Time for some fresh thinking? Take a look at what the BT teams have been up to…
Our Editor, Megan Jones, visited the BT contact centre site in Accrington, Lancashire, to see how they are supporting and inspiring their frontline teams.
1. Talk Openly About the Cost-of-Living Crisis
Don’t hide behind difficult subjects – such as the cost-of-living crisis – and pretend they aren’t having an impact on your colleagues’ lives.
Instead, invite in experts, such as mortgage advisors, to help give your colleagues the advice and support they need. Doing so will also help to remove any sense of taboo and encourage open conversations between colleagues, making everyone feel less alone in their experience.
For more information on the conversations you should have with your employees, read our article: 10 Great Conversations to Have With Your Contact Centre Team
2. Hire a Concierge to Make Everyone’s Day Easier
Have you ever thought about hiring a concierge? BT have a resident concierge, who also supports wellbeing, engagement, and volunteering activities.
The concierge makes life easier for their colleagues who are working core business hours.
So, when something needs to get done, like collecting a parcel, picking up milk from the shops, or anything else that would potentially be done after work (in a hurry), the concierge can take care of it.
This all helps to create a better work–life balance.
Particularly for something urgent like collecting a prescription, as rather than having to use Flexitime or negotiate a half day off at short notice, the concierge can take care of it – without any interruption to an individual’s working day or holiday allowance.
3. Send Out ‘Get Well Soon’ Cards
When someone’s off sick for more than a day or two, why not send them a ‘get well soon’ card to make them smile and let them know you haven’t forgotten them?
For longer-term cases, a quick 5-minute phone call once a week can help managers check in with a friendly “hello”. These simple ideas can help someone feel connected to the team, even when they’re not at their best.
4. Introduce Peer2Peer Volunteers to Support Better Mental Health
BT run a Peer2Peer programme, where a team of volunteers offer mental health and wellbeing support to their colleagues by offering a listening ear and signposting them to relevant services.
To become a Peer2Peer volunteer, participants embark on a one-day training course, which covers everything from stress to suicide.
These volunteers play an important role in bridging the gap between struggling colleagues and available support services. As familiar faces around the contact centre, they also ease the pressure on those reaching out for help, who may not feel confident enough to reach out to a stranger.
Why Do Employees Choose to Be Volunteers?
For most, it stems from personal struggles in their own past and not wanting others to feel that way. They believe that openly talking about mental health and available support can and will make a difference to the people around them.
This all supports a positive mindset of NOT leaving your problems at the door when you come to work, and instead bringing your problems with you to get the help you need.
BT currently have 9 Peer2Peer volunteers in post, who offer support as well as put on regular events (like coffee mornings) to encourage positive conversations around mental health.
5. Fundraise to Top Up the Employee Engagement Budget
Employees at BT take the initiative to top up their engagement budget themselves, so they can put on additional events for their colleagues.
As a general rule of thumb, proceeds from any fundraising events across the year are split two ways. Half goes to a nominated charity and the other half goes back into engagement activities for the team. This fund is then drawn on for additional events, such as BBQs or morale-boosting raffles.
If you are looking for some great ways to fundraise, read our article: 10 Ways to Fundraise in Your Contact Centre
6. Reward ‘Colleague Service’ – Not Just Customer Service
The next time you run an ‘Advisor of the Week’ or similar initiative, don’t just look for examples of outstanding customer service. Instead, look beyond the phones to see how individuals have been offering ‘colleague service’ and making a difference to their team too.
For example, if someone has gone above and beyond to help a colleague through a difficult time, or made a training session more fun and relatable by adding in a game or some useful handouts.
7. Relieve Pressure on Agents and Managers Alike With Flexitime
Do you know how much time is wasted across your contact centre with agents asking for time off at short notice – whether it’s for a doctor’s appointment, emergency childcare, or similar reasons?
For many, these negotiations are time-consuming, frequent, and put additional strain on manager/agent relationships, as well as scheduling teams.
However, there is another way…
BT have empowered their employees to work overtime and build up a personal bank of up to 37.5 hours Flexitime, which they can use in addition to their annual leave, and dip into as and when they need to.
Working within pre-agreed parameters – such as allowing all employees to work any overtime between 8am and 8pm, without prior approval – this initiative has helped to take the pressure off managers.
It’s also allowed advisors to manage their own schedules and be more flexible for when life inevitably gets in the way.
BT has additionally put a new Flexitime team in place to monitor the scheme and generally keep an eye on how things are running against service levels.
Are you looking to make your scheduled more flexible? Then you should read this article for some great advice: 32 Tips for Building Flexibility Into Contact Centre Schedules
8. Celebrate and Raise Awareness of All Religious Holidays
Easter and Christmas tend to steal the show when it comes to holiday season celebrations, but in a multi-faith society, there are plenty of other religious holidays to add to the social calendar as well.
In a multi-faith society, there are plenty of other religious holidays to add to the social calendar as well.
The whole contact centre can get involved too, all helping to pay more than just lip service to diversity and inclusion.
For example, employees at the BT site in Accrington recognize Ramadan and support their Muslim colleagues as they embark on their period of fasting.
Some non-Muslims even join in with the fasting, even if it’s just for one day, to help better understand the challenges their colleagues face.
Above and beyond this, representatives from the Accrington site have also visited other BT sites across the country to raise awareness of Ramadan and offer a safe space for Q&A to those who practise different faiths.
9. Encourage Colouring for Mindfulness
Encouraging colouring is a recommended activity for stress relief and mindfulness, so why not pass out colouring sheets to advisors at their desks?
You can take it one step further by giving out templates or themed pictures, which can then be displayed together on the wall to help brighten up the contact centre floor.
10. Introduce Volunteer Days to Give Back to the Local Community
BT make provisions for all employees to complete 3 days of volunteering a year, which can be fulfilled in a variety of ways:
- Taking part in BT’s care home companion programme – Splitting 3 days of volunteering time into weekly 30-minute phone calls across the year to help support a lonely care home resident. (Note, BT has partnered with several care homes to champion this initiative.)
- Lending a hand to local gardening or decorating projects.
- Getting involved in charity walks, bag packing and litter picking.
- Supporting local charities with preparing raffles and other time-consuming tasks.
- Organizing in-house fundraising activities – including bake sales.
11. Set Up a Birthday Club
Another way to help promote team bonding and a feeling of inclusion is to set up a birthday club.
Where the team is happy to do so, everyone can put in a token amount towards a card and cake to help celebrate. Teams can also decorate a dedicated ‘birthday board’ on the wall in their work area as a reminder of when people’s birthdays are.
12. Explain WHY You’re Doing Things
Don’t just update your teams on what’s happening across the business, also explain why changes are happening. This will help you achieve greater buy-in.
For example, if you’re about to roll out price changes, an email from the CEO to explain why the hikes are necessary can go a long way in helping employees understand why they are being asked to have difficult conversations with customers.
13. Do a Hot Chocolate Run on Cold Days
If it’s a cold day outside, why not take hot chocolate round to the team at their desks to boost morale?
Equally, in summer, you could pass ice lollies round instead.
All helping advisors to feel refreshed – without leaving their desk.
14. Train All Levels of Staff on Diversity and Inclusion
Promoting diversity and inclusion shouldn’t just be a matter for the boardroom, or part of a manager training course.
To be truly effective, it should reach all levels of the business.
A computer-based training (CBT) course can help spread the values and message to all employees – whatever their role or responsibilities.
15. Invite Local Businesses Into Your Contact Centre
Show love and support to local businesses by inviting them into your contact centre.
Whether they are selling arts and crafts, cakes, or sweets, inviting them to set up in Reception (for example) is a win-win of positive exposure for them and a mood boost for your team.
Inside the BT Contact Centre
We’ve put together a short video of my conversations with some of the staff to showcase the concierge, how staff feel about Flexitime and most importantly – the stew!!!
…And That’s a Wrap!
I’m incredibly grateful to the BT team – with special thanks to Eram Latif and Aniesa Khan – for hosting me on such a welcoming and insightful visit.
Have fun trying out some of these ideas and let us know how you get on…
For more best practices and other fun tips from other contact centres that we have visited, read our articles: