After their recent success as the Small Contact Centre of the Year Award at The European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards 2019, we got in touch with Gousto to find out the secrets to their success.
We then visited their London contact centre, collecting the following best practices for running a great contact centre.
1. Have More Than One Rolling Shift Pattern
At the start of 2018, Gousto set themselves the overarching goal of being the most flexible contact centre to work for in the world.
To meet this target, the organization implemented a remote-working strategy and made it easier for team members to swap shifts, which they can do through their mobile phones, with a full view of the contact centre schedule.
However, Gousto also wanted to better meet agent preferences in terms of shift patterns, so they offered agents multiple rosters, each with a similar coverage across the week.
The company could then ask agents which shift pattern would best work for them.
By doing this, Gousto could meet the preferences of their agents, while potentially increasing their engagement levels and better aligning the team to the business.
2. Increase Recruitment Pool With Homeworking
|Gousto Fact File|
|Total Contact Volume||10,000 contacts per week|
|Digital Contact Centre||12%|
|Contact Centre Size|
|Number of Seats||50|
|Number of Full-Time Agents||50 (plus 15 inc. outsource)|
|Workforce Management (WFM)||Tymeshift|
|Call Recording||Amazon Connect|
|Business Information / Analytics||Periscope|
Due to their rapid growth, Gousto wanted to scale up their contact centre operation and do so without the limitations of office space. So, they turned to remote working.
In doing so, they also realized a number of other benefits, including opening up a skilled recruitment pool outside of London, providing greater flexibility for agents and gaining the ability to weight hours according to business needs.
Gousto’s remote-working programme has allowed the company to bring more people into the business who would not normally be able to work in a standard office environment or have the flexibility to work while meeting the demands of child care etc.
Within the team, the organization has working mums, students, those with disabilities who can’t make the daily commute, and agents who have their own business but work for extra income.
3. Test Individual and Group Decision-Making in Recruitment
Gousto’s recruitment process begins in the same way as many others, involving CV applications and a telephone screening.
Yet after this, successful applicants are put through to an assessment centre, and this is where things starts to get really interesting.
In this phase of recruitment, agents give presentations, take part in typing tests and role-play various customer service situations, assessing key soft skills like listening and empathy.
However, one of the most unusual activities is to run an individual exercise to test their decision-making.
Then, individuals come together in groups and run through the exercise together. This not only tests agents on how to problem-solve individually, but it is also great to see how they work together to come up with the best collective outcome.
4. Experience Customer Journeys in Week One of Training
After an initial onboarding session, when new recruits are introduced to the rest of the team, the contact centre asks its new agents to experience Gousto as a customer.
By doing this, the agent gets a fun understanding of every step of each customer journey, before they are trained on internal systems and processes.
This allows agents to have a clear understanding of why the systems and processes are in place and it helps to build a customer-focused culture from the get-go.
Another interesting point from the very first week of training at Gousto’s contact centre is that agents are immediately encouraged to start responding to hand-picked customer emails under close supervision.
By doing this, the company can build agent confidence early, and this will carry on through to the chat and call training that agents go through in week two of training.
5. Introduce Weekly Workshops to “Top Up” Agent Knowledge
Gousto’s London contact centre has grown from just two agents five years ago to 50 seats, with remote workers, an outsource partner and a brand new contact centre in Gousto’s fulfilment centre in Spalding to ensure that the customer voice is at the heart of the operation.
With this great growth, Gousto have been careful to put the right support systems in place for agents, including weekly workshops for knowledge top-ups and new feature roll-outs.
Yet it’s not all about these weekly workshops. The organization’s continuous training programme also includes:
- A “Weekly Digest” newsletter summarizing key customer and contact centre-facing changes throughout the week
- Quality review sessions held between the trainer and senior agents to identify any knowledge gaps for individuals and the team as a whole
- One to ones for every agent with their team leader to provide continued support and review Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
In addition to this, live support channels are constantly manned by senior agents and lots of work has gone into developing the internal knowledge base into a great reference tool…
6. Create Templates for New Knowledge Articles
Having recently implemented a knowledge base to better support agents, Gousto wanted to ensure that knowledge articles within that system were relevant and easy to use.
So they put a lot of effort into optimizing the search function and issued a template for how to style knowledge articles. This set a standard for how to title content, all the way through to the right fonts to use.
Agents can easily distinguish between what should be read out loud to the customer and what is a separate instruction for them to follow.
By creating a template like this, agents can easily distinguish between what should be read out loud to the customer and what is a separate instruction for them to follow.
Having created a knowledge article, agents pass that on to the knowledge manager, who can review the suggested article.
The manager will also monitor how content is used, ensure consistency and look to cut back information within the knowledge base where possible, to avoid overwhelming agents while they handle contacts.
7. Use Lunch and Learns as a Key Development Tool
As well as continuous training, Gousto provide lunch-and-learn opportunities for cross-department learning that the team members can opt into.
Learning over food can be great because people let their guards down in a sharing environment, making it more comfortable to communicate information and knowledge.
These sessions are organized by different departments, so agents that opt in can find out more about the areas in which they may look to develop their career.
One such example was a “learn to code” session run by a member of Gousto’s development team.
Agents that took part in these sessions could then opt in to more opportunities to develop their coding skills and then take part in a hackathon event to design automation models to benefit the customer journey.
8. Offer Additional Responsibilities as Part of Personal Development
Contact centres often struggle to retain agents through failing to offer progression opportunities, with the only viable promotion prospect being the team leader position.
To avoid making that mistake, Gousto ensure agents are made aware of sideways progression opportunities. These include:
Joining the Customer Ambassador Team – The customer ambassador team collects customer insights, develops key retention strategies and develops A/B campaign tests.
Becoming a Subject Matter Expert (SME) – SMEs are coached to become specialists in other departments and act as go-betweens (more in tip 9)
Gaining Additional Daily Tasks – These tasks include managing third-party reviews on sites like Trustpilot, organizing special ways to thank loyal customers and so on.
Senior Agents – Gousto have also created a “senior agent” position, which acts as a halfway point between the agent and team leader position.
Senior agents act as coaches to new recruits, while also operating an ongoing support channel on Slack, where agents can look for in-the-moment support while handing contacts.
9. Establish Subject Matter Experts
Gousto believe that it’s key to share customer insights with a number of different departments within their organization, including:
So they choose agents who are keen to learn to become Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in one of the five departments listed above.
Their responsibility is to hold regular sessions with the appropriate teams to share customer insights and verbatim captured from first-hand experience to support high-level data points.
They also identify and implement improvement opportunities, share updates with the contact centre team and ensure the internal and external knowledge base content is relevant and up to date.
10. Develop a Six-Month Team Leader Training Programme
The best agents don’t always make the best team leaders – they are two very different roles. It is for that reason that contact centres need to offer proper training and support to those who are making the step up.
Gousto understand this and offer a six-month trainee team leader programme covering all aspects of the team leader role, all under the tutelage of an experienced team leader.
Agents can apply in writing to the management team, before being invited to a face-to-face interview and giving a presentation with a Q&A session.
The programme includes shadowing and observing an experienced team leader in meeting-based scenarios, while participants receive a bi-monthly bonus payment for successfully meeting criteria.
To apply for the role to progress their career, agents can apply in writing to the management team, before being invited to a face-to-face interview and giving a presentation with a Q&A session.
11. Give Agents the Chance to Appeal Quality Scores
In their initial training, agents are introduced to the contact centre’s quality scorecard and taught about how their performance is analysed. This helps to set expectations early, while also helping to remove feelings of bias within the quality programme.
To help remove this feeling further, Gousto use a quality tool to feedback the scorecard, with the call/screen recording, every time a contact is assessed.
By doing this, agents can listen/look back and gain a better understanding of where they can improve and where they did really well.
However, if they disagree with the score that they received, they can appeal the score and another leader can look back over the contact and agree or disagree with the appeal, discussing the contact in greater detail.
What a great way to greater engage agents with the quality process!
12. Utilize Customer Research to Build Your Quality Scorecard
A quality scorecard is usually designed to assess an agent on their ability to meet both business and customer needs during a contact.
However, Gousto like to base the vast majority of their scorecard on customer needs – as they want this to be the team’s primary focus.
But how can you find out what matters most to your customers and weight the scorecard in this respect?
Well, Gousto analysed their interactions and found a number of dimensions to achieving good customer service, before running focus groups with customers to assess which meant the most to them.
Then the contact centre tested these scorecards against customer satisfaction scores, to ensure there was some alignment and fine-tune the weighting of the scorecard.
For more advice on building a great quality scorecard, read our article: How to Create a Contact Centre Quality Scorecard – With a Template Example
13. Measure Employee Engagement With Monthly Surveys Like These…
Gousto use Peakon Surveys for measuring employee engagement. Agents fill these in every month to track real-time changes and to gather more insight as to what may be causing those results.
Examples of the types of questions that were included in Gousto’s last survey included:
- If you were offered a similar role within any other company, would you take that role?
- If you were to have a magic wand, what would be the first change that you would make in the contact centre?
These questions are changed regularly, so the contact centre can track their progress regarding one question set over that time period…
These questions are changed regularly, so the contact centre can track their progress regarding one question set over that time period, before picking up some new insights.
In addition, the company runs focus groups to enable agents to share insights on all aspects of the business, while there are also a number of events, training sessions and initiatives where Gousto ask for formal feedback. This is to refine, improve and ensure that they are meeting the respective aim of each.
14. Use These Three Groups on Your Internal Communication Platform
To increase communication between departments, Gousto have created separate communication channels on Slack, where feedback can be shared.
However, Slack is also used as a tool to improve communication within the confines of the contact centre, with three critical groups within the platform.
#ccsupport – This is a space to share best practices and to solve general queries that agents have, helping to lower email traffic to leaders, as agents solve each other’s problems.
#cclive – Monitored by four senior agents, this is a place where agents can go when they are struggling to answer a query to get in-the-moment feedback. Breaks are organized so that this group is constantly being supervised.
#ccfeedback – This is a great place to share great customer feedback with the rest of the team and offer public recognition for great performance.
15. Create Proactive Customer Journey Rules to Limit Compensation
As a business that makes deliveries, freak incidents – like 2018’s “Beast from the East” storm that savaged parts of the UK – can cause problems.
To prepare for incidents like this, Gousto have created rules within their customer to journeys so that when a recipe box cannot be delivered on time, they proactively contact customers to prevent inbound contacts.
Gousto have created rules within their customer to journeys so that when a recipe box cannot be delivered on time, they proactively contact customers to prevent inbound contacts.
These proactive contacts are predominantly handled by senior agents, who can show real empathy to customers and are skilled in controlling these difficult call types.
By getting ahead of the problem, Gousto were able to retain customers, through offering a better customer experience, while also realizing a significant compensation saving.
16. Encourage Managers to Get on the Phones
Every week team leaders will make the time to join their agents on the phone, and managers often make the time, about once a month, to do the same.
Management choose to do this so they stay in touch with the reasons why customers are contacting the business and to get an idea of the agent experience in using contact centre tools.
In times of unexpected peaks, while remote workers are also drafted in, leaders and managers and people from across the business also pick up the phones then, as a show of solidarity with their colleagues.
In fact, as was the case when the “Beast from the East” hit in 2018, the CEO made the trip across to the contact centre and offered a helping hand, along with over 100 colleagues, who gave up their evenings and weekends to support customers!
17. Use AI in Your Self-Service Journey
Self-service can be a tricky thing to get right. If the options are too simple, customers will get frustrated and call in, while the same will happen if the options are too complicated.
With this in mind, Gousto use artificial intelligence (AI) within their website self-service systems, so the option to self-serve only pops up if the customer is searching the site for a relevant purpose.
Doing this is more customer friendly than just assuming that only certain customer types would want to self-serve and designing the channel only for the younger generations – that will not work in the long run.
As one of the UK’s fastest growing technology businesses and part of the Sunday Times Tech Track 100, data and technology underpins everything that the team does at Gousto.
In addition to the self-service portal that is only made available through AI learnings, Gousto have a customer-facing knowledge base. This is kept separate from the internal knowledge base, as agents generally like to have more information.
18. Set up Live Alerts Between Different Departments
Live alerts regarding the performance of the contact centre are shared with the wider business, so they can see, in real-time, the impact that their actions have.
As seen in the graphic below, the performance is also translated into a cost. This helps to give real insight into the impact of the actions of every department on contact volumes and the financial pains that come with that.
By presenting live alerts in this way, Gousto have been able to drive accountability at a team level to ensure pain points are being addressed at a root-cause level.
Having the capability to self-serve actionable insights is also useful to the contact centre, as the real-time monitoring team can actively identify and tackle those pain points.
19. Allow the Team to Design and Vote on Social Events
Social events are a great way to bring the team together, but Gousto don’t believe in prescribing how their agents have fun.
So they give certain members of the team the time to plan a few different options for social events.
With these different options, the contact centre team can vote on the option that they most want to take part in. The option that has the most votes will have the best buy-in from the contact centre team and this is the event that the team will press ahead with and organize.
The most recent social event that the team organized was a visit to an escape room. This was really well received, as everyone was actively working together and enjoyed using their problem-solving customer service skills in a fun, creative way.
20. Choose “Customer Care” Over “Contact Centre”
As a subscription model, Gousto believe that creating long-term customer relationships is key to their success. The contact centre plays a key role in this.
But while we have referred to it as the contact centre throughout this article, Gousto prefer to use the term “customer care”, believing that this better reflects the “mission” of the team.
Also, the name “contact centre” can suggest virtual silos, whereas customer care helps to better recognize the value that the department brings to the overall business.
For more on the topic of renaming the contact centre, read our article: What Should You Name Your Call Centre?
Thank you to Gousto for facilitating our visit to their London 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!
For more best practices and other fun tips from other contact centres that we have visited, read our articles: