Using homeworking to extend opening hours and boost employee engagement

Introduction of Family-friendly Shifts

Operating in a fiercely competitive market, this leading insurer is under pressure to optimise every part of its business: people, operations and technology.

As a company that’s committed to its people, it is also keen to maintain high levels of employee engagement and low attrition – a task that’s made difficult by intense labour market competition in and around its two UK centres.

In 2017, as part of its comprehensive Employee Engagement strategy, the company introduced more family-friendly shift patterns within its contact centres – effectively ending shifts after 6pm as well as many weekend shifts.

While regarded as a positive move within the business, it also created a significant resourcing problem. How could it maintain long opening hours (8am – 8pm) when it had fewer people available to work the more inconvenient service hours being offered to customers?

First Homeworking Steps

Homeworking was identified as a possible solution and introduced within a satellite office. Around 120 people were given Citrix-enabled PCs and asked to work-from-home either part or full time. Unfortunately, the trial quickly faltered. Employees had received little prior warning about the move and many found it simply wasn’t for them. With little to no experience of what it took to manage a large team of homeworkers, Managers and Team Leaders also struggled in multiple areas from communication to scheduling, maintaining motivation & productivity, training and monitoring the health & well being of remote workers. The team of 120 people quickly dwindled.

A Pilot Project

It was at this point that the insurer turned to Sensée and, after extensive planning discussions, a 9 month pilot project commenced in April 2018.

The project involved over 134 Sensée advisors providing general phone-based customer service and sales support to the company’s car insurance customers.

Support focused on two key areas. First, evenings and weekends – a strategy that dovetailed neatly with the company’s new family-friendly shift policy. And second, plugging the small scheduling gaps that occurred during the day where the insurer didn’t have the right number of people available, with the right skills, to meet the expected volume and nature of contacts. Sensée’s ability to micro schedule was absolutely key in this regard. With its TeamTonic scheduling solution able to schedule right down to 30 minute slots, the Operations team could simply review its entire daily/weekly/monthly workforce schedule, identify the gaps, and use Sensée personnel to fill them.

It was a flexible approach that delivered significant advantages to the insurer when it came to the commercial arrangement. Rather than specify a precise number of hours required every week/month, it was able to call on Sensée resources via a combination of mandatory hours and on-demand hours using a flexible ‘interval slot delivery’ approach. It also meant that the company only paid for the hours that Sensée delivered.

Moving towards a Longer Term Partnership

Following the conclusion of the pilot in August 2018, the partnership moved forward with changes to the number of contracted mandatory hours, as well as changes in the commercial arrangement.

Under the new approach, the Minimum Contracted Hours (MCH) that Sensée was required to work could be flexed up and down by up to 20% to drive even greater scheduling flexibility, while the requirement to work evenings and weekends was dropped in favour of a mid-week morning focus.

Sensée continued to support the company’s car insurance customers as well as help its client with new business and service calls.

In addition, a new contractual arrangement was introduced that combined payment by productive hours worked with payment by performance. The latter involved a calculation of performance based on 20 key KPIs (from AHT to renewal rate, CSAT, NPS, Quality, New Business sales and more).

The partnership built successfully over the next year. And when the contract was renewed in August 2019, a new skillset was introduced – Renewals. By August 2019, the contract had grown to 212 heads (covering Advisors, Team Leaders, Deputy Team Leaders and Floorwalkers).

Over the next 12 months the Sensée team continued to overcome challenges and frequently went the next step to support its client:

Upskilling the team to email handling to assist during the early stages of the Covid-19 crisis when it was transitioning its own people to home working
Uncovering several ‘ghosting rings’ (where fraudsters have attempted to set up multiple cars on the same policy, or cover multiple drivers on a single policy) potentially saving our client thousands of pounds

Sensée’s advisors and Support & Management remained professional and positive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and feedback from the company’s Internal Quality Team has regularly praised the efforts of Sensée’s advisors. Customer feedback has also been very positive.

2020 Sensée performance against key KPIs is presented in the table below:

Leading Insurer stats

My Story – Kathryn

Where do you live? Berkshire

What’s your background? Before joining Sensée I worked in Catering and Hospitality. I am a mother to two girls.

Why did you join Sensée? I was looking for a full-time career role that would be both challenging and rewarding and, critically, allow me to work from home so I could spend more time with my children.

What’s your role at Sensée? In 2010, I successfully applied for a role at Sensée as a customer service agent. I took well to the role, became a top performer, and within weeks was promoted to Team Leader. Since then, I’ve never looked back. I progressed to an Account Manager (serving Rank Interactive and Photobox) and am now a Service Delivery Manager overseeing the Allianz and L&G accounts and disaster recovery.

What do you feel about working for Sensée? Working from home not only gives me the flexibility to fit work around my parental responsibilities but also a fulfilling career. I work with a great team of people and although we work apart, we’re always in contact whether that be over IM, the Sensée LiveDesk or phoning each other when we’re on breaks. The flexibility to choose my own shifts is also key. I love the peace and quiet of homeworking and honestly don’t miss anything about the office… except maybe the coffee breaks!

“Kathryn oozes commitment and a hunger for being great at all she does. In turn, the team respect and look up to her. She does this so effortlessly whilst being a mum of 2 – I think that’s amazing!”

Ravinda Chana, Customer Support Manager, Photobox

DPD overcomes peak demand challenges with support from Sensée

Background

In 2016 DPD (UK) was looking to introduce a new supplier to support its customer services teams. It was looking for a partner focused on quality and who could provide a flexibility of workforce that could adapt to the changing requirements of a fast-growing and successful business.

Sensée was chosen because DPD felt it could provide flexibility and quality using its scalable homeworking model. The first engagement began in November 2016, with a requirement to ‘go live’ in February 2017.

Following the initial discovery, and a clear understanding of DPD’s requirements, a team was recruited. Virtual training was devised, and systems & processes put in place to support customer service delivery.

Day One

The Sensée advisers started an 8 day induction training on the 8th February, and took their first consumer calls on Monday the 20th February 2017. Once the team was up and running effectively, and achieving its quality and productivity KPIs, a recruitment plan was put in place to meet the retail peak in October and November. This entailed recruiting new teams from August and increasing weekly hours by over 400% within a 10 week period (850 hours per week to 4,000 by the end of November). This also involved changing the shape of the hours provided to ensure that service level was maintained and in accordance with DPD’s priorities.

In 2018, Sensée began to manage emails, including Investigations and Make it Right queues, which have a greater complexity and higher priority. Working with the DPD Planning Manager, Sensée has also been focused on call handling at specific times of day to ensure that the flexible resourcing model is optimised.

Measuring Performance

DPD manages its suppliers through a balanced scorecard methodology, with 5 specific KPIs around quality, productivity, service level and cost. Sensée averaged 95% against these criteria from June 2019 to March 2020, with consistently high levels of achievement in the following areas:

DPD achievements

Sensée came to be seen as a trusted partner that provided insight to DPD in a transparent and honest way. This has supported DPD in its initiatives to improve customer experience and increase efficiency.

Anne-Marie Cunningham (Head of Customer Services, DPD UK) said ‘We are truly delighted with our relationship with Sensée. They are extremely flexible and adaptable to our changing needs, and also proactive in finding better ways of doing things on our consumers behalf.’

Key Partnership Highlights

  • Sensée was able to overcome peak demand challenges in 2018, reducing email queues within 3 weeks of being made responsible for them. High productivity and queue management then maintained this level of service.
  • While focussing on quality of service, Sensée has been able to deliver the lowest AHT scores across the estate through a focused approach to optimising call control. It achieved an AHT in Q1 2019 of 280 seconds against a 330 second target.
  • Sensée has provided DPD with up to 25% extra resource in the form of just-in-time hours in order to cope with unexpected demand challenges. Sensée’s model allows home advisers to quickly sign up to those work hours deemed ‘more unsociable’ should the need arise, through the use of an annualised flex system. This has allowed DPD to move the Sensée resource quickly to problematic queues.
  • The Sensée resource planning team has helped improve consumer call queues by working with DPD to analyse patterns and volumes. This led to the introduction of a peak shaving model which allows sites to work together collaboratively for maximum efficiency and takes advantage of the flexibility Sensée offers. Since the introduction, performance against SLAs has increased by 15% across the estate.
  • Sensée has achieved an overall KPI performance level of 95% for the period July 2019 – March 2020, twice hitting the 100 points level. This composite score includes individual performance scores across KPIs for cost, quality, productivity and customer satisfaction measures.

My Story: Olamide

Where do you live? London

What’s your background? I previously worked in another contact centre homeworking company where I was self-employed.  I have a degree in architecture.  

Why did you join Sensée? When I had my first child in 2012 I was forced to give up my job as it wasn’t possible to be absent for over 30 days as a self-employed contractor.  I was attracted to Sensée when I learnt that it was a fully-employed role that supported new mums and provided the flexible hours that would enable me to work around my childcare duties.

What’s your role at Sensée? I joined Sensée in 2012 as a HomeAgent on the Rank account.  Shortly afterwards I became pregnant with my second child.  After returning to work I moved to the Photobox account as a Deputy Team Leader, and now work across two L&G teams (15 HomeAgents) in the same role.  I’ve been fortunate during my time with the company to assist in many different areas. This has included helping out the Recruitment Team and more recently delivering Retentions Upskill Training on behalf of L&G.   

What do you feel about working for Sensée? I love the work, the variety of my role and especially the way it allows me to work around my childcare duties.  Typically I start at 9am after dropping off my kids (now aged 6 and 8) and work till 3pm.  I then work later after settling them down after school.  We have lots of people in the company in a similar position to myself – single dads, working mums, others who are carers for relatives who require doctor and hospital appointments – and we’re all appreciative of the situations of others.  It’s not uncommon for people to fill in for others using our ‘skill swap’ facilities when they can’t make a shift because of an unexpected event.  We may all work remotely but team members have so much connection simply via typing.  I think I’m an example of living the Sensée dream… I have been given the opportunity to do things I never expected to do in my career.

My story: Owen

Where do you live? West Sussex

What’s your background?  I left University in 2017 with a Retail Marketing degree.  After a spell in sales, I joined Sensée in 2018.

Why did you join Sensée? There was lots of pressure in my sales role, lots of commuting and I didn’t feel much job satisfaction.  I wanted more freedom, less formal hours and I was attracted to the Sensée virtual model.

What’s your role at Sensée?  I joined the company as an Agent for a parcel delivery client.  After 9 months I was promoted to Team Leader and, in 2018, moved to a Team Leader position with SSE, managing a team of 14 agents.  I support them in real time within the Sensée LiveDesk environment as well as by one-to-one communications via email and phone.  I also manage IT issues on behalf of the team, conduct weekly and fortnightly performance reviews, hold weekly client meetings, and send out daily stats to agents and other managers.

What do you feel about working for Sensée? I love working with my team, trying to create a great team spirit and sense of community with fun, competitions and camaraderie.  I want my team to enjoy the benefits of homeworking and not miss out because they are not in a physical office. I’m also ambitious and see lots of opportunity to progress within the company.