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.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Who thinks National Rail Enquiries needs a new call centre outsourcer?

On the same day that we hear that BT are bringing back over 2000 jobs from India, Ventura have announced that more than 100 posts at its National Rail Enquiries centre in Yorkshire would be transferred to India for "financial reasons".

It’s so bizarre, it beggars belief – in December 2003, Ventura announced they were moving the National Rail Enquires service from Yorkshire to Bombay in the summer of 2004, amid public fury and demands for the then Transport Secretary Alistair Darling to intervene.

From that time, we all heard (and some of us even experienced) crazy stories about duff advice given by well meaning and long suffering call centre agents in the Indian Subcontinent who simply didn’t have the local knowledge a UK based adviser would have… I wonder how much additional, unnecessary demand that generated for a busy helpline?

This continued and came to a head in autumn 2007, when consumer group Which reported their findings of a mystery shopping exercise they did which demonstrated that misinformation & poor advice meant that customers could be paying well over the odds for their tickets! By the time we got to spring 2008, the media was reporting that the tide in outsourcing was turning back onshore – with Lloyds TSB and National Rail Enquiries cited as having reduced their customer-contact presence in India.

It is now beyond comprehension that a little over a year on, Ventura would be doing yet another u-turn on the very day that even BT is bringing jobs back to the UK.

On their “Facebook” page, National Rail Enquiries state that their telephone service is one of the busiest telephone numbers in the United Kingdom. They quote all manner of interesting statistics, including the following:

Number of calls offered: 16,058,777
Number of calls answered: 15,153,487
Percentage of calls answered (PCA): 94.4% (meaning they missed nearly a million calls!)
Average time to answer calls (ATTA): 21 seconds

They also say that they monitor quality using mystery shopping (99.29% of calls answered “correctly”) and customer satisfaction surveys (90% customers would recommend National Rail Enquiries to family and friends).

Blimey! Look at that last statistic a different way, and what they’re really saying is that 10% of people wouldn’t recommend them!!

This can’t be good for anyone, so the challenge to National Rail Enquiries is find a call centre outsourcer that has a better way of doing things - delivering quality more efficiently to compete with offshore locations.

This blogger knows one – do you?

Monday, 13 July 2009

Beating boredom at work - why the role of managers must change!!

This month’s edition of the Chartered Management Institute’s publication, Professional Manager includes an article on boredom in the workplace (http://www.managers.org.uk/client_files/PM%20July%2009%20boredom.pdf).

In the article, Dr Sandi Mann discusses how changes in the world of work, such as the introduction of new working practices like call centres have increased employee boredom – citing that repetition, restricted autonomy & a lack of job control due to “robotisation” and scripting are major factors in the high levels of staff turnover in the industry.

Mann notes the irony that as companies strive more and more to control staff output in order to drive down costs, in spite of the fact that this can severely damage the organisation financially and reputationally because it causes poor work performance, absenteeism, stress-related health problems and job dissatisfaction.

The article goes on to suggest various solutions, including empowerment of staff and elimination of standardisation in the work, arguing sensibly that the cost savings to be made could balance any training needs.

However, this blogger thinks the solution needs to go much deeper, to really get to the heart of the purpose of management.

The current operating model in most organisations (and that which is so prevalent in the dreaded call centre!) is that managers exist to police the work that staff do – ensuring they achieve their set (numerical) targets and conform to procedures & scripts…

Yet what managers really need to do is to optimise their team’s efforts to achieve business aims whilst recognising and understanding individual differences, strengths and interests & the benefits of co-operation and losses of competition.

Instead of encouraging a culture of blame, where everyone conforms, managers need to create trust and an environment in which freedom & innovation flourish.

Then and only then can organisations become truly successful (and have staff that are empowered, with high job control, and doing an effective job)!!