Wednesday, 11 December 2013

What are the Cool People doing in the Public Sector?

Procurement and innovation - lessons for us all

It depends on your definition of cool, of course, but to my mind the work of procurement professionals pushing collaboration and innovation is to be admired. 

I saw this first hand at the Local Government Procurement Annual Conference in Sydney recently, where people even in remote regional Councils stepped up to work with other LGAs to:
  • Standardise processes and accounting practices to develop best practice models for organisations of particular scale or type (the Technology Working Group - various metropolitan/regional/remote Councils);
  • Encourage small local businesses to take a tilt at a Council contract in their area where youth unemployment hovers at 30% (Wyong);
  • Develop new markets for recyclable waste (glass recycled into road base - Waverley); and 
  • Develop common procurement portals in use across various State procurement agencies (VendorPanel - LGP).
We really don't give them enough credit. Not only do they have to meet onerous proof of good governance and regulations surrounding the spending of public money (irrespective of their scale of operations), hitherto many have worked blind or alone, reinventing the wheel. They have one real advantage over private enterprise, however - they aren't afraid to collaborate and share because have a common goal of the public good and, unlike the private sector, even if they are performing the same job, they aren't in competition.

Some of the speakers were people who came up through the ranks via general purchasing and had gone on to undertake further training and development with a global professional association. Others had come from corporate positions into their present role. The most interesting work was where Procurement Managers took a strategic view and helped various divisions to achieve broader organisational goals.

As someone in the private sector who periodically spends a fair amount of time responding to public tenders, I can attest that although some tender questions may at first glance seem peripheral to our activities, often these same questions make us re-evaluate the way we structure our business and come up with new and better ways to operate.

Here's a great tip to share - LGP as an organisation has done a great deal to facilitate work on key industry projects to establish common standards and it also facilitates a mentor/mentee program. Participants can privately put up their hand to receive or offer help (they can even suggest preferred partners) and LGP helps to match suitable professionals up for the purpose. At conferences who wants to publicly admit they want help? I thought their suggestion was utterly sensible. More power to their bow!

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Timely News on Lone Worker Welfare

HR Daily is a free eNewsletter that I often find has useful advice for employers. You need to go to to subscribe, but I draw your attention to today's article by Lisa Berton, partner at Kemp Strang. 

She points out that if something goes wrong and a worker working alone is injured or dies, the last thing a court will consider is the cost of safety measures when they are determining whether you or not you took reasonable steps to ensure safety. 

The Work Health Safety Act is the thing to consider. You need to ask what is applicable to your business, your work situations. 

Do you have people working alone after business hours? Do they work in a remote area? Are they the last ones to lock up? Do people travel to visit clients or make home visits as part of their work? Have you considered fatigue risks if they are working late - do you pay taxi costs so they don't have to take public transport after hours?

Even a periodic check that people are safe - this needn't be expensive - may be considered enough to establish a workable communications strategy in line with the safety risks.

It's no wonder then that we at Well Done have had so many enquiries in the past two years about lone worker welfare. We thought that if we are going to do this, let's produce our own application that can do more and work smarter than has been the general model in the contact centre industry to date.

We've produced a stand alone welfare service to fit the bill - the Lone Worker Check System. It's affordable, flexible, and offers self-service features that can reduce the cost of routine checks, and it's backed by our 24x7 Australian Network that handles a raft of complex escalation services for many industries - local government, trades, industry, mining and resources, infrastructure, IT...  

I do invite you to read the original HR Daily article - sensible free legal advice is worth having - but I've noted the key details from the piece above in case you don't! Work Health Safety is something that all employers need to consider, and if there are some situations like those noted above in your operations, please talk to us. We have an affordable, workable solution that it would be prudent to check out.

Call us 1300 551 796 or use this contact form.

Friday, 26 April 2013

PROJECT MANAGEMENT - Lessons Learned from when things go right!

I spent some time recently responding to an Expression Of Interest for an IT development project recently and came to a question about similar IT projects and lessons learned from the experience. The project I had in mind was a large development project for a State Government department which had proceeded very smoothly despite the tight schedule and the project being approved to proceed 4 weeks later than estimated in our tender response. The upshot was that I found myself contemplating the pleasant prospect of what went right, not what went wrong...

Our lessons learned may be a bit different to other businesses because our contact centre services require a lot of coordinated involvement of different work teams - Sales, Client Services, Operations Support (trainers, call centre managers), IT, Management and the contact centre agents and team leaders - so the user experience is very central in our service delivery. Even so, we do a great deal of custom IT development to support complex services that integrate with our Customer Management Application. Examples include databases to collect data that can be exported to a client CRM; applications to control contextual call handling or direct messages to specific individuals or departments in a large organisation; or applications that can control escalation sequences or control bookings in limited capacity venues.

So, what we learned from what went right....

1. The Client Service Specifications were clear from the outset and did not vary during implementation.

This was very important because every time the specifications change, you have the prospect of having to back code changes to work already done, and you risk introduced errors and bugs that later need to be fixed.

2. We consulted with all the work teams and took on board their feedback before constructing the IT specifications for the IT Team from the Client brief. 

IT also reviewed existing work commitments and priorities and factored any long term hosting and support requirements for the application in our system planning at this point.

3. A Project Manager was appointed to set timelines and milestones and lead progress reviews and meet with the Client. 

The Project Manager had an operational role in the success of the project (call centre Branch Manager), which combined a clear understanding of the Client's requirements with the experience and authority to lead the team of agents (end users) handling the service. The Project Manager also had Management support to step in and assist in any area of the project delivery, including teams working outside her direct authority, to expedite any actions needed to keep scheduled progress on track.

4. With work teams working from 3 sites plus one client with various stakeholders involved, clear communication was vital to coordinated effort. 

A central email box was set up for the project for all relevant people; both client and the project team members received all information. Two documented meetings per week were scheduled throughout the project period (4 weeks) to review progress against timelines and milestones and action lists were generated (and followed up) for particular people working on the project from this.Top management were also involved in these meetings led by the Project Manager.

5. We tried to set work teams to work con-currently wherever feasible. 

For example, Client Services adapted the Client call flows to our internal norms immediately and briefed Operations and the main Branch Manager controlling the service as soon as these were received so that our Training Manager could commence developing training materials and key staff like Team Leaders could be briefed early on. While coding was undertaken, Client Services worked on other areas of the service delivery such as call recording and linkage to our Customer Management Application (our central communications platform) were set up. Our Web Designer started work on the look of the application at this point, too; specific menu changes were easy to adjust later.

6. User Testing continued throughout the project.

When the first draft of the application was available, this was immediately presented to the Client and our Trainer so our Web Developer received immediate user feedback on screen navigation and functionality before all coding was completed. Modules were also tested by users as they became available.

7. The Project Manager also met with the Client just before and again after implementation to check that everything was working as expected.

As a result of the continuous testing throughout development very few adjustments were needed at this point: success! As everything proceeded smoothly, there were no nasty cost over-runs, either.

We also found that we had more control over the project because all people involved were full time staff, and their work priorities could be reordered by Management more flexibly than might have been possible if sub-contractors had been used. This may not be the experience of associates who regularly collaborate with subcontractors on particular projects, but this project was quite different to other work that we have done, so it helped that the team worked together so well. 

A final point - let's not forget that it's all about people - congratulations go the Project Team and in particular, to our Web Developer, Cathy (pictured) for such excellent work.

Thursday, 11 April 2013


This morning I came across two timely reminders of the importance of what we do in the Contact Centre industry. The first was a short well written commentary on Leveraging unified communications to improve customer experience from our telephone software provider, Fonality, and I found this interesting enough to look at the original US article cited there by industry expert Rick McFarland at UCStrategies article

In business we all find ourselves stretched more to respond on multiple channels, so that answering the telephone is only one channel  among many - email, social media, groups, website interactions, conferences, advertising, public relations, newsletters, good old word of mouth all come to mind. However, I instinctively liked  his comment 'Technology has a role to play here, but nothing is more important than listening.' This is so true.

At Well Done we are often asked to quote on a simple service with the advice that we 'just need to take a message'; this is exactly the kind of thing that all the big telcos offer, but the question in my mind when I call back people who are using mass market messaging services is 'how much better was this than leaving a voice message?'. The verdict to this question for me is often mixed.

And here's the point - we're not a telco and providing contact centre support is what we do; it's our core business. Our training is geared for speed and accuracy in the call handling, and we follow your brief, but this is not at the expense of providing good customer service and listening to your callers. Our systems allow us to handle a range of call scenarios and we can link to FAQs, websites, rosters, staff lists and more for various services. In general, we give the operator the precise greeting, and there may be some scripted responses for legal reasons, in but general we provide instructions so that our staff can respond in the own words in a natural conversational flow. This does take longer than a bald 'Can I take your message please', but rapport with your callers and training to allow the contact centre agent to direct the call so that they can efficiently meet your service brief won't actually make a Live Call Answering Service call longer, it will only make it better.

It isn't one size fits all at Well Done. When we set up your service to work with your team we routinely ask ourselves 'what key information should we collect to make this message, or this service, more useful?'. We need to know what you are trying to achieve from the service so we can suggest the best way to handle it here. We will also work with you as your needs change and your business grows. 

Thinking of your call answering as part of a Unified Communications Strategy is an important shift to make. Websites are 'open' 24x7 and the general expectation from customers is that they will be able to contact you 24x7 at their convenience. They can also share their displeasure 24x7 via social media and do so. Well Done can offer that support for you at a fraction that your could staff it yourself, or we can seamlessly take over from your staff after hours. Much is possible.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Getting Serious About Quality

Have you thought hard about Quality in your business? Approached properly, it’s an opportunity to review every aspect of what you do that will identify gaps in your processes, save on costly mistakes, and increase customer goodwill – a win, win, win situation in one.

For a smaller businesses with a hands on proprietor, procedures often won’t be documented, and eventually a lack of systems and dependence on a few key people will put a brake on growth if this is not fixed. Once the proprietor is no longer in control of operations, the systemic detail and measurability of formal Quality Assurance accreditation makes sense. Inbetween these points, stepping through your processes and formulating a Quality System is essential.

Like OHS and Disaster Recovery plans, your Quality System should be conceived as a continuous feedback loop. Your need to map out the main functions of your work, who is responsible for what, how you interact with your customers and respond to a problem, and then consider what can be done to stop the problem happening again. Policies, procedures and job descriptions should underpin each element, too.

Wherever possible, measurable indicators should be used; even in a small business you can’t rely on personal impressions from year to year to track progress and performance.

You also need to assess the risk and impacts of mistakes against the investment in time and money that you need to make to prevent or minimise their impact. Will a particular mistake literally put you out of business? Your quality planning will also need to feed into your business plans; for example, can you afford not to insure?

High Service Quality is achieved through application and planning, not by accident, and how these elements are coordinated to deliver a product or service. Quality is mapped out in a plan, and functions as a system.

In our Network Operations this map looks something like this:

On the positive side, what could service excellence do for your business?

Well Done is a Contact Centre specialist. We work with many businesses and government agencies in a variety of ways to support their operations. That is, we may be a small or major part of their Quality System.

For example –
  • We can provide simple to complex reception after hours to give the credible impression of your commitment to Customer Service in a 24x7 world.
  • We may act as the daytime reception team for businesses that don’t want the overhead of generalist staff or, properly briefed, provide the backup team for your Disaster Recovery plans.
  • Some businesses send their daytime call overflows to us to ensure that they don’t miss sales enquiries or ensure that they meet their own Key Performance Indicators.
  • We also provide escalation services to support organisations that cannot afford to miss critical calls.
Even a great Quality System will not prevent all mistakes because to err is human, but irritating though they may be, each mistake is in a way an opportunity for investigation, review and change. For the quality-minded manager, the focus must therefore be on the systems and processes to build out error – ideally backed by an effective team with a common focus on continuous improvement!