Clouds, Calls, and the AI Revolution – Contact Centre Edition – [FULL INTERVIEW]

Fred Stacey, CEO of Cloud Tech Gurus, discussed the dynamic evolution of technology in contact centers, focusing on the shift towards cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI).

He emphasises the broader implications of these technological advances on business operations, workforce dynamics, and economic strategies in a rapidly changing global environment.

Find out more about Cloud Tech Gurus -> Here.

Key Points

  1. Digital transformation in contact centers is ongoing, with significant growth potential.
  2. Cloud migration continues to be a major trend, though many are still in the transition phase.
  3. AI is increasingly driving industry changes, particularly through individual point solutions in North America.
  4. Post-pandemic, there has been a marked acceleration in tech adoption due to remote work shifts.
  5. Hybrid work models are becoming the norm, with central hubs supporting remote work.
  6. Cyber resilience is becoming a critical focus as companies reassess hastily made pandemic-era decisions.
  7. There is a growing integration of coding and data management skills into job roles across sectors.
  8. The use of large language models (LLMs) is expanding, enabling non-coders to interact more effectively with technology.
  9. Customer and agent interaction remains central, but there is a shift towards more digital customer journeys.
  10. The importance of maintaining human elements in customer service to provide empathy and nuanced communication.
  11. Economic uncertainties are affecting investment decisions in technology and infrastructure.
  12. The balance between adopting new tech and managing its integration into human-centric processes is crucial.

Key Statistics

  • Migration to cloud technology has reached over 40% among Fortune 500 companies.
  • Post-pandemic technology adoption accelerated significantly due to remote work requirements.
  • The potential reduction of contact center workforces due to AI and automation could be between 60% to 70%.

Key Takeaways

  • The trajectory of cloud and AI technologies in contact centers points towards an inevitable increase in digital and automated operations.
  • Companies must consider both the technological and human aspects when integrating new systems.
  • Cybersecurity and data resilience are more crucial than ever due to rapid shifts to remote and hybrid work models.
  • The ongoing digital transformation requires continual upskilling and reskilling of employees, particularly in data handling and coding.
  • Businesses should prepare for economic uncertainties by investing in technology that enhances flexibility and efficiency.
  • Maintaining a balance between automated solutions and human interactions is key to preserving customer satisfaction and service quality.
  • The rise of LLMs and AI is democratizing access to technology, enabling more people to perform complex tasks without deep technical knowledge.
  • Organizations must stay vigilant about the socio-economic impacts of rapidly integrating advanced technologies.
  • The evolution towards more AI-driven operations should include considerations for job redesign and potential workforce reductions.
  • Ensuring robust cybersecurity measures and building resilient infrastructures are critical as technology adoption deepens.
  • Leaders should focus on strategic investments that align with long-term goals and current economic conditions.
  • Understanding and planning for the human impact of technological changes is essential for sustainable progress.
Interview Transcript

0:02
So hi, everyone. I’m here with Fred Stacey today who’s the CEO of Cloud Tech Gurus. So you’re based in the US and really involved around like technology implementations really across call centres, but including collections, but across call centres in the US, North America, but also anywhere anywhere around the world as well. So Fred, thanks very much for joining me. Yeah. Thank you for having me. So it’s great. It’s great to have you on. And I think my first question I wanted to, for the conversation was to start to chat a little bit about what are you seeing from a technology point of view in terms of implementation, and particularly on North American point of view, I spend a lot of time talking about the European perspective. But if we get to hear about what you’re seeing, particularly the US? Yeah, let’s start at the baseline. Right, we are solely focused on contact centre related technologies and services, what I’m seeing primarily see Cass is still driving a lot of the core change, right? We all know, I think over the last couple of years, we went from 60%, to a little over 40% of the Fortune 500 and still running from us. So there’s a long ways to go the migration to cloud. But those of us that operate a lot around technology, we tend to forget that not everybody is converted, yet the digital transformation is not complete. And as a whole, the industry still has a very big upside on the Seacat side. But once you step outside of that core CRMC CAS heading towards a digital digital transformation, artificial intelligence is the driving mechanism. And it’s not it’s the individual point solutions that are really accelerating here in the States and in North America in general. What are you seeing in terms of particularly post pandemic and we had to spend a huge amount of effort to get people out of call centres maybe doing like remote work and those kinds of things. And the technology, it feels like that kind of accelerated a lot of technology kind of adoption. Really. Did you see that continuing on people now coming back in? Are they going back to the way they were? Or do you think that’s fundamentally changed, but there’s still a long way to go. I’ve seen companies try to move back into a brick and mortar type models. But I would say the market is recognise that you can not only do the job as well, but but you can find ways to improve the NBA agent experience a lot of agents, you let them go home, it’s the Pandora’s box was opened, and they love working from home. And I think that’s going to continue to be a future I see the hybrid model working best spoken and we’ll Hub and Spoke sorry, where you’ve got a central location where people can come in for training, a little bit of cultural doctrine ation, so to say, some exposure to the leadership in person, and then back to home working normal. Yeah, that the technology accelerated through COVID throughout the last couple of years in technology that helps the work at home environment. But I think a lot of people also made a lot of decisions, because they were forced to quickly. And now we’re seeing the transition from cloud to cloud also hardening. Yeah. So it’s interesting that you want to talk about a forced disaster recovery test learned the hard way. Very quickly. There’s been a lot of discussion here around cyber resiliency. I’ve been talking a bit about that recently. And it’s actually just had a lot of decisions made very quickly. And it was the need at the time. But it’s almost like people always have to go back and now relook at it to say when How should it work? Now it’s more stable and making sure you’ve got things like say cyber resiliency is one of the one of the angles that people are looking at, to make sure it works longer term, Agent monitoring agent quality programmes, all of those kinds of things. And you might need technical development to really make sure it’s working, as it should be. Yeah, you absolutely need tech, the years of just getting by with duct tape and bubble bound systems together. It’s gone by the wayside of you in order to really truly run and we all do this PCI over here in the States, right, and HIPAA to run any kind of decent certifications or security requirements requires technology, the end, and that’s just in general, it’s not just contact centres, right? The whole world has shifted, or you now see manufacturers becoming having teams of software developers, I think the modern world is forcing us all to become a little bit of a software technology type company, no matter what you do, and the contact centres definitely falls within that. Yeah, I’d be quite surprised how it’s changed.

4:26
My experience into like going from being able to do things, you do things on spreadsheets, but now it’s almost like a core requirement is unearthing suddenly, things like SAS SQL, those things are actually almost like in people’s job descriptions. And you can see it as the demographics changes. People grew up with these things, and they get to use it and it’s much more hands on with coding than it ever has been, which leads some of us older folks, you can only do HTML or some of those things your your whereas I can catch up mode to a certain extent. But it’s changing. It really likes changing much more data savvy than it’s ever been, I would think. Yeah, we all have to change

5:00
Right, and the only thing that’s constant is change, but to the growth in happy by looking at my kids, they’re in their 20s. Right. And they grew up, they did have early years without any technology in their hand. But then, from early preteens, they have touched nothing but technology. And they’ve grown up around this, the speed at which they use it, the comfort the naturalness of it being a part of their day, it’s just only going to continue to lead. And I think what’s interesting is we’re actually seeing artificial intelligence and really start to change it from pure writing code, and understanding that piece to starting to go towards more of a natural language. So I think I actually more of an optimist, of course, I’m a techno optimist, I see people like you and I being much more capable in the future of doing that stuff and less requirements of actually knowing how to write code, which is great 20 years in contact centres, 20 years and software, I still can’t write a line of code. So that makes me happy that there are tools coming down the pipe where I can just talk to it.

6:06
And do you see that in some of the software products that you do look at I suppose you’re talking about large language models, and allows you to almost write code without writing code essentially, is one of the things he does, but also this whole idea around like self serve. So I want to be able to self configure, I want to be able to sell so that I don’t need to get to it to be able to do that. I’m the call centre manager and I want someone in my team to be able to do that change, change, routine change, whatever it is that is that a theme that’s coming through strongly. I think everybody’s been working on the UI UX and the user friendliness inside contact centres, right, because we always wanted to remove it back in the day, green screens. And as for hundreds, even into the for you Windows servers, it required a lot of heavy lift on it. thing is we also created career paths for a lot of people in the contact centre right to own it, turn the dials and manage the servers. And now that’s all shifting, I definitely do see an acceleration of a simplification of the platforms here ever to see Cass has something like eight to 10,000 features, right different ways you can tune and turn the dials, whereas a lot of the modern stuff is going to much, much more simplistic. The thing that excites me about the simplicity is the agent side, right? But it shouldn’t take you but 30 minutes to train up an agent and get them comfortable on the platform because it shouldn’t be that intuitive. And I think that started more with Apple and kind of the idea that a person should be able to just pick it up and intuitively use it. And I think a lot of companies that the modern companies are trying to build like that, that’s definitely an advantage. But at the same time, you also hear from the the administrators of the platform’s in the background, they still want to turn dials, they still have a job to do. And I think there’s a little bit of that transition from, hey, I don’t have to necessarily reboot the servers every night or no, they turn the dials anymore. But some companies are pretty smart, the software vendors are recognising that you still got to give tools so you can train and tune and do the things necessary. So I don’t think the admins are completely out of a job yet. There’s a bit of a balance down, you talk a bit about the Apple Apple leave vacation, I thought that if that’s even a word of software, right, yes. And it’s true, right. So you do want to do something on your iPhone, I got my iPhone here. And you’d work out how to do it three or four clicks, and you work out how to do it and you try a few different things. And just imagine how much that takes in terms of like training time out from the call centre. However, I suppose the other balance of it where I’ve seen is, you want to be able to do it in three or four clicks. But there might be an even easier way of doing it if you go behind the scenes to be able to do if you’re like an expert use and I suppose and being able to do that. So like dropdowns and I used to like green screen and whether that’s the you have to you enter these and click dropdowns. And if you’re an expert user, you can go in and just do it with a couple of codes. Right. But it takes you it takes you years of knowledge to be able to do that, right? Yeah, those days. I’m rather thankful that we’re not doing screen scrapes and pulling data in the world of

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8:59
Yeah. Don’t get me wrong, I missed the days where I knew a lot more than most everybody else, because that always makes you feel good. But nonetheless, the technology is moving in the right direction. And I think we’re going to enter this phase now where and I’ve seen this this kind of cyclical process and bind, where I feel like point solutions are really starting to lead the charge as far as what’s forcing overall change in contact centres. And that excites me the fact that we still haven’t cracked. But the large percentage of premise space still amazes me. And it excites me that all of this new technology is forcing because you can’t connect in the same ways through API’s with the old antiquated premise. So there’s a lot of things going on. It’s pretty excited in our space. Yeah, one of the things I hear when I talk to people in the US or in North America, there’s there’s a lot of emphasis on call centres and like the agent interaction with the customer and those kinds of things and I think they

10:00
over here, it’s changed a little bit where there’s probably a like, certainly over the pandemic, there’s been quite a lot of emphasis on digital servicing, taking out things like branches in the banking world, taking out a call centres are much smaller than they used to be. How do you see that balance? And I’m interested in why there’s different culturally between this almost like the two geographies to a certain extent, and is that going to start to change over in terms of more digital being adopted changing sort of customer journeys to be more digital? And what’s the impact? You think, on call centres? Really? Yeah, there’s a whole lot wrapped up into that.

10:32
Let’s start with why the cultures are different a that is why it takes too long for us to talk. But I can, I can definitely talk to what I feel like I see for the future, what I’ve seen in the transition from going from voice to channels. And we’ve seen this transition for a long time you’ve been in the game for a while, I remember when social media came out, everybody was off social media is going to take over the contact centre. And now you’ve got tiny little teams that manage social media communications, and a lot of it’s bought related. I think the bigger conversation right now that I’m interested in is how much is the LLM lamc. And the new models of artificial intelligence going to impact the overall contact centre market, if you remember when Twilio came out, and when Amazon connect came out, the people that really adopted the C pass model were the software companies, right, because they had the chops to develop it. I think that’s where we’re at right now with a lot of the really advanced artificial intelligence bought technology is that the software companies are adopting those and people, companies like Florida, they’re going to kill it. And they’re going to reduce probably somewhere what’s looking like anywhere from 60 to 70% of their workforce, which is a huge number. If you scale that across all of the contact centres in the world, that’s exception that is really impactful to our industry. Now, just like C pass, there’s only a percentage that have implemented it right. Even today, if you look at Twilio, and connect as it exists as a C pass, or any of the other C pass players, the only ones who can really deploy it and successfully maintain it are software companies that have developers, engineers, they understand how to, you know how to roll out and how to support software, the interesting dynamic is to point solutions that are actually developing these products that are legitimately capable of being managed by a small team of administrators and people who understand data and understand how to write some of the prompts and stuff like that, for the future that I see. And yeah, that’s, again, I’m a techno optimist. So from a customer experience, contact centre business, I think we’re going to see a big impact on the number of agents, but at the same time voice isn’t going away. And this isn’t in easy solve for just anybody to do yet. So it’ll take a lot of time. Like I said, I think we’re down to 40% of the Fortune 500 still are promising tell people fully transform, but it’s still going to be a challenge. And they’re still going to be a lot of work to do that’s in terms of us as adoption of MLMs and the AI as it’s coming across. I mean, did you see that? What do you what’s the characteristics of how you’re seeing that? Is that complete replacement? Or is it more random looking at like sub processes, or like staff or employee augmentation, so you can either say, I’m going to completely replace these roles, I’m going to take 20% of the staff out, versus we’re going to basically augment your job. So you can do more with the same people. Yeah. So it has to start out on augmentation. Right. And we’ve been, you’ve you probably saw it over there just as much as we did. Most companies as they started to market, artificial intelligence, they learned from the IVR, marketing and all the other, the early stage attempts at AI. And none of the buyers want to hear, hey, you’re gonna have to let go your people you’re not and you’re no longer gonna manage the same number of people. These are big, impactful things, a lot of the buyers other than the CFO, of course, a lot of the buyers are like this is going to impact my audience vendors were pretty smart. And they came out with the idea of agent assist agent guidance, being able to help and create the super agent, right? But I’m a capitalist too. But I recognise that those kinds of numbers, even if you just say 50% of your traffic is managed through AI. No CFO in the world is going to say no to that. Yeah, so I’m a realist, too. I think the agent assist technology, the you know, the combination of MLMs with the right guardrails, which is the mistake that a lot of the early stage bot companies made, because they didn’t have the guardrails in place. Yeah, but with the right guardrails, they’ll come out and they’ll scan the knowledge base. They’ll provide the tools back to the agent side now make agents more efficiency, or more efficient, which will show you a pretty significant increase in performance and reduction in handle times and probably even the big lift is the stuff like what we talked about

15:00
With Klarna, where you’re actually able to legitimately handle customer issues with a platform, even over voice, not just data. But voice again, voice isn’t going away. We’ve seen a uptick the last couple of years. So it’s not like customers are going this big migration to digital that everybody was threatening about five years ago. It just hasn’t happened. People still want to call companies. Yeah. And what about voice AI? So I know we’ve been nibbling around the edges in terms of like, case studies that I’ve seen. So things like summarization, quality monitoring, those kinds of things, but it’s not that far away. I’ve got the app on my phone. Well, you’re gonna have a two way conversation, a voice conversation into into ways how far away do you think we are from that? And I suppose what are some of the guardrails? You’ve got to be really careful, especially in financial services? I would I would flag Oh, yeah. So how far are we away? Let me throw on my, or grab my crystal ball? I would guess, realistically, well, we’re already seeing one off, right. There are advanced companies already bringing voice solutions to the market. But it’s going to take time, realistically, I’d say five years, let’s see pitting that 20. Post early adoption that 25 30%, where you start to hit a standard, I think that’s probably realistically within the next five years.

16:22
Yeah, and it’s still just still require humans look just like any of the other technologies, contact centres aren’t going away. Customers experience is still a critical differentiator for businesses. So we’ll always need the tier two, tier three, and the empathy and all the things that make human to human interaction, so much better. But yeah, I’d say five years, we’re talking the HT will probably go up, albeit on a lower volume, because you’re going to need you’re going to have augmented people in terms of understanding what the process is, but they’re having more in depth conversations, and maybe a normal or empathetic kind of conversation. So you might have a longer HD, which is certainly what we saw here and dealing with financial difficulties. But the volume that goes through is actually a lot smaller. So overall, it’s probably less cost, but it’s hit that just the mix has changed, because you’ve taken some of the easy stuff out. Yeah, and this was I had an interesting debate. Last week, I was at a conference here in the States. And I had an interesting debate with another techno optimist on whether it was going to be the tier one people that were going to be augmented by AI. So the agents would be a lower cost agent, but augmented through AI voice applications and knowledge base integrations for agent assistants, stuff like that, or was it going to be all that stuff is going to be handled by the AI side. And it was just going to be that tier three, that was really left to help with a really hard cases, like you said, long HT time, a lot of challenge conversations with depth. And I think it’s an interesting conversation is how other companies deploy this technology in the future. And I don’t think any of us have any good answers, but I think it’s the ultimate, the secondary one, which is, I think artificial intelligence will be able to manage most, most problems, but the ones that require human empathy, the bills are wrong. And if FinTech especially my bank, my account credit card charges that show up No, sir, gonna require a few minutes. So that’s my opinion, I, I suppose you could look at it? And are we going to change the way we think about transactions or contact centre transactions from being much more transactional, I’m calling to get something done, versus it’s being more of an experience, right? And it’s more of a relationship. And so if you go into a shop as an example, you it’s actually, yes, I want to buy something and I want to, maybe I want to get it as cheap and as fast as I possibly can. But actually, when I go into my local shop, I want to have that conversation with the people and they recognise you and the becomes that relationship, which is quite hard to quantify versus just doing it faster, quicker and cheaper to a certain extent. Yeah, not a lot of people talk to me about this. But I’m actually more fascinated on what they’re doing on the individual AI, Agent side, right? Meaning agent as an technology agent, right? The bot to bot communications that are going to take place in the future, the way we interact, unlikely it’ll be through our phone, right? Or some device. So our personal device will be communicating with our own bot who will have access to all of our, who do we pay, what services do we use? And then how does that bot communicate back with the company’s bot to dispute a charge? And maybe it automatically the potential for this is false? Oh, yeah, exactly. And then at that point, we’re is human in the loop? We’re hardly even in and that’s it. People say, Oh, that’s 1020 years out? I don’t think so. I just don’t think so. I think efficiencies like this, we haven’t seen efficiencies like this probably since the last industrial revolution, right? And I would say

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20:00
This is even more so because it has the potential to automate so much out of our day to day lives.

20:07
And I could be wrong, maybe I’m just too much of an optimist. But in some ways, it’s already happening if you look at some of the, like automated assistants, so things like Siri and like that the one that Amazon has on the Google has is you’re actually that’s your agent that you’re using to act on your behalf, but is interacting with someone else isn’t? Then they can have an agent on their side? It’s, I think the interesting piece is, will it or will they all speak in English? Or it might be? Or a human language I should say, rather than English? Would it be easier just to do it in some sort of API kind of connection that we don’t understand? And that is the dangers for us around that? I don’t know. Yeah, there’s so much to dive into there.

20:42
On the language side, that’s not so sci fi, we actually, there’s a point solution today that can translate. So you’re talking in French, I’m talking in English, I will hear you in English, and you will hear me in French. And that’s real. That’s live. And it’s the delay is becoming to the point where it doesn’t even feel like much of a delay. That piece I think the interesting part is what you said at the end, which is will they be talking about ones and zeros? Or will they be talking in human language? Are we going to be able to understand them when what they’re doing on the back end? And I think that’s part of the guardrails. And the one thing we haven’t even talked about is, what are what from the political side is going to happen? What are they going to allow with the data privacy regulations in the way we’re heading towards that it almost like the two of them sooner or later are going to clash?

21:34
We just had the EU AI Act has just gone through over in Europe, I know the the president there that they putting some guardrails around the size of the models you could put in, but the speed of development of this stuff, I think it’s the anthropic just launched their latest AI this week, which is like over which sort of Trump’s chatting to before and it’s just accelerate. I mean, it’s just it’s almost politically we can’t keep up to control what’s going on? And whether we should or not, I don’t know, if you’re optimistic, maybe you think we shouldn’t, but um, the plenty of people nervous about it. So yeah, the optimist in me says that, because we’re still the ones writing the code and training the models, and that I have trust in the humans that will keep this under control. And I think we’ll get there. But from a political side, and we’ve always been so far behind technology, that it takes time for regulations to catch up to the tech. But I agree, we’re moving too fast that the trains left the station, there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle in this case. And so yeah, for me, I think it’s the feedback loops, and the fact that that they almost like it feels like it’s feeding on itself. And so the fact you build a new capability, and then you use that capability to then improve that capability. And you need to do that. And so that’s where you get this almost like exponential kind of acceleration that’s going on. And it feels like what see that in the large language model space. And yeah, and I think the video just launched a new chip that’s gone out. And so it’s, it’s really going fast. And you just wonder how quickly it’s going to get to what we think of what we do versus and how we actually process information and to predict is, is getting very close, I think he might actually be very close to the way the brain works. And in some ways, you talked a bit about point solutions, then my point solutions, which is really seems like that’s what people are adopting, when you have a lot of different sort of point solutions, or a lot of different software vendors, how do they best coordinate that they’re all working together, they’re all working in harmony, because that can be a bit of a challenge. Sometimes, where you have they don’t talk to each other, or they’re doing things in isolation, or even in terms of like pricing as well, where you’re getting the best deal for almost like that bundle of things working together. Yeah. So if you’re talking modern solution to modern solution, meaning it’s something that is then built in the cloud, native cloud, right? The API’s are pretty much, right. And then any decent development team can integrate solutions, right? Whether they need to be fully integrated or not, is a different conversation. When it comes to like training ai ai models, you really need the data side. And then the rest is pretty easy type of integrations we’ve been doing for years. Right costing side is an interesting challenge, because this is the all in one versus Best In Breed buying. Right? And the conversations of I’ve seen some people calculate their spending 15 to $1,600, just in software licences per agent on average per month, right? But there you’re talking like TK wo, QA analytics bot technology, Agent assists knowledge base, you start adding up all these things, you get this huge licence costs.

24:39
But if it returns the investment back into efficiencies, customer experience and all the right things, then you can justify the spend

24:50
because obviously it doesn’t take many agent, many improvements and efficiencies and reduction in agent actual cost fullblown

25:00
An agent costs to justify that cost. Do you think that we can consolidation in the industry in the software industry to try and create to bundle more of those within, like walled ecosystems for particularly, we’re looking at the the economy as an example. And budgets are getting squeezed, people are looking around where they can do, they just seems like maybe there’s part this partnership model might might start to develop more more often. Yeah, we’ve seen it here, right. And we’ve seen it up to this point. And you look at the number of companies that let’s talk about the big three here, Genesis five, nine and nice right there, the acquisitions have been constant. And the delivery of the all in one solution is definitely something that is the problem I think we run into is there’s so many points solutions, inside the contact centre that everybody knows, you can’t have, you can’t be great at everything. And oftentimes, when you’re a seeker is you’re great at building lead solution, which is already enormous and has a tonne of functionality. You remember back in the day, ACD, and dialer and everything separate, right? You combine all those, and then you start throwing in all these alternate tools, people start to realise that the best in breed, they really want to create efficiencies, and get the best technology that’s out there, they’re probably not going to be in an all in one process. What I would love to see, and I’ve talked to a few of the bigger vendors, I would love to see a company just recognise that contact centres don’t buy everything all at once, right, we bought we buy stuff in this industry to solve a problem an individual problem. And we tend to do it kind of piece by piece. If one of the vendors would actually recognise that people want to buy what they want to buy, when they want to buy it and allow them to do that. I think that vendor could potentially win a lot of business, keeping those those products separate, and be a catalogue and use the whatever point of entry a company wants, and allow them to win that client support them provide excellent service. And then the next time their next solution comes up, it’s logical that they’re going to consider that company but no one’s done it. Everybody buys somebody in gold sit into their platform, and then says sorry, you need to buy the whole platform. It just, I think our industry is we’re although we do a lot of great cutting edge technology on the points around I don’t think we do a good job of no one’s really on the market share when it comes to contact centre technology. It maybe it’s too hard. And who knows. I’m just throwing stuff out there. But I think if somebody really did partner, like you said, and buy all the right solutions, allow people to bundle them if they want buy point solutions when they need them. I think that’s the winning formula, and no one’s successfully. So that’s a bit like the ecosystem kind of model a bit like the App Store or Google Play Store, which is I want something extra, I press a button. And it just integrates automatically, because it’s part of the same kind of suite to certain extent, but you get a maybe you get some sort of bundle price. And you can add on to take away features in software a lot. Salesforce, right. And then everybody tries to model Salesforce, but they don’t really deliver, you know, and they don’t hold themselves accountable for all the other pieces. I don’t know that the app store, it’s how we were comfortable buying today. So I get it. I don’t know, I just think there’s a better way to do it. Just in my opinion, I can’t help it when you come from like hardware based platforms. And the days, it was all about provide a great platform, but especially provide a great service. And I think a lot of companies, they went too far to the other side where they’re like, we just want to build software, let other people service it. And I don’t I just don’t like that philosophy. Anyway. What about the economy? So we talked about we were talking just a little bit earlier around sort of elections around the world, there’s a lot of elections around the world, the economy seems to really I suppose coming out of the pandemic been struggling? I think just gent generally it feels like cost of living seems like that’s an issue everywhere. Certainly interest rates seem like it’s an issue everywhere. What’s the outlook there for the economy? And how you see it? And what does that mean for consumers who might be struggling, but then also for businesses who might then also be looking at costs as well.

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29:01
It’s such an interesting time. From a macroeconomic perspective, obviously, this year’s election is one thing, but just pure economics. Yeah, that

29:12
the inflation is higher for longer, it’s going to it looks like it’s going to stay there for a while. And we didn’t really beat inflation. Based on the last two reports. We’ll see what the third one if the third one shows higher interest or higher inflation. Again, we’re showing a trend, things could get really ugly. But the job market over here is unemployment is still at one of the lowest numbers. It’s been it’s such a weird time. That’s the confusing part for a lot of enterprises and the consumers. You read the news and it’s like, greatest economy ever. And then you go into the grocery store and you’re two to three times the bill that you used to pay for the same things, which exaggerated a little right I think it’s something like 30% or something. But nonetheless

30:00
Yeah, so there’s so I think there’s more fear and uncertainty right now in the macroeconomic side that is delaying some buying decisions or forcing some buying decisions that are promised to provide better savings. It’s such an interesting time, you look at Main Street and you talk to the normal person here in the States, and the things aren’t good. You look at Wall Street, and we’re at all time highs.

30:29
It’s a weird time, the employment markets interesting into with low unemployment, high inflation, low unemployment. And I think that probably also then speaks to then how does that fit in? Then go back to digital adoption as well? Because if you can’t hire the people, then do you need technology to take some of that load? at a very minimum to a certain extent? Yeah, of course you do. But it’s, nobody has any good answers, right. I think there’s a general mistrust right now. And the numbers that are provided, if people even look at it, most people just go about their day, they look at when gas is high, they’re like, yes, it’s high. It’s expensive to drive my car. When groceries are high. It’s expensive to live, when rents high. It’s those kinds of things that they see most people in the states see on a daily basis, I tend to spend probably more time, probably not much higher percentile for the amount of time that I focus on macroeconomics, but I think it’s so important. I don’t have any good answers about that. What I do know is that it is clearly the uncertainty is impacting buying decisions, both directions, right to buy or to not by,

31:31
and that’s not going to shift anytime soon. I expect to have to get through the election, get through this year, get on to whoever wins and 2025, we’ll start to get some more clarity to what is actually going on. And how do you think firms should prepare for that there’s a lot of uncertainty, but also in one things we did learn through the pandemic was we probably weren’t prepared enough. And if we had some of these things beforehand, then we could have been better prepared, right? I mean, what are some of the things you think firms need to be looking at now to just to get ready, however it comes out from from but it is uncertain, but prepare for the uncertainty in mind. redundancy in everywhere you possibly can, Bob viously, ensuring that one your data is safe, secure and available for training, whether you’re you’ve got AI in your plan for this year, or next year or the year after, sooner or later, you’re going to need that data accessible, you’re gonna need it.

32:27
You’re going to need to standardise your model is stored in a somewhere when start, start cleaning up, start preparing it but you need the right infrastructure and your people. You know, I’m a in the end, I started as an agent, I grew into leadership, I ran centres before I got into the software side. So from that perspective, is that it’s still people processes technology, right? So make sure that you’ve got your people in place that can adopt change, look to the future, and then your processes in place to make sure you can continue to scale in the technology to do. Yeah, I mean, there’s no good answers. But the one thing I’m sure of is if you’re not down the path of digital transformation and data cleanup and normalisation.

33:11
You’re behind you don’t want to be searching through spreadsheets or searching through reports trying to find the data after it’s happened, right. You want to be having it beforehand as much as you can, I think yeah.

33:22
Go back to your IT team. And if you still use cm using CSV files, you got it. You got some work to do, I think the dot matrix printing

33:32
thing about how far we’ve come? Yeah, yeah. Next thing we know we’re putting the rotary dial phones back on agent’s desk, stop it. That’s the Yeah, yeah, we do what we can, right. The contact centre has always been a KPI driven organisation long before anybody else really was in my opinion. And I think if you’re if you know your data, or your numbers, you understand your business and you can tie it back to your core values of your business and then move it forward it I just don’t I What makes me nervous is that when I see companies who used to say customer experience was the only thing that mattered to now not even mentioned it in their earnings calls or in their reports, or CEOs aren’t talking about it as much as they were for even three years three pandemics. Hopefully we don’t lose sight of that. Yeah, these are quite interesting, subtle signs, I think around potentially financial stress as well. So if we’re talking about the financials more, but actually the customer experience piece maybe came from when there’s a little bit of slightly richer time in terms of profit margins, but actually, it’s really important because you’re gonna get it back if you treat the customers better. Yeah, the numbers don’t lie, right. Every report you’d read about the impact of customer experience and employee experience. He shows that the performance of the company is significantly more. I did a talk on that not too long. No, it’s been longer. It’s been a couple of years. But doing the research for it. It was big numbers we were looking at 20 30% out

35:00
performance, the companies that focused on employee experience and customer experience as far as financial performance, right, so the numbers don’t lie. It’s just, I think it’s hard. Like you said during rougher Financial Times or uncertainty, it’s really hard to convince a board that note that the experience is what matters and we need to spend on us. Because they’ve also not done a good job. And we as an industry have not done a good job of tying the financials back to the results back to the scene to the customer experience. It really caught short. If you don’t have a if you don’t invest in future capability, and you just like looking at things very short term, perpetuated. Where do you think we really think we go over the next 1218 months? I know you’re talking about the optimism around it. We talked quite a lot around AI large language models, digital transformation. But what are your predictions, if I get to get your crystal ball out again,

35:50
you keep making me pull it out. The good news is I actually like to talk about predictions. And I’m willing to stick my neck out there because sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes I’m right, I’m often too fast on my predictions, but they sooner or later come true. So I asked him you over the next 12 to 18. Digital Transformation CCAFs is going to continue to accelerate a lot of shifts from cloud to cloud. And a lot of I would say, not half baked, but half smaller project implementations that will lead to much bigger on the AI side, the agent assistant stuff people, it’s an easy, it’s a no brainer, that I’ll continue to move the analytics stuff, voice analytics, digital analytics, QA QM automation, that stuff’s proven, those points solutions that really do solve and provide an easy ROI. Those will continue to move, we won’t see the big impact, I think Intel, but a voice in digital biotechnology really accelerates adaption that requires all the rest of the cleanup like we talked about, if you require some work, and there’ll be plenty of people who will try to bring that technology out before they do the back end work, right? No have challenges but 1218 months is just not that long. It used to be forever when we were kids, right? 12 To 18 months was like, forever. We’re old, we turned a year older. But now it’s like 1218 months is nothing. But I think there will be a lot of advancements.

37:17
And it’s also quite interesting, I suppose just going back to the age of the.com, I suppose just the time between when we’re talking about it when actually get to see it right. And that’s some of that base work going on. Although I do think that time is getting short, it feels like Absolutely. And a trainee models ever since Google, put out that memo or their release of the concept of the Transformers from 18 1718. When that came out, I don’t remember exact dates, but it’s just accelerated. And then November of 22. Chat GPT launch it, they didn’t expect to see what they did. And as soon as that came, the acceleration is just it’s crazy. Every one of us wishes back in in 2022. We invested in Nvidia, but the training and tuning and the advancement of the models, the integration of the technology agent, right versus that it’s yeah, I’ve never seen anything like it. But I think that’s true about every Industrial Revolution. I just think that this one is accelerating at a pace so fast that we can’t.

38:27
We definitely can’t. We don’t have the time we did like in the manufacturing revolution. We had years decades actually, to train the people plan and move them into alternate career paths and stuff like that. So this change is coming too fast. That’s one of the things in the back of my head that I worry about is when you take people’s jobs and their purpose. We humans we need a purpose. Otherwise things get Lord. What does it say? I lost the book, Lord of the Flies. Yeah. Thank you for flies when you lose a purpose. Humans don’t behave well. Yeah. So hopefully we can solve and take that seriously. I think the idea of a universal basic income has been thrown around a lot, although you don’t hear much talk about it right now. And that makes up a bit recently. More recently. That makes me wonder, I’m curious about why all of a sudden, no one’s paying attention to the idea of the acceleration of these tools and the future of human work and life. Right. I think it’s important conversation that we need to keep having some anyways, I wonder if we take a bit of a setback and a bit of a pause just for the humans to catch up to a certain extent or technology wise. It’s a very exciting time to be watching it at least anyway, but it will. It’ll be interesting to see how that says that sort of pans out going forward. Really? Yeah, absolutely. Fred, thanks very much for making the time. I know we talked about a lot there.

39:50
But I really appreciate you taking the time. It’s great to get your insight. Yeah, no, I appreciate you having me.

#CTG


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