How do you communicate with call centre employees? What works, what doesn’t and how do you encourage two-way conversations?

Following on from my articles on the new BBC Three series The Call Centre and discussion around fly-on-the-wall documentaries in organisations, I’ve got a mini case study to share with you.

My thanks to AB who got in touch, and to Editor Tory Frost, @ToryFrostWrites, for highlighting the internal communication materials she is working on and answering some questions I sent over last night.

Over to you Tory…

It’s good to talk

TalkWith contact centre staff your methods of communication really depend on access – I produce a magazine, Talk, for Post Office contact centre colleagues, but they’re not necessarily employed by Post Office – it may be Aon, Bank of Ireland or a number of other organisations that provide products for Post Office.

Across the sites, access to the internet or even an intranet is limited, but generally they have no official access at all to any online content, especially social media. At most sites mobiles are actually banned! So we communicate with a print magazine, which is desk dropped.

What doesn’t work?

Call centre staff are monitored all day – how long their calls are, how many calls they make, even how long their toilet breaks are! They might have a few minutes a day to access your information and it has to compete with everything else they read.

You have to make content engaging, vibrant and relevant. It’s an absolute waste of time and energy to put a 2,000-word strategy piece in a magazine for call centre colleagues – they don’t have the time to read it at their desks and particularly during breaks, when it has to battle against the likes of Heat, The Sun, etc.

How do call centre employees give feedback – e.g. how two-way are the channels?

AB Talk We have a text and email service but to be honest, this is mostly used to enter the competitions. My theory is that the bite-size nature of the information, coupled with the time-poor audience, means readers prefer to quickly flip through the mag rather than get involved or get in touch, but we always go to readers for guest reviews, features and to be our cover star, making sure they are represented.

Working with Post Office, I’ve found focus groups are the best way to get a sense of employee feeling. It gives them some time out of their day and the teams are often very social and closely knit, so they respond well in a focus group. Readership or employee surveys have received a poor response in the past – I think it once again comes down to the time to fill it in… although a good giveaway helps!

You mentioned on Twitter that they are a ‘tricky audience’ – what did you mean by that?

The lack of time our readers have and the fact that the demographic is generally young, in their first job and certainly tech savvy, but we can’t use digital channels, is a big challenge. We overcome this by making Talk the best and most fun magazine it can be.

Call centre staff are often incentivised, so I recommend taking this approach with your content – we mix the Post Office content with pure lifestyle copy, gadget and beauty reviews, fitness features, car features, TV and music news and the like, which are the payoff for the Post Office information.

There are also plenty of competitions and reasons to chat about the content among themselves – quizzes where they can test each other such as a ‘Beat the Boss’ feature, and such.

But we also take a very strategic approach to the Post Office content – if it won’t help them do their job better, can’t be presented in an interesting engaging way and has no relevance to the reader, it doesn’t go in! You have to be ruthless – one boring spread could put off readers for good!

Thank you for giving us a quick insight into how to communicate with call centre employees Tory. What’s your experience? Do you oversee IC for a similar environment? If so, do you identify with what Tory has said or do you have another method that works for you?

As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC, Rachel

Post author: Tory Frost.