Acteon Group: a revolution in customer service
Technology is taking Acteon Group’s customer experience to new heights, as Chief Digital Officer and Customer Services Director Olivier Blanc explains to Business Chief.
As Chief Digital Officer (CDO), Olivier Blanc has a vision to elevate Acteon Group above its peers through the implementation of a company-wide technology transformation.
Already one of Europe’s premier manufacturers of high-end medical devices, primarily in the field of dentistry, Acteon – with Blanc playing a pivotal role – has embraced changes to a host of its internal and customer-related processes, all with the aim to stand alone in the level of service offered to its clients.
These are not the lofty, often unattainable ambitions of a business valiantly attempting to ride the digital wave – in fact, Blanc insists that such disruption is an essential undertaking as Acteon looks to secure future growth and profitability.
“I really believe that if we're not doing that, and the others are doing it, in five years’ time we'd be out of the market,” he tells Business Chief. “It is really critical for us to be able to use technologies and give a good customer experience because in five years’ time, there won't be any business that isn’t using those technologies. I think all the things that we are doing right now give us a little bit of an advantage against our competitors, but we really want to carry that on in order to maintain that position.”
Salesforce: a crucial partnership
Customer service is priority number one for Acteon as the medtech company fights to stave off its competition in the industry. Back in 2015, new Chief Executive Officer Marie-Laure Pochon kicked off her reign by announcing plans to build a wholly new customer relationship management (CRM) system fit for an era where buyer relationships are everything.
Acteon’s working model sees it split into four separate manufacturing units – equipment, imaging, pharma and medical – with its technologically-advanced dentistry products supplied to individual clients through its trusted network of customers. Since its foundation, the French firm has grown to have a presence in over 100 countries the world over.
With the target of creating a best-in-class CRM for that continually-expanding network, Pochon quickly enlisted the services of Salesforce, the billion-dollar, US-based technology giant. Blanc was recruited into the business in October 2015 as CDO and Customer Services Director to oversee integration of its CRM and as of last November, a quarter of Acteon’s employees were already taking advantage of its solutions. “We are really focusing on how we can use Salesforce to improve the way that we are doing our customer service,” Blanc explains. “What it also allowed us to do is create more customer communication that we had before.
“For example, when we used to receive the products to be repaired, we never sent an email to the customer saying that we have received their product and that we are going to take care of them as soon as possible. Now, that is something that we are able to do. We also create the quote in Salesforce, which allows us to have the same practice for everyone and to be really focused in the way the quote is created. Everything is now integrated in the same place.
“Another benefit is that it allows the commercial people to see what's going on, so if they have a question from the customers they are able to answer directly, without having to call internally to try and find the right person to answer the question.”
Acteon’s Salesforce integration has proven to be a straightforward change, with staff at its Bordeaux headquarters and its Marseilles manufacturing site now fully up-and-running with the refreshed system. Blanc is currently managing its implementation outside of France, a task that recently involved an excursion to the vital US market.
Blanc’s next mark of progress will be to see the Salesforce technologies that have been seamlessly deployed within the organisation made directly available to customers – a level of service that he wants, in basic terms, to compare to that of the world’s biggest online retailer, Amazon.
“The ability for the customers to see what’s going on in complete transparency – that is where we want to get to,” he adds. “We want them to be able to see and follow their orders. As I have said before, I do not want us to be Amazon… but to get as close as we can be, then I’ll be happy!”
A new online hub
Blanc’s customer obsession doesn’t just stop at servicing Acteon’s relationships with its current clients. His team has also, alongside the company’s marketing department, delivered a comprehensive overhaul of its corporate websites as it looks to attract more business.
Working in tandem with Publicis Activ, the development arm of the French publishing and PR behemoth Publicis, Acteon has created a truly global suite of platforms that deliver Acteon’s key messages and promote its offerings in multiple languages, representing a vast improvement on its archaic website of old.
“When I came to the company it had a different website which was really, I would say, old-fashioned,” Blanc admits. “We have worked really hard with the marketing team to follow their objectives and the new website really reflects that marketing shift that has been so important to Acteon. It is also crucial for our own marketing to be understood everywhere in the world.
“The second thing would be, as I said, to have a place where customers can see what's going on with their active orders, somewhere where they would be able to interact with us as well. This is certainly something that we need to work on.
“Obviously we are looking at SEO and social networks too, they are items of interest, but another really key area is how we show documents that we need to show on the site, either for our own purposes or regulatory purposes. We have SharePoint, which is a Microsoft Office365 product that we are using internally, and our objective is to find a way for all the websites to interact with that.”
Perhaps the industry most affected by the onset of transformative technologies, the manufacturing sector is in the midst of changes so powerful that they have the potential to shake up almost every established business model. In the UK alone, up to 700,000 manufacturing jobs could be lost to artificial intelligence and robotics by 2037, according to recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study.
Though this doesn’t fall directly under his area of responsibility, Blanc offers some telling insights into how a frontrunning manufacturer such as Acteon is approaching the inevitable switch from a predominantly human workforce to an automated, connected future.
“I would say that we are still very much a manual company,” he says. “A lot of our products are made in a really manual way, though obviously we have an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system from Infor that is helping us to deal with the manufacturing process.
“We want to make the warehouse better by implementing some digital tools and a new Warehouse Management System (WMS). We are currently in the process of looking for a more sophisticated WMS provider, one which will be more flexible than what we have and what will be able to meet different diverse units in the same shipment, all while working in unison with our ERP.”
One man’s journey
Prior to joining Acteon, Blanc served for eight years at French telecommunications company SFR, where he progressed to become its customer marketing director. Educated at the Parisian École Polytechnique, he has enjoyed a diverse career since – but one major passion has emerged.
“My last role centered around customer experience, and that's what drove me to come to Acteon, because I thought that I had a lot of possibility to enhance the customer experience here,” he concludes.
“Now my role also involves all things digital, so digital transformation in order to improve the customer experience – that is how I would define what I do.”
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”