Webhelp blijft groeien en versterkt haar positie als innovatieve partner in customer experiences met de overname van het Duitse Ocon

Webhelp, wereldwijd marktleider in business process outsourcing services (BPO), heeft de overname aangekondigd van Ocon Office Concept GmbH, een vooraanstaand BPO service center. De overname zal naar verwachting eind maart 2017 zijn afgerond.

Door deze stap worden de marktpositie en expertise van Webhelp in de sectoren automotive, retail, technologie en overheid verder versterkt. Customer experiences en business process outsourcing veranderen in hoog tempo als gevolg van het gewijzigde consumentengedrag en toegenomen gebruik van technologie. Deze acquisitie versterkt de positie van Webhelp als marktleider in customer experiences en partner voor innovatieve customer contact solutions.

Gert-Jan Morsink, CEO Webhelp Nederland en lid Raad van Bestuur van de Webhelp Groep, over de acquisitie: "Ocon is een uitstekend service center dat over enorm veel kennis en een grote innovatiekracht beschikt. Samen met opdrachtgevers hebben we de mogelijkheid volledig nieuwe technologieën te testen in een kleine gecontroleerde omgeving en verder uit te rollen.

We zijn erg trots op deze overname en de mogelijkheden die dat met zich meebrengt. Door het partnership met Ocon betreedt Webhelp nieuwe markten in Duitsland en met onze gezamenlijke expertise zijn we in staat nieuwe solutions te ontwikkelen die leiden tot een duurzame verbetering van customer experiences.”

Gernot Müller, managing director of Ocon: "Deze transactie is van groot belang voor Ocon. De samenwerking met een van de leidende internationale BPO-specialisten biedt nieuwe perspectieven en mogelijkheden onze expertise en technologie verder uit te bouwen."

Ocon, opgericht in 2008, heeft jarenlange ervaring in geoutsourcete dienstverlening in het premium segment. Bij het bedrijf in Stuttgart werken momenteel 270 medewerkers en is ISO 9001 gecertificeerd. De oprichters, Gernot en Marion Müller, blijven betrokken bij Ocon.

Strategische samenwerkingen en overnames

Deze overname staat niet op zichzelf. Eerder dit jaar kondigde Webhelp de samenwerking met verkoopplatform Gourming aan en lanceerde een customer experience en betaaloplossing voor kleinere ondernemers in de foodsector. In 2016 nam Webhelp diverse partijen over en ging partnerships aan op het gebied van social media strategie, digitale strategie, en artifical intelligence.

 


How smart are AI chatbots today?

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Last year Facebook launched a chatbot facility inside Facebook messenger. It created the ability for companies to offer artificial intelligence driven customer support 24/7 inside one of the most commonly used chat apps globally.

Chat was already a very popular and growing customer support channel, but the ability to combine chat with AI has created an opportunity for many brands to improve their support. In fact, the way that Facebook deployed AI on their messenger app allows for transactions, not just support. It’s possible to text a flower emoji and message like “send flowers to mother” and the 1-800-FLOWERS.COM service will go ahead and process the order.

But AI and bots are still in  their early stages. It’s easy to over promise with these new tools. Customers who think that they can have a friendly chat with a chatbot are likely to be disappointed. They are far from replacing human agents at this stage.

Venture Beat magazine recently published a feature on how brands can deploy chatbots and how customers can be convinced that they are worth using. There are several points made in the analysis, but in my opinion the two key points are:

  • Don’t over promise: when CNN offered a chatbot, that was supposedly able to answer questions about the news, it was soon ridiculed. The number of questions and topics is potentially endless - expecting an AI chatbot to debate foreign affairs was too ambitious. Ensure that your chatbot is focused on what you need it to do and make sure customers are aware  of the expected scope.
  • Use customer knowledge: customers expect brands to know them and to know their behaviour. This is even more so when using electronic systems like chat. Ensure your chatbot can learn and adjust responses based on the history of your customer.

Chatbots and AI are getting better, but they need to be deployed carefully. The system needs to be capable of improving, but customer expectations also need to be managed if you want the AI experience to be a positive one.

What do you think of the potential of bots and AI in customer service? Leave a comment below and let me know, or get in touch on LinkedIn.

 


Online retail is booming. How can other retailers react?

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New research from RBC indicates that one of the key trends for 2017 is going to be an explosion in growth of online retail. Analysts say that this is great news for online-only retailers such as Asos and BooHoo.

Other important trends for 2017 include a shift to value retailers and a decline in the popularity of department stores - this last trend being a problem for brands that rely entirely on department store concessions.

I agree with the trends identified, in particular, it is clear that some brands like Asos will continue to do well. The clothing market is difficult right now, there is a general decline in sales in this sector however Asos grew by over 30% last year. Clearly they are doing something right.

Contrast the typical experience you get when shopping for clothes in-store and online with brands such as Asos and BooHoo. In the store, you can see and touch the clothes. You can try them on before buying. There is a visceral experience that is difficult to recreate online, but there is also a sense of anonymity. The retailer doesn’t really know anything about you when you walk into the store.

The feeling I get when I look at online stores is focussed on discovery. I’m not just going to a store, but I’m getting valuable fashion advice and news before my friends do. Offers and flash sales are highly personalised and based on my shopping history. Unlimited free shipping for a small annual fee ties me into a community where I can go online, buy more than I need, try the items, and then return what I don’t want.

The real question for most retailers is how they can take this “community” approach of the online-only retailers and apply it across all channels. Omni-channel strategy demands that customers have a great experience however they interact with your brand so retailers really need to start creating a sense of inclusivity. I need to feel a part of “something” when I walk into a store and browse.

In China, there is a strong online-to-offline retail trend taking place where online brands launch physical stores and create an omni-channel offer that aims to take innovative retailers in the opposite direction to what we commonly see - traditional retailers going online. This could be explored by some of the brands that are popular in the UK, but I think traditional retailers with branch networks will react faster than an online brand creating a national network of stores.

If they don’t learn these lessons, the online brands will capture their market. Online, and eventually on the high street too. Let me know what you think of these trends in retail by leaving a comment below or get in touch on LinkedIn.


Webhelp on growth trajectory: Expanding its position as a leading innovator with the acquisition of O|con

Webhelp, global provider of business process outsourcing services (BPO), has announced the acquisition of O|con Office Concept GmbH, a state of the art BPO service center in Stuttgart, Germany with excellent technical expertise. Completion of the transaction is expected to be the end of March 2017, subject to authorisation from the relevant authorities.

This acquisition will ensure Webhelp continues its successful growth trajectory, furthering its strong market position and adding to its expertise in the automotive, retail, technology and public service sectors. Changing customer expectations and the increasing use of technology means Webhelp operates in a changing and challenging market. This acquisition allows the company to secure its position as a leader in terms of being able to offer innovative customer contact solutions to its clients.

Thomas Berlemann, CEO of Webhelp Germany, said: "O|con is a highly successful premium service center characterised by outstanding know-how and maximal innovation strength. Together with our customers we have the opportunity to test - initially in a small controlled environment - innovative technologies. Thus, O|con will take an important laboratory role within the Webhelp group."

 

The goal: After a successful trial period new technologies will be industrialised in order to create a competitive advantage for Webhelp’s clients.

Thomas Berlemann continued: "We are very pleased with the acquisition and the opportunities arising out of it for us and our customers. The partnership with O|con puts us in a position to enter new areas by joint collaboration and, making use of our combined expertise to develop new solutions which will lead to a sustainable improvement in customer experience."

Gernot Müller, managing director of O|con, said: "This transaction constitutes a very important development for O|con. This combination with one of the leading, international BPO specialists opens new perspectives and opportunities in respect of distribution as well as technology. O|con will benefit significantly from the newly gained market strength and competence."

 

The founders of O|con, Gernot Müller and his wife Marion, will stay connected to O|con and Webhelp and will continue to work in distribution.

Since its foundation in 1998 O|con has been a medium-sized, owner-managed family business with longstanding expertise in services for premium segment customers. The company currently employs 270 employees and has been awarded the DIN ISO 9001:2008 certificate due to its high standards of internal quality management.

 

ENDS

Press contact:

Kristina Lerch                                        Thomas Berlemann

Alsterbuben GmbH                                Webhelp

kristina.lerch@alsterbuben.de               thomas.berlemann@de.webhelp.com

+49 (0)40 605 90 97-13                         +49 (0)170 17 17 207


The state of omni-channel in 2017

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New research from the USA shows that shoppers are now almost evenly split on whether they shop online or in stores. The research was recently published in eMarketer and shows that over the recent holiday season, American shoppers were split with 45% preferring online, 52% preferring physical stores, and 4% preferring mobile.

This is interesting for a number of reasons and reflects the fact that shoppers who use multiple channels are generally more profitable for retailers. In fact, 59% of American retailers have documented proof showing that their multichannel shoppers are more valuable than those who only ever use a single channel.

I think this indicates that we are reaching a tipping point in customer expectations. The fact that the preference is almost exactly half online or mobile and half physical store shows that retailers need to make both channels work really well.

A major issue that still makes it difficult to deliver a comparable online and offline service is the fact that customers entering a store are anonymous. More and more, retailers are going to want customers to somehow ‘check-in’ and indicate their presence so their in-store experience can be personalised.

There are some different ways to achieve this:

  • KFC in China is experimenting with facial recognition. The system remembers previous orders by the customer and then adds various factors such as the time of day to predict what the customer may want before they order.
  • Mothercare asks customers if they want a receipt by email, allowing them to identify the customer and capture loyalty information to instantly create offers when the customer is paying in-store.
  • Payment systems in apps. Good examples are Starbucks and Walmart - offering to remove the checkout experience by letting customers pay via an app has the added advantage of letting the retailer know that the customer is in-store.

In general, customers are willing to be identified if the retailer offers them an improved service - such as no checkout lines - or offers and recommendations. Customers are getting used to a highly personal online shopping experience and it’s difficult to replicate that in-store.

With half of shoppers now preferring online and half in-store, it’s getting more important than ever to get this right. Have you seen examples of companies getting omni-channel right? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.


[FIAC 2016] Top 10 des artistes les plus cités sur les médias sociaux

Depuis quelques mois, nous assistons à une révolution artistico-culturelle : les réseaux sociaux tels que Instagram, Facebook ou Snapchat semblent être les nouveaux lieux d’échange privilégiés par les artistes pour promouvoir leurs œuvres. C’est en effet un moyen de toucher de nouvelles cibles, souvent plus jeunes et réactives, complémentaires des habitués des salles de ventes et des galeries.

La puissance désormais établie des hashtags #FIAC et #FIAC2016 a ainsi permis aux galeries et aux artistes de s’assurer une visibilité inédite lors de la 43e édition de la Foire internationale d'art contemporain, qui s'est déroulée à Paris du 20 au 23 octobre. L’événement s’est en effet consommé autant dans les allées du Grand Palais que sur les médias sociaux. À cette occasion, le canal le plus important pour les artistes et les galeries d’art a été Instagram, qui draine chaque jour 70 millions d’images dans le monde, dont une partie concerne le marché de l’art. Cette plateforme est un catalogue géant auquel on a accès plus rapidement qu’à un site web ou un catalogue.

Certains artistes de la Fiac sont beaucoup mentionnés sur les médias sociaux.

Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei est un artiste chinois aux nombreux talents (architecte, photographe, réalisateur ou encore designer), qui utilise son art au service de ses engagements.

Réputé pour diffuser sur Instagram un peu de tout, il met en avant ses installations, mais aussi des photos qui font intégralement partie d’une œuvre globale, autour de questions sociétales. Aujourd’hui, l’artiste chinois comptabilise plus de 12 900 publications. Ses photographies et vidéos sont suivies par 260 000 personnes.

La directrice artistique amypatriciapurssey, ainsi que la galerie d’art maryboonegallery, sont des comptes Instagram influents pour la visibilité de l’artiste sur les médias sociaux.

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Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor a déjà exposé à Versailles, ses œuvres ont fait le tour du monde et son talent n’est plus à contester. L’artiste a notamment gagné en popularité grâce à des jeux de miroirs et de lumière sur Instagram, mais fait également part de son engagement social par le biais de photographies diverses et variées. Il est pourtant proportionnellement assez peu suivi sur Instagram (22 600 abonnés).

Le hashtag #AnishKapoor comptabilise près de 100 000 publications sur Instagram, le grand public étant fasciné par ses miroirs aux multiples perspectives.

anish kapoor

Duane Hanson

Le sculpteur Duane Hanson est une figure majeure de l’hyperréalisme américain, il a consacré son œuvre à témoigner de la société de son temps.

Sur Instagram, le hashtag #duanehanson comptabilise 6 444 publications. Les directrices artistiques samtaylorjohnson (144 k abonnés) et nataliaferviu (368 k abonnés) sont de ferventes admiratrices de l’artiste, et partagent de nombreuses photos de ses œuvres avec leurs communautés sur Instagram.

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Christopher Wool

Christopher Wool est un peintre contemporain américain, surtout connu pour ses peintures qui représentent de grandes lettres réalisées au pochoir au trait noir et gras. Le texte contraste avec l’arrière-plan blanc pour obtenir un maximum d’impact visuel.

Des influenceurs comme saekoofficial (1 m followers) et artfullyawear (2,6 k abonnés) apprécient les œuvres de l’artiste et partagent des photos de ses œuvres avec leurs communautés.

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Latifa Echakhch

Latifa Echakhch est une artiste plasticienne contemporaine française, créatrice d'installations.

Le hashtag #LatifaEchakhch comptabilise 1 306 mentions. Les galeries d’art galleriesnow (37,1 k followers) et christiesparis (12,6 k abonnés) sont notamment à l’origine de la réputation naissante de cette nouvelle artiste.

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Walid Ra'ad

Walid Ra'ad est un artiste libanais qui utilise un large éventail de techniques et de formats (texte, photographie, vidéo, édition, installation, performance) autour d’une réflexion sur les représentations possibles d’un pays en guerre.

Le hashtag #walidraad comptabilise 2 268 publications sur Instagram, notamment grâce à la promotion de galeries d’art telles que claraartsny (18,4 k abonnés) ou de collectionneurs d’art contemporain comme parisarty (3,7 k abonnés).

Vincent Mauger

Vincent Mauger est un sculpteur français contemporain.

Ses œuvres massives sont très prisées par les instagrameurs, qui ont par exemple été 463 à partager sur Instagram Les Injonctions paradoxales, exposée dans le Jardin des Tuileries lors de la Fiac 2016. En effet, de nombreux photographes amateurs d’art, comme chrissen (18,5 k abonnés), ont publié des photos de son œuvre sur Instagram.

Tatiana Trouvé

Tatiana Trouvé est une plasticienne italienne. En un jeu de dimensions, de perspectives et d’échelles, son œuvre se joue du temps et de l’espace, qu’elle renouvelle à partir d’installations, de dessins, de sculptures ou d’espaces architecturés.

Même si l’artiste ne possède pas de compte Instagram, elle est très populaire et le hashtag #tatianatrouve comptabilise 1 904 publications sur Instagram. Les collectionneurs d’art comme collecteurs (173 k followers) et les galeries telles que koeniggalerie (40,3 k abonnés) partagent des photos des œuvres de l’artiste sur Instagram et contribuent donc à sa popularité.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat est un artiste américain reconnu pour avoir amené le graffiti dans le monde de la peinture.

Sa notoriété est importante, puisque son compte Instagram est suivi par plus de 106 000 amateurs d’arts et le hashtag #jeanmichelbasquiat comptabilise 56 632 publications.

Les galeries comme art_fabrique (35,5 k abonnés) continuent d’alimenter cette notoriété et revendent les œuvres de l’artiste à prix d’or.

Alina Szapocznikow

La sculptrice polonaise Alina Szapocznikow et sa célèbre œuvre « bouche » continuent d’interpeller les internautes, qui sont nombreux à partager des photos sur les médias sociaux.

Les collectionneurs comme artbasel (860 k abonnés) sont friands de ses œuvres et partagent leurs coups de cœur avec leurs communautés. Le hashtag #alinaszapocznikow comptabilise ainsi 700 publications sur Instagram.


Retail in China 2017: Will customers prefer real stores over online?

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Forrester research published a report recently that suggests the Chinese retail market is now bigger than the USA. At almost $5 trillion it is a huge market, but what’s really interesting is the Forrester analysis on market changes and how retail is developing over there.

In particular, there is a trend developing where online retailers go physical. Companies like Alibaba have developed an enormous amount of business, but always from online sales, now Alibaba, Baidu, JD, and Tencent all want to create real physical stores. To put the scale into context for some of these online operations, on Singles’ Day last November Alibaba sold product woth almost $18bn.

It’s true that in the USA, Amazon has been experimenting with stores. They created a bookstore that only stocks the best-selling books on their online platform, with information from the online site available in store - such as customer reviews. Amazon has also recently opened a grocery store without checkouts, using technology to monitor what customers pick up and put in their basket.

But these are really just experiments in taking an online brand into the high street. I have not seen a major trend in the USA or Europe that takes enormous online brands and moves into physical stores.

The Chinese strategy is based on blurring channels. Customers think of a brand, not a sales channel, and therefore it can be helpful for online brands to deliver a complete omni-channel experience by placing stores in major cities.

Of course, this does require a change in the way that the company is organised. An online-only brand can be focused on a single central location that ships products using mail services. All despatches and returns can be handled from a single warehouse. Once the supply chain needs to include a branch network, and both sales and returns are blurred with the online store, then logistics are much more complex.

If this is now becoming a trend in Chinese retail it will be interesting for several major brands here to monitor what happens. Will customers appreciate being able to use real stores for their favourite online brands and is the reorganisation  a worthwhile expense?  Will an increase in sales justify the change? I’m looking forward to finding out over the coming year.

Let me know what you think of this trend in Chinese retail by leaving a comment below or get in touch on LinkedIn.

 


Kilmarnock Team Spreads the Love with Donation to Crosshouse Hospital

Webhelp colleagues in Kilmarnock have been getting into the spirit of St Valentine’s Day with a £250 donation to the children’s ward at Crosshouse Hospital.

The big hearted team engaged in a series of fundraising activities, including holding a dress down day in December, and were delighted to be able to support such an important local cause.

 


Are you still piloting omni-channel initiatives?

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It’s no surprise that some companies have struggled to get their omni-channel initiatives off the ground. The pace of change and the fact that customers are now dictating their expectations has shaken the way that corporate strategy was managed in the past.

A new report from the CMO Council in Australia has outlined exactly how marketing leaders are struggling to make omni-channel work for their businesses. Only 49% of the marketing executives surveyed said that their company was strategically aligned in both their physical and online presence - not even half.

The results are worse for those that are attempting to engage with an omni-channel environment. 38% said that their efforts had yielded mixed results so far. A third of those surveyed said that they were still at the pilot stage with omni-channel experiments and just 18% said that they were meeting expectations.

These numbers are not good and reflect how many companies are trying to catch up to rather than leading and exceeding customer expectations. With regards to personalisation initiatives it is clear that data collection and analysis is extremely important. But, in this study it was found that 27% of executives admitted that they collect data on customers and do nothing with it. 29% said they are struggling to convert data into personalisation initiatives and just 24% said that they have a good view of their customer based on the data they have collected.

This survey focuses on chief marketing officers in Australia, but I believe there is a general message about omni-channel that can be extrapolated from these results:

  1. The customer is demanding an omni-channel experience. Nobody is waiting for you to define your CX strategy. Either you can offer a consistent experience across all channels or your customers will migrate elsewhere.
  2. You have no time to waste. If your own business is still piloting omni-channel projects, then you need to start fast-tracking them.
  3. If your competitors are struggling then you have an opportunity to use CX as a differentiator. Get ahead of the pack and deliver what your customers expect and poach customers from the competition too.

I have consistently talked about the need for an omni-channel approach for several years now, so it’s concerning to see research that suggests very few companies are getting it right. However, this is a strategy being demanded by the customers so I know it will happen and those who get there first will reap the rewards.

Have you seen examples of companies getting omni-channel right or do you think we are still developing these solutions - as the Australian data suggests? Leave a comment below, or get in touch on LinkedIn, and let me know.


Webhelp Renews Partnership with Falkirk FC

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Falkirk FC is delighted to confirm its continued partnership with Webhelp UK as the company agrees a renewed sponsorship deal with the club.

To mark the occasion Falkirk FC players Paul Watson, Tom Taiwo and James Craigen visited Webhelp’s UK headquarters in Larbert.

While on site, the players took time to pose for pictures and autographs, before taking part in their own keepy-uppy and penalty challenge.

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The partnership will see Webhelp UK team up with Falkirk FC to promote a number of exciting recruitment opportunities available at Webhelp.

This will involve creative marketing at the Falkirk Stadium, push media messages on a matchday and various other initiatives pulling the partnership between the club and the business process outsourcing company together.

Anton Manley, UK chief operating officer at Webhelp, said: “Webhelp is delighted to be able to continue its sponsorship of Falkirk FC.

“Webhelp has its UK headquarters in the town and is very proud of the role it plays in the community here. It is really important that successful local businesses support each other and work together to enhance the community.

“The ongoing relationship between Falkirk FC and Webhelp is a great example of how such a partnership can work to benefit both organisations.

“While Falkirk FC is celebrating the transfer window signing of Joe McKee, we at Webhelp are hoping to make some new signings of our own.

“We are currently looking for 200 people to join us by the end of April this year, so if you would like to be a part of Falkirk’s other winning team, please get in touch!”

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Kieran Koszary, Director of Commercial Operations at Falkirk FC, said: “The club would like to thank Anton and the team at Webhelp UK for their continued support.

“Over the past few seasons we have demonstrated the power of our brand to help local and national companies promote their offerings and services.

“This partnership adds another element to our ‘What the Bairns can do for your brand’ as we aim to drive recruitment opportunities for Webhelp.”