Moneypenny: bringing AI to personalised communications
As Moneypenny continues to grow, Joanna Swash, CEO, talks to Business Chief about what innovations are being incorporated to improve working efficiency and client experience.
Used by four of the ‘Magic Circle’ law businesses and 60% of the top 200 law firms, Moneypenny has a huge portfolio of customers using its services. The communications outsourcing firm enables constant communication for its clients, depending on their needs: “We’ve got a wide range of products and services for businesses of all sizes, from the one-man band who needs us a couple of times a week, to a fully outsourced switchboard,” explains Joanna Swash, Global CEO of Moneypenny. “No matter who they are or what their business sector is, we’re taking calls or chats for them. The way that we’re a bit different is by giving businesses a person that they know and trust, so it’s not a call centre model. We offer dedicated receptionists, dedicated PAs, because the relationships that you’ve got between businesses and their outsource partners are just so important.”
Swash joined Moneypenny in 2005 as the first salesperson for the company. “I’ve seen the firm grow from about 20 employees to 750. The founders, Ed Reeves and Rachel Clacher, have always recruited people who do things that they couldn’t, which allows people to grow and flourish. So straight away, I found my niche. Now, as a leader, I think it’s so important that you hire people that are much better than you,” Swash says. In the last year alone, Moneypenny bought the Made Simple Group, received investment from ECI partners, and also created plans to make further acquisitions. The company has also recently hired a new Chief Marketing Officer and is looking into a Chief Technology Officer. Despite its clear growth since it was established in 2000, the firm has continued to operate as a small business. “The culture and the feeling of the business hasn't changed. That’s something we’ve been really great at: keeping the feeling of a small business. We would hate to dilute that because it’s who we are, it’s in our DNA,” she adds.
For Moneypenny, ensuring it offers its clients the best match for their business is crucial. “Our ethos is to give a business the same kind of person they would employ themselves if they came to the door for an interview,” notes Swash. “If it was a vet coming on board, we’d give them somebody who absolutely loves animals.” With a focus on providing a personal touch to its offerings, the business has endeavoured to incorporate that element into its new innovations. “Now it’s all about introducing knowledge bases, chatbots, different ways of working. We also think natural language switchboards will be the next thing for us,” she continues.
“Technology not only helps us technically do our job, it also allows us to surpass expectations with our clients as well. It’s our duty to come up with products and services that our clients wouldn’t normally have access to,” notes Swash. Moneypenny’s adoption of technology is twofold: its used for client-facing tasks and internally. The firm is using cloud-based phone systems to serve its clients, which Swash argues “have to be the best available”. Moneypenny has also leveraged artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance its internal functions, with employees using the bespoke AI software dubbed “Rita” on a daily basis. “Rita is already processing data and is 190,000 times smarter every day,” the CEO explains. Moneypenny uses 15mn client communications per year and attains five learnings from each one. These learnings are then fed back into the AI engine, improving its intelligence and efficiency. “To help our staff do a brilliant job for clients, our technology has to be quick and responsive. It also needs to have the right information available at employees’ fingertips. This enables us to have natural conversations, whether or not that’s on the phone or on chat,” she adds.
As digital transformation enables the firm to grow and become more valuable, Moneypenny’s employees are quickly adapting to new changes. “We always say to everybody, clients and staff, ‘We’re on a journey’. When you think about the team, as long as you invest in them and give them time to learn new things and tell them why it's important, I think you get everybody get on board. You gain the trust of employees by being open, and they really trust us as an organisation. We’ve got such a low staff turnover. We get hold of the right kind of people and we invest in them and help them grow,” says Swash.
With Moneypenny continuing to expand its operations, regional growth is also on the horizon: “We’re focusing on consolidating our position,” Swash enthuses. “We are one of the world’s leading outsource communications provider and we have made some really good inroads into the US market. We have 50 people over there at the moment – we’ve expanded slowly but surely, and we know we’ve got really firm foundations there.” As well as growing its US operations, the firm plans to launch new tech products to strengthen its clients’ loyalty to the brand within the next five years. Swash anticipates this will lead to a greater percentage of its revenue deriving from digital sales. “So where do I see the company going? I see that we’re growing,” she claims.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”