Webhelp partners with Microsoft to stimulate economic growth in Egypt

Webhelp and Microsoft Egypt 2

Webhelp, a global leader in customer experience and business solutions, recently entered a partnership with Microsoft to create 200 jobs in Cairo, Egypt.

An official agreement was signed with a joint mission to grow the Webhelp Egypt business to 1,000 employees by the end of 2021 and expand to more than 4,000 employees over the next three years.

Driven by its vision to make business more human, Webhelp is committed to increasing diversity and investing in programs to promote education and integration in the more than 50 countries where it operates. Already a major employer in Africa and northern Africa, Webhelp is committed to growing its sustainable investments on a global scale.

The news comes after Webhelp signed a three-year agreement with Egypt’s Information Technology Development Authority (ITIDA) to invest EGP 200M into job creation, technical skill enhancement, and economic growth. In line with Webhelp’s impact sourcing initiatives, ITIDA aims to create intensive job opportunities for highly qualified Egyptian youth in information technology products and services.

Last Thursday, Amr Mahfouz, President of ITIDA, Mirna Arif, General Manager of Microsoft Egypt, Vincent Bernard, Group Chief Operating Officer, Etienne Turion, CEO of Webhelp Enterprise, and Alaa El Khishen, Webhelp Egypt CEO, witnessed the event at the official Ministry of Communications and Information Technology office in Egypt.

Microsoft and Webhelp’s collaboration will support remote presales and sales services of Microsoft digital transformation solutions to small and medium enterprise businesses. Webhelp’s enterprise practice has developed strong partnerships with major tech players globally, thanks to its strong expertise in B2B sales in this key sector. This agreement strengthens Microsoft and Webhelp Egypt’s future ambition to generate job opportunities to spur growth and prosperity in the region.

Mirna Arif, Country Manager, Microsoft Egypt, said:

“Our partnership with Webhelp will enable job creation, enhance skills and support our country’s growth story in the post-pandemic era. As we continue to empower public and private organizations across the country to achieve their digital agendas, we will continue to strengthen Egypt’s position as the destination of choice for attracting global investments.”

Vincent Bernard, Group Chief Operating Officer, announced:

“We are proud that thanks to our enterprise expertise and global way of working, we have become a trusted partner of a major player like Microsoft. Our partnership will become part of Webhelp’s ESG initiative to empower new generations through offering the opportunity to become trained and internationally certified in pre-sales services, digital sales, and sales channels. In the coming years, we have plans to invest further in opportunities for youth in Egypt.”

Webhelp and Microsoft Egypt

Debt collection and people

Collection of overdue payments: effective and people-friendly solutions based on Commitment, Innovation and Solidarity

Debt collection and people

In a difficult social context, a new model for collecting overdue payments is needed. More people-friendly, but no less effective, the new model has three focuses: Engagement, Innovation and Solidarity, as explained during a Smart Session given by Franck Etienne, General Manager of Collections Services – Customer Financial Experience products at Webhelp Payment Services.

Methods of collecting overdue payments are changing. They are adapting to a difficult social context, scarred by both an economic and a medical crisis. For businesses, the situation is worrying and delicate: what’s the best way to make it work? In-house or with a specialist partner?

Experience shows it is wise to re-organise the model around three focuses: Commitment, Innovation and Solidarity.

 

1. Commitment: to make collection advisors more effective

As professionals, collection advisors are accountable for the advice they provide, i.e. what they say to a client. Ultimately, this responsibility falls on the partner company. So the initial training and then daily coaching of these teams is crucially important.

Every day, these advisors are dealing with people who are struggling or unwilling to pay. So they are “on the front line”, displaying the brand image of the company seeking payment. Therefore, the advisors need to be extremely careful when using the three traditional phases – case analysis, listening and finding solutions! In addition, monitoring, listening and measuring systems need to be set up and properly managed.

Overall, the advisor must feel fully accountable and committed to his actions, completely consistent with his colleagues and managers and within the “spirit of the brand”.

From the customer’s viewpoint, it would be inadmissible for the credit company to provide responses which varied with the contact person or the communication channel (email, mail, SMS, etc.).

This concept of advisors’ professional commitment must be reconciled with the concept of trust.

Typically, the business of collection starts with fairly rigid call scripts. Exchanges between the advisor and the client are structured as they progress – which is very reassuring for a newly recruited advisor, for example.

However, switching as quickly as possible to other methods, such as the mind map,is recommended. This very practical and powerful technique makes it possible to visualise the client’s thoughts and behaviours. It is a live, adaptable method that benefits from exchanges between the various parties involved. This free flow of ideas makes it possible to emulate and constantly improve, increasing the competence and confidence of advisors – which ultimately results in greater efficiency.

And of course, in a context of working from home, whether hybrid or full time, this concept of trust between advisors and managers has become a key point of collective efficiency – the manager’s adaptability also being crucially important.

This new organisational situation will probably be perpetuated in many companies, the aim being a “triple win'” where everyone benefits: employee, creditor and end customer.

To meet this commitment challenge, a healthy trust between employee and manager needs to be put in place, rather than “command and control”!

 

2. Innovation: so that the advisor optimises the collection strategy

Too often, the keyword “innovation” is associated with new digital tools. This should not be exclusive: social innovation must remain the priority, as technology is there to be used for human performance.

For example, when carrying out data management analysis for our customers, we study many variables: profiles of overdue customers, behaviours and reactions to requests, analysis of reachability, creditworthiness, payments, etc.

In our experience, for this data analysis to be effective, it must be cross-referenced with analysis of the actual experiences of advisors and their managers.

What we find is that, over and above raw and quantitative data, it is the quality of the human interaction that makes the difference.

Thus the advisor has a key role in realising and optimising brand strategy. However, it should not in any circumstance be considered rigid, definitive and mechanically employed in a “top down” manner.

To return to the concept of technological innovation, let’s not forget we are now at the stage of enhanced advisor. This means the advisor can rely on a variety of automated business process solutions (or RAP for Robotic Automisation Process).

In practice, some repetitive or low value-added tasks are handled automatically, either totally or partially. This usually but not always refers to back office areas.

For example, there are real-time monitoring and re-transcription systems for conversations between advisor and client. They provide indicators that tell you about the quality of the conversation, such as its emotional content.

These monitoring tools can also offer the advisor tools to help with decision-making or discussion.

However, these tools should be studied or implemented with care. Within the Webhelp Group, experiments are underway, particularly in Nordic countries.

Measuring the implementation costs for these solutions is essential. In addition to direct costs associated with the acquisition and technical operation of these solutions, there are organisational costs to be included. These enhanced advisor solutions require very specific HR and managerial support. Careful preparation and then testing are required to create the expected added value!

Finally, technological innovation also applies to the omni-channel advisor. This advisor no longer only handles outgoing calls; he also handles incoming calls, emails, chat conversations, and sometimes even mail. This has led to the growing importance of writing in recruitment and training processes for collection advisors.

3. Solidarity: for empathetic support in line with brand values

Solidarity is traditionally defined by concepts of “social duty, reciprocal obligation, help and assistance, courteous collaboration between people in a community… “.

The brand must position itself clearly in relation to this fundamental value. This is even a priority in certain professions, such as mutual organisations and insurance companies for example.

And so in 2021, and probably in 2022, the brand will ask the question: “how are we to approach our clients who are suffering hardship in such a stressful social, health and economic context?”.

For its part, for several years now Webhelp Payment Services has been working in partnership with Crésus,a federation of 24 regional associations. Their mission is to help people who are in over-indebted or suffering financial problems. They also play a role in providing information on excessive debt and its prevention.

For example, this partnership has made it possible to measure people’s level of fragility in order to inform collection services and allow referral to appropriate support services.

In certain sectors of activity, this value of solidarity also enables the brand to play an advisory role–going as far as providing coaching. In addition, experiments between Crésus and Webhelp Payment Services will be extended during 2021.

Similarly, the idea of solidarity applies to teams of advisors engaged in a collective effort to improve service and share best practice.

To sum up, although there is a certain amount to be collected, it is possible – and probably desirable – to bring people into the relationship, while relying on technologies and tools that enhance that relationship.

It is also this empathy and this search for human solutions that over time will lead to a good and lasting relationship with the customer and a positive brand image! A relationship to everyone’s benefit!

 

To find out more about this topic


Digital empowerment for future leaders

At Webhelp, our motto is “Think human.” That means putting our people first. It means helping them to make the most of their individual talents, to innovate and take risks, and to help each other grow and thrive. To become passionate game changers, and the future of our industry.

Digital adoption is a huge part of that. We believe that a shift to digital ways of working, properly delivered, serves to assist our people in finding their potential. With that in mind, over recent years the Organisational Development team has transformed our management development programmes, with digital enhancements at the centre, to enable our leaders to be the best they can be.

Virtual Classroom

Back in 2018, we upskilled our Management Development Consultants to design, develop and deliver virtual classrooms using virtual software. The goal was to shift the Management Development modules – traditionally only delivered in a face to face environment – into a virtual classroom approach.

To date, the team have facilitated over 160 Virtual Classroom sessions to an audience of over 1000 managers, translating to 2468 hours of learning investment. Not only did this allow us to swiftly pivot our approach when the Covid-19 crisis forced organisations to embrace remote working, the shift to digital training has led to a far greater reach of management development consultants to our managers, which has in turn increased the volume of development available. And we are seeing the results.. Over the past 4 years, the rating of our managers by our front line advisors has increased year-on-year, and is one of the highest rated responses across all sections of our annual employee survey.

We continue to refine and improve our offering and are proud to say that  our people can now receive the same industry-leading training with a 50% reduction in learning investment time.  They also have more flexibility in when and how they access the learning they need.

Virtual Roadshow

One perhaps less obvious impact of lockdown has been on how we can communicate with our people. It’s incredibly important to us that our people feel informed about the learning opportunities that are open to them, and with our usual face to face opportunities off the table, we needed a new solution.

And that is where Virtual Roadshow comes in.. To create awareness and excitement about the ehancements the Organisational Development team have been making over the last couple of years, we will be talking virtually to all operational leaders and support colleagues over the course of the next few months. We have complemented this roadshow with an innovative, interactive digital booklet, complete with informative videos on all programmes and learning opportunities breaking down all the important developments across the business. This allows colleauges to digest this and reflect on what it means for them as and when they chose.

We are proud to be transforming the learner experience, and have already seen the benefits it’s bringing. Taking a unique approach to showcasing our management development products through our interactive booklet truly demonstrates the digital capabilities we have developed.  I’m excited for the new possibilities that this gives us, as we continue to grow and transform.

Judith Ferguson, Director, People Business Partnering & Organisational Development – UK, South Africa & India

Social learning

As part of our Leadership Development Suite, we set out to revolutionise our learning & development proposition, by providing high-end, blended and self-directed learning options for our people. When COVID hit in March 2020, we wanted to find a way to support our managers rapidly, and enable not only open communication, but a community approach to solving problems. We wanted managers to support other managers, and learn from each other.

Our solution was to provide open access to our Leadership Development suite, with over 85 learning programmes currently available. We’ve created a fully virtual solution in the form of a Social Learning community, enhancing communication, and allowing over 900 colleagues (and counting) to find and organically share their learning and information. This allows for years of experience to be fed right back into the business, for those who know to share with those who want to know.

We’ve made some significant changes, both before and during lockdown, to our ways of working. We’ve changed how we develop our people. We’ve changed how we engage with our people.

These changes have helped us to keep connected through learning during lockdown. More significantly, though, they’ve given our people the tools they need to help each other grow. They’ve helped make personal development open and available for everyone, regardless of their role or location.

Interested in finding out more about our journey?  Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Webhelp named as leader by NelsonHall for Customer Care and Sales Capability

 

Webhelp was recognized as a leader in NelsonHall’s 2021 Vendor Evaluation & Assessment Tool (NEAT) for our exceptional customer care and sales capability on social media. We were also ranked highly for our online reputation management, content moderation, and trust and safety capabilities, validating our teams’ ongoing dedication to support our global partners’ customers and brand reputation. 

NelsonHall recently published a social media customer experience (CX) services profile highlighting Webhelp’s capabilities, specialization, and technology enablement. The profile also touches upon our people-first approach to ensuring the health and wellness of our team members.

Ivan Kotzev, lead CX analyst and author of the report, stated:

“In the breakneck dynamic of social media content moderation, Webhelp maintains a strong position with a combination of proprietary moderation and agent assistance platforms, strategic partnership, investments in employee wellbeing and resilience, and industry-specific services.”

NelsonHall’s custom report presents the NEAT vendor evaluation findings for social media CX services in the Customer Care & Sales Capability market segment, displaying a graph of our performance analyzing our social media CX services and the latest market trends.

Besides our solid B2B social selling capability, the profile elaborates on our social media CX consulting, design ability, mature content moderation, and trust & safety experience. This high rating in NelsonHall’s assessment validates our extensive capability and growing global footprint enabling our teams to go the extra mile to deliver real value to our clients.

 

The report evaluated 21 leading industry players to compare and highlight their offerings, delivery capability, benefits achieved on behalf of clients, customer presence, positioning, innovation, and more.

Ivan continues in the profile, “Webhelp has a mature consulting and design practice able to analyze clients’ CX demand and identify social channels’ suitability within an overall CX approach.”

The NelsonHall NEAT assessment defines a leader as a player who exhibits high capability than their peers while delivering benefits for clients at a developed ability to exceed client expectations.


‘The Nest’ by Webhelp expands across Europe

The customer experience program offers a simple and scalable outsourcing proposition for fast-growing companies

Oxford, March 24th, 2021

The leading global customer experience (CX) and business solutions provider, Webhelp has announced the expansion of its program, The Nest by Webhelp, across Europe which aims to support startups and scaleups to provide the best-in-class customer experience. The Nest enables fast-growing companies across all sectors to grow exponentially by offering a unique, tailor-made outsourced CX proposition.

This news comes at a time when many young companies are facing multiple challenges due to the pandemic and are requiring flexibility and ROI optimization while uncertainly prevails in their business environments.

Chloe de Mont-Serrat, Head of The Nest, said:

“We’re delighted to expand our offering to companies across Europe. Thriving startups have one key thing in common – exceptional customer experience. Outsourcing CX with a trusted partner can enable businesses to scale up quickly while maximizing ROI, freeing them up to focus on what matters most – growing their business.”

Launched in France in 2018, the program already supports dozens of the most dynamic startups, many of which have been placed highly in ​The French Tech Next rankings. In addition to this, Webhelp is a long-standing partner for countless unicorn startups and is well-placed to help fast-growth companies differentiate their businesses. The program is taking on a European dimension by expanding into the UK, Spain, Germany, The Nordics, The Netherlands, and Turkey.

“The early years of building a startup can be complex. From scaling quickly in new markets, building solid expertise and processes to sustain growth, innovative products, and services to differentiate from competitors, the challenges can be vast. Our program can support startups by providing outstanding customer experience to deepen their understanding of customers as they scale through leading-edge insight and analytics,”

added Vanessa Flather, Managing Director, The Nest, UK.

The Nest by Webhelp makes the expertise of Webhelp, the European market leader for CX, available to smaller businesses and is based on a strong people-first working culture. Its core focus is to support its clients as they grow their businesses and enable them to generate competitive advantages in the CX space. The program offers a wide variety of services, all of which can be customized to the client’s individual needs, including, but not limited to; omnichannel customer engagement services  (including customer care, community management and technical support),  sales support  (customer acquisition & retention, sales assistance) and digital services  (content management, moderation services, digital marketing). The program operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is available in more than 40 languages.

In addition to a best-in-class customer experience delivered by expert teams, clients also get access to ‘The Nest Community.’ This resource will offer members mentoring, business development, and networking opportunities as an additional way to generate traction and achieve better results through a strategic startup network.

As Charles Egly, CEO of Younited Credit, and one of the first startups to join The Nest by Webhelp program, testified:

“In the early days of a startup, the senior team often try to tackle all the issues head-on, sometimes to the detriment of the final product or service. The outsourced support that The Nest program offers was invaluable to expand our team and provide reinforced expertise. It also allowed us to conquer new markets much faster. Working with an outsourced partner in this way offers increased efficiency, lower operating costs, more flexibility, and faster time-to-market. Not to mention, access to the best processes and tools on the market, most of which are usually too costly for a startup.”

Webhelp Co-Founder, Olivier Duha, concluded:

“We are thrilled that – despite the COVID-19 pandemic – the startup world is still booming, and the pace of fundraising has not slowed down. Ultimately, supporting fast growing startups has always been in our DNA, as we still have an entrepreneurial culture that perfectly guides that.”

About The Nest

The Nest by Webhelp is an outsourced customer experience (CX) program by Webhelp to help startups and fast-growth companies differentiate themselves and scale-up their team, quickly and simply. Operating across Europe, the program provides clients access to its global network of operational customer experience specialists 365 days a year and seven days a week. The Nest offers a wide variety of services, all of which are customized to the client’s individual needs, including, but not limited to; omnichannel customer engagement services (including customer care, community management and technical support), sales support (customer acquisition & retention, sales assistance) and digital services (content management, moderation services, digital marketing). Clients of The Nest will have access The Nest Community, offering mentoring and other business support and guidance to enable startups to grow and succeed in their marketplace.

More information can be found at thenest.webhelp.com


‘The Nest’ by Webhelp expands across Europe

The customer experience program offers a simple and scalable outsourcing proposition for fast-growing companies

Paris, March 24th, 2021

The leading global customer experience (CX) and business solutions provider, Webhelp has announced the expansion of its program, The Nest by Webhelp, across Europe, which aims to support startups and scaleups to provide the best-in-class customer experience. ​The Nest enables fast-growing companies across all sectors to grow exponentially by offering a unique, tailor-made outsourced CX proposition.

This news comes at a time when many young companies are facing multiple challenges due to the pandemic and are requiring flexibility and ROI optimization while uncertainly prevails in their business environments.

Chloe de Mont-Serrat, Head of The Nest, said:

“We’re delighted to expand our offering to companies across Europe. Thriving startups have one key thing in common – exceptional customer experience. Outsourcing CX with a trusted partner can enable businesses to scale quickly while maximizing ROI, freeing them up to focus on what matters most – growing their business.”

Launched in France in 2018, the program already supports dozens of the most dynamic startups, many of which have been placed highly in ​The French Tech Next rankings. In addition to this, Webhelp is a long-standing partner for countless unicorn startups and is well-placed to help fast-growth companies differentiate their businesses. The program is taking on a European dimension by expanding into the UK, Spain, Germany, The Nordics, The Netherlands, and Turkey.

“Building a startup can be complex, and the early days are the hardest, without a doubt. From scaling quickly in new markets to building solid expertise and processes to sustain growth, to creating innovative products and services, the challenges are diverse. Our program can support startups by providing an outstanding customer experience to put them at a competitive advantage while helping control costs”

added Edouard de Ménibus, Program Director, The Nest, France.

The Nest by Webhelp makes the expertise of Webhelp, the European market leader for CX, available to smaller businesses and is based on a strong people-first working culture. Its core focus is to support its clients as they grow their businesses and enable them to generate competitive advantages in the CX space. The program offers a wide variety of services, all of which can be customized to the client’s individual needs, including, but not limited to; omnichannel customer engagement services (including customer care, community management and technical support), sales support (customer acquisition & retention, sales assistance) and digital services (content management, moderation services, digital marketing). The program operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and is available in more than 40 languages.

In addition to a best-in-class customer experience delivered by expert teams, clients also get access to ‘The Nest Community.’ This resource will offer members mentoring, business development, and networking opportunities as an additional way to generate traction and achieve better results through a strategic startup network.

As Charles Egly, CEO of ​Younited Credit, and one of the first startups to join The Nest by Webhelp program, testified:

“In the early days of a startup, the senior team often try to tackle all the issues head-on, sometimes to the detriment of the final product or service. The outsourced support that The Nest program offers was invaluable to expand our team and provide reinforced expertise. It also allowed us to conquer new markets much faster. Working with an outsourced partner in this way offers increased efficiency, lower operating costs, more flexibility, and faster time-to-market. Not to mention, access to the best processes and tools on the market, most of which are usually too costly for a startup.”

Webhelp Co-Founder, Olivier Duha, concluded:

“We are thrilled that – despite the COVID-19 pandemic – the startup world is still booming, and the pace of fundraising has not slowed down. Ultimately, supporting fast growing startups has always been in our DNA, as we still have an entrepreneurial culture that perfectly guides that.”


About The Nest

The Nest by Webhelp is an outsourced customer experience (CX) program by Webhelp to help startups and fast-growth companies differentiate themselves and scale-up their team, quickly and simply. Operating across Europe, the program provides clients access to its global network of operational customer experience specialists 365 days a year and seven days a week. The Nest offers a wide variety of services, all of which are customized to the client’s individual needs, including, but not limited to; omnichannel customer engagement services (including customer care, community management and technical support), sales support (customer acquisition & retention, sales assistance) and digital services (content management, moderation services, digital marketing). Clients of The Nest will have access The Nest Community, offering mentoring and other business support and guidance to enable startups to grow and succeed in their marketplace.

More information can be found at ​thenest.webhelp.com


Webhelp win at CCA Excellence Awards

We are absolutely over the moon to have won the top award for Excellence in Business Process Outsourcing Collaboration, alongside our strategic business partner The Very Group, at the prestigious 2021 CCA Excellence Awards. 

 

We provide customer engagement services to The Very Group, and the partnership, which was founded in 2015, focuses on working together to ensure objectives, actions and initiatives are all geared towards improving the customer experience. Mark Billingham, Group Customer Care & CX Director (COO Financial Services) from the Very Group said: 

“We are incredibly proud to be associated with Webhelp and to be celebrating this award together along with all of the individuals across both brands whose hard work has contributed to this win. Our partnership has been founded by commercial principles on which our two businesses are entirely aligned, and the framework allows both our brands to operate like one. Adopting this level of integration has been absolutely fundamental to the success of the partnership and our digital vision, and it’s great that our joint commitment to creating a customer care experience that is recognised and loved has been recognised by the CCA judges”. 

 

This is the third year in a row we have won the BPO Collaboration Award with David Turner, our UK Region CEO commenting: 

“We are delighted to have received this level of industry recognition. At the heart of our partnership with The Very Group are commercial principles aligned to strategic objectives to ensure both parties benefit from long term transformation. Since the onset of the pandemic both our brands have gone above and beyond and the dedication and hard work that continues to come from the people within our businesses is truly phenomenal, so I know this win will mean a lot to them.”  

 

With more than 20 years’ experience, the CCA are recognised as a trusted reference for research, analysis and expertise. The CCA Awards are regarded as ultimate recognition for customer service excellence, innovation and best practice and this Award follows us scooping 4 wins at this month’s European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards.

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Bots, Bias & Bigotry: safe scaling of AI

In the first of our Risk & Innovation series, James Allen examines the barriers to overcome when scaling AI.

Now that we’re well into the fourth Industrial Revolution (also known as Industry 4.0), we expect to see some fundamental shifts in how businesses operate and serve their customers.

Here’s what we see as the three big pillars of Industry 4.0:

  1. Digitisation of product and service offerings
  2. Digitisation and integration of supply / value chains
  3. Digital business models and customer access

 

The shift toward Industry 4.0 has become more important to many brands, and has accelerated during the Covid crisis as a result of significant changes in supply chain and consumer behaviour.

In fact, a recent McKinsey survey highlighted that 65% of respondents see Industry 4.0 as being more valuable since the pandemic, with the same survey revealing that the top 3 strategic objectives for Industry 4.0 are:

  1. Agility to scale operations up or down in response to market-demand changes (18.4%)
  2. Flexibility to customize products to consumer needs (17.2%)
  3. Increase operational productivity and performance to minimise costs (17.2%)

Yet when the same respondents were asked if they had successfully scaled Industry 4.0 initiatives, only 26% had managed to do so successfully.

 

According to Rothschild & Co, the market for Industry 4.0 is expected to top 300 billion dollars, and with AI and connectivity projected to reduce manufacturing costs by 20% (or 400 billion dollars), it’s essential that companies find a way to scale safely, at pace.

Artificial Intelligence evolution

AI has been in development for years, starting with the first computers in the 1940, with which scientists and mathematicians began to explore the potential for building an electronic brain. In 1950, the “Turing Test” proposed that if a machine could carry on a conversation that was indistinguishable from a conversation with a human being, then it was reasonable to say that the machine was “thinking”. This simplified version of the problem allowed Alan Turing to argue convincingly that a “thinking machine” was at least plausible, and the paper answered all the most common objections to the proposition.

Fast forward many years, and many millions of pounds of research investment, and in 1997 perhaps the first publicly recognised AI computer was developed. This came from IBM in the form of Deep Blue – a chess-playing computer that beat the reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov.

But machines like Deep Blue were incredibly complex, extremely expensive, and inaccessible to all but a few large technology companies. In the past few years, however, the interest and opportunity presented by AI within Industry 4.0 has exploded.

This is due to a number of factors:

  • Wider availability of computing and access to cloud environments with large processing power
  • Development of deep learning algorithms
  • Big Data platforms
  • Development of Artificial General Intelligence

AI – learnings and barriers to scale

Whilst many companies see the potential presented by AI, companies are also rightly concerned by the risks that it presents, as well as the barriers they need to overcome when scaling.

The most common challenges we tend to come across are:

  • Access to specialist skills
  • Cost of processing in cloud environments
  • Inability to demonstrate fairness, lack of bias and integrity of AI algorithms
  • Risk of unintended consequences
  • Regulatory understanding
  • Ability to seamlessly switch between AI powered processes and regular business processes in the event the AI fails

This presents organisations with a real conundrum. AI use raises questions over ethics, safeguards, interpretability and more. It’s only right that organisations probe these issues and take the learnings from those that have gone before them.

Here’s a few public examples of where AI has gone wrong:

Footballer or felon

A facial-recognition system identified almost thirty professional American footballers as criminals, including New England Patriots three-time Super Bowl champion Duron Harmon. The software incorrectly matched the athletes to a database of mugshots in a test organized by the Massachusetts chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Nearly one in six athletes were falsely identified.

CEO gets spoofed

In 2019 the CEO of a UK-based energy firm got a call from his boss at their German parent company, instructing him to transfer €220,000 to a Hungarian supplier. The ‘boss’ said the request was urgent and directed the UK CEO to transfer the money promptly. It turned out the phone call was made by criminals who used AI-based software to mimic the boss’ voice, including the “slight German accent and the melody of his voice,” as reported in the Wall Street Journal. Such AI-powered cyberattacks are a new challenge for companies, as traditional cybersecurity tools designed for keeping hackers off corporate networks can’t identify spoofed voices.

Get me out of here!

US airlines were subject to widespread criticism after their AI powered pricing systems charged customers up to 10 times the price of a regular ticket, as they desperately tried to escape Florida ahead of the arrival of hurricane Irma. The systems did not have a kill switch. “There are no ethics valves built into the system that prevent an airline from overcharging during a hurricane,” said Christopher Elliott, a consumer advocate and journalist.

 

Navigating the risks and enabling safe scaling of AI

Webhelp and Gobeyond Partners have developed a comprehensive framework to support the safe scaling of AI, including assessment of risk, key controls, human-centred ethics principles, algorithm management and data handling. This framework includes open source methods that can be used to demonstrate the integrity and explainability of AI algorithms.

Safe scaling of AI

Questions your organisation should consider

Although AI presents a huge opportunity to transform both business operations and customer experience, this is not without risk. Here are some of the long term strategic questions that we recommend you consider, for your organisation:

  • What role does AI have in the working environment and is there such a thing as a post-labour economy? If so, how do we make it fair?
  • How do we eliminate bias in AI?
  • How do we keep AI safe from threats?
  • Is it right to use AI in cyber defence? If so, where is the line?
  • As AI capabilities become more integrated, how do we stay in control of such a complex system?
  • How do we define the humane treatment of AI?

 

Feel free to get in touch, to see how we can help you safely fulfil your Industry 4.0 ambitions at pace and at scale.


Stricter content moderation policies puts pressure on social media platforms

Growing concerns towards content moderation policies aroused over the last few years due to scandals, users, and politics. Subsequently, there have been growing concerns about Content Moderation (CoMo) policies and enforcement on social media platforms. Today, we are dealing with how world-renowned social media platforms enforce their Content Moderation policies, as opposed to  how governments or institutions desire them to (See Article). Bear in mind that in most countries, these platforms are not immediately liable for their User-Generated-Content (UGC); Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 in the United States is a great example of this ’liability shield’:

When it comes to terrorism or other threats to users, several countries like members of the EU, Brazil and Australia impose a time limit for platforms to delete content after it has been flagged as inappropriate.

With platforms not immediately liable for their User Generated Content, why are huge corporations enforcing stricter policies, raising censorship concerns ? Why don’t they just leave their communities to live freely? They need to for two main reasons:

  1. To protect their communities from violence, hate speech, racism, harassment and so many more threats to ensure a smooth user experience
  2. Protect individuals on their platforms from being influenced by other users who might spread misleading information or leverage the network to influence their decisions and behaviors

But as you will discover in this article, some platforms endure growing scrutiny from their audience due to their huge reach, whilst others might benefit from different levels of acceptance to convey a somewhat brand image.

Scrutiny makes social media leaders tighten their CoMo policies

The former is the case, especially for both Facebook and Twitter. Their billions of daily users have the ability to influence mass opinions – far more easily than any other type of media. Following several scandals, trust between these platforms and their users has been damaged (link to WH article). In fact, when interrogated in a hearing by the US Senate last October, leaders of Twitter, Google, and Facebook were pointed out as “Powerful arbiters of truth”, a rather explicit denomination.

Content Moderation has wide political implications. Last year’s American elections played out a bigger trial for large tech platforms showing how they were able to monitor the peaks of political comments, ads, and other UGC, safely and considerately. Numerous examples of Content Moderation can be cited as no political ads on Facebook: first flagging Donald Trump’s tweets as misleading or partly false before permanently banning the former US president on both platforms.

TikTok has also been questioned several times regarding their moderation of political content, but most importantly almost live suicides, paedophilia, and increased usage of guns in the videos were posted by their users. Further to political aspects, the reasons why these types of content should be deleted and not seen by the communities is straightforward. When it comes to firearm usage, local laws make it even more unclear on how to moderate the use and applications of these types of weapons online.

Logically, the pattern rubs off on smaller players

Most Big Tech giants have now funded Safety Advisory Councils generally – “made up of external experts on child safety, mental health and extremism”, signaling to their communities that they are trying their best to protect them while avoiding censorship and audience attrition.

Due to the attention their bigger peers face, targets of the proposed tighter Content Moderation policies are progressing towards them. Platforms such as Parler advocate free speech and use it to promote their brand image, while welcoming the most extreme far-right supporters, whose comments are widely moderated on Twitter and other mainstream social

After Parler was banned from most well-known online app stores (Amazon, Apple, Google, who are the main providers of these apps) due to its lack of Content Moderation, it was forced to go offline and its now-former CEO, John Matze, has been fired over his push for stronger moderation. There are several other social media platforms claiming to promote free speech (Telegram, Gab), but some have chosen bravely to take on the Content Moderation challenge to avoid Parler’s faith.

Nonetheless, such patterns are already observed for new and innovative social media, including Substack (newsletter developing platform) and the infamous Clubhouse (live audio conferences). The former was not expecting such controversy about one of their newsletters until one of its previous releases linked IQ to race. The latter poses new questions on how to efficiently moderate live audio feeds.

Mastering Content Moderation policies is the key to success

The scale of emerging social media platforms, as well as their innovative format and technology imposes new challenges on Content Moderation, which is evidently highlighted by increased scrutiny from users. Unfortunately, without benefiting from years of experience in Content Moderation, newcomers, and smaller players find that their policy is adapted to their own targeted communities, as well as their content. If both areas are too permissive or restrictive, they become dangerous for their longevity and brand image.

Mastering Content Moderation enforcement is a lever to the welfare of your community and reputation.


 

Author

Thomas Japy

Digital Content Services Business Analyst

Contact the author

Webhelp South Africa celebrates Human Rights Day

On the 21st March 1960, South Africans faced brutality in the fight for freedom. In memory of this iconic event, we celebrate Human Rights Day, to commemorate the lives lost in the protest against Pass Laws.

 

What is Human Rights Day?
In the face of racism, segregation, and inequality, South Africans stood in protest as an act of defiance to reclaim their freedom. The innocent crowds seeking liberation faced brutality as police shot and killed many of the protesters at Sharpeville. The tragic act came to be known as the Sharpeville Massacre.

The Democratic government declared March 21, Human Rights Day as a tribute to those who fought for the rights we have today.

These rights include:

  • Equality – everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
  • Human dignity – everyone has inherent dignity and to have their dignity respected and protected.
  • Freedom of movement and residence – everyone has a right to freedom of movement and to reside anywhere in the country.
  • Language and culture – everyone has the right to use their language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice.
  • Life – everyone has the right to life.

At Webhelp South Africa, we are proud to recognise Human Rights Day. With five sites in South Africa, it is one of our growing offshore locations, with a talent pool of multi-lingual, multi-cultural diverse and passionate game changers servicing global clients across eight industries.

As we remember the sacrifices of those who fought for liberation, let’s be mindful on how important it is to promote diversity and inclusion in our work place today.

 

Our Diversity and Inclusion Roadmap includes:

Diversity Openness – Creating favourable ground to nurture and diversify initiatives.

Cultural Diversity – Celebrating our origins and communities

Access to employment – Changing the mindset of traditional recruitment and driving inclusive hiring methodologies

Gender Diversity – Creating a better balance, challenging stereotypes and broadening perception

Ability & Accessibility – Enabling Webhelpers with a long-term illness, impairment or disability to reach their full potential in the workplace

General Diversity – Whatever their stage in life, supporting Webhelpers through their professional journey

LGBT & Friends – A workplace where you can be yourself and grow, accepted without exception

 

Community Initiatives

Our people strategy is fundamental to our success and is shaped around our values as well as supporting our people to develop their careers with Webhelp.

In partnership with Harambee, we strive to positively impact youth unemployment in South Africa. Since 2016, we have welcomed around 850 Impact workers through Harambee into our organisation, and have found permanent positions for over 600 supporting various campaigns and clients, to remain in full time employment.

In 2020 we welcomed around 500 impact workers on an internship model sponsored by the City of Cape Town to gain valuable working experience.

“We will continue to drive our Impact sourcing model to make a positive impact on our communities and the youth of South Africa and continuing to embracing diversity and inclusion is a business imperative for us.” Cathy Kalamaras, People Director, Webhelp South Africa

 

As a people-first business, we care passionately about upholding human rights, being inclusive and promoting diversity.

Happy Human Rights Day from the Webhelp team.