We get it. Analytics is big business. But what message are you sending your employees when you display management information on TV screens, and what impact does it have?

Publicly displayed information is influencing the mood of your employees every minute of every day; the way it’s displayed, the colours you use, the messages it sends to our conscious and subconscious. Making sure you get the right message to your employees takes some thought, but get it right and the benefits are enormous.

There is a pervasive mentality in our industry around, “if something can be measured, it should be measured.” What usually follows is then something far worse: If something is being measured, we should use it to control people and punish them when the numbers aren’t what we want them to be.”

SJS CEO Steve Pace worked as a commercial analyst for TNT Express for two years and then spent 3 years analysing KPI’s and mystery shopper results. He regularly used this information to help increase the performance of customer care centres, and fell into the same trap: A one-dimensional view of human performance.

For the last 17 years, Steve has devoted his life to helping organisations get the most from their Customer Care personnel. SJS frequently encounter organisations who make the mistake of taking management reports and displaying them in full in their call or contact centres.

’So, what’s wrong with this’ we hear you ask? After all it’s a cost-effective way to inform agents, supervisors and managers of call volumes. Well, in order to be effective and avoid any negative impact on morale, engagement and employee satisfaction, all communications need to be audience specific. Taking reports designed for managers and displaying them in front of agents will create negativity and increase disengagement. This is because these reports tend to highlight the negatives and often include information agents have no control over. More importantly, Management Information does nothing to tackle Employee Engagement in any way. In fact most agents we have spoken to over the years dislike their Wallboards and Dashboards for that very reason.

So, what’s the solution? How do you motivate people with metrics? First of all, start by asking yourself three simple questions:

  1. What improvements do we need to make to help us reach our goals?
  2. What do we want to achieve by having information publicly displayed on TV screens?
  3. How will this data help my agents be more autonomous, productive and better equipped to master their role?

By reflecting on these questions as you design your contact centre visuals, you gain deeper insight into the power of the numbers, and the damage they can do if you pick the wrong ones. To increase morale, engagement and satisfaction, to recognise excellence and support your teams, you need to question the value of every metric you display, and not just have numbers on a screen because they represent things than can easily be measured.

So, can you use metrics to motivate people. The answer is “Yes,” – but probably not in the way you currently think! SJS can help you to develop SCARF-compliant environments which support employees, rather than penalise them for numbers they have no control over. Our approach uses metrics in the correct way to shape behaviour, drive improvements and keep everyone happy.

Click here to request a free, no-obligation branded demonstration today, and we’ll show you how.

I recently sat down with Steve Pace – SJS Solutions CEO – and asked him a really difficult question. I asked him how he feels organisations can create certainty in uncertain times.

Our industry, like many others, is facing unprecedented stresses and challenges as a result of the devastating impact of COVID-19. We know that our clients are facing challenges never faced before. This is all leading to huge amounts of uncertainty. The impact that uncertainty has on employees simply cannot be underestimated. Uncertainty causes an increase in social pain. When you increase pain, you increase the production of stress hormones, which increases stress, decreases productivity, increases disengagement, increases sickness… the list goes on and on and the cycle is unstoppable.

Before we could address my question, we needed to establish what we mean by term “Certainty.” At SJS, everything we do informed by the research coming out of the Neuro-Leadership Institute. In the SCARF framework, Rock (2008) defines Certainty very simply as, “our ability to predict the future.” This doesn’t mean that we need to develop psychic powers! Rather, “Certainty” means how confident we are about what is going to happen to us in the future. The more confidence we have about this, the more certainty we have.

Back to the question I asked at the start of the interview: Given all the changes every person and every organisation is facing right now – how can employers create certainty in the middle of all this uncertainty?

As someone with years of experience in this field, Steve explains that there are a couple of simple – but effective – things that organisations can do to give their employees certainty, lower their stress levels and protect their well-being:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate! This is very much a two-way street. Clear, purposeful communication from managers really increases certainty. When people know what is happening in the business, they are more able to work out how things are going now, and might in the future. This helps to build consensus and lower stress. Remember: listen to your employees as well. And I mean really listen! Give people the opportunity to talk about their work and how they see themselves in their role. Ask them how they can help the company to meet its goals and they will be more engaged, productive, happy and certain.
  2. Share common goals, resources and strategies that everyone can use to help the organisation reach its goals and meet its targets. This gives everyone certainty because they are able to row together in the right direction! When goals and resources are shared, you have increased transparency as well. When everyone can see the goal – and how they are going to work as a team to get there, certainty is guaranteed.
  3. Repetition increases people’s sense of certainty, and the research on this is crystal clear: Provide regular opportunities for people to repeat desired views and you will increase their certainty. For example, monthly staff surveys can be used to gather people’s views. During meetings, you can ask colleagues to re-state their position on something. Ask them to state other people’s position on topics or decisions made as well. Some companies ask employees to be very active on social media by liking and sharing company content. All of these things increase certainty and will help lower stress and improve engagement.

In closing, Steve offered one final piece of advice: Certainty is essential to the healthy operation and wellbeing of any organisation. “Without certainty, you have uncertainty… and you don’t need a background in psychology to understand why that’s going to kill your productivity.”

Optymyse Version 6 has a number of innovative features which – when used properly – will help build confidence, increase certainty and protect the mental well-being of employees at every level of the contact centre. Get in touch with us today to book a free consultation call and we’ll show you how to do it.

Image credit: Tim Gouw. Pexels. 2020

According to ContactBabel’s 2017 US Contact Centre Decision-Maker’s Guide, 53% of contact centres report that it costs them more than $1,500 to recruit a single agent. More worryingly, 11% report that it costs them more than $3,500 to recruit one agent. When you consider that the average call centre has an attrition rate of between 30 to 50%, the annual recruitment cost for a single, 50-seat call centre is a staggering number.

Three years later, we continue to talk to our customers, and we hear that the situation is not improving. All of them are experiencing the same kinds of expensive problems as before. Problems such as high staff turnover, high levels of stress, high levels of absenteeism, and – along with that – high recruitment and retraining costs. These four expensive issues don’t exist in a vacuum or in isolation. They are very much inter-connected and exist in a cycle. Most contact centres we work with are trapped in this cycle, which will repeat endlessly unless proactive steps are taken to break it.

Of course, there are some easy things that can be done. Increasing base salary has been shown to be the single most effective strategy for reducing attrition. However, what often happens is that contact centres would rather invest money on expensive new phone systems than increase salaries. Furthermore, an increase in base salary won’t solve the attrition problem in the long term, because it does nothing to reduce stress and improve the working environment for the agents themselves.

So, how do you break the cycle of agent turnover and drive meaningful, sustainable, long-term change? What’s needed is a systematic approach to lowering that initial first level of stress. At SJS, our whole approach is based around using the latest findings from neuro-scientific research to help you influence others and improve the workplace environment. We know that the way to do this is through S.C.A.R.F.

S.C.A.R.F. is an acronym and it represents five domains that influence human behaviour – in any situation, but especially so in a high stress environment like a contact centre. The S.C.A.R.F. approach was developed by neuro-leadership expert David Rock who states that our behaviour is influenced by our sense of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness. Together, they spell out the word S.C.A.R.F.

Status is how important we perceive ourselves to be to other people.
Certainty refers to our ability to predict the future. (Not in the sense that we’ve become psychic, but in the sense that we can be confident about what’s going to happen)
Autonomy is linked to Certainty, and refers to how much control we feel we have over what is happening.
Relatedness is how safe we feel with and around others.
Fairness relates to our sense of how fair we perceive the exchanges between two people to be.

This is important to know, because every time we interact with someone, there are things that we do – both consciously and unconsciously – that either reduce or increase any of these five factors. Any time something happens that lowers our sense of status, or reduces our certainty for example, causes an increase in something called, “social pain.”

“Social pain” is a term that describes a kind of pain that is perceived in the brain. Evidence from fMRI scans has demonstrated that social pain is perceived in the same way, using the same parts of the brain as physical pain. Because the body processes social pain in the same way as it processes physical pain, every time we cause someone to experience social pain, it’s the same as if we had physically hurt them.

Once the body begins to experience any kind of pain, the reaction is certain. If you cut your finger with a sharp knife, the response pathway in the brain, and the physiological response in the body is the same as if somebody treats you unfairly, lowers your certainty or reduces your status. The first thing that happens is always hormonal, because hormones are what cause our responses. When you cause someone to experience social pain, they is a release of adrenaline. This is not good, as it results in the classic “fight-flight-freeze response.

You know which of your agents are the ones that – when they feel threatened, have their status reduced or are given less autonomy – are going to freeze, which ones are going to stand their ground, and which ones will run away. “Run away” could literally mean running away from you but, most often, it translates into absenteeism, sickness and – ultimately – agent turnover.

The good news is, it’s very easy to do things that increase people’s status, certainty, autonomy, sense of relatedness and sense of fairness. When you do this, the opposite pathway is equally guaranteed. Increasing somebody’s status or treating them fairly, for example, not only decreases social pain perception – which is very important – but also causes a different hormone to be released. This hormone is called Dopamine.

Dopamine is the habit-forming hormone, and it is incredibly powerful. Dopamine is the hormone that makes us do things like check our phones every 5 seconds. It is the physiological basis for human addiction, and it activates our reward pathways. When Dopamine is released, people feel rewarded, calm, safe, and relaxed – and this is a very addictive feeling.

Using the S.C.A.R.F. approach not only helps you build capacity and unlock other people’s potential – it reduces stress and it’s the only way you are going to break the expensive cycle of agent disengagement and turnover. The great thing about S.C.A.R.F. is, now that you know a little bit about it, you can actually begin to influence people’s behaviour just by knowing about it. Studies have shown that knowing just the basics behind S.C.A.R.F. gives you self-awareness and self-certainty to subconsciously influence your behaviour in ways that mean you can then influence other people in positive ways. Believe it or not, people will be subconsciously aware that you have certainty – and that will give them certainty. Talk about a win-win situation!

Optymyse from SJS, combined with our in-person workshops and training, will give you the tools you need to break the expensive agent turnover cycle. Get the expertise to start building a truly S.C.A.R.F. compliant contact centre environment: Contact us today to get started.

Did you know that the 18th – 24th of May is mental health awareness week in the UK?

At SJS Solutions, we understand the importance of taking care of each other, especially during these stressful and uncertain times. Did you also know that Optymyse was specifically designed to improve the mental wellbeing of all contact centre employees? It’s literally the reason why the product – and our company – exists.

In case you are not already aware, here are 5 top tips to help you make sure Optymyse is working effectively to protect the mental health of all your agents:

  1. Schedule important events. Humans are social animals and we love being recognised and celebrated. With Optymyse, you can bulk schedule birthday messages, work anniversaries and whole host of other events that will help your agents to feel valued, recognised and connected.
  2. Set up Boolean triggers. Are your dashboard alerts creating a negative environment by penalising agents for things they have no real control over? If so, you could be seriously impacting your agents’ mental wellbeing. Optymyse Smart Contact Centre Visuals allow you to set up Boolean triggers which allow you to improve performance whilst treating employees fairly and avoiding unnecessary stress and panic. 
  3. Add a Social Media scroller. Providing your agents with live information is a fantastic way to increase their certainty – and lower their stress levels. Why not add a Twitter feed to your wallboard so they can keep up-to-date with company announcements as they happen? You’ll be surprised what a difference it makes.
  4. Use Live Updates. Let’s face it, no-one likes unpleasant surprises! They can be stressful and can make people feel like they are losing control. This is not good for anyone’s mental health. Using Live Updates lets you keep agents in the loop as real-world conditions change. This gives your agents the autonomy and confidence to effectively deal with customer queries, and creates positive experiences on both sides of the conversation.
  5. Deploy Optymyse Agile. Many agents are currently facing the added stress of having to work remotely – often in inappropriate office environments without the all-important social interactions that they need. Optymyse Agile allows agents to take their Smart Visuals home with them – giving them access the metrics and messaging in a familiar and easy to use format, as well as keeping them socially connected.

We’ve put together a short, 2-minute video showing how these features look, how they can help you to optimise your contact centre and – most importantly – how they can help protect the mental wellbeing of your agents – https://youtu.be/N4J0-WWEc_4

If you’d like our assistance with creating a SCARF-compliant template, or if you would like to order Agile licenses, please Contact Us we’re happy to help!

As many countries look towards easing their lockdown restrictions, we’ve been reflecting on what we can do to help. We have put together a list of 5 things we think will reduce stress and protect your employees when they return to work:

1.       Make sure your employees know the new rules around hygiene and social distancing:

There has been so much uncertainty in the world of late, so the best thing we can do now is make sure you keep this clear, practical information available at all times. With Optymyse, you can do this by including virtual noticeboards in your Optymyse templates and you can also share public health videos.

2.       Reconnect socially:

Show how much you care about your agents by scheduling birthday and work anniversary messages so that they appear regularly on your wallboards. This lets everyone feel valued, recognised and connected – and will also help lighten the mood.

3.       Keep communicating:

Keeping employees informed of what is happening operationally will allow them to be more prepared for the types of questions they will receive from customers. The scientific evidence shows this will reduce stress – leading to an increased customer and employee experience.

4.       Empower your agents to deliver the best possible customer experience:

In order to ensure long term survival, taking care of – and retaining – your customers is more important than ever before. Your agents are a critical part of the entire Customer Experience process, so consider sharing live CSAT metrics, customer feedback and NPS scores with your agents via Optymyse so they can take ownership of Customer Experience.

5.       Deploy Optymyse Agile Licenses:

If you are planning to keep some of your team at home in the longer term, consider deploying our Optymyse Agile Licenses. This will allow your home workers to get the same operational information they need as well as social messages, birthdays and anniversaries.

If you’d like our assistance with creating a #backtowork template, or if you would like to order Agile licenses contact us, let us know. We’re happy to help!

Prior to 2020, the idea that your boss might ask you to work from home was a bit like winning the lottery. Lovely if it happened, but probably a bit far-fetched. Prior to 2020, the idea that your boss would force you to work from home would have sounded completely absurd! Be careful what you wish for.

It’s happening a lot right now. In the United States, big name companies like Microsoft, Amazon, Apple – even NASA – are mandating that their employees work from home where possible, for as long as possible and the UK is “working from home”. We are truly in unchartered territory. 

The current coronavirus outbreak has taught us all many things. It has opened up huge philosophical questions and made us re-evaluate our purpose. We’re learning more and more about how adaptable we are, but also about actually how many jobs it is possible to get done remotely. Many industry experts are starting to question whether this is the beginning of a fundamental shift in how we all work – and whether things can ever be the same again. Are we witnessing the end of the commuting and could this be what our planet needs? 

Only time will tell of course. In the meantime, the most important thing for all of us is to stay safe and try to ride this storm out with our mental and physical health and our economies intact. At times like this, governments and industries need contact centres like never before. As stock prices plummet, travel options shrink and health concerns grow, people get anxious. This means that call centres are increasingly being left with the very human task of helping millions of people get answers to questions that have simply never been asked before.  

At SJS, the Coronavirus situation has got us asking the big questions too: How can we take care of employees when we’re not allowed to see each other? How can we best help our customers help their customers? Can a contact centre be run from home during a lockdown situation? We are doing everything we can to support you so you can in turn do everything you can to support the people who need you most right now. This is why we’ve been giving away FREE Optymyse Agile licenses to support remote working during the Coronavirus outbreak. 

With an Optymyse Agile license, you have the complete flexibility to take your regular Optymyse wallboard home with you and display it on a mobile phone or tablet device – without the need for a second screen! Bringing Optymyse home means that you have access to the same real time metrics as well as the important messages and alerts which support and encourage your teams. This will not only help keep everyone mentally well and motivated as they adjust to working remotely, but it will also allow them to better support your customers during this incredibly busy and stressful time. We’ve made a short video to show you how it all works. You can watch it here. 

To take advantage of this offer and claim your free Optymyse Agile licenses, email [email protected] or visit www.optymyse.com today. 

Stay safe and healthy out there. We’re here for you every step of the way!

After 30 years working in and around contact centres and the companies which sell tech to them I have the answer.

It’s painfully simple, but because it requires dealing with subjects most contact centre vendors, their partners and IT managers are ill equipped to deal with, it’s often missed or not given the attention it deserves.

Let’s start by taking a closer look at contact centre technology companies, these organisations spend a huge amount of time and money trying to bring new features to market before their competition, then they convince their partners that these short lived USPs will solve contact centre problems. The reality is the real challenges facing contact centres almost always stem from workforce related issues like: absenteeism, disengagement and staff turnover.

 “Which has the biggest impact on success of contact centres, meeting the needs of the IT Manager or meeting the needs of the agents?”

It’s much easier to buy new technology than it is to take a good hard look at why employees (agents) are stressed, feel unappreciated and are disengaged, and make the necessary changes to address these issues.

You could compare it to health; most people would rather take a tablet as an alternative to a change in lifestyle, even though this approach will often increase the chances of disease in later life. The same can be said for contact centres!

The UK Customer Satisfaction Index[i] recently announced their results for 2020 at 76.9, 0.8 points lower than in January 2019 and its lowest level since July 2015!!

Other studies which look at employee engagement and satisfaction also report little or no improvement, meaning the contact centre industry as a whole has a serious problem – the tech is not doing what customers expect it to do.

The answer is both the responsibility of the companies who buy contact centre tech and those who supply it. In fact the contact centre industry as whole must start to tackle workforce issues, because unless the human beings (agents) delivering service to customers have a damn good reason to work harder, make less mistakes and take less time off, they simply won’t. This is happening all the time; nothing is changing, customers remain frustrated, staff turnover rates remain high and technology alone is unable to counteract these problems.  

Buyers have the biggest impact on the way contact centre solutions are sold. Demanding help with key issues like employee engagement and other damaging workforce issues will allow you to find partners who have the skills and knowledge to deliver real change for you (we are fortunate enough to work with some of these companies), more importantly by demanding help in these areas you force those companies who skirt around workforce issues to change.

Including your CS teams in the selection process is another powerful way to force vendors to deliver the knowledge and tools you need to succeed.

I am proud that SJS is part of the answer, but I worry that this downward trend in customer satisfaction and dismal employee engagement results will continue, and companies will continue to spend millions to simply stand still or get worse at keeping their customers happy.

If like me you want to see change, all you’ll need is a basic understanding of neuroscience and to treat your agents in a way that makes it easy for them to do their best for you. Getting started doesn’t have to be complicated but the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll feel the benefits. This employee centric approach will then force the contact centre tech companies who claim to “improve customer experience” to place the needs of your agents front and centre. Thank you and good luck!

Arrange a free chat with SJS – https://www.sjssolutions.com/contact/    


[i] The January 2020 UKCSI results are based on 45,000 survey responses, 3,000 from each sector except for Transport and Utilities which includes 6,000 responses each. Each response is a completed online questionnaire relating to a customer’s experience with a specific organisation. These responses are provided by over 10,000 individual customers. https://www.instituteofcustomerservice.com/research-insight/uk-customer-satisfaction-index

Written by: Stephen Pace, SJS Solutions CEO.

Relationships at work are incredibly important. Humans crave social contact and connection with other people. Unfortunately, for many contact centre employees, work can be a lonely place where the pressure of meeting SLAs, call handling KPIs and adherence targets make being social almost impossible. Add traditional “ You’re here to work not make friends” management and you have a toxic mix of stress, disengagement and disconnection that is guaranteed to increase your absenteeism and staff turnover levels.

The crazy thing about all of this, is that those same SLAs and KPIs, believed to be key drivers for higher levels of profitability and success are actually costing companies in terms of replacing burnt out agents, reputation and customer loyalty. For quick, inexpensive tips to tackle these and other workforce related issues plaguing contact centres, subscribe to our YouTube Channel and watch the latest extract from our “Using Neuroscience to tackle workforce issues in contact centres webinar series… https://youtu.be/Axl4tESuuGk

Full-time employees spend a majority of their time at the office, another reason why work relationships are so important. Science shows the levels of Relatedness (the R in SCARF) are linked to stress levels, productivity and general feelings of happiness, which of course is linked to Absenteeism and Employee Loyalty, two of the most expensive issues hampering contact centres.

Get invited to our next webinar: https://www.sjssolutions.com/newsletter-sign-up/

New figures from TTi Groups’ 24 Month Bench Mark Report suggests that Utility Companies which offer solid traditional contact centre services are at an advantage to those trying to push customers to use new technology.

So who’s been getting the basics right and delivering the best Customer Satisfaction and who needs to consider a back-to-basics approach? Well according to this study which includes 15 utility companies of varying sizes, there are some clear stand outs and congratulations in order to: Bristol Energy, OVO and Affinity Water.

At the bottom of the league table and where failings seem to lie in basic stuff like “Ease of Contact” we find Npower and Scottish Power. Not only worsed performers but a huge 27% deficit in performance compared to 13th place Utilita.

Customer Satisfaction League Table (using TTi Results)

Rank Name Result
1 Bristol Energy 9.25
2 Ovo Energy 8.78
3 Affinity Water 8.44
4 Anglian Water 8.00
5 Utility Warehouse 8.00
6 First Utility 7.76
7 Unified Utilities 7.50
8 Thames Water 7.00
9 EON 6.77
10 EDF Energy 6.68
11 SSE 6.56
12 British Gas 6.31
13 Utilita 6.25
14 Npower 4.56  ↓27%
15 Scottish Power 4.16

Learn how to use Neuroscience to improve or maintain your CSAT rankings with this free Webinar recording – https://www.sjssolutions.com/landing/watch-our-webinar-2/

To read the full report / source: https://www.tti-global-research.co.uk/utilities-sector-update-customer-satisfaction-benchmark-report

75% OF EMPLOYEES QUIT BOSSES, NOT JOBS

Even if you manage a small team, when you align the way you; measure, manage and motivate them I guarantee you’ll uncover hidden potential which will allow these employees to achieve more than they ever imagined, by doing so they will surprise you. As they grow they become more engaged and fulfilled making them grateful, giving you what you desire most…..

ALMOST 70% OF EMPLOYEES RECEIVE NO RECOGNITION

If you don’t have time to recognise the efforts of your employees, purchase software which does that job for you, even when you forget to.  Replace dashboards and traditional wallboards that focus on what’s going wrong and instead re purpose these TV screens to create SCARF compliant, brain centric content capable of driving and rewarding the behaviour you want. Learn more – https://www.sjssolutions.com/2019/08/20/how-neuroscience-guarantees-to-solve-your-workforce-issues/

ONLY 25% OF EMPLOYERS HAVE AN EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY

This is an Open Goal!!! And the best news you’ll ever get. In other words, if you start to focus on Employee Engagement today you’ll instantly have an unfair competitive advantage over three quarters of your competitors. Where do I sign? Add to that the joy you and your employees will experience when they start to feel valued, respected and fairly treated. Plus how much easier your job will be with the support, gratitude and respect of your team and surely it’s a no brainer.

P.S. It doesn’t have to be a complicated “change program” you can start by simply asking your employees what they like about working at your place vs others they’ve worked at and what would make them feel more valued?   

INCREASED ENGAGEMENT CAN INCREASE PROFITS BY AS MUCH AS 21%

Done correctly your employee engagement efforts will pay off at a level you could never have imagined. Your workforce issues will reduce, your costs will drop and your customer rankings will soar.

“Happy Employees = Happy Customers”

LACK OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT IS COSTING COMPANIES OVER $450 BILLION PER YEAR

Where do most of your costs occur?  Is it IT, office space, marketing, keeping the vending machine stocked? No! It’s your people. So it makes sense that when you meet employee needs your workforce issues start to go away and your company will start save money. 

The best part is when you meet the needs of your employees, your needs will also be met and your life gets easier. There is nothing more tiring and stressful than trying to hit targets when your team are disengaged.

For more about how SJS can help you create brain centric, SCARF compliant environments which support your employee engagement plan, start a conversation with us today – https://www.sjssolutions.com/contact/

Thank you to Martin Luenendonk of cleverism.com for sharing these 5 facts and inspiring me to write this blog.