Monthly Archives: April 2012

Dynamically scaling your sales team with cloud

One of the biggest pressures sales contact centres face is scaling.

Ideally, you want to sell consistently, and allow your delivery to scale accordingly and maintain supply.

Inevitably, either through seasonable fluctuations, unseasonal variables (market reactions, extreme events, competitive events), or just poor or great sales performance, your sales figures will challenge delivery, or your delivery will be spinning its wheels waiting for orders.

Having the ability to scale your sales-focused contact centre up or down to compensate is a tremendous advantage. Staffing is the major issue, and a good blend of permanent, casual or part time salesforce is critical. So, how do you scale your technology accordingly? One of the best solutions is to source your contact centre services from a cloud provider.

Cloud contact centre service providers provide dynamic scaling that allows you to add functionality as you go, at very short notice. Contracts can be agreed that permit you to reduce your capacity, thereby reducing your financial burden.

The other obstacle is accommodating or finding office space for additional agents on the sales team. The significant advantage cloud contact centre solutions provide is the ability to deploy at multiple sites, so if you run out of desks, simply use a secondary location.


Guy Elliott, Head of Product Management at GSN

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How to pervert the NPS system

A few months ago I was interested to notice my bank teller had a notice at her station describing the typical Likert scale used for NPS responses. It shows promoters as “in the green” with smiley faces and the description “I would recommend you” passives as yellow and detractors as red, sad faces and the description “I would never recommend you”.

Highlighted beneath is the statement that their expectation is the teller will provide you with “10 out of 10 service” (subliminal perhaps?).


I was thinking about how this might influence consumers, and the impact this would have on the whole NPS statistical model. Potentially, consumers might feel they were placing themselves in the red, bad group by responding as a detractor. I don’t think people like to be thought of as either “passives” or “detractors”. I am sure Fred Reichheld used these labels in a “statistical” manner, never intending the respondents to be thus labeled individually. The primary point of the NPS referential question (“Would you recommend us?”) is to judge the subject of the survey, NOT the respondent!

So I was at my local bank branch again today, and they’ve change the notices. They are even MORE likely to influence the outcome of an NPS survey now! They have removed the passive category altogether. A 9 or 10 is a good response, while ANYTHING else (1-8) is considered “Not GOOD Service”. They are CLEARLY attempting to influence passive respondents up to promoters.


What do you think?

Guy Elliott, Head of Product Management at GSN

Concerned with Cloud security?

When it comes to the Cloud, is it simply a trade-off between cost and security? Dr Zia, from Charles Sturt University, voiced his concerns in a recent article published in the Australian. According to Dr. Zia, privacy measures and security are not as strictly adhered to by offshore providers, as they are by Australian Cloud providers. Are you looking to incorporate Cloud services into your IT strategy, but are worried about the security of your data? It’s a common concern, but one that GSN is suitably experienced to answer. Click here to pick the brains of a Cloud Contact Centre technology expert!


LOCAL organisations are trading cost over security by using offshore cloud providers, a security expert has warned.

Despite the rapid adoption of online services and cloud computing, security threats are not decreasing.

A study by researchers at Charles Sturt University found many organisations were moving swiftly to the cloud without making sure the information they put there was secure.

CSU school of computing and mathematics senior lecturer Tanveer Zia took part last year in a study of cloud computing service providers in India.

Dr Zia, a pioneer of CSU’s Information and Communications Technology Security Research Group, said the research found security controls used by offshore cloud providers were not up to international standards.

He said privacy concerns were not as strictly adhered to as they were in Australia, and that cost was a main driver for cloud computing adoption.

Dr Zia said there was no exact data on how many Australian organisations used overseas-based cloud-computing providers, but outsourcing was a widely adopted trend.

He said organisations could take advantage of cloud services from other countries at a fraction of the cost in Australia.

In many cases, data transmission from India to Australia were cheaper when compared with data transmission within Australia.

The 40 organisations involved in the study provided services to most Western nations, including Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand, but not many wanted to know, or were aware of, what sort of security methodologies they had adopted, Dr Zia said.

Some service providers that were handling very sensitive data had really few security measures.

According to the study, most organisations were engaged in using the cloud to host applications or their infrastructure and compromising security over the cloud would affect these two platforms directly and severely.

The research urged organisations to spend time assessing the security risk involved in moving assets to the cloud. and recommended the use of Secure Sockets Layer to secure cloud computing, but this technology was still under the radar for practical use.

Dr Zia said we were yet to see a practical security measure for cloud computing to be a safer platform and he would not recommend Australian organisations use overseas cloud providers.

CIOs, welcome to the age of disruption

Now, if I asked you what a CIO and a Chief Marketing Officer have in common, you’d probably laugh at me. Apparently, it’s a valid question and the answer lies in disruption. recognises changing business environments and customer experience as drivers responsible for the shuffle and creation of new C-level positions. For CIOs and CMOs alike, this means welcoming the new customer-centric and innovation-focused world with open arms.


Welcome to the age of disruption.

Organisations are experiencing a frenzy of restructuring. Currently, 60 percent of the companies in the Global 2000 are replacing the leaders in their top ranks, including their CEOs,

CFOs, CIOs and COOs, as well as their heads of marketing, legal and human resources. Historically, in any quarter, one can expect just 10 percent to 20 percent of Global 2000 companies to take such action.

At the same time, 20 percent of the Global 2000 are experimenting by creating new leadership titles, such as chief digital officer, chief customer officer and chief analytical officer/head data scientist. As those emerging titles suggest, IT and marketing will be the functions most disrupted.

CIOs seem to recognize this. During the CIO Practicum program at the University of Kentucky and the IT Value Studio series at Florida State College at Jacksonville, researchers asked attendees to come up with a name for the era we’re about to enter. The general consensus was “the era of disruption.”

One erudite CIO went so far as to quote Valentine, a character in Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia, who says: “It makes me so happy. To be at the beginning again, knowing almost nothing. . . . The future is disorder. A door like this has cracked open five or six times since we got up on our hind legs. It’s the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.”

It remains to be seen whether that happiness is widely shared. Just about every function in the enterprise is in the midst of a fundamental shift.

But the emphasis on IT and marketing is well placed. As Peter Druckerwisely observed many years ago: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.”

The new C-level positions are being created to handle tasks perceived as not being addressed adequately by incumbent CIOs and chief marketing officers.

Michael Moon, co-author of Firebrands: Building Brand Loyalty in the Digital Age, told the CIOs at the CIO Solutions Gallery at Ohio State University that we have entered a new age of marketing. He related how a professor of branding at Harvard Business School had this fact hammered home by his 13-year-old daughter when they were on their way to an Apple store. “Dad, you don’t know anything about brands,” she told her father, the erstwhile world expert. “If you have to advertise a product, there is something wrong with it.” This is the world and the customer set that many chief marketing officers fail to understand. It is why so many companies feel the need for a chief digital officer – someone to connect with, engage and delight the current age’s always-on, digitally savvy customers.

For their part, chief analytics officers are being asked to generate insights and formulate profitable actions from externally generated social and mobile data, as well as all the data that CIOs have been gathering from the extensive and unloved systems of record deployed over the past two decades.

Chief customer officers are responsible not only for ensuring positive customer experiences, but also for shifting corporate focus, so that processes and behaviors derive from customer needs rather than internal needs.

It will be fascinating to watch how these three new C’s play with the old C’s.

The Happiness Equation

I think I’ve mentioned it on here before. That is, how much I believe in ‘the happiness equation’. The article below from touches on it, but they forget to add the crucial last part. Happy staff = Happy customers. Most definitely. However, Happy staff + Happy customers = Happy CEO. And, why is that? What makes a CEO joyous about having happy customers? Well, it’s not really about happiness at all. Customers who are happy with your customer service are more likely to stay. Higher levels of customer retention has a positive effect on the company’s bottom line. Now, you understand why the CEO has a constant grin on his face. The moral of the story? Make sure your staff are the happiest of all.


In the customer service game, retaining staff and keeping them happy is key to success.

Last month we looked at the key elements of recruiting the right people as part of our top 10 strategies: I hope you identified ideas that could help you develop this in your organisation. This month we need to move to the next steps – getting new staff off on the right foot, so that you keep them, reduce headcount turnover, and improve morale and job satisfaction.

And the first thing to emphasise is that these points are intrinsically linked.

Let’s start with a simple exercise. Just put yourself in the place of a new starter to your organisation: a little nervous perhaps, into the unknown.

First impressions

To begin, what kind of a first impression does your organisation present? Perhaps the new recruit has already gone on your website to get a good idea of what’s to come. Does that create the welcome you want to show? Go have a look.

Then, what about actions you could have done before they start – pre-reading perhaps, site maps, directions, details of joining, etc?

This is the perfect time to get a new recruit excited about working for you, talking to parents, relations, and others. If you are in an appropriate business, what about getting them to try your products and services, experience stores, and your competition, looking to get them to change their products to yours? They might also get others around them to change habits too.

Then there is that first-day arrival.

Is there an appropriate reception?
Do your people know they are coming?
Is there a welcome?
Did you have a security pass ready for their first day at work?
Is there material to get them interested?
What about a few questions relating to the points above – did they enjoy checking you out?
What is the training plan?

I’m sure you can see many more ideas where you can make a great first impression, which could last a lifetime.
What are they going to say to their families when they go home?

This is a critical sign of how they will then continue working. An investment in that first day, and the first week, will pay huge dividends in developing a positive staff attitude to you, and your organisation.

Have they had the opportunity to mix with existing staff, meet management, settle in?
Do they know their job role and where/how they fit into the organisation?
Did you encourage them to ask questions?
Do they have a clear idea of their initial training/induction?
Have you identified any areas of relative weakness that might need working on?

All these issues, which can be covered over the first few days, will reduce the period of strangeness for the new employee, and give you a much better idea of their strengths, weaknesses and potential. Investing the time at this stage can save months of problems and work later.
Good mentoring and coaching

Over the last ten years, it has become very clear that, whilst formal training still has its place, more is often achieved by good mentoring and coaching by experienced and committed supervisors and managers.

Staff development is not a subject that can be delegated to HR departments, however good. Of course there is a need for them to be involved in making sure that standards are met across the organisation, and the right actions actually taken, but staff are the direct responsibility of line management – in fact, development of their team is the primary responsibility if they want to achieve long-term success.

This induction period is probably the single most important time for creating the culture and long-term morale of an organisation’s staff. It is too often neglected, skipped over, or misunderstood. Personal involvement by senior staff, and direct managers, is well worth the time and effort.

Next month we will look at the next steps to keeping this highly professional approach going.

Cloud computing number three

According to Gartner, cloud computing is the third technology priority for Aus and NZ CIOs. However, the number one business priority is attracting and retaining customers. So, if we were specifically talking about Cloud-based contact centres, this might be higher up on the agenda, given that increasing the level of customer service in your contact centre has the potential to elevate customer retention.


Mobile technologies have pipped cloud computing to become the top technology priority for Australia and New Zealand chief information officers, while attracting and retaining new customers is the leading business priority.

Analyst Gartner today released the results of its Executive Programmes 2012 CIO Agenda survey, and while cloud computing led the pack last year, this year it’s been relegated to number three on the technology priority list, behind mobile technologies and analytics and business intelligence. According to Gartner it’s the productivity implications of smartphones and tablets which are driving this surge of interest.

A year ago it was cloud computing which led the way internationally, with local and international CIOs ranking it the lead item they wanted to address.

In terms of business priorities local CIOs nominated attracting and retaining new customers, increasing enterprise growth and reducing enterprise costs as the top three issues on the agenda.

In the final quarter of 2011 Gartner surveyed over 2,300 CIOs globally, 132 of them in Australia and New Zealand, about their budget plans for 2012. Local CIOs were forecasting a 1.3 per cent IT budget increase, ahead of the 0.5 per cent global figure.

But before getting too smug, ANZ CIOs should perhaps reflect on the statistic that their average tenure is 3.8 years compared to a global average of 4.6 years.

According to Gartner the top ten technology priorities for ANZ CIOs in 2012 will be:

Mobile technologies
Analytics and business intelligence
Cloud computing
Collaboration technologies
Tackling legacy
Content management
IT management technologies

CIOs to increase spending on Cloud

This article from states that CIOs intend to increase their spending on Cloud, which is not surprising. However, the point I find interesting is that most respondents of the survey think that Cloud will cost more in the short term and pay off in the long run. What about the lack of CapEx needed for a Cloud project? And the ability to adopt an OpEx model? Surely, eliminating the upfront cost of infrastructure will deliver large cost savings?


Six out of 10 US companies already have at least one application in the cloud, and 71 percent expect to increase spending on cloud services in the next 12 months, according to a recent IDG Enterprise survey of 554 IT professionals, including 357 heads of IT.

Most respondents (64 percent) agreed with the statement that cloud computing will mean higher costs in the short term, but will save money in the long term.

Barr Snyderwine, CIO of Hargrove, an events management company, says using the public cloud is his way of keeping costs down. The company is using an online collaboration tool for document sharing because “it’s so cheap I can’t say no,” he says. “We are probably saving money in the long run on the [business] continuity side.”

In fact, 84 percent of the survey respondents cited business continuity as the top business driver for their cloud investments. Snyderwine says he is also looking to put Microsoft’s Exchange in the cloud as part of his continuity plan. “The comfort of having completely redundant servers is very, very attractive,” he says.

In the survey, respondents said other top business reasons for moving IT to cloud services include speed of deployment, gaining the flexibility to react to market conditions, and improving customer support.

Tim Walter, CIO of CrossCom National, a retail systems provider, has a different reason: He’s moving company data into a private cloud in hopes of achieving greater data consistency and integration. “You can get systems in the same cloud to talk [to each other],” Walter says.

But putting data in the cloud also carries risks: 70 percent of the respondents said security concerns are the top barrier to their adoption of cloud computing.

Walter says one challenge is having data from different types of customers in the cloud, because each customer has different security needs. “We look at who requires the tightest [security] levels and try to work everyone else toward [those],” he says.

Three simple steps to a customer-focused culture

Does your organisation boast a customer-focused culture? Or, are you struggling just to keep your clients satisfied? Start looking at your business from your customers’ point of view.


1. Be ridiculously easy to buy from

Such a simple premise, but the implications are bountiful. Think about the last time you wanted to buy something. Was the process pain-free? Or, was it lengthy and frustrating? If a customer has gotten to the stage of purchasing from your business, don’t stop your efforts there! This is the easiest time to impress them and make a colossal impact on your bottom line. Go back to the last purchase you made… if the process was pleasant, you’re likely to return to the same place again. We’ve all heard the stat that it costs five times as much to obtain a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. So, why do so many organisations disregard this opportunity?
There’s many ways you can ensure your customer purchasing experience is an effective and efficient process. Consider who your customers are and how they like to buy from you. What is the most convenient process for them? Many businesses find that their customers want flexibility in the times they can call your company. An automated payments application will ensure your customers can complete their transaction at any time of the day, and without needing to wait in the queue to speak to an agent. If you adopt this strategy, make sure your provider is PCI DSS compliant, so security concerns aren’t an issue.


2. Value your customers’ time as if it is your own

We’ve all called a contact centre, only to wait on the line for what seems like an eternity. It’s this waiting time, where a customer is becoming so frustrated that they consider chewing off their arm that is holding the telephone; that you are setting yourself up for a negative experience once the customer actually talks to an agent. It’s true that making customers wait their turn for a certain amount of time is often unavoidable, but the way you handle high call volumes makes all the difference. Consider implementing a call-back service. This function enables customers to request your agents call them back rather than waiting for a lifetime on the other end of the line. When an agent does call them back, odds are they‘ll be a lot happier than if they’d waited on the phone.

Another gripe, that annoys customers more than anything else, is having to press countless irrelevant numbers on the keypad through countless round with the IVR just in the hope of one day being able to talk to a real person. Don’t get me wrong, the IVR is important as it does automate a lot of the repetitive tasks that customers often need to perform on a regular basis, and makes life a lot easier for your agents by pre-determining the reason for a customer cal. However, the reality is that a lot of people simply want to speak to an agent and some queries cannot be appropriately handled by an IVR. Your IVR needs to be the enabler in this situation. It can cater for those that only want to press a few buttons and be done with their call in record time, and for those who want to speak to a rep ASAP. Make sure your customers have the option to speak to an agent as early as practically possible.


3. Listen to customer feedback (even the negative ones!)

Finally, in your quest for a customer-focused culture you need to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. How do you that? Well, you need to know what they’re thinking and how they feel about your service. The best way to do this is to implement a survey solution. Surveys can be done at any time, by a phone call to the customer requesting they complete a survey on their experience with your contact centre. The problem with this strategy is the time lapse between the survey and the customer call. A smarter way to seek feedback is to ask customers to do a short survey at the end of a call, before they hang up. Opt-in rates will be significantly higher and the service experience will be fresh in their mind. Also, you need to pay attention to the high and low scores. These are where your best insights from your customers come from. A good way to probe into the reason behind a score is to record free speech from a customer when they rate you a 1, or 2, or a 9 or 10 (on a 10 point rating). This allows you to see why that customer had an extremely positive or negative experience, and act appropriately.


If you follow these three steps, you’ll be well on your way to customer-focused culture superstardom! If you have any questions about how to implement any of the aforementioned strategies, please get in in touch.


Tessa O’Brien

Director of Rainbows & Butterflies at Global Speech Networks

+61 9005 0607 or +61 400 551 694

Should you turn performance management into a game?

Turning performance management into a game? Risky and clever all at the same time. For high achievers, this could be an extremely motivational technique, but what about the average performers? Would it encourage these people to aim for high achiever status, or dishearten them, resulting in an even lower level of performance?


A lot of people get addicated to Xbox games, consistently trying to beat their best score.

So would it be possible to turn performance management into an equally addictive game?

Achieving a high level of performance from a team of agents is one of the biggest problems a call centre manager faces. Some agent roles are basically dull and repetitive. Motivating people to do these jobs is usually done through a combination of targets, financial incentives and the carrot of potentially moving up into a better job or supervisory role at some point in the future.

Carrot and stick

These solutions work, up to a point, but they require a certain amount of enforcement. Maintaining a high level of performance is a bit of a battle, and inevitably some conflicts arise.

The idea of making performance management into a game is simple enough. Games are fun. Make work fun, and people will want to do it, without needing to be told. Games have been used in call centres for years, mostly as a relatively short-term motivational measure to inspire a burst of competitiveness and to boost productivity.

Could performance management be made into a game?

But what if performance management itself could be made into a game? Effectively, this would change the psychology of performance management – providing a powerful, lasting incentive for employees to perform to the best of their ability at all times.

Chris Thomas, Workforce Optimisation Business Manager at Aspect, has looked at introducing this change to customer service performance management.

“Although the actual use of games as a performance management tool might be considered a novelty, there is something to be said for the idea,” said Thomas. “Understanding how playing games affects the way that humans think and behave can be an effective technique to promote soft competition among employees, as well as motivate staff to hit targets.”

It is not necessarily about taking the tried and tested call centre games and running them indefinitely on a much bigger scale.

“The enjoyable element of game play, which encourages and excites people, can be replicated in the workplace to mirror these emotions towards working goals and targets.”

Nobody like to lose

The downside to fostering a competitive spirit is that people get disheartened when they lose. Nobody likes to be beaten, especially not at work. Any move towards the ‘gamification’ of call centre performance management would have to avoid creating a straightforward competitive environment in which a victory for one team or employee would mean that someone else would lose.

No zero-sum games

One solution is to celebrate and reward employees’ performance in terms of their own individual standards. Instead of competing against each other, employees compete against themselves.

“For example, top performers are rewarded and celebrated, but low performers’ performance is not exposed, instead showing personal bests, etc. There is a competitive element, but it is kept trivial and fun, instead of daunting and aggressive,” said Chris Thomas of Aspect.

Incentivising agents to beat their own previous best takes away some of the potential aggression of competition. But it also has a limited shelf life. How many times can an agent improve before performance levels off and the incentive fades?
What makes a game so compelling?

To illustrate this, let’s have a look at some of the motivational games we featured last year in this article.  In particular, the ‘Pod Wars’ game played at Domestic & General provides a good example of how elements of the psychology of game play can be used for longer-term performance management.

In ‘Pod Wars’, agents sit in teams at workstations (pods) and compete against a rival pod. When an agent makes a sale, they get to ‘sink’ the agent sitting in the corresponding seat in the opposing pod – like in the popular game Battleships.

“People find it really engaging; it ignites competitiveness, builds comradeship and helps the team to bond. We extend this further by awarding prizes that the whole team can participate in, such as a night out, a spa day or a group lunch,” said Domestic & General Site Operations Manager Ben Dale-Gough, speaking to Call Centre Helper in February 2011.

Team Games

Whilst agents in ‘Pod Wars’ compete against each other directly, they do so in teams. If an agent is ‘sunk’, the team is not necessarily defeated. In fact, that situation could even further motivate the remaining players on a team to make a sale or hit a target and strike back to level up the game.

However, ‘Pods Wars’ is still a game in the traditional sense – played for a finite amount of time, before staff go back to their usual routine work. So how could the motivational ‘carrots’ become a part of everyday call centre life?

Offering different levels of incentive may help. For example, an agent who makes the most sales in each individual hour of the day could earn him or herself a small prize. This does not need to be anything too costly – something such as an extra break or five minutes to play on a games machine in a communal area could be effective. There would also be bigger, longer-term prizes. For example, the winning team each week might win a restaurant dinner, or the best-performing agent each month might win a spa weekend.

Small incentives

By offering small incentives each day or hour, or for personal bests, the game is kept open to the maximum number of agents at all times. Nobody is too far from success. If it is seen as being within reach, agents will stay motivated.

This game-like approach is often associated with sales activity, but it can be adapted to fit the culture of any call centre.

“Extracting the psychology behind game play to build performance measures that encourage individuals based on what level they have attained can be an incredibly effective tool,” said Chris Thomas of Aspect. “It can also be implemented across any kind of target-driven business.”
Less about the game, more about the players

Performance management is always going to involve an element of struggle. It is unrealistic to think that agents will enjoy their job and be fully motivated every hour of every day. If that were the case, ‘work’ wouldn’t be called work.

By working out the mechanism by which a game becomes something enjoyable and compelling, call centres can create an environment in which agents want to succeed for their own benefit, rather than resenting targets imposed by managers because they see no positive impact for themselves.

Creating a shared vision

Ultimately, turning performance management into a game is about developing agents and creating a shared vision of performance levels. With everyone pulling in the same direction, performance management becomes less of a challenge.

Is performance management a game in your call centre? Share your views in a comment below.