UK National Contact Centre Conference 2016


The UK National Contact Centre Conference 2016 proved to be yet again, one of the most worthy annual events on our industry calendar. The event was hosted by Ann-Marie Stagg, Chief Executive of the CCMA, who also gave us a good overview of where our industry is right now on various subjects which were spoken about in more detail by nine industry experts.

David Summers, Chief Operating Officer at Simply Business, The UK’s biggest business insurance broker and Sunday Time’s No 1 Best Company to Work For, was first to take the stand on a very comical session titled Happiness, Purpose and Plumbing in a World of Technology and Data.

David cleverly ensured that we were all fully engaged from the david-summers-chief-operating-officer-simply-business-at-uk-national-contact-centre-conferencestart. David talked through their business strategy of ditching traditional management techniques, choosing people over process, and building a culture of trust and empowerment. So much so that David hopes to have his operation in self-management within 5-10 years’ time. David had lots of other interesting points to raise, including showing us how advertising has changed over the decades to become much more personalised, with businesses now targeting specific groups of individuals with their CRM and  marketing campaigns, to the fact that voice remains as popular as digital, as a method of communication by our customers.

Next was Ipsos MORI’s Managing Director of Ipsos Loyalty, Helen Wilson, speaking about ‘Getting a Grip on British Consumers and Your Customers’. Wow, I have never been so riveted by such a large content of information! A superbly well delivered session that took us, the audience, on a roller coaster ride of emotions.

We were worried, as we were told that the impact of Brexit was starting to hit. Then we learned that Theresa May has incredibly toned arms! Not something that I’d ever noticed, but certainly interesting stuff. It was pointed out that as human beings, we are very contradictory by nature, with the NHS being our biggest worry as a nation, yet also the thing that we are most proud of as Brits! In a world where unemployment is the most worrying worldwide issue, our opinions nation by nation are very different. With China believing that we are on the right track, and the French believing that we are on the wrong track. Consumers are 3 times more likely to share a negative experience on social media, than a positive one. Fortunately the plague of locusts that Helen ordered in order to make sure that her session was memorable, did not arrive. You didn’t need them Helen! A great job was done without.

James Walker, Managing Director at Resolver, an exceptionally popular consumer rights website, taught us to ‘Love Thy Complaints’, pointing out that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. £1 spent on a complaint can provide up to £30 of future value. There is between £8 and £1200 potential liability per complaint, but these opportunities can have an invisible future value of between £200 to £2200! Angry customers give up quicker, whilst frustrated customers follow through – use this information in any way you see fit! And overall it is the severity or satisfaction of the outcome that is more important than the numbers, when it comes to complaints. James and his team have helped many organisations to significantly improve their complaints process.

Leon Stafford, Regional Manager at Interactive Intelligence was next. ‘Virtual Reality: Coming to a Contact Centre Near You?’ Companies who invest more in Customer Experience have had the highest growth rates over the last 3 years, when compared to companies in the FTSE 100.Do you have a pair of stealth glasses?
stealth-virtual-reality-glasses-omnichannel-customer-experience Me neither, however after this session I am putting some on my Christmas list! The possibilities for businesses here are huge. The example that we were shown was an online estate agency with the capability not only for real time video agents to call customers, but then for these video agents to show customers around properties virtually, even showing the views out of windows. What an amazing customer experience! Plus a huge saving in time and money both from a customer and business perspective. have reduced their cost to call and increased customer experience through the intelligent use of technology. I personally can vouch for their service, as they are second to none in the sale and delivery of white goods I have found. A, O, let’s go!

Richard Kenny, Head of Global Customer Experience Marketing at Plantronics, discussed The Next Generation Employee, and creating a smarter workforce. As well as advising us that there is a return to single channel expertise, Richard also said, ‘if you can script it, you may as well do it through self service’. For the rest of the day we had a virtual swear box for the use of the word ‘agent’, and we were shown how the job titles of our front line support has changed both recently, and over the years. Flexibility is important to todays’ workforce, with home working becoming a method of choice for many employees. Richard was quick to point out the benefits of an office environment too though, so he would not recommend home working in isolation. Businesses are creating ‘Customer Experience Hubs’ as a place to encourage a more engaged working culture for smarter employees.

Richard mentioned the effective use of video in recruitment processes, and we agree! See below for details if you are interested in learning more about this. ed-creasey-director-of-consulting-emea-nice-systems

Next up was Ed Creasey, Director of Consulting EMEA, for NICE Systems, talking us through Optimising the Millennial Workforce. I had never thought about this before Ed’s session, but millennials have had a pretty rough deal. They have had to come of age through a global crisis after all. Perhaps millennials are entitled to demand certain standards and practises from their employers. Life has been tough for them! I’ll let you form your own judgement on this one! Workforce optimisation has evolved in to Workforce engagement management. Metrics, Attributes, and ‘agent’ (oops, sorry Richard!) Preferences are important factors when considering workforce optimisation. Shift selection is really important when trying to empower agents, and choice is an intrinsic motivation factor.

One of Ed’s takeaways was the use of behavioural profiling in a recruitment process. Which again, is something we think is an excellent idea and have factored this into our new digital search tool mentioned below.

Chris Rickards, Customer Service Manager at BUPA, talked us through agent empowerment from an operational perspective. Chris’s session was titled Flexible Resourcing for the Millennial Workforce. It seems that BUPA have solved the problem of 50% of declined holidays resulting in unauthorised absences. BUPA have given their contact centres flexible breaks and ‘Freedom’ holidays. These changes have given 3000 extra minutes back to the business each day, the equivalent to 7 FTE! By giving their front line their breaks when they want to take them, and by promising to give holidays whenever their employees want to take them, they have increased overall productivity and engagement across their operational teams. Chris can now boast of a culture of ‘Freedom’, and very much a happy workforce.

Gosh, where to begin with the presentation from Justin Haines, Customer Services Director at OVO Energy! I would say that Justin is an expert in Creating, Developing and Sustaining a Positive Contact Centre Culture! ‘It’s not just what you do, but how you do it!’, says Justin. As well as recruiting agents (oops it’s that word again, sorry Richard!) based on values, Justin meets for 40 minutes with every new starter joining their contact centre. The business also phone their agents before their planned start date to make sure that they are happy and have all of the information that they need to make sure that their first day runs smoothly. Fridays are ‘Employee Days’ for Justin, and he has coffee meetings personally with groups of Operations Managers, Team Managers, buthe-daily-goat-ovo-energy-making-a-positive-place-to-workt usually agents, and the phone lines are closed down for half an hour per month, giving the senior management team the opportunity to cascade vital information and news regarding the company, the industry or energy market. There was all sorts of inspiring content in this session!
Ranging from ‘The Daily Goat’, which has become a favourite feature at OVO Energy amongst the teams, to the events that OVO outlay for their staff and their families! Truly amazing and empowering stuff.

The last session of the day was delivered by Mel Donoghue, Director Sunderland Contact Centre Sky Branch, and Tammy Martin, Omni Channel Director, at Barclays Bank. Barclays have undeniably moved mountains for their customers over the past few years, and Mel and Tammy were here to explain how they had done this. Barclays have simplified their operations in the UK, and now have large centres in just two sites – Liverpool and Sunderland. All complex queries are taken by UK based agents. They also have 2 sites in India and The Philippines. Barclays have invested hugely in developing an omni channel proposition for their customers, from multi channel, though telephony is still a big part for the bank. There really is so much going on at Barclays, from the overhaul and redevelopment of their induction programme, whereby talent of all ages, from all backgrounds, is nurtured, to video banking for their customers, and the specific training of their video ‘agents’. Transformation is certainly much more difficult to manage in a large corporate organisation such as Barclays, however, Mel and Tammy gave us a great insight as to some of the exciting things that are happening within the business.

Aside from the fantastic day of speakers, the networking opportunity was great too! A really good opportunity to catch up with both new and old faces, and to learn about people’s challenges and achievements.

Thank you to Ann-Marie and the team at the CCMA for a great event!

How did you find the event? What did you go there to gain? Or even share? It would be great to hear from you.

If you are interested to know more about utilising video assessment, or behavioural profiling as part your recruitment selection, as mentioned by Richard and Ed, then contact me on 07951 438538 or, for free no obligation demonstration, information and or, advice. Watch the video here.


Hannah-Louise Cox is a Senior Recruitment Consultant at Douglas Jackson, specialising in recruiting executive level and senior management appointments across Customer Strategy, Customer Contact, Digital and Customer Experience.


About Douglas Jackson Diverse Impactful Leadership

A high-end retained executive search firm exclusively focused on consumer centric business, delivering high performance, diverse, impactful leadership. Top CEO/C-Suite, Board Executive Search – Inclusion/Diversity for Digitally Native Brands E-Commerce, Insuretech, Fintech, Fast Growth and Transformation. Operations, Revenue, Product, Digital, Data, Customer, Strategy, Planning. What challenges, or goals do you have right now? Talent is everything. The talent you surround yourself with is everything. The talent that leads your business and your people is everything. High performance talent is what makes you and your business exceptional/extraordinary… When Exceptional Leadership Matters...A brand you can trust. A truly consultative approach. Dedicated to working in partnership to achieve the right outcome.
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