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Arvato UK&I: Bringing Digital & Automation to CX


Recently, I had a chance to visit Arvato’s U.K. and Ireland HQ in Slough, ~20 miles (30km) west of London, to witness its customer experience operations and how the company is applying digital channels and automation.

A mix of public and private sector clients

Arvato U.K. & Ireland provides customer experience services, finance and accounting (record to report, order to cash, collections), supply chain management, payroll, HRO services such as hire to retire, and ITO to ~140 clients, predominantly in the public sector. Its public sector footprint includes councils, municipalities, agencies, and central government departments such as the Department for Transport. For some of the councils, Arvato also provides mailroom and face-to-face offices where the company’s employees work remotely or in mobile kiosks to answer queries and accept citizens’ claims. In total across the two countries, it has ~3k employees, three quarters of which are in customer experience services, based in over a dozen locations.

Arvato UK&I private sector clients come from the automotive, fashion, retail, financial services, and most recently telecoms and the IoT space.

Its sizable public sector footprint is not the norm for Arvato, with other markets such as Germany, Spain, France, and Netherlands having less public sector business. Also, customer experience services in the public sector have specific requirements, often more complex and more diverse than a typical customer care program. A municipality phone line covers citizens’ problems ranging from online help, billing, payments, and public services maintenance, to reporting social care issues and people at risk. It also operates in a regulated environment with additional security prerequisites. To address these challenges, in 2016 Arvato developed a business risk positioning tool called Task. Task presents a real-time dashboard which monitors and audits regulatory and financial risks associated with services being managed. The company has adapted Task for the front office to act as a contractual change control manager and tracker of contact center performance, e.g. against FCA rules. The tool itself came about through an innovation ideation exercise open to all Arvato employees.

Bringing automation to the contact center

Arvato began implementing RPA ~18 months ago with public sector clients and currently has ~50 processes fully or partially automated. Developed in-house and in partnership with BluePrism, the company also worked with private sector CX services clients to automate some of their processes in the contact center. For example, for an automotive client, Arvato runs scripts which populate and execute direct debit changes, lowering the cost per transaction from ~£1.20 to 25p. During the first twelve months of the automation journey across programs, it covered 16 processes resulting in ~£125k savings. Arvato is now working with the automotive brand to automate the handling of finance applications coming from the dealerships, and serviced by ~35 FTEs. Currently, an agent verifies if the documents are complete and checks an applicant’s photo IDs and other documents for AHT of 700 sec. Arvato expects this partial automation to eliminate some of these checks, decrease the error rate of the 60 applications processed by an agent on average per day, and lower the handling time to a few minutes. It estimates the automation will result in £750k annual savings. 

Expertise in automotive CX

In both U.K. and Ireland, Arvato supports several automotive brands offering customer experience services alongside back and middle office support. For example, it has supported Groupe Renault in the U.K. since 2007, and in other European markets since 1999. Arvato U.K. provides customer care over phone, chat, email, social media, web, and white mail, as well as outbound lead generation and marketing, supporting both end customers and dealerships. Beginning with voice and email, Arvato expanded to proactive web chat and social media to generate more leads, with ~60% of new leads now coming over chat. Using the multichannel environment, in 2016 alone, Arvato delivered £3.5m in new car sales from 3.6k leads.

For a German automotive OEM, Arvato also performs proactive outreach to car owners to notify them about due service checks. The company receives automated tickets to prompt phone calls to owners to arrange the visit. As next steps, it is working to push messages over SMS. Arvato has also set up a dedicated team to support the electric vehicle line for the client, where agents work as ‘case managers’, handling prospects from the mailing of marketing brochures to vehicle purchasing, installation of the charging station at the customer’s premise, and ongoing post-sales support.

Digital opportunities ahead

In typical fashion for a Bertelsmann company, Arvato national divisions operate quite independently. Arvato U.K. has developed an adjacent business in cyber security around remote monitoring. Focused mainly on existing public sector clients, the company is now expanding it to the private sector, and was recently awarded a program with a U.K. telecom for L1 and L2 technical support for their home and small office connected security systems. It is also identifying opportunities to productize and further develop Task and deploy customer analytics and next-best-action capabilities, particularly in the retail and automotive space, to boost upsell and loyalty management.

In digital channels, the company is currently targeting a customer-facing automation with a chatbot pilot for a fashion brand. For the German automotive brand, it is looking to launch video chat in 2018, which will connect customers at planned pop-up shops with the agents at the Slough headquarters. It is also investigating opportunities to use VR in agent training to immerse agents in the brand experience.

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