Five trends for travel in 2020

The travel, tourism and hospitality industry has been hit hard by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. However, many countries are now emerging from lockdown and the industry is moving forward with strategies to rebuild and recover from the crisis.

This process is likely to be complex and create transformation in the industry, which is covered in more detail here, by sector expert and Webhelp Global Director, Nora Boros.

But, the infographic below gives a bite size look at the support in place for the industry and the direction of five key travel trends for the future.


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.


The future of travel in the post COVID world

The arrival of COVID-19 may have changed the travel industry forever. We’ve asked sector expert, and Webhelp Global Director, Nora Boros, to reflect on how far we have come and, most importantly, what the future holds for this most human of industries?

What was the travel industry landscape prior to COVID-19, were there any ongoing issues, or significant changes on the horizon?

Although it feels like an age away right now, looking back to 2019 the outlook for the travel industry was fairly optimistic and, on the whole, the industry was in a place of maturity in customer experience - especially when compared with other sectors which might be perceived as being weaker in this area such as financial services.

In fact, the industry had developed some depth in the ability to emotionally and personally connect with its audience, in order to deliver unique leisure experiences.  Brands were using new consumer behaviours to create buy in, especially in creating enriched customer journeys, something that I explored in a previous blog.

As travel is such a broad and diverse industry, some disruption was evident and there were emerging players and newcomers to the market, joining travel from competing sectors.

There was the growth of personalised, sustainable and eco-tourism, and its impact on the traditional value, luxury and price based travel campaigns - plus the continued arrival of start-ups, bringing new technology, fresh services and additional booking avenues to the industry.

Unfortunately, some areas of the travel industry were already financially fragile. For example, where low operating margins coincide with high cost in distribution or intermediation. This is especially apparent in models where there are go-betweens such as resellers, who are bridging the gap for providers and the consumers themselves, and draining income flows.

Alongside this, there was the growing financial challenge faced by the traditional retail brick and mortar travel providers from new players in digital technology.

And, there was huge impact from the way that technology can very quickly, change a regional provider to a global one – going digital provides the ability to easily disseminate an offer across multiple geographies and languages.

Interestingly, at Webhelp we are in the perfect position to provide support in this area, creating a unified customer experience across multiple markets.

What was the initial response to COVID-19 from the industry, and what challenges did Webhelp face as a company?

In the past decade, the travel industry has weathered many storms, including the ash cloud crisis in 2010 and the impact of the tragic events of 9/11. So when COVID hit, there was the awareness that it was going to hurt – but it was approached with a certain amount of resilience.

We saw a significant drop in sales volumes across our existing client operations, which we approached with a high degree of flexibility. As a people first company, we value our people and moved to protect them with swift workforce management measures like redeployment and adapted hours while working to reduce negative financial impact on our clients.

The travel industry has a substantial learning curve when producing the best customer advisors, particularly in the airline, tour-operating and hospitality segment. There must be a deep understanding of the sector, tools and processes – which can only be provided by time-served and highly trained advisors.

We focussed on retaining this wealth of experience; we knew that once the immediate challenge passed, our clients would need a highly skilled service.

And, it’s important to note, that as sales volumes fell, customer service needs in areas like refunds, information and rescheduling rose dramatically.  We protected the industry and our clients by cross-skilling advisors, redeploying them and introducing homeworking, where possible, to protect our people and ensure continuation of service.

We have also deployed automation where possible to accelerate digital transformation at a lower cost.

We entered a crisis discussion with one of our clients, who were understandably deeply concerned for their business and were considering calling off their contract. In response we provided a clear and robust financial roadmap through the crisis, working with local legislation to retain our people, safeguard their salaries and reduce the financial drain on our client and the ability to re-invest the savings to the post-crisis situation.

And now, as the industry is gradually returning to business under the next normal, our client is in an ideal position to come back strongly – and appreciates the flexibility, cost reduction and value Webhelp brought to the long term relationship.

Can we touch on the impact of COVID from an air travel perspective?

Yes, obviously the global travel industry has a symbiotic relationship with the airline industry, because travel by its very nature is closely linked to transportation.

The past three months have created a highly unusual situation, with limited (or no) cross border transportation and grounding several airlines.  This is without a doubt one of the single largest crisis’ to hit ANY industry, and we will see ripples and consequences for the next decade, if not longer.

There will be lasting consumer trends resulting from this, including a renewed interest in sustainable tourism and more purposeful, meaningful travel.

The recovery period for airlines may create a decrease in availability resulting in a potential price increase, both for the leisure market and particularly for business travellers. I think that for the corporate market, recovery will be much longer, and many companies will need to adapt their propositions to suit this new reality.

As a consequence we should see short term growth in domestic markets, as people have less in their pockets and less opportunity for international travel. There will be a return to travel as a simpler and more meaningful activity, with family relationships and new experiences assuming greater importance as some global destinations are limited.

The way ahead for the industry and your thoughts on the future of Travel under COVID-19?

Transformation and restructuring will be visible across the whole industry, which is already evident in the actions of Ryanair and British Airways and hotel chains like Marriott and Hilton. Travel companies will need focused customer experience during this difficult time and Webhelp can really support operational and digital transformation in this area.

Change is certainly ahead for the hospitality industry, and some independent hotels could struggle to comply with the new social distancing regulations, reduced guests and increased costs required to stay open while maintaining the bottom line.

Travel brands, like Airbnb, Booking.com and Expedia, with more diversified portfolios or private rentals where new regulations and safety measures can be introduced quickly, may be in a position to benefit.

As we live more flexible work lives, leisure travel will become blended with business needs, creating the new travel concept of ‘Bleisure’, something that we will be exploring in future blogs.

The real trends will become more apparent in the first quarter of next year, as the financial and social effects of COVID become clearer.

And finally, I think that the human experience of travel, the need for personal contact and connection will be increasingly valued and promoted.

Travel is the most universal way to unlock boundaries and understand how diverse and beautiful the world is, and I am confident that the industry will recover and remerge. It may be changed but will remain just as meaningful.

In future blogs we will explore the travel horizon in further detail, re-imagining the customer experience and looking at how this can unlock meaningful opportunities for the travel industry. Feel free to contact Nora Boros via LinkedIn and to explore more of our services.


Customer relationship: the “next world” requires more humanity (part 1)

From crisis management to the emergence of the relativity world afterwards. Here are some thoughts to make the current health crisis the catalyst of a more human correlation performance.

The health crisis we are currently going through is unprecedented. Not only by the extent of the human crises that unfortunately take part daily in our lives, but also unprecedented by the opportunity it offers us to question, with pragmatism, our societal, economic and relational models. The economics of the next few decades will probably show that a digital revolution took place in just a few weeks. But what will we learn from the evolution of brands' relational patterns? Isn't it also appropriate to finally materialize the aspirations of the customer relations industry, and to commit ourselves collectively on the road to sustainable efficiency in customer relations?

Faced with this challenge, which will drive the sector over the coming months, some lessons can be learned. 

Securing the fundamentals of customer relations should no longer be a wishful thinking, but a vital necessity.

In a context where the question of the economic performance of customer relationship management systems will undoubtedly drive CROs and their teams, controlling the volume of customer interactions to be handled in contact centres should no longer be a priority for brands, but their passion. It is not a question of creating "relational distancing" by dissuading customers from interacting with a brand, but rather of creating a relational ecosystem embodying the famous balance "the right channel, at the right time, for the right customer, with the right level of personalisation and very quickly". How do you do it? By going back to 3 relational fundamentals:

A system configured around one-and-done: far from being "experienced", the majority of contacts is still mostly the result of underperforming, unsuitable or misaligned treatment processes of the experience as it is really lived by the customer. Ultra-specialised processing cells, the absence of online transaction confirmation which results in customer reassurance needs, or the introduction of various post-call OCR processes due to the lack of automation of certain tasks at the "end of the line" are the situations most often encountered by brands, and they are avoidable.

A self-service system: Today, online functionalities exist and already cover a large transactional perimeter, but they are still not widely understood and rarely used by customers. However, without additional development, they would make it possible to automate some of the customer interactions at a lower cost. Still too largely underestimated, these sources of automation can be easily activated to guarantee a mix of processing time and quality customer experience at a lower cost. The objective here is not to put human and technology against each other, but to use human intelligence and organization to promote the use of these systems, even if it means making them a source of motivation.

An agile and pragmatic system: there are many examples in recent weeks of companies that have succeeded in adapting their relational policy in the light of recent disruptions. Examples include the flexibility of collection systems in the utilities sector, the adaptation of parcel delivery and return procedures in the e-commerce sector, and the multiplication of "drive" services in many sectors of activity. While resilience is often highlighted, organizations succeed above all in repositioning people at the heart of their relational systems and in dispelling the tension of internal quarrels in order to best adapt to the emerging customer needs driven by the current crisis.

However, these practices, which could be described as standards, are however still far from being generalised, and in a constrained economic context such as the one we are experiencing today, the race for relational innovation seems to be less important than a return to simple, but effective systems.

The human experience must be at the centre of a revitalized client-brand-advisor relationship.   

Within a few hours, the physical interpersonal channel has virtually disappeared in favour of a 100% remote relationship. This paradigm shift for brands has been translated into a revolution in the way of understanding the entire relational chain. Customers and prospects are at a distance. So are customer advisors, thanks to the homeworking of tens of thousands of them in just a few weeks. Today, a consensus around a hybrid organisational and relational model in which work from home would take on a predominant post-crisis dimension is emerging.

….stay tuned for part two


Five key questions for CEOs, a response to McKinsey Digital

In a recent article from McKinsey Digital, several experts posed a number of key questions focusing on a digital-led recovery from COVID-19 aimed at CEOs, a total of five in fact, and never being one to ignore a challenge, David Turner, CEO for the UK Region shares his insight.

I’m responding not only in my role as CEO for Webhelp’s UK region, but as a passionate advocate of digital transformation – something that drives our service structure and is deeply embedded in the innovative partnerships we create with our clients. I hope that my answers illustrate both the resilience shown by our teams during COVID-19 and our desire for our clients not just to recover – but to thrive.

  1. Do you have a clear view of where the value is going to be and a road map that will get you there?

Here at Webhelp, conversations with our clients on the topic of digital transformation are built in to our processes. The impact of increasingly sophisticated technology in the hands of consumers driving changes in their behaviours and expectations, combined with market disruption from new, online business models has been apparent for some time.

However, Dave Pattman, Managing Director CX Services for Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, highlights that:

“What COVID-19 has changed is the pace at which organisations have found themselves having to respond and adapt. For many this pandemic has resulted not only in the virtualisation of their workforce as offices closed but also the virtualisation of their customers as the shutters came down on physical outlets as well.”

In our view, it is very likely that the increasingly digital consumer behaviours arising from the lockdown experience will stick, forcing many organisations to radically rethink the fundamentals of their business and how they reach and serve their customers.

I firmly believe that Webhelp has the right resources, expertise and more importantly the flexibility to create and sustain digital strategy and online growth for our clients.

The insight driving every stage of this strategy should come from deeply understanding and tracking customer behaviours, something that is built into all our client solutions and forms the backbone of agile customer experience.

The digital landscape is also highly dependent on regulation, so the roadmap to success must be achieved in a compliant manner. For many organisations, this will create an added complication in the digital transformation journey. Our well-established risk function with expertise across regulation, cyber and compliance enables us to confidently navigate these challenges on behalf of our clients.

  1. What role should business building have in helping you accelerate your entrance into new markets or access new customers?

Here, McKinsey concludes that many businesses can only match the pace of both the crisis and the change in customer behaviour by building something outside of the core company.

This is true in our experience, we have worked swiftly with our clients, increasing their business building capacity in digital.

This has taken a range of forms, from re-engineering blocked and over-subscribed customer management routes, to creating blended services that move seamlessly between on site, voice, virtual hubs, digital messaging and homeworking.

They also highlight the potential for growth in remote service providers, which I can certainly confirm, and that data visionaries are finding ways through analytics and automation to use new types and sources of data to generate value. We have been a long-term proponent of this, with several blogs and whitepapers creating conversation and tracking innovation in this field.

  1. How can you lock in the benefits of a more agile operating model to increase the metabolic rate of your business?

McKinsey asserts that the very nature of the crisis has required teams to act quickly amidst uncertainty and react to changing situations. This was certainly true for us, and we immediately established a high-level rapid response unit to handle the major crisis decisions, while creating an agile and cascading level of responsibility to prevent our senior teams from becoming overwhelmed.  This allowed us to react across countries with one voice, while adapting to what was a rapidly changing set of international parameters and regulations.

Our senior leaders create flexible strategies based on current research and highly probable outcomes, always keeping real-time customer data at the top of the decision tree.

An incredible amount of momentum was reached and we have certainly benefited from clarity of focus, something which I will endeavour to sustain, and I have a renewed depth of confidence in the commitment and flexibility of all our people.

In the post-COVID digital world, Webhelp’s Think Human positioning has never been more relevant. Digital technology has been an enabler rather than a barrier to human connection during the lockdown. Separated families and friends of all generations have kept in touch over video calls and communities have mobilised over social media to support the vulnerable and key workers on the frontline.

As Dave Pattman also points out:

“It would be a mistake for organisations to assume that they can or should seek to remove all human interaction with customers. The value for Webhelp is going to be found in helping our clients to simultaneously digitise the human and humanise the digital.”

How should you rethink your talent strategy so that you have the people you need when the recovery starts?

Recruiting and retaining the right people is absolutely key to the successful growth of any campaign or company.  Our commitment to make business more human drives us to deliver an exemplary people strategy – something that we genuinely pride ourselves on – this will no doubt continue to evolve in the recovery stage, post-COVID.

Melanie Buckley, Director of Employee Value Proposition & Engagement Programmes UK, India and South Africa, points out that flexibility is again the key here saying:

“We have moved from being reliant on our people reading key business messaging in work hours on the company intranet, to posting on closed Facebook groups that they can access any time of the day or night from the comfort of their own home. After all; good communication between the company and your people works both ways.

Being highly visible ‘where they live’ online (like social networks) also helps us to bond with our people as a brand, by sharing their successes and recognising their hard work.”

This topic deserves a blog – or a series - in its own right. And, as a people first company this is something that we will be bringing to you in the near future. In the meantime I will leave you some insight from Gillian Campbell, Chief People Officer UK Region & Director Global Engagement for Webhelp:

 “When developing our employer value proposition over the past year, we took the time to understand what is attractive to employees from different backgrounds and levels of experience. This endeavour is a cycle of continuous engagement, feedback and improvement, through which we identify areas for growth in the existing employee experience. Moreover, our investment in our employer brand is paying off – it’s helped us to attract and to retain the right people.”

  1. What investments are the most necessary to create the technology environment that will allow your company to thrive in the next normal?

Investment in technology infrastructure is absolutely critical.

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.

As we became aware of the impact of COVID-19, we took steps on the logistical front to reinforce our strong digital framework, and this continued as the crisis progressed. We did this both practically: improving, increasing and securing our network capacity, and with rapid digital innovation, creating bespoke solutions for our clients – which were delivered alongside the substantial task of moving 40,000 colleagues to homeworking.

The result has been the provision of a truly responsive range of solutions, a journey which hasn’t been without challenges, some of which Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, for the Webhelp UK region, reveals in her recent blog.

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.

It’s becoming very clear that success for any organisation will only be achieved through combining the right technology with a human mindset and strong digital strategy.

Digital strategy now has an almost universal impact on maintaining business continuity, and CEO’s need to both invest in and maintain their digital ecosystems across the board, making sure that data service providers and all respective technologies create a streamlined experience.

However, many businesses are not yet ready as Mark Palmer, CEO at Gobeyond Partners explains:

“Prior to COVID-19, there was a misperception of digital maturity across many sectors. As the crisis took hold, the world turned wholly digital, almost overnight. The varied level of response has exposed the lack of capability and flexibility inherent in many organisations. For brands to survive, leaders can no longer pay lip service to digital transformation. Digital needs to be fully integrated into their overall operating model”

Shockingly, before COVID 79% of businesses reported that they were still in the early stages of digital transformation, and this crisis will have been a huge wakeup call.

The world has moved online, and it looks like it will stay there indefinitely.
Business need to act fast – or risk becoming obsolete.

Click here to discover more about our transformative range of services or read more from Mark at gobeyondpartners.com

 


240,000 Webhelp honeybees support biodiversity on World Environment Day

As communities the world over contemplate the challenge of biodiversity loss — the theme of this year’s World Environment Day — customer experience provider Webhelp is settling into its role of bee guardianship, with nearly a quarter of a million of the buzzing creatures residing happily at its office sites in Sheffield and Kilmarnock. The beehive initiative has been supporting local biodiversity since 2018 in partnership with Plan Bee Ltd.

Fast facts: 

  • World Environment Day has taken place every 5th June since 1974
  • Webhelp hosts 4 beehives at 2 sites, with approximately 60,000 bees in each hive

While most Webhelp employees have been working from home as a result of COVID-19, the bees have been travelling as far as three miles from their Webhelp hives in order to pollenate surrounding plants. Together, the four Webhelp hives produce an average of 40kg of honey per year — the weight of approximately 14 bricks!

Commenting on World Environment Day, Cameron West, Webhelp’s Environmental Coordinator, said:

“The invaluable role of honeybees in the ecosystem cannot be overstated. As well as pollinating more than one third of the food that we eat, bee pollination helps to provide habitats for all flora and fauna. As an environmentally conscious employer, we believe we have a responsibility to enhance the global bee population, and we are very proud to help support local biodiversity. Having our bees on site allows our people to engage with them and gives them the knowledge and confidence to have bees in their own garden.”


Customer engagement insight for 2020 and beyond

In recent months digital communication has become much more prevalent and is now essential to many global sectors, so Andrew Hall, Director of Strategic Engagements, Webhelp UK region, takes a look at how this is having an impact on the evolving customer engagement landscape.

The onset of COVID-19 has made it imperative for many of us to live and breathe on digital platforms. As this switch has become firmly embedded in our behaviour patterns, four distinct themes have emerged in the customer engagement arena, which are likely to become even more relevant over the next 12 months.

Exceptional Delivery

There are two golden rules for creating customer engagement: Make it easy. Make it exceptional. The need for exceptionality across sectors is driven by twin imperatives; to create added value and provide positive differentiation.

In short, making the experience exceptional can set you apart from competitors and increase business. Achieving exceptional quality experience across all channels will pay dividends, as David Turner UK regional CEO for Webhelp UK region remarks:

“Thinking carefully about your customer journey is becoming far more important than just designing how to deliver great service – it may in fact be essential for the survival of your business.”

The power of transformation

Harnessing the power of digital transformation is, arguably, the best pivot point on which to leverage changes in customer behaviour and embed positive relationships with consumers. Times have changed radically from the fixed model of voice delivered after-sales customer service. Customers now have a wealth of choices in the ways they can interact with brands. Companies that fail to embrace transformation and don’t work hard to maintain the right content and context right across the entire customer journey, will put themselves at serious disadvantage.

Flexibility in channels and operations

The customer engagement layer - the point at which your consumers have contact with the business, can now take multiple forms. This can be purely automated contact, like chatbots and online ecommerce or via blended human and AI platforms like messaging or social media, or with the traditional telephone advisor - who will always be needed for cases that require human insight and empathy.

However, customers now expect 24/7 contact, and an omni-channel model is now considered the norm, along with the latest mobile messaging services! And of course it is more effective to seek out and speak to your customers on their digital home ground – rather than wait for them to find you!

Results focused

It’s becoming very clear that customer engagement benefits from increased focus on long-term customer value, retention and engagement measures. Good future planning, the adoption of digital technologies and customer design thinking, can help to realise vision and deliver strategies to accelerate innovation and improve customer experience.

Webhelp Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Helen Murray, considers the best way to use engagement measures to drive performance:

“Evidence, no matter how well researched, cannot create engaged and loyal customers on its own – instead, it must inspire digital transformation and top-down strategies. Which in turn must then be embraced at every part of the customer journey. I know from experience, this is not something which can happen overnight, it takes investment, passion and the right insight.”

Together these four pillars can support customer loyalty and advocacy, creating a substantial competitive advantage. There is a huge benefit to be found in designing and embedding the right experience for your customers.

Find out more about how the game is changing for customer experience markets and channels here, delve into our service catalogue here, or look me up on LinkedIn, where I would be delighted to read your thoughts and questions.

 

 

 


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