What a day at the Leader Insights Forum Amsterdam - End of Day One! WOW!

We just completed the final discussion of day one of the Leader Insights Forum here in Amsterdam and what a day! Not only did we have some incredible speakers, but the interaction from the audience was superb and several important figures from the world of technology and Customer Experience (CX) contributed remotely using Twitter. With an audience like this, anyone in the room could stand up and make a valuable contribution to the debate.

Our opening speaker Anders Sorman-Nilsson greeted the audience with a loud ‘G’day’ in a 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 IBM’s Watson AI system 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 you can 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 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 asked the audience if anyone was from the marketing team in their organization and very few people responded. Most people had operational or customer service responsibilities and Mike asked why more companies are not blending all these various customer-facing functions. He asked: “Who owns CRM? Who owns crowd services? Where does social sit? Where does crisis management sit? There is quite an unhealthy tension about where all these functions reside and some companies create a Chief Customer Officer to paper over the problem of not knowing who should really manage these functions. All of them are customer-facing.”

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. This comment appeared on the @teleperformance Twitter account just after Mike told the story and within a few minutes Metro Bank had responded on Twitter explaining they they will always open the doors early – or stay late – for their customers. Mike was still on the stage and Metro Bank was commenting on his talk in another country!

Mike also called out our very own Rory Stark at Teleperformance as an example of someone exploring the future of the customer experience. The Games Europe CX Guild Rory founded alongside Garrett J. Kenny helped to develop brings together the leading games companies from all over the world and gamers expect service inside a game – they don’t stop playing to make a phone call to customer service. It’s this type of service that Mike expects we should all be looking out for – gamers are leading the industry.

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 who 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 can 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.

When Stefano Scabbio, the President, Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, of Manpower opened his talk he immediately said ‘Robots need not apply!’ Stefano was exploring the role of the super agent in contact centers, but throughout his talk he really was talking more to the future world of work. What will it be like to have a job in future? Will the jobs we know at present even exist in just a few years?

In fact, although change is clearly coming and it requires new ideas around lifelong education, most of Stefano’s message was positive. He said that labor and skills will remain in demand. You only have to look at China to see this. They have over 1.3bn people and yet they are searching across Africa now for the skills they need at home. Stefano said that the biggest risks we see in the development of future jobs are: “Over-regulation, cyber-threats, availability of skills, and the speed of technological change.”

Stefano shared some data from a World Economic Forum debate in Davos that he participated in. The question to the Davos audience of business leaders was ‘How will digitization increase or decrease headcount?’ The audience response was:

- 66% no change
- 10% decrease
- 20% increase
- 4% don’t know

That’s reassuring. 86% of senior leaders believe that the number of jobs will stay the same or actually increase. In summary, Stefano said that all executives need to ask four key questions to prepare themselves for a digital future of work:

- Are our processes informed by digital insights?
- How ready are we to skill up for this digital age?
- Are our development programs designed to nurture digital leaders?
- Are we creating a culture of innovation?

Many futurists fear for the future, but across all our speakers today there was a sense of positivity. Change is coming and technology is making it happen faster, but there is a lot of exciting opportunity out there too. By the end of the debate we had talked about drone managers, knowledge implant managers, spirit archivists, and personal data concierges – all jobs that don’t exist today, but were predicted by our experts as future careers we need to start planning for.

We also saw some amazing online support during the event today. Leading experts such as the ZDNet technology writer Angelica Mari, Frost & Sullivan analyst Stephen Loynd, and the leading CX journal CXI.Today were all sending questions and comment during the day from all over the world.

The debate continues tomorrow. If you are not in attendance, during the event we will be regularly publishing blog commentary to our “Global Blog” company page which will re-cap the forum discussions and shorter comments featuring highlights from the speaker presentations 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.


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