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  • Véronique Méot

Customer relationship centres: new work organisations

Site reorganisation, hybrid teleworking, remote management... the centres are starting to transform and are creating new models to attract and retain their employees. They are focusing on decoration, atmosphere and flexibility.

In customer relations centres, staff turnover remains high despite the efforts made to modernise workstations and offer career prospects to advisers. "Over the years, we have improved ergonomics, changed chairs and headsets, installed foot and wrist supports, sound-absorbing foam, and better quality screens... all of this has become essential, but it is no longer enough," says Olivier Offerlé, Director of Operations for Majorel France.

Today, building customer loyalty involves creating a working environment designed around the advisor. "Table football and billiards are the basic elements, but the centres are also equipping themselves with comfort facilities (kitchenette, lounge, terrace), which are conducive to calm and rest," he continues.

The trend is shared. At Webhelp, Yann Barbin, HR Director for France, is pleased with "the attention paid to employees' working conditions, with large offices equipped with at least 24-inch screens, and even double screens, and relaxation areas to unwind". Sports rooms are available at the Webhelp sites in Tourcoing and Compiègne in particular.

Gone are the traditional training rooms; small, human-sized amphitheatres are appearing, equipped with giant screens. "We are thinking about setting up an olfactory atmosphere, based on fresh scents and red fruits for example, and thematic decorations (mountains, meadows) to brighten up the trays", says Olivier Offerlé. Majorel is setting up its project called Magellan in Porto. "The teams based in Porto are 100% teleworking since the launch of the activity in April 2022", assures Olivier Offerlé. Here, it is a question of transforming the activity of the centre, installed in a villa - a former embassy - in order to benefit from an exceptional setting. "The idea is to offer a hybrid model, with teleworking advisors coming to the villa to train, meet their managers and have a different experience," continues Olivier Offerlé.

The concept could be duplicated in France. Sitel is removing the large workstations and opening hubs - via its MAXhub programme launched throughout the world - such as MAXhub Paris in Romainville, which has smaller workstations suitable for coaching and relaxation areas. These developments accompany the evolution of contact centre activity. Since the health crisis, teleworking has been gaining ground and the centres are becoming back-up bases, sites for training, exchanges and conviviality, at the crossroads between workplaces and living spaces.

Telework and hybrid mode

"Hybrid teleworking, with three to four days at home and one or two days on site, is developing and now concerns 50% of our staff in certain regions. This organisational method favours flexibility, particularly in terms of working hours, and promotes a better work-life balance," notes Yann Barbin. And it works. "Performance is good, turnover and absenteeism rates are lower than on the sites," he notes.

At Sitel, Isabelle Schneider, head of social coordination, explains: "Today, on average, about 45% of our staff telework and come back to the site at least three days a month in order to keep the link with the company and avoid isolation. In order to telework, the advisors are equipped with a telephone, headset and computer either by the outsourcer or by the client and, in the latter case, they sign a liability waiver.

The number of support tools and digital content is increasing: a teleworking kit, an e-learning platform dedicated to health and safety at work, videos on how to adopt good posture and avoid musculoskeletal disorders, etc. "The agreements put in place to regulate teleworking conditions, which will be renewed in July 2022, have been enriched by a few changes thanks to our feedback," she says.

For example, an employee can ask for a more sustained support system (business experts, trainers and consultant trainers) if necessary. Nothing is set in stone, Sitel says it can adapt. Communication between teams and with managers is maintained thanks to an internal chat, which allows everyone to schedule their breaks, access a FAQ, etc. Webhelp has developed an application, MyWebhelp, which focuses on the lives of employees, allowing them to submit their holidays, access their schedule or keep up to date with the latest company news.

Remote management

33.8% of contact centre managers attribute agent turnover to a lack of management support, according to the RingCentral Agent Experience Trends 2022 Report - Benchmark Portal. The overhaul of the managerial organisation is overdue. The health crisis and the development of teleworking have reshuffled the deck.

"In 2023, we will have to face the challenge of building team loyalty," admits Olivier Offerlé. Majorel is being supported by PwC in its approach. "Our employees and our customers have changed, while our pyramidal organisations have changed little, we must adopt innovative management methods, more participative, more community-based, close to coaching", he says. We need to introduce support instead of control. And individualise.

"Mass management is a thing of the past," says Olivier Offerlé. On the contrary, managers will have to adapt to the different personalities present in the teams. The change of course will take time and will be gradual. "We have noticed real disparities in managerial approaches from one site to another, hence the creation of the Yes (Your excellence standard) programme aimed at implementing differentiated management," says Thomas de Tastes, Director of Partnerships at Armatis. The aim is to review management and develop a path without any breakpoints. "The idea is to deploy a strategy for implementing the principle of symmetry of attention," he says.

The programme, which is in a pilot phase, should be launched at all sites in France at the end of the second quarter of 2023, with a certification process to support it.

"We are seeking to act on three major indicators: early turnover (less than 6 months), absenteeism and employee satisfaction," stresses Thomas de Taster, group director of subsidiaries at Armatis.

To achieve this, we are repositioning the manager in his or her role, in close proximity, thanks to new means, training to develop knowledge, but also educational tools (the Yes console contains the necessary supports and content) to gain in efficiency," Thomas de Taster explains. The ultimate goal is to open up career prospects for everyone.

"Full teleworking means more monitoring and control"

Laure Durand, Director of Operations, PSA Finance France

PSA Finance France targets two types of customers: salespeople and consumers. "The management of customer relations with salespeople is totally internalised, my teams support the sales representatives and the management of relations with end customers is organised in a hybrid mode (70% internalised, 30% outsourced to two service providers)", explains Laure Durand, Director of Operations at PSA Finance France.

The company had already introduced teleworking on the basis of one day a week, but since the health crisis, the pace has quickened. "We are testing full teleworking in Porto with Majorel. It should enable us to set up this activity in nearshoring, without departing from our requirements in terms of security, regulations and training," she says. Employees must be able to exchange with each other, share their experiences and questions. "This requires more monitoring and control by Majorel's teams," she continues.

The results seem to be there. "The organisation of the activity in Porto represents a laboratory for us, a source of inspiration internally, and the exceptional site of this centre opens up perspectives", she concludes.

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