Ireland is famous for its ‘gift of the gab’. Strong communications skills and interpersonal strengths helped to establish it as one of the world’s first call centre hubs back in the 1980s.
Since then, such centres have grown in scale and scope, today providing a wide range of inbound and outbound contacts across customer service, support and sales. They provide contact not just through phone calls but via an array of channels from social media to web chat.
That’s why this omnichannel customer engagement practice is now referred to as simply ‘customer experience’ – or CX.
In an increasingly data-driven world, CX is a resource that feeds into every aspect of an organisation’s operations, from engineering to sales. As a result, it has become an invaluable engine with which to drive continuous improvement.
Ireland’s long heritage in call centres, its position as a global technology hub, and its highly supportive CX ecosystem, places it at the leading edge of a rapidly transforming sector.
It’s a sector that is characterised in Ireland both by the large cohort of multinational companies that have a presence here, as well as the strength of its indigenous CX sector.
Innovative ecosystem invests in CX
Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency, and IDA Ireland, which supports international companies locating in the country, together with the highly proactive Customer Contact Management Association (CCMA) – which draws its membership from both – all work in partnership to ensure Ireland leads the way in CX development.
A recent report co-published by the three, entitled Strategy, Vision and Roadmap 2019, looks at the impact new and disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and advanced data analytics are having on traditional CX activities around the world, and highlights Ireland’s capability to deliver them.
Ireland, it found, has a unique opportunity to strengthen its position as the global location of choice for companies looking either to expand existing CX operations, or to establish new ones.
The country’s highly skilled, multilingual workforce already powers a number of highly innovative indigenous players.
These include Voxpro, an international business process outsourcing (BPO) specialist with Irish operations in Dublin and Cork, as well as centres of excellence in North and Central America, Europe and Asia. Founded in Cork, this highly innovative company was acquired by TELUS International in 2017, which today employs over 34,000 people.
CarTrawler, the Irish travel technology platform, is the world’s largest online marketplace for car hire, processing over 900 million hires per year across the globe. It employs 450 people, including 42 different nationalities, and covers 20 languages. In the past two years, it has transformed itself from call centres to digital contact centres.
In doing so, it was enabled by Edgetier, the software company behind Arthur, a customer service system for CX centres. It combines AI and human interaction to optimise contact centre agent service and efficiency. Built by “data-first” engineers, it also provides a full suite of reporting tools providing unparalleled data access for contact centre managers.
How Irish CX expertise delivers for worldwide partners
The need for businesses in all sectors to respond to fast-changing customer expectations is one that Irish CX companies are well placed to deliver.
Indeed, no other sector is required to be as responsive, transformative and adaptive to new generational demands. Consumers worldwide increasingly gravitate towards brands that meet, exceed and, increasingly, predict, their needs and expectations. Irish CX expertise is delivering on just that for customers worldwide.
“The CX sector is a significant employer in Ireland and we have a unique opportunity to harness our agile workforce and research capability to continue to develop innovative technologies and deliver the next generation of high quality customer solutions that have the potential to transform how markets and businesses work,” said Julie Sinnamon, chief executive of Enterprise Ireland.
Ireland is one of the CX capitals of the world with more than 250 companies that operate CX activities employing 56,000 people and serving multiple markets in multiple languages.
Their work is supported by key technology supports, including the country’s strong research capability. Ireland has dedicated research institutes and centres of excellence – including ADAPT and INSIGHT – which work with businesses across AI, machine learning and analytics.
In particular, CeaDAR works with CX companies in areas such as customer analytics, contact centre analytics, text analytics, analytics in real time, social media analytics, location-based analytics and sentiment analysis.
It’s just one example of the ways in which Ireland fosters excellent collaboration between research and industry. Of course it helps that Ireland’s IT specialists are among the best educated in the EU, with 82% having a third level qualification – compared with an EU average of 62%.
These workplace skills are augmented by national agencies such as Skillnet Ireland, a specialist in workforce learning, which tailors industry-led programmes of interest to the CX sector right up to Masters Degree level.
The strength of this unique ecosystem is why the Global Innovation Index ranks Ireland 10th in the world. Put simply, no country has more experience in customer experience.