Personnel Today's monthly series reveals how managers tackle business problems and enhance performance. In this issue, Carol Borghesi, director of call centre management at BT, explores the personnel issues that confront call centre managers and looks at how to solve them
BT has been running call centres for many years and now has 110 of them across the country, employing about 20,000 staff. The size of operations makes the managing of personnel issues a daunting task but, if you get the right practices embedded within an organisation, a positive and productive working environment can be created, whatever the size of the company.
The goal should be to create an environment where call centre advisers feel confident and can interact with customers. This means more than providing a telephone and somewhere to sit. It is about engendering confidence, building teams and providing the necessary tools and systems. The perfect call centre should allow good customer interaction, with motivated groups of people led by inspirational team leaders.
If the perfect call centre is about good customer interaction, it is important to look at the factors that can compromise the quality of calls. Staffing problems, bad management, lack of motivation and an unpleasant environment will affect call centres as much as any other workplace. Solving these issues will greatly improve productivity and quality.
Perhaps the most obvious but most crucial problem is finding the right staff. Employers and advisers should view speaking to customers as an awesome responsibility, so managers should recruit accordingly. As the only contact many customers have with a company is through its call centre, it is paramount that the phones are staffed by the best communicators. Employers must have a respect for the job that needs to be done. Taking calls all day and dealing with each one to the highest standard is not an easy job and requires a particular talent. Because of the rapid growth in call centres, competition for people who can do the job is hot. But if you start with the right people, it's difficult to go wrong.
Confidence is a major factor for the success of a call centre. Ensuring advisers feel ready to take any call takes training and continuing support. You want people to start the job as prepared as possible. I call it end-to-end recruiting. This means that when your staff pick up the phone for their first call, there should be few surprises and suppo