Contact Centre 


September 2022 Edition


CX within the experience economy

Delivering a consistent brand experience.

By Neville Doughty, Partnership Director 


Consumer access to brands has undergone a paradigm shift since the 1990s, with the advent of the mobile device, growth of social media and the 'always on' generations of the Millennials and Gen Z leading to a heightened awareness among customers.


If brands are to be successful, they need to be: 


Authentic: feeding the social consciousness in society.

Differentiated: tough to do in a market where replication is easy. Some form of 'value add' needs to be evident.

Responsive: perhaps in a crisis, but with the advent of 'big data' the notion of a 'segment of one' - brands need to be proactive and anticipate a need before the customer realises that they have it.

Consistent: failures in delivery will typically lead to a customer switching to an alternate supplier if expectations are not met.

Forrester stated that: “Consumers expect any desired information or service to be available, in context, at their precise moment of need.”


So how do we ensure delivery against this level of customer demand? The agility that is required to do so has led to a number of older businesses failing and the growth of many start-ups that are now leaders in their sectors.


Critically many of these do not even own the commodity that they are marketing:


  • Airbnb 
  • Uber  
  • JustEat 
  • Deliveroo 
  • Not on the High Street 

All of these businesses are effectively selling a service that utilises something that belongs to another. This demonstrates the evolution of economies from commodities to goods, then services and latterly to experiences. 


Based on this premise, customer needs have changed:


  • When we were buying commodities the key concern of the customer was availability, this would in turn drive the price or value.
  • Where commodities were manufactured into goods, the price of those goods becomes a key customer consideration.
  • Where there are multiple goods available in the same sector, to differentiate the development of services to wrap around those goods, supported the growth of the service economy. As this sector matured customers became more focused on the quality of service being delivered.
  • As the level of service has increased across all sectors, underpinned by the advancement of society, we are now focused on experiences and a clear market view, however, a key element of this must be authenticity. 


This movement from commodity to experience offers the opportunity to maximise revenues and margins. Take for example Starbucks, the value of coffee beans in raw form versus what is charged as an end product in a coffee shop. 
As we face a cost-of-living crisis it will be interesting to see if consumers become less interested in the experience and go back to focusing on costs. For many businesses it may seem like a necessity but there are smarter ways to do this.   


If you need help finding new ways to improve efficiencies, whilst maintaining or improving CX, get in touch. 


“Consumers expect any desired information or service to be available, in context, at their precise moment of need.”  




Mystery shopping 

Are the customer service shelves bare?

By Steve Sullivan, Head of Regulatory Compliance


Ambition and a desire for continuous improvement are all very well, but paranoia and curiosity are great motivators, too! 

Maybe that’s why there’s often something especially intriguing about the opportunity to look at how you’re performing in comparison with your peers and how your customer proposition stacks up next to your competitors. Unfortunately, mystery shopping and benchmarking can be quite tedious and a lengthy undertaking. But recently a colleague and I carried out a mystery shopping assessment for a client operating in a competitive financial service environment.

So equipped with Neville Doughty’s recent article ‘The Triple Threat: 3 key challenges facing contact centres’, which highlighted 'staff attraction and retention, channel shift and automation' as major current challenges to contact centres, I’ve mused on what my bit of mystery shop benchmarking might tell us.


1. Bots still aren’t that common and often just don’t work


  • Surprisingly, only 2 of the 12 companies assessed use webchat and none of the others actively promote any social media messaging apps as customer service channels. Both of those companies also had a Bot. But neither Bot recognised any standard terms or phrases related to their proposition or service that we used, so consequently none of our contacts were ‘contained’ and managed by the Bots

2. Other elements of best practice or useful technologies are under-represented


  • Despite long call wait times, only 2 companies offered ‘queue buster’ opportunities for customers to stop queuing and automatically book a call-back
  • 4 companies presented customers with standard customer service queries with 6 or more IVR options
  • Only 2 companies offered voice recognition IVR

3. Service levels are all over the place


  • Across the 12 companies the average call answer time varied by a factor of 26 to 1 (41 seconds was the shortest average, 1075 – that’s nearly 18 minutes - was the longest)

4. There’s no ‘settled view’ about acceptable, live-agent opening hours


  • Some companies were only available to customers Monday to Friday, and some also open on Saturdays. A few opened on Sundays, too and one – surprisingly an ‘app-first’ online challenger brand - was available 24 hours per day, across all contact channels. This results in their having total weekly open hours 4 times the number of its least accessible competitor


These are challenging times for brands and their contact centres, but options and possibilities to do things differently and better abound. 

If you’d like to discuss how different technologies, resourcing and customer propositions might help your hard-pressed contact centre operation, just drop us a line.


Setting sites on Serbia

How does Serbia stack up against its well established rivals?

By David Taylor, Partner Success Manager

When we think about outsourcing in Eastern Europe, thoughts may immediately turn to the likes of Albania, Poland and Romania for your outsourcing needs. However, as pointed out in my previous article on Kosovo, there are many more hidden gems within Eastern Europe, like Serbia for instance.
Serbia, over recent years, has worked extremely hard in developing its outsourcing capabilities so that it can go head to head with its local neighbours who have dominated this space for the past 10 years plus.

Fun fact – did you know that Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, is one of the oldest cities in Europe – with human settlements existing in Belgrade for over 7000 years. This history and culture have enabled the likes of Belgrade and other cities in Serbia to grow and maintain a talented workforce, with access to many Western European languages – making it another prime destination for multi-lingual contact centres.


This includes (but is not limited to):


  • Serbian (official language)
  • English (placed 14 out of 112 countries on the English proficiency index)
  • German 
  • Spanish
  • French


Serbia is located in the UTC +1 Central European Timezone, 1 hour ahead of UK time. Whilst this is perfect alignment to UK/European business operating hours, it also means you can access the country in less than 3 hours flight-time from London, and less than 2 hours from Berlin. Serbia has also seen lots of interest from businesses based in the US, due to its availability of languages and competitive rates. Most of all, Serbia aligns well with the business culture of countries like the UK and the US.

As part of this insight into Serbia, I caught up with Serbia’s own Tijana Dmitrovic of Contact Service, to get her thoughts on why Serbia has become one of the go-to destinations in Eastern Europe:

“More and more organisations domestically and internationally are deciding to outsource their operations and open their offices, here in Serbia. The main reason why companies outsource is to reduce costs and outsourcing to Serbia is no exception. Serbia is a modern European country and its culture is similar to other continental cultures. Being geographically located between the West and the East of Europe has resulted in creating a diverse culture, which enables employees to easily adjust. Besides the location and language potential, I’d like to emphasise other important factors such as a high focus on education, skilled employees and a significant talent pool in three university cities allowing quick expansion of operations. The people of Serbia are passionate and highly motivated, mainly as a result of their good education and high work ethic. We understand that outsourcing in a new location is not an easy process, but once businesses outsource in Serbia, they never want to leave!”

Looking to outsource in Eastern Europe or set up a contact centre in this area? Get in touch, we'll be able to help.


How to grow a wildflower meadow in your contact centre

Why just letting the grass grow will never produce the desired result.

By John Greenwood, Head of Technology & PCI Compliance


Summer is over and my annual attempt to turn what was once a space to play a bit of footy with the kids into a colourful wildflower meadow has once again well and truly failed. Am I fooling myself that nature will prevail or am I simply being lazy in not following the weekly routine of starting the lawnmower, begrudgingly filling it with petrol and pushing it up and down this green space telling myself it’s good exercise!?


I should succeed. Information is available, I have the vision and help is at hand. My daughter, whose family nickname by the way is Flower, works for the local Wildlife Trust. My wife, an abstract landscape artist, whose appreciation of colour is a gift she shares openly in her abundance of work. My options are numerous, and the more I’m asked to pay, the less it appears, my risk of failure.  Reading through the links that appear readily when I open the browser on my phone, I’m invited to spend thousands to take away my pain of failure. I could scrape up the field and returf with carefully selected grasses and wildflower seeds to match my soil type. Or maybe the lesser cost option of adding a layer of soil impregnated with appropriate seeds, again matched to my home ground.


Apparently, the problem I’ve failed to overcome in establishing my small contribution to biodiversity, is that wildflower seeds, however many times I scatter them over the autumn field, stand little chance of germination because they fail to compete against the established and dominant grasses. The most ecologically effective approach to solving this problem is to mow, scarify aggressively and plant yellow rattle, which suppresses the grasses and leaves space for wildflowers to grow.


So, when you mistakenly believe your budget is actually your business plan and you set forth with the best intentions to reduce your operating costs through automation, deploying BOTs where once there were voices, have a thought about my attempts at growing a wildflower meadow. Perhaps take the time to understand the full dynamics and nature of the ground you are seeding. Have a thought about taking the strategic long term aims, not tactical fixes. Think through your options of delighting your customers without necessarily spending thousands pulling up the old and laying down the new. Embrace the available help from familiar people who have proven experts in helping others and embrace the nature of what you already do to ensure that the new can grow and flourish. Whatever you do, don’t simply let the grass grow and expect to get a wildflower meadow.

Guest columns


Harpur Trust v Brazel

Supreme court confirms pro-rating holiday pay for part-year workers is unlawful


By Jane Hallas, Head of Team - Legal Services, Worknest


The long-awaited decision of the Supreme Court in the holiday entitlement and pay case of Harpur Trust v Brazel has now arrived.

The facts are straightforward – Ms Brazel is a music teacher employed on a permanent zero hours basis and only required to work certain times in the year. Her employer, Harpur Trust, calculated her annual leave entitlement and pay using a percentage method, namely 12.07% of time worked. 

Ms Brazel argued that this was in breach of the Working Time Regulations (WTR), which state that all workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ leave in a leave year and that using the percentage method meant that she received less than this.

The Employment Tribunal rejected her claims, stating that the employer was entitled to pro-rate leave based on the fact that Ms Brazel only worked part of the year. 

However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal overturned that decision, stating that the WTR is clear – all workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ leave in a leave year, with pay being calculated in accordance with the Employment Rights Act 1996 provisions. Entitlement could only be pro-rated in the first and last years of employment. 

While this meant that she would be treated more favorably than full-time comparators, there were no restrictions on this occurring.


What did the Supreme Court decide?

The Supreme Court heard Harpur Trust’s appeal in November 2021, which it has now unanimously dismissed. 

Harpur Trust argued that the European Working Time Directive works on the basis that workers are entitled to time off reflective of the amount of work that is carried out. While the Supreme Court agreed that such a principle applies in respect of the Directive, it is not applied within the domestic WTR provisions.

Additionally, Harpur Trust proposed two alternative ways in which to calculate entitlement for part-year workers with variable hours, namely the percentage method (e.g. 12.07%) and the worked year method. However, the Supreme Court said that both of these methods are very different from the provisions contained in the WTR mentioned above, and they are also very complicated, requiring parties to maintain detailed records.

Finally, there was no restriction on part-time workers being treated more favourably than full-time workers, with the Supreme Court saying “a slight favouring of workers with a highly atypical work pattern is not so absurd as to justify the wholesale revision

of the statutory scheme which the Harpur Trust’s alternative methods require.” Therefore, the appeal was dismissed.


What does this mean in practice?

In essence, the Supreme Court’s decision confirms that it is not possible to pro-rate the 5.6 weeks’ annual leave of a permanent worker on the basis they only work part of the year.

This means that the widely used 12.07% method of calculating entitlement for permanent workers who only work part of the year is unlawful and will result in a shortfall in leave being taken.

The key question now is how do you calculate leave entitlement for such a worker? 

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this, nor any guidance from the Courts in this case. It will be relatively easy if workers take holiday in week blocks – the difficulty is likely to be if the worker wants to take odd days. Whatever method is used, it will be important to ensure that workers get at least 5.6 weeks’ paid leave in the year.

It should also be noted that while the case related to someone who worked variable hours during working weeks and only part of the year, this is also very likely to apply to permanent workers with fixed hours during working weeks but only part of the year.

This judgment clarifies the position for many within the education sector who have been waiting to see whether the Court of Appeal decision is overturned. Those schools who have not yet changed the way they calculate holiday pay for term-time-only permanent staff should immediately ensure that all such staff are being paid at least 5.6 weeks’ holiday pay a year.

Note that any additional holiday entitlement for equivalent full-timers (i.e. holiday over and above 5.6 weeks) may still be calculated pro-rata for term-time-only staff.

Schools should also ensure that the terms and conditions or contract of employment for term-time-only staff sets out clearly how their holiday pay is calculated. These could also state the actual rate of pay for the role rather than the FTE. 

Of course, the Supreme Court’s decision won’t just affect education; it will have ramifications for employers in other sectors, such as retail and hospitality, who utilise permanent workers only part of the year.