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ibex Executive Interview

John Thompson, Global Head of Sales, ibex

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CrmXchange’s Managing Partner, Sheri Greenhaus, conducted an in-depth conversation with John Thompson, Global Head of Sales, ibex, a leading CX outsourcer, during the CCW conference in Las Vegas.  

Can you tell us about ibex, with Wave X in particular?

ibex is a leading CX outsourcer with over 30,000 associates worldwide, six countries and 34 contact centers. When you get to this level of scale, we're essentially a large business, centered around people.

We can look at technology in a few ways. The first is customer-facing, like a chatbot or an IVR. It is an engagement mechanism for the customer to then go through a journey. We built Wave X with the employee experience of the agent in mind.

Think of the agent employee experience like a triangle.

1. Recruiting. What is the best way to take the ‘grind’ out of the process? When associates come for an interview, they don’t want to be there for hours. There needs to be an efficient way to get it done on the front end. After the job is accepted, there needs to be a follow-up to distribute company information; a welcome to the company. This takes a lot of the question part out of the way. In this market, you have to have a great experience before they walk through the door.

2. Training. Building speed to proficiency is really important to our clients. Setting up – whether that is through training simulators or using technology to build scenarios that they might face – the agents need to be prepared for all types of calls. We build training simulators with our clients so the agents are comfortable and proficient when they take the live calls.

3. Agent Help. The last piece of the agent employee experience triangle is providing agents help and coaching when they need it. Our supervisors are proactively engaging with the associate before they have an issue on a call. We have what is called a virtual floor management system (vFMS). As a great example, if an associate’s AHT is ticking high, the supervisor will be notified and can check on the agent to see if they are facing a challenge, assisting the associate proactively before they raise their hand in frustration.

We believe that if we use purposeful technology to better agents’ working experience, our end result is a better experience for both our clients and the callers. In other words, better EX equals better CX.

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Are you able to integrate with other technology that your customers/partners have?

Yes, every client brings their own technology to the table, and we are able to integrate with them.

You created all of your own technology rather than use technology available on the market, is that correct?

We are a technology-driven organization. We want to ‘own’ the agent experience because we feel that's a key differentiator. We know our associates best and we want to enable them with tools that are built through that close feedback loop from them.

Does Wave X also apply to work from home as well as in the office? Supervisors can look at a simulated floor; does that apply to wherever the associates work?

Yes, you can see it all through the vFMS, which gives us a virtual view into what is occurring in real time. If the agent needs assistance, it does not matter to us if they are virtual or on site.

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Does it matter to ibex if the agents are virtual or on-premise?

We look at what the client’s needs are, the complexity of the project, and if the project will work better in a brick-and-mortar environment.

Where the market is going for CX outsourcing, and with this model, we want to have some mix of brick-and-mortar, but should there be another issue where agents need to work from home, our clients and partners know that we have the capability to scale outside of the office.

Many agents don’t want to work a strict 9 to 5. They want a flexible schedule. Do you offer that flexibility?

Yes, one of the benefits of a virtual environment is split schedules. An associate may want to work partially from 9-12, and then from 3-8. From a workforce perspective, it is actually easier to get the right schedule.

The trend seems to be, for easier issues, the customers can help themselves. For more complicated issues, the customer calls and the agents handle the more difficult issues. Do you find this to be true?

Yes, exactly. I firmly believe that the last mile now is on the agent's desks to solve the most complex issues, but what's really important about that is the first call resolution – the client has exhausted all other methods of solving the problem and they expect their issue to be solved.

With the tools that we provide the agents, we launch flawlessly at scale where we can take on some of the most complex problems for our clients, which is where ibex excels.

What does ibex specialize in?

Because we have such a diverse client base, whether we are supporting a top food delivery service, a top streaming company or one of the largest shipping logistics companies, every client has a unique vision of how they want to partner. Typically, the client has a beginning project in mind, and over time, those projects get more complex.

How long have you personally been in the industry overall?

Since 2007, but I didn’t intentionally get into this industry. What keeps me here is the ability to go to a contact center and see the associates better their lives with the different opportunities made available to them. They may have started as an agent, but moved to IT, like handling support for the site or managing the PCs. It’s amazing. We afford great opportunities to people and it's really fulfilling.

Do you see as a benefit to your recruiting that agents see a growth path?

There are many stories of associates and their career path at ibex. For example, we are now the largest private employer in Jamaica. If you were to come to one of our centers in this region, almost everybody there started somewhere as an associate. From there, they can grow their skills and advance to management or pursue other opportunities within ibex.

Your perfect customer, who would that be?

That’s a great question. I think the perfect client for us is somebody who is looking for a BPO who is truly a partner. When we become fully engaged with a client, we leverage our business intelligence team to provide continuous improvement. We also take data from the contact center back to our clients to help them understand why their customers are calling.

Clients come to us for many reasons. It may be because they're looking to make their app better or they're going to build a chatbot and they want to understand how it will impact their business.

Our ideal client looks at us as a true partner in their CX experience, not just a vendor who takes calls. We excel when we can provide them with insights to their customers.

Is there a size organization that you look for?

We partner with some of the world’s most recognized brands, and there are some really scalable clients in our group. We work with large companies, but we also partner with hypergrowth brands who, at the start are not large, but they are looking for some answers because they're focused on the growth of their business. ibex can help provide those CX insights. It all starts with sitting down with a potential partner and understanding their goals.

I'm assuming you could also point out to customers’ issues they didn't even realize they had.

Absolutely, that's where business intelligence has the biggest impact. If you can look at the data and say, ‘here’s a chart of all the reasons why your customers are calling’, that is very powerful.

Some of those reasons will never be able to be taken out because that's inherently what it is, but, if you can understand the whys, we can tweak how to better interact with the customer to provide the right answer on the first call.

What have we not discussed that you want our audience to know?

For us as a people company, our culture and the employee experience are paramount, which goes back to our discussion about Wave X. Our Wave X technology enables and drives what we believe is a great culture, and we continue to double down on that as an organization. As ibex continues to grow, we don’t want to lose that aspect because that is what is important to us.