You took over the French-speaking region in October. Could you tell us a bit about this division of the business?
The region takes in four different countries: France, Belgium, Morocco, and Madagascar. We are in the top three of our market. We have around 14,000 colleagues across 20 different sites. Besides the common language, each of them aims to deliver ‘best-shoring’ – in other words, we aim to offer clients the service that best suits their needs. We look at their business line, the relationship with their customers, and the kind of customer experience they expect, and we provide the best mix of onshore, offshore, and digital solutions. We believe having a partner who can offer the best of each of these worlds is crucial. It is the future of our business.
What are your first impressions since starting in your new role?
Our region is very competitive – almost all the top worldwide BPO players are present in France – and dynamic but have complexities and individual characteristics. Offshoring is well developed in France – particularly compared to some other major European countries. But, the level of competition means we constantly need to innovate, develop and implement digital technologies in our operations and client processes. We also must keep a close eye on how we can deliver a cost-efficient service while improving and maintaining quality. In the current economic environment, that means reinventing how we work with our clients, developing new partnerships, and investing in new solutions and value propositions. We know we have to work in a different way, and that’s the challenge we set ourselves every day.
How do you plan to do that?
Delivering on that strategy means we must commit to improving week in and week out. But, at a business level, it largely means delivering on four areas.
The first is focussing on our main client sectors. We must enhance our understanding of the differences between customer management in the automotive sector and financial services and then how these differ from telecommunications. We have to be able to speak the same language as our clients and then go beyond this by really understanding their needs, not just for customer relationship management purposes, but how what we do fits into their wider business goals. That is how we will deliver really personalized solutions.
Secondly, we have to develop and put in place new technologies. This includes, but is not limited to, digital solutions. Ultimately, technology is what will help improve efficiency and deliver higher quality for clients at the same cost.
Thirdly, we must look at how we capture, use, and deliver value from data. We are essentially a giant machine for collecting data for our clients, their customers, and our own business purposes – we have to be able to leverage it to make improvements to everyone’s benefit. Obviously, we should only do this with regulations like GDPR in mind, but there is a great deal more we can do with the data we have at our disposal.
Finally, we have to be able to offer straightforward solutions to complex client needs. A lot of our clients need support in a variety of markets with different requirements – we have to be able to offer a one-stop shop for them across all areas. We can offer a seamless experience in whatever market we are serving, from whichever location, with one team delivering for them.
You mentioned understanding different sectors – what are the key industries in the French-speaking market?
Currently, our biggest sectors are telecommunications and utilities. For obvious reasons, the latter is a very tough market at the moment. We have also developed a lot of retail and e-commerce experience in the last two or three years and are very strong in the automotive industry as well. Following our merger with Konecta, we want to develop our presence in the financial sector – the Konecta team has a lot of experience with banking, insurance, and consumer credit, so we plan to do much more in these areas. Last but not least, we have a very strong offering for the healthcare market, so this will be another sector we work on in the year ahead.
What sets Comdata apart from others in the French-speaking market?
The merger with Konecta will make a real difference to our clients and our company. We are now a €2 billion company, placing us in the top five or six BPO providers worldwide, and we have a team of 130,000 people. But it’s not about getting bigger for the sake of it – becoming one of the biggest companies in our industry has a range of benefits for our clients, our teams, and our new group.
Firstly, it allows us to innovate and invest in technology and digital. If you want to deliver the best solutions for clients and be a leader in BPO, you have to be able to do this. Secondly, it is a very exciting time for our people. Both companies had similar cultures; environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) priorities as a key pillar; strong management teams; and a focus on clients and our teams. Bringing them together will only strengthen us, and everyone I have spoken to has been very enthusiastic about the move.
Thirdly, we are now one of the top BPO leaders in the Spanish-speaking world – in Colombia alone, we will have more than 30,000 people. This strengthens our position in Latin America and opens up more opportunities to deliver for US customers through near-shoring. Fourthly, the merger will strengthen our position with global clients who want to deal with only a few big partners, which is good news for our French multinational partners.
Does the merger with Konecta give you any additional services to offer clients?
It adds a few new strings to our bow, but specifically, it provides another strategic lever by adding the Konecta digital marketing agency, which the company acquired in 2020. The company provides end-to-end digital marketing services, taking in all communication on the web, social media, and search engines. It will allow our clients to take charge of everything from buying advertising space on Facebook to deliver sales. This is a new sales channel besides retail, e-commerce, and telesales for a brand. We are keen to roll this new concept out in our French-speaking region as another way to bring value to and partner with our clients.
What’s different about Comdata’s operations in Morocco and Madagascar?
We very much see each country as having its own specialism. For instance, besides strong sales expertise, Morocco will become a multi-lingual platform, as we have had very positive experiences with global clients who have used our operations in Morocco to support the English-speaking market. Morocco is very mature, and we have a lot of demand for English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian services, all of which it is well placed to deliver. It’s a very exciting time for our team in Morocco.
Madagascar is another interesting example. It is growing very quickly, and we will probably have more than 2,500 members of our team next year. We are developing our capacity to deliver technical assistance from our sites in the country, which is working very well. As part of that, we are building a partnership with a local university specializing in the internet and technology to help students develop their skills and be ready for the workplace.
Looking ahead, where would you like the region to be in the coming years?
By 2025, I want us to have delivered in a few different areas. The first aim is to become one of the preferred and most innovative providers of BPO services in the French-speaking market for big brands. Digitalization is a big part of that, and we should also be competing with the big integrators and consulting in this space. Similarly, I want us to develop our digital marketing footprint – it is currently small in the French region, but we have big ambitions for it.
Another area I want to leverage is the specialisms of each country I mentioned before. It is critical for us to be the strongest we can be for the services we deliver in each geography rather than trying to offer the same thing everywhere. So, that means being number one for technical assistance in Madagascar, number one for muti-lingual in Morocco, and so on. We must focus on what we want to achieve in each market and commit to that aim.
In addition, we all agreed on the importance of having a strong environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) strategy in place. We have pledged to reach the environmental standards set out in the Paris Accords, and regarding the S of ESG, we want to work with our communities and support local initiatives. For example, we are planting trees for carbon offsetting in Madagascar and partnering with schools in Morocco. We will do much more with strong involvement from our teams.
Finally, we know that we are a people-centric business. I have mentioned the importance of digital a few times, but ultimately we will always have a lot of people in our company. It is more important than ever that we attract and retain the best talent – with digital, we will be able to automate basic and easy interactions, but we will need people to handle the most complex customer needs.