Gwent-based businesses have been named on the shortlist for the 22nd annual Welsh Contact Centre Awards.

The awards, organised by the Welsh Contact Centre Forum, are sponsored by Ring Central, celebrate outstanding contributions to a sector which contributes £650m annually to the Welsh economy.

Among the 22 company and individual awards, a new category recognises businesses for innovative use of artificial intelligence (AI) or data.

Blackhorse Finance, Shared Services Connected Ltd, Lloyds Banking Group and the Office for National Statistics have each been named as a finalist across a number of categories.

Managing director of the Welsh Contact Centre Forum Sandra Busby said: “It’s understandable that nervousness can set in when we talk about technology replacing tasks undertaken by humans.

The bigger picture around AI is one that can improve the lives of employees and customers, while creating efficiencies and insights for companies, improving the bottom line. The individuals and companies nominated in this year’s awards are at the cutting edge of the customer service industry and deserve the recognition for making the lives of consumers better.”

Newport’s SSCL is one of the finalists in the new category, chosen for their work in developing a product known as myHub.

Knowledge and insight operations lead Veronica Stone-Montgomery said: “The AI incorporated in myHub allows us to work out the next best action based on our customer’s intent, driving tailored content to the customer before they ask for it or realise they need it. Through robotic learning our search engines and chat functions perform like a real human being, as real as you or me.

“The contact centre industry continues to go through significant change and at SSCL we believe that AI and robotics will be the next customer experience frontier. Predictive analytics will help us anticipate customers’ behaviour, integrating with technologies such as myHub to meet their needs before they need to pick up the phone."

The finalists in all 22 categories including Contact Centre Manager of the Year and Contact Centre of the Year will be honoured and the winners announced at the Welsh Contact Centre Awards ceremony at the Wales Millennium Centre on Friday, March 20.

The ceremony for 700 guests has previously been hosted by television celebrities including Jonathan Ross, Claudia Winkleman, Alan Carr, David Walliams and Rob Brydon, but 2020’s star turn is a closely guarded secret.

Louise Newbury-Smith, UK Enterprise regional vice president at headline sponsor Ring Central, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Welsh Contact Centre Awards and seeing first-hand the incredible initiatives that people are working on. It’s also been an honour to be on the judging panel and I’ve been particularly impressed by the graduate and apprentice finalists, they are doing great things.”

Alongside headline sponsors Ring Central, further companies supporting the event currently include Yolk Recruitment, CGI, Cardiff & Vale College, Deloitte, Pure Recruitment, Legal & General, Arvato and RW Learning.