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Looking boldly into the Emotive CX future - An interview with Ventrica CEO, Iain Banks (part 1)

Mon, May 13, 2024

Our CEO Iain Banks talks looking boldly into the Emotive CX future.

Why we must trust the emotions generated in customer experience?

While the hype around Generative AI is mostly justified, we shouldn’t forget that people want a deeper connection with brands on an emotional level. And no matter how good Large Language Models like Chat GPT get, they just don’t do emotions.

Ventrica CEO, Iain Banks, believes that the ability to forge deep, emotional connections with customers is going to remain a source of competitive advantage for many businesses, even in the age of AI.

Under Iain’s leadership, Ventrica has embarked on an ambitious journey to redefine what it means to be a CX partner. We’ve made significant investments in journey mapping, advanced analytics, and AI-powered tools – not to replace human interaction, but to enhance it. Our goal is to empower our front-line teams with the insights and capabilities they need to deliver emotionally intelligent, contextually relevant experiences at every touchpoint.

But while technology is certainly a key enabler, it’s our people who truly set us apart. From our front-line ambassadors to our leadership team, every member of the Ventrica business shares Iain’s deep commitment to empathy, authenticity, and going above and beyond for our clients’ customers.

In this interview, Iain shares his vision for the future of CX, the strategies behind Ventrica’s transformation, and the challenges and opportunities ahead. It all comes together in what Iain calls Emotive CX – the next evolution in customer experience.

Can you elaborate on the journey you and Ventrica have been on? What do you mean by “Emotive CX”?

Sure. So, in the past BPOs have often been transactional and heavily price driven. They offer a service, not a solution. We believe we deliver the greatest value for our clients if we focus on driving deeper emotional customer connections. We want to work with partners that is looking to build long-term, emotionally connected relationships with their customers. That’s where we excel.

The whole concept of Emotive CX is about fostering deep connections at every level - between us and the client, and between the client and their end customers. Trust, integrity, and credibility are at the core of it. We find that we align best with organisations that prioritise things like long-term partnerships, shared values, personalised experiences and really building those emotional bonds.

The luxury lifestyle brands we work with are a great example of this in practice. Their customers expect to be able to reach out at any time and have a deep, meaningful interaction, not just a transactional exchange. For the staff, it’s not just about fielding yet another call, it’s about embodying and connecting with the brand. That’s why we don’t push typical call centre metrics like average handle time. Instead, it’s about empowering staff to focus on delivering the right outcomes for the customer and the brand and really driving that emotional connection. How they communicate, even the tone of voice they use is critical. To pull that off authentically, our employees need to feel a genuine attachment to the brands they represent.

A key part of your value proposition is being “big enough to deliver, small enough to care.” What is the benefit of this for your clients?

Exactly, the core of our proposition really is being ‘big enough to deliver, but small enough to care” That sums it up perfectly.

We’ve assembled a phenomenally strong team, and that’s been a huge factor in growing with new partners and further enhancing our relationships with our existing partners. Direct feedback is ‘You’re large enough to handle our scale and complexity, but you’re not so massive that we’ll get lost in the shuffle, and you have leadership that really understands our business’. We can be much more agile and attentive to their unique needs.

We have the scale and capabilities to take on complex, enterprise work. But we’re also small and nimble enough to provide a highly targeted, individualised, and personalised service to our clients.

We also have the financial backing of Mobeus Private Equity Partners so financially we’re strong, , and have the financial muscle to invest in our own growth and our clients’ growth.

You’ve made significant investments in leadership, training, technology integration, and employee engagement. Can you discuss some key initiatives?

I think one thing that has really resonated with both our clients and our employees is the fact that my leadership team is experienced CX leaders. Most of us have been in the trenches, we’ve manned the phones, and we intimately understand how challenging those roles can be. Having that first-hand operational experience has absolutely shaped how we approach investments and strategic decisions.

On the technology front, we’ve made great strides in evolving and expanding our capabilities. We’ve launched proprietary solutions like Ventrica AI and Ventrica CSAT that have been real game-changers. And we’ve leveraged strategic partnerships with global leaders like Zendesk and Twilio to take our tech stack to the next level.

In terms of developing our people, we’ve made major investments there as well, particularly in leadership and training. We ran a hugely successful apprenticeship program in partnership with an external provider where we were able to upskill 45 team leaders. Not only did that hone their leadership abilities, but it also created a talent pipeline for frontline staff to move up into those roles. It was so impactful that we’re going to be expanding that programme going forward. We’ve also allocated significant resources to training and development at that critical mid-management level.

More broadly, we’ve made a concerted effort to enhance the overall employee experience. We’ve implemented things like quarterly town hall meetings, monthly newsletters, and employee champions who serve as a voice for the frontline. Our annual employee satisfaction survey has become a crucial input that we really dig into and action. Honest, two-way communication with our staff is hugely important.

And we haven’t just focused on the frontline. We’ve strengthened our shared services functions that support the whole operation - things like workforce management, learning & development, project management, and continuous improvement. All the back-end engines that keep the business running smoothly. We’ve brought in top-notch leaders like Colin Baker to head up that division, and Ray Biggs as COO, to ensure we’re firing on all cylinders.

You highlighted mapping customer journeys as critical. Can you walk through how you approach this discovery process with clients?

Journey mapping is absolutely fundamental to our approach. When we kick off with a new client, one of the very first things we do is insist on taking a deep dive into their current processes and customer experience.

A recent engagement for a tech company is a great example of this in practice. Right out of the gate, we committed that we could deliver a 35% reduction in their cost to serve while simultaneously improving the quality of their customer experience. And the only way we could make that kind of projection with confidence was by closely studying the current state first. We brought the full team to the table - operations, technology, analytics, the whole works.

During that discovery phase, we aim to pinpoint the biggest points of failure, where the customer journey or a process breaks down. Is it a people issue, a process issue, or a technology issue? That diagnostic is critical.

On the people front, it could be something as fundamental as not having the right attendance and adherence policies in place. When it comes to process, we’re mapping the entire customer journey from end to end to identify any points where things are breaking down. Maybe there’s a disjointed handoff from one step to the next or some bottleneck that’s causing a pile-up. Again, people and processes are inextricably linked, so we go straight to the source. We’ll spend time side by side with the frontline agents, really studying the workflows and listening to their insights. They’re the ones who know the journey best, warts and all.

From there, it becomes a question of root cause analysis and solution design. Is this something we can address through better hiring profiles, training, and performance management? Or is it a case where technology can help streamline and enable the process? Too many companies jump straight to some flashy new tech implementation without doing the legwork to understand if that’s actually the right solution.

We always look through a people and process lens first. But if the need is there, we have the partnerships and platforms to bring best-in-class technology to the table. It could be something as simple as better reporting and monitoring or as sophisticated as AI algorithms to help boost conversion. The common denominator is that we let the data and the desired business outcomes guide the approach.

The beauty of all of this is that it’s highly tailored to each individual client’s maturity level, aspirations, and unique customer base. There’s no one-size-fits-all here. The upfront diagnostic and discovery work is what enables us to plot out the right transformation journey.