Webhelp “Think Human”

Webhelp rings in its next phase of strategic development with new brand

Paris-headquartered Webhelp, the European leader in customer experience and business solutions, today revealed its revamped brand platform, supported by an updated visual identity.

The group’s new brand reunites the strengths of its collaborators in 36 countries today and plays a key role in its ambitions to grow to a global leadership position.

The group’s new vision of “making business more human” is founded strongly on Webhelp’s existing company culture, as well as the role enterprises play in society and the rising desire of consumers to create emotional connections with the brands they engage with. No matter the activity in business, people are involved and therefore are the main focus of Webhelp’s brand.

“At Webhelp we truly believe if you focus on the person in front of you, suddenly everything comes alive” explains Olivier Duha, co-founding President. “this holds for each connection built between a brand and a consumer, but just as strongly between employer and employee, client and provider. Helping hard things become easy takes empathy and imagination

The new brand identity, which has been built inside-out, in partnership with the brand experts at FutureBrand, showcases a warm, welcoming and vibrant visual system and color palette, and reflects the group’s people-first culture and game-changing mentality. Providing services to thousands of clients across the world with a wide range of Customer Experience and Business Solutions, the group puts its clients at the heart of its all its activities, thus forming true and lasting partnerships.

Frédéric Jousset, co-founding President adds: “over the years we have continuously invested heavily in both enabling and matching our clients’ needs to technologically innovative solutions, as well as our people. We feel embracing technology is key, and it’s the people that deploy these tools that make the difference and take the experience to the next level.”

“We are truly excited to reveal the new face of Webhelp, which better expresses who we are to the world, following an intense project of close to a year. We have engaged with stakeholders from all areas and levels of our business and believe we have created a vision and brand that’s built to last, as is shown through the enthusiasm of our new future shareholders at GBL regarding the outcomes of the project.” States Sandrine Asseraf, Group Secretary General.

About to celebrate its 20th anniversary, having grown from a challenger to top player in Europe, both through organic growth and acquisitions, Webhelp aims to maintain and accelerate its performance through its redefined vision and mission, together with the strong collaboration of its investment partners. Webhelp is currently in the final stages of negotiations with GBL as new investment partner, stepping in for KKR, and expects to announce the closing of the deal before the end of the year, after obtaining the regulatory authorizations required.

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Making business more human for the world’s most exciting brands

We live in an era of fast connectivity and AI. Today, human experiences have even more power to make businesses come to life in customers’ hearts and minds.

Webhelp is committed to making business more human.
It’s through this commitment that Webhelp enriches customer experience, and designs business solutions that create value for the world’s most exciting companies.

Webhelp is a partner across a range of services including customer experience solutions, social media moderation through to payment services.

Hundreds of brands across the world trust Webhelp because of their people, the culture they work in, and the ideas and technology they put to work.

Webhelp believes that Emotional Intelligence creates a lasting impact, and their skill in marrying a differentiating human touch to the right technology is what makes a real difference for their clients.

By choosing Webhelp they access the passion and experience of 50,000 game-changers from more than 140 locations in 36 countries. Each one determined to bring their own intelligence, empathy and experience to the table every day. Webhelp invests in people and the environment they work in, because they know that when people thrive, it has a powerful impact on them, their customers and on their partners’ business.

Webhelp believes that making business more human leads to a better customer experience - and a healthier bottom line.

Webhelp is the European leader in their industry, with a revenue of €1,4B in 2018, and aims for a global leadership position. Webhelp is currently owned by its management and KKR, a leading global investment firm, as of March 2016.


Groupe Bruxelles Lambert enters into exclusive negotiations for the acquisition of the Webhelp group

GBL announces today it has entered into exclusive negotiations to acquire a majority stake in the Webhelp group, together with its co-founding shareholders, Olivier Duha and Frédéric Jousset, who would retain their role as founding executive directors, and its management team.

Founded in 2000, Webhelp is today one of the world's leading providers of customer experience and business process outsourcing (BPO). The group has doubled in size since the KKR acquisition in 2015 and aims to achieve a turnover of €1.5 billion in 2019. Webhelp develops innovative solutions combining consulting services, technological solutions and omni-channel processing capabilities thanks to its
55 000 employees in more than 35 countries. This performance is the result of an organic and external growth strategy that GBL aims to maintain and accelerate together with the strong collaboration of the co-founders and management.

As a result of this transaction, GBL would acquire a majority stake in Webhelp on the basis of an enterprise value of €2.4 billion.

It is expected that the legal documentation will be signed by the beginning of August for completion, after obtaining regulatory authorizations for use, within the course of Q4 2019.

Ian Gallienne, CEO of GBL, said: "We are enthusiastic to become a partner to Olivier Duha, Frédéric Jousset and the Management team in continuing the successful development of Webhelp, supporting the transition from a European Champion to a Global Leader. This transaction is consistent with GBL’s announced objective to increase its exposure to private assets.”

Olivier Duha and Frédéric Jousset, said: “We thank KKR for its investment over the past 4 years and we welcome with confidence GBL in order to write together a new growth and investment phase. The management team has chosen to surround itself with a shareholder renowned for its longstanding support to companies with international ambitions such as Webhelp.”

Stanislas de Joussineau, Director at KKR said: "We are proud to have been a partner for Olivier Duha, Frederic Jousset and the outstanding management team at Webhelp over the last four years to create one of the leading global business process outsourcers. During our ownership, Webhelp has doubled its revenues to €1.5 billion and increased its number of employees globally from 30,000 to over 50,000. We believe the company is strongly positioned for future growth and we wish Webhelp and GBL every continued success."

 


 

About Groupe Bruxelles Lambert

Groupe Bruxelles Lambert ("GBL") is an established investment holding company, listed on the stock exchange for over sixty years and with an indicative net asset value of EUR 19 billion and a market capitalization of EUR 14 billion at the end of June 2019. GBL is a leading investor in Europe, focused on long-term value creation and relying on a stable and supportive family shareholder base. GBL strives to maintain a high quality, diversified portfolio of global companies, leaders in their sectors, with whom it can contribute to value creation as an active professional investor. GBL seeks to offer its shareholders an attractive return, resulting in a sustainable dividend and growth in its revalued net assets.

GBL is listed on Euronext Brussels (Ticker: GBLB BB; ISIN code: BE0003797140) and is part of the BEL20 index.

About Webhelp

Webhelp is a global business process outsourcer (BPO), specialising in customer experience and payment services in addition to sales and marketing services across voice, social and digital channels.

From more than 150 sites in 36 countries with an approximately 50,000-strong team, our focus is on engineering performance improvements and delivering a real and lasting transformation in our clients’ operating models to generate financial advantage. We partner with some of the world’s most progressive brands including Sky, Shop Direct, Bouygues, Direct Energie, KPN, Vodafone, La Redoute, Michael Kors and Valentino.

Headquartered in Paris, France, the company has grown its revenues by more than 250% in the last 4 years by investing in its people, the environment they work in and developing its analytical and operating capability to deliver a transformational outsourcing proposition that addresses the challenges of an omni-channel world.

More information can be found at www.webhelp.com

About KKR

KKR is a leading global investment firm that manages multiple alternative asset classes, including private equity, energy, infrastructure, real estate and credit, with strategic partners that manage hedge funds. KKR aims to generate attractive investment returns for its fund investors by following a patient and disciplined investment approach, employing world-class people, and driving growth and value creation with KKR portfolio companies. KKR invests its own capital alongside the capital it manages for fund investors and provides financing solutions and investment opportunities through its capital markets business. References to KKR’s investments may include the activities of its sponsored funds. For additional information about KKR & Co. Inc (NYSE: KKR), please visit KKR’s website at www.kkr.com and on Twitter @KKR_Co.


Webhelp’s market expansion strategies in the contact centre outsourcing market earn it accolades from Frost & Sullivan

Webhelp's keen focus on agile customer experience (CX) solutions has helped it grow across Europe in an intensely competitive market

Based on Webhelp’s successful growth strategy across Europe, Frost & Sullivan has recognised the company with the 2018 European Market Leadership Award in contact centre outsourcing.
Over the course of several years, Webhelp has diversified its industry focus to include expertise in healthcare, travel, and B2B services. It also has expanded its geographic footprint to cover eastern and southern Europe. When it comes to Europe, Webhelp currently has multi-lingual hubs in Prague, Athens, Lisbon, Barcelona, Enschede, Kuala Lumpur, and Berlin. All told, the company will soon have some 50,000 employees working in 35 countries across the globe, and total revenues should be close to US $1.5 billion.

As a business partner, Webhelp assists clients in providing a next-level customer experience (CX) through advanced analytics, omni-channel technologies, and, above all, its people engagement approach. It works strategically with clients to help improve the CX by producing a comprehensive single view of the customer. And the company regularly reviews its initiatives for commercial viability and the impact they will have on the overall CX by employing analytical methodologies including customer journey mapping, demand management, customer segmentation, and employee satisfaction.

“The founders of Webhelp have long embraced an entrepreneurial philosophy,” said Frost & Sullivan digital experience analyst Stephen Loynd. “This is a company that continues to emphasize a start-up philosophy, that prides itself on being agile and exceptionally easy to work with. Along the way, Webhelp has established a reputation as a Customer Experience provider that acts as an authentic business partner to clients, which in turn helps enterprises push the limits of the CX through multichannel solutions.”

Webhelp’s particular focus on tracking customer effort is also noteworthy in a highly competitive space. The company is practiced at measuring both Customer Effort Score (CES) and Net Promoter Score (NPS) on many client programs. From Frost & Sullivan’s perspective, this kind of approach is what helps make the typical Webhelp client customer ownership experience exemplary. At the same time, it’s clear the company understands that analysing customer journeys across any medium is essential to offer an effective multichannel customer management solution.

"Even as Webhelp scales its core business, it has a pulse on the manner in which technology is changing the way consumers interact with brands,” added Loynd. “Underlining its commitment to next-generation CX, the company has partnered with Recast.AI to develop personalised chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Webhelp’s brand strength derives from the way it has skillfully negotiated a fast-changing BPO landscape and stayed focused on the essentials of the CX at a time of exponential change.”

Finally, for Webhelp, keeping pace with today’s accelerating pace of techno-consumerism means ensuring business continuity and data integrity. It accomplishes this with IT infrastructure and a technology ecosystem that are focused on business consistency across all operations.

Each year, Frost & Sullivan bestows this award upon the company that demonstrates excellence in growth and customer value. Turning loyal customers into brand advocates for clients allows the company to grow and achieve a market leadership position. This award recognises the company that successfully increases market share over time, an accomplishment achieved through a demonstrated commitment to client relationships.

Frost & Sullivan Best Practices awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development. Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis, and extensive secondary research to identify best practices in the industry.

 

About Frost & Sullivan
Frost & Sullivan, the Growth Partnership Company, works in collaboration with clients to leverage visionary innovation that addresses the global challenges and related growth opportunities that will make or break today's market participants. For more than 50 years, we have been developing growth strategies for the global 1000, emerging businesses, the public sector, and the investment community.

 

Contact:
Samantha Park
P: +1 210.247.2426
F: +1 210.348.1003
E: samantha.park@frost.com


Webhelp group agrees to acquire Sellbytel in transformational transaction

Acquisition strengthens Webhelp’s position in the European CRM BPO Market

 


Webhelp Group
, a leading global BPO and customer experience company, today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire 100% of Sellbytel Group. Sellbytel is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC).

By joining forces with Sellbytel, Webhelp expands its geographic footprint in Europe, and adds an extensive list of international brands and value-added services to its portfolio. Following this acquisition, Webhelp Group forecasts a turnover of €1,3 billion for the end of 2018, supported by a team of 50.000 people, serving over 500 clients, in 35 countries.

Sellbytel’s Barcelona office provides best in class multilingual operations with around 4,000 people working in more than 20 languages.  This expertise has been extended to Kuala Lumpur and Puerto Rico as multilingual hubs serving the APAC region and the Americas.

In addition to its complementary geographical footprint and multilingual expertise, Sellbytel enhances Webhelp’s service portfolio in several strategic areas such as end-to-end solutions in B2B Sales and Support activities, as well as an innovative work-from-home model which currently employs over 500 people working for various clients.

As part of Webhelp, Sellbytel will be able to build upon its strong expertise as a CRM BPO provider and will have access to a large variety of additional capabilities, an extensive geographical footprint adding nearshore capabilities for its clients, as well as expertise in areas like AI, analytics, omnichannel platforms, and specialized services provided by subsidiaries of Webhelp such as Telecats, Netino, and Webhelp Payment Services.

Olivier Duha and Frederic Jousset, Webhelp’s cofounders said, “This acquisition is not only a major step to strengthen our position in Europe, it is also a fantastic opportunity to broaden our service portfolio and our geographical coverage. After 18 years of uninterrupted growth, Webhelp is building upon its position as a leader in the CRM BPO industry. The fit with Sellbytel’s management has been a major strength supporting this deal and definitely has us excited about building this future together.”  

Michael Raum, founder of Sellbytel added, “We are proud of what’s been accomplished over the last 25 years with our partners at Omnicom and are very excited about our future with Webhelp. Sellbytel management is excited to team up with one of the most successful companies in our sector. Our cultural fit and our shared vision are key elements for our future success.”

Sellbytel management will continue to be strongly involved in the future growth of the company and will provide continuity for the company’s clients while also being able to provide a more comprehensive range of services. Webhelp and Sellbytel expect to derive significant synergies from the transaction thanks to the enhanced expertise and capabilities of the combined group, through cross-pollination of services, and access to new regions and nearshoring models.

Moving forward, Webhelp’s strategy is to continue to grow both organically and through acquisition over the coming years, both in terms of geographical expansion and the addition of new capabilities.

The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2018, subject to approval of the relevant regulatory authorities.

 

ABOUT SELLBYTEL

Sellbytel Group is a provider of outsourced sales, service and support with operations in 28 centers across Spain, Germany, Portugal, Puerto Rico and Malaysia. More information can be found at www.sellbytel.com.


WEBHELP STYRKER DERES FØRENDE NEARSHORE PORTFOLIO

Overtagelse af det førende flersproglige kundeservicefirma Runway BPO gennemført

PARIS, d. 16. maj 2018 – Globalt førende BPO- og kundeservicevirksomhed, Webhelp, har bekræftet at overtagelsen af aktiemajoriteten i det førende flersprogede nearshore-firma, Runway BPO, er blevet gennemført.

Runway, som har hovedkvarter i Riga – Letland, medbringer yderligere ni flersprogede centre samt 1.000 medarbejdere til gruppen på tværs af Letland og nye lande for Webhelp: Estland, Litauen, Ukraine og Spanien. Dertil kommer yderligere ekspertise, ikke blot i sektorer som rejse- og forbrugsartikler, men også aktiviteter som revision, IT og HR-outsourcing, hvilket supplerer Webhelps eksisterende portfolio perfekt.

Runway fejrer deres 15 års jubilæum i år, og har oplevet kraftig vækst under ledelse af stifter Nils Sundling og administrerende direktør Uldis Prieditis. Teamet som er ansvarligt for virksomhedens succes, forbliver for at sørge for at ekspertise, kontakter og lokal viden bliver vedligeholdt og udnyttet for at maksimere mulighederne for udvikling i den nordiske region og i hele Europa.

Frédéric Jousset, medstifter af Webhelp, udtalte:

Runway er en glimrende forretning med stærke resultater fra levering af førsteklasses kundeservice på vegne af skandinaviske og internationale kunder. Vi er meget glade for at forene kræfterne med virksomheden, deres ledelsesteam og medarbejdere for at udvide Webhelps globale fodaftryk og understøtte virksomheden på det skandinaviske marked med tilgængelige ressourcer fra vores gruppeorganisation og investorer.

Uldis Prieditis, administrerende direktør for Runway BPO, udtalte:

Lige siden Runway blev etableret for 15 år siden, har vi været drevet af en ambition om at blive en velkendt og anerkendt partner på det skandinaviske BPO-marked med et stærkt fokus på fremragende CRM-erfaring, specielt på den leverede kvalitet og de skræddersyede løsninger vi har udført. Vores hårde arbejde har resulteret i lange samarbejder med vores kunder, hvoraf mange har været hos os i mere end 10 år nu, samt et fantastisk team på mere end 1.000 gode medarbejdere der arbejder for vores kunder hver dag. Vores ambition er nu at udvide internationalt også. Med dette fokus er en overdragelse af ejerskabet til Webhelp Group en perfekt løsning for virksomheden og dens kunder og medarbejdere. De øgede vækstmuligheder vil hjælpe med at understøtte ansættelser, og udveksling af bedste praksis med vores søstervirksomheder indenfor den internationale gruppe vil hjælpe os med at føre Runway til et endnu højere niveau.”

Overtagelsen er en del af Webhelps strategi for aktivt at forfølge geografisk udvidelse og forstærke deres sektorrelevante ekspertise og vil give Webhelp mulighed for at tilbyde kunder tjenester fra fire nye lande, som hver har stærke flersprogede kapaciteter.

De seneste 2 år har været meget betydningsfulde i Webhelps historie. Store nye kundeerhvervelser, strategiske overtagelser og engagementet fra det globale investeringsfirma KKR har markeret et reelt vendepunkt i Webhelps historie, som nu i sandhed er en af de førende virksomheder i BPO-sektoren.

 

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Om Webhelp

Webhelp er en global outsourcer af forretningsprocesser (BPO), som specialiserer sig i kundeservice og betalingshåndtering samt salgs- og marketingtjenester på tværs af tale, sociale og digitale kanaler.

Fra mere end 110 lokationer i 33 lande, med et team på omkring 40.000, er vores fokus på at generere ydeevneforbedringer samt levere en reel og langvarig forandring af vores kunders driftsmodeller for at generere finansielle fordele. Vi samarbejder med nogle af verdens mest progressive varemærker, herunder Sky, Shop Direct, Bouygues, Direct Energie, KPN, Vodafone, La Redoute, Michael Kors og Valentino.

Med hovedkvarter i Paris, Frankrig, har virksomheden øget sin omsætning med mere end 250% de sidste 4 år ved at investere i medarbejdere og arbejdsmiljø, samt udvikle den analytiske og driftsmæssige kapacitet for at levere et transformerende outsourcing-forslag der adresserer udfordringerne ved en omni-kanal verden.

Webhelp er ejet af deres ledelse samt KKR, et førende globalt investeringsfirma, fra og med marts 2016.

Mere information kan findes på www.webhelp.com

Om Runway

Runway, som er stiftet i 2003 af Nils Sundling, er blevet den ideelle nearshoring partner for skandinaviske og andre europæiske virksomheder på udkig efter outsourcing-tjenester. Runway BPO er en fuldt integreret BPO-servicevirksomhed, som har kapacitet til at levere forskellige outsourcing-tjenester der er individuelt tilpasset hver kundes specifikke behov og krav. I øjeblikket betjener Runway deres kunder med over 1.000 medarbejdere fra 9 lokaliteter i 5 lande – Letland, Litauen, Estland, Ukraine og Spanien.

Mere information kan findes på www.runwaybpo.com

 Om overtagelsen

Avendus Capital optrådte som eksklusiv finansiel rådgiver for Runway, mens Webhelp blev rådgivet af deres juridiske og finansielle team hos DLA Piper, Jeremy Scemama, Elise Aubert og Julien Berger.

 


Artificial Intelligence: a new era of transformation for customer relations

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: A LEVER TO INCREASE HUMAN CAPITAL [PROSPECTIVE OUTLOOK]
(Catherine Fauchoux – Global Innovation Research Manager)

 

As European market leader in customer experience, we are conscious that Artificial Intelligence is going to transform our sector in a lasting way. Moreover, our current use of Artificial Intelligence strengthens our conviction that this technology will help us to improve customer service, both to the benefit of advisors and to better meet the expectations of brands and their customers. We are already seeing a new concept emerge: that of the augmented agent. We are also convinced that this technology will heavily underscore what is at stake in the data services market. Through consumer expectations and regulatory oversight this market will provide companies and individuals the opportunity to better define their respective rights and obligations, but also to integrate the concepts of transparency, responsibility and security, conditions that are fundamental to the development of our operations.

According to Transparency Market Research, the global AI market today is worth 126 billion USD, and is projected to grow to 3 trillion USD by 2024.  Currently adoption has been driven by companies that are already mature in terms of digital transformation and data usage. Where as to date much of the attention about AI technology has focused upon the US and China we strongly believe that Europe is emerging as leaders in the field in terms of expertise, investment and public policy.

AI is attracting great deal of Buzz, with some recent applications feeling like gimmicks. Behind the buzz however AI is a real economic phenomenon with significant implications for all aspects of society and business. Whether it’s the increased accuracy of medical diagnoses, autonomous vehicles on our roads, protecting us against fraud or fake news or using our faces for authentication AI is already making its presence felt.

Nevertheless, AI cannot currently function without humans; for the moment, it is best suited to assisting people and improving their experiences.


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AT THE SERVICE OF HUMANS

Transformation map published online by the World Economic Forum, illustrating AI's contribution in terms of human assistance.

Source: World Economic Forum (2017)

 

AI today, and what it promises in terms of automation, underlines the need for a repositioning of human interaction with technology. As the scientist Joël de Rosnay describes, artificial intelligence represents the beginnings of a new world, built on "augmented collective intelligence". Seen as a catalyst for individual competencies, AI will still place the advisor at the heart of Customer Relations, and allow the automation of repetitive processes and tasks.

In a few years, the Customer Relations role has changed from being 100% face to face or phone based to a diverse, omni-channel means of managing interaction between organisations and their customers. This requires constant adapting to changing customers' needs and preferences.

As a Group Webhelp handles around 2 million conversations every day, across all channels, on behalf of our clients and partners. We expect this traffic is to grow and to evolve in terms of its nature and  purpose, creating opportunities for AI on several levels. This technology constitutes a productivity lever for all employees, benefiting brands and their customers.

Conscious of the opportunities that it can create and impacts that it can have on our activities, we have made Artificial Intelligence an investment priority in terms of innovation.

 


 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE - THE ADVISOR AT THE CENTRE OF OUR APPROACH [VALUE PROPOSITION]
(Sebastien Vassort - Head of Global Products & Services Innovation)

 

At Webhelp, we examine new technologies to assess their potential in terms of customer experience and productivity. The customer service of tomorrow must operate as a platform: an agile and open structure that blends human and technology capabilities to adapt to the evolving needs of brands and customers, allowing companies to remain competitive in rapidly changing markets.

This thinking drives our innovation projects connected to Artificial Intelligence and Automation, we place the relationship between agents and technology at the heart of what we do.

  • Automation of the conversation

Working in front of the Agent we deploy automated conversational solutions, chatbots, voicebots, and digital assistants (using technologies such as  Alexa and Google Home) that interact directly with the customer (pre-qualification of needs, automation of questions/responses and self-care).

  • Automation of advisor coaching

Working alongside the Agent as they engage with customers, automated virtual assistants interact with our advisors, supporting them with contextual knowledge, personalised coaching and suggested responses. For example, we are working with a Mailbot that determines what the customer is asking within an email and suggests the best response which is validated by the agent or even sent directly to the customer.

  • Automation of processes

Working behind the agent process automation robots  can execute high-volume repetitive tasks using tools such as Desktop Automation activities (identification, creation of tickets, reply/follow-up emails, etc.) and Robotics Process Automation (automation of back-office and administrative tasks,) and Real Time Operations Alerting (automated real-time monitoring of contact volumes and identifying the root-cause of unplanned demand and recommending corrective actions).


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND AUTOMATION INITIATIVES

Map of projects connected to Artificial Intelligence and Automation at Webhelp.

Source: Webhelp - Global Innovation (2017)

 

Many of the technologies underlying AI are already being used within Customer Relations, such as Speech Analytics (speech recognition and processing), Natural Language Processing and Machine Translation, Machine Learning (for modeling and prediction), Robotic Process Automation (for back-office processes)

 

 

CURRENT BENEFITS FOR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE [CONCRETE EXAMPLES]
(David Pattman – Global Innovation Director)

 

At Webhelp, our approach to innovation is very empirical; we test ideas internally before recommending solutions to our clients.

To this end, our Global R&D efforts are currently focused on:

  • The partial automation of conversations, advisor coaching and processes
  • Automated omni-channel assistance, available 24/7
  • An improvement in predictive analyses to better anticipate customers' needs and define optimal engagement strategies
  • More sophisticated data analysis processes to better understand customers and increase their satisfaction
  • Improvements in the identification and security of transactions
  • The protection and security of processed data

Through our subsidiaries, we are currently developing projects relating to speech and image recognition and processing.


SPEECH RECOGNITION AND PROCESSING AT TELECATS

Webhelp’s R&D efforts in the field of speech recognition and processing are being led by Telecats, a specialist speech technologies business acquired by Webhelp in 2017 and reflect our view that these capabilities are of increasing importance as a major player in BPO and Customer Relations.  Speech-based communications (phone calls) remain the single largest channel, and Speech analytics allows us to analyse calls historically and in real time on the basis of conversation content, quality and sentiment.

Legend's translation:
Example of usage: the system analyses the customer’s speech (tone, emotion, words, etc.) and suggests to the advisor what tone and words to use. This automated coaching allows the advisor to adapt to the customer and personalise the response.

Source: Webhelp - Global Innovation (2017)

IMAGE RECOGNITION AND PROCESSING AT MYSTUDIOFACTORY

Image recognition and processing offers the possibility of creating new, richer, more immersive and personalised digital experiences. For example, MyStudioFactory, Webhelp’s specialist digital agency  have developed an application that will allow the user to visualise in real-time what they would look like if they changed their hair or make-up colour using AI and image rendering technology .

Using AI capabilities such as Machine Learning, Deep Learning and advanced image processing allows us to support our clients to benefit from the  opportunities presented by new technologies on one hand, and a richer and more personalised conversation with an  expert advisor on the other.

From the perspective of the customer, AI allows for a richer experience by strengthening the engagement between customers and brands. The brand can now offer 24/7 support conversations via a chatbot and offer personalised responses thanks to the ability of AI to analyse and understand the customers intention and how best to respond to it. The ability for technology to learn and be taught has the potential to support and benefit the customer throughout their journey.

In the market, numerous case studies illustrate the use cases for these technological solutions. For example, the use of machine learning connected to AI has allowed the American media group Comcast to launch a program that detects subscribers' need for a visit from a technician to resolve connection problems. Initial indications are that the application can detect up to 90% of incidents. This would allow the saving of roughly 10 million dollars in unnecessary visits and technicians' time. Local energy supplier, Drift, based in Seattle, uses AI to predict its users' electricity needs, by collecting different kinds of data, such as working hours and internet usage. The service offered is reviewed every day, allowing the purchase of local energy in line with daily usage. There is even image recognition modules connected to deep learning that have allowed the creation of a chatbot that detects users' emotions.

And we are just getting started. At the Netexplo Forum 2017, the inventor of Siri stated that AI's current capabilities are limited to weak* AI, and that, we were not yet at the stage of strong AI without human interaction. It is therefore vital that we reflect on strong AI in the long term and act on weak AI in the short term. Doing so allows us to serve brands and their customers' needs in an agile way. For example, by using machine learning techniques, a contact centre can project call volumes in order to optimise call response times. By bringing together all these technologies on one platform, we can also create a virtual command centre, a dashboard that will offer an overview of a centre's activities, capable of analysing the situation in an automated way and providing assistance to advisors in real time.

 


 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL REDEFINE THE "DATA MARKET" [THE NEW DATA ECOSYSTEM]
(Boris Paulin – Data Protection Officer)

The real challenge of AI lies in the creation of an ethical model relating to data quality, which determines their value and processing. Whether the data is being processed by a human or by AI, what is important remains the same: the customer's voice. Companies able to structure, 'intelligently' use and secure data will give themselves a decisive competitive advantage. The truly impactful factor is the explosion in volumes brought about by automation; Customer Relations actors must now do their utmost to control huge quantities of data in order to continue to be trusted third parties. This new method of data processing will require companies to be more transparent and responsible. We are seeing this already in security breaches resulting in data leaks; it is not a question of reputation, but a duty of transparency that is the concern. Every responsible company must show accountability towards its partners, that is to say their duty to implement internal mechanisms and procedures demonstrating adherence to data protection rules.

THE OVEREXPOSURE OF DATA: A REALISATION

Certainly, AI increases our understanding of customers, however, it also puts them more at risk with all the data collected on them in a systematic and automated way. We can understand the doubt and indeed the concern held by some regarding the free will that can be exercised by machines without human interference. Take for example the racist Twitter posts by 'Tay', the untrained Microsoft chatbot, who ill-intentioned users were able to corrupt. It is humans who will control developments and systems, all the more so in the case of ‘weak’ AI technology.

The risks will accumulate, since it will be necessary to ensure that the information systems storing the data produced by new AI technologies and connected objects are reliable, and that their use conforms to the data collection purpose. We have seen it recently with Strava Labs, the fitness application with geolocation, used by professional athletes and the military to map their training. A researcher showed that public data being recorded in the app made it possible to identify the routes taken by military personnel in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, a useful source of information for terrorists. Certainly, AI will help to make cyber security more reliable, however, human vigilance and the ethical practices of different actors (companies, users) will play an essential role.

AI, SPEARHEAD OF A TRANSPARENT, RESPONSIBLE AND SECURE DATA ECONOMY

At the risk of going against the tide of fears and risks raised by some experts in the field, we have the personal conviction that AI will not only strengthen human capital, but will also contribute to establishing a structured and responsible data economy. Every individual will gradually become aware of the value of their data and their right to informational self-determination, outlined in the EU regulation which gives the individual the right to determine how and for what purposes their data are used. We may soon see the arrival of more targeted customer expectations, in the spirit of, "I am giving you my data, but in exchange, I want a personalised service from the brand to whom I am bestowing the right to use my data". We must anticipate and prepare for this. This data will hold a monetary value which will no longer be attributed by the brand alone, but also by the customer themselves. We are seeing, for example, think tanks such as Génération Libre, led by Gaspard Koening, which allows internet users to take back control of their personal data by deciding to either sell or keep them. And, as Customer Relations specialists, we will be responsible for managing this data.

In fact, beyond the 'intelligent' and automated management of tasks by the programs used, AI processes, structures and creates new data. In a way, we are moving out of the era of Big Data, where we focused on how to structure and analyse this mountain of data, to the era of 'Valued Data', where we look at how to use the data and guarantee Data Privacy.

There is now a need for transparency with regard to the customer. If we want to offer them a quality service, we need to better understand them by analysing their data. The more data there is on an individual, the more personalised and varied the service they receive will be. Nevertheless, the customer will have the right to decide whether or not to share their data, according to their view of the transparency and security of the trusted third party. This is what we need to work on together with the brands, this guarantee regarding the purpose of the data processing and the security of the data.

EUROPE WILL BE THE LEADER OF THE DATA MARKET

This investment in data extends to their protection, and Europe will have a powerful tool at its disposal when the GDPR (EU regulation on the Protection of Personal Data) comes into force on 25 May 2018. This regulation aims to secure guarantees regarding the processing and protection of this data at the European level and will allow actors in the region to generate profits from the data economy in a controlled way. Certainly, some proclaim the supremacy of the US and China in advances in AI, however, until their data markets offer a regulation identical to that of the EU, the data economy's centre of gravity will very quickly position itself in Europe and in all the countries and companies that have taken these commitments into account, in particular by putting in place Binding Corporate Rules. Some of the GAFA companies have recognised this and started to position themselves, like Facebook for example, who last January announced the opening of a global privacy centre to respond to the demands of the GDPR in particular. Of course, every actor must take a pragmatic approach in line with the realities of our operations.

THE DATA ECONOMY IN 2025 – IDC ESTIMATES
- In 2025, the quantity of data produced will reach 163 zettabytes (a billion gigabytes), 10 times the quantity produced in 2016 (16.1 zettabytes)

- Only 15% of this data will be indexed and only one fifth will be analysed

- 20% of the data will be essential in our daily lives

- Around 90% of the data produced will require protection (confidentiality, secret, private, conformity)

- Only one quarter of the data will be protected

Source: translated from “Data Age 2025: The Evolution of Data to Life-Critical, Don’t Focus on Big Data; Focus on the Data That’s Big” - Sponsored by Seagate – IDC White Paper © 2017 

BCRs (BINDING CORPORATE RULES), WHAT ARE THEY?

A service company's BCRs constitute a code of good conduct for their client and a guarantee for the end user. They allow the transfer of data out of the European area, including to countries without adequate data processing and protection rules while maintaining the benefit of BCRs. With the GDPR, data protection will be standardised across the European Union, however, BCRs will offer an additional guarantee for multinational groups, who put the processing and security of data at the heart of their strategy. BCRs for subcontracting companies who manage data transfers on behalf of their client and on the instructions of someone in charge of data processing have existed since 2013.

The process of having BCRs validated by the competent authority (CNIL in France, or the official data protection authority of any other country) is very demanding and includes 8 stages, however, it offers an additional guarantee for the client.

Today, only around 80 groups have BCRs, which is not very many, particularly when you consider that there are around 500 European companies in the Forbes Global 2000 ranking.

 

*Strong AI is defined as: AI that aims to replicate human behaviour as closely as possibly, by beginning a program with simple intentions and then developing it towards more complex actions. This AI will have autonomy, even a conscience.


GDPR: rethinking our relationship with data

GDPR[1]—these four letters are inescapable as we begin the year 2018. Amid concerns, both real and imagined, and contradicting opinions, the Webhelp Group, in collaboration with all parties involved, chose an innovative, pragmatic, and straightforward approach to the challenge.

There is no denying that the relationship from economic players and individuals to personal data is undergoing change. The nature of this change forces those working in Customer Relationship Management to walk a tightrope, trying to balance legitimate needs which are often at odds with one another. On one side, consumers rightfully require that their data be used only to provide them with services they have signed up for; on the other, the need for customised, speedy, and relevant response calls for a more holistic approach to data usage. Indeed, we all know how unpleasant it is as a customer to have to repeat your requests over and over again…

This dichotomy is brought at the forefront of Webhelp’s GDPR programme. For many years, we have been at the forefront of strategic thinking regarding the future of Customer Experience - and we have become convinced that meeting the challenges and expectations regarding privacy protection depends on “creating a virtuous model based on data quality.”

 

Rethinking Our Relationship with Data

Today's digital world creates and circulates an impressive amount of data, with some sources quoting a figure of 163 zetabits (that is, 163 billion gigabits) for the year 2025, a ten-fold increase relative to levels processed in 2016. Each person generates data voluntarily and often also involuntarily. When a form is filled in online, or when a user sends a text message, is filmed outdoors by a video-surveillance system, browses the web, or agrees to their data being transferred across platforms, data is generated. Almost 85% of that data has no real use. Of the remaining 15%, only one-fifth is usable –so less than 1% of all that data captured! Despite this, a sizable amount of data remains, traces of their presence in the digital or physical world. This reality can no longer be ignored. Indeed, it is the subject of the protection afforded by European regulation, and of the integration of the latter into the Webhelp Group business.

Customer Relationship is based on loyalty toward the consumer. We must provide a service that meets valid consumer expectations, in the best interest of our customer. From a variety of technological environments, Webhelp handles about 2 million conversations each day, across all channels. Those interactions may be saved to allow for continuous service quality improvement and to provide the responses consumers require. By adapting to the customer context and creating on-demand solutions, Webhelp brings its expertise and know-how to its principals and their customers.

However, being so fully involved in those relationships, Webhelp recognized that we cannot remain systematically neutral with regards to the processing of personal data.  Our efforts started years ago within the Webhelp Group, when it very quickly became apparent that a global effort would be required to ensure respect for consumer privacy. This effort has put us at the forefront of thinking around GDPR.

As we emphasize in our BCR (Binding Corporate Rules): “We believe protecting personal data is not just a matter of security or compliance with the law, but above all a matter of collective and individual obligation.” This ambitious approach has been the principle guiding the Webhelp Group's action for several years, and it has been transposed to our successful innovations with Chatbots, Speech Analytics (Speech Recognition and Processing), and Machine Learning for work volume forecasting, etc. We have, in each of those projects, worked toward minimizing the amount of data used, while carefully monitoring the impact those projects might have on privacy.

These improvements are based on solving the dichotomy discussed earlier. We use data to meet the dual legitimacy of consumer requirements - but we only use relevant data, and strictly for achieving positive outcomes for our principals and their customers. From a risk-based analysis, data processing and the relationship we create based on that data became an opportunity for expanding the services we provide to our customers. This relationship is what lies at the core of Webhelp Group's “Privacy” initiative.

 

Creating a Virtuous Cycle in Customer Relationship Management

Customer Relationship Management is actually tripartite, with strong links between the various partners. On one side, the principal client: like every business, it has a life of its own, counting on its partners' expertise for support and advice. This is where BPO players, such as Webhelp, are especially relevant. We must be in tune with our client's expectations and ultimately provide the most accurate, respectful yet relevant service possible to the consumer. Consumers are at the center of that relationship, its purpose, and their satisfaction is absolutely necessary.

In this tripartite relationship, there are key moments when consumers interact with the Customer Relationship Management provider. It is exactly at these moments that the strength of the relationship between consumer and brand is activated—a “third moment of truth,” in Marketing—crucial for brand image and loyalty. In such a decisive setting, there is no room for error, and the consumer demands service that is tailored to them as an individual – but that also respects their privacy and integrity in the use of their personal data. At those times, an approach consistent with legitimate consumer expectations must be employed, and the strategy regarding data processing is crucial. Without going as far as providing an extensive list, GDPR strongly strengthens obligations of transparency and information disclosure for consumers. Consumers must be made aware of, and in some instances, agree to the methods and means implemented to respond to their needs. This effort is now the responsibility of the principal and the BPO players, who must together reflect this requirement to the consumer. An example of practical implementation is the creation of both dedicated and shared GDPR teams, which will respond to consumer requests starting May 25th, 2018, as well as the use of KYC systems to identify the person making an access request.

It is upon this framework, both legal and pragmatic, that our initiative to create a virtuous model based on data quality is founded. By understanding and anticipating consumer needs and by providing a coordinated, accurate, and transparent approach, Webhelp is building, alongside the brands for which we work, this new relationship with data. Data usage must from now on be regarded no longer as a risk, but as an opportunity to provide optimal service. This endeavor is defined by a shared assessment, determination of processes, documentation, and transparency.

This common effort, driven by the principal and with Webhelp's support through the services we offer, will shape the future of Customer Relationships. Together we will successfully navigate the journey from the age of Big Data to the age of Valued Data – an age in which brands and CRM players will continue to be able to take advantage of the possibilities that contextual data provides in delivering a personalised service for the individual consumer, whilst also successfully ensuring the right levels of respect for consumer rights and expectations.

 

Boris Paulin
Data Protection Officer - Webhelp

 

[1]          General Data Protection Regulation – European regulation No. 2016/679 of April 27th, 2016