Daniel OrdDaniel OrdMarch 22, 2019
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9min235

Daniel Ord is the Founder of OmniTouch International, and one of the global Contact Centre industry’s most influential figures. 

With over 30 years of experience under his belt, Daniel is bringing his expertise to a wider audience with a new Masterclass on High Performance Management for Inbound Contact Centres. The two-day Masterclass will take place in Manchester in July, and in London in October. 

 

Have you attended any conferences lately?

After the speeches are done and the workshops concluded, you have the chance to cluster around a table in a coffeeshop or bar and get to know other people who attended the event.

This is when one of my favourite questions comes up: “So how did you get into the Contact Centre industry?”

If you’re an introvert and get goosebumps around networking, then I guarantee you that this question works as a great ice-breaker. 

A happy accident?

Whether it’s Customer Service, Customer Experience, or the Contact Centre, I’ve rarely met anyone who doesn’t have an interesting story about how they accidentally ‘fell’ into the industry.

Some folks come up from being an Agent. That’s cool, because we all know you’ll never forget what it was like to talk to customers. Learning how to persuade, calm, and influence is one of the biggest gifts you get from doing this work.

Others – like myself – fell into the job through management level transfer or acquisition. 

I’m lucky enough to have transferred over from Finance to Operations, and I’ve always been grateful to have that background in numbers of logic to call on when running large centres.

The higher up the management ladder you go, the more you need to work ‘up and out’ in your organisation

When I first got into the industry, I faced the common challenge I think many of you have – most of my seniors thought my job was easy. I mean after all, on paper you just put a bunch of ‘operators’ in place and answer calls or emails or chats… where’s the complexity there?

As time and market forces increasingly put the customer in the centre of the organisational universe, things got a little better. However, I found that at least half my time as a VP Operations was spent talking to senior folks across the organisation – time well spent.

Teaching them about the industry, about customers and about our value proposition. Helping them ‘get it’.

Today, in all my management level Contact Centre courses, I advise folks to make a real organisational impact by getting up and away from your desk and office….and not just walking around your centre, though of course that has value!

I’m talking about booking time with the heads of other functions and getting yourself invited to senior level meetings. You’ve got to make yourself visible and talked about. You’ve got to help people in other job roles solve problems or create opportunities, because if you don’t, your centre – and everyone who works there – will suffer benign neglect.

It’s not an easy industry

I always say that in the Contact Centre industry we have to be masters of many domains. That includes:

  • Operations – after all everything starts here
  • People management & organisational design
  • Leadership & financial management
  • Customer Service & Experience
  • The role of technology in the lives of our customers & people

I can’t think of another industry that places this many demands on its leadership.

And a word of caution…

If you’ve worked a long time for one or two centres, you begin to think that the way ‘you’ work here is the way the ‘industry’ works. Nobel-Winner Daniel Kahneman talks about the danger of ‘WYSIATI’: What you see is all there is.

He teaches that we humans tend to make decisions on incomplete information, thinking that what we see or know now is all there is. Do your best to push back against WYSIATI – I think the best Contact Centre leadership does. 

But no matter how you got there…it’s what you do when you’re there

So you’re there. That’s so cool.

You’re the Contact Centre Manager or Director, and they’re counting on you to be efficient and effective.

When asked what I think is the most important thing to learn first about Contact Centres, I always give the same answer:

Operations!

I can hear some people say “no, it must be customers!”,  or “no way, it’s people!”

But Centres are unique and complex ecosystems. You’ll make better decisions about both your people and your Customers when you’ve mastered Operations. 


Basia Szumska-HareBasia Szumska-HareMarch 14, 2019
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5min253

Basia Szumska-Hare is Client Lead at Capita, and judged at the 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards in London earlier this month.

So, it’s Friday March 8th in London, the sky is blue, the children didn’t complain about getting ready for school, and I didn’t hear any complaints of phantom tummy aches, or reminders that “Mum, my school trousers are itchy!”

In fact, this morning as I pace my way to the tube to head to Victoria, there is simply nothing to complain about… or is there? For today, I am privileged to be a judge at the 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards. I am excited to learn about companies’ strategies for dealing with complaints, and taking people like me and you seriously!

I arrive in London to a swarm of people attending the event; I can see many people looking pensive, excited, and nervous about presenting today. Judges have to spend many hours, often in our own time, dedicated to reading and absorbing the content of the entries and scoring them respectfully online ahead of the event.

For the candidates, however, it’s nerve racking – they have to stand up in front of us scary looking folk and tell us why they believe their company deserves to win.

Before I know it, its 12.30pm and all the entries have been seen by my fellow judges. What I have learned today is that companies are learning to collect data from their customers, but maybe not yet fully understanding how to use that data effectively. I learned that C-Level executives were tasked with calling customers, to understand what it means to be a customer and also understand what it feels like for the person calling the customer.

Time and time again I’m hearing that companies want to make sure the process of dealing with them involves minimal effort, and have success on first call resolution. I also learned that loyal customers – you know the ones, like you and me who keep quiet, spend money unthankfully, and are too time poor to call and complain or fill out a survey – are also being looked at seriously.

I also saw enlightening sparks of thought leadership around empowering agents and teams to deliver stakeholder expectations, allowing the people who answer the calls more authority to resolve complaints and ensure that the voice of the customer is a positive one.

Also, Barnardo’s, the charity partner for the event, spoke at the luncheon once we were all gathered together to see who had won. Listening to the stories and the volunteers makes me think about what more I can do to give back to the community. Watch this space!

In summary – we had many winners, and many entries who I look forward to seeing back next year. It’s a comforting notion to understand that customers are at the heart of what all entrants were aspiring to. Well done to all, and I look forward to seeing you back again!


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 11, 2019
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4min318

The 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards have taken place in London, celebrating the people and  initiatives behind some of the best customer service operations in Britain.

Hosted by Awards International – holders of an Independent Awards Standards Council Gold Trust Mark – the event saw hundreds gather at the Park Plaza Riverbank hotel last Friday, when teams of finalists made presentations to an expert panel of judges throughout the day.

Finalists were competing to secure Gold and Silver titles across 18 categories, with one Overall Winner also named for their high score at the event, which this year was sponsored by Aptean and Ecosheme, and partnered by Resolver, Henley Business School’s Henley Centre for Customer Management, and The Malcolm McDonald Academy.

Following a gala lunch, the 2019 Overall Winner title was awarded to outsourcing services firm Firstsource, which claimed Gold in the Customer Insight Strategy category. The victory built on the success of the company in last year’s awards, when along with mobile network giffgaff it won Best Personal Entertainment & Telecoms.

Other big winners this year were banking giants HSBC, which won an incredible four Gold category titles, and United Utilities, which won three Gold titles, including the highly coveted Complaint Handling Leader of the Year award for their Head of Service Recovery, Sally Ainsworth.

The 2019 roll of honour also included Wessex Water in partnership with The First Word, which won in the Best Complaint Handling Training category; One Vision Housing, which claimed Gold for Best Use of Customers’ Insight and Feedback; and Capita, whose team walked away with the Customer Relations & Remediation award.

Speaking afterwards, Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “What an event this has been – we are incredibly fortunate to have such a vantage point on the high standard of complaint handling services in the UK.

“So many organisations are ensuring they have a robust complaints procedure at the heart of their structure, and these awards not only celebrate the best initiatives behind that, but they also allow representatives from all of these wonderful companies to come together and inspire each other, share best practice, and ensure complaint handling continues to go from strength to strength and remains central to a quality service.”

“On behalf of Awards International I would like to offer a huge congratulations to all of our winners, and I want to thank all of our finalists for coming and competing in what is now one of the most important events in the UK’s customer service calendar.”

 

 

 

 

 


Will ArcherWill ArcherMarch 7, 2019
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6min357

So, you have an effective complaints procedure in place; you are engaging with customers, finding problems and working through solutions, but just one important question remains: “How well are we doing?”

There is, of course, one clear sign of an effective complaints procedure, and that is a happy customer. Yet it can be a bit more complex than that. The typical reward for good complaint handling is increased sales and improved customer retention.

However, it is not always apparent whether these factors are down to your complaint handling alone. So how can we reliably measure success?

One possible measure is reputation. For the last three years, the UK Complaint Handling Awards has sought to recognise organisations that have made a success of their complaints procedure. The event is hosted by Awards International, and for many companies that have received such an award, industry acknowledgement is a reliable mark of success. The results can also be surprising.

“It’s interesting, if not ironic, that when it comes to winning awards, the most competitive industry sectors are also often the most complained about sectors,” explains Donna O’Toole, CEO of awards consultancy August.

“The rail networks, banks, loan providers, insurance companies, telecoms, and utility providers that the public so often love to hate are also the businesses leading the way in transforming their complaints handling processes – and in turn, improving the overall Customer Experience.”

Donna explains that in recent years there has been a rise in businesses realising the long-term value of how they handle customer complaints in the short-term. When shortlisting companies for the awards, successful companies are typically those that demonstrate transparency, better communication strategies, and have implemented innovative tools to help employees respond faster and more effectively.

Industry peer recognition is a valuable indicator of success but there is also a data-driven method of measuring complaints performance.

The Resolver platform is constantly monitoring user feedback throughout the complaints process. It does this by asking users to rate their experience at each stage of the complaint, thus enabling the data team to generate a score on how effective each company, and each sector, is in complaints handling. As with the awards, the results are not always what one would expect.

“It is really interesting because sometimes a lot of the things are counter-intuitive,” says Michael Hill, Resolver’s lead complaints management consultant.

“Sometimes people will give a company a high satisfaction score, despite the fact they have not achieved full resolution of their complaint.”

This highlights the value that customers place in being able to actually express what is really upsetting them. People are more likely to feel better if they have had, at the very least, a fair hearing or, at best, feel they have been treated fairly after going through the process.

On the other end of the scale, Michael notes, there are customers who have been very upset with their experience despite getting their complaint resolved. This is either because they still feel their complaints have not been listened to, or that the company did not follow up.

“We get quite a few companies that have failed to pay out compensation, having agreed to pay, or just take too long to deliver on their promises,” Michael explains.

“Businesses get right up to the end of the line, and technically everyone should be walking away happy, but people are still dissatisfied. It can get complex.”

When it comes to which sectors perform well by user satisfaction, it is usually those industries with a strong regulator or a free escalation service, such as an ombudsman. This is often because it inspires more confidence in the consumer that their issue will be resolved. Again, these can often be the industries that get the most complaints, such as financial services. On the other hand, you have sectors like retail where there is no established ombudsman or regulator, meaning many customers are left feeling very frustrated.

Having a high volume of complaints doesn’t necessarily mean a business is getting things wrong. It is the satisfaction score that matters. Michaels notes that the best-performing companies are those which have strong lines of communication with the public and are quick to respond and engage with customers when a complaint is received, regardless of complaint volume or, in some cases, eventual outcome.

Michael adds: “We would say any business that encourages complaints is going to see more coming through the door, but this is simply better visibility of the problems caused for customers. If they resolve them quickly and effectively, then they will keep their customers. If they don’t, customers will vote with their feet.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthMarch 1, 2019
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3min326

Poor product visualisation is preventing almost a quarter of B2B customers from making purchases online, according to a new report.

E-commerce agency PushON surveyed 500 key business decision makers from up and down the country and found that although the majority of B2B customers (78 percent) actually prefer to shop online, 22 percent have to travel to purchase goods in-store because online retailers do not offer clear product imagery or effective customer service.

When asked why they shop for business products in-store rather than online, product visualisation came out on top, with 81 percent of B2B customers stating they are able to clearly see what products look like in real life. Over half (55 percent) also prefer in-store customer service and the ability to speak to a member of staff for advice.
Over half (55 percent) of those surveyed expressed a strong desire for B2B e-retailers to invest in the same innovative technologies B2C e-commerce businesses are currently investing in. This includes the implementation of augmented reality (AR) to help them better visualise products online (29 percent), and an increase in artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as chatbots to give them the option to speak to someone in real-time, should they need to (26 percent).

Sam Rutley, managing director at PushON, said: “Although B2B retail is suffering a similar fate to B2C, in that customers are increasingly preferring to shop online, B2B e-commerce undoubtbly has a long way to go if it’s ever going to achieve the same results and levels of customer experience as B2C e-commerce.

“Many B2B customers prefer the in-store experience over online simply because they can see products in real life and interact with an expert, which clearly demonstrates that B2B e-commerce isn’t providing these services well enough yet, if at all. This, coupled with the specific desires of customers for investment in AR and AI technologies proves just how far behind B2C e-commerce B2B is.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthDecember 3, 2018
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3min735
Software solutions firm Aptean has joined the UK Complaint Handling Awards as a sponsor ahead of the 2019 event in the heart of London.

The global company, which helps streamline the operations of over 2,500 organisations in 54 countries, has joined a distinguished list of sponsors for the event, including Resolver, Ecoscheme, and Henley Business School among others.

Aptean is known for Respond; a tailored case management software solution which is suited to organisations of all sizes with a need for an efficient and proven method to run their customer feedback operations.

The 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards is taking place at London’s Park Plaza Hotel on March 8 and will see Finalists representing some of the UK’s best-known businesses compete in 19 categories before an Overall Winner is announced.

Categories in this year’s event reflect the rapidly-evolving complaint handling processes and skills utilised by organisations aiming to boost Customer Experience.

These include Innovation in Complaint Management, Artificial Intelligence, Customer Insight Strategy, and Best Use of Customer Insight & Feedback.

The ceremony will also see awards presented to the Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year, and Best Complaint Handler.

Meanwhile, Finalist presentations will be scrutinised by an expert judging panel comprising of representatives from across the Complaint Handling and Customer Experience sectors. A representative of Aptean will be joining the panel for 2019, to cast an expert eye on the strategies of those hoping to secure a coveted award.

The event is hosted by Awards International, holders of a Gold Trust Mark awarded by the Independent Awards Standards Council.

Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “It’s an honour to welcome Aptean as a sponsor for 2019. To have an organisation with their standard of excellence involved serves to take the awards to the next level, and their participation is to the benefit of all entrants and Finalists.”

A spokesperson for Aptean said: “We are proud to be involved with the 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards. We’re looking forward to celebrating effective complaint handling and those that have successfully used Respond to deliver exceptional customer service.”

 

 

 

 

 

 


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthNovember 6, 2018
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3min587

Bespoke complaint management firm Ecoscheme is joining forces with the UK Complaint Handling Awards for their 2019 gala ceremony in London.

The annual event, which is hosted by Awards International, is the UK’s premier celebration of the best in British customer service and complaint handling, and will take place in the heart of London on March 8.

Finalists from across the country will gather to present to an expert panel of judges and compete in 19 categories, with one Overall Winner also crowned on the day.

The categories reflect the many aspects of complaint handling in the digital age, and Ecoscheme is the official sponsor of the Customer Relations & Remediation category.

Finalists in this category will be judged on considerations made in often challenging circumstances, such as actions necessary when some form of compensation and/or repairs may be required for customers.

The involvement of Ecoscheme brings a new level of prestige to this category, as the company is experienced in steering clients’ actions throughout the post-liability complaint cycle, from initial contact by customer, to successful case resolution.

From their HQ in Grimsby, Ecoscheme provides UK-wide coverage, with satisfied clients in every region and across all industries.

Speaking of the sponsorship, Ecoscheme Manager Jack Lobaczewski said: “We are excited to be partnering with Awards International in order to sponsor one of the categories at the 2019 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

“These awards help recognise some of the UK’s most talented customer service personnel and the businesses which go the extra mile to ensure complaints are dealt with in the most efficient way possible.

“We are driven to improve our clients’ claims handling process, post liability acceptance. By looking after everything from initial inspection to completion of required repairs, we enable our clients to focus their time and resources on their core business activities. This passion for customers is something we hope to see from the finalists at the awards when they take place in 2019.”

Awards International CEO Neil Skehel said: “It is an honour to have a company with the calibre and reputation of Ecoscheme as sponsors for what will be the biggest and best UK Complaint Handling Awards to date.

“The event is going from strength to strength annually, as the standard of complaint handling in the UK continually increases, thanks to the competitiveness of businesses that want to provide the very best service for customers who highlight concerns.”


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthAugust 15, 2018
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5min1615

Alongside two exclusive conferences focusing on sharing best practice in Customer and Employee Experience, comes a summit on one of the most crucial aspects of modern customer service – complaint handling.

Taking place in London on December 12, Winning With Complaint Handling is a unique one-day event featuring speakers whose dedication to dealing with customer queries has earned them success at the UK Complaint Handling Awards.

Presentations and Q&A sessions will offer insight into the strategies of the firms that turn complaints into a chance to win back and cement customer loyalty.

Held at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel in the heart of London, the conference will also be a valuable networking opportunity for attendees.

Speaking at the conference is Founder and CEO of complaint handling software pioneers Resolver, James Walker, whose morning session, titled Keeping Your Most Loyal Customers, will explore the modern customer journey and its relation to ‘loyalty debt’.

Next, Christina Liciaga, of double 2018 UK Complaint Handling Award winners HSBC, will present on the secrets behind her brand’s success, before Sally Ainsworth of Unite Utilities’ Head of Service Recovery discusses the art of Proactive Complaint Handling.

Shine Prakash, the Senior Manager of iCasework will also discuss strategies, while Claire Churchill, Customer Relations manager at Ombudsman Services will help attendees understand what their customers really want when it comes to complaint resolution.

Rosie Bailey, of award winners CitySprint, will chart her firm’s journey towards customer-centricity, while Paul Dowell and Neil Davies of Severn Trent Water will discuss how theIr organisation went Back to Basics when it comes to customers – and earned recognition for doing so.

Representing Henley Business School, Andrew Bryan will offer insight into the mind of the 21st Century customer, and what they expect from businesses, before BT’s Amanda Redhead discusses how complaint handling was completely overhauled within one of the UK’s best-known communication brands.

The Co-Op’s Ben Lyons will offer an overview of the firm’s award-winning contact centre transformation strategy, while expert awards consultant Donna O’Toole will show you what it takes to join award winners at the very top of their game.

Travel giants Thomas Cook successfully delivered a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for complaint handling, and in a presentation, Susan Wilkinson, Head of Customer Relations, will outline the steps taken to implement it.

From New Day, David Land, Head of Service Delivery, will reveal the firm’s hugely successful complaint handling strategies.

Other speakers will include Christina Dolding of Old Mutual Wealth, and Neil Skehel, CEO of conference organisers Awards International.

He said:

Successful complaint handling has become the centre of customer experience. Research shows that for every one customer who complains, there are another 26 who say nothing and just leave. So a complaint can be a valuable gift that enables you to improve your business and keep customers happy.

By attending the Winning with Complaint Handling conference you’ll discover cutting edge strategies that are proven to transform businesses through a focus on root-cause analysis and complaint resolution.”

For further details and to reserve tickets for the conference, click here, where details are also available of an exclusive Early Bird ticket price offer that can save up to 47 percent in costs.


Helen PettiferHelen PettiferMarch 14, 2018
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5min1031

The 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards took place in London in February, and as a Customer Service Trainer, I was honoured to be invited to join the panel of judges.

Our panel was given responsibility for judging the Proactive Complaint Handling in the Utility Industry category. Five companies had been shortlisted and each one provided us with a written report and presentation. The aim was to highlight their approaches to both reduce complaints, and effectively manage complaints when they were received.

Investing in positive change

In truth, all of the nominated companies had been driven into action by the costs associated with poor complaint handling in the past.

OfWat (The Water Services Regulation Authority) governs the utilities industry and their objective is to build customer confidence in water and waste water services. As such, OfWat issues fines every time a customer makes a formal complaint and if the complaint isn’t resolved within 10 days, the fine increases.

With the cost of fines impacting on profits, the five finalist companies had recognised the value of investing in positive change.

As a judge, I wanted to see evidence of the companies stretching beyond the standards set by OfWat. In order to be praised for proactive complaint handling, I was looking for changes to the company culture and initiatives that were clearly rooted in delivering customer service excellence.

Complaint handling champions

It was fascinating to see the different approaches to tackling the problem and presenting the information. The judging panel learnt all about ‘training igloos’, recruitment campaigns, and processes to enhance efficiency.

All measures had clearly made a tangible difference to internal complaint handling procedures, but one company’s approach really stood out. United Utilities was presented with the Proactive Complaints Handling Award, and the decision was unanimous.

United Utilities

Serving 7 million customers in the north-west of England, United Utilities had been on the receiving end of too many complaints and they were taking too long to resolve them. There were no systems in place to learn from customer feedback, so many problems kept reoccurred. The company had earned a poor reputation and staff morale was low. They realised it was time for radical change.

What impressed me was that, rather than simply bolting on additional resources, the company involved the whole team in developing ideas to transform performance. They addressed their response to complaints and how to use customer feedback to inform change. In addition, they had adopted innovative ideas to reduce the number of complaints that are reported.

Speaking with customers

One noticeable point was the benefits of speaking directly with customers. Emails and letters have their place, but a telephone conversation on the day that the complaint was received has proved far more effective. A conversation helps to quickly clarify, and in some cases resolve, the issue.

Another strategy was to use a company bus and covered stands to have an active presence in the towns they were serving. This approach made the company far more approachable. Its impact has been especially beneficial when a burst main or other issue has had an impact on multiple customers. They’ve been there in person to provide information, updates, and practical support.

Reputation restored

Being party to the presentations, I took great delight from the fact that these companies had worked hard to restore their reputation and regain customers’ trust. The starting point was admitting the problem and having the motivation to take action.

Any business should openly seek the opinion of customers and not just those who they know will deliver a glowing report. Complaints may be hard to take, but it is better to know when you aren’t meeting customer expectations, because it gives you the opportunity to improve.

The awards provided evidence that any company can become successful, if they focus on delivering a truly customer orientated service.


Paul AinsworthPaul AinsworthFebruary 28, 2018
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3min661

BT’s Business and Public Sector Complaints team has picked up one of the top honour at the 2018 UK Complaint Handling Awards.

They won the coveted Team of the Year award at the gala event, which was held at London’s Park Plaza Riverbank hotel.

Judges bestowed the title after a thorough presentation from the BT delegates on how major internal changes on dealing with customer dissatisfaction occurred following a review in 2016.

The team collected feedback from customers on how to make improvements, and following their implementation BT B&PS has seen their net promotor score rise by 46 points, and complaint resolution times drop by over 50 percent.

The effects are not just being felt by customers, as employee satisfaction has also risen by 17 percent.

Speaking of how the process was carried out, a BT B&PS spokesperson said:

“We listened to calls and we listened to our customers, asking them directly how we could make their experience better. We listened and we changed.

 They told us they wanted us to: take ownership of problems provide a speedy fix and they wanted us to care. We completed extensive analysis on complaint drivers and we worked with a company called Blue Sky to conduct a comprehensive diagnostic of the business. We looked at our top performers to develop nine key advisors’ skills, which were pulled together in a blueprint, so we could share what good looked like to improve performance across the estate.

Any transformation for customers requires investment and belief in our people. We left no stone unturned and have totally transformed our ways of working to exceed our customer needs by introducing a leader led solution and empowering our workforce.”




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