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OpenAI, a tech company that specialises in AI development, has launched GPT-4, the latest iteration of its ChatGPT AI. GPT-4 is 40% more accurate than its predecessor, GPT-3.5, and is 82% less likely to respond to requests for disallowed content. These new features make the AI smarter and safer, providing a shot in the arm for existing business applications, as well as opening new possibilities. GPT-4 boasts three new capabilities, namely mimicking, image recognition, and longer context. The new model is slower than the previous version but can parse more intricate data for a higher degree of reasoning and conciseness in response.

NICE, a leading provider of cloud based CX solutions, has announced that it has reached a significant milestone of one million agents and supervisors on its CXone platform. The news comes on the back of Gartner naming CXone one of the top CCaaS platforms in its latest market study.

The CXone platform incorporates AI, digital-first end-to-end journeys, and a cloud-native platform to improve customer experiences. NICE claims that its ‘next gen’ cloud CX platform, CXone, offers a complete CX platform, digital fluency, AI that is applicable to the entire application, smart self-service and AI outreach, and personalised customer journeys across multiple channels.

Contact centres have become increasingly important for brands that want to create a positive experience for their customers. Nevertheless, managing a contact centre can be challenging, given the complexity of customer interactions and the need for effective communication.

Fortunately, technological advancements have made managing a contact centre much easier, efficient, and cost-effective. One such technology that has revolutionised the way businesses manage their customer service is Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS).

As consumers become more aware of the impact of their choices on the world, the importance of fair trade and ethical sourcing has gained significant traction changing mindsets and behaviours. For businesses, ensuring a sustainable future means going beyond profits and considering the impact of their operations on local communities and the environment. Fair Trade Outsourcing, led by visionary entrepreneur Mike Dershowitz, is one such company that is making a difference.

By providing ethical outsourcing solutions that empower local workers and combat poverty in developing countries, Fair Trade Outsourcing is a shining example of how businesses can be a force for good.

In this Q&A, we sit down with Mike Dershowitz to learn more about his journey, his vision and the impact of Fair Trade Outsourcing on local communities.

“In order to fight poverty, we must use the power of the free market for good and promote moral leadership in the BPO industry.”

Mike Dershowitz, The founder and CEO of Fair Trade Outsourcing

Q & A

When you started Fair Trade Outsourcing, what was your vision for the company?

I’ve been public about the fact that starting FTO was about how good of a business BPO can be for its employees and owners if done right. But I meant financially, having not realised at the time how good socially the BPO business can be.

Ultimately, I got into the BPO business because of the fundamentals of international trade. Companies that struggle to find sufficient labour, or labour at a cost that works for their business, can make their work portable and send it to people who can do the work at the right quality and cost and scale.

Initially, it was the inherent strength of this cross-border international trade – between client, company, and agent that I found impressive and made me want to be in this business.

What is the purpose of FTO?

FTO is a dual-purpose company – we simultaneously pursue both financial and social profit. We are like every other company, except that we are required to produce social profit, which we do in the form of lifting households out of poverty.

How did your clients respond to the mission of FTO?

Our performance is industry leading in a way that can make the numbers, upon first glance, look too good to be true. This is where the purpose really comes into play because it explains, beyond doubt, how we are achieving industry leading results.

So in this way, they respond quite well – it explains why we’re able to do what we do, and also makes them feel good about outsourcing ethically and morally.

That being said, and understandably so, clients really just want quality, performance, and good pricing structures. So generally, once they feel they understand the how of what we do, to them we’re really just like any other BPO, and it’s about the operations.

 

How do employees respond to the philosophies behind FTO?

There are two responses to this: anecdotal and by the numbers.

Anecdotally, and in surveys, employees respond quite well to FTO. Many come and stay for a quality, sustainable job where they are guaranteed a fair and safe workplace (guaranteed by our “ABOR” – Agent Bill of Rights).

What we do to help their households exit poverty is really icing on the cake. This can be sometimes not well understood by them (and it’s something we’re putting a lot of resources into right now to change).

This is where the numbers start to get really interesting. Over the last 6 years we’ve averaged 1.2 percent monthly voluntary attrition (total attrition is < 4%). For an operation of more than 1,600 people, it’s
not significant in an industry where the largest companies employ hundreds of thousands of people, but it’s big enough where you have to start asking if this is better way to run a BPO company. Time will tell as we keep growing.

Besides the attrition numbers, employees tell us that they like working here because they refer their friends. 70 percent of all new employees come from existing employees. We have a company-wide Employee Net Promotor Score (eNPS) of +68, which reflects how likely our employees are to recommend our company as a workplace. All our employees across our four country locations participate in the eNPS measurement and our score is close to the highest in the industry.

How do you measure performance of your employees?

We have two sets of measurements. First is what we call “client measurements”.- That’s whatever production and quality metrics are needed by our clients (since we do mostly custom teams). It’s the things you’re used to seeing; error rate, AHT, FCR, work units per hour etc.

However, because we’re dual-purpose, we have a second set of measurements, and that’s our economic mobility measurements. We measure things like change in agent household income, agent indebtedness and agent mobility-(how many have been promoted or moved into a higher paying positions). This gives us a really good picture as to what stressors the agent may be carrying in the door when they come to work.

How we deal with what we read in the data is the business strategy. For example, we make zero interest payroll loans available to our employees. We’d rather have them indebted to us than an informal lender who may take advantage of them. Second, we will give grants to help alleviate stress for some negative economic events like natural disasters, sickness, or a death in the family. Finally, and possibly most importantly, we guarantee them that if we lose business from one client, we’ll transfer them to another, with layoffs as a last resort. This promise of job security is critical to helping them plan for life and know that if they perform, a paycheck will always be there.

What tech stack do you use in your contact centre?

As a middle-market provider, we have to be flexible so we’ve never standardised on the use of one platform. We leverage MSFT 365 products along with SAP ERP and support everything from Genesys and NICE through to Zen Desk and other platforms on behalf of our customers. FTO also has several customers where we work inside their proprietary products.

What are some of the outcomes from the way that FTO operates in local communities?

Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, a steady job has a lot of power for the people that work with us especially in lower-income communities. When someone has a steady job in the formal economy, they become the anchor for that household, and can be an economic anchor to their extended families. That person’s relative wealth spreads out beyond their doorstep, with poverty reduction extending past just the Agents’ households.

Secondly, we are active in working with universities with all types of practical training programs made available for students. Everywhere we have a centre, we set up this core function of supporting students with practical skills. Over the years we’ve learned that a call centre job can be the start of a business career, so we work hard to form partnerships with corporates and educational institutions where we can create opportunities for young people.

One of the principles of the “Fair Trade Movement” is that by building up a person’s “capacity” and not just training them for “this or that” unit of work, we are exploring their potential. For example, we invested early in a Chief Learning Officer so that we can provide better training and development for our teams. Next year, we will be opening training programs up to the communities in which we operate, providing free learning – not just for our agents.

What’s your background and how did you get to this point where you are growing a business with purpose?

I’m not sure how or why it happened, but I grew up wanting to change the world. As a child, I was always surrounded by small business owners like my father, my uncle, my grandfathers and cousins. That is what I knew and was the impetus for wanting to change the world and be in business.

I think the two biggest threats future humanity faces are climate change and social unrest due to economic disparity. In my previous business which was in the solar industry, it was important to build software that helped broaden solar adoption. That business was really my bridge into purpose-driven companies. By making the solar design, quoting and contracting process easier through technology, more solar was able to be installed, and less electricity would be generated by fossil fuels. It made sense.

For FTO, it’s been incredible to watch how the social purpose in a people-orientated company can galvanise not just employees, but the whole organisation. It made us stronger from the bottom up and vice versa. From that perspective, running FTO has really completed my journey from aspiring do-gooder to having a real solution for making money while solving real human problems.

How do you think other companies could contribute to eradicating poverty?

Simply by putting social change on the agenda, companies can make a difference. With us, when we give an Agent a contract that supports steady employment, it can solve household problems and help them find a way out of poverty. Fair wages is critical to helping change the narrative.

Agents are proven to work harder for companies that pay them fairly and give them working conditions that are healthy and considerate. By companies supporting initiatives like this, their business will become more resilient, and better able to compete in the market. If you treat your employees well, they will treat your customers well, and the rest takes care of itself.

What’s next for FTO?

FTO has had burgeoning growth over the past few years. This is set to continue with headcount growth, infrastructure build-out and the opening of new offices. We recently opened our first operation in the US and plan to expand to Africa in 2023, with India also on the agenda.

We have invested heavily in understanding the impact of our operations on the families and communities in which we operate. Using this data, the true impact is realised and can be leveraged to do more for Agent’s lives.

Having worked extensively with small and mid-market businesses, the shift to enterprise is imminent. Corporations are realising the full potential of working with companies that have “fairer” practices and capitalising on the flow on effect to customer experience, and their own employee attrition rates.

Mental health is a growing concern in the modern workforce, and the contact centre environment is no exception. With the increasing demands of a 24/7 economy, pressure to maintain high levels of performance and customer satisfaction, and a competitive labour market, contact centre employees are facing challenges that can have a significant impact on their mental well-being.

Gone are the days when corporate culture was stifling and restrictive, limiting employees to a one-size-fits-all mold. Today, corporate culture is more like a bespoke suit, customised to fit each unique employee, while still aligning with the company’s values and mission. Just like a well-tailored suit elevates one’s style, a positive corporate culture elevates employees, unlocking their full potential and bringing out the best in them. It’s time for your contact centre to embrace a corporate culture that inspires, motivates and supports employees.

How to transform your Contact Centre

Emma Sudano

The new hybrid and work from home model has thrown how leaders interact with employees and how coworkers connect with each other on its head. Contact centres have rapidly adapted to remote work arrangements in order to maintain operations. Most contact centres operated in physical office spaces with large numbers of employees, however, in response to Covid-19, many contact centres made the move to work from home (WFH) models. This need to remain flexible during the pandemic revealed the ineffectiveness of a top-down leadership approach which doesn’t allow for quick adaptation and decision making at the ground level, where most of the changes and challenges are being faced. Company culture has grown in importance, thanks to recent high-profile culture crises such as those at Uber, pushing for diversity, equity and inclusion alongside the continuing fight of the #MeToo movement. It is because of these cultural shifts that the bottom line is now affected by how strategically important culture has become. It can no longer just be divided up and delegated.

EMPOWER EMPLOYEES AND TEAMS TO BUILD HEALTHY AND VIBRANT MICRO-CULTURES THAT ARE FREE OF TOXIC BEHAVIOURS.

This approach to culture-building is known as a “bottom-up” or “holistic” approach, where the responsibility for shaping the company culture is shared by all members of the organisation. It recognises that every individual has a role to play in shaping the culture and creating a positive and inclusive workplace environment. This approach also involves a continuous process of evaluation and improvement, ensuring that the company culture remains relevant and aligned with the company’s values and goals.

In a contact centre, culture encompasses the behaviour and attitudes of all individuals, from agents to management. To remain competitive, companies must empower their employees and teams to cultivate healthy and thriving micro-cultures devoid of negative behaviours. As Sonja Van Den Bosh, Co- Founder of ONE Beyond Success, explains, when businesses “empower employees and teams to build healthy and vibrant micro- cultures that are free of toxic behaviours. [Because] as humans we are more likely to be connected to and care about something that we helped build, shape and influence.”

The Remote Revolution: Navigating the Challenges of Maintaining Strong Corporate Culture in the Contact Centre Industry Amidst the shift to WFH

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend of remote work, particularly in the contact centre industry. An Australian Bureau of Statistics report shows 40.6 percent of Australians are working from home, and two-thirds of managers in the industry are now working from home regularly. The shift towards remote work has brought about numerous challenges for contact centres, one being the challenge in ensuring a strong corporate culture is maintained. It is crucial for contact centre organisations to ensure that their values, beliefs, and work environment are preserved even when employees are working from a different location, to maintain the high level of customer service that is expected in the industry.

Sonja Van Den Bosch noted that “connectedness becomes the most common consistent cultural experience. More important than physical proximity is emotional proximity. It’s about being seen, heard, and valued for who you are and feeling that you are contributing to something larger than yourself.”

The Key to a Thriving Contact Centre: Empowering Employees with the Right Tools and Support

The corporate culture within a contact centre plays a pivotal role in determining the success of the organisation. Given that contact centre employees engage with customers on a daily basis, it is imperative that they are empowered with the necessary resources and support to provide a positive customer experience.

Creating this positive culture for both on site and WFH agents, is essential for the wellbeing of employees and the success of your organisation. A thriving culture can lead to higher morale, job satisfaction and a sense of pride in the work they do. To achieve this it’s important to focus of key elements, such as promoting open communication, facilitating professional development, recognising and rewards merit, encouraging collaboration and promoting a healthy work-life balance.

Incorporating these elements into the culture of your business can foster an atmosphere of support and inclusivity resulting in increased employee engagement and therefore, enhance customer experiences.

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is paramount for remote agents. This can be achieved by offering flexible schedules and the proper technology and support for their remote work. It is important to understand that achieving this balance is a personal and situational matter, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Rather than striving for perfection, recognising and rewarding top performers can motivate others to strive for excellence, regardless of their location. As Vincent Nair, from SmartTech Business Systems notes, “cultural balance for people who work from home is very situational and cannot be seen as a one-size-fits-all situation. Try to avoid the pressure to find the perfect balance, because it’s impossible to get right all of the time.”

Implementing these elements into the organisation’s operations can significantly enhance the corporate culture, yielding positive results for the call centre. This will increase employee engagement, job satisfaction, and motivation, leading to enhanced customer service.

 

 

It’s a familiar tale: the toxic boss who crushes morale, sows’ seeds of stress and leaves a trail of demoralised employees in their wake. Sadly, this all-too-common scenario can take a toll on your career trajectory, impeding your progress and leaving you feeling stuck.

In fact, a staggering 57% of employees have left their job due to the detrimental impact of a bad boss, according to new research. And in the fast-paced and high-pressure environment of the contact centre industry, where employees face constant interactions with customers and relentless demands, the effects of bad leadership can be magnified.

But fear not! This article is not another lamentation about the perils of poor leadership. Rather, it’s a roadmap to success, brimming with practical tips and actionable strategies that will empower you to not just survive, but thrive in your career despite the challenges posed by bad leadership.

Drawing on compelling contact centre statistics and real-world examples, we will unveil 10 invaluable insights to help you effectively deal with bad leaders. From mastering the art of communication to harnessing the power of resilience, we will equip you with the tools and techniques to rise above the fray and elevate your career to new heights.

So, whether you’re currently grappling with a toxic boss or simply seeking to fortify your career armour for the future, this article is your essential guide to navigating the treacherous waters of bad leadership in the contact centre industry.

1.  Chart Your Own Path:

Despite encountering bad leadership, don’t lose sight of your own career goals. Set ambitious objectives for yourself and strive towards them, even if your leader falls short in providing support or motivation. By maintaining focus on your goals, you can stay resilient, motivated, and poised for future advancement opportunities.

2.  Forge Meaningful Bonds:

When dealing with challenging leadership, strong relationships with your co-workers can serve as a powerful antidote. Seek out positive and supportive colleagues and foster meaningful connections with them. Collaborate on projects, extend a helping hand, and offer support and encouragement. Building a sense of community and shared purpose can keep you engaged and motivated, despite any leadership obstacles.

3.  Embrace Wise Guidance and Mentorship:

In the face of bad leadership, seek out mentors who can provide valuable guidance and support. Look for mentors within your organization or industry who can offer insights, feedback, and career development advice. They can serve as a trusted sounding board for challenges or frustrations you may encounter at work and provide invaluable perspective and wisdom. Embracing mentorship can empower you to navigate difficult leadership situations with confidence and resilience.

4.  Master the Art of Effective Communication:

When dealing with difficult leaders, effective communication becomes a strategic tool. Be clear, concise, and direct in your communication, while also proactively addressing their needs or concerns. Building trust and respect through effective communication can foster a positive working relationship over time, and help you navigate the challenges of bad leadership.

5.  Cultivate a Positive and Solution-Focused Mindset:

Maintaining a positive and solution-focused mindset is a powerful strategy for resilience in the face of challenging leadership. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, focus on identifying solutions and opportunities for improvement. This proactive approach empowers you with a sense of control and agency, keeping you motivated and engaged in your work.

6.  Be a Proactive Change Agent:

Taking a proactive approach to your work can elevate your motivation and engagement, even when dealing with bad leadership. Look for opportunities to take on new projects, responsibilities, and seek ways to improve processes or systems within your team or organization. Being proactive showcases your value and positions you for future opportunities, despite any leadership obstacles.

7.  Embrace Self-Care for Optimal Performance:

You are your most valuable asset, and taking care of yourself is crucial for peak performance at work. Prioritize healthy habits such as regular exercise, quality sleep, and stress-reducing activities like meditation or yoga. By nurturing your mental and emotional well-being, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges of working with difficult leaders and stay motivated and engaged in your work.

8.  Elevate Your Skills to Propel Your Career Forward:

Even in the face of bad leadership, you can still take control of your career advancement. Look for opportunities to acquire new skills or knowledge through courses or training programs. By investing in yourself, you’ll position yourself for future growth and advancement, regardless of whether your current leader is supportive or not. Don’t let their shortcomings hinder your progress.

9.  Be Your Own Advocate for Success:

Advocating for yourself is a powerful strategy for navigating the challenges of difficult leaders. Clearly communicate your goals and aspirations to your leader, and be assertive in advocating for opportunities to develop new skills or take on additional responsibilities. Be willing to negotiate and find solutions that align with your career aspirations. Remember, you are your own best advocate and champion for success.

10.  Stay Committed to Your Career Vision:

Despite the hurdles of bad leadership, don’t lose sight of why you chose your profession and what motivates you. Stay committed to your career vision and use it as a guiding force to stay focused and dedicated to your work. Don’t let the negativity of bad leadership deter you from your purpose and fulfillment. Your career is a long-term journey, and staying committed to your path will help you persevere through challenging times.

Dealing with bad leaders can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to derail your career. By focusing on your goals, building positive relationships with co-workers, seeking out mentors, communicating effectively, staying positive and solution-focused, being proactive, practicing self-care, developing new skills, advocating for yourself, and staying committed to your career, you can not only survive, but thrive, even in the face of difficult leadership. Remember, you have the power to take control of your career and create a fulfilling and rewarding professional life for yourself, regardless of the leadership you may encounter along the way.

 

At Call Design’s recent WOW 2023 Conference, the contact centre industry’s top leaders in Workforce Management congregated to share insights into industry best practice, challenges faced and the future of workforce optimisation.

Workforce Management (WFM) is an essential part of running a successful contact centre, today more so than ever before. The process of managing staff scheduling, attendance, training and forecasting to ensure the centre operates at maximum efficiency may seem like a small part of a broader business, but for those in contact centres, it’s the most business critical area of expertise. WFM is a complex area that requires a combination of technologies, best practices, and skilled professionals. With changes due to work from home and hybrid business models, the dependence on strong WFM solutions that adapt and provide necessary flexibility to a contact centre workforce, while at the same time, provides efficiencies and drive better employee engagement is a conundrum for seasoned WFM professionals.

One of the most significant challenges that contact centres face is managing attrition rates. In Australia the average attrition rate is approximately 30%, which means that every year, a third of a company’s workforce may need to be replaced. This is significant for contact centre operations and puts undue demand on recruiting new talent, and training and development. The cost to hire a new agent is amplified due to the growing cost of advertising and training, with new contact centre job board, Contact Centre Jobs a welcome relief on the advertising side.

Technologies such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR), automation, scheduling and forecasting are essential components of WFM. IVR, a technology that enables customers to interact with a computer system through voice recognition or touch-tone keypads is leading the new look tech stack. It can be leveraged to provide customers with self-service options, such as checking their account balance or making payments. Automation, on the other hand, has one of the fastest uptakes of any new technology in contact centres today. The ability to perform routine tasks, such as sending automated emails or routing calls to the appropriate agent, is both time saving and cost saving. Another key area that dominated Call Design’s WOW2023 conference was forecasting, with a majority of companies seeking to use forecasting technologies in their contact centres.

 

“The evolution of the modern workforce demands a hybrid working environment in contact centres. As such, it is imperative for contact centres to prioritise providing their employees with the flexibility around where and when they work.”

Nimesh Dhanak CEO, Call Design

“As we continue to navigate the new reality of post-pandemic work, one thing has become clear: the hybrid working environment is here to stay. For contact centres, this means rethinking how we provide employees with the flexibility to work from anywhere, at any time,” says Nimesh Dhanak, CEO Call Design.

Best practices in WFM include creating an engaged workforce, providing regular training and leveraging data to optimise staffing levels. Engaged employees are more likely to stay with the company, reducing attrition rates and improving productivity. Regular training ensures that employees are up-to-date with the latest technology and best practices, enabling them to provide better customer service. Leveraging data enables companies to optimise staffing levels, reduce costs and improve overall customer experience.

Alvaria, Calabrio, NICE and Genesys are companies that specialise in WFM solutions with the newly merged Alvaria being lauded for its focus on innovation. Alvaria is a leader in enterprise-scale customer experience and workforce management and through the merger of Noble Technologies and ASPECT has gained significant traction in delivering high return on investment from WFM solutions.

Call Design is another international company that specialises in AlvariaWFM solutions. Their highly experienced team is full of industry veterans and along with Alvaria WFM solutions, the company also partners with Attune and automation company Intradiem. They offer a range of services including consulting, software development and WFM training and are well known in the Australian and New Zealand markets.

Calabrio has a growing profile in the Australian market but is emerging with an alternative solution to Alvaria. Their workforce management solution includes features such as forecasting, scheduling and adherence tracking. Calabrio’s quality management solution enables managers to monitor agent performance and provide feedback and coaching.

“WFM solutions can predict best shifts and agent fit for a complex hybrid-working, multi-channel environment,” said Calabrio Vice President Asia Pacific, Nick Smith. “With data driven AI, planners can manually tweak forecasts and schedules, factoring in agent experience, skillset and know-how. App-based self-service scheduling engages and empowers agents with flexibility and control.”

 

“From a workforce management perspective, some of the biggest challenges for contact centres are recruiting staff with the right skills and keeping them. With low unemployment rates and the ability for staff to work from anywhere, contact centres aren’t just competing against other centres in the same area but potentially across Australia.”

Julie-Anne Hazlett, Call Design

 

Scheduling and Forecasting: Essential aspect of WFM

Employee scheduling and forecasting is an essential aspect of Workforce Management in contact centres. Accurately forecasting customer demand and creating optimal schedules for agents is key to ensuring high-quality customer service while also meeting the needs of employees.

In the current era of remote work and flexible schedules, it is more important than ever for contact centres to have a scheduling and forecasting solution that provides flexibility while also maintaining productivity. Companies like Alvaria offer workforce management solutions that enable businesses to have full visibility and control over their workforce, whether employees are working from home or in-office.

“ Today many Real Time Analysts and Team Leaders spend a lot of time manually updating schedules and entering exceptions.

A lot of this work can be automated with technology such as Intradiem’s intelligent automation freeing up people to do the more value-add tasks,” states Julie-Anne Hazlett from Call Design.

One of the key features of Alvaria’s scheduling and forecasting solution is the ability to set rules and parameters that accommodate the needs of both the business and its employees. This includes setting up work from home schedules, allowing for flexible start and end times, and accommodating requests for time off.

The system also provides real-time data to managers, allowing them to make informed decisions and quickly adjust schedules as needed to ensure adequate coverage during peak demand periods. This level of flexibility not only benefits employees but also helps businesses avoid the high costs of turnover and low morale associated with rigid scheduling practices.