The judges of European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards tell us what this year's contestants have taught them about employee engagement in the service world.
The European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards (ECCCSAs) is hosting a glittering awards ceremony at London’s Battersea Park on 27th November, as the great and the good of the customer service industry gather to celebrate their achievements.
The ceremony marks the culmination of months of rigorous judging. It is a true achievement for an organisation to win an award at the ECCCSAs, a competition renowned for the integrity and credibility of its judging process.
The judges themselves are specifically chosen for their experience and knowledge, all of whom work in the industry, and many of which are previous award-winners.
This year’s competition has seen the ECCCSAs expanded to cover more awards than ever before, with an entirely new category created to cover the employee experience.
Ahead of the awards ceremony, MyCustomer caught up with some of the judges to find out why the new category is so important, and what those competing to win the new awards have revealed about the state of employee experience in today’s contact centres.
Nerys Corfield, chair of Contact Centre Council at DMA; director at Injection Consulting
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These days, with applications like Glassdoor, brand reputation is wedded to the employee experience. So it is not just the cost of attrition, and the loss of knowledge, that are the dangers.
But the fact that support departments are now running employee satisfaction surveys before and after they undertake initiatives - particularly the likes of workforce planning teams because nobody likes workforce planning! - and the fact they are really recognising how important the employee experience is and are measuring it in a very NPS-like way, is lovely.
There has been a real theme of measuring employee satisfaction during this year’s judging. And it has been really encouraging that so many companies are taking employee experience seriously.
Justin Haines, customer services director at Ovo Energy
Employee experience will always be the most important thing in contact centres. Regardless of the journey your business is on and the changes you’re going through you’ve got to take people on that journey and feel part of it, not just bolted on the end.
One of the things that’s been clear is that contact centre people understand this and are going to great lengths to explain the mechanisms they have in place for keeping employees informed and being transparent and genuinely involving them in the journey.
In any customer-related project, contact centre agents are usually a good source of expertise so it is vital their opinions are accounting for at the very start; we’ve seen various different versions of that in judging the ECCCSAs.
Helen Wilson, head of customer service at Atom Bank
It is more than just a job now. It is more of a lifestyle. People want to work for organisations that make them feel valued. Focusing on employee experience helps in terms of employee retention and reducing agent attrition, but it is also about having people wanting to work where they work because then they will deliver a great customer experience. From my experience, contact centres are getting better at this. We’re at various stages of that journey, but those that are doing well, do embrace it and realise the benefits of taking that approach.
Iryna Velychko, chair of the Ukraine Contact Centre Association
Everybody knows that people change jobs, and people rarely want to work for only one organisation all their lives. It’s easier than ever to change jobs. But the costs associated with contact centre agents are quite high at the outset, because we have to dedicate a lot of time in the hiring and education of them. Therefore, we need to prolong the working life we have with each employee, and that means thinking about motivation programmes, and engagement and loyalty.
But in Ukraine we have a saying that translates as: everything has two ends. And while engagement is good, very high engagement may be worse than a complete absence of engagement, because when employees are highly engaged in work they may not think about anybody or anything other than work, and work too much. They quickly become tired and after a short time they won’t want to work at all. So we must think about finding the right balance of work and rest and education and so on. So it is a challenge for HR departments and leaders – we must think not only about operational KPIs, but also KIPs for the life of our employees.
One of the interesting things about judging the ECCCSAs has been seeing how small customer-oriented companies manage engagement as they expand. Historically, these small companies haven’t invested a lot of money into service, but small companies find it very easy to make a friendly atmosphere, perhaps even a family atmosphere. But companies are often not prepared for the troubles they experience as they grow from, say, three people up to 40 people. So it is interesting to see the differences between how employee engagement is managed by small and big companies.
About Neil Davey
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.