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Case study: Barclays empowers call centre agents to enhance service to customers

26th Jun 2006
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How Barclays empowers call centre agents & management to improve customer service – case study and interview with Wyn Lloyd Jones, Head of Management Information at Barclays.

By Jeremy Cox, CMC Editor


Financial service institutions are in constant competition for customers. With increasingly standardised product sets they are forced to differentiate their offerings through customer service. That puts enormous pressure on the function of customer facing operations such as call centres.

The Key Performance Indicator Challenge

The success of today's contact centres is dependent upon individuals - from agent to contact centre manager - having access to the information or 'key performance indicators' they need whenever they need it. Unfortunately that information is often buried deep within the plethora of data that comes into and is generated by the contact centre and other customer facing operations.

In the past the only way to get hold of performance related information at Barclays was to collect data from different sources (there are a total of 15 sources today) and manually enter it into spreadsheets and databases. The process was extremely time consuming and the complexity of the task meant that information was invariably out of date and often inaccurate by the time it could be shared with others. Content centre managers and team leaders were unable to ensure optimum performance in the contact centre and individual agents were unable to monitor their own effectiveness.

Business Challenges Summary

Need for:

  • Greater agent empowerment
  • Reduced manual reporting
  • Consensus on KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
  • More timely and relevant KPIs
  • Better performance management
  • Optimised contact centre effectiveness

Under Wyn Lloyd Jones' leadership, Barclays selected and deployed AIMCall, which enables them to gather performance information, collate and report it instantly. I was less interested in the technology and more in the experience and lessons learned. Wyn Lloyd Jones agreed to discuss this with me and this was what he had to say.

Interview with Wyn Lloyd Jones Head of Management Information at Barclays.

The details of what was actually implemented (AIMCall) are covered later in this article (see 'For the technology minded' below). What I was interested in understanding, was how Wyn and his team went about the challenge, and particularly what lessons he could impart based on this experience.

JC – How did management go about defining its information needs and relevant KPI’s in the first place?

WLJ – The business has always had defined KPIs, however the implementation was used to refine, and more importantly ensure perception of each KPI was the same across the business. AIMCall focused our understanding on what KPI’s were actually doing for the business.

JC – What impact if any did you anticipate this having on the morale of your agents?

WLJ – In the very early stages of the implementation there was some concern that having such detailed information available could become intrusive, but when the application was implemented reservations disappeared rapidly and the benefits became apparent. Agent morale wasn’t a specific target of the project, but having insight into effectiveness and being able to link that to reward has ultimately improved morale amongst agents.

JC – What impact did you anticipate this having on customers?

WLJ – We expected there to be a positive impact. Having timely pertinent information was predicted to release resource from number crunching at the desktop. Time could then be better spent on the customers themselves.

JC – What challenges did you find in preparing people for the changes?

WLJ – Fortunately we have an environment that generally embraces change and new technologies, however we did not take this for granted. Much effort was made to ensure buy-in from all users and sponsors within each organisation.

JC – How did you go about it?

WLJ – Ensuring buy-in was achieved involved considerable effort in delivering workshops and consultations throughout the implementation. We wanted people to be and therefore feel as involved as possible, so that the resulting change wasn’t a shock to them. Once the system was implemented the emphasis shifted to training and on-site forums.

JC – What was it like during the implementation phase?

WLJ – The implementation ran pretty smoothly. During the process we kept on revisiting the objectives, holding workshops and refining the implementation procedure along the way.

JC – What would you do differently with the benefit of hindsight?

WLJ – As this has been implemented in different Barclay’s businesses across three phases we have already had the benefit of hindsight and made improvements. As stated above we always put a lot of importance behind communicating the project to the business and gaining buy in. The main piece of hind sight is to assume less and quantify more. For example, at the beginning, while we ensured that everyone agreed on what the KPIs were, we didn’t ensure that everyone’s perception of what the KPIs meant was the same. So, in phase two we spent even more time with the business understanding what they perceived they wanted. Again this was through workshops and consultations.

JC – What sort of team did you have in place to roll out the new scenario?

WLJ – The initial project was undertaken with resource from the suppliers like AIM Technology, however the skills required for future implementation and maintenance have now been absorbed. Our in-house team now undertakes 95 percent of the work.

JC – What worked very well and that you would recommend as a good practice?

WLJ – As stated before, workshops and consultations to understand the business’ needs and understanding was good practice and really made a difference.

JC – What surprises cropped up?

WLJ – The biggest surprise was the discrepancy in the definition of KPIs being used. A slightly different perception of a KPI’s meaning could mean a big difference in how it was used to measure people, so we spent time making sure the definitions were identical and signed off by the business.

JC – How did people’s roles change?

WLJ – The main role change was the reduced reworking and repetition of number crunching activity within the call centres, which released time for more reliable business driving and customer focused activity.

JC – Did this have any impact on customers?

WLJ – Customer service and satisfaction has been increased as a result of better adherence to KPIs which has led to more effective contact centres. While the project didn’t specifically set out to directly improve customer service it is widely recognised internally as a contributory factor.

JC – What results surprised you? Why?

WLJ – In terms of the project the biggest surprise has been the level of positive feedback from the business. In the beginning there was a degree of reluctance to change and the project had to be strongly promoted to the business. With subsequent phases the businesses have requested it from us. We now have an order book for performance improvement which is full into 2007!

JC – what is it like to work in the contact centre now vs. before?

WLJ – From an agent point of view they have more time to focus on the customer, rather than getting their hands dirty spending valuable time sorting out spreadsheets and accessing data. A key example of improvement is in agent performance development and reviews. Previously information and statistics required for an agent review was held in different places and took hours to collate. Now 99 percent of information required is in AIMCall.

JC – Looking back what are you most proud of or relieved by?

WLJ – The fact that with the initial project we had to convince the business to go through the change, and now AIMCall is an accepted standard in performance management and improvement.

JC – What are the most valuable lessons you have learned as a result of this experience?

WLJ – As mentioned earlier, business buy in, communication and involvement of the users in the design and conception of the project.

Involvement secures buy-in

There were several things I found interesting from this interview with Wyn. Making sure that everyone has a common understanding of the meaning of KPIs is essential, so time spent gaining a deep understanding of the real business needs will save time in the long run. Once the disparity came to the surface in the early phase, Wyn's team aided by their technology supplier ran workshops not just telling people what was going to happen, but more importantly exploring their real business needs.

Secondly, it seems that Wyn and his team are to some extent ahead of the business in understanding the ‘art of the possible’. This places the onus on Wyn and his extended team to educate the business users. Exploring the potential in workshops and generating a sense of involvement was obviously crucial to his success. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, unless of course you can make it thirsty first.

Thirdly despite having greater transparency of personal performance and the initial fears that might entail, the agents have found the near real time personal feedback motivating, and the extra time they have to support customers is having a positive customer impact as well.

Quantified benefits achieved

The AIMCall system enabled Barclays to achieve a five second reduction in average handling time. That equates to a £214,400 saving per year or a potential £1,072,000 over a five year period. Productivity has also improved by enabling a 2.5 per cent reduction in agent walk away, or time when agents are not available to take or make calls. This equates to £241,200 per year or £1,206,000 over a five year period.

Agents now have instant access to their own employee scorecards which contain ACD, Work Force Management and sales statistics. Instead of wasting time collating and distributing basic information, team leaders can now use their time more effectively, working with agents to review performance on a weekly basis, facilitating continuous improvement. In addition, information can be used in daily "buzz" meetings to drive the focus for the day. Previously agent feedback was only available once a month.

Sell what is of value to customers, not what is easy to sell

The system also enables team leaders to ensure that agents make effective use of their time. For example the team leader may identify that an agent is concentrating on products that are easier to sell rather than focusing upon higher value products that yield greater profitability.

Benefits Summary

  • Increased call centre effectiveness
  • Improved customer satisfaction through faster response
  • Insight into performance across different customer facing channels
  • Insight into the success of particular sales / marketing initiatives

Lloyd-Jones continues, "AIMCall has helped Barclays to improve contact centre performance. Agents feel motivated and valued. Attrition rates have dropped and customer satisfaction increased."

And now for the technology minded - details on the technology used

Barclays implemented AIMCall, a purpose-built performance management application from AIM technology. AIMCall enables organisations to change their call centres from cost centres to operational assets by delivering on-demand visibility of KPIs and an unprecedented level of analysis for individual agents, team leaders, contact centre managers and company directors. Put simply, AIMCall consolidates and interprets content centre data delivering relevant and timely information to authorised employees.

With ongoing support from the AIM Technology professional services team Barclays installed AIMCall across four business units. There are 2,774 seats of the product in Personal Financial Services Barclaycall, 1,283 in Barclaycard, 585 in Collections and 506 in Woolwich. Each division has its own data mart from which data is drawn into analysis services or an OLAP data cube - where it can be cut and sliced in order to generate the information required.

As a result of the implementation, performance information is now available instantly and is refreshed every 24 hours.

By Jeremy Cox CMC Editor Business & Strategy
If you would like to contact me and share your own experience or opinion please contact me at [email protected]

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