Whitepaper launch: Reimagining service for the new world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is time to tear up outdated plans and explore new and evolving needs which will drive future service development and innovation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] www.dma.org.uk

[2] www.sonomaecologycenter.org


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In just 14 days we achieved:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking to the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Britishcouncil.org

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

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


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


How the game is changing for CX markets and channels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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