Contact Centre 



May 2022 Edition


If you want a job doing…  

By Steve Sullivan, Head of Regulatory Compliance


“Never ask your employees to do something you wouldn't be willing to do yourself”. 


That’s a familiar piece of advice which is credited to John T Chambers, the former boss of Cisco. It’s a comforting mantra for your boss to repeat; it combines displaying respect for staff with a degree of humility. 


In the old days, most leaders in the ‘customer world’ could not only say they would be ‘willing’ to do what they asked of their contact centre employees, they could actually do it too. Technically they might have been a bit slow, but when it came to understanding, empathy and the resolution of customer problems or commercial opportunities they would be confident of their ability to effectively engage with consumers. 


That was then. What about now? 


Last week a client shared with me some analysis they had done which showed that their frontline advisors were having to use 20 different systems, applications and third-party portals. 20. 


Just think about that for a moment. I’ll be honest, I’m not the world’s greatest multitasker – but even if I was, 20 applications would be about four times the number I’d be confident in using. So, in my client’s contact centre I know I couldn’t do an advisor’s job and if I was the boss I wouldn’t pretend that I’d be willing to either! 


It’s a truism that contact centre agents’ jobs have steadily become more difficult over the years. The number of contact channels available and the range of activities undertaken have steadily increased. At the same time the emotional state of customers has often become more heightened either due to their frustration at failing to successfully self-serve or external environmental factors. We all know that the ‘cognitive load’ frontline staff work under seems to have steadily grown and the technology and processes they work with just make matters worse. 


So, what can we do about it? 


  • For one, we can start to acknowledge that our people are increasingly doing technically and emotionally challenging jobs that most of us couldn’t. Recognising this fact won’t change anyone’s reality, but it does show a degree of genuine understanding and empathy. 

  • Secondly, we can ensure that the needs of the frontline are front and centre every time new tech, propositions and channels are being planned. There’s a direct line between employee experience and customer experience, so we need to start to make reinforcing that relationship – and helping our frontline people – a priority.  


Creating a greener and more sustainable contact centre

By David Taylor, Partner Success Manager


The rapid move to homeworking in the pandemic, saw a big reduction in pollution caused by business travel. The International Energy Agency (IEA) recorded an 8% fall in CO2 emissions in 2020 due to this change of behaviour. 


However, since the lifting of restrictions we have seen employees return to the office on a full-time or flexible basis, which has seen CO2 global emissions rebound by 6% in 2021 – an increase of over 2 billion tonnes of CO2 versus the previous year. 


Not all of these emissions are due to the return to work, of course. However, every industry, including the contact centre industry, should be thinking about how they can reduce their impact on the environment.


Here are a few thoughts on how you can make your centre greener: 


  1. Use technology to enable successful homeworking – we all now know the art of the possible when it comes to working from home and the benefits that come with this. One being employees no longer having to travel into the office, which in turn means fewer vehicles on the road and less carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere. 

  1. Think about your corporate social responsibility objectives – bring a cross-section of your employees together across the business and write down what your green and social objectives are over the next 12 months. Transfer these objectives into a Corporate Social Responsibility Policy to ensure all staff are following these objectives, including providing relevant training to educate your employees. 

  1. Move to greener energy and lower energy consumption – look at how you purchase energy and whether this is the opportunity to invest in green energy, for example through the use of solar panels etc. Also focus on how you use your energy across the centre, reducing energy consumption and switching off during your non-operational hours. 

  1. Reduce paper wastage using digital communication tools – try to reduce the amount of paper you use, by cutting the number of print jobs across your centre. Think about how you can use digital communication tools rather than printing a notice/flyer. 

  1. Work with your local councils – councils often provide grants and other forms of support to help you kick off your green revolution. Even if it is just asking for advice, speak to your local authority to see what support is on offer. 


Think global and act locally to help support efforts in making the world a safer and greener place for future generations. 


'For every tonne of paper recycled, 17 trees and 50% of water can be saved.'


The United Nations


Insourcing - an opportunity

hiding in plain sight? 

By Neville Doughty, Partnership Director


At Contact Centre Panel, we are fortunate to have many conversations each month with our clients and partners, we enjoy discussing what is happening specifically in businesses but love talking about industry trends and what the future of CX looks like. So last week, I was stopped in my tracks when a partner asked, “what about insourcing at the moment?”. 


People have been so focused on whether they are working in the office or at home, that the ‘insource of partner operations’ as an industry concept seems to have gone quiet. 


However, if client businesses have adopted a work from home model is there a missed opportunity here to utilise office space? To foster closer working relationships by having staff on-site provided and managed by organisations with specialist skills in the delivery of customer experience? 


If both organisations work together to deliver hybrid models from a single site, then there are opportunities to create something really special. We have seen remote working delivered on an unprecedented scale throughout the pandemic and with the right systems and collaboration from IT teams to get the solution onto the agent desktop, then this could be an interesting way forward for some clients.   


Savings on labour costs may not be as significant as they were in the past. However, for organisations looking to make a first step in getting support with servicing, whether that be sales or service based, there could be a golden opportunity here. Especially, if there is a lease on a site that means it would otherwise be practically empty, why not use that space as a hub for both an in-house and an insourced team?   


'49% of consumers, on average, use three to five different communication channels to contact customer service.'


 Microsoft Dynamics 365, 2020

Changing role of voice within customer contact strategy

By John Greenwood, Head of Technology and Payments 


Where is the voice and how do we position this most effective mode of human communication, within a brand's customer contact strategy?


When Robert Leiderman first published ‘The Telephone Book’ in 1990, the pages led the reader through a journey of structure, process and measurement and supported that narrative with sound marketing principles such as Millington’s 4 Leverage Points.  


‘The Telephone Book’ defined and scoped the effective use of the telephone as a business tool and set the framework for the development of call centres in the 90s.  


The operating models so eloquently described by Leiderman, based on evidence accumulated through his work in the US with Simon Roncorroni, positioned the telephone as part of the customer communication process and was quick to highlight its weaknesses as a stand-alone communication tool. Working alongside data specialists driving voice contact, direct mail responses and brand development across print, TV, outdoor and radio, voice responses could begin to put more measurement around the brand orientated ads through the addition of phone numbers. This methodology, pioneered and developed by David Kyffin of Adlink, and later of Greys, focused on aligning response volumes with the ability of the call centre to answer the call, effectively putting CX above the volume of leads.  


Fast forward thirty years and we now have a bigger response media toolbox, which provides greater transparency and measurement of data flows. That toolbox includes new solutions capable of augmenting the human component of customer interaction, making customer engagement design much more complex and dependent (as Robert Leiderman so clearly stated) on robust measurement and understanding.   


With so much technological innovation out there it's easy to be distracted by the variety of available options. Now is the time to get back to basics and spend more time acquiring a deeper understanding of existing data flows and less time being amazed by the sexiness of ‘modern tech’. 

Guest columns


Which countries will see increased investment
because of global instability?


By Chris Hague,

Media & Communication

Business Partner of ICON


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has turned into a humanitarian tragedy. Anyone who witnessed, or even vaguely remembers, the end of the Cold War knows that historians at that time called it the 'End of History.'


The collapse of the Soviet Union and symbols of tyranny, such as the Berlin Wall, led to a general belief that liberal democracy and the rights of the people had been won. However now the world is in a vastly different place, in just over a decade we have seen a meltdown of the international financial system, a global pandemic, and now a ground war in Europe - with tanks rumbling through city streets.


This post isn't intended to offer an opinion one way or the other on the present state of geopolitical events; instead, what does this general instability mean for companies that operate globally. Over the past twenty years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the globalisation of services. Contact Centres operate far from the location of the customers that are calling. IT professionals code systems for customers located on the other side of the world. All of this is now normalised.


New era of geopolitical instability


What does a new era of geopolitical instability mean for any business with an international supply chain? The Harvard Business Review recently published a very useful summary that can function as a basic checklist of the conditions you need to establish for doing business in other countries. Of course, there are different types of companies and different kinds of risks. For example, suppose your company is focused on manufacturing and you are sourcing parts or assembling products in any of the various nations that are starting to look unstable. In that case, a mitigation plan will probably involve withdrawing to a location that is closer to home. 


Suppose you are engaged in purchasing a service from overseas, such as inside sales or customer service processes. In that case, it will be easier to switch location - compared to moving an assembly line - but may involve changing supplier if the incumbent cannot offer a safer alternative location.


To my mind, the uncertainty around Business Process Outsourcing and customer service processes is not restricted only to Russia and the immediate neighbours of Russia. There is a broader uncertainty taking place. Look at how on April 1 the Philippines government rules that work-from-home is no longer allowed. Customer service companies will have no choice but to send their employees back into contact centres - whether their hybrid system is working or not.


Areas of investment


India is supporting Russia in the present conflict. If one had significant investments in BPO or IT in India right now, then it's worth considering what might happen if this conflict escalates further? Ryan Strategic Advisory recently warned that Eastern and Central European nations that are not members of the European Union or NATO may find that investment dries up because executives want to focus on safer, more stable regions. Uncertainty is never helpful for any business investment.


Some locations, such as the Czech Republic, could do well from this current period of instability. With a skilled local workforce and membership of both NATO and the EU, cities such as Prague stand to benefit from investment earmarked for other locations in Eastern Europe or even some Asian locations that are starting to look less attractive.


The outcome of this conflict is uncertain, but there is one aspect of this crisis that truly is certain. Even if events deescalated tomorrow, the instability would continue for many years. As a result, there is about to be a flight of capital and investment to regions and nations that offer a more stable business environment and that can ensure business continuity - no matter what happens in the coming weeks and months.  

6 ways communication in organisations needs to change in a new hybrid working world


By Donna Weston,

Executive Coach,

Life’s Work Consulting

It’s happening! As we exit the shadow of Covid restrictions businesses are finally moving to fully-operational hybrid working models. As an executive coach working with organisations and individuals, what I hear from clients is that, overall, they are delighted with the opportunity to have the best of both worlds and greater levels of freedom around when and where they work.


At an individual level the response is more nuanced. There are those who are excited that this is a unique moment in time to leverage and make work better for everyone. However there are also those who feel weary, (we've all been through a lot in the last two years!) missing a deeper sense of connection with their team and who feel drawn to the routine of regular in-office working. This is not seen as a reason to revert back to pre-pandemic work-from-office policies; the way we view how we work has shifted permanently, though the change is not entirely frictionless.


As organisations lean into hybrid, the awareness of hybrid working practices has grown. The conversation that was about   developing hybrid working policies has moved on to focus on how to embed hybrid working. This includes the upskilling of leaders and managers, enabling communication and connection and ensuring fairness and inclusion. It will take time for these conversations to play out, so in the meantime, what one thing can a manager do to reduce friction within their team resulting from the change in working practices?


My recommendation would be to develop a team charter that outlines the team's agreed rules of engagement, boundaries and regular points of connection. The critical factor here is that the team create the charter together and, importantly, agree how to handle communication issues before the heat of the moment! As more and more communication is taking place via digital channels the issues that are likely to occur are: too much brevity; ambiguity; selecting an inappropriate communication channel; passive-aggressiveness; and slow responses. Discussing these issues as a team before the event and agreeing how to respond to them will improve alignment within the team.The development of a team charter is a good moment to be explicit about how communication styles have changed. The switch to digital means we all miss out on subtle physical cues - such as smiling and open body language - that indicate our appreciation of others, so this needs to be consciously demonstrated through our words and actions. A general rule of thumb is rather than treating people how you would like to be treated, consider the ‘platinum rule’ - treat people how they wish to be treated. To extend this further you could also consider undertaking a facilitated team DISC workshop which highlights individual behaviour preferences and encourages discussion about how team members work best together.


For advice on team development or information about DISC workshops please email