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2392587656_b98d7ae8c5_mI worked as part of the team that developed firstdirect, the telephone bank. The bank launched in 1989 and it was a pretty creative project at the time.

One of the things I remember was the time spent developing processes for the contact centre.

Every customer scenario was examined with meetings running late into the evening. Hour after hour mapping out what if situations and processes to deal with them, referring to the extensive customer feedback that was available. I seem to recall that process meetings started at 1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays and often went on till after 9pm. Hard work when you had a 90-minute commute home across London.

Processes were comprehensive, nicely documented and targeted to meet customer requests. Systems were developed that supported process delivery. A comprehensive induction for staff was in place over several weeks and understanding the processes and their background was a key part. There was then a lot of effort improving the processes in practice. Everything was under strict change control.

I cannot recall working for an organisation since that gave such a prominence to process.

Some contact centres struggle because processes don’t work effectively. There are many unnecessary hand offs between staff and departments. Advisors know what they are doing for the customer won’t work because there will be a failure along the line.

Bottom line is that the customer either gets what she calls for – or she doesn’t. Clearly it’s good for the advisor to be pleasant and helpful, but it matters that the cover note or replacement credit card or whatever turns up. It matters that the issue is resolved.

Commercial contact centres should look across to see what they can learn from the emergency services. Processes need to be precise in an ambulance service, for example, so that the correct action is taken in the limited time available. All the more difficult when a number of teams are involved (contact centre, dispatch, road crews).

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