There was no news item yesterday because Intelligent Sourcing was in all-hands-on-deck mode at COCCO, the Conference for Outsourcing Contact Centre Operations, organised with the UK Contact Centre Forum. Once I’d heroically turned up half an hour later than promised using the M25 as a cast-iron excuse, delegates started to walk in and we were off – the introductions were made and I offered a brief look at the role of social media in the contact centre mix.
There were a couple of substitutions in the line-up. Consultant and author Rob O’Malley kicked off with a strong start that included skills shortages, methodologies and a lot of real-life examples on how contact centres can be improved. A panel led by expert advisor, ex-Ovum man and above all one of Intelligent Sourcing’s established contributors Peter Ryan followed on the changing nature of contact centres; there was a lot of expertise on offer here and if there was one message to take away it was that in spite of a lot of talk about technology it would be the people that made or broke the industry’s future.
Or money. A presentation from Adam Chester, head of economics at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, had the task of talking the audience through one of the most extraordinary times the world’s economy has ever seen. Two key points came out, maybe three. The first was that nobody knows what’s coming next, whatever they tell you. The second, more weighty point, was that blips in confidence due to the Brexit announcement, Trump’s presidency and the sudden calling of a general election in the UK, were just that – blips. Confidence actually settles down remarkably quickly after those events. The third was that these events aside, productivity in the UK has fallen off a cliff; we’re behind many European countries including the non-obvious ones, like Italy. This, he suggested, was a bigger problem than Brexit. It wasn’t all bad news though; lunch was next, and the sandwiches were nice.
Refreshed, we listened to the already-mentioned Peter Ryan on locations. If you want a location for a contact centre at the moment and you’re working in the UK, South Africa and Portugal are currently the best regarded, he explained, going into detail and patiently taking questions from the audience for as long as they wanted and still sticking rigidly to his allocated time. Special thanks here to the audience member who suggested that some overseas contact centres are disadvantaged because the accents of the agents sound as if they “might as well be from Croydon” – your editor lives in the borough of Croydon… I led a panel on robotics and Artificial Intelligence after this, with insights from familiar names to Intelligent Sourcing readers: Andrew Burgess from AJBurgess and Sarah Burnett from Everest. Once again the emphasis was on reality rather than theory and there was a lot of discussion about what people were actually offering.
The day rounded off with breakout sessions on social media, robotics, locations and home working. It was packed with information and networking opportunities; our thanks to our partners the CCA, our hosts Verizon and sponsors BYC Aqua Solutions, Moneypenny, Jabra GN and RSVP.