AI is Here to Stay: Recap of Customer Contact Week 2018
Last week, we attended Customer Contact Week 2018 in Las Vegas, NV, along with 2,500 of the industry’s leading practitioners and vendors. As it came to a close, Dale Zwizinski, SVP of North American Sales, shared his thoughts on key takeaways and trends from the show.
Q: What were the biggest trends you noticed at CCW?
A: I noticed three main things at CCW this year.
- AI-powered customer service and automation are no longer trends for the call center. AI is here to stay, there’s no way around it. You either incorporate it into your strategy, or you will be in deep trouble from a business perspective. The good news is that many business leaders are taking this seriously by figuring out what the journey looks like for them.
- There’s a reemerging emphasis on AI-powered customer service. This is probably because of the consumer tech that’s out there – Alexa, Google Home – but it is still driving conversations at events like CCW. While it is important to use the consumer technology as a starting point, offering it in the call center is a bit different, and that starts with design. You have to be able to build it out in the way that follows how people normally function when interacting with customer service. There’s more on the line in the call center than in your living room.
- Chatbots for customer service are HUGE. The problem is that people aren’t thinking holistically about it. Natural language chatbots – or NLP chatbots – are only being associated with digital channels, instead of thinking about true omnichannel. It is getting lost that in order to offer a full customer experience, you also need to incorporate “voice chatbots” as well.
Q: What was most interesting to attendees?
A: In many of the conversations I had, people seemed to be surprised at what kinds of calls and processes AI could actually automate. With all the noise in the marketplace, what’s real and what’s not is a big challenge for people to figure out. Many attendees would describe their top call drivers without realizing that these inquiries would actually be perfect for contact center automation. As soon as we started down that path, people become really interested and engaged.
Q: What makes CCW a valuable event to attend?
A: I think it helps attendees through the education process. As I mentioned, there is a huge amount of noise in the market, especially around AI-powered customer service and virtual agents, so these types of events give you a chance to evaluate the vendors in a face-to-face environment. They also give you a chance to network with peers to discuss similar issues you might be facing. In fact, one of the best parts of the event this year was the “Meet the Customer” program, where vendors brought their own clients to talk with other attendees. Sure, it was nice for us to show off a client; but as an attendee, what a great chance to learn from colleagues who have faced challenges and found innovative solutions to them. This is what I love about events like this—the chance to share ideas and learn from one another.
Q: What would you recommend for people interested in going to CCW?
A: You should know why you are attending – what is your objective? If you are looking for something, be specific about what it is. Map out how you want to have conversations, and then target the sessions and vendors that will help you become educated. Find the vendors who care about helping you reach your goals. Plan your time out well, go in with prepared statements and questions, attend “Meet the Customer” sessions, and have valuable conversations with peers. Be open with your conversations, have an open mind, and learn!