B2B Marketplaces – Limits of the Marketplace model for Global Account customers (1/2)

In B2B distribution, the new challenge is to massively expand the product offering. The Marketplace model has rapidly prevailed in this context. It is now showing some limitations, as François Duranton, CEO of ZeTrace, explains in this first column.

B2B marketplaces are gathering momentum! They are currently winning VSE/SME targets, especially for service-sector and non-strategic purchases.

But it is true that they are still facing some difficulties with Global Account and Government Contract customers, particularly for strategic or primary purchases.

Before going into detail regarding these difficulties, we may specify that there are three models for massive expansion of the product offering:

  • the industrialized Drop Shipping model, where a distributor shows its customers the catalogues of suppliers who will perform delivery;
  • the Marketplace model which establishes contact between vendors and customers around a trusted third-party operator; and
  • combination of these two models.

The advantages and disadvantages of these models are very different. For Global Accounts and Government Contracts, the Marketplace model has five main limitations.

1. Risk of legal requalification of the marketplace

On paper, the Marketplace model enjoys an excellent image. For example, it is very efficient for the delegation of tasks to the vendors – which take charge of catalogue onboarding, stock and price management, orders management and customer service, etc.

But the marketplace is based on a special business model, which could pose a problem for Global Account and Government Contract customers.

For example, the concept of personalized prices or prices negotiated with the operator is problematic, because, on a marketplace, the price is usually controlled by the vendor. But, if the marketplace imposes negotiated prices on its vendors, the latter could blame it for not complying with the standard intermediation model, i.e. doing “disguised drop shipping” – and this requalification could take place before a court.

Just recently, Cdiscount avoided a ruling of liability on counterfeit products sold on its Marketplace, in particular because it had in no way changed the information provided by the vendor, and had therefore remained in a role of hosting service and not publisher.

To meet the needs of these customers and to reduce the legal risk, the operator will therefore be obliged to take on numerous responsibilities (product compliance, tax reporting, customer relationships, etc.). And this complicates the pure marketplace model and has an impact on its profitability.

2. IT problems in ensuring an assortment for each customer

The Global Account and Government Contract customers tend to compartment their procurements: certain products, at a certain price, from a certain supplier.

The marketplace must therefore filter its assortments according to the customers who log on, and combine them with the negotiated prices.

This situation is not always well managed by commercially available solutions.

3. Constraint of the single invoice

For Global Account and Government Contract customers, they dread having numerous suppliers. They want to rationalize the full acquisition cost – which includes invoice processing, order forms, reconciliation of payments and deliveries, etc.

Hence the goal of reducing invoicing. But in the marketplace model, the current standard is as follows: if there are five vendors in a given order, that will result in five invoices.

Firms such as Webhelp Payment Services propose packaged third-party invoicing solutions. With this system, the operator signs an invoicing mandate with each of the vendors, which authorize the marketplace operator to issue in their name and on their behalf the invoices produced for the end customer.

The advantage of this solution is good standardization of invoices, which become easier to integrate by the customer and by the platform.

For example, the operator can compile all the monthly invoices in a statement of invoices, which greatly simplifies administration and reconciliation tasks at the customer level.

There is a limitation, however: certain auditors could consider that this invoicing becomes a “hotchpotch” and demand a personal account for each supplier. Ultimately, everything depends on the customer’s accounting strategy.

The only alternative solution to produce a single invoice is to switch to a dropship model, possibly supported by the marketplace information system: the operator creates the vendor listing catalogue, manages sales to the end customer and sends the order to the vendor, which manages dropship delivery to the end customer. This solution amounts to taking responsibility for the sale on the operator side (product compliance, taxes, etc.).

4. Rationalization of the supply chain

Global Account and Government Contract customers want to rationalize product delivery. Very often, they impose time slots for delivery, together with penalties. This situation is complex to manage for a marketplace in which each vendor manages their shipments.

There are solutions to the supply chain problem, such as groupage of deliveries in the warehouses of the marketplace distributor (cross docking). Then, this distributor manages deliveries in the time slots agreed with the customer.

However, these solutions are complex to implement, more costly, and they entail longer delivery times.

5. Globalized customer service

Another requirement: customer service will have to operate in the language and in the time slots wanted by the Global Account or Government Contract customer.

Possible case: a German vendor must ensure relations with a French marketplace customer. If this vendor is not capable of this, there must be a replacement solution.

In this respect, the marketplace must take charge of the costs that on paper it was supposed to save.

In the second article of this column*, I invite you to discover that the conventional opposition between Marketplace and Drop Shipping deserves to be left behind.

François Duranton, CEO of ZeTrace

Three silver awards for Webhelp at a night with the stars in London

The European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards were held last night at Evolution London in Battersea Park. The event was a glittering affair with over 130 tables filled to the brim with the brightest and best in the industry.

The stars were out in force too, with distinguished broadcaster Fiona Bruce hosting the evening for the fourth year running. Plus a guest appearance from Frank Bruno MBE, a British former world heavyweight boxing champion, who had the crowd on their feet in applause!

Webhelp were delighted to take home three silver awards, the first of which was “Best Innovation in Customer Service” in partnership with Shop Direct and Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group. The second was for “Best Large Outsourcing Partnership” with Sky and last but not least was an award for “Outsourced Contact Centre of the Year”, again in recognition of the outstanding work delivered with Sky from Webhelp’s customer experience centre in Larbert.

Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer for Webhelp UK, SA and India, attended the awards and commented:

“The European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards are one of the largest and most prestigious awards programmes in the sector and we are delighted to be recognised for excellence in so many categories. I would like to thank all of our people for their hard work this year, especially our Shop Direct team and Sky team in Larbert.”

How Baby Boomers are impacting the workforce

In recent months, industry pundits and analysts have speculated on the impact of the younger generation as consumers and on the workforce, while in the background, a new force has been slowly building, one that combines experience with flexibility and knowledge. Here Orla Strefford, Talent Attraction Manager, Webhelp UK, SA and India, explores the rise of the Baby Boomers.

Preface: 30/04/20

Since publishing this blog, the world has changed dramatically, with entire countries entering strict lockdown periods and many regions operating under shelter in place instructions. The coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to have an unprecedented impact on business and society across the globe, and as a result it is even more important that we continue to embrace workforce diversity and provide recruitment opportunities where possible during these challenging times. Click here to find out more on our people first response to this crisis.

I’m lucky enough to work alongside a dynamic and diverse group of people at Webhelp, on any given day, I can be found happily collaborating with, mentoring or learning from colleagues of all ages. From the freshest faces in our call halls to the voices of experience who have determinedly climbed the career ladder, we all share the same passion and enthusiasm for delivering customer service… well, possibly apart from on early on a Monday morning – we are human after all!

And, as humans, we want to be recognised for our strengths, be encouraged in our careers at all stages of our lives and not be left behind or underutilised.

Interestingly, this drive (coupled with an older global population) is changing the face of the jobs market. In the US, for example, instead of retiring, Baby Boomers (the name for the generation aged 55-73) are actively driving job growth.

In fact, The Liscio Report, an influential investor research publication, recently analysed Labour Department data to reveal that, astonishingly, American Boomers made up around half of all employment gains in 2018.

That is a considerable increase, as in 2017 they made up only a quarter of the labour force!

As the global population shifts, employers must prepare to understand and embrace workforce diversity. Here Gillian Campbell, Chief People Officer for the UK Region and Director Global Engagement at Webhelp, hits the nail on the head when discussing the importance of generational inclusivity.

“A core pillar of our company mission is to create an outstanding working environment - for employees of ALL generations.” She adds, “It’s vital to acknowledge employees’ commitment, to reward and to recognise hard work and dedication, and to look at both personal and professional development.”

And, companies might well find a development gap with Boomers, especially when it comes to utilising new technology – as our new Whitepaper on Generations reports. Our research, commissioned with partners YouGov, found that Baby Boomers are the least informed (17%) or confident (18%) about using new technology at work - a drop of 10% from Gen Z.

Baby Boomer influence is widening as consumers too, as according to global measurement and data analytics company Nielsen, they are the second heaviest users of the Internet (as 40% of customers paying for wireless access) and makeup over half the population of Facebook.

Their spending power is considerable; they represent 41% of the computer market, spend almost $7 billion shopping online annually and splash-out 30% more than any other age groups on their cars.

Taking all this together, as both employees and customers, the 55+ generation have a surprising amount of power, so, as Patrick Swayze famously said,

“Don’t put Baby in the corner.”

Our Disruptor Series takes a deeper dive into the issues facing the CX industry, including the impact of generational shiftsAI and Automation and Emotional Connections. Contact Ewan McKay - ukmarketing@webhelp.com for more details on our corporate events and check out Webhelp jobs for information on our current opportunities.







Dave Pattman to host CCA webinar on how AI is changing the CX game

Dave Pattman, Managing Director of CX Services at Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, is to present an exclusive webinar for CCA, the independent professional body for customer service experience.

Digital products like driverless cars, chatbots, smart speakers, drones and data-phishing creating sensational headlines every day and the evolution of digital products, and the debate around them, is only increasing.

This timely webinar will explain how the customer experience landscape is undergoing a rapid and seismic change - and how the rules of engagement are being rewritten.

AI and Automation are permeating fibre of daily life at an astonishing pace, there are massive shifts underway in consumer behaviours, habits and attitudes, making it harder to predict the future.

Here, backed by independent YouGov research, he reveals the truth behind and - most importantly - the impact of machine learning on the CX industry.

Join Dave Pattman on the 5th December (click here to register) and discover how automation and artificial intelligence can give us an unparalleled insight into customer behaviour, revealing more about our audiences than ever before.

The Webhelp Disruptor Series takes a deeper dive into the issues facing the CX industry, including the impact of generational shifts and AI and Automation. Contact Ewan McKay - ukmarketing@uk.webhelp.com for more details on Webhelp corporate events.



Brandon Aitken joins Impact Sourcing panel at the GBS Investors Conference

Brandon Aitken, CCO Webhelp SA, joined speakers on stage on the 20th November at the GBS Investors Conference, which was held at The Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre Complex in Durban, Kwazulu Natal.

The GBS Investor Conference is the flagship event of the South African Global Business Services Sector. It is hosted by trade body and sector association, BPESA in partnership with The Department of Trade & Industry, and host region Durban, KwaZulu Natal.

Brandon joined the panel on “Impact Sourcing: Unlocking South Africa’s Human Potential for Inclusive Growth”, which was facilitated by Maryana Iskander, CEO of Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, an organisation that works closely with Webhelp to create better futures for South Africa.

The discussion centred on how young people in South Africa deliver a distinctive customer service experience offering a highly competitive and compelling proposition for the global English-speaking markets. And, it highlighted how impact sourcing, a practice originating in South Africa (now a global benchmark for socially responsible and economically sustainable sourcing) is unlocking the skills potential for excluded youth in society.

Brandon is deeply committed and passionate about this subject, especially its capacity to change young lives for the better, which reflects Webhelp’s own core goal to make business more human, saying:

“Impact Sourcing and Harambee fits perfectly with our value proposition and our brand culture."
He also highlighted the substantial business benefits, adding: "We have seen significant increases in not only our performance for our customers but for our business too, in retention, engagement and productivity levels."

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. Click here to find out more on Webhelp’s commitment to Impact Sourcing and our successful partnership with Harambee.

Service transformation through a human lens at The Future of Service conference

Author: Helen Murray,

Webhelp Chief Customer Solutions Officer

How do we find the right balance between people and technology? Here Webhelp Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Helen Murray, considers the impact of perception and reality in customer experience, as she prepares to be a panellist for the Gobeyond Partners, at The Future of Service 2019 conference in November.

I am always delighted to be asked to join discussion panels with my peers in the business, the more we embrace collaboration, discuss new ideas and share thought leadership as an industry, the better the future landscape will be - for ALL players, across the sector – particularly consumers!

However, my invitation to join the Future of Service Conference was particularly exciting, as the focus is firmly on how delivering a more ‘human’ experience can transform services, something that we are particularly passionate about at Webhelp.

The day, hosted by Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, in London on the 21st of November, will explore how humans interact with organisations, products and services, teams and technology. And, more importantly - how, by understanding customer needs and activity, this can be used to reinvent service delivery.

However, changes to service delivery have to be driven by accurate and concise evidence, but as Robin Harrison, Marketing Director at Gobeyond highlights – the importance of acting on data analysis may not be trickling down to grassroots level:

“From a recent study with senior leaders across 400 larger businesses, it was found that customer data isn’t available, or utilised, at all levels of the organisation. While 81% of leadership reported using customer data to guide strategic decisions, at more operational levels use of such data dropped to 26%.” Source: Treasure Data

The conference will be running a breakout session to try to demystify and improve the use of customer data analytics, something that should prove very useful.

Evidence, no matter how well researched, cannot create engaged and loyal customers on its own - instead, it must inspire digital transformation and top-down strategies. Which in turn must then be embraced at every part of the customer journey. I know from experience, this is not something which can happen overnight, it takes investment, passion and the right insight. Robin, is again right on the money when he says:

“Successful transformation takes time. While customers and market disruption are key drivers, IT, finance, marketing, operations and customer service ultimately need to deliver the vision. The change required to move from well-defined, long-established ways of working to more adaptive, agile approaches can be seismic.”

Attention must be given to who will be fundamentally driving this change, and the right buy-in can be game-changing when implementing a successful transformation strategy. It is vitally important that companies communicate the benefits, disruptions and process of digital transformation to their people at every level.

Robin recognises the value in this by saying:

“There is nothing more transformational than employees inspired by change that has been well planned, thought through and deliver clear benefit personally and professionally.”

Comprehensive communication is so important, not just to prevent misunderstanding at an employee level, but to prevent pitfalls for delivery. It is interesting to note that despite customer experience being so profoundly embedded in strategy in our industry, there appears to be a clear gap between business view of their own customer experience and actual customer perception.

I am looking forward to getting to grips with the reasons behind this dislocation as a topic with the Future of Service discussion panel.

On the subject of customer perception, we are busy adding the final touches to our own new Whitepaper looking into the importance of emotional intelligence for brands. The paper will explore how to create deep and lasting audience connections and establishing a more human process for customer experience. Watch this space!

For a unique opportunity to learn from with senior leadership, and discover service transformation through a human lens, why not join me at the Gobeyond Partners, Future of Service 2019 event? Read the booking details and conference outline here.

Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, host The Future of Service 2019

GoBeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, will hold the highly regarded Future of Service Conference, at No.11 Cavendish Square, in London on the 21st of November. This is an annual event for Gobeyond, and in 2019 the focus will be on how delivering a more ‘human’ experience can transform services.

The day will take attendees on an innovative journey to explore how humans interact with organisations, products and services, teams and technology and how, by understanding customer needs and activity, this can be used to reinvent service delivery.

Newsreader and presenter Natasha Kaplinsky will host the event, which will include interactive sessions covering agile in service, analytics and insight, and UX design.

Gobeyond Partners are delighted to announce that Bruce Daisley, currently VP EMEA for Twitter as the keynote speaker. Bruce, who has previously held top posts at Google and Youtube, is a No.1 Sunday Times Business Bestseller and host of the UK’s number one business podcast, Eat Sleep Work Repeat.

There will be breakout sessions throughout the conference on topics like; Delivering rapid service improvements through Agile, Using data to drive customer-centricity and Driving market-leading user experience.

Conference-goers will gain first-hand knowledge on how human insight and intuition can be augmented by leading data and insight technologies, as they navigate through practical examples, illustrating customer-centric decision-making.

Why not join them and learn how to turn customer experience into a better, more human, experience. Plus, enjoy real-world examples from leading service organisations and Gobeyond Partners’ expertise?

Find out more about the Gobeyond Partners, Future of Service 2019 event here.

The Webhelp Disruptor Series takes a deeper dive into the issues facing the CX industry, including the impact of generational shifts and AI and AutomationContact Ewan McKay - ukmarketing@uk.webhelp.com for more details on Webhelp corporate events.


Webhelp Sponsors prestigious HR Award

The 13th Hr NETWORK National Awards took place at the Glasgow Hilton, in Scotland last night. The Awards ceremony, regarded as ‘the’ event in the HR calendar, attracts over 800 HR and people professionals every year.

The hugely anticipated annual gala dinner recognises, acknowledges and rewards champions of the Scottish HR profession and Webhelp is proud to continue to sponsor the prestigious Health and Wellbeing Award.

Gillian Campbell, Webhelp’s Chief People Officer UK Region & Director of Global Engagement, was delighted to attend the ceremony and make the award presentation, saying:

“As a people first organisation, a core pillar of our company mission is to create an outstanding working environment for all our employees, and Health and Wellbeing is a subject very close to our hearts. As such, we are delighted to be able to support excellence and best practice in this area.”

The Health and Wellbeing nominees were Communicorp UK, Scottish Water and Three. The Award was taken home by Three.

Webhelp CEO David Turner added:

“Warmest congratulations to all the nominees, and to the winning entrant Three, for helping to drive best practice in Health and Wellbeing, something that is extremely important - not just for industry - but for the health and resilience of Scotland as a whole.”

The team from Three, receiving the Health and Wellbeing Award from Webhelp’s Gillian Campbell (far right)

Infographic: Customer journey in a nutshell!

The customer journey is usually described as the complete sum of experiences that customers travel through when interacting with a company and brand.

In plain terms, a customer journey is just the road map a customer takes to an action point (usually a purchase). It can also identify the point at which people lose interest or what brings them back to the brand – which is sometimes more important in business.

Our services document the full brand pathway of a customer, the direction of travel, their stops along the way and the way it makes them feel.

To find out more see our infographic below or contact Ewan McKay - ukmarketing@uk.webhelp.com.

Plus, Webhelp’s Disruptor Series takes a deeper dive into the issues facing the CX industry, including the impact of generational shifts and AI and Automation.


Webhelp launch apprentice-style Crosshouse charity challenge

Senior leaders from global customer experience expert, Webhelp, have been out and about across Ayrshire in aid of the Crosshouse Children’s Fund in an Apprentice-Style challenge, with teams tasked with raising as much awareness and gain as many commitments of support as possible.

Webhelp employees engaged a wide range of organisations, including local businesses and community groups, who showed brilliant support for such an important cause.

In total, the teams:
• Placed 27 collection cans
• Secured 53 gifts in kind for auctions and raffles
• Put up awareness materials across 32 locations
• Received 48 commitments of support for volunteering and fundraising

The activities formed part of the Webhelp UK Senior Leaders’ Annual Conference, which they decided to do differently this year by combining team development with giving something back to the local community. There were 33 staff involved in total, from across Webhelp’s Operations and People teams.

Stewart Barnett, Managing Director UK Operations at Webhelp, said: “We have been blown over by the support of our local communities across Ayrshire for such a fantastic cause, and we are incredibly grateful for the donations and offers of help that local business have made.

“Our Webhelp staff showed fantastic initiative and team spirit to raise so much awareness, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Crosshouse Children’s Fund in the future.“

Shona Cardle, Chief Executive, Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity said: “We are proud to be extending our work to help children in hospital from across Ayrshire and are delighted to have such wonderful support from Webhelp UK.

“All of the money raised in support of Crosshouse Children’s Fund will be invested in Ayrshire, so it is very important for local people, businesses and communities to get behind this local cause. The team at Webhelp pulled out all the stops to help raise the profile of Crosshouse Children’s Fund in Ayrshire, and we are incredibly grateful for their efforts.”