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Delivering customer contact services with agility & sensitivity

From the Knowledge Centre

Huwaida Ismail, one of Echo’s Bristol based Team Managers, discusses her role and shortlisting for a European Contact Centre and Customer Service Award (ECCCSA).

It’s an exciting time for me here at Echo – particularly since I’ve been shortlisted for one of this year’s European Call Centre and Customer Service Awards (ECCCSAs)- under the Rising Star category.

I was nominated for my work on the Historic Royal Palaces account – an exciting project that Echo won to manage the sales and customer care for the ceramic poppies exhibited as part of a major installation at the Tower of London last year.

It has been a really interesting account to work on in my role as Team Leader. From the initial client brief back in August, the Echo team was up and running quickly to meet especially tight deadlines. This meant having a full agent team trained and ready to help customers within less than a week!

While the ultimate goal was to sell each of the 888,246 ceramic poppies, this account also needed to be handled with real sensitivity. Each agent was trained to be fully aware of the sensitivity of the project’s commemorative element, and I enjoyed the challenge of striving to achieve the right balance between escalating performance requirements while still operating to the high standards expected by our customer.

Initially we managed inbound orders, before quickly evolving skills to deal with order query management and, finally, customer service support when the process of delivering ceramic poppies began. We even had to liaise closely with the packaging and delivery contractors.

From the outset we had to be really agile in our approach with this account, as we couldn’t accurately forecast predicted call demand levels. With hindsight it’s easy to grasp just how significant this event was, with the ceramic poppy installation designed to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War certainly capturing the Nation’s interest. To say that our customer service team was busy is a bit of an understatement!

We knew that the project’s customer service requirements demanded high levels of flexibility, including the coordination of hugely variable call volumes around major events and media coverage following events such as high profile Royal visits. When HRH The Queen visited the installation our call volumes shot up. The team and I immediately received some 6,500 calls when we had been receiving an average of 350 per day to that point.

Despite such a marked rise in demand, I was really proud of the way my team helped to respond, remaining calm, collected, yet efficient and organised while working under pressure - but also continuing to ensure that customer service expectations continued to be met or exceeded.

We made a specific impact on customer service delivery by championing the requirement to quickly transition team members between tasks. To facilitate this we ensured the team was trained across all service channels and account management tasks. Now our agents can easily switch between written and admin work in quieter periods, but quickly move to inbound call activities, responding to unscheduled customer demand in a coordinated and smooth manner. This has helped us here at Echo to maximise productivity and minimise idle time making the account cost-effective too.

It was certainly a unique project to work on and while I’m sad to see it come to an end this month as the last of the poppies are delivered and customer service enquiries answered, the ECCCSA judging process has provided me with a good mechanism to reflect on all of the work we did here at Echo. I just hope that, following a very thorough presentation to the ECCCSA shortlist judging panel, the judges will turn out to be as impressed and proud as I am!

Huwaida.

About the author

Huwaida Ismail

A finalist in the Rising Star category of the 2015 European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards, Huwaida is one of Echo's Team Leaders working in our Bristol contact centre managing inbound and outbound campaigns on behalf of our clients.

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