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Talkdesk CX Tour London: Preview with Martin Hill-Wilson

By Justin Robbins

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Martin Hill

Justin: Hey everyone, it’s Justin Robbins here, and today I am catching up with someone who, over the past few years, I’ve grown incredibly fond of, and that’s Martin Hill-Wilson. Martin’s the founder of Brainfood Consulting and in a couple of weeks, Martin is going to be on the CX tour in London! I asked Martin if we could get together today and just have a conversation about some differences that we’re seeing in the US and the UK, a little bit about him and the work that he’s up to, and what you can expect from the CX Tour in London, on June 6th. Martin, I’m so glad that you could have this conversation with me today.

Martin, I know a number of people who might be listening to this maybe have never met you before, or they’re not familiar with your work, so do you want to share a little bit about your background and what it is you’re doing today at Brainfood Consulting?

Martin: Sure. Thank you. So, hello everybody, I’m of the particular generation that I was involved in the very first wave of contact centers here in the UK, which in timeline terms, was the early ’80s. We were involved in building our own little contact center practice. We were involved in getting the brands to build their own, so it was build, design and transfer shop.

And, coming out of that was a consulting practice which is everything from strategy through to the people stuff and all the rest of it. And, that was part of a group that I stayed involved in for a good 25 years. In fact, I ended up very proudly as CEO of that, and then, as things tend to do as markets develop and mature, we were acquired by a South African business called Dimension Data.

That gave me the intro I think, to 10 years worth of working systems integration, which gave me my chops around the technology and particularly, helped me understand that there’s quite a gap still between what people understand as end users and buyers of that technology and what vendors themselves are trying to talk about.

As we all know, it’s a much busier field today than it ever has been, and about seven, eight years ago, I decided that that was enough of that and I wanted to go out and do my own thing. So, I now currently run Brainfood Consulting, and that’s an extra thing as I do quite a lot of work still with the vendor community either doing customer events or I do my papers or webinars, things of that nature.

I do a lot of keynotes and chairing now. Again, I’m at that particular age where I’m probably the oldest person in the room, so I do a lot of chairing, and that’s generally around customer engagement, that’s around CX, that’s around the contact centers, increasingly it’s around AI, by the way, that’s a very fast growing topic.

And, as I say on my LinkedIn profile, I will do assignments providing they’re interesting. And, what I really mean by that is I’m not very attracted to the cost out only remodel, I’m much more attracted to building the value and adding to the strategic hoof and momentum of a customer service base. So, I do find myself working as far as that’s concerned. So, that’s a little resume of what I’ve been up to for the last period of time.

Justin: Awesome. And I actually remember, it was probably six or so years ago, you and I were sitting in a pub having a conversation and the thing that got me really excited about the work that you’re doing, Martin, is that shift to what is the real strategic value there? How can we provide benefit beyond, to your point, that cost conversation. And, I think for a lot of leaders today, they’re stuck in that place of they know that there’s more opportunity there, but really looking for advocates like yourself to help them understand the potential of what’s out there.

And so, one of the things that I remember you and I talked about back on those bar stools, that I’d love to come full circle with today, is the difference between our two markets. I actually remember at that time, one of the things that you and I talked about was the adoption of SMS, where in the UK, it was widely utilized, and in the States, the conversation, it seemed like, was just getting started. So, I’m curious from your perspective, looking at your lens of the world, what do you see as some of key distinct differences between what’s happening in the US contact center market, and what’s happening locally for you in the UK?

Martin: Yeah, sure. So, I think just on that particular point on the diversity of channel and channel choice, this is probably actually a point of both similarity and difference. We remain deeply addicted to engaging with humans and a significant number of us are still very much up to the voice version of that.

You need to let me know, but I still get a very strong sense, reading in and looking at the behavior in the States, that voice in particular, remains very much a favorite channel. I think here, we have also experimented with tech pretty strongly and a lot of people feel that they are onwards and upwards by still introducing chat, web chat.

The messaging guys are trying to subvert that and say, “Chat is so last year. Do messaging. It’s asynchronous, it’s cooler, more people are doing it. It’s whatever, whatever.” I don’t think it’s happened yet, it’s full of promise and opportunity. Social has come and gone. Gone in the sense that it’s gone back to being a one to one private thing. Today you hear social messaging talked about.

I was huge fan of exercising quality and consistency in the public context of Twitter and Facebook. I think that was a fabulous challenge that organizations had to wise to and I’ve certainly done loads of work over here. And the best over here, in that area, I think, have got truly excellent there, by the way. I think there’s some really, really terrific brands.

But I do see a split in the market. I don’t know if you have noticed this, but I would say that the market that I’ve spent lots of time with, which I would characterize as being well established with such legacy brands, primarily B2C, are quite different in terms of their challenges and how they think about their customer needs, and let’s talk about some of the newer ones, some of the Fintech brands, some of the retail brands that are dealing with a much younger demographic.

I’ve got a good friend, for example, who I do a conference with, and the first thing that Scott says is, “We don’t do voice.” That’s his first opening statement, because his 16 to 25 year old age group just doesn’t understand that. They start from a quite different perspective of being definitely smartphone first, definitely tech savvy.

But, what comes around goes around. Their siblings, seven or eight, are probably connecting to Alexa or Google assistant as the fifth member of the family. So, funnily enough, voice will be their preferred medium, or it’s now in an automated form as opposed to a live form at the end of the day.

So, I think channel diversity is big. The other big thing I would say is that I’m really talking about the strength of the transformational train. And a little point over, I think it’s a huge variety of capability. When people talk about the call center, I think it’s almost a useless way of thinking about it. What you need to think about is progressive and advanced people at the front of the thing, the majority in the middle, and some people still on steam engines stuff at the backend.

But, at the very front, we’re beginning to see a much more proactive approach to building, and continuous improvement to focusing upon journeys, focusing upon CX. We’re just beginning to see people understand that machine learning, particularly is going to be able to proactively help us identify issues and move from a reactive to a proactive stance, and I think that’s beginning to get really excited. I’ve just seen something up in the north of England, Shop Direct, who got themselves a hold of a little area, which is all to do with a small little team, splitting their time equally between engaging with the customers, testing new ideas, and getting into scrums and Agile, and then pumping out fresh ideas, which they’re then pushing into their offshore partner in South Africa. And as such, they have industrialized the whole continuous improvement process.

I begin to see that happening more and more in a way, where you’ve got people who are good at tech, people are good at service design, people are good at the Agile, stuff like that, a little bit of the psychology and conversational design maybe in those as well. Those types of organizations I think, are grabbing the contact center by the scruff of the neck and saying, “We’re not just going to be a dustpan and brush here, we’re going to actually be a value add orientated service organization and we are heading to a different place and a distant valley in the business.” But, I have to say, I think that’s still we’re the front end of the market.

Otherwise, we’ve got the perennials. We’ve got the same old, same old. We’ve still got, to an extent, attrition going down, I think we’ve got a different group of people who are coming in working, and being a different generation, they have different expectations.

I asked an audience yesterday, “How often do you call your employees in the contact center?” Not a person put their hand up. In other words, it’s still micromanagement top down, the assumption that they’re meant there to just pick up the next call, rather than add any value to the insight. So, I still think we’ve got a fairly traditional culture which needs to be transformed, and as such, there’s still a lot of people who are just working harder rather than working smarter.

And, we’re poor as ever. It’s still difficult to get your funding for the technology albeit that it’s tech. It’s kind of based on all the rest of it. But, there are, having said that, I think some exciting new brands turning up. There’s some exciting new value propositions that people are looking at and I’ve just written a deck for the future of the contact center.

One of my conclusions on there is that we are, at the very least, at the end of an era, and at the beginning of something new, whether that’s the end of a chapter, or the end of an era, it depends on your perspective, but I do think coming … I’ve got 30 years at least under my belt, this is a major turning point and what we’re about to build in the next five years is going to look substantially different from what the model has been to date. So I don’t know how that squares up against what you see in the States, but there’s a wee flavor from the UK side.

Justin: No, I love it! And as you were saying some of those things, I was just writing some notes down as far as what I’m feeling is some places where we’re definitely on the same page, but also maybe some of those differences that are emerging.

So, I have some words written down and I’m just going to cover them as I walk through those. One of the things that you mention, Martin, was the customer experience and really trying to define the journeys. A good friend of mine, Nate Brown, runs something called the CX Accelerator, and what they’ve been trying to do is help organizations advance what’s happening with the customer experience. I sift through some of their Slack channels and look at some of the conversations that they’re having, and it seems that one of the most common questions is who owns the CX function? How do you structure it in the organization? And, there’s a lot of confusion between what is customer experience? How does that align with what maybe traditional customer service type of leadership and roles might have looked like? How does the contact center fit into that?

And so, there’s definitely a gap there. Companies are feeling the tension of, “Okay, we need to have better alignment, but who’s the expert on this?” I’ll jest here a little bit, but of course, everybody thinks they’re the expert, right?

Marketing is the one who should own the customer experience and the contact center should be the one who owns it, and so there’s this inner turmoil. There’s a bit of a wrestle and power struggle on where that should really sit.

Martin: It’s a replay for social customer service conversation, isn’t it? Who gets to own it? And I think, actually, interestingly, the speed at which the CX function is being built, you’ve only got to go look at LinkedIn profiles and see how people have swapped out CS titles for CX titles quite frequently.

Again, it’s going it’s going towards people like Jeanne Bliss and folk who will just focus entirely on the CX side, then it’s a phase in which the model of how you run a business through CX is still maturing. Do you have a COO, sorry, a CCO in it? Do you have a dedicated steering group? And, the confusion between is it just really customer service at the end of the day or is it broader? That conversation can still go on forever and a day.

But, what I do think that is important, is that the disciplines that they brought to us, such as mapping, such as service design, such as voice of customer, which I think covered a lot of what CX attempts to do. I think it’s a full-time requirement, which you either plumb into, if there’s a strong centralized resource, or you have to build your own these days as a CS function, if you want to move it away from just the mission of working harder and try to work smarter. Because if you look at it from the point of view of what we’re trying to do with customers, a lot of it is unnecessary, harder than it should be, and getting better and simpler and reducing effort, does not happen by accident. It happens through a lot of proactive work.

So therefore, one of the key issues for us is, how do we use our time and how do we use our budget. Are we brave enough to try to run away from simply trying to reduce the cost of it and trying to get to a fundamentally better strategy, which will result in reduced cost, but it fundamentally changed what we’re trying to do with customers, and we’re not content with just working harder about that. We really do want to drive up the customer experience as a result of it.

And, as soon as you’ve got the connection between what the contact center does, and some of those CX objectives, I think you’re locked into new budgets, but you’re also locked into a different way you’re seen in the rest of the business.

Justin: Yeah, I couldn’t agree with you more there. And, it’s so interesting even talking about this idea of reducing costs because I look at some of these organizations that I’ve interacted with, where it’s very clear they’ve engineered the contact center to be as efficient as possible but to a point of a fault, that you think it’s driving repeat contacts, you know it’s driving dissatisfied customers. You know it’s driving employee turnover and so often those things get buried as hidden costs because somebody’s not digging into beyond the, “Okay, well here’s our cost per contact and let’s drive it down and let’s manage that, while all these unseen things are running rampant in the background.

I love to use the analogy of grabbing the contact center by the scruff of the neck. I do think that there is more awareness on the importance of the customer experience, and in some way, dragging the contact center and whether it’s kicking and screaming or not, dragging them into this place of raising the bar and saying, “You can provide more value. Let’s figure out how we do that.”

And, I think whether that’s driven by an executive who’s trying to up level everyone else in the organization or, in some cases, if it’s a contact center or customer experience leader, who maybe their senior leadership doesn’t totally see the value yet, helping them have the conversation and helping them have the conversation and helping them position the contact center as that strategic…

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Martin: Well, maybe there’s an analogy that we should also get into very quickly here, which is that we have this whole thing, haven’t we, over the last half dozen years, that delighting customers is essentially a waste of time. We should be concentrating on reducing effort, and that’s the whole discussion that we’ve been having about net promoter score, etc., etc., etc.

But, just as a postscript to that conversation, it’s interesting that if you look at net promoter score, the single thing that drives an improvement in it, more than anything else, is a reduction of assets. And again, if you look to where our value can be sitting, it’s to try to not only get our own house in order with regard to customer effort, but based on the fact that we seldom cause the problems that customers come to us with, but we’re fielding on behalf of upstream activity that’s happened prior to our engagement with customers. The ability to start to understand assets in terms of the system, the workflows, the policies, and all that kind of stuff, feed it back and start to reduce the effort on behalf of the customer or even ideally, get rid of stuff that takes place.

I think that that’s a fundamentally important role, and if we can attribute an improvement in NPS, and everything that people hang off the back of that, with activity that we do in our call center, and that doesn’t come from just answering the calls. It comes from actually investigating how they take place and taking time and resource and skill to analyze and suggest improvements even if we’re not always doing improvements ourselves.

That to me, is a major new identity that we should be adopting, and a major opportunity to get ourselves repositioned. And, it fits out of that little conversation about, it’s not just about the delighting customers, it’s actually about this focus on effort.

Justin: Interestingly enough, the CX Tour, which is the event that you’ll be at—we’ve had a couple of those in the States already—and I’ve actually had that exact conversation with a number of people, talking about this shift in the role of the contact center, where we talk about what we’re doing today so often, especially for people who are listening to that that are inbound contact centers, is it’s all reactive. But to your point, we actually have the data and insight to know why people are contacting us, and if we start connecting the dots, we can probably be preventing some of those issues in the first place, but more importantly, we can be empowering our customers through self service, through those things, to make it easier for them to resolve on their own.

And, I agree from an effort standpoint, it’s not even just about if they have the issue and they need to contact us, making that experience as low effort as possible, but I think more than anything, and maybe this is just me, but I am an inherently lazy person and if the company will go to the point of doing something for me so that literally, all of the effort’s on them and my effort is nothing, that’s where I really start to get impressed, For example, if I say, “Oh my goodness, my computer started going on the fritz,” while they were able to identify, and they contacted me before I even had to pick up the phone or hop onto their web, whatever it would be.

I think there could be this shift, potentially for us as organizations, where it’s not about this kind of inbound reactive, but we’re really at this proactive, whether it’s outbound, or just through creating these systems where that, I think is where service could potentially be heading.”

Martin: But, neuroscience tells us our brains are lazy, we want to conserve the glucose, so we really don’t want to engage in anything other than system one engagement with the world. It’s very simple, and we don’t want a hassle in life. So therefore, we only get to that point by understanding customer behaviors and needs, and to that extent, a major thing that we’ve got to get into, and I don’t know if this is enterprise wide, not just the contact centers, to become data-driven and to become data-literate, and to be able to use the data that now … let’s not go into the detail of it, but AI is beginning to be able surface for us.

And, again, many organizations are facing off against what are called the disrupters, and the difference between the two camps often is the degree to which they get this thing about data and their ability to use it to improve stuff.

I see this as a major transformation of culture and also opportunity for us in the call center. We’re just beginning to see vendors. We’re just beginning to see whole new services turn up that allows us to get hold of very diverse set of data that we see in the contact center, which essentially, spins between the customer and all iterations, the problem and all iterations and the form of delivery and all iterations and within that little dance is a ton of stuff that we can learn from. Our ability to mine that and successfully respond to it, in terms of improvement, we’ve talked about, but to your point, to use that to proactively anticipate and to consciously reduce the effort that customers have to endure.

That’s very much going to be part of this next generation, this next chapter, this next era that we were talking about. So, there’s much less of responding to an inbound, which is very difficult to deal with once you’ve got the demand there, but it’s trying to actually get a front foot and anticipate that and manage it in a way that customer is much less conscious in some respects, even of customer service. It’s just a smarter way in which the brand deals with it.

Now, after the next five years plus for us to get on that foot, we won’t do that, of course, unless we understand and get into groups with the data and transform that into insight and all this good stuff.

Anyway, so there’s a big thing that I don’t think either side of the channel, the pond, has yet dealt with, but clearly, I see those as being the signals for what we’re going to have to start building into next.

Justin: Agreed. And so, what’s interesting about that, is that it’s the business intelligence and how we can use that to affect the customer experience is one thing, but I actually think, going back to our point about reducing effort can be applied to the contact center side and really the enterprise side of things as well, is that  it’s not just about reducing effort for the customers. I look at the amount of work that contact center leaders are putting into having to create some of their reports.

As they’re looking at these siloed, disparate systems, trying to put together the full picture of what’s happening, or I look at the agents, and them navigating seven plus systems or whatever it would be, I actually think that for us to get to the shift of adopting the technologies, organizing the systems in a way that we need, the long tail benefit is better business intelligence that will affect the customer. I think we’ll actually be able to prove out the ROI for the organization to invest in it sooner, if we look at it through the lens of “How do we reduce the work of the employee, how do we make our leaders and them more effective in how they can leverage insight and the work that they’re doing?” Because I don’t know about you, but when I was working in contact centers, I would get really, really frustrated thinking about the amount of time and money that was wasted on someone who’s having to manually mine all of this data.

Martin: It’s fundamentally inefficient being manual and repetitive and ineffective as such, the cost associated with doing that of our people, with the salary bill, always puts pressures onto cost. It’s a fundamentally broken model. We’ve squeezed the pit for 40 years, there’s not much left to squeeze. Nobody really wants to play that.

There has to be an upfront investment and a generation of technology that allows us to automate, that allows us to grab the data easily and to work in a highly proactive kind of a way, and use people intelligently for the higher value activity rather than pivoting on Excel spreadsheets and all the rest of the stuff.

And, unless you’re prepared to get into that investment mindset and redesign, actually, how a contact center fundamentally functions, you’re going to be stuck with a certain level of ROI. There will be no looking through the bones on that. It’s not particularly attractive. It doesn’t really take us anywhere.

And, that’s again why I see this new chapter that we’ve just got to step across and say, “We are now actually in a world where things like cloud, things like APIs, things like AI, things like micro services and digital glue and all that stuff enabled us to architect a really different way of working as far as customer service is concerned.

Of course, that’s not just the technology. That’s very much a mindset that has to drive it. It’s a culture that has to drive it, and you’ve got to have people who are literate in terms of the bigger picture of how it connects into what the business is attempting to do at the same time.

But, if you can get all those players onto that stage, give them those new toolkits with that refreshed mission, that’s I think, where the very best examples of what we’re talking about are going to be occurring in the next five, six years.

Justin: Yeah. Absolutely. So, another thing you had mentioned when you were just talking through your lens of things, was this idea of, it’s a lot of the same old, same old, and you also mentioned the channel mix and so I will agree with you that even from the research that I’ve seen, voice, phone, is still looked as the primary target for a lot of organizations. But what’s actually really scary about that is that we’re not applying what we know and do to phone, across other channels. Here’s what I mean.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to a couple hundred workforce managers and so I was doing some research in advance of that and actually found that if you look at the amount of organizations that forecast and plan for inbound phone, that offer other channels, you will find that they don’t do the same degree of work, that they’re not necessarily forecasting for what’s happening on chat or they’re not looking at accuracy.

So, there’s still some disparity, which to me, has me scratching my head a little bit, because I remember if we were aligned 15, 20 years ago, when we started to introduce new channels, of course people are like … their minds were blown. How do we apply what we do to phones to these new channels? We have to reinvent the wheel.

I was like, “No. There’s some fundamental things that we can do that will apply across these channels.” So I think that even though phone is not going to go away in the foreseeable future, if ever at all, it’ll probably always be there to some extent.

I think that, whether it’s in the U.S. or abroad, we need to make sure that we’re applying some of those basic, fundamental best practices to any channel that we’re doing, so that as we fail, we should plan for chat, for there to be more chat in the future. We should plan for there to be more social, but I don’t think if we’re doing some of those small things now, it’s going to hurt us.

Martin: I don’t think we’ve scaled the best practice away from the binary voice call center model to become able to chew gum and cross the road in many respects, and that’s absolutely a fundamental we’re going to have to get right, because we’ve just gone off into the future and talked about all sorts of stuff. But you’re right to drag us back to where we’re probably currently at, which is there’s a lot of primary, basic best practice and foundation stuff that’s got to be put in place if you’re going to deal with this complexity.

Otherwise, the alternative is always, by the way, a customer choice and what we’re trying to do in contact centers is becoming increasingly complicated. And, we’ve got to work hard at reducing that complexity and one of it is recognizing that we aren’t just going to be dealing with a world of increasing channels. We can’t co-opt customers into just our preferred choice, and it will depend entirely, the mix, the only channel mix will really come down to the individual brand. And, it’s not necessarily going to be one that’s synthesized unless you’ve got the workforce management practices and good discipline across all of that.

I don’t think I know anybody yet that’s resolved the question of do I actually blend or not blend with people. I know that’s another half hour conversation for us, but again, that’s still remains a complicated thing for many people and they really don’t know the answer to that. The result is, there’s still huge inefficiencies at the queuing level as far as that’s concerned, which measured against what this supposed thing is … I can have one conversation regardless of channel, device, over time, and that’s still very distant as a value proposition for many brands.

Justin: Yeah, well the game in many ways continues to change, and I think it’s unsettling for contact center leaders especially as we’re trying to break this cost mindset that the thing that you invest in today, might be redundant in 24 months from now, and you might need to pivot.

You’re right, so the whole technical debt conversation is probably again, another thing that we could rabbit trail down. But, I agree with you, it is only going to get more complex, and so we have to refine some of these things. One of the trends I will say I’ve seen in the U.S. that, maybe you’re seeing this in the U.K., is the reemergence of knowledge management and organization is going back to the well and trying to figure out how do we make sure that we have a good grasp, because we are in an era where our customers probably have as much access to, if not in some cases, more access than the employee. I know that’s not necessarily a new statement, but it’s still a problem that there’s still a strong majority of organizations where there’s a disconnect, and customers may know something, whether it was because of a marketing campaign, whatever it was.

We don’t have our own house in order and so I see companies in the U.S. trying to really clean up knowledge management and more collaboration across the enterprise, but I don’t think we’re there yet. What are your thoughts?

Martin: Well, Jeff, the person I’m sitting with, just pre and post our conversations right now is ex-Egame. We’re taking a perspective actually, on what we were doing 10 years ago, and what’s really new and what’s new and what’s not new, and in many respects knowledge management comes around again for another iteration.

It was difficult to get it right then. I think it doesn’t go away, in fact it becomes even more important in a self managed autonomous world. It’s not going to be out of a human head, it’s got to have been out of a system, and the management acknowledges it’s a very difficult dynamic. It’s primarily cultural.

And, it’s not going to work unless you apply it as an ongoing management opportunity. In the same ways, you’re going to have to manage digital labor as an ongoing requirement and opportunity, and it’s not just a one and finished kind of a gig. So, I think a lot of people’s expectation about knowledge management, what it takes and how you have to keep continuously evolving it, hasn’t really changed. I think possibly the opportunity to spot needs and to co-create the actual content itself and manage the content, I think there are some toolkits now which are better, smarter, easier to use than they were maybe 10 years ago, but there is an underlying challenge that you can’t dodge if you really want to have the high level of consistency and effectiveness in terms of the way you are delivering outcomes to customers.

So, I can completely understand that knowledge management is a return gig, really, which nobody gets out of alive.

Justin: Well, it’s so funny, right, and I have not been in the industry as long as you have, but the statement … somebody told me once that there’s no such thing as new wine, there’s just old wine in new bottles. And, in my time in the industry, and I’m sure that you’re seeing this as well, it’s so interesting to see the trends and the recurrences of some of these things that you mention new leaders coming into this space, and so for them, it’s new to them, but for anyone who’s been around the space for a while, it’s like we’ve been here before. How do we not let history repeat itself in a bad way, and how can we apply what we know about the core of whether it’s knowledge management, whether it’s workforce management, whatever it would be, even customer service fundamentals?

You look at some of the customer service books from the ’50s, ’60s, that came out, there’s principles that you could probably go online and see somebody delivering a TED talk like it’s a brand new thing, but this thing has been around for 60, 80 years. It’s just figuring out how do we apply it in the context of today, and I think that’s part of the challenge.

But then, the other piece of that is really trying to understand what’s ahead. And, I had a conversation with a leader not that long ago where she made the statement to me, “Justin, we used to set our strategies five years in advance, and now 24 to 36 months and we are having to pivot. We are having to think through.” And, what that actually brings me to is the session that you’re going to be delivering on June sixth at the CX Tour, which is this idea of predictions for the future of the contact center.

So, I guess leave me with two thoughts and for everybody listening: One, what is a teaser of in the next two to three years what you think is going to be the shift or the thing that we refocus on beyond what might be in the future for us?

Martin: So, in the same way that I think knowledge management is enjoying a return tour, I think automation and self service is doing the same, and we know it’s important, but I think today’s generation of technology in terms of RPA, robotic pressures automation, whatever generation of thought we’re talking about, whether it’s rules based on up to conversational AI, all of that makes self service much more possible. We have an imperative based on customer expectation point of view, but also from the cost of it and just the world we’re living to make that actually work. And so, a relatively small thing at the moment.

The amount that we’re managing to get done there, but once you get to grips with it, it fundamentally changes it for both customer and employee in terms of getting rid of the low level staff and freeing people up to concentrate on the stuff that matters.

People matter when it’s emotional, when it’s complex, when it’s about relationships, and being able to concentrate enough where’s the skills there, but remove the more mundane stuff is to everybody’s benefit. At the moment, I see a lot of time and money and effort going into both of those two things and that’s going to rebalance the contact mix.

Whether or not it’s voice or text, quite frankly, there’s far too much light engagement going on still through our customer service. To my mind, we’re on the longest journey to flip that almost invert it from about 60, 70% live to maybe 20, 30 at most.

But, modality for me is a generational choice. It’s nothing more significant. It’s still got humans driving it. The real benefit of efficiency effectiveness and cost is when you can either deliver it through self service or proactive service.

So, I think that’s a journey that we’ve all embarked on to various degrees in the U.K. Right now, robotic process is probably ahead of the game because it’s quicker, easier than some of the conversational AI. I think in the U.K. particularly, we’re a little bit slow on the mark. I just did a tour in Holland, was doing some work on that, and again, much more engagement, much more interest and many more use cases already up and running. But, that’s just a matter of the U.K. being a little bit preoccupied with how are things at the moment.

The other major theme is the human one, employee engagement, workforce engagement as opposed to just pure optimization, the culture sitting underneath of that, the new Gen Z folks turning out, turning team leaders into coaches, all of that stuff.

And, indeed, try to get people to think about the customer experience, trying to engage with a broader part of the organization for continuous improvement, that’s the other big strand that I see people engaged in, and I’ve been pretty successful as well.

And, I think that’s probably preoccupying most people, and of course, behind that, is the slow and steady swapping out for cloud based services. I think most probably half way up that hill, but with that there’s a generation of simplicity and choice. But it really is empowering, particularly when you then think about your knowledge management, your CRM, your legacy applications, the whole way in which you can architect that single ecosystem, which is what we’re trying to achieve. It becomes so much easier than the previous generation and those people who have been lucky enough to get their infrastructure up to that generation know that they’re in a completely different place as a result of that. That’s another thing that people are still spending time on or rolling out or standardizing on a number of sites as far as that’s concerned.

And then, I think the other final thing is that as we said about the channels, they just then keep disappearing. They just keep multiplying, so people, I think are somewhat perplexed about should I be getting into messaging, oh gosh, RCS, that’s another thing that’s turning up, Apple chat, do I need this, do I need that. Before we know it, we’re into video chat. When is it all going to stop.

Martin: So, I think omni channel still remains, from a design point of view and a discipline, underdeveloped. People’s thought process around a bit is still a little bit reactionary and cost orientated. There is some logic to that. I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about that and I think that’s another area that people are going to integrate it.

But anyway, there’s a little flavor of what we’re going to talk about and again, I think in the title, I’ve been asked to peer into the lens of 10 to 20 years, which is going to be a little bit of fun. I think if we’re going to talk in that time perspective, I will turn up the dial a little bit on AI based technologies and try to extrapolate what some of that will mean for us in terms of our decision making, our behaviors, the kind of new business model that we might expect. And back to the point we were making earlier, which I know is a shared passion between the two of us, how that will contribute to turning us into more of a value orientated as simply a cost reduction orientated operation in the organization.

So, we’re doing that pretty soon actually, it’s going to be happening the sixth of June. It’s going to be a great conversation, so if you are plugged in and you are in London around that time, how do people sign up for it Justin?

Justin: Yeah, absolutely Martin! To sign up, go to, click on the logo for the CX Tour. What’s also really neat about that, is that I’ve actually paid a few thousand pounds to attend a conference where Martin was speaking, and the CX Tour  is a totally free event that’ll be going all day. Martin will be there, and Adrian Swinscoe will be there, as well as a few other guests, so I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited to hear your lens on what’s in the next 10 to 20 years.

Well Martin, I have to say thank you. I appreciate you giving me some time here today. Thank you for sharing your perspective on what’s ahead for life in the contact center.

Martin: Can’t wait, Justin… Take care.


Justin Robbins

Justin is Senior Manager of Content Marketing at Talkdesk where he creates tools and resources for contact center and customer experience pros. When he's not talking about #cctr, #custserv or #cx, you'll probably find him hiking or cooking BBQ.