Here are some ideas that made our heads turn during a site visit to the HomeServe contact centre in Walsall.
1. Feed Customer Effort Scores Back to the Advisor
|HomeServe Fact File|
|Contact volume – per year||Inbound calls: 2,000,000
Outbound calls: 288,000
|Advisors||692 Seats (this includes Marketing teams within the same facility)|
|Wallboards||Plasma TVs linked to Avaya CMS|
|Analytics||Verint (via Sabio)|
After research suggested that measuring customer effort is a better indicator of customer loyalty than formulating a Net Promoter Score (NPS), HomeServe introduced a scheme where advisors are given a Customer Effort Score (CES) after every call.
This scheme involves advisors asking customers if they wish to complete a survey at the end of the call. If they agree, the caller is asked to score the amount of effort the interaction entailed on a scale on 1-9.
These results are then paired with results from HomeServe’s speech analytics systems, which looks for signs of customer effort and confusion within the interaction, with the results being transmitted back to the advisor’s desktop.
Doing this allows advisors to receive live feedback, helping them to self-learn as they discover which techniques can help to reduce customer effort effectively.
2. Use Motivational Games
HomeServe also use games to increase motivation and encourage advisors to lower effort on the part of the customer.
The company try to be as innovative as they can with these games, as you can see from the image below. This is an example of the snakes and ladders game, spread across the contact centre walls, where, if the customer scores a nine (signalling the lowest possible amount of effort on a survey), the advisor can roll the dice to proceed, with the eventual winner gaining a trophy.
Other games have also included giant Jenga and indoor basketball (e.g. shooting a ball from a toy gun into a basket for a point).
3. Do Not Allow Managers to Hide Behind Closed Doors – Use Pods, Not Offices
Often, having senior managers working alongside advisors in the contact centre creates a “them and us” feeling, which may even lead to resentment building on the floor.
HomeServe were keen to avoid this happening in their contact centre, so instead of installing offices, where doors would hide managers away from advisors, they work in pods, alongside the rest of the team.
These pods were designed to increase communication, making the point that advisors could come to managers with problems or requests.
4. Create a Vulnerable Customer Programme
Because of their line of work, HomeServe often interact with vulnerable people. So the company set up a “Customer First” initiative to support customers going through hard times.
This initiative allows advisors to come to the “Customer First” manager if they have dealt with a customer who they believe is vulnerable or if the speech analytics picks up on signs that the customer is struggling with issues, largely involving health and living conditions. The “Customer First” manager will then work with the advisor who took the call to help the customer in need.
An example of the initiative in action involves Omar, an advisor in the contact centre. Omar spoke to a customer who had been informed that his boiler was beyond repair. The customer was elderly and suffering from cancer and his wife was also elderly, but the policy only gave them £200 for beyond repair. He was distressed as he would have to move to a care home to spend his last few weeks should he not have a working boiler.
HomeServe spoke to the customer, who informed them that he could contribute but could not afford the full amount, so they agreed to cover the remainder through their hardship fund. The customer personally thanked Omar for going out of his way to help him and his wife in their hour of need.
The contact centre takes pride in this story and the many others that have come out of the “Customer First” programme, so these stories are framed and hung from the contact centre walls, as shown below.
5. Incentivise Multi-skilling
In a bid to optimise their shift patterns, HomeServe started to increase the salary of advisors for every new skill that they attained.
This gave the contact centre extra flexibility, as they could move multi-skilled advisors from one team to another (e.g. inbound sales to live chat), depending on contact volumes.
Whilst this may seem expensive, giving a pay raise for each new skill (up to four skills), HomeServe reported that doing so helped to reduce overtime bills and improve service levels.
Also, advisor engagement levels reached a peak of 82% when this scheme was introduced. This may have been because changing duties throughout the day brought greater job satisfaction, as advisors were not consistently handling the same call-types and channels.
6. Showcase Customer and People Promises
Three years ago, HomeServe’s contact centre launched its “Customer Promises”, personal promises of how to handle certain situations, and “People Promises”, personal pledges to carry certain positive values into a call.
These promises were developed in customer focus groups, where HomeServe’s customers discussed the values they thought most important for advisors to show over the phone.
Then, members of the team came together, including senior management, team leaders and advisors, to form five promises that all new team members sign and that are showcased around the contact centre.
As you can also see in the image below, here are HomeServe’s promises:
- DARE TO CARE – We are passionate about our People, our Customers and our Communities
- DO THE RIGHT THING – We treat our People fairly; we have a diverse, inclusive and safe environment which we can all be proud of
- OWN IT – We enable and empower our People to take control and be part of the solution
- ALWAYS IMPROVE – We are relentless, we never stop trying to make it simpler and better. We love to learn
- WIN TOGETHER: TRUST EACH OTHER – We work as one to get it right and we celebrate our success
- BEFORE A CUSTOMER JOINS – We’ll make it clear what they are buying and what it will do for them
- WHEN A CUSTOMER JOINS – We’ll tell them how much they’re paying, what that buys them and how to claim
- WHEN A CUSTOMER BECOMES A MEMBER – We’ll make life easy for them
- WHEN A CUSTOMER MAKES A CLAIM – We’ll solve their problem quickly and easily – their emergency is our emergency
- IF A CUSTOMER IS NOT HAPPY – We’ll listen, say sorry and put things right wherever we can, as soon as we can
7. Set Aside One Evening a Week to Help Community Charities
Whilst many contact centres support charities, HomeServe ensure that they help local charities, to give something back to the community where most of the contact centre staff live. This encourages greater enthusiasm to the cause, as hard work in the area that advisors call home is likely to be recognised and appreciated.
The main local charity that HomeServe support is the Midland Langar Seva Society, offering donations of goods and time. In fact, each small team in the contact centre is assigned a Thursday every month or so, when they can work together at a shelter to help feed the homeless. This means that the shelter is consistently supported for at least one day every week.
8. Launch Star Awards – From Bronze to Diamond
Having clear reward systems in place can provide motivation for an advisor to improve their personal performance, and HomeServe reward in the following structure:
- Bronze Award = £15
- Silver Award = £25
- Gold Award = £50
- Diamond Award = £100
A bronze award is awarded for doing something great, high quality scores or great customer feedback basis, whereas diamond awards are reserved for remarkable incidents, such as saving a customer’s life with CPR, which one HomeServe delivery driver had done. Silver and gold awards are given for incidents somewhere in between.
In addition, selected individuals who have won these awards are given a certificate that is framed and displayed around the contact centre to greater acknowledge advisor achievements.
9. Invite Staff to Your Company’s Other Contact Centres to Share Ideas and Calibrate
The Walsall contact centre shares close ties with other HomeServe contact centres, and every couple of weeks they take seven people, from all levels of the contact centre, on a site visit to one of them.
This helps HomeServe’s contact centres to share ideas that have proved successful in improving morale, quality scores and advisor engagement, whilst also calibrating the business.
Also, by including a variety of staff members, from managers to advisors, the company is ensuring that it is covering every contact centre process and focus.
10. Target Customers Who Show Negative Emotion
With research suggesting that emotion now has a greater impact on customer satisfaction than success and even effort, HomeServe now use speech analytics to target customers who show negative emotions during an interaction.
By doing this, the contact centre can register every time a customer uses a word that is deemed to reflect negative emotion, such as “frustrated”, “not acceptable”, “outrageous”. etc.
Then, HomeServe place each word into a context area. For example, if a mailing was sent that included an offer for new customers, the contact centre may then receive contacts from longer-term customers asking why they did not receive the offer, deeming it to be unfair.
HomeServe could then recognise this pattern and react by sending a more targeted mailing in the future. This would then limit the negative emotion they receive.
11. Hold Quarterly “Charter Tuesday” Sessions
HomeServe make a commitment to have regular communication with their advisors and they hold quarterly “Charter Tuesday” sessions to reinforce this message. These sessions involve senior managers providing business and customer satisfaction updates to the team.
By sharing business updates, HomeServe can highlight what they have done in the quarter to refine the team’s workplace.
Alongside “Charter Tuesdays”, HomeServe also hold all-company “Cascades”, which everyone attends to hear a full update on how HomeServe are progressing with their strategy, enabling everyone to feel part of the journey.
12. Introduce a “One for the Future” Programme
Many advisors now view contact centre work as a lifetime career and might leave after a certain period of time if they do not believe that there is a chance of progression from their current advisor role.
HomeServe recognise this and, in order to keep hold of their top talent, offer ambitious and well-skilled advisors the opportunity to train as a coach and possibly team leader. Or, if the advisor in question were to want more of a career change, they can also be coached over a twelve-month period for a career in HR, resource planning or finance.
Over this twelve-month period, advisors would take 10% less time interacting with customers and instead study in their chosen field. This is done through shadowing those in these departments, as well as in classroom and online training, so advisors are fully prepared for a role if one were to become available in the future.
Thank you to HomeServe for facilitating our visit to their Walsall contact centre.
But what about you? Do you fancy showing off your contact centre?
If so, you can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe we will see you soon!