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Xerox Executive Interview

RG Conlee, Chief Innovation Officer, Xerox

Xerox Services - Meeting the Unfulfilled Expectations of the Jaded Consumer

We’ve heard it over and over: people are constantly bombarded by a non-stop flow of messages on every imaginable media. Fifty percent of consumers are concerned with what the brands they deal with do with their personal data. When they choose to get in touch with businesses, they want to communicate and obtain customer service via the mode they prefer, which increasingly is on a digital channel. They not only want better service, a majority of customers (56%) would be willing to pay more for it. Perhaps most alarming, more than 4 in 10 think the days of the call center are numbered, believing that call centers will be extinct by 2025.

These are some of the conclusions drawn in a 2015 State of Customer Service Report survey by Xerox. The study approached 6,000 consumers across five countries and two continents.-2,000 from the US, and 1,000 each from the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. In short, it demonstrates that many consumers are jaded: having had a steady flow of negative experiences and disappointment, they’ve reached the point where their anger circuits have melted down and they have learned to accept disillusionment.

While RG Conlee, Chief Innovation Officer for Xerox, acknowledges that meeting expectations and reviving the dulled-down faith of customers is not an easy task, he sees hope on the horizon for organizations that are willing to embrace automation to improve traditional, manual processes. Xerox’s progressive approach to achieving a customer care vision that simultaneously leverages all channels was instrumental in earning the global company recognition in the High Performers category of the Hfs Research 2016 Contact Center Operations Services Blueprint Report. This report recognizes a provider’s attention to --and capability for use-- of talent and technology in areas such as automation and insight.

“We’re gratified that HfS acknowledged some of the benefits offered by our solution: the strong architectural platform and inside-out technology of the Xerox Automation Suite,” said Conlee. “It’s an automated system that has the capacity to listen, continually learn and improve.”

One of Conlee’s key areas of responsibility is to increase the deployment of automation and analytics in the services Xerox offers to customers. “One of our major priorities over the next 12-18 months will be to embed robotic process automation technology (RPA) across the broad base of our capabilities,” he said. “We also plan to accelerate the application of advanced analytics such as predictive as a prescriptive solution. Of course, we will be aggressively deploying our next-generation customer care technology infrastructure to create an improved client experience by using cognitive computing techniques to expedite problem resolution.” 

Xerox uses analytics labs to deploy, test and refine new processes in a real-life situation on a limited scale. This enables them to be ready for full scale delivery to their vast business processing outsourcing operations. “Sixty percent of Xerox Services’ business is outsourcing,” said Conlee. “We have 55,000 call center agents and handle more than 2 million calls a day. “ 

Contact center and self-care applications are embedded in a suite of tools developed by WDS, a company acquired by Xerox several years ago. These include:

• Knowledge-as-a-service, (KaaS) which provides a dynamic source of omnichannel support knowledge.
• Virtual Agent, a self-service tool that automates interactions between a business and customers built on a machine learning platform that draws on leading work from Xerox Research Centre Europe (XRCE) and Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) which is also a Xerox company.
• AgentIQ and Agent Expert which deliver cumulative intelligence from subject matter experts and scalable expertise through a care agent interface.

While 55% of customers say they prefer self-care, only 3% actually use it. “FAQs do not deliver self-service,” said Conlee. “While many people start on the web, they then escalate to chat. For most, the journey starts on mobile.” He believes that when self-care becomes embedded in devices, more people will use it.

Given the disconnect between customer and company perception of good service, why haven’t more companies adapted automation as a strategy? “Procurement groups are driven by cost and are not in a strategic change mode,” said Conlee. “But as contact centers become a cost liability, the ability to reduce expenses by as much as 40% and provide better customer care will become more of a win-win.”

Right now, Xerox is focusing on its in-state outsourcing customers as the chief users of its technology. But Conlee believes that will soon be changing as well. “I’ve made over 100 presentation of our next-gen customer care capabilities in the past 11 months,” he said. “By next year, I believe we’ll start seeing significant implementation.”

Conlee also does not buy into the prediction in the Xerox State of Customer Service survey that contact centers as we know them will cease to exist by 2025. “I believe that the number of centers with between 2000 and 4000 seats will shrink as self-service use grows: it could be that by that time, the percentage will swing dramatically to an 80/20 situation with 80% of customer choosing self-service and 20% still using the voice channel.”