Maintaining Customer Relationships in a Cost-of-Living Crisis

A counterintuitive investment in technology may be the answer

With the well documented talent shortage across the globe combined with the cost-of-living crisis and impending recession requires businesses to hold their nerve and continue on the path to digital transformation that became a business imperative during the Covid-19 pandemic. A well-designed technology ecosystem that provides the right balances of tech and talent will create a competitive advantage and enable business to thrive whilst many may struggle to survive.

The post-pandemic, recession-throttled era sees an even less forgiving customer with complaints are at an all-time high (as per the UK Customer Service Index), and over 60% of customers are likely to defect after one bad experience (as per the Zendesk CX Trends 2022). There are many drivers behind the current challenging CX landscape and technology and digital innovation is without a doubt an opportunity for many but done badly will only amplify dissatisfaction.

Christopher Sly, Head of Digital, HGS UK, shares his observations on how to thrive during the cost-of-living crisis and beyond, as well as insight into the digital strategy adopted by HGS that has been designed to leverage the best the market has to offer and deliver valuable outcomes for the brands we support, their customers and as importantly the CX experts we have providing the service.

What are some of the market variables influencing contact centre technology choices today? What should companies be focusing on in times of recession?

During times of financial disarray, we’re accustomed to participating in conversations related to budget freezes and “achieving more with less.” However, I’ve observed that organisations need to — and are beginning to — understand that monetisation will only get worse if they do not make investments in growing and maintaining customer relationships.

Customer experience (CX) analyst Peter Ryan of Ryan Strategic Advisory commented on the topic during one of his recent podcasts with Outsource Accelerator, Peter noted that companies are now focused on squeezing as much money out of every interaction but, instead, he believes that the focus should be on how BPOs can add as much value as possible to the interaction to maintain customer relationships.

Simultaneously, Everest Group has noted a rise in “New-gen” services, such as call routing or identifying the potential reason for a customer’s call, in its Customer Experience Management (CXM) State of the Market Report 2022. It seems that organisations are trying to meet their customer demands through CX innovation.

The value from innovative IT investment is intended to drive improved customer interactions and insight. UK Customer Service Index Champions Marks & Spencer (M&S) has highlighted the importance of what a customer sees as multi-channel (choice of channels to communicate). The value is bringing about joined up insight to connect every customer touchpoint as a single view. Their CX leader, Jo Moran Head of Customer Services, has stated that — “The important element is the customer journey and leveraging information that tells you ‘How does that customer shop – not only online but in store – and what do those digital touchpoints look like?’”.

How has HGS UK responded to the changing needs of the market? What is HGS UK doing to help its clients stay afloat?

At HGS UK, we were fortunate to identify an increasing need for innovation and agility a few years ago, and we transformed our core CX technology stacks onto cloud prior to the pandemic.

Too little choice of technology leaves clients pigeonholed without de-risking their value-for-money or improving their operational excellence.

Using a plethora of contact centre solutions can be too much to learn and maintain. Too little choice of technology leaves clients pigeonholed without de-risking their value-for-money or improving their operational excellence.

As a digital CX expert, I shape the technology strategy and the solutions that positively influence the interactions between our clients’ brands and their customers. While at HGS UK, I’ve found that a balanced ecosystem of omnichannel and AI/automation solutions, combined with a human at the of the heart design, always works best. Finding that perfect balance of people and technology for clients is the goal, so much so that we’ve actually named the concept – HGS Bots&Brains™ .

In realising that the market and our clients needed flexibility in terms of cost, implementation time, complexity and sophistication, interoperability, and choice, we questioned whether internal-self-developed systems should be our only offering to clients. In looking outside to the external marketplace and benchmarking those providers against our own quality assurance, the HGS UK Technology Arc project was formed.

What is the HGS UK Technology Arc?

The HGS UK Technology Arc is a matrix built on internal research/market benchmarking to visually represent a preset list of CX technology stacks made from vendors and system integrators to meet customer demand and exceed customer expectation.

The HGS UK Technology Arc illustrates a baseline contact centre transformation for a client while also showing how the infrastructure can and should evolve over time. It shows the client’s level 1 (L1) expectations for expansion in the short term (now), shows how customer demand can be met in the medium term with level 2 (L2) digital expansion with AI, and then shows how a level 3 (L3) application can lead in the long-term to AI data engineering for a single version of the truth (SVOT). As clients move through the levels and clockwise through the arc, complexity increases, and IT operations begin to bleed into digital as DevOps. Over time, digital elements become business as usual.

At HGS UK, a custom-designed map, or arc, is created and presented to every client to ensure the CX stack skews against the business outcome with the right cadence and level of maturity. It is designed to capitalise on CX opportunities for competitive differentiation for that particular client, in that particular industry, at that level of technological maturity. Every technology that is part of the Arc is tested against HGS’s high standards for security, governance, risk, compliance, and interoperability before inclusion.

Contact Centre Improvement
PaaS, CCaaS

  • Cloud data centre
  • Omnichannel
  • Social monitoring
  • Work at home
  • Quality management
  • MI data visualization

Customer Win:
Direct contact with experienced CX team

Client Win:
TCO minimized. best CX stacks, customer intelligence

HGS Win:
Proven APIs, WFM, QM, MI, and backbone to innovate

Agent Win:
Work at home, easier unified customer interactions

Digital Expansion with Artificial Intelligence (AI)
SaaS, IaaS

  • Customer journey tracker
  • AI intelligent virtual agent
  • Front-to-back automation
  • Middleware AI development
  • Low-code AI platforms
  • Web applications
  • Mobile apps
  • AI analytics

Customer Win:
Use of preferred channels, personalisation, speed

Client Win:
Increased efficiencies, FTR via self-service

HGS Win:
Data-driven services, capacity to differentiate

Agent Win:
Career enrichment, higher quality conversations

AI Data Engineering for Single-Version-of-Truth (SVOT)

  • Complex AI via data engineering & Data science

Customer Win:
Differentiating personalisation with proactive engagement

Client Win:
CX tips from data lake to dashboard, improved CSAT, revenues

HGS Win:
Lower costs via ops insight informed by customer, predictability of long-term partnership

Agent Win:
360⁰ view empowers, informs an amazing CX, while automation removes tediousness

With the HGS UK Technology Arc, we have, and are, scaling our delivery toolset with external expertise. For example, we have embraced tailored-development and low-code platforms using award-winning, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies and system integrators (SI). We have started to formally partner with reputable IT companies that have the proven capability to meet the unique and current needs of UK and European clients.

How does the HGS UK technology ecosystem help clients manage their customers and prepare for what’s next?

Our carefully designed and selected ecosystem orchestrates and interweaves all customer contacts with automation to better serve and support our human agents. The technology is set up to support agents in their efforts to cultivate better customer relationships, not hinder them. It is set up to offer customers their channel of choice, plus the option of self-service.

HGS Bots&Brains™ for self-service is a design framework we utilise to balance decision trees with the “low-hanging fruit” (predictable outcomes with AI) versus where escalation needs to be developed when identifying intent using multiple outcomes for human escalation. This type of approach for use-case design would be deemed to be incredibly relevant and backed by the recent Zendesk CX Trends 2022 report, where 39% of respondents utilising AI saw success when prioritising urgency.

The outcome following the HGS Technology Arc research sees supplier technologists whose expertise enables our Bots&Brains™ solutions to bring alive human and system features considered to be “cognitive”. Cognitive engagement as a definition involves conscious intellectual tasks and activity (such as thinking, reasoning, or remembering) behaviours being completed by a computer. The HGS Technology Arc means that we now have capability for an AI solution to platform and elegantly interweave the Bots&Brains™ solution strategy alongside all types of customer contact with cognitive human thinking and e-system reasoning. These combined elements within a single end-to-end contact platform are what we refer to as a “Cognitive Engagement Centre” (CEC). Investments (even small ones!) into creating technology arcs that help organisations move towards a future when customer relationships are enhanced with cognitive engagement must be made now, not after the cost-of-living crisis.

Chris Sly

Christopher Sly, Head of Digital, HGS UK
If you would like to explore the concepts of Bots&Brains or the cognitive engagement centre (CEC) — or if you would like to discuss how your organisation can leverage HGS to create your customised technology arc — please get in touch with Chris at

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