6 November 2017
Having been in the payday loans market since 2009, direct lender 247Moneybox.com knows a thing or two about running an office incorporating a call centre. Over the years the lender has invested a great deal of energy in researching and discussing strategies for the optimum working environment. The old adage that your staff are your biggest asset is an oldie but a goodie. Other old sayings that hold true are that to train your staff well and then they leave is better that not training them well and having them stay. With that in mind we caught up with HR manager Flo Jackson to discuss the latest trends, issues and best practice in work place set-up.
Flo: Over the years we have flexed our contact centre floor space to accommodate 40 desks, however, with increasing technological investment we have managed to increase the amount of output per desk allowing us to rationalise that number to 25 desks.
Flo: The set up will be pretty familiar to anyone that has worked in a call centre environment. What is it they say "if it's not broken, don't fix it"? Well that kind of applies in this scenario. We have three shifts working across seven days of the week. Our business and call centre hours are not fixed. We like to think we are tweaking the model with increased use of technology to assist staff and managers in the work that they carry out. So, for example, we have team leaders who can monitor the KPI (key performance indicators) of their team, listen to calls on the fly or jump into a call in real time, throw a screen to an agent, drop instant notes on their desktop and manage in-bound and out-bound call lists. The same applies to a manager but obviously with a greater scope.
Flo: We take great pride in our agent training package at the start of their employment with us. We aim to compliment this base knowledge with supplementary skills as they grow and develop within the firm. All staff are reviewed and assessed regularly to keep knowledge levels high and skills up-to-date. We use a combination of internal and external training packages, incorporating online and offline methods. For example, we have an external training programme with a recognised compliance and training firm where agents can log on and follow a training plan at their own pace with set modules covering different topics. At the end of each topic there is an online assessment enabling the agent to demonstrate what they have learnt and give us the reassurance that they have attained the required skill level.
That being said there is still a place for classroom based training and we have some highly skilled members of staff who can act as trainers in their particular field of expertise. Our more senior members of staff will attend conferences and seminars regularly throughout the year. Often the speakers at these conferences include the FCA, ICO and other regulatory bodies, allowing us to understand these organisations better which in turn provides context to the rules and regulations they put in place. It is worth also pointing out that our COO was a board member at the trade association BCCA which has now merged with the CFA where he is part of the council. Here too best practice, industry thought and comment can be disseminated to the benefit of all members.
Flo: Great question. We sit in a listed building in central London so whilst architecturally impressive it can create issues when it comes to maintaining an optimum working environment. Luckily the building may be old but the lighting and internal configuration is new. This along with the appropriate cable trunking for services, means we can keep a 24/7 operation ticking along. We encourage a "dress as you feel" policy to maintain a family atmosphere. We think agents that feel comfortable and at ease will be able to give off their best to our customers. We also like to encourage staff to treat the office as their home and the dress code helps that. Noise in any open office environment is a tricky issue, none more so than in a call centre or trading floor environment. Luckily for us the building has double height ceilings owing to its impressive regency styling which act as a sound absorber.
Flo: Ha, the Colonel didn't reveal his secret recipe so neither can we! Needless to say, as our founding management team come from a data and tech background, we only use the latest and greatest tech and prefer to develop in-house as much as possible. We've always taken the approach that technology is not an end in itself but a tool to be used to facilitate and drive efficiency. It's actually quite counterproductive to get caught in the trap of developing tech for tech's sake. Don't worry we have a lot of checks and balances in place to ensure we don't get too carried away with being on the "bleeding edge" as it were.
There are some great new features and trends coming along that have the potential to be really game changing. For example, voice search and fulfilment may drive the application process away from forms to AI led verbal interactions. Almost back to the face to face interviews for credit of the past. How funny, what goes around comes around huh?! Other key trends include gesture control and facial recognition, all could find their way into the lending process. Anyway, watch this space.
We actually think the HCSTC industry is a key driver in the fintech space. Not only have the established payday lenders, like ourselves, been around since 2009, we've all had to lean-out our operations as we've evolved to fit the new industry dynamics. With those sorts of influencing factors coupled with the high volume of loans written in this space (a fundamental feature of the HCSTC industry), it's no wonder you are seeing a lot of innovations in this sector first. In fact, this is not a new thing really. From 2008/9 e-signing your credit agreement and automated searches at credit reference agencies are standard practice yet in the mainstream retail banking world, some of these features are still yet to be deployed.
Flo: Sure can and thanks for bringing this concept up. I say that because I think all too often employers focus on the physical, with great perks such as fresh fruit and gym membership etc. however what is just as, if not more, important are the intangibles. What is meant by this is how an employer can influence how an employee feels, what their motivation is, will they go above and beyond, do they actually care about the firm? It's been well documented that money is but just one motivating factor and not a particularly good one at that. People will only go so far if they perceive their labour is only being measured in pounds and pence. We make sure our commitment to our staff and employees is visible in everything we do including responsible advertising. We work off the following principals when it comes to the intangibles we want to impart to our staff: