Serco

The brief to us was to upskill advisors in their ‘conversation management’ skills

The Requirement

Shop Direct own four well known retail brands: Littlewoods, Isme, K&Co and Very. The brief to us was to upskill advisors in their ‘conversation management’ skills.
The success and stickability of the project is due to several factors, including:

  • the training design being closely mapped to the needs of the business
  • creative and interactive training sessions
  • memorable stories, props, games and anecdotes
  • using real life calls, emails and social media interactions for analysis
  • following up the training with coaching by managers (trained by Ember Real Results)
  • follow up webinars and e-learning packages
  • training for new starters in Liber8 as part of the induction by Serco in-house trainers
  • incorporating Liber8 behaviours into quality scorecard assessment and feedback arrangements for staff
  • ownership internally of the ‘You Said We Did’ feedback
  • internal branding, promotion and visibility of Liber8 logo and messages

Serco run the customer contact centres for Littlewoods, Isme, K&Co and Very. There are offices in Cardiff, Bolton and Aintree as well as in India and South Africa. These huge retail companies are all part of the same company, Shop Direct, and they all had the same challenge – they needed to improve their ability to talk with and solve problems for clients not just via telephone, but though email and social media too. The problem was that because the operation was so vast, it relied so heavily on process, the optimal and most empathetic way to deal with the individual’s requirements were sometimes lost.

The Solution

The brief to us was to upskill advisors in their ‘conversation management’ skills. After robust Training Needs Analysis research by Ember Real Results, it became clear that this related to: 1. The ability to have difficult conversations 2.Personalising the customer experience 3.Problem solving customer issues efficiently via telephone, email and social media. The operation was so large that it relied heavily on process and what was needed was to ‘liberate’ the advisors to thinking about ‘The Human’ on the other end of the conversation. From this insight, we developed the training brand ‘Liber8’. This related to 8 principles designed by us  to provide structured training content.
Tuned In | Happy | Empathetic | Helpful | Understanding | Make it Better | Ask Questions | Next Steps
Together these principles make the mnemonic The Human.
The aim of the training for the sponsors:

  1. Delivering a sustained change in behaviour for conversation handling in the Shop Direct contact centre,
  2. Achieving an appropriate improvement in Customer Satisfaction Scores, NPS and other quantified metrics. For the delegates: “The purpose of Liber8 is to support contact centre advisors to handle complex conversations with patience and positivity and to leave the customer with a positive impression of the brand that they will want to shout about.”

We  worked with the client to research training needs in the UK sites, Cardiff, Bolton and Aintree. Focus groups, call listening and analysis of email and social media interactions with customers was completed. Carolyn Blunt led the design exercise and trained her own team of consultants to undertake the delivery in the UK, South Africa and India operations. The team delivered Train the Trainer to in-house trainers and a 2 day Manager programme in Liber8 and coaching skills so that the client could fully implement the training messages themselves following the completion of the Ember Real Results sessions.
The programme objective
The programme’s objective was achieved by increasing metrics and changing behaviours. But don’t just take our word for it:
“I got a lot more understanding of the customer’s expectations of us as a business and the expected service that each customer expects when contacting us.” Advisor, Cardiff “As the programme was being delivered, high praise has come from all business areas from senior management, team managers and advisors, and from the client. Most importantly, customers loved it too with satisfaction scores increasing. The conversational management programme is a long-term investment with the programme management and the excellent group of trainers changing fundamentally how advisors “converse” with customers.” Susan McAlonan Project Sponsor
Managing the project:
As Managing Director of Ember Real Results, Carolyn Blunt was responsible for managing the project and the RR co-ordinator Wilma Butterworth worked closely with the client to plan dates, venues, numbers and resources. The 5 training consultants travelled seamlessly between 5 locations over 5 months. The sessions were extremely well received, with any operational strategy questions or blockers arising being captured on a Flipchart and fed back to the client’s Project manager. These were then analysed and feedback provided on a ‘You Said We Did’ update. The client’s intranet site was used to host messages and updates about the training and its outcomes. Interest was inspired through posters:

Our solution

Our strategy was based around the concept that the advisors needed to be ‘liberated’ into discovering ‘The Human’ on the other end of the conversation. They needed to develop smarter ways to be empathetic with them, and close down conversations more efficiently with a higher level of customer satisfaction.
To help everyone grasp such a broad-ranging plan, we created a new training brand called ‘Liber8’. This related to 8 principles for the approach and flow of conversation:

  • Tuned In
  • Happy
  • Empathetic
  • Helpful
  • Understanding
  • Make it Better
  • Ask Questions
  • Next Steps

Together these principles create the mnemonic… The Human.
This was summarised in terms of a mission statement –
“The purpose of Liber8 is to support contact centre advisors to handle complex conversations with patience and positivity and to leave the customer with a positive impression of the brand that they will want to shout about.”
We took the approach that with a multinational organization of such magnitude, the key was to train and coach the in-house trainers at Serco.

The Result

Overall it was a huge success, with any number of added value techniques and tools being used, and an effective and efficient loop of communication between the trainers, stakeholders, project managers at Serco, Ember Real Results and of course the delegates.
Serco’s intranet site was used to host messages and updates about the training and its outcomes. Posters were designed and places on-site to get people motivated. There were follow up webinars and e-learning packages. 
Serco in-house trainers developed an induction plan into Liber8 thinking for new starters.
Lots of smart ways of encouraging feedback and assessment were included, such as scorecards, and a ‘You Said We Did’ mechanism, where staff were encouraged to get involved in improving process and day to day life.
Feedback from the customer included:
“The project team were invaluable when planning the logistics of rolling out four different training packages, to over 850 employees, across three continents; their experience and organisation skills enabled us to deploy structured pre-training engagement and communications packages to all trainees.”

“Ember Real Results were a pleasure to work with. The wide and varied experience of Carolyn and her team meant that they understood where we were and, importantly, where we were trying to get to. They created training content that was tailored exactly to the organisation and tailored that training to be applicable to several different service lines, including inbound voice and inbound email."

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