The late Steve Jobs said that “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” We love that quote because it goes to the heart of what we do: by innovating and improving continuously, Comdata makes change happen, delivers excellence and value, and shapes the future of customer management.
One of the leading lights in driving innovation at Comdata is Carolina Castaño, Director of Continuous Improvement and Digital Transformation, Spain & Latam. She talked to us about the innovation management system being used successfully in that region to generate new solutions and value for clients. It’s called C-Innova, and it’s proved transformational.
Carolina, can you tell us what innovation means to you and Comdata – how would you define it?
We see innovation as the generation of new solutions and transformation that create value for our clients and collaborators through ideas that generate changes in processes, people and technology. Importantly, it’s not just about thinking up good ideas, but doing something with them – developing and using them to fulfill your business objectives and vision.
To do that, we promote innovation as part of our organizational culture.
And C-Innova is one way in which you promote it?
Exactly. We’re using the C-Innova innovation management system in Colombia, Peru and Spain already and I would like to extend it further in the region in future.
The system enables us to get the whole company participating in innovation. We have a range of activities focused on generating ideas, and then we work with the best ideas to create a project, a pilot and then real-life solutions.
At all stages, we involve the whole team – agents, supervisors, coordinators, people working in quality, training and so on. I believe that the best ideas come from these people because they really know the needs of our customers.
And with C-Innova you have linked to the idea of bees and beehives. Why is that?
We have a bee called Beenova as our mascot. We see strong connections between the idea of the beehive, or bee colony, and our own innovation ecosystem, where everyone works together productively for a common goal and where everyone has a definite, understood role.
Having the Beenova mascot and the link with the bee colony helps our people to visualize and connect it to our own innovation approach.
Can you tell us about the different parts of the system?
As I said, it’s about promoting and driving innovation as part of our organizational culture, creating ideas that ultimately help to generate value. We do this through a carefully designed structure of governance, processes, culture and knowledge management; it’s probably easiest to show it with a graphic rather than describing it all.
Let’s talk about how you make the system work in practice. How do you persuade people to participate, and then turn their ideas into solutions?
Our innovation system is based on a game: it starts by empathizing with people’s experiences and then defining a challenge. People think about how to solve the challenge and the game leads them to structure the solution and turn it into a concrete idea. Our innovation committee (which I direct) then selects and evaluates ideas on a technical, functional and financial level.
We work with operations and experts to develop a prototype solution, do process analysis, test and iterate the solution, maybe talk with clients or customers, all with the aim to implement it.
We usually have two challenges a year, with each one usually leading to a number of new solutions being implemented.
Can you give us examples of previous challenges and successes?
So, one challenge we did was ‘How to improve sales churn?’, ensuring that when a customer buys something, they don’t then return it. We put the question out there, and got a lot of different ideas from agents and other people in operations, such as an algorithm that identifies sales patterns; a welcome campaign to customers and follow-up on new sales; and a follow-up bot for payment dates and reminders.
We analyzed all the processes involved, followed up with the people who put forward the ideas and with our RD&I people, did some analysis, selected the idea of the sales churn predictive algorithm as a project, and then built and tested it. The objective was to analyze the transactions behavior of customers who have defected from a company and obtain a model that allows us to predict clients who will likely defect in future.
We implemented the predictive solution, developed customer segmentation and customer retention plans, and the result has been a 6% improvement in sales drops!
That’s fantastic. Any other examples?
Another challenge we put out there was ‘How to improve first contact resolution in our operations and impact AHT (management times)?’
One of the ideas presented led to the development of Cbot, a virtual assistant chatbot designed to support the management of our agents, providing them with a tool to obtain information automatically. This has ensured more effective delivery of updated information, reducing agents’ management times and improving the customer experience.
There are plenty of other examples too, and we always recognize the people who come up with these great ideas. We have events during the year where we give out different awards for people who have their ideas selected, tested or implemented.
And then you have other activity to get people engaged with C Innova?
Yes. In order to communicate about innovation and our C-Innova system, we have different activities during the year to engage the operations community in general. We often design them according to the calendar and the month, so that we’re not just talking about innovation in the context of work.
For example in Colombia, April is the month of children, and we also have World Creativity and Innovation Day in April. So we organized a competition focused on children and innovation, where employees’ children or young relatives were asked to present their ideas about the future of work at Comdata in Colombia. The entries we received were amazing and people were really excited and enthusiastic about it.
So, that’s your talent of the future lined up! Do you have any data from current employees and clients about their view of Comdata’s approach to innovation?
Yes, of course. We regularly survey both to get their views and the data we get back is very positive. For example, in our Employee Survey, 84% of our employees perceived us as an innovative company. And in our Corporate Survey, 71% of our customers were satisfied or very satisfied that Comdata is an innovative company.
As we embed C-Innova further into and across the system, I believe the results will continue to stack up – including value creation for clients through innovative solutions to challenges; improved quality for their customers; and an enhanced employee experience due to people’s ideas being recognized. We’re very proud to innovate at Comdata, and I’m very proud myself to be part of making that happen.