Gartner : Let’s start by introducing the Comdata Group, its history and development over the years as a multinational reality, and its current organisation…
Massimo Canturi : Based in Milan, the Comdata Group can be defined as an innovative global service provider, a leader in the areas of Customer Interaction and Process Management (CIPM), which has been helping companies maximise the value of their respective customers since 1987. The business remained fundamentally Italian until 2015 when The Carlyle Group, one of the largest Global Alternative Asset Management companies, became a majority shareholder. As a consequence, it experienced significant international expansion, particularly through acquisitions. These are integral parts of our business and we need them to strengthen our presence in countries where we want to cover new vertical markets, not just telecommunications but also e-commerce or device management, or to complement our offer with new niche services. The plan is essentially to create a global platform with which we can serve international customers in a sector that is growing steadily every year but which, in order to be capitalised, requires operators to have an ample capacity to supply. In particular, the global BPO market is estimated to be worth between 60 and 70 billion dollars a year out of a total market of 300 billion. The outsourcing market is growing at an annual rate of 6%, driven in particular by the shift from in-house to outsourced work of 0.5-1%, i.e. from 1.5% over 3 years.
Gartner : What are the main transactions carried out by Comdata?
Massimo Canturi : Over the last 3 years, we have acquired other CRM-BPO service suppliers, including Win in Turkey, Digitex and Overtop Group in Spain/Latin America, and B2S and CCA in France, the last of these representing an extremely mature market. Furthermore, more internal transactions have taken place, for example, in Italy, on Wind-Tre call centres, and in Spain on CATsa, a subsidiary of Telefónica focused on customer care. We have therefore become a world leader in BPO Customer Management, positioning ourselves among the top three players on the European market, with 50,000 employees in 22 countries, and a Group turnover close to one billion euros, essentially tripling it over the last three years. In summary, we currently supply a complete range of services – BPO, CRM and digital, customer experience and consultancy in the field of process re-engineering – to over 670 customers, including some of the biggest names in the telecommunications, energy, banking, industry, retail and e-commerce sectors. We are also developing an international presence to serve the needs of global players who want to achieve a consistent customer experience, while also enhancing our local organisations to serve excellent local companies in a flexible way and with tailor-made solutions. In 2018, we launched the Comdata Digital division, which includes skill centres that are essential for the development and supply of advanced digital outsourcing services and technology-based change programs. This is all guided by an international team inherited from the acquisitions but also hired directly to add value and bring skills and professionalism into our organisation. These include our CFO, Ulrike Beckler, and Ronen Melnik, who heads Comdata Digital.
Gartner : How does Italy fit into this strategy?
Massimo Canturi : When we talk about a growing market, we should say first of all that we have a much wider offer than a traditional outsourcing operator. This allows us to expand our ability to develop business. Italy is a testing ground for different services that go beyond CRM, venturing heavily into sectors that have not yet relied on this type of outsourcing, such as banking, which is currently considering a change of direction in back office activities. With a DNA focused on the ability to manage processes, we then define the market in which we operate as a CIPM and use the experience we have gained in Italy abroad.
Gartner : Describe the scenario you are operating in, particularly as regards contact and call centre services and related processes, the evolution you have witnessed over the years, and the challenges this sector is now creating for operators in this field?
Massimo Canturi : Customers are the most valuable assets of any company, so achieving excellence in managing interactions with them is a key element for most of them. The digital era is offering new ways to interact and manage relationships, as well as the processes associated with them. However, it also adds complexity and increases the stakes because each interaction has to be carried out correctly. That’s because customers are interacting more, are more aware, and have more tools available to them, as well as the strength needed to express more clearly how satisfied or frustrated they are.
Relying on external partners, therefore, allows new technologies to be adopted more quickly, achieving process excellence, developing a better and more cost-effective customer front line while maintaining high quality. I believe that the right partner should therefore be able to build a bridge between theory and reality, considering that experience also means intelligence, being able to guide change and shape the vision of companies, supporting them in achieving the right objectives and new horizons.
Gartner : What do you consider to be your distinctive characteristics compared to other operators in terms of your services and offer in general, and how do you develop and implement them?
Massimo Canturi : I would start by saying that today companies need to reinvent their business to adapt to the digital age and face the fact that customers now interact directly with brands and expect more from the customer experience. Customer management has therefore become a strategic priority, representing an important lever for differentiation and value creation. Our services, which range from the outsourcing of customer interactions and processes to customer experience consulting, are totally focused on a single goal, which is to help companies maximise the value of their customers, creating an intelligent combination of people, processes and technology.
Because of this, we see ourselves as a different kind of partner to others, as “makers” who think and do, performing both activities with passion. In this respect we have developed an innovative approach that positions us at the forefront of CIPM, with systems that combine people, processes and technologies, and which is based on 4 integrated offers that can be summarised as follows. It all starts with multichannel front-office outsourcing that covers the whole customer life cycle, therefore pre-sales, sales, loyalty and post-sales, including end-to-end outsourcing of back office activities performed by customers and advice on customer experience and process optimisation, as well as digital services and technological support. With reference to issues like process automation, CRM, BPM, robotics, digital channels, analysis systems and artificial intelligence.
Gartner : From a technological point of view, what are the digital trends you consider to be most important today for operating effectively both internally and externally, through the services you offer, with your customers and their customers with whom you interact?
Massimo Canturi : I should say first of all that technologies are destined to transform the way companies interact with customers and reshape the BPO Management sector. As a result, companies need to reinvent their business to adapt to the digital age and face the fact that customers now interact directly with brands and expect more from the customer experience. There are several technological clusters that currently support our services. The first is multichannel interaction capacity and platforms. We have a proprietary platform called C-contact and a contact centre system called C-phone. The second cluster is automated conversation bots, providing quicker answers to simple questions, also using natural language. Again, we have proprietary solutions for this as well as relying on third party ones. The same applies to the third area, which is the robotics used to automate the activities of agents, and in some cases replace them completely. Finally, we have advanced analysis systems using speech-to-text technologies and other tools.
In general, a single technology cannot modify the customer experience by itself, a fruitful combination of all of them is required, artificial intelligence being one of the most important. Combining process automation and people can undoubtedly guarantee the best interactions, but technology alone is not enough so, in addition to our software and integration activities, we have also invested decisively in process engineering and change management in order to support the implementation and effective use of these new tools.