Giving call centre workers the power to drop scripts and call time targets to provide customers with a personalised service is having major benefits for business, according to research from Loughborough University.
Dr Ayham Jaaron and Professor Chris Backhouse in Loughborough’s Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering have studied operations at the VELUX Company Ltd contact centre in Scotland, which uses Systems Thinking Design (STD), and have discovered benefits to staff morale as well as to the company’s bottom line.
STD is based on designing organisational systems around customer demand instead of in functional hierarchies. Contact centre staff manage each customer call from start to finish – in ‘one stop’ – and are empowered to make decisions and contact colleagues and managers across the organisation for specialist information, using conference calls involving the customer.
Organic structures such as STD remove call-handling time targets and scripts, reduce training time for new recruits, and jobs are wide in scope with employees empowered to perform a variety of tasks.
Additional benefits for staff include a more rewarding job experience in a less stressful environment.
Businesses experience a lower level of turnover and absenteeism amongst front-line staff, who have a high level of commitment to their employers (for VELUX, staff turnover was less than half the average as reported by the Contact Centre Association at the time of research), and productivity and service quality are both improved.
And for customers, their calls are dealt with at the initial point of contact in a friendly and efficient manner.
“Call centres regularly get bad press, but they are often the main channel of contact between an organisation and its customers, so getting the service right is of utmost importance,” explained Dr Jaaron.
“In cases where products or services are comparable, and in an ever-competitive market, customers base their choice of provider on their levels of customer service.
“Our research has shown that by implementing a Systems Thinking Design approach, staff gain greater affective commitment to their employers, which has multiple benefits to companies including financial and reputational gains. It’s a win–win situation.”
Research was conducted over a 12-month period at the VELUX Company Ltd contact centre in Scotland, which has adopted the Vanguard Method of Systems Thinking.