The Big Interview by Call Centre Focus reveals insights from leading figures in the customer solutions industry.
Our CEO David Turner became the most read Big Interview of 2012.
Here’s another chance to read the interview
As CEO of Webhelp UK, David Turner is the driving force behind Scotland’s largest customer management centre company. During his career he has also helped run Trinity Horne Consulting, and was an executive with M&S where he set up their home delivery service. Here he tells Call Centre Focus about his passion for people development – and his natural musical talent…
How did you get into customer service?
It hails back to my early days of employment at M&S, when I was a Glasgow store manager. It was then impressed upon me by the management team the importance of customer service within a store environment through ensuring the right products were displayed attractively and customers could make their selection and payment as easily as possible. It was at this time that I was told and still remember today the importance of ‘having a seeing eye and enquiring mind’. I then made the leap to the services environment when I was charged with building the M&S direct and online strategy. That took me into the realms of understanding the workings of contact and fulfilment centres and on-line retailing.
And how did you end up in your current role?
I left M&S to take up the role of MD of Trinity Horne Consulting – a business that specialised in driving efficiency in customer service centres and field engineering. Among its clients was TSC, as it was known in those days. I got to know the company pretty well and struck an affinity with the then management team. I was then introduced to the company’s shareholders and, when the HERO Group bought the company in 2007, I was invited to take over the role of CEO.
How has the industry changed since you’ve been involved in it?
It all boils down to the analogy of understanding that customer is king. We’ve moved away from what was a commoditised business that delivered satisfaction to gaining insight on what drives customers’ beliefs and values so that we can offer a fantastic experience. Without doubt, the biggest change is the role that data plays in the way we do business. We are privileged to have many millions of conversations with customers, but it’s crucial that we collect and more importantly analyse that data to provide solutions that promote improved customer experience – when we get it right we can truly differentiate our offering.
What is your greatest achievement?
In my work life, it’s transforming Webhelp UK into a business that delivers truly robust customer solutions. In the past two years, the business has more than doubled in size (from 2,000 employees to 5,500). I consider it a major achievement to be able to offer the people who come into this industry sustainable, worthwhile employment with real opportunity for career progression.
From a personal point of view, I share with my wife, Sue, another major achievement – watching our three children growing up to become responsible adults who are realising their full potential. That gives me more pleasure than any business accomplishment. They are so alive to new ideas, and change is part of their everyday agenda, which has truly inspired me.
What is your biggest regret?
Rather than reflect on things, I prefer to concentrate on moving forward. In truth, there will have been set-backs in my career, but I’ve never considered them regrets. Instead, I’ve used them as learning opportunities to improve myself and my abilities and look to the future.
What is the best thing about your job?
As CEO, I am, of course, responsible for driving revenue and profitability. What motivates me is to explore the changes we need to introduce in order to develop the talents of the people in this business. Meeting and chatting to people who are fulfilling and optimising their career potential is so rewarding and is where I get my ideas on what we need to do better. In my job, I’d say it’s more important developing people and being an agent for change. Get that right and you will achieve the financial targets.
Who has had the greatest influence over your life or your career?
I can’t pinpoint a single individual. I do, however, look back to my secondary school education, when there were two or three teachers who encouraged me to consider university and pushed me to increase my learning and to experience the many challenges that presents.
Which companies do you admire and why?
Within the customer services industry, it must be Amazon. They do what it says on the tin. Whenever I’ve shopped with them, it’s been a positive experience. On the rare occasion when things go wrong, they mend it really quickly. They make their people accountable for my experience as a customer. When dealing with them, it feels as though customer service is driven from the top, and cascaded throughout the organisation.
On the product front, I’m a devotee of Apple. Its products are intuitive, modern and innovative – which resonates with my approach to life.
By the nature of my work, I travel the world frequently, which means staying in many hotels. The hotel group that always stands out for me and is head and shoulders above the rest is Ritz Carlton. It doesn’t matter which hotel I go to in which part of the world. They seem to know who I am without asking the question. Staying there is like living in my own home – and it’s so unobtrusive.
What do you do for fun?
I golf – although I’m unable to devote as much time as I’d like to the fairways. I’m also an avid reader – and like nothing more than dining in nice restaurants with my wife, Sue.
Tell us one unusual thing about yourself.
Living in Scotland and heading a Scotland-headquartered company with seven Scottish sites, everyone associates me with everything Scottish. I was, however, born in England – and played rugby for Scotland at under-19 level. I also have a good ear for music and am fortunate to have the ability to pick up a musical instrument and play some notes. I recently purchased a clarinet and am trying desperately hard to play it. To date, I’m self-taught – but have just signed up for a course of lessons.
Name one thing you couldn’t live without.
My mobile phone! I’m of a generation old enough to remember when the first mobile phones came out, and you needed two hands to pick it up. On the rare occasions I’m without it, I feel completely naked.
What keeps you awake at night?
Having grown the Webhelp UK workforce from 2,000 two years ago to 5,500 today, the enormity of the decisions we make cannot be underestimated. 5,500 families depend on my team and me getting those decisions right. Our employees’ jobs are not about enabling them to have a second car or second foreign holiday. Those jobs are about allowing them to pay the mortgage and feed and clothe their children. I never lose a sense of responsibility for the people who work here.