Nearshore Americas

Q&A: Uber Weighs in on the Nearshore Explosion

Lisa Stoner is the Global Head of Support Operations at Uber, meaning she is responsible for six main pillars within Uber’s global customer care and community care environment. She deals with one-on-one customer interaction, from drivers to eaters, and restaurants to freight operators. She supports global workforce planning, matching customer supply and demand across Uber’s hyper-global ecosystem. She’s also involved in learning and development, classic vendor management across all geographies, and partner enablement. 

Lisa also recently joined Transcom’s Board of Directors, to which she brings her vast experience in the digital CX space and her client perspective gained from 20 years’ experience as a buyer at Convergys. 

Nearshore Americas chatted to Lisa about the themes that Transcom will pursue in the post-pandemic era, what Uber wants from its vendors and what Latin America offers for buyers.

NSAM: What’s next for Transcom in the new normal?

Lisa Stoner of Uber and Transcom

Lisa Stoner: The company has a tremendous European footprint and phenomenal Nearshore solutions for very in-demand languages. It’s well-funded, ethical and is expanding. The company has made recent investments in industry leaders and that’s really exciting. 

The next step is an increased client focus and the continuation of the digital journey. Customer care and the services industry is changing at a rapid pace. Many of the elements that people have been speaking about within these spaces for decades are finally coming together in a meaningful way. Every agent interaction is technically enabled and every customer interaction is complex. Figuring out how to make hyper global companies ‘glocal’ are the types of challenges that Transcom and other providers are facing.

NSAM: What is behind the recent wave of Nearshore demand and what do you believe Latin American service providers offer the buy-side?

Lisa Stoner: There are several aspects of the Nearshore that have gotten increasingly more attractive over the last few years. Physical proximity and cultural affinity are attractive, as is the currency and the price point that has improved due to currency fluctuations. 

A major additional factor is business continuity planning. Many companies found themselves to be very over invested in the Philippines on a percentage basis of their overall network. When the pandemic hit, companies knew they were over invested in the one geography but thought that their intra-country dispersion would be enough. We now know that it wasn’t. 

Figuring out how to make hyper global companies ‘glocal’ are the types of challenges that Transcom and other providers are facing

Latin America creates really important business continuity for companies servicing regional, US and Iberian markets. Colombia in particular — with its highly-educated population, favourable tax laws, strong service orientation and great work ethic — is maturing as a destination for customer care. There is experience there from which to draw and education systems that support BPO and customer care as a career plan.

NSAM: What is Uber’s view on vendor management strategies in Latin America?

Lisa Stoner: Uber has an enormous on the ground local business in Latin America. We operate in multiple countries in the region, meaning it is a local, not Neashore, solution. That said, we outsource and have customer support from Latin America that supports other regions of the world. So the two perspectives are there.

At Uber, we make principle-based decisions about work. One of those to do with outsourcing and customer care is that safety is the most important, both physical and data. Some aspects we keep internal and some we outsource.

During the pandemic, Uber decided to change from being a company that creates opportunity by setting the world in motion to one that only moves what matters

In outsourcing, we try to work with the fewest possible providers that work with our safety, customer care and budget objectives. We move quickly and we want the ease of management that working with the fewest number of providers offers. I want to be a buyer at scale. I am interested in being financially important to the companies I work with. I do not want to be an ancillary thought to the leadership teams I work with.

That being said, we’re a large company that has a large outsourced footprint. We are happy to serve customers anywhere in the world where they get the service they deserve. For example, we’re happy to service American customers from Latin America because the value equation is very high for us.

NSAM: How does Uber differ in its outsourcing needs to more traditional businesses?

Lisa Stoner: Uber was digital first, existing only as an app to begin with. If your interaction with Uber is as a rider or eater customer, you probably don’t think about Uber’s physical facility. However, if you are a driver who needs their vehicle inspected, then they would go to the physical location. 

Uber’s business model is almost the exact the opposite of many of the BPO’s traditional customers. We are not serving US customers in other parts of the world, we are serving local customers in many parts of the world. 

I want to be a buyer at scale. I am interested in being financially important to the companies I work with. I do not want to be an ancillary thought to the leadership teams I work with.

We began digitally and have later added agents on the phone. We’re trying to decide when we want to personalize experiences, rather than when we want to digitize them. What is unique about Uber will become increasingly common in the new digital world.

NSAM: What are the customer care strategies that Uber has set out with as a result of the pandemic, and how will service providers have to change in the post-pandemic era?

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Lisa Stoner: Everyone’s world changed because of Covid-19 in an extremely meaningful way.  We saw Covid-19 start in Asia and move across the world. This gave us some foresight on the impact of how the virus would affect markets as it spread. Initially, it was like watching a very slow row of dominoes fall.

We were able to set out a strategy that was based around the protection of our employees and our customers. A decision was made to allow the people who had the most information of the situation to make the important decisions. This sounds basic but in a crisis, decision-making often rises up the chain, even if those people are not those best placed to make them. During the pandemic, Uber decided to change from being a company that creates opportunity by setting the world in motion to one that only moves what matters. 

In outsourcing, we try to work with the fewest possible providers that work with our safety, customer care and budget objectives

In the transportation industry, earning trust is vital. We need to be aware that the pandemic changed behaviours and people may not be loyal in the same way they were previously. Why should people chose us? Uber did a good job of using the pandemic to set itself up as a company that people want to use again in the future.

BPOs and service providers really have to think about where they can add value to clients, and where their focus should be in a customer care environment of a post-pandemic world. Companies must offers reasons as to why they should be chosen for business in the future.

Peter Appleby

Peter is the Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. Hailing from Liverpool, UK, he is now based in Mexico City. He has several years’ experience covering the business and energy markets in Mexico and the greater Latin American region. If you’d like to share any tips or story ideas, please reach out to him here.

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