Building the BPO of the Future w/ Mike Small and Umesh Sachdev


On this episode of ‘Conversations that Matter’, special guest host Umesh Sachdev, Co-Founder and CEO of Uniphore, chats with Mike Small, CEO of Sitel Americas. Sitel Americas is a global leader in customer experience management with a team of over 90,000 associates around the world. 

On the podcast, Mike explains how, by capitalizing on ever-evolving technology such as AI and automation, the BPO (business process outsourcing) industry can help organizations optimize their brands no matter the scale. “The BPO of the future,” he says, “is truly an integrative platform.” 

On the podcast, Umesh and Mike discuss: 

  • Ways the customer experience industry has evolved over the years 
  • The biggest myth around the BPO industry 
  • How AI and automation impact the BPO industry today and potentially in the future 
  • Advice for contact center agents to excel in CX 
  • Becoming a better customer service operations manager  

For more information about Uniphore and Sitel, go to our recent blog post. 

To hear this interview and many more like it, subscribe to the Conversations that Matter Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

The power of CX is the phoneoffers, it's knowing exactly what your customers customers think of you. And thechallenge for all of us is how do we automate mine ensure that we arecompletely connected into the data that we sit on today, which is exactly thepower of any organization. Welcome to the conversations that matter podcast from uniform,the podcast that dives into real conversations and that are happening in contact centers aroundthe world. Here you'll experience exciting interviews with wellknown thought leaders. Here,compelling stories from industry experts gained fresh insights on contacts and our best practices.In more so, grab a beverage and tune in as we get real withconversations that matter. Everyone. Welcome to another episode of conversations that matter,a podcast for contact in our professionals. I'm host randicks are from uniform andwe have a great and really special episode today. I'm joined by MS sachdevfrom uniform. MSI welcome. Thank you, anny. I'm really excited about theconversation today with our special guests and I've decided to done by Mike Small, who's going to be on in just a moment. So it's going tobe a fun session. Yeah, you guys are can have a great conversation. I'll be in the background and you guys are already for a great conversationand Mike is very gas for giving us time today. So let's bring onMike to the show. Hey a mesh, Hey Mike. Welcome them to theshow, welcome to cryme that matter, and for the folks are or joiningus today, I have decided to invite my good friend Mike smalls,the see of America's a site down a full disclosure. Our cycle and UNIFsigned a partnership some time ago to use our conversational service automation platform. Buttoday's conversation, what it's all about, is really to talk with Mike andLearn how his company and what they're doing for cycle heroes and how they're helpingorganizations around the world with their contact center. If anyone wants to learn more aboutthe partnership, please check out the link on the notes and details aboutthis announcement. But let's get this conversations started. Welcome Mike. Thank youand sure I appreciate the time and it's great to see you and it's greatto be here. Absolutely. This is our the chance for our viewers andneed to get to know you a little bit better and what you do excitele. So I'm going to start with a series of questions that that's okay,to get the conversation flowing. So the first one really is for those whoare unfamiliar. Please talk to us about with sital what is your role andwhat a citele all about? That's that's great. I appreciate. Appreciate thatquestion. You know, first US start. Will quickly site now. So Itell is a team of over ninetyzero associate school around the role, whichis mandated to really focus on every single connection that we are privilege to serve, our our customers, customer delivering a great x, a great client experience. We're obsessed about that and everything we..., how we go about makingthat happen with great partnerships, how we go about making that happen with greatpeople and, most importantly, from our scampoint, how we empower our associatesto deliver that experience. Having Ninetyzero folks worldwide, globally connected, we wantto ensure that our experiences are consistent throughout the world. But most importantly individual, emotional, I could true connection. So empowering our people is everything.My role is I'm chief cheerleader and I get to you know, postcode andhopefully get back on a plane and travel to wonderful places around the world.But right now we're hunker down, like so many of us, in ourheadquarters in Miami. I'm actually in my Home Office today, but we arestill firmly guided by our values, and you know my values for the companyand behind me on the wall you know we focus on building trust with oneanother, working together, you know, truly being bold and, most importantly, wowing our customers. So, in the role of Chief Executive Officer forthe Americas, I try to embody our values and, most importantly, supportour people. Growth. Great teams work with our clients to deliver a greatx experience. Excellent and you know, Mike, in the time that I'vehad the privilege to come to know you and the rest of the cycle team, this is a truly unique organization and it's been a privilege for me topartner with you and work with you. My next one is you brought thisup, that we are living in unusual times right now. The pandemic hasjust, you know, caused some major shifts in the way we live anddo business. So I did this new normal. How has your business beenaffected, and people and your customers business? What's your commentary on the times welive in right now? Well, my first commentary is just my sincerehope that everyone is safe. You know, we are people at the end ofthe day. We serve people, and Covid nineteen, I believe,has impacted the globe like nothing we've seen in a very long time, youknow, decades, if not going back to you know, this is acrisis that has impacted all of us simultaneously and you know, it's really stretched, it's really tested who we are as a company and who we are asa people. And when I think about, you know, how we as acompany had responded, I am so, so thrilled, so privileged to bepart of this team. This team is agile, this team is tirelesslycommitted to see x experiences of our customers. So we've been able to respond,most importantly, get our employees working at home. In many cases,about eighty five percent of my organization is...

...all at home, where our employeesare still in centers around the world, ensuring that those centers are safeguarden andsafe to come to work at and ensure that we're providing our experience, ourclients, a phenomenal experience. We've had to change our processes and and abig piece of that is technology. A big piece of that is quality andand you knowiform plays of major role in that. A big piece of thatis security, and you know that's where we've invested millions of dollars over thelast three to four months. There's really focusing on those three pillars around aan experience for at home in terms of a people house it effectiveness. Weare so connected that we're used to global conference calls and videos mandatory in ourin our culture, but I miss my team, I miss being in theoffice. facetoface. I miss our customers, facetoface, and I'm sure you canexperience and share that as well. You know we're doing our very bestleveraging and technologies and will always keep ourselves safe and our customers safe, butthere's definitely an element of interacting, innovating, challenging one another, facetoface interaction that'ssimply we do miss for sure. I called sure is so important tocitell group that facetoface interactions. The last time my entire team was together wasin the February time frame for our kickoff and we all went to Cartagenia,Columbia. We still speak about that and usually we're together every month. Sothat's the only thing that I would say. From a people standpoint, we're lookingforward to hopefully a vaccine and getting back to some degree of normalcy poststhe code crisis right, right and cycle Excidele, you have the unique byto find a selling customers across many different industries and many different countries in theWol blue and how would you say, just a snapshot of what's happening withyour customers around the world in this neon arm? Yeah, great question.You know, I would say that it really does depend on the industry orvertical that we are supporting. So we're seeing significant growth in our banking financialservices businesses around the globe. We're seeing significant growth and ability to help supportcovid responses and our public services or public sector teams around the world, butthen we're having clients in the travel hospitality side that obviously have been impacted greatly. So you know, the first aspect that we've looked at in every clientinteraction is empathy and ensuring that we are there to support them on their termshow they need us. So if they need us to scale up, movearound the world, launch a new product or service to help drive more digitalonline capabilities, we've launched over fifteen thousand boss in the last three days,last forty five days, just helping clients... capitalize on more of a digitalchannel to help serve their clients as opposed to in some cases traditionally focusing onvoice or shatter or email. So these are some of the initiatives that ourcustomers are asking us for. What I would say, across all industries,the theme of Digital Adoption, digital transformation and acceleration is at an all timeline. Got There. So my shifting gear see of being in the SYSTRY.You've been in this trade for for a while. Walk me through how you'veseen the customer expedience industry evolved or dcars. It's a great question. You know, when I first came to the BPO side of the our industry,I came from a traditional it services and more of an application background and whenI looked at the BPO industry. I said here is an industry that isright for transformation and and I made a career decision. It was I wantto be focused solely on bbo and when I made that pivot away from purelyit or large it or services firms into truly BPO focus, it was lookingat holistically the end to end process, the front office, the Midoffice,the backup, and there's been, you know, some innovations that have startedin the back office around automation per se. There's been some innovation around bolt ontechnologies in the mid office. But the power of CX is the frontoffice. It's knowing exactly what your customers, customers think of you. And thechallenge for all of us is how do we automate mine ensure that weare completely connected into the data that we sit on today, which is exactlythe power of any organization. What are your clients think of you? Whatare your customers truly say about you? Are you servicing them on their termsand are they providing you feedback to get better? And if you are customerobsessed, as we are, that is where you want to spend every wakingmoment of your day. So that's why, I feel from a business process,outsource in perspective, legacy, quote unquote, bus and seats, andI can't stand that term because today I feel most brands are absolutely aligned tothe CX. Experience is everything. It drives piano performance, it drives growth, it drives your innovation at Enda. have to be customer obsessed to there'sso many great companies with examples of that globally and we thrive ourselves on beingone of them. What do you say of the biggest myth about the BPUindustry? The biggest myth about bbo industry... it's all Labor arbitrarge, youknow, and that really was historically. A lot of the focus is howdo we take cost out of our operations and how do we move work aroundthe world in order to optimize Labor arbitrarge, and that miss still exists today andfrankly, I believe that myth will go away with companies like yours,with companies like what Sitel Group, where we're just changing that narrative and everyinteraction we have with our customers customer because the more we harness the data,the more we transform the process to drive either revenue growth reduce churn, makea process improvement that removes friction in terms of customer experience. The more wecontinue to do that and need our customers on their terms, when and howthey want to meet with us, the more our industry will change into trulya CX transformed industry. Absolutely, and this leads me to the topic offartificial intelligence automation, you know the one we live in. MIC EI andautomation are buzz words. These are technology wards and hips that have been created, but are they real? What's the impact of these technologies in the BPOindustry? From yarlets, I'll use a great example of highlighting are they real? I just finished a client call with one of our brand new, innovative, you know, footwear brands that are joining our portfolio and you know,this was the CEO of, you know, the brand that was just doing ameat and great executive to executive touch point with our teams, and itwas so refreshing to see how each and every one of the leaders on thecall spoke about how they are clients upsessed and how, from the very beginningof launching this company, the brand, the product, the innovation of peoplewere everything so specifically one of the questions asked was how do you create anemotional connection with our customers? The second question that was asked is how doyou ensure your associate can provide great storytelling? And and I just I was likeFingo, you know, this is a brand I want to go allin on, because they get it. It's about storytelling, it's about livingyour values, Mr Mrs Customer, and translating those values in those stories toyour end clients to create that stickiness, to create a connection, to createpromotion, to create empathy. And we can't do that at scale without technology. There's just no way. So, you know, you think about goingback eight, nine years ago, we would have a small team doing qualityassurance and reviewing a certain percentages of calls...

...and everything was driven by spreadsheets andKPIS. Today, no human is touching any of that. Our data wherehouse. It's completely automated, using technology to drive speech, to drive customersentiment, to flag areas of opportunity for our associates and to help automate thecoaching experience. And and it's amazing we had this opportunity the other day.We can't do coaching, you know, round tables and Huddles, because we'reall virtual now. So one of the things that we decided to do is, let's ensure we're using the same AI technology, the same automation technology,not just to record our associates calls with the end customer, but how aboutrecord our coaches and how they are interfacing with their teams, because, let'sface it, you know, I don't know about you, my game isa little off in terms of just purely being virtual. I want to ensurethat we are always on our toes and the way to do that is thehardest of technology that's available. And, frankly, and you know this betterthan most, how far has it come? I mean leaps and bounds over thelast, you know, two to three years in particular. So ifyou're not focused on embedding ai into all of your endto end systems to drivea, you know, a completely automated but, more importantly, and integratedexperience for your people and your end customers, someone else is. That's a greatanswer and I love the example of the customer that you picked. Nowfor a short break, let's learn more about uniform. Uniform is a globalleader and conversational service automation. Coming his vision is to disrupt an outdated customerservice model by bridging the gap between human and machine using voice, ai andautomation, so that every voice on every call is truly heard. For moreinformation about uniform, go to www dot unifordcom, email podcast at uniforcom ortweet at uniform. And now back to the podcast. You know, likethat's being commentary over the last few years about this ai and you know howin the future, with eimaturing and automation coming in, that there may notbe in need for the BP industry. I am one, I said,on the opposite n off it. I like you'll believe that the BBR doesste has evolved in the quartry of devolved and one that is at the middleof this entire transformation. So one who's leading one of the largest beepios inthe world into the future. Five what penny is out. What would theBEP of the future look like? I think the BPO of the future istruly an integrated platform and you know there...

...will be consolidation in our industry.We do know this because there was a high cost in terms of, youknow, entry into the bbo industry. That cost is only going to increase. The sincere capital require to be a leading provider in the bbo industry issignificant and if you're not investing to x what you were investing one, sixteen, twenty four months ago, you're going to fall behind. And that's whythe majority of our capital or is going into proof of concepts, is goinginto technology, is going into our it our data analyst teams. Tremendous amountof investment needed to catch up to some of our clients in terms of howthey operate, but in many cases help many of our clients catch up towhere they need to be in the industry. So if you're an organization and BPO, you've got to be able to provide services and call center services andIT services and data and analytics services and learning and you have to have agreat people culture and and that's really where we're focused in terms of, youknow, the future state of the future model. And I would add tothat that I do believe that front office, Midoffice and back office are able todrive efficiencies and effectiveness through the end to end process. So companies likeourselves, working in partnership with both innovative technology companies, the real end toend value would be able to take that mortgage process from front office, Midoffice, back office back to front office in a frictionless way, the way theclient wants you to interface with them, and just droptors or out there.And we work with so many disruptive brands and and I love it because Iget to see truly how, if we were not in a legacy environment,how would we build something, and that type of design thinking, that typeof innovation and speed and agility is quite refreshing, depending on the industry.So being able to be welcoming of those ideas, being able to operate ina model that, like, you know, brand new disruptor to a traditional legacy. You Know Financial Services Institution. You know how are we going tobe able to reinvent the sex experience together, and you know that's going to be, you know, something that does not go away. To answer yourquestion specifically, does I do I think calls will continue to contract? Yes. Do I think that digital will always be the primary chather, a channelof choice? Yes. Do I believe that humans will have some form ofinteraction in that process? Yes. Will the human beyond mened with technology?Yes, all of those have to integrate...

...together and and that's why we exist, that's why you exist. I mean that's fun stuff. Absolutely. Icouldn't agree more with you. A few moments ago, you mentioned how UScycle like using technology, getting what your trainers to record, you know,their trainings for the agents, as the CEO and in America's for one ofthe largest DPOS, talk to not just cite US thousands of contact center agents, but you know, even contact center agents. So don't work etcle howwould you message them? And today's era, what would be a coaching to thecontact center agent to just keep excelling at this customer experience. You know, the first the first thing that I would say to our most treasure,Auss at our people, okay, and those who are not with us inthe industry, is, I said this in a recent discussion around some ofour most diverse leaders in the company got together and share some experiences. Forme, to choose a company who you can be authentic, the real you, if you're not accepted for who you are, if you feel like there'sjust a little bit you know what, these these folks just don't don't getme. You know, look for a company that gets you. Look fora company where you can truly just be you. That's the first advice thatI would give. The second is really take a hard look at their cultureand listen. We have transformed this company over the past four and a halfyears. My two founders, Olivier and Laurent to Bertie, came over fromParis. They located to Miami with us. They are obsessed and they are alignedto the values that I share, and working with people that are likeminded and aligned to culture and values is so just. It's critical. It'scritical to the success of an organization and it doesn't matter what level you're at. We don't care about titles, we don't care about you know how longyou've been with an organization. That's great, especially long tenured folks. We careof about how are you feeling about what you bring to the table andhow can we better support you to bring more you know. So we suppoke. We speak a lot about our associate experience. Are My associate experience Max, where we have technology pro just for report and we connect into the collectivegenius of our associates. Tell us how to redesign and recruitment process. Tellus how to read assign the customer experience. For one of the largest brands.Tell us what our marketing lingo should be. Tell us what it's liketo work here and how we can make it better. You know, oneof the things that they came back with our Max inside our community of overtwozero associates, you know, is connect with us more. You know,get my schedule to a mobile platform,...

...let me do shift swaps, letme be able to show you what my skills are, so if a projectcomes up, I can I can put my hand up. Those are thetypes of ideas that you, if you're connected, into the collective genius ofyour employee. What comes out of them when tap is just goal. Sothat's what I would share with our associates. Make sure you're able to be authenticwithin the walls of your organization and make sure that you have a voice. That's great. That's great advice. Shifting to you know, a bunchof industries, as you and I both know, are seeing sarge in calledtraffics and, unfortunately, also industries where the businesses have taken ahead, includingrereadl traveling in hospitality. If you are meeting a customer service operations manager inone of these brands today, what would be your advice to them, especiallyyou are learning from other customers. Don't stay in Bill. Don't stand stillwhen you're looking at your operation today, whether you're in an internal captive oryou're working through partners, do not stand still. Go and spend some timewith your associates, and right now, I understand that that's difficult to do. You can't do why jacking and sitting right beside our associates, but useand leverage your technology to be as close as you possibly can with your associates, because right now what many customers are focusing on, depending on you know, calls and the arrival patterns and workforce management being either going through the rootfor maybe reduction because of the series of covid related industry challenges. Is thistoo will pass. So use this time. If you've been accelerated in you're oneof those industries that are going through significant growth, use this time asan opportunity to advance the agenda faster and if you're in one of the industriesthat are impacted, take care of your people. Is absolutely best you canand use this time to truly look at transforming so you can come out ofcovide stronger, and I know those are words, but it takes leadership inthe you know, I will make references. Is Not a customer of ours,but you know, I was absolutely honored to see how Mary got,who's gone through a very difficult time of covid, how their CEO handle communicationto both shareholders as well as their employees and how they've being able to workthrough partnerships to help place some of their employees. Nothing is ever perfect,I understand that, but I know Mary at will bounce back a iconic brandand around the world and an iconic US company. You know, I rootfor brands like that. I root for... know, as we come out, hopefully stronger post covid, that we will be able to all recover andI think using the time now, while maybe it's a little bit more difficultto do some really innovative, transformative projects, while you know volumes are low,you know is the opportunity. So that's what I would recommend, dependingon the industry what it's been a great conversation so far. We won't thesegment of the conversation and it's a little bit of a game which we gotwhat's behind the post and what we do here is we bring up one ofyour recent social media posts. Really follow you and we ask you what itall what it's all about. So here it is now. Your agents dealwith customers around the world and some of them are delighted and happy customers and, as we know, some of them probably are not. But you'll cameup with this initiative call of the site down heroes. That of part thiswas all about. You know, I was reminded through a mentorship early onin my career the power of a thank you. And you know simply whatsitell heroes is all about. Was it just to give a sense of youknow, we went from roughly, you know, eight to tenzero employees workingfrom a remote location to over sixty five thousand globally, and we did thatin the space of two to three weeks. And that's a lot of testament toour customers, but also a tremendous effort from our associates worldwide, whetherit's our it team, our PMO team or quality team or coaches, ourassociates, all of the operations teams globally. It was a monumental effort and youknow, as we coined July, coming out of some normalizations to thestate stability in terms of running those operations and getting our customers back to levelswhere we felt we could just take a breath, take a moment and makesure that we recognize, you know, outstanding execution and outstanding outstanding work.And you know, this was one of my favorite recognized as of our oursitel heroes. We we did this by individual. Every manager in the organization, every leader was asked to recognize individuals and share their story. And there'scountless stories, but one of the posts from Chad and re forwarded there becauseI just think it nailed it. It's I'd like to thank all of ourfrontline associates. You know, they have families, they are scared, theyare worried about the covid impact the same way we are, and you know, they came through big time. Our a associates were roughly ninety eighty plusthousand. You know, we're up to...

...ninety five thousand, so we've welcometrendous amount of new associates in. They are the heartbeat of Sitel. Sojust, you know, recognizing them and thanking them for all of their effortswas was really what thank you monthy was all about. You know, mycould totally right the difference between great companies and good companies, as the culture, and this post of yours is a great demonstration of the culture of thattitle has and leaders like you are putting together. So the job, goodjob. I appreciated them well. Now, coming to the final segment of thisconversation, and to end on a fun note, this segment is whatwe called the rapid fire small style. Okay, I felt I'm going toask you a series of quick questions. They can be as it happened ornot, as you like or as long as not. But starting with completethe statement. For me, my favorite part of the day is the morning. I start with the meditation. It's awesome. Last book you read essentialism. My chief Revenue Officer who joined the organization, gave me essentialism by CraigMcKinnon. Great Book. Your mental growing up my older brother Jason. Youknow, it's always good to have an older brother that can beat you upand challenge you, and we had lots of those, lots of those experiences, but one that also could protect you and love you, and definitely growingup, that was my big brother Jason. That's awesome. A public big areyou little capital Colin Hall now surprised. Favorite way to decompress running used tobe Ryan. As you know, I had I was over in thePhilippines and the February time frame at our employee kickoff, and I had aknee injury and let me tell you, that is not fun as a runner. But definitely running is my way of decompressing. I miss it tremendously.I am doing fast walking and accumulating way too much covid nineteen. Wait,but this too will, you know, come to a conclusion. I'm workinghard to get back to my run. Well, I'm I hope and praythat you'll get back to your running us as quickly as you can. Thankyou. Favorite cuisine. I Love Thai Food, Love, Love, lovethy food, awesome freite spots, tea. You know, I'm gonna have tosay this is a tough one because I grew up in Toronto. NowI live in Florida, so it is being a long transition. But Ihave to say the Miami okay, and you know we have a good,good run going right now in the bubble and Orlando, but Miami. Heand you know, for a kid growing up in Trina, you got tosay the Toronto and the TRONAIC. We've sorry, of course, your favoritevacation destination. You know we love Barbados.

I'd like to say it's a secondhome, but it is our favorite family vacation spot. We try togo every year and we have family. I have family of Barbados as well, so we love the the country of Barbados. That is definitely just smalldestination spot. That's awesome. Yeah, and if I love one, thenext big acquisition are the thing you've been waiting to buy, personality post covering. I have to say definitely. You know, I miss going and lookingat, you know, a nice pair of jeans or some shoes, somethingdefinitely in the wardrobe space, because I don't know about you, you know, I'm so happy that, you know, we had this conversation because I gotto dress up a little bit and you know, but I tell you, you know, I do miss that interaction and I think definitely a tripto them all for the entire family would be something that we we think throughpost tool. Awesome. My thank you for the diamonds. Being a pleasure, as always talking to you. You know how much I appreciate for Ostour friendship and partnership. Now, for folks who want to reach out tolearn more about CITO or connect with you, what would you say is the bestway from them? Best way to connect is sitellcom. You know,you can pretty much get any one of our experts, myself, any time, any place. Were an extremely nimble organization, extremely flat so and veryresponsive. So anyway we can help, while we were always standing by.Mike, Thank you. Keep doing the amazing work that you're doing and getback to running as quickly as as possible. Thank you so much. You know, there's a pleasure, really appreciated time. You've been listening to theconversations that matter. PODCAST by uniform. Make sure you subscribe to our podcaston your favorite podcast player and rate in review to enable us to create relevantand valuable content for your business. If you'd like to learn more about conversationalservice automation, is it UNIFORMCOM. Have a great day.

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