NelsonHall: CX Services Transformation blog feed NelsonHall's Customer Experience (CX) Services program is designed for organizations who need to understand, adopt, and optimize the next generation of customer service models for their business, including omni-channel services and the application of advanced analytics, alongside traditional voice and other contact center services. <![CDATA[Majorel Eyes Growing EU Banking Sector with ISILIS Acquisition]]>

In July 2020, Majorel acquired French platform developer ISILIS, specialists in bank account switching. In this blog, I look at the new capability, the company’s focus on the banking and financial services sector, and the evolving CX services needs of EU banks.

Specialist in bank account portability

ISILIS was founded in 2004 initially to support non-regulated account switching processes between French banks and later developed a banking mobility platform. The ISILIS platform facilitates bank connections and information exchanges with issuers. Banks subscribe to the mobility service and when end users want to switch, they visit their new bank branch or register online for digital banks. Then a bank employee enters data on the white-labeled platform and the customer signs an agreement.

Using the French open protocol SEPAmail Aigue-Marine (SEPA = Single Euro Payments Area), the platform collects the last 13 months’ of historical transaction records from the initial bank based on the BIC and a unique IBAN identifier. It processes the information through a transaction database and transfers it to the recipient bank. ISILIS ensures the agreed file formats and specifications, follows the mandated timelines, and handles exceptions and non-responding banks. Finally, it informs the issuers’ bank, which notifies its issuers to update their database, move deposit amounts between the institutions, set up new standing orders, and update the customer’s payment partners such as energy, insurance, telecom, media, and public entities. The company also has a legacy portability process for unregulated accounts where it directly contacts the issuers. This legacy process is applicable for self-employed, sole traders, and in cases of divorce, a person switches from a joint to an individual account.

Today, ~80% of French banks are connected to ISILIS, including traditional and digital ones. The company supports its ~130 clients with ~30 employees in Paris and Laval, France.

Majorel’s BFSI expertise in German speaking markets

For Majorel, the acquisition adds a new, growing banking market in Europe and allows it to utilize its expertise in account portability from the German speaking markets. Majorel has a dedicated subsidiary for the service, called Kontowechsel24, which offers similar services with a proprietary digital banking platform with the following added functionalities:

  • Single sign-on
  • Integration with online and mobile banking
  • eSignature
  • Automatic recognition of payment partners
  • Option for e-vouchers to incentivize switches
  • Video chat module.

It also performs OCR/ICR recognition for the identification of payment partners from paper documents. Kontowechsel has ~20 clients with ~10k daily users. An example implementation is for the Austrian digital bank99, a subsidiary of Austrian Post. Majorel integrated the digital account-switching platform with bank99’s online system and mobile app and provides technical support, order processing, and other back-office tasks. Between April and June 2020, bank99 accepted more than 30k new customers with the majority using the switching service, and expects to maintain an average of ~150 migrations per day.

Expanding EU regulations

EU Directive 2014/92/EU for access to payment accounts and payment account switching for consumers is gradually being adopted in the member states: in Germany in 2016 with the ZKG act, in Austria the same year with Verbraucherzahlungskontogesetz, and in France with a Macron law from 2017. Some of the potential developments under review at the moment include cross-border account switching and the EU-wide portability of IBAN numbers.

Under a separate directive PSD2 for electronic payment services, EU banks need to improve the level of transparency for fees; for example, through independent comparability websites.

BFSI focus

Majorel is actively focusing on the BFSI sectors, which form ~17% of the business. It currently has over 45 clients in the sector, including traditional banks, direct banks, B2B banks, credit card issuers and credit institutions, as well as fintech, insurance companies and mobile banks. The ISILIS acquisition expands the portfolio of services. The company supports banks for inheritance beneficiaries to stop recurring transfers and direct debits. Since 2018, it developed an IBAN validation and fraud prevention service.

With growing population mobility in the EU and the rise of digital banks, Majorel targets the CX needs of banks from account onboarding and KYC to loan processing, upsell and cross-sell, payment support, and collections. For the French market with an estimated 6% customer adoption of banking portability, in 2021, ISILIS plans to automate its process for self-employed account holders using the know-how from Majorel Germany where the unregulated segment represents 80% of the market. It aims to reach double-digit adoption in France. In addition to activating its full Kontowechsel24 offers in France, the company is looking at Spain and Italy, which have less mature account-switching markets and have opportunities for multi-account management.

Majorel also wants to utilize the PSD2 capability for account mobility and centralized management in insurance coverage, and is currently piloting the insurance portfolio evaluation tool in Germany.

<![CDATA[Online Crisis Management: Lessons from HGS’ Social Care Practice]]>


Ages ago, in the pre-COVID-19, pre-U.S. election, pre-BLM protest times of 2019, the challenges of online reputation management (ORM) seemed to be brand-specific. For example, how Boeing could restore customer confidence in the 737 MAX aircraft. Today, in the second half of 2020, navigating social media during a crisis is top of mind for most brand managers and PR departments across industries and markets. The onslaught of economic, political, and social changes is pushing corporations to build real-time crisis management capability proactively, often starting with online, as users are firmly embedded in the digital world.

HGS crisis command center

In Q2 2020, HGS created a 24x7 social media crisis command center in Mumbai, India, with 200 social media analysts, of which ~90% are working from home. The team consists of four types of roles: customer care, joy and revenue generation, issues and escalations, and reporting and insights. The center addressed an exponential client demand for online crisis moderation during the pandemic. The team monitors in real-time owned and earned media for its social media clients, covering mentions of the brand, key executives, employee related conversations, and competitor posts. The last one helps identify and create alerts for emerging market-wide issues or industry problems before they affect the client.

It has algorithms monitoring thresholds for topics reaching viral status or beginning to trend in a viral pattern. The team follows the topic through its full course, captures the context, and alerts the brand. It also trains the ML algorithms with new keywords to listen to and calibrate the required thresholds; for example, 1k interactions in the first 15 minutes.

In March 2020, HGS reached out proactively to its clients to jointly plan investments in social media resources and licenses. It defined the required analytics and insights to drive decision making by brand managers and marketers. Further, it prepared workflows to distribute content such as ethical and HR questions. For example, HGS is working with a cosmetics company to enable additional features on Sprinklr to assign content more quickly. It also developed region-specific approaches, modifying the communication strategy by state according to regional policies and regulations. For example, for the local pages of a multinational restaurant chain, HGS customized and localized the message for ~15k outlets.

COVID-19 crisis management

For COVID-19 crisis management and other massive crises, HGS established a set of alternative processes to monitor and prioritize the most important conversations for the client. For example, for its retail clients in the U.S., HGS tracked delayed or missing orders in the peak of the lockdowns and hot topics such as toilet paper shortage. HGS retail clients have witnessed volumes double since March and remain high due to COVID-19 -related issues, ongoing social unrest, and mask policies. By having the right playbook and technologies in place, HGS was able to maintain KPIs throughout these crises.

It can also deprioritize less important content, such as positive sentiment, to ensure that the brand is not celebrating in times of suffering. It can silence these conversations in the agent feed and relocate resources between customer care and reputation management. As a result, the command center can focus on niche but crucial areas such as shared online employee concerns or questions around job security or health and safety. For example, for a multinational big box retail chain, HGS harnessed the social media data and pinpointed issues by location. It then escalated supply chain disruptions or customer dissatisfaction with policy changes such as the number of people inside the store and restrictions on purchased items. The social agent will jump on a negative post and offer alternatives such as online orders and store pickups. In terms of KPIs, HGS measured standard ones such as volume, sentiment shared, and speed of response; but during the critical times, it increased the frequency of reporting from one to four times per day.

Another element is scaling up the team. For a national retail warehouse chain which had its offshore centers in the Philippines under lockdown, HGS tripled the size of the social team in the U.S. and India to respond to the excess volumes deflected from the phone channel. It also extended the hours of operations of social media care to 24x7.

Key success factors

From its experience, HGS defines several key success factors in social media crisis management:

  • Quickly shifting the conversation focus
  • Agility in rerouting conversation threads and scaling resources
  • Remaining responsive in the face of the additional volumes
  • Utilizing technology such as self-service bots and autoreplies
  • Increasing the review frequency of the conversation drivers.

Expanding role of social

In the long run, HGS expects the additional social volume to remain as customers shift to digital channels. For its clients, the company continues to support primarily Facebook and Twitter for customer care. However, for the listening and monitoring functions, it is adding new channels such as YouTube, TikTok, and review sites.

HGS is also witnessing a pent-up demand by companies to understand customer behavior and digital conversation better when relating to their brand. Clients are increasingly approaching HGS to help design and implement a social media crisis management process coming out of the pandemic status quo. In the second half of 2020, HGS is launching new ORM programs in the U.S., U.K., and India for financial services, automotive, healthcare, and retail.

It is working with its platform partners such as Sprinklr to enable ML-based smarter workflows. It is also looking into opportunities to promote sales through earned media and reactive social customer care; for example, for beauty clients.


In Q4, NelsonHall is publishing a major Social Media CX Services market analysis report covering support, sales, ORM, content moderation, and trust and safety services.

<![CDATA[Positive Outlook from the Egyptian BPS Market]]>


The impacts of the pandemic and lockdowns are creating winners and losers in terms of BPS delivery geos. Determining factors include a geo’s ability to manage the health and safety of workers, its success in minimizing economic disruption, and the flexibility of its labor regulators.

For Egypt, the unfolding effects of COVID-19 on front-office BPS may be too early to judge, but so far the country has been praised by both vendors and clients. This strong performance comes at a time of revival for Egypt BPS, and this makes it an attractive multilingual hub offering lower costs and scale of talent for nearshore delivery to Europe and the Gulf countries.

Potential for significant market growth

Egypt’s Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) estimates the country’s BPS market at $3.5bn for 2020, growing at 17% y/y, with ~186k employees in the industry. Egypt offers HRO, F&A, procurement, and other mid-office activities, but ~70% of the market is CX services. The majority of the CX services are for international markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, North America, and Asia, and approximately a third of the delivery centers serve three or more regions.  

The country is now established as a multilingual destination offering bilingual Arabic and English, and also French, German, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Russian, Hebrew, Greek, and other languages. For example, there is a Greek speaking minority, a German university in Cairo, and a Russian university in Badr City. Annually, ~90k university students graduate with English language alone. For Arabic, the Egyptian spoken dialect is considered neutral and the most widely understood in the region, with a significant Egyptian diaspora in the Middle East.

With a fully-loaded cost of $10-12 per hour, CX services in Egypt come in at 20-25% lower than Eastern Europe, 15% lower than Morocco, and 15-20% lower than South Africa, but ~10% higher than India. The average contact center agent monthly salary is in the range of 4k to 8k Egyptian Pounds ($250-$500) and increases to $500-$1000 for highly sought languages such as German. The Egyptian Pound is slowly appreciating against the U.S. dollar but remains below 2017 levels and is comparatively stable as an emerging market currency.

Lastly, Cairo is two hours ahead of the U.K. (one in the summer), the same time zone as Athens and Bucharest.

Increased interest by BPS firms

Interest in the Egyptian BPS and ITS delivery market is not new, with major captive and outsourced centers starting as early as 2001. The country hosts development and shared services centers from Microsoft, IBM, Vodafone, Orange, Dell, HSBC, Uber, Oracle, and Nestlé, among others. In 2019, Amazon, Etisalat, and PepsiCo also entered the market with their own BPS centers.

Currently, major CX services players include Majorel, Teleperformance, Concentrix, Sutherland, SYKES, and most recently Transcom and TTEC, both entering in 2020. Egypt also has a number of domestic and pan-African players such as Xceed, Raya Contact Center, iSON Xperiences, and Etisal International; and smaller centers such as Centro Global Solutions, icall Outsourcing, and FGS. The largest footprints exceed 7k employees and spread across the cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Asyut, and Beni Suef.

Domestic and international opportunities: the example of Xceed

Xceed is a fully-owned subsidiary of Telecom Egypt and started operating in 2001. It offers back-office CX services, inbound and outbound customer care, technical support, sales, and collections over voice, chat, and email. In 2018, it started offering F&A, RPO, and payroll outsourcing. It currently has ~10k seats, including sites in Morocco and Mauritius, and ~18k employees supporting European markets, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, U.S., and Canada. Its clients are in the following sectors: telecom and ISP, high-tech, real estate, food delivery, restaurant chains, travel, energy and utilities, and the domestic public sector. In Egypt, Xceed supports the ambulance services, a government complaint line, the tourist visa website, Egypt’s National Services, and the customer service for utilities in the New Urban Authority.

Overall, the company manages nine languages, including Russian and Portuguese, from seven sites in Cairo and upper Egypt. These centers are typically in dedicated technology parks such as the Smart Village on the outskirts of the capital and Maadi Contact Center Park in Cairo.

COVID-19 challenges and overcoming security reputation

In response to COVID-19, the Egyptian CX services industry, which had experience in BCP from the 2011 political disruption in the country, reverted to WAH, operating under lockdowns and night curfew. In April, ITIDA sampled 19 companies, 11 of which migrated 100% of their staff to WAH, with the remaining eight migrating 50-90%. For example, Xceed used its in-house remote applications and VPN to transfer 75-80% of the employees to home work. For those clients whose infrastructure did not allow distributed workplaces, Xceed rented small locations such as hotels, where the agents could live and work in social bubbles. The company also began supporting the national virus hotline.

The slowdown of the travel industry in the country also freed multilingual resources and opened up new demographic segments such as middle-aged agents speaking French. Xceed tapped into these resources and enabled digital recruitment, starting in March. For the company, WAH created other benefits such as lower attrition and higher adoption of split shifts to handle higher volumes with the same employees.

At the national level, the pandemic triggered the acceleration of the government service digitization plan for 2020, which targets automation of registries and public services for real estate, supply, and traffic documentation services such as driving license renewals.

Positive outlook

The Egyptian government is expanding the national infrastructure, opening four technology parks outside the capital in cities such as Sadat, and is currently developing the purpose-built new administrative capital where Xceed plans to open a new site. It is increasing the average internet speed of the country, investing $1.6bn, and trying to reach 20 Mbps by the end of 2020.

In parallel, the government passed a new data protection law, aligned closely with the regulatory framework of GDPR, improving the support position for EU.

To expand the talent pool, the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is running programs to train students in digital skills as well as campaigns with information on career development in BPS. ITIDA is organizing other talent development initiatives such as a software engineering competence center for engineer certification, and is implementing a national program, Next Technology Leaders, to train 10k people in ML, DL, and AI, with around 5.3k trainees already graduated.

The agency is also fine-tuning its incentive scheme, and from June is allowing companies to benefit from financial support for telecom operating costs as well as training costs for their existing employees (as opposed to new hires only).

For Xceed, by the end of 2020, the company expects to return more employees to the centers and keep ~20-30% in WAH. In terms of growth opportunities, the company is seeing continued interest from the Middle East, returning demand from the U.K., and new interest from Continental Europe and the U.S.

<![CDATA[‘Work from Anywhere’ for CX Services: Q&A with Tech Mahindra’s Ritesh Idnani]]>


If there is a silver lining to the pandemic with respect to CX services, it is the changing perception of clients and providers on the pace of digital transformation and the role of frontline staff. In a conversation with Ritesh Idnani, President of Tech Mahindra, we discuss the company’s vision for what the Future of Work looks like and some of the latest trends and technologies in the CX world.


Ivan Kotzev (IK): COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of advanced operational models, most notably Work-At-Home (WAH). From your perspective, what is the role of WAH in the long term?

Ritesh Idnani (RI): We think ‘Work from Anywhere’ is going to be the operating model in the long term and that means, as an organization, we have to prepare ourselves for that kind of fungibility where an employee can work in any setting, whether in an office, at home, or in a virtual setup. We are starting to ready ourselves with the new operating model and ensuring that 100% of our employee base works in that direction.

We can classify our workforce going forward into 3 categories:

  • Work that, due to regulatory compliance, customer privacy, data and information security, might need to be executed in an office environment
  • Work packets that will usually be executed outside the office
  • A hybrid model where people may work some days in a physical setting and somedays in a virtual setting.

We have put together a post-COVID-19 playbook that sets the roadmap towards ‘Work from Anywhere’ and joins the dots for the work categories with the delivery formats.

IK: In this ‘Work from Anywhere’ model, is the main benefit BCP or are there additional benefits?

RI: The initial results go far beyond BCP and risk mitigation. For example, in some of our low-cost locations such as India and the Philippines, the average employee commute is 1.5 to 2 hours each way, and that creates stress and causes people to be less than fully productive. The ‘Work from Anywhere’ model offers not only increased productivity but also allows expanding the talent pool to tap into a new workforce; for example, women in India who pull out from the workforce after marriage. We have this demographic which is highly educated and highly qualified and can now continue to be part of the workforce.

As a consequence of ‘Work from Anywhere’ you could also start thinking of a crowdsourced economy. We are making efforts and initiatives to break our work even further into smaller tasks that some people can take on easily. We have acquired a company, Zen3, that does a lot on the crowdsourcing front (in IT services), and we are taking advantage of the skillsets of the workers in the gig economy to extend it to the business process side.

IK: Are you seeing an environment where we completely recruit, train, coach, and manage a workforce without ever meeting them face-to-face?

RI: We already had a few examples pre-COVID-19, but this only accelerated in the last 12 weeks. We have added new logos and expanded our existing client relationships, and a lot of these transitions have happened virtually. These range from virtual recruitment to virtual onboarding, training, to running a virtual operation. It encompasses the entire lifecycle. We have an entire suite of technology tools in support of virtual operations with no physical interaction at all. For example, with a current security services client for whom we are running a technical assisted support center, we have ramped up the transition from an incumbent vendor who was not able to deliver WAH to four global locations in the Bay Area, Fargo, ND, Philippines and India, in the past eight weeks. All this was done virtually.

IK: How are we going to address the challenge of security and what is Tech Mahindra doing here?

RI: There are solutions we have put in place to enable ‘Work from Anywhere.’ This allows us to check what the employee is working on, to see that they are logged on for a consistent period, and what kind of access they have. We do record the agent screens and review them as a part of the audit. But the business controls, access to data, etc., are done at the  Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) level so the opportunity for fraud is minimal from the outset.

In addition, we have fully redundant global VDI, multi-factor authentication, a dedicated agent operating system with encrypted connection to all work-related data, and client networks. Data always resides within the VDI environment. Further, we ensure that there is a lock-down of workstations; users cannot toggle from the VDI. We also disable printing, faxing, connectivity to any peripheral device, and also there is no ability to copy data inside the VDI and paste outside. These are just some of the measures that we have ensured to address the challenge of security.

We will have to look very closely at the local norms and regulations around this space and it is another variable in the balance as we are implementing ‘Work from Anywhere.’

IK: Will this impact Tech Mahindra’s location strategy?

RI: The current environment will create opportunities for employees, making location secondary. But at the same time, with the advent of ‘Work from Anywhere’ technology, clients will look at combinations of onshore, nearshore, offshore versus only offshore delivery. It will also result in work being done closer to the customer. I do expect from our standpoint that it will accelerate our delivery in primary geographies such as the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and Continental Europe.

The typical large campus of 5k-10k-15k people in a single location will make way for a distributed nodal system across the globe, which allows you to expand the talent pool and have a critical mass of 300-400 people in a single place. Also, reaching out to tier 2 and tier 3 cities will be a lot easier, particularly for pieces of work that can be done remotely.

IK: Do you see these changes as a push for clients to proactively drive their adoption of digital?

RI: Those companies that were already ahead on the digital maturity curve are able to withstand the impact of COVID-19 a lot better. Organizations that were slower tripped over themselves. I have seen a few examples of organizations that could not enable WAH and have lost a competitive advantage in the last quarter.

At the same time, in the last eight to 12 weeks we have accomplished two to three years of digital transformation. Clients have moved faster than they ever have, because they did not have a choice. The current environment is about market share and mind share driving the pace and urgency of clients.

IK: What are the unifying characteristics of the early adopters?

RI: Even before COVID-19, for the last three to five years the early adopters have been thinking about their customer journeys. They had a view on a frictionless experience and seamless interaction across channels. They have put in place a lot of the elements from a foundation standpoint, so that they could take advantage of newer technologies. They have been able to mature their business and engagement models a lot faster than most.

The other thing that helped the leaders is the culture and open mindset to succeed in the digital ecosystem. They recognized going digital requires an agile workforce, bias towards testing and learning, and decentralized business decision-making.

IK: What is the role of CX services providers in this digital transformation path?

RI: In multiple ways. For example, we are using resources from the recently acquired BORN agency to help increase the pace of creative commerce and content adoption. We are working with a lot of brands to deliver a direct-to-consumer play, enable brand experience from a service design standpoint, ensure a frictionless journey across channels, implement e-commerce platforms to shift their business online, and potentially create marketplaces to enable them to reach their end customers directly.

These are some of the areas where we are working closely with brands at the front-end of the cycle to improve their overall CX. Tech Mahindra’s BPS group can help them implement digital channels, revamp their process, and launch ‘Work from Anywhere.’

<![CDATA[COVID-19 Accelerating the Future of CX Work: Teleperformance EMEA]]>


The COVID-19 crisis is forcing a rethink of the CX delivery model with large contact centers. The fundamental question is how to maintain people’s health and safety in an open floor space with hundreds of seats, continuous face-to-face interactions, shared equipment, and 24x7 operations. For many outsourcing clients, the pandemic was the trigger to adopt work-at-home (WAH) for the first time. Two months later, these forced WAH pilots have their first results, and the emerging picture of a future CX work environment marks several changes.

In this post, I look at how Teleperformance is addressing the challenges of the pandemic and the next stages of their CX delivery plan in EMEA.

The pandemic is also a crisis of communication

The magnitude and speed of the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns at national, regional, and city level prompted Teleperformance to migrate 75% of its ~70k frontline workforce in EMEA to WAH in four weeks. It also reorganized the remaining contact centers under new health and safety policies. For each EMEA country, Teleperformance worked with clients to adapt the schedule to the local regulations such as curfews in Albania, Egypt, Lebanon, Madagascar, and lockdowns in Tunisia.

One of the less discussed challenges of the crisis is a general lack of reliable information and direction. Based on the experience of its Chinese operations, in March, Teleperformance issued global guidelines and a health and safety dashboard and began measuring regularly. It also organized bulletin boards, weekly newsletters, and daily CEO chats in every country. The health and safety guidelines included detailed cleaning protocols, sanitization of workstations and equipment before each work shift, temperature checks, where legally allowed, physical distance markers in offices and recreational spaces, availability of disinfectants and gels, closure of some common areas such as training and breakrooms, and opening of isolation rooms at every site. In some locations, the company also has an onsite physician to check symptoms and prescribe quarantining of individuals and teams. The company also procured six million face masks for its employees.

For the migration to WAH, Teleperformance prepared e-learning modules for the agents on working from home with recommendations on setting up the workspace, time management, and the importance of taking breaks. It also included tips on separating work and personal environments. For the managers, the modules focused on remote management, with team and one-on-one communication and some additional skills such as technical support.

(Un)expected effects of the WAH transition

For Teleperformance, the transitioning of processes to the WAH environment brought some expected and unexpected benefits. Not surprisingly, it had a massive drop in employee attrition rates, but it also experienced a 50% lower absenteeism even compared to before the pandemic. While the AHT increased, productivity improved and NPS and CSAT scores remained stable. The company is now running an employee survey to evaluate sentiment and satisfaction with the transition, and gauge interest in continuing to work from home. The initial feedback points to a large proportion of agents willing to go back to the call centers.

One of the biggest challenges of WAH delivery is engaging employees and alignment with the supported brand. Teleperformance EMEA benefited from moving experienced agents with classroom training and already immersed in the brand culture and values.

The company HR is addressing this distancing with several initiatives. It started virtual Zumba, yoga, and cooking classes, weekly happy hours, and lunch breaks with the CEO. New hire recruitment moved completely online and over video, bringing a higher attendance rate. It is also piloting fully virtual classroom training in Germany using Blackboard.

In May, it unified these capabilities under Teleperformance cloud campus with virtual talent acquisition, training, development, coaching, team building, learning, client interaction, quality control, and data security management, as well as social interaction for employees.

The future of CX is a mix of brick-and-mortar and WAH

Clients reacted with different speeds and agility to the crisis, with proactive organizations partnering with Teleperformance to quickly activate BCP and move agents and equipment to the home in the early days of March. Other clients, for example in BFSI, delayed decisions until mid-April, often awaiting inputs from their internal IT functions.

With the easing of movement and lockdown restrictions in certain European countries, CX services clients are opening discussions with Teleperformance to return to brick-and-mortar operations. However, this return faces far more questions than the initial WAH shift. For example, how to organize the contact center under social distancing rules, plus the question of whether the additional costs make it sustainable. Teleperformance EMEA calculated that a full return to physical centers with social distancing requires 2.5x its existing office space. The other big risk is the medical uncertainty and potential new wave of infections later in the year.

Regardless of any medical developments, the future of CX delivery will be a combination of on-site and remote working. Teleperformance is now planning for the partial return to brick-and-mortar operations with logistics steps, infrastructure changes, and floor changes such as workstation separators to comply with social distancing guidelines. 

The new hybrid model is a must-have for risk mitigation, but it also opens opportunities for multilingual delivery in EMEA with cross-border access to talent. Teleperformance’s experience shows certain markets such as Egypt and Romania have a strong appetite and capability for WAH. The crisis also shifts other aspects of the industry, such as sales, where Teleperformance EMEA adopted virtual pitches and site visits.   

Managing a distributed workforce entails a redesign of many CX operational processes, from different ways of organizing training content and teaching, to the recruitment of candidates specially selected to work remotely. The main objective now is negotiating with clients to reach a healthy balance of brick-and-mortar and WAH.

<![CDATA[Supercharged Technical Support: Augmented Reality with CSS Corp’s KYRA]]>


In a new social distancing world, most traditional face-to-face customer service tasks have had to digitize quickly. This trend is not new, but for some processes, it required the adoption of emerging technology and different operational models. A prime example is customer premise visits by engineers for equipment installations, parts replacement, and technical support. For several years, CX services vendors have worked on visual support and remote diagnostics, and are now looking to Augmented Reality (AR) to lift technical support to the next level. CSS Corp has already developed its proprietary technology in the space and is now working on AR deployments.

KYRA: AR-enabled CX & enterprise support

CSS Corp sees AR-enabled CX and support across three use cases:

  • Visual self-service, where the AR provides visual guidance to users on product features and interactive how-to user manuals
  • AR integrated virtual assistant, which automates the user engagement with intelligent bots using AR projections and overlay
  • Remote agent assistance to resolve user issues from a distance with AR markers and overlays.

The company has a pilot of AR visual self-service for a U.S. multinational telecom equipment manufacturer with products in the fixed, wireless, and IP technology space. The AR has step-by-step visual user guides and in-depth installation manuals, component descriptions, component usage instructions, and remote visual troubleshooting. The implementation has an integrated virtual assistant.

The user or field engineer scans a QR code on the packaging leading to the AR support web page downloading an app on their smartphone. She or he then asks the bot for a virtual user guide. The customer focuses their mobile camera on the equipment or error message, and the AR support interface identifies the product model and downloads the correct user guides and knowledge articles. It displays the components and narrates within the AR environment. The virtual assistant explains how to set up and use the components using animations and AR markers. In addition to the spoken and written instructions, it allows image scrolling and freezing and control with voice. The bot then reads the device screen to determine if the installation is successful and guides the user to enter configuration commands.

If the initial installation fails, the computer vision identifies the error message, and the bot starts interacting with the user via chat or messenger to troubleshoot the issue and guide the self-service steps within the AR. If the issue still cannot be resolved, the bot escalates to a live agent who initiates a secure AR session on the support app by sending a link. The transfer displays to the agent the transcript and completed steps and auto-creates a ticket and case history in the client CRM.

For the client, the initial results of the pilot in 2020 show 23% faster issue resolutions for AR supported interactions and 38% AHT reduction with the automation. For 20% of the volumes, the realized end-to-end automation efficiencies reached 94%.

Challenges to the spread of AR

Historically, AR adoption for remote collaboration stumbled due to a lack of high network bandwidth and speed. The proliferation of fiber optic broadband and the rollout of 5G will eventually resolve this challenge. In the meantime, CSS Corp’s KYRA uses cloud-based lightweight AR technology.

Another common concern for all two-way video chat remains security and privacy protection. CSS Corp addresses this issue by masking to the live agent all sensitive user information such as passwords and blurring outside objects. It also ensures that the tools are PCI DSS compliant.

Lastly, customers are often reluctant to download another app, and its usage sharply decreases after the initial setup. Here, CSS Corp works with clients to offer additional incentives and features in the app to drive regular user engagement.  It also provides the SMS/email links to user, to start the remote assistance with the agent.

KYRA: AR-optimized field operations

Other opportunities for KYRA, which CSS Corp actively explores, are enabling field engineers with virtual technical assistance in a live environment for remote installations, deployments, repair, and maintenance. An example POC is for a telecom and media brand which struggles with high-volume dispatches for no-fault cases and low fix rate, requiring additional visits in close to a quarter of cases. CSS Corp’s AR proposal includes remote issue resolution, improved due diligence before the dispatch, and remote consultation for the field engineers. It estimates to eliminate 90% of the no-fault dispatches and reduced unscheduled truck rolls by ~25%, resulting in cost savings, improved customer satisfaction, and freeing up technicians’ time.

In addition to managed services, the AR and app technology, the company trains the ML algorithms with real-life drawings and component libraries, and the algorithm annotates issues for self-learning. The company builds process logic and rules and expands the knowledge base articles with rich media content.

AR Future

The future options before AR and VR use in CX are significant, not only because of the growth of AR-capable smartphones, but also the increase of use cases such as testing designs and trying products virtually. The current lockdown has triggered companies to move from innovating to adopting AR. For example, IKEA, a pioneer with its 2013 AR catalog, acquired AR startup Geomagical Labs in April, and British online retailer ASOS launched its own AR tool in May.

CSS Corp believes the technology is an excellent enhancement for remote expert collaboration to guide local technicians by projecting problem resolution for quicker handoff. For communication and information system clients, it integrated the AR with its managed services platform Contelli, mapping clients’ infrastructure and applications.

AR is also applicable for engineer education, with CSS Corp already training its distributed workforce operating in WAH mode with AR simulated environment; for example, for out-of-scope devices.

CSS Corp is now identifying client segments in consumer electronics, networking, and connected environments suitable for AR-boosted technical support.

<![CDATA[Concentrix Messaging & Bots: Innovation During the COVID-19 Crisis]]>


One of the memes during the COVID-19 crisis asks ‘who led the digital transformation of your company?’ with the options of ‘the CEO’, ‘the CTO’, or ‘the virus’. The global emergency has severely impacted CX, forcing many organizations to shut down or limit their contact center operations when they are most needed. A side effect is that, where available, self-service, customer-facing bots, and asynchronous messaging prove their efficiency in handling large volumes, 24/7. As a result, for many CX services clients, the pandemic will trigger a call to action and jumpstart CX innovation programs.

Concentrix messaging

Private messaging use has exploded in recent years, and for younger generations it surpasses traditional social media. Its benefits are numerous – it runs voice and text; it is mobile, asynchronous, private, timesaving, low effort, and retains the conversation thread. It is also a richer channel, allowing hyperlinks, documents, pictures, videos, stickers and emojis, and interactive widgets such as carousels. All three of Apple, Facebook, and Google (with RBM) are pursuing opportunities in the space, opening the API for development and business use.

Concentrix has been working on its messaging offerings since 2016, when it started with WeChat in China. In early 2020, it launched a comprehensive offering called Concentrix XP Messaging. Concentrix XP Messaging includes support resources along with the messaging and automation platform. The company identifies the CX opportunity for messaging deployment and designs, implements, manages, and optimizes the bots coupled with live agent support. It offers the pre-built APIs and integration accelerators for the messaging apps and also provides and maintains the third-party software. Finally, it establishes and delivers the reports and insights on metrics, interactions, volumes, and utilization levels.

The ideal path is when customers initiate the message, a bot responds with selected answers, and if live agent support is required, it automatically transfers with contextual information. Agents can invite bots back to the conversation; for example, to handle payments. Bots can also proactively initiate conversations. The messaging platform handles the queuing, routing, delivery of messages, and live transfers. For the customer service agents, the messaging platform integrates directly with the CRM and it is presented as a unified queue regardless of the customer channel – web or in-app chat, messenger, SMS, or social media DM. Contact center managers have a real-time and historical view of performance and traffic.

On average, Concentrix sees at least a 26% productivity gain from increased concurrency and efficiency compared to chat, and up to 50% compared to voice. The deflection rate from voice, email, and chat to messaging can reach ~30%. In addition, ~85% of customers return to the channel with typically higher CSAT scores of between 7% and 11% compared to traditional channels.

Before the global impact of the pandemic, Concentrix had several thousand messaging agents supporting clients in financial services, technology, telecom, and retail. It provides B2B and B2B status checks, appointment setting, customer care, L1 technical support, upfront marketing and sales over WhatsApp, Messenger, Apple Business Chat, and SMS.

Interactions suitable for messengers & bots

Increasingly, Concentrix is identifying new use cases for messaging with its clients. The discussions often evolve from a substitute for traditional chat or email to customer journeys suitable for self-service and automation with bots and messaging. For example, for a U.K. retail brand, it added a messaging option on the IVR to prompt SMS use with ~90% adoption rate. Usually clients are surprised by the potential scope of up to 50% of voice interactions suitable for messaging and up to 100% from text channels. Concentrix models show potential cost savings of 20%, 30%, 70%, depending on the level of automaton, the original channel, and delivery location. For example, for a retail provider in the U.S., it provided a messaging application allowing customers to engage over web, SMS, Apple Business Chat, in-app messaging, FB Messenger, Twitter, and WeChat. It also deployed proactive outbound messaging via SMS from agents or systems based on business rules. Concentrix integrated an APIs to client systems to present offers and achieve in-channel purchase completion.

The company developed a digital operating model to recruit, train, and performance manage messenger agents and set up different quality standards and KPIs. The agent profile is a digital native with advanced typing speed and understanding of the conversation styles and tone using emojis, shorter phrases, and more direct language. The agents have to be confident in multitasking as the environment is fast-paced with higher concurrency than chat (as high as five to seven sessions) and smaller after-call work. Across its messenger population, Concentrix sees an 8% greater training graduation rate and a 16% higher retention rate.

Messaging bots in time of crisis 

While phone hotlines have been the go-to response during the pandemic emergency, private companies and government bodies have also taken up Q&A bots on messengers to help the public. For example, WHO launched a COVID-19 bot on Viber and the Pakistani government started a virus hotline over WhatsApp.

Concentrix developed several use cases to address the pandemic, with Q&A bots offering general COVID-19 information for a company, brand, or product-specific statements, safety recommendations, and retailer updates about openings and closures. These types of bots require no client IT involvement and have rapid 24 to 48 hour deployment cycles. With massive volume demand on the contact center in certain verticals in the current situation, it proactively offers self-service bots to existing chat clients. These bots apply effectively in basic triage scenarios such as status updates, warranty and replacement, and new product order and pricing info.

For example, for a multinational printer company, Concentrix provides technical support outside the product warranty and sells support subscriptions over the phone, email, and chat. Due to the COVID-19 emergency and higher than normal volumes, the client needed an alternative channel. Within two days, Concentrix developed, tested, and configured an SMS bot, created the content and bot flows and set up an IVR prompt to drive customers. The bot answers the most common call types such as wireless connectivity and Windows updates. It also links customers to ‘how to’ instructions and troubleshooting videos for printer and PC issues. The messaging bot deflected 10% of all traffic to self-service and the client plans to expand to other programs.

Future interface

Messaging is one of the most promising future customer interfaces, with a far greater pool of transactions applicable to its use. Its current and potential benefits are expanding, such as the integration of Apple Business Chat, eliminating the need for user authentication and the deployment of messaging in Google search. The pressure on brands to patch their CX brought about by COVID-19 creates the need to add a more productive and user-friendly channel. Over time, it can also fire up the opportunity for conversational commerce.

<![CDATA[Alorica Harnesses Technology to Engage Gen X, Y & Z Workforce]]>


High employee attrition rates are the norm in contact centers, with companies maintaining a constant recruitment, training, and onboarding pipeline. As generations X, Y, and Z come to represent the majority of the workforce, these new workers have different career aspirations, work values, and learning styles. For CX services providers with global delivery networks and demand for specialized agent skills, workforce engagement becomes a priority. The most effective ways of finding, hiring, training, and preserving talent combine people analytics, bots, mobile apps, and other tech solutions with new HR models.

Here, I look at Alorica’s investments and practices in engaging new generation employees by harnessing technology.

Bot recruiters

Since 2018, starting in the Philippines, Alorica has had a dedicated recruitment chatbot to field applicant questions, perform initial screening, and organize interviews with one-click applications. The bot is on the company Facebook page for each country. In 2019 it expanded the tool to certain LATAM and India delivery markets.

For general company inquiries and available positions, it has a FAQ bot called AVA (Alorica Virtual Assistant) on the official Alorica webpage. AVA is an in-house company development using Microsoft NLP layer. The bot also answers question through Google Home and Alexa. Alorica is now customizing AVA for internal use to enable employee HR self-service for its 100k people in 14 countries. It will answer general questions related to HR, policy, payroll, and PTO and has basic service desk functionality, e.g. password reset.

Alorica also developed a physical robot on wheels which is in pilot at select contact centers. It greets applicants, answers questions, and provides information on the company and the recruitment process.

Evolving trainee engagement with digital tools

In 2019, Alorica launched Connect, its own employee engagement and training progressive web application using IP. It has sections with new hire content, quizzes, and surveys, prompting trainees to increase their competencies. Through team and leader boards, new hires can see their progress and individual standing.

On Connect, employees can also submit their mood and confidence levels anonymously on a daily basis. Trainers and managers then view a dashboard with the overall team mood and performance in real-time and break it down by time slot and competency. The company analyzes the overall data to identify pain points during the onboarding journey at macro, country, site, and team level. Alorica is now establishing ‘hypercare committees’ in each contact center to respond to employee feedback on various topics from management to IT and facilities.

It also has gamification elements for agents to win points for different interactions with the app. Agents can use the accumulated credits to acquire badges and build customized avatars.

Connect is available on both Android and Apple devices, with an initial roll-out in three regions with selected clients in the Philippines, Guatemala and Panama, India, and the U.S. For data protection and to meet employee work hour restrictions, the app is geofencing certain sections, so users can only access on work premises. Over the first three months of the pilot, Connect had ~10k active users. In six months, Alorica achieved eNPS scores improvement of 10% of the global average.

Virtual microlearning for new generation workers

The Connect app is at the core of Alorica’s approach to training next-generation employees, for many of whom this is their first full-time job. Connect has a digital backpack with microlearnings to help trainees organize their knowledge and access it. The app offers bitesize information with instant responses and gratification, while ensuring the agent has minimum viable proficiency. The company’s design team is tasked with converting many of the materials into visuals.

Within the app, it is now building Alorica Academy for learning content, including topics outside the immediate work environment such as negotiation skills and business software. Alorica Academy piloted in the Philippines in February 2020.

Alorica is also testing the use of VR with a virtual classroom and an avatar trainer to guide employees through the learning material.  

Automation of the -30 to +90-day employee cycle

Alorica’s objective is to automate and enable self-service for the complete new hire onboarding process. It plans to move AVA to a cognitive conversational level to assist applicants and collect process feedback. For employees, on the development roadmap are seven POCs for self-service features. The bot will link with backend systems such as Oracle, payroll, and WFM. Alorica also wants to enable AVA on the physical robot and deploy it on the contact center floors to engage with agents, answer their questions, and play training videos.

The company plans to integrate the bot with Connect and transform the app into the main HR source for employees, including for schedule management. Next, it is localizing and expanding the app to new delivery geographies and languages and incorporating the ESAT surveys for additional feedback.

<![CDATA[Teleperformance Optimizes its Go-to-Market with Digital Integrated Business Services]]>


At the end of January 2020, NelsonHall attended Teleperformance’s global analyst meeting in Mumbai. Here are some insights into the company’s progress since the Intelenet acquisition in October 2018 and the formation of Teleperformance Digital Integrated Business Services (D.I.B.S.).

Repositioning as a knowledge partner

Teleperformance’s reorganization in 2019 to form Teleperformance D.I.B.S. was a step towards unifying the company’s offerings, placing the ~100 proprietary platforms under one umbrella, and optimizing the go-to-market approach. D.I.B.S. includes the company’s vertical specific business process management services, analytics, intelligent automation, and digital transformation capabilities, which also covers the recently launched Innovation and Experience Center in Santa Clara. 

D.I.B.S. has a dedicated technology, analytics, and process excellence practice (T.A.P.) with its own P&L. It serves as an internal catalyst (and educator) for the entire organization regarding transformation. The knowledge practice currently has ~600 experts including data scientists, developers, Lean Six Sigma Black Belts, COPC practitioners, and CX consultants. While Teleperformance aims to scale the team to ~1k people by the end of 2020, the ultimate goal is to democratize and embed the ‘transformational DNA’ across the company. As a first step, T.A.P. is identifying projects in key markets; for example, partnering with sales staff in Colombia and France. It also organizes internal webinars and training sessions on topics such as RPA and analytics. The objective is to upskill employees across the organization to identify value addition opportunities and to know the basics of which processes to target for automation and analytics deployment. Further, T.A.P. looks to find potential synergies in integrated business services, starting with the operations in India.

An example opportunity is in integrated business services with the company’s Finance & Accounting practice. Teleperformance has ~90 F&A clients supported by ~10k employees in 12 countries. Over the last two years, the work has gradually shifted towards more complex work and contextual tasks such as financial planning and analysis (FP&A), tax, treasury and other niche areas under record to report (R2R). As a result, it offers aggregated packages of products, including intelligent automation with their micro tools strategy, analytics, and F&A talent who bring global and local accounting standard experience and knowledge.

India’s booming CX services market

For Teleperformance, India is both a high-potential delivery location and a target domestic market. For example, a large proportion of the T.A.P. resources are in India. At the moment, the company has ~80k people in the country, with approximately half supporting the domestic market. It continues to scale, with capacity expansions in 2019 focused on Tier 2 and 3 Indian cities. Teleperformance plans to further add new locations mainly in Tier 2 cities for international email and chat work. High-growth verticals include BFSI, healthcare, and travel.

In a recent interview, Teleperformance CEO Daniel Julien placed a big bet on India, predicting that the workforce in the country will increase to ~150k people in the next few years.

Engaging a new generation workforce

Teleperformance’s market vision for ‘High Tech, High Touch’ relies on remaining a people-centered business where the company recruits, trains, coaches, and manages a global workforce. With more generation Y and Z cohorts dominating the labor pool, Teleperformance is reinventing its recruitment and talent engagement practices. The company employs psychometric assessment-based hiring to identify dark personality traits, particularly with a view to preventing intentional security breaches. In recruitment, it also evaluates the emotional intelligence of applicants and actively involves social media as a channel, a practice widely adopted in India.

In training, the focus is on self-learning games, comics, video learning, and delineation of career paths. While the traditional agent learning curve is disappearing because of self-service and bots, the company is shifting to bite-size learning and gamification using video, leaderboards, props-based learning, VR/AR, e-learning platforms, simulations, and exploration games.

Another approach to attract and retain talent is work-at-home-agent (WAHA) to complement on-site delivery. Teleperformance is increasing its WAHA population and has ~10k FTEs globally, with only 60% in the U.S. In India, it plans pilots in 2020 out of two major cities for chat and email customer care for international and domestic clients; for example, in retail. These plans are dependent on regulatory approval. As a next phase, it will include voice services as well.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution already impacting CX services

Most of Teleperformance’s ~850 clients are facing significant disruption from digitally native competitors, new technology such as cloud and IoT, and shifting customer profiles and preferences. The new economy clients have a different set of requirements, prioritizing scalability and multinational delivery to meet high growth patterns; for example, social media and e-commerce platforms looking for content moderation services. In this environment, Teleperformance looks to offer an in-depth understanding of the client industry and provide horizontal technology, processes, and people across the customer journey. Part of these investments include setting up the CEO office of ‘Transformation’ headed by Bhupender Singh, partnerships with process mining firms, doubling down on its internal cybersecurity expertise, expanding the T.A.P. practice, and a potential M&A to add more digital and/or consulting capabilities.

<![CDATA[CSS Corp Addresses Commercial Challenges of Cognitive CX Transformation]]>


One of the main challenges facing front-office automation projects is the adoption of commercial terms protecting the interests of both clients and CX services providers. In an industry dominated by traditional per FTE and per hour/minute pricing, to be successful, end-to-end digital transformation requires significant initial investments, new KPIs, a stake from the vendor, and a longer project horizon.

The cannibalization dilemma   

Cost saving is a direct benefit of front-office automation, generated by deflecting traffic from live agents to self-service and improving productivity to enable reduction in required FTEs. Effective cognitive bots deployed in key customer journey stages or back-office workflow can eliminate the need for human intervention and decrease the volume handled, thus reducing vendors’ revenues.

So far, CX services providers have responded by absorbing the financial impact, hoping to protect their position from competitors, gain additional share of the client’s business down the road, or use it as a lever in the next renewal negotiation. However, this approach cannot be sustainable because cognitive CX is not an end solution but a continuous journey addressing customers’ increasing service expectations and growing acceptance of bots. Even in narrow-scope deployments, traditional performance metrics such as AHT lose their relevance when more complex and challenging interactions end up with human support.

Footing the robot bill

Clients commonly do not want to invest heavily upfront, especially when they do not know what outcomes to expect from CX automation. CSS Corp addresses this pain point with an upfront contract commitment to achieve cost out while backloading most of the investment and blending it in the rate. The company’s commitment stems from its significant experience with the specific client and vertical and from its cognitive IP. For example, its first large-scale CX automation project was with an existing home networking client, which CSS Corp has supported since 2005 and is now the sole supplier. The digital transformation with the client evolved from several joint RPA implementations and simplifications such as screen scraping in the past to 22% TCO reduction through automation. The vendor’s domain experience in home networking with multiple clients, accumulated customer data, and digital assets integration practice gives it confidence to accept the risk.

In another example, for a U.S. VoIP service provider, CSS Corp manages sales, customer care, technical support, and retention. It is responsible for increasing sales, reaching retention numbers, maintaining credit per line, and achieving customer satisfaction levels. CSS Corp charges on a ‘cents per active line per month’ basis. The provider owns the automation and tools but has agreed on a penalty matrix for FCR, CSAT, retention rates, etc.

Contracting with ‘unknowns’

In cases where the domain is less mature for the provider, or the client RFP does not give access to internal data, cases, or existing infrastructure, CSS Corp utilizes reference information and demands a clear view of the internal development roadmap. An example is a hardware storage manufacturer which CSS Corp supports in APAC, U.S., India, and Europe with 200 employees. The contract is based on flat per hour pricing with targets to reduce the headcount by year, 1, 2, and 3 with an increasing rate per hour.

A vital element here is the realistic assessment of meaningful results to justify the cost to the client. When these results do not bring savings, the company contracts against customer satisfaction improvements delivered through the CX automation. CSS Corp’s best practice is to employ a conservative calculation in generic cases. For example, it underwrites only 14-16% TCO over three years when the level of automation is limited by the product, languages, or degree of customer base exposure to chatbots.

Workforce model for bot-human support

With both established and prospective clients, CSS Corp applies a workforce model based on the number of eliminated contacts, volume of self-service, percentage handled by a chatbot or voice bot, and efficiency improvement for technology augmented live agents. It also includes the usual quality and SLA terms. If the automation benefits do not materialize, the provider accepts the need to overstaff. If the benefits exceed targets, CSS Corp gains from the additional savings. For ROI calculation to come through, the contract duration typically needs to be three or more years. Also, to win the buy-in from the organization, CSS Corp shares its calculations and research data, conducts onsite consultations, and organizes workshops.

The proper due diligence from CSS Corp requires sign-off on the client product release and IT update schedule. For these requirements it works with marketing, product development, IT, and operations in addition to customer service departments. The client’s IT approval is crucial to ensure an alignment of deployment dependencies and timelines. For example, in one instance, the client’s delayed telephony upgrade pushed the introduction of parts of the automation components back by six months. Here, the outcome-based pricing kicked in only after the infrastructure upgrade was complete.

Co-innovation with pricing

CX automation programs require investments from the client and vendor, and advanced pricing models are a must to ensure ‘skin in the game’ from both sides. True co-innovation entails a more flexible commercial approach which translates into a next-level CX services partnership.   


NelsonHall will publish a Cognitive Customer Experience Market Analysis reports before the end of 2019.

<![CDATA[Entering the Voice Bot Age: Tech Mahindra Launches]]>


Voice bots are a tiny part of the customer service and outsourced CX services market today. However, they are significant both in terms of investment and the attention they are receiving from organizations. In both smart home devices (voice assistants) and traditional telephony, voice bots are growing (*see a sample of news items from October 2019 at the end of the text).

With diverse markets, from automotive to healthcare, with multiplying uses cases from food ordering to job applications, growing adoption in the U.S. and U.K., the addition of new markets (e.g. Ireland) and higher frequency of use, the question for BPS and CX services providers is not when but how to get involved in the digital voice ecosystem. Here I look at how Tech Mahindra has entered the field.

Converting from human-human to human-bot interaction

Tech Mahindra BPS began developing its voice bot in early 2019, utilizing in-house ML and AI capabilities. It started with a simple Q&A bot able to support FAQ type queries. In the second phase, they introduced NLP and NLU into the bot to allow users to paraphrase their questions and receive responses. In the third phase, Tech Mahindra BPS introduced conversational features for the bot to respond to unstructured dialogue outside the Q&A format. Here the conversation can be multi-dimensional, and the bot will comprehend it.

The voice assistant processes data in real-time from systems such as CRM, ERP, billing, and knowledge management, and the algorithm builds a voice response back to the customer. For example, in a current pilot for a telecom client, the bot handles the first steps of a sales interaction and automatically schedules an outbound sales call in the dialer for a human agent to complete the sale. Tech Mahindra achieves this access through an API where available, and in the case of legacy applications it employs its own RPA script in the background to read/write the information.

Partnering in a complex ecosystem

There are different ways to build a bot solution currently: build a bot engine from scratch on Python or another language, customize one of the existing platforms, or create your own bot on existing frameworks from Google, IBM, Amazon, or Microsoft. The last option involves using a ready tool such as Avaamo, Conversocial, or one of many others.

Tech Mahindra combines several approaches. It uses Google Cloud Platform to create chat and voice bots, works with Amazon Lex and Amazon Lambda gateway API to integrate with back-end systems, and Amazon Connect for telephony integration. It also partners with Avaamo for the bot building.

Amazon in particular has an advantage, as it offers both the platform and connectivity and is able to effectively manage the integration of voice bots on a telephony platform. Tech Mahindra is working to deploy the bot over IVR and route it to a live agent if the bot does not understand or cannot respond to the query (a feature not available for smart speakers for now).

Uses cases in telecom

The initial POCs for are with telecom use cases such as price check or billing status update, activating roaming or bolt-on, and in service desk password resets. These processes have high enough volumes and sufficiently straightforward customer journeys to deploy the voice bot. Beyond these first target processes, Tech Mahindra is now looking (with telecom clients) to reduce truck rolls and engineer visits, with the bot guiding the user through technical support queries in scenarios related to faults with fixed line or broadband. The company is also working on similar use cases in the high-tech sector; for example, to help a home appliances manufacturer to schedule appointments and request replacement parts.

These processes are particularly malleable to voice automation as they deliver sizable cost savings with limited opportunities for self-service, especially when the user has no access to the internet. The bot also helps with addressing spikes in support calls during outages and disruptions.

Another key factor is customer propensity for adoption. Unlike a back-office RPA deployment with linear calculations, Tech Mahindra evaluates the ROI by demographic group, geography, and use case; for example, targeting 35-40% deflection in the U.S. in an active age group for technical support interactions.

From POCs to implementations of voice bots leveraging intelligent automation

To address the market potential and demand for CX automation, Tech Mahindra plans to grow its voice bot development team in the next few months. Part of these resources are curators and conversationalists with a degree in linguistics and communications who can develop an effective and natural dialogue. The curators also localize and culturally align the taxonomy and conversation style.

Tech Mahindra will continue to target the communications and high-tech sectors, the enterprise segment, and service desk functions. From a broader perspective, its objective is to implement voice bots in a broader offering, leveraging process orchestration and intelligent automation across the CX journey.


NelsonHall is currently developing a Cognitive Customer Experience market analysis report, analyzing the use of cognitive models and technology in customer experience by Fortune 2000 organizations.

* Related articles:

Reliance Jio launched video and voice call assistant for business clients

BBC adds interactive news on Alexa

Google Assistant adds Cantonese

Amex invests in AI virtual call centre agent startup

<![CDATA[Democratizing Analytics: Tech Mahindra Virtual Analyst]]>


A common theme in NelsonHall’s Advances in Analytics BPS market analysis is that organizations’ need to operationalize data has matured beyond BI and simple visualization. Companies do not want to wait days to build a report and weeks, or even months, to generate insights. They need to fill the AI-analytics continuum, democratize data discovery and data manipulations, and obtain (near) real-time insights.

Tech Mahindra’s Virtual Analyst offering aims to address all three of these tasks by employing the power of cognitive technology.

Virtual Analyst architecture

Virtual Analyst incorporates Tech Mahindra’s visualization IP across tools and third-party NLP engines such as ThoughtSpot and PowerBI. The business model is for Tech Mahindra to serve as a reseller, solution provider, and analytics co-developer for BPS clients, where it offers its domain expertise.

Under Virtual Analyst, Tech Mahindra deploys the NLP and AI engines, and in-memory computation algorithms. It also implements a data visualization layer and distribution cluster manager. The unified platform is supported by an enterprise security and governance layer and includes data connectors and APIs to link various data sources. Virtual Analyst pulls data across sources into a single window, and business users can employ different visualizations to build customized dashboards and perform data analysis through multiple levels of drilldowns. Finally, it has the option for a private or public cloud deployment.

Conversational search to speed up analytics

To simplify analytics consumption, Tech Mahindra’s Virtual Analyst gives users the option to type a business contextual query, even parts of a sentence or key words, in the NLP engine and retrieve an analytics insight without technical assistance. The questions can be both known and unknown. At the same time, it offers clients who want to continue with the current structured visualization approach the option of predefined reports and prepopulated queries. The difference between the two ways of visualization is often in the balance between speed and independent decision making.

Automated insights to kickstart analytics

Virtual Analyst is integrated with a predictive engine to give result-oriented outputs using what-if scenarios and other advanced analytics algorithms and AI/ML models. Even if the user does not know where to start or what information to look for, the software defines some trends and patterns.

Self-service to open analytics to non-data scientists

Virtual Analyst targets data democratization where senior executives and operational staff access the same information and can use visuals created with R scripts to perform advanced data analytics such as forecasting. It also allows the creation of persona-based insights to manage authorizations. Users can create their own customized dashboards with only the relevant insights made available at the visualization layer.

Market opportunities

Sales , marketing and field operations functions are the first adopters of Virtual Analyst looking for easy access and queries. Particularly in the telecom, manufacturing, and retail sectors, Tech Mahindra has several implementations. For a  European telecom, it gives the  executives information on field operations, predictability, and viewing information based on data from multiple-source systems.
The client leveraged it to save charges raised by various contractors.  Additionally, Tech Mahindra provided a probability study to identify contractors to do the work cost-effectively.  Similar clients have achieved additional savings by not upgrading their existing analytics platforms.

In another example for a U.K. telecom, the CMO and every brand manager have real-time insights into campaign performance and week-on-week churn. The company marketers analyze customer details, phone usage, and campaign data from 200 concurrent campaigns and 75m monthly communications to improve targeting and reduce customer churn. The company forecasts a churn decrease by 17% year-on-year.

Tech Mahindra sees increased interest from supply chain and procurement and customer service departments. It has ~12 new implementations of Virtual Analyst.

Next for Tech Mahindra’s smart analytics and visualization

As Tech Mahindra presents Virtual Analyst to clients, a common question is around legacy analytics investments. The provider is addressing it by running Virtual Analyst as a business layer, priced not by the traditional license model but by the amount of processed data. For example, for a U.K. local council, Tech Mahindra uses the existing PowerBI deployment in F&A for the CFO and her team and is now implementing ThoughtSpot for other council processes such as security.

Another target is to cross-sell with technology partners, going to joint pitches with clients. A recent example is a Swiss multinational food manufacturing client where the Virtual Analyst improved the back-office business processes beyond traditional ERP systems and started to provide predictive insights as well.

Tech Mahindra is looking next to leverage its design thinking and assets of its subsidiaries Pininfarina and the BIO Agency to further the possibilities of self-service analytics. On the technology roadmap, Tech Mahindra plans to integrate multiple home grown third-party tools into its BPS Recommendation Engine framework. It also plans to adopt voice command interactions to provide additional value and provide better user experience.

<![CDATA[CX Automation in Practice: Reality Check with Webhelp]]>


The inevitable automation of the contact center role has become such as surefire prediction in mass media, by CEOs, and even politicians, that a more realistic view of the industry may seem impossible. In this blog, I look at Webhelp’s assessment of the CX automation landscape and the realistic challenges and opportunities in the market.

Customer-facing automation requires significant volumes

The majority of outsourced customer-facing automation implementations are around text communication. Chatbots, email bots, and increasingly messenger bots, are also an investment focus for CX services providers, offering more applicable business cases and quicker ROI. The challenge, however, is that phone interactions continue to dominate; for example, for Webhelp, voice represents ~85% of all volumes across their European markets. The shift from voice to non-voice is gradual and for many customers the phone remains the preferred channel to contact brands.

While variations between customer segments (e.g. Gen X and Z) and geographies (e.g. China) can place higher priority on text interactions, the biggest markets remain voice-centric. Automating voice-based scenarios are more complex and hence more costly, with the additional step of transcription and with low accuracy in many languages. A voice automation solution requires more than 100 hours of transcription on a given use case.

On the flip side, the growing adoption of messengers and digital voice speakers by customers can create the necessary potential scale of interactions to justify bot development.  

Self-service vs. generic info automation

With the aim of removing repeatable and low-skilled inquiries, companies are investing in developing self-service journeys. Webhelp estimates that ~15% of interactions can be handled with self-service over the brand website with customer portals, FAQs, interactive tutorials and guides, and through mobile apps. The company provides consulting and advisory services to its clients to identify the relevant processes and customer journey steps to support with self-service, and then promote and redirect on the IVR and during live agent interactions. A common challenge here is that many brands struggle to link the web and contact center journeys and track KPIs by merging web and CRM data at scale. The company’s consulting agency, Gobeyond, has conducted such analysis and estimates that this ~15% potential applies across verticals.

The potential of conversational automation

The scenarios where the customer interacts with a robot, receives personal information, and completes the journey without human intervention are even fewer. Webhelp evaluates this potential at ~13% over the next three to five years. The main reason for this low target is that, for a true cognitive bot deployment, the client needs to reach digital transformation maturity; for example, with a CRM ready to connect to AI, centralized databases, and robust CX infrastructure. Other reasons include the high cost of the technical implementation and integration with various systems, the long deployment timeframe which, coupled with significant ambiguities or dynamics in the CX processes, makes them not ‘AI friendly’. A further barrier can be the risk of low customer satisfaction, especially in long multi-step scenarios.

The challenge with customer-facing robots is the need to synchronize the interaction between customer, live agent, and CX systems. In Webhelp’s experience, automation is successfully deployed mainly in back-office activities with heavy legacy of processes which are not aligned to the technology landscape; for example, in financial services.  

Bot training and bot development

One of the advantages of CX services providers is they can offer sizable resources and domain experience in CX to train chatbots, with agents classifying conversations by intent, analysts creating the taxonomy, and data scientists developing the algorithms in-house. Webhelp began offering these services approximately two years ago with its Technology Enablement division. For example, for Merck in France, it developed a voice bot to answer calls from hospitals and pharmacies about medicine availability and expected delivery times. It coded around 300 medicine names and for each medicine, several dosage and packaging variations. It also developed the NLU model to understand the information. The algorithms further identify pharmacists eligible to access emergency stock.

Launched in June 2018, the bot currently handles ~100 calls daily, processing around half of the total volume. The implementation lowered the cost of operation, replacing the need for doctors and pharmacists from the company to manage calls. The company is now developing a web service, activate order taking, and plans to extend the opening hours.

Automation as a CX enabler

The area where automation is likely to bring the biggest immediate impact is in CX agent augmentation. Webhelp’s experience shows that different types of bots and ML analytics can increase FCR by ~15% when applied to QA, can reduce AHT by 25% with assisted response tools such as NBA, and can improve CSAT by leveraging NLP/NLU models to transcribe, classify, and analyze contact drivers. Next, the company has partnered with speech analytics provider Allo-Media to develop a real-time speech cognitive bot to proactively help agents during calls. Webhelp has identified three use cases: in dynamic sales inquiry checklist, customer data recap, and sales enablement materials. It plans to test the cognitive assistance in a lab environment by the end of the year and real-live implementations in 2020.


NelsonHall will publish a Cognitive Customer Experience Market Analysis report in Q4 2019.

<![CDATA[Will Crowdsourced Customer Service Get Solv(ed)?]]>


Crowdsourcing and different types of freelanced customer support models pre-date the current household names using these models in leisure and travel, personal transportation, and delivery services. Many of these early attempts died out because of poor business models, or remain effective today but in niche markets (e.g. gaming) or on a small scale (e.g. U.K. mobile network, giffgaff). More recently, with the increased adoption of work-at-home and the evolution of automation, new players such as Directly are renewing their interest in the space.

Now Concentrix is launching its own marketplace platform called Solv, aiming to offer enterprise level quality support using gig workers.

How Solv works

Freelance workers support brands in the Solv cloud platform, handling tickets routed from the client CRM and originating from chat, messengers, social media, or SMS channels. The customers see the number of available agents, the status of their inquiry, and the expected resolution time. They can see the ‘Solver’ responding to the question and their score and chat in real-time with him/her, then approve when the ticket is closed and rate the transaction.

Solvers accept tickets on their desktop or mobile device, review and respond, and are paid per rated ticket. For each ticket the Solver, in turn, rates the complexity of the issue and can see their CSAT rating and earnings.

The clients have management panels to monitor, verify and manage Solvers, track ticket data and performance, and assign a price per ticket.

Initially, Solv tickets will require no customer data and PCI adherence. Concentrix is adamant about maintaining the channel experience and avoiding transfers between Solv and the other channels. In cases where there are no available resources, it will create the ticket flow back into the client CRM.

Concentrix charges companies on a pay-as-you-go basis to create a dynamic on-demand model.

Attracting freelancers

With Solv, Concentrix is targeting independent contractors who look for additional income on a temp or permanent basis, who want greater flexibility, and have a brand affiliation. The ideal applicant will be a superuser with domain and product expertise, digital skills, and can independently manage their work-life balance. With that goal in mind, the company invested in the platform design to make it appealing to a younger, digitally savvy workforce. Similarly, the majority of recruitment for the platform is on social media.

Solvers go through a two-step registration process where they self-assess their skills and perform brand authentication with video tutorials. The freelancers do not participate in traditional training, but Concentrix will co-create content with each brand, while freelancers also access public domain information and resources.

Solvers can support multiple brands, but Concentrix and the client will approve the available workflows. The workers have no minimum or maximum earnings caps. Solv is not open to existing Concentrix agents, to avoid conflict of interest. The company is gradually opening the platform across markets, starting with the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Philippines, and India to carefully adhere to the regulatory environment, but will scale globally and offers 24/7 borderless support.

Official launch this summer

Concentrix is officially launching Solv during the summer months. So far, it has had several pilots, including a technology gaming brand where it replicated the client’s email and chat L-1 technical support on the platform. Within four months, Solv outperformed the contact center with 20% increase in FCR, 14-16% in customer satisfaction, and 18% in productivity.

The pilots showed a lot more feedback information for brands, as each interaction is evaluated: different levels of needs with certain brands insisting on one hour TAT, while others are accepting days. Interestingly, Solvers had better performance when using smartphones vs. desktops.

Solv drew interest from high tech, travel, retail, and fintech clients, primarily looking to redirect social media traffic and create or transform their existing communities of influencers. It is currently in various implementation stages with six clients across different levels of customer care and technical support, with certain types requiring API integration to the client CRMs.

The future of Solv

While Concentrix is still exploring possible service models with Solv clients, it is also looking to monetize it and create additional platform features. It has already identified several next steps in its development roadmap – it plans to use ML algorithms to collect five-stared answers to feed the FAQ and self-service systems of clients; to price tickets by location; to allow users to select their agent; and dynamically route traffic or limit companies and ticket types based on the Solvers’ skills and performance. Another idea is to add tiers of rewards and recognition to build the reputation of both workers and consumers. The company is also investigating with clients the launch of upselling programs without the Solvers accessing CRM data.

Eventually, Concentrix envisions Solv as part of its broader CX ecosystem, operating alongside its brick-and-mortar, work-at-home, and automated support services.

Solv is trademarked by Concentrix.

<![CDATA[Seizing the Automation Opportunity: Alorica’s Automated Discovery Process]]>

One of the first stumbling blocks of business process transformation is identifying meaningful automation opportunities. A typical process will have a management consultant, system expert, or Lean Six Sigma specialist to monitor manual processes for a set time, collect performance data, and make recommendations. Companies supplement this assessment with executive ideation sessions, operational managers’ workshops, and superuser interviews. The traditional way to speed up and improve the accuracy of this approach is to add more consultants over a longer period of time analyzing larger data sets. Yet, despite these efforts, not every process is observed and not all automation opportunities are identified and prioritized.

In this blog, I look at how Alorica employs its proprietary tools and algorithms to streamline ‘the discovery stage’ and recommend effective automation deployment in the front-office.

From manual to automated discovery 

Alorica has developed an automation approach for the discovery stage, calling it ‘One-Click Automation’. Its unsupervised machine learning algorithms measure agents’ desktop utilization on a select group of 10-20 users. The bot monitors the users’ screen toggle, clicks, data entries and entry type, and tracks time per system and per screen, the time duration for performing each step, and the number of used fields. It counts errors, frequency, variance in the time and data entry quality, the end-to-end handling time, the complexity, and importance of the tasks. It also tracks the underlying communication between systems and exchanged information.

The bot does not capture personal data or other input information, remaining non-invasive to the systems. It also does not intervene with the users’ actions. Once the bot collects enough information (~100k data points per LOB, typically in two weeks), it creates a visual map of the observed processes. The process map visualizes the screens, the start and end points, the navigation between them, and the direction with drill-down functionality. For large product portfolios with multiple support processes (for example, in technical support), Alorica requires a bigger user pool to observe.  

Alorica created the discovery bot in its Digital CoE and Innovation Lab (DCOE) in Bangalore, launched in 2018. The automation specialists in the DCOE analyze the discovery bot results, estimate savings opportunities, and recommend and prioritize bot implementations with workflow business process, exceptions adjudicator, and look-up. Because the collected information shows the actual steps and the specific systems and fields to move the data, the created automation workflows make the bot training quicker and more precise. It also provides cost-benefit analysis and ROI calculation for each automation.

Implementations for a healthcare client

For a U.S. healthcare payer client, Alorica deployed the discovery bots on a statistically relavant number of agent desktops for three days, identifying 150 automation opportunities in multiple processes with tasks such as secondary claims research, multifactor case, clinical guidelines, and Citrix login. The algorithm analyzed the events to measure the number of agents who performed the particular process, its recurrence, and time taken. The team compared the results to the agent training guidelines, then Alorica prioritized with the client 11 automation initiatives that delivered the highest time and productivity savings and ROI and CX improvement.

Alorica ran the discovery bots on both for the client’s  voice and non-voice work. For example, in the client’s back-office, the discovery bots analyzes processes for manual data entry from image and PDF claims received over emails and e-fax. Using third-party RPA & AI partner tools, Alorica created bots to capture and auto-populate fields regardless of the screen or source format while blocking certain data or document areas to meet client or compliance requirements such as HIPAA. It also has exception notifications to inform live agents to validate. Another benefit is that these bots runs 24/7. The automation deployed in early 2019 delivered ~70% headcount reduction of the process headcount who translated the data from the claims to the systems.

The company is now targeting other existing healthcare clients and showcasing their India DCOE as a ‘digital workbench’ for back-office processes, leading with automation. For automation opportunities in voice processes, Alorica is working with several travel, retail, BFSI, media and telecom brands.

Automation in the process trenches

The fundamental challenge of which tasks to automate has many dimensions such as high volume, time-consuming processes, sizable FTE involvement, high error rate, or simply, risk aversion by internal IT teams. To address the latter issue, Alorica automation deployments so far are on its own desktops without compromising, changing or modifying core client systems. The company absorbs the investment cost for running the discovery bots to set up a meaningful discussion with the client’s process owners on the possible cost-benefit and ROI.

A less discussed problem with RPA projects is the impermanent state of business processes with dynamic changes of internal rules, product/services, and system environments. The shelf-life of a bot will be quite short and its ROI smaller without human supervisors who in turn need to be prioritized and allocated based on business decisions. The automated desktop analytics model allows the deep learning algorithms to solve at least the first part of the challenge of identifying process impact. To mitigate automation program redesigns, Alorica’s solution is to focus on mature system infrastructure with a steady release roadmap. 

Another challenge to automation is the incentives for the provider. Through the achieved cost optimization and improved performance, Alorica targets a bigger share of the client wallet, looking to take over higher value processes, and switching to performance-based pricing models. For the above-mentioned healthcare client, Alorica structured the pricing by processed claim, decreasing the overall cost by ~50%.

The value of partnering for automation

While broad statements for full automation attract media attention, the real opportunity in most cases is in the learning. Automation is not likely to change a process but improve it and help increase customer satisfaction. Partnering with an outsourcing provider can deliver faster and better discovery in an ideal scenario, where the vendor has the process and domain expertise and quantitative discovery tools. The next step is to expand automation across both captive and supplier network centers to maximize the benefits.

<![CDATA[Concentrix VOC: Measuring CX Transformation]]>

Despite the evolution of contact center technology (think conversational AI), the spread of digital channels (think smart speakers), and the dramatic change in the ways companies interact with customers (think mobile-first), the industry KPIs for measuring the impact of these transformations remain limited. CSAT, NPS, and more recently, Customer Effort Scores (CES) measure different elements of CX: the last interaction, customer loyalty, or journey pain points. However, even in combination, they do not answer two fundamental questions: what are the drivers for this performance and what is their direct effect on business targets?

As companies embark on large-scale digital transformation, increasingly focusing on CX innovation, their need to understand the customer and predict business outcomes becomes the key. In this blog, I look at Concentrix’s ‘Voice of the Customer’ practice and how the company correlates VOC analytics to hard business KPIs and evaluates against future customer behavior.

VOC as an integrated approach

Concentrix acquired its VOC practice through its Convergys acquisition. The VOC practice started in the 1980s and currently has ~280 resources in eight countries supporting ~40 clients in ~90 languages and eight voice and digital survey channels. The VOC offerings include:

  • Program design services, with experts to guide the VOC design of surveys, questions, sampling, reporting, and where and how to apply them in the customer journey
  • Program success services, with specialists to handle day-to-day program management
  • People & culture strategies, with resources to design practices to engage employees in VOC
  • Continuous improvement consulting dedicated to realigning processes, policies, and channels to customer needs based on a range of analyses such as issue and impact analysis, root cause and action planning analysis.

Concentrix also has a proprietary VOC platform, ConcentrixCX, which collects and shares customer feedback and manages sample and quotas after interactions in the contact centers, over digital properties, in physical stores, and during field services. Customer feedback is collected via surveys over the phone, outbound calls with live interviewers, outbound IVR, SMS, mobile apps, as well as the traditional pop-up web surveys and emails.

It has a real-time engine for text analytics performing word and sentiment analysis on unstructured data, for example, open-ended comments. It then color-codes and visualizes with an icon the comment emotion for agent-level users and theme emotions for leadership. The NLU elements of the text analytics generate the categories and themes emerging from the text, with Concentrix analysts building the industry-specific taxonomy and dictionaries. 

Its reporting layer includes functionality such as dashboards, reports, and analytics tools with role-based workflows. The reports are customized for the different user levels with different slices of data and tools available for senior management, operational roles, and customer-facing staff. ConcentrixCX has a desktop and mobile version, deployed on a cloud.

The provider offers the platform in BPaaS modular format and has clients on both services and software (most clients) and services only, where it runs the program on the client legacy VOC tool. The clients are a mix of non-BPO and BPO clients. In some of these instances, Concentrix manages the VOC program for the multivendor network. In addition, to target the VOC market, Concentrix has a separate salesforce with its own statements of work and P&Ls.

Challenges in implementing VOC

In the pure SaaS VOC deployments, clients’ small teams often struggle to implement the customer feedback programs at scale with an outcome focused on transforming CX. Instead, they turn into administrative groups to deploy and run the software. Once companies purchase the licenses and roll out the tool, the generated CSAT and NPS numbers remain in isolation unless the organization procures consulting services to advise on an enterprise-wide plan to increase these satisfaction numbers.

Another challenge is that VOC programs are the remits of CX departments which are still on a maturity curve, usually with a limited mandate. Uplift of NPS requires the transformation of various functions in an organization, from marketing and sales to supply chain and IT. As a result, even if the research or customer service group measures feedback accurately and links it to a root cause, they cannot translate the insights into CX strategic actions.

Unified CX measurement framework

Concentrix identified these challenges, particularly in industries with complex feedback measurement environments such as banking, financial services, and healthcare, and proposes a unified approach which focuses on driving organizational changes and outcomes. For example:

  • The reporting layer of ConcentrixCX has alerts and a case management suite triggering notifications from unstructured text such as words associated with complaints. It also has a one-on-one coaching module for frontline employees with guided performance management flows, individualized scorecards with actual customer responses and links to recordings, and built-in rewards and recognitions
  • ConcentrixCX includes a process improvement tool to extract ideas from employees and push them through a process improvement pipeline. For example, a U.S. healthcare company in 2017, used this feature to identify a 24-hour update discrepancy between its online provider network information and the information available to the agents. The agents escalated suggestions to the digital team via ConcentrixCX and closing the disconnect delivered ~7% decrease in call volumes.

An example implementation of the end-to-end VOC approach is for a U.S. regional bank, where Concentrix ran 17 survey programs across channels with ~400k surveys completed since 2018. For this bank, ConcentrixCX has ~10k enterprise platform users, and over the program, the company made and implemented ~71 recommendations resulting in a 10-point NPS improvement in 2018, projected to drive $20m annual revenue gain.

Next for Concentrix VOC

Concentrix is looking at supplementing traditional modes of surveys measuring transactions to conversational micro-journey opportunities where it gathers feedback more naturally. For example, it is investing in API-based technology which will allow integrating survey questions into various devices such as websites, mobile applications, and connected cars. The advantages in asking questions inside the experience are masking the survey part so it ‘does not feel like a survey’ to the customer and thus increases response rates. These more targeted feedback collections also create a more precise picture of the relevance to the specific stage of the customer journey and identify pain points.

Further, the company plans to expand the attitudinal survey inputs with new unstructured data sources such as speech analytics, chat transcripts, and employee notes into the centralized view of ConcentrixCX and move towards a predictive and prescriptive state.

<![CDATA[Proactive Social Media Engagement: Best Practices from Startek & Aegis]]>

Consumers are evolving their preferred ways of interacting on social media: ‘spontaneous’ stories are replacing produced content, transparency and privacy are driving the spread of private groups and influencing regulatory push, and machine learning is personalizing conversational commerce. The impact on brands is greater need for new types of content, investments in automation and analytics, and creation of quality engagement through communities and micro-influencers.

This is where CX services providers target their proprietary monitoring and analytics platforms, their experience in setting up command centers, and capabilities in building cognitive bots. In this blog, I look at Startek & Aegis’ initiatives in this space.

Orchestrating social media engagement

Startek & Aegis both began supporting omnichannel and social media engagements in the late 2000s. While the Startek side of the business was tool-agnostic using a variety of engagement platforms such as Spreadfast, Lithium, Salesforce Social Studio, and Sprinklr, Aegis identified an opportunity for a specialized customer care social media platform and launched a proprietary engagement suite called AegisLISA.

AegisLISA is a modular platform with different product sets for social media listening and monitoring, chat and email functionalities, campaign management and publishing, analytics and insights with data visualization, combined with knowledge base functionality and app development.

Over the last eighteen months (and more recently following the 2018 merger between the companies), Startek & Aegis have invested in the platform to:

  • Grow new LISA social touchpoints from additional social media sites, blogs, forums, news
  • Integrate social chats and mobile
  • Provide publishing for campaign content
  • Enhance data visualization for community management
  • Add chatbot integration.

One of the more actively utilized LISA features is the ratings and review module, where Startek & Aegis pulls information and prioritizes reviews from sites such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Trustpilot, and responds directly to monitor and preserve clients’ brand reputation. For example, for a warehouse club in the U.S., the company is monitoring their Apple iOS store reviews and Google Play store reviews, taking over from internal IT teams.

Using CX services providers for social media support

The most common path for Startek & Aegis’ social media programs starts with a listening and monitoring stage. Once it triages the posts and provides analytical feedback, the client requests the vendor to step in with customer care in-channel. Startek & Aegis supports the client’s customer service teams, marketing functions, and social and PR agencies of record, providing direct interactions with customers in real-time. This intervention eliminates additional tasks to the customer care teams and allows marketing and digital agencies to focus on producing content.

For experienced CX services buyers, ranging from retail, telecom, consumer electronics, and automotive sectors, their minimum supplier requirements are to support digital and automation initiatives. This shift requires engagement with the wider client organization and social media supplier ecosystem; for example, for a U.S. automotive company, the company interacts on a weekly basis with the CMO office.

More recently, the company is seeing increased demand for social community management, responding to proactive campaigns on social media such as hashtag campaigns and helping with brand promotion. For the automotive client which curates its content to a specific customer profile, Startek & Aegis finds automotive hashtags which are brand-aligned but not official company tags, and proactively engages with the users. 

Augmenting omnichannel self-service

Startek & Aegis is seeing increasing client demand for enhancing omnichannel self-service, including over social media. The company usually starts an evaluation looking at inbound voice and digital volumes and breaking them into categories. It then works with its Ideal Dialog subsidiary, which specializes in research for contact optimization, to understand what can be made conversational from an automated perspective.

For clients with existing social media infrastructure who have started implementing bots in their social channels, Startek & Aegis performs a gap assessment and, for example, proposes additional automation. If the client is at the beginning of their digital automation journey, the company will scope out and develop the bot to integrate with LISA. For example, in the retail and e-commerce sectors, simple automation includes store hours and directions over IVR, chat, and web, with more advanced RPA and machine learning to automate order entries, order tracking, and afterhour responses. For example, for a U.S. consumer electronics client for which Startek & Aegis manages all social media including 50 blogs and forums, it is currently building self-service automation for the most commonly asked questions for the e-commerce RMA process. The bot will operate on email and social media channels and will authenticate the customer and provide real-time account status.

In another example, for an Indian bank, the company deployed an integrated social and mobile cloud-based system to enhance CX across omnichannel, introduced LISA, and optimized operations through silo remediation, function collaboration, and leveraging analytics-as-a-service. As a result, the bank’s digital and social presence organically improved to ~30k followers in one year, digital customer resolution improved to 90%, and the bank was able to reach 200-300k unique customers every month only through its digitization strategy.

Evolving Startek & Aegis’ social media offerings

Startek & Aegis is currently looking to leverage LISA across its client base, expanding on its work in the telecom and automotive sectors and in the APAC region, to take it to the U.S. market with retail, consumer electronics, and digital economy brands. One tactic it employs is dedicated innovation sessions organized with the client as an opportunity to look from a strategic viewpoint at the customer engagement roadmap and digital initiatives.

In its LISA product development, the company is integrating additional social messenger apps which are geo-specific; expanding its reputation management services with a focus on review sites; and developing chatbot capabilities using Ideal Dialogue research to make bots more natural and dynamic, and more able to closely replicate human conversation.

<![CDATA[Chat Services: Teleperformance’s Playbook & Targets]]>


In NelsonHall’s 2017 report, ‘Multi-Channel CMS – Delivering Digital Customer Experience’, I forecast that the chat channel, in all its forms, would become 18% of the global CX services outsourcing market by 2020, growing by 30% CAGR. What fuels this sizable growth are the many benefits to brands offering sales and support over text channels, the advancement of customer-facing automation, the spread of messengers, and above all, the high customer adoption rate. Today, social messengers have more active users than social networks, and while the phone channel is not disappearing any time soon, it has become a social norm to text someone before giving them a call.

In this blog, I look at how Teleperformance develops chat services to reach ~11k FTEs globally, supporting chat in 17 languages for ~140 clients across multiple verticals.

Benefits for customers

Live chat, and increasingly cognitive bots, offer real-time context for customers in their interactions with brands. Text channels (from traditional desktop chat to in-app chat and messengers) offer flexibility, with asynchronous conversation, immediacy with the convenience of mobility, and with voice-to-text technology, low effort and lower attention requirements. Text channels also support rich media such as documents, links, images, and videos enhancing usability in sales scenarios to push coupons and to send guides for customer service. They also offer co-browsing and screen sharing for complex technical support. It is not surprising then that chat often has higher customer satisfaction and a higher conversion rate than voice.

Benefits for companies

For companies using chat for sales and support, it offers a range of advantages:

  • True digital support
  • Global reach – for example, Telepeformance’s third and fourth largest chat populations are in Brazil and China
  • Breadth of services – for example, for Teleperformance, ~65% of chat is customer service, followed by ~27% technical support, 4% sales, and 4% other services
  • It has operational benefits, including higher agent satisfaction by lowering fatigue, better WFM with concurrency and blended delivery, better data capture, and better performance monitoring
  • Also, in certain scenarios, it can lower cost by deflecting calls and increasing productivity.

Benefits for CX services providers

In addition to all the end-user and brand benefits, for CX services providers, chat interactions give the option to bypass language barriers and accent-neutrality issues. For example, the newly formed Teleperformance Digital Integrated Business Services (DIBS) has ~1.8k chat agents in India supporting ~20 international clients.

It also opens opportunities to assist clients with their digital channel activation. Teleperformance DIBS has developed a dedicated voice-to-chat deflection product. It detects the customer’s smart device during a call to a toll-free number. If the phone can support rich text, it offers the customer the option to switch from voice mode to chat mode and sends the customer an SMS with a chat link. Teleperformance aims for a minimum 15% deflection rate, on qualified opportunities, by the deployment of TP voice-to-chat.

Text channels are also the preferred environment where CX services companies deploy traditional chatbots and implement cognitive automation in the form of NLP- and ML-supported bots. For example, Teleperformance DIBS has deployed a cloud-based Chat bot for a Southeast Asian postal and logistics services company with operations in 15 countries. Supported since 2014, the company now has ~ 30% of its chat volumes in purely transactional interactions. Teleperformance deployed automation to help agents with suggested responses and quicker retrieval of knowledgebase articles. In December 2018, it launched a customer-facing bot called Sophie for self-service. As a result, the client experienced ~43% volume containment in chat, 30% improvement in customer satisfaction, and 18% cost savings within a four-month period.

Requirements for chat implementations

Successful chat programs define a channel-specific strategy which encompasses identifying its suitability, selection and integration of required technology, operational management optimization, and the creation of dedicated agent recruitment and training. Teleperformance typically conducts a discovery exercise which assesses details such as proactive vs. reactive chat and level of reporting (following its proprietary 100-page chat playbook which recommends best practices, for example in the suitable number of concurrent sessions, market, and target KPIs). It has dedicated chat success managers to jump-start a chat program, analyze chat performance data, and manage the strategic requirements.

Separate ‘Tiger’ teams specialize in the most popular chat platform integration and customization (LivePerson, Nuance, Oracle, Zendesk, Moxie). There is a chat-specific recruitment framework with checks for typing speed, grammar, and abilities to multitask and respond quickly. For example, two recruiters may engage with the candidate at the same time over chat sessions and track if the applicant answers within 30 seconds. The company also has dedicated training modules including for chat handling skills, writing skills, positive phraseology, and professional vs. social chatting.

An example of a client using chat success managers is an American digital stock agency, for which Teleperformance DIBS supports voice, email, and chat. Starting in August 2018, the chat development team implemented web analytics and proactive webchat based on the customer profile and stage of their shopping experience. Within six months the client had a 47% increase in revenue, an 18% increase in average order value, and a 20% increase in overall sales.

Future of chat CX services & Teleperformance targets

Between the opening of WhatsApp APIs for business, its future integration with Facebook and Instagram, and the dominance of WeChat in China (or similarly, LINE in Japan & Taiwan, Viber in Eastern Europe, Telegram in Iran), text communication will become a game-changer for all B2C brands. While desktop chat still dominates (~60% for Teleperformance) it is gradually being replaced by these newer UIs as companies move to proactively meet their customers on their preferred channel. This change will further the need to perform more complex interactions effectively over chat.

For Teleperformance, the objective in the short term is to add accounts to its voice-to-chat product, to add ~100 client LOBs in chat just in English, and to reach 20k chat agents globally in 2019.

<![CDATA[Enabling CX Digitalization: A Look at CSS Corp's Yodaa]]>


In this vlog Ivan Kotzev looks at CSS Corp’s digital experience suite Yodaa and how it unifies the company’s analytics, automation, and multichannel tools and models for digitalizing support.

<![CDATA[The CX Consulting Race: New Players, New Models, and Tech Mahindra’s Example]]>


NelsonHall has recently published a report on Digital Customer Experience Services, and one of the trends explored is the evolving competition in customer experience (CX) consulting. The traditional ecosystem includes distinct players with clear-cut roles:

  • Big five management consulting firms such as Deloitte or PwC, providing strategy-level advisory which covers CX
  • Niche UX design studios, analytics houses, and consultancies focused on certain aspects such as website user experience or a specific function such as customer journey mapping
  • Pure-play BPOs specialized in outsourced contact centers, who have expert knowledge in transforming customer-facing operations and the managed resources to deliver it
  • IT services companies who bring their knowledge in application development and implementation to front office processes.

Now, with C-level focus on CX and companies embarking on digital transformation journeys, the providers’ roles are changing and the new CX consulting model looks more like a unified framework. This model typically includes:

  • In-house management consulting practice with CX labs and access to (own) market research
  • Design and analytics units with IP such as methodologies and innovation labs
  • Technology development and implementation resources, often with own platform stack, with sandbox environments
  • Contact center operational expertise integrated with client programs, from WFM to digital channel activation, to domain and/or service line optimization.

From customer management services vendors to CX transformation providers

Moving towards this delivery model, the traditional customer management services companies began creating their digital units to combine different transformation functions (e.g. Comdata Digital, Konecta Digital, Sutherland Digital). They acquired (e.g. HGS and Element Solutions); placed consulting capabilities upfront in their GTM strategy (e.g. Sitel’s TSC); spun out a separate consultancy business (e.g. Teleperformance’s Praxidia); or partnered with a management consultant (e.g. Atento and FALCONI).

For the multi-tower BPS players, who already have digital transformation capabilities, it means increased focus on CX by their consulting units (e.g. TCS Interactive, Wipro Digital); the acquisition of CX and UX design firms (e.g. TandemSeven by Genpact; Brilliant Basics by Infosys; The BIO Agency by Tech Mahindra); and beefing up delivery presence in the local market, including through setting up CX innovation centers in core markets. 

The example of Tech Mahindra Consulting

Tech Mahindra’s consulting practice is part of the company’s Business Transformation Services and represents ~5% of the annual BPS revenues (FY17). The practice started in early 2015 and currently has 110 consultants working on ~50 engagements in CX, next-gen operations, risk and compliance, and digital technology transformation across Tech Mahindra’s target verticals in front-office, F&A, supply chain and procurement, and service desk. The team consists of management consultants, BPS practitioners, domain and function consultants, and analysts with industry background. They are spread across India, U.K., Continental Europe, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., South Africa, and a smaller number in the Philippines. It also utilizes external resources, including the company’s own The BIO Agency in the U.K. and the wider Tech Mahindra analytics and application development capabilities.

Its clients include both managed services and standalone consulting projects – e.g. for a South African banking client, where Tech Mahindra BPS provides the automation CoE with 15 resources; and for a leading Telco in New Zealand, where Tech Mahindra BPS provides the automation CoE with eight resources. In fact, the majority of the current work is made up of standalone engagements. There are instances when the initial assignment started as a standalone engagement and then moved on to become managed services. The advantage for Tech Mahindra BPS is that such projects build credibility with the client and open the door in organizations reluctant to outsource their front-office immediately.

In CX, the scope includes some internal optimization activities, but the main services are customer journey mapping, customer-centric design thinking, customer behavior studies, and digital assessments for clients. The practitioners employ techniques such as touchpoint analysis, speech and text analytics, predictive analytics, customer journey re-imagination, process mapping and reengineering, performance management and improvement, client workshops, and observations to develop recommendations, create a transformation roadmap, and write assessment reports, and implement it with operations. For example, for an African telecom with high call volumes and increasing calls per subscriber, Tech Mahindra BPS created and deployed a repeat call measurement and management approach, incident tracking, and controls, and established a SLA productivity framework for the social media team. As a result, within a year, the call volumes dropped by 13% (~142k calls) per month, bringing $1.02m in annual savings. Other projects include RPA CoE and implementations of chatbots for telecom and retail organizations.

In next-gen operation services, in addition to performance management and optimization with methodologies such as Lean Six Sigma, the practice also provides benchmarking and comparative studies such as channel evaluations to map the associated benefits and risks with the adoption of a new digital channel for support. Its more recent focus is on lifting the entire operating model of the client. For example, for a European telecom, the company delivered a 15-month project where it evaluated ~2k processes, identified improvement opportunities, harmonized them in line with the service architecture, and supported the automation activities.

An evolving practice

Tech Mahindra BPS consulting is growing with new areas of delivery such as GDPR, knowledge management transformation, digital supply chain, and change management consulting. In the latter, in large-scale operating model transformations, it embeds a change manager to coordinate between the organization’s stakeholders and manage the transition stage.

It aims to maintain its revenue share as the BPS business expands, providing support for ~40 clients in FY18. It also plans to organize its consultants more closely by geography; for example, it already employs a consulting partner for the Americas and another one for EMEA.

A key target area is automation, with each consultant required to assess RPA and intelligent automation opportunities. The objective here is to create a data-based impact model to predict expected business outcomes. At the moment, the company sees significant traction for this automation drive in service desk processes.

An evolving market

The effects of market evolution are:

  • Increased competition for CX consulting projects, serving as an entry point to a larger BPS deal
  • Widening gap between tier 1 CX services providers and the rest of the contact center vendors
  • Integration of contact center outsourcing in a deeper product or service redesign. 

As BPS providers (both multi-tower or CX services pure-plays) look to offer a broader range of consulting services, their main differentiator from consulting firms is their effectiveness in applying the transformation levers of automation, analytics, people management, and eventually, cognitive services to enable their clients to prepare for the future.

<![CDATA[Arvato CRM’s JV with Saham Group Consolidates EMEA Position]]>

Bertelsmann, the parent company of Arvato CRM Solutions, has announced plans to combine Arvato CRM with the CX services business of the Pan-African Saham Group. The joint venture will have 50/50 ownership, with ~ €1.2bn combined annual revenues and ~48k employees in 25 countries. The deal is expected to close in January 2019.

Saham Group & partnership history

Founded in 1995 in Casablanca, parent group Saham has operations in 27 countries in Africa and the Middle East in real estate, healthcare, education, and outsourcing. In 1999, Saham created Phone Group, focused on CX services for the French-speaking markets, and in 2004 partnered with Arvato CRM. The company has nine contact centers in Casablanca and Marrakech, Morocco; two sites in Dakar, Senegal; one site in Lomé, Togo; and one center in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

Saham has additional CXS businesses in Egypt and Qatar (Ecco Outsourcing, added in 2015) and in Saudi Arabia (Pioneers Outsourcing, added in December 2017). In total, the group adds ~14k employees in seven countries supporting nine languages.

Global presence & expansion plans

The new, as yet unnamed, provider will have a sizable delivery presence in EMEA:

  • 25k employees in ten European countries: Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Georgia, and Estonia. Arvato CRM’s U.K. business will remain part of Bertelsmann
  • 14k employees in MEA countries: Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Togo, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia
  • 9k employees in Asia (India, the Philippines, Malaysia), and the Americas (U.S., Canada, Mexico, Peru, Colombia). 

Its clients are in sectors including telecoms and high-tech, BFSI, automotive OEMs, retail, CPG, and consumer electronics, social media, travel, transport, and hospitality.

Under the deal, Bertelsmann will receive an undisclosed payment and will appoint a new CEO, Thomas Mackenbrock, who says that the company will be debt-free and has plans to expand its regional footprint further and increase its focus on digital services.

The Middle East & Africa offering growth opportunities

Over the last three years, the Middle East and Africa have seen increased demand for outsourced CX, both in the domestic and offshore markets. The drivers behind it are diverse:

  • More stable political environment in Egypt and Tunisia allowing increased offshoring by multinational providers (e.g. Convergys) and domestic players (e.g. Raya Contact Center, Xceed)
  • Renewed efforts to promote South Africa for support to new markets such as the U.S. and Australia (e.g. WNS, Merchants)
  • Cost pressures in the Gulf countries to outsource front office work benefiting multinationals (e.g. TCS, Sutherland, Aegis, Intelenet)
  • Economic growth creating demand for first-time outsourcing, primarily by telecom clients in Sub-Saharan Africa, creating need for onshore centers (e.g. iSON BPO, PCCI)
  • Expanding English and French offshore work from African destinations such as Nigeria, Cameroon, Madagascar, and Mauritius (e.g. Intelcia, Tek Experts).

The new Arvato-Saham company is well positioned to leverage several of these trends and benefit from demand for domestic, nearshore, and offshore CX services.

The growing attraction of CX services

This transaction is the latest in a series this year that typify the consolidation drive and industry investments happening in the CX services market. Bertelsmann was considering the full sale of Arvato CRM to direct competitors, but the creation of a joint venture shows a level of confidence in the positive trends in the market.

Global CX services are gradually shifting towards higher-value, more complex customer interactions and more digitally-focused contracts. Commercial models in the industry are evolving from per FTE pricing and labor-arbitrage, to outcome-based and gainshare requirements where providers are supporting the digital transformation and CX strategy of clients. One of the effects of this will be further consolidation of providers in 2019.    

<![CDATA[The CX Workforce Challenge & How Vendors Are Responding]]>


In February, industry veteran and CEO of SYKES, Chuck Sykes, commented during the earnings call on CX services market trends: ‘… in the U.S., at least in my time, there is no time in the company's history that I can recall seeing this level of labor challenge. And it actually is something that you're going to see in a lot of developed countries around the world.’* In this blog, I look closer at the nature of the CX workforce challenge.

Pressures on the labor market

Multiple forces have contributed to a CX labor gap, including traditional issues such as the negative reputation of contact center careers and the highly demanding nature of customer service work. However, several factors are putting new and lasting pressures on finding, recruiting, and retaining CX employees:

  • Low unemployment rate. In the U.S., the unemployment rate slid to a near 18-year low; in the U.K., it is around 4%, the lowest since 1975; and in certain parts of Germany, local unemployment rates reached as low as 1-2%
  • Minimum wage increase. Governments, often at the local level, have significantly increased the minimum wage in many U.S. states, Canadian provinces, and the state of Karnataka, India, to name a few. Other countries such as South Africa are working towards introducing a minimum wage for the first time
  • Global delivery network maturity. Very few suitable delivery destinations remain unexplored and offer the required combination of skills, scale, cost arbitrage, security, connectivity, and the other factors for establishing CX centers. Places such as Cyprus, Georgia (the country), Kosovo, and some Sub-Saharan countries are attracting multinational CX services providers willing to pioneer delivery. However, with limited scale, they cannot offer a true alternative to more mature markets
  • Increasing demand for employee skills. The traditional agent profile, with language proficiency and basic computer skills is no longer sufficient. Client programs now seek new hires with an industry background, and demand digital skills and the ability to engage and lead unscripted conversations. The agent who takes inbound support calls is not necessarily the one who works on webchats and is likely different from the one who supports Facebook Messenger inquiries.

Immediate impact & vendors’ initial reactions

The immediate reaction of CX services vendors is to increase agent salaries, often absorbing the initial impact on margins, while re-negotiating the cost structure with existing clients, or at least planning for increases when it comes to contract renewal time. Labor market pressures are also driving more active selection of bids, including walking out of existing underperforming programs (e.g. Conduent, Convergys).

Another approach is to increase use of nearshoring and offshoring, even in industries which traditionally shied away from the model, e.g. brick and mortar retailers, airlines, and utilities. Certain destinations such a Jamaica, Colombia, Romania, Malaysia, and the Philippines continue to benefit, but often by expanding into tier 2 and 3 cities.

RPA and intelligent automation is probably the most underused opportunity, with CX services vendors increasing its adoption across multiple contact center processes, from traditional back-office work to front-office tasks. Providers and clients have significant runway to reach the balance of machine and live agent support and to achieve scale and maturity of automation and cognitive analytics deployments in contact centers. Still, the adoption of this technology will not dramatically alleviate the shortage of skilled agents, as live support moves to higher value, more complex interactions.

Alternative contact center models, employee engagement & the rise of work-at-home  

Employee recruitment, performance management, and engagement combined is another area where CX vendors are making investments to counter labor challenges, utilizing technology and analytics such as recruitment bots (e.g. Alorica), mobile learning (e.g. Sitel), coaching bots (e.g. C3), engagement apps (e.g. Concentrix), and career development (e.g. Teleperformance University).

As part of these strategies, vendors are also increasingly focusing on the work-at-home model. Providers such as Transcom in the U.S., HGS in Canada, and SYKES in Western Europe are actively employing the work-at-home model for full-year programs, gaining access to new talent, often with specific industry skills such as healthcare, insurance, and travel (e.g. Intelenet), or creating presence in untapped labor pools such as Alorica’s military veterans and spouse programs.

Another vendor initiative is opening small-scale urban contact centers to cater for the labor pool in these locations. Such micro centers with less than 50 people are being developed by transcosmos in Japan and Invitel in Germany.

And a further opportunity

Companies managing internal CX operations are facing the same labor market pressures. This situation creates an opportunity for outsourcing providers to differentiate based on their ability to source talent and place it in the right delivery model; but also based on their ability to engage employees, transform the nature of support work, and elevate the role of the CX agent.


* Taken from the Seeking Alpha Earnings Call Transcript: SYKES Q4 2017 Results

NelsonHall recently published its Digital CX Services market analysis report, available to CX Services program subscribers. For access, please contact NelsonHall Client Services Director Keith Maclean.

<![CDATA[Tech Mahindra BPS’ Approach to CX Process Automation]]>


Currently, the level of automation in the front-office is lower than it is for middle and back-office processes, with reasons including the lower cost of handling customer-facing processes, established offshore models for labor arbitrage, and lack of client interest. However, the upside of this relatively slow uptake is that automation can now be applied to multiple areas of CX, including:

  • RPA on manual tasks
  • Workflow automation
  • Knowledge management bots
  • Next-best-action tools and guided scripts
  • Cognitive virtual assistant supporting live agents.

Automation can be applied to a variety of processes, from contact center back-office work to live customer interactions; from traditional calls and emails to chats and social media; and in the internal processes of customer service operations in recruitment, training, coaching, performance monitoring, and compliance. Here I look at how Tech Mahindra’s Business Process Services (BPS) division is approaching the automation of CX processes.

Traditional RPA

For most organizations, there are still a lot of opportunities in their legacy applications to bring RPA and point solutions to remove bottlenecks, eliminate manual errors, and reduce processing time. Tech Mahindra is addressing these needs with a dedicated automation practice. The practice consists of a ~ 90-person RPA team, with another 70 resources involved in platform development, sharing common skills such as .Net, Java, Python, and machine learning.

Tech Mahindra has developed a proprietary automation framework called UNO (Unified NexGen Operations). UNO has two versions: UNO-P, which partners with the big automation OEMs (Blue Prism, UiPath, Automation Anywhere), and UNO-R, the in-house bots and automation models for unified desktop and front office automation. Typical implementations for back-office robots include exception handling, re-try of failed requests, transaction logs, audit trails, and bot monitoring and control. UNO-R's key features include 360-degree customer view, auto tracking, auto sign-in, and assisted automation during live agent interactions. Across both versions, Tech Mahindra has approximately 60 implementations.

Intelligent automation

While two to three years ago, Tech Mahindra’s efforts focused on automation of highly repetitive manual processes, current developments are moving to intelligent automation with ML algorithms such as OCR, orchestration, and automation of running the bots. One area where the company invested in digitalizing the experience through automation is agent training: it converted the training process from trainer-led to an automated platform.

With a proprietary simulation tool, X-PERIO, Tech Mahindra’s BPS division implemented the new agent training process for a U.K. telecom client with ~5k CX employees. The provider lowered the training time from 8-10 weeks by 40%, delivering £350k in annual savings. The training throughput increased from ~82% to ~95%, while automated scoring eliminated the trainer’s qualitative assessment of agents’ floor readiness. In addition, 92% of the learners rated the content highly, and the customer NPS increased by 26 points. The company also uses the data in agent gamification.

Tech Mahindra BPS created bots to tackle frauds – e.g. in the telecom environment, where promotions with new flagship phones result in increased fraud attempts. A fully automated process replaces the previously manual checks, with robots taking data from the registration, CRM, and payment systems and verifying the number of account payments and usage in the last two weeks against a ‘hot names’ list of known fraudulent addresses and numbers. The algorithms then compare against the daily sales and stop those at risk, scheduling and assigning a call back to a live person. As a result, the initial fraud team of 38 members was reduced to 14 analysts who work on optimizing the bot for future fraud trends.

Similarly, in the phone selling process for telecoms, Tech Mahindra BPS replaced the manual quality assurance process with automated audits which matched the requested and offered phone versus customer eligibility. The automated audits cover 100% of daily sales and have no delay, as it operates 24/7. The company has deployments for telecoms clients in the U.K., Australian, and Philippines markets.

Evolution to cognitive services

Conversational bots still need time to reach true maturity, but many of the current applications use contextual bots to address specific business needs. Tech Mahindra has developed a platform, called GENIE, which offers scenario-based learning, real-time feedback, and independent learning where the bot converses with multiple trainees at the same time. For example, traditional mock calls performed before a class of new hires are replaced by the individual conversations with a bot. GENIE asks and answers questions and can be configured on different levels of conversational complexity. It also scores the trainee’s performance on process knowledge such as customer identification steps and productivity (how long the trainee takes to answer).

Tech Mahindra is also looking to replicate its automation algorithms for other industries – one of the benefits of automation is that it allows relatively easy replication of codes and scripts with few customizations required to use it in different areas and industries. Tech Mahindra is now piloting its fraud prevention automation for a financial institution for credit card issuing and expanding the training bot across its entire agent population.

<![CDATA[9 Key Stages of Adoption for Next Generation Customer Service]]> In our latest CX services research in collaboration with NASSCOM, we identified the 9 key stages of adoption for next generation customer service, as shown in the following infographic. 

Insights into the differences across client industries and the best practices applied by vendors are available in NelsonHall’s Customer Experience Services program. For more information, contact Guy Saunders.

<![CDATA[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.

<![CDATA[Omnichannel, Bots & the Future of CX: Q&A with Head of Prosodie-Capgemini, Erwan Le Duff]]> This month, Capgemini is launching a new version of its omnichannel cloud platform, Odigo™. I interviewed Erwan Le Duff, Head of Prosodie-Capgemini, about the new platform features, the evolution of self-service, and the future of customer experience. Below is a video of highlights from the interview, followed by a brief introduction to Odigo and a full transcript of the interview.



Odigo at a glance

Odigo is a modular platform targeted towards customer care, sales, and service desk processes for end users, company employees, and citizens in the public sector. It has approximately 350 clients in 17 countries and handles over three billion interactions per year, primarily voice, but also chats, email, video chats, social media messages, SMS, and IoT transactions. It has four modules:

  • Odigo Contact Center for omnichannel routing, recording, WFM, and quality monitoring
  • Odigo Concierge, an omnichannel (voice and digital) bot, designed for self-service and qualification
  • Odigo Campaign suite to push messages for marketing campaigns and notifications
  • Odigo Analytics for customer insights.

Capgemini is releasing version 2.0 of Concierge with a chatbot developed completely in-house to enhance next-generation user qualification and self-service. Powered by NLP (Natural Language Processing), the chatbot processes customer questions and answers via texts, images, videos, documents, links, and mini applications, including choice buttons and selection carousels. It is offered as a web and app widget on a mobile SDK, and also on Facebook Messenger.

The machine learning algorithms at the core of the bot learn from interactions and prompt call backs, or schedule an appointment. In case of an unresolved issue, the bot can escalate to a shadow agent in real-time to provide the customer experience and train machine learning. Its API is open and the company can integrate it with existing databases, e.g. CRMs such as Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, and Zendesk.

Capgemini has been implementing natural language-based IVRs for over 10 years and currently has 25 clients across sectors in English, French, Spanish, and other European languages.


What are the main differentiators of the platform and the new version?

Erwan Le Duff (ELD): It is highly scalable. This is one of the main differentiators, as we see today, more and more large-scale companies are looking for cloud solutions. They’ve been looking for CRM cloud solutions in the past, and are now looking at the cloud for interactions. We are addressing the needs of several thousand agent clients in a multi-country environment. We are also building the platform as open as possible to ease the integration of future channels, but also to help integration with the client IT systems.

We also provide end-to-end solutions. We can come to a client, analyze their current customer experience and current data, look at the customer journeys and transform them, measure the impact for the organization, and provide the technology in parallel to start automating, to deliver true omnichannel experience and break the silos that exist within all organizations.

Concierge v2.0 is really designed to address self-service needs, which are emerging everywhere, by introducing an omnichannel bot.

What drives these developments in self-service?

ELD: We see customers asking for self-service, obviously, but they are also asking for simplicity, quick responses, and 24/7 service. We see this emerging in all sectors. From the companies’ standpoint, there is clearly an interesting business case to automate part of their low-value requests. Depending on the client, we estimate that they represent between 15% and 30%. If they are able to automate part of those requests, it will free up time for agents to deliver more added value, outbound, or campaign management work.

Can you share more about the current implementations?

ELD: We started some months ago with a client in the insurance sector, where we looked at one of their service lines and reimplemented both a chatbot and a voicebot to manage the full process. A customer who wears glasses can call or chat with their insurance provider to know how much they will be reimbursed when they change their glasses. The system identifies the user, guides them through the process, including on the doctor’s paper prescription, and supplies the information. The bot then offers a short list of opticians based on geo-location data or pushes promotions for online sales.

Are you targeting any specific segments?

ELD: We see demand across sectors, but it is true that today some sectors are moving fast and need to transform the customer experience. For example, banks, insurance, retail, and finally, the public sector (we’re seeing this in few countries, including France). It is starting to become cross-sector and the reason is that the number of interactions is consistently increasing and clients are looking at potential automation as a kind of El Dorado.

However, what I say to clients every time is that before starting to look at automation and implementing bots we need to make sure we truly understand the call motives and make sure we focus on the right tasks. This is where our 10 years of experience in implementing the natural language part, including into the IVR, is a big help to understand the requests.

What prevents organizations from achieving omnichannel delivery?

ELD: Some of them are still organized in silos. The same people that manage the voice channel, don’t necessarily manage the email, chat, social media. We see this structure disappearing, but organizations need to fix it quickly. The second reason is the need to look at the agents and the agent experience, and have a strong vision and policy on how to organize channel management from the agent viewpoint. It is potentially a big change, and it may be easier when operations are outsourced.

Do you think the market has moved on from the initial chatbot hype?

ELD: We had a number of clients experimenting with automating certain processes because it frees resources and can increase customer satisfaction. However, it is not only a matter of technology. It is about understanding the call motives, implementing it on the right use cases, and more importantly, making sure the engine is strong enough and uses the right sectorial corpus to very quickly reach 95% natural language recognition. But organizations need to implement it in a true omnichannel situation. You can’t just have a standalone chatbot, because the customer may need to be transferred to a live agent or they may not like talking to a voicebot. It needs to be truly integrated into the omnichannel strategy.

Where do you see the balance between human-assisted and machine support?

ELD: People will be more used to speaking to Amazon Echo and Google Home, and this will increase adoption. Still, all companies know that the voice channel and talking to a human for certain inquiries is the only way to add sales. So, this element will stay, probably focused on more added value and more complex cases, but it will remain. We’ve seen in the last two years pure internet players with only digital channels now coming to voice. In four to five years the market can move to more automation, maybe even 50%, but not the majority of interactions.

Automation will potentially reduce the client’s need for agent support, but there is no way to stop this change. Most of the discussions we have with clients are not around removing 20% of the cost in the contact center, instead it’s about addressing increasing volumes and improving the customer experience. At Capgemini, we are proactive with clients to deliver a solution that will help them now and bring benefits in the future.

And finally... What are the next steps for the platform? What capabilities are you looking to add?

ELD: We started client tests with voicebots to finalize the omnichannel part the platform. It will be available in the next couple of months and will offer the same capabilities as the chatbot, based on the same foundations and data access. Our goal is to design the dialogues to adapt to the interface in a similar manner to the text bot, and at the same time, to fully integrate with Odigo modules.

We will continue to develop more connectors to third parties such as Salesforce. The last piece is to expand the use of AI and reinvest in NLP. For NLP, we want to further improve the solution to answer more complex inquiries, and we want AI to be used more and more for real-time, advanced routing of interactions, and ease agent experience by assisting them.

<![CDATA[Transforming a Contact Center to a Profit Center: CSS Corp Client Study]]>


Post-sales support functions are typically cost centers: large, labor-intensive operations with significant overheads and no financially attributable benefit to the bottom line. This environment is changing, with  organizations gradually understanding the revenue generation opportunities in support services such as technical support and afterlife maintenance. I recently had a conversation with CSS Corp about one such example.

Growth through improving performance

CSS Corp began supporting this North American networking OEM in 2003. The client manufactures and sells a range of networking equipment, from hubs and routers to servers and security devices, for the home and small business. At the start, CSS Corp was one of multiple suppliers managing ~30% of the call volumes through centers in India, and eventually Utah and Manila. On the back of CSS Corp’s performance, together with the customer, they have launched a premium tech support offering, a white labelled support service line, and expanded from voice to email, chat, and (over the last two years) remote diagnostics. Today, CSS Corp handles ~55% of the call volumes for the client with approximately 300 employees.

From FTE-based to revenue-based model

The initial pricing model was straightforward FTE-based, dependent on volume forecasts. As CSS Corp analyzed the operation, it identified optimization opportunities primarily with the support process. The client had tried in the past by changing the lifetime warranty policy for its routers to 90 days and pushing sales for warranty extensions, but with limited results. CSS Corp’s proposal focused on the entire experience for the connected home, where the router is just one piece. It offered to sell a premium tech support package covering the out-of-scope and out-of-warranty routers, as well as every connected device in the house. If the issue cannot be resolved or it is due to a faulty product, the customer is entitled to a complete refund.

In turn, the commercial outsourcing model is also modified to transaction-based. The client pays only for the handled interactions at a lower rate compared to FTE pricing, and on top, CSS Corp pays a certain percentage of the generated revenue from the premium tech support sales.

Impact on the provider

For CSS Corp, this shift required changing the operations, with a robust analytics capability to monitor and forecast performance, and a new profile for the support staff. From narrowly-focused technical support agents proficient solely in routers, CSS Corp recruited engineers with competency both in hardware and software to answer the new types of issues escalated by customers. These engineers are supported by a knowledge base and troubleshooting guides, covering the wide spectrum of the constantly expanding connected ecosystem. The company also established a dedicated IoT showroom to test and play with new devices and software. In addition, the team had to have sales skills to identify prospects, overcome objections, and close subscription sales.

The right client

Moving to such a model, incorporating variable costing with revenue generation sharing, requires a certain type of client. Ideally, one with experience in outsourcing partnerships, a level of maturity within the customer experience operations, the necessary volumes, and a higher value product. It fits well with networking OEMs where, for example, if the end user contacts the company several times with support inquiries for their router, the standard profit after tax of 4%-5% will be lost. This approach also requires the product and marketing departments to be more flexible and find creative ways to amend their entitlement and warranty policies.

Addition to the bottom line, and next generation technical support

Between July 2014 and December 2016, the client experienced 275% reduction of its support costs with a comparable volume, and currently receives $0.58 revenue per call handled by CSS Corp while maintaining CSAT of over 92% and NPS above 75%. Through improved training and proactive engagement with the customer during the subscription period, CSS Corp increased the conversion rate from 4.5% to 9.5%, and grew the average sales value by ~37%.

In the last two years, the support team is receiving more targeted and complex customer calls related to smart homes and, more recently, voice-controlled connected devices. CSS Corp is addressing this evolution of the market and customer expectations by continuous training, but also by driving active delivery frameworks. It analyses logs for the interoperability of devices, creates self-service troubleshooting guides for the users, and enables omnichannel support through the company’s proprietary Activai mobile app. CSS also recently started a pilot over social media.

<![CDATA[Omnichannel Entropy from a Customer Experience Perspective: Macy’s Journey]]> The traditional (and now universally accepted as outdated) model for multi-channel support looked something like this, with differences primarily between the types or number of channels:

However, as customers became digital and mobile, the model has shifted to something like this:

This model originated with marketers and retailers, where omnichannel means the ability to purchase in the physical store, online, via the phone, or mail order. However, as channel technology matures, as markets are disrupted by new economy brands and, above all, as customers radically change their behavior, the omnichannel relationship between customers and brands has also evolved from this simplified understanding. The current picture resembles a unified environment, allowing fluid migration of customers across interlinked channels, easily switching between self-service and assisted support, live and virtual agent, digital and non-digital channels.  

From Channel Proliferation to Channel Entropy

When, at the end of 2016 and early this year, we conducted our study of multi-channel customer experience, voice search was hardly on the radar. Very few CX vendors were looking to the space and there were no implementations. Today, an increasing number of providers and their clients are planning pilots or already running implementations over Amazon Echo and Google Home. They have recognized that the opportunities of the channel are significant, while its adoption is rapidly growing: from the untapped market of users without ability or skills to operate the traditional GUI of the internet, to the fact that voice search has a captive audience, required to link their account information.

At the same time, when we looked at voice, which had been predicted to all but disappear in the contact center over the next few years, the reality of outsourcing providers and clients shows that, while in steady decline, voice will remain the largest part of their revenues and more than half of their interactions until 2020. As voice calls move to chats and simple, repetitive interactions become automated, calls handled by agents become longer, more involved, and more complex. This entropy is affecting most channels, creating new use cases and addressing new customer needs – and at the same time, making the consistent customer experience across channels more difficult.

Macy’s Omnichannel Journey

In the retail sector, the significant adoption of online discovery, buying, and support, makes achieving this balance even more prevalent. For Macy’s, which manages three separate brands with unique identities and customer focus, the combination of 825 physical and speciality stores, voice and digital channels for sales, customer care, and collections across several service lines and products, the key factor when enabling a new digital channel is making sure it resonates with the customer. The company has had chat support for over seven years and has introduced social media in the last two, but still the majority of the traffic continues to come from voice.

Consistent with the market, Macy’s is seeing an increase in chat and social media interactions, reflecting changing customer expectation. While Macy’s customers may differ in their preferences for self-service or live assistance, voice or digital, they are all having less time to spare, are almost always connected, demand greater personalization, and expect frictionless service. As a result, social media and chat are a big part of the company’s future sales and support strategy.

In addition to customer care, Macy’s currently uses proactive chat for cross-selling and conversion on its websites, and earlier in the year has officially launched a virtual agent. The chatbot was developed with Microsoft, and piloted in June for the desktop checkout web page, answering the top questions identified from live chat data. The bot has now expanded to the mobile version. Although in the early stages, the trial has shown consistent customer effort scores, resolution rates, and acceptance by users. Macy’s is now looking to expand the bot to social messengers and other sections of the FAQs.

Analytics, Automation & AI: Key for the Next 3 Years

Macy’s forward-looking and cautious approach to channel enablement is reflected in many of the client interviews we conducted for our multi-channel and retail and CPG customer experience studies. As shown in the graphic below, clients are predominantly satisfied with the multilingual capabilities of their providers, and their experience in reducing costs, implementing new channels, and creating dedicated centers of excellence for them. However, vendors are not yet meeting expectations in delivering effective benefits in the areas of analytics, RPA, and AI. 

Client satisfaction with a range of CX benefits compared to their future importance 


The omnichannel environment creates an enormous amount of data, which a human analyst and traditional statistical tools cannot process. The leading CX vendors realize this change and are actively investing in the space. Ability to use machine learning algorithms, to deliver real-time insights, and to automate contact center processes will be the biggest differentiators in the near future, not just for outsourcing providers but for all CX organizations. From a channel perspective, it means that whether a brand is using chatbots or video or remaining primarily voice, these capabilities are needed to provide a true unified channel experience.


On 28th September, Brian Stout, Senior Vice President Omnichannel Support at Macy’s Department Stores, and Ivan Kotzev, CX Services Lead Analyst at NelsonHall, recorded a buy-side webinar: Macy's Omnichannel Journey - from Voice to Chatbots. The webinar is available for NelsonHall’s Buyer Intelligence Group members. For membership details, contact Vicki Jenkins.


<![CDATA[Virtual Assistant I Am! CSS Corp Looks to Yodaa]]>

The idea that the future model of customer experience includes a high level of automation is already widespread. A whole ecosystem of developers and vendors is catering to an emerging mass market of bots and virtual assistants. And users and brands are discovering more applications of automated support over text and voice as bot libraries grow rapidly.

While the learning curve for users is a lot quicker than for command-line or form-based interfaces, and we all adapt to conversational interfaces, businesses have a window of opportunity to provide an efficient and effortless customer experience. In this window, technological capabilities and business processes will need to stop playing catch-up and start meeting rapidly evolving customer expectations.

Technical support in the IoT and connected home world

Most of the media coverage is on the use of virtual assistants in marketing, sales, or basic customer care. However, in technical support, the undercurrents of IoT and the connected home will drive an even quicker adoption and ROI. The multiple connected devices spreading around the home and the office increases potential set-up failures and interoperability issues, raises support costs, and (as OEM device margins decrease), lower support funds. The networked relationship between customers, products, and brands creates more complexity while simultaneously expanding to the early and late majority of the market. In turn, these user segments perceive product quality a lot more in terms of product experience; for example, the ability to self-install or receive instant support versus the actual technology. Combined, these factors aggressively force technical support down the virtual assistant and natural language path.

CSS Corp’s Yodaa: the Cotelligent virtual assistant

As a specialized technical support vendor, CSS Corp looked to address this reality with a new engagement platform with a common interface called Yodaa. Yodaa includes pre-packaged modules for premium tech support, analytics, virtual assistant, knowledge management, and mobile app, powered by machine learning and NLP.

CSS Corp developed Yodaa with three questions in mind:

  • Is the platform intelligent enough to eliminate a call – i.e. can it identify a pattern among the registered issues and problems to proactively feed the product developer?
  • Is the platform flexible enough to evolve – i.e. can it learn from the new issues that arise?
  • Is the platform independent enough to remove the need for human intervention – i.e. can it create a fix by itself, for example with a return merchandise authorization, to identify the type of request and automatically trigger the process and push notification updates to the user?

These challenges might be part of a typical RPA integration: what CSS Corp adds is the substitution of human decision making with that of Yodaa. For example, when dispatching a new device, it goes through some 20 different checks such as validating the serial number, checking the warranty period and the bill of payment. Under a business process automation all these steps can be performed by a machine, but for support steps (e.g. in case of a dispute management), Yodaa uses natural language processing and text mining to remove human intervention, and applies machine learning to train itself to modify the business rules on a per case basis.

Over a four-month period this year, CSS Corp implemented the platform with a global gaming brand which consistently requires resolution of a high number of complex inquiries with a range of issues following a typical new version release. Before the release launch, agents created standard operating procedures within the platform’s drag and drop flowchart builder. After the launch, Yodaa learned from the live chat and email interactions how to (e.g.) access a new game level or reset settings to resolve gamers’ inquiries. So far, the vendor has been able to eliminate between 15-25% of the interactions associated with the new version release.

Still at the early stages of this engagement, CSS Corp expects Yodaa to deliver on average 50% reduction in call, email, and chat interactions for technical support, to improve agent productivity by up to 30%, and increase the customer satisfaction by 25%.

Bringing Yodaa to the call center with Amazon Connect

To jumpstart the adoption in the contact center, CSS Corp will integrate Yodaa with the newly launched Amazon Connect cloud-based contact center solution. Amazon Connect places phone, email, chat, messenger, and voice search interactions on a single CRM which enables the virtual agent to learn from one data source, answering simple queries and routing the complex ones to human agents. For clients with an existing knowledge base and standard operating procedures, Yodaa will search throughout for answers, but in the case of new or unsupported questions, it employs information retrieval techniques to obtain appropriate responses from the web. The ambition is for this continuous learning to eliminate and deflect an increasing number of questions, making human agents highly specialized subject matter experts. 

Technical support for the voice-enabled channels 

The next steps for the Yodaa developers are improving deep learning, and adding new business processes and verticals, e.g. pharma. Another focus area is support over the voice-enabled channels such as Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod. The company is working on adding skills and integrating NLP to resolve technical support questions addressed to voice engines. It has already set up demos where Alexa is guiding the user on how to set up a router or on the status of their device delivery. 

<![CDATA[HGS Turns to Sheila & Veronica to Help Enhance the Digital Customer Experience]]>

NelsonHall recently attended the HGS Analyst and Advisory Summit in NYC. The event combined client perspectives with an update on the company’s healthcare business, a review of the latest offerings within its DigiCX suite of digital services, and discussion of the changing nature of customer experience (CX).

Optimizing the healthcare payer member experience

In 2015, HGS acquired a majority ownership in Colibrium, an Atlanta headquartered health plan marketplace with its own proprietary Healthcare CRM overlay. Today, Colibrium has ~10m members across its ~50 deployments. Through the merger Colibrium benefited from HGS’ healthcare experience in several ways:

  • Payer, provider, and broker front and back office services
  • Large-scale clients
  • Offshore, nearshore, and onshore work-at-home (WAHA) delivery model supported by 12k employees, of whom 1.1k are qualified nurses.

HGS’ ambitious plans for the healthcare industry include adding additional clinical services for both the payer and provider markets, obtaining the required license for claims coding and clinical work in all 50 states, and expanding the WAHA model.

The larger challenge in the space is how to acquire, engage, and retain plan members, who are digitally connected, have little plan loyalty and trust in the system, and believe that healthcare is expensive, confusing, and hard to understand. In an environment where customers can purchase life insurance on their mobile, shop for pharmaceuticals across national borders, and have wearables for health monitoring, outsourcing providers such as HGS can stand out by offering a unified experience. For the healthcare providers, HGS aims to deliver regulatory expertize, cost optimization, and scalability during the peak January-February season. In the next stages, it plans to generate richer business insights by analyzing usage activity, member behavior, and VOC.

But for the digital members, HGS is looking for a new approach to the member lifecycle. This includes driving online traffic and lead generation for open enrollment, engagement through click to chat and web portal shopping, support from a human or virtual assistant called Sheila (running on messengers and webchat), as well as self-service set-up, nurse concierge, and proactive support and extension to the wellness industry.

Design thinking for digital CX

In the middle of last year, HGS officially launched DigiCX. DigiCX is a suite of multi-channel CX services including chat, social, email, SMS/text, and messaging channels under an automation and analytics framework. The identifier of DigiCX is the self-service lead. HGS looks to enable digital transformation through an “outside in” and “inside out” design thinking approach that champions self-service and automation, which in turn fund the required investments in tools and consulting resources. For example, the company is working with a global CPG company to conceptualize and create a chatbot avatar for sales and level 1 service queries. For a high-end consumer electronics brand, a recent HGS win, the provider automated 48% of customer emails such as order status and product registration, and for technical support uses NLP to guide customers to troubleshooting videos. The next phase is an SMS bot to automate shipping status inquiries. The bot will be called Veronica.

The combination of customer-facing automation, self-service, and digital channels carries a number of direct business impacts. It lowers costs on average by ~20% in the first phase, adds new channels to meet customers where they naturally prefer, extends the hours of operation, yields more business and VOC insights on the product and services, generates new revenue streams, and improves customer satisfaction.

From their implementation experience, HGS has identified several take-aways:

  • It is important to focus on the outcome and handle the whole engagement, but start with a quick deployment
  • Automation may cannibalize voice volume, but as new channels open it will increase interactions and the overall business pie will expand
  • Identify customer conversations, not messages or calls. Pivot to automated conversations and keep the live agent support using analytics to decide when to turn it on/off
  • More and more clients bundle customer care transactions with digital marketing and sales.

Investment in current channels and future analytics

HGS is actively adopting the emerging channels of social messengers such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Markets such as North America show significant opportunities for messengers to be the default sales and support interface. While the asynchronous nature of messengers empowers customers in the support processes, HGS is initially eyeing the sales processes. The company is working with technology partners and clients to optimize consumer lead generation, where the interaction begins in the messenger and then a live or automated agent identifies the moment of truth to drive the contact through the sales funnel process. As the early market examples have shown, communication over messengers increases advocacy for the new generation of digital consumers.

With the support of machine learning, bots are integrated into live conversations over messengers to manage a larger share of the customer lifecycle, giving responses and finding answers, moving away from objective to subjective ones. As a CX provider, for HGS this means a further push towards the IT path with customer interaction analytics, rich media analytics, predictive modeling, NLP, and cognitive computing. The company is boosting its technology competencies through partnerships with AI start-ups and own analytics platforms looking to integrate machine and human led interactions as the optimal way to transform CX.   

New objectives for outsourcing clients

An undercurrent of all these consumer and technological changes is the shifting focus of outsourcing clients. As Chris Lord, HGS Global Head – DigiCX, Growth, Strategy and Marketing, highlighted, the target contacts in the client organizations are changing to product owners and marketing execs, and their expectations are for the provider to have the domain insights and expertise to merge CX with sales. As more senior leadership conversations switch towards uplift and new sales, the goal for HGS is to measure the ROI from the digital transformation by delivering a business case with an incremental value proposition.


<![CDATA[Augmented Humans Will Expand the Digital CX Frontier: Lessons from Sitel Summit]]>


Last week, NelsonHall attended the Sitel Summit in Miami. Titled ‘Expanding the Digital CX Frontier’, the event was an opportunity for Sitel to update the analyst community on their new structure, introduce new senior executives, show its new global HQ, and share first-hand experiences of successful CX digital journeys.

From contact center company to a group of global CX services

Almost two years after French Acticall acquired Sitel, the company is changing to an ecosystem of ventures where the contact center business is a part, albeit the largest one by a measure, along with:

  • The Social Client: a digital and social marketing consulting company
  • Learning Tribes: learning and development company
  • Customer Insights: an analytics unit
  • Premium Tech Support division
  • Novagile: a technology and software development company
  • Extens: a consulting practice.

These brands are run separately, with their own P&L, strategy, and target markets as a way to preserve the entrepreneurial DNA, stay close to the clients and be innovative and diversified. This is an approach which Acticall maintained in continental Europe throughout its history of M&A and spin-offs. The unifying objective is to create a ‘toolbox in customer experience’, as the CEO, Laurent Uberti described it.

While the challenges of competing strategies and disparate sales and marketing will emerge, the financial backing of the Mulliez family allows the company a longer investment horizon. Over the last year, the Mulliez family, with its $95bn multinational ownership in retail and distribution, has provided the initial support to finance the Sitel acquisition and restructure its debt. The support by this multinational conglomerate offers opportunities for country or industry-specific synergies across the shared assets. For example, in China, where the flagship retail brand Auchan has a $17bn business and will be a new target market for the Acticall Sitel Group.

At the same time, the most immediate opportunities for the group are to land and expand across its existing client base (e.g. in new markets such as North America for The Social Client and Learning Tribes, or Brazil for Premium Tech Support). In Europe, past company experience showed that every $1 generated by the ventures brings $5 to $7 in contact center business. The group objectives range from the short term (~30% of the U.S. clients having more than one service penetration) to the five year plan for a 20% share of global revenue delivered by non-Sitel ventures.

Main player in the customer experience revolution

The tactics for this approach vary between the different units, but common across all is to target digital opportunities. For example, addressing channel adoption with chatbots, where The Social Client has currently deployed ~25 in Europe; self-service communities, which Acticall runs for major French brands such as SFR; visual IVR, for which it has partnered with a leading provider in Europe; and mobile only methodology. The latter paradigm is the current solution to the challenge of the ‘end of traditional interfaces’, as described by the new Social Client GM for North America, Gordon White. In a world where messaging apps have 2.6bn users, surpassing those of social media, and becoming de facto new OS, vendors such as Sitel need to look for the new channels and formats where CX will be delivered.

Unsurprisingly, automation and NLP will play a big role in these digital transformation journeys. Sitel wants to position itself as the complementary provider for automation in a future where AI will become a commodity while remaining at the current ~70% accuracy. By the end of 2017, under the leadership of CMO Arnaud De Lacoste, Sitel plans to develop a bot engine working alongside third party NLP, leveraging access to large datasets of chat transcripts and employing its labor force to train the bot on process and client-specific lingo. The ‘bot supervisor’ will then offer real-time agent feedback and next-best-actions, improving quality and delivering an estimated 5% NPS boost on average. The project starts with English and moves to other major European languages next.

Digital transformation is slow but brings better margins

Across the different presentations at the event, a consistent topic was concentration on the digital roadmap, earning executive support, and empowering frontline staff instead of over-focus on technology. These different journeys may require:

  • Moving digital ownership from IT to marketing, as was the case with Wyndham Hotel Group, where CMO Barry Goldstein took on a digital enablement journey with its 8k hotels in 70 countries
  • Expanding to video despite initial opposition, as Don Deliz from Intuit described, where the ~600 seasonal work-at-home tax advisory began offering one-way video conferencing with co-browsing capabilities while maintaining a professional appearance and protecting personal data
  • Applying human intelligence at the core of the process, as Peter Francis from T-Mobile explained, to drive digital adoption and, in the case of T-Mobile, making the asynchronous in-app chat a primary contact channel with a newly formed team handling 100k messages weekly at 30-40 concurrency and 4.5/5 CSAT performance
  • Creating an engrained CX culture, like the example Doug Woodard shared about a Capital One agent going beyond her training and company procedure to deliver a highly personal and compassionate service to a war veteran.

Regulators vs augmented humans

The question on how to find, engage, and support agents in their increasingly complex and data-rich interactions was a running theme during the summit and covered exclusively by the Learning Tribe management, who mapped the trainee journey similar to the customer journey, with accents on requirements for mobility, interconnectivity, peer-to-peer support, and efficiency. On the flip side, Brandon Casteel from CareerBuilder painted an unflattering picture of poor applicant experience against an increasing skill shortage in the U.S. market. To add to the complexity, lobbyist Chris Putala explained the state of the Washington legislative environment, which reintroduced in 2017 the U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, trying to curb U.S. call center offshoring.

As a global vendor, Sitel plans to hedge against these risks by further enhancing its multi-shore model, aiming to grow its U.S. domestic and nearshore footprint in Honduras, to enter new African locations in support of the French market, and expand its China presence from training and development to contact center services. Still, despite these new developments, the fundamental question for Sitel remains how to evolve from a contact center to a context center, able to bring emotion and value to the customer conversation at scale, with the support of new technology and augmented humans. 

<![CDATA[WNS Brandttitude: Serving Marketers with Advanced Brand Analytics]]>


While Facebook banks on the smartphone camera to digitalize offline relationships, and sales people use Snapchat to sell real estate, the main challenges for marketers to reach this level of interaction are structural – how to visualize huge amounts of disparate data to get actionable insights fast at a granular level. Here I take a look at how one CMS vendor, WNS, is tackling these challenges by providing an advanced business intelligence platform for brand performance and customer experience analytics to its clients.

Productizing marketing data visualization with Brandttitude

WNS’ Analytics practice has been offering data aggregation, reporting, and visualization of marketing information across multiple industries for more than ten years. Throughout this period the main client need has been to track the brand performance globally and locally, compare it historically, and benchmark against competitors. With its specific domain focus, WNS developed its knowledge of what marketing data to mine from where and which metrics to show and how to present them to marketers. For example, answering top of mind questions such as the fastest penetrating category or the most frequently purchased brand.

At the beginning of 2017, the provider decided to productize the offering through Brandttitude. Brandttitude is a BI analytics cloud platform which ingests data across sources, integrates, and presents them on a visualization layer accessible through mobile devices.

WNS launched the platform with a CPG client, a French food manufacturer. Brandttitude integrated and correlated the previously isolated customer survey reports from third parties such as GfK and TNS, household TV viewing stats from the likes of Kantar, point of sale resources such as Nielsen, and the client’s own shipment data on a quick stats section to uncover insights such brand lift and market reputation. The API pulls automatically from these syndicated databases and clusters and aggregates them according to market and time period. WNS is now planning to procure these data directly and do analysis independently.

With the French CPG client, WNS is rolling out the platform for multiple national markets in a region, where it has added another six data sources. One of these additional resources has been macroeconomic data from Euromonitor and Frost & Sullivan catalogs to identify correlations between volume and value changes with macroeconomic shifts.

How is my brand doing?

With all these different data sources, for marketers to assess product performance means translating the information into insights to create a single brand story. Brandttitude presents key metrics for a brand, such as value phase, affinity score, and repeat buyer percentage in one location. At the back end, it harmonizes and integrates data from 35-40 markets currently and four different data sources delivered in various formats and styles.

It also hosts a KPI library listing all metrics with an option for the user to plug and play KPIs, create customized views and, thanks to a separate API for each metric, visualize it on external tools. For the retail and CPG space, these are ~150 metrics. It further allows the user to correlate these trends and picture them on a single chart or table view (including mapping competitor performance and a drill-down by geography), and annotate and share them with other platform users within a collaborative space.

With a different set of data sources, clients have requested WNS to customize the platform to handle their specific set of needs. For example, for a U.K. insurance client, Brandttitude will have to manage complaints, claims, policy data, and contact center information to map the customer experience with a particular insurer at a personal level. For example, how many policies a customer has, what complaints they raised, how many times they contacted support, and how many days it took to settle a case and settle an amount. Also, the update frequency has to cater to the daily cycles of work. Similarly, customization will be required for a potential deployment for a convenience store chain in Switzerland by adding e-commerce data.

Domain knowledge enabled by technology

The social networks’ three-sided markets of users, content providers, and advertisers come with massive amounts of data at the individual level and understanding who to target with a Facebook dark post or how to publish effective Instagram Stories is a stepping stone. While marketers can use Tableau and QlikView to solve their technology needs for brand management, with Brandttitude WNS wants to position itself as an industry knowledge curator.

For the next versions of the product, WNS plans to accept information which is not in number formats, such as pdf and serve as a data repository for macroeconomic statistics. The key development, however, is the addition of a machine learning-powered analytics layer which will build upon the descriptive features to add diagnostic and predictive capabilities. For example, it will forecast revenue or create simple marketing mix outcome models. WNS targets these advanced analytics additions by the end of 2017.


NelsonHall is currently working on a Digital Marketing Services project for publication later in Q2. For more information contact Guy Saunders (

<![CDATA[CMS in Bulgaria: TeleTech Explores Multilingual Skills & Aims to Move up the Value Chain]]>


Last month, NelsonHall visited TeleTech’s delivery center in Sofia, Bulgaria, to discuss the company’s main European operations and the advantages and challenges of Bulgaria as a customer management services (CMS) delivery destination.

From Sofica to TeleTech

TeleTech acquired a local provider, Sofica Group, in 2014 and rebranded it in 2016. Sofica was one of the first Bulgarian outsourcing providers, created in 2004 and offering customer care, technical support L1, helpdesk, and CMS back office in 26 languages, in addition to HRO, hosting, and Contact Center as a Service. The majority of the work is inbound, operating 24/7, but it also offers outbound sales services. It has ~1,100 people in three centers in Sofia and Plovdiv, and in Skopje, the capital of neighboring Macedonia. The main clients are European and U.S. telecoms, technology, financial services, and travel and transportation brands. TeleTech Eastern Europe also has ~15% domestic business servicing one of the biggest national mobile telecoms.

Advantages of the Bulgarian market

Bulgaria has experienced steady growth in its CMS industry, with major players present in the country since 2003-2004. The country has close to 45k people working in more than 360 outsourcing providers, and this is expected to reach 64k people by 2020 out of an active labor force of 2.4m. NelsonHall estimates that ~23k employees work in front office outsourcing services. In addition to TeleTech, CMS providers present in the country include:

  • Concentrix
  • Convergys
  • C3/CustomerContactChannels
  • Sitel
  • Sutherland
  • Telus International
  • Tek Experts.

In addition, there are several local providers, including 60K, Call Group, and Euro Connect.

The benefits of the country as a front office delivery location are in the deep multilingual skills of the agents, typically fluent in a major European language, but often speaking two or even three languages in addition to their native Bulgarian. For example, in TeleTech’s Sofica center, over 80% of the agents speak more than one language in addition to English and their native language.

Due to a language-focused national education system and a significant number of employees with direct study or work experience in European countries and the U.S., front-office providers are often able to handle multiple markets with the same resources and have a close cultural affinity. Other advantages of the country include:

  • Educated workforce able to provide front and back office services in technical and financial sectors
  • The lowest corporate tax in EU at flat 10%
  • Low office rental space. For Sofia, the average rent for A class business property is €12-€14 per m2
  • Good internet connectivity. Bulgaria often ranks among the top 20 countries globally for average internet speed
  • Physical and time zone proximity to Western Europe with direct flights to most European capitals
  • Stable currency pegged to the Euro.

Challenges of the Bulgarian market

The biggest limitation for the Bulgarian CMS industry is the market saturation. While the minimum wage in the country is one of lowest in Europe at €210 per month, the labor cost, particularly in Sofia, has steadily increased since 2010. For the relatively small agent pool, vendors compete with a sizable ITO sector and in-house support centers, as well as middle and back office outsourcing operations in HRO and FAO. Brands with front office operations in the country include AIG, Coca-Cola, C3i, EXL, Experian, IBM, Ingram Micro, Skrill, and William Hill.

Since 2008, this trend has caused vendors to open centers outside the capital Sofia in tier 2 cities such as Plovdiv, Varna, and Burgas. TeleTech was among the first to open its center in Plovdiv and uses it in support of domestic telecoms clients. Still, these locations cannot offer scale.

Other measures to address the labor shortages have been working with universities and offering free training for prospective agents. For example, in Q3 2016, TeleTech launched TeleTech Academy, a free training program for prospective agents for soft, technical, and language skills, particularly in German and French.

Also, TeleTech and other vendors have successfully expanded their recruitment network outside the country, targeting young people from Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Netherlands, and Germany who are willing to relocate for the attractive low-cost lifestyle in Sofia.

Objective is to move up the CMS value chain

TeleTech is aiming to evolve its Eastern European operations to a more comprehensive BPO center offering the consulting, analytics, and technology capabilities of the wider company. For Logitech, TeleTech centralized customer care in Sofia, implemented a satisfaction monitoring process linking NPS across the various customer care touchpoints at the agent level, and developed a detractor reduction program. Within two years of the launch, Logitech experienced 70% improvement in NPS, while AHT reduced by 22%.

The vendor has a strong outbound revenue generation experience with several projects in Europe and U.S. for telecoms clients. In the summer of 2016, it started a service-to-sales program for a domestic telecoms firm with ~80 agents. For 2017, the provider is planning to build on this experience by launching a wider customer journey mapping and VOC assessment project for the client utilizing the resources of TeleTech’s Customer Strategy Service unit.

Continuous growth for the Bulgarian outsourcing industry

TeleTech’s objectives to expand into consulting and technology services from its Bulgarian operations is aligned with the development of the country as an outsourcing destination. As a growth strategy for a market relatively limited in scale, Bulgarian CMS vendors are adding more advanced technical support services and more digital channels to the already existing language base.

According to the Bulgarian Outsourcing Association, the national outsourcing industry is expected to reach €2.7bn (~6.0% of the country's GDP) by 2020.

<![CDATA[CMS in 2017: Delivery & Transformation and Industry-Specific Predictions for the Year Ahead]]> by Vicki Jenkins & Ivan Kotzev

NelsonHall’s principal Customer Management Services analysts take a look at how the CMS market will shape up in 2017, with predictions for CMS delivery & transformation from Ivan Kotzev, and industry-specific predictions from Vicki Jenkins.


1. CMS Delivery & Transformation Predictions

For CMS, 2016 marked a substantial shift in the global market. Several high profile acquisitions reshuffled the global top 10 providers. Client requirements shifted towards higher value, comprehensive customer experience offerings. There was continuing growth in both offshore and onshore centers, and entry into new delivery markets. And the ongoing advance of analytics and automation, both technology and application, further changed the front-office.

In 2017, several of these trends will proceed at a greater pace, while external factors such as political risks have the potential to disrupt growth plans in specific delivery countries or client industries.

Consolidation: more of the same, bigger

In 2016, most of the M&A activity in CMS was strategic growth. Delivery scale still matters, and in 2017 vendors will continue to buy market share and contact center seats. A steady trend towards transformational customer experience is forcing clients to narrow their list of CMS suppliers, pressuring vendors to grow their footprint in the U.S. and key European markets and offer a global service in APAC and LATAM. Likely acquisition targets include U.S. and Indian providers.

Development and targeted acquisitions of digital marketing capabilities

In 2016, CMS vendors bought analytics, automation, and industry-specific capabilities, but some of the newest targets have and will be in the area of digital marketing. The main reason for this is the greater blending of sales and support in a predominantly digital customer experience. In turn, this causes buyers of contact center services to spread further among customer services, marketing, and sales departments. As a whole, clients are more ready to look at the end-to-end customer experience, which requires pure-play CMS providers to offer digital services beyond just support.

Automation of the desktop and more examples of virtual agents

The current investments in desktop automation and next-best actions for the customer-facing agents are gradually spilling over to more verticals, more services lines, and hybrid and fully automated virtual agents over text channels. By the end of 2017, the majority of the global top 10 CMS providers will have at least one fully automated virtual agent implementation.

Investment focus on machine learning and NLP resources

This level of automation is based on machine learning and NLP resources which vendors will add aggressively in 2017, either through in-house team development or partnerships in the AI start-up space. Machine learning algorithm developers, predictive modelers in R, and language analysts, all with industry experience, will be even more highly sought after than in the last year.

Self-service will mature to a separate revenue stream, while support over messengers will reach N. American and EMEA customers more decisively

In 2017, CMS vendors will continue to make more than three-quarters of their revenues from voice channels but, driven by client requirements, self-service will develop to a key channel in their offerings.

The new year will also finally deliver multiple outsourced support examples over Facebook Messenger, Viber, and WhatsApp for N. American and European customers.

Political risk will replace security concerns as the biggest external threat to the industry

The plans of the new U.S. administration for the healthcare sector, the Brexit terms, and the policies of the Prime Minister of India and President of the Philippines have the potential to disrupt entire delivery markets and industry sectors making multi-shoring, diversified vertical portfolios, and FX hedging vital.

Conservative growth

NelsonHall predicts 2017 year-on-year global CMS market growth to be ~4.5%, with factors such as increased adoption of digital services and stress on improved customer experience to drive demand for higher value services and revenue generation service lines, while automation and self-service will cannibalize part of the revenues.


2. CMS Industry-Specific Predictions

Retail Banking

  • Use of RPA and cognitive technologies will increase, initially in support of agent assistance. Automation will be utilized in the front office, reducing cost and improving interaction turnaround times. RPA and cognitive also impact processing services, e.g. facilitating speed of origination for banking products
  • Revenue generation will continue to increase in importance as a driver of CMS in the retail banking sector, driven by use of analytics and cognitive technologies, though cost reduction and the need for increased CSAT will continue to be key drivers for retail banking CMS
  • Voice interaction will remain high due to the complexity of many retail banking interactions, though there will be a reduction over the next few years due to deflections to webchat. Email will continue to be used for sharing of documents. Social media and video chat will increase in importance.

Retail & CPG

  • Revenue generation will continue to increase in importance as a driver of CMS in the retail and CPG sector. CMS will increasingly be used in support of proactive sales and enhanced two-way communication with customers
  • Customer retention will continue to be a major focus for retail and CPG organizations, and loyalty program support needs will grow
  • Webchat and social media will overtake email in channel usage, and website content, including video, will become a more integral part of service delivery
  • Analytics usage will continue to grow, along with the need to better understand buying patterns, with AI beginning to be incorporated into service delivery.

High Tech

  • Increasing CSAT, cost reduction, and process improvement will remain primary drivers of CMS in high tech, and revenue generation will increase in importance through paid technical support programs, to service out of warranty and out of warranty scope customers
  • Customer retention will increase in importance as more high tech clients offer VIP and white glove customer care to customers, and the high tech sector continues to grow competitively. Cost reduction will increasingly be driven by ensuring that only complex calls are routed to highly skilled technical support agents, while less complex calls are routed to level 1 agents
  • As high tech organizations increase adoption of video chat, the channels will shift and customer experience will be enhanced; customers will be able to show agents complex issues they are experiencing, and will be provided with faster service which is more likely to resolve issues in the first call. Video chat and online ‘how to’ videos will also reduce expensive truck rolls. Analytics and video chat will increase in use, to aid efforts to reduce product returns
  • Risk-reward models will increase in use, particularly in sales/renewals of subscriptions.


Vicki Jenkins is NelsonHall’s lead analyst for industry-specific CMS markets, and Ivan Kotzev is the lead analyst on CMS delivery and transformation. To find out about NelsonHall’s extensive research plans for CMS in 2017, contact Guy Saunders.

<![CDATA[Sykes’ Clearlink: Selling in the New Digital World]]>


Three watershed moments in online sales and support happened in November and went somewhat under the radar. At the beginning of the month, StatCounter reported that mobile surpassed desktop browsing for the first time at a global level. Then for the Singles Day in China, e-commerce retailers JD and Alibaba not only announced record sales, but the latter opened up the event internationally for the Taiwanese and Hong Kong markets. And after Black Friday, the National Retail Federation in the U.S. estimated more online than in-store shoppers for the first time.

While these events do not sound the death knell for physical stores or traditional websites, they confirm that when B2C brands identify their customers today, the thinking needs to be primarily in terms of digital customers. The challenges of such a shift become not just the ability to sell and support customers online, but discoverability and relevance.

Customer management outsourcers react: Sykes’ acquisition of Clearlink

2016 has been an active year for M&A in the customer experience outsourcing space, with several acquisitions driven by scale, market entry, analytics, and automation resources. Several have been pure additions of digital marketing and sales capabilities. The largest came from Sykes.

On 1st April, Sykes completed the acquisition of Clearlink for a cash consideration of $209.5m. The Salt Lake City, Utah-based Clearlink is a lead generation, inbound sales, and digital marketing company with ~1.5k employees (~1k inbound sales agents) in two centers in Utah and one in Arizona. Annual revenues are ~$123m (2015).

Clearlink supports B2C clients in the telecoms, satellite television, home security, and insurance sectors in the U.S. Its clients include AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier, Verizon, DISH, Liberty Mutual, MetLife, Windstream, HughesNet, Safeco, The General, Progressive, and Dairyland.

Merging online and contact center sales

Clearlink generates inbound calls from the digital marketing campaigns it runs on behalf of its clients. It designs, hosts, and manages websites, creates social media marketing content, organizes paid and organic search over Google and Bing, and runs display, social media, video, and text message ads. Clearlink has integrated digital marketing with its contact center operations using algorithms to automatically adjust search engine campaigns in near real-time against the availability and performance of the sales floor. It also optimizes contact center staffing based on the requirements of the online campaigns. At a granular level, it can prioritize marketing campaigns based on their profitability over the phone.

Over the last eight years, Clearlink has developed a proprietary contact management platform which tracks individual users from the web to the contact center. The company collects the search data, browsing history, device information, and journey path on the website, and attaches it to the call record when it is initiated in the system.

End-to-end new acquisitions

Typically, marketing and sales departments are separate from the customer service operation which runs the in-house contact centers, and often manages outsourced partnerships, creating a disconnect between marketing efforts, sales skills, and contact center management. For Clearlink, the combination of digital marketing and contact center skills translates into the end-to-end management of new customer acquisitions. For example, for Frontier Communications, Clearlink serves as the digital agency of record and sales campaign outsourcer for the client’s West region. It manages traffic generation such as branded paid search, SEO, display and remarketing, email campaigns, and online buy-flow as well as website management of, retail store pages, blogs and PR content. Customers can reach the sales team via inbound call, chat, email, and SMS, but also complete the purchase online on the dedicated page. 

For the majority of its engagements, Clearlink operates on an outcome-based model, being paid only for the new customers it acquires. This model transfers the initial investment costs and risk from the client’s marketing department to the vendor.

Results in the satellite industry

For a satellite TV provider, Clearlink has been a top 3 sales partner for the last 12 years. The engagement began with the client looking to market and sell satellite TV and installations through online channels and improve the brand perception through targeted sales. Clearlink runs or enhances the organic and paid search, display, email, and phone search, print directory, and partnership marketing.

Since 2003, Clearlink has acquired over 500k customers for the satellite TV provider, with 65% of the customers in the highest quality tier of service, with a network high installation completion rate of 84%. It has consistently exceeded targets by 5-8% for high value channel package sales.

Opportunities from Sykes’ CX market & opportunities from growth verticals

Historically, Clearlink expanded through entry into adjacent industries such as telecoms, satellite TV, and home security, and uses this complementary environment to cross-sell to the end user. Currently, Sykes is assessing the possibilities to extend the Clearlink capability to markets outside the U.S., but its primary focus is on developing a comprehensive offering that includes marketing, sales, and support management over the full customer lifecycle. With a couple of shared clients in the telecoms space, the opportunity is there and the company has begun working on such projects.

Another significant growth opportunity is the connected home. With a marquee client in this space, Sykes is actively engaging during this peak retail season. But it is also looking to capture the telecoms providers and emerging players investing in IoT.

In the small and medium sized enterprises, Sykes also identifies another opportunity. In telecoms, this segment is underserved, and Sykes wants to expand its current mid-office and front-office support to new acquisitions by simplifying the selection, purchase, and provisioning of services.

<![CDATA[CMS Takes Center Stage for Conduent, the New Face of Xerox Services]]>


From January 1st 2017, Xerox will separate its business process services (BPS) business into a public company called Conduent (trading under the ticker CNDT on NYSE). Conduent will have approximately ~$7bn revenue and over 96k employees. I recently spoke with Chuck Koskovich, Executive Vice President Customer Care Services at Xerox Services, about the implications of the split on their customer management services (CMS) business, and the strategy to develop it.

Offshore expansion & new automated operating model to drive growth

Conduent is looking to grow its CMS business with a focus on offshore markets and delivery centers, expanding its contact centers (currently over 160 in 26 countries, supporting over 30 languages). It recently launched new sites in Johannesburg for the European markets, also a new customer care center in Indore, in west-central India. The drivers for this geographic expansion are not only costs and access to labor, but also clients’ need for multi-country support.

The company is also looking to revamp its operating model, leveraging its capabilities in advanced analytics, machine learning, and automation to move upstream in the clients’ business. Conduent comes with a significant breadth of CMS clients, and the task at hand is to evolve their support beyond basic account management or billing interactions, aiming at broader and more complex services. The push for increased efficiency is twofold: towards cost optimization via automation and robotics, and improved customer satisfaction through empowering front office agents via analytics.

Enhanced leadership team preparing for a future workforce

In July, Xerox appointed Ashok Vemuri, the former president of iGATE, as CEO of the new company. In the last quarter, the company has also expanded its customer service leadership team by appointing leaders who not only have direct contact center outsourcing expertise but, very importantly, understand the changing nature of the industry, where new hires, particularly millennials, look for shorter working hours and a more flexible career path. An example is an expansion of the Work-At-Home (WAHA) program for a U.S. client, an upgrade of the WFM platform, and an increase in agents working less than 40 hours per week. Conduent recognizes that this shift towards a part-time or freelance workforce may well be the future industry standard. 

Another part of this change is the adoption of methods such as gamification in contact centers, and new training processes with the support of digital technologies and new learning techniques. For Conduent, this approach enables the hiring of operational management staff with background in education and psychology.

Greater focus and more demanding client base

The overarching objective of the senior management team is not just to run efficient operations, but to assist clients in identifying opportunities for transforming their sales and support, something that clients are demanding. To support this, Conduent is looking to recruit a Chief Innovation Officer.

The scale of its CMS client base (over 400 clients) allows Conduent to be more selective when approaching new opportunities, targeting companies that will more readily allow them to move higher up the value chain. Conduent’s core verticals remain technology (two new clients in 2016), telecoms (a new mobile telephone client this year), media, and healthcare (two new clients) in the U.S.

Healthcare represents a third of the portfolio, and is the sector in which Conduent has had the most success with adoption of automation, despite the regulations in the industry. However, this sector poses its challenges; for example, when a North American healthcare client lost business, this forced discounting of the contract.

Strong message for contact center services from a big new brand

A number of official announcements have yet to be made, e.g. the location of the new headquarters. However, as the close of the year approaches, Conduent is launching its branding and marketing initiatives, with plans for the executive staff to be present in the contact center sites.

For certain, CMS is at the forefront of Conduent’s new brand messaging.

NelsonHall has published three profiles on various aspects of Xerox Services’ CMS business this year: an overall CMS profile, plus profiles of their CMS analytics capabilities and their CMS business in the Retail & CPG sector.

Xerox Services is also covered in the NelsonHall Vendor Intelligence Program, in both Key Vendor Assessments and Quarterly Vendor Updates. For details, contact

<![CDATA[CSS Corp’s Enterprise Product Lifecycle Support: Integrating CX with Product Development]]>

The explosion of connected devices and IoT products promises a greater volume of technical support interactions and increased customer demand for proactive and always-on assistance through the lifecycle of a product. In turn, these requirements force customer experience (CX) providers to be involved with the product manufacturers at new levels, participating in development and testing, sales generation and supply, and finally in the technical support and out-of-warranty support of a product. And while in the consumer electronics world, such end-to-end solutions are still rare, in the enterprise product support world they are a norm.

Here I take a close look at how CSS Corp is developing its Enterprise Product Lifecycle support offering.

Developing a comprehensive offering

CSS Corp started its Enterprise Product Life-cycle services in 2003, offering technical support levels 1, 2, and 3 to networking OEMs making servers, switches, routers, and other telecommunication products. It has 24/7 multilingual support centers in India, Poland, Philippines, Costa Rica, Utah, and Mauritius.

The company realized that in a typical model, clients don’t get a unified view of what is happening with their product and have limited visibility of the business outcomes, apart from KPI tracking. To tackle this challenge, CSS Corp developed a complete product support process. The process begins with sales, for which CSS Corp generates leads, integrates and customizes Salesforce and reports, and offers real-time help to the sales engineers to answer technical questions while in front of the customer. Next come the welcome centers – a starting point for all initial customer interactions, identifying contract eligibility, scheduling product training, delivery status and other onboarding issues. These centers require 40-50 staff to handle a 10k monthly interaction volume.

After the initial helpdesk, CSS Corp offers technical support from L1 through L3 and out-of-warranty support. It also provides 24/7 white labelled NOC services for which equipment monitoring is required to maintain 99.999% uptime: for example, network connectivity for hospitals. The company also contacts customers for renewals, upgrades, and warranty extensions. CSS Corp currently supports 16 Enterprise Product Lifecycle clients, including an enterprise wireless OEM, a networking product manufacturer, and a global provider of voice communication platforms.

Support across channels is a must

Both sales and technical support are provided over multiple channels (chat, email, voice and online user communities and social media), and across functions. For example, the social media team collects sales leads from forums and blogs, but also accepts tickets and escalations. Phone calls dominate the U.S. market, generating ~65% of the traffic, while in Europe email is almost at par with phone calls at ~45%, with 15-20% of the global traffic via chat, including in-app messaging and co-browsing. Regardless of the channel, cases are logged via the client’s ticketing system: Siebel, Qlikview, Remedy, Cares, or Salesforce (which is growing in terms of the number of implementations).

Technical issues are complex and require next level of product integration

95% of reported problems are L2 and above, reaching even L4, which requires issue simulations or product testing in CSS Corp’s labs and eventually with the manufacturer. This complexity keeps the resolution time to an average of 4-5 days. A big part of CSS Corp’s holistic approach is their involvement with the manufacturer’s product and feature testing, particularly interoperability. The networking OEMs have tens of thousands of certified application and product partners, and CSS Corp conducts this testing and certification: for example, to ensure the proper functioning of a conference phone with the client’s PBX.

Enhancing the CX and cost optimization for a global telecom equipment manufacturer

For one of its oldest clients, with over 13 years of engagement, CSS Corp has reached just such a level of product and process integration. With this telecom equipment OEM, CSS Corp supports over 20 products lines in multiple languages at a global scale. Starting with a 15- member team, today the vendor has over 180 technical and engineering staff delivering product validation, testing, development, knowledge base, technical documentation, onsite, and remote support. Despite the increase in staff, CSS Corp achieved 50% reduction in TCO over the course of the engagement and reached 1.26 NPS against a 1.4 point target (the client uses reverse NPS 1 to 5 scoring, with 1 being the highest).

Getting ready for the consumer world

Enterprise product lifecycle support is not a volume business, with customers often working with a preferred engineer for years. So, preparing to take on mass consumer markets is a big challenge for vendors.

In order to handle the scale of a mass IoT consumer electronics market (where complexity and interoperability issues remain), vendors will have to employ predictive analytics, automation, and machine learning to prevent product faults, while using different channels such as self-service and user communities to keep costs down and deliver customer satisfaction.

With its Enterprise Product Lifecycle support offering, CSS Corp has taken the first key step in addressing that challenge.

<![CDATA[Analytics are the Key to Disruptive Customer Experience]]>

Over the last few months, I have held discussions with a number of leading customer management services (CMS) vendors and their clients regarding the increasing need for advanced analytics to drive step changes in customer experience (CX). Here, I reflect on the changing role of analytics as they take centre stage as the key to disruptive CX.

How times have changed

When I first participated in the greenfield launch of a contact center in 2005, the main focus was on systems, making sure the network connectivity, CTI, and IVR work, and that our multi-million dollar CRM could be customized sufficiently to support the business.

Roll forward eight years to 2013, the last time I was involved in a new contact center set-up, and the priority had shifted to finding, recruiting, training and retaining the right talent to meet the client’s requirements.

If I were to set up a new contact center today, I would start with analytics as the core, building operations around the questions of how to collect and manage customer data, what resources and tools are required to generate real-time insights, and which processes are needed to prescribe next-best-actions to the agent (human or otherwise).

While the market is predominantly at the descriptive stage of this journey, the capability to deliver effective BI (i.e. to collect, visualize and interpret the significant amounts of data collected in the contact center) is a basic standard. If a business is still struggling with such operational analytics in their contact centers, they need to outsource their operations immediately, because it is most likely causing bottom line losses. Analytics houses such as the South African Pivotal Analytics are able to quickly bridge the gap from reports to insights.

The task of service personalization

The current task for many CMS outsourcing clients is to link data from contact centers with information residing in other departments and the outside world. Vendors such as Sutherland are working on delivering fast and low-cost solutions to unstructured data challenges, covering the customer journey across touch points and beyond single brand interactions. The objective is to finally provide service personalization to users who are sharing enormous amounts of information with companies and not receiving the benefits from it.

In practical terms, this personalization translates to empowering the agent to identify customers and customize their offers (as Intelenet is doing in the hospitality and retail sectors), but also predicting customer behavior per interaction, and contextual needs to match brands (as WNS delivers for a travel client).

Analytics underpinning self-service & revenue generation

The two main trends in contact centers, for increasing self-service and enhancing revenue generation, are heavily reliant on analytics capabilities. Examples include:

  • HGS driving digital channels adoption and scalability through self-service, which is dependent on accurate analysis and forecasting of channel usage and customer behavior trends
  • Firstsource’s sales practice actively employing speech analytics insights to guide the cross-sell and upsell process and performance for agents
  • Xerox Services’ work in retention and collections (where predictive analytics are a true proxy and differentiator). Here, Xerox is developing a churn prediction model that combines statistical and mathematical methods with hypergraph-semantics to discover hidden connections and churn drivers.

The road to predictive analytics

In the growing convergence of marketing, sales and customer service, domain expertise and benchmarking capabilities are combined with customized frameworks, tools and resources for text, social media and VOC analytics to deliver quick benefits to the clients. Vendors such as Concentrix, with significant experience in incorporating traditional channel analytics with sentiment and web analysis, and Minacs with decades of marketing analytics practice in a specific vertical, are best positioned to meet this demand. These capabilities are also a driver for M&A, as shown by Concentrix’ recent acquisition of Minacs.

While predictive analytics is the deliverable sought by CMS vendors for their clients now, the prescriptive analytics and proactive services delivered by cognitive analytics and AI are still aspirational goals. Vendors such as CSS Corp are already providing proactive diagnostics in tech support for the IoT and enterprise space, but effective machine-led CX has yet to materialize.

With greater demand for advanced analytics driving increasing investments in new analytics technologies and models, vendors and clients who are lagging may soon find the competition unreachable, as leaders start to utilize the latest in deep learning, NLP or geo-spatial analytics to deliver market disruption. Examples such as Amazon, Netlflix, and Lyft have proven that a solid analytics backbone makes possible such leaps in the customer experience.

As part of its CMS research program, NelsonHall will soon publish a comprehensive market analysis report on the application of analytics in CMS, together with vendor profiles, and a NEAT vendor evaluation. To find out more, contact Guy Saunders.

<![CDATA[Sitel Presents its CX Vision Nine Months After Acquisition by Acticall]]>

NelsonHall recently attended Sitel’s European Customer Day in Paris. The event was an opportunity for Sitel to update the analyst community on the progress it is making with company restructuring following its acquisition by French BPO vendor Acticall, and to present to its clients and stakeholders a vision of the future – not just for contact center outsourcing, but for customer experience (CX), sales, support, and recruitment through the lens of digital paradigm shift.

Sitel/Acticall Nine Months In

The acquisition by Groupe Acticall, a Mulliez family backed company, was a significant financial and European delivery boost for Sitel (see more here). Now, nine months in, the company has kept the Sitel brand, combined the French and American executive leadership teams, and is relocating its HQ in September. It is aiming to benefit from the client, delivery, and experience scale of Sitel and the innovative, value-add, digitally focused, approach of Acticall.

Acticall combines its French contact center business (plus a Brazilian presence since 2012) with an array of independently run units previously acquired and still managed by their founders:

  • Learning Tribes – a training services provider, operating in France, Morocco, Brazil, and China (and from 2016, in the U.S.). The EdTech company offers learning tools, learning content creation and localization, and has actively invested in a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platform
  • The Social Client – a digital consulting agency offering social and web optimization services, creates online communities and develops web content, sites, and apps
  • Extens Consulting – customer experience consultancy offering CRM optimization, customer journey mapping, and channel shift strategies
  • Novagile – IT developer specializing in CRM and self-service technological solutions.

French origins, global markets

Both the challenge and the opportunity for Sitel is to expand these higher margin businesses from their mostly French origins to a global network of 70 markets and 22 delivery countries, with 146 centers and over 400 clients. The obvious target geography will be the U.S., which represents over half of the group revenues.

Sitel is following a firmly established trend for pure play CMS vendors by evolving their offerings to include advanced analytics, consulting, marketing and technology services, and value-adds beyond low cost customer care. In so doing, Sitel has the potential to bring to its client base a more attractive service portfolio.

The fundamentals are there. The client base is not overexposed to one or two verticals, with the largest, telecoms, representing less than 30% of revenues. Nor is there an over concentration on a small number of clients (the biggest accounting for only 6% of revenues) or geography limitations (70% of clients are served in two or more countries).

Above all, the company is innovating in its account management, bringing CX practices to its client relationships by running a NPS evaluation program (since 2014), and setting its teams ongoing improvement targets.     

CX is changing fast and not linearly

The CX demands made by customers are changing fast in multiple directions without negating the basics of 20 years ago, or the technological developments of the last year. Sitel is embracing this change.

The majority of Sitel’s European Customer Day presenters looked to a future of faster, more contextualized, and more expressive communication. For customer service providers this will mean:

  • More channels, e.g. The Social Client’s implementations of Facebook Messenger
  • Greater share of self-service, e.g. the customer community created by The Social Client for French horse racing betting house PMU
  • More added value in interactions, delivered by better selected and trained agents, e.g. the Learning Tribe project with La Poste
  • Increased localization, e.g. customer effort monitoring by country, as carried out by Extens Consulting for French gift provider wonderbox
  • Cultural alignment to the brand regardless of model, as shown by Airbnb with several outsourcing providers across geographies
  • Addressed customer needs, e.g. Uber’s continuous market growth and service innovation, from ice cream deliveries to helicopter rides.

The outlook for Sitel

While these proactive and personalized CX delivery developments are taking place, behind the scenes there is a whole host of technological, operational and cultural changes that vendors such as Sitel need to implement. The company’s growth for 2016 reflects over 4.3k additional seats globally, plus the introduction of its analytics platform, Sitel Insights, which combines analytics resources with technology accelerators.

These are the initial steps for Sitel on its ambitious growth path: to become a $2bn company, with 11% EBITDA, and the number one CX company, by 2018.

<![CDATA[Driving Sales with CMS Analytics at Firstsource Mumbai]]> The traditional inbound phone sales process is giving way to a multichannel environment, where the customer is in control – usually visiting the company website first and expecting to connect with a sales rep immediately, more commonly over webchat, and then deciding on a purchase. The challenges for customer service teams are two-fold:

  • Training agents to sell via chat, with all the restrictions of non-voice communication
  • Personalizing the customer experience and product offers to match more and more fluid customer behavior.

This was one of the subjects of discussion when NelsonHall recently visited Firstsource at their contact center in Mumbai.

Improving agent sales and CX via chat

The Mumbai contact center is one of 20 Firstsource centers employing a total of over 14k employees in India. The Malad West center is divided into voice and non-voice halls, supporting several international brands, including a triple play U.K. telecom, with over 1.5k agents providing customer care, technical support and sales over voice, email and chat. At peak times, the chat sales floor is a high-energy place with team leaders shouting out individual achievements, white boards to track sales, and a sales bell to mark surpassed thresholds.

The inbound chat sales team has been supporting the account since 2012 and currently runs two concurrent sessions using canned and free text responses. Customers can press a chat button on the company website, and after a series of qualifiers, begin a chat session with an agent. The agent then identifies the optimal offer among over 6k bundles. Once the agent closes the sale, the customer completes the final steps on the website. The process has achieved a conversion rate of 32%.

To deliver improvements in sales skills, Firstsource has developed an agent training framework called Virtual Sales Coach. It consists of an automated sales guide with scripts optimized for the particular sale, profiling based on customer-defined choices, and a ‘unique selling points’ tool comparing performance against the competitive landscape, updated weekly. The Virtual Sales Coach is fed by a product intelligence module which enables the agent to personalize the customer offer with a few buttons. The company has piloted the Virtual Sales Coach over recent months with 33 agents supporting the U.K. telecom. In six weeks, it achieved a 24% increase in the conversion rate. Firstsource is now rolling it out across more sales and up-sell processes, and to non-voice channels.

Enhancing the sales process through analytics

Firstsource has also developed an agent monitoring and assessment tool called Associate Performance Index. Using voice analytics, it measures the different parts of the call, the KPIs, the percentage of complaints, negative emotions, script adherence, silence duration, information security breaches, and call disconnects to create daily individualized report cards which team leaders use to coach and train the agents. The team leaders can also drill down to the specific interactions making up the index score.

Depending on the specific process in question, Firstsource can assign different weightings to the various metrics and then correlate them with successful sales. Using the Associate Performance Index on the telecom account, in March 2016 Firstsource was able to increase the conversion rate in the sales and upgrades team by almost 15% month-on-month and decrease the super detractors by 2%, while increasing the NPS by 4 points. The company is now expanding the tool to text analytics on the chat channel.

The Associate Performance Index is part of a larger Firstsource offering called First Customer Intelligence (FCI), which performs the customer interaction analysis. In turn, FCI is part of the transformational capabilities of Firstsource, helping in the design of customer service and channel strategies for clients. For example, for the telecom client, it involved running speech, text and sentiment analytics on existing transactions to identify call drivers, evaluate agent performance, and segment customer behavior, as well as benchmarking against competitors, in order to propose and implement chat as a multi-function channel.

On the back of its success with the telecom client, Firstsource has now begun its first support chat program from Mumbai for a high-street U.K. bank, with plans for gradual expansion across product and service lines.

NelsonHall is currently undertaking a major global research project entitled ‘Transforming Customer Management Services Through Analytics’, which includes a comprehensive Market Analysis report, vendor profiles, and a NEAT vendor evaluation.

<![CDATA[Evolving a CMS Client Relationship: A Sutherland Case Example]]> Increasing emphasis on improved customer experience is driving customer management services (CMS) outsourcing deals to evolve, with vendors providing domain expertize, analytical insights, transformational capabilities, and access to new channels/technology across the entire contract duration. On the client side, this translates into working with fewer vendors sourcing multiple functions and geographies, and committing to longer contract terms. In our recent visit to Sutherland’s Chennai contact center, we put this trend in context by discussing the company’s long-standing relationship with a global security software client and how it has progressed over the years.

Expanding the business scope

Sutherland began to support the security software manufacturer in 2004, starting with 35 technical support representatives in a single site. Currently, it has more than 1.4k support staff for this account, operating out of Chennai and Cochin, India, with a total of over 900 people, as well as from Bulgaria, Philippines, Colombia and the U.S. Starting with voice technical support in English, Sutherland now offers services in 16 languages across most global client markets. It engages with free and paid end users over voice, email, chat, remote assist, and social media. In 2010, the client moved from a multivendor model with eight providers to Sutherland as the sole support partner (with the exception of certain APAC markets).

The expansion of the business scope came on the back of deeper involvement by Sutherland in more and more processes, starting with customer care and technical support, adding sales social media engagement, and graduating to premium technical support, product testing, research, issue reporting and finally retention. 

Integrating technical support into product development

In an internet security environment challenged by increasing malware and regular operating system releases, the customer facing operations often serve as the first source of information for the product development team. Sutherland embraced this role and set up a virus removal research team. For the last five years it has submitted more than 117k malware samples to the client quality department, improving the effectiveness and stability of the product.

The level of expertise within Sutherland spurred the creation of a ‘2.5 technical support’ team for escalations which also assists the client’s other vendor operating in Asia. Since 2008, this team, together with core team members across geographies, participates in alpha and beta testing for product releases, offers recommendations on new features, handles issues unresolved by levels 1 and 2, and creates knowledge articles for both internal use and external forums. The 2.5 team shares a common issues log with the client development department and organizes training and upskilling sessions with QA specialists. Sutherland Chennai also serves as an issue verification function across geographies and monitors and reports volume spikes and customer experience KPIs for the enterprise business as well.

For example, during the release of Windows 10 in July 2015, Sutherland’s support team had early access to the OS and tested the product behavior, logged and resolved issues and prepared solution articles, user guides, and tutorials. Together with the product testing, this process helped manage the volume fluctuations.

Using its growing domain knowledge and integration with the client’s product development, Sutherland has increased its resolution rate by over seven percent to its current 93%.

From support to revenue generation

For the last year, Sutherland has piloted a dedicated inbound retention desk helping customers requesting refunds and new purchases. The aim was to increase revenue, and also provide greater flexibility to customers who are auto-renewed. Sutherland focused on improving employee sales skills through continuous training and self-learning video tutorials. As a result, the team has doubled purchases to 88% while decreasing the discount rate.   

Vendor-driven innovation: premium tech support

In 2011, Sutherland identified a commercial opportunity by closing the loop on technical support for out-of-scope issues due to malware, adware, hardware, or ISP-related problems. Close to 24% of all interactions fell into this category. Another target group was out-of-warranty customers. Sutherland developed a technical platform for issue diagnostics, a knowledge base with solution articles, plus the payment gateway. It also created the lead generation process and customer acquisition models.

For example, when an out-of-warranty or out-of-scope customer inquiry reaches first level support, the tech support rep runs the diagnostic tool, identifies if the issue requires more advanced support, and if it is within Sutherland’s remit. Then the rep redirects the issue to a sales desk where a sales rep explains the USPs, assists in the selection of a product package (either ‘incident’ or ‘subscription’), and completes the sale, while assigning a follow-up call to the 100-member tier 2 team to remotely access and fix the problematic hardware. Approximately 17% of the annual out-of-scope traffic is transferred for retention, with over 25% conversion rate. 

This premium support is branded by the client and Sutherland operates it on a gain-share basis.

Looking ahead

In the area of online security, mobility is a key growth area, and both the client and Sutherland are dedicating their efforts to address this market need.

Sutherland has also recently launched its online support for the client, offering level 1 services for issues with Google Play and Apple Store, publishing the answers on the public forums for the product. It is now looking to expand to social media level 1 support on Facebook and Twitter.

Sutherland is also aiming to expand its support for the client into APAC markets currently supported by the other vendor.

In a 12 year-long relationship with the client, Sutherland continues to seek new ways of improving the customer experience while expanding its business footprint.

<![CDATA[Alorica Acquires EGS to Become Global Top 3 CMS Vendor: Healthcare Business Key to Growth]]> Andy Lee, Alorica founder and CEO, shared with me last summer that his goal was to become the number one CMS vendor (by revenue) serving N. America. Well, now he is closing in on that goal, with Alorica entering into a stock purchase agreement to acquire Expert Global Solutions (EGS). With EGS, we estimate Alorica’s pro forma 2015 North American revenues are ~$1.8bn, closing the revenue gap on current number one North American CMS vendor Convergys by over a half, from ~$1.4bn to $675m.

EGS is a portfolio company managed by One Equity Partners (OEP), a middle-market private equity firm. Post EGS acquisition, Alorica will employ over 91k people in 154 locations across 16 countries in five continents. Lee will be CEO and Chairman of the new organization, based in Irvine, California. He will also be the majority shareholder. The companies expect to complete the transaction by early Q3 2016. The purchase price is not being shared at this time but Alorica plans to release this information over the next few months.

Lee founded Alorica 16 years ago with $10k and a vision. Fast forward to 2015, and Alorica had beome a $1.2bn company with the West Corp. Agent Services acquisition. And with EGS, Alorica will be generating ~$2.3bn in global revenue, behind only Teleperformance and Convergys as a pure play CMS BPO provider. In CMS BPO, scale is critical; clients want fewer partners, for one. By acquiring EGS, Alorica also avoids becoming a consolidation target.

Beyond the increased scale:

  • EGS will expand Alorica’s healthcare sector business, reducing its dependence on the communications sector (currently its largest sector, accounting for ~28% of global revenues), healthcare, media/entertainment, financial services, and retail. It is also looking to grow its business in the technology, energy/utilities, travel and hospitality sectors. Alorica supports payers, providers, PBMs, pharmacies, and (to a small extent) medical device companies, providing primarily customer care and technical support services. EGS brings a number of healthcare industry accounts and pharmacy business. Alorica’s healthcare business currently represents ~9% of its total company revenue; it anticipates that this will increase to ~14% post-acquisition
  • Alorica will benefit from the EGS collections business which will be branded under Alorica Financial Care. The focus will be first-party collections in the 30 to 90 day time period
  • EGS also brings in some customer analytics capabilities offerings.

Just over a year ago, Alorica doubled in size with the acquisition of West Corporation’s Agent Services. The integration has been smooth, and Alorica claims that it has not lost any of the clients it obtained from West. One of the lessons learned from that acquisition was the importance of not over burdening its operations, HR, technology, and communications teams with integration work. With the EGS acquisition, it will have personnel dedicated to the integration, supported by McKinsey consultants.

Alorica and EGS have a limited delivery overlap. The network IP will be Alorica branded. It took one year to integrate West Corporation’s Agent Services business and the same amount of time is anticipated for the EGS integration.

Client overlap is 10-12 clients, from the communications, retail, and technology sectors. Post-acquisition, Alorica will serve ~600 clients, supporting ~30 languages. It will employ 52k people in North America (including 6k work at home agents), 26.3k in the Philippines, and 11.8k in Latin America.

EGS is Alorica’s second key acquisition in two years. In integrating West, it has learned to manage business integration smoothly, handle significant growth, and retain clients. Far from being a consolidation target, Alorica is becoming a consolidator.

One year on from my chat with Andy Lee, it’s good to see a leader articulate a clear goal and successfully lead a team on the road to making it a reality.

Postcript: This deal was completed on June 30, 2016.

<![CDATA[Sitel Chennai: Improving Processes & People for Enhanced Customer Experience]]> NelsonHall recently visited Sitel at their contact center in Chennai to experience operations at first hand and to discuss the evolving CMS outsourcing industry. Only five months ago, in December 2015, the South Indian floods hit Chennai and access to the Sitel center was blocked. Over 70 employees stayed behind in the office at Ramanujam IT Park, where the company provided beds and food, while traffic was routed to Sitel’s redundancy operations.

The 50,000 sq. ft. (~4,600 sq. m.) facility has seven days of back-up for over 600 production seats and four training rooms. It was established in 2011, five years after Sitel entered the city. Its Chennai location is one of four in India, where it has over 3.5k FTEs, the others being in Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Gurgaon. The company supports the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, and domestic markets with clients from telecom, internet service providers, technology, BFSI, retail, travel and manufacturing sectors.

The Indian operations serve as a CoE for support, and the largest center, in Mumbai, also provides shared services for the group, including corporate finance, global WFM, corporate reporting, and IT development.

The operation in Chennai offers services primarily in English, but the center also has a small French-Canadian group for a telecom client. The center provides customer care, sales, retention and back office services, but its core strength is in technical support over voice, chat, remote assistance, email, and most recently social media such as Twitter, Facebook and online communities.

Continuous process improvement: a client case

For a global antivirus and security software company, Sitel has over 300 dedicated seats working 24/7, delivering levels 1 and 2 technical support since January 2015. Sitel also provides sales and multilingual support from its centers in Manila and Lisbon, and onshore U.S.

Sitel’s Chennai team supports the client’s customers with issues on their PC, tablet and mobile devices, for Android and iOS, maintaining a user community and posting public responses to free and premium support customers. To improve resolution rates, Sitel suggested introducing remote assistance for the level 2 support team and extending the remote access to customer refund cases. Approximately 30% of the inquiries received on the support lines require a technician to remotely access the customer machine. As a result, between Q2 and Q3 2015, NPS score improved from 14 to 37, while CSAT improved from 72% to 80.5%.

As part of a continuous process improvement program for the client, Sitel provides suggestions for the optimization of the knowledge base articles helping the agents in their answers, but also for posting on the public community, which in turn reduces traffic to the support lines. While directly impacting its commercial model, this call reduction is seen by Sitel as a means of strengthening the client relationship.

Due to a business decision by the client, the option for connecting over chat has been limited to premium product customers, and the team supports chat with a mixture of canned and free text responses, running a maximum of three concurrent sessions. Sitel and the client are aiming to drive traffic away from voice and chat to the communities and remote assistance, benefiting from a cost perspective, as agents can run multiple remote sessions, and from better customer experience. Sitel is aiming to reduce its current two hour window for community responses to one hour by September 2016.

Reskilling to address customer channel shift

The shift in customer channel preference has doubled Sitel India’s chat volume at the expense of voice and email, requiring the company to increase the technical knowledge and multi-channel skills of its agents. Sitel has been actively investing in its people development, for example for the antivirus account program, cross-training agents for a blended delivery, both across channels and functions. While not being a dedicated sales center for this program, Sitel Chennai identifies and closes opportunities for up-sells and cross-sell during the support calls.

In the last six months, Sitel has launched a performance monitoring and coaching platform called Sitel 2020, which tracks metrics and identifies coaching needs at individual agent level. For management, it has launched a global e-learning program, Sitel University. It has close to 1k interactive tutorials and instructor-led courses on various topics, from coaching to budgeting and accounting. All team leaders and higher personnel levels are required to undergo certification in order to apply for promotion.

Combining its ability for process improvement with its people development practices, Sitel India is adapting to a more non-voice geared channel mix. It utilizes its experience in technical support and looks to take a greater share in this growing space.

<![CDATA[The Renaissance of Self-Service: Are CMS Vendors Ready?]]> Self-service has long been part of the customer service mix, dating back to user manuals, and progressing to the first IVRs, website FAQs, and experience sharing communities such as Amazon Help. Even though self-service support has a wide range of benefits and savings for consumers and businesses, its adoption has been slow – due partly to technological limitations, and to a tendency to use the self-service channel mainly in the sales process.

However, over the last few years, the spread of high-speed mobile internet, the development of more advanced support tools, and the effects of the 2008 global recession have shifted the focus back to self-service. The biggest catalyst for a more lasting commitment to self-service is the rapid change in the way customers select, buy, and connect with companies. Today, the customer is in control, choosing the path, the time, the channel, and the format of their brand interaction.

The impact of this change on Customer Management Services (CMS) outsourcing providers has the potential for a significant shift in the overall industry.

In our latest research on the global CMS market, we found that the majority of vendors are showcasing new self-service implementations, or overhauling self-service, on behalf of their clients. Examples include:

  • A cable industry provider commissioning IVR redesign from Transcom
  • EGS conducting user experience tests over self-service for the warranty process of an American consumer electronics OEM
  • HGS’ ground-up development of web self-service for a new product line for a technology brand
  • Firstsource’s self-help online community for U.K. MVNO giffgaff.

Most CMS vendors are working on similar projects, and yet self-service still represents a tiny portion of the market, comprising no more than 1-2% of vendors’ revenues.

Traditionally, self-service implementations were limited to in-house customer service departments, but buyers now expect their outsourcing partners to have the capability to consult, develop and deploy it. The more experienced outsourcing sectors of telecom, retail and consumer electronics manufacturers are leading the way. Providers are addressing this new environment by investing heavily, something they are planning to continue for the next 12-18 months. For example, in the summer of 2015, SYKES acquired Dutch company Qelp, developers of self-service software for smartphones. They already have a broad client base and are now looking to integrate this into its offerings.

In reality, both CMS clients and vendors are behind the end-customer’s expectations. Changing customer and competitive pressure, across industry borders, usually from web-first competitors, makes self-service a ‘must have’ channel to meet the expectations of Generation X and Millennial customers. For outsourcing providers, offering self-service is required to stay relevant in the market, increase the stickiness of their relationships with their clients, and compete on delivered results.

Among those results, cost reduction remains a key factor. Most of the current self-service outsourcing projects are being rolled out primarily as a cost-saving alternative or a solution to scaling support, with the promise of delivering on both in the shortest possible period. At the same time, this threatens to cannibalize revenues, competing against labor arbitrage-based delivery, and incentivizes vendors to push for outcome-based or gainshare commercial models and focus more on their consulting and technical capabilities.

All these developments are just the beginning for self-service. Customers require the option to choose between self-service and human support but also want a highly customizable, personalized experience. The expectation for customer service is for contextual, tailored and proactive support in real time, delivered on a mobile-first approach. Currently, optimal customer service delivery is a hybrid model where self-service is the first line of help, followed by a fluid transition to human support.

Entire businesses are being built around this concept. Some of the latest examples include:

  • U.K. app-based Atom bank with its 3D graphics, voice recognition and security via selfies
  • American online discount retailer with real time pricing algorithm based on delivery location.

In response, CMS providers are looking to combine analytics, automation, and machine learning, capable of empowering both agent support and self-service. Sutherland’s avatar-based virtual agent, Xerox’s WDS Virtual Agent, and CSS Corp’s Activei, are few of the standalone tools developed by providers. Many other vendors have integrated (or are working towards creating) proprietary or third-party capabilities in their CMS offerings portfolio, such as HPE Services’ CX On-Demand, Wipro’s Marvel, HGS’ DNA, and Minacs’ ALT CRM.

With the maturity of natural language processing technology, virtual agents will graduate from answering only simple, straightforward questions, and will become capable of engaging in a dialog, thus making virtual agents the most likely contender for a lasting self-service solution.

For customers, this evolution will deliver true self-sufficiency. For companies, it will mean moving self-service from a call deflection instrument to an essential customer experience channel. And for CMS vendors, it will convert self-service from a value-add to a core offering. NelsonHall estimates that over the next four years, self-service will carve out 5% of revenues for CMS providers.

NelsonHall’s latest CMS market analysis report, covering CMS delivery and transformation in detail, has just been published as part of NelsonHall's CMS program. To find out more, contact Guy Saunders.

<![CDATA[Wipro’s Marvel CX: Marrying Automation & Analytics to Improve Customer Experience]]> The biggest advantage of automation in CMS has been the ability to simplify, optimize and remove redundant workflow steps in the contact centers’ internal processes with the goal of improving the customer experience, and an end-game for vendors of increasing the number of value-add projects with their clients.

Wipro’s Marvel CX is aiming to do exactly that. Marvel CX’s components aim to encompass all of the steps in a customer experience (CX) interaction with contact center agents. Introduced a year ago, Marvel CX is Wipro’s answer to inconsistent quality of support across multiple channels and missed opportunities for revenue generation caused by disparate databases and technologies. Marvel CX features include:

  • Unified user interface
  • 360-degree view of the customer
  • Issue anticipation modeler
  • Next-best-action engine
  • Churn management
  • Cross-sell and upsell manager
  • Multi-channel enablement.

A team of ~ 55 business analysts, developers, deployment experts, and implementation specialists analyses the issues and pain points in the CX, proposes process automation alternatives, modifies and customizes the platform, and finally deploys and trains the client agents to use it.

A prime example of Marvel CX deployment is for a global telecom player operating in the U.S. region, as part of a managed services deal. The deal was for a greenfield deployment where Wipro was selected as the sole provider of the technical infrastructure and operations for its customer support division. In this case, Wipro integrated with the client’s core applications Oracle Siebel CRM and BRM, IVR, knowledge base, MNO and DMS. Wipro configured 125 use cases in this solution with the client owning the cloud-based setup. The implementation and operations go-live of this technology and services stack was completed within nine months from the project kick-off.

One of the top call drivers in telecom customer care has always been charge disputes and other billing inquiries. To answer a charge dispute, a customer care agent from the client has to use three applications: the company CRM, a knowledge management tool, and the agents’ internal portal. To verify customer details (including account status and product package) and then to identify the best answer from a decision tree, the agent has to toggle across multiple screens, perform over 30 clicks, which extends the call duration to over 280 seconds. As is common with charge disputes, the answer often does not satisfy the client, and it’s not surprising that even the most experienced agents have very little chance to upsell or cross-sell in such a situation.

Marvel CX addresses this flawed process by serving as a wrapper – a browser based UI – with a single view for the agent. This analytics-driven customer context model has the functionality to identify the reasons for the call based on business rules and then populate the information relevant to that use case. In the billing inquiry case with this telecom client, the platform looks at the billing cycle, average invoice value, and customer interaction patterns across various touch points. Finally, Marvel CX takes into account the current IVR selection to outline anomalies and create a profile for the interaction. The single view shows information on the user profile and history, establishes customer lifecycle state, measures churn propensity and predicts issues in near real-time. Once the agent drills down at the invoice level, the system automatically flags outliers in terms of usage or charges. Using next-best-action prompts, the agent picks an offer or problem resolution.

The agent can also change the presented information between different service groups by switching the product selection, for example from mobile to broadband, forcing the system to refresh the presented information. The agent can also modify and realign the interface, but more importantly enter and update information on-screen.

Through its unified and personalized view, and proactive decision inventory, Marvel CX can affect agent productivity positively, decrease AHT, and increase ASA and FCR, while driving down the interaction cost at an average of 10-15% in a year from the platform deployment. The opportunity for incremental revenue generation increases and Wipro looks for an average of 10 to 15% increase over nine months. Last but not least, because of all these improvements, Wipro predicts a direct positive impact on CSAT.

Wipro delivers Marvel CX through an upfront commitment packaged with the service offering. The company is currently building its pipeline for Marvel CX, including projects for other telecom and travel clients. In 2016 Wipro will continue to develop and invest in the platform and use it as a linchpin of its CMS offerings.

<![CDATA[Minacs’ CRM Ecosystem: Getting Closer to the Customer with ALT CRM]]> Since the first customer and marketing databases in the 80s, to the fully-fledged CRM platforms of the 90s, to the cloud-based CRMs of the 00s and the Social CRM of the 2010s, CRM platforms have had the same goal and challenge – to successfully match customers with companies. With the proliferation of more channels, and changing customer expectations for effortless and real-time interaction, CMS vendors have moved to a platform-agnostic approach using clients’ legacy systems, third-party solutions and proprietary tools, and complementing the missing pieces with analytical engines, campaign management tools and automation scripts.

Minacs has recognized the need for a comprehensive CRM ecosystem and the company’s answer is ALT CRM. ALT CRM combines a Customer Experience Management framework and business operations console. It relies heavily on automation and analytics to deliver what the company calls ‘an intelligent engagement hub’ across multiple channels able to trigger enterprise functions like customer care and marketing, and including customer personalization. ALT CRM is a portfolio of three dozen in-house developments and third-party tools to replace, sit on top of, or integrate with, existing client systems.

Much of Minacs’ focus is on revenue generation, profitability optimization, and customer retention, with differentiated support services and improved responsiveness to customer feedback. ALT CRM aims to predict customer behavior and buying patterns and personalize the communication while the customer transitions between different channels.

Since ALT CRM was first conceptualized over 18 months ago, Minacs had developed and deployed its social module with two clients. The social module is an algorithmic, trigger-based engagement that provides real-time personalized messages on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The tool monitors social media posts, comments and hashtags, segments users based on their social clout, and identifies the sentiment of the message. Then it automatically responds directly within the relevant social channel, without repeating the same messages to the same customer, and factoring the rules and compliance requirements of the channel. These responses are customized based on client business rules. For example, an influential customer posting a strongly negative comment, whose number is stored in the CRM, will receive an outbound call triggered by the platform on the dialer and assigned to an agent with the appropriate skills. In fulfilment cases, it can pull the status of an order by its unique reference number and respond, again via the social channel.

On the dashboard of a multi-skilled agent, the customer social comments and posts are displayed along with the queues of calls, emails and chat sessions, simultaneously creating a single view of the customer with multiple data points. The agent is then allowed to overrule the automatic library of responses and prepare a freeform response or modify a template answer.

With its current deployments, Minacs has witnessed positive client feedback on ALT CRM’s ability to remove the complexity of workforce demand planning for social channels and to provide immediate resolution. The latter problem, especially around escalating negative comments becoming viral, has been one of the main hindrances for social media to evolve into a structured complaints management channel.

Minacs is currently in the process of building templates, and adding languages and use cases for different industries, focusing initially on e-commerce clients. The first step is data aggregation and ALT CRM’s interoperability allows its social module to be plugged into legacy platforms like ERPs, Salesforce and Siebel (to name a few), and collect dashboard information. The company has also found other uses for the platform, running it on its internal HR touch points to predict agent attrition likelihood.

At a time when even end users can benefit from machine learning automation like Google’s Smart Reply, companies are pressured into looking for personalized marketing and customer care solutions which are also scalable. Minacs’ ALT CRM is primed to capture that demand.

<![CDATA[The Edge of Tomorrow: Automation, AI & IoT in the Contact Center]]> The future of contact centers is in automation, self-learning AI, support for IoT, and engaging customers and agents at a new level. These were the major themes at the fourth annual Customer Engagement Summit in London on November 26th. Close to 700 delegates and 60 speakers met to compare notes and listen to success stories in robotics implementations, results driven by analytics, and connecting with customers through the digital channel.

Spencer Kelly, presenter of BBC’s Click programme, and Pepper, a robot with a cloud-based artificial intelligence system, opened the event. And from the start, keynote speakers identified several technology trends with direct impact on customer service:

  • Augmented reality
  • Virtual reality
  • Wearables
  • Self-diagnosed IoT
  • Automation
  • Location awareness.

Spencer Kelly gave an example of how all these tech developments find their way into the contact center with Amelia, a virtual call centre agent. The AI computing system was designed by IPsoft in 2014 and collects data and employs speech analytics to answer customer questions. Its self-learning mode is designed to transfer calls which it cannot answer to human agents and use these conversations to increase its knowledge base. Amelia can “understand” context in multiple languages and accept workflow charts as process instructions.

Next, journalist and blogger Mark Hillary grounded the conversation, pointing out that while the customer journey is changing, it is still predominantly based on voice interactions.

Here, the important change is that customers are now driving the engagement with brands, choosing when, how and through which channel to interact with their “customer experience supplier”. An example of the impact of the omni-channel is seen even in industries like automotive. While it used to take eight visits to the car dealership to complete a sale, now consumers do their research online, making an average of 1.2 visits in store before purchasing their car.

One of the streams at Engage Summit was dedicated to financial services. Analysis of the Voice of the Customer has been driving changes in retail banking for a while, but companies like Confirmit aim to expand this scope to bank employees capturing sentiments and internal adoption of Customer Experience (CX) initiatives. Russ Powles of Lloyds spoke of the bank’s journey in claims and complaints management under new regulations, and the simple but effective tandem use of channels – sending notification SMS messages to customers who will be contacted later in the day for a collection call.

Barclays’ Digital Eagles have garnered a lot of publicity in the last year for the successful digital engagement of less technically savvy customers. Dave Shepherd, the Frontline Help Director at Barclays, spoke of the learning curve the organization went through. Starting by distributing ten thousand tablets to its branches, Barclays discovered that staff were often apprehensive of the new technology and chose to ignore it. Digital Eagles came as a direct response, conducting one to one training, resulting in 12k employees who are now ready to help end users, especially the more elderly, to adopt online and mobile banking.   

Starting CX transformation by winning employee engagement was also Sean Risebrow of NewsUK’s theme. He shared a story about the impact of a simple service – “an act of random kindness” for both employees and customers – reprinting The Times newspaper from the birthdate of the customer. Sean’s advice was straightforward: prove the economic benefit of the CX and set up a timeline for achieving these benefits.

In a more contact center focused case study, Virgin Media’s Chris Beeson spoke of the struggle the company went through to identify text analytics technology, having assessed over 60 vendors. Today, the company combines its in-house tool with third party Lexalytics’ tool to analyze NPS feedback responses, aiming for 80% accuracy to speed up actionable steps and instigate change in the CX.

The evolving and increasing contact channels permeated many of the discussions. Stuart Dorman of Sabio highlighted some of the latest developments such as Facebook Messenger and the brand’s responsiveness ranking, and Google’s WebRTC, an open source browser-to-browser communication application, which allows calling a company directly from the search results page.

The idea of the connected home has become mainstream, and British Gas’s Hive is one of the pioneers in the U.K. with its heating and control thermostat. Kim Ratcliffe, who heads customer service at British Gas, spoke about their low key start a year ago with voice, email, and a few dozen agents, which expanded to over 400 staff and 250k customers currently. The constantly evolving support is driven by customers using, for example, bi-weekly customer blogs to loop feedback to developers for the next iteration of the product while bringing in additional contact channels like in-app chat, live FAQs and video conferencing.

Being an early entrant with own smart device support, or utilizing some of the existing tools, is the next challenge in IoT support. However, Unilever is looking to avoid this step completely. Megan Neale, Global Head of Customer Engagement, claimed that Unilever is largely skipping the latest developments in support technology: their 700 agents across 53 global centers, supporting 400 brands, are looking into virtual reality and, more tangibly, are using Amazon Echo – a wireless speaker and voice command device – to drive brand awareness and product support.

Events like Engage Summit are inevitably focused on the future with little attention on the current, less sexy problems. Perennial issues like agent attrition or cost-cutting pressure rarely find a place in such conferences, where the next tech breakthroughs are the centre of attention. Still, the more down-to-earth voices at the Summit suggested that the new tech solutions will affect the support workforce, and only businesses focused on developing and engaging its employees will benefit. The rise of the NPS Superhero, the SuperAgent, or just a proactive floor staff, are also highly important alongside the development of shiny robots like Pepper.

The consensus at Engage Summit was that CX has reached the agenda of executive boards. Slogans like “Customer Experience is the new marketing” are entering the corporate lingo. While the largest taxi company without any cars, or the largest accommodation chain without any property, are becoming less of a novelty, established businesses are struggling to retain and add value to a global, more educated, and ultimately less loyal customer. A healthy balance of existing contact center tools, new tech solutions, and a knowledgeable workforce can be the answer.

<![CDATA[Sutherland Labs: Getting Under the Skin of Customer Behavior]]> Minutes away from London’s Covent Garden, housed in a five-storey converted banana warehouse, is Sutherland Customer Experience Labs. This is an independent creative agency with its own P&L, offering customer experience mapping, idea generation and solution testing to Sutherland Global Services. However, three quarters of its business comes from external clients: delivering design and customer experience projects for banks and financial institutions, online and brick & mortar retailers, consumer goods and electronics manufacturers, media and entertainment brands, transport companies, hospitals and governmental agencies.   

The 20-strong team at Sutherland Labs is led by psychologist and anthropologist Owen Daly-Jones, who ran the Serco Experience Lab for 18 years, and the team has an overall average of 14 years’ experience. The team is multi-disciplinary, including researchers, social scientists, UX design experts, typography experts, filmmakers and photographers. They conduct traditional customer journey mapping and user preference analysis with focus groups and ‘voice of the customer’ surveys, but also go beyond conventional marketing techniques with video ethnography, diary studies and persona development.

Customer Experience (CX) labs are becoming a staple for CMS outsourcing vendors. In an attempt to move higher up the value chain and strengthen client relationships, vendors have opened dedicated CX labs to perform industry research, channel analytics, and specific market analysis, including analysis of data relating to customers’ preferences and interactions with brands. Sutherland Labs are not the pioneers in the space, but their approach is different.

For years the CMS industry has been capturing customer opinion through Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS). And while the proliferation of social media and the growth of non-voice channels has increased the number of customer interaction points to track, the development of more advanced analytics tools has made the process easier. Every large BPO player provides solutions (either proprietary or via partners) to track all of these customer interactions in order to identify actionable pain points and sales opportunities. Combined with usability tests and post-exposure interviews, or more innovative approaches such as speech analytics and eye tracking, the result is that companies now have a much better understanding of their customers’ behaviour.

However, the fundamental problem of predicting accurately the correlation between declared intentions and customers’ ultimate actions remains. As Daly-Jones explains, while companies have lots of data to tell them what their customers are doing, they still don’t know why customers make the decisions they do. The reasons for this mismatch can be traced to the way people build and retain memories of their interactions with brands, but also to embedded biases and the psychological make-up of the individual.

Sutherland Labs is looking to understand what triggers customer actions, and to explore unspoken behaviors. One of the techniques used to achieve this is to shadow customers in their daily routines, observing them at home, in the workplace, and in public spaces, in order to witness brand usage patterns. Once insights are captured through video documentaries, the researchers present their findings to the creative teams who then generate solutions to specific pain points.

The problems with which Daly-Jones and his team deal are often new, emerging from evolving technologies or changing user behaviors. Also, the issues are not necessarily unique to a specific industry, and brands are more and more willing to learn from best practices outside their own industry.

Examples of problems analyzed from the perspective of behavioral disposition include:

  • Building rapport with  music brand customers over webchat
  • Decreasing agent attrition rate in a Sutherland contact center
  • Increasing response rates to a government healthcare campaign in Australia.

In each case, Sutherland Labs researchers were able to explore unspoken habits, analyzing the context and the detail of each interaction, rather than relying on what customers declare as their satisfaction level with the brand.

With CX consulting capabilities becoming more ingrained in the offerings of BPO providers, Sutherland Customer Experience Labs wants to differentiate itself by providing deeper analysis beyond already captured data. And to deal with the increased demand for such services, Sutherland Labs is opening a second location in San Francisco at the beginning of 2016, and has similar plans for the U.S. East Coast and Asia-Pacific.

<![CDATA[Risk & Reward: The Rise of the Turkish CMS Market]]> Webhelp recently entered the Turkish CMS outsourcing market with the acquisition of Callpex, a move that is set to bring an additional €20m (~$20m) in annual revenue against its global revenue of ~$648m (2014 NelsonHall estimate). Callpex has 2,000 employees and 40 clients, and will bring with it logos in the BFSI, telecom, travel and automotive sectors, primarily in the domestic market. These include Garanti Bank (Turkey’s second largest private bank), Avea (the newest Turkish mobile operator), Pegasus Airline (a Turkish low cost carrier), and Borusan (a Turkish industrial group). Established in 2008, the company has a 2,500 seat capacity in Istanbul, Bingöl and in three different locations in the city of Yozgat, and ranks among the larger players in Turkey’s contact center industry.

This acquisition is the latest international-backed entry in the Turkish CMS outsourcing market in the last few years. The most notable deals include the 2013 co-investment by Japan’s Mitsui in the 1,500-agent company, Tempo. In the same year, Italian Comdata acquired the 1,400-employee CallUs from KoçSistem. In 2011, Xerox entered the market with the acquisition of Benelux Unamic/HCN and 250 agents in Istanbul and Antalya. And in 2010, Teleperformance purchased a majority share in Metis, a 900-agent CMS provider. Other multinational players expanding into Turkey include Arvato with 1,900 agents, and Atos, who are running outbound campaigns for the banking sector with 1,000 FTEs.

Turkey has more than a thousand contact centers led by the likes of Turkcell Global Bilgi (~12k FTEs across 24 centers in Turkey, Russia and Ukraine), and Turk Telecom’s AssisTT (~10k FTEs). In addition, multinationals including Vodafone, Lufthansa, ING Bank and DHL run in-house customer care and technical support centers out of Istanbul, the Black Sea and Central Anatolian regions.

According to the Turkish Call Center Association, the CMS industry employed ~50,000 people in 2014. This is a significant increase from 8,000 in 2007, though still a relatively low number for a population of 79 million. With the ratio of people to contact center seats standing at just 1,100 to 1, Turkey is still way below the average for continental Europe (200-400 to 1) and far from the U.K.’s ratio of 100 to 1. Hence, the Turkish CMS industry has a lot of room to expand. NelsonHall estimates CMS revenues in Turkey at ~$638m for fiscal 2014, and forecasts 5.8% growth (CAAGR) for the period 2015 to 2019.

Companies like Webhelp and others venturing into the relatively unknown Turkish CMS outsourcing market face a high-risk/high-reward environment. On the risk side, Turkey presents a variety of challenges, including political and civil turbulence and regional instability. On the up-side, growth opportunities are certainly there, fueled by increased domestic demand and the emergence of the country as a nearshore destination. This is evidenced by Teleperformance who, after entering Turkey, has expanded organically to ~1,700 agents, claiming revenue growth of 120% CAGR in the five years to 2014.

The Turkish Call Center Association estimates a workforce potential of 350,000 agents by 2023. And with 73% of the current contact center population aged under 30, the possibility for labor arbitrage, proximity to Europe, and government incentives for the underdeveloped regions, the Turkish CMS outsourcing market looks set for continued growth.

<![CDATA[Capita’s Offer to Xchanging: How it Makes Sense]]> On October 14, the Xchanging board recommended a final cash offer by Capita of 160p per share. The offer, valuing Xchanging at ~£412m, represents a premium of ~44% to the closing price on October 2, 2015 (the last business day before the start of the offer period), 52% to the prior three-month average price and 64% to the one-month average price. 

Capita states it believes the acquisition would:

  • Position Capita as a leading provider of technology-enabled BPS
  • Provide a stronger platform for Xchanging to accelerate sales growth and to develop its offerings
  • Enable Capita to secure £35m+ in cost synergy benefits
  • Be immediately earnings accretive.

Capita has been in discussions with Xchanging since early August regarding a possible offer, upping its initial 140p offer to its final 160p proposal on September 24 - which Xchanging’s board confirmed it would be willing to recommend on September 29 should Capita make a firm offer. Capita was granted due diligence access and had until 5pm on November 2 to make an announcenent.

There is another suitor, Apollo, with whom Xchanging has been having discussions about a potential 170p offer. Will this announcement push Apollo into making a counter offer? Xchanging's share price has surged since the news of the potential talks (over 165p at the time of writing, though still below its one-year peak).

Xchanging has been contending with a range of issues, and its global portfolio lacks coherence, partly a reflection of its heritage in a few large and diverse “Enterprise partnerships”. Xchanging is currently between CEOs, Ken Lever having announced his intention in July to step down at the end of the year, and new CEO Craig Wilson not yet started.

If Capita were to complete, this would be its largest ever acquisition, dwarfing its second largest, the £157m acquisition of avocis this February (though there have been a number of £50m+ acquisitions since 2011, helping Capita expand into new markets or extend its IT capabilities).  So why is Capita so interested?  

In recent years, Xchanging has repositioned and invested to emphasize its capabilities in “technology-enabled BPS”- exactly what Capita is emphasizing with its own various BPO offerings.  Also, the private sector is increasingly important to Capita (over 60% of its current pipeline is in commercial sectors) and Xchanging would increase its presence in the Lloyds market, where Capita already has a presence for specialist services.

Looking in more detail at Xchanging assets that would be attractive – or at least very relevant - to Capita:

  1. Xuber software suite for the non-life commercial market: the biggest investment to date (a whopping $200m+ in total investments since 2011), both in platform development and in acquisitions: in 2014, Xchanging invested £75.6m in acquiring Total Objects, whose binder software is now integrated into the Xuber suite, and Agencyport Europe,extending its software into the health insurance sector, with software for international private medical insurance and exposure modeling (acquisition was delayed), plus a further £11.7m on development of Xuber. Xchanging has found converting interest in Xuber to sales more challenging than anticipated, particularly in the U.S. Will Capita’s greater commercial clout help? It would inherit sales teams from Xuber, Total Objects and Agencyport Europe that need integrating into a single unit to cross-sell, where relevant, the portfolio. Would Capita place the Xuber business in its newest operating division “Capita Digital and Software Solutions”, or would it place it in an insurance sector division?
  2. The Xchanging Claims Services BPS unit : Capita is already active with a range of specialist services in the London insurance market: this capability would neatly expand its portfolio
  3. Xchanging’s business in Germany, where it provides investment account administration BPS for Fondespot Bank, will also be of interest to Capita, who is building a presence in the DACH region, via an acquisition spree in the CMS BPS market, also via an insurance BPS contract with Zurich. The complex administration services in Germany that Xchanging would bring in to Capita would fit well in its Asset Services division
  4. Procurement: Xchanging has been through a significant change of direction with its procurement services in recent years, to technology-led offerings, boosted by the acquisitions of MM4 (which was U.S centric) and Spikes Cavell Analytics Ltd (SCAL, which was U.K public sector centric). These offerings may find traction in the Capita client base
  5. Expanded offshore IT services capabilities: in India, Xchanging has centers in Chennai and Pune, Bangalore, and tier 3 cities such as Shimoga (Karnataka).  It also has a center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, most providing IT infrastructure services to YTL Communications, and a smaller ADM unit in Singapore (where Capita also has a small presence, targeting the reinsurance sector). There is also some offshore BPO activity in India and Malaysia. Capita may rationalize some of these sites, but would certainly be interested in the expanded offshore application services and BPO delivery capabilities
  6. IT services: Xchanging has some networking capabilities, with a client base in the education and health sectors, as well as Lloyds – this would fit well into the Capita IT Enterprise Services division, which has grown through a series of acquisitions in recent years

And less attractive to Capita?

  • The Australian operations, where Xchanging’s New South Wales Workers’ Compensation contract was not renewed, and where its procurement business has not really gained traction.
  • The U.S. business: Capita’s international efforts are currently focused on Northern Europe. It would be a major change of strategy for Capita to start targeting the U.S., and its management will be highly aware of other service providers who have tried and failed to penetrate the U.S.

But overall, Xchanging’s portfolio is particularly well suited to Capita's business and where it is looking to develop over the next few years. And the cost synergies from the head office rationalization are also a particularly good match.  

We thus believe is highly unlikely that, even if there is a higher counter offer from Apollo, the Xchanging board will change it recommendation to shareholders: Capita presents a better option longer term. Howver, a counter offer from another IT services vendor might be more attractive.

NelsonHall has just published a comprehensive Key Vendor Assessment on Capita. We have also historically included Xchanging in the KVA program.