“Consumers don't like call centres—it's an indisputable fact. The anecdotal evidence is everywhere, but more scientifically, an ICM poll found that four out of five UK consumers feel "stressed and frustrated" at having to deal with them.
“And almost two-thirds say they "loathe" the experience. Little wonder then that life on the other end of the line can be pretty miserable. The average call centre employee is more likely to phone in sick than any other worker. Company loyalty is rare: staff turnover runs at around 25 per cent each year across the industry, but it isn't unheard of to come across levels of 100 per cent …
“In between all the fun, First Direct's call centre staff receive an average of 10 calls every hour—or around 28,000 conversations each weekday. Not many people's idea of a blast, but management must be doing something right. At 14 per cent, staff turnover is way below the industry norm. Happy employees are good to have around if you want satisfied customers. Last year, a GfK NOP survey recognised First Direct as the best call centre in the UK for customer service. This year, it won the Your Money award for best online bank.
“And while many customers seem satisfied, some look obsessed. Every year, the company receives calls wishing staff a happy Christmas. Some customers call daily, often with personal rather than banking matters …
“According to research, 59 per cent of engaged employees say that work brings out their most creative ideas. Only three per cent of disengaged workers say the same.
“‘Getting innovation through organisations demands people to be completely committed’, says MacLeod. More pertinent to First Direct, which relies heavily on reputation, ‘67 per cent of engaged employees advocate their organisation’. Only a tiny fraction of disengaged staff make the same effort.
“Jayne Carrington is managing director of HR consultancy Right Management. Her company's research into employee engagement shows ‘44 per cent higher retention, 56 per cent customer loyalty, 50 per cent more productivity’—and all in a business likely to be ‘33 per cent more profitable’. It's a compelling set of figures.
“Carrington says reputation receives a boost from engaged employees because they radiate positivity for the brand. First Direct's efforts to place engaged employees at the heart of its business has ‘paid dividends in terms of reputation and shareholder value,’ she says. ‘Two colleagues said when talking about First Direct, 'they are brilliant, I love them'. That advocacy, that customer loyalty and the reputation First Direct has, comes through their staff.’
“To measure levels of engagement, First Direct employees are surveyed annually by HR group Kenexa. Senior consultant Christian Roome says that the bank's engagement scores ‘stomp all over’ the competition, making its staff among the most engaged in the financial sector.”