Caring for agents takes care of customers

One of our visitors to this year’s Call Centre & Customer Service Expo, Steve Downton, Founder of Service Community, has taken the time to share his thoughts on his favourite session at the Call Centre Focus Conference.

Matthew Kemp, Operations Director and Rodney Sherriff, Customer Service Director at Lebara Mobile delivered a presentation called ‘Designing a better experience for customers and employees’

Lebara’s presentation was like a breath of fresh air; both presenters were obviously 100% in tune with their material, starting their session powerfully, but simply: the engine is the call centre; the petrol is the smile.

Choosing the right team

The whole focus of the Lebara call centre is for employees to be able to engage with and impress customers, guided by capable managers who can look after their team.

Rules for selecting the team:

  • An absence of call centre experience could almost be considered an advantage, as they will not have been indoctrinated in bad practices
  • No targeted call times
  • New recruits sit with colleagues to really understand the process
  • The agent sitting next to the applicant gets the final say as to whether they are recruited or not

Only one in 50 may be successful.

All training received is based around, and themed to, their marketplace.

Empowering agents improves customer service

Their key aim is to get the agent to apply all 5 senses and employ empathy to really seek to understand a client and the challenges they face; this may require a willingness to look beyond the simple call to why the customer has a problem. Thinking of scenarios after the call and trying to understand the customer’s real needs – this closeness is felt, and appreciated by the customer.

Closely monitoring the team performance against a net promoter score, and their personal engagement with the customer enables quick responses with teams that are struggling. The management support-teams always consider strengths not weaknesses – everything about the process is to make the agent feel empowered and important and that they represent the voice of the customers in the business.

A happy agent makes a happy customer

The agents are encouraged to arrange their own Fun Days (it might be to dress up; hold fund-raising days etc. to make the job enjoyable and with purpose). The successful team members were most significantly good at working in a team, possessing strong empathy and a liking for interaction with people, irrespective of age or background. The operation is closely aligned to the customer via twitter, e-mail etc and the management support-team carefully monitor twitter feeds from customers about agent performance.

This type of engagement with staff is reflected in the results, both anecdotal and They were able to solve problems for customers that appeared unconnected with a customer call and deliberately referred to such legendary moments and built them up to highlight to other agents the art of the possible. As a result, over the last three years there has been a 64% rise in customer satisfaction.

The results speak for themselves

The operation has cost around £5 million but has delivered annual savings of £15 million, making it easy to argue that their call centre strategy works. In comparison most call centres with all their rules and regulations about receiving calls are much more expensive and provide less value to their companies. Taking a new approach like this and throwing away old-fashioned thinking and rewriting the rulebooks has proven very rewarding for all concerned – customers, agents, shareholders and other stakeholders.

May I suggest you ask yourself if your own call centre delivers these kinds of results or anything close to them?

The world we now live in demands attention to detail, respect of employees, and customers at all times. Gone are the days of treating customers and staff like a commodity and thinking they haven’t noticed – they have!

Steve Downton

Steve Downton


Steve Downton has worked with leading-edge service companies for the past twenty-nine years, and has benchmarked the service industry since the early nineties. He has produced a number of thought leadership articles and educational whitepapers. In 2007 he published research into Strategic Service Management which included the impact of the supply chain on service operations. In 2008, he published research into future trends and their impact.

October 18, 2012

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