October 3, 2017 was a very busy day. I was flying to Australia for the OpenStack Summit. I had two stories to publish before I departed. I had to pack. I am a late packer.
Oh! That was also the day when Apple released the iPhone X. I had pre-ordered mine under T-mobile’s Jump on Demand plan. I worked with T-Mobile and UPS so that I could pick the phone from a UPS local facility at 8am on 3rd, the same day it was going to hit the stores. I played with the phone, wrote a review and packed.
At around 11.30 right before leaving for the airport, I planned to sync my Google Music to the iPhone X so I could listen to it offline during the flight. I could not. I have multiple mobile devices. I get a ton of devices to review. I ran out of the number of devices one could sync. I could not deactivate any of those devices so I could add the iPhone X. What to do? Call Google. I called Google and the nice lady on the other side of the call understood my problem and said she would work with the technical team and see what they could do. Usually this kind of escalation takes time. I was running out of time. By the time I finished the call, all of my devices were deactivated. I synced my iPhone X.
The point of the story is to highlight the importance of support. Without the swift response from Google I would have despised Google Music. In fact, while I was on the call I purchased a subscription to Apple Music so that I would have some music on my device. But the Google Support team came to my rescue. I ended up loving Google Music even more that I already did. I knew that when I needed them, they would be there. Support is like a fire extinguisher. You don’t need it all the time. But you need it that one time, when a fire breaks out. And that is critical.
When we look at all these new companies like Airbnb that are experiencing an explosive growth thanks to modern technologies like cloud and container, we often overlook that with growth comes a growing customer base. A growing customer base means growing support calls. How do these companies scale support?
Cost cutting vs revenue generation
Traditionally, organizations turn to outsourcing companies for technical support and customer experience. They see it as a cost cutting measure. It’s more like washing their hands from supporting their own customers. There are many problems with the traditional BPO industry.
Historically, outsourcing is seen as a cost cutting measure through labor arbitrage. Voxpro, an Irish BPO company is changing that. “There is a difference between helping companies scale as opposed to helping them maximize profit by optimizing some of their back office processes through outsourcing,” said Brian Hannon, Chief Commercial Officer of Voxpro, a technical support and customer service provider.
Unlike traditional BPO companies, Voxpro focuses more on offering excellent customer experience that helps in revenue generation instead of cost cutting.
Either way, the traditional BPO model of ‘cost cutting’ doesn’t work for many modern companies these days. These companies don’t have a process to be optimized. What they really need is a business partner who can take them by the hand and solve problems for them. These companies need help in designing their products. They need someone to help them scale rapidly so they can remain market leaders through excellent customer experience.
We live in a software driven, digitally connected world. It’s a hypercompetitive world. Competition can come from anywhere and in any form. One way of staying ahead of potential competitors is through customer loyalty. If people love your brand, they are not going to switch. Companies are beginning to realize the importance of experience for their customers. Cost cutting is less important than customer acquisition, customer retention and customer loyalty. It ultimately leads to revenue generation.
“So we’re on the flip side of the coin of the BPO industry,” said Hannon, “we help revenue generating as opposed to cost saving. Yes, we also help with cost saving, but the core focus is around revenue generation.”
“Airbnb preferred to have 100 people who loved them than 1 million people who liked them”
The first impression should be the lasting impression
Customer loyalty comes through deeper engagement between the company and its customers. Ironically, BPO companies are the primary points of contacts between a company and its customer.
If you don’t have deeper engagement with your customer, you won’t have a loyal customer base and a strong competitive advantage.
“When Airbnb started off, they prepared to have a hundred people who loved them and a million people who liked them,” said Hannon. “They wanted to create a great experience. The whole philosophy of beautiful customer experience is what has defined them.”
As a partner of Airbnb, Voxpro delivered that. Hannon said that Voxpro is very much focused on excellent customer experiences rather than how productive the staff is or how efficient the process is.
“You get only one opportunity to actually engage the customer and make them love the brand,” he said, “so we want every engagement that we have to drive people to love the brand more effectively.” That appreciation comes from somewhere else. It’s not just about helping customers with their problems but also by educating them about the product itself. “We have seen that in most cases customers are not aware of all the features and functionalities of the product or service they are using. It could enhance their overall experience. So we also invest time in educating users about the product. When you learn that you can do more than what you expected, you kind of start loving it.”
The traditional BPO model has a cultural problem. There is a disconnect between the culture of the company and that of the BPO organization. There is a conflict among three different cultures – the culture of the company, the culture of the BPO company and the culture of the user calling for support.
How often do you feel that you are actually talking to someone at Google or Airbnb and not from some outsourcing company? Many BPO companies try to fully absorb the culture of their client in order to offer a ‘vanilla’ experience to customers. That’s a mistake. Now the employees who work for these BPOs are as confused as their customer. They don’t know whether they work for Google, for example, or the BPO company. There is an identity crisis.
Voxpro has taken a totally different approach. Firstly, Voxpro is very careful about picking their clients. They choose companies who have cool brands; brands that Voxpro employees would love to work with. On top of that, Voxpro looks “for companies that are interested in customer experience. The customer experience should be equally important as the product and service itself,” said Hannon.
There is a saying that you are known by the company you keep. The companies that Voxpro works with are some of the most innovative companies in the market. Working with these companies breed positivity within Voxpro. “These companies are literally changing the world around us. They are scaling so fast, there is so much dynamics that it creates a lot positive energy. That’s something you don’t see anywhere else in the BPO industry,” he said, “It’s very exciting for our employees.”
Imbibing the culture
Secondly, Voxpro strikes a balance between its own culture and the culture of its partners. “We believe that our culture is just as important as their culture,” said Hannon.
“When we create an environment for our offices, physically it could look like a marketing agency of a PR agency. But it has a very strong influence of Voxpro culture and ethos,” said Hannon. “Then we bring in the culture of our partners. Unlike traditional BPOs where employees are confused about who they actually work for, at Voxpro they are very much aware that they work for both.”
To further bridge the cultural gap, Voxpro chooses the locations of its offices to attract the best talents that can serve its partners. Some of these locations are only 1-2 hour drive away from their partners. “Teams from partner companies visit us and spend time with our employees to talk about the services that we are providing to customers. It also helps build deeper relationships and engage with the people who are serving their customers,” said Hannon.
At the edge of tomorrow
Working with some of the most innovative companies has its own set of advantages and challenges. Voxpro has to keep up with the latest technologies and trends to be able to serve its partners. If you are serving Google Suite customer, you are not only an expert in those technologies, but you have to be fully educated about what’s coming next.
“We are extremely receptive of information coming from all directions. Our management team is pretty big on knowledge sharing in terms of accessing key aspects of what’s happening into the future,” said Hannon.
Knowledge is power. Voxpro uses this knowledge not only to help its partners but also to improve its own infrastructure. Voxpro is deploying modern technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to solve a lot of problems through self service and automation.
Voxpro may be serving some of the most disruptive and innovative companies around us. It may be working with companies that are changing the world around us. The fact is, Voxpro itself is disrupting the BPO industry. Its changing the world too.
Innovation is contagious.