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The importance of voice in the moments that matter



The importance of voice in the moments that matter

Written by Andy White, CEO Contexta 360

As the digital revolution has provided consumers with more information, so their relationship with vendors that they purchase products from has fundamentally changed. Power is now firmly with the buyer; and this means customer experience is the new battleground on which businesses thrive or die.

As consumer expectations continue to rise, businesses who fail to transform their customer experience functions risk losing ground to competitors who have succeeded in combining big data insight with products and services, enabling them to provide seamless support for their client base.

Digital channels undoubtedly have a pivotal role to play in this transformation. Growing familiarity with chatbots and smart Interactive Voice Response systems means customers are choosing (or being forced) to self-serve in order to solve straightforward queries. However, for more complex problems, customers still reach for the phone – in fact, they can be very frustrated if a human option isn’t easily accessible. Even if they are available, if they do not know what the customer has said in another channel this raises frustration immediately. The challenge for contact centres is getting this balance right so the service is cost-effective for the business and high quality for the customer and that’s not always achieved successfully.

Contact centres don’t meet customer expectations

Businesses face twin pressures when it comes to contact centre management. First, they are now operating in an environment where customer expectations increase exponentially in proportion to the data they share or have access to indirectly.  When a customer calls in, they expect the contact agent to know about them and their history with the company.

Without a complete 360-degree picture of customer interactions, businesses risk failing to meet expectations, which are only going to continue to rise as customers expect digitally enabled businesses to make their experience better.

The second pressure is the imperative to reduce costs of customer service and increase efficiency in the contact centre. Many contact centres are motivated to digitise primarily to control costs – it’s much cheaper for customers to self-serve through chatbots or emails. However, reducing the direct costs of the contact centre through increasing automation can negatively affect a customer’s experience, causing an increase in less- easily-defined costs related to the company’s reputation for customer care.

So, for complex customer problems it is not always in the best interest of the business to fully automate their channels. Intelligent escalation systems should detect when a chatbot interaction should be elevated to a human agent and then agent ‘augmented support and assistance’ can assist the live operator so they are fully briefed before the call and during the call. Many automated interaction technologies and  deployments don’t have effective live agent safety nets attached, let alone the augmented support. This means that the lack of effective escalation mechanisms introduces customer service risk.

Many call agents are overloaded. They have to process all customer data and external data in a maximum of five seconds before they answer the call. This leaves the high possibility that the agent won’t be able to fully understand all of the information relating to the customer, resulting in failed first-time call resolution and frustrated customers. Furthermore, call centre managers are in an extremely difficult position, as much of the customer-agent interaction is invisible to them. They cannot possibly listen in to 100% of the calls. Now speech and chat analytics can detect topics, questions, compliance, bad phrases (as well as good), clearly identifying ‘problem’ calls or opportunity calls and conversations.

How to solve customer experience challenges

Voice is the prestige channel in customer interactions and by unlocking valuable insight in customer calls, using speech analytics and AI, businesses can improve their customers’ experience and gain critical insights to shape strategic decisions, whether that be in real-time or analysing historical conversations in any channel.

The critical first step to unlocking the value of voice is overcoming the issue of inaccurate and limited data entry by contact centre agents. That means capturing the content and the context of the conversation and accurately converting speech into text. Highly accurate speech-to-text that can also detect your industry lexicons and your own brand terms is just the foundation that is needed to build an advanced AI and conversational analysis solution. Without this, the AI house you build on this foundation will be weak.

The second step is to turn the core conversation (Voice / Video / Chat / email / form) into understanding. The customer may not have mentioned “trade-up” or “buy”, or “angry” and “complain” but the NLP and neural networking can detect these key findings without them being mentioned, along with other key data on sentiment, topic detection and so on. Blending this across multiple channels solves a key contact centre challenge: the ability to meet client expectations because agents do not have perfect knowledge of the customer situation, at the moment the call comes in, or the agent is not trained on a particular situation or product. Lack of complete information (customer and or product) leads to longer calls and greater customer frustration, which limits any chance the agent might have to turn the call into an upselling or cross-selling opportunity. Agents need to be able to detect the subtle differences between customers and respond to nurture them accordingly. That is where AI-derived ‘proposed next action’ and ‘sentiment and intent analysis’ combined with human empathy and intuition helps meet customer expectations.

The third step is to implement real-time intelligence to boost agent performance. As the call progresses, real-time speech analytics listens in and guides the agent, detecting topics, questions or objections and suggesting appropriate actions. This ensures that agents don’t miss an opportunity to resolve the issue or add value.

Now is the time for organisations to really start exploring the extensive insight and strategic value that speech analytics and conversational computing can offer. Speech analytics offers many benefits such as accessibility, meaning it can now be deployed by more organisations, at a lower cost and with a high degree of flexibility and scalability.

Additionally, speech analytics and conversational computing are now easy to integrate, meaning that the risks of experimenting with new solutions are reduced. Conversational computing is coming of age as a powerful tool for brands to improve the customer experience that is so critical to continuing success. In the critical customer moments that matter, this is the edge that businesses need.


Shell changes senior UK leadership in global overhaul



Shell changes senior UK leadership in global overhaul 1

By Ron Bousso

LONDON (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell is changing the senior leadership of its operations in Britain as part of a global overhaul to cut costs and shift away from oil and gas to renewables and power.

Under the changes, which have been announced internally, country chair Sinead Lynch will become Shell’s global head of low-carbon fuels, a company spokeswoman said.

Lynch, who joined the Anglo-Dutch company in 2016 following its acquisition of BG Group, will be replaced by David Bunch who currently runs Shell’s retail business across Europe and South Africa. Bunch joined Shell in 1997.

The changes will take effect in August when Shell rolls out project Reshape, its biggest restructuring in decades as part of plans to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by mid-century and build a large low-carbon and power business.

Under the overhaul, Shell will cut 9,000 jobs, or more than 10% of its workforce.

As part of the management changes, Steve Phimister, head of Shell’s oil and gas operation in the North Sea since 2017, will be replaced by Simon Roddy, currently deputy managing director at Shell’s Nigerian onshore oil and gas joint venture SPDC.

Phimister’s new role in the company has yet to be announced.

Shell has gradually reduced its oil and gas operations and refining business in recent years but Britain remains an important market. The North Sea will remain one of nine main oil and gas hubs, the company said last year.

Shell also has a large retail network in the country and plans to significantly boost its electric vehicle charging point network. In January it agreed to acquire Ubitricity, the largest public EV charging network in Britain with over 2,700 points.

Shell’s European rivals including BP and Total have also set out ambitious long-term plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions and build large renewable energy businesses.

(Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by David Clarke)

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British Airways prepares for travel restart with testing kit plan



British Airways prepares for travel restart with testing kit plan 2

LONDON (Reuters) – British Airways has struck a deal with a COVID-19 testing kit provider as airlines prepare for the desperately-needed restart of summer travel, which is likely to include tests for passengers.

After months of lockdown, airlines hope Britain will give the go-ahead from mid-May for holidays to restart, boosting an industry whose finances have been slammed by the pandemic.

But it is not yet clear how mass foreign travel will resume. The government will provide more information on April 12.

Travel corridors, which allowed unrestricted movement between Britain and some low-risk countries, could be re-introduced, but there could also be requirements for a negative COVID-19 test before departing for abroad and arriving home.

British Airways (BA) said on Thursday its new testing deal would make it easier for travellers to take a test when abroad to fulfil any requirements for their return to Britain.

For 33 pounds ($46), its passengers can buy a testing kit which is delivered to their home before they depart. They would take the kit abroad and carry out the test there, with guidance from an adviser on a video call.

The result would be given in 20 minutes and the “fit to fly” certificate downloaded onto a customer’s phone.

BA said the deal with Qured for its government-approved antigen test kits would remove uncertainty for customers unsure of where to get a test when abroad.

The 33 pound price is discounted for its customers, said BA, and compares to some alternative COVID-19 tests that can cost over 100 pounds.

“As we look forward and prepare for a safe return to travel, we remain focused on finding and offering the most convenient and affordable testing options for our customers,” BA chief executive Sean Doyle said.

Travel from the United Kingdom is currently banned for all but essential reasons.

For those who do travel, there is a requirement for three COVID-19 tests: one before departure, one on day two after arrival, and one on day eight. Arrivals must also self-isolate for ten days.

($1 = 0.7178 pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young. Editing by Mark Potter)

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L’Oreal responds to push for natural ingredients in make-up



L'Oreal responds to push for natural ingredients in make-up 3

PARIS (Reuters) – Maybelline and Lancome maker L’Oreal aims to derive nearly all its ingredients from renewable plant sources and abundant minerals by 2030, it said on Thursday, as demand for organic and environmentally-friendly cosmetics grows.

The world’s leading beauty groups face increasingly savvy consumers who want creams and make-up made from natural components as well as products that can be recycled, a trend compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which put the onus on safe and healthy goods.

That poses a major challenge in terms of adapting packaging, but also developing products that can be preserved and deliver similar results to non-natural ones.

L’Oreal said over the next 10 years, 95% of the ingredients across all its brands and ranges would come from plants and flowers that can renewed or replanted, and minerals that can be found in abundance, up from around 70% now.

The move towards a “green science” approach in research and development will also involve developing formulas that are not harmful to aquatic ecosystems when dissolved in water, L’Oreal said.

“We decided it was the right moment to do this as there has been a lot of scientific progress,” said Laurent Gilbert, director of sustainable innovation at L’Oreal.

This includes developing new ways of extracting or producing ingredients such as Vitamin-C or hyaluronic acid.

Some products were harder to adapt with the same degree of effectiveness as those containing chemicals, Gilbert said, including sun screen and wholly-natural hair dyes which are available in a smaller range of colours.

Like peers, the French cosmetics group, which also makes Garnier shampoo, has faced pressure from shoppers growing increasingly picky about ingredients, and relying on consumer guides and mobile apps to help them choose products.

L’Oreal, which posted rebounding sales in the fourth quarter despite a 2020 hit from the pandemic, has sought to counter doubters by publishing lists of the ingredients used in its formulas.

(Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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