An Interview with Jeffrey Puritt

TELUS International is the global arm of the multi-billion dollar Canadian telecommunications company, TELUS Corporation. TELUS International is a global business process outsourcing (BPO) provider that delivers contact centre, information technology and advisory solutions across a range of industries. TELUS International has more than 22,000 inspiring team members located in North and Central America, Europe and the Philippines. With proficiency in more than 35 languages, they work to consistently surpass our clients’ expectations through the more than 175 million customer interactions they manage globally on an annual basis.

Jeffrey Puritt is the President and CEO of TELUS International and an Executive Vice-President of TELUS. Since joining TELUS in 2001, he has delivered strong business outcomes through progressively senior positions across Finance and Administration, IP Applications Business Development, New Product and Service Development, Ventures, and Mergers and Acquisitions. Jeffrey became President at TELUS International in 2008 and was appointed CEO in June 2016. Here he talks to Finance Monthly about TELUS International’s global presence, staying ahead of the firm’s competitors and the achievements that he is most proud of.

What motivates you most about your role as a President and CEO of an international company?
Growing up in a third world country like Tanzania, where I spent the first seven years of my life, I am mindful of both the heartbreak and the immense opportunity in the regions where we operate abroad. In many of these countries, working in a contact centre is a vocation of choice, and I believe that our responsibility, as an employer, is to invest in their citizens as a means to help create more prosperous and sustainable communities. A proud moment for me was the need to select a location for a second Guatemalan contact centre, not only because our growth meant hiring more team members and stimulating employment, but also because our site selection criteria included the need for a parking lot, because so many of our team members could now afford a vehicle. Seeing the impact that we are able to make in our team members’ and their families’ lives from that perspective is what motivates me to grow our company in a responsible manner that will continue to provide long-term career opportunities.

What have been some of your biggest achievements since joining TELUS International?
I am especially proud of TELUS International’s global corporate social responsibility efforts, which are unparalleled in the BPO industry. Our company’s desire to positively impact the quality of life in the communities where our team members live, work and serve is from the heart. We are helping provide the necessary support and critical opportunities that are fostering communities with healthier and better educated citizens who are increasingly able to achieve their full potential. We currently have four Community Boards across the globe, which guide our funding in support of local charities, and we hold TELUS International Days of Giving events every year across the countries in which we operate. Last year, over 7,250 team members volunteered in activities such as building entire schools in Central America, refurbishing centres for underprivileged children in Eastern Europe, and building much-needed housing in the Philippines. We are well on our way to surpass that number in 2016 with TELUS Days of Giving events being held in 11 international locations, including the US, the UK, Central America, Eastern Europe and the Philippines.

The role of President and CEO is well-positioned to drive cultural change within a company. What goals did you arrive with as CEO of TELUS International?
Establishing TELUS International as the employer of choice in the BPO industry was key; it enables us to attract and retain the best people, who, in turn, provide the best service to our valued customers. I believe TELUS International already has the best team in the industry, and we have achieved this by fostering a caring culture that puts customers first and enables customer service innovation through spirited teamwork and agile thinking. Notably, our culture is driving 80 per cent employee engagement ratings and attrition rates that are at least 50 per cent below the global industry average. As we continue to grow our business at a rapid pace, our goal is to ‘keep the inspiration as we build the institution’ in order to effectively manage our culture evolution. I believe it is critical that we retain the family feel and entrepreneurial spirit that we have collectively developed and nurtured over the years if we are to continue to be successful and achieve our ambitious goals.

With operations in North and Central America, Europe and Asia, TELUS International is so large – how is your chain of command set up? How often do you work with its other offices?
TELUS International has a proven formula of investing in local companies to leverage their market expertise as well as access talented, highly-educated agents. I frequently visit most of the countries where we operate to meet with both our frontline team members and regional leadership teams in forums or at volunteer events. Although we certainly leverage technology to connect and collaborate daily, spending time in the various locations ensures that we do not lose sight of specific cultural considerations for our team members from region to region that impact how we do business. I have great respect for the wealth of regional knowledge in our locations around the world and rely heavily on our local leaders’ opinions and perspectives as we continue to grow and evolve our company.

How does your company keep up with BPO and ITO customers’ increasingly heightened demands, arising from the changing customer needs and the rapid advancement of technology?
A single-channel experience is no longer sufficient to meet the increasingly complex and diverse needs of consumers in the 21st century. In order to deliver an enhanced brand experience, we continue to invest in the design and implementation of an innovative omnichannel approach across our global network, and in sophisticated speech and data analytics programs to drive efficiencies that translate into lower call volumes and higher client satisfaction rates. Unlike many of our industry peers, we are able to make these critical technology investments due to our significant financial strength. Indeed, with solid financial backing from TELUS, a leading Canadian telecommunications company with CAD$12.6 billion in annual revenue, and Baring Private Equity Asia, a firm with over CAD$13 billion in international investments, we are uniquely positioned in the BPO space. Our robust balance sheet and access to capital enables us to be agile and innovative as we keep pace with technology trends, strongly positioning TELUS International as the provider of choice and driving our longterm, sustainable growth and success.

TELUS International is the global arm of one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies, TELUS. What is your approach to providing services that will guarantee staying ahead of other BPO companies in the industry?
How we approach the provision of services is more potent than the ‘what’, as it speaks more effectively to our differentiated culture and our values. In this regard, we have focused our efforts on building the critical foundation necessary to drive industry-leading engagement to foster and retain talented team members who are passionate brand ambassadors for our clients’ unique products and services. Additionally, our unrelenting orientation around putting customers first includes leveraging new technologies when and where they drive value for our clients. While many of our competitors are unwilling (or unable) to introduce new technology, like speech and text analytics or automation, for fear of cannibalizing their traditional voice services, our team’s confidence in our competency to adapt in the emerging digital economy enables us to respond as a true partner would, wholly embracing it to help our clients build loyalty, retain customers, and ultimately, increase their return on investment.

What does the future hold for TELUS International? What potential for development and growth do you see for the company?
As we look to the future, we are focused on continued growth, bringing our compelling contact centre, BPO, and ITO services to our existing clients, and leveraging our enhanced capabilities to attract new ones. Our recent agreement with Baring Private Equity Asia to acquire a 35 per cent stake in our company positions us to leverage their deep Asian markets presence and worldwide experience, and tap into their global network in order to further expand TELUS International’s operations over the coming years. With the ability to fund additional meaningful and transformational M&A activity, we are looking to materially transform our company, with a goal of doubling the size of our business over the next five years, while continuing to deliver the best customer experience in the BPO industry.

Is there anything else you would like to add?
TELUS International has grown to be a successful global player in the BPO industry because of our commitment to doing things differently. In addition to creating an exceptional customer experience and delivering top-line value to our clients, we are simultaneously committed to addressing social inequities and creating meaningful social change in the countries where we operate by embracing our community giving philosophy, ‘We give where we live’. We know that our team members and our clients want to be part of something bigger, and they are choosing to work for and with companies that share their values. Clients are now evaluating BPO providers on more than the conventional value proposition and are increasingly recognizing the connection between corporate social responsibility and team member engagement, which leads to happier customers and better business performance.