Customers increasingly expect responsible business practices

Our research shows 78% of leaders expect additional scrutiny on how they operate since the pandemic.

Responsibility, transparency, and trust are now perceived to be more important than they were prior to the pandemic.

Our research shows 78% of leaders agreed that customers were paying closer attention to how responsible their business practices are, compared to before the COVID-19 crisis.

It highlights the needs for brands to be more human in their service delivery – looking after colleagues’ wellbeing, supporting emotionally intelligent conversations with customers, and building a genuine connection which can effectively address customer needs.

This research, carried out by Gobeyond Partners and Webhelp, covered 500 senior business leaders and has been used to make recommendations on how service should be reimagined to better meet customer needs.

Mark Palmer, CEO of Gobeyond Partners comments on the findings:

“When considering the seismic changes that COVID-19 has already driven for businesses on a global level, it is heartening to note that many brands have responded remarkably; adapting to rapidly shifting consumer demands and rethinking propositions at unprecedented pace.

“However, some have also suffered significant damage too. Certainly, at the start of lockdown, social media feeds were awash with examples of brands accused of behaving irresponsibly and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by their customers.

“As organisations rush to respond to changing consumer behaviour and working practices, by making much-needed technology and operating model changes, our research highlights the importance of doing this in a responsible, and human way.”

Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer at Webhelp Group continues:

“Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a major shift when it comes to the health and wellbeing, and of course, the safety of team members. However perhaps more interestingly customers have been paying even more attention to how companies deliver on this.

“We have already seen, and indeed will continue to see, a new more “responsible” behavioural shift, with more empathy for those at the front line. This in turn will place more pressure on businesses to deliver on responsible human work practices and ensure this is communicated as part of their customer journey.

“Never before has there been a greater need to demonstrate transparency and create genuine and deep emotional connections with customers and colleagues.”

Whilst technology and a rapidly changing environment is transforming service, it’s clear that people and the human experience will still make the crucial difference in delivering a world-leading customer experience.

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?

By combining Webhelp’s expertise in global customer management with Gobeyond

Partners’ customer-journey design, alongside our research with 500 senior business leaders, we’ve provided a unique perspective in our #servicereimagined white paper.


What will motivate the customers of the future?

Successful brands all have at least one thing in common, they clearly understand what customers want, and can pinpoint the most effective way to deliver their products and customer services to meet that need. Here we talk to industry experts from both the Webhelp UK Region and our co-brand Gobeyond Partners to find out how the consumer landscape is changing and what this transformation will mean for customer experience.

Customer behavior is changing, how can businesses build interactions and services to adapt to this change?

Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Webhelp UK:

Knowledge will be the key.

It’s absolutely essential that organisations understand their customer’s journeys and identify how these have changed as behaviours and expectations have shifted as a result of the crisis.

For example, it’s clear that the face of retail has changed, perhaps forever, with many brands catering to a larger, more mixed demographic who are now adopting e-commerce as their new normal. We are all shopping more frequently online and avoiding the store experience. [1]

Subsequently, companies who establish a real depth of consumer knowledge and who uncover and meet their customer’s core motivations and expectations at relevant points on the service path, are the most likely to succeed moving forwards.

Mark Palmer, CEO, Gobeyond Partners

Transformation in consumer trends and actions will become a natural driving force in the evolution of business processes. Being able to identify behavioural change undertaken by a specific demographic and how this relates to failures (and opportunities) in the service process, will be crucial in shifting the dial.

As will identifying how and where to integrate technology to fully support the end-to-end journey and drive a peak customer experience.

What are the stumbling blocks business should be aware of when creating enhanced customer relationships to build recovery?

Mark Palmer, CEO, Gobeyond Partners

Investment in new infrastructure, more advanced service models and increased data capture and analysis will be prerequisite for sustainable recovery. However, speaking realistically, finding working capital to deliver these solutions may be an issue for brands already suffering from economic pressure due to the pandemic.

The ability to make agile business decisions will be imperative and to minimise risk it is absolutely essential that investment is focused in the right places.

Dave Pattman, MD CX Services, Gobeyond Partners

Added to this, consumer confidence is still fragile – although the UK index rose slightly over the summer[2] – and early signs of recovery stand in the shadow of the second wave of the pandemic, now projected to hit Europe hard in the colder months ahead.

Obviously, brands are now challenged to create viable forecasts against shifting consumer demand, and to be adequately resourced to meet them. In this uncertain climate decisions on pivot points such as when to recruit to meet demand and when to reduce outlay become much more abstract and theoretical.

There will be an increased need for increased online services & intelligent automation to meet these fluctuations economically and to increase flexibility and response rates.

How can brands use innovative digital thinking to respond to new consumer attitudes?

Mark Palmer, CEO, Gobeyond Partners

Our recent Whitepaper revealed that, to reorient and flourish in the new consumer landscape, brands must become more adaptable, focused, digital and human. Of these four pillars, the need to become more digital is perhaps the easiest for brands to understand, but the hardest to deliver in a meaningful way.

They know that new online citizens are emerging and that the world of work has undergone a radical change, but they may have difficulty identifying the pain points that this transformation will bring to their customer journeys – and how and where to embed the most useful digital offerings to best address them.

They must seek out resources to help laser focus their efforts to deliver rapid, effective change – and make the most out of their limited resources.

Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Webhelp UK:

Many organisations will be exposed due to their lack of digital literacy and will struggle to create effective engagement strategies that ensure they maximise the power of digital intervention at the relevant points in customer lifecycle.

If you don’t thoroughly understand the customer journey, it is difficult to automate or digitise processes in a way that will positively impact customer experience. There is also a danger that you may jeopardise future ability to offer additional propositions, products and services in the best window for action.

Customer insight must be embedded throughout the whole digital transformation process, as it provides the basis to offer intelligent next best action tools.

At Webhelp, we are identifying where human support adds value to digital experiences. Providing guidance and support to customers and brands during high value, complex and emotionally important journeys is critical.

Dave Pattman, MD CX Services, Gobeyond Partners

Brands that honestly seek to innovate have to be willing to supersede ‘faceless’ digital experiences and really connect with their customers. Technology is changing the way service is approached, created and delivered, but the juxtaposition of advanced technology and the human touch, must be carefully managed to enhance rather than hinder customer experience. Success will only be achieved through combining the right technology with a human mindset and strong digital strategy.

Finally, the time has come for brands to let go of dated and limiting legacy technologies and infrastructure, which are often swept under the carpet of the digital transformation roadmap. Failure to do this will put them at a serious disadvantage, as innovators will swiftly build the future of service without them.

[1] Forbes

[2] research-live.com GfK Consumer Confidence Index


Reimagining Service: Insurance spotlight

COVID-19 has dramatically impacted millions of lives and fundamentally changed the direction of the global economy, but what are the emerging implications for the insurance industry, which is currently inundated with enquires and claims across all area of cover?


Half a million UK businesses have shut down, 20% of the workforce furloughed and revenue expectations and profitability has been severely reduced. Whilst insurance was less visibly impacted than sectors like travel and tourism, 2020 losses are still estimated at a considerable $200bn globally. Survival has now become a medium-term question and with the expectation of legal challenges, consolidation and increased loss ratios, radical changes are on the horizon.

Flexibility and speed of response has created frontrunners, and interestingly, type of risk alone is not dictating the level of impact. This now hinges on multiple factors, including leadership, culture, digital maturity, and the way organisations have designed their operating model.

What's next?

There are some emerging characteristics for success, the most obvious perhaps being the critical business continuity provided by investing in supported homeworking, which has in many cases helped to increase productivity and decrease advisor attrition. A heightened focus on swift regulatory compliance and vigour in commitment to operational resilience has also been a crucial factor.

It’s clear that shifting business to digital platforms has created much needed traction too, but this reactionary approach must now become mature, otherwise it will continue to deliver fragmented and frustrating customer journeys. And, companies that invest in mitigating the human impact of the pandemic will reap the benefits in public perception and employee commitment and satisfaction.

Often borne out of necessity (like car or business insurance) or for peace of mind, like home and personal cover, insurance can coincide with major life events that carry a deep emotional impact, so concentrating on relationship building and platforms that inspire trust will help brands to build better experiences and drive scale.

Humanising, streamlining and redesigning operating models should remain high on the insurance transformation agenda, as a critical fulcrum for engaging and creating the customer loyalty. Insurance must now build on the momentum of change generated to thrive and ensure genuine longevity, in this new and challenging world.

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


Reimagining Service: retail spotlight

The existing retail transformation agenda has been radically altered. And, while doors are now reopening following what could be the toughest ever period of trading, it is clear that the sector has been hugely impacted by the current crisis.

Many bricks and mortar stores (and even entire portfolios) are still teetering on the brink, so reduced footfall coupled with social distancing measures may render them un-viable. Government intervention may help in the medium term but, as cash reserves dwindle, insolvencies and consolidation will rise.

For multichannel retailers, digital growth has helped to subsidise bricks and mortar revenue. However those behind the curve on the digital agenda will suffer the most, with w-commerce and mixed model adoption (like click and collect) becoming a huge priority. Emerging winners will need established robust digital channels, a modern and scalable attitude to customer service, and have less exposure to costly store portfolios.

What's next?

Brick and mortar focused organisations will have to work much harder for success, as profit margins decrease. Options include undergoing restructuring, investing in omni-channel approaches, or exploring experiential outlets. But, ultimately, retailers must understand how to recreate brand and human experiences digitally.

Obsolete legacy retail teams must merge with digital teams for the benefit of the consumer and, importantly, new digital should not be layered onto an outdated operating model or “broken” customer journeys. Ideally, companies should be rethinking their new world customer experience from the ground up.

Delivering a seamless, consistent service through a blended home/office model will be a difficult balance to strike, especially as moving forward employees and customers will become less forgiving. So, being human and transparent has never been more important – but a laser-focus must remain on performance management and repeatable customer experience, irrespective of location and model.

This may be a tall order for those retailers with limited transformation funds, already reeling from the current shock. However, the first lesson in retail is to begin with a deep understanding of your customers: harnessing existing data and insight and ensuring that expertise and exemplary practices are in place when building new journeys, will be the best starting point for retailers to succeed on their digital journey.

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

 


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


Trends 2020 – Connected vehicles: data sharing will benefit all players!

 

Car manufacturers are in a paradoxical situation: they are bringing back huge amounts of data from vehicles without fully exploiting or sharing it. Yet, the PTOLEMUS Consulting Group's Vehicle Data Market Global Study report reveals there are high stakes in opening up this ecosystem as manufacturers, motorists and third parties would have a lot to gain. The customer experience could be completely transformed - in compliance with current regulations. Manufacturers must act now, otherwise the exploitation of this data will be done without them.

To gather further insights into transforming the customers experience in mobility services, we interview Frédéric Bruneteau's, President of PTOLEMUS Consulting Group, who has over 20 years' experience in mobility services, becoming one of the worlds foremost experts in the field of connected vehicles. Our Director of the Telecom & High Tech BU at Webhelp,

 

Why did you launch this study on vehicle data?

Frédéric Bruneteau:  The market was close to maturity on the strategic issue of vehicle data, and on the opportunities for value creation offered by their sharing. This hypothesis was confirmed during the 50 interviews that many international automotive professionals gave us, in 18 countries.

I should point out that the study does not only concern car manufacturers, since we studied 8 vertical mobility markets, including: fleet management, car rental and car sharing, payment from the vehicle, car maintenance (remote or local), car insurance, etc.

In the end, these 8 months of work allowed us to better estimate the fantastic data production of the vehicle, current and future, and its fundamental economic stakes. The 600-page report covers the period 2018-2030, and proposes case studies from 7 manufacturers who already share their data.

 

How is vehicle data produced and what is the role of Vehicle Data Hubs?

Frédéric Bruneteau:  FirstlyI would like to point out cars are already producing phenomenal amounts of data, and with good reason.There are a good hundred sensors in a vehicle, and there are more lines of code in the computer programs that manage it than in those of an Airbus.

To take advantage of this data, new platforms are appearing today,these are the Vehicle Data Hubs (VDH).

These are sometimes traditional players who have gradually taken an interest in vehicle data and its use, such as insurance (LexisNexis, Verisk) or maintenance (CCC) providers. These players have been exchanging data with manufacturers for several years now within the scope of their original business which makes them specialists.

In addition, we have recently seen the emergence of more generalist players, such as Wejo, Otonomo and Caruso. Their approach is first and foremost to serve carmakers and open up their data to the rest of the world, in all verticals.

 

What are the current and future business models for exploiting this data?

Frédéric Bruneteau:  The data generated by a rolling vehicle is of all types: traffic information, incident and accident detection, maintenance data, conditions and modes of use, etc.

Some data takes on a special meaning, and therefore value when crossed intelligently. For example, some VDHs are already doing this and can thus determine which lane on a 3 or 4-lane road runs best. This information can be monetized in different ways.

Another example: for an insurer, interesting data can be retrieved from the vehicle, such as distances travelled, as well as risk levels;depending on whether one is driving during the day rather than at night, on the highway rather than on the road, etc.,this makes it possible to build different billing models based on usage.

However, in this insurance niche, suppliers of electronic boxes are already positioned to provide this data; competing solutions also exist, based on the mobile phone. In other words, car manufacturers are already ‘short-circuited' in these business models. This should make them aware of the value of the data they collect...

More generally, the automotive ecosystem is particularly large and diverse, with dealerships, repairers, accessory dealers, leasers, and a multitude of equipment and service providers.

All of these players have a strong interest in accessing vehicle data to create all kinds of business models.

Jalil Lahlou: I would simply add that vehicle data can create a lot of value, as long as it can be coupled with user data. The latter are now being exploited in a very relevant way, based on data analytics.

On the basis of this cross-referencing of vehicle-driver data, loyalty and personalisation actions can be imagined. For example, for a manufacturer, this opens up opportunities for range renewal: the sales pitch to a driver would be much more relevant, since we would be aware of his real uses.

In other words, this opens up opportunities for upsell: sale of complementary options, mobility products and services, etc.

For example, a good knowledge of the driver and his or her uses would make it possible to recommend other products - such as the purchase of an electric scooter for a very urban, short-distance, environmentally conscious user.

In a loyalty and renewal framework, the proposal for a replacement vehicle could be based on reliable bases (age of the vehicle, kilometres travelled, repurchase value of the vehicle, etc.).

These practices are highly developed in telecoms. Conversely, today, manufacturers find it very difficult to keep track of a vehicle's life.

More generally, this cross-referencing of vehicle-driver data would lead to the emergence of new types of prospects and customers, highly relevant to the automotive and mobility ecosystem. Subject, of course, to strict compliance with regulations in force, such as the RGPD, and the rejection of dubious practices of the dark pattern type.

 

How important is consent to the use of vehicle data?

Frédéric Bruneteau:  This is one of the most important questions - how will this consent be granted, and renewed on a regular basis? Some data will not be personal data - anonymised traffic data, for example,but others will fall within this legal perimeter, such as geolocation data.

Significant efforts will therefore have to be made in terms of transparency and education, so that users see their interest in this exploitation of their vehicle data.

This is the sine qua non of consent, whether one-off or more permanent.

 

Which segments are affected by the use of vehicle data?

Frédéric Bruneteau:  Based on the study, 4 segments can be distinguished:

-company cars, which in some markets account for around 50% of new car sales (Belgium, England...),

-new cars - the majority of which in Europe are purchased by people over 50 years of age, this population being users of digital products and services,

-second-hand cars which often lack a digital link to the manufacturer or other players,

as for the digital natives, they see the world without owning a car. However, they are looking for mobility and carpooling solutions from their mobiles. Neither do they have a digital link with the manufacturer or other players.

As you can imagine, each of these segments has its own challenges in terms of the customer experience

JL: As far as new vehicles sold in Europe are concerned, regulations require them to be equipped with the eCall emergency call system.

Here too, cross-vehicle driver knowledge creates new opportunities in customer care such as premium support:support that could concern the optimised use of the vehicle, or a ‘concierge’ type service for vehicle maintenance and to make the driver's life easier, for example.

Preventive maintenance services are also possible on these bases.

Generally speaking, these 4 segments could all benefit from a much-improved customer experience and customer relations.

 

You advocate a model for sharing vehicle data., what are your arguments?

Frédéric Bruneteau:  As I pointed out, cars already produce a considerable amount of data flow, and the trend will increase in the future since all new models in Europe are connected. Yet, paradoxically, these gigabytes of data are hardly ever shared with third parties.

Here, a comparison must be made as data from mobile phones has been widely shared and used for a long time.

There is a strategic challenge in sharing vehicle data to offer drivers new services and a richer, more satisfying experience.

Apple has just announced its intention to use vehicle data (in partnership with BMW) to launch a digital solution for Car Keys - to open the door of a car purchased, rented, or  borrowed with an iPhone.

This enables manufacturers to implement this service for car users so they can easily access the car  using their Apple mobile device.

How can manufacturers create a mechanism for third parties to access vehicle data?

Frédéric Bruneteau:  The manufacturers we interviewed already have ideas or solutions.

The general idea is to design a platform model that allows targeted access to certain data, with the necessary consents. Each platform would be linked to a manufacturer on the one hand and to third parties on the other.

Of course, there are already some implementations that correspond to this model at some manufacturers, for example BMW or General Motors, but they are still only on a small scale.

So one of the key conclusions of the study is that the most efficient way to go to scale in vehicle data management would be to use specialised players. These have the expertise to create data hubs, and to make them available to thousands of players. This is the purpose of GM's investment in Wejo and Nissan's investment in Otonomo.

What do you think of Apple and Google's App Store model?

Frédéric Bruneteau:  It is indeed the model of app stores, as it was developed for smartphones. Millions of developers can thus create applications, often useful and with high added value.

Our analysis and our bet is this model will eventually prevail, due to a great market demand and the solidity of the model.

Moreover, Silicon Valley has proven ithat by putting customer data at the centre of the organization, we solve all the problems of an industry or service!

Finally, it is very likely that a regulation will be put in place on these subjects, in Europe and the United States in the next 2 or 3 years, and we must anticipate this.

Will manufacturers be able to draw inspiration from the success of Apple and Google?

That would be the start of a new era!

 

 

 


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.


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.


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

 


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.

Customer engagement insight

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.