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.


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

 

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

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

 

Why did you launch this study on vehicle data?

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How important is consent to the use of vehicle data?

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

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

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

 

Which segments are affected by the use of vehicle data?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preventive maintenance services are also possible on these bases.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That would be the start of a new era!

 

 

 


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

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

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

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

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

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

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

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

Everything.

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

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

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

Michaela Simpson (Yodel)

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

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

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

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

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

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

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

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):

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

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

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

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

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

Cobus Crous (Webhelp):

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

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

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

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

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

Michaela Simpson (Yodel):  

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

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

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

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

Michaela Simpson (Yodel)

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

Thoughts for the future?   

Kellyann McCafferty (Webhelp):

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

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


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


Why are human moderators still essential?

Understand the unsaid
Humans remain the best in reading, interpreting and understanding content. Often times AI powered moderation fails to decode hidden meanings. On the other hand, humans are intuitive by nature, they are able to read between the lines and understand straight away. This helps to avoid the wrong flagging of content.

Authentic conversations
Don’t we all want to wow our customers with an exceptional customer experience? And the best way to do that is by creating real conversations with the audience. While AIs are programmed to be more conversational and interactive with customers, they aren’t humans and don’t have feels. They lack the humanity needed to connect with the customers on a personalized and engaging level.

Grasping the context
Taking English as an example, the same word can have different meanings depending on how it is used. Correspondingly, the same image can also have different meanings depending on the context it is used. It would be difficult for AI to determine the motive of a picture even if it detects it. For example, when giving reviews about a weight loss program, a customer may post a partially nude picture. Deciding whether the picture is appropriate or not, would be a challenge for an AI powered system. Contrary to that, a human moderator is able to immediately recognize the improperness of the image and conclude if it is acceptable or not.

Brand reputation
Upholding a good brand reputation is imperative for a company’s continued success. And because we live in an online world, the first place frustrated customers go to vent their disappointment is online. And the last thing such a customer would want is to receive a generic AI canned response. During such instances, humans are the best alternatives as they have the intelligence and know-how to solve such conflicts by even flipping a negative experience to a positive one and living the customer happy and satisfied.

Thanks to technology advancement, AI deep-learning and neural networks have enabled the automation of numerous tasks, such as image classification, speech recognition and natural language processing. In spite of that, AI content moderation is hampered with frequent errors. Even with the training of numerous examples, neural networks are still unreliable to make accurate judgements of cases that appear different from their training data.

Ultimately, effective Content Moderation requires a good mix between a robust AI powered system to instantaneously and correctly filter content without exposing the moderators to sensitive material, handle a massive content volume and also a very  adaptive team of empathetic moderatos with local cultural knowledge to accurately screen borderline user-generated content.


Is the future moderation of social media companies at stake?

§ Section 230
Enacted in 1996, § Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) states that “No provider or user of an internet computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any content provided by a third party". In other words, social media platforms will not be held responsible for content that is hosted on them, except for federal crimes (e.g. terrorism or child abuse)

Passed more than 20 years ago, Section 230 has been the blueprint for the internet we know today. It is a legal framework that heavily relies on user generated content as opposed to the content that companies create. Fundamentally, Section 230 grants the Tech companies immunity from lawsuits regarding the content on their platforms. This gives them the freedom to run their businesses without fear of negative repercussions.

The executive order
Last year in August, President Donald Trump prepared an executive order that would challenge the Federal Communications Commission to create rules that could inhibit the protection of Section 230. This action was not received positively with the legal experts and regulators. Subsequently, the White House seemed to have lost interest and it was tabled until this year in May when it was actively considered following a feud where Twitter flagged Trump’s post as “glorifying violence”. Trump signed the executive order on Thursday 28th of May with the aim of limiting the legal shield that protects the social media platforms from taking liability for user generated content.

Since his inauguration, Trump and his administration believe that social media platforms unfairly censor their content. What added fuel to the fire was when Twitter carried out a fact check of Trump’s posts that disproved his claim about mail-in ballots. This made Trump even more furious and he hastily vowed to make greater regulations concerning social media sites.

Tech companies and industry advocates state that modifying Section 230 alters the original purpose of the act. They further caution that the order which supposedly seeks to protect free speech by stopping the flagging of posts, will actually have the opposite effect.

The impact of Section 230 reform
The implementation of Section 230 depends on an array of Democratic lawmakers, conservative advocacy groups and free-speech activists. The amendment of Section 230 will mean that users will be directed to file their complains to the Federal Trade Commission (FCC) who will investigate to determine whether the platforms rightfully and lawfully flag content. Furthermore, the reform will gain liberty in interpreting the law and compel agencies to follow it rather than the interpretation offered by Congress or the courts.

Facebook’s take on this is that the government could hold tech platforms responsible e.g. by setting a compulsory median response time for removing posts. This would in fact hurt instead of help Content Moderation as they will be under pressure to timely remove the content and hereby stop screening older posts which might leak through despite being inappropriate for the audiences.

Google also denounced the reform by stating that they follow clear content policies and enforce them neutrally without taking any political stand. They continued to add that their platform has empowered many people and organizations by not only giving them a voice, but also creating new ways to reach their audiences. They believe that altering Section 230 will hurt the economy and global leadership on internet freedom.

Twitter proclaimed that the order is a “reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law that was created to protect innovation and freedom of expression underpinned by democratic values. Attempts to unilaterally remodel it threatens internet freedom and the future of online speech.”

The Backlash
A Washington-based tech group filed a lawsuit against President Trump declaring that his order violates the First Amendment which “restricts government officials from using their power to retaliate against an entity or individual for engaging in protected speech”. The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) believes that the target is to chill and curtail free speech which undermines the efforts of social media companies in ensuring their platforms are used responsibly even during elections. The lawsuit comes after a long-standing clash between the social media companies and Trump’s administration.

Many civil rights groups and internet freedom agencies condemn Trump’s order with the co-creator of Section 230 Senator Ron Wyden saying Trump’s action is “plainly illegal”. Facebook also released a statement affirming that the company upholds freedom of expression in their services whilst protecting communities from toxic content including posts designed to stop voters from exercising their voting rights.

Even though Trump’s order hasn’t taken full effect, the modification of Section 230 will most likely have a counterproductive effect that could push the social media companies to impose stricter regulations than before. Ironically, this would hinder Trump who heavily relies on social media to spread his views and statements which are often partly or entirely untrue.


Five key questions for CEOs, a response to McKinsey Digital

In a recent article from McKinsey Digital, several experts posed a number of key questions focusing on a digital-led recovery from COVID-19 aimed at CEOs, a total of five in fact, and never being one to ignore a challenge, David Turner, CEO for the UK Region shares his insight.

I’m responding not only in my role as CEO for Webhelp’s UK region, but as a passionate advocate of digital transformation – something that drives our service structure and is deeply embedded in the innovative partnerships we create with our clients. I hope that my answers illustrate both the resilience shown by our teams during COVID-19 and our desire for our clients not just to recover – but to thrive.

  1. Do you have a clear view of where the value is going to be and a road map that will get you there?

Here at Webhelp, conversations with our clients on the topic of digital transformation are built in to our processes. The impact of increasingly sophisticated technology in the hands of consumers driving changes in their behaviours and expectations, combined with market disruption from new, online business models has been apparent for some time.

However, Dave Pattman, Managing Director CX Services for Gobeyond Partners, part of the Webhelp Group, highlights that:

“What COVID-19 has changed is the pace at which organisations have found themselves having to respond and adapt. For many this pandemic has resulted not only in the virtualisation of their workforce as offices closed but also the virtualisation of their customers as the shutters came down on physical outlets as well.”

In our view, it is very likely that the increasingly digital consumer behaviours arising from the lockdown experience will stick, forcing many organisations to radically rethink the fundamentals of their business and how they reach and serve their customers.

I firmly believe that Webhelp has the right resources, expertise and more importantly the flexibility to create and sustain digital strategy and online growth for our clients.

The insight driving every stage of this strategy should come from deeply understanding and tracking customer behaviours, something that is built into all our client solutions and forms the backbone of agile customer experience.

The digital landscape is also highly dependent on regulation, so the roadmap to success must be achieved in a compliant manner. For many organisations, this will create an added complication in the digital transformation journey. Our well-established risk function with expertise across regulation, cyber and compliance enables us to confidently navigate these challenges on behalf of our clients.

  1. What role should business building have in helping you accelerate your entrance into new markets or access new customers?

Here, McKinsey concludes that many businesses can only match the pace of both the crisis and the change in customer behaviour by building something outside of the core company.

This is true in our experience, we have worked swiftly with our clients, increasing their business building capacity in digital.

This has taken a range of forms, from re-engineering blocked and over-subscribed customer management routes, to creating blended services that move seamlessly between on site, voice, virtual hubs, digital messaging and homeworking.

They also highlight the potential for growth in remote service providers, which I can certainly confirm, and that data visionaries are finding ways through analytics and automation to use new types and sources of data to generate value. We have been a long-term proponent of this, with several blogs and whitepapers creating conversation and tracking innovation in this field.

  1. How can you lock in the benefits of a more agile operating model to increase the metabolic rate of your business?

McKinsey asserts that the very nature of the crisis has required teams to act quickly amidst uncertainty and react to changing situations. This was certainly true for us, and we immediately established a high-level rapid response unit to handle the major crisis decisions, while creating an agile and cascading level of responsibility to prevent our senior teams from becoming overwhelmed.  This allowed us to react across countries with one voice, while adapting to what was a rapidly changing set of international parameters and regulations.

Our senior leaders create flexible strategies based on current research and highly probable outcomes, always keeping real-time customer data at the top of the decision tree.

An incredible amount of momentum was reached and we have certainly benefited from clarity of focus, something which I will endeavour to sustain, and I have a renewed depth of confidence in the commitment and flexibility of all our people.

In the post-COVID digital world, Webhelp’s Think Human positioning has never been more relevant. Digital technology has been an enabler rather than a barrier to human connection during the lockdown. Separated families and friends of all generations have kept in touch over video calls and communities have mobilised over social media to support the vulnerable and key workers on the frontline.

As Dave Pattman also points out:

“It would be a mistake for organisations to assume that they can or should seek to remove all human interaction with customers. The value for Webhelp is going to be found in helping our clients to simultaneously digitise the human and humanise the digital.”

How should you rethink your talent strategy so that you have the people you need when the recovery starts?

Recruiting and retaining the right people is absolutely key to the successful growth of any campaign or company.  Our commitment to make business more human drives us to deliver an exemplary people strategy – something that we genuinely pride ourselves on – this will no doubt continue to evolve in the recovery stage, post-COVID.

Melanie Buckley, Director of Employee Value Proposition & Engagement Programmes UK, India and South Africa, points out that flexibility is again the key here saying:

“We have moved from being reliant on our people reading key business messaging in work hours on the company intranet, to posting on closed Facebook groups that they can access any time of the day or night from the comfort of their own home. After all; good communication between the company and your people works both ways.

Being highly visible ‘where they live’ online (like social networks) also helps us to bond with our people as a brand, by sharing their successes and recognising their hard work.”

This topic deserves a blog – or a series - in its own right. And, as a people first company this is something that we will be bringing to you in the near future. In the meantime I will leave you some insight from Gillian Campbell, Chief People Officer UK Region & Director Global Engagement for Webhelp:

 “When developing our employer value proposition over the past year, we took the time to understand what is attractive to employees from different backgrounds and levels of experience. This endeavour is a cycle of continuous engagement, feedback and improvement, through which we identify areas for growth in the existing employee experience. Moreover, our investment in our employer brand is paying off – it’s helped us to attract and to retain the right people.”

  1. What investments are the most necessary to create the technology environment that will allow your company to thrive in the next normal?

Investment in technology infrastructure is absolutely critical.

We have already made significant investments in our digital and automation capabilities to help clients improve customer experience and reduce costs using digital self-service, and leverage technologies such as chatbots to reduce volumes of non-complex and low value interactions.

As we became aware of the impact of COVID-19, we took steps on the logistical front to reinforce our strong digital framework, and this continued as the crisis progressed. We did this both practically: improving, increasing and securing our network capacity, and with rapid digital innovation, creating bespoke solutions for our clients – which were delivered alongside the substantial task of moving 40,000 colleagues to homeworking.

The result has been the provision of a truly responsive range of solutions, a journey which hasn’t been without challenges, some of which Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, for the Webhelp UK region, reveals in her recent blog.

At the same time, we are identifying where human support adds value to digital experiences. Providing guidance and support to customers during high value, complex and emotionally important journeys.

It’s becoming very clear that success for any organisation will only be achieved through combining the right technology with a human mindset and strong digital strategy.

Digital strategy now has an almost universal impact on maintaining business continuity, and CEO’s need to both invest in and maintain their digital ecosystems across the board, making sure that data service providers and all respective technologies create a streamlined experience.

However, many businesses are not yet ready as Mark Palmer, CEO at Gobeyond Partners explains:

“Prior to COVID-19, there was a misperception of digital maturity across many sectors. As the crisis took hold, the world turned wholly digital, almost overnight. The varied level of response has exposed the lack of capability and flexibility inherent in many organisations. For brands to survive, leaders can no longer pay lip service to digital transformation. Digital needs to be fully integrated into their overall operating model”

Shockingly, before COVID 79% of businesses reported that they were still in the early stages of digital transformation, and this crisis will have been a huge wakeup call.

The world has moved online, and it looks like it will stay there indefinitely.
Business need to act fast – or risk becoming obsolete.

Click here to discover more about our transformative range of services or read more from Mark at gobeyondpartners.com

 


Customer engagement insight for 2020 and beyond

In recent months digital communication has become much more prevalent and is now essential to many global sectors, so Andrew Hall, Director of Strategic Engagements, Webhelp UK region, takes a look at how this is having an impact on the evolving customer engagement landscape.

Customer engagement insight

The onset of COVID-19 has made it imperative for many of us to live and breathe on digital platforms. As this switch has become firmly embedded in our behaviour patterns, four distinct themes have emerged in the customer engagement arena, which are likely to become even more relevant over the next 12 months.

Exceptional Delivery

There are two golden rules for creating customer engagement: Make it easy. Make it exceptional. The need for exceptionality across sectors is driven by twin imperatives; to create added value and provide positive differentiation.

In short, making the experience exceptional can set you apart from competitors and increase business. Achieving exceptional quality experience across all channels will pay dividends, as David Turner UK regional CEO for Webhelp UK region remarks:

“Thinking carefully about your customer journey is becoming far more important than just designing how to deliver great service – it may in fact be essential for the survival of your business.”

The power of transformation

Harnessing the power of digital transformation is, arguably, the best pivot point on which to leverage changes in customer behaviour and embed positive relationships with consumers. Times have changed radically from the fixed model of voice delivered after-sales customer service. Customers now have a wealth of choices in the ways they can interact with brands. Companies that fail to embrace transformation and don’t work hard to maintain the right content and context right across the entire customer journey, will put themselves at serious disadvantage.

Flexibility in channels and operations

The customer engagement layer - the point at which your consumers have contact with the business, can now take multiple forms. This can be purely automated contact, like chatbots and online ecommerce or via blended human and AI platforms like messaging or social media, or with the traditional telephone advisor - who will always be needed for cases that require human insight and empathy.

However, customers now expect 24/7 contact, and an omni-channel model is now considered the norm, along with the latest mobile messaging services! And of course it is more effective to seek out and speak to your customers on their digital home ground – rather than wait for them to find you!

Results focused

It’s becoming very clear that customer engagement benefits from increased focus on long-term customer value, retention and engagement measures. Good future planning, the adoption of digital technologies and customer design thinking, can help to realise vision and deliver strategies to accelerate innovation and improve customer experience.

Webhelp Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Helen Murray, considers the best way to use engagement measures to drive performance:

“Evidence, no matter how well researched, cannot create engaged and loyal customers on its own – instead, it must inspire digital transformation and top-down strategies. Which in turn must then be embraced at every part of the customer journey. I know from experience, this is not something which can happen overnight, it takes investment, passion and the right insight.”

Together these four pillars can support customer loyalty and advocacy, creating a substantial competitive advantage. There is a huge benefit to be found in designing and embedding the right experience for your customers.

Find out more about how the game is changing for customer experience markets and channels here, delve into our service catalogue here, or look me up on LinkedIn, where I would be delighted to read your thoughts and questions.

 

 

 


Sectors impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown

The business landscape is rapidly changing due to the influence of COVID-19. Here we take an at-a-glance look at which sectors have been positively and negatively impacted over the past few months.

Read our blog from Marketing Manager Ewan McKay for more in depth insight and look out for a new Whitepaper exploring the operating models of the future.

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE