Adrian Vasile is Operations Excellence Manager at Deutsche Telekom Services Europe
What was the level of digitalisation in your centre before COVID-19?
Deutsche Telekom Services Europe Romania’s vision can be summarized as follows:
”We are the first choice service provider by realizing the Future Telco and driving business profitability with happy customers and dedicated employees”. Of course, this is not achievable without having clear and well-defined, yearly objectives on innovation, digitalisation and automation. Starting with the founding of the company, our services have been delivered via different applications, but for the last three years we’ve been on a straight forward fast track towards automation and process robotics. We use back-office bots, different types of interfaces and workflow systems, all helping our customers to have quick and easy access to our services. At the same time, we increase significantly the efficiency level of our processes, which translates into faster and faster high-quality responses. Furthermore, all our bots are developed in-house by our teams. We are responsible for the entire process automation, starting with process analysis, implementation, testing and ending with fully operational bots, which are working side by side with us.
How did COVID-19 impact the digital transformation of your company?
As with many companies from the BPO and SSC sector, COVID-19 mainly sped up the ongoing initiatives and projects we had in this area. The major impact was, of course, on recruitment. Call it luck or foresight, we were already working on implementing a state-of-the-art selection tool for remote interviews which came at the right time. Given the risks that a candidate would have to expose themselves in order to participate in a face-to-face recruitment process, offering them the option to go through it remotely brought in positive reviews and incremented the value of the tool in terms of candidate satisfaction. The pilot was a success. We are also very focused on growing new IT competences in our employees, in order to switch their focus from repetitive tasks to running and maintaining the growing number of bots we use.
What type of processes did you digitalise in the last 2 months?
Our long-term plan is to target all processes that can be automated. Important steps have already been taken in recruitment – we have a new selection tool that speeds up the process. In the contact centre, we are focusing on chat bots, in the back-office we look into automating repetitive processes, implementing digital signatures and using process mining tools to identify loops and waste. The reporting area has also been improved in terms of digitalization and accessibility, during the last 2-3 months, with an app that is covering easy access to reports and much more from mobile phones and tablets.
What helped you the most during this period? And why?
DTSE was pretty much prepared, in terms of systems, to make the transition to working from home. We have a business continuity plan in place which was tested in February this year. From an IT and infrastructure point of view we knew that everything was up and running. The biggest help, however, came from our employees. They really stepped up during this period and maintained the level or productivity and quality in delivering our services. We did not know how the quality would look like after all of our employees would work remotely but they showed that they are great professionals and were up to the challenge.
What was the hardest thing to do? And why?
Initially, everyone was happy that they can work remotely but as weeks passed, the employees started missing the human interaction. We started using different collaboration tools that would allow video conferences. We are using these tools for all meetings and are insisting on people using the video feature, but they can cover human interaction only in a limited way.
Do you think COVID-19 is a before-and-after moment/turning point in digital transformation?
Even though DTSE was and continues to be very focused on digitalization and innovation, we see big companies pushing more and more in this direction. Unfortunately, this also impacts our attrition rate. Since we have skilled and well-trained people in the matter of digital transformation, they became very good recruitment targets. In general, things will change for sure, including in DTSE. We already started discussions about renovating our offices in order to switch from the old “come to your desk 8h a day” to a place that accommodates and encourages teamwork, personal encounters and social and creative exchange. This remote work will definitely shape our office life even after the end of the pandemic.
How did the employees/your colleagues adapt and embrace digital transformation during the lockdown?
Due to our aggressive policy of transforming our employees from process specialists into process & IT specialists, the employees embraced and adapted well to the transformation. The initiative was received with scepticism, at first. People feared change and the fact that bots took over some of their daily tasks was interpreted as a possible threat to their livelihood. Of course, they had nothing to fear. It turns out that transferring the repetitive and time-consuming activities to bots, made them more creative and proactive. In fact, they started identifying new areas where our tools, bots and apps could have a positive impact.
We greatly encourage a proactive attitude for process improvement. We set up internal contests where employees can send their ideas for process improvement. The winning ideas get a project team and budget so that the owner(s) of the idea can develop it into a full-scale project.
Do you have a story or an image regarding this forced digitalization that you will remember or tell when someone will ask you about this period?
Luckily this is not the case. For DTSE the pandemic digitalization (if we can call it that) came as a natural evolution and not a revolution. It was just sped up. However, it is worth mentioning and remembering over time, that there was a shift in our clients’ focus towards us and towards our ongoing digital initiatives, much more than in the past. They are now proactively coming to us, asking if we can automate or digitalize a process, agreeing to change it so it fits the automation concept. What I would take out of this is that our customer surveys are increasingly better, especially the ones targeting our clients’ top management.
What is the next step in your company digital transformation?
It bears repeating that we are very intent and focused on this transformation. We have automation and digitalization projects in almost all areas, some already being success stories while others are in pilot phases with very good results. We will continue to capitalize on these success stories in order to achieve our ambitious objectives. Another crucial development is the building of excellence centres for different business areas. This way we help our customers get easy access to our projects and to benefit from our already vast experience on the matter in hand.