recommerce - second hand

Recommerce on the surge: Why second-hand stores are booming

Why is recommerce on the rise? and why are marketplaces such as VINTED, thredUP or Poshmark thriving in this business model? Is it just trendy, cost effective, sustainable or a mix of all these that explains the current surge? Tomorrow’s personalization and customer journeys are expected to be even smarter, more immersive, more trust-enabling than they are today. The question is: Are brands and consumers ready? Here is an analysis from Olivier Carrot, Global Business Unit Direct, Retail & E-commerce.

Recommerce - Olivier Carrot

So which are some of the factors that have contributed to this increase?

  • Rise in the use of mobile devices. The accessibility of mobile devices globally has essentially contributed to the growth of e-commerce thanks to the increased reach which has consequently increased the sales. According to Aaron Orendorff – Forbes Top 10 B2B Content Marketer, e-commerce has helped businesses launch beyond borders reaching out to millions of new potential customers. By 2023, an increase of 276.9% in the total global sales in retail is projected with APAC taking the lead (source: shopify.com).
    The easy accessibility of mobile phones and internet has definitely elevated the demand of recommerce as a service. This surge has seen many start- ups joining the bandwagon to not only meet the growing demand but also to take advantage of the efficiency and scalability that marketplaces provide.
    Through the creation of an application that links second-hand products to customers, VINTED has grown from being owned by its two co-founders Milda and Justas to an organization that employs more than 450 people and unites a community of 25 million people.
  • Personalized customer experiences. In reference to platforms like VINTED, personalized services that match customers preferences are highly sought after. Customers want to feel valued and there is no better way than to offer a personalized experience. Even though many consumers are in search of products being offered at discounted or affordable prices, they will not compromise on the experience. Brands are thus competing not only on price but also on offering the most memorable experience to their customers.
  • Old is new again. Founded in 2009 as a swapping company for men’s shirts’ thredUP is a huge consumer marketplace that flaunts over 35,000 brands. In one of his keynotes, CEO and co-founder James Reinhart forecasts sales of upto $51 billion from the second-hand apparel market by 2023 (source yahoo.com)
    In reality, people buy twice as many clothes and wear them half as long. If one can buy a branded item for half the price of the new, why not? There is a growing trend to transform consumption through reuse. And so as to keep up with the changing environment in the retail industry, integrating a resale option in traditional retail outlets is seen to boost the overall sales. Customers are sparked to spend 21% more and visit 70% more frequently. James attributes the massive increase in the visiting percentage to the fact that second hand collection is restocked every two weeks whereas in the traditional format, new collection arrives between four to six times a year (source: www.thredup.com)
  • Cost friendly. Pocket friendly purchases is a big driver in the recommerce boom. Customers are increasingly seeing the value in buying recycled brand-name products for huge discounts. “Recommerce has seen a tremendous upsurge” says Steven Bethell, founder of Bank & Vogue – a firm that specializes in the logistics of selling used goods and operates a sister company called Beyond Retro. Prior to making a purchase, many shoppers aquent themselves with the resale possibilities of items they wish to buy with the plan to resell them in the near future. The retail industry is seeing a continued shift with the majority of consumers shopping smarter.
  • Sustainability. The new affluent generations like the Gen Z are more environmental and social conscious and as such, they expect brands to be more ethical and sustainable in their production processes. Fashion brands that have this audience as their customer base, are obliged to revamp their business models to be able to not only attract but most definitely also retain this segment.
    VINTED is one such brand. By investing on its brand ethos which is providing a platform for purchasing and selling of second-hand clothes. These clothes reduce the environmental impact of Co2 levels that are usually released in the production of new clothes (think water, chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides). In addition, it prolongs the shelf life of clothes that would otherwise head to the dumping sites in one or two years. It’s estimated that 600 kilograms of used clothes would lead to a reduction of 2250 kilograms of Co2 emissions, 3.6 billion liters of water saved, and 144 trees planted. (www.smartgreenpost.com).

At Webhelp, our clients are at the heart and our core objective is to ensure that their customers experience world class service in every touchpoint. The creation and upholding of a sustainable environment also go hand in hand with what our company stands for.

In our endeavor to always provide seamless interactions, we go the extra mile to guarantee that customers’ needs are met. We focus on making the purchase process in the marketplaces as simple and fulfilling as possible 

Our flawless and memorable customer journey from order management to returns and replacements is swiftly executed with our dedicated service specialist who are located globally in the different hubs. 

And thanks to the booming second-hand industry, content management and moderation is also on high demand. Ever thought of outsourcing your content moderation? Our highly experienced offshore content moderators ensure that our clients’ brands are duly protected across their target audience. We support our clients’ to not only maintain their brand integrity, but also to shield their customers from inappropriate, aggressive or illegal content.  

Are you looking for an experienced partner who will help you take your marketplace to the next level? Get in touch to receive your tailormade solution: Olivier Carrot.


OneShot #5 - Influence

Our 5th edition of OneShot is here!

Download your OneShot magazine

Following the unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous companies have been forced to make vital adjustments to stay afloat and also guarantee business continuity. Our interesting reads also include:

A Word: KOL – Key Opinion Leader
A Number: 10,000 subscribers and no more
Three Opinions: Influence: How to get your messages across?
One News: TikTok supports its position in Europe
A Demo: The dark social
A B-Case: How Webhelp’s KYC participated in securing a platform by Bpifrance
A Hashtag: #TrustYourInfluencer
An Offer: MyStudioFactory
An appointment: Conversation 2020, Paris
A Conversation: How to restore confidence in the time of fake news?
A Story: Santa Claus, citizen of the New World

Read all about these exciting and thought-provoking topics in our 5th edition of OneShot.


Whitepaper launch: Reimagining service for the new world

As the urgency for change and transformation intensifies in the post COVID landscape, Craig Gibson CCO for Webhelp UK, shares his thoughts on the launch of a new Whitepaper, a collaboration with Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group. 

At Webhelp, we have a commitment to use customer experience management to create positive and emotionally significant consumer/client relationships. Many of our previous blogs have discussed the importance of brand humanity and the how the multitude of emotions consumers experience can influence the customer journey and change attitudes towards companies and brands.

And whilst this remains a clear focus, we can’t ignore the impact that COVID-19 has had on both service delivery and development of the Customer Experience industry.

It is rapidly evolving, and as interactions have by necessity changed, customers’ expectations have shifted and priorities have become significantly different to those that were drafted onto strategic plans at the close of 2019.

We have shared some of the ways we met the immediate challenge of COVID-19, including looking at our strong partnerships with brands like Yodel, but the business world is still adapting to this new way of working, and the way customers have traditionally acted and regarded customer service is changing.

As an industry, brands must understand that the rules have changed, for good.

And I am not alone in believing that customer experience will be pivotal in this future landscape, as Feefo’s CEO, Matt West, agrees saying:

 “I think the ‘new normal’ will be more CX focused than ever. It will be all about fine-tuning right the way through the journey. Before all of this happened, evaluating the customer experience may not have been at the top of many businesses’ to-do lists, whereas this situation has brought the real value of a brand right to the forefront of the consumer’s minds. A refined CX is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s an essential.”[1]

It is time to tear up outdated plans and explore new and evolving needs which will drive future service development and innovation.

To this end, I have joined forces with Mark Palmer, Chief Executive Officer at Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, as we firmly believe that together we are able to provide a unique perspective.

There is no doubt that the need for transformation will only continue to intensify post COVID, and Mark hits the nail on the head, when he concludes that:

“COVID-19 is having a profound impact globally. Not only is it affecting our health, but it is fundamentally challenging and altering our political, social, and economic norms.”

And as our normal shifts, some key questions must be answered:

  • How different will service look and feel in the future?
  • How will businesses and their operations need to adapt?
  • And how can employers engage and support their colleagues to deliver on new customer promises?

Our new Whitepaper, combining Webhelp’s expertise in global customer management with Gobeyond Partners’ Customer journey design and transformation experience is called Reimagining service for the new world. It provides a clear framework, or roadmap, for tomorrow’s successful customer-focused operating models and is backed by the latest exclusive research from over 500 business leaders.

There is something wonderful about looking at the right map to explore the road ahead, as:

“Maps are like campfires – everyone gathers around them, because they allow people to understand complex issues at a glance, and find agreement.”[2]

We hope that launch of this Whitepaper will provide the stimulus for many further blogs and events, and I would like to personally invite you to keep the campfire of innovation burning and join the Reimagining service for the new world mailing list, by connecting on LinkedIn and by becoming part of our future conversation. We’d love to hear what you think the future holds.

[1] www.dma.org.uk

[2] www.sonomaecologycenter.org


Outsourcing content moderation: adding value to first and third parties with a human first approach

What are the main issues with content moderation today?

A recent report published by NYU, shows that there is over 3 billion pieces of content on Facebook (in the first quarter of 2020) that is the responsibility for content moderators to check; remove or provide a warning ‘cover’ of disturbing content before viewing.

Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg recently reported in a 2018 Whitepaper , Facebook’s review teams “make the wrong call in 1 out of 10 cases”, which can be a result of relying on AI to identify harmful content, or the pressure and lack of training with moderators.

With this type of role, comes a great deal of pressure and responsibility to ensure the safety of the community, 24/7 (2.6 billion active users daily).

One of the main issues content moderators face today, is the hundreds of items they are required to moderate within a six to eight-hour shift.    Therefore, expertise is essential, as it is up to content moderators to act with governance to uphold high standards. Content is not responsible of the platform,  this is the freedom users have for ‘free speech’, but the onus is on the moderators to control obscenity showcased to them.

Subsequently, the second issue is the pressure of fulfilling these number of items to moderate. Setting high targets and efficiency rates can prove to be unattainable and have the consequences of diminished performance and mental health and wellbeing.

Recommendations from NYU

The NYU report discusses recommendations major social media platforms can do to improve their content moderation.

While the main theme of the article is constructed on the basis “A call for outsourcing”, we can conversely demonstrate outsourcing is instrumental to content moderation, moreover how we align with these recommendations outlined in the report.

Human first approach when outsourcing content moderation

At Webhelp, we know many mistakes have been done concerning content moderation services, therefore we decided when we entered this ‘community service’, to adopt a completely different approach - 74% of our operators recommend Webhelp as an employer (NPS).

Investing in people

A human first approach to content moderation is Webhelp’s understanding that people’s mental health and wellbeing is not to be disregarded when managing afflictive content.

Wellness is our differentiator, enabled through our Webhealth Wellness Programme:

  • Mental Health Awareness training is provided for managers to recognise symptoms of stress, and the coping mechanisms to support colleagues
  • providing a safe, working environment to ensure colleagues have a sense of security, trust, and reliability.
  • access to certified Psychologists, councillors, and trained coaches to support content moderators with mental, physical, financial, and nutritional health.

Wellbeing Analytics to take proactive action

As part of our approach to content moderators and their mental health, we monitor their performance using Wellbeing Analytics.

Using this tool enables us to identify issues through a combination of observing colleagues, using data analytics and machine learning for proactive action.

Team leaders and coaches will have daily updates on colleagues MTI score which indicates how colleagues are performing and  , identify ; this allows supervisors to take appropriate actions to support them, for example, reworking a shift or allow for longer breaks - 100% of our operators moderating sensitive content have shorter shifts which achieves up to 4 points of attrition reduction.

Improving content moderation

Managing content moderation is not to be taken lightly. It requires expertise and knowledge about this area and understanding there is a balance between the impact it has on individual’s wellbeing and the value it adds to first and third parties.

Outsourcing for content moderation is a way in which social media companies can employ experts within that field to deliver outcomes and improve performance.

As NYU have reported, content moderation should not be outsourced because it lacks on moderator’s health and wellbeing.

As we have demonstrated above, we have a strong focus on this. Not all outsourcing is conducted by ‘customer service centres’ that exploit their team without support, on the contrary.

Taking a human first approach with our Webhealth programme and Wellbeing Analytics tool enables colleagues to develop their understanding of mental health and is essential in proving a safe, healthy environment for moderators.


Fast Fashion, online retail growth and the future of the high-street

As fast fashion brand Boohoo adds more failing high-street brands to its online portfolio, sector expert Kellyann McCafferty, Account Director for the Webhelp UK Region, takes the retail temperature and considers the way forward for beleaguered high street brands.   

It’s no secret that the world of retail has been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and the ripples have been felt across the sector with the demise of popular brands like Cath Kidston and Laura Ashley and the high profile store closures of industry stalwarts like Debenhams.

There were shockwaves again this week, with the announcement that digital fast fashion company Boohoo, was to add to its stable of brands with the acquisition of the online divisions of failing high street stores Oasis and Warehouse.

This news illustrates how the gap is quickly widening between traditional brick and mortar retail and the fortunes of purely (or primarily) online services, like Boohoo, Very.com and Freemans Grattan Holdings.

After initial concerns over supply chains, and a dip in March due to the lock down effect, unlike high-street stores, most online brands are now firmly back to business as usual, with Boohoo and The Very Group reporting growth in retail sales overall.

However, this hasn’t come easily, and the hidden building blocks to online success stories (like these) are early adoption of new technology and better business process services; including the creation of smooth customer interactions across all channels and excellent customer service management operations and systems.

At Webhelp, we guide our clients through this transformational journey, and as Webhelp UK CEO David Turner confirms, we believe that:

Investment in technology infrastructure is absolutely critical. At Webhelp we have already made significant investments in our digital and automation capabilities to help clients improve customer experience and reduce costs using digital self-service, whilst leveraging technologies such as chatbots to reduce volumes of non-complex and low value interactions.”

And retail will have to adapt quickly, as it remains the single largest private sector employer in the UK, with 2.9 million people working the sector, and annual sales totalling a staggering £394bn. In 2019, online retail accounted for less than 20% of these sales, but the next financial year is likely to report a vastly different statistic.

Grocery retail has been cited as one of the big success stories during COVID, with high profile retailer’s like Asda and Sainsbury’s stepping up with feed the nation campaigns, and drastically increasing their online capabilities to support both everyday shoppers and vulnerable customers during the outbreak.

The big players in the consumer electrical markets, like Dixons Carphone, have also witnessed an upswing in online purchases, with everything from Smart TV’s, laptop’s, printers, desks to ovens, fridge freezers and washing machines, becoming hot commodities as people nested into their homes for both work and leisure.

However, the key questions will be, as the world comes out of lockdown, will our shopping behaviours have changed for good? And, what will this mean for both the economy and the future of the high-street? With revenues falling hard in May, the BRC – who are the go-to trade association for all UK retailers - warned that shops face a “fight for survival” in the coming months with tough new physical distancing and health and safety requirements.

It was widely reported in April of this year, that sales had gone from £650m a month to zero for fast fashion brand Primark; however, it seems that we haven’t lost our appetite for a bargain, as huge queues were reported as the stores finally opened their doors again in England this week.

It is my belief that, while COVID-19 may have changed our online behaviour and will increase the amount we buy on line, the experience of shopping in a store environment is something that most people still enjoy. We may yet see a few more casualties, but the high-street will slowly recover.

The concept of experiential retail will continue to grow, with physical shopping becoming more of a leisure activity, like the restaurant industry, a focus for Instagram snaps and social clout.

However, we can’t ignore the fact that this crisis has given a very clear warning to big brands who have not yet embraced an omni-channel approach, as relying on a single channel for sales or customer service is now revealed as a very risky proposition.

At Webhelp we believe that customer experience providers should offer a responsive, flexible and robust approach, safeguarding their client’s business as their own, especially under crisis. Whilst always looking for new ways to use the best technology and people to future proof their operations.

We are working with our clients to share some of our innovative partnership approaches in future blogs, so watch this space for future updates. In the meantime, read our expert insight on the future of travel from international sector expert and Webhelp Global Director Nora Boros, or click here to get an in-depth view of our services.

 

 


Is the future moderation of social media companies at stake?

§ Section 230
Enacted in 1996, § Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) states that “No provider or user of an internet computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any content provided by a third party". In other words, social media platforms will not be held responsible for content that is hosted on them, except for federal crimes (e.g. terrorism or child abuse)

Passed more than 20 years ago, Section 230 has been the blueprint for the internet we know today. It is a legal framework that heavily relies on user generated content as opposed to the content that companies create. Fundamentally, Section 230 grants the Tech companies immunity from lawsuits regarding the content on their platforms. This gives them the freedom to run their businesses without fear of negative repercussions.

The executive order
Last year in August, President Donald Trump prepared an executive order that would challenge the Federal Communications Commission to create rules that could inhibit the protection of Section 230. This action was not received positively with the legal experts and regulators. Subsequently, the White House seemed to have lost interest and it was tabled until this year in May when it was actively considered following a feud where Twitter flagged Trump’s post as “glorifying violence”. Trump signed the executive order on Thursday 28th of May with the aim of limiting the legal shield that protects the social media platforms from taking liability for user generated content.

Since his inauguration, Trump and his administration believe that social media platforms unfairly censor their content. What added fuel to the fire was when Twitter carried out a fact check of Trump’s posts that disproved his claim about mail-in ballots. This made Trump even more furious and he hastily vowed to make greater regulations concerning social media sites.

Tech companies and industry advocates state that modifying Section 230 alters the original purpose of the act. They further caution that the order which supposedly seeks to protect free speech by stopping the flagging of posts, will actually have the opposite effect.

The impact of Section 230 reform
The implementation of Section 230 depends on an array of Democratic lawmakers, conservative advocacy groups and free-speech activists. The amendment of Section 230 will mean that users will be directed to file their complains to the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) who will investigate to determine whether the platforms rightfully and lawfully flag content. Furthermore, the reform will gain liberty in interpreting the law and compel agencies to follow it rather than the interpretation offered by Congress or the courts.

Facebook’s take on this is that the government could hold tech platforms responsible e.g. by setting a compulsory median response time for removing posts. This would in fact hurt instead of help Content Moderation as they will be under pressure to timely remove the content and hereby stop screening older posts which might leak through despite being inappropriate for the audiences.

Google also denounced the reform by stating that they follow clear content policies and enforce them neutrally without taking any political stand. They continued to add that their platform has empowered many people and organizations by not only giving them a voice, but also creating new ways to reach their audiences. They believe that altering Section 230 will hurt the economy and global leadership on internet freedom.

Twitter proclaimed that the order is a “reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law that was created to protect innovation and freedom of expression underpinned by democratic values. Attempts to unilaterally remodel it threatens internet freedom and the future of online speech.”

The Backlash
A Washington-based tech group filed a lawsuit against President Trump declaring that his order violates the First Amendment which “restricts government officials from using their power to retaliate against an entity or individual for engaging in protected speech”. The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) believes that the target is to chill and curtail free speech which undermines the efforts of social media companies in ensuring their platforms are used responsibly even during elections. The lawsuit comes after a long-standing clash between the social media companies and Trump’s administration.

Many civil rights groups and internet freedom agencies condemn Trump’s order with the co-creator of Section 230 Senator Ron Wyden saying Trump’s action is “plainly illegal”. Facebook also released a statement affirming that the company upholds freedom of expression in their services whilst protecting communities from toxic content including posts designed to stop voters from exercising their voting rights.

Even though Trump’s order hasn’t taken full effect, the modification of Section 230 will most likely have a counterproductive effect that could push the social media companies to impose stricter regulations than before. Ironically, this would hinder Trump who heavily relies on social media to spread his views and statements which are often partly or entirely untrue.


Sectors impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown

The business landscape is rapidly changing due to the influence of COVID-19. Here we take an at-a-glance look at which sectors have been positively and negatively impacted over the past few months.

Read our blog from Marketing Manager Ewan McKay for more in depth insight and look out for a new Whitepaper exploring the operating models of the future.

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE


How the game is changing for CX markets and channels

As part of our Game Changers series, Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer for the UK region, looks at how current events are influencing the Customer Experience sector and how brands must evolve their channels and embrace optimism to create fresh new strategies and opportunities.

In global business circles, the phrase “unprecedented times” has been repeated so frequently that it has now become almost meaningless, especially when measured against the human cost of COVID-19. However, a period of extraordinary transformation is certainly upon us – and how brands respond, across all channels, will set the pace for recovery and future development.

Broadly speaking, brands could take several courses - maintain current levels, adjust under pressure or take radical steps to stay in front of the curve.

The award-winning consulting and transformation business, Gobeyond Partners - part of the Webhelp Group, has developed an insightful overview of the typical response phases to a crisis, and the take back control phase they identify may be critical for businesses currently experiencing an increase in ‘contact’ from anxious customers

I firmly believe that CX Leaders, who want to confidently transition to the new normal, must identify the best contact channels for both marketing and CX communications – and consciously strengthen and develop them.

Before the world changed, primary brand goals were loosely based around the three principles of product penetration, share of market and customer attraction.

However, many business are now sharply focused on connecting with and preserving the customers they currently have, which I would agree is imperative – but so is building for future growth. As Mark Ritson, former marketing professor and award winning columnist, writes:

“It might seem superficially mercantile to discuss brands, pricing and customer behaviour as we stare down the barrel of a pandemic. But the practical reality of global economic trade means that we need to market now for the good of all mankind.” Source: Marketing Week

Behaviourally people are creatures of habit and any channel shift now is likely to continue when the new social norms are established. Brands must be ready to take back control by acting on this change.

Social channels are booming, Facebook alone is nearing 3 billion platform users, and is seeing a sharp increase in the consumption of news and insights. Social Media Today highlights that LinkedIn has added 15 million members since January, and reports growth of 26% this quarter.

Webhelp Marketing & Communications Director, UK region, Polly Ashdown realises that:

“To maintain high visibility in their sectors, it’s now imperative that business be proactive in the way they position and represent themselves online. And, this must be reinforced with grass-roots cultural clarity, a strong brand identity and clear top tier thought leadership.”

And the conversation shouldn’t stop there, casual social customer feedback can be very telling, and inform brands of major customer service issues, which can then be driven back into solutions development, tackling challenges before they become ingrained.

Unsurprisingly, the current climate has dramatically increased the desire to communicate. Voice as ever remains a prominent channel for CX, and we know that person to person contact is preferred by customers when they have a complaint and as a platform for issue resolution. The coronavirus pandemic has created a larger homeworking pool of advisors, for voice, working in a more personalised space – and brands need to stay ahead of any possible impact.

As the business-like hustle and bustle of the contact centre is being replaced by the gentle and familiar hum of the neighbourhood and family life, we may see greater connection and advisor focus on the customer wants and needs. Early indications are good but it will be extremely important to measure the relative success, differences and advantages and pitfalls which the shift brings and create future channel strategies around these points.

The influence of the humble chatbot is growing too, with the World Health Organisation recently launching one to combat misinformation and keep the world better informed. As media magazine, The Drum reports, to adapt to the current reality, some companies are rapidly being forced to adopt chatbots and messaging platforms, as frontline CX.

Thinking positively, as brands recognise the advantage this platform brings in cost effectiveness, engagement and personalisation, we could see adoption increase over the long term.

Similarly, with the decrease in the brick and motor outlets, many businesses are now choosing to dip a toe into the e-commerce space for the first time, with the retail sector likely to undergo a significant transformation – something to be discussed in depth later in this series.

With the way forward starting to crystallise, the importance of flexibility, adaptability and early adoption, something we pride ourselves upon, will become more important across all channels.

As Webhelp Group MD and UK Region CEO, David Turner reflects:

“In this undeniably testing time, the CX industry must maintain optimism, think long term, and continue brand building for their clients. Honouring their values, protecting their staff and creating new avenues for future success.”

Discover how our services can help can you find the best channel strategy for your business, read the Gobeyond Partners article for more information on the Crisis Curve and the impact it will have on your operations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Can the Crisis Curve create a roadmap for CX transformation and stability?

As well as the tragic cost in human lives, the COVID-19 crisis continues to create instability at every level for global industry. While it is too early to accurately forecast the full implications and severity, Group MD and CEO for UK, SA and India David Turner suggests that senior-level insight combined with informed and decisive action could be the key to better outcomes for CX providers.

To steal a timely phrase from JRR Tolkien; it's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.

It has never been more important for our industry to maintain a firm footing during the turbulent environment created by COVID-19. It’s clear that, along with the catastrophic impact on global health and radical curtailment of our social freedoms, the pandemic has brought a series of rapid changes and challenges in the delivery of CX, impacting our clients, their customers, and of course, our people.

As businesses begin to take their first tentative steps out of this extraordinary crisis, Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, have created a succinct analysis to identify and explain the key stages we should expect to encounter.

Mark Palmer, Gobeyond Partners CEO, recognises that the political, social, and economic rules for business have been radically altered and that:

“Although the impact of the crisis, and this associated shift, will vary across country, industry, and organisation, we are seeing a distinct phasing of business and operational responses as we slowly make this transition. We call this ‘The Crisis Curve’.” 

Mark further identifies five clear phases resulting from crisis; rapid crisis response, take back control, business as unusual (BAU), transition to new normal and finally crisis futureproofing.

My personal view is that companies will be able to utilise this model to inform strategy and predict future trends, something that could be invaluable at this point, when it’s obvious that many brands and business are still struggling at the first hurdle.

In term of rapid response, at Webhelp, we have been transparent about the significant challenges we met to mobilise our resources at breakneck speed. Within two weeks we created a safe and stable home workforce of 7,000 connected individuals, which is growing as more clients reach out to us for rapid off-site solutions.

Our response to this problem was both ethical and agile, as Helen Murray, explains in her COVID-19 response blog:

“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.”

The next stage Mark addresses, centres on taking back control – which could prove to be the economic tipping point in many sectors, as the financial impact of COVID-19 really starts to bite. This will be an especially difficult time for those brands or sectors, which either lack knowledge and expertise, or refuse to adapt. The exception to this rule will be companies that are sitting comfortably in the black financially, who can afford to make a choice to wait it out.

Operations will face considerable stress as they adapt to employee issues like furlough, self-isolation and remote working plus the inevitable changes in stock and supply. But, I believe that flexibility and access to skilled human resources will be the true factor in enabling successful business transformation.

It may not have been a straight path, but at Webhelp, we have now confidently taken back control for our clients, both on and off site. And encouragingly, the new homeworking operations are performing better than expected, in a very short time frame, which is a compliment to the resilience and adaptability of our people.

In South Africa, the Customer Engagement Industry has worked together in a unique collaboration with clients, industry bodies and the government, to create a robust CX platform and to safeguard jobs and their economy. Our passionate teams have been at the forefront of this endeavour.

The forthcoming BAU phase could benefit those companies who need to successfully pivot their service structure, to sustain and generate new revenue streams.

Gobeyond Partners believe that crucially, this is the point at which operating models start to permanently shift, which will require a renewed focus from leadership teams on performance optimisation, transformational programmes and some medium term investment. If done well this could be key to creating competitive advantage.

And customers will be carefully watching this stage too, as Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer for the UK region comments in his recent blog:

Companies will also be remembered for the way they adapted ways of working to support their people, during a time when the public focus is (understandably) on unity and standing together.”

I believe that by considering and responding to the parameters of the crisis curve, we can begin to create an informed roadmap. Watch this space for a new series of blogs, interviews and studies, exploring how CX transformation can help customer experience providers ride the curve, navigate changing forecasts and guide their customers safely through the storm.

Read Mark’s article here, find out more about our stance on the COVID-19 crisis, and read my further thoughts on how this challenge will create a radical shift in the future of homeworking


The importance of emotional connection with customers during the Coronavirus.

Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer for the Webhelp UK region, reveals how brands can use emotional connection, integrity and unity to draw us closer, as the distance between us increases due to the Coronavirus.

Emotion. Unity. Connection. 

These themes are everywhere we look at the moment. From the heartfelt children’s rainbow pictures in our windows, and chalked onto our pavements, to the frequent government communications that urge us (young and old) to curb our social interactions and stay home for the good of all society.

And across the UK, every Thursday, millions of us have been clapping alone, but together. We stand united in our universal support of the hardworking NHS and emergency staff. Our passionate applause and shouts spread positivity and illustrate the power of the very human desire to connect – across the physical distance that separates us.

Emotions are high, and rightly so – and in the business arena we have begun to see how this tide of feeling can quickly turn against brands and companies who misjudge the force and direction of the national view-point.

It’s hard for brands to find the right way through this, as they are in the unenviable position of balancing customer benefit against operational stability, and with the growing media attention it’s easy to fall foul of public opinion.

Dave Pattman, Managing Director CX Services at Gobeyond Partners, a Webhelp company, reminds us that in the pre-Covid world, discussion of how brands should make emotional connections was focused on the emotional state of the customer and how brands should detect and empathise with this, and that:

“An interesting impact of Covid is that organisations themselves have become much stronger emotional entities in their own right. They are now judged by how they have cared for their people, and how they have transformed themselves to support the community and frontline services.”

However, he concludes that this surge of emotion does not always lead to positive outcomes:

“There will also be ramifications based on how they have reacted to the fear of not being able to survive economically with fight or flight. This includes how pro-active or protracted the process has been for customers to cancel subscriptions or get refunds.”

He goes on to say that these emotional reactions will certainly have been strongly felt by customers, who have been facing stresses of their own.

In many respects the current crisis has revealed the depth of emotional sincerity in the connections between brands and their customers.  It is at times like these that the difference between deeply held values and more superficial marketing activities is revealed.

But there are some positive stories, and the Forbes Coronavirus Champions list makes interesting reading, as it documents the global brands that they feel are getting it right during this crisis.

And, companies closer to home have risen to the challenge, like Pret a Manger who are providing NHS discounts and food retailers like Sainsbury’s and Asda, through their work  prioritising vulnerable customers.

Webhelp CEO for the UK Region David Turner; believes that the emotional and financial turmoil brought by COVID-19 brings a tipping point in customer relationships for companies, and urges them to look at the bigger picture by saying:

“In the panic brought by the Coronavirus, brands could easily become caught up in the demands of the moment – and to forget that they have long-term relationships to maintain with their customers and employees. I’d encourage brands to step up during times of need, as this can really make a difference… and unfortunately for brands that can’t – it won’t go unnoticed!”

Interestingly, the in-depth research in the Webhelp Whitepaper on Emotional Connection provides us with a pre-COVID-19 benchmark for the level of emotional connection with sectors – and it will be very revealing to see how new relationships evolve in the post pandemic world.

It is already becoming clear that some industries will come out of this crisis with a different and more meaningful relationship with their customers - for example the technology sector.

Our original research showed that the technology sector was an area in which a third of us had emotionally connected with brands, and it is easy to speculate that this figure will continue to grow.

In fact, as more people work from home and maintain social distance, the pandemic has increased reliance on services from the technology sector, with the New York Times concluding that:

“While the rest of the economy is tanking from the crippling impact of the coronavirus, business at the biggest technology companies is holding steady — even thriving.”

Source: Big Tech Could Emerge From Coronavirus Crisis Stronger Than Ever

We expect that this reliance will extend into telecoms and media, as connectivity becomes so much more important to communities in lockdown.

Andrew Hall, Director: Strategic Engagements at Webhelp, an industry specialist in innovation and strategy in customer engagement, hits the nail on the head here, saying:

“There is no doubt that the pandemic has radically shifted online behaviour, with a rapid increase in the use of news and social channels, as people look for connection, reassurance and information during the pandemic.”

He goes on to explain that:

“With this societal shift to online communication, conversations with brands will increasingly move into the digital realm, radically altering how people communicate – which could have a lasting impact. Brands will have a unique opportunity to build emotional connection as they react and respond to this new conversation!”

As online content increases, so will the need for swift and professional moderation, which Andrew recognises, commenting:

“We are likely to see a boom in content moderation services, but the companies who will really succeed in this area are those who use insight to understand and act on the current level of heightened emotion and respond with empathy alongside speed and accuracy.”

With capacity to create good online experiences and positive associations, these sectors will gain by increasing amounts of emotional connection across demographics - and brands that support this sector well, will reap the benefits.

In a nutshell, brands that inspire human emotion during this difficult period will build better relationships.

Moreover, emotion has been linked to heightened learning and memory,* especially in areas of motivation and attention, so any positive experiences customers have during this difficult time will affect their decisions long after this crisis has passed.

Companies will also be remembered for the way they adapted ways of working to support their people, during a time when the public focus is (understandably) on unity and standing together. Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, has shared our efforts on this front in her recent blog, where she comments:

“As the reality of the pandemic hit home, the most important and challenging task was to ensure the safety of our people.”

And, as a people-first business, committed to supporting essential services, we want to open a conversation on the value of connection and to encourage brands to communicate and act for their customers and employees in the most human way they can.

Over the coming months our new game-changers series will be looking at how emotion can be used to create mutually beneficial bonds between customers, employees and brands, whilst exploring the data and dynamics that can reinforce and create these connections, and the lessons we can learn from the impact of the Coronavirus.

In addition, in collaboration with Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, we will taking an in-depth look at the expected phases of the pandemic for business, with a guide to the Crisis Curve and what it will mean for the future of CX.

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.

*The Influences of Emotion on Learning and Memory - NCBI