OneShot #5 - Influence

Our 5th edition of OneShot is here!

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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.


How AI and data analytics can support vulnerable customers

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the identification and protection of vulnerable customers was a significant focus for companies and regulators. Here James Allen, Chief Risk & Technology Officer for Webelp UK Group looks at the impact it will have, now and in the future.

In these testing times, the identification and protection of vulnerable customers will now assume even more importance as organisations work on proactively recognising customers who need assistance, prior to the predicted surge in demand for financial support - as aids like employee furloughs, payment holidays and credit schemes end.

Worryingly, prior to the outbreak over half of the UK population were already financially vulnerable, with one in six people unable to cope with a £50 increase in monthly bills, according to a survey of Britain’s personal finances by the City regulator. The Financial Conduct Authority’s biggest ever survey of households found that 4.1 million people are already in serious financial difficulty, falling behind with bills and credit card payments, with 25- to 34-year-olds the most over-indebted.

Furthermore, 50% of adults (over 25.6 million people) “display one or more characteristics that signal their potential vulnerability” and just under 8 million are over-indebted.

And this is not limited to the UK, as the 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard finds that forty percent of American households lack a basic level of savings and don’t have enough savings to make ends meet at the poverty level for three months if their income was interrupted. Almost half (48.1%) of Americans with credit had scores below prime and 20% of households had no credit in the past 12 months and were likely to be without access to it.

Furthermore, a report from the ING Group states that southern European economies like Italy and Spain are especially vulnerable to the economic effects of COVID, exacerbated by the importance of tourism which accounts for at least 13% of GDP and about 15% of total employment. They also have a larger share of vulnerable workers and a higher chance of bankruptcies due to firm size.

However, throughout all this we must remember that vulnerability can be a temporary and fluctuating status, with many causes, including mental health, dementia, changes in employment and personal circumstances, literacy, numeracy and socioeconomic factors.  It is key to use technology to help people on an individual basis, never forgetting that unique set of circumstances they may be experiencing.

Plus, regulators will be keeping a close eye on these new developments, and the pressure may soon be on firms to use all available routes to safeguard customers and prevent the global financial crisis from deepening.

So the question for many global companies has become, in the post COVID world, how do we identify and support customers who are financially vulnerable, without compromising operational efficiency?

And this is especially important for us at Webhelp, as we carry a people-first commitment and our think human value through to the customer base of over 32 clients in the UK, India and South Africa.

It’s clear that data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) is already changing the way that companies offer support to their most vulnerable customers, and that this may play a part in reshaping the regulatory landscape. While establishing if someone is vulnerable and how best to support them is a very human judgment, at Webhelp we believe that sensitive and careful use of data, using AI to segment, can help direct the right customer support teams to the right people, spotting potential issues before they become a problem.

We combine the very best in technology and skilled people to create the best outcomes, as Chris Bryson, Webhelp Global Data & Analytics Director explains:

“We’re helping clients leave no stone unturned to reveal customer vulnerability. Whether customers tell us directly that they’re experiencing issues, or if they show characteristics of someone who can be vulnerable; using analytics from customer contacts and records helps us and our clients see those signals clearly.

We use our own unique speech and text analytics engine, which is applied to advisor and automated customer conversations. The resulting Voice of the Customer analytics drives constant improvements in the way we measure quality and enhances the overall customer experience.

As a result, we can help our clients to spot vulnerable customers who would otherwise slip through the net. At the heart, it’s about helping our advisors to better support that customer, and working with our clients to ensure they are recognising these signs of vulnerability.”

By using this insight, and access to the best analytical technology, and to the right people to put this in action for the greater good, we can confidently move forwards and create a better financial environment for both clients and customers 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.                                        This aims to address these crucial questions and is underpinned by our unique industry perspective alongside new research to discover the operating models of the future.

 

 

 


How AI is changing the retail experience

As part of our #servicereimagined series, Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer for the UK Region, looks at how Artificial Intelligence is influencing the retail sector, how it is being used to leverage new customer service models and why brands must evolve to embrace this unstoppable wave, or risk falling behind the curve.

Whilst I love a good movie, the fictional relationship with Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not a happy one – and almost universally results in a troubled experience for the human! The silver screen, and latterly the internet, often warns of the dangers of pitting man against machine, but in reality AI has seamlessly, quietly and unobtrusively embedded itself into our daily lives.

AI shares our homes, guides us when we travel, takes our selfie when we socialise and influences our retail and leisure activities, and it may well have become the most indispensable tool of the 21st century.

Beyond the media tropes, today AI is firmly focused on problem solving, by making millions of decisions at a basic level without human intervention. Machine learning allows processes to adjust to new inputs, and avoid pitfalls based on experience. Essentially it uses multi-layered data analysis to predict patterns and, in some cases, to uncover and direct customer behaviours.

It is much simpler, more benign and much, much more useful to business than its movie counterpart.

Dave Pattman, Director of CX Services at Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, sheds some light on this when he says;

“Whilst AI is everywhere, most experts agree that business is currently using the narrowest point in the definition, by enhancing brand delivery with mathematics, statistics, machine learning, deep learning and big data. However, even in its simplest form AI is making a radical difference, and is visually in our daily lives in our smart home device functions, autonomous vehicles and predictive text.”

 “AI solutions are being developed in a broad range of sectors, and will inevitably be used for common business tasks like auto classification and recommendation services, which will streamline operations and drive revenue. However, the real benefit will come to those business that combine next level AI technology with the right skilled personnel – and use this to stimulate and track consumer emotions!”

But what does AI mean for retailers?

Both physical and virtual retailers could see a benefit of integrating AI into their processes, to improve task management and customer insight. As we reported in our blog on the future of retail post COVID-19, shoppers will be looking for a more experiential real journey, and traditional brick and mortar enterprises will have to work harder to compete. As the storefront.com magazine reports:

“Brands need to reimagine the total in-store experience, and technology is key. In-store technologies must be able to solve business processes and incorporate planning and strategy, rather than just implementing flashy, PR-driven technology. It’s crucial that retailers effectively merge technology and function, which is why AI is at the forefront of in-store tech.”

However, I believe that it is in customer service management where AI has the most significant potential for change, gathering detailed customer patterns and preferences, capturing both short term consumer market fluctuations and informing longer term business planning.

As AI grows more and more prevalent, at Webhelp we are also exploring language processing for the purposes of automation, as Chris Bryson, Webhelp Global Data & Analytics Director explains:

“The direct interaction between customer and machine is allowing us to analyse conversations, at scale, and to make recommendations. We have developed own speech and text analytics engine, which we apply to agent and automated customer conversations.

At Webhelp, this is deployed to drive efficiency in our measurement of quality and to create CX improvements through actionable Voice of The Customer analytics”

When intelligent algorithms are used to process customer and sales data, there is a wealth of actionable and valuable information to be discovered. Intelligent chat bots, voice analytics and word recognition are also changing the game for retail customer service. And, as David Turner, Webhelp CEO for the UK region, Webhelp are at the forefront:

“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, and leverage technologies such as chatbots to reduce volumes of non-complex and low value interactions. At the same time, we are identifying where human support adds value to digital experiences. Providing guidance and support to customers during high value, complex and emotionally important journeys.”

These technologies are unavoidable, and brands must learn how best to use them to their advantage, as Craig Gibson Chief Commercial Officer Webhelp UK recognises:

“As the urgency for change and transformation intensifies in the post COVID landscape, some pivotal questions will be raised: 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?”

To discover more about how to leverage customer service models in this new world, I would suggest that you read our new Whitepaper, a joint publication with Gobeyond Partners, on Reimagining service for the new world, which aims to address these crucial questions and is underpinned by our unique industry perspective alongside new research to discover the operating models of the future.


Demand Marketing guides salespeople to the best business opportunities

(Article published initially in French in Actionco.fr)

Selling is hard. More than ever, marketing-commerce congruence is essential to accelerate growth by generating higher value qualified leads. 

While the first two thirds of the B2B customer journey is now in digital form, "it is essential to stimulate the customer as soon as he prepares to make a purchasealone, online, to help the business to make this purchase intention a reality", underlines Alexandre Barthel, Marketing Director at Webhelp Enterprise. 

From data to information, from information to action 

Demand Marketing is above all based on data: "The ability to collect data to extract information is crucial to understand your audience and address them in a personalized way, the antipodes of the "’mass’ Direct Marketing actions of 20 years ago". It is now a multitude of highly targeted marketing campaigns that delivers value and feeds Lead Scoring. This method consists of allocating points according to behaviour within a digital path: opening an e-mail, clickingvisiting a site, etc., in order to produce a ranking reflecting the prospect's interest in the commercial offer and his propensity to buy. The objective is to guide the sales force in priority towards these opportunitiesReinforced by automation, Demand Marketing plays a major role more than ever in generating leads, in a daily life without trade shows or even face-to-face meetings. 

Key figures  

 - Between 27% and 40%: this is the average contribution of marketing to turnover (source: Markletic March 2020) 

 - 69%: this is the share of companies that make the generation of qualified leads their top priority for 2020 (source: Hubspot) 

Predicting buying behaviour 

Beyond the essential work of segmentation, marketers are sometimes helped by data scientists to create predictive models: "it is a question of anticipating the need, in order to take proactive action, for example to retain a subscriber for whom signals of risk of termination have been detected"These models are now reinforced by web listening’ techniques, which consist of analysing online interactions to detect purchase intentions. The retailer can then propose an adapted offer, but "it goes without saying that the posture towards the customer, in particular the tone of the message, must be benevolent enough to be perceived positively," notes Alexandre Barthel 

 Social Selling completes the generation of demand  

 Demand Marketing is extended by an individual approach with Social Selling. The modern seller appropriates the brand's marketing content to share it with his ecosystem on social networks. Here again, the goal is to generate business. "This mastery of social selling has become the standard in sales to accurately identify and contact decision-makers. In addition to generating business opportunitiesthis approach enhances the expertise of the sales representativewho makes a commitment on behalf of the brand to a wide audience," says Alexandre Barthel. 

Would you like an audit of your sales model and evaluate the value of marketing campaigns to feed your sales force? Get in touch with specialists.  

 


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


The importance of remaining human, in the switch to digital learning

The business challenge facing the Webhelp UK Operational Learning and Development (Ops L&D) team, at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was truly exceptional. Here, Declan Hogan Director of Operational L&D, UK region, reveals how they transformed their strategy while thinking human and what plans they are making for the future.

In March 2020, upon observing the initial impact of COVID, our team faced an unprecedented demand; to deliver an overarching vision of safe, accessible, viable training - available at speed and at scale.

As a people-first business, colleague well-being was a driving principle, and as pre-COVID, virtual training made up no more than 5% of delivery, we knew that we had to rapidly increase our online service to both protect and inform our employees.

This was to be no small task, as the team operates across 25 sites covering 3 major geographic regions; the UK, South Africa and India. We deliver L&D to 11,000 people across 32 different client campaigns, encompassing a diverse range of cultures, sectors, scales and approaches. We focus on our 9000 frontline advisors, via a fraternity of circa 100 trainers, facilitators, L&D consultants and development specialists.

The Webhelp vision is to ‘make business more human’, so we knew we had to swiftly implement a comprehensive change of direction in strategy and delivery, in a relevant, but above all ‘human’ and accessible way.

We needed a reframed game-plan to meet the considerable demand of the many more employees working from home. With intelligent work force management, access to a daily War Room (to engage, inform and learn from senior leaders) and a freshly developed playbook, using an agile 5DI mythology, we understood the differing circumstances of our colleagues and designed tailored virtual sessions and digital learning spaces to meet their needs.

In just 14 days we achieved:

  • 100% online learning delivery for over 8,000 people working from home
  • Over 50 Webhelp trainers upskilled into a virtual environment
  • 85 core digital learning modules and 25 Digital Compliance Courses ready to deploy

And, our people responded with employee satisfaction scores of around 90%. During the COVID crisis we welcomed 5 new partners in retail, tele-co and key services and our learning team have been consistently central to speed and success.

Our programs and modules broke down existing physical training into short impactful interventions, supported with self-directed guides, an information portal, webinars and video and focused on key themes of communication and well-being and resilience

We used creative design solutions like gamification and split screen technology to engage, test, recognise and reward. Plus, we developed a virtual ‘hot seat’ environment and a soft go live to ease ‘call shock’ for new advisors. And, it was also crucial to invest time to skill the front-line trainers to deliver virtually. We made this real-world with a psychological contract between facilitator and learner that this is not training ‘as usual’: signal will drop, kids will interrupt, pets will make noise etc.

Alongside all of this, a constant dialogue was maintained with each client, keeping them at the heart of all activity, strong relationships based on trust and transparency were built, each playing a part in the decision-making process. You can read more about our partnership strategy in this interview with Yodel. who share their high level of satisfaction with our approach during COVID-19.

So, by necessity, but with insight, the ‘classroom only’ model rapidly evolved and 100% online delivery became standardised and transferable across all of our regions. Although our entire L&D catalogue can now be delivered online, a decision tree process is in place to establish if training should be virtual, blended or face to face.

Looking to the future

Reacting to the COVID crisis gave the world an unmistakable virtual capability call to action, however, our team were ahead of the game with an established L&D strategy for 2020 which had already initiated the clear and strategic goal of increasing the self-learning/digital proposition to enable learning anywhere.

Whilst the crisis has given us the stimulus to test, learn and roll out a virtual model, the focus has now began to shift to blended learning - drawing the best from both virtual and face to face approaches.

As part of our half yearly reflections, each training manager is presenting (via case studies) successes and suggestions on how to improve our new methodologies.

Online learning is growing in both sophistication and popularity, but it should never lose the human touch - as FutureLearn CEO Simon Nelson, who previously led the BBC’s transition from analogue to digital, remarks:

“The integration of digital technology into education has had a profound impact, opening up distribution globally and allowing flexible, on-demand, around-the-clock services for learners. It also connects us to vast stores of information.

However, skills like emotional intelligence, creativity, resilience, conflict resolution, or leadership will never go out of fashion. As technology continues to redefine the world of work, the traits that make us human will remain as important as ever”

Source: Britishcouncil.org

Webhelp is an intrinsically human company – a global melting pot of passionate individuals who actively want to change the game, to really make a difference in the lives of the people and business they work with.  I am incredibly proud of the agility and creativity of my team and how they remained focused and supportive during difficult times.

Our vision and culture will act as a compass to guide the next generation of people-centric learning, and we will keep challenging the status-quo to be the forefront of new thinking, now and in the future.


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.


How the Yodel and Webhelp partnership faced the challenge of COVID-19

Partnership is a huge part of the way we deliver services at Webhelp, and one of our four cultural pillars is to put the client at the heart. Here we explore the strong collaborative approach that was undertaken during the COVID crisis with Yodel, a key logistics client for Webhelp. Joining the discussion were Michaela Simpson, Head of Customer Experience at Yodel, Kellyann McCafferty, Account Director at Webhelp and Cobus Crous, Head of Operations for Webhelp in India and SA.

Yodel is one of the UK’s largest delivery companies for B2C orders, serving many of the country’s leading retailers. Webhelp and Yodel have been working together since 2015, and have built up a strong alliance providing outstanding customer service management, which is delivered from Webhelp’s offshore locations in South Africa and India.

What was the starting position of the logistics industry, and Yodel’s outlook before COVID?

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

We were just coming out of a very successful peak period, the six weeks over Christmas, is traditionally one of the highest delivery periods for the consumer market. Logistics is a highly competitive sector and as an innovative carrier, our efforts were focused on continuing to build a forward-thinking technology roadmap. We were in the enviable position of having well-established, technical and highly skilled operational and management teams in place, and an exceptionally in depth understanding of the day to day working of the business.

Do you have any feedback on what Webhelp were doing well before COVID hit?

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

Everything.

Together we had had a run of at least three, if not four really strong quarters. And, this success can be measured by the fact that Yodel have been awarding Webhelp service credits for great delivery at the end of each quarter.

Like any partnership, you can drill down into detail to find areas to challenge, which is simply good practice. But, in my opinion, we had the strongest people we’ve ever had  and overall we were very pleased.

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

Michaela Simpson (Yodel)

One stand out during the COVID crisis would be, just as we approached Easter, Yodel were awarded a UK government contract to collect COVID tests for the NHS, seven days a week. Webhelp delivered an eight person team specifically trained to support this essential service. We went from concept to go live in less than a week! They did an absolutely fantastic job delivering the first campaign and we now have two more on the horizon.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

But there were challenges, and they were different depending on the country in question. In India, a curfew was announced on the 14th of March, and then the lockdown was announced on Mothers Day on Sunday the 22nd of March, one of Yodel’s busiest trading days of the year! We then had four hours to deliver desktops & laptops to our employees who were without access to technology. Working swiftly, our teams successfully managed to complete all actions on time and in line with the Indian Government regulations.

In South Africa, shortly before the formal lockdown announcement on the 23rd of March, we conducted an initial employee survey to understand the potential challenge of the home situation for our advisors in terms of WIFI, hardware, infrastructure and so on.

A staggered approach was then used to move our people to either supported homeworking, or for the small group where this was not suitable due to not having an appropriate home environment, supported working from a hotel venue.

The hotel solution was an industry first, which showed not only the strength in our partnership to act quickly and decisively around commercials and logistics, but also highlighted the commitment and dedication our people have towards Webhelp and Yodel.

Our advisors left their families and loved ones for 21 days, without hesitation, to support customers and clients from a hotel room during a very uncertain period. This is testament to our values and how our wonderful employees live the Yodel brand.

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

Yes, the Indian lockdown happened incredibly quickly. And then South Africa was hot on its heels. One of the strengths we shared collaboratively was the ability to make some very decisive and quick decisions on how we were going to operate. This allowed Webhelp to deploy a robust plan at speed, which has been really successful, particularly in India, and remains so now.

Understandably, there were technical challenges to overcome, early in the process but, I think if you were a Yodel customer you probably wouldn't have noticed a significant difference.

We made the pragmatic, but firm decision to move away from phone services to Web chat until early August, and to manage that message to our consumers. Clear joint action gave us the freedom to plan our campaigns together, knowing the road ahead and the expected timeline.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

This helped make sure that in a short space of time all our people, in both locations, were up and running from home, or hotel based – and while we appreciate the sacrifices our advisors made, the feedback was that they were delighted to carry on representing the Yodel brand during a difficult period, and maintained high enthusiasm in delivering great service.

Cobus Crous (Webhelp):

Absolutely. Taken together across the Webhelp estate, in both India and South Africa, Yodel was one of the accounts that were 100% operational within a 72-hour window.

And I think that's quite an achievement on its own.

Personally, I'm exceptionally proud of how my team reacted, to what was a very scary and unsettling scenario. Their attitude was: “OK, we're going for it, we're going to solve it!” From the moment they got their PC’s, they unpacked, connected and were ready to work the next morning! And I think that was remarkable, just how well they moved with the change. Our people are such a big part of this story.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

In fact, this shows great resilience, as they were quickly functioning above normal business levels, when COVID actually brought much larger parcel volumes than usual.

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):  

Yes, interestingly, at Yodel we were initially concerned about the negative impact COVID could have on online retail, which forms a substantial part of our business.

However, the reality was completely different. China came out of lockdown just as Europe went into it, and the expected disruption to the global manufacturing industry didn’t impact us. Suddenly home shopping habits changed completely, so we have been effectively running at peak operation, which we usually spend a significant part of the year planning and laying out logistics for.

And we managed to switch this on in a just a few hours. And since then we have maintained very, very high numbers, well above our plan!

Webhelp is a people first organisation with a commitment to make business more human, did this approach effect delivery?  

Michaela Simpson (Yodel)

In the logistics industry, it's easy for us to think in operational terms, but despite the fact that we had to make some very critical business decisions, together we have considered and prioritised the people side of our partnership. This went above the usual checks and balance for any business and has come through very strongly from the Webhelp operational teams at a grass roots level.

Thoughts for the future?   

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

With Yodel, we are building a highly proactive approach to contact and delivery, which benefits from the joint operational traits of flexibility, clarity of decision making and the right balance between people and technology.

Our partnership will continue to change the way that brands look at outsourced customer service for the logistics sector, both during this crisis and as we move towards a more stable future.


Why are human moderators still essential?

Understand the unsaid
Humans remain the best in reading, interpreting and understanding content. Often times AI powered moderation fails to decode hidden meanings. On the other hand, humans are intuitive by nature, they are able to read between the lines and understand straight away. This helps to avoid the wrong flagging of content.

Authentic conversations
Don’t we all want to wow our customers with an exceptional customer experience? And the best way to do that is by creating real conversations with the audience. While AIs are programmed to be more conversational and interactive with customers, they aren’t humans and don’t have feels. They lack the humanity needed to connect with the customers on a personalized and engaging level.

Grasping the context
Taking English as an example, the same word can have different meanings depending on how it is used. Correspondingly, the same image can also have different meanings depending on the context it is used. It would be difficult for AI to determine the motive of a picture even if it detects it. For example, when giving reviews about a weight loss program, a customer may post a partially nude picture. Deciding whether the picture is appropriate or not, would be a challenge for an AI powered system. Contrary to that, a human moderator is able to immediately recognize the improperness of the image and conclude if it is acceptable or not.

Brand reputation
Upholding a good brand reputation is imperative for a company’s continued success. And because we live in an online world, the first place frustrated customers go to vent their disappointment is online. And the last thing such a customer would want is to receive a generic AI canned response. During such instances, humans are the best alternatives as they have the intelligence and know-how to solve such conflicts by even flipping a negative experience to a positive one and living the customer happy and satisfied.

Thanks to technology advancement, AI deep-learning and neural networks have enabled the automation of numerous tasks, such as image classification, speech recognition and natural language processing. In spite of that, AI content moderation is hampered with frequent errors. Even with the training of numerous examples, neural networks are still unreliable to make accurate judgements of cases that appear different from their training data.

Ultimately, effective Content Moderation requires a good mix between a robust AI powered system to instantaneously and correctly filter content without exposing the moderators to sensitive material, handle a massive content volume and also a very  adaptive team of empathetic moderatos with local cultural knowledge to accurately screen borderline user-generated content.


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.