We visited British Gas in Cardiff, winners of the European Call Centre of the Year award, to see how they did it and what tips we could use in our own call centres.
Bev Rowney, Head of Service Excellence tells us how…
Make sure that your people start the day in the right way
We provide a healthy breakfast for all of our employees. Kitchens are provided with breakfast cereals as well as tea and coffee, and there is an option of having toast. This makes sure that the team start greeting customers with the right frame of mind.
Provide a career path for your staff
We have a career path for customer advisors – Advisors, Advocates and Experts. This allows for career progression within the call centre without having to go into management.
Use an appropriate team size
We have a ratio of 12 advisors per team leader. Each team is made up of around 2-3 experts, 3-4 advocates and 5-7 advisors.
Use NetPromoter scores
We adopted the Net Promoter score as our key measure of customer satisfaction. Our agents are bonused on a combination of their Net Promoter score and the percentage of their customers that fill in a telephone-based post-call satisfaction survey.
A bonus is payable based on the score and if 25% of their customers complete the survey.
Progress has been significant and has gone from -20 to +30 in the past 18 months.
Let your team know their personality types. We simplified the Myers-Briggs model down to four personality types.
We trained all of our teams to recognise their personality type. These personality types are displayed on everyone’s desks.
Use the customer’s preferred communication style
When dealing with customers it is important to recognise their personality type. This will help you to adapt to their preferred communication style. For example a “controller” may need a lot of detail, whereas an “entertainer” may appreciate a comment about the weather.
Carry the branding into the call centre
Simple things like matching the colour of the chairs to the British Gas colours (purple) can help teams to identify with your values.
Wear the uniform
We offered the teams the chance to dress in smart business dress or to wear British Gas branded polo shirts. The team have to buy their own shirts (currently on a 3 for 2 offer). So far over 3,500 have been purchased by our team of 1,200 advisors.
Cut back on the IVR
Customers really dislike IVR options. We have reduced our use of IVR from 200 seconds down to 15 seconds and 3 choices.
We are also in trials to remove the IVR system completely. We have tried four different tests at different times of day to see what happens. The results have been very positive and we are just making sure we understand all impacts before doing it completely.
Manage customer call-backs within 10 minutes
We will sometimes not be able to get to all calls as quickly as we like. We give the option for the caller to have a call-back in 10 minutes (using QueueBuster). The customer feedback has been very good.
Celebrate the WOW moments
It is important to recognise those wow events in the call centre. We go out to the team leaders to find the “wow” events. The team leaders then present these to the Call Centre Director and the winner can use our box at Cardiff City FC (with their partner) to watch a mid-week game.
Promote best practice
Your advisors are great about spreading the word on how to improve customer service. Here are a couple of tips that we have communicated across the call centre.
- Make sure the customer has no need to call us again in the near future.
Check all of their accounts, ask them questions and find out as much as you can about their situation – you never know when there could be something else you could do for them. They’ll be delighted that you’ve gone that extra mile for them, even though it should really be our standard level of service. – Chris Powell, customer service advisor.
- Take ownership of the customer’s needs or issue and give them every reason to trust you.
- People don’t want to have to deal with problems, or spend ages on the phone. So take everything off their hands, and reassure them that we will do what we say we will – keeping our promises. – David Weller, customer service advisor
Bev Rowney is Head of Service Excellence for British Gas Premier Energy.