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Discover how to transform your customer service with the latest innovations

Julie Couchman, Log in to subscribe to the Blog

The Pega Discover event series delivers insights on the topics and technologies that solve today’s business challenges and prepare businesses for the future. In our recent, interactive Customer Service Online Summit, industry leaders discussed how they are rethinking customer service to be more empathetic, engaging, and simple. This new type of service requires outside-in thinking that supports customers and employees in cost-efficient ways. “We must anticipate customer needs before there’s an issue or before customers move on to a more nimble alternative,” advises Pega’s CEO and Founder, Alan Trefler. Businesses need to change their thinking to architect their systems based on customers’ intended outcomes and the journeys they take to get to those outcomes. Says Alan, “This way of thinking integrates engagement, automation, and service into a holistic approach.”

A Customer Service Recalibration with Blake Morgan and Jeff Nicholson

Customer Experience Futurist and Author, Blake Morgan, and Pega’s Global Head of CRM, Jeff Nicholson, kicked off the summit by discussing how businesses can reset their service strategies in uncertain times.

“These are not normal times,” says Blake.“… And so today we need to think about empathy, about how we can make our customers’ lives easier and better at home and at work.”

In traditional service, contact center agents spent time fielding phone-based inquiries; piecing together customer histories while managing massive contact volumes. Customer engagements were mostly reactive, with agents responding only when the customer contacted the business for help. And they were managing their success by performance metrics such as Average Handle Time (AHT), which lacked a deep understanding of the circumstances that prompted a customer to call in the first place.

Recently, however, we’ve seen a major shift from the call center to a real customer engagement center. By shifting the focus away from a product-centric approach and taking a more customer-centric approach to operations, businesses are reducing call volumes and creating better experiences for both their customers and their agents. Or, as Jeff describes it, bringing together the customer’s moment of need with the moment of resolution.

Technologies like smarter, contextual self-service, email bots, intelligent virtual assistants, and unified messaging are making it easier to provide customer-centric service while managing volume and reducing costs. These technologies are also allowing businesses to incorporate decisioning that can proactively and preemptively identify potential issues, giving them the ability to reach out to customers before the customer even thinks about contacting them.

The ROI of shifting to this type of customer-centric approach can be significant. “If you can simply be just even five or 10% better than your competitor,” explained Blake, “you will always have a customer because customers don't expect you to know them. They don't expect you to anticipate their needs. Five to 10% better can create huge gains for your customer experience.”


How Aflac Has Unleashed the Power of Agile Service

Aflac, a North American life assurance company specializing in supplemental benefits, shared the story of their service transformation journey. Their One Digital Aflac strategy is focused on making it easier for customers to buy products and connect in a time of need, and for employees to sell products and support customers on the channel of their choice. Key to the success of the strategy is an Agile approach to transformation. Digital Services Director, Tashia Brandenburg, says, “Using an agile approach, we reshape the future when the needs of our business partners and our customers change.”

One of the first agile projects Aflac implemented is a contact solution center platform that delivers a seamless experience in real-time across all of their channels, including 24/7 contextual self-service. They’ve since extended their customer service capabilities with intelligent virtual assistants for email and chat, which are resolving 80% of inquiries – without the need of a human touch. And because of their Agile methodologies, they were also able to quickly add group chat capabilities as a way to address recent challenges in the current pandemic.

According to Nicole Evens, Director of Aflac’s New York Regional Operations and CSC Process, Innovation, and Control, “We're having our one-year anniversary on September 13th. And it's such an amazing opportunity that our numbers in terms of growth continue to rise. We're meeting the customers where they're at, when they need us.”

Customer Service: Stronger After COVID-19

Continuing the conversation on meeting customers where they are, Michelle Sobin, Accenture’s Managing Director and Pega Customer Service Lead, emphasized, “Customers expect the Amazon experience.”

Some businesses are finding that the need for remote and distributed workforces during the pandemic can make it challenging to deliver seamless, contextual customer experiences. But Accenture sees it differently – as an opportunity for businesses right now to rethink their customer service and retool operations for greater speed and agility. For example, unified messaging, intelligent virtual assistants, and email bots can be deployed quickly to help businesses and their front-line agents do more with less. And taking a center-out approach to structuring their systems so that AI and business rules operate across channels helps businesses connect information and scale operations.

“We are finding the last holdouts are adopting agile practices to achieve faster transformation,” says Michelle. “At Accenture, we see the challenges and, at the same time, we are committed to taking advantage of the unprecedented opportunities enabled by Pega's new technologies, like AI, intelligent virtual assistants, and cloud to help us help our clients meet those challenges.”

Pega’s two-hour online summit is filled with new insights on how businesses can simplify service and make transformation real. To learn more, check out all of the session replays below.

Watch replays of all the event keynotes and sessions:


A Customer Service Recalibration – Blake Morgan, Customer Experience Futurist; Jeff Nicholson, Pega

How Aflac Has Unleashed the Power of Agile Service – Nicole Evans and Tashia Brandenburg, Aflac; John Huehn, Pega

Customer Service: Stronger After COVID-19 – Michelle Sobin, Accenture

Spotlight Talks

Using AI to Bring Customer Service to the Next Level – Michelle Sobin, Accenture; Linda Leigh Brock, NASCO

Personalized Healthcare Experience at 10x Speed – Stuart Chandler, Virtusa; Naga Vellala, Anthem

The Story at Du: How Enterprise Automation Delivers Transformational Results – Rafa Domene, TTEC Digital; Bogaç Giritlioglu, Pega

Dynamic Digital Customer Engagement – Shirish Joshi, Capgemini

Want even more insights? See content from our Discover Events on one-to-one engagement and intelligent automation, plus join us and connect with brands from around the world on the latest tech, ideas, and success stories at our largest virtual event, PegaWorld iNspire!


Product Area: Customer Service Solution Area: Customer Service Topic: Customer Service

About the Author

As Pega’s Global Marketing Program Director for Customer Engagement, Julie Couchman helps educate and engage business leaders around the world on the best ways to simplify complex processes, engage with empathy, and future-proof operations.

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