What I Learned at the PACE 2018 Convention & Expo
April 30, 2018
By: Jason Sterns
I attended the PACE 2018 Convention & Expo in Atlanta April 15-18. Here’s a summary of the events I participated in along with my observations and insights regarding the experience.
The event kicked off Sunday night with a networking session filled with friendly people, engaging vendors, and plenty of introductions (even to a first-time attendee).
Monday, the first day of the event, began with a reflection on the passing of Tim Searcy, a PACE board member.
That tied in well with the core vision of PACE, which is not only to guide contact centers and their clients and protect consumers but also to make a difference in the community through its philanthropic initiative, Call Center CARE, which directs members in giving back to their local communities.
Keynote by Jesse Itzler
I attended a phenomenal keynote by Jesse Itzler, an entrepreneur, bestselling author, and former rap star. He is an incredibly engaging speaker who walked us through his career from MTV rapper to co-founding Marquis Jet, one of the largest private jet card companies in the world, to becoming a partner in ZICO Coconut Water, founder of advertising agency The 100 Mile Group, and part-owner of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks.
Using his “Aunt Franny’s Brownies” story, Itzler related his college experience where he learned that to be successful, he needed to differentiate himself from others in the marketplace, and how that understanding started his decision-making process for the future.
My takeaways from the keynote:
- Reset your goals;
- Love what you do;
- Determine what are you good at and what you’re passionate about;
- “How you do anything is how you do everything”;
- “Once you get over the fear of embarrassment, you can be so liberated”;
- “Self-doubt is the #1 challenge to success”;
- “When your brain says you are done, you are 40%.”
1st Breakout Session
One of my favorite sessions took place Monday morning with a panel discussion that included call center industry executives Harvey Livingston, regional vice president of alternate channels at AT&T, John Billings, director of global vendor performance at Hilton, and Dwayne Black, SVP and COO at Shutterfly. Lori Fentem, president of Synergy Solutions, moderated the panel.
The panel responded to questions from Lori and the audience, covering topics that included how to utilize the massive amounts of data available today, being aware of the entire customer journey (including the contact center), business pressure from consumers demanding faster responses and better quality (the so-called “Amazon Effect”), and AI and when to use it.
Social media was also discussed as something that must be considered given the ripple effect that results from the 70% of consumers who use it (and the 89% of digital natives, in particular — those age 29 and younger).
The panel also discussed customer experience and how to utilize data to fix problems to assist consumers with using services and products. The discussion wrapped up by pointing out the importance of security: If you jeopardize your customers’ information, you will have zero customers; 80% of small companies who had a data breach go out of business.
The second session I attended consisted of a presentation on removing or avoiding inconsistencies in the customer engagement experience. Steve Weston, a senior consultant at EPIC, and Laureen Peltier from Securian Financial Group shared their expertise.
They cited the fact that many companies are looking to how they can handle consumer demand for an omnichannel experience. The important thing is to not start with technology, they said, but to evaluate people and process first.
Like new customer implementation, a thorough evaluation of the enterprise as you review the customer journey can level-set with essential items, including hiring profiles, WFM adjustments, and ways to utilize technology to increase efficiencies.
3rd Breakout Session
I finished the day by attending a packed session on the aftermath of the TCPA appeal victory where Michele Shuster, founding partner at the law firm MacMurray and Shuster, and Jeff Johnson, an associate at another firm, Jones Day, shared their insights.
They highlighted sections of the latest judgment, including capacity and revocation of consent. The pair stressed that it is not final but provides some clarity to the courts for future decisions. They summed it up well by saying “the future is not clear, but we have removed some confusion and unclarity.”
A question on the future came with a reply — “What kind of risk are you willing to take?” — as consumers will still likely file complaints because of grey areas. Another point worth noting is that the pursuit is to protect the “good guys” who are providing valuable services from a few bad actors not complying with the rules.
The conversation then transitioned to the growing problem of call labeling. More phone providers and apps are flagging calls as “likely spam.”
To illustrate the reverse side of the problem, the pair shared an interesting story about a pharmacy customer coming to pick up his prescriptions only after a long delay because the automated call from the pharmacy was blocked.
Again, the focus is on protecting the good guys. How can an organization that complies with the law reach consumers?
This has been a growing problem with STIR and SHAKEN, which inhibits VoIP telephony ability to deliver local anonymous calls, and the increasing number of mobile phone apps with algorithms that identify potential spam/robocalls.
Tuesday’s sessions continued with a keynote by Laurie Toscano, vice president of information technologies at Estee Lauder, who shared her experience with the challenges a global enterprise faces in providing a consistent customer experience with multiple centers and employees and finding universal connectors.
At lunch, PACE recognized several members in various categories that included local chapter activities, compliance adherence, and innovative technology. What I appreciated most, however, was an emphasis on giving back to the community (the PACE Call Centers CARE initiative).
The last session I attended was a presentation by representatives of Mohr Partners, a global real estate advisory firm, on call center growth trends in the U.S. and internationally.
They shared business pressures, the potential impact minimum wage hikes in several states will have on U.S. call centers by 2020, and the importance of market saturation rates and GDP for global locations. I was particularly impressed by the technology advances Mohr Partners has made to reduce the site selection process for new call center markets from two weeks to just 30 minutes.
The day concluded with one last networking session that featured an 80s theme, for which I was totally unprepared as most attendees wore 80s costumes.
All in all, I would say my experience at this year’s PACE convention and expo was beneficial, both from a learning and networking standpoint and look forward to seeing what insights and next year’s event will bring.