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October 22, 2020

The CX Tipping Point with Ashish Bisaria, EVP & Global Head of CX @ Firstsource

In this episode of Thoughtline, learn how to sync CX operation and execution strategies along every touchpoint for experiences that delight everyone, every time.

Full Transcript

Boris Grinshpun: [00:01:14] Good morning and good afternoon, listeners and viewers.

[00:01:18] Welcome back to our weekly podcast. The thought line series today. We’re lucky enough to be joined by  EVP and global head of customer experience at force source. How are you today?

Ashish Bisaria: [00:01:32] I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me on this podcast. 

Boris Grinshpun: [00:01:37] It’s our pleasure. It’s our pleasure. So Ashish, you and I have talked quite a little bit on the topic of a customer experience.

[00:01:45] We’ve talked about all things, sort of technology related as well, but for folks who are not familiar with you and what you’ve done in the industry, would you mind providing a little bit of background and how you got here today? 

Ashish Bisaria: [00:01:57] Sure. Boris, uh, [00:02:00] born and brought up in India and I’ve been lucky to be around a family.

[00:02:05] But there was a ton of the career based around people’s experience in a lab at my dad’s, a doctor with a private practice and medicine in India and private practice has a lot to do with relationships. Oh, I don’t know if I had the acceptance of the smartness to understand that as a teenager, but I did see what creating experience does.

[00:02:29] To somebody’s brand our equity and the growth of a practice. I think it influenced me enough to do my MBA. And I think when I look at customer experience, there are three, it says that they have been formed to not do enough to do what the 25 years, first, eight years I started as a strategist, big four consulting firm.

[00:02:51] You look at from a theoretical perspective and ideology perspective, and you guide your clients. And navigate them through the customer [00:03:00] experience. The good part about consultants is you are exposed to all industries, so you’re not an individual company specific expert. You kind of get a bra view of industry.

[00:03:12] Oh, those eight years were excellent. And then all consultants at stage are challenged and asked. It’s easy to tell me how to do my job. It’s different than to do it. Right. Um, timing was perfect. Um, During these eight years, I lived in seven different countries on my way to us and sprint was acquiring next term.

[00:03:34] And you can only imagine two distinct business models, sprint more attractive to consumers like uni next to more towards transportation logistics drivers on a push to talk platform and bringing these two companies together was my foray into actually being on the operations side. And learning what it takes to deliver on customer experience.

[00:03:58] And few other [00:04:00] industries work for a.com worked for a automotive company, but dated for about 13 years as an operator. And that left one more lens, which is a service provider or a customer experience provider typically known as outsources. And over the last four years, I’ve been on the outsourcing side of it, doing it for my clients.

[00:04:21] So I feel blessed that this journey has given me the strategic, the hands on operational, and now both aspect on behalf of my clients for them. 

[00:04:34] Boris Grinshpun: [00:04:34] So that’s certainly, you know, having those different lenses and combining sort of the ops piece to the strategy piece. I mean, it’s just so, so vital because we kind of see that, you know, sometimes there’s really sort of great advice provided by the strategists, but will it actually be put into play?

[00:04:51] Will it be operationally executed correctly and will it, will it sort of scale to some degree? But I think w w we’ll start, I’ll [00:05:00] start off with my first question, which is kind of an important question. Um, what does a customer experience with such a loaded word? Right. I mean, everybody keeps talking about, it means different things to different people.

[00:05:12] Uh, you know, we can maybe if you can get us to a great, like, what does customer experience mean in 2020 today? 

Ashish Bisaria: [00:05:19] Yup. So at bars I would talk to stop it, the human behavior here, I think the last 10 years. We as humans have being trained or have gotten used to what I call instant gratification, right? Knowledge is instantly available.

[00:05:37] Products are instantly available. You want something, you click of a button, swipe off a screen. It’s dark. I think we’ve asked customers, I’ve come to expect that if I want something snap of a finger, I should get it right. I think that’s how we are being trained. And in that. Underlying thing which has become more prominent is the amount of choices I have.

[00:06:00] No choice has got both with. Sometimes I may be overwhelmed. I just spent to buy ketchup, but there are 27,000 brands of ketchup to look at to decide which one I want. Right. But I would say from a human behavior, the fact that instant gratification and that gives me choices dictates I try and looking at the trends that are happening.

[00:06:23] Or a slightly changing as we evolve in this thinking. So I’ll start. Um, and you started with 20, 26 months back. Had we generally ask the world around the concept of work at home, around the concept of human interaction, being around people, most people would have Snickers, right? People talk about how they want to get away from the crowd, how they want the space and everything.

[00:06:52] Six months into it. We are dying to get back to our friends and family and colleagues. I know I can be around people, right? [00:07:00] Our core attribute for us at the end of the day is still human connection. And, you know, customer service students are typically taught, show empathy, be empathetic, but I think, and I use this word empathy as a toolkit has become more prominent today.

[00:07:20] Then it ever was. And it’s not only for the customer. It’s even for us as employees, as colleagues, as customer service agents and employees, we want that human connection. And I, I would say empathy will take a resurgence in ways that we didn’t expect the pandemic to do for it. So that’s one of my trend and one of my beds. I think smarter companies, Paris have learned that there is more to experience.

[00:07:47] So we talk about customer journey mapping. There’s a lot of, how do people move between the digital and the physical space? And that’s look at all the touchpoints and let’s map it and then improve it. Right? I think that [00:08:00] way too, talk about this is customer journey orchestration, and that word is very important.

[00:08:09] We know what customers are doing, the data of how they move between physical and digital space has not been collected for the last 20 years. How do I orchestrate those moments and create better periods. And I tie to this, the word, this is about micro experiences. It’s subtle. And I’ll use an example that we don’t typically think about 20 years back.

[00:08:37] If you called somebody for a complaint or a topic or an issue. You had to categorically ask, knowing that nobody resolves it on the first time you have to category, they ask, can you send me an email with the confirmation or what the upper right fast forward, 20 years, you never asked that you finish a reservation, an email pops up, [00:09:00] you ordered a product and even pops up your credit card, got debited or notification pops up, right?

[00:09:05] It’s a micro experience, which has become part of the norm. And smart companies understand that we are used to certain micro experiences. And when you integrate those multiple micro experiences and orchestrator, that’s what I think is custom experience out about right. Um, two or three more other things I have noticed, um, I think data privacy is a concern.

[00:09:36] A lot of our information is now available easily. And I think spotter copies are starting to recognize that giving you and I the confidence that our data is protected, it will not be misused. I call it the transparency in their operation is important. How will you use my data? What will you do with [00:10:00] it?

[00:10:00] Uh, what controls do I have or do I not have the GDPR did not pop up? But because of this concern that we’ve had, I would say customer experience companies should think about what I call technology transparency and data transparency to their customers. Right. I should not that, um, in that transparency, I would say there is a balancing act of technology and humanity.

[00:10:27] We cannot let technology be the sole provider. And arbitrator and orchestrator of the experience. You’ve got to balance automation and humanity together. So those are the broad trends I see that I believe and stitched together allows my clients good companies to create great experiences. Sorry for the slog answer.

Boris Grinshpun: [00:10:53] No, no, no. I mean, I think, I think all the things there that you’ve kind of put, put, put forth, uh, [00:11:00] make, make a ton of sense. You know what kind of also look at it from a lens maybe pro you know, uh, of my prior experience in financial services and looking at across like people processing seasoned technology and how can we, all of those three components be brought along in order to, to do that, because I think what ends up happening is.

[00:11:19] Is the, you know, the difficulty of actually executing on something like that, or even on any experience is that we are, we kind of like focus on one and don’t, don’t, don’t invest enough in an, in another, if that, if that makes sense. And then we either leave behind the people who we hope to deliver, like our actual employees, or we’re trying to jury rig old technology to do new tricks as I call it.

[00:11:43] Right. Or, or, or we had a pathway or a process that we liked and now. You know, we’re just kind of paving the prior path and not really rethinking of it. Is this actually the right thing to do for the customer 

Ashish Bisaria: [00:11:57] spot on Boris? Absolutely. 

Boris Grinshpun: [00:11:59] Yeah. And I think one of the things that you actually, a very interesting topic that you brought up and really, um, what really started this conversation is sort of, the introduction of technology specifically.

[00:12:13] Let’s just put it out there, the introduction of artificial intelligence and the utilization of it. In contact centers. Now I know some people will correct me as they’re probably listening to this and tell me for us, AI is a huge topic. Yeah, of course. They, as opposed to a huge topic, we’ll focus on in the setting of a virtual agent in the contact center environment.

[00:12:33] And so, uh, you know, there’s been a lot, uh, she shows, you know, that’s been made of this, like, yeah, this is gonna revolutionize the entire world. Will there be contact center employees after this is said and done? But where is ms and where is, where does the actual fact, where do you 

Ashish Bisaria: [00:12:50] see it today? So bars, it reminds me of the time late 1990s.

[00:12:56] Uh, all you had to do as a company was [00:13:00] ad.com. To your brand name and suddenly you became a multibillion dollar valuation, right? They’ll change to your product, no change to your product features functionality, just the word.com is that I feel now everything is AI. Right? You just have to talk about a side story and I’ll get, I’ll answer your question.

[00:13:20] I’m an addict golfer, right? All these Brown companies that develop drivers, an Island, how much can you innovate within 12 months? Like there’s innovation, probably over a five, eight, 10 year window, but year over year, it’s tough to keep innovating, given that the size of the driver, your head is regulated and what you can or cannot do with the club faces regulated by the PTA.

[00:13:49] So now, if you look at the golf channel, the latest trend is. I’ll call a driver. Built with AI intelligence lost.

Boris Grinshpun: [00:14:03] I 

Ashish Bisaria: [00:14:03] think for me that when I’m standing in a hall where I should not be hitting a driver, it stays in the bag and doesn’t come out and says, Ashish, absolutely not. Are you going to hit the driver? It’s a hybrid shot. Right. I joke about it a little bit and I get it. I understand how they’re using AI and how they’re using all the data that they’ve accumulated over years.

[00:14:23] But the point is. Let’s just use the word AI to be cool, right? Yeah. So I use this example because I think we are in that vendor now just like.com, which has become very relevant today, 20 years into it, AI will be very relevant in X years. I’m not a futurist, but yes, it will be relevant. But to your point to your question, the practical use of it today.

[00:14:51] And the question that you raised and I said, are robots coming and are they going to replace our jobs in the customer service space? Right. Really? That’s the underlying [00:15:00] question. Mmm. The amount of data needed to think like a human being is an incredible amount of background information. We learned a to Z, which are 26 alphabets and we learned.

[00:15:18] Zero to nine as digits. When capture came out to say, prove you’re human and not a robot. Nobody taught us the squiggly five and they’re sideways eight and a crazy X. Our brains are smart enough to look at capture and figure out very quickly what I’m looking at. Right? Minor errors here. A machine will not do that.

[00:15:45] You have to take all these shapes and squiggly lines and put 400 million such variance of 26 alphabets and nine and 10 digits to make that system smart, to fool a capture. [00:16:00] And I just think about it to say, to realize the level of intelligence that has to be built in to make a job happen. Now, can that be built?

[00:16:10] Yes. Has there been a robot built that is, or. Better chess player than the smartest chess player. Yes. Is that somebody who’s defeated a gold player? Absolutely. But the big IBM solution that plays the chess CarPlay goal, it wouldn’t even move one of it. But a human being an amateur chess player can also be an amateur go play.

[00:16:31] And I use these examples to remind our humans and our humanity. We are far more than just one task or one discreet action. We had an accumulation of emotions, habits, tasks, uh, capabilities, all stitched together to be us and will always be relevant. Now, are there pieces of our effort that [00:17:00] can be automated?

[00:17:00] Absolutely. If I’m doing copy paste between systems, that’s not AI, but Hey, I can build a bot that does copy paste on my behalf and I don’t have to put in that effort. But once we get into the space of thinking, analyzing, understanding context, yes, there are promises, but the promises aren’t close to letting humans do, right?

[00:17:28] Yeah. So I argue these are great R and D projects because they have multimillion dollar investment capabilities to train something. But a business is trying to trade a multimillion dollar investment into an idea of artificial intelligence against the 50 outsourced agents, somewhere in India or Philippines.

[00:17:48] Right. And the cost economics just don’t match. So let’s say, I said, I’m not a futurist, but I’ll say in the next five years, AI has a [00:18:00] long way to come. To be competitive enough in point solution. Again, I’m going to stay on it with a point solution to be smart enough, but it will show progress. Absolutely. 

Boris Grinshpun: [00:18:13] Yeah. I mean, I mean, one of the neat things that you said is really sort of like that focus on empathy, that was like the comments that I took away from the conversation, which is how empathetic can a virtual agent be.

[00:18:25] And that’s not to say that they’re supposed to be empathetic, but that’s certainly not in the DNA, what they have, what they, what they deliver, what they can be programmed to do. So I certainly agree with you that there’s, there’s definitely. Things and tasks and mundane, we really kind of sidestep them and call them high frequency, low value interactions that can certainly be automated.

[00:18:46] And folks should really focus on there’s lots of business cases that could be made there. And as we say, lots of wood to chop, uh, however, you know, that personal connection showing empathy, uh, really sort of taking in and absorbing [00:19:00] what the problem may be is. You know, at least in my mind is for the least part, you know, less, less, probably better, better to the agent having said that.

[00:19:11] But 

[00:19:11] Ashish Bisaria: [00:19:11] Boris, before, before you go forward, I want to add a little bit more to her. Um, you know, as a first source we talk about our approaches digital first digital now, right? To your point, clients are asking for this, that, Hey, can I have a bot, do everything? Why do I need agents? Right. So we do talk about digital first digital now.

[00:19:30] But when we talk about innovation in our company, we’ve been very deliberate. One thing I love about my company is that as a leadership organization, as a culture of 22,000 people, we believe in the power of humans tremendously. And when we talk about innovation, this is something we talk as a team and it’s a deliberate step.

[00:19:53] And with an art that innovates humanity, not for speed, right? [00:20:00] It’s a very different lens. Yes. Do we want to make a process faster and a handle time lower and get the customer the information they want immediately? Yes, but that, that is a given everybody’s thinking about that everybody’s trying to solve for speed.

[00:20:15] We want to solve problems for humanity. And I am so excited about our organization to always have that lens. So 

Boris Grinshpun: [00:20:25] I think that’s a pretty interesting statement that you made. The only, and I’m only reflecting because I don’t think like if I take a night dissect that statement a little bit more, uh, from, from the standpoint of first source in your organization, you’re working to help your employees have better conversations with other consumers or human beings you are saying, Hey, I work for my employees.

[00:20:50] I think that’s quite a bit different. And I’m going to actually point a little bit to the technology space and say, I think, I think the technology space traditionally has [00:21:00] been going fast and breaking things. Right. And, um, and I think we should take more of an ownership, you know, kind of pointing back to us, uh, really regarding having, like, understanding who we’re working for and whose lives we’re making better on a daily basis.

[00:21:17] I think that’s your point. That’s your point? 

Ashish Bisaria: [00:21:19] Boris, thank you for saying that. You couldn’t have said it better, right? I knew you said that. How are the Roys defined on these AI solutions and platform solutions, right? I’ll make your processing speed faster with interaction. I can do more simultaneous chats with the same person.

[00:21:37] I can answer this question using a watch with Bart and you don’t need a human being, all those are. And again, I use the word speed, right? This is about efficiency, pen speed. Right. But just that angle, right? People will still talk to people if I can. Detect emotion right now. Right? So assuming you were the consumer and I’m the agent and I can detect your [00:22:00] emotion and I can hint to Ashish, Hey, you sense a level of frustration or anger or disappointment and the voice of porousness.

[00:22:09] And that can be whispered on my screen or in my ear. And I pivot by conversation in real time to manage that emotion. That’s a beautiful use of technology, right? It’s not about speed, but it’s about that. Innovate for humanity, right? When I have to answer a technical question, right? Imagine being an agent, a technical agent in something like Samsung, uh, group, right?

[00:22:35] You have N number of products from refrigerator to smartphones and everything in between, and each product can have any number of problems. The dimensions of problems are just so huge, right? 

Boris Grinshpun: [00:22:47] That’s right. 

Ashish Bisaria: [00:22:48] If I kept intelligently, I understand what Boris is saying and help the agent get to the right answer either through a series of the right questions, [00:23:00] ask back to you or the right searches done in the knowledge base to distill information that allows for a better compensation.

[00:23:08] Aye. Again, I’m not saying efficiency and speed are based on effort. Absolutely do that. We do it. Everybody should do it. Right, but you need to lay the humanity part of it. And when you use technology for that, I think that’s magic. 

Boris Grinshpun: [00:23:24] Yeah. I couldn’t agree with you more. And, and on that particular topic and maybe a little bit from, from your book today, maybe your book from, uh, from before.

[00:23:34] And I don’t mean that in the literal sense, like a book, but you know, some, you know, these, these investments in innovation, in, in looking at things differently, whether it’s with AI or with other processes, You know, knowing that some of them may be successes and some of them may be failures. How today within your organization, do you act like a catalyst to promote innovation?

[00:23:57] Even though at the end of the day, it may not be a 

Ashish Bisaria: [00:23:59] success. Yep. Spot on. And I think 25 years of doing customer experience bars has taught me one thing. You can’t always see customer experience in the balance sheet. Right? So the effort. During annual budget seasons that I’ve had to go through to get any dollar investment from the organization has always been a challenge.

[00:24:23] Right? How do you justify that a five point increase in NPS will have a bottom line impact of X dollars, right? So the art science part of it, the quick experimentation part of it, the aim was his beat testing control was his test group, a fact file, uh, nimble development. Yeah. Taking credit. All these ideologies have been shared by different different people over the last 10, 15 years, as they’ve tried, not basting too much time, money and resources to prove a point.

[00:24:55] And I think. Mostly, we use some of the same ideologies. Right? [00:25:00] Try it out quickly. See if it works. But I want to answer the question from a character of an organization before I get to the brass tag of it. Not every organization handles failures easily, right? Some may have a very low threshold of failures.

[00:25:17] Some have very high thresholds, but everybody has a threshold understanding. Where the organization thresholds are allows people like me, who like to innovate and experiment to figure out how far we can push. So regardless of where that threshold is my formula, and if my boss listens to this podcast, he’ll recognize why I’m saying this is you make some short, sharp bets and you do a few experiments and few projects and few POC and few demos and a few implementation.

[00:25:49] That has been done for the last five, six years by so many other countries that the risk is so minimal that you have to be really, really bad to fail on it. Right? Those [00:26:00] small bets give you the credibility and the runway to try a little bit more risky take right now, I’ll be the first to say in my organization, I’m allowed to simultaneously do a very risky, risky thing.

[00:26:15] And the safe bet simultaneously, and I’m blessed. I find it myself, you know, pinching myself off into say, really, you’re going to trust me. And you’re going to give me this job. I was to do this. And then the entire leadership has. Yep. Because they’d know that somewhere within our street, we will not keep making bets about big failures again and again and again, right.

[00:26:38] If we make a big back bet we learn to pivot and move on. So I think my answer is. It’s unique to the culture of your organization, but you build credibility and get some under biplane, sharp bets, and then playing the risky. That’s the second way we’ve managed. [00:27:00] This is to work with the right partners, right?

[00:27:03] We had not the RND shop. We are not the creator of the solution. We don’t know the intricacies of the product and we all are guilty of it. Doesn’t matter if the product is 20, 30 years old. To be used the products of tire capability. Absolutely not. How many of us are part users of a word Excel or a PowerPoint?

[00:27:21] Most of us use 20% of the capabilities of these tools, right? Maybe 60% of, of a word, but surely 5% of an Excel, right. Having the partners and believing in them, partnering with them and bringing them into the solution creation. There’s also a keyboard and Boris, your organization has been a key success story for us as for source also, where we’ve said, we want a business outcome.

[00:27:50] We don’t know everything about how your product can do that. So work with us to do it. Having that humility to partner is a second [00:28:00] big recipe for success. I always say, ask them. Disparate questions connect the dots slightly tangentially. When you hear a product feature and functionality, don’t limit your things.

[00:28:15] He came to say, what can I do within these parameters thinks slightly differently. With other experience, I talked about my career experiences, as I say, what other microbes experiences that delights me? Can I pull them into this and then think about it that way? Because when you combine those three entities, I thank you.

[00:28:36] Probability of success improves practically. 

Boris Grinshpun: [00:28:40] Yeah, I think, I think that’s a, I think that’s a great, a great approach sort of, as you laid out the, the, the bets that you have and making sure that you always have room for innovation and making small, but you know, maybe risky bets that may or may not pan out, but that may have a, have a bright future and maybe a differentiator for you in the [00:29:00] future.

[00:29:00] This has certainly been a great conversation as she’s. Thank you by the way, for coming and joining us today to talk, uh, to talk with us about this. Um, and so, uh, I’ll kind of leave the last word to you, for clients that are maybe hesitating or maybe thinking today. Uh, how do I sort of convince my executive leadership maybe to take an innovation approach instead of continuing to do things that we’ve done or to like maybe like top three or maybe like top three things that you would recommend that you tell them, go and do this today?

Ashish Bisaria: [00:29:35] Yup. I would start. Probably repeating a little bit as a partner with the right product company. Right. Free editorial, but LiveVox has been a very good partner to us in our success. Uh, absolutely. Um, abashedly I can say that, right. Uh, I’m learning with the right person. You don’t need to do it. You need to go get the well said who’s done [00:30:00] it 20 times, right?

[00:30:01] So if you want to start something new that you’ve never done. Go find somebody who’s done it 20 times. Second. This is a philosophy that’s called a tipping point. You’re not going to convince all the executives and all the employers who are going to be impacted. You need to convince just the right, right.

[00:30:17] Amount of people and the right people. And there are two types of people you need to, that’s the enthusiasm the classes have for the future building person, because you need that energy and that persona on your team. But you need to find the biggest critic who will believe that this is going to fail and it’s the worst investment and idea.

[00:30:41] Bring that person into the group and listen to that person, understand all the red alerts. According, go to that individual that does it. I mean, you stop. That means you solve for those red flags. In your solution creation to increase your price. It has to align with pure [00:31:00] executive leadership, culture and environment.

[00:31:02] I’m never gonna recommend somebody to be the master of the flagpole going and say, I want to innovate the entire organization is about incremental changes, right? So you need to learn about your organization. Think those are the things I would look for. Everything else I said earlier, if you combine those.

[00:31:20] Micro experiences and the right partnerships and everything, you can build it for a higher success rate. Finally, I’ll say that there’s not a single company, the values of Valdez company to the smallest company that hasn’t failed multiple times while innovating on an idea. And there are public failures and then there are private failures at everything in between, right.

[00:31:43] It’s going to happen. Get on with it accepted. Nobody’s going to have a batting average of a thousand. Nobody. 

Boris Grinshpun: [00:31:53] No, I think that’s great advice for our listeners. Thank you. As she should get. Thank you for everybody who joined us today [00:32:00] and until next week, take care, stay healthy out there. 

Ashish Bisaria: [00:32:04] Thank you for your time, Boris and thank you for this conversation.

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