It’s good to talk… communicating with call centre employees

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It’s good to talk… communicating with call centre employees

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.

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9  responses on It’s good to talk… communicating with call centre employees

  • susan

  • 6 June 2013 at 11:29 am

Our IT call centre employees really want to know what affects them directly and for this team briefings face to face are the best. We have to run two sessions due to shifts. They also have opinion leaders/influencers in the team who we consider in communicating. Also ensuring the shift leader and manager are equipped with key messages.

Great comments by Tory and yourself. I think it may all depend on what actually engages the member of staff. That TV show does well to show how hard the boss work to motivate his team but they didn’t look very enthused about what they were trying to sell!

Hi Gary and Susan, thank you for your comments. It’s certainly a fascinating show!

Great tips Susan, how do you identify who the opinion leaders are?

Rachel

  • Susan

  • 22 June 2013 at 5:22 am

Hi Rachel. I’m referring to our ICT call centre which is a small on-site team. They had one key opinion leader who would pose questions on behalf of the group and would also attend corporate presentations and convey back to the rest of the team. In this case, it was very visible opinion leader behaviour. Susan

  • Ellen Hall

  • 5 July 2013 at 12:42 pm

Hi All,

Interesting post re: communicating with call centre employees. I tackled this challenge (and it is a challenge) back in 2004 when I worked for Privilege Insurance (RBS). Tory you mentioned “battling with the likes of Heat, The Sun etc), and we very much took the approach of ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ and produced something in a similar vein. Colours and fonts were bright and bold, photography was plentiful (and almost every last piccy was of a member of staff – they loved to see their faces in print!), the articles were short and punchy (given the time restraints of call monitoring), tone was fun and tongue-in-cheek. We included our audience in the mag as much we could, inviting people to be guest editors each edition (and bringing them to London to work with the publishing agency), had caption competitions, letters page, ‘day in the life of’ pieces, births/deaths/marriages etc – and as I mentioned, LOTS of photos of staff (in the office, at parties, at award ceremonies etc).

And when we had their attention (which we did) we littered the mag with messages from senior leaders, branding, updates on performace, and info about Privilege’s target markets.

The mag, along with a number of other new channels and IC methods resulted in employee engagement jumping from 34% to over 70% in just one year. The magazine, Posh, won a CiB award (now known as the IoIC) and voted (by staff) as the most relevent and interest mag in RBS Insurance.

Happy to discuss!

Ellen

Hi Ellen, thanks for your comment. Sounds like a great approach – award-winning in fact! – and I think it highlights the importance of knowing your employees and what makes them tick. Great stuff, thanks for getting in touch, Rachel

  • Rebecca Ryan

  • 22 October 2016 at 7:44 am

Hi Ellen, I’m not sure if you still get notification on this but I’d love to pick up with you as we’re facing a similar challenge at the moment. It would be great to connect, just tried to find you on LinkedIn but can’t seem to find you.

Hi Rebecca, you can find Tory via her website: http://toryfrost.com/Contactme, Rachel.

  • Amy Hegarty

  • 26 October 2016 at 12:57 pm

Hi Rebecca,

Happy to send over some more detail on Talk magazine if it’s useful. Let me know!

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