Why investing in your contact centre environment pays off
In 2010 at the height of the recession I made the bold decision to start an outsourced contact centre business in the heart of Southend. Investing in new offices was the first step but I already had a vision about how the centre would look and feel – this would act as a design blueprint for the business moving forward.
From my many years of working in the contact centre industry I understood the value of creating a brand and the effects that a welcoming environment has on staff, but I also realised that the whole challenge of providing high quality customer service had changed – consumers had become more demanding and sophisticated with the introduction of multiple channels, both written and spoken, often in a number of languages.
This meant that the calibre of people we needed was going to be much higher and in turn we were going to have to create a workplace that would attract, inspire and retain a team of highly skilled, knowledgeable, experienced and discerning personnel.
Being faced with a blank canvas and a completely empty office shell can be daunting but it can also be both liberating and exciting as you get to design everything from scratch. In the early days, even when we only had a handful of staff, I knew the look and feel of the environment was going to be critical to both motivation and productivity.
Then and now, we have always had a ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy and as an outsourcer this applies to both our own staff as well as to customers. After five years we have grown to 200 employees, recently opened a new 8,500ft, £750,000 extension and are on track for a turnover of over £5million this year.
Drawing on feedback from a cross-section of our staff gives you a taste of the huge impact that the centre’s interior has had on them and the development of the business as a whole.
Team Manager at Ventrica Karen Wallings who used to work for a contact centre at one of the major banks says that it’s the company’s level of care and attention to the little things that really makes a difference.
“In my old role I was completely back-office so the aesthetics weren’t really the top priority. When I moved to Ventrica I noticed that there was a much greater attention to detail and more care about the advisors’ surroundings. When the fit-out of the latest extension started last year, we were invited to see it at every stage to view the progress. We were asked our opinions, this made us feel we had a voice and a sense of ownership.
What strikes you when you walk in is that everything just looks right, the colours all match and everything is completely branded in the corporate colours of red and grey, from the carpeting to the dividers – it all seems to have been carefully thought through and this certainly rubs off on the team. I definitely think that having pride in your environment helps myself and colleagues to work harder and be motivated to do a good job.”
Many of our staff also appreciate the space and light in the centre and the fact that there are no physical barriers. “As it’s an open place, both on a physical and emotional level, no one is afraid to knock on someone’s door, which helps people to thrive and develop personally and professionally. The smell of the leather chairs in the new break out area is also like a home from home and it’s a pleasure to walk in the office each morning.”
Senior Advisor Paula Sibley who has been with the company for over three years says that the first impression is that it’s very grand, welcoming and different from other places she’s worked,
“In some contact centres you can feel penned in and no one speaks to you unless you’ve done something wrong. Working in an open plan environment with views out to sea has a big impact on your productivity and it also contributes to the general buzz and excitement. I love the Ventrica branding and design. The colours are really vibrant and this hits you as soon as you step out of the lift. For me if you see quality you get quality.
Also there’s not the typical tension and pressure you find in some contact centres. Yes there are rules in terms of desk clutter, but because it’s neat and tidy it’s easier to focus and concentrate on what you’re doing. It may sound cheesy, but you just feel part of a big family. Ventrica has a big company mentality which is reflected in the environment but it still feels as if it cares about its staff – this has a significant impact on individual and group performance. The atmosphere makes you want to improve yourself and learn new things.”
New starter and customer advisor Tariro Viki says she felt instantly at home and if she’s having a bad day, she’s already forgotten about it as soon as she’s arrived. “I love the design and feel of the office. For me red gives you energy and it’s also my favourite colour. I like the fact that it’s light and you’re not crammed in. I think light is good for people and it has an instant effect on your mood. I feel proud to work here – you can see the Ventrica signage from the street (Ventrica is on the 5th floor) and I look up and think ‘I work there’. You don’t find many contact centres like Ventrica.
It’s not just about the design though says Tariro it’s about the people that you’re interacting with. “If you feel happy inside then this is reflected in your conversations with others. This helps enormously with overall job satisfaction – the fact that I’m volunteering for overtime shows I’m enjoying it.”
Sometimes it’s tricky to measure sentiments and feelings, but it’s often these overlooked ingredients that really provide the spirit and vibe that lays the foundation for a contented and motivated team. The feedback we’ve had so far from staff and visiting clients on the look and feel of the centre is also echoed by the results we’ve been able to deliver. We frequently surpass our SLAs and targets and achieve some unprecedented customer service levels on behalf of clients – for example on-line estate agent Purplebricks has achieved an exceptional NetPromoter score of 81%, thanks largely to the work of the dedicated Ventrica team. We also boast a very low staff attrition rate (measured at 11%) that compares favourably with the industry norm.
Our plan for the future is to keep on re-investing in the environment, as it is an on-going process and like all other aspects of the business needs continually refreshing. Many companies regardless of industry are beginning to see the workplace as a strategic asset. You have to be prepared for an evolutionary journey, one that will preserve your key branding and design values but at the same time does not become stagnated. The bar for customer service is constantly being raised. By investing in a combination of good design, well-being, innovation and on-going training ensures we can capture and develop the right talent.
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