Posted by Megan Neale
At the recent Contact Centre World Awards , our Customer Retention Centre of Excellence in Preston was awarded Best Large Contact Centre in the EMEA region. We will now compete for the global title in Las Vegas in November. This is not the first time HGS Preston has been acknowledged on a global platform for its achievements – the centre has time and again been recognised by the contact industry for setting the golden standard in customer retention. This is incredible when you consider that our Preston team deal with customers who wish to leave the our client’s service– and it’s up to them to understand the customer’s needs and offer appropriate solutions.
How have we managed to do this so well ? While keeping morale high , attrtion low and our awards cabinet (yes, we have one at Preston) full and brimming. Well, the answer is not always simple or easy – but it is obvious. Innovative employee engagement and here is how we do it at HGS:
1. Hire people for a ‘career’, not a job
There is a view that ‘people treat contact centre jobs lightly’ ; for most it is rarely a career choice, rather a stop-gap arrangement while waiting for a better opportunity to come along. But customer service today is an exciting place to be, as board rooms waking up to its inevitable link to bottom line growth, are investing more in building skilled front line teams to reach customers through their preferred channels of communication. Needless to say, contact centre jobs now offer a stepping stone to some brilliant careers . So, first and foremost, it is important to have the right attraction strategy for your centre . Be honest about the role, what it entails and focus on building a structured career path for the agent. At Preston, these include a comprehensive induction plan , on-going coaching , personalised performance management modules , qualifications programs in Diet Sigma and skills-based workshops . We also run a highly successful Contact Centre Apprenticeship scheme which allows our agents to progress into specialised roles within the centre. These initiatives have helped our staff realise their potential and boost their skill sets, while driving employee morale and keeping attrition to a minimum.
2. Measure What Truly Matters
Front line customer service is challenging, more so when you are working to retain a customer . The average agent has to consider so many operational metrics – AHT, transfer %, first-time fix, ACW, cost per contact, process adherence, to name a few. And while doing all this, that have to ‘retain the customer , resolving any problems efficiently. At HGS, we realised early on, the need to do away with most of these ‘metrics’ which impede performance. Instead we focus on measures which directly impact objectives of the campaign and that of our client. For example, retention performance, overall customer satisfaction etc. Through coaching, additional metrics (Quality & Compliance, first time fix and complaints management) which drive performance, are improved. In short, we look at our contact centre’s targets, ensure they are aligned with the agent’s personal targets and that there are mechanisms in place to measure those targets. And lastly, we make sure that incentives are directly linked to these targets, through bespoke commission decks.
3. Let your people lead change
Empowerment and collaboration are the key words here! Involve your people in the business, to drive change from within the organisation. A great place to start is by listening to your staff . We have Employee Forums , ESAT Surveys and weekly team meetings. These offer staff a great platform to voice their issues and are breeding grounds for new ideas to accelerate productivity and create empowered work environments. All suggestions are fed back to the management, and form the basis for the contact centre’s Employee Success Plan. Since July 2012, through this plan, we have implemented 125 process changes for better service delivery and driven employee satisfaction up to 90%. And staff are working collectively to make things better every single day.
The last point I’d like to touch upon is ‘community involvement’. We are an organisation which strongly believes in giving back to community and encourage our people to actively participate in community building. Our Preston staff organise fund raisers for charities like Comic Relief, Diabetes UK and St Catherine’s Hospice Care. We also sponsor ‘employability programs’ where our staff visit local schools and hold workshops for the youth to better prepare them for a career in customer service. Our selected staff representatives run these programs end-to-end – and we find this approach engenders commitment , rather than compliance.
To sum up, we have a great team at Preston which has been blazing the trail for the rest of our business – and they have done this by developing sensible employee-driven change programs . This is grass-roots democracy at its finest. Maybe we can all learn a lesson or two from this.