By Stephen Loynd, Global Program Director – Customer Engagement, Digital Transformation Practice, Frost & Sullivan

These were two primary themes at the 13th Annual Customer Contact West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange this year. Carolyn Muise, Vice President, Voice of Customer Analytics at Dell, focused on the first, the importance of data.

Muise noted that when it comes to leveraging data to better respond to the needs of consumers, it’s all about empathy and empowerment. “Data is an untapped opportunity, it can be leveraged to drive change and sell more.”

But she also noted that, “We all have tons of data. The idea is to take action with the data. And if you’re not going to take action with the data you collect, it’s pointless.”

It’s important to develop internal talent while responding to the customer. Matching customer data with employee data means that, “engaged employees can make improvements,” because “passion drives change.”

Joanna Macleod, Executive Vice President of Global Service Delivery in the Global Business Travel unit at American Express, picked up on this theme of change. “The world today,” she noted, “is more fast-moving and unstable.”

Hui Wu-Curtis, Senior Director of Customer Care Strategy at Choice Hotels, agreed. The pace of change seems to be accelerating, along with the amounts of data out there. The two phenomena are related. “There’s tons of data, but the key is to look for actionable insights. There’s so much information out there it’s mind-boggling.”

Michael Cooper, speaking about “How to Become a Better Leader,” emphasized that “Change is accelerating. Technology, the way we work, disruption comes to us all.” In fact, Cooper went so far as to suggest that, Leadership equals Change. In the context of companies serving customers across diverse industries, Cooper urged listeners to think about how a diversity of views, and different thinking styles, are essential. Today’s consumer is changing quickly, and enterprises will need the energy and insight of all their employees across the enterprise to keep up. A culture that encourages conformity of thought breeds stagnation and imperils a company. You need cognitive diversity!

Perhaps Chris Helzerman of Kaiser Permanente proved Cooper’s point. He offered a provocative counter-intuitive in his keynote. “There is no significant correlation between a firm’s growth rates and NPS scores or satisfaction and loyalty metrics,” he said. For Helzerman, it’s all about Customer Effort and analyzing that effort through tools such as voice analytics and text mining. However, few companies today seem to have an “Effort Index.”

Helzerman finished by sounding a bit like Dell’s Carolyn Muise when he said that, “It’s about the quality of the data, not just the size of the sample.”

Finally, Frost & Sullivan Analysts Nancy Jamison and Stephen Loynd appeared to echo the themes of data and change, with Jamison speaking on “The Advent of Chatbots, Virtual Assistants, and Machine Learning,” and Loynd discussing “Customer Engagement and Data Analytics in a World of Exponential Change.”

Stephen Loynd brings a wealth of experience to his current role at Frost & Sullivan. Stephen comes to Frost & Sullivan from global BPO provider, Stream Global Services, where he focused on go-to-market strategies for specific vertical markets, and also led efforts in competitive intelligence.

Prior to that, Stephen spent close to seven years at market intelligence firm IDC as the Global Program Manager of their Contact Center practice. As a leader on the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) team, he offered expertise on contact center and CRM industry trends and opportunities worldwide and published research including competitive landscapes and forecast and analyses. Along the way, he helped grow practice revenue almost threefold, and expanded regional analyst coverage in Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia Pacific.

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