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


Content Moderation: AI vs Human Moderation

Did you know that since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic Facebook’s daily active users have gone well over 1.73 billion source: engadget.com, Zoom’s daily meetings are over 200 million and Google’s video conferencing is 25 times higher? Source: theatlantic.com. From positive work related interactions, communities coming together to help the most vulnerable, support and encouragement for the health care workers, humorous posts about the lockdowns to negative and atrocious content such as, fake news, racists posts, child abuse and pornography, the shared content varies from one user to another. With this immense increase in content creation, uploading and consumption, the internet can become a dark place.

And because people are free to anonymously publish posts or stream live, the anonymity shield makes it easier for them to go out of line. Content moderators who manage these online communities indeed have their work cut out for them. Reviewing User Generated Content (UGC) is not only a challenging but also a very demanding task.

Tech giants like Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms were forced to close their moderation centers in March sending most of their content moderators’ home for safety reasons making a risky bet on AI to entirely moderate content. This caused a serious void in the content reviewing of ads and posts. Despite their efforts to curb the myths and false information related to the pandemic, these social media platforms faced the harsh reality of the gruesome content like child pornography that had leaked into the internet!

As a result of the lockdowns and also the security of office-attending employees, the content reviewing system was hugely incapacitated. Consequently, Facebook had to make the hard decision of calling back its content moderators whilst ensuring safety protocols were met i.e. checking temperatures, reducing building capacity, and providing protective equipment to enable the reviewing system resume blocking away and filtering out of child exploitation, terrorism and misinforming content.

Is AI reliable enough?

Situation awareness
Last year in March, a terrorist in New Zealand live-streamed from two different mosques, the brutal killing of 51 people. Unfortunately, Facebook’s algorithms failed to timely detect and block the gruesome video. It took them 29 minutes to detect the brutality in the video which was watched live with nearly 4000 people. In the aftermath, they struggled with taking down the posts from users who reposted the video. Although the company uses the most advanced innovation and technology, its AI algorithms still failed to correctly interpret the odeal.

Content & intent discernment
One of the drawbacks facing neural networks is their inability to correctly understand content and intent. In a call with analysts, Mark Zuckerberg Facebook’s CEO stated that it is much easier to train an AI system to detect nudity than it is to distinguish what is linguistically considered hate speech. According to Facebook’s statistics, its AI system is able to correctly detect nude content 96% of the time but struggles to discern safe nudity e.g. breastfeeding and prohibited content of sexual activities.

A good example of misinterpretations of AI algorithms is when the Facebook post of Norway’s Prime Minister was flagged as child pornography because it showed the image of the famous “Napalm girl”, a naked girl fleeing from an attack in Vietnam. Later on, Facebook apologized and restored the post.

And as the Corona virus continued to surge, Facebook experienced a massive bug in its spam filter for News Feeds that flagged URLs from genuine websites like USA Today and Buzzfeed source: techcrunch.com that were sharing Corona-virus related content most likely because of content misinterpretation with the AI systems.

Societal subjectivity
Because we are intrinsically diverse, our beliefs, values, cultures and religion differ from one region to another. What is considered okay in one country might be taboo in another for example wearing a Bikini is appropriate in most cultures but considered nudity in other cultures. Since most of the Application Programming Interface (API) providers are from the U.S. and Europe, they are often not in-tune with the cultures in the conservative parts of the world. So apart from the obvious explicit content, tackling the question of what is accepted is very country and region-specific and can only be effectively approved with human moderators from the different regions to avoid false positives or negatives flagged with the AI systems.

Racial disparity
In a content moderation study conducted with Nanonets, they assessed the accuracy of two API systems in detecting a Not Safe For Work (NSFW) image. The picture was contained a nude Japanese Woman dressed in a kimono. So because the neural networks were trained with pictures of European individuals, they failed to flag the image as NSFW. Users who are not based in the EU or U.S. were able to upload offensive content without the AI systems blocking them.

Stay tuned for part two….


Meet our Game Changers : Jay Fell

 

Meet our Game Changers : Jay Fell Global Account Manager, UK.

"Everything is possible if you have the drive, determination and resilience!"

 

Parallel to his studies in Applied Psychology at the John Moores University in Liverpool, Jay was employed as a Customer Service Advisor at 02, a leading telecommunications company in UK. During his time there, his agility and proactivity led to a rapid development of his career. He was promoted to Platinum Account Manager and then to Platinum Development Manager nine months later. In 2012, he successfully graduated with a master’s degree in Occupational Psychology at the same university and went on to take the position of Take To Market Change Delivery Consultant before joining Webhelp. In our latest success story, Jay will tell us more about his career path with us.

So when did you join Webhelp Jay, and how has your career developed since then?

I joined Webhelp in September 2013. And back then, my intention was to stay in the outsourcing world for only one year and then go back to working in house. So far, it has been a fantastic journey where I have learned lots of new skills, meet new people and interacted with different cultures!I started as a Project Manager working exclusively on a telecommunications project for one of our long-standing clients. During this time, I delivered some big and exciting projects such as the operational readiness of a new billing system for our client’s post-pay customers and the transition of the telecommunications services to South Africa. I then moved to a central function role as a Global Change Manager and worked with other telecommunications projects for different clients. I then received the opportunity to deliver Webhelp’s first Global account with a leading low-cost airline.After successfully transitioning our client to Webhelp, I took the role as International Partnership Delivery Manager before moving into the Bid Manager role in 2018. In 2019 I was part of the team who worked on a big project to secure a deal with a leading sports and apparel company. I transitioned our client from their previous provider to Webhelp, before taking on the role as the Global Account Manager.

And what’s your current position all about?

As a Global Account Manager, my role involves working with our partner and operational teams across five sites and a shared service center on a day to day basis, to ensure that we are delivering excellence to our client’s customers. Parallel to his studies in Applied Psychology at the John Moores University in Liverpool, Jay was employed as a Customer Service Advisor at 02, a leading telecommunications company in UK. During his time there, his agility and proactivity led to a rapid development of his career. He was promoted to Platinum Account Manager and then to Platinum Development Manager nine months later. In 2012, he successfully graduated with a master’s degree in Occupational Psychology at the same university and went on to take the position of Take To Market Change Delivery Consultant before joining Webhelp. In our latest success story, Jay will tell us more about his career path with us.The other key part to my role is working with internal teams to develop our roadmap of how we can deliver outstanding customer experiences for our partner and their customers. Which project has been your highlight so far?In my time at Webhelp, I have had so many experiences and highlights to cherry pick just one however, some fond memories include my first trip to Rabat and setting up a new multilingual hub in Lisbon. (Smiles)

Which character trait helped you to advance your career?

I would say three things. The drive, determination and resilience to achieve!Which advice would you give people who want to pursue the same career?The biggest lesson I have learnt is to have the drive and determination and not to compare yourself with others. Be confident in the skills and expertise you have to offer. Don’t worry about others, focus on yourself and be the best version of yourself, in and outside of work!

And last but not least, how do you spend your free time outside of work?

I have three dogs, a Husky, Dalmatian and Labrador and they take a lot of my free time (smiles). Reading non-fiction books and also watching good movies on Netflix are my favorites too!Thanks a lot Jay for your time and the nice interview. All the best in your career!

Evelyn Kamau


How CX can help the insurance industry survive in 2020 and beyond

As insurance firms compete to adapt to swiftly changing consumer demands and the prospect of an economic downturn in the first half of 2020, Webhelp UK region CEO, David Turner considers how moving on from legacy environments and integrating customer experience (CX) innovation, with emotional connection can really change the game for this industry.

There is no denying that the Insurance sector has been under pressure to switch up its digital game for a number of years now - in fact, as far back as 2018 I suggested that more focus on CX was critical as insurance companies began to undergo digital transformation programmes.

More recently, our 2019 YouGov powered research, published in our Whitepaper on Emotion in Customer Experience, proved that the industry still has a long way to go in making connections and using CX to really resonate with its customers – something that will be absolutely imperative in the COVID-19 era.

In our exclusive poll of over 2,000 UK adults, worryingly, only 4% of respondents indicated that they feel any kind of emotional connection with brands in the insurance sector. Perhaps, the insurance industry has suffered in the past by the impact of dated legacy environments and late adoption of innovation and new technology – this is likely to have created an emotional dislocation between customers and providers.

However, this gap (if addressed carefully) could present a unique growth opportunity for insurers, as our research also showed that customers who are emotionally connected to a brand are 55% more likely to purchase other products/services from them and 63% are more likely to recommend them to family and friends.

Better emotional links and increased connection, would certainly be beneficial at the moment, as many companies and individuals will be expecting the insurance industry to buffer ongoing financial loss during the COVID-19 crisis.

As well as remuneration, impact will extend into many other areas - from employee and business continuity issues, client service considerations, compensation and employer liability and event cancellation, and finally class actions relating to the pandemic.

Obviously, the immediate concern for many insurers will be protecting the health and safety of their employees and partners in the agent and broker communities, as the industry – like many others, struggles to maintain business continuity.

However, as Deloitte, a leading global provider of audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and related services reveals:

“The bigger-picture concern is how the outbreak might affect the economic environment—specifically, prospects for growth and profitability in insurers’ underwriting and investment portfolios.” Source: Deloitte Insights

As early as March, The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), reported that the coronavirus outbreak has significantly weakened near-term global economic prospects, stating that:

“Together with the recent marked deterioration in global financial conditions and heightened uncertainty, this will depress global GDP growth in the early part of the year, possibly even pushing it below zero in the first quarter of 2020.” Source: OECD.org

At the same time, the probability of declining interest rates will create waves in the entire insurance industry, most especially in the life insurance and annuity sectors.

This will quickly become a race for survival, and insurance companies that do not rethink their business, transform and offer innovative digital services, and centre the experience around what the customer wants will fail to gain traction in this new world.

In addition, as this recent research from polling experts YouGov highlights, the pressure is mounting for the industry to attract and retain customers. In fact, only 6% of UK customers intend to stay with their current provider, and almost three quarters (73%) of policyholders are actively shopping around for alternatives.

So, what do insurance customers want – and how can excellence in customer experience help deliver this, under crisis?

Hervé Mazenod, Managing Director for Insurance and Investment, at Gobeyond Partners - part of the Webhelp group, believes that this can be boiled down to a few key principles, with simplicity being the most important:

“Today’s online consumers have high expectations of insurance companies – they want competitively priced, clear and simple policies that they can apply for and activate in just a few clicks – without lengthy registrations, calls and delays.”

“While many customers will have expected some interruptions as an inevitable consequence of COVID-19, they will rapidly expect a more normal service to resume - at the same time as insurers putting the safety of their people and their customers first.

He goes on to explain that this desire for 24 hour access to policies and information will only grow as the crisis forces previous slow adopters (like the elderly) to have increased familiarity with the digital world, saying:

“It is likely that COVID-19 will have accelerated consumers’ preference to online channels. This will significantly stretch those firms which have not yet equipped their systems and processes to adapt to and cater for this rapid digital transformation.” 

And insurance is a complicated consumer product, borne out of necessity (like car or business insurance) or for peace of mind, like home and personal cover. Consumer loyalty is shrinking and relationship building and platforms that inspire trust can help brands to build better experiences and drive scale.

As discussed, the pandemic will cause some fundamental behavioural shifts in consumers, Mark Palmer CEO for Gobeyond Partners recognises this and adds:

“Organisations will need to cut through the hype and start to anticipate what these shifts might be; how they may adapt to them or even influence them. By doing this, leadership teams can understand what the future blend should be between ‘pre-crisis’ ways of operating, and certain key elements of the ‘business-as-unusual’ phase.”
Source: A new race to evolve and thrive during COVID-19

It's clear that CX (and particularly the ease of the end to end journey) will be critical in both responding to consumer behavioural shifts - especially on digital channels, and in engaging the customer base, which is crucial for the insurance industry.

Find out more about how our services can help your business achieve positive transformation and discover more of our leadership insight on Crisis business phases and how the game is changing for CX markets and channels.

 


Which new markets are growing under COVID-19, and how can quality CX help them thrive?

The way we work, communicate, socialise and shop is undergoing a period of radical and swift change. Planned strategies are now obsolete as the marketing landscape has completely altered.  Ewan McKay, Marketing Manager for the Webhelp UK region, looks at the current key sectors and those struggling to manage during this period of significant disruption.

Let’s be honest - there has probably never been a stranger time to be a Marketer. With the arrival of COVID-19 the old rules have been broken, and time served marketing strategies lie in tatters. Added to this, as is often the case in times of uncertainty, budgets are being frozen or cut back.

Businesses are looking for ways to regroup and consolidate as they ride out this storm – and as a consequence new channels are being developed and marketing activity is swiftly being prioritised to support new areas of activity.

The spotlight firmly remains on how companies are conducting themselves during this difficult period, as Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer for the Webhelp UK region, notes:

“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.”

As a consequence, marketing now has a vital role in reflecting and sharing the human side of organisations and shining a positive light on how they have supported their people and customers during the pandemic.

Late last year, Polly Ashdown, Marketing & Communications Director, took an in-depth look at why Webhelp aims to ‘Think Human’ and how behaving in a more human way is a vital part of growing brands and building good customer relationships, a topic which is only increasing in relevance, as COVID-19 affects our most basic of human needs, connection.

In fact, the more we work, play and socialise online, the more demand for connectivity and productivity hardware and software rises. Devices like smart home speakers and laptops, monitors and wireless network routers have been flying off the shelves. Understandably, IT and networking services are in high demand, along with technical support and infrastructure engineering. And, according to the Parliament Street think tank, a third of businesses have even hired external IT support to cope with the Covid-19 crisis.

And another simple human need – sustenance - has massively influenced the food supply market under the COVID era. Online grocery was already a growth area - the market value doubled between 2016 and 2018 as many consumers got used to ordering their essentials on digital channels.

However, the pandemic has forced even more of us to switch to online food shopping, with major UK providers like Asda and Sainsbury’s launching feed the nation campaigns, to look after the needs of this new influx of customers. I’d agree with the Business Insider forecast that this fresh market will expand into Q2 and beyond, and that Baby Boomers - typically slow online adopters, will begin to expand into other sectors as their confidence in online shopping increases.

But, maintaining supply chains, protecting CX delivery and meeting the expectations of existing customers has never been more crucial. And, sectors where demand is booming (like those above) are facing the unexpected challenge of radically increased customer contact volumes. This can put a huge strain on existing infrastructure, and compromise all-important CX delivery. We are working with our clients across these sectors to make sure that robust solutions are in place to help with increased customer contact and sales volumes.

At the other end of the scale, unfortunately, several sectors are facing an uphill battle, as COVID-19 puts limitations on public outside activities, and creates massive downturn in vacationing and spending habits. The financial services industry has been hit hard, as we will discuss in a forthcoming blog – but perhaps the most visible damage has occurred in the travel and mobile industries.

Due to changes in our living habits, the smartphone market has shown significant losses - as people shelve their phones for more home based solutions. In fact, there is a worry that the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to a 10-year low in smartphone sales. This forecast is not surprising, as the crisis has weakened the launch of the 5G platform, which was vaunted to be the next big thing in the industry.

But all is not entirely gloomy, as Andrew Hall, Director - Strategic Engagements Webhelp UK Region, recognises:

“There are shockwaves spreading through the smartphone industry right now, and the containment of COVID-19, and the relaxation of lockdowns are critical to this market – however, if consumer confidence in 5G can be rekindled, we may see a bounce back in sales in the second half of this year.”

Plus, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that COVID-19, has created chaos for the international travel industry. According to The European Commission hotels and restaurants in the EU, will lose at least half their income this year and, unsurprisingly, tourism revenues fell by 95% in Italy and 77% in Spain in March.

However, forces are starting to mobilise to safeguard and revitalise the industry, Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, is spearheading a plan, calling for funds from Europe’s economic stimulus packages to rescue hotels, restaurants and tour operators from collapse. Plus the travel association ABTA, is calling upon both the UK Government and the industry at large, to take action to ‘save future travel’.

And crucially, businesses will have to publicly manage significant disruption, while maintaining service levels and keeping positive customer perception high. Marketing will have an important role in landing all of these messages, and making sure that customers, who are quick to vote with their feet and wallets, remain connected and loyal.

Finally, how these industries will emerge from the current crisis is still uncertain, however, good Marketers must watch carefully for the trends, opportunities and avenues that the new normal may bring – and use that insight to quickly capitalise on them.

Webhelp will spotlight the path to recovery in travel and the financial sectors in future instalments of our Game Changers and Crisis-Curve series. Plus, Helen Murray - Chief Customer Solutions Officer for the UK region, takes an in-depth look at the channels that will flourish in the post COVID-19 world here. 


Webhelp SA during the COVID crisis: Protecting our people

South Africa has experienced a unique set of challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. The impact has been felt across our communities, our employees and their families. As the country takes its first steps out of lockdown, we asked Cathy Kalamaras, People Director for South Africa, some tough questions on how Webhelp’s people have responded and what the future holds.

As a People Director, what have been (and are) the main challenges for Webhelp South Africa in responding to COVID-19?

Being a people first company really defines Webhelp South Africa, so our immediate concern was putting our people’s health, safety and well-being first, whilst executing the government’s guidelines to a tee.

Communication & engagement

Initially, communication and engagement was a challenge for us, and we had to vary our channels to reach all our employees; those working from home (WFH), those not working at all and those working onsite on essential services. Instant messaging proved to be an effective medium for reaching a large audience quickly and effectively.

A comprehensive communication strategy was critical to keeping our colleagues safe (many of whom had never experienced WFH), and there was a need for awareness in people’s families and home communities, so campaigns were translated into several languages.

Moving at pace, we urgently needed to make sure our people understood the real practicalities and challenges around WFH. These included; how to separate working life in a home/family environment, good dietary habits and sleep patterns (very important for shift workers), establishing the right work-life balance and how to switch off at the end of a shift.

We also delivered education and support on finance, resilience, domestic & gender-based violence, mental health and wellbeing.

Government guidelines, adoption, education and policies

Keenly monitoring and reacting to changing government directives was (and still is) absolutely critical, and (alongside a collaborative approach with all functional departments) was also key to the execution of changing remuneration models; as was introducing clear and updated policies to cover remote location, home and onsite working.

Additionally, as a third party partner delivers a medical aid and employee assistance programme, they had to be quickly brought in line with the WFH solution, both informing and assisting with virtual counselling and support.

Finally, a leadership training and education initiative was rolled out, covering regulatory changes and best practice for remote management, new mind-sets for WFH, holding remote team and one on one meetings and the importance of monitoring team health and well-being.

How has the workforce transformed under this ‘new normal’ and how have these changes affected our advisors?

Understandably, there was a universal period of shock and adjustment, but our people have faced individual challenges, like social distancing and maintaining both personal and working relationships, working from home with a lack of childcare and adaptation on site/remote locations to rigorous safety protocols. However, supported by strong communication, our people have adapted well to the ‘new normal’.

We learned that, as changing safety protocols can be daunting, messages needed to be clear and repeated, until we were absolutely sure they had landed and were being enacted.

This helped establish a level of clarity and trust, to remove uncertainty – which was key in reaching our people and creating grass-roots behavioural change.

What surprised and impressed you most about the response from our people during this time?

  1. Their incredible resilience and positivity in the face of crisis.
    Feedback has been that, whilst this was difficult at first, the vast majority of our people continue to be enthusiastic and committed to their employment, and thankful that their economic security has been maintained. They have been undaunted by the changes, and for some the switch to working from home often under challenging social conditions.
  1. Their willingness to go the extra mile, even under pressure
    Colleagues have been really adaptable and focused on getting the job done. Maintaining a can-do attitude and often putting in extra time on their own without being asked. They have maintained excellent commitment to performance for our clients both individually and in campaigns.
  2. The rise in team spirit and the feeling that we are in it together!
    To prevent some of our employees from becoming isolated, managers have driven a lot of fun activities to keep motivation and engagement high. Our people have really embraced this and have been working together to maintain morale, keep connected and raise team spirit under these difficult circumstances.

 

How do you foresee the way forwards for human resources in our industry in South Africa, and what advice would you like to share with other industry leaders?

We now have solid proof that homeworking, from a people perspective, is extremely viable in South Africa. I believe that, by building the right policies, practices and processes for working from home, we can revolutionise the solutions offered to future and current clients and colleagues.

As we move out of lockdown, the lessons learned here can help the industry in several ways:

The industry can now confidently access a broader, fresh talent pool.

Employment diversity could improve, as our capacity to hire disabled candidates has now increased, as could the use of different staffing models, with increased flexibly and a wider pool of wider remote working for provinces that are distanced from operational hubs (holiday/permanent basis).

Although some of our home workers will gradually return to office working, the focus on virtual and interactive engagement and learning models will increase and we are also likely to see a switch to more online performance management and coaching.

However, businesses must continue to transform and mature the employer and employee relationship, remain flexible on staffing, continue to minimise unnecessary red tape and be open to new possibilities.  This agility must extend to decision making and leadership. It’s important to upskill your people and create consensus, rather than let crisis management rest on the shoulders of the few.

Finally, I can’t stress this enough, don’t assume the message lands first time round, especially under crisis situations. The right communication is key, so really consider your audience and use the channels and ideas that work for them, not just the company.

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


Webhelp Dunoon employee joins frontline battle against COVID-19

Rachel Gillespie, a customer service advisor at Webhelp Dunoon, has graduated from her nursing training thirteen weeks early in order to join the fight against COVID-19 at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
  Rachel is a highly valued employee at Webhelp, where she supports vulnerable shoppers in acquiring essential goods. She will continue in her customer service role part-time in addition to taking on nursing duties at the central Glasgow NHS hospital. Robin Danks, operations manager at Webhelp’s Dunoon site, said:

“Rachel has demonstrated unwavering dedication to her essential work at Webhelp as well as her nursing studies. We feel lucky to have her working in our team here in Dunoon and she is a real inspiration to us all. We look forward to supporting Rachel in both of her roles going forward.”

Rachel said: “Tackling coronavirus is a community effort. I am proud to be entering frontline nursing at such a pivotal time for our country and to be doing my bit to help, whilst continuing to assist vulnerable customers in my job at Webhelp.”

 

 


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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Webhelp employees smash fundraising goal despite lockdown

Altruistic employees from Webhelp’s Glasgow Hope Street and Dunoon sites have raised a staggering £1,300 for UK charities Comic Relief and Children in Need.

Despite the national lockdown and the move to homeworking, the teams found a number of ways to bring people together and raise funds.

Webhelp employees took part in online quizzes, games and raffles; smashing their £1,000 target in just 12 hours.

Funds will be split between the two charities so that they can continue to provide vital emergency support during the COVID-19 crisis.

Webhelp’s Head of Operations, Michelle Gillespie, said:

“I am so proud of the team turning this around in a few days to make all of this happen, continuously displaying our values and being committed to our social responsibilities. There has been a real display of unity and striving to make every day fun.

"During these uncertain times our Webhelpers continue to act selflessly and think of ways to do more for others. This is what makes us Webhelp and it’s our people that make me most proud.”

 

 


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.

Crisis Curve graph

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