Next up CEO Today reached out to Jeffrey Puritt, the President and CEO of TELUS International, the global arm of the multibillion-dollar Canadian telecommunications company, TELUS Corporation. TELUS International is a global contact center and IT outsourcing company with more than 25,000 inspired employees serving clients in over 35 languages from delivery centers across North America, Central America, Europe and Asia. Here Jeffrey shares with us his insights on outsourcing, while also providing valuable advice for industry stakeholders.
Since joining TELUS International in 2005, Jeffrey and his team have delivered remarkable results, earning the company a more than US$1 billion valuation, adding more than 5,000 team members in each of the past two years, and engaging some of the world’s most iconic brands as clients, supporting over 200 million customer interactions annually via voice, email, chat and social media across high-tech, gaming, retail, e-commerce, travel and hospitality, health care, finance, and telecom.
Jeffrey was recently named “Executive of the Year”, receiving an esteemed International Stevie Award for his vision and leadership in redefining the global outsourcing industry. He is especially proud of TELUS International’s global philanthropy and volunteer efforts, which are making a meaningful difference in the communities where they operate.
Beyond cost-savings, how is outsourcing driving value for companies?
Outsourcing has traditionally been an industry predicated upon leveraging wage arbitrage to deliver services more cheaply; essentially, ‘Your mess for less.’ While the relentless push to operate more efficiently remains the main driving force, outsourcing has now also become a strategic marketplace tool, and is recognized as one of a handful of business approaches that can fundamentally transform a company and increase its competitiveness exponentially. Truly successful outsourcing begins with an understanding of your business’s identity and core competencies. If you understand your unique competitive advantage, you’re better positioned to consider what work you’re doing that could be outsourced. The next step is establishing a strategic outsourcing relationship to undertake this work in order to create the white space and free up your in-house resources to do things they previously could not, such as drive improved response times, speed up product development and foster innovation.
How has TELUS International maintained their status year-over-year as a global leader in employee engagement (81%) with attrition scores 50% below the industry average?
In an ever-increasing competitive market for talent, companies must go above and beyond to first of all attract the right people and then to retain and engage them. In addition to the more traditional employee benefits, such as state-of-the-art facilities and onsite daycares that we provide, TELUS International is a company with heart; as we say, #ItsDifferentHere. Our unique and differentiated culture is the enabler of our DNA, and I liken our approach to leadership to a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of Le Petit Prince: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” This quote speaks to how we share our vision for growth and success and inspire our team members to join the collective journey to be part of something bigger than their individual roles.
What’s your golden nugget of advice for other BPO providers?
Very simply, focus on who sits in the seat in your contact centers because the customer experience will never exceed the employee experience. At TELUS International, we call our frontline agents ‘heroes’: they are the face of our company with our clients’ customers, and they are truly the hearts and hands behind our commitment to giving back in our communities. An engaged team member is an inspired one – so our focus is to surround ours with what’s important to them, such as inspiring workplaces where they can unwind, exercise and connect with their colleagues, learning and development opportunities to advance their careers and family-friendly initiatives that include healthcare benefits for our team members’ parents and siblings, on-site daycares and flexible schedules.
As a thought leader in this segment, what does the future hold for outsourcing?
Today’s digitally-savvy consumers want the most advanced technology delivered with a human touch and not surprisingly, it’s also influencing how consumers expect to interact with their favorite brands and how customer service must evolve. Whether through their own channels or by investing in contact centers with skilled agents that have embraced this trend, it will be critical for companies to effectively leverage and combine the best of both the high-tech and ‘high-touch’ worlds in order to delight and keep their customers. We have found success by partnering closely with our clients to develop omnichannel experiences, using more “friendly” customer service metrics, making text and speech analytics actionable and incorporating a focus on both small and big data. At the end of the day, consumers want to feel understood, acknowledged and connected to the brands and companies they choose. Whether you can achieve this through human interaction or technology with a human touch, the strongest affiliations always come when you can create a strong culture that drives truly meaningful connections.
What are your thoughts on the recent anti-outsourcing sentiment in the US leading up to the election?
At TELUS International we’re committed to and are very proud of creating meaningful employment opportunities in emerging economies, however, we recognize that sensitivity regarding domestic job displacement still exists. I believe this entire view is predicated on the hypothesis that a job created in another country equals a job lost here – a zero sum game. While I’m cognizant of this concern, I challenge that paradigm based on our experience with TELUS, our parent company and client in Canada, where legacy jobs (particularly those in contact centers), that have moved offshore to the Philippines, El Salvador and Romania have been replaced with higher-value employment opportunities onshore. These are jobs that TELUS was able to create and underwrite by leveraging the significant savings and value created by outsourcing. I believe the re-investment of this type of savings being used to grow operations, create training and learning and development opportunities to transition employees to higher-skilled roles, is in fact a potential primary driver of the global economy.
What inspires you to press further into your work?
I’m inspired knowing that the work we are doing is making a positive impact in the regions where we operate. By providing meaningful employment opportunities, we are helping to end cycles of poverty by contributing to the creation of a middle class where our team members live, work and raise their families. I am also inspired by my fellow TELUS International team members’ excitement about upcoming opportunities for our company and their commitment to achieve even greater success in the months and years ahead.
What have you learned from your mistakes?
I’ve learned that mistakes and failures are inevitable in life and in business, but how you leverage the tuition from these experiences, to not repeat the same mistakes and to be innovative and agile in finding an alternate way forward, is a key indicator of future success. I also believe that as humans, we are inherently programmed to learn more from our own mistakes than the experiences of others. For example, touching a hot stove is a better teacher than simply being told it’s hot. So, over the years I’ve learned I may have to ‘touch some stoves’ – but also how to only get ‘burned’ once!
What do you feel you couldn’t live without?
First and foremost, I couldn’t live without my family. I consider it a true privilege to love and care for them, to celebrate their achievements and to be there to comfort them when they fall. On the flip side, I might say that I couldn’t live without my smartphone because of all the time I spend traveling internationally to meet with our team and clients. I may also add a bottle of white Burgundy or red Super Tuscan wine and a couple of my favorite movies such as A Streetcar Named Desire and Monty Python and the Holy Grail to my list of must-haves.