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Customer Service Summit Brooklyn 2019 Review


Presented By: CrmXchange

With the capability to consistently provide a superior customer experience now overshadowing both price and product as what sets a business apart from its competition, customer service is finally being given the recognition it deserves as a strategy that can-- and should ---help dictate the direction of the entire organization. 

This was the guiding principle of the 9th Annual Customer Service Summit, a two-day intensive educational event held at the Marriott Brooklyn Bridge in New York City October 23-24th, 2018.  The two key areas of primary focus under this umbrella were internal customer centric team strategy…evolving internal structure and optimizing the workforce to address rising customer expectations and external customer-facing strategy to find new ways to stay a step ahead in the nonstop race to deliver exceptional customer experiences. 

Produced by the UK-based Incite Group (which was sold shortly before the event to Thomson Reuters and will be rebranded as Reuters Events), the Customer Service Summit brought together a roster of authoritative speakers from such leading brands as AARP, Cigna, Citi. GE Digital, Hilton Hotels, Mastercard, Nike, Raymour & Flanigan, Uber, Southwest Airlines, Walmart and others. These leaders offered insights on proven best practices employed by their organizations to help create new standards for omnichannel support and ensure that the needs of customers will be met as the future unfolds.

The event began with a crisis that was quickly overcome both by conference management and the hotel team. A pipe burst in one of the seminar rooms causing a brief delay in the program, but a replacement room was located and swiftly set up. Attendees were kept well abreast of all changes in the schedule with frequent announcements made throughout the day to avert confusion. In the opening keynote sessions, Lance Gruner, Executive Vice President of Global Customer Care at Mastercard, took an in-depth look at the future of customer service, elaborating on what is real, what is simply hype and where does CX fit in the equation as well as the value of making proactive customer service the linchpin of the business model.

As always, social media was in the Customer Service Summit spotlight, with Joshua Marsh of Conversocial taking the lead in his portion of the keynote, examining the role of AI and social messaging now take in customer service. Social media was an ongoing topic, with several seminars and interactive classroom-style workshops focusing on conversational intelligence, fitting social media into the mix and the challenges presented by new digital channels.

Reflecting many of the solutions being offered on the exhibit floor, AI was also a primary topic in the conference program with an interactive panel discussion looking into the many ways that artificial intelligence and machine learning are revolutionizing support and another session taking a deep dive into its impact on customer service

As part of the track on internal customer service team strategy, back-to-back sessions toward the end of the final day of the Summit explored both key metrics in both QA and building the optimized 2020 workforce. In the first of these seminars, representatives from thredUP and Boxed discussed the need for companies to determine the metrics that most served their customers’ needs and adopting those that helped improve such key concerns as first contact resolution. In the latter, moderated by CrmXchange’s Herb Greenebaum, panelists Hillary Curran of KM specialist Guru and Marcelle Bhangoo of the Boston Red Sox, agreed on the need to use technology to screen for the applicants with the most relevant backgrounds, but employ the human touch in the interview process as well.

CrmXchange also spoke with a sampling of solution providers on the exhibit floor about some of the emerging applications, evolving trends and strategies that are shaping the future of customer service.

  Augment CXM

AugmentCXM describes itself as the “navigation center for contact centers,” providing agents guidance at every turn of a conversation, alerting managers in real time when customers seem to be unhappy and analyzing each conversation to understand everything that is going on. For instance, by targeting high-risk conversations, the solution enables supervisory personnel to step in and save the interaction before the customer becomes a detractor on social media. The customer experience management (CXM) platform gives management what CEO Matt Swanson calls “a satellite view of every customer and every agent.”

Swanson sees his company’s mission as being a purveyor of “virtuous AI,” with a philosophy that believes mankind's purpose is the pursuit of virtue, and to value excellence in all aspects of life. He noted that most agents now view AI as a ‘scary’ proposition and often believe that something bad is going to happen when it is implemented. He wants to create a new narrative, stating: “Just as other forms of technology have freed the human mind to explore more meaning, we believe AI will, too. AI makes it easier for brands to unlock the mountains of data that they are not using because it is not readily accessible. But while technology is ready to provide some answers, there are many scenarios that require judgement and AI still can’t emulate human dialogue. The proper use of AI at this point is to augment the data employees need to be effective: it’s the enabler that helps remove human frustration.”


BlueLeap’s SaaS application Dialogue is what CEO Eric Burgess describes as a “no code platform” for creating next level customer interactions. Using prebuilt technical templates, BlueLeap customers can create business process that leverages global messaging, AI and CPaaS integration without the need to develop messy and often fragile integrations.

The Dialogue application brings together over 2 billion active daily users across multiple messaging platforms onto just one. It enables non-technical personnel to simplify workflow, maintain control and compliance of data over the cloud and manage day-to-day conversations with customers. “Businesses can eliminate clunky CX processes in service situations, empowering customers to take a picture of the problem or situation they are experiencing and send it to an agent,” said Burgess.

BlueLeap’s 2-Way consumer messaging solution allows consumers to interact with companies like they do with their friends – using video, images and voice snippets. Workflow enables immediate, AI enhanced responses with notifications and makes it even easier for agents to respond to urgent matters, while maintaining the ever important 360-degree customer view.

Dialogue sits on top of a contact center’s CRM and seamlessly integrates with it, requiring little to no additional agent training. BlueLeap operates and has offices and partners around the world, including the U.S, China, Australia and India.

 Forethought logo

Forethought employs AI technology to augment human abilities and make everyone “a genius at their job.” Co-founder Sami Ghoche calls it a “technology for handling unstructured text and chat.” The product can be embedded inside help desks in Salesforce and Zendesk, with customizations available for other CRMs.

Forethought’s Agatha A.I. technology combines artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing and natural language understanding. The goal is to help increase the productivity of support teams by helping new hires onboard more rapidly and surfacing historical answers to common issues. “In providing recommended responses, the solution uses answers from previous customer interactions,” said Ghoche. “We also index a company’s documents such as knowledgebase articles, Google Docs, videos, and more. As the internal knowledge grows, Agatha automatically updates to continue increasing first contact resolution. “

Forethought employs classification algorithms to deflect high-volume repetitive questions, categorize incoming tickets, route to the correct individual as well as preemptively escalate issues when needed.


Khoros believes it’s no longer enough for businesses to just reach their customers on digital channels. The critical factor is for companies to be “all-ways connected,” knowing who their customers are, what they want, and how to make them feel satisfied throughout the customer journey. Khoros was formed about one year ago, built on the merger of two widely known customer engagement platforms, Spredfast and Lithium. The name was derived from the Greek chorus, a truth-telling ensemble who filter out the noise and describe the main action of a play with song, dance, and recitation.

In providing customer service, the company offers Khoros Care which allows brands to engage with a common interface and a single workflow across multiple digital channels, including messaging apps, in-app messaging, social, brands' owned communities, and reviews. Businesses are empowered to personalize one-on-one customer experiences to help quickly and easily resolve customers’ needs by being immediately accessible on their channels of choice. 

 “We’re doubling down on helping enterprise brands improve efficiency and make a greater impact on customer satisfaction,” said Katie Duzan, Senior Director of Product Marketing for Khoros. “We know our ability to support true enterprise scale--with thousands of agents--across digital channels is unique. Combined with our signature Community solution, Khoros delivers impressive ROI for enterprise brands, backed by over a decade of experience.”


Netomi considers itself to be the first continuous-learning AI platform for customer service which enables enterprises to securely automate ticket resolution, boost agent productivity and provide a consistently superior customer experience. “Customer service is no longer a post-purchase silo or a cost center, it’s is now a primary business driver: a marketing tool that creates a bridge between brand promise and brand experience,” said Can Ozdoruk, VP of Marketing for Netomi. “It’s becoming increasingly complex and expensive for businesses to meet customer expectations for always-on, always-personal experiences. To meet the needs of what we call the “Relationship Economy” we’ve designed an accessible AI that can increase the scope, volume and quality of customer service interactions while controlling costs.”

Netomi offers integrations with the most popular email, social, chat, messaging and voice platforms so businesses can offer effective cross-channel customer support in situations where it matters most. While the company promotes their channel-agnostic AI engine as one that ‘celebrates the differences of each channel', Ozdoruk believes their greatest differentiator is email support, which he sees as still being the most popular digital channel for customers. “Extracting the actionable intents from lengthy email messages that often include multiple questions can be extremely challenging,” he said. “By leveraging Netomi’s AI email support system to understand on what customers are asking in real time, a business can automatically and instantly resolve over 50% of incoming customer service queries.” He cited clients reporting that the time for response to emails had been reduced from 17 hours down to a matter of minute.

Response on other channels has improved as well. “Fifty percent of interaction volume is equated to 5-7 repeatable issues,” Ozdoruk noted. “By automating resolutions to mundane tasks, our client WestJet (one of Canada’s leading airlines), has been able to deflect inquiries that took up much of the time of their front-line personnel and achieve a 5x increase in customer engagement while deflecting more than 50% of the work that was done by their social media team.” He also pointed to the statistic that 74% of passenger questions were now being handled by Netomi’s AI which WestJet calls “Juliet.” What he considers remarkable is that even with the improvement, the carrier has increased the number of agents as opposed to cutting jobs. “When you ease the anxiety about AI, you boost the productivity of agents and enable them to do more.”

soprano designs

Soprano Design enables businesses to orchestrate their communications with customers across the omnichannel spectrum they now prefer to use, whether on traditional touchpoints such as SMS, Voice, email, IP Messaging or newer more interactive digital channels like WhatsApp and RCS. Employees will also appreciate the workflow automation and drag-and-drop user interfaces made possible by the solution.

The company, which originated in Australia, specializes in enterprise mobile messaging. While many in North America still might not be familiar with them, they have been around for 25 years, have 13 offices worldwide including Atlanta and Seattle and have 3000 customers including 25+ deployments in the Fortune 500. The company gained renown when the platform was used in SMS voting to help determine the winner of “Australian Idol.”

 “We have over 3,000 companies around the world including 25+ deployments in the Fortune 500", said Tejal Ranjan, Product Marketing Manager for Soprano Design.  “Having a strong customer focus has always been a massive differentiator for Soprano. Today’s digital worker wants simplicity and the ability to send and respond to messages in their messaging platform of choice. It might be helping a hospital improve operational efficiencies to reduce patient wait times or helping first responders communicate more efficiently in emergency situations. Soprano’s cloud-based mobile messaging platform is designed to be agile, enabling customers to communicate on their terms, with their preferred channel at the right time and with the right information.”

While secure messaging deployments are often complex and take time to implement, Soprano has already integrated with several of the world’s largest mobile operators pursuing enterprise and business relationships. The company has the capability to accelerate the platform onboarding and training of enterprise teams. Its cloud-based messaging portal has tools to help businesses track and report on key messaging metrics such as delivery and read receipts, response tracking, and performance statistics. Soprano Design also offers scalable validity on a global basis based on its quarter century of experience over which it has processed more than seven billion messages.

vanilla forums

Vanilla Forums provides a platform that enables customer-centric companies to build communities that exponentially increase customer loyalty, improve service by enabling knowledgeable customers to help others, develop valuable insights and ultimately build a higher level of trust. “Communities can play a significant role in ticket deflection, said Luc Vezina, CEO of Montreal-based Vanilla Forums. “By   building a huge knowledgebase-- either from scratch or from repurposing community content-- a well-managed community helps people troubleshoot more effectively.” Much of the shared information then can be reused to make self-service easier. Vanilla’s SEO optimization reinforces the value by ensuring that user generated content will rank high in search engines.

Vezina believes that with the growing complexity and volume of inquiries, many businesses cannot adequately support their contact centers. “The way customers interact with companies has changed dramatically in the past few years.  Pushing messages at customers and only getting feedback through closed channels such as the phone or email is giving way to open discussion,” he said. “When customers bond with other customers and enthusiasts can accurately answer questions, we find it greatly reduces the need for agents to step in.” He cited computer manufacturer Acer as having experienced a 4x boost in their community ROI with the solution.

Vanilla Forums began as an open source project to produce forum software in 2009. The company offers a Vanilla Success Team to guide businesses through the launch of a community and provide ongoing strategic and operational advice to help achieve goals, Vezina noted that it has customers in a wide variety of verticals, growing from their original strength in tech companies and videogaming, to financial institutions, health and wellness, consumer products and more.