In episode 4, we head out of Australia for the first time and up to Malaysia to chat with Chris Greenough, the Chief Marketing Officer at the next-generation BPO organisation Everise. Chris shares his thoughts on how the Covid19 situation has impacted the marketing profession and what that might mean for consumers. His music choice, and reason for selection, also takes us in to a new genre.
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Martyn Riddle: Hello, and welcome to, ‘In conversation with…’ A series of podcasts from Verint featuring chats and discussions with leading figures from the contact centre, CX and customer engagement industry in the Asia Pacific region. During this series, we want to find out what customer service organisations are doing during these challenging times and try and discover what it is that drives the leaders in this space and what makes them tick.
My name is Martin Riddle. As well as being your host for this series, I’m also Verint’s Vice President of Marketing for the region. Today, it’s my pleasure to welcome to the podcast, all the way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Chris Greenough. Chief Marketing Officer at the BPO organisation Everise. Chris, hello.
Chris Greenough: Hey-
Martyn: How are you, sir?
Chris: -happy to be on.
Martyn: We’re good. Chris, perhaps we can start by finding out a little more on your organisation, Everise. Your website states that you are a customer experience expert. What does that mean exactly?
Chris: Yes. You rightfully mentioned we are a business process outsourcing but we like to think of ourselves as a next-generation version of that where we do a lot more than what your traditional outsourcing company does. We actually do a lot of customer experience transformation projects that bring together a lot of aspects of taking a product or service to market all the way through to support. In doing so, we live out our mission of transforming around customers and the fans as well as their products into passions.
Martyn: You have operations across the world if I’m not mistaken?
Chris: Yes, we operate out of multiple person locations. We’re in the US, Guatemala. We’re in Limerick Island. We’re in Malaysia where we have a leading Multilingual Hub. Global headquarters out of Singapore. We just launched in Japan. Also one of our larger centres is, of course, in Manila in the Philippines.
Martyn: Wow, a very big footprint indeed. Given that we’re both marketers, I’m keen to delve a little bit more into how it is that Everise transforms customers into fans and products into passions as it states on your website. “Everise transforms customers into fans and products into passions,” what does that mean?
Chris: Yes. This is where we’ve taken that concept of customer support and really broadened and teased it out to, what does it mean to deliver experiences in today’s modern era? We truly believe that people don’t buy products anymore, specifically that they really buy the experience around those products and everything around it. How you interact with them all the way through to how they’re supported.
We specialise in three main types of experience practises. Customer experience, which is specifically around customer care, the different languages that are required to do so and the different geographic markets that offer different types of pricing and ROI back to clients. We also have a product experience practise that focuses on all the interaction around the product itself. From beta testing how do you ensure that you have reduced bug features? Or in beta testing, how do you make sure that all the way through to the marketing materials that there aren’t any issues that cause support problems later? Then even to how you interact and purchase those things online. We have fraud detection, we do community moderation where we actually build communities for leading product companies and a few other services around that.
Lastly, you can’t really be a modern company unless you have a really strong digital practise. We have a digital experience practise, where we’ve purchased AI companies and actually that’s where I hail from, Everise had purchased a company called Everise which now powers our digital experiences through our platform and where we have chatbots. As well as we have a voice intelligence solution that integrates with call centres, IVRs, that allows a more natural way of talking to people and automating that support before you get to a human. Then through that, we specialise in a few verticals as well too. We then apply those different CX, PX and DX solutions to a strong background in healthcare, in technology and software companies, Smart Home, in particular, were quite strong. As well, travel, logistics, and a few other verticals.
Martyn: You’re really, in essence, looking after the whole end-to-end customer life cycle of that customer engagement process is that a fair statement?
Chris: Yes. We can definitely help a company all the way through from product to service launch. All the way through to as they mature and complete that cycle and not only support it the entire way but dig back deeper into the data and say, “How can we improve these interactions? How can we actually reduce the amount of calls that are coming in for these certain interactions? How can we automate them?” This is really counterintuitive to the traditional BPO model itself where traditionally they are inclined to increase volumes of course. We’re really trying to add a lot of value around, really, the brands of the future who are creating experiences for their customers that they really want and to build that loyalty around.
Martyn: Yes, that’s interesting. I spoke with the chief digital officer of another innovative BPO last week who believed that the COVID-19 situation was causing many customer service organisations to actually accelerate their digital transformation and use this massive disruption to reset their service delivery. Are you seeing that with your clients? What they’re trying to achieve?
Chris: Yes. I’ve heard that a few places. I think that Satya Nadella last week or a couple of weeks ago said, “Specifically two years of digital transformation in two months.” I think really that’s accurate. I think a lot of people are saying, “This is the new normal, everything’s changed.” Actually, I think this is a much more accurate depiction of what’s happened. We’re in the same place we would have been it just we’ve really accelerated that very quickly. Now what you’re seeing is the disparity or the difference between companies who were prepared and were already heading in that direction and the ones that were left out in the open and exposed, realizing that they may be invested a little too late with that.
I think a perfect example of that is how we had invested in our work at home solution over two years ago. We had about 10% of our organisation be it, work at home model delivering customer experiences from home.
Because of that, because that investment in the people, the process, and the technology that enables that, we were able to within 72 hours rapidly deploy thousands of our staff into a home-based DX model incredibly quickly and successfully. We’re seeing that success continue on as we are riding out the various degrees of MCOs and different types of movement restrictions in different countries that we operate in.
Martyn: The actual COVID situation when it first emerged, it didn’t really cause that much disruption to your day-to-day operations?
Chris: There are some long hours and hard nights, definitely, by the different operating teams and the leadership and everyone. Other than having to really work hard and making sure we were there for our staff, there was minimal disruption to how we were able to continue delivering our experiences and our support and how we can move forward from this.
Martyn: That’s interesting. Chris, if I can, I want to bring the previous two questions together. How do you think as a marketer, that the marketing profession itself has had to adapt during the crisis? What do you think it could mean for the future of our wondrous profession?
Chris: I think a lot of marketers were unsure and I think it’s a bit more nuanced of a question because it really depends on what your product or service was, and what industry it is. Generally, I think there was a bit of uncertainty. “How do I market during these times?” I’m previously from the ad background so I’d heard a lot of people that it pulled back their advertising budgets.
A lot of people were sitting and waiting. If you looked at the cost per click on platforms and the amount of– as a result though, the cost per clicks and other things were really going down. Actually marketing and having a bold statement and having the decision-making power to say, “No, we need to move forward and this is the time to advertise, and this is the time to communicate with our customers.” I think benefited the companies who were able to take those bold steps and act decisively.
I think, there again, just like how there’s a disparity in people who are uncertain and ready for the digital age, I think the same thing was in the marketing profession. Where you had two camps where one is saying, “Let’s just sit it out and wait,” and the other was saying, “No, this is still an important time to go to market to still communicate with our customers and even evolve and adapt our service and product offering.”
Of course, you didn’t see that any place more apparent than, of course, the food industry where overnight they went from not just serving dishes but actually parsing out their menu into ingredient lists. They almost became third-party grocers for communities and whatnot. I think that’s a very apparent and very obvious example of how being quick and how looking at this seriously and say, “How do I continue to run my business and innovate and evolve? Don’t be stuck in what I used to do, how do I move forward and build products and services for today versus yesterday?” I think the food industry is the most apparent and how the ones who are successful, did it well and the ones who were a bit more stubborn didn’t.
Martyn: Yes sure. I like this phrase there about evolve and adapt. It’s almost like a tech vendor producing a podcast series, who would have thought that, eh?
Martyn: What do you believe this presents? You touched upon it on that last answer about different industries, but how about the different sectors of marketing such as B2B, B2C, not-for-profit, government? Are you thinking or seeing that this situation is causing those various sectors to take different approaches?
Chris: At the end of the day, advertising is always the same in the sense that you’re trying to get a message out and create empathy and connection with your audience, so nothing’s really changed from that point of view. I think there’s a lot of confusion that can be made in– I’m getting mixed messages in the some of the things. A perfect example is how everyone, well, not everyone, there was a really poor survey put out and there was a market crash, a bit of Corona beer because there was a fear that there was an association between that in the virus, but what was really happening is because Corona, the word had more salient, their beer actually increased in sales.
I think it’s important that marketers through these times, separate the signal and the noise and try to ensure that their messages are going through and don’t make those poor decisions. In the impact to each of these industries, I think what needs to happen is that you change your outlook or your expectations on how you used to do things. Again, in the past, when we did video content, we actually put up a production we’d really try and get something that’s clean and as slick as possible.
Now that we can’t do those types of things, you have to kind of think, okay, this is the normal now, people are expecting this type of video content. How can we do it differently and how can we look different too? Not just doing all the same webinar looking stuff, but how can we do interviews? How can we still give value, but in a different way, and in kind of the medium that is occurring right now? I think it’s shifting, mixing between what are the right signals from the data and how do we then put that message in what people think are different and are prepared for.
Martyn: If you can comment on this, are you seeing some of your clients perhaps adapt different ways, different scripts, different vocabularies, different processes, and how they want to engage with their end-user customers through your services?
Chris: Yes, definitely. I think our clients, we’ve been fortunate enough to have very great clients through this, especially since we deal a lot with healthcare. We’ve had a lot of increase in support and they have– and in volumes because we do handle sometimes some specific COVID-19 calls directly from our agents. I think we’re lucky that we have really great clients that have adapted well, and that’s continued to grow, or at least survive through this as this kind of unravelled.
Martyn: Surviving through it is perhaps a good segue to the next question about what this is really meant for you personally at a professional level. Any learnings or things you might’ve done differently?
Chris: I think we’ve been making some good calls. I think we’re fortunate to have a very close and agile leadership team at Everise. We make decisions fairly quickly. I think what we’ve done is the right thing as we’ve focused a lot on our people and trying to get those stories out, how they’re doing and how we’re still supporting customers through this. We did a really interesting interview with one of our clients, BlueJeans, where we found that the average handle time had gone up for their calls. Typically that’s not a great thing in our industry, but the reason it had gone up is because the agents and the customers were having a bit of chit chat about what they were doing through this crisis, how they were both working from home.
I think that’s so interesting when you think about how this whole industry is constantly talking about empathy and how do we build empathy. I think what’s really interesting and about this pandemic is that it took something like this to really get everyone on the same page and on the same plane build and to get something, an industry like customer support and somebody on the other line to say, “No, we’re in the same boat right now. We’re both stuck at home, so let’s kind of get through this together” I think that was such an interesting story. That was one of the things that we put out there.
Martyn: Talking of being stuck at home, how’s it been for you personally? You’re an executive with your organisation, have you found the working from home challenging or a barrel of laughs?
Chris: It’s been a bit of both. I have a new daughter, a six-month-old, and so she’s, at days, been a handful. I think when I look back on this or when my wife and I looked back, I think we’ll see that we were quite fortunate to have been forced at home with our child, so to speak. In the past, we had been dropping her off at the in-laws. Watching her grow on a daily basis has been a joy. I think I’ve been quite fortunate, luckier than most, to be able to be in this situation.
Martyn: Indeed. It’s an opportunity not a lot of dads, unfortunately, get to experience those first few months, so a pleasure indeed. I’m at the other end of the scale, I have a seven-year-old boy and he’s due to go back to school next week. Probably not a moment too soon, particularly when he said to my wife last week, he said, “Mummy, I love you, but you’re a terrible teacher.” I think everyone’s looking forward to him going back to school.
Let’s keep on, on the personal situation again. We’ve asked this in the last few episodes of the podcast during the situation, has there been a particular piece of music that keeps you going, or is your inspiration?
Chris: Well again, because I have a six-month-old, Baby Mozart has been playing on the background quite often. It’s sort of being a mix of helping her go to sleep but it also reminds me of missing my favourite activity which is going for foot massages. It kind of sounds like going to a massage place. That’s probably been the music that’s been played the most in this house over the last couple of months.
Martyn: Does that mean you’re not yet into the Peppa Pig stage? That’s excellent, wait until you get to that and you can be truly entertained. I’m actually now somewhat wary of asking this next question about your favourite book or film that seeing you through this period. Is there one title that always keeps you entertained?
Chris: Well, I wouldn’t say film because TV’s the new film thanks to streaming. There’s been a few, the last one, my wife and I just finished, that was a quite good one. The Last Dance with Michael Jordan, ’98 Bulls, but going through their whole six championship era, that was very good.
Martyn: Awesome. Finally, how about a material object or a gadget, something you just couldn’t be without at the moment?
Chris: Apart from the obvious and that choice is probably a smartphone. I would have to say probably my chef knife. That’s something that I use three meals a day and something I’ve had since I went to culinary school and been with me in multiple countries that punches that item.
Martyn: A chef’s knife. I am so impressed with that answer. I can probably take some hints and tips off you at some stage. I’m giving myself a lockdown present tomorrow and I’m having a chap come to my house and doing a sharpening service on all my blades. They haven’t been touched for about 10 years. Hopefully, something that you can appreciate.
Martyn: What it will mean to me at the end of it. I’m just now worried about what my wife’s going to be doing and how many fingers she’s going to cut off with exceptionally sharp blades.
Martyn: We’ll see how we go with that one. Hey, Chris Greenough, Chief Marketing Officer at Everise, thank you so much for your time today, it’s been wonderful chatting with you. I wish you, your family, and your colleagues all the very best. Please stay safe.
Chris: Thank you, Martyn. The same to your family.
Martyn: Thank you, sir.
In conversation with . . . is a series of podcasts from Verint featuring chats and discussions with leading figures from the contact centre, CX and customer engagement industry across the Asia Pacific region.