a strategy that’s effective and, and commonly understood and execute on and well rounded. So that’s, that’s kinda number one, um, connect, think about the, the connection between the customer and the employee and what you need to do, what that looks like and what you need to do to enable that effectively. Um, and that, I think that’s fundamental operate have now changed forever there’s organizations like national Australia, buying HSBC here in the UK.
Speaker 4 (32:31):
Many others in around the world have said, we are not returning to our previous operating model. We’re not going back on mass to, to, to, to the, to the office. So that operating model has changed. And there’s many benefits to that. It’ll probably be more hybrid, um, but make it work and, and, but, but make it work on a value basis rather than a, a logistics facilitation. And the third other thing, which is cool, um, is we, we talk about hyper automation. Um, and our, when we think about that really, really simply put, we’re saying that automation I is absolutely here. It’s been here for many, many years. It’s not a new thing in terms of, um, self-service and all automating things. But what we are saying is, is do it well, the, the, the alter is the customer experience in terms of the, the level and in terms of how it’s done things like RPA and things on, on their own pass se.
Speaker 4 (33:39):
Um, but if we can combine different technologies, um, you know, we’re seeing big evidence throughout the report that AI is applied as a, as a, and people have a mindset around growth around that. So let’s, let’s, let’s gather the information that is out there around the customer, whether it’s in their interaction or the, the history and all of those, their intent let’s mobilize that use that apply artificial intelligence, make that, make that, um, available to help resolve personalize, but bring together the organization, the might of the organization on behalf of the customer, um, using automation in an, a great intelligent fashion. Um, and I think that that’s the key thing is, is making sure that we automate intelligently, um, on behalf of the customer, as opposed to on behalf of the organization. So strategy CX as a value creator, create that to link between the, the customer and the employee and automate, um, effectively on behalf of the customer, not the organization. And, and you’ll get the results that the organization wants.
Speaker 2 (34:55):
You make it sound so simple.
Speaker 4 (34:59):
Speaker 2 (35:00):
Rob, that was, that was fascinating. Um, so, so look, before we wrap up, um, how can people, well, I will, by the way, put in the, uh, the podcast notes links to the report, but for those who are listed, just want to go straight to, um, to a search engine and find it, where can they, um, get hold of copies of the report?
Speaker 4 (35:24):
So the, the report is free. It’s, it’s a gift to the industry. It’s the first time we’ve, we’ve done that it’s available. Um, and, um, it’s, it is available on the, the NTT website under CX benchmarking. Um, and we we’ll create all the links that people can get it directly from, from this, um, podcast as well.
Speaker 2 (35:48):
Great, Rob, thank you so much for your time, mate. Really appreciate it. Great to see you looking fit and well, I hope the, uh, the English winter doesn’t treat you to too badly.
Speaker 4 (35:57):
Well, certainly on the way it’s here.
Speaker 2 (36:00):
Good stuff. Okay. We’ll uh, hopefully catch up again. I’d like to catch up with you again next year and do the same thing. See how things have moved on.
Speaker 4 (36:08):
Absolutely. And, and lovely. See, thank you for the opportunity. Thanks, Paul.
Speaker 2 (36:12):
Cheer. Not at all. Thank you very much, indeed. Well, cheers.
Speaker 1 (36:19):
Hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Please feel free to check us out on our website, digital village.network for our past episodes. We’ll be back next month, but on the last Wednesday of every month, as we are with more great stories and guests see you, then.