The 4 P’s Of Contact Centre Transformation

Contact Centres. People love to hate them. The internet is full of venom and disgust at the industry. One blog I read last month suggested that “working in a Call Centre really is no different to being in a Chain Gang, albeit with mildly improved wages and less manual labour”. A recent article in The Independent said “Contact Centres have got to be the one thing we can all agree to hate”. And a BBC News poll held last year asked viewers “Are Contact Centres the sweat-shops of the 21st Century?”. Truly shocking stuff. AAEAAQAAAAAAAAFhAAAAJGI3OGVmZjExLWZhOGYtNDUyNi05NmNjLWJjODJiMTIyM2EwZA

It seems at times that our frontline Customer Service operations are generally about as popular as a bath with a boa constrictor.

It’s no surprise then to see that there are many organisations attempting to improve the way their Contact Centres work. After all, no organisation wants their customer experience to be considered to be about as pleasurable as a visit to a dentist with random arm spasms. They want solutions – and there’s plenty out there.

A simple Google search reveals a plethora of improvement models, methodologies and ideas about how to deliver significant improvements in the performance of Contact Centres. From Kaizen to Six Sigma, from fancy IT systems to training programmes, the sheer range of choices is mind blowing.

If you’re looking to improve your Contact Centre, it can be very difficult to determine the best way forward. And the worrying thing is, despite the insane number of “solutions” on the market, many customers continue to report that their experience of organisations is getting worse. What are these attempts at improvement missing?

It’s quite simple – they don’t address ALL of the key areas that influence Contact Centre performance. To fundamentally transform a Contact Centre you have to treat it systemically. In other words, deal with all the elements that make up its performance.

In this article, I would like to show you the four key areas you need to address in order to transform your frontline Customer Services operation. If you are able to improve each of these areas, you will see significant systemic transformation in your performance. And most importantly, your customer will LOVE you.

Ready? Here they are.

The 4 P’s of Contact Centre Transformation

1. PURPOSE (What We Do)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What does our customer need that we can provide?
  • What is it that we need to do to make a positive difference to our customer’s life?
  • Why are we the best people to do that for our customer?
  • How will the customer’s life be different after dealing with us?

Why Is This Important?

It has always surprised me how many organisations struggle to articulate their purpose from the customer’s point of view. It is important to remember that your Contact Centre exists solely to serve the customer’s specific need. You have no other reason for being.

The sad reality is that many Contact Centres lose sight of their purpose and often become focused on things such as meeting arbitrary targets, managing demand and enforcing policy and procedure.

If the entire organisation clearly understands their purpose from the customer’s perspective, you become unassailable. If the focus of everything you do is based on the fulfilment of your purpose, the customer WILL notice. If it based on arbitrary factors, your customer WILL notice.

Can YOU define your purpose?

 2. PEOPLE (Who Does It)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What do my people value?
  • What is the culture within the team?
  • Why do they behave the way they do?
  • How do they feel about their working life?
  • Where are their thinking skills at?
  • How does their behaviour affect the customer experience?

Why Is This Important?

You may well have heard the old phrase “people like to do business with people”. It may sound like a cliche, but it is absolutely true.

Unfortunately, there appears to have been a trend in recent years for organisations to focus mostly on processes and procedure while ignoring their people. The reality is that people make or break your organisation. This is especially true of Contact Centres, where the behaviour and mindsets of the people dealing with the customer are absolutely crucial.

If you want to understand why people behave the way they do within your team, look inside them. If you want to change the way people behave, again, you have to understand what’s going on inside them. Remember that people will act out their internal beliefs and values. No matter how many processes and procedures you put in place within your Contact Centre, your people will still spill elements of their self-esteem and mindset into their interactions with your customers.

How do you expect a person to focus on what’s going on for the customer when they are dealing with low self esteem? How can a person manage difficult customer behaviour when they don’t know how to control their own emotions?

And most importantly, how can a person give good customer service when they are not allowed to play to their strengths because of the policies and procedures that are in place?

How well do YOU know your people?

 3. PROCESSES (How They Do It)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • How does the work flow from the initial customer contact through the the delivery of the service?
  • What is the proportion of value demand (what we’re here for) to failure demand (things we don’t want to deal with, e.g. complaints)
  • How many people are involved in the process?
  • What is creating delays in delivering the work?
  • How much of what we do is adding value to the customer and how much is waste (unnecessary)?
  • Do our advisors have the necessary tools to deliver what the customer needs?

Why Is This Important?

All too often, we don’t scrutinise the way in which the work works within our organisations. I often hear the phrase “that’s just the way we do things around here” when I question people about why things work the way they do. Unfortunately, the customer doesn’t see it that way. If the way in which your service works is not optimised, the customer WILL notice.

What’s more, if things aren’t working well, your staff will notice. Contact Centre advisors rely on well designed business processes to deliver the best quality service for their customer. If they are hampered by inefficiency and waste, they will become less able to deliver a quality service. They will also become frustrated. This will further impact the customer experience.

How well are YOUR processes designed?

4. PERFORMANCE (How We Know We’ve Done It)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What measures are we using to monitor performance?
  • How do our measures relate to our purpose?
  • What do our measures tell us about the customer experience?
  • Which of our measures are arbitrary from the customer’s perspective?
  • What effect are our measures having on staff performance?

Why Is This Important?

We have a tendency within our organisations to measure the wrong things. Contact Centres often operate to arbitrary targets which do not relate to the purpose from the customer’s point of view. In fact, many Contact Centre measures are designed to assess whether advisers are correctly following process and procedure.

If we measure the things that are important to the customer experience, our performance management becomes considerably more focused. Imagine a team of advisors all concentrating on delivering what the customer wants, armed with measures that clearly show them how successful they are in achieving that. This has to be better than a group of people trying to meet arbitrary targets, living in fear of retribution if they fail to achieve them – as is the case in many Contact Centres.

What measures do YOU have in place to monitor performance? Are you measuring the things that matter to the customer or are you blinded by arbitrary targets?


Consider the 4 P’s. Where is your Contact Centre at? If you understand your present state in all four of these areas, the route to transformation will be clear.

Real change comes when you understand what’s going on. Make it your job to understand and one day your customers will no longer compare their experience of your Contact Centre to non-anaesthetised ingrowing toe-nail surgery.

Let’s work together to banish those Contact Centre horror stories for good.

For a full audit of the performance of your Contact Centre, or for a general discussion about the content of this article, please contact me by emailing


Getting To Yes – How To Win At Negotiations, By Not Trying To Win

Do you go into negotiations expecting to win? Is your main strategy to get what YOU want at the expense of the other party? Do you feel on edge during negotiations? Do you find your negotiations sometimes descend into aggression, argument and attrition?

Positional Negotiation
Positional Negotiation

Then you are not alone. It turns out that many people find negotiations stressful. Indeed, many people are frightened or apprehensive about going into a negotiation. For most of us, negotiating with another party is all about conflict – a literal fight for supremacy. Who will emerge victorious? Who will have to compromise the most? Who will be the loser this time round?

We are often told that negotiation is all about winning. We are encouraged to get as much out of the other party as possible. Knock the buggers down, take as much as possible from them.

This is approach is incredibly disabling. What makes matters worse is that negotiation is not limited to meetings with suppliers or third parties. Virtually every conversation we have in business with any party, including our colleagues, is a negotiation of some sort. So we are subconsciously fighting for supremacy in almost every business conversation we have.

Is it any wonder that our organisations are full of game-playing?

The word negotiation simply means a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement about a particular situation. If you’re fearful or apprehensive about negotiating, virtually every business conversation becomes more difficult than it should be. Equally, if you approach negotiation as a battle for supremacy, then every business conversation takes on an elevated level of drama as you subconsciously fight your way towards victory.

So often during a negotiation, differences emerge between you and the other party. Attempting to work through these differences most often results in intense emotions, disagreement and arguments until neither party involved is able to recall or focus on the original purpose of the negotiation. Most negotiations of this type never reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Negotiation is one of THE most important business behaviours and therefore our approach to it is profoundly affects the success of our organisations.

Positional Bargaining 

The cause of all the difficulties I have described lies in our approach to negotiation. The way we think and the way we behave when negotiating with others is hard wired into us. Subconsciously, we all know that something isn’t working, but it goes unquestioned. We all continue to negotiate in the same way, getting the same unsatisfactory results.

So how do we usually approach negotiations in our organisations? Let me explain.

Usually, we will establish a position – i.e what we want out of the negotiation. This position will be fixed and our aim on entering the negotiation will be to protect our position and give away as little as possible. Of course, the other party in a negotiation will be doing the exact same thing. This is a recipe for WAR. What usually ensues is a form of positional bargaining – a kind of mini-drama in which both parties haggle from their fixed positions in an attempt to reach agreement on a single, unifying position. The reality is that this positional mindset often prevents an objective and useful agreement from being reached, leading to arbitrary compromises, unsatisfactory outcomes, damaged relationships and disappointment. (By the way, if you want to see positional bargaining in action, watch BBC Parliament.)

In short, both parties are so obsessed with winning – ensuring they satisfy their positional requirements, that they are unable to focus on the purpose of the negotiation.

When we are being positional, we are also unable to relate to the other person in the negotiation. We don’t understand their values, what drives them, their emotional state. We miss body language, verbal cues and facial expression. We are blind to the person we’re working with – effectively reducing them to an adversary that must be conquered.

Not good.

The antidote to this problem is an alternative mindset. I personally describe this mindset as Objective Negotiation.

Objective Negotiation

Objective Negotiation is a fundamentally different approach that does not involve winning or losing, emotional investment, compromises or disagreement. It is based on an open understanding of the problem to be resolved and the use of objective criteria to allow both parties to work together to intelligently determine the most appropriate solution.

In an Objective Negotiation, we seek to identify the problem requiring a solution, the possible options and their implications and the most appropriate solution using objective facts. The key aspects of this approach are as follows:

1. Identify the problem requiring a solution

Separate the people and their position from the problem at hand. Instead of articulating their position, both parties should agree on the unifying problem that requires a solution. What is the purpose of the negotiation? What is the problem that needs to be solved?

2. Focus on values, not individual positions

Most traditional negotiations focus on the individual parties positions. In an Objective Negotiation, we understand that the underlying interests and motivations, the valuesthat drive both parties, are often very similar. By focussing on understanding each other’s values, the parties are able to see and understand how closely aligned they actually are, thus dissolving a common opportunity for conflict.

3. Determine objective facts about the situation

In many traditional negotiations, subjective opinions are treated as facts. In an Objective Negotiation, both parties seek to understand the objective facts of the situation – what can be verified as true in reality, so that sensible decisions as to the most appropriate solution can be made.

4. Generate different options to solve the problem

All too often, very few options are considered during a negotiation. With both parties seeking to assert their positions, there is a subconscious limitation on the number of options open to discussion. Emotional investment makes certain options unpalatable. An objective negotiator will seek to understand every possible option that may allow the problem to be resolved. These options will be analysed in light of the objective facts of the situation and the values of both parties.

5. Establish the likely implications of each option

For each option in an Objective Negotiation, both parties work together to understand the likely implications of each option over short, medium and long term time periods, in order to inform decision making.

6. Objectively select the most appropriate solution to solve the problem

The final outcome of an Objective Negotiation is a mutual agreement on the most appropriate solution to the problem at hand. This outcome will be based on objective criteria arrived at through a logical thinking process as opposed to a positional argument.

So here we have a completely different approach to negotiation that is not based on two parties asserting their positions and trying to win, but on both working together to determine the most appropriate solution to the problem at hand.

When you approach a negotiation in this way, the potential for conflict is diffused and the result is a mutually agreeable solution. You could say that this means both parties win.

Skills For Getting To “Yes”

To be successful at objective negotiation, you will need a palette of behavioural and thinking skills to work with. Some of the most important include:

1. Communication Skills

Build rapport with the other party. Recognise their verbal and non-verbal cues. Manage your own body language – what messages are you giving to the other party? Express thoughts and ideas with clarity. Be specific.

2. Creative Thinking

Think widely to determine potential solutions. Be flexible – don’t get hung up on your presuppositions. Get knowledge to allow all possible options to be identified and explored.

3. Influencing

Pace and lead the other party towards objective appraisal of the facts. Recognise and manage their emotional state. Guide them away from their fixed position towards solving the problem.

4. Chunking

Know when to be more specific or more general – if a negotiation is stuck on specifics, try being more general (chunking up). If things are excessively generalised, try steering the negotiation to specifics (chunking down).

So try approaching your next negotiation in an objective manner. Sometimes when you forget about trying to win in a negotiation, everyone wins.

As always, if you would value a conversation about how Objective Negotiation can be applied within your organisation, I am available at

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John Hackett

Managing Director, Franklin-Hackett Ltd.

Don’t Listen To Your Customers, Look Into Them – Predicting Customer Needs

Being something of a petrol head, I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the latest version of the infamous MINI hatchback. I have to tell you that my wife and I are massive MINI fans. We have had three different modern MINI models in the last 10 years and we have loved every single one of them. True, they are impractical, noisy, uncomfortable and ultimately a bit conspicuous. But at the same time, they are extremely good fun to drive, infinitely customisable, well made, full of character and utterly iulovable.

So it was something of a surprise to find that I absolutely hated the new version. Being a hard-core MINI fan, you would think I would lap up BMW’s latest offering as though it were manna from heaven. I didn’t.

You see, they fundamentally changed the car. And the reason they changed the car so dramatically was that they listened to their customers.

This may sound counterintuitive, but listening to what your customers tell you is fundamentally a bad idea. Let me explain.

Asking The Customer What They Want = Trouble

When they set out to develop the latest generation of MINI, BMW conducted aggressive market research and customer clinics. They asked customers what they didn’t like about the existing MINI model. Customers came back with plenty of criticisms. The hard suspension, the levels of noise inside the car, the lack of rear space, the lack of boot space, the poor position of some of the switchgear, the centre speedo being slightly pointless, build quality criticisms. The list went on and on.

Now you may assume from this plethora of problems that customers absolutely hated the car. And yet they didn’t. They completely and utterly adored it as if it were a member of the family. The level of loyalty to the MINI brand was astounding. So why were customers reporting all of these problems? Problems that were inherent to the design of the car?

Well, they were just answering the question BMW posed! If you ask somebody what they don’t like about a particular product they will often tell you and they may even come up with a considerable list not dissimilar in length to the one these MINI customers came up with. This however, does not necessarily mean that they dislike the product on the whole.

So, with this laundry list of customer criticisms, BMW set about changing the car to ensure that all of these faults were addressed. This was about as intelligent as attempting to climb the West Pier ruins in Brighton during a force 10 gale. The end result of this obsessive tinkering was a larger car with many of the original unconventional elements that made MINI’s so distinctive taken away and replaced with conventional designs. The unique toggle switch controls on the centre stack for the windows were replaced with ordinary buttons on the doors. The retro central speedo was removed and placed above the steering wheel – a conventional position. The funky fluted leather seats were discarded in favour of larger, less quirky BMW items. The car was made several inches wider and considerably longer in an attempt to create interior space. The suspension was softened to create comfort, at the expense of driving enjoyment. The steering was made lighter, losing the go-kart feel that many owners loved about the previous models.

The new car IS more comfortable, more spacious, quieter and more refined. It has a more logical interior layout. It’s easier to use. It incorporates the latest in gimmicks, sorry, “modern technologies”. It feels and drives like a small BMW. And many of the core customer base, me included, hate the thing.

What BMW failed to understand here, as many other companies also fail to do, was the “give a shit factor”.

The “Give A Shit Factor”

The give a shit factor comes down to one thing. How much do customers really care about the things they criticise? You see, although customers in BMW’s clinics had plenty of criticisms about the MINI, their level of dissatisfaction with these things was relatively low. In short, they weren’t that bothered. In fact in many cases it could be argued that customers actually felt that these things were part of what gave the car the character they so loved. In taking them away and sanitising the product, BMW destroyed the character that made people so loyal to the brand in the first place.

Now at this point you might be thinking what’s the complaint here? BMW asked the customers what they wanted – they listened and made relevant changes. Is that not what we should be doing? Listening to the customer?

The point I want to make is that there is more to satisfying customers needs than just listening to what they say. The difference is understanding their needs. This is significantly more sophisticated.

Customers Don’t Know What They Want

The problem is the customers are rarely able to clearly articulate their needs. If you ask them specific questions, you’ll get specific answers. While this may work in some situations, it is not wholly reliable. Most of the time they tell you what they THINK they want, not what they actually need.

The reason is they don’t understand what they need. Understanding their needs and providing the product or service to meet them is your job, not theirs.

A famous example that demonstrates this is the iPad. If you had asked people in 2010 what they wanted in the device of the future, they would not have described the iPad. In fact when the iPad was launched, Apple came in for significant criticism – “a big iPod Touch”, “no USB drive”, “where’s the keyboard” etc, and yet this device completely changed the entire landscape of computing as we knew it then, leading to the proliferation of tablets and other mobile devices we see today. What made a difference with the iPad was Apple’s inherent understanding of people’s needs. They listened to what people asked for but looked into what they said rather than taking it at face value. This allowed them to anticipate features and design ideas that would give people the results they wanted.

If Apple had listened to what customers said in 2010, they’d have developed something akin to a stylus driven MacBook with the keyboard sliced off. And nobody would have bought the thing.

Looking Into Your Customers

Do you understand your customer’s needs? Can you see further than them, anticipating their requirements and providing the solutions that deliver what they need? Do you understand what they give a shit about and what is really not that relevant to them?

Understanding your customer is about much more than market research and customer clinics. It’s about what they don’t tell you. It’s about the hidden information that holds the secret to unlocking the best solution for them. You can deduce this by looking into them – thinking about what might enhance their life, make things easier, surprise and delight them. To do this you need to 1. gain understanding through insight and 2. care.

Don’t listen to your customers. Look INTO them.

Remember, your job is to anticipate the future and bring it to the customer. That’s what they’re paying you for.

Don’t ask them – they don’t know!

P.S. Don’t let me put you off the MINI – it’s still an excellent car, it’s just… different.

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John Hackett

Managing Director, Franklin-Hackett Ltd.

Webinar: Are You Thinking About Process Improvement?

The pace of change within the business world is increasing on a daily basis. In today’s environment, a failure to improve leads to extinction. As a result process improvement has become fashionable within organisations. Almost every organisation has implemented some form of process improvement tool at some point in time. And yet, many continue to experience difficulties adjusting to the demands of the changing environment despite having spent considerable time and resources implementing process improvement tools. The reason for this is simple – process improvement is about more than projects and tools. It’s about a fundamental mindset and approach to the design and management of organisations.

My forthcoming webinar, in association with UNICOM Seminars, will show you a new way of thinking about process improvement that will inspire you to begin assembling the building blocks of a true continuous improvement culture within your organisation.

This session will help you to:
-understand how process improvement is an inherent part of a progressive organisational culture

-raise your awareness of the environmental factors that are making process improvement a necessity within organisations, rather than an option

-appreciate the negative consequences of a tools-based approach to process improvement

-raise your capability to embed process improvement within your organisation in a more sustainable manner

To register for the webinar, please visit the following link:

For more information, please get in touch with me by emailing

I hope to have the opportunity to work with you on the 28th October.

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John Hackett

Managing Director, Franklin-Hackett Ltd.

Back to Work… or is it School? – The Origins Of Workplace Stress

It’s September 1st and everyone is back to work after a refreshing summer break. The business world is re-awakening from its slumber and getting ready to make the next step forward.

At the same time, children are returning to school with a collective groan. And perhaps, a good number of us are making similarly negative noises about returning to work. But why Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 13.38.24would we do this? What is it about going back to work that makes us apprehensive and miserable?

Well, I’d like to mention one leading factor of the September Blues – office politics.

Ah yes – that pesky little phenomenon that we’re all used to, that we all tolerate on a day-to-day basis but nobody likes. The thought of returning to an environment full of poisonous political behaviour is enough to make most people wish for an epically disastrous unexpected weather event to relieve them of the need to go to work.

Office Politics

Ask most people about office politics and they are likely to tell you that they believe it is unavoidable – it’s just a natural result of putting people together in a room for sustained periods of time. And it is. But it doesn’t have to be.

For a moment, let’s take a step back. At this point I would like to ask you to think about your school days. What behaviours did you see going on at school? What kind of things did people do? What political games did people play?

Hopefully, your reflections will have reminded you that there is such a thing as school playground politics. And perhaps you might already be realising that there are striking similarities between the political behaviour you remember from your experiences of school and the dreaded phenomenon of office politics.

And the reason for this is simple. They are the same thing.

The reality is this –  most adults have not unlearned the destructive and childish behaviours and mindsets they left school with. Behaviours in the workplace such as victim mentality, blaming and persecution, consensus paralysis and past focus are all typical manifestations of these problems and are the things we experience as “office politics”.

The fact is that office politics is optional. The behaviour needed to create politics is chosen by people within the organisation. It may be a subconscious choice, but it’s a choice nonetheless and can therefore be changed. The problem is most grown adults don’t have a clue how to behave any differently. They’ve never been shown an alternative.

The unfortunate truth is most people behave like schoolchildren when you put them in an organisation. They’re going to of course, because being an employee within an organisation is really no different to being at school. You have a hierarchy, variable levels of intelligence, performance and popularity amongst the members, rules and regulations and a sense of duty – i.e. you are required to be there or else. If people haven’t learned alternative behaviours then they simply revert back to those they practiced at school, as fundamentally, the situation is the same. People revert to type under pressure.

Choosing Not To Engage

The good news is that you personally have a choice over this. Every one of us can change the way we behave as individuals. What we cannot do is change the behaviour of others – we can only influence it through our own actions. If you choose not to engage in office politics, then you create a circle of influence around you which helps to move others away from the destructive behaviour.

So what you must do is this:

1.) Read my blog article “You Are All Diseased”. This will show you the 4 main behaviours that create office politics and how to avoid them. You can find it here:

2.) Check out the document “Office Politics 101”. This shows you how to recognise when political behaviours are taking place, based on the language people use. You can find it here:

3.) Observe your own behaviour and try to avoid falling into the negative behaviours I’ve described. Widen your antennae and become more aware of how other people are behaving. Use your alternative positive behaviours as a lever to influence their behaviour. Don’t get dragged down by the negativity – rise above it.

If you increase your awareness and become a positive role model you will make a difference – both to your personal happiness and emotional health and to the culture of your team and subsequently, the organisation itself.

Office politics is really just school playground antics souped up with shirts and ties. So bear this in mind as you return to work this week – do you want to go back to school or back to work?

I leave the choice to you.

Note: for help and advice on these issues, please feel free to contact me via email – 

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John Hackett

Managing Director, Franklin-Hackett Ltd.

How you can overcome the limitations of the business world and become happier, more productive and more influential in your business life.