Improving customer experience and reducing friction with AI and Machine Learning
5CA works and thinks at the cutting edge of customer experience. The internationally operating company is obsessed with removing friction for their clients, and their clients’ customers. How does a data platform help them do that, and what do they now see as their next step in reducing friction? An interview with CEO Otto van Haaren about the growth of 5CA, important trends in customer experience and the next steps.
5CA is a globally operating expert in multilingual customer support. The company is strongly focused on agility and providing a fantastic customer experience. Some time ago I interviewed [in Dutch] Otto van Haaren (5CA CEO) and Job Mangelmans (5CA CFO) on behalf of ICT consultancy partner Motion10, about the way in which a modern data platform gave them better insights to lead their business and what immediate benefits they reaped from it.
5CA Game Support
The new data solution provided 5CA with more insight into performance and financial KPIs. The main KPI — the occupancy rate of agents — improved by 5 to 10% within a very short time frame.
Recently, I spoke to Otto once again, about what has changed at 5CA in the meantime, what technology trends have their special attention, and what the next steps are for the company.
I had already realised that since the introduction of the data platform in 2016, 5CA had grown from about 150 employees to more than 325 at the time of writing. What had made this growth possible and what role did better insights play in the process?
Otto: “We have indeed grown considerably. Since the last time we spoke, on one hand we have downsized our workforce in Argentina from 180 to about 50 people, and on the other hand worldwide our company has built up to currently 325 people, of which about 100 are now based in The Netherlands.“
World wide customer support and gamer support
‘’We have grown substantially in the past year, both with new clients and expansion of existing ones. A good example is one of our key clients in the video games industry. We now offer support to their players around the globe. In less than a year this game has grown to around 125 million players and the world’s largest E-sports prize pool, valued at 100 million USD.’’
A more fair business and quicker decisions
“This rapid growth was partly made possible because — besides other real-time applications — we have the Microsoft Data platform that we built together with Motion10. Such a data platform and the way of working it facilitates, make our organization a more fair company. It simply ensures that you always agree on the data. That makes discussions and decisions many times easier and quicker. “
Measuring and adjusting Performance
“For example, with the help of data we can see much better how the performance of one of our customer support employees is developing. Which is still a fairly complex fact, mind you. Someone can work very hard in the sense of making many hours and dealing with many questions, or very cleverly and effectively; handling fewer calls, emails and tickets, but resulting in more satisfied customers.”
More effective and humane management
“So, the data platform helps us to identify what is going well with an employee, but also to find out much quicker where someone needs more support or training. This frees up a lot of time for our managers. What you want to see is for managers to be able to show the human, coaching behaviour, needed to help people.
Finally, such a data platform makes your company even more fair, because it helps you to better and sooner decide that the development path of a person does not fit the path of the organization, and that this person is more likely to come into their right and be much happier elsewhere.”
Maximum use of possibilities
Looking at the future, what trends and developments are 5CA currently watching closely?
Otto: “Our field of work is Customer Experience. And as a sector and as a company, we come from a world in which we used to have to help consumers to make failing technology work.
How many times did all of us use to have to deal with driver updates or have our laptop or PC repaired? How many times did you use to have to go by the IT department to get your devices and programs back in order? All of that is now happening less and less.
Very broadly speaking, I see a trend in which we are increasingly moving towards helping people to get the maximum use out of the possibilities available.”
VR and AR supported by Quantum Computing?
“Which technologies will play a role in helping the customer improve the performance of the products and services they use? The last time we talked to each other I pointed to Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality as important technological trends. But the market is simply not ready yet. People are now saying that the big breakthrough for AR and VR might be coming in about two to three years.
It seems to be kind of early, but possibly this is going to coincide with a breakthrough in Quantum computing. If Quantum computation becomes widely available, we will have to deal with a next wave of exponential acceleration in computation power.”
Machine learning and AI
“Next to AR and VR, AI and Machine Learning are currently popular terms that you hear a lot of people buzzing about. But the applications in that space are already much more mature. Because of that, we recently hired two young, PHD-educated data scientists, who will build new applications based on the data platform that we built together with Wouter [ — Volkeri, Data & Analytics Consultant at Motion10].”
Removing friction for employees
The last time I spoke to Otto, we talked about eliminating friction in customer’s experience. How can technological innovation help us to dothat? Otto: “It’s all increasingly moving in the direction of removing friction, not in the least of removing friction for your own employees.
We used to have a lot of standalone applications. I can still remember that very well; when you really had to have seven screens opened simultaneously to answer one simple question.
Now we can switch between apps with much less friction. As a result, we can make the whole larger than the sum of its parts. That is, we can work together much better and add more value for the customer.”
“Look at the example of Microsoft Teams: In one application you can collaborate on the same document, around the same theme with people who are on the other side of the world. Working together is literally becoming much easier. In this context, Microsoft has recently launched a new feature that integrates MS Teams with the Microsoft HoloLens.”
Remote Assist with Microsoft Teams and Hololens
“The beauty of it is: this way, working also becomes much more fun. According to studies, sixty to seventy per cent of the population aren’t having fun at work at all. But I think this is because there is just too much friction in the workplace. I think everyone would be much happier if working together were much more easy.”
Your creativity is the limit
“History has taught us that new technology is what drives us forward. At the moment, we’re seeing more and more digital tools becoming available cheaper or for free. This is accompanied by a tremendous acceleration; This creates a lot of possibilities for more easily adding value for others.
Consider, for example, the Azure suite from Microsoft, where you have all kinds of services available by default, for a relatively low monthly price. That makes you so much more flexible. As an example, we have recently transferred our data solution to Azure. That makes our data platform that much more flexible and fast, and scalable.
Soon the only limit will be the limit of your own creativity. That, along with your ability to make the right decisions or perhaps your ‘data power’.“
What are the next steps?
Finally, I was curious about what the main next steps are for 5CA, toward making the difference in Customer Experience. Otto: “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are matters that we’re looking at very seriously right now. I already mentioned the fact that we recently hired two young artificial Intelligence specialists.
I personally have very high expectations of what artificial Intelligence can bring humanity. In that context I like to talk about ‘PI’ and AI. PI stands for Personal Intelligence; That is, your own human intelligence. I think AI will mainly be supporting PI in the future.”
AI and Bots at 5CA?
“At 5CA, helpdesk employees and consumers will soon be supported by bots, using features such as auto answer and auto suggest, in answering the thousands of routine questions we receive every month. So that the agents get more time and space for the more challenging problems and creative solutions.”
Customer experience is vitally important for everyone
Otto ends the conversation: “For us at 5CA, it will always come down to seeing how we can improve the Customer Experience.”
In the current and future market, customer experience is of vital importance to everyone who wants to stay relevant in business. After all; the last best experience a customer has with one of your competitors, sets the base level for their expectations in their next interaction with your brand. How could your company benefit from the insights of a company whose core business is a flawless customer experience? I’d love to hear from you.
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