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.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Observations on the importance of customer service...

Chey Garland speaking at the IoD recently talked about offshoring and how some work will always be done abroad to reduce cost. She also commented about getting things right first time and the importance in a recession of a quality service, retention of existing customers and doing things to a higher standard. All fantastic points I would agree with, but unfortunately, Chey’s subsequent observations about call centres needing to “do things rapidly” because time is what’s most important to customers these days let her rhetoric down.

We all know that from a customer’s perspective it’s most important for things to be done right than to be done quickly.

Instead of focusing on speed (or how many customers can be processed during the course of a shift), call centre managers need to learn to focus on responding to their customers demand, and empowering call centre staff to take the time to do things “right first time”, and creating a work environment in which service excellence can flourish.

If all call centre managers did that, then they could reduce complaints and repeat calls: ironically taking the cost out and improving service…. Hmm – perhaps there could be a better way of working?? This blogger thinks so...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Well done, Carphone Warehouse!

Carphone Warehouse has this week announced it's scrapping commission in its stores having completed a successful pilot of a new pay scheme!

Hurrah for common sense!! We all know that commission drives the wrong behaviours in people, encouraging them to do whatever it takes to get the sale at the expense of customer needs.

Carphone Warehouse’s UK Sales & Customer Director, Steve Blan said of the pilot ‘We’ve seen that the selling techniques people were once protective of are now being shared. Great salespeople understand it is in their interest to share knowledge and skills.’

In addition, because everyone working in a store gets 2% of profits each quarter, if a customer decides to cancel or return, the store profit decreases, so it’s now in their interest to sell the correct product to meet the customer’s needs.

Andrew Harrison, Carphone Warehouse's UK Chief Executive said that staff retention in London had gone up since it introduced the scheme, helped by a rise in basic salaries from £11,000 to £17,000 – yet ironically, some staff are angry… Probably the ones that learned how to cheat and lie to achieve excellent sales figures - they’re saying things like “if there’s someone bad in your team you are handicapped”….

Full of team spirit, those boys, eh?

They should push off and work for someone else – if Carphone Warehouse is genuinely committed to its customers and giving them impartial advice, they’re best rid of commission driven numpties out to make a sale at any price!!!

It’s not complicated, but it’s certainly a new phenomenon in mobile phone sales.

Well done Carphone Warehouse for turning your back on the traditional image of the mobile phone salesman – this blogger is watching with interest to see whether you really mean it...

Friday, 15 May 2009

Come on, Suralan! Don't you think it's time you set a better example?

OK.  To be quite frank, this has gone far enough!!

Commenting on Debra’s ham-fisted, obvious endeavours to lie her way out of bother this week, Suralan observed, “Thinking on your feet is good, but sometimes you’ve got to tell the truth!”

To my mind that’s tantamount to saying “Lying is usually best…”

To use a phrase coined in the same episode by the eloquent James, that’s cods**t!

If senior business leaders like Suralan are giving out that message, is it any wonder that call centre workers tell the occasional fib (or even bare faced lie)  in order to meet their performance standards …

Call centre managers set targets and keep watch over agents’ performance against them.  If the target is high and therefore difficult to achieve, agents may only be able to achieve it by telling the odd porkie (after all Suralan says that’s OK….)

And they do – I’m sure you’ll have experienced it as a customer…  agents will do everything they can to avoid missing work targets or standards. 

These aren’t bad people, they’re just managed using a bad system….  a system that is perpetuated by the likes of Sir Alan Sugar.

Come on, Suralan!  Don’t you think it’s time you set a better example?

This blogger does…

Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Apprentice - Get real, Suralan!!

Watching my regular fix of “The Apprentice” did make me chuckle this week!! It just reinforced some of the crazy management beliefs that are out there, yet ironically demonstrated why the thinking behind them is so nuts!

The wannabe executives needed to make appointments with retailers in order to sell their wares. Unfortunately, they didn’t make as many appointments as project manager, Lorraine expected: “Only one appointment – I’ve lost my job for that before now!” she criticised.

Clearly Lorraine had in mind a target number of appointments which her team should achieve. As in all telesales environments, the members of Lorraine’s team wanted to do well. They wanted to make appointments - they weren’t bad or lazy. And Lorraine went on to give us a fine demonstration of how managers demoralise their teams when they don’t achieve their targets…

Originally, I wasn’t keen on James, but he did explain his side of things quite eloquently when he compared the responses to his calls to opening a funeral parlour and people stopping dying! James was smart enough to understand that the call outcomes weren’t entirely down to him: “I had a bit of bad luck in that no-one I rang was interested,” he lamented.

Then, as if the guys that had been doing the calling didn’t feel bad enough after their verbal bashing from Lorraine, “Suralan” swaggered in with “My people rang six people and got in!”

Yeah right!!! That’s a fair comparison, isn’t it? Let’s just look at these two opening lines from a telesales operative:

A - “Good morning, I’m calling on behalf of Sir Alan Sugar and we’re filming The Apprentice at the moment. May I make an appointment to come and see you tomorrow?”

B – “Good morning, I’m calling from a company you’ve never heard of. We’ve got some great products that are really different from those of the hundreds of people like me that ring you each day. May I make an appointment to come and see you tomorrow?”

I wonder which appointment you’d arrange?

What business owners need to learn from this week’s bout of public humiliation if that if people are set an unrealistic target, they may only be able to achieve it by “cheating” (e.g. booking bogus appointments, lying to or pressurising people into taking appointments and so on). Alternatively, workers will become increasingly demotivated as they believe their managers’ accusations it’s their fault.

Perhaps if Suralan used his programme to demonstrate how businesses should really operate, then things might improve in British industry. But then I guess that wouldn’t make good television…

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

I agree - it's definitely time to get rid of all IVRs!!


Finally some research that shows what we already knew - that customers are very unhappy with IVR systems (where you press 1 for this, 2 for that, 3 for something else, and there's never an option for what you want!)…. (http://www.callcentrehelper.com/time-to-get-rid-of-your-ivr-2854.htm)

When this technology first came along, call centre managers argued that it was just resistance to change - customers would eventually adapt, and accept IVR when they got used to the technology. Unfortunately, customers still find IVRs frustrating, confusing and downright annoying – and as this research shows, they’re not adding much value for the organisations that have implemented them either…

Maybe it’s time call centre managers wised up and focused on what really matters to the customers they exist to look after instead of trying to deflect their calls or prevent them from speaking to a member of staff in order to save a bit of money.

If they actually looked at the world in their customers eyes, designed their processes against the demands their customers place on them, and trusted and empowered their staff to take the time to do things right first time, then they’d find they could really minimise the costs of transactions with customers, whilst giving customers what they want.