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The Future of Contact Centres and Customer Experience

Last Modified: 20/12/2017

An interview with Merchants’ Sales & Marketing Executive Ross Telfer (Part One)


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Introducing Ross Telfer, the Sales & Marketing Executive at Merchants


Ross Telfer is the Sales & Marketing Executive at Merchants. He began his career as an outbound sales agent at Yellow Pages in London. After 10 years gaining experience and moving upward within the company, an opportunity arose at Vodafone which saw him switch from the advertising to telecoms industry. After six years he had gained experience with the call centre and online spaces, which led him to Shop Direct — the biggest online retailer in the UK — then to TalkTalk, another UK based telecoms company. 


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TalkTalk was looking to shift part of their workload to a dedicated contact centre provider, which saw Ross spending time in South Africa during completion of the project. What was supposed to be a three month stay turned into a much longer visit, with Ross having now been in the country for six years. Ross saw the booming contact centre industry and lifestyle that South Africa offered and decided to make it his home.   


Hi Ross. Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Let’s begin with your role at Merchants as the Sales & Marketing Executive. How did you arrive at Merchants, and what are your responsibilities in the organisation?


Merchants has been one of the longest-standing players in the South African contact centre industry, with work traditionally coming to them. However, over time South Africa has become more popular as an outsourcing destination, resulting in a growth of local providers and increasing competition for Merchants.

I was brought in on three "prongs" to head up business development, and to come up with a strategy for how we were going to win business in this environment. 


The three prongs are the marketing aspect, a new sales practice that we've opened and looking after business development for all territories outside of the US.  


Getting into the way contact centres function, what is the main concern of the modern contact centre?


The contact centre of today has to be able to react to their customers. If the customer decides that they're going to post on Twitter, or if they're going to send a direct message on Messenger, the contact centre of today needs to be able to handle any interaction on the customer’s terms, otherwise, customers will leave and go to another brand.


Part of this challenge is that customers want continuity of information — as a customer, I don't want to have to repeat myself every time to each new agent. Each agent should be able to see all of my information, regardless of why I’m calling, and be able to resolve that. However, they also need able to add value so that when I put the phone down I say "I'm really glad I'm with this company."

Are there any other kinds of challenges facing the contact centre that you think need to be highlighted?


Customers are increasingly communicating via multiple channels. For example, some of a customer’s query will have been dealt with by bot, and some via voice. It's important to understand how agents will handle that. Agents will also be handling more complex activity as bots take over transactional activities.


We also know the voice transactions are beginning to tail off, and they will continue to do so. If we're not able to handle customer interactions through another method that we're able to bill for, then our business is going to shrink. So we need to evolve quickly, otherwise, we're going to be the next Kodak, Yellow Pages or Nokia.

Continued in Part Two 


Merchants is a contact centre and customer experience provider with experience in assisting clients all over the globe. For more information regarding digital transformation, the contact centre and customer experience, be sure to contact Merchants here.


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