With automation, productivity of the agents has increased significantly: Jagannath Narendran, Sr VP-Asia & Middle East, Aspect Software
Customer preferences for multiple channels and the rise of technologies such as chatbots and machine learning are changing the way customers engage with brands. Jagannath Narendran, Sr VP-Asia & Middle East, Aspect Software, explains how enterprises can use automation to their advantage
Some edited excerpts:
With a rapid shift happening in the customer profile, the organisations also have to be agile and respond quickly. How do you customer expectations changing?
Consumer expectations are changing dramatically. Voice was the preferred mode of communication but with increase in mobile internet and millennial population. it is gradually moving to omni-channel. For the consumer, voice is just one of the channels they use to interact with organization on multiple channels like Facebook, Twitter, WeChat as per their individual choice & preference. In line with this shift, enterprises are also today willing to respond to these expectations and acquire more channels for the consumer to interact with.
Hence, enterprises need to think about what we call the ‘Customer engagement centre’. They should not only look at meeting customer expectations in terms of interactions across channels and provide context & continuity as they move from once channel to the other but also focus on the impact on the workforce. For example, in countries like India and Philippines, the BPO Industry contributes significant amount of dollars to the GDP. Empirical research shows, that in the next 5-10 years, 40 percent of the agent’s work will be automated through technologies such as artificial intelligence, chatbots and machine learning. Hence, if a country has 2 million agents and if 40 percent of their work will be automated, the impact will be huge. If the BPO industry does not think ahead of time, it will be ‘uberised’ soon.
At the same time, automation will positively impact the P&L. There are some progressive BPOs and large organisations, who are thinking about using the same amount of agents but skilling them differently To increase the customer engagement and align them with specific Business improvement opportunities.. So, on one axis, enterprises have to look at the change in technology and ‘design think’ their transformation in a way that they meet customer expectations. And, on the other axis, they have to really look at the impact on their workforce and the subsequent impact on their profitability, costs, etc.
How do you see the role of Aspect in this scenario? Can you brief us on some of the key initiatives taken?
Let me explain this with the help of an example. Take the case of an Insurance company, where the requirement is to ask certain questions, to determine the premium. This activity is typically done by an agent by calling the customer. We have automated this activity by sending a simple text with all the questions and enabling a 2 way conversational dialogue . This could be done via mediums such as a SMS, Facebook messenger, or any other channel. The message could be the following: Are you interested in both health and life insurance plans. If the person answers in the affirmative, then he could be offered a discount of 30 percent on the premium. At the same time, he is also sent a link with the questions to be answered. When the link is clicked, it opens a form that lets him or her very easily fill the information which can be done in minutes and submit it. Armed with the information, the agent then calls to take the conversation forward and close the loop.
Today, with automation, the productivity of the agent has increased significantly, as they can reach out to more customers. This is a good example of how automation can improve the consumer experience and at the same time positively impact the workforce. Aspect has also designed multiple solutions for the workforce. One such example is Aspect Mila. Using this solution, employees can use the chatbot to report if they are sick, and all the required tasks are handled automatically. This chatbot can also be also integrated with the other systems of the company.
Are organizations aggressively wanting to go for omni-channel in an automated or semi-automated way. Your views ?
The automation route is not just more cost effective, but the underlying principle is that we have to serve the needs of the consumers irrespective of the channel that they want to engage with and therefore being present in those channels is important. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, WeChat, etc. The enterprises are making this move very aggressively. For example, wouldn’t it help if consumer can query a twitter handle for the nearest coffee shop or popular food chain, in a particular vicinity? The customer can be replied back with a map, and the directions to the store, based on the geographical coordinates of the customer. This is a simple but extremely effective use case.
We are working with a new airline to explore chatbots to decide on a meal before they reach the airport. The options are pictorially managed. It also helps in inventory management. Similarly, banks are trying to improve collections. We are working with large banks to figure out how the omni channel platform can be better leveraged to improve collections and reduce NPAs.
What are your recommendations on solving the integration issues in adopting an omni-channel strategy ?
There are two kind of IT systems that CIOs have to manage. The systems of engagement and systems of record. The systems of record are repository of customer data or any other data. The systems of engagement are the ones that are acquired to connect and communicate and transact with the customer. The contact centre solution and omni channel comes under the system of engagement. It needs to be integrated with certain systems of record like a CRM solution. The need is to flow the CRM data into the contact center solution.
How much is Aspect Software planning to invest in new technologies in FY 2017-18? (Some approximate numbers)
A few years back while other technology companies were still contemplating, Aspect had already started making investments in making our clients cloud ready. Today when our competition is trying to force fit their offerings as Cloud, we are proud to have built a complete cloud ready solution portfolio. Today our need is not to make huge investments in new technologies, it is to ensure our solutions are customized & suit requirement of our client and help them in leveraging cloud. We of course remain open and lookout for investment in technology companies that complement our solution portfolio
Any plans to set up more offices in India. Any plans of additional investments only in India?
In India, We are present in Mumbai, Delhi NCR & Bangalore. Outside of US, India has the highest number of employees engaged across functions like Engineering, R & D, technical support, professional services & customer engagement In addition to direct presence we also have a strong eco system of partners that enhances our reach in the market. Our Partner eco system include domestic players who are dedicatedly focused on customer interaction space and also large SI’s that take up transformation project. We continue to make investment in training our partners and increasing our manpower to support our partners and customers across all functions.
Hiring plans in India?
With Partners taking centerstage in our GTM strategy, our investments are now focused on continuous enablement of our partner workforce for which Aspect is always on lookout & onboarding technically skilled resources capable of understanding customer needs and devising solutions strategy and working closely with our partners. Aspect also has Global Center Of Excellence based from India and we regularly onboard resources to support our global operations & client engagements.
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