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Alessandro Zunino

This is an English courtesy translation of the original article prepared in Italian language. Original article in Corriere della Sera –  Dal call center ai servizi tech la seconda vita di Comdata, september 7th 2020, article by Fabio Sottocornola.

The Italian multinational operates in twenty countries and is aiming to develop a new model with client companies, from Eni Gas e Luce to telecommunications, INPS to Glovo. For the CEO, Alessandro Zunino, “The customer experience is everything: it has to be positive”.

An Italian company with a turnover of a billion euros, 350 million earned in Italy, the rest in twenty or so other markets. A recently arrived top manager and a three-year business plan that was ready in February but will be presented at the end of September, the pandemic has changed the scenario in call centres too. But for Comdata the trajectory remains one of strong growth, in addition to a few other projects, including the Smart Hub, launched as a response to the virus itself.

Here is the new face of the company established in Turin in the 1980s and controlled since 2015 by private equity firm Carlyle. Initially managing outsourced call centres, particularly for telecommunication companies, the company is now involved in increasingly sophisticated activities and services for brands such as Eni, Iberdrola, and Glovo. Alessandro Zunino, appointed as CEO a few months ago, had an ambitious growth plan ready to launch, then the epidemic arrived. “In March, we just had a few days to organise home working for 8,000 of the 10,000 people working for us in Italy. And 70% of the total work force, which is around 50,000 employees. An extremely complex phase. But we’re out of it now.”

Alessandro Zunino says this while casting his eyes over the business figures for July: turnover is back to the level it was a year ago. A real V-shaped recovery. And the second half of the year promises to mirror the previous financial year. “Of course, our operational structure is very different now, and a lot has changed in the sector.” He has built on the work done during lockdown and launched the Comdata Smart Hub. “Our starting point is that we don’t yet know when we’ll be able to return to using the same surface area of our offices. We are therefore operating with a new work structure that makes the most of the flexibility to work from home or the office. Our customers will have to accept that the people providing their services will not all be working from our offices, but will be using the platform to listen remotely, asking the operator for permission, and hear the customer’s voice.” Alessandro Zunino envisages three service modes: on-site only, for complicated services such as those provided to banks; at home only, when there are specific marketing campaigns; and finally, a mixed model alternating between home and office.

THE FEATURES

“What definitely is not changing is our intention to take care of our relationship with the end customer. We also want to be proactive towards the companies we serve, and conceive a new partnership model with them.” There are three strengths: an innovative system of cooperation with traditional brands, an international division dedicated to e-commerce giants and tech platforms, a different relationship with public administration. To get a clearer picture, we need to step back a little. Comdata currently operates under contracts that provide for the management of incoming and outgoing calls. The price of each activity is determined according to the minutes spent and the type of service requested, from changing a contract to transferring an energy account. “However, with Eni Gas e Luce, for example, we have devised a more virtuous and efficient system – the expert says – the objective of which is to create value for the individual customer and our partners by improving the quality of service, reducing the risk of customer disaffection by understanding their needs and solving their problem all in a single call, reducing frustrations. The model overcomes the traditional division between front and back-office activities, which is incomprehensible to customers, and aims to assess our operators based on quality parameters.”

"We’ll be launching an innovative multilingual centre to serve the new and fast-growing digital organisations"

A second aspect looks at new digital companies (like Netflix and Glovo), which have identical business systems in the countries where they operate. “And they are growing fast. But they are looking for partners who can interact with customers according to identical procedures, regardless of where the customer is.” In Bucharest, Comdata has created a new international division. This is a multilingual centre serving multiple countries at once. “Digital companies want anyone who contacts their customers to do so in a certain way, so they ask us for specific service standards and requirements”, explains Zunino.

"The next wave of outsourcing may come from public administration. We’ll be ready for it."

Finally, there is public administration. “There is massive potential for development here. We are setting up specialised commercial structures with trained and dedicated key account managers.” Comdata manages services provided by INPS with over 90% of operators answering calls from home. “INPS was an extraordinarily complex organisation even before COVID, with 73 different types of activity, from pensions to redeeming the years spent at university for pension purposes. Imagine now that the organisation is responsible for processing applications for bonuses and furlough payments made from the emergency period onwards. Our operators are highly trained as they have to provide detailed answers.”

1 billion: The turnover of the company founded in Italy in the 1980s and now controlled by the Carlyle fund

125 million interactions managed in Italy every year by Comdata, which earns one third of its turnover in the country and employs 10,000 people

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