Low unemployment rates and a tight labor market mean hiring and retaining employees to accommodate our ever expanding business relationships can be a challenge.
The situation has prompted this client to shift focus towards metrics like hours delivery and compliance. The client is focused more on ensuring people are present to answer calls rather than the time taken on calls with customers.
Optimized customer care is expected to achieve excellence on three key fronts: quality, turnaround time, and cost. This is perhaps never more challenging than in the telecommunications industry, where all three are critical to maintaining market share. To provide the essential competitive edge, businesses like these have increasingly sought the expertise business process outsourcer (BPO) assistance.
In fact, there has been such a surge that BPO companies operating from Canada are struggling to recruit, hire, and retain and deliver in line with client requirements. Approximately 15 years ago,a cellular provider focused on providing these value features in the Canada market contacted HGS with a short-term request for help in providing supplementary English voice support. HGS responded by quickly engaging 50 agents in Pembroke, Ontario, to serve customers seeking answers about their accounts, plans, and devices over the Christmas period.
HGS leveraged a short-term, seasonal telco opportunity to delight and demonstrate a frictionless, friendly, and focused customer experience. Over the years, HGS has brought a winning combination of workforce management (WFM) ingenuity as well as quality and KPI focus. Today, HGS manages 350 agents across three sites (Pembroke Ontario, Belleville, Ontario and now Work@Home across multiple provinces), logs 35,000 hours of volume monthly, and delivers postpaid inbound customer service, including troubleshooting, billing, account information, and upselling.
Since account inception, the client has refined its target market and enhanced its offerings (e.g., free subscriptions) to hone in on a millennial customer base, and HGS has adapted in parallel. Today, HGS’s priorities include improving the Own The Experience (OTE), Revenue, and Hours Capacity. The client, in effect, has challenged HGS to successfully balance call center quality (via OTE and customer satisfaction) with speed (average handle time) and financial (sales) improvements—a form of the classic cheap, fast, good triangle.
The client experiences peak periods at Christmas (November to January) and the summer (July to September). Historically HGS has successfully delivered fast, efficient growth despite challenges. HGS studied this client’s retention and capacity issues and devised a workforce management ratio that includes both full-time and part-time employees as a solution. We found that this arrangement ensured the presence of sufficient staff to answer customer calls and provide support. There were two more critical solutions presented to the client in 2017-18, when. HGS introduced the Work@Home concept to the partnership. We also made significant changes to our recruiting platform, including wage treatments, onboarding and retention.
As a result of HGS’s efforts, recruitment and retention in Canada have vastly improved in the past 12 months. HGS has found great success with a 90:10 full-time: part-time employment focus.. In addition, HGS has implemented a pilot in which new hires partner with existing tenured agents on the floor and learn through hands on experience in combination with classroom training. In this model, agents spend 75% of training hands on and 25% in class.
By balancing customer satisfaction, financials, and average handle time (AHT) and by monitoring other vendors closely, HGS has managed to debunk the project-management-triangle concept.
HGS has adopted a one-queue approach for the client. Agents are cross- trained. An integrated customer relationship management system (CRM) and knowledgebase ensure they provide accurate account, product, and service information. Job diversity makes for happier agents and better results. Until recently, HGS had no client-mandated quality assurance (QA) expectation. HGS’s proven call monitoring and coaching process ensures the client achieves their quality objectives. The extent of the QA program today involves having analysts review random calls remotely against HGS’s internally created “Pillars of Success” form. It’s simple, but effective. Both the Pembroke, Belleville and W@H teams use HGS’s Customer Experience Blueprint. The blueprint outlines what it takes to make positive first and lasting impressions, as data has shown that these directly correspond to Net Promoter Score. HGS mines voice-of-the-customer (VOC) surveys—every single detractor/passive survey—to implement specific actions that solve problems. OTE results can reflect the state of the client-vendor relationship. This HGS- client relationship is built on mutual respect, authenticity, trust, and teamwork. HGS has freedom to improvise and innovate for the best outcomes. The client, meanwhile, provides a responsive vendor management team. The client’s vendor managers attend all briefings together, so there is greater consistency across sites, and a contact is always available to answer questions.
HGS’s pricing strategy and revenue generation and protection results offset the cost of operations. HGS’s one- queue approach ensures all agents embrace sales and upselling as an integral part of the job. HGS agents espouse a sales-through-service approach that puts customer needs first.
In Pembroke, Belleville, and Work@Home, the client’s branding and wares are prevalent and accessible to agents. The level of activity, interaction, and engagement on the call center floor is remarkable. In such a lively environment, agents and supervisors naturally collaborate to address customers’ spoken and unspoken needs. Results appear on an electronic board for all to see, and year-end examples of these results are as follows:
- In 2018, HGS achieved an average OTE rating of 93% of the client-provided targets, whereas the client’s other vendors achieved OTE averages as low as 86% of the client targets. HGS’s OTE scores exceeded those of two of the three other vendors’ every single month for the year.
- This same year, HGS was a leader in the network in Revenue Generation and Protection. In the last quarter, the HGS team delivered a 0.29% Sales Index vs. competitors’ delivery 0.25% and 0.20% respectively.
- Meeting capacity for the first two-thirds of 2018 was a challenge where HGS only delivered 81% of the requirements. As our Work@Home presence grew stronger and our wage treatment and recruiting strategies were employed, we moved from 81% delivery to 100% delivery for the past four months of the year.
HGS autonomously initiates improvement and VOC projects. These projects often involve technology such as dual monitors for agents, but also operational techniques. The client, on several occasions, has commented that HGS has taken value-adds and VOC insights to an entirely new level. Due to HGS’s excellent performance, HGS and the client are looking at many new opportunities, including HGS being chosen as the partner of choice for many client pilots this year. The client’s success story speaks clearly to how a partner like HGS can help businesses meet today’s customer experience expectations while also meeting the workforce management challenges inherent to today’s business environment.