21 Things We Heard at the AA Contact Centre in Cheadle

Staff and megan at the aa contact centre

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Quick Overview

In need of fresh inspiration for your contact centre? Look at all the great things that have been happening at the AA contact centre in Cheadle, including:

  1. Pre-Order Lunch Options Help Agents Make the Most of Their Breaks
  2. Embrace Local Artists to Brighten Up the Office
  3. Listen to Calls Away From Formal Quality Monitoring

Megan Jones, Editor at Call Centre Helper, shares the top tips and advice she learnt from visiting one of the AA contact centres.


What You Can Learn From the AA

The AA handles over 13 million calls in their contact centres every year, and have around 1,800 call handlers working across 3 main sites in Oldbury, Cheadle, and Newcastle, as well as a wealth of homeworking agents.

Want to see how they are supporting and inspiring their frontline teams?

Here are 21 ideas to try from the AA Contact Centre in Cheadle:

1. Pre-Order Lunch Options Help Agents Make the Most of Their Breaks

In a busy contact centre (and particularly in a shared office building) centralized resources such as the canteen can have long queues at peak times and make it hard for agents to get lunch in time.

That’s why giving agents the option to pre-order and collect their lunch can help them make the most of their scheduled breaks. It’s a win-win.

2. Embrace Local Artists to Brighten Up the Office

A wall in the AA contact centre
Turn a dull, white wall into a mural

One great thing we heard at the AA contact centre in Cheadle is to engage with local artists to brighten up the walls with unique, cheerful artwork.

Why not ask a local artist to turn a dull, white wall into a mural of your local area?

Or ask an artist to come in and paint the windows with seasonal artwork, to help keep it bright?

3. Listen to Calls Away From Formal Quality Monitoring

Why not listen to one call a month with your team – outside of your usual quality monitoring process?

This is an informal way to understand customer calls and to celebrate success, as well as prompt engagement and conversation – above and beyond the formal quality monitoring process.

4. Show Agents Progression Isn’t Just About Becoming a Team Leader

The AA strives to make sure the contact centre is seen as a career, and they are working hard to quash the perception that frontline agents’ only option is to progress upwards into a team leader role.

They support all agents to chart their own course into other areas of the business – whether that’s resourcing, becoming project managers, or even leaving the call centre to become a recovery driver.

Top Tip – Internal progression is all managed very carefully, so that the contact centre has time to recruit and backfill the roles. Contact centre managers collaborate on when they can release staff and recruit steadily in the interim.

5. Give Opportunities for Sideways Development Too

Progression isn’t always about moving up. Sometimes, if a role becomes stale, moving into a different department can be just the ticket.

That’s why The AA also supports sideways development opportunities, allowing agents to build up their baseline knowledge and experience before progressing upwards.

Moving sideways can also be positive for more senior team leaders and managers who’ve added value and driven efficiencies in their current department but are looking for a new challenge – without leaving the business.

6. Make Sure Everyone Has a Personal Development Plan (PDP)

Make it standard practice for everyone to have a clear, documented personal development plan (PDP). This should be a tracker of progress development, where goals and career needs are discussed and reviewed regularly – as well as reflected on at the end of the year.

These should always be open conversations too, which aren’t pressured, as everyone has different ideas about what they want from their jobs in the short and long term.

Bee hives at the AA site
Beehives on site

7. Create Amazing Spaces to Escape to on Breaks

Help your teams make the most of their breaks by creating amazing spaces for downtime.

The AA site in Cheadle has mini golf, a gym (including Peloton bikes and yoga classes), beehives on site to support the local environment, and even tepees and bean bags in the garden.

8. Create Opportunities for Agents to Experience Life Outside the Call Centre

It can really help to engage agents in the bigger picture by getting them outside of the call centre environment to meet customers face to face.

Employees at The AA site are given opportunities to go out on the road with the recovery team to see the service experience first-hand. They also get involved in promotional activities, including attending events (such as Glastonbury Festival) to hand out flyers and ‘meet and greet’ the public.

9. Share Successes Across Different Departments

A tent in the AA contact centre - great place to relax
There are even tepees in the garden

It’s challenging to bring everyone together as one big team, but a newsletter can help share good news beyond individual teams.

The AA site in Cheadle has just launched a new quarterly newsletter, helping to showcase what’s been going on across other departments, as well as career development success stories.

This helps to create wider awareness of the full operation and what job opportunities are out there.

Note – This initiative has been particularly important in their remote-first operation, where there are fewer face-to-face opportunities (for example, over a casual lunch) to chat about general happenings across the business.

10. Add a Vending Machine for When the On-Site Café Is Closed

If your shift patterns mean agents work beyond the on-site canteen opening hours (if you have one), consider putting a vending machine in place too.

This will enable agents to grab a quick refreshment whenever they need it.

11. Invest in Courses and Qualifications

The AA take internal progression and career development very seriously.

They run an ongoing, internal ‘learning to lead’ course – a one-month course followed by real-life exposure to relevant experiences – for anyone showing promise as a future leader.

This investment isn’t just internal either. Funding is also made available to employees for external courses and qualifications too, which help them to further advance in their role.

AA site visit - a garden to relax and unwind
Creating opportunities to unwind

12. Create a Quiet Room on the Contact Centre Floor

Create a quiet room for agents to catch a 5-minute break in peace – away from the floor, breakout room, or canteen.

This can give them opportunity to reset in silence after a particularly challenging call.

13. Celebrate Long Service

The AA site in Cheadle has lots of long-tenured staff – up to 35 years and counting – and a long service policy in place to celebrate key milestones.

These celebrations include the giving of numbered pin badges – which are proudly displayed on lanyards around the office – as well as increased holiday allocation, vouchers, and more.

14. Multiskill Your Teams to Drive Efficiencies

Reflecting on why she won UKCCMA Team Manager of the Year 2022, Lucie Ellens, Administration Manager at The AA, commented:

“I was recognized at the Awards thanks to my process improvements and changing ways of working. I led a project to multiskill 38 people across the department, who had previously been split into teams delivering three functions, resulting in a convoluted customer journey.

By multiskilling everyone and creating an agile working environment, the team improved their service levels and abandon rates.

This change has had a lasting impact on the department, where the team are still achieving great quality scores and service levels today.”

15. Take Admin Tasks Away From Frontline Agents

…So they can spend more time with customers!

By identifying opportunities to reduce routine admin tasks for agents, managers free up more time for frontline teams to speak to customers. This helps to make call handling more effective.

Longer term, digitizing more customer journey pathways also helps to reduce the need for admin tasks in frontline customer service roles.

16. Screen Capture Helps Managers See Why Mistakes Are Being Made

The AA also use screen capture alongside call recordings for training and quality monitoring.

This extra layer of insight is helpful for seeing why mistakes are being made. It can also help managers to identify if something is a training need or a process issue and help to correct it accordingly.

17. Self-Assessment for Quality Scores

Try some self-assessments when giving out the latest quality scores.

How does this work? Quite simply, before you tell an agent their score, play back the recording and ask “what score would you give this and why?”, then continue the conversation with the actual score given.

Looking to improve you quality monitoring, read our article: 30 Tips to Improve Your Call Quality Monitoring

18. Always Give Feedback to Internal Interview Candidates

When providing opportunities for internal progression and interviews, it’s just as important to follow up with unsuccessful candidates as it is to congratulate the successful ones.

It’s a learning curve and they need to know where they can improve for next time with helpful feedback, so as not to feel disheartened for the next round of internal recruitment opportunities.

19. Start a Mentorship Programme

There will nearly always be informal cases of mentorship happening across an organization, but The AA site in Cheadle has taken this a step further by launching a formalized mentorship programme – run by the centralized HR team.

Everyone across the company is given the opportunity to put themselves forward either as mentors or mentees, then they are paired up for mentorship.

20. Break Down Communication Silos With Weekly Team Leader Meetings

The canteen in the AA contact centre

One way The AA site in Cheadle breaks down communication silos is through weekly team leader meetings, which give an opportunity for open communication, relationship building and conversations between teams.

This helps with day-to-day management as, if something’s wrong or there’s an opportunity for improvement, the team leader knows “I can call Jade” – instead of trying to scrabble around to find the right person to talk to or avoiding tackling the issue altogether.

This also helps team leaders understand how the various parts of the organization work and the impact their department may be having on their wider network of colleagues. All of this has contributed to a shift towards a “one big team” mindset.

21. Encourage Everyone to Sit Together

Another way to build relationships and break down communication barriers is to encourage everyone to sit together.

When smaller departments share workspaces and even the Head of Department sits on the contact centre floor (instead of in a separate office), it goes a long way to help break down silos and create a friendly, open working environment.

For more best practices and other fun tips from other contact centres that we have visited, read our articles:

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 12th Jul 2023 - Last modified: 25th Jul 2023
Read more about - Call Centre Life, ,

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