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Customer experience and KPIs: Sayo Afolayan talks with CXBuzz

By Miles Walker

Published 10 March 2021

Sayo Afolayan recently spoke with CXBuzz to discuss her 13-year career in the contact centre market, her role as Operations Manager at Connex and the changing landscape of customer experience. Scroll down to read the full interview below.


Hi Sayo, tell us about yourself and share some background about Connex (and how you ended up joining Connex)

I believe there is no other strategy to sustainable competitive advantage than customer-centricity. When the customer is at the center of everything you do, you create loyal brand fanatics that take you to profitability and business growth.

I delved into customer service immediately after finishing college with a Microbiology degree, and thirteen years later, I’m still here. As Head, Contact Center, I have worked in the financial industry and consumer lending/fintech space. I’m also lucky to be a featured contributor for ICMI.

I recently started this new exciting role with Connex. It aligns with my obsession with customer-centricity and using it to accelerate business success. I believe that technology is a facilitator of great customer experiences and as such, I fell in love with the Connex story.

Connex started with two brothers who had loads of ambition and one big idea. Fast forward 8 years and the Connex Platform now handles over 16 million transactions a day, significantly improving the customer experience offered to our roster of clients across multiple industries. We continue to grow, with offices in the United Kingdom, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, and the USA. We service clients across 5 continents growing our business by over 100% year on year – and there are no signs of us slowing down!

How much has the consumer sentiments changed in the digital/fintech space during 2020 and how is 2021 going to look like?

The pandemic was the great leveler; it forced everyone to go digital regardless of personal preference. In Africa, shutdowns and restrictions thrust otherwise resistant customers into the digital world with essential services like food delivery, healthcare, and education delivered purely online. 37% of South Africans have reported shopping online more than usual during the pandemic. Kenya and Ghana experienced increases in mobile money, mobile wallet, and bank-to-wallet transactions. E-commerce sales and account-to-account transfers increased in South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt.

Globally, it’s predicted that post-pandemic digital adoption will continue. Forrester predicts there will be a 40% increase in digital customer service interactions in 2021. A McKinsey article on customer sentiment and behavior during Covid-19, showed that 79% – 80% of consumers in South Africa intend to continue their new shopping behavior. And 33-37% of consumers in Kenya, Morocco, South Africa, and Nigeria wanted banks to improve websites to further allow seamless online transactions for all banking activities.

Along with consumers and merchants, banks, payment operators, and governments are moving towards digital. Prior to 2020, in Africa, operating in the digital space was a nice-to-have. It was a feature that could be used to create a competitive advantage, but it wasn’t essential to business success. That is no longer the case, providing a mind-blowing digital experience is now essential.

As the consumer behavior turned to digital, the fintech space in Africa has started to see more potential in converting the underbanked and unbanked consumers to fintech solutions. Payment solutions have been dramatically reshaped in 2020; more emphasis has been placed on digital payments to process orders quickly and ensures continued success. With this in mind, solutions such as Connex, which have payment IVR and Live Chat payments in place, as well as being PCI DSS certified, have become invaluable for business continuity.

We’re going to see an explosion of digital transformation from businesses that were previously comfortable using offline strategies. It started in 2020 with many companies creating and/or increasing their digital teams, than featuring them in company strategy and goals for 2021. A savvy company understands that the customer sentiment has changed to a greater affinity for digital solutions. They will launch and expand digital initiatives and strategies in 2021 to increase their market share.

In your POV, what are the most important KPIs you use to measure customer experience benchmarks?

I recommend measuring customer experience from two angles, operational/behavioral and customer’s voice. Measure customer journey completeness and your customer’s opinion on your product/service.

When the customer journey is truncated what we see are customer drop-offs. Monitoring drop-offs areas and rates give the merchant critical indicators of the customer experience. Why is the customer not completing the purchase? Is it a technical reason or a personal one? This metric prompts deeper analysis; you’ll discover unmet needs, and your resulting solutions will thoroughly address your customer needs and expectations. With Connex’s integration with CRMs and API feeds, you have visibility into customer drop-offs.

NPS (net promoter score), CES (customer effort score), and CSAT (customer satisfaction) are metrics that provide the customer’s opinion on your product/service. These metrics cut across all interaction points with the organization (marketing, sales, service/support, etc.) and ensure that you will have a holistic understanding of the customers’ pain points. With Connex, you have CSAT functionalities and survey features that can be used to measure NPS and CES as well.

How much has the role of the Head of Contact Center changed in the social distancing era – what role digital transformation has in this crisis?

Digital transformation has highlighted the need for the Head of Contact Center to have a more strategic role in the business.

The digital transformation market is forecasted at a CAGR of 22.7% from 2019 to 2025. While the net global spending on digital transformation is expected to double from 1 trillion to more than 2 trillion by 2022. According to Twilio’s Covid19 Digital Engagement report, Covid-19 accelerated companies’ digital transformation roadmaps by an average of 6 years with 79% of companies admitting that their digital transformation budget increased due to COVID-19. On average, companies

dramatically increased use of 5.4 digital communication channels in response to the pandemic

Contact centers are a central component of digital transformation. To meet growing demand and ensure a great customer experience, you need to set up, expand, and equip your contact centers. This is also coupled with the evolution of contact centers into customer experience centers. Strategic discussions around digital transformation and improving the customer experience must include the Head of Contact Center to ensure business success and longevity.

Within the contact center, we’re tackling unique the effects of working from home. The major question revolves around staff motivation while working remotely as it has been noticeably harder for employees to be as productive while working from home. Issues like keeping the kids entertained or assisting with online schooling are often big distractions. Also, mental health issues have risen, team members are experiencing anxiety over the pandemic, loss of loved ones, loneliness, etc.

Heads of contact centers can’t motivate their teams in the same way they could while working in the office. We’ve had to become more innovative and creative using tools like gamification, digital recognition initiatives, and virtual based rewards. We’ve had to become more sensitive to the mental health of our team members and factor that into performance management models.

The Connex Gamify feature gives agents a fresh and engaging working experience. It offers real-time insights into team productivity and equips managers with the tools to accurately incentivize agents and improve staff retention.

How Connex is transforming the customer experience landscape?

Connex is transforming the customer experience landscape by positively shaping the Customer Engagement experience using leading technology, insights, and expertise to create the best solution for customers.

We’re experts in communications with one platform to rule them all. Leveraging omnichannel communications we enable your customers to contact you on their preferred channel. Our system is adaptable, we meet your specialized requirements and sync with your existing systems. We’re curious, our eyes are on the ever-changing technology landscape and customer needs, to always bring the best state-of-the-art functionalities and features to our customers. Gamify, automated quality and performance management features are included in our suite. Security is one of our bedrocks; being cloud based with data security and privacy features is key in the post-pandemic world where remote working is king.

The MIT Global Report on Humans and Bots revealed that customer-centric companies have deployed AI in both customer-facing teams and in customer experience management. Globally, across countries and industries, customer experience leaders are investing significantly in AI to deepen customer intimacy. Connex AI speech analytics and sales AI features are something that is quickly evolving to improve insights into the customer journey, making interactions quicker and seamless.

Connex’s cloud-based, subscription model also makes providing great customer experiences affordable to small and medium-sized companies. Their product roadmap is innovative and ensures a company will always be up to date with the latest tools to continue to provide great customer experiences.

What was the biggest lesson you learned in 2020?

Resilience is the biggest lesson I learned in 2020. The necessity, power, and momentum of resilience leaves me in awe. Resilience is the ability to get up, re-strategize, and keep moving. It’s the difference between those that keep winning and those who are left behind. Resilience is dynamic; you have to think differently and implement seemingly crazy or unheard-of tactics.

2020 was the year of webinars and online events, what was your favorite one?

ICMI has always been one of my go-to platforms to stay knowledgeable on contact center business. They have a plethora of informative and educational online events, webinars, online training, etc.

Customer success is one of my new passions and I always try to attend the SuccessHacker CSM Mastermind sessions. They are great! I love the format, structure, and quality of guests. After each session, I am always more enlightened and confident.

It looks like working from home is going to stay with us for the foreseeable future, how should Contact Centers gear up to the changing times?

I’m going to use Nigeria as a case study here as it can be a unique environment. The pandemic positively launched both companies and customers into the digital world. Contact center professionals among others were excited because remote work became essential. However, work from home also came with challenges in three major areas that affected productivity:

  • Fluctuating power/electricity
  • Fluctuating internet connectivity
  • Inconsistent quality of interactions/agent productivity

Some things we implemented that can also help other contact centers gear up to the changing times are:

  • Provide smaller work tools for team members to use at home, like a tab rather than a laptop. This helps to reduce the amount of data and power required for use.
  • Create or modify required internal software to a mobile compliant version. With Connex, their mobile compliant capabilities help reduce the internet requirement and usage.
  • Provide internet data allowance to reduce the financial burden on the employees and minimize downtime.
  • In countries with fluctuating power/electricity supply, equip your team with power banks. This gives them a reserved pool of electricity when the power goes out and helps to regulate agent availability.
  • Invest in cloud technology like Connex for improved performance monitoring. Our cloud-based subscription services are affordable, also offer a suite of features to meet your needs, give business security and scalability benefits, and alleviate IT headaches.
  • Make motivation a priority and digitalise it. For instance, using digital recognition initiatives or prestigious virtual rewards like having a one-on-one chat with the MD to keep motivation high. With Connex you can also use the gamification features to drive motivation and employee engagement.

For more information on how Connex can improve your customer experience KPIs, visit:


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