Comdata present a question and answer interview with Maxime Didier, the company’s new CEO.
Maxime Didier, the new CEO of Comdata Group, is a true “maker”, a successful entrepreneur who built his own €180 million business from scratch before joining Comdata Group in 2017.
Now he is leading the next stage of our journey – using our strong foundations in Italy to push for growth globally.
Congratulations on your new role, Maxime. How does it feel to become CEO of a major Italian business, the first non-Italian to lead Comdata Group?
I would not have sold my business to anyone else than Comdata. I did so because I recognized Comdata’s existing strengths, core values and its tremendous growth potential. And one strength is certainly our Italian DNA and our leadership in the Italian market.
We have developed exceptional Customer Management BPO expertise, talent, technologies, services, and client relationships within our Italian market. We’re leveraging these to become an international company.
From our beginnings as a family business in Northern Italy, we’re now a top 10 global Customer Management BPO company with 500+ blue chip clients, revenues of over €950m, and operations in over 20 countries.
So, I see us as being Italian, European and global all at once, and I’m excited and privileged to lead that.
What are your immediate priorities in your new role?
For the business in Italy, I want us to aim even higher than we do now: to show businesses in all sectors the entire range of what we can do for them, build even more awareness and trust here, and accelerate growth – our growth and our clients’ growth.
I also want to ensure that every team member in Italy understands their role, and how they can leverage it and go further.
Globally, I want the market to understand what Comdata can provide and how we can help businesses be more efficient, serve their customers better, and gain new market share.
One way we can do this is to make better use of the talent we have in Comdata. I want our culture to be more agile – so our great people in Italy engage with our great people in Turkey or Colombia or France or wherever, to leverage our experience and expertise for our clients’ benefit.
From a company culture standpoint, we will put resources into building transversal communities and connections, and working together as a project-powered organization. We should make best use of our local strengths to achieve global results.
As you plan this, what do you think are Comdata’s major strengths to capitalize on?
Firstly, there’s the reach we have already achieved and can grow further.
We have a strong Italian-speaking business, strong French, Spanish and English-speaking businesses, and then we also have growing markets such as Germany, Czech Republic and Turkey. That’s a powerful foundation for growth across different geographies and sectors.
Secondly, we have a team dedicated to multinational companies’ specific needs, leveraging our international footprint, our multilingual hubs, and our expertise in dealing with local customers.
Thirdly, we have agility, as we have shown during the Covid-19 pandemic, managing the transition from office-based to home-based working and introducing our advanced home working operating model, Smart Hub.
And what about Comdata Digital – that must be a major strength for the Group?
Yes, absolutely. The Comdata Digital business unit will be very significant to our future growth and our clients’ future success and growth.
The Digital team truly sets us apart from many businesses in this market because it offers three equal pillars of expertise.
One, there’s what our people bring to it – our innovators and ‘makers’. The people in Comdata Digital are not just consultants making nice slides, they genuinely make things happen for our clients.
Two, we have a huge bank of technology that helps our clients operate more efficiently, get closer to their customers, and add value. A great example is our Collaboration Suite (or C Suite) solutions that we use ourselves and sell externally.
Three, there is execution. Comdata Digital and the wider Group are unique because we think, we design, we provide the tools, and then we execute and deliver the services ourselves. It’s end-to-end, with every link of the chain equally strong.
And what are the opportunities to use these strengths?
We see many opportunities out there. If you look at the recent past in Customer Management / BPO, there are two big changes in the past few years. You’ve got automatization, digitalization, artificial intelligence and so on, and what you can do with that in terms of efficiency and cost.
And then you’ve got smartphones, and the tectonic shift in the level of interaction we all have – WhatsApp, social media, email, video, all the rest.
So, if I look at the next ten years, it’s becoming clear that automatization and AI are not the answer to everything.
As we can see with the use of phones and changing consumer behaviour during Covid-19, you want to keep some high-value human interaction in there. Not all the time, because there are many aspects of customer management that digital can do more efficiently.
But the human touch, at the right moment or with the right message, or to sort out a tricky situation, this can really make a difference in adding value or creating customer satisfaction.
The critical thing is to use analytics, among other things, to understand and deliver this balance between automatization and human interaction; to hit the ‘sweet spot’ in terms of efficiency, value, added value, and customer engagement and satisfaction.
Comdata is absolutely at the forefront of this. We’re already doing it successfully, so it’s a huge opportunity for us.
How will your own experience and expertise help to make this happen?
Well, it’s not all about me! We have 50,000+ plus people at Comdata and each one of them can make a difference here.
And we have our Leadership team, and again this comes back to my point about us being an Italian business and an international business.
So, working with our Italian chairman, we have Exco members who joined Comdata from all over Europe and beyond and believe in our global potential.
I’d like to strengthen the mix even more in the future, bringing more women into the team and increasing the diversity of perspective in other ways too. I am pretty sure it will make us stronger.
But back to your own experience and role…
As I have said before, I am a true entrepreneur by nature and by background. In fact, I never had a boss until I joined Comdata in 2017.
This background is key. In this business, you need to defend your competitive advantage every single day, and one of the characteristics of an entrepreneur is that you never take anything for granted.
There’s a quote which is a few years old now but makes a lot of sense to me: “It’s no longer the big beating the small, but the fast beating the slow.”
As an entrepreneur, you feel that yourself. So, this is what I will bring to the Group – the attitude that there are no limits when it comes to ambition and speed of execution.
And I’m looking forward to doing this. It was a great decision to sell my business to Comdata and join the Group, and I would make that same decision every single day.
Now I’m honoured and excited to have the role of CEO … and also very busy. There is a lot we want to do, and I am happy to be doing it.
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