Conference Gold Sponsor

Featured Posts

  • Welcome to Customer Contact Planning & Strategy Blog Posted 6 years ago
    Read on and enjoy our new conference blogs - scroll through the pages and add your comments.  With over 600 delegates across the two days, this event was buzzing, action packed and stacked with great ideas and loads of enthusiasm for making things happen.  This year we wanted to let you hear about this through the voice of our members - roving reporters who shared the insights they picked up as they went along.  These conference blogs are part of our strategy of involving members and friends of the Planning Forum in creating best practice materials that enables members to learn and innovate. Thank you to everyone who has taken part in this 2013 initiative.  
Read More »

Professional Planning Forum Conference Blogs


Feedback and news about the Annual Conference: Customer Contact Planning & Strategy 2013

Rachel the Roving Reporter!

Monday 29th April
5:30am.  Yawn – early start and a busy couple of days ahead – looking forward to seeing this years presentations and catching up with planning colleagues old and new!

10:00am – Great start to the conference, a packed out room with standing room only.  Good mix of first timers and regulars coming back year after year.  Newsflash – Paul Smedley used to breed donkeys – now how do I work that into my takeaways this year!

12:30 – Such a lot to the Concentrix presentation, clearly been a huge programme of change and improvement.  Good discussion on our table around the management restructure.  Many of us agreeing that the Team Manager role has changed so much over the years that this breakdown into People Performance Managers, Quality Coaches and Client Experts really drives a focus for our leadership and our teams.  The White Concierge STEP programme has proved its value with brilliant results – and of course everyone in that room now wants to go to the restaurant in Japan where you can be served by a robot!

14:00 – Plans of attending one of the lunch time sessions were foiled through catching up with other delegates!  It really says a lot about our industry that so many people come back to the Conference each year on a continuing quest for improvement and best practice.  Visited some of the stands in Expo and got an interesting demo from Graeme at QPC on a new reporting tool that tracks agent activity.

15:30 – Visited the EE and Avios presentations with my Barclaycard colleagues Jay and Heather.  It was a great opportunity for them to benchmark how we’re performing within our own intraday team and get some takeaways.    EE showed how a strong intraday team can really become a central, integral part of a big organisation.  Avios showed us that introducing webchat may not necessarily be as out of reach as we’d think, and with customers now having so many ways to contact us, shouldn’t we be ensuring we aim to get over our technical set backs and meet the customer needs?

17:30 – 12 hours later and there’s been so much to take in already.  Glad that the presentations will be on the website soon as I know my scribbled notes won’t all make sense!  Also loving the fact that all the presentations will be available on video.  With 4 sessions running concurrently its impossible to see them all but I’ll definitely be catching up on the ones I missed.  Peter Massey delivered a brilliant key note with Bill Price on video link up.  Fascinating how the seven drivers of customer happiness are relatable to so many aspects of our life. Peters presentations always leave you with a lot to think about and if you haven’t seen them already – you should check out the Budd website, great blogs and cartoons on there!   But for now, the serious part of the day is over and thanks to AOMi – its wine o’clock at the bar!

Tuesday 30th April
10:30 – LOVED the Daniel Pink cartoon, so simple with so much common sense – so why don’t we think like that more often? Incentives are such a huge part of the contact centre culture, and for at least 10 years now Colin Whelan has drummed into me (and everyone else who will listen!) quite rightly, targets drive behaviours.  So how come I’d never thought before about what drives people to contribute to so many forums and sites like Wikapaedia – FOR FREE! I will be watching the cartoon again and again, so fast moving and brilliant.  Well, even without the Lego, Sophie Patrikios presentation was one of the most refreshing presentations I’ve ever seen.  Made me think about how and why we implement change and drive improvement – how often do we have blinkers on to the wider impact?

12:30 – Carnival showed us how they have a brilliant culture of employee engagement.  Maureen and Julie are inspirational in their drive to promote this and how they continue to support and engage their teams.  Our table were really interested in the different types of shifts and how these are balanced with the business needs.  Similarly, Direct Line have created ‘Shift Choice’ and impressively hit 98% of staff with their first or second shift preference.  We liked the idea of having a set annual review of the shift patterns, how many of us wait until our shift patterns are ‘broken’ before we do our next shift review! 

15:30 – Well, after that presentation – who doesn’t want to work at Lebara Mobile!! I’ll be honest, I can’t imagine our Barclaycard customers reaction to some of the greetings their agents give, but what a totally refreshing contact centre.  I loved that they bring in people with experience of travelling without needing call centre experience – how many of our staff do we ensure have first hand experience similar to our customers – not always possible obviously but something to think about.  The BT presentation was such a strong example of how our industry is striving for customer efficiency.  Net Easy, is quite literally an Easy initiative for customers that gives staff the confidence that they are a part of making a difference to the customer.

17:15 – as exhausted as everyone was – the room was once again full for the endnotes by Simon Roncoroni and Nick Lane.  At the end of the two days, its impossible not to leave the conference with a new passion for success and with a raft of new and reinforced ideas to take back.  For me,  key takeaways are around regular shift reviews to encourage tweaks rather than starting from scratch each time.   Restructuring/reviewing  job roles to encourage development and expertise.  Using existing tools to introduce improved customer metrics.  And of course, the mental picture of a young Paul Smedley as a donkey breeder!

8:00 – Wednesday 1st May

Lots of tired and bleary faces at breakfast! yet another brilliantly organised Gala Dinner with great entertainment and very worthy award winners.  Robbie from ACAS and the guys from NHS were great fun (although  we should have won the quiz ) Good luck to everyone with their takeaways, maybe next year it’ll be you up on stage. 
See you in Brighton!

The conference

29th April:

05:30 – alarm goes off, which is always a fun time on a Monday morning.  Sneaking round house quietly so not to wake anyone before setting off to Chesford Grange

06:00 – failed!!  Woke partner, not a good start.  Right off I go….

07:15 – at Woodhall services, first traffic slow down of the morning…oh, Starbucks! Time for a caffeine stop

08:45 – Journey of stop start traffic, ARGH! Going to be late….

09:20 – phew, arrived at conference.  But sneaked in at the back of the hall and have missed Steve’s opening remarks.  Not a good start!

10:20 – bumping into some old friends, good to catch up and have a natter.

10:57 – late to first workshop to do some facilitation (supposed to be there 10 mins before start!!)  Bit nervous but looking forward to it

11.00 to 12:45 – great workshop, very lucky that I had some great individuals on my table who came up with some great ideas and thoughts.  Nice of Colin to get me to talk first just cos I was late!!!  But interesting to see round the room who was there and the thoughts they had. 

12:45 – bump into another friend over lunch and have a good catch up

14:00 to 15:30 – into quality workshop, which was a little disappointing.  Just as things got talking on the table, we had to move onto next point!  Met Aaron Gourlay for first time – led a discussion on 3rd party suppliers and quality.  God, does that guy know his stuff.  Just wish we had more time to discuss quality as it is such an important subject.  Better quality of service for our customers should lead to a better service, increased revenue and less service contacts.  Shame it felt a bit rushed

15:50 – 20 mins later than booked, finally meet with Nexidia – even though told that I have no purchasing authority (as all sits with outsourcer).  Meant that I missed the speech from Martin Wilson Hill – not happy!!

16:30 – back in hotel room (Ramada) – not the best hotel have stayed in but to be fair they are doing refurbishments.  Time to crack on with some work.  This is the bit of planning we don’t look at ourselves for.  We spend all day at a conference and then have to do our days work before enjoying ourselves – but I wouldn’t change it for any other job!

19:00 – text received from friends, they are in bar at Chesford Grange and about to go for dinner if I am coming across – dinner here I come..

22:30 – back to hotel, a good evening catching up and meeting new people.  Not the best dinner, buffet but choice was limited.  No option for a la carte, which was sad.  Telf still showing off about how well he did on the golf when I left.  Am sure he will be still telling the story in the bar at 2am!!!

Day 2
06:00 – comfy nights sleep and not too bad.  Get a walk in before breakfast – lovely start to day

08:30 – arrive at conference to book in for day 2

09:00 – first session was led by Paul.  Colin spoke first on Customer focus, managed to get Everton into his talk!!  I bet he was glad to go first, particularly when Sophie Patrikios from Lego started to speak!  She was funny, engaging and it was brilliant!  I liked how she said what they did wrong, what they learned from it and how they have taking the learnings.  This is the real world, it is not about getting everything right and Sophie’s speech did that!  She showed a lot of cohunas as well, laying self open like that.  So great in the conference to hear about what goes wrong rather than just focusing on what is good all the time.

11:00 – Customer focus session with Colin – a small session (disappointing based on the subject) but Colin was great.  He let the conversation run and changed the agenda round to give those in attendance a proper chance to discuss something important.  Covered the 4 reoccuring barriers to all questions.  Interesting to hear of the challenges being faced by others round the table (finance and water regulators), none of which I have, phew!!!  Great session to be in and got lots more from it

12:45 – that session went quick, another fave bit of the day, lunch!!!

14:00 – into the Lebara and BT sessions

15:20 – just come out of the sessions – good sessions, thought the BT was interesting showing the information on why move to customer effort.  Need to think how that would work in FGH (but how do we measure success is going to be key).  Lebara was interesting (on a personal note) to see how their culture works but don’t see them in the mix for the awards tonight despite a great presentation and clearly a fun place to work.  Cant see how that would work everywhere and I think a lot of people struggled to understand how it would work across their environment.

15:30 – meeting with Douglas Jackson – good to catch up with Lorraine after meeting her at the seminar in November.  A good chat about a number of things, clearly a person to keep in touch with

16:00 – bit late, get told to sit at the table at the front for the end of conference speeches.  OMG, there are some strong individuals around this table.  Three judges, the two end note speaker, the planning forum founder and chief exec.  Hope I can keep my own in the conversation round the table!!

17:15 – just leaving the conference – wow oh wow.  Such a great bunch of people, very friendly and shared some great knowledge.  So lucky to get to sit on a table with those individuals around it.  Great end speeches, Nick remains as inspirational as ever.  He is right about focusing on people, his passion really comes through.  I hadn’t heard Simon speak before but he was excellent and showed that customers really should be the centre point of any business (as well as the planning teams!).  Now, was his mentioning of rock and customer right through the middle a subtle hint of Brighton next year!!  Got a chance to speak to Simon and what a guy, he give some good thoughts and guidance to what could be done, a true champion of the customer and our industry.  Right, back to hotel to get ready for evening
Evening do…

19:20 – arrive at hotel, not in dicky bow and dj as would look a right bouncer but just in suit and tie.  But feel under dressed!!!  Oh, see a bar is open so go there for drink

19:21 – Oops, that was the finalist free bar to celebrate their success – how embarrassing for me!! Right off to the bar, need a drink to hide my glowing redness….

19:30 – so where am I sitting – nothing like make it difficult to find name by putting it in table order!!!!  Is it a test of our analysis skills!!  Right found me, table 25 here I come.

19:32 – Now, not being the smallest guy in the world, great to be put in the corner against the wall with not a lot of room around me.  Jessie, Darrel and Andy from RAC, Miriam (from Austria but didn’t catch where) and the wonderful lady from Therapy solutions (god, I cant believe I have forgotten her name!!).  They were all so friendly and very relaxed.  We all agreed to take in turn to move our arms to eat as not any space – note to PPF – a bit more space please for when we are eating, might help more for the chatting too…. 

19:40 – in coming the award winners, its like a wedding when clapping them in.  Hope they all made good use of the finalists bar!!!  Then on with the first game of the evening..  Thank god, Darrel and Paul Smedley knew what they were doing!!  So close though, just ran out of time to make it secure enough

20:00 – dinner starts to get served and games carry on most of evening. Disappointing dinner, to be honest, no flavour in the soup, Yorkshire pud was cold on main course (know from those around me that vegetarian option wasn’t great) but the desert was to die for!  Shame the whole meal couldnt be equal to the desert.  Know mass catering is hard but it was a small let down on the evening.  Great to have Paul on our table, watching him work the table and the people around him was really insightful

22:00 – Paul Smedley – the man is a legend and a great host, wine flowed very well on the table.  But getting accused of trying to get him drunk, I think he can do a great job on his own!  Now time to be quiet for the awards…

23:30 – time to call it a night as I have to leave at 6 in the morning.  Well done to BT but for me the most impressive awards were the hero awards.   Congrats to everyone though, those Planning Hereos were great and to see the surprise on their faces!!  We need more people like that in planning, those who really step up and lead by example…

Final thoughts
What a great event, very professionally organised and great meeting so many different people and companies.  I picked a couple of misses in my sessions but I expected that.  But I got so much out of the event, it was GREAT FUN.  But it was also hard work – this is not a jolly listening to those speak, you only get out what you put in.  To all planners, go to the conference.  This is the event to meet talent, debate with talent, learn so much to improve yourself (trust me, even if you think you cant be improved when you go to this event, you realise the gap between yourself and excellence).  And you get a chance to be a roving reporter!!!

On a serious note, I want to say thank you to all the planning forum team, I hope your hangovers have all gone by now.  You are the true heroes of planning, the ones that have made and continue to make a difference to our profession.  Thank you.

This article is written by the author, who takes full responsibility for the content. These are not the opinion of the Professional Planning Forum and we take no responsibility for accuracy, appropriateness or any other aspect of the content.  Please contact us direct if you feel any blog should be amended or removed and we will discuss this with the author. These conference blogs are part of our strategy of involving members and friends of the Planning Forum in creating best practice materials that enables members to learn and innovate. Thank you to everyone who has taken part in this 2013 initiative. 

What on-earth is Gamification?

One of the keynote sessions at the Professional Planning Forum’s annual conference this year included a presentation by Debbie May, General Manager, Enterprise WFO at NICE Systems.  I was surprised by the lack of recognition from the audience when Debbie talked about gamification and how it can benefit contact centres.  

While gamification might be a new term, there is nothing new about its motives.  Since the early days of contact centres incentives, competitions and rewards have been a popular method of motivation.  The only difference now is that technology has allowed the automation of the process to become even more inclusive and used for both motivation and education.  Gamification is all about employee engagement – putting people first.

The Aberdeen Group recently published a report confirming what anyone involved in the contact centre world has known for years ie that internal recognition for positive performance and competition with other team members are the top non-financial motivators.  So what are the benefits of automating the recognition and reward process by way of gamification:

Top Six Benefits of Gamification

1) Cost effective – awarding points and badges via an online game is better value for money than costly mobile devices or dinners for two
2) Not location dependent – online competitions can run across different sites, countries and continents.  Colleagues from across the globe can take part
3) Ongoing employee engagement – individuals can choose to compete against themselves.  Many agents want to do more – more calls, more sales, decrease average handling times gamification can be used for measuring performance
4) Faster employee induction/onboarding – one contact centre reduced its training time from 20 days to 14 hours and found more people completed extra training and advance learning modules using gamification techniques
5) Corporate goals – gamification helps align people’s actions to corporate goals  
6) Retain Talent – increased internal recognition leads to a decrease in staff churn rates. 

Where to start?
I asked Debbie May where was the best place to start in terms of gamification?  Her advice was to start small, walk before you can run (very appropriate – more about that latter) and begin with a phased approach in one site or department first.  Taking this approach means it is possible to conduct a pilot first before rolling out the “game” to the rest of the operation.  For example, NICE has gamification in its performance, compensation and workforce management modules with further releases on the way.  

Finally, for those of you in the keynote session at the conference, you will be pleased to hear that after a week in Rome, Debbie has just achieved her latest Best In A Day badge (30,000 steps) in the pedometer app she talked about.  

Other useful Links: -

Blog report from Mary Phillips, PR Artistry Limited
This article is written by the author, who takes full responsibility for the content. These are not the opinion of the Professional Planning Forum and we take no responsibility for accuracy, appropriateness or any other aspect of the content.  Please contact us direct if you feel any blog should be amended or removed and we will discuss this with the author. These conference blogs are part of our strategy of involving members and friends of the Planning Forum in creating best practice materials that enables members to learn and innovate. Thank you to everyone who has taken part in this 2013 initiative. 


The Technology Conundrum
While attending the Professional Planning Forum’s annual conference at the end of April I spoke to Tony Chambers, director of Strategic Communication Services (SCS) about the contact centre technology conundrum and how to solve it.  

Q: What is the technology conundrum?
A:  It is the old puzzle of the business asking IT what the latest technology can deliver and IT asking what the business wants.  We can all recognise this never ending circle which often results in hours of futile meetings, disruption and expense at the end of which the new technology is eventually configured to do exactly the same things as the old set up, as opposed to brokering the benefits of the new solution and you are no further forward  – sound familiar?

Q: So how can you solve this riddle?
A: Technology plays a major role supporting customer service in terms of key business areas such as multi-channel, service levels, resource planning, customer and agent satisfaction, identification and verification, self service, adherence, analytics and many other areas.  However contact centre technology is based on numerous factors and most importantly the demands of the business must come first.  So we suggest:
• Don’t talk technology – talk business process 
• Stick to the business plan and the requirements of the contact centre 
• Work with a technology partner that can fill the gap between technology and the business needs using language you can understand

Q: What difference is cloud technology making?  
A: There is no doubt cloud-based technology is set to revolutionise the contact centre.  This is most obvious in terms of scalability and flexibility.  With an old on-premise “traditional deployment model” companies have to scale up to support the peak requirements in a year.  This often leaves paid for capacity idle during the rest of the year.  Simply put the cost centre is static at the highest cost point whilst the profit centre varies throughout the year.  Cloud-based technology and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) pricing models can change all of that.  

Q: What is stopping organisations making the change to the cloud?
A: There are concerns associated with stability, capacity and security in terms of the cloud.  However, while some regard this as “new technology” the model has been around for many years and is actually now reacting maturity.  We work with organisations which have been providing cloud-based contact centres to many household named companies for over 14 years.  To dispel the myth of insecurity just view the two key elements in their simplest terms. The cloud is a piece of technology in a data centre that is typically not owned by your organisation but operated by an expert in this field.  While SaaS is a commercial agreement that ensures that you only pay for what you consume.  While the perceived risks should be taken seriously, in the majority of cases they will be totally unfounded.  

Finally, Tony and I agreed that with the PPF’s 5 step Operational Excellence Model in mind a vital ingredient is working with a technology partner than can break down the techie speak to help deliver the business plan and solve the technology conundrum.  

Blog report from Mary Phillips, PR Artistry Limited 

This article is written by the author, who takes full responsibility for the content. These are not the opinion of the Professional Planning Forum and we take no responsibility for accuracy, appropriateness or any other aspect of the content.  Please contact us direct if you feel any blog should be amended or removed and we will discuss this with the author. These conference blogs are part of our strategy of involving members and friends of the Planning Forum in creating best practice materials that enables members to learn and innovate. Thank you to everyone who has taken part in this 2013 initiative. 



Aligning Metrics and Values Analytics BT BT Innovate & Design Customer Contact Management Customer Happiness Experian Genuine Involvement Innovation Lebara MI motivation Performance & Quality Planning Functions Planning Team Professionalism Putting People First Removing Barriers Silver Lining Aberdeen Group Abtran ACAS Adherence ADT analytics AOMI Apex Credit Management Avios Back Office Barclaycard Belron UK Best Practice Big Thinking Brainfood Consulting British Gas BT BT Retail Budd Business Accreditation Carnival UK Case Sudies Comcast Communication Community Concentrix conference Conference Day 2 Conference review Creative Connection Cupcakes By Sophia Customer Experience Customer Focus Customer Insight Customer Needs Customer Service DAS Direct Line Group Douglas Jackson EE EGo Employee Engagement Enagaging the Operation Engaging the Operation evening entertainement Experian Expo Field Flexibility Forecasting Fucus Gamification Homeworking Innovation Innovation Learning Intercall Intraday Know How KnowHow KPI Pyramid Leadership Learning Lebara Lego LV= Management Structure Managing the Planning Team Motability Operations Motability Opertations Motivation Net Easy Nexidia NHS NICE NICE Systems North East Ambulance Service Npower Planning Planning Forum Blog Putting People First QPC Qualifications Quality RAC Real Time Removing Barriers Resource Planning Re-thinking Quality RSA Russell Slater Solutions RWE npower Sabio SCS Select Planning Service Improvement Service Levels Strategy Technology Conundrum Tesco Bank Insurance The P&Q Campaign The Student Loans Company The Unconference Therapy Solutions Transform Sandwell UCAS UKAR Unconference United Utilities University of Ulster Voice of the Customer White Concierge Worldpay
(c) Professional Forums Ltd 2000-2018