Dan and Shawn Chat About the Role of Tech in EX/CX

Posted by Call Design on October 04, 2023

In a world where cutting-edge technologies have become commonplace, it’s no surprise that the business landscape is evolving rapidly. Dan Smitley and Shawn McCormick get into the heart of this transformation in a recent conversation.

The buzz around Employee Experience (EX) and Customer Experience (CX) isn’t just a passing trend; it’s a pivotal shift that’s here to stay. But what’s driving this movement, and how is it shaping the way businesses operate? Keep reading if you’re curious about the driving forces behind the EX/CX revolution and how technology can enhance the human element in the workplace.

Dan Smitley: Shawn, why are EX and CX such hot topics?

Shawn McCormick: The buzz around EX/CX topics right now can be attributed to a few key factors. In today’s tech-driven world, many once-cutting-edge technologies have become quite commonplace. Chatbots and AI solutions are almost a dime a dozen now.

However, when everyone in the industry has access to similar tools, the question arises: how can a company distinguish itself? This is where the significance of EX and CX comes into play. With the increasing prevalence of remote work and an abundance of choices, both customers and employees have become discerning consumers. They expect exceptional service, rapid responses, and seamless experiences. Waiting four days for a shipping update, for example, can feel like an eternity in our fast-paced world.

The barriers to entry have significantly diminished, leading to heightened competition. So, the key is differentiation – how can a business retain customers and ensure the satisfaction and well-being of its employees? Happy customers and fulfilled employees often translate into repeat business and sustained profitability.

Dan: Is the growing emphasis on EX/CX simply a generational thing? You know, with all the talk about Millennials and Gen Z, the perception sometimes is that they’re entitled and want everything handed to them on a silver platter.

Shawn: I wouldn’t dismiss it as a generational issue so easily. If you look at the research on work attitudes, service expectations, and even political outlooks, you’ll find that it’s not as simple as labeling these younger generations as entitled.

Let’s consider the facts. Gen Z and millennials are already decision-makers and consumers. They’re shaping the market, and their preferences matter. But here’s the kicker: their desires aren’t solely about entitlement. They seek meaningful work, a balanced work-life equation, and a personalized customer experience.

The resurgence of the labor movement this summer and the calls for narrowing the wage gap between upper management and entry-level employees are signs of these evolving expectations. Young and old generations alike are tired of repetitive tasks that could be automated and yearn for jobs that provide purpose and intellectual challenge.

So, it’s not just about catering to a particular generation; it’s about meeting the evolving needs and expectations of today’s workforce and consumers. And trust me, these changes are not confined to the young. Even as a Gen Xer, I’ve come to value these shifts in priorities, and I don’t think I’m alone in that.

Dan: I hear you saying that improving EX and CX is here to stay, and the bar has been set high. But I’m particularly curious about its impact on the contact center. How has this shift, which maybe we can call a movement, uniquely influenced the contact center environment?

Shawn: On the customer side, the demand for personalized service across multiple channels is undeniable. While some vendors may proclaim that omnichannel is dead, I believe that having the flexibility to meet customers where they want to be met is essential.

However, we should take a critical look at certain strategies, like “call deflection.” While the goal of reducing the number of phone calls is understandable, the philosophy behind avoiding direct customer interaction needs reevaluation. Why would any organization want to distance itself from its customers? The goal should be to offer personalized, value-added service, not just cost-cutting measures.

The good news is that technology is catching up to these expectations. Responsible AI vendors are exploring ways to personalize customer experiences, reduce average handle times (without rushing customers), minimize transfers, and enhance overall satisfaction. We’re at an inflection point where technology can empower both employees and customers.

However, how companies deploy this technology matters. It’s a choice between enhancing customer experience or solely pursuing cost savings by replacing labor. This decision will shape their future success, and it applies to employees as well. People don’t wake up aiming to do a terrible job; they often become disengaged due to a lack of tools and knowledge.

With knowledge management tools and real-time analytics, employees can be informed, empowered, and less stressed. They deserve access to the information they need to provide excellent service. The technology exists, and it aligns with the desire for a relaxed, less stressful work environment where they can excel.

Dan: Shawn, you’ve highlighted the importance of knowledge accessibility in the employee experience and the role of technology in both CX and EX. However, I’m curious whether the CX and EX conversation is primarily technology-driven, or if there’s more to it. Is this truly just a technology movement?

Shawn: The desire for personalization and an improved experience is a fundamental human instinct. Technology is merely the tool that enables us to deliver on this desire. It’s not technology-driven; it’s technology-enabled.

A critical point to consider is that deploying technology without a clear purpose or plan is counterproductive. Just look at chatbots – if you deploy one without a clear understanding of why and how it serves your customers, it becomes another barrier between you and your customers.

The same principle applies to AI. Without a well-defined purpose and a guiding North Star focused on benefiting customers and employees, AI deployment can be futile. If you don’t care about your employees or if you don’t have a clear goal for AI in your organization, it won’t lead to success.

So, whether a company knows its guiding North Star or needs help discovering it, the key is to translate that vision into technology that aids in achieving the goal and supports the team. It’s not just about reducing headcount; it’s about creating better-trained, happier, and more loyal employees who can provide superior service.

Dan: It’s interesting that you see technology, particularly AI and automation, as tools to enhance the humanity in the workplace rather than diminish it. Many discussions in the industry suggest that AI will replace and dehumanize jobs. Can you elaborate on why your perspective differs from this prevalent narrative?

Shawn: Absolutely. Historically, every major technological advancement has raised similar concerns. For example, when Henry Ford introduced the assembly line, it disrupted the horse carriage manufacturing industry, causing people to lose their jobs. But this disruption also created new opportunities and transformed the workforce.

The fear of change is natural, and it requires change management and a thoughtful approach to help employees adapt. However, what’s often missed in these discussions is that when technology is implemented correctly, it can actually make work more human, not less.

Consider a contact center environment where agents face a constant grind of stressful calls, chats, and emails. In such a situation, where is the room for humanity? How can employees think about their culture, purpose, and worth in their jobs when they’re constantly overwhelmed?

If AI is used to relieve some of the burden, like summarizing calls and automating routine tasks, it benefits everyone. It saves time for agents, reduces customer wait times, and allows employees to focus on more meaningful interactions. This shift allows organizations to think about culture, career growth, and job satisfaction. It’s not just about squeezing more work out of employees; it’s about creating a workplace where people can thrive and find fulfillment.

So, while some may focus on the immediate gains in efficiency, forward-thinking organizations see the potential for AI to transform jobs into something more enjoyable and sustainable, rather than just a grind.

Dan: I was thinking and would love your thoughts on this. It’s clear to me that this isn’t just a generational shift, but there seems to be a broader technology enablement movement at play. I wonder how much of this shift is due to increased visibility. Glassdoor, for example, wasn’t a thing 15-20 years ago. Social media and platforms like LinkedIn now allow employees to not only air their grievances but provide critical feedback for everyone to see. This shift is tied to technology, and it’s giving people a voice they might not have had in the past.

Shawn: You’re absolutely right, Dan. The rise of platforms like Glassdoor and social media has given employees and customers a megaphone to share their experiences. It’s not just about generational differences; it’s about transparency and accountability. People have a platform to demand better treatment, both as employees and consumers.

Dan: It’s interesting how technology isn’t just shaping the way we work and serve customers but also how it’s giving people the power to expect and demand better experiences. It’s not solely a generational shift; it’s a broader societal transformation. And as we wrap up this conversation, I see a clear theme: technology is a tool, not the destination. It can enable us to reach new heights in employee and customer experience, but the key is thoughtful implementation.

Shawn: That’s a great way to sum it up. Technology is a means to an end, and that end is creating a workplace and customer interactions that are more fulfilling and human. It’s about achieving authentic, meaningful experiences for both employees and customers. It’s not just about having the technology; it’s about using it wisely to make work and life better for everyone.

If you’re interest in learning more about the connection between EX, CX, and AI you can check out Shawn’s whitepaper on the subject: The CX/EX Connection: Investing in Your Employees. Here he shares the latest research on EX and CX and gives a convincing argument as to why each organization should be looking to invest in their employees.