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Industry News

News and updates from the Contact Centre Industry

UK Challenges and Opportunities For 2014: A Leadership Perspective

A number of UK customer service, experience and engagement leaders have pooled their insight based on the themes that preoccupied their own communities during 2013. This is a first time collaboration. We hope you enjoy the rich diversity and also notice the many common themes that shine through. This is our way of completing the year and setting 2014 agendas. Please use it to refine your own.

Sandra Busby, Managing Director, Welsh Contact Centre Forum
The challenge of efficiencies and productivity made 2013 an interesting year. If the past twelve months has been characterised by one issue, it has been customer retention. Now this feels like something we’ve been saying for the past few years but the penny seems to have finally dropped with contact centres both realising and rising to the challenge of leaving corporate messages to one side and putting customer experience at the heart of their operations.

At the crux of this, as ever, is the customer agent. Against the balance of budgets which have loosened but remain tight, centres have had to multi-skill agents to ensure the customer feels they are having a real conversation with a human being.

While a handful of trailblazing contact centres really cracked fully integrated omni-channel communications in 2013 (and I hate the word ‘omni-channel’!), 2014 will put the customer at the heart of everything. Contact centres need to start from the building blocks of recruitment, training, motivation, attrition - all those issues that you need to master in order to ensure you’ve got the best people engaging with the outside world.

Success will be about building strategies which enable these people to deliver a quality experience every time in a way that fits with the customer’s lifestyle and expectations. Yes, contact centres need to create an environment which integrates voice, Facebook, Twitter, email and web chat, but it’s absolutely vital that within this agents have the skills and the confidence to put the customer and not the technology at the front and centre of the experience.

Organisations are trying to get their heads around keeping Mrs Jones who wants to speak on the phone happy, while at the same time being proactive about how her teenage daughter wants to buy a mobile package. But it’s not always as simplistic as that- industry experts are focusing on Generation Y, but I’m convinced there’s a smart generation in their 40s who want to engage with brands via mobile communications. If we want to ensure we’re equipped to please not just the next generation of consumers but the current one, then we need to nail this. 2014 seems like a good place to start.

Jane Thomas, Managing Director, South West Contact Centre Forum
Despite the challenges of most recent years, 2013 has seen our member base grow, and become very active, conscious and eager to take part in the many initiatives and events throughout the year.

This has been particularly evident in centres wanting to share best practice, hungry for tangible evidence of what the best in the industry are offering their respective customer base. This appetite has also been driven by many centres re-structuring and aligning their work force to embrace the challenges they face in serving their customers’ needs.

Efficient, lean operations doing the basics right, has led to key areas of interest in specialist training and people development especially addressing the ‘right behaviours’ for maximum customer experience.
The agent behaviours and customer interaction has been an interesting one when many organisations are then applying the principle to the hot topics of 2013 which have been Social Media, cloud technology, which because of the flexibility associated with such, has led to many organisations implementing a home working strategy.

Key for the members in the South West, has been for them to firstly identify their strategy, and then the implementation piece. Whilst there are many companies leading the way in these areas, there is still much work to be done.

Many organisations still need to deliver an omni-channel experience across the customer journey; a single view of the customer is still daunting to many businesses, which are challenged by working in silos. Marketing, sales and service are somewhat still distant in many businesses, yet the forum is starting to see many more Marketing Managers accompanying their Head of Operations.

It is with this in mind, that in 2014 we will underpin this enthusiasm and positivity to embrace change, by continuing to highlight best practice and top performers. Key to success for many will be the requirement for continued Investment in resource and technology – tracking customer and employee engagement will ensure competitive advantage.

There will also be great benefit to continue to offer organisations timely benchmarking and research, both regionally and nationally, in order that they may continue to gain cost efficiencies from improved processes, and staff engagement.

Jonty Pearce, Editor, Call Centre Helper
We have based this information from regular polling of our extensive community of contact centre professionals. It is based on conversations that we have through our Online web chat, Webinars, Web Site (160,000 visitors per month), LinkedIn group (6,440 Members) and Twitter (over 7,000 followers).

What’s Hot
• Web Chat
• Net Promoter
• Customer Effort
• Emotional Intelligence
• Speech Analytics
• Social Customer Service
• Flexible shifts
• Multi skilling
• Web self service

What’s Not
• Slow IT systems (we really out to do something about this)
• Average Handling Time as an agent metric
• Under-staffing
• Email response times over 1 hour
• Scheduling by Excel
• Answer Machine Detection
• Outbound Telesales

What’s Next
• Video Chat/ Skype in the contact centre
• Net Easy
• Removing commission based incentives
• Outcome based metrics
• Multichannel technology
• Home Working
• Web RTC
• Automatically feed answers into FAQs on the web site
• Merging Marketing and Customer Service

Martin Hill-Wilson, Founder, Brainfood Consulting
I have found 2013 a particularly lively year for getting on with it. Relative to previous times, we are definitely in a period of transition. Quite a radical one in fact. My two outstanding themes have been Social Customer Service and Performance and Quality.

Experiencing consistent feedback from webinars, workshops and roundtables throughout the year, I’m clear that 2013 will go down as the one when ownership for service issues via social channels moved from Marketing to Customer Service/joint ownership. At least here in the UK.

From informal polling, at least 60 percent of audiences kept saying they were now operationally involved and in the driver's seat. That said, the topic remains new and quite unnerving for many. Particularly for those not personally active on social channels.

What does this suggest for 2014? I would guess that given increased stories of consumer activism and clear signs of general growth, social customer service will keep moving up the priority list. For some, it will no doubt become an urgency.

Also keep an eye out for the first early examples of engagement hubs in which marketing, sales and service agendas are operationally unified and underpinned with smart customer analytics.

My other focus for the year has been the P&Q Challenge. This is an industry wide effort to fast track an improved return on the way contact centres undertake their performance and quality activities. It’s a crowd sourcing approach and everyone involved has contributed to the pot.

As a result, the ‘Strategic Quality Framework’ was born and around forty companies are now involved in pioneering work getting it implemented in their own organisations. It’s a six month programme.

Two things stand out from me. First is the obvious benefit of having time out from the operational environment. This has been a unanimous opinion. It seems reflecting, planning and testing ideas with others is something the industry needs to find more excuses for in times of rapid change.

Secondly, everyone's next generation version of quality management has put much greater focus on the voices of both customer and advisor. In other words, we are finally building an outside-in view of how we perform.

Taken together, I see 2014 as a period of sustained creativity for our industry.

Steve Hurst, Editorial Director, Engage Customer
2013 has been a defining year in the world of employee and customer engagement – and is setting the scene for further rapid changes during 2014 and beyond.

When Michael O Leary chief exec at Ryanair said in a TV interview after issuing two profits warnings that his job was to ‘change customer behaviour’ he clearly had got it wrong – and deep down inside he’s an intelligent enough person to know he’d got it wrong -which is why it is Ryanair who is changing.

Customers will no longer tolerate having two fingers continually put up to them by organisations such as Ryanair, those days are well and truly over. And the 50 per cent increase in profits this year at Ryanair’s arch rival Easyjet who base their business model on a robust customer service offering is testament to that.

So we have a sea change in the dynamics of the relationship between organisations and their customers and the employees that serve those customers. This is the change that we forecast back in 2009 when we (Chris Wood and I) formed the Customer Engagement Network.

• A perfect storm of financial meltdown leading to the need for sustainable customer retention strategies, new customer communication and interaction channels to market
• The now ubiquitous mobile channel
• The proliferation of social media tools such as Twitter and many more as customer and employee communication channels

All these have all come to pass. The game has changed Michael old son and changed forever.

It’s true to say that for the first time in history our customers – and our employees – have access to, and are using, more advanced technology than the organisations that purport to service them. This fundamental shift in the dynamic of the relationship is acting as a catalyst for customer and employee behavioural change – and that pace of change is accelerating.

My ten year old daughter is typically on four given communication devices at any given time – and none of those is the telephone! The telephone will of course always be an important communication and customer service channel – indeed it is increasingly being used as a ‘last resort’ when other channels have failed, when failure demand kicks in.

It is my strongly held belief that the customer of the future, indeed of now, is not in the least bit interested in your internal silos. They will expect the organisation they are interacting with to be on the channels of THEIR choice at times when they want to use them. If as an organisation you do not live up to that expectation they will leave you and find a competitor that does – and never ever come back.

And it’s important to remember that whatever else happens customers HAVE ALL THE MONEY. Yes folks, HR has got to be talking to Marketing if you are to have a realistic chance of long term survival. It’s as simple as that. And deep down Michael O’Leary damn well knows it!


Intelecom adds enhanced social media handling to Connect, its contact centre in the cloud

Intelecom Group AS, a provider of cloud contact management technology, has added enhanced social media handling capabilities to Connect, its flexible, multichannel cloud contact centre solution. Connect currently has an integration to Facebook which involves agents logging onto the Facebook network. In the latest version of the product, social media enquiries from Facebook and Twitter are integrated fully with traditional communication channels which means agents can deal with them quickly and efficiently from within the same application.

The way in which people are communicating is rapidly changing. The use of multichannel communication is becoming commonplace in contact centres. As organisations expand their use of new communication channels for business purposes there is a shift away from social media purely being handled by the marketing department towards it being utilized for customer service and to improve the customer experience. Christian Thorsrud, Product Manager at Intelecom Group AS said, “Analysts predict that by 2016 as many as 50% of enterprises will utilize social media as a customer channel. Social media will be the new servicing norm in just few years. This new version of Connect deals with social media networks in the same way as traditional channels like telephone, email, SMS and Chat enabling improved operational efficiency and social customer service.”

Intelecom has applied its new corporate profile and logo to Connect. The new look and feel of the product reflects the company’s focus on providing integrated, effective contact centre solutions in the cloud that enhance customer interaction and promote customer intimacy. The new logo underlines Intelecom’s association with communication and its heritage as one of the first developers of cloud-based contact centre solutions. The bird image, associated with air and flight, symbolizes the growing adoption by the industry at large of agile, flexible, multichannel contact centre services in the cloud.

Connect from Intelecom can work in any location, independent of hardware, software, platform or device. Its cloud based technology and open Web Services allow integration with

third party applications and its contact-centre-as-a-service (CCaaS) framework ensures customers achieve operational and cost efficiency on a pay-as you-use basis which requires no capital investment or maintenance costs. Intelecom has over 15 years’ experience of providing cloud contact management technology.

Christian Thorsrud concluded, “The latest version of Connect, with enhanced social media handling capabilities, is currently being deployed at Intelecom customers and the feedback is very positive. The agents like the new modern look and colours of the product and appreciate the ease of dealing with all enquiries, no matter how they are received, via a single queue. Agents no longer have to switch between applications and can respond to customers from one fully integrated platform enhancing the customer experience.”

The latest release of Connect is now available and includes integrated Facebook and Twitter enquiries. For more information on Connect please visit

Admiral wins GOLD!

For the last three years Admiral has held a Corporate Health Standard (CHS) Bronze award which is the Welsh Government's stamp of approval for health and wellbeing in the workplace.
To take Admiral to the next level the Ministry of Health (MOH) have been working hard over the years and this week were assessed for the next level of silver.
Following a two day assessment where the CHS panel met with members of staff, the MOH group and senior managers it has been announced that we more than met the criteria for the silver award and in fact qualify for the GOLD award!
Richard Lewis from the Welsh Government said “Many congratulations on achieving the Gold Corporate Health Standard, and in some style; (our assessor) said that Admiral is one of the best, if not the best, organisations he has assessed in terms of a corporate approach to well-being.” What a fantastic achievement and excellent recognition for the hard work our Ministry of Health (MOH) team put in.
All the MOH team would like to say a big well done to Rob Cook who has taken control of this assessment and has worked very hard to help Admiral achieve the gold standard.The Corporate Health Standard is a continuous journey of good practice and improvement, and it can be used as a tool to support the development of policies that promote the health and well-being of employees.

Admiral Wins The Arts and Business Cymru awards

The Arts and Business Cymru awards celebrate the work that arts organisations and businesses do together and recognise the successes of these partnerships across Wales. Admiral won the award for its work with Chapter Arts Centre and NoFitState Circus. Both of these partnerships were renewed for a further three years from 2012. The judges said Admiral was a clear winner in this category by leading the way in staff motivation and development through the arts. What a fantastic result!

Admiral in the news

The Communications department recently launched the Annual Survey of UK Motorists, which gives a snapshot of the opinions of UK motorists and the issues that affect them. We use the results from the Survey to get Admiral positive coverage in the media, either through press releases or responding to other stories, such as Government announcements etc.
This year, the first story we did was about road rage. The Survey found that almost half of the 3,120 motorists surveyed get road rage, with almost a third of these saying they get it more than once a week. The biggest causes were drivers cutting you up, not indicating and the general rudeness of other drivers.
The story received some good coverage in the national press, with appearances in the Daily Mirror, Daily Telegraph and Metro, as well as Sky News online and Mirror online amongst others. However, the highlight was an appearance on Daybreak featuring a case study we sourced and a psychologist we were using for the campaign. To see the Survey of Motorists in full go to:

BBC's The Call Centre gives distorted view of critical sector say industry heads

From Wales Online, 25th June 2013

'Watching this show to get a grounded and rounded view of one of Britain’s most important industries is like asking someone to watch ‘I’m a Celebrity’ for outback survival tips' - Sandra Busby
Contact centres are ‘highly professional operations’ employing 30,000 and contributing £400m to the Welsh economy, the head of the sector’s industry body said yesterday.
Sandra Busby, managing director of the Welsh Contact Centre Forum, said the “antics” of BBC Three’s The Call Centre are not representative of the sector.
See the full article on Wales Online here

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