The Power of Two (Part 2)
This article originally appeared in Outsource Magazine Issue #28 Summer 2012
Both Anne Marie Forsyth and Sidney Yuen have devoted a big part of their careers to building up two of the leading industry associations for customer experience, as Chief Executive of CCA-Global and Chairman of APCCAL respectively. I began by asking them for some thoughts on success…
Anne Marie Forsyth: I have a passion for customer experience because organisations can get it right without massive difficulties but many allow internal procedures to get in the way and CCA has allowed me to express this. We get huge satisfaction from sharing insights and helping people having “ah-ha” moments – but I don’t underestimate the difficulties in convincing the rest of the organisation.
CCA always stuck by core values: improve professionalism and continuous improvement. Easy to say, difficult to achieve. And yes, sometimes there have been competitive pressures from other bodies chasing the coin – but we have attracted the big brands, have a good balance between big and small members and have three distinct groups: Product and Supply; Industry Council; and now BPO.
Survival is good! We picked a good CCA team, stable and long-term with about 60 years’ of experience between five people.
Everyone is working twice as hard and we are collaborative. Coaching has never been more important and this year in May we will have launched a new form of the CCA Global Standard, a Standard Lite, based on self-assessment.
Sidney Yuen: I had an excellent mentor and started off in Amex – at that time, probably one of the best providers of a global service. I was lucky to be head of customer service, with an HR background and had seven wonderful years at Amex, and later joined Convergys as head of Consulting AsiaPacific and got to truly understand mega deals and the really complex. As founder of ChinaWindmill Foundation which attracts CSR investments, and now as MD of NorthgateArinso, a UK HR service provider, my focus is on China.
APCCAL – the Asia Pacific Contact Centre Leaders Association – was formed four years ago in Beijing and I became chairman two years ago to co-ordinate work, share best practice, and make awards and arrange country visits. APCCAL represents 11 contact centre associations in Asia Pacific with two million contact centre professionals in the region. Last year was the biggest event with 800 people at the Hong Kong gala dinner – and that’s positive PR.
What made it work so well? We all have a common goal in APCCAL, to benefit people in the industry, and individual associations. More people are wanting to be on the bus now, to join APCCAL. There is no financial gain and we give equal airtime.
Thinking about outsourcing generally, the public don’t always see the benefits, with new research conducted by the NOA revealing that 80 per cent of the general public do not believe that outsourcing helps the British economy. Does industry PR matter much, could it be improved, and what do you see in your crystal ball?
AMF: The risk is that people working in contact centres and outsourcing feel precious about criticism. Having just come from an IOD conference, business has to restate its aims and become more acceptable to the public. Trust is a big issue. People like the channels, phone or email, but don’t like being fobbed off. Organisations should be open, and educate customers on how to communicate. Take it as an opportunity. The public want improvements, organisations should be grateful.
If I could say something to the UK government, which has been slow to acknowledge the collective value of frontline people who serve people, in the UK or overseas, and too often disparaged with lazy journalism: there is an opportunity for large global outsourcers to bring much more of their work to UK. We have loads of people, lower currency, things have changed. Why do we not make more of this? We have the language and flexibility.
I’d say to Vince Cable in the government, come and talk to CCA, with a big forum of chief execs of major outsourcers. The UK is good at it – skilled management, knowledge and empathy – so there’s a window of opportunity to sell the UK as a good global location for outsourcing, and an opportunity to be high-end, like Burberry.
SY: PR is key in outsourcing, whether for contact centres, technology or HR. Offshoring, for countries like China, is a big job-creation strategy for the government and so has good internal PR, helping the economy, with retraining and investment. Multi-media contact centres and social media bring the industry a better image, with interesting jobs, solving problems. The old perception, the old image, is gone.
We might educate the public that the outsourcing business is a major industry that improves the experience of users, and outsourcers must be able to manage the whole business, end-to-end, and integrate.
Government support is key to the outsourcing industry. In China there are 6.5 million graduates per annum but only 30 per cent find jobs. As well as tax support, China is pretty sophisticated in promoting inward investment – eg in Chengdu, a science park developer attracts incentives, training, R&D and data centres.
My crystal ball? Crowdsourcing: using social media to get the crowd to help.
What do you see as the emerging themes and headaches for leaders?
AMF: It was a privilege to have Melanie Howard, author of Teleculture, host the CCA 2011 Convention. Three things came out: one, think about the value of what they do and how this is communicated into the organisations; two, how do we understand consumer expectations – do we spend too much time boring them with questions?
And three: the hunt is on for silver bullets – eg BoA and SKY – and there’ll be more on this at the CCA Convention 2012.
SY: Key trends in China are, one: e-business cloud computing driven by finance, telecom and healthcare; two, the hot topic is moving from “Made in China” to “Served in China”, seen as a cleaner industry – huge demand; and three, 22 Chinese cities have been designated as outsourcing hubs and four as “cloud computing cities”.
Headaches are: governance – China is in the beginnings of learning and there is a big debate about IP protection; and China is no longer low-cost, with the RMB appreciating 20 per cent with cost and talent inflation.
But the Big Four – PwC, KPMG, Deloitte and Ernst & Young – are finding it easier to deal with China’s government.
Finally, what are some of the ingredients of a great day?
AMF: When I am with a group of CCA people at one of the three conventions, or 12 councils, where we have an outcome – that is great. And working with the team in-house: tiny, and flexible, not held back by politics, doing what needs to be done. We rarely have bad outcomes, and I am often humbled by the passion of the people in this industry – and never deflected by what may be in the news.
SY: Personally, to help someone unconditionally, never expecting a return. And when I can, to be 25-30m underwater, no BlackBerry, totally immersed in a world of magic in a top dive spot, like Sipidan in East Malaysia.
To read the first article in this series, click here.
About the Author
Michael Stock is the co-founder of CoachFirst International and the National Outsourcing Association’s Board Member for Offshoring. He is the former Project Director and Head of Business & Partnerships for Marketing, Communications & Audiences for the BBC.