Homeworking Tips…. from our experts on the Sensée frontline

Coronavirus is forcing organisations to rapidly change and adapt to new disciplines and business models.  Amongst the most significant of these is home working.

In a new weekly feature, we’ll be providing topical tips and advice from Team Managers and Advisors on the Sensée frontline to help organisations make a success of home working.  We hope you find them useful.

How do you separate your home and work life…..

“Journey to work is not just a physical distance to travel but a mental one too. Allow enough time before your shift to prepare for the day ahead.”

Jennifer, Sensée Services Adviser

…… organise your workspace?

“Make sure your office area is a nice place to work. Decorate with bright colours, flowers etc. You are spending a lot of time there so it needs to be bright and comfortable.”

Bev, Sensée Services Adviser

…… maintain your health and fitness?

“Even though I work from home I still ‘walk to work’. So I leave my front door every morning – which ensures no jimjams – and take a brisk mile or two walk around the block. I then arrive at work oxygenated and ready to rock.”

Nick, Sensée Services Adviser

…… not end up snacking all day!?

“Bring snacks! There is nobody else in the ‘office’ to steal them!”

Ryan, Sensée Services Adviser

…… motivate yourself?

“If you are honest, with a good work ethic, then home working will pose no issues.  If you use work for ‘social’ then you may struggle. So ensure you are part of chat groups to keep up with news, gossip etc.”

Sharon, Sensée Services Adviser

…… optimise your working environment?

“Have plants in the office. I have a venus flytrap called Audrey.  Taking care of her is part of my daily routine.”

Janet, Sensée Services Adviser

…… improve your work-life-balance? 

“I have a separate desk in a separate room in a quiet part of the house.  I get up, get showered, dressed and put on a wee bit of make-up (can’t do anything without my lippy!).  I leave the kitchen after brekki and off to the office.  Blu tack a ‘do not enter’ sign to the office door (important to let the family know my shifts and my breaks so they are respectful and quiet whilst I’m on shift).  When it’s time for a break I am pretty much guaranteed they’ll meet me in the kitchen with a coffee and a toastie.  A tik tok dance with my daughter ensures I definitely switch off for a wee while at lunchtime!”

Alison, Sensée Services Adviser

…… manage distractions? 

“If you now find yourself with other family members in the house, work out a solution for internet access that won’t interfere with your work. We are using an old android phone as a wifi hotspot with a pay-as-you-go SIM.  It gives my son sufficient broadband to do his school work and video chat with his friends.”

Denise, Sensée Services Adviser

…… decide what to wear? 

“I look in the wardrobe for something that speaks to me.”

Gill, Sensée Services Adviser

…… and what do you do during your breaks, and at lunch?

“Breaks are a great time to fit in the household chores that you usually save up all week. Hoovering, preparing the tea…. anything really so that when you finish work you have nothing to do.  It makes you organise your free time more effectively.”

Zoe, Sensée Services Adviser

MORE TIPS TO FOLLOW NEXT WEEK!

Why Homeworking is the Way Forward for Customer Interaction in the Current Crisis and Beyond

(Republished courtesy of Enghouse Interactive)

In light of many organisations having to work from home due to the current crisis, Enghouse spoke to Mark Walton, CEO at Sensée, a 100% homeworking operation that delivers customer communication services for leading brands across the UK, on how their approach is resonating strongly with businesses in these difficult times.

Gearing up for homeworking

Every business across the UK has been significantly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak and with the government’s recent advice that people, where possible, should start working from home we have seen makeshift offices spring up in dining rooms, bedrooms and studies throughout the UK. Many have got up and running quickly, working over VPNs, and communicating via mobile and video conference calls with their colleagues and customers.

Many organisations will find the benefits of homeworking around flexibility and scalability are compelling, even while the circumstances in which they made the move were serious and concerning.

It is not as simple as that of course – businesses need to think about issues like team management, scheduling, security and IT support. Yet, many organisations will find the benefits of homeworking around flexibility and scalability are compelling, even while the circumstances in which they made the move were serious and concerning.

Many businesses have considered homeworking – and been attracted by the benefits – but largely put it on the back burner. The current crisis has accelerated those moves immensely, however, with thousands of companies seeking out practical and easy to implement solutions, as well as practical tips and advice.

Finding the right answer in a crisis and in calmer times

When you shift the conversation away from organisations in general and onto contact centre operations, our area of specialisation, the range of potential benefits are arguably even more compelling. Social distancing is an issue in a packed office with tens or hundreds of contact centre agents – not so in a home environment.

When it comes to the COVID-19 crisis, like most companies, we have colleagues who have been affected. Given our homeworking environment though, our levels of absence are less than the average business, and interest in our homeworking solutions is higher than ever. The last few weeks have been extremely busy as we ramp up our outsourcing operation to support both existing and new clients, bringing on hundreds of new advisors as we do so.

The last few weeks have been extremely busy as we ramp up our outsourcing operation to support both existing and new clients, bringing on hundreds of new advisors as we do so.

Keeping our clients’ customer contact operations up and running at times of crisis is helping them reassure their customers that it is ‘business as usual’, as well as enabling them to deal with peaks in demand and keep customers informed and updated with relevant information.

Homeworking is also great for Employee Engagement. It is a flexible approach that can offer staff a better work-life balance, enabling them to fit their hours around existing commitments such as the school run or caring for an elderly parent. Homeworking also opens up opportunities for people who can’t access the normal office. 18% of the Sensée workforce are people who live with a disability, with a further 8% carers to people with special needs.

Overall, trends are very positive

Moving a contact centre operation to a home environment isn’t easy, however, and needs to be carefully planned in order for businesses to fully reap the rewards. Recruiting, managing and training staff all need to be carefully handled with a ‘virtual mindset’. The technology used will also be critically important.

Homeworking is also great for Employee Engagement. It is a flexible approach that can offer staff a better work-life balance, enabling them to fit their hours around existing commitments such as the school run or caring for an elderly parent.

At Sensée we use Enghouse Interactive’s Contact Centre Service Provider (CCSP) as a key solution to manage our multichannel customer contact operation. It offers a true cloud-based contact centre capability which gives our clients the flexibility they need to run an agile business. The solution also dovetails and integrates well with our other solutions such as planning, scheduling and forecasting so that we can get a complete picture of what is happening within the business.

So in summary, homeworking is very much at the forefront of business minds due to the current coronavirus crisis, with organisations looking for practical solutions that ensure business can continue smoothly. Sensée is seeing a large growth in interest from businesses demanding contact centre homeworking solutions that deliver full visibility, control, engagement, information security and scalability – and that can also fully support an engaged and flexible workforce. These are difficult and, trying times where, for many businesses, homeworking is the only option. However, we expect the current spark of interest and engagement in the approach to continue long into the future.

Sensée announces 1000 new UK work-at-home contact centre jobs

Sensée is creating 500 new permanent and 500 new temporary positions to meet the growing demand from its clients for work-at-home staff.

The vacancies are for Customer Contact Advisors, Team Managers and back office staff to work for new and existing clients – including Bupa and Hastings Direct – as well as for a number of Government departments. Start dates are immediate.

Sensée is welcoming applications from people of all backgrounds, levels of experience, gender and age. Contact centre experience is preferred but not essential. Customer service and other job-specific training is provided.  

“We urgently need new home workers to help our clients support their customers through the current crisis” said Mark Walton, CEO of Sensée. “Over the coming months, homeworking will have a crucial role to play in ensuring business continuity for private sector firms, as well as the effective management of citizen and business enquiries within the public sector.” 

Candidates can apply today for the new roles at www.sensee.co.uk

Sensée creates technology ecosystem for businesses to easily deploy contact centre workers at home

Homeworking specialist Sensée has launched CloudWorks™, a homeworking solution that gives organisations all the tools necessary to operate a home-based contact centre operation.

CloudWorks provides technology tools to assist with the remote management, training and co-ordination of staff working from home. It also provides communication and collaboration tools to keep remote workers supported and engaged, as well as the safeguards to ensure the most rigorous Infosec compliance. CloudWorks has ISO27001 accreditation and achieved PCI-DSS and GDPR compliance.

The solution, believed to be the only one of its kind, can be deployed remotely and will bring peace-of-mind to organisations for a fraction of the cost of other standard disaster recovery solutions requiring a secondary passive site.

CloudWorks can be deployed in as little as two weeks – even for large Enterprise deployments. Pricing is calculated on a per agent per month basis.

“The demands of contact centre operations means that a complete 360 degree solution is required that provides full visibility, control, engagement, and of course information security.”

“Homeworking is very much at the forefront of business minds due to the current global Coronavirus crisis” said Steve Mosser, Group CEO of Sensée “with organisations looking for practical solutions that ensure business can continue. For middle management, that may be as simple as ensuring all staff have a reliable computer and phone to work from home. For contact centre operations, doing so with scalability and cost-efficiency is lot more complex. The demands of contact centre operations means that a complete 360 degree solution is required that provides full visibility, control, engagement, and of course information security. CloudWorks delivers all of the above, and more, in a single easily scalable turnkey solution.”

A Complete Homeworking Ecosystem

CloudWorks is composed of four key technologies:

ASSETS™: A homeworker selection and on-boarding tool that enables employees to apply for homeworking, validate that their home office is compliant, and confirm their technology meets specifications.

LIVEDESK™: A Virtual Workplace for collaborating and communicating with homeworkers so that they are engaged and on the business pulse.

SAFEOS™: Sensée’s security framework that locks down the homeworkers’ (self-provided) computer workstation and regulates secure access to business mission-critical applications.

TEAMTONIC®: A sophisticated Scheduling and Tracking tool, tailor-made for the distributed workforce world (with support for multichannel working, split shifts, bid-swaps, real time SMS alerts etc.).

The CloudWorks ecosystem supports the entire Employee Lifecycle – from recruitment and on-boarding to scheduling, training and management – and is fully compliant with UK Employment Law.

Further information about our Disaster Recovery, Business Continuity and Peak Management services can be found here.

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.