“Our aim is to find and provide the best blend of people, technologies and processes". Interview with Nicola Benedetto, Head of the Customer Process Re-engineering Center of Expertise at Comdata.
Nicola Benedetto leads a team of engineers that specialize in re-engineering processes (Lean Six Sigma method) at Comdata. His role is to devise and optimize front and back office processes for customers.
What is your professional background? For over 10 years I was in charge of human resources, including in the customer service department at Vodafone, which led to my involvement in customer operations management. I was then Director of Customer Operations at Vodafone before becoming their Head of Customer Care Consumer in Italy. I joined Comdata as Director of Operations in Italy. After that, I created and now run the group's Customer Process Re-engineering center of expertise.
You use the Lean Six Sigma method. What does this entail? In the industrial sector, people have been working for years on optimizing production processes by implementing efficient methods with a proven track record. On the other hand, in the customer relations world, we have always used somewhat artisanal methods. Each business devises its one way of managing customer operations. However, there is an optimal approach. The Lean Six Sigma method, created for the industrial sector, actually increases customer satisfaction while improving product process quality. This reconciles consumer expectations and the company's objectives at the same time.
What expertise your team members have and which clients are you using the Lean and Six Sigma methods for? Out of the 40 or so people in my team, about half come from the industrial sector. They are engineers who have worked previously as consultants, in the automotive and chemical sectors, for example. They have extensive analytics and statistics skills The others have in-depth operational knowledge of customer relations. This great combination of skills and expertise helps to create a real methodological vision, specifically for end-to-end customer operations (front and back office).
Out of the 60 projects we have completed in two years, we have carried out about a dozen large-scale international Business Process Outsourcing projects in the telecom, energy and utilities sectors. From the experience we have gained during these projects, we are now able to provide our clients with a unique benchmark (international and multi-sector) for finding opportunities to re-engineer major customer management processes.
You developed this approach in Italy. Do you have plans to do something similar in other countries where Comdata operates? Yes, in fact we are currently deploying the process re-engineering expertise in the other countries where we operate within our Comdata Digital entities. The center of expertise is staying in Italy, and we will help local recruitments to carry out our clients' projects in each country where we conduct our BPO operations.
What business needs are fulfilled by process re-engineering? Most effort and investment made by businesses to manage customer processes is spent on front office management. The efficiency and flow of back office processes has a sustained and structuring effect on customer satisfaction and cost control. With B2C as well as B2B, transforming back-office management, combined with better integration with front-office operations, represents an excellent and often untapped source of improved customer satisfaction, efficient customer operations and financial gains.
The basic aim is to improve the customer experience while optimizing costs. Our role is therefore to help reduce customer operations costs as much as possible for all customer management processes, while maintaining a good customer experience or even improving it. When a company comes to us for a consultation, they have often already identified the scope of what they need to improve. They ask us to help revamp the process identified, which has often not changed internally for many years. In addition, our goal is to find opportunities to create value with each customer interaction, especially through up-selling and/or cross-selling.
What is the first step in your approach? First, we analyze a lot of data related to the process we are redesigning, which may come from the company's ERP or its CRM and Voice of the Customer tools. From this analysis, the Lean Six Sigma method helps us to detect waste and opportunities for the process or processes studied.
What happens next? We then work together with our customer's operational teams to determine the steps of the process to be improved. For example, we identify which operations can be digitized to improve the work flow for agents (front or back office) and improve overall quality. We may even recommend robotization or AI to optimize operations and create business value. For example, if an agent performs repetitive tasks with no real value, we might recommend an automated approach, which improves the experience for both the agent and the customer. Digitization can also help agents handle a customer case better by pushing relevant information to them. But technology is not meant to be used everywhere; humans have an important role to play with complex and value-added tasks. This is why our aim is to find the best blend between people, technologies and processes.
Does your support stop at the audit phase? Of course not. Our core business is to offer outsourcing services including people, technologies and tools to take over customer operations with optimized process. This is why companies come to us also wanting comprehensive support for optimizing and outsourcing their end-to-end activities. Companies are less likely to call on us for one-off management service (front and back office) but rather to lead all their operations and for our ability to devise a management strategy for the customer experience. We can do this now thanks to our Lean Six Sigma expertise and our in-depth knowledge of customer operations in most business sectors worldwide.
That our clients trust us to operate their customer activities in a more optimal way in terms of cost and quality delivered, and increasingly as part of a contract where we share the value created, is even more central to the Comdata group's core business.
How do these methods help to create value for your clients? Our approach can impact the quality of operations, reduce costs and optimize KPIs. For one of our clients—an Italian telco—we improved their NPS from 42 to 60, while reducing their costs by 30%. We can also create operational flexibility by doubling service capacity via digital solutions and planning.
What challenges will companies have to face regarding process re-engineering? Companies often face a difficult reality: aging IT systems, social challenges and change management, etc. They now need to move from the project stage to the execution stage, and our role at Comdata is to provide them with end-to-end outsourcing services to overcome these challenges.
You mentioned AI to improve and optimize processes. What exactly are the opportunities in this field? We are able to use AI in our business, especially in areas with low complexity. For booking technician appointments, for example, we are able to automate 50% of the process. In the future, we will be able to automate almost 100% of the process with AI. Offshore outsourcing is sometimes cheaper than deploying an AI-based service. And that's why we always offer our clients the smartest blend of people, technologies and processes.