Omni-channel in Retail is Essential for Success in 2017


I’ve often commented about the importance of omni-channel for all sectors, but particularly retail and hospitality. However, no matter how often I find some research to support its importance, there are always detractors who argue that the cost of investing in CX improvement and omni-channel in retail outweighs the benefit.

Fortunately, I recently found some new research from the ratings agency Fitch that is very persuasive. This research is focused on the US market, but I believe we can broadly assume that the results will be similar elsewhere. The findings are that in retail and restaurants, companies can expect around 3-4% growth in 2017; but the in-store bricks and mortar growth will be 1% or less.

David Silverman, senior director of US corporates at Fitch said: “Spending focus on services and experiences appears here to stay, so the dividing line between best-in-class retailers and market share donors is increasingly going to be determined by which retailers can cater to the evolving landscape. Those that find success have invested in the omni-channel model and have differentiated their products and customer service to draw customers in.”

Let’s just break that down to consider exactly what Fitch is saying. They believe that market confidence is generally good and the sector will grow by a few percentage points in 2017, but almost all the growth will go to companies that invest in omni-channel in retail. Those relying solely on in-store sales will see much slower growth - if any at all.

The Fitch research contrasts McDonald’s with Starbucks. Two brands that you might immediately think of as food and beverage outlets that require customers to be in-store - you can’t get a burger on a website! However, Starbucks does offer a very useful app that allows customers to place an order, and pay for it, while on their way to the restaurant, allowing them to completely avoid any wait for service when they arrive. It’s this kind of joined-up thinking that combines an online channel with an improvement in the in-store experience that Fitch believes will be essential in 2017.

It looks like 2017 might see a tipping point for omni-channel expectations from customers. We are finally reaching a point where the ability of a brand to blend service across channels becomes a differentiator. Companies that cannot offer an improved service by doing this will find they are missing out as customers defect to more omni-channel-aware brands.

What do you think of the Fitch findings? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.

Roy Zaal shortlisted for the Young Sales Professional of the Year Award

Business Consultant Roy Zaal has been named as a finalist in the category Young Sales Professional in this year’s SMA (Sales Management Association) Awards.

The SMA Awards encompass three categories: Young Sales Professional, Senior Sales Professional and Commercial Director of the Year. Members of the SMA nominated sales talents last year. The key criteria are: authenticity, proven results, career development, sales vision and persuasiveness. After a challenging process, Roy Zaal has been shortlisted for the finals.


Commercial Director Thiemo van Spellen says: "Getting into the finals of this prestigious event is a top performance. It is a wonderful way to recognize Roy’s personal growth and the results he and his team have made. This is also a great recognition for the development of the sales approach of Webhelp.”

Roy is delighted: “I’m very proud that I have made it to the finals. It was a challenging process in which I had to pitch the jury and had a tough training. I will do everything I can to win the title.”

The award ceremony

This year’s winners will be announced in a ceremony at the Grand Hotel Huis ter Duin on March 9th, attended by hundreds of sales professionals.

The Role that New Technology will Have in the Customer Experience

New innovations are changing the customer experience. Developments in artificial intelligence are enabling more effective, efficient working for customer experience professionals and providers. Meanwhile, the Internet of Things is empowering more connected, effective service and retailers are adapting to an increasingly mobile-oriented customer base.

The latest infographic from Webhelp takes a look at the role new technology will play in the ever-evolving customer experience.

The Role that New Technology Will Have in Customer Experience Infographic_v4 Final

Smart Sales and How B2B Relationships Are Changing

b2b relationships

B2B relationships, and the sales that result from them, are a fascinating topic. The psychology of sales in itself is interesting, and has been written and theorised about for many years. One of the most famous books on the subject is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, from 1936. It’s still one of the top selling books on sales and relationships, and it was published over 80 years ago!

Some people find sales difficult because it involves communicating with another person where there is a power differential - one person has all the power as the buyer and one person is trying to convince them to spend the cash. I tend to think rather differently about the process, and consider two points to be pivotal to good, service-oriented sales:

  • If you are offering a useful solution then you are helping out, not selling.
  • There is quantifiable value to great B2B relationships, so work on building a partnership, rather than thinking of sales as just transactional.

The latter point is particularly important. If a salesperson tries hard to build a great partnership between one organisation and another and - for whatever reason - the sale doesn’t work out, then it’s almost certain that their efforts will still be remembered. Sales can happen at a later date because of earlier efforts to build partnerships.

I saw some fascinating research in the Harvard Business Review recently that suggested 82% of managers are influenced by what they see when they search the internet for the name of a person who is trying to sell to them. It should be obvious to anyone today that if you are thinking about doing business with someone then you will Google their name or search for them in LinkedIn. Frankly, I think the figure is likely closer to 100%. Who goes to a sales meeting without looking up the people you are about to meet?

It’s a surprise what people forget when trying to build B2B relationships and make sales. The importance of building a trusting relationship and offering service equal to or better than that offered in B2C cannot be understated. Luckily, there are experts that can offer B2B services as part of an overall drive to build trusting professional partnerships, as opposed to a “sell, sell, sell!” approach.

What is your experience of smart sales? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.

Webhelp Announces Debt Refinancing

Webhelp, a global leader in business process outsourcing (BPO), has announced the closing of a €75m add-on and a re-pricing of its existing €560m First Lien Term Loan Facilities. Pro forma for the new raise, the total First Lien Term Facilities are €635m.

The transaction optimises Webhelp’s financing structure by decreasing annual interest expense as well as providing strong liquidity for its next phase of growth and expansion.

Pricing of the existing €560m First Lien Term Loan Facility was reduced from a margin of 550bps to 425bps at Par from initial guidance of 450-475bps coupled with a lender fee of 0.25%.

Given the strong investor support, the size of the add-on was increased from €50m to €75m. Proceeds of the add-on repay the company’s RCF borrowings and free up dry-powder for future acquisitions.

In addition, to better match its underlying cash flows, Webhelp was able to introduce a new £75m tranche.

The offering was very well received, achieving unanimous consent from the existing lenders and a very strong orderbook for the new money.

The debt facilities were originally syndicated in early 2016 when KKR became a new investor and financial partner to Webhelp. The terms of the refinancing demonstrate the soundness of the industry fundamentals, the relevance of Webhelp’s business model and the quality of its management team.

The transaction was arranged by KKR Capital Markets and Nomura.

Webhelp Becomes Key Partner in New Global Food Sales Initiative, Gourming

Webhelp has been selected as the financial transaction and customer experience partner for the new Gourming initiative launched in Paris on January 18.

Gourming, a name derived from Gourmet and Sourcing, is a B2B marketplace to allow small and medium artisan French food manufacturers and producers easier access to international markets to sell their products.

Webhelp is working with Gourming to remove two of the major barriers to small French producers successfully developing the global market for their products, and as such has become a key partner in the development of this marketplace.

Smaller businesses have traditionally struggled to match the customer experience standards offered by the larger companies. Through this initiative, Webhelp will be able to provide these businesses with access to customer contact channels, such as email, webchat and voice, which they would not be in a position to deliver to their customers independently.

Another major stumbling block for small and artisan producers has been the ability to transact through the systems and methods preferred by each different market. Through its partnership with Webhelp, Gourming is able to breach that difficulty and facilitate easy payments that will work for both buyers and sellers.

Vincent Bernard, president of Webhelp France, explained: "The launch of the Gourming platform confirms our vision: B2B marketplaces are an exceptional opportunity. Their success is based on the ability to build targeted partnerships and Webhelp is very pleased and proud to be a part of that journey. We will offer international payment services that are fully compliant and reliable and through this platform, smaller businesses will have the ability to access our award winning and renowned customer experience solutions. We are delighted to be able to support the exceptional businesses operating in the French food production market and are proud of our role in helping them to bring their products to a global customer base.”


Kay Burley Thanks Webhelp’s Falkirk Team for Helping to Launch Sky Mobile

Sky TV News presenter Kay Burley paid a surprise visit to Webhelp’s offices in Falkirk last week to thank the team for the work they’ve done to support the launch of Sky Mobile.

Kay Burley in Falkirk 4

Following several years of working with Sky, Webhelp’s Falkirk site was announced in mid-2016 as the site chosen to support the broadcaster with the launch of its flagship new product, Sky Mobile.

Kay Burley in Falkirk 3

Laura Johnston, Sky’s head of service operations in Falkirk said: “The launch of Sky Mobile has been a big success and we wanted to bring Kay Burley up today to thank the team for the excellent work they have done so far.”

Kay Burley in Falkirk 2

Anton Manley, UK chief operating officer at Webhelp said: “It was such a thrill for our people to have Kay Burley come in and thank them personally for the work they’ve been doing for Sky. We have great people who work hard to deliver the best customer experience for our clients and it is so great to see their efforts being rewarded in this way.”





Webhelp colleagues in Sheffield have got the new year off to a caring start by giving a local cancer care hospice a donation of almost £1,500.

The team engaged in a series of fundraising activities over the festive period, including holding a raffle and dress down days and donated money instead of giving each other Christmas cards. They raised almost £700. Webhelp is adding £750, bringing the total raised for the hospice to almost £1,500.

The Webhelp Sheffield team met with representatives from St. Luke’s Hospice on Jan 11 to agree what the money would be used for. They were delighted to learn they had raised enough money to cover the costs of a month’s nursing care, which would provide support and comfort for people in their final hours.


The Late Payments Epidemic


late payments, smes

Outstanding invoices are a nightmare for any company. Business leaders already have to manage clients, ensure delivery and make consistent sales – adding late payments into the equation increases the burden on both your team and your business.

Many companies collapse each year under the strain of trying to manage their cashflow. They need to pay for services on time, but their clients happily let invoices sit in their accounts department for months before releasing payments. Recent research by the Zurich SME Risk Index suggests that 53% of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK are currently owed money as a result of late payments. This adds up to about £255bn that should be with smaller companies, but is instead just sitting in the bank accounts of their clients. Zurich estimates that around 20% of companies are owed over £20,000, and around 8% are owed over £100,000.

Late Payments Worldwide

Payment behaviour is different across the world, and often dependent on the prevailing interest rates in that region. For example, in Japan most companies pay earlier than required. With rates at zero to negative, there is no incentive to keep cash in the bank. Although Brazil, in contrast, has relatively high interest rates but a culture of naming payment dates on invoices so the client and supplier both have an expectation of the exact payment date - rather than the more vague 30-90 days we are used to in the UK.

The UK government has attempted to address the culture of late payments with several measures. They have forced large companies to openly publish their payment practices and how they are performing on average against their planned payment schedules. In addition, a small business commissioner position is in the process of being created. This commissioner will have the power to chase offenders directly and to try influencing further policy changes.

However, back in the real world it can be difficult to manage late payments and despite the efforts of the government to improve the general business environment in the UK, if you have open invoices now then you need to get paid. There are numerous professional bodies out there that can help – until vast change takes place in global payment culture, they are the best hope for many businesses.

What are your experiences with late payments? Leave a comment below and let me know, or get in touch on LinkedIn.

Marketplace : Vendeurs, Pure Players et Distributeurs, quel est votre rôle ?

Sur une marketplace B2B on peut retrouver trois types d’acteurs : ceux qui la rejoignent, c’est-à-dire les vendeurs, et ceux qui en sont à l’origine, c’est-à-dire soit un pure player qui la créé, soit un distributeur qui en devient une. Chacun d’entre eux a des attentes à satisfaire et des défis à relever.


Le vendeur indépendant : rejoindre une marketplace

Aujourd'hui, en B2B, beaucoup d'e-commerçants et de retailers sont face à une décision stratégique : rejoindre une marketplace ou poursuivre en solo. L'idée de rejoindre une marketplace apparaît comme une excellente opportunité, quand on se souvient que moins de 20 % des entreprises B2B françaises font de la vente en ligne !

Cependant, pour être au niveau de qualité attendu par une marketplace, il faut prendre la mesure des changements à opérer :


  • devenir parfaitement cohérent avec les exigences qui font l'identité de la marque,
  • se démarquer, face aux autres vendeurs, au-delà du produit et du prix,
  • offrir une relation client de qualité élevée, pour ne pas se retrouver déclassé à terme.En clair, il faut considérer la marketplace comme un nouvel écosystème, prometteur mais très exigeant, dans lequel s'intégrer au mieux. Pour cela, il est possible de faire appel à un partenaire qui apportera une "brique" relationnelle : la gestion de la relation client sur tous les canaux (téléphone, email, SMS, tchat, médias sociaux...).

De plus, si nécessaire, votre partenaire pourra prendre en charge la production, l'optimisation et la mise à jour de votre catalogue de produits ou services. Quant à la logistique, elle peut également être sous-traitée avantageusement.


Le pure player : créer une marketplace

Quand un pure player détecte un besoin B2B insatisfait, il peut décider de se lancer dans la création complète d'une marketplace. Ce nouvel entrant a carte blanche, et il n'est pas confronté à la difficulté de "disrupter" sa propre structure puisqu'il la crée entièrement (comme l'a fait Bizmeeting dans le domaine de la réservation des réunions et séminaires d'entreprises).


Le distributeur : se transformer en marketplace

Un distributeur, ou une centrale d'achats, peut décider d'ouvrir une place de marché -ce cas est aujourd'hui le plus fréquent. Le défi est de niveau élevé : il consiste à créer une entreprise dans l'entreprise, ou à en refondre l'organisation autour d'un nouveau business model.

Dans ce cas, l'entreprise va créer une disruption interne : certains métiers ou domaines d'expertise forte -qui ont fait le succès de l'entreprise -vont être remis en cause. En résumé, l'entreprise va pratiquement réinventer chacune des strates de son organisation (cadre juridique, équipes, processus, partenaires, pratiques commerciales, relations avec la force de vente, expérience client...). Tout l’enjeu est d’y parvenir sans renier son ADN, mais en lui donnant plus de force, grâce à la marketplace.

En amont de cette disruption d'organisation, il faudra d'abord accompagner une transformation de l'état d'esprit et des schémas mentaux(mindset) des principaux intéressés. Dans l'idéal, ils devront désirer -et au pire accepter -qu'un nouveau modèle économique vienne servir toute l'entreprise.