Contact Centre 


November 2022 Edition


Is it time to “move more slowly and maintain things”? 

The need for maintenance in
an ever-changing world

By Steve Sullivan, Head of Regulatory Compliance


Mark Zuckerberg’s old motto “move fast and break things” has been held up for years  – depending on your point of view – as an example of all that’s best or all that’s wrong with Silicon Valley and tech titan’s impact on how we work in the 21st century.

What is undeniable is that the pace of change facing organisations across all sectors is showing no signs of slowing. The necessity for firms to change and constantly innovate is clear. So, can we dispense with iterating, pruning, maintaining and some other ‘boring jobs’?

It sounds like contact centres and all teams tasked with guiding and engaging with customers need to get with the programme of relentless change, yes? Definitely. But unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that customer-facing functions have the freedom to ‘change and move on’.


Although contemporary technologies allow firms to implement new tools and solutions without the lengthy delays of a few years ago – and often do so using their expert frontline teams directly - this does not mean that hard work finishes at the point of implementation. For customer-facing teams and operations, with their need to reflect and adapt to changes in firms’ propositions, markets and customer expectations, the successful initiation of a new technology often just creates another maintenance, administrative and optimisation task.

Failing Bots

In the past few months, I have seen various examples of expertly optimised chatbots. One failed to recognise any of the eight most common query types for the business sector it operated in. Another failed to resolve 20 easy and theoretically bot-friendly queries in a row. Instead, everyone of the contacts had to be passed to a live advisor.
Does this mean that bots are useless? No, not at all, but they require progressive, iterative optimisation to ensure they resolve as many queries as possible, in a way that’s friction-free for customers. Bots can’t be switched on and left to their own devices; they need informed, experienced customer service people to guide their processes and learning.

Multiplying Templates

Recently a former client explained that after an apparently large number of inconsistent email templates had been identified, they started a project to review and simplify the templates. As a result, the previous total of 1270, which had built up over many years, were reduced to a far more manageable 70.


So, is the use of email templates doomed to failure? Again, no, but in order to maximise the effectiveness, relevance and the degree of colleague adoption of templates, a person or team needs to be tasked with their ongoing review, maintenance and curation.

Dull but essential

Neither helping a bot to learn or editing and managing text templates are glamorous jobs, but they absolutely need doing. To some extent this maintenance will directly reflect and support the exciting change agenda. But at other times it’s just another routine task that can too easily be overlooked or dismissed in the face of seemingly more demanding priorities.  

Over the coming few months contact centre people will be getting increasingly skilled at re-stating business cases for the value they can generate for both organisations and their customers. They need to ensure that they champion some of the ‘dull but essential’ tasks of process maintenance and optimisation, too.

If you’d like to discuss how you are facing up to these challenges, or how best to effectively optimise technology both new and old, just drop us a line.


Information as a service:

a chance to reflect 

The evolution of information

By John Greenwood, Head of Technology & Payments


On the 2nd Nov 1992, I hung up my sailing gear and joined The Decisions Group in Wimbledon. I’d married my bride the year before, got well beaten in Olympic selection by my best man earlier that summer, and was keen to throw myself into something new. By chance, that day was my birthday, and on reflection, that day was indeed a new beginning.


The journey from paper-based telemarketing teams to Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) driven call centres, through to today’s customer experience platforms, not only demonstrates mankind’s need to access relevant and timely information, but also our business needs to deliver ‘information’ at a lower cost.


Every entity has a customer. Every customer receives information about the product or service that they engage with, often irrespective of whether the individual wants to or not! That paradigm has not changed.


The big change of course is the internet. The ‘cloud’ and the plethora of engagement channels that enables, along with the enablement of tech’, to measure the data flows within them.


This means that ‘information’ is no longer just something we just see on a page, a poster, a screen or dial, it’s something much more accessible and much more about the choices we make, or at least the choices that we think we make.


Thirty years ago, the information we needed to fine tune sales messages was created through carefully managed manual processes. And whilst this still may be true, for some entities more than others, the possibility for tech’ to provide a solution to the ‘process cost’ problem is much more available today than it ever has been. 


To put this tech’ revolution into some context, if you have never picked up The Telephone Book by Robert Leiderman, give it a go. It’s a great read and puts into context some great stories of how different organisations approached how to find, get, keep and develop customers using the telephone. The fascinating thing for me is that these stories are just as relevant today as they were 30 years ago when the number of ‘information’ channels limited how we shared information.
Today, with so many customer engagement channels open to us as both business entities and consumers, the ‘information as a service’ not only costs us less in terms of time and effort but is more immediately and easily available through the contact centre technology options that bombard our searches and our inbox. Whilst the last three decades have given us more technology choices, they have also bought us a ‘complexity of offer’. 

Historically contact centre tech’ vendors were very simply categorised as voice, process or efficiency based. Today technology categorisation, even to the well initiated feels more complex. With a plethora of other customer engagement channel choices, automation choices and the use of true AI monitoring all of the customer engagement and back end data flows, technology selection feels more daunting, when really it should be simpler. 


To paraphrase Leiderman, maybe simplicity comes by thinking of our tech’ requirements being driven by how to find, get, keep and develop customers using data


In our API driven economy, that feels to me like a much easier ask.  


If you need help in framing your contact centre tech conversation, then please get in touch. 


Compliance on a budget 

Do you have to spend big to be at your compliant best? 

By David Taylor, Partner Success Manager


Over the years I have spoken with many individuals and businesses about this very subject, many who buckle at the knees at the thought of spending money on accreditations and certifications to demonstrate their compliance. You only have to look back to the 25th May 2018 when the GDPR came into effect and the utter chaos that this caused to the industry leading up to it. Even today, businesses find themselves with new compliance challenges; homeworking is a great example of this.

So, do you need to spend big (or spend anything at all) to become compliant? The answer is both yes and no, for the reason being that it depends on your company objectives. For example, if your business finds itself taking payments for a product or service, then you will need to become PCI DSS compliant to do so (due to the regulations that are in place to protect cardholder data). Not only will you have to complete the process to provide an attestation of compliance, but you will also need to employ the right resource to undertake this task. Ultimately this will take both time and money for it to be completed.

However, I’ve always been a firm believer that applying best practice shouldn’t have to cost you the earth. Here are my top 4 tips on what you can do today without spending big money:

1. Documentation 


It’s usually the last thing on our minds, however documenting your processes and procedures is vital in not only demonstrating your standards, but also leaving a set of documented instructions for new employees or third parties. A simple flow diagram will suffice if you don’t possess any great writing skills within the business.

2. Assess Risk 


After you have documented your processes and procedures, you should review these with key business stakeholders to identify any risks. If you do identify any risks, I would suggest logging these somewhere. There are plenty of risk templates online, a simple Google away. By logging risks, you’re halfway there in showing risk and compliance best practice. You then need to decide whether you address that risk or accept the risk. 

3. Keep up-to-date 


Make sure that you know your industry. There are updates all the time to regulations, laws and best practice, so make sure you follow and react to these changes. I would suggest subscribing to regular newsletters, be that the ICO for Data Protection Regulation changes or the FCA for all things financial. You will also find updates within this monthly Insights publication, along with the latest information from the world of contact centres.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask


Rather than cowering under your desk at the thought of any of the above, don’t be afraid to ask the question. Be that a colleague, a like-minded business or Contact Centre Panel! You will be surprised how receptive people are to a soul in need. 

By adopting the 4 steps above as your mantra, you will put yourself and your business on the right road to your eventual destination.

Looking for support with your next compliance project? Drop us a message and let’s chat!


Optimising sales in challenging times 

Using optimum data to drive performance 

By Neville Doughty, Partnership Director 


The circle of life may be a wheel of fortune, however as the economy gets tougher and disposable incomes reduce, those running sales contact centres cannot afford to leave anything to chance.


Running effective sales operations has never been easy and I’m not sure this will change anytime soon. Delivering the buzz of a thriving sales environment can be tough. Costs are increasing; people, heat and light all cost more than they used to. So, when contacting a customer or potential customer, are you making the most of the opportunity?


For those buying data there has always been the question of when to give new agents the good quality data. Do you save the good stuff for when they have learned their craft and making more sales? However, this may risk agents losing heart by working through sub-optimal data and as a result, prolong improvements in competency.


We now live in a time where compliance is a given. It ensures that robust processes in sales and payments are fulfilled in the right way, but I can remember a time when I had more agents going through a validation than I had sat selling on a given day. We had to slow the dialler and then the whole operation became less effective. What I would have given for a machine to listen to the calls as opposed to waiting for a QA to listen through the calls and sign off on the sales.


Optimisation of diallers, best time to call, propensity to answer, propensity to purchase – the variables can feel infinite. The technology that we see now can be applied to ensure that when the phone is answered the agent is in the best possible place to make the sale, through matching on customer knowledge, demographic and buyer behaviour. But then the agent still needs to have all the right information available to them to make the offer and close the sale. We see all manner of ways to deliver this knowledge to them.


Many in contact centres have spent a lifetime talking about quartiles and quintiles and moving performance along a bell-curve. But are you making the right interventions at the best time? Is effort being targeted at the set of agents who will give you the biggest uplift? How good are you at spotting your next rising sales star?  There are an embarrassment of measures and metrics in contact centres but presenting them in one place is easier now than when I was a Team Leader. Agents are able to interrogate their own performance at their desk as opposed to their Team Leader pinning their performance data on a noticeboard.


Operations Managers are now able to see all that data rolled up and see how the Team Leader training interventions are driving performance all there on one screen. The possibilities are great, however it comes back to the culture – do you have the right culture in place to ensure that all these tools are being used effectively?


Challenging times are ahead. If your sales centre isn’t performing at the optimum level, there are plenty of options to drive performance. Some may feel familiar, but it never hurts to see what could be done differently.

Guest column


Legislative reforms that may be coming down the track


By Lesley Rennie, Senior Employment Solicitor, WorkNest


As more organisations sign up to the Menopause Pledge, and more discussions about menopause are had in the media, the conversation around menopause at work is gaining momentum and shows no signs of slowing down.


While more proactive organisations may have already implemented policies and training on the topic, many are still not fully clued up on their obligations and ways to support staff, or comfortable dealing with menopause-related matters.

This lack of support and openness in many workplaces can make carrying out day-to-day duties very challenging for employees experiencing menopause symptoms (learn more about common symptoms and the impact on work here) – in fact, around one million women have left the workforce early as a result. This represents a huge loss of skills and talent.


Recognising that more needs to be done to ensure those going through menopause aren’t left to struggle with their symptoms, discriminated against or left feeling that they have no choice but to leave the workforce, the House of Common’s Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) has recently published a report in which it makes several recommendations for reform in the workplace. Its recommendations are based on its survey of over 2,000 women conducted in September 2021.

The current legal framework, it says, doesn’t adequately protect menopausal employees, and more needs to be done to retain menopausal employees within the workplace. So, what exactly is it proposing and what might this mean for employers?


Increased support and enhanced legal protection for menopausal women.


In summary, the WEC is recommending the enactment of the dual discrimination provisions in the Equality Act, the establishment of menopause as a protected characteristic, and the right to request flexible working from day one.


The full report is available here, but the detail on the key points for employers is as follows:


1. Dual discrimination claims


Section 14 of the Equality Act 2010 deals with ‘dual discrimination’. This is where discrimination occurs due to a combination of protected characteristics. For example, an employee may believe they have been treated less favourably because they are both black and a woman. In this scenario, if Section 14 were to come into force, they may be able to bring a combined claim on the basis of race and sex.


At present, claims relating to menopause are brought on the grounds of age, sex or disability discrimination. Whilst an employee can bring a claim on more than one ground, with each protected characteristic being pled in the alternative (for example, “I was discriminated against either because of my age or my sex”), these protected characteristics can’t currently be combined (“I was discriminated against because of my age and my sex”).

Allowing claims of dual discrimination to be brought would make it easier for an employee to succeed in a claim of discrimination where the reason for the treatment is a combination of protected characteristics, and where it would otherwise be difficult for a Tribunal to separate the basis for the treatment and reach a finding.


2. Making menopause a protected characteristic

The Equality Act identifies nine protected characteristics, including disability, race, age and sex. Employees have a right not to be treated less favourably or subjected to an unfair disadvantage (in other words, directly or indirectly discriminated against) by reason of these characteristics.

The menopause is not currently a specific protected characteristic. At the moment, any discrimination claim related to menopause must be brought on the basis of one of the nine protected characteristics, namely age, sex or disability.
This means that at present, menopause claims are essentially being “slotted in” to an existing protected characteristic, which can make it much harder for a claim to be brought.

Making menopause a specific recognised protected characteristic would remove barriers and make it far easier for an employee to seek redress for any less favourable treatment.
It’s proposed that this new protected characteristic would impose upon employers a blanket legal duty to make reasonable adjustments akin to the current obligations in respect of disabled employees, regardless of whether that threshold of disability was met.


3. Right to request flexible working from day one

When asked what their employer could do to support them through menopause, those that took part in the WEC’s survey cited greater flexibility as a common request. Respondents called for flexibility in their working hours, as well as their place of work, and working from home was frequently mentioned. Those going through the menopause may also need to take more breaks during the day or leave work suddenly if their symptoms become severe.

As such, the WEC is recommending that employees be given the right to request flexible working from day one, rather than having to wait six months as is the case currently. This isn’t a new proposal; it formed part of the Employment Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech back in 2019 and the government has already consulted on making flexible working the default. However, it is yet to set a date for next steps.

For more information from WorkNest on workplace legislative reform on menopause, visit here