When it comes to Experience, Technology is a box-to-box

Technology has been an enabler for great customers and employee experiences for a long time, making it possible for companies to deliver fantastic messages, good services and personalised experiences.

But as Experience is now the biggest differentiator between companies (surpassing Product and Price), Technology is starting to become the biggest differentiator between experiences (many times surpassing Strategy and Delivery).

Truth is, Technology is the number 8 in your football team. In England they call it “box-to-box“. In other countries they call it the “one who carries the piano“. It’s not often the one that stands out, despite being the one that works the hardest for others to shine.

This blog was triggered by a conversation with a friend: “Well, to be honest it’s hard to believe it when you actually don’t see it. So, could you give me an example of how technology works in the background to enable great experiences?

I had just been on a call with a colleague and a customer a few days earlier, talking about a handful of ways they could use the technology stack they have to deliver great experiences. One of them related to the delivery of multi-language support.

Here is a scenario: You are a global company, selling all over the world. You have customers contacting and expecting you to support them in their own language. But your contact centre is in the UK, and your agents can only support in English language.

The easier solution usually requires the agent to perform 9 steps. Copy message; go to Google Translate; paste message; read translation; pray that it makes sense; draft response; copy from Google translate; go to original system; paste message.

To deliver a better customer experience, adding convenience of multi-language support, you end up hurting the employee experience, adding a huge effort to the agent. Alternative? Hire agents with language skills, which will bring additional cost.

Well, this is a very good example where Technology can help. Here is an easy solution – interface your contact centre technology platform with AWS and leverage the power of Amazon Web Services.

  1. Send customer’s message to AWS, via AWS EventBridge
  2. AWS EventBridge will send the message to AWS Lambda
  3. AWS Lambda will in turn send the message to AWS Translate
  4. AWS Translate will translate the message and send it back to AWS Lambda
  5. AWS Lambda will interface and send translated message to your agent

This all happens in real-time, meaning it would only take fractions of a second for your agent to have the translated message available to read, and respond to the customer. Do you have other use cases or want more?

Simple, in step 3 replace AWS Translate for AWS Comprehend and offer agents the sentiment of the customer’s message. Or replace AWS Translate for AWS Lex to read customer’s intent and respond accordingly.

These are just a few examples of how Technology can do some magic in the background. Allowing you to deliver convenient, personalised and outstanding customer experiences. Avoiding impact on agents will also make them feel empowered and offer a much better employee experience.

And you do all that, while managing your operation’s costs, as well as leveraging the power of your technology investments.

Note: Below is an example of one of the solutions, using Zendesk and AWS

Enable your Employee 360 initiative

For a company to be successful it is no longer enough to have great products at attractive prices. There is a need to have a strong workforce of engaged employees, and high-performing teams.

To achieve that, companies must design, implement and run an Employee Experience Program. Establishing it as part of the HR function and initiatives, as well as daily routine.

Any EX Program should have an Employee Feedback Project, which in turn must have a Employee 360 component, where feedback is gathered from an employee’s manager, peers and direct reports.

(Note: Some companies, depending on the circumstances, may also include feedback from external third parties who may work closely with the employee in question – e.g. partners, suppliers).

The Employee 360 feedback provides a holistic view of the employee, and makes everyone comfortable (confidentiality) sharing important feedback, that otherwise may have not been shared.

Running such program, projects and initiatives can be daunting for HR / Talent Management teams. Actually, it may be impossible without technology enabling it, and allowing automation.

The technology should allow companies to:

  1. Create user-friendly and easy-to-use portals for users to provide feedback
  2. Automate process for multi-raters to review and provide employee feedback
  3. Deliver personalised, confidential and detailed reports to employees and managers
  4. Define action plans to manage and track progress, as well as drive improvements
  5. Integrate with HRIS (e.g. Workday, Oracle PeopleSoft, SAP SuccessFactors, Greenhouse)

Qualtrics is one of the leaders when it comes to Employee Engagement software (see G2 Crowd grid) as well as the undisputed leader of Experience Management (see G2 Crowd grid). Below is an example of an automated report, generated on the back of an Employee 360 initiative.

Qualtrics EX 360 Report (Example)

The report shows that when it comes to Communication (top chart) the employee rates himself much higher than peers, direct reports and manager – meaning there is a weakness not being recognised by the employee.

Qualtrics EX 360 Report (Example)

The report then drills-down on the Communication topic, looking at the individual questions of the 360 assessment. It is easy to understand, from the above 3 charts, that the employee’s weakness comes from Active Listening and Understanding, as well as lack of Clear and To-the-point communication.

Qualtrics EX 360 Report (Example)

More than only pointing out the weaknesses and strengths, the automated and personalised report also displays a description and interpretation of the results, providing a list of (pre-defined) actions and steps to follow, in order to improve that particular skill (in this case, taking an “Effective Communications” course on the the company’s LMS platform).

6 instrumental factors for technology projects success

Technology is crucial for the delivery of a good Customer Experience. No doubt all Customer Experience Programs today include a technology enablement, implementation or integration project.

But despite trends around methods like Agile or Scrum (that try and make things more efficient and effective) the success in technology projects is limited – at best people get it done with loads of hassle; often they fail to achieve what they set out to do.

I believe the problem lies on the mix between wrong cultures and the use of legacy approaches to IT projects – where people make big plans from the outset, and then take things in a linear or sequential way (similar to what you would see in Waterfall).

These approaches rely on people making estimations (for timelines and costs) that reach horizons that they cannot see, and are usually far-fetched (as people simply cannot envision the next 3, 4, 5 or 6 months).

The business decides what they want (which is not necessarily what they need or is feasible). To avoid being seen as the party-wreckers IT teams (solution architects, developers, project managers) tend to give the customary nod and optimistic estimates.

What they cannot see (despite falling into that trap hundreds of times!) is that those promises (around timelines and costs for the technology enablement project) become set in stone, and set certain expectations.

It usually doesn’t take long until the project is delayed or stalled, the scope is creeping, and things are going over-budget. But rather than flagging things earlier, there is a tendency to sweep it under the rug.

It’s not until things get to a point of no-return that the project team sees themselves on the cliff-edge, and finally breaks the news – there is no way they will be able to deliver the project on time and budget.

The Business Sponsor needs to make a decision:

  • bury more time and money;
  • deploy incomplete (and potentially buggy) technology platform;
  • bring the whole project to a halt.

None of these options is positive. Actually all of them will have a significant negative impact on:

  • Employee Experience – will feel frustrated and incompetent; will see their time and hard work wasted; will put morale down.
  • Customer Experience – if external customer, will suffer with a broken (or less than optimal) experience; if internal customer, will lose trust in business/IT capabilities.

In a technology-enablement project, there are at least 6 instrumental factors for success:

  1. Pragmatism, when it comes to discuss feasibility and investment appraisals;
  2. Realism, when it comes to set and manage people’s expectations;
  3. Focus, when it comes to design and plan the approach;
  4. Collaboration, when it comes to get things done, and push it forward;
  5. Transparency, when it comes to managing the project, risks and issues;
  6. Courage, when it comes to decision-making.