Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ofcom fines barclays

The call centre regulator OFCOM has fined Barclaycard the maximum amount possible (£50,000) for breaching its rules on silent and abandoned calls.

Silent calls are a significant cause of inconvenience and anxiety for thousands of people every month. Most silent calls are not generated with malicious intent but occur when using automated calling mechanisms to generate more calls than their available agents can deal with. When the person called answers the telephone, there is no agent available, resulting in silence on the line.

Ofcom published its rules on silent calls in 2006 including three key requirements:
> Abandoned call rates must be no more than 3 per cent of all live calls made in any 24 hour period for each campaign.
> All abandoned calls must carry a short recorded information message identifying the source of the call.

> Calling line identification (CLI) must be included on all outbound calls generated by automated calling systems. CLI allows people to dial 1471 and access the telephone number of the person or organisation calling them.

Ofcom investigated Barclaycard from 1 October 2006 to 10 May 2007 and found that it had made an extremely high number of silent calls where the people receiving the calls had no method of knowing who had made them. The investigation also found that some of Barclaycard’s call centres had no procedures in place to prevent people receiving repeated abandoned calls over a short period of time.

Ofcom Chief Executive Ed Richards said: “Taken as a whole this is the most serious case of persistent misuse by making silent and abandoned calls that Ofcom has ever investigated. Had we not been limited by the statutory maximum, we would have imposed a larger penalty to reflect this misuse”.

Ofcom has previously fined Abbey National, Complete , Space Kitchens, Bracken Bay Kitchens, Carphone Warehouse and Toucan for breaches of its rules on silent and abandoned calls.

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Announcement - RE: Martin Shields Homeshoring Interview:

This interview will take place tomorrow and be published on Friday. Sorry its late!
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Friday, September 12, 2008

Quite Amusing....Its a friday after all

A sales rep, an administration clerk, and the manager are walking to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp.
They rub it and a Genie comes out.

The Genie says, 'I'll give each of you just one wish.'
'Me first! Me first!' says the admin clerk. 'I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world.'

Puff! She's gone.

'Me next! Me next!' says the sales rep. 'I want to be in Hawaii , relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas and the love of my life.'
Puff! He's gone.
'OK, you're up,' the Genie says to the manager.
The manager says, 'I want those two back in the office after lunch.'

Moral of the story:
Always let your boss have the first say.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008


Next week we are lucky enough to have a Q and A session with Martin Shields - a pioneer of the UK call centre industry. Martin started 'Merit Direct' in the mid 80's, when customer response was pretty much unheard of. Merit Direct is recognised as one of the UK's original contact centers and has set the blue print for many others. Merit was eventually merged into SITEL (http://www.sitel.com/) to become one of the worlds largest call centre operations.

Martin currently consults to Maygenta - the UK's leading homeshoring company. (*see our useful links section)

We will be discussing all things 'homeshoring', including where he thinks the industry is going, the employment benefits for those on maternity leave, in retirement, home bound, disabled or just looking for fresh challenges - (without the usual 9 -5 issues!)

If you are serious about changing your working regime to a home based role - we strongly advise you tune in.

Please email any questions to delanoesq@gmail.com. We will do our best to include them! The interview will be published next Wednesday 17th September 2008.

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Extreme Office Stress!

Why Homeshore?

Could the increasing capabilities of broadband technology and hosted software solutions, combined with home based working models, potentially remove the traditional contact centre issues?

* Physical buildings are not required, reducing initial investment and running costs

* Productivity is improved through the natural efficiencies of home based working

* The sourcing pool for staff has no geographic boundaries, enabling cherry picking of the best quality staff available whatever the location

* This also enables us to access a previously untapped skilled workforce who, for whatever reason, are home based. The disabled and the retired for example

* Staff turnover is decreased because their job satisfaction is increased and they have no commute

* There are no cultural barriers

* There is total flexibility to bring staff on and off line as when required

* There is no commute optimizing work time, employee performance whilst reducing negative environmental impact

* Staff are managed centrally but have in depth knowledge of their area of responsibility. Ideal for projects requiring local knowledge.

All these factors contribute to a happier members of staff which by definition creates happier customers and brand loyalty. After the nightmare that was off-shoring, perhaps companies have realised the benefits of keeping everyone in their service mix happy? Lets hope so!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Homeshoring – ‘Customer service comes home’

The ‘homeshored’ or ‘virtual contact centre’ is driving a whole new way of fulfilling traditional ‘call centre’ functions such as:

• Customer service
• Technical support
• Order Processing

Homeshoring engages an untapped market of retired professionals and men and women on maternity leave, as well as the disabled. This could offer businesses a pool of skilled qualified professionals for demanding customer contact such as healthcare and law providing enhanced customer service.

Industry Cycles

The contact industry has certainly seen a few changes since its popularity grew in the late eighties. Once seen as a genuine career, the UK call centre industry now has attrition rates of 20% -30% per cent according to the TUC (Trade Union Congress).

This is a trend seen not just in the UK but in the industries last creation – ‘The Off Shore Call Centre’. The bosses of some of the UK’s largest companies suddenly decided that customer service was best provided 5000 miles away in India. The customers experience was obviously there main concern and the potential 70% cost savings had nothing to do with it.

Ironically but not surprisingly, the Indian call centre industry now suffers the same problems as the UK. Younger workers seeking careers a stop gap role like customer service just cannot offer.

The root of the problem

Why do people not want to work in call centres?
- Boring and repetitive work
- Stressful due to irate customers
- No autonomy or real responsible
- Average wages

The solution – the virtual agent

Rather than the straightjacket of traditional call centres and rigid process driven job roles there seems to be a viable alternative in the form of homeshoring.

British Telecom is conducting extensive testing with home based teams, whilst Microsoft Uk currently has 92% of staff doing up to 60% of work from home.
The Benefits of Homeshoring:

- Enrichment of job role
- Cost reduction in project set up due to lack of physical buildings
- No Commuting
- Greater flexibility in workable hours
- Reduced recruitment costs
- More time spent with family and friends
- Utilises web based technology to enhance management

A Lesson Learn't?

The corporate world may have learn't a valuable lesson from the off-shore experiment. Try before you buy… (and drive your customers mad!)

Homeshoring has a warm feel to it and looks great on paper, but what are the risks?

- Security and data protection
- Productivity and performance
- Effectiveness of remote management


The industries due for a change, no one can argue with that. Customer service is appalling in the UK and seems to be have been hindered by technology (think automated waiting systems) rather than developed.

The question these companies should ask is ‘by enriching an agent’s job role, can we improve customer service in an efficient manner whilst retaining control?’ The BPO phase should have taught us this if anything.

Do you have what it takes to work from home?

Could I Really Work From Home?

For most of us, its the ultimate dream. Wake up at a casual 10:00 am, boil the kettle, put the computer on and ease ourselves into a relaxing day of home working.

Why wouldn’t it be? Commuting on our busy roads to stuffy offices and adhering to rigid sets of procedures and time frames is not much fun. For most of us its like school without the learning or the challenge.

Add to this:

The unfunny (who thinks he’s funny) boss
The slimey sales guy
The Christmas party
That idiot who sits behind you!

The endless repetition detracts from your quality of life and forces you to spend most of your time in a place you don't want to be.

What are the alternatives?

Why not become a virtual agent and start homeshoring? I'm not talking about the average 'waste of time' web opportunities or pyramid selling either. You could receive a fixed salary, flexible hours and a fulfilling job role.

Sound good? Think further...

The idea of working from your kitchen or living room is very attractive as it places you in your biggest comfort zone - your own living space. The place you go when your not working and seek to be when you are.

However, what happens when this dynamic is altered by having to work in the place you normally rest?

-Distractions from family and friends
-Private phone calls or people at the door
-You're having a hard day and cant be bothered. Where are you going to go -your already home!
-How ill do you have to be to warrant a day off?
- No one to turn to for help and your getting stressed!

Are you really self motivated enough to work unsupervised and actually care about what your doing? One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of people to take your place, if you decide its not for you.