Welcome to the new blog of Better for Everyone, the UK call centre with intelligence, integrity and initiative based in Bradford, West Yorkshire!

The traditional call centre approach has earned the industry its awful sweatshop image and reputation for terrible customer service. I knew there was potential for something much better and that creating my own company with a better, more ethical approach to call centre services was the right thing to do.

Through this blog, we’ll keep you informed of our news and let you know our thoughts on what’s going on in the industry and in management generally, so do keep coming back.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Sunday Times best companies to work for? I don't think so....

Each spring, the Sunday Times churns out its definitive list of the best companies to work for. The winners all promote their flexible benefits packages and having fun at work. Or how they offer a great work-life balance and how well they motivate staff.

But how many of the winners have actually taken the time to go back to basics: how many really engage staff and are supportive? Furthermore, how many actually trust their staff to get on and do their work, take their input to improve performance and appreciate them when they do a good job?

In my opinion, the answer to this is very few – organisations tend to be secretive and hierarchical in their design, and staff are rarely valued. Managers monitor and control their staff, and measure individuals’ performance against arbitrary targets that have been derived from the annual financial plan, paying attention to “poor performance”, but ignoring genuinely good work and effort.

An interesting insight in the Sunday Times best companies to work for this year is that the ‘best in class’ in some categories, just aren’t very good.

It is worrying to read that in the category “how many staff feel that their managers are supportive”, the best result is almost 16% of the workforce feel that their managers just don’t support them. Moreover, when looking at how well managers motivate staff to give their best”, the company with the best result has almost 30% of its workforce thinking that managers simply don’t motivate them. And when considering how many managers express appreciation for a job well done, we find that the best performer has almost a fifth of its staff saying that their boss doesn’t say thank you! In terms of allowing the people that know how to improve things to do so, the best companies don’t fare well either… 15% is the lowest proportion of workers that have indicated that they don’t feel able to make a difference at work. What a sorry state of affairs in our “best companies to work for”!

We need to see a bit more common sense in operations management to improve these numbers: surely it’s better to measure what matters to customers and to trust staff and allow them to take the time to work together to improve the work they do and do things “right first time” every time and then thank them when they do?

Then maybe the Sunday Times will be able to produce a list of companies that really are great places to work!

Sunday, 1 March 2009

BBC Money Box - Have Your Say: Call centres

The BBC Money Box programme this week tells the story of the problems Gordon Love of Stirling had with Barclaycard’s call centre, and on their website, the Beeb is asking for people to tell their experiences of call centre complaints, both as customers and as call centre employees… here’s what I say…

Often, solutions such as delivering customer care programmes, training people, or changing procedures are used to tackle issues of increasing levels of customer dissatisfaction. On the face of it this sounds sensible - after all, organisations need to care about their customers, and well-trained staff who are following the appropriate procedures are best placed to deliver excellent service.

Regrettably, whilst approaches like these to dealing with the problem of customer complaints might appear to improve service quality for a short period of time, none are effective in the long run, in view of the fact that they don’t address the root cause of the matter.

This is because a fundamental part of the problem lies with the targets by which the call centre manages its staff.

Unfortunately, targets in call centres aren’t related to what customers want – instead they focus on productivity measures like call length, sales made or average abandoned rates.

All call centres need to take more customer centric approach to people management and work with their staff to understand what customers are saying when they contact them, what customers need and how to deliver it, and assessing what is important to their customers.

If they do this, a call centre can really make a difference and deliver world class service!