Webhelp and The Very Group

Collaboration with our clients is second nature to Webhelp, and we are excited to work with partners who are aligned to our culture of ‘Think Human’, and who are innovators and game-changers themselves. Here we reveal the joint approach taken with The Very Group, a major player in the online retail and financial services industry.

Webhelp and The Very Group

Joining the discussion were Suzanne Edmondson, Head of Global Customer Operations and Lucie Child, Strategy Manager for Customer Care from The Very Group, and Kellyann McCafferty, Account Director at Webhelp UK Group and Morne Amos, Head of Operations for Webhelp SA.

  • What was the starting position of The Very Group, and your outlook before the onset of COVID-19?

Suzanne Edmondson (The Very Group):

So, like any major organization we had a strong development roadmap in place for the future. However, unlike other companies, our brand has a fairly unique proposition, as we blend being an online digital retailer with offering an integrated credit function.

So, while we could be compared to services like Amazon, we give quite a different package to our customers, 95% of our customer base uses the credit function to access goods. A large proportion of revenue is driven through our financial services proposition. We’re attractive to customers, who value the ability to spread the cost, and brand partners, whose products are accessible a new customer base through credit.

Prior to COVID-19, we were comfortable that we were providing a compelling service to our customer base, and delivering our purpose to make good things easily accessible to more people.

Lucie Child (The Very Group):

I’d agree. Customers can access credit from numerous places, but we offer a really integrated and clear approach: a one stop solution for their retail credit needs. And most importantly, we put the data and the knowledge we have about our customers at the heart of our service. As a result, our customers appreciate the ability to spread the cost, to have some breathing space and take the pressure off, while still being able to give their families the things they want too.

 

  • How has COVID changed the landscape and the way you continue to service the market?

Suzanne Edmondson (The Very Group):

Our strategy hasn’t changed. We are seeing an upswing in customers, which aligns with our goal to bring on board more highly engaged customers in the new financial year. That’s harder than it sounds as we have a large, loyal and active customer base and aim to bring in new customers with the same level of engagement.
However, this success was not only due to our credit function, but the availability of product and speed of delivery – something which was very important to families under lockdown. For example, trying to buy a barbecue that would actually arrive before the sunshine disappeared!

 

  • Do you have any insight to share on the service provided by Webhelp prior to COVID?

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

Prior to COVID-19, we saw the conclusion of the most successful seasonal peak yet. Performance was high and Q1 was healthy across the board (with service credits given for the period), and there was a very strong trajectory in the last two quarters.

Suzanne Edmondson (The Very Group):

Our metrics are all based on customer outcomes. During COVID-19 as you can imagine, we had a few peaks and troughs, especially prior to establishing our homeworking solution. However, at TVG we live and die by TNPS, which is the touch point Net Promoter Score (NPS) that measures customer satisfaction post interaction. Over this period this metric reached 30+, which was phenomenal given the circumstances.
First contact resolution within a seven day period remained high; it was strong at 73%+ going into COVID-19 and remained above 70% throughout, which is again fantastic. And given the diverse operational, fulfilment and logistical challenges faced this was a significant achievement.

Morne Amos (Webhelp):

Prior to COVID, an innovative impact sourcing strategy was in action for TVG for their seasonal peak, a key success story for the partnership. I believe that this fantastic initiative between TVG, Webhelp and Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator has delivered the most innovative impact sourcing strategy in South African history.

 

  • Do you have anything to share on the operational approach during COVID, for example how and when our partnership reacted – any standout examples, or challenges?

Suzanne Edmondson (The Very Group):

To be honest, I think the biggest challenge was the incredible pace. There are issues when you do anything with that level of hastiness, simply because you are forced to make so many decisions in one day.  Normally we have time to calculate, consider and combine approaches; however, by necessity leaders were working incredibly swiftly in both organisations, over different directions and geographies. This created some challenging conversations. But any partnership would have faced the same hurdles, considering the unprecedented nature of the situation.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

With the estate covering multiple territories in the UK, South Africa and India, we had to react to three lockdowns in parallel, all of which had connected consequences. There was significant impact across the whole partnership, but I am extremely proud of the way we managed to minimise disruption whilst also launching a new virtual centre in the UK.
We knew these issues were coming based on what we had seen happening in other countries so before lockdown restrictions in the UK were initiated, we agreed with TVG to set up over 140 employees to work from home in Glasgow. Kit was shipped to homes, virtual assessments were completed and systems testing was successfully rolled out. A massive collective effort from the team enabled us to do this in less than 10 days.
Faced with a different environment in South Africa we made the decision to delay the move to working from home and bolstered the team in the UK by virtually recruiting and training over 70 additional colleagues into TVG. This was a huge success for the partnership, as the team provided support and flexibility to the existing infrastructure. Within the next three weeks we were then able to mobilize over 270 colleagues in South Africa to work from home, with kit, in a fully compliant environment.
As restrictions in South Africa started to ease, the team were able to bring a further 100 colleagues into the office – which we set up according to strict government guidelines.
I have to say that the commitment shown from all of our people both in Webhelp and in TVG was incredible, going above and beyond to make sure that we were never behind the curve.

Morne Amos (Webhelp):

On the people front, it’s one thing to have the intent to think human and it’s another to put investment behind it, so a high-point for me was to see that our board was quite intentional about putting people first, despite the significant economics in play. And that was clear in all decisions; like providing transport and equipment, making sure there was investment into health and safety precautions, mask provision and temperature checks in the office.

 

  • Thoughts for the future and how the market will react, given the negative financial forecasts?

Suzanne Edmondson (The Very Group):

I think we are now in a really strong position. We’ve started to get a rhythm and routine, and performance and productivity is virtually on par with pre-pandemic levels.
I feel that, regardless of whether or not you’re looking at our virtual team set up within the UK, or those working from home or the office in South Africa – the level of adoption, flexibility and determination to be able to deliver the great outcomes for our customers is phenomenal.
And yes, there were teething problems, of course, but nothing that we’ve not been able to lean into and crack on with. But, you know, ultimately, I’m really pleased with where we currently are, I couldn’t ask for anything more – the team are doing a fantastic job.

Lucie Child (The Very Group):

We have some confidence that our business model is quite recession proof, because as I mentioned earlier, we do give people that breathing space. However, how the market will react to the traditionally important retail events like Black Friday remains to be seen.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

On the operational side, I feel that homeworking, rotational, blended and hybrid working models will all become more important as we move into the next phase of business after COVID. From a peak point of view it will offer us much more flexibility, and we are building this into the partnership for the future.

Lucie Child (The Very Group):

Absolutely, we are looking at various models, reinforced by the feedback that we’ve got from our people in a recent survey. Their response to homeworking was very positive; they valued the extra time it gave them with their families, less commuting and more flexibility.
You know, if someone had told us six months ago that we’d have managed to make this transformation happen so quickly while delivering great customer outcomes, and looking after all our people, I’d have thought it was impossible.
Yet we pulled together, we had the right attitude. We made it happen. And that is actually exciting because we’ve got empowerment; and we’ve got the right people, so the question is – how do we harness that in the future?

 

To discover more about customer service models post COVID-19 read our new Whitepaper, a joint publication with Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp group, on Reimagining service for the new world which is underpinned by our unique industry perspective alongside new research to discover the operating models of the future.