Since Wim Van de Velde took over as CEO of N-Allo a year ago, his human vision and strong communication skills have helped to bring a breath of fresh air to the company.
Given his experience and the fact that this is still a relatively new challenge for him, we were intrigued to learn more about his thoughts and observations. Here are three of his standout ideas.
1. There’s always room for growth
The contact centre industry is undergoing radical change, and adapting to this change poses a challenge for N-Allo as well as its competitors.
The biggest challenge is trying to grow in a sector that appears to offer no further scope for growth. In a market where most of the big players – the traditional users of contact centre services – have been working with dedicated partners for years and are also focusing heavily on digitalisation (meaning lower call volumes), is it even possible to grow your business?
At first glance it seems that the only way left to achieve growth is by snatching big contracts from rival firms. But take a closer look and there is actually still plenty of growth potential in the world of customer contact outsourcing.
Need for customer experience expertise is gaining in importance and credibility
In general, customers are becoming more and more demanding when it comes to service and are increasingly proactive in deciding when and how they choose to contact their brand or supplier. Consequently, our area of expertise – dealing with customers through all possible contact channels – is gaining in importance. Over the past year, for example, we’ve seen a lot of demand from companies that were moving away from an in-house solution or that had never used our services before. They felt that now was the time to outsource their customer contacts to us so that they could focus more on their own core business.
Why not differentiate your customer portfolio?
Another way forward is to diversify more. Currently, we work mainly for the utilities and télécoms industry and to a lesser extent the banking, insurance and commercial sector, but we undoubtedly have the in-house experience to offer an excellent service to other sectors too. The health and pharmaceutical sector is one example. Another is e-commerce: Internet companies and parcel delivery firms interact heavily with their customers, making them valuable potential growth areas. In any case, we will continue to professionalise our commercial approach. Our business development team is particularly strong on this.
2. Further developing our employees
In a sector that has evolved in recent times into an omnichannel service, we aim to set ourselves apart from the competition with our many years of expertise, top-quality staff and strong innovative solutions: three clear product lines that offer our clients better quality, a lower cost to serve, and above all a more differentiated and pleasant experience for their end customers.
Leveraging human capital is more important than ever
Leveraging human capital remains vital. This is also true for contact centres – despite, or because of, digitalisation. Yes, we are moving in the direction of digital communication, but in my opinion digitalisation (chatbots, artificial intelligence, etc.) will not simply replace person-to-person interaction in contact centres. Instead it will complement it. Self-service will increasingly be used to resolve simple, repetitive issues, but more complex problems will continue to require human interaction. After all, bots are not known for their empathy! And as digitalisation makes human contact less frequent, those contacts that we do have will become more important. This will make the job of contact centre agent more complex, but at the same time richer and more differentiated, with a greater focus on emotional intelligence and human brand ambassadorship.
Also, as the sector changes, so the profiles of the people working in it will change too. Applications such as chatbots require input from human hands and heads. New types of job will therefore emerge. It is up to us to nurture our human capital and help it to evolve, for example through talent management and customised training. To some extent, technological developments are an opportunity for us to reinvent ourselves and the customer adviser’s role.
Happy employees make for happy customers
Omnichannel and technological developments within the sector will see the job of customer adviser upgraded to an expert role. Whereas in the past “anyone” could do the job, in future only those with specific skill sets will be considered. This will make the job more rewarding and less monotonous, meaning greater job satisfaction for employees. Which is more important than ever, given the recent increase in retirement age.
Doing everything we can to promote work satisfaction is also one of our main tasks as an employer. Not only because it’s better for our employees, but also because we believe it makes for happier customers too. That’s why we offer homeworking and training opportunities and try to make the most of the talents and qualities of our employees.
N-Allo has very low employee turnover because our people are attached to our company and the brands we work for. Many of our staff have been with us for years. They have evolved with the market, developing from call agents into customer experience experts who work on an omnichannel basis using all current communication channels.
Once regarded as limited and dull, the job of customer adviser is acquiring increasing prestige. Customer advisers are experts in customer experience, who give the best of themselves every day for your customers, your brand or for you as a customer.
3. On top of technology: Check!
Our profession is changing all the time and will continue to do so. It is one in which human expertise, as well as technology, will play an increasingly important role. If your company can’t evolve and innovate, it won’t survive. To outsiders, it might seem like a dumb move for a contact centre to embrace the digitalisation of customer contacts, given that telephone contact was our core business. But the operative word here is “was”. Things have changed. N-Allo has always maintained an open vision, we’ve always been at the forefront of developing self-service solutions and launching new communication channels, whether that be social media, chat, messaging, and so on.
Technology these days is moving fast. We believe in going with the flow when it comes to artificial intelligence, the development of bots and the use of speech-to-text technology, but perhaps unlike in the past we’re no longer able, or willing, to develop everything fully in-house. If we want to stay ahead of the competition, the best way forward is to work with leading technology partners – on a freelance basis in some cases, as many digital talents are no longer willing to commit to a permanent employer.
Artificial intelligence may be gaining in importance, but I firmly believe that the human aspect will never disappear.
A I will merely provide additional tools for our people to support our customers even more effectively.
— Wim Van de Velde
Success for N-Allo will lie in its ability to run efficient omnichannel contact centre activities. Which means, above all, a combination of happy employees, with the right skills, supported by the right technology.