Monthly Archives: February 2018


Leading Merchandising as Something Bigger, by Andrew Potter, MD, CPM Australia

 

As a business who has been deploying merchandising services on behalf of national and multi-national clients for over 20 years, we’re always trying to challenge the status quo and ensure we are leading best practice. We are constantly re-evaluating, re-inventing and re-calibrating the ‘old’ processes and systems and asking ourselves “Is our merchandising model optimizing the best deployment of resources and costs – plus are we creating value for our clients?” These questions keep us in line with our mantra of helping our clients ‘sell more for less.’

 

Whether it be merchandising, direct sales or customer service, we’re continually rethinking the way an activity can be structured and managed so that it delivers value not only to our clients, but also to retailers and their customers.

 

One of the best examples of where we got to lead best practice and to trial merchandising as something ’bigger’ is the merchandising work that we’ve implemented and still manage for our national telecommunications client.

 

In 2016, our telecommunications client recognised that their current field merchandising structure was underperforming.  Their ineffective call cycles and below-average compliance results were just a couple of signals that their field approach needed an overhaul. To increase market share in the highly competitive prepaid category, they appointed Retail Safari in Australia to help drive operational excellence and to assist in bridging the gap between their merchandisers and third-party retailers.

The key challenge was to build better retail conversations amid non-branded stores Australia-wide and to undertake this exercise, our first step was to reinvigorate the merchandising function by introducing a sales-led approach.

 

To ensure higher brand presence than their competitors, the newly formed sales merchandising team were tasked with both traditional and non-traditional merchandising responsibilities, with the main focus on ensuring their in-store influence maintained a positive halo effect post their store visit.

By reinvigorating the merchandising function with this sales-led approach, our client’s product has never been more prominent and as a result their service and sales numbers are at an all-time high. Their time and reach provides valuable engagement time that allows our people to: foster in-store relationships, ensure higher brand presence against their competitors and promote product benefits.

 

Since the inception of this program, we’ve been arming staff with the appropriate sales skills and value drivers. With this know-how, our field team continue to have meaningful sales conversations in-store with key stakeholders in the retail environment. These informed conversations stem from an insight-led approach where staff can access real-time insights and post-sale data which in turn results in driving orders and incremental in-store space, plus the ability to articulate the latest product features and benefits.

 

Andrew Potter, Managing Director, CPM & Retail Safari, Australia.

merchandising

Welcome to our first edition of Leadership Team Blog articles for 2018, from CPM International Contact Centre, Barcelona ” Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning: Demystified ” which comes from Emanuele Ceppelli, IT Director at CPM International Contact Centre.

“Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning: Demystified”

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most significant transformational break-throughs – and perhaps least understood – in modern times. In many ways, the charm of AI is that we don´t realize we are using it when we use Siri, Alexa, or when the phone automatically corrects your grammar.

 

In very good company with the more notorious innovations like the steam engine, electricity, and the combustion engine, AI is the most important general-purpose technology of our era. But, what is AI doing and how quickly is it improving? Two are the areas of progress that best support the AI journey to improvement: perception and cognition.

 

Perception

With regard to the “perception”, some of the most practical advances have been made in relation to speech. Voice recognition is still far from perfect, but millions of people are now using it — think Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant as an example (by the way – this article was dictated to a computer and transcribed with sufficient accuracy).

These advances in voice recognition have evolved into the ability of a computer to recognize the human natural way of speaking. This ability is known as Natural Language Processing, or NLP. Rather than face limited touch-tone or rigid Directed Dialog, customers can now speak naturally to the device in use.

 

A study by the Stanford computer scientist James Landay and colleagues found that speech recognition is now about three times as fast, on average, as typing on a cell phone. The error rate, once 8.5%, has dropped to 4.9%. What’s striking is that this substantial improvement has come not over the past 10 years but just since the summer of 2016 (source: Stanford Education Research)

We are also assisting to a rapid improvement in the machine’s ability to recognize images.

An app running on your smartphone will recognize almost any bird in the wild. Image recognition is replacing ID cards and customers analytics, access control; public safety has also started counting massively on facial recognition.

 

Cognition

In terms of “cognition” on the other hand, the improvements are going as fast as those around “perception”.
Machine learning (ML), is based on learning from examples rather than a rigid code telling the software what to do and at what time. This is an important break from previous practice.

In a world where DATA are produced at an astonishing rate and machines can learn from examples, we have served the perfect loop for constantly feeding AI engines with relevant information to exponentially grow the ML capability.

 

A system using IBM technology automates the claims process at an insurance company in Singapore, and a system from Lumidatum, a data science platform firm, offers timely advice to improve customer support. Dozens of companies are using ML to decide which trades to execute on Wall Street, and more and more credit decisions are made with its help. Amazon employs ML to optimize inventory and improve product recommendations to customers. Infinite Analytics developed one ML system to predict whether a user would click on a particular ad, improving online ad placement for a global consumer packaged goods company. JPMorgan Chase introduced a system for reviewing commercial loan contracts; work that used to take loan officers 360,000 hours can now be done in a few seconds. And supervised learning systems are now being used to diagnose skin cancer (source: JPMorgan, Bloomberg)

Let´s see how AI can help our Contact Centres to deliver a better service more efficiently.

 

Powered by ML and NLP, an Intelligent Front Door replaces and upgrades traditional IVR routing. It allows offering the ease of conversational communication, with Natural Language intent capture at the outset of every call.

An Intelligent Front Door can provide benefits in:

  • Personalisation
  • Self Service
  • Effective Agent

Personalisation

Customers are still calling and every year their expectations are higher than the previous year.

AI helps to offer a proactive and personalized experience from the start. With AI and the right data, customers are recognised and their needs anticipated.

 

Self-Service

More than half of the customers liaising with a Contact Centre wants to “self-serve”.

artificial intelligence

source: smartactions (trademark)

With an AI engine and the right DATA, it is possible to provide a personalised and efficient self-service to customers starting from a natural conversation. Many are the processes that can be automated thanks to AI.

 

Effective Agent

By removing the initial contact steps thanks to an intelligent front door, Agents are talking only to the right customers and at the right moment, those that need them most. Customer experience success and failure often revolve around customers’ experiences with Agents.

Since routing and self-service can be automated for the repeatable tasks, Agents are likely to be more engaged. They have access to calls and the most updated customer data through CTI and/or screen pops; warm transfers become the norm thanks to AI and as most of the customers hate repeating information, the Agents do not have to make them.

 

In summary, AI is likely not a fake and the first to use it effectively will reap the most benefits. Whilst still in its infancy phase, the pace of innovation is exponential and the signs of progress will never be so slow again. Speech recognition has reduced the error rate by 50% only in the last 12 months. This means that in a blink of an eye many Contact Centres will run AI engines as they have configured IVRs until now. But it is only through trial and error that businesses can reach effectiveness in using AI.

 

To find out more or if you have any questions, please contact Emanuele Ceppelli on: emanuele.ceppelli@cpm-int.com.

Outsourcing, How do you make 1+1=3

 

The pace of change has never been so fast, with all businesses, markets and sectors being challenged by where to invest to grow, skills shortages, new entrants and margin erosion. The need to partner and have a flexible cost, skills and asset base has never been greater, however if you believed the headlines about ‘Outsourcing’ you might take the view, is this model outdated and time for a change…

 

With so many clear benefits of Outsourcing should the debate not be about how to make Outsourcing a success and why Outsourcers are in the main seen as Suppliers rather than Partners….

 

Is the term Outsourcing in itself the issue? Should in future the  objective be ‘Smart Sourcing’ where Clients identify partners that bring investment in assets that deliver value and agility in a world where the pace of change demands the need to compete with new entrants and start ups that are disrupting their markets.

 

The benefits of Outsourcing are clear if done well:

  • Business Focus: Businesses can focus on their core service offering and outsource tasks that require Insight, assets, channels and talent that are not core to their business
  • Efficiency: Leveraging an existing infrastructure of an Outsource business will deliver efficiency and best practice, therefore taking Clients through the experience curve much faster
  • Flexibility: Clients can flex Talent, Data and IT  resources without the internal cost and process constraints
  • Speed: The pace of change is relentless, Outsourcing with a partner that has invested in Technology and Talent systems that designed to deliver at pace and integrate with current processes gives Clients a competitive advantage
  • Talent Pipeline: Outsourcing with a partner that designs Talent systems that align with Clients competencies and values delivers a constant pipeline of future Talent
  • Insight: Data and Intelligence can deliver a key competitive advantage, Outsourcing to a partner that invests in how to use data to maximise ROI will ensure that resources are deployed to maximise return
  • Expertise that keeps Clients ahead: By Outsourcing a task that is core to an Outsourcer that is committed to investing in their asset base will ensure that the Service offering will remain future proofed and allow Clients to focus their investment on growing the Core business
  • Test and Learn: To grow there is always a need to invest in opportunities that are not delivering revenue currently, Outsourcing allows the flexibility to ‘Test and Learn’ without the distraction of current teams delivering in the core markets

 

So if the argument to ‘Smart Source’ is clear, how do you make this your competitive advantage? The truth is as ever with every partnership both parties have to play their part and work hard at the relationship, however the sentiment has to move from Supplier to Partner!

 

So, how do you make 1+1=3:

The Buyer’s Role:

  • Commitment from the Top:  Being really clear about why and what you are partnering for is essential and led from the top, this involves being part of the selection process and committing to a ‘Top to Top’ relationship
  • Clear aims and objectives:  It is important that both client and partner  jointly develop clear Joint business plan that details the vision, results and behaviours are expected from the partnership
  • Confidence in the Partner:  There needs to be confidence that the client organisation could not provide a better service ‘in house’ either due to cost, skills or assets that the partner brings. That confidence allows the Client to value and respect the partnership and what it delivers
  • Comparative treatment:  The organisation must treat partners people with the same respect and camaraderie as internal employees. Partnering does not make ‘Loaves and Fishes’ achievable, therefore agree the targets and stretch goals together
  • Commit to the Partnership:  Commit to reviewing the ‘Joint Business Plan’ of the partnership monthly and quarterly to ensure there is alignment on results and future plans. Share your plans and objectives as part of these reviews to ensure the partner is delivering to the business agenda

The Partners Role:

  • ‘Do what you say you are going to do’Trust is key in any Partnership, therefore delivering on agreed objectives is key in creating and maintaining that trust. As part of this the overall sentiment always has to be around acting in the best interests of the Client organisation even if that has short term financial impact for the Partner organisation. Create ‘True Stories’ as case studies of how great results and value are created by delivering on the Joint Business plan
  • Consistency & Quality of People:  People relationships at the Client and Partner organisations is an important factor, however in particular the consistency and quality of the team you deploy will have a large bearing on the outputs and relationship
  • Proactivity:  Having a clear agenda and process for ensuring that the partnership creates a competitive advantage for the Client organisation is key, the pace of change will only increase, therefore committing resources to driving innovation is key
  • Client Focus:  Create a Client focus culture where is it the priority of the whole organisation to deliver on the Client objectives and have a knowledge, understanding and passion for their market that matches the Client organisation
  • Invest:  The Partner must be an expert in their Service offering, however more importantly have clear plans to invest in the future to keep them as the expert and a partner that creates a competitive advantage for Clients

The Relationship:

  • Connection to the top:  A ‘Top to Top’ relationship allows for communication of overall business strategy and early escalation of any issues to allow for a speedy resolution. Ensuring that both parties commit to this demonstrates that that the partnership is seen as a competitive advantage to the Client
  • Contract flexibilityThe pace of change demands that the contract allows for agility in the type of service and resources being deployed, therefore the contract needs to provide for this and not disadvantage one partner over the other
  • Cultural FitEnsuring that both partners see the world the same way in terms of business values,  talent management, business ethics, investment and overall commitment to the partnership is key to both the success and overall sentiment of the relationship

Key Takeaway

 

Seeing clear value in any Outsourced engagement is key in ensuring that the relationship can be seen as a partnership rather than a Client/Supplier arrangement. Given the recent examples of poor Outsourcing is now the time to re-examine your current relationships and ensure you gaining the value and competitive advantage that is required in this fast paced business world.

 

CPM are experts in Outsourced Sales across sectors such as B2B, B2C, Automotive, FMCG, Utilities and On Trade. ROI for our Clients is core to our DNA, therefore our continued investment in Insight and data intelligence is key to deploying Sales resources to where the greatest return will be delivered. CPM are Omni-channel experts with the ability to blend F2F, Contact Centre and Digital to deliver a seamless Sales experience.

 

If you want to discuss how to partner to achieve Sales success please contact Phil Roberts 07739 301187 phil.roberts@uk.cpm-int.com

Outsourcing,

 

 



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