Following the lean times of the recession many companies are closely examining their leadership techniques and increasing efficiencies within their operation. Denis Creighton, explains how results-focused leadership techniques can help organisations to continue recruiting throughout the recession and explains how leaders can improve their business processes and prepare for the upturn, without massive costs by outsourcing central functions
Investment in people
As an outsourced contact centre provider, we are constantly aware that our most valuable asset is our people; without them we wouldn’t be able to deliver the quality service on which our customers rely. Our modus operandi has always been to invest in staff training and development and the continuous reinforcement of supportive messages through reward and recognition schemes. We support this by ensuring that we have state-of-the-art systems and equipment through which to deliver first class results for our clients and their customers.
Our workforce operates in closely-knit teams dedicated to certain clients and our team leaders play a pivotal role, using on-the-job training, encouragement and incentives to help develop their team. ‘Zoning sessions’, which are 15 minute team ’huddles’ held four times a week, are used to cascade news and communication through the contact centre and highlight customer issues which can be resolved through focused attention.
A ‘Nice Board’ is used for each team to display latest team and individual performance statistics for review and targets and a ‘Call Park Prioritisation’ chart shows all problems flagged and identifies whether they need to be escalated through management or solved locally. This also allows for problems to be rapidly identified and fed back to the client. An ‘Improvement’ chart also shows details of current initiatives and process changes and a ‘People’ chart holds a number of the positive customer comment feedback about the operatives on the team, acting as a motivating factor for excellent customer service.
Leading from the top
A happy and motivated workforce is a priority at Conduit, and as such we have implemented an online shift-swapping system which allows operatives to swap unsuitable shifts with colleagues within a two week notice period. The flexibility this allows has seen us achieve the outstanding figure of 99.7% for shift adherence.
Training our operatives to give the highest possible level of service is about leading from the top for us, and setting examples of best practice which cascade down through the teams to achieve consistently high levels of service
The 'nursery concept'
Through our ‘nursery concept’ a team of our most skilled operatives coach customers through the all-important first call, predicting their future needs and requirements and providing the relevant information to them during that crucial first touch point.
This initial call helps to build a picture of the customer’s wants, needs and background from the outset of the customer relationship. We get our operatives to run through frequently asked questions about the product or service in order to reduce the need for longer customer service interactions and queries later along on during the contract. This care up-front tactic reduces total call time and increases efficiency in the long-term.
‘Net promoter score (NPS)'
Customer satisfaction is continually monitored through ‘Net Promoter Score (NPS)’, a customer loyalty metric which acts as an indicator of how well we are doing with each call. The scores are based on customer surveys; online questionnaires, automated interviews and live questionnaires which identify the numbers of customers who would promote or detract from the brand. We are then able to see how our customer service is affecting the brands we represent, in real time, and we are able to react to any slight changes in customer perception by assessing our call handling techniques and problem-solving discipline.
Evaluate, re-evaluate, re-re-evaluate
As well as using leadership to help develop and guide our teams to improve service and address problems, we also feel that a vital part of leading a great team is inclusive, consistent feedback and evaluation.
In addition to supporting operatives by providing them with additional training and practical ideas of how they can improve their efficiency during calls, we also place importance on reward, with prizes and visible praise for good performance.
At Conduit we recognise that a motivated workforce is a happy workforce, and we do everything we can to make our contact centres fun places to work, with exciting, challenging targets across a variety of projects.
We recognise that variety and challenge are motivating factors in themselves, and that our teams enjoy healthy competition over achievable targets. Testament to this is our ability to increase efficiency for our clients time after time, and the number of repeat contracts we have from major household names.
Focus on your strengths, outsource to the experts
Following the recession many business leaders are looking for ways to ramp up their business, without the burden of major financial commitment. Outsourcing functions, such as the contact centre, can allow for increased business activity without the cost of staff training, property, equipment and the long-term commitments these incur.
Outsourcing these functions will also give business leaders access to a talented team of experts who specialise solely in that function, and will be able to provide greater return on investment and increase business efficiency.
Lead by example
Good leadership coming through the recession is all about leading by example, training staff to be the best they can be, and presenting them with ownership and challenges to create a skilled, conscientious and ambitious team. Business efficiency will be the inevitable by-product of this mantra.
It may also be wise to focus on your core skills as a business and outsource your non-specialist business functions; a way we have proven to our clients that will increase profitability and cut costs.
My key message to leaders as we come out of the recession is to focus on your core activity and outsource to a flexible, cost efficient, partner
Denis Creighton, European CEO, Conduit
Denis Creighton is European CEO of outsourcing contact centre Conduit, a company which counts big names like Vodafone and Sky among its clients. Denis has led Conduit to huge growth against the backdrop of the recession, creating 1000 jobs at the company in the past eighteen months.