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Study: Drop scripts, embrace systems thinking to improve contact centre performance

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18th Aug 2011
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Forget scripts and call time targets - giving call centre workers the power to provide customers with a personalised service boosts staff morale as well as the bottom line, a new study has found.

Researchers from Loughborough University studied operations at the VELUX Company Ltd contact centre in Scotland, which uses Systems Thinking Design (STD) to handle customer queries. STD is based on designing organisational systems around customer demand instead of in functional hierarchies.
Contact centre staff manage each customer call from start to finish - in ‘one stop’ - and are empowered to make decisions and contact colleagues and managers across the organisation for specialist information, using conference calls involving the customer. 
The study found that organic structures such as STD remove call-handling time targets and scripts, reduce training time for new recruits, and jobs are wide in scope with employees empowered to perform a variety of tasks. Additional benefits for staff include a more rewarding job experience in a less stressful environment. 
Businesses, meanwhile, experience improvements to productivity and service quality as well as a lower level of turnover and absenteeism amongst front-line staff, who have a high level of commitment to their employers. At VELUX, staff turnover was less than half the average as reported by the Contact Centre Association at the time of research. Customers, meanwhile, have their calls dealt with at the initial point of contact in a friendly and efficient manner.
“Call centres regularly get bad press, but they are often the main channel of contact between an organisation and its customers, so getting the service right is of utmost importance,” said Dr Ayham Jaaron from Loughborough’s Wolfson School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering who alongside Professor Chris Backhouse conducted the research.
“In cases where products or services are comparable, and in an ever-competitive market, customers base their choice of provider on their levels of customer service. Our research has shown that by implementing a Systems Thinking Design approach, staff gain greater affective commitment to their employers which has multiple benefits to companies including financial and reputational gains. It’s a win-win situation,” Dr Jaaron added. 
Research was conducted over a 12 month period at the VELUX Company Ltd contact centre in Scotland which has adopted the Vanguard Method of Systems Thinking.

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