In this highly computerised digital age, consumers expect all businesses to be switched on and to respond to their requests 24/7. Able to self-serve and at ease sourcing views and insights from comparison sites and customer forums, these customers are incredibly well informed, so when they do contact an organisation, it’s often about something complex or urgent, meaning their expectations for speedy resolutions are high.
Businesses are acutely aware of rising customer expectations and are adapting to their needs by supplementing human interaction with an array of technologies, to ensure that they deliver the experiences customers expect, at the best possible cost.
This is especially true in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) space. By its very nature, clients approach companies like Webhelp because they have made the choice to outsource certain, crucial aspects of their business. To remain on the cutting edge, we as a business constantly invest in the latest technology to ensure that we are best placed to serve our clients’ customers ways that are aligned to their expectations and preferences. However, as a BPO we are often required to use the technology and systems that our clients have in place and most of our clients are still on their tech journey, which is hardly surprising as the tech journey does not have an end destination!
We all know the old adage that after purchasing a laptop, the technology is out of date by the time you leave the store. The same is true for customer relationship management (CRM) related technologies. CRM platforms, in particular, are massive and expensive to implement and while our clients may have a clear strategy for an enhanced CRM system that will increase efficiency and customer satisfaction, they are most often not in a position to change these systems on a regular basis.
It is therefore not uncommon to see multinational or supranational businesses with technology that has already been outdated. In support of this, we have developed a number of low costs, but innovative ways to solve process management issues which is by far the biggest challenge we face when we are using outdated systems inherited from our clients. Not only does this make life easier for our people, but it really does help ensure we deliver the best possible service to our clients.
As a BPO partner, this means that we have to deal with the same legacy integration challenges as our clients and by being fluid, as well as applying the learnings from extensive business experience, we are able to maximise the efficiencies of their existing systems and, at the same time, advise them on the best ways forward as they move along their tech journey.
Another challenge in the BPO sector is generational. Many employees are millennials and Gen Z. Often, they have grown up with technology that is quick, interactive and intuitive from a toddler age. Many clients however, are Gen X – often considered to be less tech-savvy and despite often being highly educated about technology, many of those from Gen X don’t embrace ‘tech’ as passionately as the younger generations. For these reasons, we proactively train our staff to work with different types of technology, empowering them to be fluent with systems that they would not ordinarily consider to be the most ‘up to date’. This approach means that our people can work across various systems and platforms – vitally important to delivering a great customer experience.
In today’s landscape, our clients inevitably require our support to manage customers across digital platforms, which means we need to ensure that our people are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need to connect with customers on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and others. We are also leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI), such as chatbots, in combination with the human experience, to ensure our clients’ customers are looked after no matter where or when they choose to communicate.
As a business we must also be considerate of the technology we use in-house. Webhelp South Africa supports the customers of clients from other continents, which involves moving information offshore. In order to give our clients, the highest level of confidence that we can offer these crucial services securely, it is essential that our technology is state of the art when it comes to the protection of sensitive information.
As the BPO provider for several large international companies, we handle very important client information and data for which we employ the best possible technology to protect that information. This is essential for our clients’ peace of mind, is critical for our business to be compliant in the varying regulatory environments. While companies from highly regulated sectors such as banking and insurance are increasingly warming up to the BPO concept, they do need to be assured that the associated risks are low. Technology is a fundamental part of how we can provide this reassurance, which, again, means that we make big investments to ensure that we, as a BPO player, keep up with technological developments.
If we take a step back and consider how we remain relevant as a BPO player, we know that we need to find ways to merge technology and the human experience – creating a ‘blend’ that meets each individual client’s specific requirements. For example, a client may prefer to work with us to create customer journeys that are predominantly digital, but with skilled and knowledgeable people on hand for complex issues or escalations, and others may privilege human interaction over self-service. Whatever the blend, we augment the human experience with technology, to improve the customer experience they deliver, and also leverage technology to assist our colleagues in critical decision making – minimising the risk of human error.
Our people are empowered to leverage technology to do their job to the best of their ability and have the reassurance that technology can prevent human error. We are not about replacing human interaction, this is critical to our business, and what our clients need. Instead, we are about augmenting human experience with technology to help our people be the best possible consultants to our clients and their customers. By encouraging our colleagues to use the programmes and data at their disposal, they have the opportunity to create a unique experience for each customer – a job experience which is both challenging and gratifying.
Agility is key to remaining relevant in the BPO sector. In a world where we have to navigate several generations of technology, each one more relevant and innovative than the last, we do our best to merge the ones we can and provide innovative ways to circumvent the others in order to deliver. Our clients’ success – and our own – would not be possible without efficiencies and performance gains delivered by technological advancements.
By Simon Garabette, Chief Operating Officer, Webhelp South Africa