Facing the challenges of the coronavirus

Business priorities are shifting as the world rapidly adjusts to the devastating changes brought by the Coronavirus. Here, Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, for the Webhelp UK region, looks at how this sweeping force has brought challenges to our business, the astonishing efforts made to meet them, and why our people are always central to everything we do.   

I was recently asked what have been the biggest challenges for us as a business, in responding to COVID-19.

At Webhelp, our number one priority is always our people, and as the stark reality of the pandemic began to hit home across our countries, the most important and challenging task was to ensure their safety and well-being, first and foremost.

This is not empty rhetoric, but something that we honestly live by at Webhelp – and this vision is led strongly from the c-suite. We created specific task forces at all levels of the business - moved swiftly in partnership with our clients to change our way of working across all our operations, to protect our people and to stringently follow all government guidelines to safeguard their health.

There was a wider human issue impacting our operations too - as many of our operations fall under “key worker” categories, as defined by the Cabinet Office and Department of Education, we were also driven by a clear responsibility to support and maintain the supply of critical services.

Our teams are committed to assisting vital service areas which include; helping the telecommunications sector keep people connected, aiding the food retail sector by safeguarding deliveries, assisting insurance services clients to give access to information on claims and renewals and finally allowing the transport sector to keep delivering vital supplies to homes and businesses - all of which is so important at this critical time!

We are actively diverting resources to where they are needed most, and in partnership with some of our clients, prioritising and supporting the most vulnerable of our customers.

In fact, to put this in perspective - almost 7000 (and rising) UK Region Webhelp employees are now working from home. The logistics alone were considerable, and over the last few weeks our operations, IT and support teams have been working round the clock to deliver a viable solution.

As you can imagine, this was a highly complex situation, meeting bespoke technological and regulatory conditions, as required on a client by client basis.

Our teams have now delivered a robust custom built solution which includes a staggering 46 miles of internet cabling (enough to run between Glasgow and Edinburgh!), deployed and configured 10,000 VPN licences and built 12,000 machines, and delivered enough network capacity to stream 500 HD movies every second!

The challenge continues across some of our sites, where we are limiting the number of people to a minimum to create as much distance as possible.

We have brought in our own internal auditing, completed throughout the day to check all safe levels are being maintained and have a highly visible communications campaign, which highlights all our social distancing practices.

As new guidelines are announced, either by UK or local authorities, we are acting on that advice or seeking clarity, as required.

As well as the obvious technical issues, rapidly expanding a remote workforce requires support in many other areas. We are helping our people to adapt with regular advice and assistance; by making sure they have connectivity, are set up correctly and are comfortable working in their new environment.

Home-working policies have been updated and communicated, providing clear guidance on time management, GDPR and structuring the working day at home.

Both in the office and remotely, colleagues are being provided with advice on how to manage stress and help to look after their mental and physical health. This includes specific Webhealth initiatives and access to Care First our employee assistance program.

A transformation has occurred in where, when and how we communicate and engage with our people, as we have had to re-consider and expand our channels and look carefully at accessibility issues and overall effectiveness.

This has significantly changed the way corporate communications are now being delivered, for example we have increased our use of closed social media groups, to engage our people in their homes and during non-working hours, making absolutely sure that they can readily access the support they need.

I personally feel that the speed in which we were able to mobilise and transition so many colleagues to homeworking across the UK region has been hugely impressive. Our people have really embraced the change and have adapted incredibly well to a new way of working in a very short space of time. It speaks volumes on their quality and commitment, our strong culture and the agility of the business.

As a people-first business, taking a human approach to this crisis has been a logical step, which has meant rapidly looking at ways to increase our infrastructure to support homeworking where possible. While this solution won’t be suited to every operation, it is something that we will continue to look at and develop in the months ahead, in partnership and responding to the needs of our clients.

Find out about our stance on the COVID 19 crisis here, and read UK Group CEO, David Turner’s thoughts on how this challenge will create a radical shift in the future of homeworking.

Webhelp Enterprise: Pursuing a Seamless Digital Experience through Technology with a Human Touch

This is the third installment of a series of interviews conducted by Stephen Loynd of market intelligence firm TrendzOwl with Etienne Turion, CEO, Webhelp Enterprise Sales, regarding the B2B sales market in the United States.

Stephen Loynd, Principal Analyst, TrendzOwl:

In our previous installment, we had a great discussion around the importance of nurturing quality salespeople in the world of B2B sales. Today I’d like to dive a little deeper into the technology theme.

Etienne Turion, CEO, Webhelp Enterprise Sales:

We start with people, but over time technology will become an ever more important part of the equation. In Forrester’s 2020 marketing and sales predictions, they found that 52% of customer obsessed firms prioritize technology investments that create differentiated CX.

Now, we’ve talked about how the speed with which large amounts of information comes at buyers is a challenge. Decision-makers are often overwhelmed. The B2B customer is therefore in search of a seamless experience that is efficient, personalized, and relatively fast all along the customer journey. In other words, today’s typical B2B customer seeks real value. Expectations have risen in the B2B world, and it’s no longer enough to depend on the old ways of doing things, including out-of-date sales strategies.

Not surprisingly then, from the online to the offline worlds, achieving an omnichannel experience will be everything. Companies simply must accommodate themselves to this new reality and be thinking in new ways during a time of disruption. Doubtless part of that means seeking out strategic partners to help them cope with the exponential technological change you’ve mentioned. And by the way, according to a Forrester Analytics Global Business Technographics Marketing Survey from 2018, in order to keep pace, global B2B marketers spend, on average, 22% of their marketing budget on technology.

Stephen Loynd, Principal Analyst, TrendzOwl:

OK, so we agree that technology is transforming B2B sales. The new technology stack includes tools such as: cloud-based CRM systems that aid the sales process; salespeople boosting selling power through social media; sales automation tools that cut down on manual sales processes; predictive analytics leveraging the explosion of Big Data, etc.

What is Webhelp doing to keep pace?

Etienne Turion, CEO, Webhelp Enterprise Sales:

Well, Webhelp Enterprise Sales is streamlining the buying journey and modernizing the B2B sales role by investing in new analytical tools. Forrester talks about the need to build a journey measurement framework by defining injourney signals and end-of-journey success metrics. That’s certainly true for a B2B purchasing journey. This is important. After all, frictionless journeys will dominate tomorrow’s B2B landscape, often complemented by self-service.

Our strategy starts with a solid lead generation engine powered by data and maintained by monitoring and constant client communication. The process moves through a number of stages in detecting and scoring leads, including data mining and cleansing, segmentation, website activity tracking and collecting feedback from targeted prospects. These new digital tools can create opportunities by liberating agents’ time, while also offering the opportunity to create more emotional connections with customers. In its 2020 marketing and sales predictions, Forrester notes that 58% of “customer obsessed” firms separate themselves by regularly mining customer insights to inform business decisions.

In other words, as technology changes the way people sell, sales is also becoming increasingly complex; hence the need to leverage innovations such as digitization, data analytics, AI, etc. And so Webhelp is making it easier for sales reps to navigate what are often complicated buying processes by reducing administrative and technical burdens.

Stephen Loynd, Principal Analyst, TrendzOwl:

So, in a sense, it sounds like you’re looking to technology to help capture a single view of the customer. But how easy is that, really?

Etienne Turion, CEO, Webhelp Enterprise Sales:

That’s a core principle of the Webhelp approach – to assemble a single view. Customer data platforms help drive sales analytics, generating better results. But you’re right to suggest that isn’t necessarily easy. There are many moving parts. The first challenge is to better understand the targets, upstream, in particular through analytically optimized data in order to create a finer segmentation and to carry out highly targeted marketing initiatives.

At the same time, Webhelp maintains strong links between the marketing department and the product and solution specialists on its B2B sales teams. This enables fast, effective message delivery and allows it to base cross- and upselling strategy on insights like Voice of the Customer (VoC).

Stephen Loynd, Principal Analyst, TrendzOwl:

Could you talk a bit more about AI specifically?

Etienne Turion, CEO, Webhelp Enterprise Sales:

Yes. Part of that process I’ve been describing means tapping into AI-powered systems that gather as much accurate, updated, complete, and diverse (potential) customer data as possible. But it’s hard. According to Forrester, more than 70% of the B2B marketers they surveyed said data management is an organizational weakness, while only 12% said they had high confidence in the quality of the customer data they manage.

But Webhelp is using speech analytics and conversational AI to overcome such weaknesses and improve sales. For example, we’re currently collaborating with the AI team of a certain tech giant in order to uncover conversation factors that drive sales conversion. The collaboration will utilize the cognitive services within the partner’s solution and develop an approach to coaching that’s focused on key factors driving performance.

Ultimately, B2B leaders are building stronger capabilities in data science and data management, AI and machine learning (ML), and agile product development. The implication is that human beings should be able to sell more, at a faster rate, but also sell better. Which is why Webhelp’s inside sales approach is more akin to full account management than standard telesales. And so Webhelp pursues a thorough planning and alignment process – from scope assessment and recruitment to knowledge transfer and the creation of an IT environment – before launching any inside sales campaign. All the while, Webhelp systematically presents ideas to clients on how best to innovate during quarterly business reviews.

It’s all about melding people with technology, two forces working in concert so as to boost B2B sales at a time of unprecedented change.


Summary: the Digitization of Inside Sales

Webhelp Enterprise Sales is staying aligned with the shift to a technology-enabled future. And part of its value proposition is integrating the initial part of the buyer’s journey into a process even before its team engages directly with the client. Sales and marketing look to remain in sync throughout. Some client companies will prefer to engage only for inside sales, some only for analytics, and some for a complete end-to-end solution. According to Etienne Turion, Webhelp aims to get leads to salespeople seamlessly through the two following pillars:

Analytics. This specialty focuses on using analytics to segment the market and examine things like the propensity to consume based on trends and other client related data. It’s sophisticated data management (especially for SMBs). It makes the sales force more accurate and efficient in what they do, cutting down on “cold call selling for nothing.”

Demand Center. This is where Webhelp is able to design campaigns based on segmentation and personalization through digital tools. Data is integrated into additional marketing tools, helping to support Account Based Management (ABM). And marketing automation allows Webhelp to be in contact with many more people through a digital conversation. Thanks to the smart use of technology, the entire process is highly accurate and brings in more qualified leads.


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Etienne TurionContact

Etienne Turion
Mobile: +33(0)6 85 52 76 10
Email: etienne.turion@webhelp.com