We talk to Martin Thurbon, ECS Contact Centre Operations Manager, about how his team respond to everyday inquiries and how they’ve managed the workload throughout this year’s pandemic.
We’ve all been there – waiting on the telephone in a ‘queue’, until we’re put through to the next available operator in the Contact Centre. It can be frustrating, as the chosen on-hold music for that week is interrupted for the umpteenth time by a recorded voice telling us our call is important to them and that an operator will be with us shortly. Sometimes we’ll give up and call back later, or we’ll persevere and finally speak to a real human who can hopefully resolve our query.
This is, of course, from the point of view of the caller, but what’s it like for the person on the other end of the line?
The call we make to a Contact Centre might be the only call we make that day, but for the operator on the receiving end it might be just one of 50 calls they answer. Not only that, it’s highly likely that the operator will be answering almost identical questions minute after minute, hour after hour. It’s fair to say, perhaps, that a fair degree of patience, not to mention a slice of good humour is needed to survive as a Contact Centre operator.
Take the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) Contact Centre, for example, where there is very rarely a quiet day. Indeed, an average day can see the Contact Centre taking up to 500 calls, with the average waiting time for calls being under four minutes.
As Martin Thurbon, Contact Centre Operations Manager, explains, there are many different pressures involved in keeping things running smoothly. “As you’d expect, Monday is always a busy day (after the weekend break) and lunch time periods can also be hectic.
“As a team we have a collective responsibility to keep the volume of waiting calls down to as few as possible. That means resolving telephone enquiries quickly and efficiently before we move on to the next caller. Some customers prefer to communicate with us via e-mail and we receive approximately 80 emails per day. To help ease the weight of traffic we do encourage customers to refer to the ECS website as most answers to their questions can be found there.”
It’s not always that simple though, and some calls will inevitably take a lot longer than others. It is vital, therefore, that the caller feels that it was worth their time making the call.
Martin continues: “We never want to leave a caller feeling that their query hasn’t been answered, or worse, that they’ve been ‘fobbed off’. Bad news spreads a lot quicker than good, so its our job to make sure the customer experience is reflective of an organisation which is here to promote the proper qualified status of electrotechnical operatives and raise standards.”
So what qualities does a person need to work in a Contact Centre? Martin answers: “You’ll often find yourself repeating things regularly, sometimes to the same caller, so obviously a lot of patience is needed. Additionally, your voice must be friendly, courteous and empathic. It’s important to find a speaking tone that is neither rude nor patronising, but clearly answers the question.”
When lockdown was announced earlier this year, Martin’s key focus for the ECS Contact Centre team was to ensure that customers wouldn’t experience any reduction in their level of service.
The team had never previously worked from home as its operation is office-based, so all team members were issued with laptops and telephone headsets so they could continue supporting customers. The team continued to deal with customer enquires both via e-mail and telephone as well as processing customer ECS card applications whilst working from home.
ECS has been working hard to improve the service offered by the Call Centre with 95% of enquiries now being answered first time. Work is also continuing to reduce the call waiting times by improving the information available on the website to make information easier to find and provide more clarity on the card application process.
In the event that a difficult call arises, how does Martin deal with this situation? “People sometimes get angry when they’re running out of patience or don’t understand something, but it’s vital not to engage in a shouting match. On most occasions, if you remain calm, friendly and helpful their attitude will quickly improve.
“ECS cards are often needed for site access so our best advice is to take note of the email reminders and don’t leave it until the last minute or after a card has expired to renew. Getting yourself organised early will give you the best chance to demonstrate your technical excellence and promote your status to the industry.”
He adds: “Being patient and friendly won’t always work – we do have internal rules to follow when a caller continues to be abusive – but thankfully it doesn’t happen too often. For every negative call there are plenty of positive ones and I take great pride in the professionalism and passion that exists in the ECS Contact Centre.”
“We’ll always be honest and admit we don’t get it right all of the time – I don’t think any Contact Centre does – but our team is extremely dedicated to ensuring that anybody who telephones us will feel comfortable about calling again in the future if they need to.”
THE MOST COMMON ECS CONTACT CENTRE QUERIES
Q. I’ve paid for an ECS card; however, I’ve not received the card which I purchased.
You’re not purchasing a product but are applying to join a certification scheme. All card types have qualification requirements, and applicants must ensure they check the requirements of the card prior to applying.
Q. Why won’t you issue me with an ECS card based on my experience only?
As the scheme operator we’re not able to accept any application for ECS registration based on the applicant’s self-declaration of their skills, abilities and experience. All applications must be fully supported with documented evidence that can be independently validated. All applications for ECS registration are based on the auditable documented evidence the applicant provides with their application, which will include qualifications, competency assessments, employer endorsements and experience. The scheme is also partnered with the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). Under the Construction Leadership Council One Industry logo requirements, which is endorsed by government departments such as Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and a requirement for CSCS partner schemes, all ECS card applications have to be made with industry recognised and documented qualifications relevant for the occupation.
Q. Are the rules for the requirements of the cards set by the ECS?
The requirements for occupations under the ECS scheme are proposed by industry representatives based on the qualifications generally available from training providers across the UK and approved by a committee as meeting the required industry standard. This ECS Steering Committee includes representation from working electricians, electrical contractors, ECA, SELECT and Unite the Union, the IET, Electrical Safety First and the HSE.
Get more details about the ECS card by clicking here