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EBOOK DOWNLOAD: Unlocking the potential of your #1 asset – Your people

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By Sabio Group

Are you in danger of leaving your people behind?

Despite the upheaval caused by Covid-19, the annual rate of attrition among UK contact centre advisors remained at around 15% to 20% in 2020. However, we are now starting to see a crisis in the industry, with attrition rates soaring.

With the estimated cost to replace and train advisors in a 500-seat contact centre each year said to be over £1m, many businesses are looking at new ways to bring down attrition rates – and improve customer experience as a result.

Digital and automation initiatives may transform contact centre efficiency, but they’re also fundamentally changing the nature of today’s contact centre advisor role. With your people left handling only the most urgent, complex and emotional interactions, this workload is placing huge pressures on your contact centre teams.

That’s why it’s time to turn your technology focus inwards – backing your advisors with the same innovative solutions that you’re already using to support your customer journeys. At Sabio we call this Human Service.

Our latest eBook explains how adopting such a Human Service approach can help unlock the true potential of your #1 asset – your people. We also identify how effectively supporting contact centre teams with the right technology and solutions can play a key role in starting to address worryingly high advisor attrition rates across our industry.

We also highlight the importance of monitoring advisor wellbeing, and discuss how delivering focused customer journey support can play a key role in reducing advisor frustration.

Download now to find out how you can support your advisors as they adapt to world of longer and more demanding interactions.

Do you specialise in Training & Development for Contact Centres? We want to hear from you!

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Each month on Call Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in August we’re focussing on Training & Development.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Training & Development solutions to call centres and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Image by rawpixel from Pixabay

Do you provide Agent Coaching & Monitoring solutions? We want to hear from you!

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Each month on Call Centres Briefing we’re shining the spotlight on a different part of the customer care market – and in January we’re focussing on Agent Coaching & Monitoring solutions.

It’s all part of our ‘Recommended’ editorial feature, designed to help customer care industry buyers find the best products and services available today.

So, if you’re a supplier of Agent Coaching & Monitoring solutions and would like to be included as part of this exciting new shop window, we’d love to hear from you – for more info, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Here are the areas we’ll be covering, month by month:

Jan – Agent Coaching & Monitoring
Feb – Analytics
Mar – Call Centre Technology
Apr – Automated Customer Satisfaction
May – Social Media
Jun – Artificial Intelligence
Jul – Virtual Call/Contact Centres
Aug – Training & Development
Sep – Knowledge Management
Oct – Web Self Service/Chat
Nov – Display Boards
Dec – CRM

For more information on any of the above, contact Gayle Buckland on g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk.

Ascensos opens Isle of White call centre

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Motherwell-based Ascensos has opened a new call centre in the Isle of White, creating over 600 new jobs.

Based in Cowes, the centre will initially focus on customer service enquiries for Ascensos’ long-serving client JD Sports, before opening up to a range of blue chip retailers – including Argos and GAME – as the company takes on more staff.

Following the first two weeks of training at the new centre, enthusiastic new staff celebrated by dressing up as sports men and women while taking calls.

Commenting on the new centre in the Isle of White, Ascensos’ operations director Lyle McLean said: “This is a significant day for our new Isle of Wight operation and we were delighted that the first members of our new team decided to enter into the spirit by adopting a sporting theme for the day.

“This is our first intake of team members and at full strength, we plan to have created 600 jobs on the Isle of Wight.”

Ascensos was founded in 2013 and employs over 1,200 staff. It has locations in Motherwell, Clydebank, the Netherlands and Romania.

Industry Spotlight: PeopleTECH – how to get the most out of social media in contact centres…

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The past decade or so has witnessed the astonishing rise of social media. It has changed the way we communicate with friends and family; how we consume news; how we share photos; how we look for a new job and much more – there are an estimated 1.65 billion active daily users on Facebook alone.

Social media has also changed how consumers interact with brands. Because consumers are so savvy and switched-on to the immediacy of social media, they know a few tweets can save them time spent on frustrating calls and long waits for engineers. Twitter and other social channels are plugged into marketing, PR and sometimes even the CEO; therefore issues will often get addressed as a priority.

This means brands have had to invest in social media, and bring that into existing customer experience channels. At times this has even meant that many brands focus on social at the expense of other channels. But while this is understandable in some ways, it is also a mistake. Organisations that provide omnichannel service will prosper far more than those who concentrate on social media channels at the expense of others – this is how to really get the best from social media in the contact centre.

Provide agents with the right training

When a consumer is expressing dissatisfaction with a service or just want a question responded to on social media, it requires a slightly different approach to other channels. With a phone call, live chat or face-to-face interaction, it is taking place in private. Social media interactions are taking place in public.

While the Millennials that make up a lot of the workforce within a contact centre have grown up with social media, there is a difference between how it is used personally to how it is used professionally. Make sure you staff are clear on what they can and cannot say on social media.

Don’t put all your customer experience eggs in one basket

Social media is an intrinsic part of both everyday life and also customer experience. But brands and their contact centres should be very wary about not over-focusing on social media. More than half of consumers who expect a brand to respond to a Tweet, demand that response comes in less than an hour, rising to 72 per cent when they have complaints.

When companies don’t meet these expectations, 38 percent of the public feel more negative about the brand. But is it realistic to meet those demands all the time? Social media is actually a limited channel for addressing customer queries or complaints, and interactions are often transferred to a different channel to be fully resolved.

So while any brand that doesn’t use social media as a customer channel looks to look at their strategy very hard indeed, it is imperative not to overlook other channels or over-invest in social media – it just isn’t sustainable.

Social media and the Single Digital Channel 

The best use of social media within a contact centre is as part of an omnichannel strategy, providing to consumers a unified, consistent and contextual customer experience, across ALL channels. In addition to omnichannel providing this seamless experience, the right tools can also give brands unparalleled information and data relating to that customer and their likely intent.

This data includes an awareness of what the customer has done previously, allowing frontline customer service staff to offer a better service to that customer, resolving issues quicker and offering help at the right time and via the right channel.

The Single Digital Channel (SDC) is also important and should be a customer experience goal for any brand. This gives an agent access to all media types from their desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers – voice, email, chat, social media – waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent. The ‘right’ agent can mean the next available agent, one with a particular skill-set or area of expertise, or even one with a prior history with that customer.

Social media is a channel that can play a major role in delivering the right customer experience. But it shouldn’t be the sole focus. There can be a danger that brands will focus too much on this and let other channels suffer, when they would be far better advised to include social media as part of an overall omnichannel strategy.


Mike Hughes is a director at PeopleTECH consulting and one of the UK’s foremost customer experience experts, having worked with companies such as Thomas Cook, BskyB and France Telecom.

PeopleTECH combines experience working with some of the world’s biggest companies, with a deep understanding of digital transformation, helping to drive efficiency and profitability by offering a bespoke and agile approach to improving the customer journey. 

Guest Blog, Richard Lane: Managing frequent training in an ever-evolving industry…

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durhamlane is a company that is passionate about helping sales and non-sales employees to become the very best they can be. This is achieved through consultancy, training and coaching services – conducting, developing and delivering engaging programmes designed to create a measurable difference. The training blends a mix of theory and practical activities, and all staff are ‘business people first and trainers second’, so participants benefit from experiences and real-world examples.

Here, durhamlane co-founder, Richard Lane, shares the company’s views on the importance of ongoing training in call centre environments, and gives advice on safeguarding customer satisfaction and expanding into new markets…  

There is no doubt that the medium of mass telecommunications has transformed in recent years. Customers and clients expect more for less at a faster pace and more efficiently than ever before. What’s more, in the internet-age, everybody is an expert on the products they buy and the level of service they should receive. What then, can we do to keep up with the changing environments we work in, and keep our customers happy and coming back for more?  

Successful salespeople have altered their mind-set, shifting focus away from the cold sell, to a more organic, developmental approach. Likewise, customer service representatives must be aware of the shift their clients expect away from reactivity, towards more proactive resolutions.

This is why ensuring that staff training is regular and comprehensive is paramount. To make the most of training opportunities, here are a few pointers:


Assess learning needs and goals: Without assessment of skill gaps and learning styles, training will often fail to deliver at the right level. Be serious about a rigorous programme to initiate behavioural change and achieve results. Consider a ‘mini module’ approach to deliver flexible and customised content each and every time.


Flexibility: With ever-changing buyer mind-sets and organisational complexity, the days of running standard training courses are behind us. It’s now about customer-focused problem solving and strategic prospecting. Follow an agile and flexible approach and ensure that training content is always state of the art.


Be engaging: Too often, standard training can become boring. When training is not relevant, not delivered at the right level, and too focused on lecture versus practice, it can have a negative impact on team morale and won’t result in behavioural change. Engage your workforce with a range of work-based examples, interactive exercises and practical tools.


Acquire buy-in from all management tiers: No matter how good a training event is, approximately 90 per cent of learning is lost within 30 days, if it’s not reinforced. By building programmes that involve and excite all levels of staff, you can ensure new methods will stick.


Keep coaching: Coaching is a vital follow-up for on-the-job learning. Under the pressure of achieving quota, managers usually don’t find the time for coaching sessions. If this is the case, consider third-party organisations with experienced sales professionals who deliver coaching on your behalf to ensure that goals and action planning actually happens.


In a world where customer expectations are fluid and informed, the need for innovative training cannot be underestimated. Salespeople and customer service executives must continually adapt to meet the needs of their clients – only training can provide the skills needed to reach the pinnacle of their potential.


Richard Lane is co-founder of the sales outsourcing, training and recruitment company, durhamlane. He is an experienced sales practitioner and consultant with over 20 years’ commercial experience.

Guest Blog, Sharon James: 5 ways to improve workforce management

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Call centres are a vital and growing part of the UK economy. According to statistics from ContactBabel, there are now 6,200 contact centres across the country with employees making up over 4 per cent of the UK workforce. The call centre industry can be a tough environment to work in with a unique set of pressures. Despite the growing significance of the industry, mistakes made by firms are hitting headlines more than ever. In order to minimise the risk of reputational damage and maximise quality output, organisations should prioritise rising productivity by focusing on positive workforce management. Sharon James, operations director at charity helpline provider, Connect Assist, has compiled five ways to improve workforce management.


Maintain workforce motivation

Agents making outbound calls might have challenging sales targets to meet, while those taking inbound calls are often left to deal with difficult customers or service users.

Therefore, one of the main concerns should be keeping your workforce as happy and motivated as possible. There are several methods for achieving this, but essentially your goal should be to create a supporting culture from the top down; with a primary focus on wellbeing at all levels of the business.

Providing regular feedback, encouraging an open dialogue and celebrating when a member of staff or a team does well is all important.


Training and access to knowledge base

Be sure to train agents regularly. In order to give the best support to customers, agents must obtain a substantial amount of information, and have this on hand at all times. Agents need to fully understand and communicate everything that is relevant to your organisation’s key messages including products, services or brand philosophy.

It is also a good idea to train agents in communication and how to handle different types of customers, in addition to time management and system training.

Call centre agents are often encouraged to stick to a written script for efficiency, but this isn’t necessarily the most appropriate way to communicate with customers and service users. At Connect Assist, our call centre agents deal with vulnerable callers on a daily basis, and their ability to be flexible and human in their approach is crucial to providing the right level of support.


Make it a career

Call centres are great places to gain temporary or stopgap employment, but the industry is often overlooked as a long-term career option. Much of this has to do with the recruitment philosophies of call centre managers rather than the reality of the work.

When possible, promote all opportunities for career development within the contact centre, and make sure staff members understand there is a journey to progression. This is a great way for an organisation to demonstrate that the expertise of its workforce is valued, and will help to boost motivation and better results on a longer-term basis.

Make sure all job descriptions have clearly defined experience and skill requirements, and establish career development plans to help staff climb the ladder.


Maintain quality of staff with flexible working hours

The out-of-hours nature of a contact centre makes it the ideal environment for offering flexible working hours.

Although call centre work is considered as a challenging and emotionally-charged career path, more flexibility around working hours can encourage staff members to take more ownership over their working lives and help them to manage daily pressures more effectively.


Develop a clear data policy and ensure staff members are properly trained

Paying attention to data security is incredibly important for a call centre company. An increasing number fail to acknowledge this, which can have devastating consequences on both reputation and credibility.

For organisations handling service user information in-house, a clear policy must be created and implemented at all levels. This should always state exactly how information is collected and how it will be used, and provide a clear strategy for protecting it. Staff members handling data of any sort must be fully trained on the importance of keeping that information secure.

As an organisation, this needs to be communicated from the top down, because if a data breach does occur, the responsibility will always fall on those at the top.


With a background in service delivery and team management, Sharon has worked at Connect Assist since the company was founded in 2006. In her role as operations director, she is responsible for ensuring quality of output for all the organisation’s multi-channel contact centre contracts. 

italk’s ‘proactive’ approach to workforce management…

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Staff motivation and retention seem to be recurring challenges that a majority of call centres are faced with. This is why, at telecommunications company, italk, we have invested considerable time and energy in perfecting our sales technique and ensuring our managers really get the most out of their workforce.


What does getting the most out of employees mean to us?

We train our staff to focus on the right kind of sales, rather than stress over impossible targets. We incentivise and support the team and, crucially, show how instrumental they are to the success of the company. As a result, we have high retention rates and a rapidly growing business model; this was highlighted earlier in the year when we were named Vodafone’s Fixed Partner of the Year.

Based on our successful and long-standing methodology, we share our top tips for getting the most out of your workforce:


Focus on training

We put a lot of impetus on creating a bespoke training programme for all new hires, primarily focusing on the product and the ‘italk sales technique’. Rather than rushing the training process, we spend several days in the classroom environment to ensure all agents feel completely comfortable and confident before they go out onto the sales floor.

We work closely with all new hires to try and eliminate fear, which we have found to be a huge barrier for success when selling over the phone. Once our agents have passed the training process, we then monitor them closely to quickly identify any possible issues; working with each individual on a case-by-case basis and providing more bespoke training when required.

As managers, our role often involves offering moral support, and we encourage a feeling of inclusivity across teams with more experienced members of staff helping to train and mentor new hires from the offset.


Promote positivity

The techniques our agents use focuses on value rather than the hard sell approach, and works within a positive framework. We aim to only sell our product to those who really need it, targeting the benefits our clients will gain from switching to our services which are usually cost-led.

We encourage our agents strike up engaging conversations with prospective customers, to spend the time required to understand their needs, as we believe this not only delivers a better service overall, but helps our employees to feel valued; in turn boosting motivation and job satisfaction.


Be real

For us, adopting a realistic approach has led to an open dialogue across the workforce, as many of whom have been used to a call centre environment dictated by high sales figures and a lack of genuine communication when it comes to career prospects.

We don’t want to flog or force our products, and our sales targets reflect this expectation. As a result, we have a very high staff retention rate and our agents are actually selling more. Customers tend to respond better to genuine conversations rather than scripted sales spiel.


Recruit internally

Furthermore, our high retention rate is also linked to our policy of hiring internally. Giving our employees the opportunity to move up within the company provides a clear vision and a drive to succeed.

Most of our managers — including our managing director — started out on the phones, and this visible progression helps to motivate staff members and showcase how hard work is greatly valued. We have created an environment with almost endless opportunities for progression in the sales team and beyond, and it’s an exciting prospect for everyone involved.


Get your employees involved in the brand

The first thing we do with new hires is get them invested in the italk brand. We’ve found that in order for people to do an exceptional job; they really need to believe in the product and the benefit it provides to customers.

A focus on high-quality marketing and our new website — which launched a few months ago — helps to instil pride and continue our passion for creating a brand with real personality.


To find out more about italk, click here

Industry Spotlight: Industry professionals come together at the Call Centre Conference

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The Call Centre Conference kicked off to a great start with Chair Nicola Collister, managing director of Custerian beginning the day with some words on recent industry trends. Our attendees then sat in on some brilliant sessions led by established keynote speakers and industry experts. Our main seminars from the morning were headed up by William Montgomery, CEO of TEN; Ian Williams, director of Jericho; Carolyn Blunt, director of Real Results Training; Simon Norie, Custerian co-founder; while Anthony Stears of The Telephone Assassin hosted a Q&A session.

William Montgomery, director of TEN; a cutting-edge training, mentoring, facilitation and consultancy provider, taught our attendees all about “What it takes to be a great leader,” giving them the skills and confidence they need to take up a leadership role in any organisation. He covered core skills, personal attributes, gaining staff trust, practical techniques and how to handle real-life situations to become a first class leader.

Meanwhile, business transformation specialist and Jericho director Ian Williams hosted a session on “Customer experience – the bottom line,” taking a unique look at the relationship between customer experience and profitability to help businesses optimise their customer experience without compromising on shareholder returns.

Attendees learnt ‘Why average handling time is not the bad guy’ with Carolyn Blunt, renowned trainer, author and business owner. Carolyn discussed the hotly debated topic by covering a case study on the principles designed to achieve an effective balance between average handling time and customer experience; leaving delegates with lots of tips and tricks to implement an effective average handling time strategy to achieve fast results.

In Simon Norie’s session, delegates got an introduction to the latest technology in the contact centre industry to discuss whether these tools can really enable a seamless channel experience. Simon presented a pragmatic view on what the capabilities, barriers and opportunities are to shift ‘service’ from being seen as a cost centre, becoming the experience glue that binds customers to a brand; to build ongoing loyalty and value.

Furthermore, Anthony Stears, also known as the Telephone Assassin hosted a Q&A session giving delegates the opportunity to share the issues, frustrations and concerns they are currently facing. Anthony also provided practical solutions, tips and techniques to help delegates overcome these and unlock the secrets to telephone success, and covered issues such as measuring the effectiveness of people on the phone and pacifying unhappy or frustrated clients.

During networking coffee breaks and a buffet lunch served by the Tower Grill restaurant within the Grange Tower Bridge Hotel, attendees had the opportunity to speak to a selection of hand-picked suppliers including the likes of 8X8, Ctalk, Maximum, Premier CX and Quickscripts before another round of seminars and sessions commenced.

The afternoon sessions were headed up by industry specialists; Nick Fleming, market development manager at the BSI; Dougie Cameron, director of Addzest Consulting Ltd; Neil Clough, managing director of This is Prime; and Simon Beeching, director of Syntec. The day was topped off with an interactive panel discussion with Neil Clough, Anthony Stears and Carolyn Blunt hosted by Chair Nicola Collister.

Nick Fleming joined us to discuss ‘How the BSI’s standard BS 8543 can help take the pain out of complaints’. BS 8543 specifies how to design and implement an efficient complaint-handling process, and Nick gave delegates a breakdown of how to implement a truly effective complaints management system.

In addition, attendees received a breakdown on respecting customers’ time with experienced consulting director, Dougie Cameron. He discussed problems with contact centres, real life experiences, the psychology of queuing, big strategic options and practical solutions to queues.

Neil Clough, motivational speaker and former The Apprentice finalist, hosted a sales and motivation session. Neil shared top tips picked up from his own experience to help attendees use motivation to achieve their career goals, learn from failures to come back stronger, stand out from the crowd and build rapport.

Simon Beeching, strategic development specialist, led a session on PCI DSS in contact centres, improving customer trust and de-scoping from the regulations. News about data breaches make consumers wary of reading out payment card details over the phone. Simon joined us to present Syntec’s research on what consumers think and how they want new technology to resolve this problem.

The last session of the day was a panel discussion led by Nicola Collister, featuring Neil Clough, Anthony Stears and Carolyn Blunt. They went through the solutions to key concerns for many attendees for managing contact centres step by step; giving attendees top tips and handy hints for improving their contact centres and the services they provide.

Feedback from delegates, speakers and suppliers has been very positive already, with many attendees saying they’ve learned valuable skills throughout the day and are walking away with tools and techniques they can put into practice straight away. Our speakers have left with a feeling of confidence – and even a few requests for proposals to do training at some of the attendees’ companies.

We’d like to thank all of our speakers for putting in a huge amount of effort to make the Call Centre Conference so successful, as well as our suppliers and media partners: 8X8, Call Centre Helper, Ctalk, Institute of Customer Service, Maximum, Premier CX, Quickscripts.

We’ll be releasing a full webinar to show you what they discussed, so watch this space.

To watch an interview with Anthony Stears at the Call Centre Conference, click here

For more information on the next Call Centre Conference, please click here or contact:

David Boore
Conference Sales Executive

T: 01992 374097
E: d.boore@forumevents.co.uk

For more information on exhibiting at the next Call Centre Conference, please contact:

Gayle Buckland
Portfolio Sales Manager

T: 01992 374063
E: g.buckland@forumevents.co.uk


Words by Shreena Chandarana, Marketing Communications Executive