8th October 2019 3 minute read
From the 7th-11th October we’re celebrating National Customer Service Week. The theme for Day Two is ‘Capability: Identifying and nurturing customer service skills’. Ricky Alfred, Head of Responsible Business at Capita Customer Management, explains how investing employee wellbeing can boost your customer service delivery.
You cannot have strong healthy businesses without strong healthy communities, and that extends to your people.
Supporting your people to be fit and well, and giving them the means to stay that way is crucial if you want to have a sustainable business.
Within customer management our people are delivering excellent customer experiences for our clients’ customers. To do that they need to be at the top of their game, and we want to help them stay there.
Looking after your people is not just about access to water, good lighting, comfortable seating; the health and safety aspects. It’s about supporting them in a much wider way for their own physical and mental wellbeing.
For some, that might mean joining a gym at reduced rates to stay fit, and we have a range of benefits to support people’s physical wellbeing in that way. But there are others who might feel that their mental health is not where they would like it to be, and they need support too. For example, our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) enables people to chat to someone - other than their manager and do it in complete confidence, so they can discuss their issues, discover what to do next and where to get help.
Customer service comes with its own wellbeing challenges
Our people are key to our success and it’s absolutely right that we should be helping our people bring their whole self to work, be fit and well, and be in the best position to deliver the excellent work they do delivering for our customers.
Within customer service there are additional considerations, seasonal ones, which we need to be aware of when supporting the wellbeing of our people.
If you look at the big retail customer days – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, the run up to Christmas, even big technology launches like a new iPhone – contact volumes will rise dramatically, and this certainly places extra pressures on contact centre teams. These are times when our clients really need our teams to be at the top of their games, because these are critical revenue earning periods for them.
Our team have always put measures in place to support our people when peak periods come around, such as making sure they’re well hydrated or having ensuring everyone is taking their breaks. We even have a masseur come into to help agents relieve stress or tension. Our whole team play their part in making this a fun time.
The emotional toll of a busy peak
But there is another element to those peak periods that can have a particular impact on the wellbeing of customer management advisors and teams. It’s inevitable that we start to see more calls from customers who may be in a vulnerable position, especially among our utilities clients as winter comes and bills rise. Unfortunately there will always be societal pressures around this time that encourage people to spend more than they should, and for many, end up in financial hardship.
Those conversations can be very difficult and very demanding. So we put in interventions and have developed resilience training that will help our people cope with them and maintain their own mental wellbeing during what can be tough, emotional and distressing interactions. This programme will continue to be rolled out across the business.
Employee wellbeing is a long game
With campaigns aimed at physical and mental wellbeing, the results are often cumulative – a long game if you like. The more we see friends and colleagues at work take advantage of these benefits and gain from them, the more confidence people have in using these services and that they will help. It’s not just words on paper. If I’m ever in that position I know the system is going to work for me. We are all human beings; we like to see things happen.
Having been close to the development and roll out of our own programme, there is a definite buzz when people realise that it’s real, it’s long-term, the company’s leadership mean it, and it’s not just going to disappear in a few months.
With mental wellbeing, that commitment is even more important – we cannot just pay lip service to it. There is still a stigma around talking about mental health. For some it remains an intensely private and personal matter that individuals find difficult to share. By consistently confirming that as a business, you are committed to supporting people in the long term, gives them the confidence to come and talk to us when they feel ready.
If we can be there and help someone at a time when they need that support, that’s great. It’s a well-known truism, but it’s still true that if you look after your people, they will look after your customers.