Spotlight on the French-speaking market: from Strasbourg to Antananarivo
You took over the French-speaking region in October. Could you tell us a bit more about this division of the company?
The region includes four different countries: France, Belgium, Morocco and Madagascar. We are in the top 3 of our market. We have approximately 14,000 colleagues spread over 20 different sites. Besides the common language, each of them aims to provide “best-shoring” – in other words, we aim to offer customers the service that best suits their needs. We look at their industry, the relationship with their customers and the type of customer experience they expect, and we provide the best combination of onshore, offshore and digital solutions. We think it’s crucial to have a partner who can deliver the best of both of these worlds. This is the future of our business.
What are your first impressions since the start of your new role?
Our region is very competitive – almost all of the major global BPO players are present in France – and dynamic, but presents complexities and specificities. Offshoring is well developed in France – especially compared to some other major European countries. But the level of competition means that we must constantly innovate, develop and implement digital technologies in our operations and customer processes. We also need to keep a close eye on how we can provide cost-effective service while improving and maintaining quality. In today’s economic environment, this means reinventing the way we work with our customers, developing new partnerships and investing in new solutions and value propositions. We know we have to work differently and that’s the challenge we set ourselves every day.
How do you plan to do this?
Implementing this strategy means that we must commit to improving week after week. But, at the enterprise level, that largely means delivering in four areas.
The first focuses on our main customer sectors. We need to improve our understanding of the differences between customer management in automotive and financial services, and how these differ from telecommunications. We need to be able to speak the same language as our customers and then go beyond that by truly understanding their needs, not only for CRM purposes, but also how what we do fits into their business goals. wider. This is how we will offer you truly personalized solutions.
Second, we need to develop and implement new technologies. This includes, but is not limited to, digital solutions. Ultimately, technology is what will help improve efficiency and deliver better quality to customers at the same cost.
Third, we need to consider how we capture, use and value data. We are essentially a giant machine for collecting data for our customers, their customers, and our own business goals – we need to be able to leverage it to make improvements for everyone’s benefit. Obviously, we should only do this with regulations such as GDPR in mind, but we can do so much more with the data we have.
Finally, we must be able to offer simple solutions to complex customer needs. Many of our customers need support in a variety of markets with different requirements – we need to be able to offer them a one-stop-shop in all areas. We can provide a seamless experience in all the markets we serve, from any location, with one team looking after them.
You mentioned understanding different sectors – what are the key industries in the Francophone market?
Currently, our main sectors are telecommunications and utilities. For obvious reasons, the latter is a very tough market right now. We have also developed a lot of experience in retail and e-commerce over the last two or three years and we are also very strong in the automotive industry. Following our merger with Konecta, we want to grow our presence in the financial sector – the Konecta team has a lot of experience in banking, insurance and consumer credit, so we plan to do a lot more in these areas. Finally, we have a very strong offering for the healthcare market, so that will be another area we will be working on in the coming year.
What distinguishes Comdata from others in the French-speaking market?
The merger with Konecta will make a real difference for our customers and our business. We are now a 2 billion euro company, which puts us among the top five or six BPO providers in the world, and we have a team of 130,000 people. But it’s not about getting bigger for fun – becoming one of the biggest companies in our industry has many benefits for our customers, our teams and our new group.
First, it allows us to innovate and invest in technology and digital. If you want to deliver the best solutions to customers and be a BPO leader, you have to be able to do it. Second, this 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 customers and our teams. Bringing them together will only make us stronger, and everyone I spoke to was very excited about the move.
Third, we are now one of the main BPO leaders in the Spanish speaking world – in Colombia alone we will have over 30,000 people. This strengthens our position in Latin America and opens up more delivery opportunities for US customers through offshoring. Fourth, the merger will strengthen our position with global clients who only wish to deal with a few large partners, which is good news for our French multinational partners.
Does the merger with Konecta give you additional services to offer customers?
It adds a few new strings to our bow, but more importantly, it provides another strategic lever by adding digital marketing agency Konecta, which the company acquired in 2020. The company provides end-to-end digital marketing services. end, supporting all communications across the web, social media, and search engines. This will allow our customers to take care of everything from buying ad space on Facebook to delivering sales. It is a new sales channel in addition to retail, e-commerce and telesales for a brand. We want to deploy this new concept in our French-speaking region as another way of bringing value and partnering with our customers.
How are Comdata’s operations in Morocco and Madagascar different?
We consider that each country has its own specialty. For example, in addition to strong commercial expertise, Morocco will become a multilingual 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 strong demand for services in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian, which it is well placed to provide. 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 over 2,500 members on our team next year. We are developing our ability to provide technical support from our locations in the country, which is working very well. As part of this, we are building a partnership with a local university specializing in internet and technology to help students develop their skills and prepare for work.
Going forward, where would you like the region to be in the years to come?
By 2025, I want us to have delivered in a few different areas. The first objective is to become one of the preferred and most innovative BPO service providers in the French-speaking market for major brands. Digitization is a big part of that, and we should also be competing with the big integrators and consultants in that space. Likewise, I want us to grow our digital marketing footprint – it is currently small in the French region, but we have big ambitions for this.
Another area I want to tap into is the specialties of each country that I mentioned earlier. It is essential for us to be as strong as possible for the services we provide in each geographical area rather than trying to offer the same thing everywhere. So that means being number one for technical assistance in Madagascar, number one for muti-linguism in Morocco, etc. We need to focus on what we want to achieve in each market and commit to that goal.
Additionally, we all agree on the importance of having a strong environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) strategy in place. We are committed to achieving the environmental standards set out in the Paris Agreements, and regarding the S of ESG, we want to work with our communities and support local initiatives. For example, we plant trees for carbon offsetting in Madagascar and collaborate with schools in Morocco. We will do much more with the strong involvement of our teams.
Finally, we know that we are a people-centric company. I’ve mentioned the importance of digital a few times, but ultimately we’ll always have a lot of people in our business. Attracting and retaining top talent is more important than ever – with digital we will be able to automate the simple, straightforward interactions, but we will need people to handle the most complex customer needs.