Dave Bowen, Call Centre
Mansfield, Head of Individual Customer
Friends Provident Life and Pensions Ltd. UK House, Castle
Street, Salisbury, SP1 3SH
Improving the Quality of Customer
in the Call Centre by Branding
- or ‘Free Range
The public image of call
centre operators as robots is all too often confirmed by the rules and restrictions that
are imposed upon them. This article shows that when we treat our customers as we would
treat our friends, the myth of the glorified switchboard robot disappears immediately, and
everyone feels good.
Introduction - Keith Mansfield
We did the unthinkable: we let the chickens out of their cages: cages we had unknowingly
And how did Sarah feel, after just a few days of being ‘Free Range’?
In her own words; “I’m highly motivated at the moment… I’m just happy
– I feel free to be me, instead of a battery hen.”
It was such a powerful moment when I heard this: it really bowled me over. The thoughts that
went through my head were; “Oh my God, look what we’ve
done.” But it was what the customers had to say that really made me realise that
this was serious stuff.
I’m very excited to reveal this story for the first time in writing to the outside world. The
last two years represents, without a shadow of a doubt, the most exciting time in my career.
It’s a story about a significant paradigm shift in, not just financial services, but in
customer service, full stop.
This powerful story is about setting people free - about trusting people, really trusting them.
It has at its essence extreme simplicity and common sense. Yet it is achieving fantastic
results, not only for the customers, but also for our shareholders and our own people too.
It’s a long story, but let me start with the short version.
The Short Version
This is a story about how the market was demanding better
service from us and how we responded by going from a ‘Battery Hen’ customer
service centre to a ‘Free Range’ centre in one easy re-branding exercise.
Now I don’t mean to imply that we were in the dark ages; in fact we have as good a call centre
as anybody in terms of its environment. It’s not like a sweatshop; there are people laughing
and joking much of the time. It’s a very bright, purpose built call centre with the right
carpets, the right equipment, the right everything.
But nonetheless, what we hadn’t realised was that when the headsets went on our people often
did feel cooped up like battery hens.
So, with great courage, we opened the ‘cage doors’ and encouraged our people out into the yard,
to be their own natural selves. No more rules, no more restrictions.
We told them; “There are no scripts anymore. Think of your customers
and shareholders as you would a friend. Talk to customers with your own personality and in your
At the time, it seemed an enormous risk, but immediately our customers started giving
unprecedented feedback, literally unprecedented. For example, one of our ‘business-like’ IFAs
(Independent Financial Advisors) said this to Claire, a call centre worker: “For the record, so that everyone knows, [he knew the call was being recorded!]
this has been a very pleasant
call and you have been most helpful and are a pleasure to talk to.
You sound like a human being.”
Amazingly, he then went on to say this to one of Claire’s colleagues; “I tell you what, all jokes aside, I swear our partnership would do more business
with Friends [Provident] if there were more like her.”
I will never forget the profound impact that these never-before-heard words had on me:
“I swear our partnership would do more business with Friends if there
were more like her.”
It was then that I had my most powerful ‘wow’ moment, realising what a fantastic opportunity
this Free Range idea was and how we could improve both the bottom line and the service we
provided. Not just to make the service better, but to move it onto a completely different
plane, to actually give birth to a new paradigm of customer
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