In conversation with Freddie Bellhouse,
CEO of Trusted Interactions Group
How would you describe what Trusted Interactions Group, branded as Cymphony does?
We’re a virtual receptionist. We use human operators to provide a front office experience for anyone contacting our clients that replicates the experience they would have if they were to contact the clients themselves. So we take calls for clients, for example, but we’ve also exploited new technologies so we can deal with contact that comes through other channels, including social media. Our clients are outsourcing this customer experience to us and we effectively bridge the gap between a contact centre and a personal assistance.
Why do clients use your services?
We’ve got a broad range of clients, ranging from small businesses such as plumbers, who obviously can’t get to the phone when they’re under a sink, all the way up to large multi-national law firms. What these clients have in common is that they’re looking for us to provide a personal and professional experience for their customers. Those customers have never been more demanding: they expect to be able to reach firms 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and to do so via a range of different channels. We can solve that problem for our clients with a service that is professional and accountable.
Is this a competitive market?
It’s quite a fragmented marketplace with a number of smaller operators that very often compete on the basis of price. We don’t think that model is the right one for many clients; they want a highly personal service for their customers where they can be completely confident in quality and continuity. That means you need to have well-trained staff able to offer that quality, as well as robust infrastructure with back-up systems and disaster recovery plans, for example. It has to be a completely professional service, whether you’re working for a relatively small business or a very large client, and that is difficult to do if price is your only differentiator.
How do you see the marketplace evolving?
We think it is only going to get more professional, with many more clients offering a premium service. You’re going to have to be able to accept any incoming interaction, whether it arrives by voice, email, SMS or social media, for example. Your staff are going to have to be able and willing to get more involved in the businesses of clients, so that their customers can’t see any dividing line. And you’re probably going to have to start offering additional services around administration – we’re looking at service such as helping clients with invoicing, for example.
Is the service changing in other ways?
The big trend is towards our operators spending longer on the phone with clients’ customers. Those customers are using automated contact channels for the simpler queries and transactions, and then making a call to a human operator when their needs are more complicated. That means each call takes longer to deal with and the operator must be better trained in order to be able to respond to the problem. That’s going to be difficult if your business model is based on handling large numbers of very short calls.
Will that change the industry?
Yes. If the high-volume business model doesn’t work, that’s going to make it very difficult for some of the smaller operators for whom pricing is the key differentiator. There are other pressures making life difficult for these firms too. They need to make significant investments in technology in order to offer the range of channels clients want, and costs such as the rising minimum wage also pose problems, particularly for firms that aren’t training their call operators to a high standard. We think this market is going to become even more about very high standards of service.