Disruption can and will happen: the importance of resilience by design

Anthony Sinclair, Director of Resilience & Property, and Yee-Ping Pang, Head of Design & Development, investigate how organisations can learn to not only accept the need to build resilience, but to embrace it as a way to achieve greater customer satisfaction.


Over the last 18 months, Covid-19 has taught us that disruption can come in many forms, and that just because it hasn’t happened yet, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Disruption has many faces, from restricted access to company spaces, to the impact of isolation on productivity. One important lesson for organisations to take away from the pandemic is this –  never underestimate the importance of resilience.

A PWC 2021 Global Crisis Survey reported that seven out of 10 organisations reported plans to increase their investment in building resilience. This can only be a positive that will contribute to more resilient businesses and provide minimal disruptions for customers.


What is resilience by design?

Resilience has traditionally been backloaded, in the form of Business continuity plans and recovery. Resilience by design shifts this focus to the forefront of product and service design, and ensures that resilience is considered part of the entire change life cycle.

Using a Resilience by design model applies to everything a business does – from designing, delivering and maintaining a new telephony platform, to sourcing a new office location.


The resilience by design model

There are three key pillars that support Resilience by Design – Organisational Resilience, Cyber Resilience, and Infrastructure Resilience.

Organisational Resilience

The business can react to change from a people capability, and from a governance and agility perspective

Cyber Resilience

The business can proactively defend and react to cyber attacks

Infrastructure Resilience

The business has the ability to navigate and protect against external threats

 

All three pillars must be resilient to keep a business running effectively, delivering reliable products or services that don’t impact on the customer experience. In a world where digital transformation has been accelerated as a consequence of COVID-19, all three of these key pillars of resilience by design have been put to the test.

Questions such as ‘How can we ensure our colleagues can work from home?’ and ‘Do we have enough network capacity to enable everyone to do their roles from home’ are examples aligned to one of the resilience by design pillars, and no doubt have been asked by multiple people across different organisations.

The most resilient businesses have a lens on resilience across the entirety of their organisation, through the operating principles of resilience. The controls that are embedded in these businesses start from anticipation of potential threats and disruptions, to designing robust playbooks to react to scenarios, all the way to recovering if something does go wrong. The culture in these businesses is one of continuous observation, refinement and improvement on these controls, to ensure they are operationally resilient and work in practice, not just in theory.

Resilience by Design cannot be static – there are constant evolutions needed to adapt to changes in the environment, both internal and external. At the centre of it all is the willingness to adapt, and this starts with the recognition within your business of resilience as a key strategic initiative.


Conclusion

Disruption is an inevitability in everything we do – in this regard, the impact of the pandemic has simply shone a light on the importance of resilience. Although not many businesses would have ever anticipated such a large scale disruption, those who are able to adapt and learn from this to embed a culture of resilience by design will most successfully be able to support their clients and customers. Resilience should no longer be seen as simply a bolt on at the final stages, or as a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), but as a key cornerstone in the design of operating models and solutions across all businesses.

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Missing the customer: why human-centred design is key in delivering regulatory outcomes

Yee-Ping Pang, Head of Design and Development, and Faye Sadler-Clark, Head of Risk, Compliance & Innovation, explain the benefits of placing the customer experience at the centre of your regulatory outcomes

In every industry, it’s a certainty that one regulatory body will supervise the market – the FCA for financial services firms and financial markets, Ofcom for communications, and Ofgem for Gas and Electricity, to name a few. Independent regulatory bodies supervise the specific industry which they regulate and protect the consumer whilst ensuring that the market is operating fairly. The FCA for example, summarises that:

“Financial markets need to be honest, fair and effective so that consumers get a fair deal.”

The regulatory outcomes sought naturally differ across regulators, driven by the maturity of the industry and specific areas that need additional focus. However, there are similarities across some key topics such as protecting vulnerable customers, operational resilience of firms (the ability to continue to provide important business services throughout shocks or disruptions) and making switching easier for customers. The customer is very clearly at the centre of each of these areas of common regulatory concern.

As consumer consumption patterns change and industries evolve, the regulators continue to develop new and make changes to existing regulation in order to stay ahead of any changes in the industry alongside addressing the key risks in each sector. An example of new regulation is the much debated proposed Online Safety Bill, which is centred on protecting children and vulnerable individuals and applies to organisations that either host user-generated content or allow people to interact online. The landmark regulation seeks to protect users from ‘online harms’ in response to the ever-growing use of online platforms in generating and consuming content, which has increased rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An example of regulatory change came during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the FCA confirmed an increase in contactless payment thresholds from £45 to £100, increasing the convenience for consumers to buy goods safely. Sheldon Mills, Executive Director, Consumers and Competition at the FCA said: ‘During the pandemic more people have been using contactless payments. We are changing our rules to help the industry continue to respond to the changing ways in which people prefer to pay.’ This showcases both how regulators adapt to changing trends, and the role that regulation can play in enhancing customer experience to have the best outcomes for customers.

What is human-centred design, and how is it currently being used?

Human-centred design is a common technique used by designers across all industries. At the crux of it is a focus on the people who will be using the product or service. These may be external or internal customers (colleagues) who are using services such as the IT Service desk.

Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the primary objective is to build understanding and deep empathy for the people for whom the product or service is being designed. Understanding customers’ thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, and defining the key themes from triangulation of all the research, is the foundation required to understand both what products and services to build, and how to build them. Pairing this with agile ways of working and iterative designs and feedback, we can see how powerful this is in adapting to constantly changing customer behaviours.

The benefits of design are compelling, with data from McKinsey showing that organisations regularly applying design thinking saw a third higher revenues and 56% higher shareholder returns than those who didn’t over a five-year period.

Human-centred design shifts the focus from designing solutions to solving problems and instils the mantra that the “customer is king”.

Source: McKinsey

Adding value by focusing on the customer for regulatory outcomes

So, what’s the common intersect between regulatory outcomes and human-centred design? Regulators are focused on protecting consumers and ensuring they get fair value, and human-centred design is entirely focused on designing for consumers. The consumer is at the heart of both.

For firms to stay ahead and really claim to be customer-first, they need to employ design approaches for their actual customer needs and circumstances, while ensuring that regulatory demands are still met.

Often, businesses view adhering to regulatory outcomes as something that must be done something that has a financial impact on their bottom line – and not as a value creator. Risk professionals need to help change the conversation from ‘what do we need to do to comply, and how much investment do we need for implementation?’ to ‘what is the intended regulatory outcome and what benefits could it bring us as a business?’ This change in mindset and conversation will put the focus on understanding why the market is shifting, which consumer problems need to be solved, and on the benefits that are often supportive in meeting strategic objectives on acquiring, retaining, and growing customer loyalty.

Focus on your customer needs to thrive

With COVID-19 recovery continuing to be the core focus for most businesses, strengthening capabilities in human-centred design, design thinking and user experience will be a key driver for growth, meeting customer needs and meeting regulatory outcomes.

In order to add real value, it’s important that risk and compliance teams continue to be inquisitive and understand the drivers behind regulatory change, and the movements within different markets and industries. Whilst organisations don’t have a choice about whether or not to comply with regulation using human centred design in responding to regulatory developments and changes can drive a competitive edge.

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The future of Risk

New shape, new face, new pace - the future of risk

Faye Sadler-Clark examines how Risk functions can shift from standing in the way of change, to leading the way.

Change is a given part of any business, with Transformation programmes allowing businesses to their offerings for customers. With so much change comes a need for organisations to adapt in order to deliver faster, and at a lower cost. However, functions such as Risk & Compliance are traditionally slower to adapt and often cannot keep up with the pace and skills required by the teams they are supporting – to the point where they come to be viewed as an obstacle to change, rather than working to facilitate it.

When organisations look to deliver cost savings, to work smarter, and to develop more agile ways of working, Risk teams are not typically an obvious target. As a result, many organisations are operating with a Risk function geared to support the organisation ‘as was’, rather than one which reflects the organisation’s current ‘as is’ demand. This is akin to running a website that is not optimised for mobile browsing, knowing that the majority of your customers transact through their mobile phones.

Critically, these historic, functional Risk models also represent an untenable cost base. It’s time for change, so what does the future face of Risk look like? What are the key things that organisations need to be considering?


Risk management as an enabler

Organisations need to change the narrative from risk management as a barrier to progress to effective risk management being an enabler – positioning Risk as a value creator, used to drive organisational performance.

To do this, organisations need to think more strategically when it comes to risk management, making better decisions for better risk-return outcomes. Risk identification, assessment, control and mitigation remain fundamental, but there is increasing appetite from C-suites of progressive companies to push boundaries and look at the upside potential of considered, strategic risk taking.


Less focus on the rear-view mirror

The Covid-19 pandemic and the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) introduction of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SMCR) have played a key role in driving business leaders to focus more energy and attention on getting ahead of the key risks facing their organisation. This typically involves boards having closer oversight of the risks for which they are accountable, and developing a deep understanding of the fundamental drivers of the systemic vulnerabilities and make-up within their identified risk profiles.

We can still learn from risk events and control failures, but a view on both horizon and real time risk enables agile decision making and timely risk management. With the growth of advancements in data analytics, machine learning, and AI there is plenty of scope for real-time risk monitoring, though simply bringing together the right people with the right skills and knowledge at the right time to manage risk events can be equally impactful.



Risk Teams: smaller, flexible, and more nimble

Organisations face continuous disruption, whether through operating model transformation, the threats (and opportunities) from emerging technologies, or external factors such as increasing competition or the ever-growing threat of cyberattacks. Flexibility and agility become hygiene factors for high performing Risk teams. They must be able to pivot quickly to effectively support their organisation in responding to, and protecting against, both existing and emerging threats.

This points away from large, potentially slow moving and siloed Risk functions, and towards smaller and stealthier teams ready to deploy when it matters most.


Risk Professionals: digitally equipped all-rounders

There is increasingly high demand for risk professionals with analytical and digital skills who can draw meaningful insight from risk data, as well as effective communicators who can bring risk to life, working and influencing cross-functionally at all levels of the organisation.

Skills and experience aside, behavioural traits can underpin the success of modern Risk teams. When considering your Risk function, top of the list should be seeking out people with insatiable curiosity for understanding key developments in the business, the industry, and the evolving regulatory landscape. Risk professionals who keep pace with their organisation’s evolving operating context are able to engage in productive dialogue, relating risk management to their audience and engendering strong working relationships. This can lead to true risk partnership, which is crucial when focusing on risk-based decision making, which can only be of benefit to the organisation.


‘What got you here won’t get you there’

Post-adjustment to the ‘new normal’ following the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses are turning their focus further towards developing operational resilience, managing third party risks and shoring up their cyber defences. With no sign of things quieting down any time soon, now is the time to consider how your Risk function can better support the strategic objectives of your business and deliver real value.

You may be considering how aligned your Risk and Compliance function is to supporting the delivery of your business strategy. We can support organisational design review to drive performance and reduce cost through use of our holistic model, accredited by one of the UK’s leading business schools.


If you’re interested in how we may be able to support you as you take the next steps on your risk journey, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Faye Sadler-Clarke

Head of Risk, Compliance and Innovation


Peer Hackman joins as Managing Director of Telecommunications, Media and Technology Practice

Webhelp and Gobeyond Partners are pleased to announce the expansion of their Telecommunications, Media and Technology Practice, under the leadership of Peer Hackman.

Peer joins Webhelp as Managing Director for TMT. He brings a wealth of knowledge to the business with over 20 years’ experience in leadership, consulting and operational roles with CSPs, technology vendors, management consultancies and media start-ups.

He is supported by a global team of industry consultants, customer experience specialists, customer engagement operations experts, analysts, data scientists and engineers, who work with our clients to transform and create value from customer engagement and experience engineering. This practice brings together specialists who transform customer experience excellence into profitable growth and run your customer operations at greater efficiency and lower costs.

 

Commenting on the TMT expansion, David Turner, CEO of Webhelp UK said:

“Telecommunications is a diverse and hugely important sector of the global economy, which has provided a crucial  role during the pandemic in keeping individual and businesses connected, media companies entertaining and informing us, and technology vendors providing the devices and infrastructure. However, the gap between these sectors in shareholder returns has widened. All businesses have realised that customer engagement, experience and trust is THE decisive enabler to produce sustainable growth and expansion in uncertain times. Peer and his practice are working with leading operators, media businesses and technology vendors to help them mature their digital transformations across strategy, customer engagement, operations, culture, technology and data, to build sustainable, resilient and highly profitable future-facing businesses.”

 

Peer Hackman, Managing Director for TMT, continues:

“Webhelp and Gobeyond Partners provide end-to-end capabilities – from assessing our clients’ digital and CX maturity, to helping them to shape their customer engagement strategy to drive business performance, to engineering profitable customer experiences and providing holistic customer engagement solutions. We are uniquely placed to deliver transformative programmes which help clients grow the value of their existing customers, open new market opportunities, drive down the cost base, increase revenue and improve customer satisfaction.

“I’m delighted to be joining the team at Webhelp and Gobeyond Partners and look forward to bringing customer engagement transformation solutions to the often complex challenges faced by their prestigious client base.”

 

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Customers increasingly expect responsible business practices

Our research shows 78% of leaders expect additional scrutiny on how they operate since the pandemic.

Responsibility, transparency, and trust are now perceived to be more important than they were prior to the pandemic.

Our research shows 78% of leaders agreed that customers were paying closer attention to how responsible their business practices are, compared to before the COVID-19 crisis.

It highlights the needs for brands to be more human in their service delivery – looking after colleagues’ wellbeing, supporting emotionally intelligent conversations with customers, and building a genuine connection which can effectively address customer needs.

This research, carried out by Gobeyond Partners and Webhelp, covered 500 senior business leaders and has been used to make recommendations on how service should be reimagined to better meet customer needs.

Mark Palmer, CEO of Gobeyond Partners comments on the findings:

“When considering the seismic changes that COVID-19 has already driven for businesses on a global level, it is heartening to note that many brands have responded remarkably; adapting to rapidly shifting consumer demands and rethinking propositions at unprecedented pace.

“However, some have also suffered significant damage too. Certainly, at the start of lockdown, social media feeds were awash with examples of brands accused of behaving irresponsibly and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by their customers.

“As organisations rush to respond to changing consumer behaviour and working practices, by making much-needed technology and operating model changes, our research highlights the importance of doing this in a responsible, and human way.”

Craig Gibson, Chief Commercial Officer at Webhelp Group continues:

“Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a major shift when it comes to the health and wellbeing, and of course, the safety of team members. However perhaps more interestingly customers have been paying even more attention to how companies deliver on this.

“We have already seen, and indeed will continue to see, a new more “responsible” behavioural shift, with more empathy for those at the front line. This in turn will place more pressure on businesses to deliver on responsible human work practices and ensure this is communicated as part of their customer journey.

“Never before has there been a greater need to demonstrate transparency and create genuine and deep emotional connections with customers and colleagues.”

Whilst technology and a rapidly changing environment is transforming service, it’s clear that people and the human experience will still make the crucial difference in delivering a world-leading customer experience.

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?

By combining Webhelp’s expertise in global customer management with Gobeyond

Partners’ customer-journey design, alongside our research with 500 senior business leaders, we’ve provided a unique perspective in our #servicereimagined white paper.


What will motivate the customers of the future?

Successful brands all have at least one thing in common, they clearly understand what customers want, and can pinpoint the most effective way to deliver their products and customer services to meet that need. Here we talk to industry experts from both the Webhelp UK Region and our co-brand Gobeyond Partners to find out how the consumer landscape is changing and what this transformation will mean for customer experience.

Customer behavior is changing, how can businesses build interactions and services to adapt to this change?

Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Webhelp UK:

Knowledge will be the key.

It’s absolutely essential that organisations understand their customer’s journeys and identify how these have changed as behaviours and expectations have shifted as a result of the crisis.

For example, it’s clear that the face of retail has changed, perhaps forever, with many brands catering to a larger, more mixed demographic who are now adopting e-commerce as their new normal. We are all shopping more frequently online and avoiding the store experience. [1]

Subsequently, companies who establish a real depth of consumer knowledge and who uncover and meet their customer’s core motivations and expectations at relevant points on the service path, are the most likely to succeed moving forwards.

Mark Palmer, CEO, Gobeyond Partners

Transformation in consumer trends and actions will become a natural driving force in the evolution of business processes. Being able to identify behavioural change undertaken by a specific demographic and how this relates to failures (and opportunities) in the service process, will be crucial in shifting the dial.

As will identifying how and where to integrate technology to fully support the end-to-end journey and drive a peak customer experience.

What are the stumbling blocks business should be aware of when creating enhanced customer relationships to build recovery?

Mark Palmer, CEO, Gobeyond Partners

Investment in new infrastructure, more advanced service models and increased data capture and analysis will be prerequisite for sustainable recovery. However, speaking realistically, finding working capital to deliver these solutions may be an issue for brands already suffering from economic pressure due to the pandemic.

The ability to make agile business decisions will be imperative and to minimise risk it is absolutely essential that investment is focused in the right places.

Dave Pattman, MD CX Services, Gobeyond Partners

Added to this, consumer confidence is still fragile – although the UK index rose slightly over the summer[2] – and early signs of recovery stand in the shadow of the second wave of the pandemic, now projected to hit Europe hard in the colder months ahead.

Obviously, brands are now challenged to create viable forecasts against shifting consumer demand, and to be adequately resourced to meet them. In this uncertain climate decisions on pivot points such as when to recruit to meet demand and when to reduce outlay become much more abstract and theoretical.

There will be an increased need for increased online services & intelligent automation to meet these fluctuations economically and to increase flexibility and response rates.

How can brands use innovative digital thinking to respond to new consumer attitudes?

Mark Palmer, CEO, Gobeyond Partners

Our recent Whitepaper revealed that, to reorient and flourish in the new consumer landscape, brands must become more adaptable, focused, digital and human. Of these four pillars, the need to become more digital is perhaps the easiest for brands to understand, but the hardest to deliver in a meaningful way.

They know that new online citizens are emerging and that the world of work has undergone a radical change, but they may have difficulty identifying the pain points that this transformation will bring to their customer journeys – and how and where to embed the most useful digital offerings to best address them.

They must seek out resources to help laser focus their efforts to deliver rapid, effective change – and make the most out of their limited resources.

Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, Webhelp UK:

Many organisations will be exposed due to their lack of digital literacy and will struggle to create effective engagement strategies that ensure they maximise the power of digital intervention at the relevant points in customer lifecycle.

If you don’t thoroughly understand the customer journey, it is difficult to automate or digitise processes in a way that will positively impact customer experience. There is also a danger that you may jeopardise future ability to offer additional propositions, products and services in the best window for action.

Customer insight must be embedded throughout the whole digital transformation process, as it provides the basis to offer intelligent next best action tools.

At Webhelp, we are identifying where human support adds value to digital experiences. Providing guidance and support to customers and brands during high value, complex and emotionally important journeys is critical.

Dave Pattman, MD CX Services, Gobeyond Partners

Brands that honestly seek to innovate have to be willing to supersede ‘faceless’ digital experiences and really connect with their customers. Technology is changing the way service is approached, created and delivered, but the juxtaposition of advanced technology and the human touch, must be carefully managed to enhance rather than hinder customer experience. Success will only be achieved through combining the right technology with a human mindset and strong digital strategy.

Finally, the time has come for brands to let go of dated and limiting legacy technologies and infrastructure, which are often swept under the carpet of the digital transformation roadmap. Failure to do this will put them at a serious disadvantage, as innovators will swiftly build the future of service without them.

[1] Forbes

[2] research-live.com GfK Consumer Confidence Index


Reimagining Service: Insurance spotlight

COVID-19 has dramatically impacted millions of lives and fundamentally changed the direction of the global economy, but what are the emerging implications for the insurance industry, which is currently inundated with enquires and claims across all area of cover?


Half a million UK businesses have shut down, 20% of the workforce furloughed and revenue expectations and profitability has been severely reduced. Whilst insurance was less visibly impacted than sectors like travel and tourism, 2020 losses are still estimated at a considerable $200bn globally. Survival has now become a medium-term question and with the expectation of legal challenges, consolidation and increased loss ratios, radical changes are on the horizon.

Flexibility and speed of response has created frontrunners, and interestingly, type of risk alone is not dictating the level of impact. This now hinges on multiple factors, including leadership, culture, digital maturity, and the way organisations have designed their operating model.

What's next?

There are some emerging characteristics for success, the most obvious perhaps being the critical business continuity provided by investing in supported homeworking, which has in many cases helped to increase productivity and decrease advisor attrition. A heightened focus on swift regulatory compliance and vigour in commitment to operational resilience has also been a crucial factor.

It’s clear that shifting business to digital platforms has created much needed traction too, but this reactionary approach must now become mature, otherwise it will continue to deliver fragmented and frustrating customer journeys. And, companies that invest in mitigating the human impact of the pandemic will reap the benefits in public perception and employee commitment and satisfaction.

Often borne out of necessity (like car or business insurance) or for peace of mind, like home and personal cover, insurance can coincide with major life events that carry a deep emotional impact, so concentrating on relationship building and platforms that inspire trust will help brands to build better experiences and drive scale.

Humanising, streamlining and redesigning operating models should remain high on the insurance transformation agenda, as a critical fulcrum for engaging and creating the customer loyalty. Insurance must now build on the momentum of change generated to thrive and ensure genuine longevity, in this new and challenging world.

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.


Reimagining Service: retail spotlight

The existing retail transformation agenda has been radically altered. And, while doors are now reopening following what could be the toughest ever period of trading, it is clear that the sector has been hugely impacted by the current crisis.

Many bricks and mortar stores (and even entire portfolios) are still teetering on the brink, so reduced footfall coupled with social distancing measures may render them un-viable. Government intervention may help in the medium term but, as cash reserves dwindle, insolvencies and consolidation will rise.

For multichannel retailers, digital growth has helped to subsidise bricks and mortar revenue. However those behind the curve on the digital agenda will suffer the most, with w-commerce and mixed model adoption (like click and collect) becoming a huge priority. Emerging winners will need established robust digital channels, a modern and scalable attitude to customer service, and have less exposure to costly store portfolios.

What's next?

Brick and mortar focused organisations will have to work much harder for success, as profit margins decrease. Options include undergoing restructuring, investing in omni-channel approaches, or exploring experiential outlets. But, ultimately, retailers must understand how to recreate brand and human experiences digitally.

Obsolete legacy retail teams must merge with digital teams for the benefit of the consumer and, importantly, new digital should not be layered onto an outdated operating model or “broken” customer journeys. Ideally, companies should be rethinking their new world customer experience from the ground up.

Delivering a seamless, consistent service through a blended home/office model will be a difficult balance to strike, especially as moving forward employees and customers will become less forgiving. So, being human and transparent has never been more important – but a laser-focus must remain on performance management and repeatable customer experience, irrespective of location and model.

This may be a tall order for those retailers with limited transformation funds, already reeling from the current shock. However, the first lesson in retail is to begin with a deep understanding of your customers: harnessing existing data and insight and ensuring that expertise and exemplary practices are in place when building new journeys, will be the best starting point for retailers to succeed on their digital journey.

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.

 


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


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.