Motif: Emerging Player in the BPO Sector

Date:   Monday , October 03, 2011

Almost one fourth of the back end operations for financial transactions and customer support across the world happen from India. The billion dollar BPO industry has in many ways strongly shaped the Indian IT industry, and provided several entrepreneurs with an opportunity to build world class companies. Kaushal and Parul Mehta graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Electronics & Communications Engineering from Ahmedabad, India and went to the U.S. in 1988 to pursue a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering. They were very clear about their objective for going abroad; they would gain experience in world class organizations and eventually return to India to become entrepreneurs. After living in the U.S. for ten years and having worked with Silicon Valley companies such as Sun Microsystems, Intel and LSI Logic, they decided to return to their home town, and set up a software consultancy company. They had managed this profitable company for two and a half years when India opened up internet services for the private sector. Recognizing India’s potential to evolve into a high quality service provider to the world, Kaushal and Parul started Motif in August 2000.

Motif is one of the few ITeS companies that found success operating from a tier 2 city a decade ago. At a time when most prominent BPO companies set up base in tier 1 cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai, the Mehtas set up Motif’s operations in Ahmedabad, Gujarat with a 20 member team. Today, the company has grown to about 1500 people, and provides multilingual support through delivery centers in India, Philippines and Costa Rica. Motif’s core business is customer support, BPO (Business or Back-office Process Outsourcing) and KPO (Knowledge Process Outsourcing) services. It focuses on internet based businesses/e-commerce companies in the retail and travel industries, so as to provide a comprehensive range of services to help them operate their businesses in an effective manner. “Several things can go wrong during online transactions, and customers expect companies to provide prompt and accurate support when they face problems,” explains Kaushal Mehta. This is where Motif helps its clients. From online travel deals, to online retail purchases, Motif provides relevant customer support for the entire period of customer engagement. From pre purchase issues such as login, account management, shopping carts, payment options, to post purchase issues such as delivery, shipment, refunds, exchanges, etc. Motif offers its clients multi channel support via email, chat and support, and helps them choose the channels that improve customer experience and provide better ROI.
Focus on Customer Experience

For example, one of Motif’s clients, a leading Fortune 500 ecommerce company provides a portal for individuals and small businesses to buy and sell an assortment of goods and services online. The company had grown exponentially over the past 10 years and had a customer base of over 10 million members. To retain competitiveness in the market, the company introduced several new features and market-driven offerings. The growing complexity of the company’s processes and constant changes in policies resulted in multiple customer re-contacts that impacted customer experience. Introduction of multiple tools for customer support led to technical issues, directly impacting First Time Resolution and customer satisfaction. The company engaged Motif to overcome these challenges since Motif had a proven track record of providing multi channel support to millions of customers. Motif's process re-engineering team took a structured approach toward performance improvement and process enhancement to address the company’s business challenges. The team implemented three independent projects to improve customer experience using the Six Sigma DMAIC approach (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control). They focused on three key customer metrics — Net Promoter Score, Contact Reduction and First Time Resolution.

Project leaders with domain expertise were assigned ownership for each of these three projects. Frontline Customer Support Representatives (CSRs) were actively engaged to identify and capture customer pain points and policies that needed to be reviewed. They conducted a systematic study of Voice of Customers (VOC). This gave the team insights into the problems customers faced. Within six months of implementing this project, the Motif team shared over 200 suggestions with the client to reduce re-contacts and improve resolutions. The team also identified issues with the maximum impact on Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Resolution. Simultaneously, Motif CSRs educated customers about changes in policies, the new features and their benefits. With such an in-depth engagement, the client saw a savings of $1.2 million annually.
Social Media Insights

This is just one of the many success stories of Motif’s engagement with its clients. In addition to customer support, the company also helps its clients with content moderation over social media. Consumers are truly empowered today, thanks to social media networks and this is a medium that can make or break brands. Motif helps its clients understand customer sentiment towards their brand by analyzing User Generated Content posted online. Also, it goes one step ahead and provides actionable insights on the company’s performance against the competitors.
E-commerce Fraud Prevention

Another major service that Motif provides its clients to help them improve customer satisfaction and reduce risk is preventing fraudulent listings on ecommerce sites. Many ecommerce websites tend to fall prey to fraud since anyone can easily list a product on the company’s platform, and cheat buyers. In such cases, the reputation of the company is at stake because cheated customers will lose trust in it. Motif closely observes activities on these websites, and ensures that none of the policies are breached when a new product is listed. Motif studies user patterns and conducts a detailed analysis that combines human judgment with automated tools, to ensure that a listing is not fraudulent. With its deep domain expertise, Motif has over the years developed a range of fraud filters that help detect such fraudulent listings.

Motif also helps its clients by preventing fraudulent credit card transactions for travel companies in order to lower charge-backs and losses which have a direct impact on profitability. One of Motif’s clients is a leading online travel service provider in the U.S. for value-conscious, leisure travelers. The company enables customers to purchase price disclosed hotel rooms, rental cars, airline tickets, vacation packages, destination services and cruises. The company and its subsidiaries maintain a wide network of affiliations with websites, hotels and airlines, and provide online services in around 100 countries covering 30 languages. The company needed to minimize fraudulent transactions in real-time. This involved authenticating genuine transactions, preventing fraudulent transactions and blocking service delivery in case of fraudulent transactions. In addition, the company had to communicate with vendor partners and customers in case of suspected or blocked transactions.

The company’s in-house team performed the tasks only during US business hours. Given that the client had operations in over 100 countries, this left a vast number of transactions unauthenticated and open to fraud each day. Further, budgetary constraints meant that authentication was performed only for transactions with a very high fraud score. This left a significant number of transactions unmonitored, affecting margins and more importantly customer satisfaction. The client’s challenge was to find a partner that could monitor such transactions on a 24/7 basis on real time basis with lower costs, and Motif fit the bill.

Motif sent its experts to the company’s operations site to understand the existing processes and business requirements. Through a detailed transition plan, Motif stabilized operations within 60 days of transition and provided 24/7 real-time monitoring across the globe. It identified suspicious transactions through appropriate keyword filters. These were authenticated to shortlist fraudulent transactions by reviewing customer's purchase history and contacting card holders and vendors. Motif then prevented fraudulent transactions by cancelling the purchase orders; prevented delivery of services if the fraudulent transaction was already completed by informing the service vendors and communicated with the affected vendor partners and members whose credit card was fraudulently used. It developed a team of experienced executives with analytical abilities, clear communication skills and prior exposure to the client's processes which helped in quick stabilization and rapid knowledge transfer across the team. In the four years of partnership, Motif has provided a 500 percent ROI to its client and the project team has grown by over 300 percent, thereby saving millions of dollars every year.
Creating a World Class Business

With Motif, Kaushal Mehta’s dream of building a world class business has come true. His ability to accurately assess risks, ensure fiscal discipline and to be an efficient planner has helped him implement the right strategy to acquire several blue chip clients. Since it becomes difficult for end clients in the U.S. to gain a comfort level with a brand new start-up, he initially partnered with an existing service provider in the U.S., with blue chip clients and a dedicated sales force. Most BPO companies in India have built large capabilities and employed highly paid sales force in the US to attract the first customer. By partnering, Mehta did just the opposite, and investments to the tune of a couple of million dollars, which most other companies made in building a sales force, were saved. Once cash-flow was stable, to further build its presence and capture a growing BPO market, Motif opened its sales offices in the U.S. “Of the $4 million raised, we have a built-in infrastructure to support a team size of up to 3,000 people across our three centers in India, the Philippines and Costa Rica, and still have adequate cash reserves for expansion,” explains Mehta.

Parul and Kaushal knew that one of the biggest challenges in the BPO industry is ‘People Management’. They believed in team work and knew that to succeed in this workforce intensive industry, both talent and team work were critical for growth and success. Right from the beginning, they created the right organizational environment to attract the right people to Motif. The Mehtas also knew that to deliver services for the U.S., it was necessary to create a blend of U.S. and local culture. Hence, the company recruited a resident U.S. trainer who has been instrumental in establishing the Motif University, which offers valuable training programs/sessions such as Americanization, understanding U.S. culture, geography, business terminology, etc. for employees across Motif’s delivery centers. Parul Mehta, who oversees Operations, has keenly worked towards training employees in their approach to the customers. She recalls an anecdote where during the first month of starting business, a customer had emailed saying, “The flight tickets booked for me are for a very early morning flight. I’ll have to leave with the chickens!” The support executive innocently replied, “Sir, the airlines pet policy does not allow chickens on the plane.” Today, the employees at Motif are among the best in the industry. Since quality is of utmost importance, the company has established a rigorous selection process which brings in the best talent available. They have consistently identified leaders and team players, and promoted deserving employees from within. Since Motif’s inception, Kaushal and Parul have laid great stress on selecting professionals with integrity and team spirit, and have worked closely with all their employees. Between the two founders, someone has always been available for each and every employee. Together, they have created an open and transparent work culture at Motif, unlike the typical hierarchical work structures seen in many organizations in India and the Philippines.

At Motif, individuals are respected and encouraged to participate in issues and ideas. The work environment encourages issue based discussions versus individual based discussions. This openness in the environment results in the best ideas coming out as suggestions and then being debated thoroughly before being implemented, thereby creating an environment which focuses on quality and performance. This also enables the company to provide guidance to its clients on how they can improve their client facing processes. The company values creativity and innovation and announces Annual ‘Innovation Awards’ for employees who come up with innovative ideas. This encourages and motivates employees to grow and excel.

The Mehtas, who are keen to have their employees participate in wealth creation, have set aside 22.5 percent of Motif’s equity for employees right from the company’s inception. This is one of the highest percentages of employee ownership in any BPO company in the world, and has helped Motif build long term relationships with its employees, who in turn have cherished this gesture and built long term client relationships.

The senior management practices and preaches a ‘Work Hard, Party Hard’ philosophy and has created a fun environment within the company. This industry employs young graduates who work in round-the-clock operations to serve international clients. The Mehtas ensure that Motif’s employees get an opportunity to enjoy and take care of their health along with their work. They have introduced various fun events such as Motif Annual Talent Evening, Picnics, Implementation of the ‘FISH!’ principles, in addition to regular team events on the operations floor. Nutrition lectures, Fitness sessions and Yoga Workshops for health, and sports events such as Annual Cricket, Basketball, Table Tennis and Chess tournaments are an integral part of life at Motif.

For the Mehtas, it is important that every employee at Motif sees value for their career, and so they have empowered all employees with the knowledge and freedom to excel. The company has invited various world class speakers and held seminars on communication and leadership skills for its employees, to help them become world class leaders of the future. Parul Mehta involves the leadership team in various weekly and cross functional meetings to equip them with different domain skills. The focus is on ownership, transparency, discipline and fairness. Importance is given to productivity and quality. Parul herself is an exemplary role model to several woman employees within the organization, always encouraging them in their work and helping them become career driven professionals. Under Kaushal and Parul’s able leadership, a confident team of employees interacts and provides quality services to Motif’s blue chip clients across the U.S., Europe and India.

Apart from all this, there is a constant drive within the company to give back to the society. Motif is associated with several NGOs, and holds several social activities like charity walks, blood donation camps and more. Over the years, these activities have gained prominence and several other companies have joined hands with Motif to make a better and healthier society.

Kaushal Mehta cherishes the fact that clients have stayed and grown with Motif over the years. “Motif is a boutique outsourcing company that is focused on building and nurturing long term relationships with its clients,” he says. It is with this thought the company has focused on establishing and expanding services for existing clients, rather than increasing the number of its clients multifold. For Motif, the real testimonial of success is the fact that each of its clients is referenceable.

Kaushal and Parul Mehta believe that while the first step towards achieving their dream of building a numero uno company was taken more than a decade ago, their journey has just begun.