Taking a human centred approach to cyber security

In response to the evolving cyber challenge in the post-COVID-19 landscape, Here James Allen, Chief Risk & Technology Officer for the Webhelp UK Region, considers the way that risk in customer service has evolved and reveals the steps Webhelp has taken to protect its clients and people, with a human centred approach to cyber security.

The humanitarian crisis brought by COVID-19 undoubtedly caused rapid and universal disruption to businesses across the global stage; impacting economies, and leaving some companies struggling to maintain business continuity, whilst increasingly vulnerable to unscrupulous cyber criminals.

In fact, the Council of Europe’s Cybercrime division has reported evidence of a substantial rise in malicious activity (specific to the topic of COVID-19) in areas like phishing, malware, ransomware, infrastructure attacks, targeting teleworking employees to gain system access, fraud schemes (fake medicines and goods), misinformation and fake news.

In July, Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, published that victims had already lost over £11 million to COVID-19 related scams.

Consequently, the pandemic has put an intense spotlight on personal cyber practices, especially as working from home (without proper measures) can create more risk than the traditional controlled office environment. Similarly, Tech Republic reported that, from phishing attacks to malware, 71% of security professionals have been recording increased security threats or attacks since the COVID-19 outbreak, and as a result many countries and companies have been spurred into rapid action.

In the UK more than 80 coronavirus-related phishing and scam websites were taken down in just one day after the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) asked for the public to report suspicious emails. Existing takedown services, in one month alone, removed more than 2,000 online scams related to coronavirus, including 471 fake online shops, 555 malware distribution sites, 200 phishing sites and 832 advance-fee frauds. NCSC chief executive officer Ciaran Martin believes that the rise in technology use is making online safety more critical, saying:

 “Technology is helping us cope with the coronavirus crisis and will play a role helping us out of it – but that means cybersecurity is more important than ever,”   Source: Zdnet.com

 And, according to PWC, 80% of UK CEOs are concerned about the risk of cyber threats to their business, it is the issue they are most worried about, above skills (79%) and the speed of technological change (75%).

Revealingly, just under half of UK CEOs (48.4%) have taken some action regarding their own personal digital behaviour, including deleting social media or requesting a company to delete their data.

This is a worrying trend, which was noticeable even prior to the current crisis, as (according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) 2019 saw a 350% increase in ransomware attacks, a 250% increase in spoofing or business email compromise (BEC) attacks and a 70% increase in spear-phishing attacks in companies overall.

Furthermore, the average cost of a cyber-data breach rose from $4.9 million in 2017 to $7.5 million in 2018. Likewise, worldwide spending on cyber security increased by over 20% during 2017-2019 ($101Bn – $124Bn) and inevitably these costs will continue to rise, but without addressing the human behaviours contributing to this trend, much of this investment could be wasted.

And behaviour change is the key, as research firm Proofpoint revealed that a staggering 99% of threats observed relied on human interaction like enabling a macro, opening a file, following a link, or opening a document – highlighting the role of social engineering in enabling successful attacks, and the importance of knowledge as the top factor for prevention.

A recent FirstData study revealed that 60% of individuals are currently concerned about online security, and feel the need to do more to protect themselves. But information on how to do this is clearly absent, as over a quarter of those asked were entirely uninformed about the subject.

We know that the pandemic has led to record numbers of individuals now working from home – often without prior knowledge and experience of safe remote working practices and the potential security risks.  And, this situation is complicated by the fact that too often companies publish complex security policies, which are difficult to understand for the regular user.

As a people-first company, Webhelp is committed to a human centred approach to Cyber Security, aiming to provide all our people with the essential skills to keep them and their families safe online.

From the start it was clear that education was critical to delivering this goal. We recognised a need for clear and simple guidelines, put forward in an engaging and easy to follow manner, to help employees gain insight and confidence in recognising and protecting themselves against potential scams and take action when approaching cyber security.

So, in 2020 we launched our Cyber Super Heroes Campaign, designed to make complex security advice simple and accessible to all colleagues. This campaign talked to these issues in a humorous yet informative voice, and our activity has accelerated to support our colleagues through a time when cyber threats were increasing.

Focusing on a different topic every fortnight, guidance has been delivered across multiple channels including on site, email, social media, the employee intranet, desktops and screen savers and by using digital animations and posters.

Our people were also given the opportunity to get involved by becoming a Webhelp Cyber Superhero, through signing up for in-depth additional information to better champion the cause to their teammates and families.

The campaign has covered a full spectrum of cyber security topics including:

  • Phishing
  • Safe Passwords
  • Physical Security, both at work and at home
  • Keeping safe online
  • Social Engineering
  • Malware
  • Social Media
  • Keeping kids safe online
  • Safe Online Banking
  • Keeping your devices secure when you’re out and about
  • Cookies

Finally, to add a truly human face to our campaign, personal stories from volunteers in our business were shared. Colleagues were extremely keen to highlight their experiences and offered heartfelt advice to their colleagues, with the goal of really delivering a relatable message that Cyber scams can and do happen, and that together we can make our online activity safer, both in our workplaces and in our homes.

However, the work doesn’t stop there as Head of Cyber & Privacy for Webhelp UK Region, Chris Underhill, explains:

“The cyber threat landscape is constantly evolving, requiring businesses to monitor threats, adapt to change and deal with incidents swiftly. As part of my new role in Webhelp, I will be supporting our international teams and clients with cutting edge cyber intelligence, training, technology and consultancy services that not only help secure organisations against a growing number of threats but also to provide professional, certified level assurance to help secure business as usual against a backdrop of regulation, uncertain times and new working conditions.

 It’s clear that threats facing businesses extend well beyond the network perimeter and a move towards a new ‘human centric’ approach to cyber security is required to protect critical assets from compromise. Webhelp are committed to supporting our teams and clients using the very best in technology and educational programmes that will provide a robust suite of solutions across industry.”

Agility and innovation in risk has been crucial to managing the pace of change during the pandemic, so despite the challenges brought by COVID, fear must not stand in the way of progress. This is something that will be explored further in a forthcoming blog for the #servicereimagined series.

 

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


OneShot #5 - Influence

Our 5th edition of OneShot is here!

Download your OneShot magazine

Following the unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous companies have been forced to make vital adjustments to stay afloat and also guarantee business continuity. Our interesting reads also include:

A Word: KOL – Key Opinion Leader
A Number: 10,000 subscribers and no more
Three Opinions: Influence: How to get your messages across?
One News: TikTok supports its position in Europe
A Demo: The dark social
A B-Case: How Webhelp’s KYC participated in securing a platform by Bpifrance
A Hashtag: #TrustYourInfluencer
An Offer: MyStudioFactory
An appointment: Conversation 2020, Paris
A Conversation: How to restore confidence in the time of fake news?
A Story: Santa Claus, citizen of the New World

Read all about these exciting and thought-provoking topics in our 5th edition of OneShot.


Identity verification meets our KYC proven strategies

Fraud and economic crime rates remain on record highs, negatively impacting many companies than ever before. And if you thought the pandemic would slow down the online fraudsters, it has in fact created an opportunity for them. Criminals are now capitalizing on the current situation to further commit financial scams. With surgical masks and other medical amenities in high demand, fake shops, email addresses, social media accounts and websites allegedly offering these items, have surged online.

blog KYC
Common fraud scenarios in business…

  • Business identity theft – when perpetrators open business accounts under the names of legitime existing companies.
  • Phishing – when hackers impersonate a trusted vendor to convience you to authorize a financial transaction.
  • Shell companies – firms that are purposefully set up with the objective of commiting fraud. Such companies never provide a product or service, but rather use their companies to launder money.
  • Voicemail message scam – is a more recent means of businesses fraud which involves a voicemail that is delivered via e-mail. While at first glance the e-mail appears to be official, it normally has malware attached to it.
  • Invoice fraud – from false invoices that lack a corresponding product or service to inflated invoices where the reported expenses are higher than the actual costs, companies face a myriad of wrong invoicing fraud schemes.

And because many global organizations often handle numerous monthly supplier payments, cybercriminals continue to take advantage of the susceptibility that exists. The damage is estimated at $63,000 in 87% of companies who earn an annual revenue of more than $1 Billion. (Source: KPMG – nsknox.net).

With over 10 years of experience since our founding, our team is made up of 450 KYC experts who are spread around five EU countries. Until now, we have served over 100 customers in various sectors such as Banking & Insurance, Gaming, Marketplaces, Real Estate and verified millions of documents.

Why us?...

Our solutions
Using our KYC solutions, we provide instant customer verification through enriching technology with a human touch.Our wide-ranging portfolio is designed and customized to match your business and industry needs. Our solution entails a mix of manual and digitalized processes which provides instant online customer identification and ID verification for B2C businesses.

Our approach
And just like we mentioned in our previous blog about the importance of using AI and humans in content moderation, combining the human touch with technology is equally important in the verification procedure. The innovative technology that KYC uses, accelerates activation, enhances customer experience and decreases fraud. Our best-in-class Application Programing Interfaces (APIs) are enriched with teams of experts who focus on value-adding customer interactions.

Our process
From complex to simple documents, our systems scan and verify all types of files such as, IDs, driving licenses, proof of address, pay slips, legal status bank details etc. The automatic extraction and authentication of data is enhanced with manual intervention from our Subject matter Experts.

Our risk mitigation
In order to stay compliant with the Anti Money Laundering (AML) and CTF rules, part of our obligation is to certify that customers are the people they claim to be. And for us to mitigate the risks, we use Realtime Name Check against sanction lists, Politically Exposed Persons (PEP) and Interpol. Project implementation is also backed up with compliance expert advises.

Our technology
The best-in-class deployment of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technologies ensures that the verification process is steadfast. We collect E-signatures as well as enable video streaming capabilities. Additionally, our API is connected to multiple external databases.

Our services
Apart from our Know Your Customer services, we also offer Know Your Business (KYB) where we offer a full range of services that help you better identify your B2B partners during their digital onboarding process. Our KYB service is compliant with international regulations and ensures higher transformation rates, increased performance and stronger security.

Moreover, with our Know Your Employee (KYE) system we have developed an innovative candidate onboarding platform enabling faster, more secured, and more efficient recruitment process. Finally, we design bespoke Remediation processes helping our customers to comply with regulation by collecting, updating, and verifying end user data. We are able to process very large data basis and thanks to our inbound and outbound calling capacity, we manage to drastically improve positive Remediation rates.

What is the main challenge and how does KYC overcome it

Main issue is to be able to externalize the end to end KYC process and not only part of it. Many software providers propose automatic identification processes leaving customers to manually carry out fallback tasks in order to complement the technology when automatic ID verification fails. This creates complexity and hinders a seamless customer journey.

Webhelp unique combination of technology and manual fallback ensures 100% accurate and definitive decision on identification process, leaving high value added tasks and business decision to the customers. Low value added tasks and upfront verifications are done on Webhelp side, providing an end to end verification process. Our clients can thus concentrate on their core business relying on our proven dual verification approach.

Would you like to also benefit from our expertise in this field? Get in touch with our expert via LinkedIn - Hervé De kermadec President Webhelp KYC, or via E-mail on herve.dekermadec@webhelp.com.


How AI and data analytics can support vulnerable customers

Well before the COVID-19 pandemic began, the identification and protection of vulnerable customers was a significant focus for companies and regulators. Here James Allen, Chief Risk & Technology Officer for Webelp UK Group looks at the impact it will have, now and in the future.

In these testing times, the identification and protection of vulnerable customers will now assume even more importance as organisations work on proactively recognising customers who need assistance, prior to the predicted surge in demand for financial support - as aids like employee furloughs, payment holidays and credit schemes end.

Worryingly, prior to the outbreak over half of the UK population were already financially vulnerable, with one in six people unable to cope with a £50 increase in monthly bills, according to a survey of Britain’s personal finances by the City regulator. The Financial Conduct Authority’s biggest ever survey of households found that 4.1 million people are already in serious financial difficulty, falling behind with bills and credit card payments, with 25- to 34-year-olds the most over-indebted.

Furthermore, 50% of adults (over 25.6 million people) “display one or more characteristics that signal their potential vulnerability” and just under 8 million are over-indebted.

And this is not limited to the UK, as the 2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard finds that forty percent of American households lack a basic level of savings and don’t have enough savings to make ends meet at the poverty level for three months if their income was interrupted. Almost half (48.1%) of Americans with credit had scores below prime and 20% of households had no credit in the past 12 months and were likely to be without access to it.

Furthermore, a report from the ING Group states that southern European economies like Italy and Spain are especially vulnerable to the economic effects of COVID, exacerbated by the importance of tourism which accounts for at least 13% of GDP and about 15% of total employment. They also have a larger share of vulnerable workers and a higher chance of bankruptcies due to firm size.

However, throughout all this we must remember that vulnerability can be a temporary and fluctuating status, with many causes, including mental health, dementia, changes in employment and personal circumstances, literacy, numeracy and socioeconomic factors.  It is key to use technology to help people on an individual basis, never forgetting that unique set of circumstances they may be experiencing.

Plus, regulators will be keeping a close eye on these new developments, and the pressure may soon be on firms to use all available routes to safeguard customers and prevent the global financial crisis from deepening.

So the question for many global companies has become, in the post COVID world, how do we identify and support customers who are financially vulnerable, without compromising operational efficiency?

And this is especially important for us at Webhelp, as we carry a people-first commitment and our think human value through to the customer base of over 32 clients in the UK, India and South Africa.

It’s clear that data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) is already changing the way that companies offer support to their most vulnerable customers, and that this may play a part in reshaping the regulatory landscape. While establishing if someone is vulnerable and how best to support them is a very human judgment, at Webhelp we believe that sensitive and careful use of data, using AI to segment, can help direct the right customer support teams to the right people, spotting potential issues before they become a problem.

We combine the very best in technology and skilled people to create the best outcomes, as Chris Bryson, Webhelp Global Data & Analytics Director explains:

“We’re helping clients leave no stone unturned to reveal customer vulnerability. Whether customers tell us directly that they’re experiencing issues, or if they show characteristics of someone who can be vulnerable; using analytics from customer contacts and records helps us and our clients see those signals clearly.

We use our own unique speech and text analytics engine, which is applied to advisor and automated customer conversations. The resulting Voice of the Customer analytics drives constant improvements in the way we measure quality and enhances the overall customer experience.

As a result, we can help our clients to spot vulnerable customers who would otherwise slip through the net. At the heart, it’s about helping our advisors to better support that customer, and working with our clients to ensure they are recognising these signs of vulnerability.”

By using this insight, and access to the best analytical technology, and to the right people to put this in action for the greater good, we can confidently move forwards and create a better financial environment for both clients and customers in the future.

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

 

 

 


How AI is changing the retail experience

As part of our #servicereimagined series, Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer for the UK Region, looks at how Artificial Intelligence is influencing the retail sector, how it is being used to leverage new customer service models and why brands must evolve to embrace this unstoppable wave, or risk falling behind the curve.

Whilst I love a good movie, the fictional relationship with Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not a happy one – and almost universally results in a troubled experience for the human! The silver screen, and latterly the internet, often warns of the dangers of pitting man against machine, but in reality AI has seamlessly, quietly and unobtrusively embedded itself into our daily lives.

AI shares our homes, guides us when we travel, takes our selfie when we socialise and influences our retail and leisure activities, and it may well have become the most indispensable tool of the 21st century.

Beyond the media tropes, today AI is firmly focused on problem solving, by making millions of decisions at a basic level without human intervention. Machine learning allows processes to adjust to new inputs, and avoid pitfalls based on experience. Essentially it uses multi-layered data analysis to predict patterns and, in some cases, to uncover and direct customer behaviours.

It is much simpler, more benign and much, much more useful to business than its movie counterpart.

Dave Pattman, Director of CX Services at Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, sheds some light on this when he says;

“Whilst AI is everywhere, most experts agree that business is currently using the narrowest point in the definition, by enhancing brand delivery with mathematics, statistics, machine learning, deep learning and big data. However, even in its simplest form AI is making a radical difference, and is visually in our daily lives in our smart home device functions, autonomous vehicles and predictive text.”

 “AI solutions are being developed in a broad range of sectors, and will inevitably be used for common business tasks like auto classification and recommendation services, which will streamline operations and drive revenue. However, the real benefit will come to those business that combine next level AI technology with the right skilled personnel – and use this to stimulate and track consumer emotions!”

But what does AI mean for retailers?

Both physical and virtual retailers could see a benefit of integrating AI into their processes, to improve task management and customer insight. As we reported in our blog on the future of retail post COVID-19, shoppers will be looking for a more experiential real journey, and traditional brick and mortar enterprises will have to work harder to compete. As the storefront.com magazine reports:

“Brands need to reimagine the total in-store experience, and technology is key. In-store technologies must be able to solve business processes and incorporate planning and strategy, rather than just implementing flashy, PR-driven technology. It’s crucial that retailers effectively merge technology and function, which is why AI is at the forefront of in-store tech.”

However, I believe that it is in customer service management where AI has the most significant potential for change, gathering detailed customer patterns and preferences, capturing both short term consumer market fluctuations and informing longer term business planning.

As AI grows more and more prevalent, at Webhelp we are also exploring language processing for the purposes of automation, as Chris Bryson, Webhelp Global Data & Analytics Director explains:

“The direct interaction between customer and machine is allowing us to analyse conversations, at scale, and to make recommendations. We have developed own speech and text analytics engine, which we apply to agent and automated customer conversations.

At Webhelp, this is deployed to drive efficiency in our measurement of quality and to create CX improvements through actionable Voice of The Customer analytics”

When intelligent algorithms are used to process customer and sales data, there is a wealth of actionable and valuable information to be discovered. Intelligent chat bots, voice analytics and word recognition are also changing the game for retail customer service. And, as David Turner, Webhelp CEO for the UK region, Webhelp are at the forefront:

“We have already made significant investments in our digital and automation capabilities to help clients improve customer experience and reduce costs using digital self-service, and leverage technologies such as chatbots to reduce volumes of non-complex and low value interactions. At the same time, we are identifying where human support adds value to digital experiences. Providing guidance and support to customers during high value, complex and emotionally important journeys.”

These technologies are unavoidable, and brands must learn how best to use them to their advantage, as Craig Gibson Chief Commercial Officer Webhelp UK recognises:

“As the urgency for change and transformation intensifies in the post COVID landscape, some pivotal questions will be raised: How different will service look and feel in the future? How will businesses and their operations need to adapt? And how can employers engage and support their colleagues to deliver on new customer promises?”

To discover more about how to leverage customer service models in this new world, I would suggest that you read our new Whitepaper, a joint publication with Gobeyond Partners, on Reimagining service for the new world, which aims to address these crucial questions and is underpinned by our unique industry perspective alongside new research to discover the operating models of the future.


Demand Marketing guides salespeople to the best business opportunities

(Article published initially in French in Actionco.fr)

Selling is hard. More than ever, marketing-commerce congruence is essential to accelerate growth by generating higher value qualified leads. 

While the first two thirds of the B2B customer journey is now in digital form, "it is essential to stimulate the customer as soon as he prepares to make a purchasealone, online, to help the business to make this purchase intention a reality", underlines Alexandre Barthel, Marketing Director at Webhelp Enterprise. 

From data to information, from information to action 

Demand Marketing is above all based on data: "The ability to collect data to extract information is crucial to understand your audience and address them in a personalized way, the antipodes of the "’mass’ Direct Marketing actions of 20 years ago". It is now a multitude of highly targeted marketing campaigns that delivers value and feeds Lead Scoring. This method consists of allocating points according to behaviour within a digital path: opening an e-mail, clickingvisiting a site, etc., in order to produce a ranking reflecting the prospect's interest in the commercial offer and his propensity to buy. The objective is to guide the sales force in priority towards these opportunitiesReinforced by automation, Demand Marketing plays a major role more than ever in generating leads, in a daily life without trade shows or even face-to-face meetings. 

Key figures  

 - Between 27% and 40%: this is the average contribution of marketing to turnover (source: Markletic March 2020) 

 - 69%: this is the share of companies that make the generation of qualified leads their top priority for 2020 (source: Hubspot) 

Predicting buying behaviour 

Beyond the essential work of segmentation, marketers are sometimes helped by data scientists to create predictive models: "it is a question of anticipating the need, in order to take proactive action, for example to retain a subscriber for whom signals of risk of termination have been detected"These models are now reinforced by web listening’ techniques, which consist of analysing online interactions to detect purchase intentions. The retailer can then propose an adapted offer, but "it goes without saying that the posture towards the customer, in particular the tone of the message, must be benevolent enough to be perceived positively," notes Alexandre Barthel 

 Social Selling completes the generation of demand  

 Demand Marketing is extended by an individual approach with Social Selling. The modern seller appropriates the brand's marketing content to share it with his ecosystem on social networks. Here again, the goal is to generate business. "This mastery of social selling has become the standard in sales to accurately identify and contact decision-makers. In addition to generating business opportunitiesthis approach enhances the expertise of the sales representativewho makes a commitment on behalf of the brand to a wide audience," says Alexandre Barthel. 

Would you like an audit of your sales model and evaluate the value of marketing campaigns to feed your sales force? Get in touch with specialists.  

 


Whitepaper launch: Reimagining service for the new world

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[1] www.dma.org.uk

[2] www.sonomaecologycenter.org


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In just 14 days we achieved:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking to the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Britishcouncil.org

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

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


How the Yodel and Webhelp partnership faced the challenge of COVID-19

Partnership is a huge part of the way we deliver services at Webhelp, and one of our four cultural pillars is to put the client at the heart. Here we explore the strong collaborative approach that was undertaken during the COVID crisis with Yodel, a key logistics client for Webhelp. Joining the discussion were Michaela Simpson, Head of Customer Experience at Yodel, Kellyann McCafferty, Account Director at Webhelp and Cobus Crous, Head of Operations for Webhelp in India and SA.

Yodel is one of the UK’s largest delivery companies for B2C orders, serving many of the country’s leading retailers. Webhelp and Yodel have been working together since 2015, and have built up a strong alliance providing outstanding customer service management, which is delivered from Webhelp’s offshore locations in South Africa and India.

What was the starting position of the logistics industry, and Yodel’s outlook before COVID?

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

We were just coming out of a very successful peak period, the six weeks over Christmas, is traditionally one of the highest delivery periods for the consumer market. Logistics is a highly competitive sector and as an innovative carrier, our efforts were focused on continuing to build a forward-thinking technology roadmap. We were in the enviable position of having well-established, technical and highly skilled operational and management teams in place, and an exceptionally in depth understanding of the day to day working of the business.

Do you have any feedback on what Webhelp were doing well before COVID hit?

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

Everything.

Together we had had a run of at least three, if not four really strong quarters. And, this success can be measured by the fact that Yodel have been awarding Webhelp service credits for great delivery at the end of each quarter.

Like any partnership, you can drill down into detail to find areas to challenge, which is simply good practice. But, in my opinion, we had the strongest people we’ve ever had  and overall we were very pleased.

Do you have anything to share on the operational approach during COVID, for example how and when our partnership reacted – any stand out examples, or challenges?

Michaela Simpson (Yodel)

One stand out during the COVID crisis would be, just as we approached Easter, Yodel were awarded a UK government contract to collect COVID tests for the NHS, seven days a week. Webhelp delivered an eight person team specifically trained to support this essential service. We went from concept to go live in less than a week! They did an absolutely fantastic job delivering the first campaign and we now have two more on the horizon.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

But there were challenges, and they were different depending on the country in question. In India, a curfew was announced on the 14th of March, and then the lockdown was announced on Mothers Day on Sunday the 22nd of March, one of Yodel’s busiest trading days of the year! We then had four hours to deliver desktops & laptops to our employees who were without access to technology. Working swiftly, our teams successfully managed to complete all actions on time and in line with the Indian Government regulations.

In South Africa, shortly before the formal lockdown announcement on the 23rd of March, we conducted an initial employee survey to understand the potential challenge of the home situation for our advisors in terms of WIFI, hardware, infrastructure and so on.

A staggered approach was then used to move our people to either supported homeworking, or for the small group where this was not suitable due to not having an appropriate home environment, supported working from a hotel venue.

The hotel solution was an industry first, which showed not only the strength in our partnership to act quickly and decisively around commercials and logistics, but also highlighted the commitment and dedication our people have towards Webhelp and Yodel.

Our advisors left their families and loved ones for 21 days, without hesitation, to support customers and clients from a hotel room during a very uncertain period. This is testament to our values and how our wonderful employees live the Yodel brand.

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

Yes, the Indian lockdown happened incredibly quickly. And then South Africa was hot on its heels. One of the strengths we shared collaboratively was the ability to make some very decisive and quick decisions on how we were going to operate. This allowed Webhelp to deploy a robust plan at speed, which has been really successful, particularly in India, and remains so now.

Understandably, there were technical challenges to overcome, early in the process but, I think if you were a Yodel customer you probably wouldn't have noticed a significant difference.

We made the pragmatic, but firm decision to move away from phone services to Web chat until early August, and to manage that message to our consumers. Clear joint action gave us the freedom to plan our campaigns together, knowing the road ahead and the expected timeline.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

This helped make sure that in a short space of time all our people, in both locations, were up and running from home, or hotel based – and while we appreciate the sacrifices our advisors made, the feedback was that they were delighted to carry on representing the Yodel brand during a difficult period, and maintained high enthusiasm in delivering great service.

Cobus Crous (Webhelp):

Absolutely. Taken together across the Webhelp estate, in both India and South Africa, Yodel was one of the accounts that were 100% operational within a 72-hour window.

And I think that's quite an achievement on its own.

Personally, I'm exceptionally proud of how my team reacted, to what was a very scary and unsettling scenario. Their attitude was: “OK, we're going for it, we're going to solve it!” From the moment they got their PC’s, they unpacked, connected and were ready to work the next morning! And I think that was remarkable, just how well they moved with the change. Our people are such a big part of this story.

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

In fact, this shows great resilience, as they were quickly functioning above normal business levels, when COVID actually brought much larger parcel volumes than usual.

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):  

Yes, interestingly, at Yodel we were initially concerned about the negative impact COVID could have on online retail, which forms a substantial part of our business.

However, the reality was completely different. China came out of lockdown just as Europe went into it, and the expected disruption to the global manufacturing industry didn’t impact us. Suddenly home shopping habits changed completely, so we have been effectively running at peak operation, which we usually spend a significant part of the year planning and laying out logistics for.

And we managed to switch this on in a just a few hours. And since then we have maintained very, very high numbers, well above our plan!

Webhelp is a people first organisation with a commitment to make business more human, did this approach effect delivery?  

Michaela Simpson (Yodel)

In the logistics industry, it's easy for us to think in operational terms, but despite the fact that we had to make some very critical business decisions, together we have considered and prioritised the people side of our partnership. This went above the usual checks and balance for any business and has come through very strongly from the Webhelp operational teams at a grass roots level.

Thoughts for the future?   

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

With Yodel, we are building a highly proactive approach to contact and delivery, which benefits from the joint operational traits of flexibility, clarity of decision making and the right balance between people and technology.

Our partnership will continue to change the way that brands look at outsourced customer service for the logistics sector, both during this crisis and as we move towards a more stable future.


Outsourcing content moderation: adding value to first and third parties with a human first approach

What are the main issues with content moderation today?

A recent report published by NYU, shows that there is over 3 billion pieces of content on Facebook (in the first quarter of 2020) that is the responsibility for content moderators to check; remove or provide a warning ‘cover’ of disturbing content before viewing.

Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg recently reported in a 2018 Whitepaper , Facebook’s review teams “make the wrong call in 1 out of 10 cases”, which can be a result of relying on AI to identify harmful content, or the pressure and lack of training with moderators.

With this type of role, comes a great deal of pressure and responsibility to ensure the safety of the community, 24/7 (2.6 billion active users daily).

One of the main issues content moderators face today, is the hundreds of items they are required to moderate within a six to eight-hour shift.    Therefore, expertise is essential, as it is up to content moderators to act with governance to uphold high standards. Content is not responsible of the platform,  this is the freedom users have for ‘free speech’, but the onus is on the moderators to control obscenity showcased to them.

Subsequently, the second issue is the pressure of fulfilling these number of items to moderate. Setting high targets and efficiency rates can prove to be unattainable and have the consequences of diminished performance and mental health and wellbeing.

Recommendations from NYU

The NYU report discusses recommendations major social media platforms can do to improve their content moderation.

While the main theme of the article is constructed on the basis “A call for outsourcing”, we can conversely demonstrate outsourcing is instrumental to content moderation, moreover how we align with these recommendations outlined in the report.

Human first approach when outsourcing content moderation

At Webhelp, we know many mistakes have been done concerning content moderation services, therefore we decided when we entered this ‘community service’, to adopt a completely different approach - 74% of our operators recommend Webhelp as an employer (NPS).

Investing in people

A human first approach to content moderation is Webhelp’s understanding that people’s mental health and wellbeing is not to be disregarded when managing afflictive content.

Wellness is our differentiator, enabled through our Webhealth Wellness Programme:

  • Mental Health Awareness training is provided for managers to recognise symptoms of stress, and the coping mechanisms to support colleagues
  • providing a safe, working environment to ensure colleagues have a sense of security, trust, and reliability.
  • access to certified Psychologists, councillors, and trained coaches to support content moderators with mental, physical, financial, and nutritional health.

Wellbeing Analytics to take proactive action

As part of our approach to content moderators and their mental health, we monitor their performance using Wellbeing Analytics.

Using this tool enables us to identify issues through a combination of observing colleagues, using data analytics and machine learning for proactive action.

Team leaders and coaches will have daily updates on colleagues MTI score which indicates how colleagues are performing and  , identify ; this allows supervisors to take appropriate actions to support them, for example, reworking a shift or allow for longer breaks - 100% of our operators moderating sensitive content have shorter shifts which achieves up to 4 points of attrition reduction.

Improving content moderation

Managing content moderation is not to be taken lightly. It requires expertise and knowledge about this area and understanding there is a balance between the impact it has on individual’s wellbeing and the value it adds to first and third parties.

Outsourcing for content moderation is a way in which social media companies can employ experts within that field to deliver outcomes and improve performance.

As NYU have reported, content moderation should not be outsourced because it lacks on moderator’s health and wellbeing.

As we have demonstrated above, we have a strong focus on this. Not all outsourcing is conducted by ‘customer service centres’ that exploit their team without support, on the contrary.

Taking a human first approach with our Webhealth programme and Wellbeing Analytics tool enables colleagues to develop their understanding of mental health and is essential in proving a safe, healthy environment for moderators.