Training improves customer service at contact centers

Industrial and Commercial Training

ISSN: 0019-7858

Article publication date: 4 October 2011



(2011), "Training improves customer service at contact centers", Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 43 No. 7.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Training improves customer service at contact centers

Article Type: Notes and news From: Industrial and Commercial Training, Volume 43, Issue 7

Training for team leaders has raised the quality of customer service at a UK retailer’s contact centers.

The Leading Edge team-leader development program was introduced to transform customer services at Home Retail Group, which operates under the Argos and Homebase brands, after a study showed that customer-service and performance results were inconsistent across its three contact centers in Stafford, Widnes and Bolton.

Each of the contact centers, which manage home deliveries to customers and employ a total of 2,000, had become part of the Home Retail Group when different companies became part of the group. Only 15 percent of employees were “engaged” with the resulting organization, while team managers managed staff in various ways.

The Leading Edge program, a regional winner in the National Training Awards, was introduced in order to equip team leaders with the skills to lead and manage their teams and with the benefit of individual assessment and support. Training priorities were to give team leaders an understanding of the business, the market and competitors, the role of the team leader and leadership styles.

Each team leader’s individual program was tailored to his or her needs through discussions between the individual and his or her line manager, a customer-service leader (CSL). Between them they identified development needs and considered the best way of meeting them. Learning and development advisers delivered inductions and workshops, while completed assignments were signed off by CSLs, who also held regular coaching sessions with each team leader.

Scoring systems and pass rates were agreed in order to ensure a consistent approach to assessment, while CSLs also attended workshops to make sure their assessments were consistent. The scheme was accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management, giving team leaders a level two certificate in team leading.

The program cost £13,343. Of the 150 team leaders, some 124 have completed it to date.

All three contact centers now have a more consistent understanding of the role of a team leader and how performance is managed, while team leaders have a shared vision of what a good team leader does, and an agreed approach to standard processes.

One team leader, Wendy Jones, said: “I had felt confident about how I coached but Leading Edge made me change my opinion and think more.”

Another, Julian Hodge, commented: “It was eye-opening. We get into a habit of just doing a job routinely and this showed me I don’t always do it as I should. I felt very positive about how much I do know.”

The training has also had a knock-on effect on customer service. Quality scores, which measure how closely advisers follow processes and behaviors when handling customers, rose from 70 to 77.34 percent over a year. Staff-engagement scores rose from 15 to 38 percent.

Bryan Hayles, operations leader at Home Retail Group, said that the impact of Leading Edge depended on how long each team leader had been in the role. Longer-serving colleagues found the experience useful in allowing them to revisit their leadership techniques, while it helped newer colleagues to get up to speed quickly.

“New team leaders now have a firm development platform to start from,” he said. “They have milestones and time to reflect on their own development. During the initial program we could identify strengths and development needs in our total team-leader population, which were then built into each personal-development plan.”

Other areas of the Home Retail Group business have now requested the program as well.

Home Retail Group sells under two brands, Argos and Homebase. Argos sells more than 18,000 products for the home. It serves more than 130 million customers a year through its 700 stores and takes four million orders a year online or over the telephone.

Homebase is the UK’s second-largest home-improvement retailer. It has more than 300 stores, selling more than 30,000 products. Some 70 million customers visit its stores each year.

Related articles