In Conversation with Call Centre Manage of the Year

Sophie Fox 440x440Sophie Fox of British Gas chats with our Editorial Director, Steve Hurst on working for British Gas and being awarded call centre manager of the year.

First off Sophie tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to your current role at British Gas

I have worked for British Gas for almost 20 years now, the majority of my working life so far.  It’s a great business to work for and the diversity in what we do has allowed me to carry out a variety of roles and have a number of different careers, whilst working for the same business.  I have been in my current role for the last three years and thoroughly enjoy the environment where our people and our customers are at the heart of everything we do. It’s a busy and challenging role which changes every day but I love the hustle and bustle ! Outside of work, I have two beautiful children, Lily Mae and Billy, who keep me as busy as when I’m in work ! I am a big England Rugby Fan and am very excited about the World Cup coming home this year !

What do you think led to you winning two Awards both at UK and European level – it’s quite an achievement

I won the Call Centre Manager of the year award  for setting up a specialist contact centre of 96 agents, handling claims calls for customers with our home electrical wiring and kitchen appliance insurance products. Along with some of our existing teams we recruited almost half of that 96 brand new into the business, designing and delivering a bespoke training and induction package for both our existing and new members of the team. By the end of the first year we had delivered on all of our objectives and customer experience measures and had been able to provide valuable insight into what our customers feel about these specific insurance products to make improvements.  We did all of this whilst delivering a best in class engagement score. It was absolutely a team effort and I see the award as recognition of my amazing team who worked together to achieve the success we had – I certainly didn’t do it on my own ! Following this, I was asked to represent the UK at our European awards in London, meeting delegates from 12 other countries and delivering a presentation around my top tips to manage people in a contact centre environment. This was a great experience, meeting and hearing about how contact centres run across Europe – it’s amazing how many similarities there were in the themes !

What is British Gas doing in the contact centre to improve customer engagement

British Gas aims to provide excellent customer service and is continually looking at ways to improve, ensuring we have the right processes in place to deal with our customers effectively.

We have recently invested an extra £5m in additional Customer Service  Advisers to meet peaks in call volumes. We have also invested on average 8 hours’ training per month per Customer Service Adviser on core process and service skills.  We have also led the energy industry in creating new ways for customers to manage their energy. For example, we offer online apps and tools, and easy ways to supply meter readings, adjust direct debits, book an engineer, or control heating and hot water from a phone.

 

What is your view on the link between employee engagement, customer engagement, performance and profitability

Employee engagement is key to me in driving customer engagement, performance and profitability and a business that has engaged employees, has already won half the battle in achieving all three. In our business, our people are the key as they interact with our customers on a daily basis, either on the phone or in their homes and can make that difference to how engaged our customers feel with us. To drive engagement, It is important that everyone in the business is clear on the key priorities and equally importantly, the values that the business stands for. It’s really important to me personally to listen to my team and take on board their ideas and views – more often than not, they will provide the gems that improve your customer experience or performance more than you ever could !

 

The utilities generally get low scores when it comes to customer satisfaction – how is British Gas differentiating itself in the customer service arena

Delivering great service is one of our strategic priorities and an incredible amount of focus has been put on this in the last 12 months. We introduced a cross Industry recognised measure called the Net Promoter system into our business a few years ago which gives us the chance to understand our customers experience on not only their calls but through their whole journey be that an Insurance claim or other key reasons for contacting us. It provides a score which gives an indication of how the customer felt about the advisor and the company but also the opportunity to leave any comments. All of this information is informing our improvement plans and has seen our NPS scores improve to record levels but we still have plenty more we can do.  The great thing about NPS for me on a contact centre is that it gives us instant feedback on how our people have performed from our customers perspective and highlights opportunities to improve further. We do a lot of work around this, encouraging  our people to listen to the customer comments and recognising where they do an amazing job !

For the last few years we have targeted reputable Customer Service benchmarks externally including the organisation that runs the Top 50 Customer Service programme which asks customers not only what is important to them but then rates organisations against these key criteria. This year we improved our standing further with special recognition for our work in social media and we have clear plans on what we want to simplify further for customers in the areas that matter most to them..