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In an emerging world managed by bots, TELUS International’s culture tells us why humans still matter

TBR perspective

Since the dawn of outsourcing, BPO has allowed enterprise buyers to trust third-party providers with the support of many internal and external processes. While in the past, the risk associated with managing IT and business assets was heavily weighted toward the buyer, in today’s age, where social media is leveraged as a sounding board for both positive and negative customer experiences, there is a heightened expectation for services vendors to deliver brand promises. During its 14-year tenure as an active participant in the CX support services market, TELUS International has successfully navigated the ever-changing dynamics of the BPO space by investing heavily in its employees. The company has an average annual attrition rate of approximately 25%, which is about 50% below the BPO industry average, as its employees and executives trade on trust and share a common goal of servicing customers. Deploying and managing learning and collaboration platforms globally as well as adopting many of the same technologies used to support clients, TELUS International’s approach to people, processes and technology shapes the company’s culture in the era of the machines. While the CX support space has been augmented by the increased use of AI-based technologies and one might consider the BPO industry to be highly commoditized from a labor arbitrage perspective, TELUS International continues to build a human-centric culture that empowers staff (most of whom are millennials) to take charge of their careers while also being brand ambassadors in their local communities. Touring TELUS International’s Las Vegas delivery site, which is one of the company’s 27 global hubs, during the event helped bring TELUS International’s strategy and vision around its employees and investments in innovation to life, further supporting the “from slides to code” trend TBR has observed in the industry over the past 18 to 24 months.

Moving forward, we expect TELUS International to continue executing on its standardized approach to customers’ digital enablement and to carefully select and manage its client base, including pursuing opportunities with enterprises that are also involved with approving TELUS International employee recruitment and training. As the BPO market evolves, the emergence of new pricing models, including outcome-, subscription- and license-based pricing, will compel the company to take on additional risk and retune stakeholders’ expectations around its P&L profile. As a result, TELUS International will need to continue its transformation into an increasingly automation-enabled organization with agent capabilities. 

At its inaugural Analyst Summit, TELUS International brought together industry analysts, company executives and clients. The company used the two-day event to prove why, according to President and CEO Jeff Puritt, TELUS International is the “best kept secret” when it comes to company culture, employee engagement and customer satisfaction in the highly competitive customer experience (CX)-enabled BPO market, especially in the area of talent.  

As customer zero, Accenture employs an innovation-led approach to ease concerns of clients investing to scale DT

TBR perspective

As emerging technologies become a pervasive part of both IT and line-of-business leaders’ daily agendas, Accenture’s value proposition, amplified through the Accenture Innovation Architecture, positions the company to successfully address the complexity of clients’ IT systems, including through educating employees and optimizing, automating and managing the systems. Accenture’s outlook as well as the company’s investments in solutions that navigate post-digital era operations are backed by 30 years of experience supporting IT systems and working to alleviate clients’ concerns around disruption and transformation. Being customer zero, in many cases, helps Accenture showcase successful use cases of innovation-led transformation at scale where people, processes and technology can drive toward industrialized operations. Accenture recognizes that clients’ business priorities vary, but by deploying common frameworks such as cloud-first approaches, design thinking workshops and automation maturity assessments, among others, the company can continue to trade on trust with its clients, thus easing the introduction of capabilities and use cases in new areas such as blockchain and quantum computing.

With innovation, however, comes challenges. Accenture vigorously addresses hurdles such as data quality, staff skills and systems adaptation and encourages clients to do a hard reset of their IT department to close the innovation achievement gap. In the long-term battle for dominance in the IT services space, currently driven by AI, Accenture certainly walks the walk. But to maintain its leading position, the company would be better served to adopt outcome-based pricing models at scale to widen the gap with competitors. According to respondents in TBR’s 4Q18 Digital Transformation Customer Research who reported the existence of an outcome-based pricing structure with their digital transformation (DT) services vendor, the vast majority of contracts used traditional KPIs such as cost savings, technical performance or uptime as the measure of whether agreed-upon outcomes were delivered. This suggests this pricing structure remains immature, as basing even a portion of a vendor’s fees on the client’s business performance is risky for both parties. We expect DT pricing methods to mature as more data becomes available around whether and how solutions impact business outcomes.

The Accenture Technology Symposium brought together over 200 Accenture (NYSE: ACN) clients with Accenture and industry leaders and practitioners. While disrupting technologies in areas including cloud, blockchain, AI, automation and security were discussed and demoed, Accenture used the event to promote its innovation-led, industry-centric approach to solving business problems.  

Agile-ready everything: An India-centric special scenario

In Technology Business Research’s (TBR) April 2018 Global Delivery Benchmark, we noted that reskilling existing resources is taking precedence over aggressive hiring, resulting in decelerating headcount growth for the 14 benchmarked vendors in 4Q17. While vendors claim that digital-related revenues contribute from 25% to over 55% of their total services sales, existing engagements continue to require nondigital skills as well. Recruitment initiatives help vendors fill skills gaps in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and analytics. At the same time, vendors continue to build local presence by opening innovation hubs to support agile-based service delivery. The return on these investments has yet to be quantified, but TBR will continue to monitor this trend as these facilities become ubiquitous to how vendors conduct business.

Workforce, workplace, offerings, partnerships

Based on previous forays by India-centric vendors into consulting-intensive offerings, TBR remains skeptical that a trend toward agile will radically change these vendors, but the exception could be TCS. As the largest, TCS will be the biggest battleship to turn around, but the public, deliberate, and staged approach may create the kind of permanence necessary for significant organizational change. TBR has witnessed an emphasis in recent years by consultancies prioritizing recruiting, retaining and reskilling of their talent, especially in emerging tech areas and the consulting offerings tied to those technologies. By leading with two people-centric initiatives, TCS may have charted the proper course. Now, will the company follow it? And will its peers chase its wake?

The 4 P’s of marketing – people, process, partners and platforms – emerge behind AI and compel vendors to adopt S-centric frameworks

 

digital marketing services infographic, 4 P's marketing

Market dynamics will evolve in the next 5 years, with voice and video the core conduits for trusted and tangible AI-based marketing campaigns

The digital marketing services (DMS) market will grow at a CAGR of 16.2% from 2017 to 2022, reaching $125 billion, as organizations across geographies adopt artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled, customer experience-based voice and video solutions to run outcome-based campaigns addressing business pain points beyond brand awareness. Marketing in the moment frameworks will continue to dictate the shift toward hyper-personalization as consumers’ attention becomes the new currency and creates opportunities in areas such as omnichannel delivery and intelligent operations.

The shift from brand awareness to activation and support results in four new P’s of marketing — people, process, partners and platforms — leading to data management issues and opportunities. Winning vendors can adopt “S”-centric frameworks that emphasize closing skills gaps, delivering at scale and being in sync with partners’ visions, and addressing customer data silos through the development of interoperable and secure solutions.

Portfolio and go-to-market transformation and AI solution integration will be among the levers vendors can use to capitalize on a growing DMS market. Feeding the hype of AI could be a double-edged sword if technology and services vendors cannot deliver on the promise to shift the perception of marketing from a cost center to a business value driver.

AI-based voice and video platforms will increasingly take center stage as enablers for delivering campaigns in hybrid marketing environments, helping brands better connect consumers’ offline and online professional, purchasing and social behavior data. Technology partnerships and expertise in integrating platforms such as IBM Watson, Google and Adobe Sensei in the business-to-business segment and Amazon Echo and Google Home in the business-to-consumer segment will be key to services vendors’ success. The inability of vendors to recruit and retain talent with skills in these technologies might hinder market share as vendors are unable to address tasks at speed. Lastly, within the next two years, the broad-based adoption of AI across omnichannel platforms will reduce the need for multiple vendors to support engagements, and will also result in new opportunities in intelligent marketing operations.

For more information, contact Senior Analyst Bozhidar Hristov ([email protected]).