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CX Technology the Growth Engine for TTEC EMEA: Q&A with Alistair Niederer


Over the last several years, TTEC has been actively investing in EMEA and looking to bring its technology development and CX transformation services to the region. I spoke with Alistair Niederer, Senior VP, Head of Europe, Middle East & Africa, about the company's growth plans, what's happening in the CX services industry, and best practices for CX leaders.

What are the new core elements of CX transformation in 2022 and the next two years?

Alistair Niederer (AN): "The industry backdrop shows that customer satisfaction is going down. The offering and use of technology are going up, but we are not really solving the problem, and customers are not getting the promised customer experience. This trend has been going on for some time.

The first thing for service providers, client companies, and end-user customers is to find a way to remove business silos to achieve customer service targets. A lot of company decisions stand in the way of better customer satisfaction, for example, between IT and the Customer Service group and Finance. To succeed in achieving greater results in customer satisfaction, you need to be dealing with the CEO and senior leadership to ensure it gets into the boardroom.

The second task is to convince buyers they don't just need technology but also need to apply the right talent and follow the path of proper transformation. At TTEC, we provide people and technology that transform the customer experience.

The third area that I think is critical is that we need to show companies how to get the real voice of the customer. This is about making sure to use technology to listen to customers, then use analytics and insights to get the true voice of the customer. We've seen this not only improves customer loyalty but reduces costs too by easing frustrations around customers getting resolution.

But post-call survey response rates are dropping?

AN: Call disposition codes entered by agents and post-call surveys are not representative of customer sentiment. There is no reason why we shouldn't be listening to 100% of interactions in the digital age. The technology is available, and then it needs to be analyzed and interpreted. You must ask the customers, not in the moment of the transaction but when they have had time to reflect, "How do you feel this company is delivering?"

There is an element of process and customer expertise to generate these insights, right?

AN: It is always about the difference between analytics and insights. Insights are the key element that interprets what you find in real business situations. This is a difficult and expensive job, and two years of COVID-19 mean that companies could not invest in that when firefighting due to the huge demand caused by the pandemic was paramount - but going forward, hopefully, we will see that change. It is important that you get a true view of the customer's voice in combination with deploying the right channels. Otherwise, you are likely to see customer satisfaction going down.

Is this changing?

AN: Yes, companies understand they must get to TCO, understand their objective for customer service, then look at the channel shifts, the financial impact, and CSAT impact, and then deploy. The companies we are talking to understand the need for experts, who have done this before, who work in their vertical, and who can show results and show how they can blend the technology with people and processes.

What are the characteristics of these future-looking companies? Any specific sectors ahead of the others?

AN: We are seeing a lot of mid-market companies invest more in technology and self-service but they are not yet at the maturity point to understand all other tools they can use. Mid-tier companies across various industries are looking to interpret data to reduce their TCO and increase their CSAT. It is more about the people in the organization's leadership and not driven by any particular sector.

How is TTEC targeting these decision-makers?

AN: We target different personas. We are vertically focused and know the industry pain points or opportunity points, and different people in that organization have different aims. In retail, it could be fraud prevention, counterfeit management, issues in their supply chain, or issues with transitioning people from web to webchat. We target all personas in the business with propositions that answer typical problems such as cost decrease, revenue increase, and CSAT. It is about really understanding the sector and the challenges brands are facing and being able to show them a solution.

We recently undertook a fraud prevention project for an online retail client, which, during the COVID-19 pandemic, needed to shift to work-from-home and quickly expand its customer support, including monitoring transactions for fraudulent activities. TTEC identified the training, operations, and quality assurance candidates and engaged our global training network in the Philippines, which included certified trainers who would spearhead the WFH training initiative. We ran four parallel virtual batches to expedite training. As a result, all training batches went live as scheduled, and we succeeded in ramping up to 170 team members in 40 days during the lockdown. The remote training throughput came in at 91% compared to 88% in bricks-and-mortar.

What are your target verticals in EMEA?

AN: In EMEA, target companies are in the automotive, retail, public sector and local government, banking, financial services, and insurance sectors (where we focus on insurtech and fintech). Typically, it's the first time these companies have outsourced and we show them the TTEC Digital side of the business and how experience can be applied. We treat hypergrowth almost like a separate vertical.

Because we expanded so much in the digital sense, working with major technology players, who need systems integration and managed services, once they deploy the tool, they need people. TTEC can help identify who will serve the customer, where they will be, how they can help, whether voice or non-voice.

We also expand through referrals from our clients to build strategic account plans, helping our existing clients in the U.S. with their EMEA operations, such as multi-lingual services.

What is the opportunity to expand Avtex capabilities to EMEA?

AN: We expanded our work dramatically with technology partners who need CX transformation capabilities and systems integration. The Avtex acquisition means we now have strong relationships with Genesys and Microsoft. We already have a strong Cisco relationship, also with Pega and Salesforce. We are the largest global systems integrator for Genesys. Through our VoiceFoundry business, we invest heavily in EMEA in the AWS Connect. All these vendors are moving very strongly in the CX direction, and we are focused on moving to the cloud, where there is a huge, huge forward runway.

As an example, we have an embedded Genesys on-prem solution for a telecom in Ireland and we are working on migrating it to the cloud. Then there are the Cisco clients looking for us to manage their services and start giving them a pathway to the future. In another example, for a multinational automotive client based in the U.K., we provided a full CX digital transformation strategy by moving them to a multichannel self-service automation environment. This includes taking over their frontline staff and the technology, both customer and agent tools.

What is the fastest-growing service line in EMEA?

AN:  We are seeing demand for customer growth services rise exponentially and anything related to detecting and managing fraudulent situations. Governance and fraud are big, as brands are being forced to reassure customers on how secure their service is.

In automotive, TTEC is doing a lot of work in connected vehicles through our Percepta business, which has 200+ people in EMEA supporting auto retailers and manufacturers.

How is the agent profile changing to respond to these client needs and the new technology environment?

AN: As we look at the employment models for millennials and Gen Z's, we need to be sure that the ways we operate are comfortable to a digital native and that we use tools that they reasonably expect. They would expect there will be agent assistants, knowledge bases, and online solutions to the question that the customer has just asked. It is a big web of tools that allows the agent to do their job well, and customers to communicate easily through their channel of choice.

We have a tool called Humanify Neighborhood, a visual representation of the service floor to help your team find information and message. We are also working with ChatLingual and Google on machine language translation to enable language-agnostic communication in Neighborhood.

Neighborhood is an immersive, fully-virtualized engagement and collaboration workspace that gives agents access to all TTEC and client applications and connectivity in one hub. It’s the virtual world that most millennials are comfortable with for onboarding, training, retaining them, and helping them feel part of the community even if they are working from home.

What are the main industry challenges going forward?

AN: I would wrap this up by saying that by far, the biggest challenge going forward is making it easier for customers to contact them. We have seen digital transformation strategies accelerated across industries such as financial and retail. Any organisation today should be able to respond efficiently to queries digitally. The future is for people to self-serve comfortably and agents to engage at a higher level for complicated or distressing situations. For example, most of our two thousand TTEC EMEA employees are handling high-value transactions to deliver CX transformation that really delights customers.

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