How G8 Education have grown their customer base by partnering with the right outsourced contact centre provider
TSA Group Executive – New Business, Blaine Slater, interviews Josh Cameron from G8 Education to as the question “what is the recipe for success when it comes to outsourcing your customer contact centre operations?”
In this discussion, Josh covers off the following points:
- The importance of internal alignment before you go to market
- Finding the right customer engagement partner for you
- Insights on a partnership model that is proven to deliver results
- Working together with your partner to drive continuous improvement?
Blaine Slater: Hello all, and welcome to today’s session. My name is Blaine Slater and I’m the Group Executive of New Business for TSA Group. I’m really looking forward to today’s discussion where we’ll be providing some great insights to the question, “what is the recipe for success when it comes to outsourcing your customer contact centre operations?” But before we get started, I’d like to do a quick introduction to TSA. At TSA we deliver amazing customer experiences and our mission is to help brands engage and grow that Australian customer base through outsourced contact centre operations on a range of CX technology services. We’re a large Australian employer, with over 1600 people located across Australia and a thousand more based in the Philippines. We partner with some of Australia’s largest and most recognisable brands. And something that we’ve come to understand during our 23 years plus in the business is that outsourcing your customer engagement services, or changing from an incumbent provider, is a very big deal for any business. So what we wanted to do with our time today was to interview one of our clients. We selected a client who made the decision to outsource part of their customer engagement activities just over two years ago. And we’ll talk through that process as well as hear their view on the critical success factors for forging a successful partnership. So I’d like to welcome to our virtual stage Josh Cameron, the customer engagement manager for one of our key strategic clients, G8 Education.
Joshua Cameron: Thanks, Blaine. Hopefully I can get those beers you’ve been promising me for a while now.
Blaine Slater: You’ll definitely get those at the next non-virtual conference! Now, by way of background for those that may not be familiar with G8 Education, they are a leading provider of childhood care and education services in Australia. Since 2007, G8 has grown from a humble family-owned and operated business with 30 early learning centres to now being Australia’s largest publicly listed provider with over 470 centres across Australia amongst its umbrella of 21 brands. Now, it really is an amazing growth story and one that we’ve been thrilled to be a part of. Josh, to kick us off. Would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
Joshua Cameron: Yeah, thanks, Blaine. My background has been in sales & service contact centres and customer experience for the last 17 years or so across B2B and B2C industries. I’ve been in the early childhood sector now for just over four years. And I love that I can be involved in making a positive impact on children’s education and the foundations of life. I joined G8 about a bit over two years ago, and I believe the transformation of moving to a truly customer-led organization and customer marketing team, our centralised contact centre, has been one of the largest changes in our organization that they’ve embarked on. I used to not have any grey hair two years ago Blaine.
Blaine Slater: Well, that goes for both of us. Now, let’s get stuck into today’s agenda. Josh, G8 had obviously managed and grown the business really successfully for over 12 years. Why then did G8 make the decision in 2018 to outsource their customer engagement services?
Joshua Cameron: You’re right, Blaine, this a great growth story, but with growth comes growing pains. Back in 2008, we still ran a very decentralized customer engagement strategy, which meant that family inquiries, sales and management were all left with our centres. And given how large we had become so quickly, we could no longer effectively manage these processes to ensure that we would deliver the same personal experience as when we were a small family business. So the decision to centralize and outsource aspects of our customer journey was probably driven by the following factors. Firstly, we were getting too many inconsistent results process centres, particularly in sales inquiries and onboarding new families, which was exacerbated by the fact that we had manual processes and couldn’t garner insights into our lost opportunities and our pain points. Secondly, we needed specialist expertise to manage a process centrally. The G8 executive was well aware that their expertise lies in child care and education, not in managing a sophisticated contact centre operation. Thirdly, G8 didn’t have the infrastructure or technology to build a function internally. And again, to build and maintain this type of infrastructure was going to require time, money and expertise that we just didn’t have. And finally, Blaine, as a business, G8 were experiencing significant lost opportunities during our peak periods, for example, the start of each year because our centres were not equipped to manage the fluctuations in demand. And again, it wasn’t feasible for it to bring on short, short term staff just to manage these peak inquiry demands. With all of these factors in mind, the G8 team then engaged the market through an RFI process to build the business case and gain further insight into what value an outsource provider could deliver. And what was critical was that the G8 Executive Team were very engaged in this process. And insights gathered made it abundantly clear that to continue to deliver on our growth strategy, we need a mature partner to come on board, enrich the family experience and give us a market-leading edge. Once the full executive is on board, G8 officially went out to tender to find the right partner.
Blaine Slater: I remember from our early engagement with G8 that you have a very clear vision for the future, which gave the TSA team real clarity on what we needed to focus on. Now, in my role at TSA, I’m always questioning what drives the decision-making process on the other side of the fence. So I’d be keen to understand what it was that G8 was looking for in an outsourced partner.
Joshua Cameron: Good question Blaine. For me, it’s a question that you’d want to resolve before you go to the market. Based on my experience, there are probably six key elements that you should focus on. The first element is trust, and the best way to test the future partner on this front is to speak to other businesses that have worked with and put them to the test, whether they’re true to their word and have the runs on the board that they claim they have.
Blaine Slater: Sorry to interrupt, Josh, but what exactly are you looking for to prove that trust? Are you talking about the people?
Joshua Cameron: It’s important to look at both the people, in particular the executive and the leadership teams that you’ll be working with directly and the organization as a whole and what you want to test and how they operate as a business and whether they have the proven capability to deliver to our requirements or your requirements. And for G8, that wasn’t about finding a partner who is a proven childcare expert. It was actually about finding a team that had customers willing to vouch that they could deliver a broad range of customer experiences, and they had demonstrated that experience at scale across multiple industries and to a high quality. The second key element is innovation, you want a partner that will bring global insights into the contact centre environment and provide innovation and forward thinking concepts to change the way you engage with your customers so you can focus your efforts on building your core products and services. And things I think you should ask on this front are: do they have their own CX technology and toolset so that you can build a bespoke solution? Do they partner with global leaders when it comes to technology? How do they set up their partnerships to share and deploy innovation? Is this part of their normal service or is it add on? Do they have some case studies to demonstrate innovation across all elements of their operations, from CX processes to training, recruitment and reporting? And the third element is flexibility. At G8, we operate under the pressures of peaks and troughs and customer engagement cycles. In particular surges in enrollment inquiries at the start of each year, and this highlighted to me the importance of a partner that has a model to allow you to flex up and flex down as required and has a breadth of capabilities that will allow you to leverage them across all aspects of the customer journey or your business. Next, and probably the most crucial element is cultural alignment. It’s really important to find a partner that operates on the same page as your business from the top down, as ultimately the goal is to build a long term strategic partnership. I found the best way to test this is to visit the partners’ sites, meet with their executives and most importantly, speak with their team members. Then there is location. For G8, it had to be an Australian based provider because no one is going to build a better connection with Australian families and Australians. And secondly, I believe it’s also vital that we work with a local partner here in Brisbane so that we can be engaged in the operations with direct access to the site and executive and senior leadership team. Now, finally, is probably value for money. For some businesses, that might purely mean the cheapest option. But based on my experience in the contact centre space, to find a partner that can truly deliver on the first five elements, you do have to pay a premium price for that service. Though hopefully not too much. And the value for money comes when, you know, you get your return on investment because you have confidence that your partner is going to deliver against your commercial targets, the customer experience KPIs and provide you with assurity around the cost to do that. In other words, there’s no hidden charges or surprises. They don’t charge you to innovate and continue to improve.
Blaine Slater: That’s really interesting and very aligned with what I’m hearing in the marketplace at the moment as well, with everything that’s happened over the past 12 months, we’re hearing the importance of location and value for money more and more vs. the cost focus on contact centres from five years ago. Now, the next item on the agenda is to look at the partnership model itself. Before we do that, I thought I’d give you a break and play a short video that gives a bit of context there in the type of that the TSA has been delivering for G8.
Video Voiceover: At TSA, best practice means meaningful connections, we connect with thousands of Australians each and every day, and as Aussies ourselves, we understand your customers because we are your customers. For our valued G8 family members, we understand that making a decision about the right early learning centre for their child can be stressful. That’s why we’re with them right the way through their first 90 days, enabling us to establish and nurture true connections.
Erinn: So my role as a family support officer is that we are lucky enough to be able to help the family right from day one. So from that initial inquiry, we’re helping them through, to viewing the centres, all the information about the centres. For me, I’ve also worked at some of the centres that G8 owns as well, so I can have that bit of a familiar conversation with them. And we’re just taking them from that journey all the way through to enrolment.
Jade: A lot of families tend to get overwhelmed, especially when they’re new families and new parents, they get overwhelmed and are not too sure what to do. So when we’re here, we can advise them what’s best and what the next steps are.
Erinn: Obviously, nothing is more important than your children and early learning, particularly as well. So I guess that the fact that we get to be dealing with one family through the whole journey really helps that process and puts their mind at ease.
Video Voiceover: Our Family Support Officers provide personalised and meaningful support to their portfolio of families, using the latest technology to help us connect with families in the moments that matter to them.
Luke: We are local, we get the families, we understand what they’re going through, which in turn will help us build that bond with that family.
Jade: So the way we really personalise our service is by letting them choose the way that we contact them.
Luke: Since this is an age of convenience, it’s easier to make an actual SMS or email reply rather than take the initial phone call. So what we do is also tailor the experience to best suit the family’s needs.
Erinn: One of our brand new centres that will be opening up shortly, I’m going to be enrolling my son into. So I’ve gone through the tour process myself and I’ll be going through the enrollment process with them as well. It makes it easier for me, I guess, in a lot of ways to be able to bond and build really great rapport with families because I’ve pretty much covered all bases myself.
Jade: With childcare being such a sensitive topic to families when it comes to coaching sessions, we make sure that we skillshare so that when a family is calling in, we can make sure that they are well looked after from start to finish.
Video Voiceover: We provide our Family Support Officers with the opportunity to broaden and deepen their own capabilities to nurture meaningful connections with their portfolio of families. Our G8 family members love it and so do our team members. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Blaine Slater: Hopefully, the video has given everyone a bit of context around the type of work TSA has been delivering for G8, before we dive into the details. So Josh, to start with, could you provide an overview of your approach to building the partnership with TSA and how has that evolved over time?
Joshua Cameron: I think what I’ll do is talk through our journey at a high-level Blaine, and how that has shaped our partnership approach. We commenced our partnership in November 2018 with discovery between TSA and G8. The onboarding experience was the founding blocks of our partnership and having both teams have dedicated executives and senior leaders engaged over an eight week period, provided an opportunity for our teams to bond and show that TSA had a holistic understanding of our brand culture. It gave TSA time to develop a bespoke solution for us. Another key item that we aligned on early in the process was that we didn’t want to overburden our partnership from the start. So we did deploy a standard approach to go live. So in January 2019, we went live with the contact centre receiving its first inbound enquiry calls for 50% of our G8 brands, and we have 21. By the end of February, TSA was at full competency and handling all of our inbound inquiries across all G8 brands and 500 centres. TSA quickly became embedded as part of our business and our partnership model shifted with TSA becoming our trusted CX advisor, continuously bringing ideas to the table to solve some of our biggest challenges. As a result, by the end of June 2019, TSA started to take on board various proactive contact programs, which include saves calls to existing families, service and web enquiries with new families. This was only possible because TSA made the effort to truly understand our whole business from end to end and invest in the time and money to develop multi-skilled agents dedicated to G8. A pivotal moment in our partnership arrived in July 2019, as we migrated the full enrollment last cycle to TSA, removing responsibility from our centre managers. This was evidence of the complete trust that G8 had in TSA by this stage, as it represented over one billion dollars worth of new revenue per year. TSA optimize the end-to-end enrollment process and built a team of specialist family support officers for us, a couple of them who you met in the video, with specialist expertise to case-manage all of our enrollment enquiries. I can’t understate how much of an impact it had on our business. Since then, TSA has become a critical part of our business and that we rely on it to deliver our growth strategy. And nothing demonstrates that better than what we achieved together in 2020. At the start of the year, TSA migrated G8 telephony platforms onto TSA’s Amazon Connect, driven completely by TSA at TSA’s expense. This provides us access to the next generation of CX tech and the ability to deploy truly bespoke omnichannel customer journeys that will exponentially improve our customer experience and fuel our growth. Then, of course, covid-19 hit. In April 2020, the impacts of covid to the early learning industry were accelerating, and we needed to ask TSA to ramp down. TSA rapidly transitioned 75% of the team members of that 50 FTE to other lines of business. In May, we were able to rapidly deploy a workforce work from home solution to provide continuous services when restrictions his Brisbane. Then, to continue the roller coaster, June saw enquiry demand return. And we asked TSA to ramp up to support a critical campaign at reaping back lost enrollment figures. TSA were able to rapidly support by tapping back into the talent pool that had been rapidly deployed in May. And to round off a big year, in September 2020, you built a G8 chat solution which provided families increased choice when engaging with G8 during their involvement journey.
Blaine Slater: Well, I’d have to agree with you on that front, Josh. It Really has been an exciting journey to date and our G8 innovation roadmap looks just as exciting in 2021. But for now, it would be great to dive deeper and get your perspective on what elements of a partnership model are most critical to delivering success.
Joshua Cameron: I may have touched on some of these elements earlier Blaine, so apologies if I repeat myself, but I would say that firstly, it’s critical that you are completely aligned from day one and that you trust each other’s judgement on your respective areas of expertise, being childhood education and care vs customer engagement in our partnership. You also want your partner to absorb your brand and become an extension of your business. TSA did this through simple elements like cultural alignment workshops, branding the contact centre in G8 branding and training your team to speak and act like us as our team members. You also want your partner to be completely accessible. I know I can call TSA’s executive and leadership team at any time and I visit the site at least a couple of times a week. Every time I do, it feels like I’m walking into a part of G8 with a vibrant and dynamic team. Another key success factor in our model is that TSA operates with complete transparency. We have dedicated weekly, monthly and quarterly business reviews that are centred around data-driven insights, with TSA proactively delivering insights and innovation. And finally, there’s a genuine two-way respect because TSA goes above and beyond to deliver on our objectives in a way that we couldn’t. They dedicate the time, they had the credentials to recruit special talent. They build the technology and deliver solutions specific to our needs. And the TSA-G8 have access to R&R programs that drive and reward performance, including the chance to win cars and exotic holidays, that unfortunately we just wouldn’t be able to do on our own. And it’s this always-on full-service mindset that you really should expect, I think, from a true partner.
Blaine Slater: That’s a great summary. Thanks, Josh, and I’m really glad to know that the team’s hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. Now onto the final topic of today’s conversation. You’ve already mentioned that you expect innovation and continuous improvement from your partners, but how do you measure and track that?
Joshua Cameron: That’s a really good question. I suppose it comes down to my experience working with partners who operate on different sides of the ledger. There are some contact centre operators that focus just purely on the KPIs and delivering within that. And while I definitely monitor and track performance, do you want a partner that’s thinking above and beyond those parameters and operates with the same strategic mindset as you do. For me, I think there are three key elements that demonstrate the sort of mindset, firstly, I think your partner should understand where your business is going and what that requires from the executive and senior leadership team who make your business their priority. TSA often approach us, whether that be in regular executive catch-ups or our joint innovation working parties with ideas for problems that we just didn’t know even existed. Secondly, your partner should provide you with proactive insights into where the industry is going and what opportunities exist to drive efficiencies or improve our customers’ experience. And they deliver those improvements as part of their BAU operations. Finally, Blaine, I reckon a true partner will put skin in the game. We have campaigns that we run to drive particular outcomes and TSA invest in delivering the solution, knowing they’ll be paid based on the outcomes of that campaign. And the ability to operate at this level comes from the fact that TSA truly understands G8 and the outcomes we want to drive.
Blaine Slater: Thanks, Josh. Unfortunately, we’re running out of time, but before we hand over to the audience for any Q&A, I’d just like to recap on some of the key messages I’ve noted as you’ve been speaking today. Firstly, and I might be to myself of some business here, only outsource when you have 100% alignment on your objectives, both internally and with your new CX service provider. Secondly, do your research and screen a partners credentials in the marketplace across the following key elements: trust, innovation, flexibility, cultural alignment, location and value for money. Third, invest the effort up front to set up your partnership for long term success. Fourth, give your partnership model the opportunity to evolve over time. But make sure you select the partner upfront that’s able to evolve with your business. And finally, expect a continuous improvement mindset from your service provider. Don’t settle for just hitting KPIs. So it’s at this point we’ll cut the video over and hopefully return live to answer some questions you may have. Thanks again, Josh.
Blaine Slater: No problems Blaine.
Blaine Slater: I hope everyone has picked up some new insights from our discussion or that it at least reinforces something you already knew. It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you today. And if there are any further questions that anyone has, please feel free to reach out to me or Josh on LinkedIn or check out the TSA website. Thanks again.