At its best, globalization increases productivity and enhances margins for a more competitive product offering. At its worst, it can destroy customer satisfaction, decrease employee loyalty and put huge strains on corporate culture.
Hundreds of established companies have wrestled with the impact of Business Process Outsourcing since the trend took off during the last two decades. It’s not an easy process and those who ultimately make it work go through inevitable growing pains.
It takes leadership who listens and an acute understanding of how to meld technology, business processes and people into a winning combination. Companies who elevate the needs and experience of customers are the only companies who win in the BPO game.
In the real time communications space, telecom expense management company Avotus looked to outsource some of its business processes, hiring a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firm. We caught up with Avotus CEO James Martino recently to understand their experiences.
“In the early stages, the lure of low cost labor drove decisions which moved certain functions to our BPO partner,” CEO James Martino said. Martino began assessing the relationship as part of his new role in the company several years ago.
“It became immediately clear that sales, marketing and lead generation where not well suited to outsourcing, and while per-employee costs were lower, more people were required to get work done,” Martino added.
Challenges with the transfer of certain skill sets and experience also affected customer satisfaction.
“One of the primary challenges was that service delivery was perceived to be lacking by 2011 when I arrived at Avotus,” Martino explained. “Customers weren’t happy and churn showed it. There were cultural challenges and employees stressed by the uncertainty of the changes the company was making. They were guarded and anxious, as can be expected.”
Martino began racking up airline miles rotating through the company’s offices in the U.S., Canada and India.
“I went to evaluate the operations but mostly I went to listen and build personal relationships with the teams so I could understand the history of the organization and its strengths and weaknesses in the moment. On my second rotation, I began my focus on being ultra-transparent with employees and communicating our driving principles.” Martino quickly set up a high quality collaboration platform for the team to address communications and cultural gaps. “When not traveling we used Unified Communications technology to humanize our global team in an effort to unite the diverse offices around common challenges,” Martino said.
Every day he rallied the entire team around customer satisfaction as the driving force for all hiring and placement decisions.
“I made it eminently clear that the greatest source of job security at Avotus would be a function of our overall success in pleasing our clients and growing the business,” he said.
From a market perspective, Avotus was still dealing with the bankruptcy of Nortel, a key sales channel and technology partner contributing to decreasing revenue from its entrenched base of clients who used Avotus’ Reporting and Analytics software with their Nortel products.
The company needed to diversify its channel distribution and technology partner strategies while simultaneously dealing with the BPO challenges. It also needed to create new products and Use cases for its solutions to keep pace with the market movement to Voice over IP and Unified Communication technologies.
Meeting the Challenges – Right Shoring
Avotus’ board recruited Martino, a veteran operational and strategic leader, to lead the company’s global operations in 2011 by jump starting the turn-around process.
He executed a strategic plan focused on achieving superior customer satisfaction to establish the cornerstone for a more elaborate turn around program.
“Within a year, our Net Promoter Scores climbed, and we took the unprecedented step to publish the results of our annual C-sat surveys to our customers as part of rebuilding trust.”
Martino was subsequently appointed as CEO in 2014 to continue the effort in a more expansive manner.
“Our guiding principal – to provide all products, services and support in the best interest of the customer – is working. We called our new philosophy “Right Shoring.”
Martino began overhauling the company’s image both internally and externally, by instilling a commitment to operational and service delivery excellence.
“This was so much more than developing a new mission statement or rallying the team with town hall meetings,” Martino said. “We transformed our culture, our way of working, our communications and our focus – which lead to the transformation of our business.”
While Martino went about revamping all customer interactive processes, including IVRs (which now support both French and English), contact centers, and messaging (with both an English and French website), getting it right also meant tackling the cultural challenges of globalization in a positive way to bring the international team together around a common vision.
“I had to be available and so I got on a lot of planes,” Martino explained. “I had to personalize the experience. I ate with employees. We started creating video meetings and sharing with the other offices. We had to see one another as people, as part of a team. I had to think very deliberately about how we were going to make globalization work for Avotus, not anyone else – Avotus. I am, and always will be, pro-Avotus above all else. What is right for the Avotus customer? I had to be consistent on that theme.”
The Measurement is the Message: Leveraging Net Promoter Scores
The Right Shoring concept is about striking the right balance and committing to all employees that job placement and growth will be determined with a high priority on how it will impact the customer. But how does one measure this?
NPS is a management tool that Avotus uses to gauge the loyalty of the firm's customer relationships, as it becomes an increasingly popular way to measure customer satisfaction compared to direct competitors and across entire industries.
The company’s latest NPS results show that 85 percent of Avotus’ Expense Management Wireless Helpdesk (EM WHD) customers and 97 percent of its Usage Management Helpdesk (UMHD) customers responded that they were either satisfied or extremely satisfied with the services.
When asked if they would go further and recommend Avotus products, 80 percent of EM WHD clients and 98 percent of UMHD clients stated they would. As a comparison, Microsoft reports an NPS of 54 percent and Avaya reports an NPS of 65 percent, according to NPS Benchmarks (www.benchmarks.com).
Avotus will continue to take the bold step of publishing theses scores annually.
“We created a cornerstone by improving service delivery,” Martino said. “We’re surveying our customers and publishing the results. It doesn’t get more transparent than that. The employees themselves were unsure of the quality of our service delivery and customer satisfaction - not anymore. We removed the excuses, focused on our service delivery and commitment to the customer. This was the foundation of our turnaround.”