What can we learn from Tesco Mobile’s award-winning Voice of the Employee programme?

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Winner of Best Voice of the Employee Programme at the prestigious European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards, Tesco Mobile shares the secrets to its success. 

Formal Voice of the Employee (VoE) programmes are becoming increasingly commonplace in today’s business world, as organisations seek to capitalise on the insights and observations of their own staff to improve operations and performance, and drive employee engagement.

And it is the contact centre that has emerged as a particular focus for VoE programmes, partly because their agents represent a rich source of customer insight thanks to their direct interactions with consumers, and partly because employee engagement is so important for these customer-facing roles.

So when Tesco Mobile set itself the ambitious target of becoming number one for customer satisfaction in the UK, it understood that it would need to optimise both insights and engagement in its service centres if it were to succeed.

“Tesco Mobile had always delivered good customer outcomes, even though it did have an element of them-and-us in terms of the management and the people on the frontlines,” explains Matt Currall, Tesco Mobile operations director. “The Tesco Mobile brand was always the constant running through the various ownership transfers – whether it be BT, and Telefonica and then Capita. But as the colleagues had been through these different owners, they perhaps felt more aligned to Tesco Mobile than the company they were employed by. They didn’t quite feel an affiliation to Capita. And that was our starting point.”

How Tesco Mobile gave colleagues and customers a reason to smile

At the end of 2017, the organisation invited colleagues to provide feedback to help create a Shared Charter for Tesco Mobile, with the aim of developing an identity based on a set of values that set it apart. As part of the process, common themes were identified so that the organisation could surface a Purpose, Vision and Mission.

“Our Purpose – which is ‘why we are here’ – was ultimately that we want to get it right first time and deliver an effortless experience that leaves our customers smiling,” notes Currall. “But that’s still just a purpose statement and it doesn’t really state what it is that we want to do. So we then created a Vision, which is ‘where we want to be over a period of time’ and specifically what we are going to do each year to keep us on track for delivering our vision. And our Vision was to be the number one in the UK for customer satisfaction.”

At the time, Tesco Mobile was placed 23rd in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), so in order to meet this ambitious target there needed to be clarity about precisely what was required for the organisation. And this was represented by its Mission: to deliver 3 million smiles (a 9 or 10 NPS score) from customers in 2018.

We knew that to achieve our Mission, it wasn’t just about making our customers smile, but about giving our colleagues a reason to smile, too.

“The 3 million smiles is effectively an NPS score of 56. But a mission of 56 NPS isn’t really going to create any emotional commitment. It’s just a business metric,” says Currall. “So we wanted to put that into a language that our people could understand. So we worked out that of the 4.2 million calls that we take a year, we would need 3 million of them to be a 9 or 10 NPS score to deliver the 56 NPS. And we called these ‘smiles’, so that rather than distributing NPS every month, we could start to tally and collate smiles – and that really resonated.”

But Currall knew that to set this Mission was one thing – to achieve it was altogether different: “We knew that to achieve our Mission, it wasn’t just about making our customers smile, but about giving our colleagues a reason to smile, too.”

How Tesco Mobile collected insight from colleagues

Inspired by Google’s 20% programme - which encourages staff to spend 80% of their time on their teams' main business, and 20% working on whatever they like with whomever they like – Currall implemented a series of workstreams that enabled colleagues to get involved in wider projects that would help the company to achieve its mission for the year and also improve its operational effectiveness.

Currall notes: “We said that in order to deliver the 3 million smiles yes everybody was going to have to work hard, but ultimately our commitment to you is that together as one team we are going to change our business to make sure you have the tools to be successful. And that was why we created the five workstreams.”

Tesco Mobile’s workstreams sessions represent an opportunity for colleagues to pick an area of business that they are passionate about and become part of a team dedicated to improving that aspect of the business alongside employees from all echelons of the business. As with Google’s 20% programme, it enables colleagues to have time away from their usual day-to-day work to contribute to the wider improvement of the organisation.

Of the 650 people in the business, 450 registered to be part of one of the workstreams, contributing through workshop sessions, formal brainstorms and other activities. Colleagues who have signed up to get involved in a workstream have an opportunity to meet with the leads to share feedback and ideas and understand what action has been taken on the back of previous sessions.

The workstreams consisted of:

  • Planning (led by the senior planning manager and planning manager).
  • People (led by the communications & engagement manager and the customer experience manager).
  • Process (led by the change & continuous improvement manager).
  • Governance (led by the operations manager).
  • Technology (led by the faults manager).

Currall notes: “For the majority of their time, colleagues would still be talking to customers, and when they were speaking to customers their aim is to deliver a smile on every call. However, for a period of their time, we asked them to come and contribute and be part of the team to improve an area of the business that they’re passionate about.”

Each workstream is also supported by its own social group on social media platform Yammer, so that members can clearly articulate what the objectives are, and detail the outputs from the sessions, inviting people to comment on whether they are good, bad or indifferent, and then voting on certain changes that can be made.

In addition to the workstreams, Tesco Mobile has also launched a number of other ways to collate insight from colleagues, including:

  • Ask Matt Anything. Colleagues are invited to post questions, which Currall responds to in videos shared in team meetings. Face-to-face AMA sessions also take place, and colleagues can register to go along and ask a question, discuss a concern or just have a general chat with Matt.
  • Workstream Awareness Days. Leads from each workstream regularly hold awareness days on site to talk to colleagues about what’s been happening in their area, promote opportunities to get involved, and listen to feedback and ideas.
  • Back to the floor days. Teams regularly hold Back to the Floor days to spend time side by side with colleagues, understanding the challenges that they face while speaking to a customer. All feedback gathered on the day is taken away to review and implement wherever possible.
  • Engagement survey. Colleagues are asked to share their feedback each quarter through the engagement survey, and have an open text box to share their anonymous views on how things are going. All of this feedback is reviewed within two weeks of the survey closing, and a pack is created to respond to all of the issues raised.

And the programme of activity has had a remarkable impact on results, helping Tesco Mobile to top the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) each quarter for phone customer service, rank as the top telecommunications company in the UK CSI, ranking 7th overall in the top 50 companies, and also rank as the least complained about network by Ofcom for 14 consecutive quarters, with just one complaint per 100,000 customers.

The programme has also had a significant impact on its employees as well. Within six months, Tesco Mobile reported a 45% reduction in sickness, a 50% improvement in speed of answer from 70 seconds to 33, and a 4% uplift in agent hours worked from 95% to 98.9% (out of a possible 99%).

It is very difficult to optimise colleague engagement and optimise the Voice of the Employee if you perceive your people to be a role.

Currall says: “Once we had our people getting involved with improving the business, coming to work was about much more than just answering phones to customers. They felt genuinely part of Tesco Mobile. Our NPS went up. Our sickness rates went down. Our productivity levels went up. This is all a result of giving people more purpose, and then empowering them to contribute so that they become more emotionally committed to the business and will then start giving you more discretionary effort.”

And as for its overall target of an NPS score of 56? It has raised itself up from 51 when the programme started to 55, with the target in sight.

Currall shares the following final advice for those organisations that are considering undertaking a similar Voice of the Employee programme.

“It has to start with a desire to want everyone to contribute, and a belief that anyone’s view is as important as anybody else’s. To be honest, 90% of the organisations and colleagues that I speak to are still entrenched in the view that advisors can’t contribute to the strategic development of the business because they’re advisors and their job is to speak to customers. Well, that limits the ability for that organisation to genuinely realise the power and potential of their people.

“It is very difficult to optimise colleague engagement and optimise the Voice of the Employee if you perceive your people to be a role. That is the fundamental issue. I just see our people within Tesco Mobile as members of the team – they just happen to do different things. Some happen to be in planning. Some talk to customers. Some are managers. But they are all part of Tesco Mobile and they all have valid opinions.”

About Neil Davey

ND2

Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.

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