How homeworking reduced cost per call by 30% compared to bricks and mortar centres


Bupa started its homeworking journey back in 2014.  

From staff satisfaction surveys, the company knew that homeworking was of interest to employees (especially from a work-life-balance (WLB), health & well being and money-saving perspective) and wanted the know-how & expertise to one day offer it to its contact centre agents.  

The Sensée Partnership has allowed Bupa to learn, as well as realise operational benefits including:

  • An expanded recruitment talent pool, especially within the untapped market (i.e. people who couldn’t otherwise get into the office): Bupa’s operations are currently located in two highly competitive areas for contact centre employees – Salford and Staines.
  • Office cost savings: Especially given that Bupa was planning to downsize to a smaller office in Salford
  • Hardware costs: With Sensée’s Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model, people are responsible for their own equipment/broadband connections,  engendering a different attitude to downtime (with people much more eager to ensure that everything works).
  • Happier employees: Homeworking led to a reduction in unsociable shifts for office workers (with homeworkers more willing to work these shifts) giving rise to less attrition and therefore less new recruitment expense
  • Greater efficiency
  • Business continuity: Setting itself the challenge ‘could we get our homeworking staff up and running from home within 30 mins in the event of an emergency?’

Adding value 

Early on, several Discovery sessions took place around IT, risk, recruitment, training, Learning & Development, and Planning/Scheduling.  Dual Line Management was introduced as Sensée learnt Bupa’s business and Bupa tapped into Sensée’s homeworking management expertise. 30 advisers were recruited. 

By August 2020, numbers had increased to 120 FTE, with Bupa recently requesting a further 30 FTE at short notice to assist with Bupa Mobile App & website queries via webchat, email and telephony.

Sensée advisers manage calls from personal, company & corporate customers.  They deal with everything from detail changes to complex assessments of a customer’s condition against eligibility criteria, on occasions booking treatment.  Advisers often deal with vulnerable customers and are extra vigilant to ensure effective support.  

Sensée is now fully embedded into Bupa’s operation. It is self-sufficient within the Bupa Academy, conducting its own induction coaching rather then relying on Bupa trainers.  Sensée Team Leaders/Managers also frequently speak with Bupa Managers about changes that affect the entire operation – such as Project Evolve, which focused on the unexpected challenges of Covid-19 and involved additional workload for specialist call types. The teams meet weekly to discuss customer complaints and adviser coaching, conducting weekly/monthly staffing & performance reviews.  

Sensée has shared its processes for improving AHT in weekly workshops and, in August 2020, ran a ‘day in the life’ session for Bupa covering: how Sensée people manage/structure their days remotely, use technology to manage remotely, use ‘tone of voice’, and combat isolation/maximise engagement using the Sensée LiveDesk virtual workplace.


The Sensée scheduling model is very important to Bupa.  Bupa models its schedules around fixed patterns (e.g. 9-11 Monday is its busiest period and by the middle of the day often has too many people).  So it uses the flexibility of Sensée’s annualised hours model to staff around peak demand periods, as well as increase staffing during busy seasonal periods (i.e. Jan, Sept, school holidays and Xmas).

Occupancy (i.e. the time advisers actually speak to customers on the phone) is another key factor.  “Sensée runs at 95% occupancy.  Normally we’d be reluctant to do this but it just works” says Bupa’s Tom Doran. “Sensée Advisers can book split shifts in one or 2 hour blocks.  Normally people would get burn out if they worked 7 hours non stop but it works for shorter periods at high occupancy.  We’d love to get our people doing the same but it just doesn’t work in a fixed location centre.  The model allows us to plan overall schedules right down to 30 min intervals.  It’s a tap that can be quickly turned on and off and is therefore very scheduling efficient.” 

Another positive aspect of the Partnership is that it has allowed Bupa to introduce homeworking internally in response to feedback from its people. 

Internal trials began in January 2019 when 10% of Bupa people volunteered to work-from-home part time.  In Feb 2020, that trial was extended to 50%.  The knowledge and experience gained through partnering with Sensée put it in a great position to conduct the trial.  Initially, Bupa experienced some technology issues (hardware, software, headsets etc.) as people made the switch but overall the knowledge/experience it had gained ensured a smooth transition.  

Homeworking quickly became a win-win for Bupa and its people.  Homeworkers reported significant WLB benefits (no commute to work time/costs, spending more time with the family) while Bupa benefitted from reduced absenteeism, enhanced productivity & improved engagement. By early 2020, it started to explore more flexible shift patterns (using the Sensée methodology) for its people. 

In March 2020 everything changed with lockdown – with 90% of Bupa contact centre personnel being asked to work-from-home.  While it wasn’t an easy time, Bupa was well prepared. Understanding the importance of flexible resourcing, Bupa offered its homeworkers flexible shifts so that it could operate for short periods at high occupancy.  The move was so successful that managers reported Advisers frequently asking for more work!  

Bupa dropped no contact centre performance markers during lockdown – and CSAT and Employee Engagement both rose.   


  • The relationship is a true Partnership with Sensée an effective extension of Bupa’s bricks and mortar (B&M) centres.
  • Sensée consistently delivers against Operational KPIs – including Quality Assurance, Complaint Logging & Resolution and Ex-Gratia Payments.  On occasion, Sensee achieves higher than in-house teams (e.g. July/August 2020 for Complaints Resolution). 
  • Sensée also delivers consistently against Commercial KPIs – including Utilisation (the time advisers are on or available for calls) of circa 83% (pre Covid), Occupancy of 95%, and Contacts Handled per Hour (often 50% greater than in-house). 
  • Bupa only pays for the hours Sensée supplies, not for IT (or other downtime) and is not billed for breaks.  This massively reduces shrinkage and delivers a 20-25% cost saving. Overall, homeworking has reduced cost-per-call by 30% compared to Bupa’s B&M centres.
  • Homeworking has allowed Bupa to dramatically reduce office costs by facilitating the move to a smaller office.
  • Sensée has delivered last minute resource to deal with system outages, power outages, unexpected spikes in demand & unplanned shrinkage on several occasions. Without this, Bupa wouldn’t have been able to serve customers at these critical times.
  • Sensée meets all regulatory requirements including FCA, CQC and Bupa’s internal controls. There is strong governance and excellent communication channels between the management teams.
  • A high level of engagement exists within the Sensée homeworking team and there is close collaboration with Bupa colleagues.  Despite everyone working remotely, the team is very close, regularly holding social sessions – even online Easter and Xmas parties!


“Over the last 4 years the Bupa and Sensée relationship has continued to strengthen. Sensée is a trusted partner that provides insight in a transparent and honest way.”

Mark Davies, Customer Contact Director, Bupa

“It’s testament to the technology & professionalism of Sensée that when a Bupa member calls there’s no difference from their perspective whether they’re speaking to an Adviser in a Bupa centre or a Sensée HomeAgent in Scotland.  As we’ve built our internal homeworking over the last two years we’ve always turned to Sensée models & best practices.  They are the benchmark against which we measure our own performance”.

Tom Doran, Remote Working Lead, Customer Contact, Bupa

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