Rewarding exemplary employment initiatives

Author: Anton Manley, Chief Client Officer, Webhelp

The UK Employee Experience Awards, now in their 5th consecutive year, have been designed to recognise and reward exemplary employment initiatives and quality employee experience (EX). Here Chief Client Officer for Webhelp UK, Anton Manley, reflects on his time as Chair of the judging panel…

Regular readers of our blogs will realise that there is no such thing as an average working day at Webhelp, but on the 15th May I was delighted to don a (temporary) new cap after being invited to judge at the UK Employee Experience Awards.

The Awards provide an excellent platform to highlight market leaders in employee reward and retention. Additionally, this initiative takes a pivotal role in recognising successful staff engagement in the workplace and applauding the key support measures organisations take to develop a productive workforce and strengthen the company from within.

Why is this so important? Employee experience is arguably the single most significant way to leverage staff commitment and create brand motivation and momentum. To put it more simply – in words of renowned business leader Doug Conant: “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

Being the chair of such a prestigious expert panel of independent judges, who generously shared feedback and contributed their expertise, was an honour. However, whilst it was a wonderful experience, choosing our winners was certainly a challenge.

This year the shortlist of entrants for the awards was particularly strong, with a range of outstanding and inspiring entries from industries as diverse as healthcare, utilities and finance.

Held at the Park Plaza Riverbank in London, this well organised event offered a number of open presentations, allowing attendees to see first-hand how companies are re-defining excellence in employee experience.

LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT AWARD: Gold winners, brighterkind.

Hundreds of EX professionals in were in attendance, and I was personally delighted by the focus on the importance of employee care demonstrated by the UK companies present, as it’s an area that is often undervalued.

Annette Franz, writing for Forbes, understands this and nails it when she says: “At the heart of it all, employees want to do their job and do it well. Unfortunately, they can't if they aren't provided with the tools, processes and resources needed to do that.”

Articulating and rewarding best practice is essential in helping the CX industry continue to develop and prosper as a whole. By making EX and C-Level priority and developing the assets that enable all staff to be engaged at work doesn’t just benefit employees, it’s been proven to have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Although there is rising awareness of the importance of EX, businesses do struggle to attract and retain the people they need in key areas. Webhelp’s Director of Strategic Marketing, Dave Pattman, examines the AI skills gap and data from our recently commissioned YouGov poll to find creative ways to solve this issue.

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AI: Tackling the Global Skills Gap

The swift emergence of AI and automation technologies is creating a strategic challenge in terms of expertise. Increasingly, businesses are struggling to attract and retain the people they need. David Pattman, Managing Director CX Services at Gobeyond Partners, Part of the Webhelp Group, examines the AI skills gap and international data trends to find creative ways to solve this crisis.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to transform processes and productivity across business, industry and the economy as a whole. This burgeoning field is driving digital transformation in customer experience, forcing companies to compete to recruit top-end talent.

The financial services sector has been quick to embrace the use of chatbots and virtual assistants to help customers with routine tasks like scheduling payments and to automate frequently asked questions. At the same time, Predictive Analytics has become key in reducing the risk of loan defaulters and machine learning is being used to identify patterns of transactions to indicate fraudulent activity.

Across multiple fields, the increase in the use of AI technologies is creating a skill shortage for businesses seeking to expand in this area. As AI rapidly reshapes customer service, upskilling the workforce so it can thrive in this new environment is a critical business challenge.

An added complication is that the inevitable growth in automated AI services will create brand new roles, requiring very specific skills – AI supervisors, for instance, to deliver the human insight needed when deploying these technologies on a large scale.

According to Glassdoor research on salary, satisfaction and recruitment, data scientists currently occupy the top slot for employment in the United States, with technical roles dominating the top 50.  Further research from The Hays Global Skills Index strongly indicates that an international AI skills crisis is on the horizon. It will become absolutely crucial for companies to develop robust strategies to close the AI skills gap, in order to stay relevant.

Sam Lansley, AI Software Developer at Generis Knowledge Management, believes that the lack of AI skills is a concern for the economy:

“This is a particularly worrying area for the UK. Automated systems used to be very rigid but now enhancements to AI have meant that the impact of this technological evolution will soon be significant for all industries. Humans will need to be more skilled. There are going to be challenges in terms of how businesses transform and how industries - and even countries - remain competitive. Jobs will be lost, but in many areas it will be a case of changing the job description rather than taking jobs away.”

He adds that: “AI is currently more mainstream in the US and China, where data privacy rules are also much more relaxed. It is so important to invest in and to promote the necessary skills in data and in AI in order to compete.”

The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report found that 35% of core skills will change between 2015 and 2020. McKinsey research suggests that between 75 million and 375 million people globally may need to switch occupational categories by 2030. This begs the question - are businesses doing enough to bridge the AI skills gap?

Companies that aren’t investing enough in human capital should think again and take steps to upgrade their skill base to get the biggest benefits from machine learning and artificial intelligence. Tech giants Google and Amazon are investing internationally to expand their talent pool. But training and development for AI are not solely the responsibility of private sector businesses, education at a national level has a clear role to play in developing digital skills.

Webhelp is doing its bit too. From real-time systems that augment understanding between advisors and customers and the development of our own data professionals, to investing in tools that improve advisor focus and performance, we’re taking measures to ensure that our people have the AI skills - and support - they need to be at the top of their game.

While there’s no single route to success, a sustained, multipronged approach to create a highly-skilled and flexible workforce (ready to take on the next big thing!) will pay dividends. Those companies that are able to harness digital transformation will undoubtedly enjoy significant productivity and financial gains.

You can take a look at this recent post by our guest blogger, Dr. Sue Black OBE, Professor of Computer Science, Durham University, and Founder of Techmums, for a deeper dive on how digital disruption can have an impact on people and organisations.

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[Automobile] Les industriels pivotent vers un modèle de service… et l’expérience client devient centrale !

Les industriels de l'automobile ont engagé une mutation profonde : basculer d'un modèle propriétaire à un modèle de service. L'expérience client prend une importance déterminante, comme l'explique Jalil Lahlou, directeur Business Unit Automobile & Mobilité chez Webhelp.


Posséder une voiture ou accéder à une voiture ? Au niveau mondial, la tendance marquante est la décroissance du modèle propriétaire. Pour rappel*, voici quelques conclusions phares de l'étude  "EASCY, The five dimensions of automotive transformation" (2018, PwC - marchés Europe, Etats-Unis, Chine) :

  • d'ici 2030 le parc mondial de voitures devrait se réduire de 25% pendant que le besoin individuel de mobilité va s'accroitre de 25% en Europe et aux US : les véhicules seront donc plus utilisés
  • en 2030, près d'1 véhicule neuf sur 3 sera destiné à l'autopartage (véhicules partagés à la manière de Moov'In, ou système de co-voiturage, à la BlaBlacar ou Citiz),
  • aujourd'hui, l'autopartage ne représente qu'environ 1% des déplacements dans les pays étudiés
  • en 2030, plus d'1 véhicule vendu sur 2 sera électrique et 40% des kms seront faits dans des véhicules autonomes, très souvent partagés.


Autopartage, location : le service client va faire la différence

De nombreux constructeurs, startups, et acteurs de la mobilité ont bien compris que ce changement de modèle - le redéploiement vers les services - présente des opportunités.

Pour exemple, Europcar ne se résume plus aujourd'hui par sa seule activité de loueur et se renomme Europcar Mobility Group.

Quant au service Renault Mobility, il adresse les marchés B2C et B2B. L'application permet de louer ponctuellement tous les modèles de voitures du constructeur, électriques ou non. La solution se déploie à travers l'Europe, notamment grâce à des partenariats forts, comme avec IKEA en France.

De plus, Renault et le loueur Ada ont lancé leur solution d'autopartage de véhicules électriques Moov'In à Paris en octobre 2018. Et PSA en a fait de même avec Free2Move en novembre 2018.


Chez Webhelp, cette réorientation de l'industrie automobile vers les services fait l'objet d'un accompagnement spécifique, qui se matérialise dès 2018 par la création d’uneBusiness Unit dédiée à l’Automobile & à la Mobilité.

Nous faisons le constat que ce passage d'un modèle d'achat à un modèle de service se traduit par un changement crucial : « les points de contact avec la marque vont se multiplier », rappelle Jalil Lahlou. Autrement dit, les marques vont jouer leur réputation de façon répétée, et non plus seulement au moment de l'achat.

D'où le besoin d'un service client digital et humain, très réactif et performant. Avec un enjeu évident : c'est bien le service client qui va faire la différence sur ce marché très concurrentiel !


Les grands acteurs se réorganisent autour de l'expérience client

Pour compléter ce panorama des réorganisations stratégiques de la mobilité autour de l'expérience client, on peut citer d'autres exemples récents :

  • BlaBlaBus, résultant du rachat de Ouibus par BlaBlacar, témoigne de réflexions stratégiques très nouvelles
  • Daimler propose car2go un service de véhicules électriques en autopartage, à Paris depuis janvier 2019. A noter que la nouvelle entité s'appelle Share Now, et qu'elle est née de la fusion de car2Go (groupe Daimler) et de Drive Now (BMW). Par ailleurs, Daimler a racheté la plate-forme de VTC Chauffeur Privé, fin 2017, et l'a rebaptisée Kapten en février 2019
  • en B2B, des services d'autopartage comme Mobility Tech Green sont proposés aux entreprises (grands groupes ou PME) et aux collectivités
  • des startups comme Zenpark et Carizy, accompagnées par The Nest by Webhelp, connaissent un développement rapide.


Pour ces nouveaux services, l'expérience client digitale se révèle déterminante dans les opérations d'onboarding, d'abonnement, de localisation du véhicule, de self care et de paiement.

Et l'humain apporte la réassurance et une aide précieuse quand le client rencontre une situation stressante (manœuvre de branchement-débranchement à la borne électrique, incident technique, accident...). Le mix digital-humain doit être parfaitement bien dosé pour répondre à ces nouveaux usages en mobilité !

Webhelp and Harambee deliver remarkable results in South Africa

Author: Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer, Webhelp

South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. It is estimated that 40 percent of this generation will never secure stable work. Webhelp’s Chief Commercial Officer, Craig Gibson, discusses Impact Sourcing and our successful partnership with Harambee.

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator received the 2019 Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship. Hear Cathy Kalamaras talk about Webhelp’s  experience of working with Harambee.

South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. A lack of information, skills, networks, and social capital, leaves many young people discouraged and excluded. It is estimated that 40 percent of this generation will never secure stable work, despite a large investment in skills training by South Africa’s government and private sector. Yet employers say they struggle to find work-ready candidates and lack the ability to effectively evaluate these young job seekers.

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator is tackling the issue head on, and building scalable solutions for the youth labour market. Its ‘matching tools’ and real-world training methodology help employers quickly and reliably gauge work-readiness and suitability, and are delivering a host recruitment and retention benefits.

Both the public and private sectors see Harambee as leading experts in the dynamics of the South African labour market; so much so that the Gauteng Province - including Johannesburg and Pretoria - has institutionalised the work of Harambee, and now relies on its platform and labour market solutions to address the youth unemployment crisis. In short, governments are seeing the value of youth-focused solutions, and businesses are deriving value from a population that had long been invisible to them.

I’m delighted that the great work that Harambee does has been recognised by the prestigious Skoll Foundation, which views its innovative model to accelerate youth employment as leading-edge, and an African solution to one of the world’s most pressing problems. And as a South African, I take particular pride in our partnership with Harambee. Together, we are helping unemployed young people - who would not usually have an opportunity to enter formal employment – access rewarding careers in an incredibly important sector for South Africa. Not only is this great for the individuals and the local community, but as a business, we are seeing an incredible benefits.

Thanks to Harambee’s scientific matching tools and behavioral readiness programmes, we have been able to build a sector specific competence profile to recruit young people who are a good match for our business and our clients. Not only does this make the hiring process easier, it also reduces the quality and cost risks associated with hiring the wrong people. We’re seeing an incredible impact on loyalty and performance; employee retention is at 90%, and the pass rate for induction training is 100%. Furthermore, the speed to productivity of our Harambee employees matches that of more experienced staff – likely due to their willingness to learn, and put in the extra time. It's a fantastic story for us all.

Discover more about South Africa in our recent blog post SOUTH AFRICA AND INDIA BOTH CHOSEN AS CX LEADERS BY RYAN STRATEGIC ADVISORY, and get a flavour of the calibre of our Impact Sourcing colleagues, as well as the impact rewarding employment is having on their lives, by reading their stories:


Impact worker: Morgan Wagner (Webhelp South Africa)

Impact worker: Celine Walters (Webhelp South Africa)

To conclude, Harambee accounts for a high proportion of our overall hires in South Africa and has been instrumental in creating a link between Webhelp and talented young people. Our partnership is also helping us to embed a diverse and inclusive workplace representative of South Africa’s demographics, and this is absolutely fundamental to Webhelp South Africa’s responsible and sustainable growth strategy.

How important is it to strike the right balance between human talent and AI and Automation for CX? Is AI positive for Customer Service? Webhelp recently published a report on the future of automation and commissioned the YouGov survey to find out what people really think about customer experience or AI strategy.

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If you’d like to find out more about Webhelp or ask Craig a question, email:

Arch Summit Brings Corporate And Startup Companies Together

This week I am attending the Arch Summit in Luxembourg. This is a very unusual event because it’s the only one I know of globally that focuses on both the large corporate and startup business communities. The event is designed to help these two communities meet and benefit from each other.

If you look at the event website then it’s clear that they have taken inspiration from TV shows such as Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den. The emphasis is on innovation and helping young startup companies source additional funding and advice.

I believe that events like this are critically important for the customer experience (CX) community at present. Take a look at any business journal featuring an exploration of the future of CX and the technological innovation is astonishing. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, Robotic Process Automation. Anyone thinking about how CX will work in future needs to learn an entirely new vocabulary that is full of acronyms such as RPA, AI, and VR.

The problem is that most of the customer service experts (like Webhelp) are busy working on behalf of their clients and those clients usually have some well-defined service levels. They want innovation and advice on the future, but they don’t want anyone messing around with their customers, just as an experiment. On the flip side, most of the small companies designing highly innovative new solutions do not have access to large scale customer service centres where they could road test their solutions in a live environment.

This is why it’s so important to be present at events like the Arch Summit. A case study on the event website describes how a small software company called ChatLingual managed to partner with Vodafone on a customer chat solution because they met at the event last year.

It’s this serendipity that is important. The Arch Summit is creating a platform for innovators to demonstrate their ideas in front of companies that already have a large customer base. Both the small companies and the larger ones benefit from this arrangement – the small companies are finding clients and partners and the larger companies benefit from being able to introduce new ideas to their own clients in a low-cost low-risk way.

This is precisely why Webhelp has a division called ‘The Nest’ that is exclusively focused on helping high potential startups ‘crack’ customer experience from the outset, helping them devise CX strategies and scale effectively. They benefit from our global experience, and we learn how industries are being disrupted and are at the forefront of new, innovative offerings.

To conclude, it’s clear that customer service is changing and technology is a key driver of this change. Customers want increased personalisation and more interactive service. This leads to a requirement for data analytics and the use of AI chatbots and AI systems that can support agents in the contact centre. The pace of change is so rapid that it can sometimes feel like new technologies are created just to transform the customer experience. Events like the Arch Summit are a great way to stay on top of what is going on and to cement partnerships for the future. I know that our clients appreciate that we are constantly seeking new ideas and are able to offer them advice on what their customers may be expecting next year.

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I’m really enjoying speaking to startups and corporates at the Arch Summit. If you are going to be there then please say hello or connect via my LinkedIn.




Author: Matt Camille, Account Development Director for Webhelp UK

Designing CX Solutions With AI

Author: Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer at Webhelp UK

Webhelp recently conducted research with the polling experts YouGov to ask over 2,000 British adults what they think about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how they believe it might change the way that brands offer customer service to them. Webhelp UK’s Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Helen Murray, takes a closer look at the findings...

From the research findings, it seems that most people still believe in the importance of the human touch in their interactions with brands. In our survey, 44% said that they do not think AI will impact them positively in any way and 52% said that it would make dealing with brands more impersonal.

You can take a look at this recent blog by my colleague Dave Pattman, Innovation Director at Webhelp, for a deeper dive into the research results, but as I read the results it made me think about some of the complexities of using AI in the customer service environment. When designing any customer service solution the ultimate objective is to deliver a fantastic customer experience (CX), so AI should really just be one more tool or option – why has it recently been under so much scrutiny?

I believe there are at least five key issues that executives planning CX need to consider more seriously:

  1. Customer journey planning; providing customer service using AI tools can create a more positive experience for customers, but in some cases it can dramatically reduce the experience. It is necessary to completely revise the customer journey so you can understand where there is the potential to trip up. It’s not good enough to think of AI just as one additional service channel that can be bolted on to an existing customer service operation.
  2. Going too far; some organisations jump in at the deep end and go for an approach to CX that relies heavily on AI. This can partly be driven by how ‘cool’ it appears to be using cutting edge technologies, or perhaps because of a desire to reduce the cost of human agents in the contact centre. Whatever the strategy, it is never usually advisable to dive in headfirst, try some pilots and see where your customers will accept AI. It’s possible to use AI to support your human agents rather than on the frontline with customers, so think carefully about where it might be most effective for the first test projects.
  3. Not implementing enough AI; though it seems to be just the opposite of issue 2, what I mean is that AI and automated service powered by AI really does have some benefits – despite the misgivings expressed in our research. Cleverly introducing a first line of support that is automated can dramatically increase your reaction time to customers (and availability), so there is a danger that executives may not achieve these gains if they are apprehensive about running some pilots or test implementations.
  4. Forcing the customer to use human or digital service; this is a big problem in many customer service implementations that have introduced AI, especially with chatbots. If you make it impossible for the customer to switch to human service when they are frustrated with the answers from the bot then you will dramatically reduce the customer experience. Use your automated systems in the right way and for the right type of engagement and customers should be happy to engage with an automated system. But always allow them the option to switch because sometimes their problem will venture beyond what the bot can cope with!
  5. Planning based on technology not customer needs; As I mentioned in the first point, your AI implementation should be driven by the customer journey and the contact drivers – do you really understand what is causing the customer to get in touch? With simple transactions customers can actually prefer to engage with a bot because it is easy, fast, and there is absolutely no waiting to be served. But nobody wants to engage with a bot when the discussion requires a conversation that is emotional or highly personal – perhaps a life insurance claim for example. Understand what drives your customer to get in touch and you can far more effectively plan the best way to respond. In short, none of this journey planning should be driven by what the technology is capable of - the AI itself is just a tool.

It’s clear to me that we have been barrelling along what the industry analyst firm Gartner calls ‘the hype cycle’ for the past couple of years with AI. However, there are now live implementations and good case studies out there. This is now becoming a reality, but in some cases the possibilities that the technology offers is driving strategy rather than a cool calm focus on what the customer really needs.

Consumers in general are getting familiar with many AI-powered systems. Millions of homes now have Amazon’s Echo or Google Home installed. People ask Siri or Cortana for help rather than typing questions into a search engine. In many cases I believe that people are being exposed to AI far more than they probably realise.

Our research with YouGov confirms that managers with a responsibility to plan how they can deliver the best possible customer experience need to strike the right balance between the advanced technology available and real people – humans helping humans. Consumers are getting more familiar with AI, but a poorly implemented customer service system using AI can create some very negative customer experiences.

How do we really want to interact with brands? What do we really think about AI and Automation? How important is it to strike the right balance between human talent and AI and Automation for CX? Click here to download the complete Webhelp and YouGov study

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Get in touch if you’re facing disruption – or want to disrupt – and want to talk through the implications for CX. E:

Leaders Will Need New Rules To Succeed After The Digital Revolution

Look around at how the companies you know function today. The modern business environment is in a state of constant change. In the past decade we have seen innovations such as the smart phone and social networks changing how people communicate, learn, work, and even find a partner. People have changed, but companies are playing catch up.

This wave of change is forcing major companies to constantly to be more innovative and relevant in an unforgiving market. Start-up companies can launch new products globally via the app store creating an environment where executives don’t even know who their competition will be next year because they may not even exist - yet.

For proof of just how much is changing, consider some of these facts about well-known digital brands:

  • Airbnb is the world’s largest accommodation provider yet they own no property
  • Facebook is the world’s largest media company (they still deny this), yet they generate no content
  • Skype is the largest global telecom provider, yet they have no telco infrastructure
  • Netflix is the largest movie house yet they have no cinemas
  • Uber operates the largest taxi fleet in the world yet they own no taxis

We are witnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This wave of disruptive technology – led by robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G – will change production, management, and governance in every company in every industry. In many cases, the change has already arrived.

In a business environment characterised by continuous innovation many organisations will struggle. Financial service companies are known for trust and reliability. Change doesn’t come easily to a bank or insurance company with a large network of branches, legacy infrastructure going back several decades, and a regulated trading environment. But then a new insurance company launches using an app and offers to pay home insurance claims in an average of 3 seconds. How does a heritage brand compete with that?

It was Heraclitus who first said ‘change is the only constant’ in around 500 BC. Little did he know that his words would feature on just about every business plan in the 21st century.

It would be arrogant to suggest that I, or any other commentator, can see into the future, but it is clear that in this type of hyper-accelerated environment leaders need the ability to test ideas, adopting those that work and quickly move on from failures. Human ingenuity will be the difference between success and a place in the history books.

Companies facing digital disruption will also face internal disruption to the traditional structure of departments and fixed responsibilities. As a psychologist this fascinates me. We can see that companies need to approach their industry in a more innovative way if they want to remain relevant – or even survive – but what does this mean for the employees and how leaders lead? What is the human impact of transformational change when it is applied to businesses and entire industries?

The most obvious change that is needed is cultural. It is the role of the leader to create the culture and a climate for success that drives organisational performance.  Companies need to cast aside their traditional structure and prepare for the digital age by developing their leaders, people and a pipeline of current and future talent.  As well, a mindset and culture of lifelong learning will also play a role as an integral part of a job, rather than being in addition to a job – skills date quickly in a constantly changing environment so this is about more than just career development, the workforce needs to be ‘future ready.’ It’s also about taking time out for reflection and time out to learn and to embrace the learning cycle.,  Leaders need to encourage a culture that embraces innovation and experimentation within clear parameters. They need to understand how to change course quickly and optimise new opportunities.

Emotional intelligence is fundamental for great leaders enabling them, amongst many things, to be inclusive; to create teams that collaborate and work together, pulling in the same direction. They also need to be compassionate to support the organisation and its people in the face of rapid change and overwhelm because it can impact mental health which is critical when you consider 1:4 people have mental health issues and 1:3 GP prescriptions are mental health related.   Leaders need to take time to have meaningful leadership conversations with their people and teams if they are to lead change and transformation successfully.  They need to manage their own energy and be custodians of the energy of the organisation.

Leaders also need to create a high trust culture because trust lies at the heart of creating a culture of safety, courage, creativity, risk-taking, making mistakes, accountability and ownership.   Digital cultures need to create a culture of its ‘ok to make mistakes’ and to fail fast otherwise risk taking and creativity won’t happen. There needs to be this psychological safety and trust.

As we go further into this digital revolution it is clear, and this is backed up by research, that leaders need business skills, problem solving abilities, the ability to communicate powerfully, coaching and engagement skills, critical thinking, creativity, and emotional intelligence to thrive and survive – in addition to a big dose of humility where they are happy to learn from their team and colleagues, harnessing the collective energy and wisdom of those around them for the greater good.  The world of work is becoming boundary less and a collective leadership mindset is critical for business success.

One interesting effect of digital disruption is that it has the opportunity to encourage more inclusion and diversity. The workforce of the future will be one made of people who are employed, work virtually and contractors.  The workplace will look and feel very different to what it does now. This flexible workforce will enable more people from all walks of life, backgrounds and physical abilities to be part of the new digital age thereby creating a rich and diverse workforce which will help the talent pipeline that CEOs have sighted as one of their major challenges in competing in a digital world.

The heart of the digital revolution is digital dexterity which I believe is driven based on the development and growth of individuals — their ability to take these advances and changes and to apply them within the context of an organisation and then to drive the business forward.  It requires Conscious Leadership, leaders who have emotional intelligence, who consciously create high trust environments, have conversations that matter, are focused, manage their energy and are custodians of the energy of the organisation as well as lead with compassion.  They have a collective leadership and life learning mindset, are comfortable with being vulnerable, are able to resource themselves and others and they are humble.





About the Author

Nicky Pharoah, Managing Director at The Learning Curve

Nicky is an Organisational Development (OD) expert with extensive experience of psychotherapeutic application in the workplace. Drawing on over 30 years' operational experience within market-leading companies both in the UK and internationally, Nicky blends intuition and in-depth behavioural insights to make a lasting difference for clients.

About TLC

TLC’s focus and raison d’être is to work with organisations to develop leaders and transform cultures, based on principles of “Conscious Leadership” –  both a mindset and an advanced leadership capability centred on an understanding that our actions and behaviours impact ourselves, our colleagues and ultimately how well an organisation performs. Our services include bespoke Leadership Development, Cultural Transformation, 1:1 and team coaching, and 360-degree feedback implementations.

Founded in 1997 and headquartered in the UK, TLC works in both private and public sector organisations, in the UK and internationally.

Disruption in customer experience delivery: a reality in 2019

Over the past two decades no industry has been impervious to changes in how business is done.  Across so many different parts of the economy, conventional wisdom has been thrown out the window, so much so that executives are having trouble keeping up with changes in consumer patterns.

The domain of customer experience delivery is no stranger to this phenomenon; frankly it is near the forefront.  How end-users interact with companies that they buy goods and services from continues to evolve, and enterprise contact center managers must avoid being behind the curve.  To do so will mean lost loyalty, shrinking share of wallet, and less long-term profitability. This is a scenario that no enterprise, regardless of vertical, can afford to find themselves in.

Changes in how consumers buy from enterprises are an omnipresent shift in today’s economy.  Consider a few trends evident in the UK over the past twelve months, including:

  • The near collapse of high streets from Dover to Aberdeen and all points in-between.  Previously the focal point of a community’s commercial activity, the once-powerful high street is now an empty shell of what it once was;
  • Retailers are falling like dominos!  A great example of this was the announcement at the end of 2018 that HMV was going into administration in the UK. For those of us old enough to remember anxiously awaiting our allowances to spend at this epic music retailer on the weekend, seeing its current state is nearly depressing.  When one considers that HMV is one of many retail chains facing this challenge, it is even more profound to contemplate;
  • Ecommerce is where it’s at… roughly one-in-five pounds spent in the UK is via online buying.  By all accounts, this ratio will become even more pronounced in the coming years.

The above constitutes just some of the changes illustrating how the broader economy is shifting to take into account how consumers want to buy products and services.  In 2019, there is every reason to assume that how consumers choose to interact with enterprises will be more complex and challenging than ever.

Consider the impact of digital channels, which any contact center observer can confirm have become more important than ever. In fact, the most recent Ryan Strategic Advisory Front Office Omnibus Survey of 350 enterprise customer experience professionals showed that roughly half of their workstations are enabled to deliver some type of digital component.  Whether it be webchat, email, social media or instant messaging, end-users will almost certainly continue to orient themselves to non-verbal communication in the coming 12 months.

But managing these different channels remains a challenge for many enterprises.  While captive CRM budgets have seen a thaw over the past two years, a majority of firms still report that their in-house spending flexibility is tight.  This is a major challenge when automated front-line delivery and artificial intelligence are keys to maintaining end-user loyalty.  The reality is that no contact center can be without these capabilities. Knowing today’s consumer better is the lynchpin to securing their long-term loyalty.

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Author: Peter Ryan, Principal at Ryan Strategic Advisory

About Peter Ryan

Peter Ryan has been at the forefront of contact center services market advisory for over a decade.  Having began his career in London at Datamonitor in 2003, he quickly established himself as one of the foremost experts in the burgeoning CRM sector.

Over the course of his career, he has advised contact center outsourcers, their clients, industry associations and governments on matters ranging from vertical market penetration and service delivery to best practices in offshore positioning.

Peter Ryan’s expertise in outsourcing has been recognized multiple times.  He was awarded’s prestigious Best Respected Contact Center Professional in 2015 and was included in Fonolo’s Top 16 Analysts Covering Customer Experience.  He was also included in each iteration of the Nearshore Americas Power 50 influencers listings, which identified the most important outsourcing executives in the Western Hemisphere.

Through his career Peter Ryan has been a much sought-after speaker, headlining multiple events including The Turkey Call Center Conference and Expo (Istanbul), Nearshore Nexus (New York), The Business Process Enablement South Africa Summit (Cape Town), The Central American Nearshore Summit (Managua), Congreso Andino de Contact Centers y BPO (Bogota) and The Congreso Regional de Call Centers & CRM (Buenos Aires).  He has also been frequently quoted in the media on a variety of matters pertaining to BPO and contact centers.

Peter has degrees in Political Studies from the University of Saskatchewan and an MBA from Dalhousie University.  He lives in Montreal Quebec.

What consumers really think of AI in customer Service

Do you think that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have a positive or negative effect on ‘your life in the near future? Dave Pattman, Managing Director CX Services at Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group examines the results of our recently commissioned YouGov poll to find out what people really think about the future.

We worked with the polling experts YouGov to ask over 2,000 British adults what they think and it would appear that people still believe in the importance of the human touch in their interactions with brands. In our survey, 44% said that they do not think AI will impact them positively in any way and 52% said that it would make dealing with brands more impersonal.

Webhelp recently published a report on the future of automation and we commissioned the YouGov survey to find out what people really think – just normal consumers who don’t spend each day thinking about customer experience or AI strategy. It was clear from several different responses that a large majority of UK consumers prefer dealing with humans over automated services for everything from querying a bill (85%) and changing account details (62%) to making a complaint (84%), buying a product or service for the first time (77%), chasing an order (73%) or dealing with a fault (78%).

Almost half of the respondents (45%) said they have never used any type of AI, although it is becoming so pervasive that people may not even be aware that AI is often creating their product recommendations or special offers. Amongst those who know they have used AI almost half (44%) believe that it will not positively impact their life in the next five years.

Most people know from their own anecdotal evidence that human-to human contact is important when asking a brand for help, but this study from Webhelp goes even further, highlighting the degree to which people favour it over AI-powered customer service tools and are negative about AI’s potential future impact.

Many people are not aware of how AI is changing their relationship with brands, but they are gradually becoming more exposed to AI systems. Even so, this research confirms the importance of striking the right balance between the advanced technology services we offer and the incredible human talent of our local teams of agents, advisors and planners. We, at Webhelp, strike the right balance between the advanced technology available and real people – humans helping humans.

Our approach will always be customer experience driven, so this window into consumer perception is extremely valuable for helping our clients implement AI solutions that offer clear end-user value. Research like this can help us to plan how we work with our clients in future.

It is interesting to note that there is a clear divide between AI systems that customers choose to use and those that are forced on them. For example, people with a smart speaker system at home such as the Amazon Echo (Alexa) or Google Home are mostly satisfied with the way it functions – 77% said they are satisfied with their smart system. However, only 45% of people who had used a chatbot for a customer service question said that they were satisfied. Users of automated Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems were even less satisfied at 38%.

Discover more from our recent blog post on ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE ON THE CX FRONTLINE

People are likely to be more receptive to AI in future as they experience it more often – smart speakers are selling so fast today that during peak periods like Black Friday it has been impossible for even major brands like Amazon to keep up with the demand. As people become comfortable with AI systems in their own home, there is the potential for them to feel more comfortable with brands using AI.

However, our study found that most customers are pessimistic about the future as they foresee companies automating many more customer service interactions even though they would prefer to maintain service by humans. 26% of respondents felt that automating customer service functions would make interacting with companies much worse in future – just 19% said that they think this will create an improved customer experience. It was also interesting to note that 46% of customers mentioned their concerns around data privacy and security as a negative aspect of further digitisation of services.

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As you might expect, age is an important factor in the acceptance of AI. Younger generations have grown up as digital natives, constantly using technology and so it is to be expected that they would be happy to use AI and would expect it to be helpful. In fact over 90% of respondents aged 55 or over reported a preference for a human interaction when contacting a company. However, AI is not universally accepted as better by the younger demographic groups – 45% of 18-24 year olds said they would be happy with a chatbot so even the younger consumers have a majority that still prefers human interaction.

A big difference can be seen when comparing the belief that AI will have no positive impact on their life in the next five years. The older respondents supported this view with 60% agreeing, but only 26% of the young adults only supported it. But it also seems that younger consumers are more aware of the value of their data. More than half of the customers aged 25-34 are worried about threats to privacy and security compared to 45% of those 55 or above. And about a third of those 18-24 worry about AI’s impact on their job prospects compared to only 15% of those 55 or above. Perhaps that is just because they can see their entire career ahead of them and therefore automation of work is far more worrying to those who are far from retirement.

It is clear that good customer experience cannot be delivered by technology alone. It’s important to think about the overall process and journey, and how to create value for both companies and customers. Any attempt to leverage automated services should start with this thinking and ensure that automated and human-led services are working effectively, in tandem with one another. From a customer experience point of view, AI creates an opportunity for brands to deliver greater convenience, speed of response and accessibility. But it’s important to note that this doesn’t replace people. It decreases the volume but increases the value of human interaction.

I do believe that this research confirms that managers with a responsibility to plan how they can deliver the best possible customer experience need to strike the right balance between the advanced technology available and real people – humans helping humans. Consumer attitudes may change as AI becomes normalised in homes, but at present there is a strong feeling that too much of a focus on AI and automation will reduce the overall quality of customer service.

How do we really want to interact with brands? What do we really think about AI and Automation? How important is it to strike the right balance between human talent and AI and Automation for CX? Read our AI and Automation paper to find out more, or check out our latest Whitepaper on Emotion here. 

South Africa and India both chosen as CX Leaders by Ryan Strategic Advisory

Earlier this week I attended the CX Outsourcers event in Windsor. It was billed as a mindshare event where many people from different parts of the customer experience (CX) industry would get together and discuss common challenges and strategies.

The event was organised by Peter Ryan, the Principal analyst at Ryan Strategic Advisory. Peter’s company has recently put together research on the most favoured location for companies engaged in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and other forms of CX services. For the 2019 Front-Office BPO Omnibus Survey he polled over 500 decision-makers, so the poll is a great indication of which countries are improving and which are in decline.

Naturally to get the complete research you need to buy it from Peter’s company, however he presented information about the top five results during the conference and he simultaneously released a podcast too.

The poll results were exciting news for the team at Webhelp because South Africa and India – which were joint second place - are two very important locations for our delivery teams. To see them both ranked so highly is an important sign that executives making decisions about their CX globally see these locations as highly trusted.

In a blog post on his website Peter Ryan explained why South Africa and India did so well in his research: “South Africa maintains its second-place ranking in the 2019 offshore favourability rankings, albeit in a tie with India.  In the case of South Africa, the country’s outsourcing stakeholders have made efforts at courting new investment that are clearly paying off. Buyers in the US, Canada and Australia are affirming their confidence in South Africa. As for India, its history as a quality customer experience management delivery points cannot be understated, nor can its emergence as a go-to point for many buyers from the perspective of non-voice, digital channel management.”

The entire CX industry is facing a wave of digital disruption at present as companies explore how some brand-to-customer interactions can be automated. This was also a key feature of the CXO conference that I will follow up on in a separate comment, however it’s worth noting that I believe the real answer is to only use automated tools and AI where it improves the customer experience. Getting this blend of digital and human service is now an important part of the planning process when considering how to deliver great CX. In fact, we are releasing a paper on AI and Automation, so be sure to sign up for it now.

Back to South Africa and human contact… In South Africa we use a strategy known as Impact Sourcing, working with an organisation called Harambee. This partnership helps our team to find unemployed young people who would not usually have an opportunity to enter formal employment without the training Harambee provides. Not only is this great for the local community, but because of the investment Webhelp and Harambee makes  in helping these people get a job you simply cannot find greater loyalty and dedication. These young people love coming to work because they can remember when they didn’t have a job and it was almost impossible to find one - good for the community and also good for business too. You can get a flavour of the calibre of our Impact Sourcing colleagues, as well as the impact rewarding employment is having on their lives, by reading their stories: Celine Walters and Morgan Wagner

It’s these innovative ideas and an agile approach to customer service in both South Africa and India that sets our team apart in these locations. In conclusion, it was a pleasure to be at the CXO conference this week and we all felt great pride hearing just how valued South Africa and India are in the wider CX community.

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Craig Gibson