Building a 2020 call centre

Let’s set the basis for if one had to build a 2020 call centre. Firstly, we are always going to put our people first and then in terms of:

 
• Processes: Easy is the new loyalty
• Systems: Omni-channel contact is required
• Information: A single view of the customer will become a reality
• Digital: Web and App chat is important as service channels
• Customers / Consumers: Smartphones are changing behaviour
• Innovation: Mobile customer support is becoming a standard

Digital will become a leading channel i.e. Web and App as service channels, new channels will arise through Artificial Intelligence (Smartness), however we need to create a one-channel feel through integration and seamless handover, at the same time we need to create a personalised experience for our customers while we continue to invest in upskilling and empowerment of our people.

 
Why….
• Complex problem solving will become the primary function of a contact centre agent.
• Communication skills, analytical problem solving and knowledge of products and services will become the essential skills of a 2020 call centre agent.
• The core functions of an operations teams will be to safeguard customer experience through operational rigor, drive best practice procedures, highlight insights and fixes related to systems and process failures.

 
In terms of technology:
• Web and App chat should deliberately be designed to become the core channels of choice for customers, followed by phone and emails.
• One should look at mix of dedicated call centres and integrated hubs supported by flexible technologies.
• Key technologies are skill-based routing platforms followed by Cloud and Big Data Analytics.

 
But what about processes?
• Continuously revisit contact centre process in order to make them more effective, efficient and easy for users as well as customers.

 
Then…
Measure the ease of doing business with you through Net Easy score, the likelihood that customers will promote your service through Net Promoter score, the effectiveness of your service through First Contact Resolution, your efficiency through Service Level followed by Average Handle Time as a hygiene factor.

Dealing with large-scale change

Large scale change can be likened to the collision of two forces, the first force being the existing environment and the second the planned changes to the environment, the word collision suggests that one or both forces may be slowed down or even stopped due to the impact of the collision. Innovation is forcing organizations to change, the banking sector is a prime example of how innovation disrupts the market and forces companies to change, these changes are usually unexpected and requires a complete makeover in the operating models of companies. Shock changes introduced by senior leadership with the aim of making remarkable improvements seldom receives the same enthusiasm from the employees impacted by such changes, in fact adoption can be of such low standard that the organisation often hangs onto or inevitably reverts to the old ways. Evidence suggests that large-scale change management is intricate and difficult for most organizations, some fail because they lack the ability to capture the hearts and minds of people and to take them on the journey of change.

 

Well documented cases of companies across the globe that have experienced both failure and success in introducing strategic change suggests that vital ingredients of a winning recipe are socializing the idea, learning about the change, mobilizing employees through engagement and realigning to the change. Many organisation experience change and some are forced to change in order to survive economic challenges. Employees usually resist change because it threatens to disrupt working environments, as a result change creates demotivated employees and sometimes even an increase in “absenteeism”.

 

Change management team should focus on the views of employees impacted by change and assist with their transition, sufficient support should be made available to impacted employees and skilled resources should be contracted to prepare employees for the imminent change. These skilled resources should be equipped and experienced enough to deal with the different phases of the transition process. The change approach utilized should focus on transitioning employees through the unlearning, changing and then relearning excises to ensure stickiness to the change. Introduce a blended “top-down” and “bottom-up” approach that includes every impacted employee in the organisation and introduce a culture of leading by example which encourages each person in the organisation to focus on changing him / herself. Some organisation go as far as including the voice of their customers in their design process of the change by understanding and recognizing the needs of their customers, they build trust through transparency, they create supporters and use those supporters to spread the word and generate followers, then there is also the old saying of you cannot manage what you cannot measure so measurement of the success of the change at critical intervals is important. Introduce effective communication as well as activities that fosters “inclusivity”. Build good relationships, and processes that are perceived as fair can increase the success rate of change.

Employee Relations and Trust

Employee relations drives efficiency and efficiency is the primary objective of any business therefore employee relations is the basis of any economically prosperous business. Equity and voice are labour objectives, the relationship between the employer and the employee is built on the balance of efficiency, voice and equity. Efficiency refers to the effective utilization of scarce resources, equity describes the fairness of the working relationship, and voice provides the opportunity for employees to contribute towards business decisions. This relationship between employer and employee can be strengthened by mutual trust or destroyed due to the lack of trust, the lack of trust can have far reaching consequences and “When trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down.” However, the opposite can also happen.

Global examples shows that trust can be destroyed within the blink of eye especially when introducing change that impacts the entire business without including the employees of that organisation in the design of the change. Excluding employees breaks the employee relationship with the company because it removes one of the three legs upon which employee relations is built namely “voice”. The company therefore loses the opportunity to proactively clarify the rationale behind the change as well as the new rules of engagement.

The good news is that not only can trust be rebuilt but it can be improved beyond the previous level. If companies are continuously going through change then it is vital that they work on the trust elements in the organisation. Several forms of trust will have to be evaluated and rebuilt in order to repair credibility, relationships, trust amongst business units, reputation, trust of the external community and equally important trust of employees.

Talent Management

Identifying, attracting and employing the right talent forms the foundation of the success of an organisation because people are the heartbeat of your business. In order to identify the best talent a clearly defined standard is required, once the standard is set then the mission should be to build your talent pool and leadership should be held accountable for ensuring standards are met.
Global trends indicate that talent management drives the business instead of only supporting it as in previous years. Companies like Shoprite Group have invested in several training institutions and aligned those training programmes at those institutions to the skills requirements of their business. Training programmes, selections processes and performance evaluation process are key in assisting leaders to identify potential talent. These processes require continuous engagement to be successful.
A few years ago physical incentives such as pool tables and free handouts over and above attractive salaries were used to entice potential employees however experts are identifying a noticeable shift in younger generations towards the need for growth, engagement and continuous feedback. The younger generation of talented individuals thrive on feedback and engagement and are interacting with talent scouts via social media platforms which in turn provides freely available sources of information on potential candidates.
Feedback from actual employees  indicate that they feel valued when the company invests in their future assisting them to reach their potential, not investing in employees may lead to them feeling demotivated. Demotivated people leads to under performance and poor growth.
Creating an environment conducive to growth is critical for development. I saw a funny quote once that read something along the lines of “A manager asks the CEO what if we invest in our people and they leave, the CEO responded with, what if we don’t and they stay”.

Motivation, Engagement and Performance Management

Motivation
It is vital to recognize that diversity exists and that different people are motivated by different things. Motivation can be described as the “process that accounts for an individual’s intensity, direction and persistence of effort toward attaining a goal”. There are “several theories of motivation” and in one of those theories which is “Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” it is argued that the basis of one’s motivation is influenced by one’s needs, and those needs consists of “Physiological needs, Safety needs, Social need, Esteem and self-actualization”. Other theories suggests that motivation is binomial and that the outcome is either positive or negative. Another theory suggests that motivation is much more complicated and that simply removing dissatisfaction does not necessarily make the opposite true.

Engagement
Engagement refers to how focused one is on a task or set of tasks. Global trends indicate that Employee Engagement has a direct influence on the performance and success of a business, companies are therefore adjusting their strategies to include engagement as a key investment. An Engagement Model provides an opportunity for leaders to understand what is required to motivate individual employees within the team. This information can then be used to guide employees to achieving a set of predefined goals.

Performance Management
Performance management is a component of Management By Objectives (MBO) which is a methodical process of designing goals. These goals should be “Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic and Time-based (SMART). These SMART goals become the performance management objectives of the individual employee. Performance management drives increased levels of engagement and in return delivers efficiency and success in the business while poor communication and feedback fuels the feeling of being disengaged.

* The fact remains that one should treat employees as your most valuable assets.

WEBCHAT as a service channel / SMARTPHONES are changing behaviour / MOBILE CUSTOMER SUPPORT is becoming a standard practice

  • Globally:
    • In particular in the UK surveys shows that 9 in 10 customers want service whilst online.
    • Customers with smartphones who are always connected expect a 24/7 customer service experience
    • The smartphones of the future will support online and video chat, as well as provide a “click to call” service and enable customers to make call-back requests.

(Millard & Alcock, 2014)

  • Woolworths: Are focusing on transforming the WFS (Woolworths Financial Services) customer experience to one that is consistent with and aligned to the Woolworths brand. As part of the Connected Retail Experience they want to deliver one brand experience across all their channels, including stores, the contact centre, the Woolworths website and the WFS mobile app (Woolworths Holdings Limited, 2016).

Employee relations

Employee relations drives efficiency and efficiency is the primary objective of any business therefore employee relations is the basis of any economically prosperous business. Equity and voice are labour objectives, the relationship between the employer and the employee is built on the balance of efficiency, voice and equity. Efficiency refers to the “effective” utilization of “scarce resources”, equity describes the fairness of the working relationship, and voice provides the opportunity for employees to contribute towards business decisions (Budd, n.d.). This relationship between employer and employee can be strengthened by mutual trust or destroyed due to the lack of trust, the lack of trust can have far-reaching consequences and the author mentions that “When trust goes up, speed will also go up and cost will go down.” However, the opposite can also happen (Gandy & Covey, 2007).

For further information watch this three minute video Stephen M.R. Covey – Leading at the Speed of Trust