Partnerships Are Essential For Successful Outsourcing

This week the Teleperformance team was at the National Outsourcing Association annual symposium, possibly the biggest event on the outsourcing calendar in the UK. We had arranged for Kate Vitasek, the author of “Vested” to be there signing books.

Kate’s book is about the idea of vested outsourcing; that partnerships between companies work best when both can gain from the deal, when they both have a vested interest. This sounds obvious, but how many supplier selections have you seen where mutual interest is the primary concern?

There is a different dynamic in the relationship between clients and suppliers today as many industries have become so complex. It’s more symbiotic – the suppliers need business from the clients, but the clients have a real need for the expertise they do not have internally.

Just look at this recent feature in Computer Weekly talking about the requirement in many companies for data analysts. Of course, this is an enormous area of growth as every company that wants to understand their customers today needs to analyse the data they have. Forrester Research has suggested that there in a capability gap in this area – companies simply don’t have the in-house skills to analyse data well enough and therefore the only credible solution is to work with a partner.

I believe this applies equally to the wider business of creating a great customer experience and data analysis is just one part of this. When customer service meant operating a voice call centre and possibly answering some customer emails, it was possible to keep that team in-house. In fact, many companies said they specifically wanted this team in-house because they have direct contact with the customer.

Now the customer journey has evolved and customer experience is the number one boardroom focus in most organisations it’s not possible to just amble along, hoping the internal team is good enough. Companies need expertise and this is why models of partnership like that documented by Kate Vitasek are so important.

The idea of partnership between clients and suppliers has been discussed for years. It has often been considered the ideal way to structure and outsourced project, but too often genuine partnership was pushed aside as other priorities became more important. I believe that the market is different today. In business areas, such as customer experience, there is now a real need for clients and suppliers to work together if they both want to succeed.

What do you think of how the outsourcing market has changed and is the Vested model really becoming a reality in areas such as CX?

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Creating an immersive retail brand experience

This blog is by Phil Crossley, Business Development Director at Teleperformance UK.

I have been exploring some of the key themes that will be discussed at the Retail Week CX Summit and Awards in London this week. It’s one of the biggest annual events for those involved in retail in the UK and offers a great chance to hear what people are saying and thinking about the industry.

One of the main discussion topics is “how to create immersive retail brand experiences.” Of course every retailer would love to say that their shoppers are immersed in the brand, but what do they really mean? I believe there are three ways that retail is changing today where this becomes a clear part of the strategy for interacting with customers:

  1. Conversations; customers no longer contact a customer service line after a purchase, they are having conversations and different types of engagement with brands at all stages in their relationship with retailers. Customers might tweet a clothes store to ask about stock levels or use Facebook to ask a supermarket about recipes – these interactions with retail brands go far beyond what we used to call customer service enquiries.
  2. Apps; retailers are enhancing both the in-store and online experience by building apps that go beyond just offering a shopping facility alone. Apps that offer augmented reality deals inside department stores are unlocking new offers and utilising the data the retailer has on customers.
  3. New ways of shopping; there are ways of tying together systems such as payment and loyalty with the mobile experience, so customers can have a better shopping experience because they can utilise various other systems that improve their relationship with the retailer.

For examples of this changing customer behaviour just look to a huge brand like Starbucks. Customers using their app can pay for a coffee direct from their phone. They can even order before they get to the store, allowing them to pickup on arrival so they avoid the queue. All purchases are recorded for loyalty points. The app is therefore combining several technologies in a way that makes the experience better than just going to the store itself.

The L’Oreal makeup genius app completely rethinks how customers buy makeup by allowing them to apply virtual products to an image of their own face. Anything that looks good can be purchased from inside the app. The brand is immersing the customer in how their products look and facilitating the purchase of anything that looks good.

I think all these areas of immersion are important and in particular how the idea of customer loyalty has moved much more toward a relationship with the customer, rather than a loyalty card. If you really want to create an immersive retail experience you need to think about how to really engage customers with your products.

What do you think about immersion in retail brands and these ideas I suggested? We will be discussing this at Retail Week soon, but leave a comment and get in touch via my LinkedIn if you want to talk more here.

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Investing in Vested Outsourcing

For as many years as I can care to remember now, I have talked about shared success as the key to making outsourcing work. Outsourcing should have been renamed partnership many years ago as the term still implies that one company is kicking some processes outside, implying that they are less important than those kept ‘in-house’.

But this is not a reality in most companies. Partners that specialise in specific processes will takeover components of the supply chain so that companies can focus on what business school call ‘core competences’ – their main focus. This has been true of processes like accounts and payroll for many years and more recently experts in HR and customer service have stepped in to help companies deliver those processes.

Outsourcing today is much more about a company coordinating a team of various experts to deliver the complete supply chain of services and the best way to make that work well is to ensure that every supplier has an interest in the success of the client.

This sounds obvious right? But look at how many outsourcing contracts were traditionally designed around payment by transaction. A simple example might be a contact centre that earns a fee for every call processed. If 50% of those calls are internal support calls asking for a password to be reset then it is in the interest of efficiency to design a better way to handle password resets. It’s not in the interest of the contact centre company though if they are earning on a per-call basis.

So how do we create an environment where clients and suppliers actually work together for the greater good of both organisations? How can goals and values be aligned when multiple organisations are working together? That’s the subject of a book called ‘Vested’ by Kate Vitasek and I’m proud to say that Teleperformance will be hosting a book signing session by Kate at the NOA Annual Symposium in London on June 22.

The book describes case studies featuring such companies as P&G, McDonalds, Microsoft, and Dell – all big global corporations. The case studies examine how outsourcing works better when a successful outcome is in the interest of both the client and the supplier, moving beyond the traditional idea of a powerful client and weak supplier.

In many cases, the processes that clients want to buy from suppliers today are so complex they can only be delivered internally at great expense. Look at how much the customer experience has changed in the past decade for a great example. Managing the customer journey today is about so much more than just managing a voice contact centre and smart companies realise this. They are not selecting suppliers because they offer cheap services. They are finding partners that can share values, share in business success, and provide the expertise that is lacking internally.

As I mentioned at the start, I have been talking about this change in the client-supplier relationship for a long time. I can see how outsourcing has changed over the years because I have been at the heart of negotiating dozens, maybe hundreds, of relationships. Kate’s book is a great way of capturing this change in a more detailed way, by documenting how major international companies are redefining what outsourcing means for them.

Please join us at the NOA Symposium on June 22 in London. You can click here for more details and do feel free to leave your own comments on vested outsourcing here.

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What is the role of the shop in modern retail?

This blog is by Phil Crossley, Business Development Director at Teleperformance UK.

I have been exploring some of the key themes that will be discussed at the Retail Week CX Summit and Awards in London next week. It’s one of the biggest annual events for those involved in retail in the UK and offers a great chance to hear what people are saying and thinking about the industry.

One of the main discussion topics is “the role of the shop going forward.” This sounds like an unusual discussion topic for a retail conference. Retailers have shops – isn’t that what they do? But of course in the modern omnichannel environment there are now many ways of shopping.

Online retail websites, online-only retailers, apps that enhance the shopping experience, are all changing the way that customers relate to retail as an experience. In addition, all these additional channels – plus social networks – are creating an environment in which there are many ways to engage with retailers.

But in addition to these channels facilitating more customer engagement, there is a change in the way that customers behave – the journey they take with a retailer is different and this involves communication at many different stages in the relationship. This is entirely different to earlier models of retail where the customer might only consider communicating with the brand after a purchase has been made.

But what is particularly interesting in my view about the role of the shop in future is how many customers are now finding that they prefer to shop online. The stores are open 24/7, they are never out of stock, delivery is free, and because the retailer knows who you are and what you like (and dislike) they can offer recommendations and deals that are personalised just for you.

This is very different to the anonymous experience of walking into a shop. The retail employees do not walk up to customers and offer recommendations based on past shopping history and many customers are now finding this lack of personalisation a big downside in the in-store experience. Who would have thought that customers would be saying that they find the online shopping experience to be more personal?

I think that if shops want to remain relevant in an omnichannel environment then retail brands need to think long and hard about how they can personalise the experience for customers. Not every customer will want to hand over their identity on entering a shop, but I believe that many of them will if they can see how much it improves the in-store experience. However, this process of “logging in” at a store needs to be handled in a friction-free seamless way for it to not feel clunky or annoying to the customer.

What do you think about the role of the shop going forward? We will be discussing this further at Retail Week in London next week, but please feel free to leave comments here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

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Bots need to get emotional before they really make a difference to customer experience

There has been a lot of press about the potential of chat bots to revolutionise the customer experience. I am an advocate but see the obvious challenge in that, as things stand today, bots will only be as good as the intelligence you programme into them. The other major question for me is whether bots will ever be able to pick up human emotion and sentiment enough to be able to ‘know’ when it is the right time to switch the customer over to a human advisor? A recent experience has really brought this home: I was travelling overseas and due to inclement weather and maintenance at a connecting airport, I missed my flight to my final destination.

Cue 3 hours of queuing along with 100’s of other frustrated passengers. Whilst waiting I noticed a poster advising that I could contact the airline via a well know instant messenger platform. I use this all of the time and was relieved to think that I could by-pass the mayhem and get my flights re-booked through this channel. I did as instructed, sent my name and booking code to the airlines IM address and then waited. 35 minutes later I received a notification that I had been re-booked – but onto a different route and wrong seat class. No discussion on preferred routes/class/seat number.

I sent another IM back requesting other options and indicating the error made, but it was 1.5hrs later before the response came back – with exactly the same information regarding my flights. I sent more IM messages, hoping the issue could be solved so I could leave the queue (I was number 252 with the counter on 90!). 40 minutes later I received a message indicating that this ‘channel’ was only for re-booking and that any queries would need to be discussed with the service desk. 4 Hours later I spoke to an advisor, who could visibly see my frustration, and the issue was resolved within 20mins…

There is a key learning here: I applaud the airline for utilising IM to offer customers a way to resolve issues, but it was pretty clear from my experience that they were using automated chats or bots’ to offer changes to customer travel details. That is all well and good if you get the change right first time, every time, but rarely will that be the case. It was also clear that chats were being handled on some form of rotation system so it never felt like any one was engaging with my issue to resolve it and my chats were simply picked up on the next run. If an interaction takes over 2 hours to complete and then results in the customer having to call someone or wait in line, then the value of the initial digital interaction is limited.

Overall my digital experience in this instance was 0/10 but my human experience was 9/10. The most frustrating element of the experience was that even though I was not having my query resolved by IM, I was not ‘flipped’ over to a live agent (or called by someone). I just got more canned responses about the same incorrect flight change details.

I predict Bots will have an increasing role to play in improving customer service but until they are intelligent enough to recognise a tired, frustrated customer, who just wants to get an issue resolve quickly – then I fear they will offer little value above and beyond answering the most basic of customer queries. Now if the airline’s approach had been to connect me to a human at the first sign that my query was not being addressed, well, then the overall experience would have been rated at 9 or even 10……

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Rebuilding The Customer-Focused Bookstore

This post is by Phil Crossley, Business Development Director at Teleperformance UK.

I’m looking forward to the Retail Week CX Summit and Awards later this month. It’s one of the biggest annual events for those involved in retail in the UK and offers a great chance to hear what people are saying and thinking about the industry.

One of the opening keynotes looks really interesting. James Daunt, the CEO of Waterstones will be talking about how his business has completely turned around from being a struggling book retailer to becoming a retailer with great customer retention and revenue growth.

This is a particularly interesting example because book retailing has been under pressure for a long time. I can remember the launch and growth of Amazon back in the 1990s. During the tech bubble of the late 90s it really felt like there was no future for book retailers – the online market was the future.

Since then, the growth of e-readers has created a new market where many readers just bypass book retailers completely and download content direct to their devices. It’s great for companies such as Amazon, because they built an ecosystem of content to support their Kindle reader, but what about the more traditional bookstore in the High Street?

What they have found is that not every customer wants to shop online all of the time and not every customer wants to read e-books. The market is not binary because many customers will sometimes shop online and sometimes shop in-store and likewise, many customers use a mix of traditional books and e-books. The online and e-book revolution has not destroyed the traditional experience of browsing a bookstore and picking out a few titles you might not have searched for on a website.

And this is the key message that I expect James Daunt to be talking about. Even if one type of experience – such as online – is technically better, there is nothing that can replace the customer experience. If customers visit Waterstones and find great staff recommendations, well presented shelves, and authors at in-store events, then the experience becomes central to the relationship between the customer and bookstore – not just the content being sold.

Bookstores have been challenged with wave after wave of innovation for the past two decades now. If they find that they can drive business success by placing the customer experience at the heart of their strategy then I’m sure any retailer can replicate that success.

What do you think of customer-centricity as a strategy for renewed retail success? Leave a comment here and do let me know if you plan to be at Retail Week. You can get in touch via my LinkedIn.

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Are Customers Forcing Companies To Change Industry?

I have often blogged about my view that great content is where the telecoms and Internet Service Providers are now focused. If you have seen any of my earlier blogs on this subject then you will know that I believe that customers are becoming much less interested in details of the network, like download speeds, and are focusing on what they can get from the network they are using.

I was thinking about this a little more because it seems to me that many companies are doing more than just blurring the boundaries of where they operate – some appear to be jumping into entirely new business areas and industries.

Think about these disparate industries for a moment; retail, payments, hardware devices, Internet infrastructure, drones, and entertainment. It sounds like an enormous collection of activities from very different industries, but Amazon is engaged in all these activities.

How about hardware devices, media, communications, software, wearables, retail, and payments? I would suggest that Apple is engaged in all these activities. What about telecoms, connected health systems, entertainment, the cloud, the connected home? Telstra is doing all of this.

So there appears to be a bigger and more far-reaching change. As society becomes more digital and the way that customers interact with brands changes, their expectations change and companies adopt new ways of interacting – and new services. in many cases the services appear to be from entirely unrelated industries to the core business.

Look at the tech companies wanting to get into the automotive sector, banks trying to be considered as utilities, and retailers wanting to be manufacturers. The changing customer relationship is forcing big companies to rethink what they do and to sometimes become quite different in how they behave and what they offer to the market.

Anyone who has attended business school knows that the previously dominant phone company Nokia originally manufactured Wellington boots. Examples of big companies entirely shifting industry used to be quite rare, but I think that in the modern business environment we are seeing a much more fluid environment and this is being driven by customer expectations.

What do you think? Are my earlier observations about the telcos becoming media players really being played out across many other industries? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.
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