Webhelp and Harambee deliver remarkable results in South Africa

Author: Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer, Webhelp

South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. It is estimated that 40 percent of this generation will never secure stable work. Webhelp’s Chief Commercial Officer, Craig Gibson, discusses Impact Sourcing and our successful partnership with Harambee.

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator received the 2019 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Hear Cathy Kalamaras talk about Webhelp’s  experience of working with Harambee.

South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. A lack of information, skills, networks, and social capital, leaves many young people discouraged and excluded. It is estimated that 40 percent of this generation will never secure stable work, despite a large investment in skills training by South Africa’s government and private sector. Yet employers say they struggle to find work-ready candidates and lack the ability to effectively evaluate these young job seekers.

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator is tackling the issue head on, and building scalable solutions for the youth labour market. Its ‘matching tools’ and real-world training methodology help employers quickly and reliably gauge work-readiness and suitability, and are delivering a host recruitment and retention benefits.

Both the public and private sectors see Harambee as leading experts in the dynamics of the South African labour market; so much so that the Gauteng Province - including Johannesburg and Pretoria - has institutionalised the work of Harambee, and now relies on its platform and labour market solutions to address the youth unemployment crisis. In short, governments are seeing the value of youth-focused solutions, and businesses are deriving value from a population that had long been invisible to them.

I’m delighted that the great work that Harambee does has been recognised by the prestigious Skoll Foundation, which views its innovative model to accelerate youth employment as leading-edge, and an African solution to one of the world’s most pressing problems. And as a South African, I take particular pride in our partnership with Harambee. Together, we are helping unemployed young people - who would not usually have an opportunity to enter formal employment – access rewarding careers in an incredibly important sector for South Africa. Not only is this great for the individuals and the local community, but as a business, we are seeing an incredible benefits.

Thanks to Harambee’s scientific matching tools and behavioral readiness programmes, we have been able to build a sector specific competence profile to recruit young people who are a good match for our business and our clients. Not only does this make the hiring process easier, it also reduces the quality and cost risks associated with hiring the wrong people. We’re seeing an incredible impact on loyalty and performance; employee retention is at 90%, and the pass rate for induction training is 100%. Furthermore, the speed to productivity of our Harambee employees matches that of more experienced staff – likely due to their willingness to learn, and put in the extra time. It's a fantastic story for us all.

Discover more about South Africa in our recent blog post SOUTH AFRICA AND INDIA BOTH CHOSEN AS CX LEADERS BY RYAN STRATEGIC ADVISORY, and get a flavour of the calibre of our Impact Sourcing colleagues, as well as the impact rewarding employment is having on their lives, by reading their stories:

 

Impact worker: Morgan Wagner (Webhelp South Africa)

Impact worker: Celine Walters (Webhelp South Africa)

To conclude, Harambee accounts for a high proportion of our overall hires in South Africa and has been instrumental in creating a link between Webhelp and talented young people. Our partnership is also helping us to embed a diverse and inclusive workplace representative of South Africa’s demographics, and this is absolutely fundamental to Webhelp South Africa’s responsible and sustainable growth strategy.

How important is it to strike the right balance between human talent and AI and Automation for CX? Is AI positive for Customer Service? Webhelp recently published a report on the future of automation and commissioned the YouGov survey to find out what people really think about customer experience or AI 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. Watch our video to know more!

If you’d like to find out more about Webhelp or ask Craig a question, email: craig.gibson@uk.webhelp.com


Arch Summit Brings Corporate And Startup Companies Together

This week I am attending the Arch Summit in Luxembourg. This is a very unusual event because it’s the only one I know of globally that focuses on both the large corporate and startup business communities. The event is designed to help these two communities meet and benefit from each other.

If you look at the event website then it’s clear that they have taken inspiration from TV shows such as Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den. The emphasis is on innovation and helping young startup companies source additional funding and advice.

I believe that events like this are critically important for the customer experience (CX) community at present. Take a look at any business journal featuring an exploration of the future of CX and the technological innovation is astonishing. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, Robotic Process Automation. Anyone thinking about how CX will work in future needs to learn an entirely new vocabulary that is full of acronyms such as RPA, AI, and VR.

The problem is that most of the customer service experts (like Webhelp) are busy working on behalf of their clients and those clients usually have some well-defined service levels. They want innovation and advice on the future, but they don’t want anyone messing around with their customers, just as an experiment. On the flip side, most of the small companies designing highly innovative new solutions do not have access to large scale customer service centres where they could road test their solutions in a live environment.

This is why it’s so important to be present at events like the Arch Summit. A case study on the event website describes how a small software company called ChatLingual managed to partner with Vodafone on a customer chat solution because they met at the event last year.

It’s this serendipity that is important. The Arch Summit is creating a platform for innovators to demonstrate their ideas in front of companies that already have a large customer base. Both the small companies and the larger ones benefit from this arrangement – the small companies are finding clients and partners and the larger companies benefit from being able to introduce new ideas to their own clients in a low-cost low-risk way.

This is precisely why Webhelp has a division called ‘The Nest’ that is exclusively focused on helping high potential startups ‘crack’ customer experience from the outset, helping them devise CX strategies and scale effectively. They benefit from our global experience, and we learn how industries are being disrupted and are at the forefront of new, innovative offerings.

To conclude, it’s clear that customer service is changing and technology is a key driver of this change. Customers want increased personalisation and more interactive service. This leads to a requirement for data analytics and the use of AI chatbots and AI systems that can support agents in the contact centre. The pace of change is so rapid that it can sometimes feel like new technologies are created just to transform the customer experience. Events like the Arch Summit are a great way to stay on top of what is going on and to cement partnerships for the future. I know that our clients appreciate that we are constantly seeking new ideas and are able to offer them advice on what their customers may be expecting next year.

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

I’m really enjoying speaking to startups and corporates at the Arch Summit. If you are going to be there then please say hello or connect via my LinkedIn.

 

 

 

Author: Matt Camille, Account Development Director for Webhelp UK


Designing CX Solutions With AI

Author: Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer at Webhelp UK

Webhelp recently conducted research with the polling experts YouGov to ask over 2,000 British adults what they think about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how they believe it might change the way that brands offer customer service to them. Webhelp UK’s Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Helen Murray, takes a closer look at the findings...

From the research findings, it seems that most people still believe in the importance of the human touch in their interactions with brands. In our survey, 44% said that they do not think AI will impact them positively in any way and 52% said that it would make dealing with brands more impersonal.

You can take a look at this recent blog by my colleague Dave Pattman, Innovation Director at Webhelp, for a deeper dive into the research results, but as I read the results it made me think about some of the complexities of using AI in the customer service environment. When designing any customer service solution the ultimate objective is to deliver a fantastic customer experience (CX), so AI should really just be one more tool or option – why has it recently been under so much scrutiny?

I believe there are at least five key issues that executives planning CX need to consider more seriously:

  1. Customer journey planning; providing customer service using AI tools can create a more positive experience for customers, but in some cases it can dramatically reduce the experience. It is necessary to completely revise the customer journey so you can understand where there is the potential to trip up. It’s not good enough to think of AI just as one additional service channel that can be bolted on to an existing customer service operation.
  2. Going too far; some organisations jump in at the deep end and go for an approach to CX that relies heavily on AI. This can partly be driven by how ‘cool’ it appears to be using cutting edge technologies, or perhaps because of a desire to reduce the cost of human agents in the contact centre. Whatever the strategy, it is never usually advisable to dive in headfirst, try some pilots and see where your customers will accept AI. It’s possible to use AI to support your human agents rather than on the frontline with customers, so think carefully about where it might be most effective for the first test projects.
  3. Not implementing enough AI; though it seems to be just the opposite of issue 2, what I mean is that AI and automated service powered by AI really does have some benefits – despite the misgivings expressed in our research. Cleverly introducing a first line of support that is automated can dramatically increase your reaction time to customers (and availability), so there is a danger that executives may not achieve these gains if they are apprehensive about running some pilots or test implementations.
  4. Forcing the customer to use human or digital service; this is a big problem in many customer service implementations that have introduced AI, especially with chatbots. If you make it impossible for the customer to switch to human service when they are frustrated with the answers from the bot then you will dramatically reduce the customer experience. Use your automated systems in the right way and for the right type of engagement and customers should be happy to engage with an automated system. But always allow them the option to switch because sometimes their problem will venture beyond what the bot can cope with!
  5. Planning based on technology not customer needs; As I mentioned in the first point, your AI implementation should be driven by the customer journey and the contact drivers – do you really understand what is causing the customer to get in touch? With simple transactions customers can actually prefer to engage with a bot because it is easy, fast, and there is absolutely no waiting to be served. But nobody wants to engage with a bot when the discussion requires a conversation that is emotional or highly personal – perhaps a life insurance claim for example. Understand what drives your customer to get in touch and you can far more effectively plan the best way to respond. In short, none of this journey planning should be driven by what the technology is capable of - the AI itself is just a tool.

It’s clear to me that we have been barrelling along what the industry analyst firm Gartner calls ‘the hype cycle’ for the past couple of years with AI. However, there are now live implementations and good case studies out there. This is now becoming a reality, but in some cases the possibilities that the technology offers is driving strategy rather than a cool calm focus on what the customer really needs.

Consumers in general are getting familiar with many AI-powered systems. Millions of homes now have Amazon’s Echo or Google Home installed. People ask Siri or Cortana for help rather than typing questions into a search engine. In many cases I believe that people are being exposed to AI far more than they probably realise.

Our research with YouGov confirms that managers with a responsibility to plan how they can deliver the best possible customer experience need to strike the right balance between the advanced technology available and real people – humans helping humans. Consumers are getting more familiar with AI, but a poorly implemented customer service system using AI can create some very negative customer experiences.

How do we really want to interact with brands? What do we really think about AI and Automation? How important is it to strike the right balance between human talent and AI and Automation for CX? Click here to download the complete Webhelp and YouGov study

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. Watch our video to know more!

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


Pedalling hard for CF Warriors

Webhelp's Director of IT services, Stephen Dickson, joined record breaking Cystic Fibrosis warrior, Josh Llewellyn-Jones, this week, as he attempted his latest endurance feat by cycling from Edinburgh to Cardiff in just five days. Stephen cycled with Josh and his team for the final three days of the challenge, travelling all the way from Leeds to the finishing line in Cardiff on Thursday (18th April).

Josh’s inspiration to complete the challenge was a similar feat achieved his late uncle, who back in 1989 cycled the exact same route to help raise awareness of Cystic Fibrosis.

Josh said: ”When my uncle and his friends cycled this route in 1989 they did it for people who, like me, are given a life expectancy. At the time, I thought that I wouldn’t make it to thirty, but thirty years later I’m re-living the same route in memory of them, and to help children with cystic fibrosis to lead healthier, happier, and longer lives through sport and exercise.”

Stephen added: “It’s been a real privilege to have been able to take part in this event with Josh and his team. Seeing firsthand how Josh is able push himself to the limits is hugely inspiring and an unforgettable experience.”

Webhelp has supported Josh through a series of remarkable fitness feats, including an attempt to lift 1,000,000 kilos in 24 hours in 2018. Later this year he will attempt his most extreme challenge yet, to cover 381 miles over five days, with a 21-mile Channel swim, 200-mile London cycle, and 160-mile Welsh run, all without sleep.

-ENDS-

Press information:

Scott Jacobson, Quiller 07776 383 312

Julie Carballo, Quiller 07860 753 101


3 key questions about your marketplace business model

One of the main marketplace elements you should consider is, of course, the business model and profitability. How can I develop my marketplace project into a profitable long-term business? Here are three key questions you should ask yourself to find out.

What ratios should I envisage in my business model?

By its very nature, and for the sake of profitability, a marketplace should not be managed by a large team. In markets where the commission rate is around 15%, the ratio 1 person to 5 million euros of business volume is an empirical figure to be considered. As for the profitability threshold, it seems to be around: 1 person to 1 million euros.
Another important ratio: the promotional budget. For some players, such as startups, the challenge is twofold: finding sellers and finding customers. Other B2B players - such as professional media (news sites, magazines, etc.) - certainly have the same problem, but they have an advantage in that they have a community and can activate acquisition levers (professional social networks, Google Ads, etc.). In both cases, it may be wise to devote a reasonable budget to acquiring customers.
The ratio of 15% advertising investment to business volume is often quoted for starting up a business, but everything depends on the type of business. At the end of the launch phase, this ratio can be as low as 4 or 5%. The promotional actions must be perfectly synchronised and fully consistent with the actual products offered and your brand advertising.

Should my sales staff be given a share of the profits?

Many B2B companies have traditionally relied on a network of sales representatives for whom they draw up a product sales commission plan.
But on a marketplace, the scenario is more competitive and the prices charged by sellers and their personal commitment must be taken into account.
The marketplace opportunity study is a good time to examine a new remuneration scheme in which no sales channel will feel penalised. Otherwise, some sales people or stores will not try to sell the goods displayed on the platform.
A profit-sharing scheme involving salespersons or stores in selling products on the Internet can be used to create a win-win scenario.

When can I expect my business to be profitable?

Take a look into the future: your marketplace has just been launched, the first customers are arriving and encountering the inevitable minor technical problems... But your business is not yet profitable. In B2B, as in B2C, this phase - which often feels as if you are in a commercial wilderness - can last between three months and two years. One of the challenges is to considerably reduce the length of this phase, with the help of experienced partners.
It will be followed by an acceleration phase, with satisfactory sales performance. This will typically last between one and three years, depending on the type of business.
Clearly, a lot of effort will initially be required. But make sure you don't try to go too fast and be careful not to cut corners!
Our aim is to make you aware of this reality: when an already established retailer creates a marketplace, this causes a split in the company and severe disruption that cannot be avoided. Advance planning is therefore essential to make this phase as brief as possible.
To put it differently, with a lot of pragmatism and a little humour: complex situations take a lot of effort!

If you liked this article, feel free to share it or visit our website!

Continue your reading with:

- Our article “How to comply with the legislation applicable to a marketplace?
- Our article “ [E-commerce] B2C and B2B payment: four differences
- Our 1st white paper “The Spring of B2B marketplaces: modelling the impact of B2B marketplaces strategies”

- Our 2nd white paper “B2B marketplaces are blossoming”

Click here to learn more about our marketplaces services, or contact Christophe de Sahb (CDesahb@wps.webhelp.com)

Contributors:

François Duranton, director of Expertime Consulting

Martial Frugier, director of the Ecommerce, Retail & Transport business unit (Webhelp)


Leaders Will Need New Rules To Succeed After The Digital Revolution

Look around at how the companies you know function today. The modern business environment is in a state of constant change. In the past decade we have seen innovations such as the smart phone and social networks changing how people communicate, learn, work, and even find a partner. People have changed, but companies are playing catch up.

This wave of change is forcing major companies to constantly to be more innovative and relevant in an unforgiving market. Start-up companies can launch new products globally via the app store creating an environment where executives don’t even know who their competition will be next year because they may not even exist - yet.

For proof of just how much is changing, consider some of these facts about well-known digital brands:

  • Airbnb is the world’s largest accommodation provider yet they own no property
  • Facebook is the world’s largest media company (they still deny this), yet they generate no content
  • Skype is the largest global telecom provider, yet they have no telco infrastructure
  • Netflix is the largest movie house yet they have no cinemas
  • Uber operates the largest taxi fleet in the world yet they own no taxis

We are witnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This wave of disruptive technology – led by robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G – will change production, management, and governance in every company in every industry. In many cases, the change has already arrived.

In a business environment characterised by continuous innovation many organisations will struggle. Financial service companies are known for trust and reliability. Change doesn’t come easily to a bank or insurance company with a large network of branches, legacy infrastructure going back several decades, and a regulated trading environment. But then a new insurance company launches using an app and offers to pay home insurance claims in an average of 3 seconds. How does a heritage brand compete with that?

It was Heraclitus who first said ‘change is the only constant’ in around 500 BC. Little did he know that his words would feature on just about every business plan in the 21st century.

It would be arrogant to suggest that I, or any other commentator, can see into the future, but it is clear that in this type of hyper-accelerated environment leaders need the ability to test ideas, adopting those that work and quickly move on from failures. Human ingenuity will be the difference between success and a place in the history books.

Companies facing digital disruption will also face internal disruption to the traditional structure of departments and fixed responsibilities. As a psychologist this fascinates me. We can see that companies need to approach their industry in a more innovative way if they want to remain relevant – or even survive – but what does this mean for the employees and how leaders lead? What is the human impact of transformational change when it is applied to businesses and entire industries?

The most obvious change that is needed is cultural. It is the role of the leader to create the culture and a climate for success that drives organisational performance.  Companies need to cast aside their traditional structure and prepare for the digital age by developing their leaders, people and a pipeline of current and future talent.  As well, a mindset and culture of lifelong learning will also play a role as an integral part of a job, rather than being in addition to a job – skills date quickly in a constantly changing environment so this is about more than just career development, the workforce needs to be ‘future ready.’ It’s also about taking time out for reflection and time out to learn and to embrace the learning cycle.,  Leaders need to encourage a culture that embraces innovation and experimentation within clear parameters. They need to understand how to change course quickly and optimise new opportunities.

Emotional intelligence is fundamental for great leaders enabling them, amongst many things, to be inclusive; to create teams that collaborate and work together, pulling in the same direction. They also need to be compassionate to support the organisation and its people in the face of rapid change and overwhelm because it can impact mental health which is critical when you consider 1:4 people have mental health issues and 1:3 GP prescriptions are mental health related.   Leaders need to take time to have meaningful leadership conversations with their people and teams if they are to lead change and transformation successfully.  They need to manage their own energy and be custodians of the energy of the organisation.

Leaders also need to create a high trust culture because trust lies at the heart of creating a culture of safety, courage, creativity, risk-taking, making mistakes, accountability and ownership.   Digital cultures need to create a culture of its ‘ok to make mistakes’ and to fail fast otherwise risk taking and creativity won’t happen. There needs to be this psychological safety and trust.

As we go further into this digital revolution it is clear, and this is backed up by research, that leaders need business skills, problem solving abilities, the ability to communicate powerfully, coaching and engagement skills, critical thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence to thrive and survive – in addition to a big dose of humility where they are happy to learn from their team and colleagues, harnessing the collective energy and wisdom of those around them for the greater good.  The world of work is becoming boundary less and a collective leadership mindset is critical for business success.

One interesting effect of digital disruption is that it has the opportunity to encourage more inclusion and diversity. The workforce of the future will be one made of people who are employed, work virtually and contractors.  The workplace will look and feel very different to what it does now. This flexible workforce will enable more people from all walks of life, backgrounds and physical abilities to be part of the new digital age thereby creating a rich and diverse workforce which will help the talent pipeline that CEOs have sighted as one of their major challenges in competing in a digital world.

The heart of the digital revolution is digital dexterity which I believe is driven based on the development and growth of individuals — their ability to take these advances and changes and to apply them within the context of an organisation and then to drive the business forward.  It requires Conscious Leadership, leaders who have emotional intelligence, who consciously create high trust environments, have conversations that matter, are focused, manage their energy and are custodians of the energy of the organisation as well as lead with compassion.  They have a collective leadership and life learning mindset, are comfortable with being vulnerable, are able to resource themselves and others and they are humble.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Nicky Pharoah, Managing Director at The Learning Curve

Nicky is an Organisational Development (OD) expert with extensive experience of psychotherapeutic application in the workplace. Drawing on over 30 years' operational experience within market-leading companies both in the UK and internationally, Nicky blends intuition and in-depth behavioural insights to make a lasting difference for clients.

About TLC

TLC’s focus and raison d’être is to work with organisations to develop leaders and transform cultures, based on principles of “Conscious Leadership” –  both a mindset and an advanced leadership capability centred on an understanding that our actions and behaviours impact ourselves, our colleagues and ultimately how well an organisation performs. Our services include bespoke Leadership Development, Cultural Transformation, 1:1 and team coaching, and 360-degree feedback implementations.

Founded in 1997 and headquartered in the UK, TLC works in both private and public sector organisations, in the UK and internationally.


Disruption in customer experience delivery: a reality in 2019

Over the past two decades no industry has been impervious to changes in how business is done.  Across so many different parts of the economy, conventional wisdom has been thrown out the window, so much so that executives are having trouble keeping up with changes in consumer patterns.

The domain of customer experience delivery is no stranger to this phenomenon; frankly it is near the forefront.  How end-users interact with companies that they buy goods and services from continues to evolve, and enterprise contact center managers must avoid being behind the curve.  To do so will mean lost loyalty, shrinking share of wallet, and less long-term profitability. This is a scenario that no enterprise, regardless of vertical, can afford to find themselves in.

Changes in how consumers buy from enterprises are an omnipresent shift in today’s economy.  Consider a few trends evident in the UK over the past twelve months, including:

  • The near collapse of high streets from Dover to Aberdeen and all points in-between.  Previously the focal point of a community’s commercial activity, the once-powerful high street is now an empty shell of what it once was;
  • Retailers are falling like dominos!  A great example of this was the announcement at the end of 2018 that HMV was going into administration in the UK. For those of us old enough to remember anxiously awaiting our allowances to spend at this epic music retailer on the weekend, seeing its current state is nearly depressing.  When one considers that HMV is one of many retail chains facing this challenge, it is even more profound to contemplate;
  • Ecommerce is where it’s at… roughly one-in-five pounds spent in the UK is via online buying.  By all accounts, this ratio will become even more pronounced in the coming years.

The above constitutes just some of the changes illustrating how the broader economy is shifting to take into account how consumers want to buy products and services.  In 2019, there is every reason to assume that how consumers choose to interact with enterprises will be more complex and challenging than ever.

Consider the impact of digital channels, which any contact center observer can confirm have become more important than ever. In fact, the most recent Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office Omnibus Survey of 350 enterprise customer experience professionals showed that roughly half of their workstations are enabled to deliver some type of digital component.  Whether it be webchat, email, social media or instant messaging, end-users will almost certainly continue to orient themselves to non-verbal communication in the coming 12 months.

But managing these different channels remains a challenge for many enterprises.  While captive CRM budgets have seen a thaw over the past two years, a majority of firms still report that their in-house spending flexibility is tight.  This is a major challenge when automated front-line delivery and artificial intelligence are keys to maintaining end-user loyalty.  The reality is that no contact center can be without these capabilities. Knowing today’s consumer better is the lynchpin to securing their long-term loyalty.

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

Author: Peter Ryan, Principal at Ryan Strategic Advisory

About Peter Ryan

Peter Ryan has been at the forefront of contact center services market advisory for over a decade.  Having began his career in London at Datamonitor in 2003, he quickly established himself as one of the foremost experts in the burgeoning CRM sector.

Over the course of his career, he has advised contact center outsourcers, their clients, industry associations and governments on matters ranging from vertical market penetration and service delivery to best practices in offshore positioning.

Peter Ryan’s expertise in outsourcing has been recognized multiple times.  He was awarded callcentrehelper.com’s prestigious Best Respected Contact Center Professional in 2015 and was included in Fonolo’s Top 16 Analysts Covering Customer Experience.  He was also included in each iteration of the Nearshore Americas Power 50 influencers listings, which identified the most important outsourcing executives in the Western Hemisphere.

Through his career Peter Ryan has been a much sought-after speaker, headlining multiple events including The Turkey Call Center Conference and Expo (Istanbul), Nearshore Nexus (New York), The Business Process Enablement South Africa Summit (Cape Town), The Central American Nearshore Summit (Managua), Congreso Andino de Contact Centers y BPO (Bogota) and The Congreso Regional de Call Centers & CRM (Buenos Aires).  He has also been frequently quoted in the media on a variety of matters pertaining to BPO and contact centers.

Peter has degrees in Political Studies from the University of Saskatchewan and an MBA from Dalhousie University.  He lives in Montreal Quebec.


What consumers really think of AI in customer Service

Do you think that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have a positive or negative effect on ‘your life in the near future? Dave Pattman, Managing Director CX Services at Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group examines the results of our recently commissioned YouGov poll to find out what people really think about the future.

We worked with the polling experts YouGov to ask over 2,000 British adults what they think and it would appear that people still believe in the importance of the human touch in their interactions with brands. In our survey, 44% said that they do not think AI will impact them positively in any way and 52% said that it would make dealing with brands more impersonal.

Webhelp recently published a report on the future of automation and we commissioned the YouGov survey to find out what people really think – just normal consumers who don’t spend each day thinking about customer experience or AI strategy. It was clear from several different responses that a large majority of UK consumers prefer dealing with humans over automated services for everything from querying a bill (85%) and changing account details (62%) to making a complaint (84%), buying a product or service for the first time (77%), chasing an order (73%) or dealing with a fault (78%).

Almost half of the respondents (45%) said they have never used any type of AI, although it is becoming so pervasive that people may not even be aware that AI is often creating their product recommendations or special offers. Amongst those who know they have used AI almost half (44%) believe that it will not positively impact their life in the next five years.

Most people know from their own anecdotal evidence that human-to human contact is important when asking a brand for help, but this study from Webhelp goes even further, highlighting the degree to which people favour it over AI-powered customer service tools and are negative about AI’s potential future impact.

Many people are not aware of how AI is changing their relationship with brands, but they are gradually becoming more exposed to AI systems. Even so, this research confirms the importance of striking the right balance between the advanced technology services we offer and the incredible human talent of our local teams of agents, advisors and planners. We, at Webhelp, strike the right balance between the advanced technology available and real people – humans helping humans.

Our approach will always be customer experience driven, so this window into consumer perception is extremely valuable for helping our clients implement AI solutions that offer clear end-user value. Research like this can help us to plan how we work with our clients in future.

It is interesting to note that there is a clear divide between AI systems that customers choose to use and those that are forced on them. For example, people with a smart speaker system at home such as the Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home are mostly satisfied with the way it functions – 77% said they are satisfied with their smart system. However, only 45% of people who had used a chatbot for a customer service question said that they were satisfied. Users of automated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were even less satisfied at 38%.

Discover more from our recent blog post on ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ON THE CX FRONTLINE

People are likely to be more receptive to AI in future as they experience it more often – smart speakers are selling so fast today that during peak periods like Black Friday it has been impossible for even major brands like Amazon to keep up with the demand. As people become comfortable with AI systems in their own home, there is the potential for them to feel more comfortable with brands using AI.

However, our study found that most customers are pessimistic about the future as they foresee companies automating many more customer service interactions even though they would prefer to maintain service by humans. 26% of respondents felt that automating customer service functions would make interacting with companies much worse in future – just 19% said that they think this will create an improved customer experience. It was also interesting to note that 46% of customers mentioned their concerns around data privacy and security as a negative aspect of further digitisation of services.

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As you might expect, age is an important factor in the acceptance of AI. Younger generations have grown up as digital natives, constantly using technology and so it is to be expected that they would be happy to use AI and would expect it to be helpful. In fact over 90% of respondents aged 55 or over reported a preference for a human interaction when contacting a company. However, AI is not universally accepted as better by the younger demographic groups – 45% of 18-24 year olds said they would be happy with a chatbot so even the younger consumers have a majority that still prefers human interaction.

A big difference can be seen when comparing the belief that AI will have no positive impact on their life in the next five years. The older respondents supported this view with 60% agreeing, but only 26% of the young adults only supported it. But it also seems that younger consumers are more aware of the value of their data. More than half of the customers aged 25-34 are worried about threats to privacy and security compared to 45% of those 55 or above. And about a third of those 18-24 worry about AI’s impact on their job prospects compared to only 15% of those 55 or above. Perhaps that is just because they can see their entire career ahead of them and therefore automation of work is far more worrying to those who are far from retirement.

It is clear that good customer experience cannot be delivered by technology alone. It’s important to think about the overall process and journey, and how to create value for both companies and customers. Any attempt to leverage automated services should start with this thinking and ensure that automated and human-led services are working effectively, in tandem with one another. From a customer experience point of view, AI creates an opportunity for brands to deliver greater convenience, speed of response and accessibility. But it’s important to note that this doesn’t replace people. It decreases the volume but increases the value of human interaction.

I do believe that this research confirms that managers with a responsibility to plan how they can deliver the best possible customer experience need to strike the right balance between the advanced technology available and real people – humans helping humans. Consumer attitudes may change as AI becomes normalised in homes, but at present there is a strong feeling that too much of a focus on AI and automation will reduce the overall quality of customer service.

How do we really want to interact with brands? What do we really think about AI and Automation? How important is it to strike the right balance between human talent and AI and Automation for CX? Read our AI and Automation paper to find out more, or check out our latest Whitepaper on Emotion here. 


2019: marketplaces set to take the B2B market by storm

We look back at the B2B marketplace morning discussion to explain the main changes and challenges set to be feature in 2019.

“Our starting point was the observation that whereas in 2017 we were at the very beginning of the "B2B marketplace spring", we are now seeing it in full bloom!” announced Sébastien Murbach, a Partner at Roland Berger, at the opening of the morning discussion on 25 October 2018.

An analysis begun two years ago by Roland Berger, in partnership with Webhelp Payment Services and Mirakl, resulting in the annual publication of the B2B Marketplace Observatory and the #MPB2B newsfeed on Twitter.

“B2C marketplaces radically changed a lot of markets. Since 2017 it has been B2B’s turn to start taking on this transformation tool. Initially, many factors slowed its development, such as the complexity of B2B relationships, the extent of the negotiations, consultancy work and contractual formalities required,” continued Sébastien Murbach.

These factors are now under control, and 2019 will see an increase in the growth of B2B marketplaces. This is the way Alfred Hawawini, Director of B2B Business at Mirakl, sees it: "Mirakl, Webhelp Payment Services and Roland Berger all share the same conviction: B2B marketplaces are no longer an emerging phenomenon but represent a clear willingness on the part of B2B players to transform their business completely.”

The four B2B marketplace models

“In 2017, marketplace projects were very vendor-oriented,” explains Jérôme Connac, Business Developer at Webhelp Payment Services. Today, these projects are much more focused on buyers and buyer expectations. That’s why we are now seeing a lot of procurement departments showing an interest in new marketplace models. This phenomenon is set to grow in 2019.”

This new four-model classification has been adopted by Mirakl, Webhelp Payment Services and Roland Berger:

1. Range extension (G&S) or the one-stop shop

Typically initiated by a distributor or wholesaler wanting to broaden its products and services offer through third-party vendors to create a one-stop shop. The objective is to drive up customer loyalty and create barriers to entry by new competitors.

2. Distributor platform or distribution channel extension

Initiated by a manufacturer or service provider keen to create new sales channels without compromising its existing channels. The idea is to encourage customer loyalty among existing customers and attract new ones through an optimised platform.

3. Internal hub or business model transformation

distributor or service provider wants to start up or reorganise around a marketplace to facilitate the crossover between supply and demand in a relatively unstructured market. This need is felt mainly by buyers looking to rationalise their procurement accounting by referencing a single supplier for each procurement category (for example promotional items from Pandacola).

4. Procurement platform or procurement network

This service is initiated by the members of a group of buyers or procurement departments that are looking for an easy way to secure offers at attractive prices. This category of contract givers has four key requirements:

  • suppliers must be in automatic competition
  • an excellent e-commerce purchasing experience
  • more straightforward accounting procedures
  • simple, automated supplier management

Payment, a key element in the growth of a marketplace

Whichever model is chosen, it must offer a payment system tailored to the specific national and international requirements of B2B business. As Axel Mouquet sums up, the four challenges will remain the same in 2019:

  • compliance with national laws and customs in different countries,
  • the diversity of payment modes and methods,
  • the asynchronous nature of different payment terms,
  • managing invoicing

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Marketplace experiences: AccorHotels, Première Vision and Pandacola

Each of the four models has its own advantages and challenges. By way of example, we invited three companies to talk about their marketplace experiences: the AccorHotels group, the fashion show organiser Première Vision and the startup Pandacola, which is set to reinvent the distribution of corporate promotional gifts.

The AccorHotels Group: an international procurement platform that uses a procurement network model

“We negotiate the prices for the products and services required by our 4,500 hotels around the world,” explains Coline Pont, Chief Procurement Officer for the Southern Europe region at AccorHotels. Our platform must meet the requirements of some thirty brands with very different characteristics. The objective of this platform is to enable our hotel customers to make savings and to facilitate the procurement process for our hotels. Currently, we are also working to win new customers outside the AccorHotels group. This is one of our areas of development.”

Première Vision: bringing together fashion pros through a one-stop-shop model

The Première Vision marketplace is for textile industry professionals. It is open to exhibitors and visitors to Première Vision fashion shows in France and around the world. Its vocation is to foster exchanges between textiles and fashion industry professionals (distributors, brands, accessory manufacturers, etc.).

“This business is made up of a lot of self-employed suppliers. It is only loosely structured and the rate at which new collections come out is continually increasing. Our marketplace does not claim to replace human contact, but it does complement it well. Nearly 70% of the visitors to our website connect to our marketplace. Our main challenges lie in helping vendors who have little experience of using digital tools. That’s why we’ve published a lot of tutorials online,” says Gaël Séguillon, Première Vision‘s Head of Marketplace.

Pandacola: selling corporate promotional gifts using a business model transformation model

The Pandacola marketplace is set to market corporate gifts and goodies. “We are the only ones on the European market. This loosely structured market features 2,500 promotional-item retailers in France, only a dozen of which have a turnover of more than €10 million. Hence our desire to create a marketplace to structure this market starting in 2019. Very few of our vendors have embraced digital technology, so we work hard to help them and publish lots of aids", explains Arthur Manier, CEO and founder of Pandacola.

To learn more about the changes expected in 2019 and events in the pipeline, send your request to Christophe de Sahb (CDesahb@wps.webhelp.com).

Further reading:

 

 


British consumers say impact of artificial intelligence will not be positive

44% do not think Artificial Intelligence will impact them positively in any way and 52% say it will make dealing with brands more impersonal 

4 April 2019

Large majorities of British consumers prefer dealing with humans over automated services for everything from querying a bill (85%) and changing account details (62%) to making a complaint (84%), buying a product or service for the first time (77%), chasing an order (73%) or dealing with a fault (78%).

These are the findings of an online YouGov survey of more than 2,000 British adults commissioned by Webhelp – one of the country’s leading customer experience providers. A brief report/paper from Webhelp about the future of automation can be found here.

Nearly half of respondents (45%) said they had never used any type of AI, but amongst those who had there was widespread dissatisfaction around its efficacy and perceived value. Nearly half (44%) also believe that AI will not positively impact their lives in any way over the next five years.

Just over a quarter of respondents said they had used a customer service chatbot (27%), interactive voice response or IVR (27%) or smart home speaker such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home (26%). Whilst over a third of those who had used these types of AI were dissatisfied with the chatbots (35%) and IVR (38%), smart home speakers proved more popular – possibly because these are chosen rather than encountered by chance. Fewer than half (45%) of those who had experienced a customer service chatbot were satisfied with it and 38% were either fairly or very dissatisfied with IVR. In contrast, 77% claimed to be satisfied with smart home speakers.

Webhelp CEO David Turner said: “We know from anecdotal evidence that human-to human contact is important, but this study goes even further, highlighting the degree to which people favour it over AI-powered customer service tools and are negative about AI’s potential future impact. 

"As exposure to AI increases in day-to-day life, people are likely to become more receptive, but this research confirms the importance of striking the right balance between the advanced technology services we offer and the incredible human talent of our local teams of agents, advisors and planners. Our approach will always be customer experience driven, so this window into consumer perception is extremely valuable for helping our clients implement AI solutions which offer clear end-user value.”

Looking ahead five years, over a quarter of respondents (26%) felt that increased use of AI-driven customer experience tools would make interacting with companies “much worse” compared to only 19% who felt the impact would be positive. Other negative perceptions include fear that AI will make dealing with brands/companies more impersonal (52%), increased threats to privacy and security (46%) and detrimental impact to human-to-human interactions (43%).

Dave Pattman, Innovation Director at Webhelp, added: “Good customer experience cannot be delivered by technology alone. It’s important to think about the overall process and journey, and how to create value for both companies and customers. Any attempt to leverage automated services should start with this thinking and ensure that automated and human-led services are working effectively, in tandem with one another.

"From a customer experience point of view, AI creates an opportunity for brands to deliver greater convenience, speed of response and accessibility. But it’s important to note that this doesn’t replace people. It decreases the volume but increases the value of human interaction.” 

Demographic differences

According to the study, age was a key differentiator in terms of receptivity to AI customer experience, with over 90% of those aged 55 or over reporting a preference for human contact if making a complaint or querying a bill, for example. Similarly, of those who had used them, 18-24 year olds (56%) were more likely to be satisfied with chatbots than those 55 or above (42%) and over four in ten (47%) 18-24 year olds were satisfied with IVR offerings versus only 35% of those 55 or above. Whilst 60% of those aged 55 and above believe AI will not impact their lives positively in any way in the future, this figure falls to 26% in the 18-24 age bracket.

Conversely, more than half (54%) of those 25-34 think that AI will increase threats to privacy and security over the next 5 years compared to 45% of those 55 or above. And about a third (33%) of those 18-24 worry about AI’s impact on their job prospects in the next 5 years compared to only 15% of those 55 or above.

Survey Methodology

This survey has been conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc UK panel of 800,000+ individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys. Emails are sent to panellists selected at random from the base sample.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2044 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th-6th February 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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-ENDS-

Press information:

Julie Carballo, Quiller 07860 753 101

Scott Jacobson, Quiller 07776 383 312