Category Archives: Call Centre

Sainsbury’s moves away from HR and customer service

Back in July 2010, Sainsbury’s announced that it was scrapping the HR Director role and creating instead a single role that would encapsulate HR and Customer services. The new Customer Services & Colleague Director, in addition to having one of the longest business cards, would take responsibility for HR, customer services, sponsorship, corporate responsibility, and both corporate and internal communications. A huge role then, and massive undertaking that was described by Gwyn Burr, who was promoted from the role of customer service director, as “an opportunity for HR to become much more focused on strategic delivery”.

So, fast forward 30 months to the announcement that Burr will leave Sainsburys in March 2013 and that Angie Risley, current Lloyds Bank Group HRD will take over as Sainsbury’s Group HRD. It was clear from this announcement that this also signifies a demerger of the customer service and HR roles so should we conclude that the initiative failed?

It was only in 2004 that Sainsbury’s first created the position of Customer Service Director with Justin King, then and still CEO, bringing in ex-Asda colleague Gwyn Burr to the role. At the time he felt the customer service needed to be improved dramatically and although Burr sat on the Board she remained a contractor. She also held, and continues to hold, a number of non-Executive Director roles and whilst this isn’t unusual for board members perhaps in this case it indicates that the move was always temporary.

Certainly Sainsbury’s customer service has improved and they have now moved ahead of their rivals. With various initiatives over the past few years the retailer has tackled the causes of poor customer service with training and technology initiatives as well as better use of the web and the introduction of Click-and-Collect, which has been rolled out to more than 900 stores.

The evidence would suggest that we shouldn’t read into this latest announcement that the HR/Customer Service mash-up initiative has failed. Perhaps the greater focus on strategic delivery has worked and now Sainsbury’s is simply putting in place an organization structure that will keep it moving. We will certainly be watching with interest.


Arsenal FC podcast interview

Hi just interviewed Paul Weald of RXP and Penny Downs, Customer Service Manager at Arsenal FC about multi-media contact centres. Full version will be available at Foviance website soon but an area we explored a little during the interview and more afterwards was “change”.

Arsenal has introduced some funky new web technologies and call centre systems to enable them to provide a joined up customer experience and it seems they have the same passion for being the best off the pitch as they do on it (opinions will vary on this). Interestingly Penny felt that the people change was the most important factor in the entire programme and one area they were yet to cover off was that of the Stewards on match day.

Penny explained that the Stewards are employed by the facilities and security department but have a major impact on customer satisfaction at the ground. The priorities however are not aligned with those of the customer satisfaction team and so this is a new area of focus her.

At another club Paul was able to refer to a similar programme just beginning where they have engaged with the head of security from the outset – something Penny on reflection, would have liked to do. Although it has taken significant time and effort they have managed to turn and major detractor in to a major advocate. The results are starting to be seen on match days with Stewards extending their role from purely security and safety to customer satisfaction.

The start point for the change programme was addressing an organisation that was silo’d and completely lacking in a joined up approach to customer experience. Arsenal has managed to address this and the improvements are impressive, particularly in the area of productivity and cost saving which in these tough times many will be interested in.

What concerns me is how difficult it is to scale this type of programme up. Arsenal FC is relatively small operationally and located in one place. Transfer their challenge to a major retailer or bank and the change programme becomes enormous. As we find in our work, even getting someone to own the overall problem is a challenge and yet the benefits are substantial. I still hope that the recession will force the change that is necessary but time is running out.

10% of you have listened to people having sex!

This was just one of the many statistics provided to call centre operatives by Tim Bishop, Head of Strategy for programme and awards sponsor Siemens at last nights gala dinner and awards ceremony for the ‘Top 50 Call Centres‘. The evening celebrated customer service excellence and the atmosphere from the outset was palpable. The screen behind the stage rotated the logos of the top 50 companies, and there was a cheer from each group every time their logo appeared. The auditory Mexican wave was something to behold and went on throughout the dinner until the awards ceremony proper began. After an hour or so of continued, and increasingly enthusiastic cheering, I began to realise how little positive recognition the call centre operatives receive and also how competitive they are.

Top 50 presenter Eamonn Holmes
Top 50 presenter Eamonn Holmes

Eamonn Holmes hosted the evening and presented the awards and was an excellent speaker. He particularly enjoyed congratulating the team of nine very attractive ladies and one ‘fella’ from Holiday Extras who won the best overall in the Entertainment, Leisure and Travel category.  He even took the trouble to visit their table after the awards had ended and congratulate them personally. What a martyr!

The awards are the brain child of Claudia Hathway, Editor of CCF magazine who opened the event with a rousing speech about how call centre operatives were unrecognised for the good work they do. She set a challenge for all companies to achieve an average of 95% satisfaction next year, which looks like a tough target if you ignore how competitive these people are. The data was pulled together by mystery shopping partner GFK NOP who carried out the biggest ever survey of its kind gathering real customer experience data based on real consumer feedback. And the competition was very close with only 1 1/2% separating the top 5 call centres.

So finally, here are the winners:

  • 1st was First Direct, who were also 1st in the Financial Services category. They achieved an overall satisfaction score of 91.73%.
  • Denplan were narrowly beaten into second place with 91.32%
  • 3rd was F&C Investments with 91.26%
  • 4th overall was Lloyds TSB Insurance with 91.02%
  • 5th and also best in the retail category was Laithwaites with 90.36%
  • 6th Prudential with 89.33%
  • 7th with 89.29% Charles Tyrwhitt
  • 8th ING Direct with 87.89%
  • 9th was Specsavers with 87.57%
  • 10th and also winners in the public sector category were Cambridgeshire County Council with a customer service rating of 87.13%
  • Holiday Extras won the best in Entertainment/Leisure and Travel category with a rating of 85%

Given our recent study in to the travel sector the low overall score and lowest category score is of no surprise and clearly, for all the celebrating last night, this sector has a lot to do.