We just completed the final discussion of day one of the Leader Insights Forum here in Dubai and it was fantastic – even with the extreme sun forcing many of the audience to hold up their agenda, just to cast a small shadow. In fact, the sun was only a problem for the first hour of the day – after that we did enjoy the garden of the Burj Al Arab protected by the shadow of this iconic hotel.
We had some fantastic speakers today – most of them had attended the Leader Insights Forum in Amsterdam and flown on to Dubai on Friday night. The interaction from the audience was superb and we had some very good online interactions even though for many people outside the Middle East region, Sunday isn’t a regular working day. The audience was extremely strong – almost any of them could have participated as a speaker so the debates were extremely high quality.
Our opening speaker Anders Sorman-Nilsson greeted the audience with a loud ‘G’day’ in his distinctive Swedish-Australian accent. Anders is a futurist and innovation strategist and he wanted to explore the question of whether we are heading into a future utopia or dystopia. Anders said: “Who can remember when the cloud was just what blocked the sun and Amazon was a rainforest? Most futurists are getting excited about automation, blockchain, and how doctors and nurses trust AI systems above and beyond their own colleagues.”
Despite the onward march of technology Anders said we need to balance the digital world with the analogue and many people do this without even realizing it. He said: “Why would you wear an analogue watch? You have a digital replacement that works better, so why would you do it? Habit, style, gifts, or emotional resonance… we still love these devices even though we could trust the digital to do everything we need.”
Anders talked about his family business back in Stockholm. Over a century ago, Goerg Sӧrman arrived in the city and opened a clothing store for men. The company is still going, now owned by his mother, but she generally sees the digital world as impersonal and the tactile in-store experience as more human. After years of trying to help his mother, she eventually saw the value of some modernization and now this traditional men’s store has a popular music playlist on Spotify and regularly features new clothing lines on Instagram – although Anders was not too sure about who chose to use his brother as a model! Anders demonstrated that it is possible to blend the analogue world with the digital. Digital business and communication does not need to be impersonal. It is possible to create an emotional connection with digital systems and media – just look at how involved and emotional people get when playing a new PS4 game.
Mike Havard, the founder of Ember was the next speaker. Mike was lucky because all through his talk Anders had battled the blazing sun. He did an amazing job, even advising the audience where best to move to find some shade. By the time Mike came on stage we were finally in the shade. Anders said that this was possibly the most positively solar-powered event he has ever attended. At one point he offered sun protection lotion to the audience. Mike was exploring the problem faced by many companies today – how to engage new generations of customers when differing customer demographics have so many different expectations from brands. Mike described how he recently worked with the toy company Lego. Lego comes at CX from a position of strength. When customers get in touch they go far beyond how most brands respond and they often find that their excellent customer service features in media articles documenting how great some brands treat their customers. But that CX comes at a price. Mike helped them to work out if it really is worth spending the cash to be great, or if they could cut the budget and just offer an adequate service to customers. They concluded that it really is worth staying at the top of their game. If they could only work out how to stop them hurting so much when you tread on them in the dark.
Mike also described how he sent his daughter to go and visit a branch of Metro Bank, to give him a millennial’s eye on the bank before he had a meeting with the CEO. She came back with a new credit card and bank account, completely won over by their service. They even fed her dog at the branch! When they met, the CEO explained to Mike that they lie about their 08:00-20:00 opening hours – if they see someone waiting outside in the rain at 07:50 they will just open the bank to help out. Last week in Amsterdam when Mike told this story it appeared on the @teleperformance Twitter account. Within minutes Metro Bank had responded on Twitter to explain their policy of not leaving customers outside if they are early. Their actions on Twitter just underlined the point Mike was making – here is a brand that really listens to their customers.
Paolo Righetti, the CEO of GN Research followed Mike. Paolo first explained how GN Research is about to become one part of Praxidia, a new Teleperformance company that will launch in April and be focused on CX consulting, research, and advice. Paulo was focused on the value of omnichannel service and he had a vast amount of data, based on GN Research conversations with thousands of customers. He said: “Omnichannel is important because the more channels a customer uses, the more likely that customer will recommend your brand to others.” He also noted that brands that hide important channels, such as their phone number, will pay a steep price for not being available on any channel the customer wants to use. He said: “You cannot hide your telephone number because it costs a lot to answer calls. You may be damaging customer loyalty much more than you think by hiding behind a wall of Artificial Intelligence.”
Paolo is a strong believer in utilizing technology in a way that complements agents and improves the CX. He said that complete automation could often have a negative effect at present. He explained: “If you go digital and lose access to customers on the front line then you don’t have the cost, but you don’t have the customer empathy either. You cannot leave everything up to automation. Containing your costs is fantastic, but if you automate everything then you can kill the entire company.” A sobering thought. Paolo explained that Teleperformance actually uses an AI system built by GN Research for recruitment. They analyze all the potential candidates at job interview stage and use the ability to study human variables in a way that humans cannot, to match people to the correct job. The human eye cannot see every variable such as aggression, respect, order, tenacity, introspection, autonomy, or confidence, but the AI system can determine all these levels – and more. Interestingly, Paolo said that cultural differences are very minimal and the system works all over the world. Humans often see cultural differences as difficult to handle, yet we have more in common that we can possibly imagine.
The debate continues tomorrow. We will be focusing on the agent of the future and data privacy. We are also going to start the day at 10:00 rather than the planned 09:00 because the ferocious Dubai sun will have crept behind the Burj Al Arab by then! If you are not in attendance, during the event we will be regularly publishing blog commentary to our “Global Blog” company page – a preview of the second day of the event will be online tomorrow and shorter comments featuring live highlights from the speaker presentations can be found via our Teleperformance global Live Twitter feed. Please use the links here to follow all our social content, get involved and feel free to engage.