Touch plan raises customer service skills

An innovative package of personal development at a North East call centre
has helped reduce staff sickness absence and developed customer service skills.

The Garlands call centre launched the ‘Touch’ scheme a year ago after a
study found that staff were taking time off work to deal with major domestic
issues such as marriage difficulties, family drug abuse and caring for sick

As part of the initiative volunteers were given awareness training, enabling
them to give confidential help to other staff with problems. Since then the
absence rate has dropped from 9 per cent to 4 per cent.

Chey Garland, CEO at the firm, said the reduction had been achieved because
staff felt their problems were being listened to.

"It has helped staff feel more supported by giving them a point of
contact where they can find out where to go for advice," she said.

Garlands also used the scheme to help its mainly young workforce improve
their social skills and develop coaching techniques among those looking to grow
into team leaders.

As part of the scheme 130 staff went into the community to work on projects
in education and became part of local action groups. Some employees became
reading mentors and gave IT training in schools.

"Often staff aged 22 had no empathy with older customers and this
training has helped build self esteem, communication, aspirations and coaching
skills of staff hoping to become team leaders," said Garland.

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