Q&A: Keith Gait at The Customer Experience Foundation (CXFO)
The Customer Experience Foundation (CXFO) is the only CX and Contact Centre industry association offering information, advice, and support accessible to all. Keith Gait MBA CCXP, the Chief Executive of CXFO talks to us about what they and their members are seeing happening in the Retail space and the challenges ahead.
The Impact of AI? How the role of people in CX is changing? New ways of engaging with customers?
Keith, it’s been an interesting year for Retail, what are you seeing in how AI is impacting it?
Everyone is aware of it, the speed of it has taken people by surprise so we are seeing many brands looking at what to do with it and some already harnessing it through larger marketing campaigns, customer journey optimisation, such as using personalised product recommendations, to transforming warehouses and store management. It is clear AI is empowering brands and retailers to deliver a better customer experience.
There are many benefits of AI to the retail economy but there are some challenges in terms of governance, ethics and responsibility. We’re seeing a move towards formal regulation and guidance with the EU setting out plans for ‘the first ever legal framework on AI’ – expected to come into force by the end of 2024, coming into effect a year to 18 months after that.
How the role of people in CX is changing
As increasingly AI and chatbots are used to automate greater parts of the customer journey taking care of the more mundane tasks, the role and value of people working in CX will change. It will require emotional intelligence, critical thinking and resilience as people deal with much more complex enquiries and handle higher value transactions.
The challenge for retailers is to promote and attract people into these roles as it is no longer tenable to recruit people for the roles that existed pre-pandemic. It is altogether different and there will be a much greater respect for the CX people. I am speaking at an event next month addressing this and where we will also issue a new report.
Are you seeing any change in retailers adopting their CX strategies?
Deloitte recently reported that 80% of businesses are still managing their CX processes in-house, so that is 1 in 5 using an outsourced partner. We are seeing an appetite for outsourcing increasing as organisations realise the value outsourced partners such as BPO’s and CX platform providers can bring, much more than just the cost savings. BPO’s have made the investment in these technologies so they are set up to deliver operational efficiencies as well as exceptional CX. I recently visited several BPO’s and tech companies in South Africa which has great credentials as an outsource location for brands and is emerging as a top Retail BPO hub.
There is absolutely a disconnect with buyers being clear about what they are trying to achieve and what vendors are expected to deliver. We are aware of large RFP’s going out to a high number of potential vendors which must change. That is why CXFO exists, we share the success stories and generate awareness so that the whole outsourcing process can be simplified.
Finally, are you seeing any new ways of retailers and brands engaging with their customers?
At our recent round tables, we have heard how retailers are investing in listening to customers to understand their preferred methods of communication. By providing customers with the channels they prefer, retailers can improve customer engagement and satisfaction. Introducing WhatsApp can be one way of increasing interactions and accessibility. However, it can also be hard to sustain. The argument that “we’ve created this to remove human contact” doesn’t always stand up, as the introduction of WhatsApp, and other channels, can sometimes increase contact volumes rather than reduce them.
Automation is also not always necessarily the answer to improving CX. There is a danger in chasing the snake oil of robotics. The reality is that retailers can be forcing customers into these automated journeys because it is cheaper, and ChatGPT may not be the future. It is important to employ technology in the right way, especially as customers expect good service no matter what.
Keith is speaking at the Call and Contact Centre Expo 2023 taking place 29th and 30th November
For more info about CXFO and to download the latest CX and retail reports please visit www.cxfo.org
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