We visited the renovated Domestic & General contact centre in Brighton and have compiled a list of best practices, which you can apply to your contact centre.
|Domestic & General Fact File|
|Annual Inbound Calls||11 million calls|
|Annual Outbound Calls||2 million closed leads|
|Contact Centre Size|
|Number of Seats||1,500|
|Number of Full-Time Agents||1,380|
|Workforce Management (WFM)||injixo|
|Call Scoring||In House|
1. Create a “Customer First” Programme
As part of a consolidated exercise across the whole business, Domestic & General looked at every product that they offer, in order to simplify its proposition. This exercise was aptly named “Customer First”.
The contact centre joined forces with each of the other departments to help with this, using customer insights from the contact centre to highlight where customer journeys could be simplified.
As part of this exercise, the contact centre also took time to identify the most appropriate channel for each contact reason, taking an outcomes-focused approach.
By doing this, the company was able to redesign their website to match the best contact details to the relevant pages, and advisors could gain an understanding of when it’s good to ask the customer if they would like to switch channels – for a speedier and more satisfactory outcome.
2. Set a Customer-Focused Goal for Self-Service
Domestic & General have put a lot of work into improving their self-service systems, but not primarily in the hope of reducing contact volumes; it is instead to improve customer experience.
Once they identified which processes are best suited to self-service, Domestic & General mapped out the customer journey, thinking carefully about how to simplify it, before bringing in the systems behind it.
Also, they were careful to add easy escalation pathways as the customer makes their way through the self-service process, making it easier for the customer to get through to the contact centre if they experience difficulties.
The organization also has metrics in place to measure the effectiveness of self-service over time.
3. Coach Advisors How to Identify Vulnerable Customers
Domestic & General have a resolutions team that specializes in handling more complex calls. In addition, each team member is trained on how to detect key signs of vulnerability.
After ensuring advisors understand that vulnerability is a complex and changeable topic, they also wanted to create confidence and sensitivity among the contact centre team in handling these types of interaction.
With this in place, advisors could be taught to look for the key signs of vulnerability.
Once the advisor assesses that a customer is vulnerable – whether that’s a vulnerability such as dementia, learning difficulty or a recent bereavement – advisors have flexibility to manage the customer issues or call upon support from a specialist who has been well trained to best support that customer.
For a set of tips on how to spot vulnerable customers, read our article: Dealing With Vulnerable Customers
4. Launch a Set of Initiatives Around the Pride Movement
Being based in Brighton, with one of the best international Pride festivals in the world, D&G felt that it was important for them to sponsor and support the event.
However, they didn’t stop there – they saw Pride as an opportunity to better engage their team. Domestic & General provided opportunities for colleagues to participate in the event and further established a Pride@Work LGBTQ+ network.
Domestic & General now have almost 80 people in the network who have teamed up to create a series of initiatives to support LGBT+ causes, including:
- Ensuring there is a safe space where members can feel supported and raise any issues or topics of interest
- Social events
- Panel talks
- Rainbow pod designs
- Rainbow dress-up opportunities
- Social media campaigns
- Pride-related incentive rewards
Pride advocates within different departments are also given the space to video call and discuss ideas for future Pride events and to plan ahead for other initiatives.
5. Provide a Four-Day Week Scheduling Option
One of Domestic & General’s new employee engagement initiatives is to create shift patterns that better suit the lifestyles of their employees.
In doing so, they are dialling back on the number of rotational shifts that advisors work and are instead offering new patterns, with a four-day 37.5-hour week being the most popular option amongst the contact centre’s workforce.
The idea behind this was to investigate staff preferences and identify possible scheduling options based on this research.
By doing this, they are able to create more shifts that advisors want to work, as opposed to creating schedules from an efficiency-only standpoint. They also plan to keep all of their existing flexibility levels, such as shift-swaps.
6. Rethink the Sales–Service Balance in Peak Periods
When it comes to resource planning in peak periods, the temptation that we all have is to reduce Average Handling Time (AHT). Yet this can be problematic if we don’t understand AHT’s key drivers.
So, Domestic & General instead take a different approach of working collaboratively with operational colleagues to find solutions.
Strike the right balance between sales and service in peak periods and devise a sales strategy that is influenced by the seasonality of contact volumes.
One of the solutions was to strike the right balance between sales and service in these periods and devise a sales strategy that was influenced by the seasonality of contact volumes.
In line with this, some advisors are multiskilled across different contact centre functions to better meet demand.
The company starts by planning the “ramp up”, ensuring that recruitment exceeds attrition from August to October to ensure that advisors are best prepared and engaged for the busy Christmas period.
7. Generate Key Commitments Based on Advisor Feedback
To ensure that the Voice of the Contact Centre (VoCC) is given the chance to positively influence operations, Domestic & General came up with a niche idea for gathering advisor feedback.
Each team nominated two or three “key influencers”, who were each invited to join a focus group to relay both positive and negative feedback regarding their day-to-day experience.
From this open feedback, front-line managers then grouped key messages together into themes. For example, one department’s three themes were: believe, change and communication.
Front-line managers then spent two weeks focusing on each new area, creating a new daily commitment.
After the two weeks, managers were able to assess which commitments were best received and add these commitments into their daily routines.
8. Ask Team Leaders to Make Daily Pledges in Stand-Up Sessions
Every day, team leaders make a new daily pledge to their team, which they later share with the rest of the department’s team leaders in Stand-Up Sessions.
In these Stand-Up Sessions, team leaders stand up to form a circle and then share their answers to the following questions with the rest of the group:
- What did I do yesterday?
- What is my pledge for today?
- What support do I need?
By asking these questions, team leaders could voice their goals, share best practices and collaborate with one another in order to meet their pledges to their teams.
The stand-up meeting that I was part of also ended with everyone putting their hands together and shouting “Whoop!” – because, why not?
9. Use Skip Levels to Encourage Open Discussion
One more method that Domestic & General use to gather advisor feedback is their Skip Level meetings.
Here advisors engage in a discussion with an Operations Manager who is not their own in a “safe space”, in the hope of gathering even more feedback.
Domestic & General have found these sessions work well in uncovering insights and crucial behaviours.
This feedback is then passed on to their actual team leader, who makes pledges based on what they have been told about the conversation.
When team leaders have made these pledges, participating advisors have responded well, becoming strong ambassadors for any change that they were part of.
10. Use Speech Analytics to Detect and Reduce Silence on Calls
Domestic & General have a speech analytics system, which they particularly like to use to spot trends in both advisor performance and along certain customer journeys.
For example, one way that they utilize their analytics tool is to identify periods of silence on calls. They can then look at these silences at both an individual and team level.
After implementing this strategy, the contact centre recorded a 10% upturn in Customer Satisfaction (CSat).
As silence on the phone can damage the rapport-building process, Domestic & General have made it a priority to train certain advisors and teams in call control techniques to better fill the silence.
After implementing this strategy, the contact centre recorded a 10% upturn in Customer Satisfaction (CSat).
Domestic & General also analysed how periods of silence varied from one contact type to another. This allowed them to spot any troublesome contact types that they could better support advisors to deal with.
11. Get Proactive With Live Chat and SMS
To improve the customer experience, Domestic & General explored the customer journey from when a customer went about booking a repair until that repair was completed.
They were then able to create business rules by anticipating customer needs and providing an automatic update via SMS, resulting in greater client engagement and improved user experience.
Based on positive responses, Domestic & General have decided to implement a new proactive live chat scheme to offer additional support when customers hit certain points on the website.
While this scheme has not long passed its successful testing phase, the company are also investigating the possibility of using chat pop-ups to further support customers who are taking a long time to use a self-service option on their site.
Domestic & General have contact escalation functions built into their self-service offerings, which is another way they are able to support customers through the process. It also has the potential to increase business, as customers get the extra guarantee they need to go ahead with their booking or purchase.
For more advice on being proactive, read our article: 7 Ideas for Proactive Customer Service
12. Offer Advisors the Chance to Move Sideways, Not Just Upwards
At Domestic & General they encourage career progression. One way they are helping is by sending job opportunities that are suitable for advisors looking to progress in their careers via email, and if anything catches an advisor’s eye, they will speak to their team leaders.
If the team leader believes the role to be suitable, they will arrange a video call between the advisor and the relevant department, to ensure that the advisor is best positioned for the recruitment process. This has led to many transitions, as Domestic & General value the customer insights that many advisors have.
With systems like this in place, 15% of advisors change positions within the company each year – moving across contact centre departments to find the “best fit”, as well as through promotions and moving into other departments.
13. Create a Secret Messenger Recognition Scheme
One nice way that advisors can show recognition to one another for a good piece of work is through a fun initiative called “Secret Messenger”.
This initiative involves a member of the team anonymously leaving a note on the desk of a colleague after they notice them doing something really great for a customer or for the good of the overall contact centre environment.
This initiative involves a member of the team anonymously leaving a note on the desk of a colleague after they notice them doing something really great for a customer…
Team leaders also sometimes do this, as another way of showing their appreciation to advisors when they receive a nice bit of feedback or contribute well to a project etc.
Whilst this doesn’t go as far as the financial bonuses, individual awards and spot prizes that Domestic & General also give to advisors, these little bits of praise can really add to the day-to-day motivation levels in the contact centre.
14. Give Old IT Equipment to Local Schools
Being a large contact centre – with 1,500 seats – Domestic & General go through lots of IT equipment, which is not only expensive to dispose of but has the potential to be recycled.
With this in mind, when the company decided to update advisor desktops during last year’s renovations, they donated their old PCs to local schools which were in need of new IT equipment.
Whilst a lot of effort had to be put into data cleansing these systems, it was not only a cheaper alternative, but allowed the company to give back to the community. This new initiative will see around 300 pieces of IT equipment be donated to local institutions every year.
This “giving back to the community” idea is a key part of the contact centre’s agenda. Domestic & General run initiatives throughout the year to raise money for Martlets Hospice, located in nearby Hove, who provide essential services to local people affected by terminal illness.
Thank you to Domestic & General for facilitating our visit to their Brighton 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: