When Digital Disruption Leads To Positive Outcomes

The Disrupters is one of the most recent podcasts launched by the BBC. Featuring the Editorial Director of BBC News, Kamal Ahmed, and entrepreneur Rohan Silva, each week the presenters lift the lid on the realities of starting a new business. So far they have featured companies such as LinkedIn, Lastminute.com, The Cambridge Satchel Company, and DeepMind.

What is clear from the approach taken by this podcast is that industrial disruption can be positive. This runs counter to how most of us feel when we are affected by disruption. Most of us want security and stability at home and at work. To say that disruption is positive does not ring true for all of us, but look at some of those disruptors and what they have achieved.

LinkedIn has shaken up various industries, but most fundamentally recruitment. Lastminute.com led travel agents online and redefined online flight and hotel bookings. The Cambridge Satchel Company showed how a great idea and stylish product could quickly go global, and DeepMind (especially since the acquisition by Google) is shaping how we see Artificial Intelligence. All of these companies reshaped their industry and all these disruptions are now seen as positive.

As a shoe lover, one of my favourite stories of industrial disruption is Zappos. Now owned by Amazon, Zappos originally started out in 1999 as the first ever company that tried to sell shoes online. Even the Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh admits that selling shoes online sounded like a bad idea back in the nineties, but shoes were a $40bn a year market in the US at that time and 5% of those sales were already mail order, so Zappos was born.

A 2010 Harvard Business Review article by Tony Hsieh indicates how Zappos did more than just change the way that people bought shoes. Zappos redefined customer service and made the entire customer experience (CX) a strategic priority. Look at some of the points raised nine years ago by Hsieh in his HBR feature:

  • CX is how the customer sees the brand; Zappos already knew that they needed great people in the contact centre because this is the one place that customers directly interact with the brand. Each call influences how a customer feels about the brand.
  • Emotional impact; handling customer calls is not about dealing with a problem as fast as possible. It’s about creating an emotional impact and a lasting memory. Even if the customer called to complain, you want them to leave that call thinking, what a great company, I’m going to buy from those guys again.
  • CX is advertising; Zappos believed even in 2010 that money spent on customer service was more valuable than money spent on advertising. A person telling their friends about Zappos is advertising that you just cannot buy.
  • Returns Factored In; Zappos factored in the cost of returned products as part of their marketing budget because many customers would only buy if they could order several sizes and return the ones they don’t need.
  • Easy to reach; the contact details for customer service are at the top of every single web page - never buried away deep inside the web site so it’s almost impossible to find out how to get help.
  • Anything for the customer; the contact centre is not measured on call times or sales, just customer satisfaction. The longest measured call time to date was over six hours and representatives are encouraged to do anything to help out the customer. One sent flowers to a customer who had forgotten to return some shoes they did not need - the person was distracted by a death in the family and is now a customer for life. This empowerment is typical of the Zappos approach, do whatever it takes to help the customer.

That HBR feature was from nine years ago. What it demonstrates to me is that many of the CX disruptions we see in the business media as contemporary strategic discussions were already being implemented by Zappos a decade ago. Why are we still reading earnest business journals discussing the value of CX when Tony Hsieh was doing it all for real in Las Vegas so long ago?

In a more recent 2017 profile of Zappos in Forbes magazine, the writer Micah Solomon is surprised to find metrics counting flowers inside the Zappos contact centre. When he asked what the flower score means he was told, that’s how many bouquets we have sent out to customers in the past month and year. Zappos didn’t just disrupt shoe retailing in the US, they set a standard for valuing customers - globally.

When you are facing an uncertain future because of digital or industrial disruption then it certainly can feel unsettling and negative, but it can lead to a better state. As Zappos demonstrated long ago, the conversation between a customer and brand on the telephone should in fact be at the very heart of every corporate strategy.

In case you haven't registered yet, Sign up to receive fresh insights and invitations to exec events with our Webhelp Disruptor Series campaign: https://www.go.webhelp.com/disruptorseries

Get in touch if you’re facing disruption – or want to disrupt – and want to talk through the implications for CX. E: helen.murray@uk.webhelp.com





Author: Helen Murray

The Hub #9 Content inspiration – January 2019

The new year is here so is our 9th issue of The HUB Magazine! In our first edition of 2019, we have lined up lots of refreshing and insightful reads. Learn all about uplifting your personality skills, which is not only useful in your professional life but also in your personal life.

Have you ever wondered about what to write about, where to get all those good ideas from or how to uncover trends, tools and tips that might appeal to your audience? Our interesting article about creating, gathering and curating meaningful content will help you to engage with your audience in a social or business environment.

Sometimes it’s a big challenge for individuals to instantly connect with new people. We have a solution for this! Read our article about the pillars and principles for forging lasting connections with people. You can also Inspire your potential customers or business partners and leave an unforgettable impression by following our tips on breaking the ice in business.

One of the best things to do for your business right now is to understand the Millennial generation of consumers. If you want to attract Millennials, speak their language! And one of our HUB articles shows you how to do this.

If you are planning your next holiday destination, Paris is our city tip for you. Home to Webhelp headquarters, Paris – the city of love & sparkling lights has amazing places to explore.

2019: Thought’s on what’s in store

What’s Ahead for CX in 2019?

David Turner recently outlined his thoughts on 2018, in particular the recent highlights for Webhelp and some of his ideas on the road ahead for customer experience in 2019. I also want to look ahead to 2019, but taking a slightly different angle to the usual ‘top trends to look out for’ as featured in many business journals.

At present, most of the pundits’ predictions focus on technology. That’s easy to understand because every industry you can think of is currently facing an unprecedented wave of digital transformation. Individual technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Virtual Reality (VR), and natural language voice recognition have all been advancing quickly and brands are using all these developments in their quest to get closer to the customer.

But as every good business student knows, when thinking about any business process or strategy, it’s worth thinking about People, Process, and Technology and how they all interact. Your new AI system is useless if it doesn’t connect to the other processes in your business, and people need to know how to get the best from it – i.e. none of these developments work in isolation. In fact, an interesting observation that I have from 2018 is that many executives have realised that many of these technologies need to be combined with each other – RPA and machine learning for example. How can you maximise the investment in automation if the system cannot learn from what it is doing?

But if we step back a little from all this talk of innovative technology, what is really interesting as we move into 2019 is the way that brands are re-evaluating the value of the customer experience (CX). Industry analysts have said for the past few years that CX should be the number one strategy for every CEO – even ahead of reducing costs or creating new products. It’s really that important. However, there feels like a change in the marketplace, as if we are moving just from analysts saying this to a general acceptance of the importance of CX to all companies.

Consider these three dimensions that I believe have changed dramatically in the past year and will continue to develop in 2019:

  • CX is at the heart of corporate strategy; it’s easy to see this with start-ups today – they build a service entirely around what the customer needs. However, I am convinced that major industries with huge incumbent companies will finally realise that they can’t separate customer service from marketing or sales or PR – every point at which the brand interacts with a customer adds to the customer experience. Companies may need to reorganise their internal teams to truly achieve a customer-centric approach.
  • CX now requires greater skills; 2019 will be when it becomes cool to be working in customer service. Instead of the general public thinking about customer service jobs as someone handling complaints in a contact centre, I believe we will finally start to see a more general acceptance that great CX is actually very complex and requires highly skilled people, emotionally and technically. When we start seeing general media coverage of this then I’m certain it will be more appreciated – working in CX requires skills.
  • CX is driving technology investment and research; think about the most exciting technology developments taking place at present, such as 5G, AI, Machine Learning, VR, Augmented Reality, voice recognition, self-driving vehicles and so on. The technology industry is investing in all this research because there are CX-related benefits from the use of these technologies. Customers demanding an improved CX are in turn ensuring that technologies are developing faster than they would if we could not see such direct applications.

This is all incredibly exciting because it is becoming clear to many that a career in CX is exciting, challenging, and has a real road map for advancement. CX is now pulling the entire technology industry along and companies are reforming their entire structure to focus on customer relationships.

I recently heard a Google executive talking about these changes and he summarised it really well by saying that what we are really changing is the length of time that a brand has an interaction with a customer. Instead of thinking about customer interactions as calls that last a few minutes, we should be thinking about a lifetime of interactions, a relationship built over 50 or more years. During that time there will be conversations and questions, but both brand and customer will behave as if they are in a relationship, not just handling a customer service question.

That’s a great way to describe such a fundamental change to the way that companies are structured and managed. Customer service is no longer just a department or function; it is an integral part of what every company needs to do just to justify their existence.

I’m personally very excited because I think that in 2019 we are finally about to see some of these changes in corporate strategy… CX has arrived and is now top of the CEO agenda globally.

Have a great 2019! Get in touch if you’d like to find out how to put CX at the heart of your corporate strategy – I’d love to talk. E: helen.murray@uk.webhelp.com





Author: Helen Murray

Reflections on 2018, Focus for 2019

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and managed to relax and spend some quality time with your loved ones… I certainly did!

Over the holidays I also took the time to reflect on some key milestones and learnings from last year. First and foremost, 2018 was quite a year! This really struck me when I read Craig Gibson’s recent blog about all the awards Webhelp won. In addition to prestigious external awards, Craig shared how he earned a considerable number of Air Miles visiting our teams to recognise our top performers in our own annual Star Awards. As a ‘people first’ business, recognising exemplary performance is core to Webhelp’s people agenda – and it’s also something that gives me great personal pleasure.

At the very end of last year Webhelp was shortlisted for REBA’s 2019 Employee Wellbeing Awards, which I’m absolutely delighted about. Last year we worked really hard to step up our internal programmes for helping employees manage their own health and wellbeing, although I don’t think that ‘health and wellbeing’ really encompasses all the help we offer our people. For instance I’ve heard some fantastic stories from individuals who have benefited from services such as free financial advice which has made a huge difference, particularly for life-changing moments such as buying a house.

Nonetheless, while this kind of programme can improve engagement and really reduce stress at work, which undoubtedly leads to better individual performance, it’s just one step towards our goal of redefining the value of employment in customer service. Truth be told, our industry is too often seen as a stopgap, something you do just because you want flexibility and to earn money, and we’ve certainly been doing our bit to change this perception and will continue our efforts throughout 2019.

The world of Customer Experience (CX) is transforming, which means that contact centres today need data analysts, specialists in robotic automation systems, and experts in designing machine learning algorithms. Increasingly they’ll need consumer experts, behavioural psychologists, and Customer Experience design professionals. And the work our advisors do is becoming increasingly more valuable – and valued. All this means that CX will become a desirable career choice - we’ll see people actively seeking out a role in CX because it is the fastest changing area of modern business, constantly at the cutting edge of new technologies and innovation.

In 2018 we demonstrated to our clients that we are at the forefront in our industry in terms of CX transformation, and that they can turn to us for advice on how customer experience can transform their business. Our gobeyond business almost tripled its revenue in 2018, and our investment in OEE Consulting in October 2018, is further evidence of our commitment to be the leading customer experience transformation business.

CX transformation is an enormous opportunity for Webhelp (and indeed our gobeyond business) and our clients. In 2019 our focus will be to enhance our position as a trusted advisor to our clients and to find new companies who want to transform and improve their CX, and to continue with our people related investments. After all, our industry is no longer about maximising the number of advisors inside a contact centre answering calls; CX services are now transforming how entire industries operate and our clients are coming to us for advice on how to make it work.

To conclude, the market is evolving quickly, presenting new opportunities as companies universally become more customer-centric. If you’d like to find out how to put CX at the heart of your future strategy email me at david.turner@webhelp.com, or contact Helen Murray, Chief Solutions Officer at helen.murray@uk.webhelp.com.