Felicity Hunter reports on some interesting ideas to improve staff morale which are currently being run at the heart of a well-known contact centre.
1. Voice forums
“We have a Voice Forum meeting every month where all the reps, from all sections, get together with the management team and the head of the centre to talk about what’s happening on the front line, or in other areas of the contact centre,” says Simon Gray, customer operations manager at Virgin’s Teesside contact centre.
“Listening to colleagues’ concerns or opinions is key if customers are to get the best possible service,” he continues.
The 30-year-old, who says he runs a strong team of 113 people in the often-stressful customer relations department, told Call Centre Helper that his centre runs monthly “Voice Forums”.
“We discuss what improvements can be made and talk about what’s working and what’s not working.”
“It means that someone on the front line can have their voice heard at the top.”
Staff also have one-to-one time with their boss every month to discuss any training, personal or work-related problems. “Finding out what makes them tick and finding out what they would like to see from the management team,” Simon says.
“I like to listen to our people and communicating with them, it really is key.”
Simon believes that this time dedicated to lending an ear to staff can make all the difference, and he is often told as much.
“When people come from other companies or other industries they tell me that there’s a real buzz about the place and they comment upon the way the place is run,” he said.
2. The staff ‘living room’
Simon, who lives with his partner and children in Hartlepool, says back at the office the “living room” is a staff favourite. Complete with sofas, a television, Xbox computer games and other home comforts, it is a place for them to “chill out” at break times. Others choose to use the coffee lounge and pool table area to keep stress levels at bay.
He said: “We set up the living room so our people can get away from their working environment. It’s a break-out area where they can relax and chill out during lunches and breaks.
“If new people start and they see the living room, they say ‘we didn’t expect anything like that’.
“I just think people spend a lot of time in the office and a lot of time with each other. We often spend more time with our colleagues than we do with our family members at times. We want to make their time here enjoyable.”
3. Staff incentives
And as well as Simon and his fellow management staff trying to iron out problems, he says they also come up with incentives for employees’ achievements.
One agent at the Teesside office scored so well in feedback from customer satisfaction surveys that he won a trip to Marrakech.
At the other end of the incentives scale, staff members have been known to scoop a Christmas lunch from the on-site canteen, and some have even been treated to electrical goods, all to reward their hard work.
But these ‘prizes’ are all ideas from the staff. As Simon says, “it would be no good giving them something they don’t want. We listen to them.”
4. Team-building activities
Simon also said that he and other managers are always on the look-out for fresh ideas for front-line staff.
And following a recent team-building trip away to Camp Hill, in Bedale, North Yorkshire, where he and his fellow bosses completed tasks like crate-tower building, and blind-folded dirt buggy riding, this kind of activity could soon be on the cards for front-line workers.
“What we identified from this trip is that it would be very useful for front-line staff to do it as well,” he said.
5. Fun days on site
Simon added: “We have fun days on site for big events, such as the Royal Wedding last year. We had a street party but in the office, so we put food on and bits and pieces. We also join in events like Children in Need and Comic Relief and all the staff get dressed up.”
The festive season is no different, with Simon organising a 12 days of Christmas event, which is basically 12 fun days for staff in the run-up to December 25. This includes events like ‘speed wrapping’ during break times, with workers competing to become the centre’s fastest wrapper.
Simon said: “Doing things to keep staff happy absolutely works and it does make a difference.
“We’ll always continue to do it and we’d always like to improve on it. It’s not about sitting still. You’ve got to review it and sit and listen to people and take on board feedback.
“You can take all the feedback you can, but if you don’t communicate back and don’t make changes then you’re not going to engage with staff and gain their respect.
“We’ve currently got a great team across the business at all levels and we’re all working towards the same goals. That’s what it’s all about really.
“If you’ve got staff at one end of the scale who aren’t happy with the way things are being run, then ultimately that’s going to transfer over to the customers, and that’s not good for business. At the end of the day, we want customers to recommend us to family and friends, and they’re not going to do that if the staff they come into contact with aren’t happy.”
Simon also says that staff happiness is vital in retaining good staff, and the fact that he has worked at the company for almost a decade is testament to that.
“I left university and thought I’d do a contact centre job for a year or so, but the people and the environment were such that I stayed. I want to do the same for my staff. The environment you create is essential to driving the longevity of staff and that is also important in a successful call centre, and ultimately a successful business.”
Felicity Hunter is a features writer for Call Centre Helper.