Feature: Retaining the human element at Moneypenny
Amid technology transformation, the outsourcing industry continues to grow. Joanna Swash, Managing Director at Moneypenny, explains the importance of retaining a human element and being a trustworthy partner.
"You’ve probably spoken to us, you just don’t know it.” Joanna Swash is keen to emphasise the almost invisible impact Moneypenny has on the lives of customers and businesses every day. As a communications outsourcing company, the UK-based firm handles calls and queries for businesses as a ‘best kept secret’, looking after clients in the same way a firm would from its own office.
It was Swash’s own experience as a busy entrepreneur that made her see the value in Moneypenny. Having run a small business with one assistant to take calls, she applied for a sales role at Moneypenny. “I totally understood why clients needed that level of support with their phone calls.”
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Indeed, Moneypenny caters for businesses of every size at various levels, from entrepreneurs who need calls answered one day a week to MNCs with an overflow of enquiries. “They might use us to save money, because they’re shrinking or because they’re growing,” says Swash.
In 14 years Swash has moved from sales to marketing and now acts as Managing Director. In that time, the company has grown from just 25 staff to over 470, handling about 12,000 clients from its brand-new office in Wrexham, UK. “It’s almost a different business every six months,” Swash observes, “because we’re changing with the market.”
A trusted partner
Through rapid growth, consistency is key: “We’re doing more of the same thing – we know our customers and walk in their shoes. We offer a range of products and services we know will be useful to them on a daily basis,” she explains, “but there’s no doubt our offering has changed immensely – we’re always trying to stay ahead of new technology and make sure we can be a partner that clients can trust to deliver innovation alongside them.”
A trusting, personal relationship is vital. “They’re giving us the key to their front door,” Swash explains. Moneypenny, whether though answering calls or live chats, is in charge of first impressions and looks after a company’s most vital asset: customers. “It’s important we understand what they actually want. We’ve got to think like a sole trader who needs telephone support once a week as well as a Magic Circle law firm. From efficiency and technology to supporting their existing staff, our bespoke service is tailored to every individual client.”
The process is consultative, and often Moneypenny makes suggestions to improve efficiency, even if this means a client actually outsources less – in the long run, it’s all about developing a positive relationship with the client. “At the end of a two-week trial, we might notice a client is getting a lot of calls on a certain afternoon and advise them to amend their staffing patterns as such. That’s business intelligence they didn’t have access to before, which adds a lot of value.”
In the outsourcing industry, finding the right faces and voices is paramount. “Moneypenny is about amazing people, empowered by ground-breaking technology,” says Swash. “There will always be a need for brilliant humans. As technology gets smarter, the expectation of the consumer is that tech has to be absolutely perfect… but similarly, where technology fails or lacks, the humans backing it up have to be the most amazing humans possible. I think that’s the future and that’s why Moneypenny is so well placed.”
As an established business, having come fourth in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to Work For, the company has no trouble accessing brilliant humans. In the past 12 months, 3,000 CVs have been sent in proactively. “We can cherry-pick the best people in the area, a lot of whom are recommended by existing staff,” says Swash.
A key criteria of ‘brilliance’? Willingness to help. “We want people who come to work to do the right thing for others. We want smiley people. Ultimately, we’re promising clients the right person to represent them.” Once employed, Moneypenny strives to retain and motivate staff, as shown by a new £15mn office. The state-of-the-art facility is flexible, allowing staff to congregate or disperse as their role demands. It includes a central space, The Middle, and various social areas like the Dog and Bone pub.
Moneypenny has “the antithesis of a closed-desk policy”, with staff encouraged to decorate their workspace. “This is your home. Create it. If people feel secure, comfortable, relaxed, wanted and needed, that’s when we get the best work,” Swash explains. The new office was opened by Prince Charles last year, who toured the facility, met each member of staff and even listened in on a phone call. Swash describes this as a highlight for herself and for the company.
“We’re very conscious that we stay thinking like a small business, rather than a nameless, faceless organisation. From a leadership perspective, one of the most important things is creating an environment of trust where it’s OK for someone to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I need help’, and it’s up to the whole team to help that person. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have had an office,” Swash reflects, “and as it stands my door is never shut. I often go into The Middle and chat with whoever goes by, find out things that are going on.”
Having a quiet, peaceful and happy environment is important from the clients’ perspective too. “We’d hate to think of ourselves as a call centre,” says Swash. “Our clients don’t want their calls answered in a noisy environment. We look after calls and live chats just as if we’re based in their office. We’re a well-kept secret for our clients.”
The march of technology is unavoidable, and as Swash puts it, “the whole world of communication is changing”. However, Moneypenny sees this as an opportunity, working alongside the likes of Microsoft and IBM Watson to make sure its technology is up to scratch. “It means we’re ahead of the game, but also allows our clients to access to that level of technology too. Without us as a partner, that wouldn’t happen.”
Even as millennials reportedly balk at the idea of making a phonecall, Swash argues that telephone services are still rapidly expanding. “We still experience high growth with calls and I think that’s because businesses are working differently – they might not need an in-house receptionist any more. Live chat is also huge. We’re seeing enormous growth and I believe the vast majority of businesses haven’t yet cottoned on to just how valuable a tool it is.
“For example, about 75% of our chats are proactive chats. On websites, maybe 25% of people make an enquiry, but 75% of the accounts we handle have our people saying ‘Hello, can I help?’, which provides a human element and starts a conversation. For law firms, around 40% of their chats are new enquiries. It’s potential business for them.”
As well as keeping up with the latest technology and retaining the trust of clients large and small, Moneypenny is establishing itself overseas, having set up a US office in 2015. “There’s nobody else in the US market place with our business model, which offers clients one person they know and trust,” Swash explains. “The next few years is about both continued growth in the UK and stratospheric growth in the US.”
A key challenge will be establishing the Moneypenny brand in a relatively new market. “At our Charleston, South Carolina base, we don’t yet have the joys of thousands of CVs waiting for us, but we’ve created an amazing office environment over there too, with the same feeling,” Swash says, adding that Prince Charles’s UK visit was livestreamed to the US location so overseas employees felt more connected with headquarters. “We’ve got a really great development team, which is growing. Our knowledge and relationships with tech providers are growing. We’re always looking at what we can learn and bring to this particular industry, and the future is really exciting.”
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